• “The Bonnie Lass O’ Fyvie” set to a picture of a later compilation. Thanks to Various Artists – Topic.
“Fantastic Folk from England”
From his LP “Scots Folk Songs” (Riverside Records RLP-12-609) released in 1956.
With upwards of 100 albums to his name, the collecting and assimilation of Ewan MacColl’s discography is no easy task, but I’ve been having a bit of a go in the last year or so, now with 25 albums acquired in various formats. Over the next 14 days I’ll be highlighting my “Jukebox pick” from 14 different LPs, 1956 to 1990.
In my album review I wrote:
The very best is saved ’til the end of side two with “The Bonnie Lass O’ Fyvie”, in which a troop of Irish dragoons ride into Fyvie, Aberdeenshire, and the captain, Ned, falls for a beautiful blonde chambermaid by the name of Peggy. Alas, it’s an unrequited love and poor Ned dies of a broken heart, seemingly within a matter of days. And he calls himself a soldier? Pffft. Rising above this lame behaviour, Ewan sings in the first person, as tough as an old soldier’s boots.
The LP places high in my Album Chart of 1956
Ewan MacColl is known to most people as a songwriter and singer, but he was also of significant influence in the worlds of theatre and radio broadcasting. He was a committed socialist all his life and his political sensibilities underpinned all his creative activities. His art reached huge numbers through the folk clubs, greater numbers through his recordings and untold millions through the radio. Although The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and Dirty Old Town remain his biggest ‘hits’, MacColl wrote songs for many different contexts: incidental songs for theatrical productions, commissioned pieces for labour unions or political causes, songs stitched together from vernacular speech recorded for the radio documentary series The Radio Ballads, songs for rallying, striking, marching… and, of course, songs for singing in folk clubs.
For sixty years he was at the cultural forefront of numerous political struggles, producing plays, songs and scripts on the subjects of apartheid, fascism, industrial strife and human rights. It has been said that he was an enormous fish in a small pond – but the ocean of traditional song and speech upon which he navigated and hunted owes him a great debt for the treasures that he returned to it.