Keith Hancock Reviews

Keith Hancock - This World We Live In
Keith Hancock – This World We Live In CD

Keith Hancock Band Live CD
Keith Hancock Band Live CD

Compassion Keith Hancock
Compassion Keith Hancock

THIS WORLD WE LIVE IN Keith Hancock.

We need to revisit 1986 for the birth of Keith Hancock’s first album; his self-penned songs proved a dramatic milestone in his burgeoning career at that time.

Produced by the legendary Clive Gregson and surrounded by friends who were session musicians from his local Manchester folk clubs. His music was much acclained then, and now a new generation are discovering just how good the singer and his timeless songs are.

Keith has toured the world many times over and currently lives in Saigon, Vietnam where he has a succesful website business.

Keith’s first love has always been music and the release of this CD gives him the chance to return to this country to tour once again.

I loved the songs then and hearing them again brought back so many memories. Keith’s songs always go straight to the heart of the matter and the opening track “South Africa” looks at the apartheid situation; remember, these songs were written almost thirty years ago, but some would say little has changed in that direction during that time.

By far the most poignant song on the CD is”Absent Friends”; someone who is so close to you that when they go, a piece of you goes with them.

The true story of Josep Pujoi is told in “Le Petomane”; in the late 1800s, he starred at the Moulin Rouge in Paris for he was able to break wind at will. He turned this into a Music Hall act and captivated the public. He died at the ripe old age of 88.

For those who suffer from disabilities, the world can be a very cruel place, especially for the young. Indeed their greatest handicap is blind indifference and prejudice. The emotion of it all is there in “The Eyes of a Child”.

“This World We Live In” is made up of thousands, indeed millions of different parts, but we have to do our very best to live through each day as we try to sift the wheat from the chaff.

The drug problems we hear about almost daily were much in evidence when this song was written in the 80s. “Chase The Dragon” pulls no punces. Keith harks back to the days when people left the doors open, shared whatever they had and were happy with their lot. Just like today!!! “Ee When I Were a Lad” brings those days back into sharp focus.

The spectre of war and the Government’s response is always questionable. “War Games” should have the Whitehall mandarins cringing.
“Fruit of the Loom/The Shuttle” explains how those workimng in the weaving trade suffered with various complaints brought on by the alarming conditions they were forced to work in.

Keith Hancock and his trusty melodeon have been much missed on the folk circuit. His perceptive writing and solid performing I hope will again be seen and heard in the not too distant future.


David Jones. Folk North West. Winter 2013


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Keith Hancock: This World We Live In

Label: Epona
Tracks: 10
Website: https://www.eponarecords.com

Now here’s a treasurable (and by many folkies, long-awaited) CD reissue. Hot off the grooves of a wonky cassette dating from the mid-80s… that oft-maligned in-between era when CDs hadn’t quite “arrived” and vinyl was staggering on with obscure independent releases that sported restricted, localised and/or indifferent distribution, and, of course, when folk was distinctly unfashionable in many quarters. But then again, it was when some really vital music was being made – if you knew where to look. In certain regional folk clubs and centres of activity, for instance the north-west, where formidable melodeon supremo Keith Hancock held court.

Keith’s debut LP, made with the help of a gang of trusty local musicians and some higher-profile musical mates like Clive Gregson and Christine Collister (then fresh from their appearances with the Richard Thompson Band), was a proud and defiant stall-setting affair, a record notable for its confident (and almost bullish), determinedly eclectic sense of enterprise, where Keith’s own larger-than-life, ebullient musical personality is stamped throughout like a stick of Manchester Rock. Here we encounter a veritable gamut of classic songs chock-full of the courage of the good Mister ‘ancock’s personal convictions. Tell-it-like-it-is social conscience was getting to be the new rock’n’roll once again, and South Africa, War Games, Chase The Dragon and the disc’s title song are all prime examples of biting, powerful, passionate and incisively savvy commentary. Keith’s compassion is also much in evidence on the pair of standout tracks – The Eyes Of A Child and Absent Friends – while his cheeky, gutsy sense of humour comes to the fore on the jaunty, well-oiled catch-you-out singalong Ee When I Were A Lad and the slightly saucy true-life portrait of Le Pétomane.

This album launched Keith on a successful career during which he toured extensively, both with his own band (which included Messrs. Carthy and Swarbrick) and in a duo with Lee Collinson. He made three more albums before retiring from full-time touring in the mid-90s and relocating to Saigon (Vietnam), where he currently resides and writes. In the opinion of many, though, his vibrant debut This World We Live In – albeit a mere snapshot in and of a time – represents what might well be regarded as something like Hancock’s Finest Half-Hour-And-Half-As-Much-Again.


David Kidman FATEA Magazine.


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KEITH HANCOCK: This World We Live In. Epona Records. EPO007.

