Wednesday, October 28, 2009

CD Review - Legends & Literature

So what is Mark listening to these days? Legends & Literature by Margaret Middleton.

Legends & Literature, henceforth L&L, is I believe Margaret Middleton's first album. This one is self published through Middleton's M-cubed Ventures, with Oasis as the press. Oasis does a good job (which is why I used them for my album.)

First impressions:
Top notch cover art, rear art nonexistent, CD art very nice.

19 songs = WIN. I am so sick and tired of folks putting out a 10-12 song 40 minute album and wanting to sell it for the same price as a full album.

Nice clean liner notes. No liner note art, but that's ok. It's hard to get your liner note art light enough that the text is visible.

The folks at Studio Joe did a great job of mastering the album. Middleton's vocals are strong, and you can hear the lyrics above her guitar work, which is important in any album, but especially in a folk album.

The Songs:
All 19 songs appear to be covers, which means that this was a pretty expensive album to produce, since royalties add up quickly. Several of the songs I have on other albums, many I've heard once or twice and am glad to have a copy of.

Most of the songs are very well done, some are quite excellent. Middleton does a yeoman's job on Leslie's "Fellowship going South", likewise on "Puck's Song", Don Simpson's "Laughter from the Loch", and Ecklar's "Roxane".

She also does a very nice rendition of "Quest" by Martha Keller, page 32 of Brady's Bend And Other Ballads, and yes I have a copy. Music by Longcor, whom I've never met.

There are some fun songs as well. "The White Whale", my Gary McGath (aka The M'Gath) is a great song about the obvious which I'd never heard before, and Gallagher's "Monsters in the Night" is likewise another fun song I'd only heard once or twice.

The indifferent:
The chords she uses for "Song from the Pig's side" are not quite the right ones. I suspect she is using the chords Bob Kanefsky has on his songworm website which are not correct. Also this tune normally has a very recognizable base run, the absence of which I find rather lacking. It's not a tricky run to play, but you have to know how to do it. Joe Bethancourt showed me years ago how to play this song right, so while there is nothing really wrong with the way Middleton does it, it's not the way I do it, so it seems a bit off.

Every album has one or two songs that are not up to the rest of the album, and L&L is no exception. Julia Eklar's "Daddy's Little Girl" is a very popular filk song, based on Steven King's Firestarter. I've heard it played in very different ways. Most people play it straight the way Julia wrote it, although I heard Seanan McGuire do it as a rock song once, and it's been done slow and somewhat creepy as well. Middleton plays it straight, but she simply does not have the range that Ecklar has, and struggles a bit with the high parts. In fairness, most people don't have the range Julia does.

On the other hand, she has no trouble at all with "The Miracle Worker", which is a bit lower in register.

The other song that sounds a bit off is Tom Smiths "Operation Desert Storm" which is a hilarious take on the Coyote vs. Roadrunner cartoons from the Coyote's point of view. This song is a fairly hard song to play, as it's a bit syncopated, and Middleton's playing sounds a bit flat with her simple strumming pattern. I've been at cons where the whole room has sung the song together, and it's a lot of fun.

All in all a very nice album. I understand it's a limited 500 piece run, so get yours now.


msminlr said...

The chords I use for "Song from the Pig's Side" are the same ones I learned 30 years ago from Bob Asprin for "Song Of the Men's Side". I don't think I've ever heard the arrangement you describe.

And, I cheated on "The Miracle Worker", transposing it into a different key than Julia used in her songbook.

Mark Horning said...

The chords Leslie Fish(and Joe Bethancourt) use for "Song from the Men's Side are a bit of a cheat. It's played with an alternating thumb, the left hand keeps the A-minor form on the trebel strings while the index and middle finger walk the base line - A B C B A - e.g. ran(A) very(B) fast(C) though we(B) knew(A).

Kanef has chords for most of his filks on his songworm site. But the ones for "Song from the Pig's Side" are either incorect or misleading.