Tardis back….Manchester mid 1980s, the roots circuit is hopping, Gregson and Collister are adopted, unplugged folkies, Gone To Earth meanwhile frantically punk up old Irish material, To Hell With Burgundy entertain packed venues with their modern take on Greenwich Village, Claire Mooney barks an unashamed feminist stance, Rattle’n’Reel mosh jig the city, Gordon Jones starts up Harbourtown records in Rusholme, first release a certain Pete Morton and in the folk clubs a bloke called Hancock wrings his squeezebox like he was fronting a rock band.

Keith Hancock’s debut is an eclectic beast, first surfacing in 86, backed by chums like the afore mentioned Clive and Christine, ex members of Any Trouble and local worthies Hobson and Lees, recorded in Stoke, Gavin Sutherland – he wrote Sailing y’know – was also hanging about. From the social comments of the time” South Africa”, to the almost music hall “Ee When I Were A Lad”, via the morris facsimile “Dancing Jack”, all the way to “Chasing The Dragon” – drugs definitely no good, “This World We Live In” is a weather eye on both time and situation. Best Of all though; “The Eyes Of A Child”, where naivety and innocence makes bigotry, prejudice seem all the more intolerable, KH always was a man who sang it like he found it. Now resident in Saigon – I kid you not – Keith Hancock is much missed in the north west; his was the voice of honesty and conviction. We need his like now more than ever. Fine archaelology from Epona. www.eponarecords.com


Simon Jones. (Folk Roots.)


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The Keith Hancock Band – Live

Label: Epona
Tracks: 15
Website: https://www.eponarecords.com
In February 1991, shortly after the release of his second album Madhouse, Keith undertook what was then the biggest tour in which he’d ever been involved, both an unforgettable experience and one of the highest points of his career. The catalyst for this tour was the Keith Hancock Band project, which itself grew out of a phone call from Keith to Martin Carthy. The story goes that Keith, having heard that Martin liked his songs, asked him to consider playing in a one-off touring band with him; Martin suggested roping in Dave Swarbrick, and Keith completed the band by bringing in bassist Ruari McFarlane (then working with Richard Thompson’s band). The Keith Hancock Band toured in 1991 and 1992, latterly with Lee Collinson as support act (Lee was later to tour in a duo with Keith); Keith had the foresight to record the shows, and he’d always intended to release a live album from them, but somehow it never happened, and so the plan lay dormant until Keith received a chance enquiry from Epona’s Mike Billington as to whether the tapes still existed. Happily the answer was yes, and further investigation – and a playthrough when Keith returned for a British tour this spring – convinced them both of the merit of releasing some of the recordings.

Hence this marvellous live album, positively sparking with energy, simpatico and brio. 75 glorious minutes’ worth, taken from performances recorded at Southport and Kendal in late February 1991. The internal chemistry and fun seem to leap out of the speakers, the dynamic Carthy-Swarb partnership trading off Keith’s trusty box; every single track contains prime examples of the sheer energy that clearly characterised the shows. As for the material played, just under half of this is drawn from the Madhouse album, with its plethora of politically-charged commentaries; three further tracks are advance-tasters for the then-forthcoming Compassion album (including an intense, spectacularly passionate Panacea). These are topped up with a small handful of items that didn’t feature on Keith’s three solo records, including the elsewhere-unrecorded songs Portland Down and Boomtown and a very fine cover of Richard Thompson’s Waltzing’s For Dreamers. The entirely fitting but inevitable final encore is Absent Friends, here attaining all of its customary emotional resonance (which is followed by three minutes of post-gig venue ambience!). Hancock aficionados will note that a live recording of Porton Down (from the Bolton date slightly later on the same tour) appeared on the mid-90s Born Blue compilation, as does the very same performance of the instrumental romp Second Wednesday/Coventry Caper (albeit with the medley’s tune titles now transposed into correct order!). But this happenstance minor duplication is no bad thing, and anyone with a long enough memory of the KHB tours will be placing an automatic order for this well-mastered and -edited (and honestly presented) release.


David Kidman FATEA


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KEITH HANCOCK BAND: Live

Epona Records EP016

Fortune they say favours the brave and when Keith Hancock put a call in to Martin Carthy asking if he fancied playing as part of a oneoff tour band he couldn’t have expected not only to bag the legendary guitarist but Dave Swarbrick’s fiddle to boot. Ruari McFarlane, fresh from a certain Mr Thompson’s touring outfit, provided the bass and with Lee Collinson providing support, and a Rusby mixing the live sound, off they went. Playing throughout 1991 and 1992, recorded evidence of the line-up remained scant, a track on a charity album here, a compilation filler there; now at last there is hard evidence that Hancock had assembled something rather special. Put together from tapes of gigs in Southport and the Lakes by Epona staff and Keith himself; what emerges from the remixed and digital transfer is a document to satisfy any Hancock/Carthy/Swarbrick follower. Obviously the lion’s share of the songs are from Keith’s then current Madhouse – it remains his best document – full of vim, vitriol and social comment. As a writer he spied what was wrong with the world and on stage his band did him proud, sparring guitar, fiddle and box whilst a fat sounding bass anchors everything in clear sound. A sparky cover of RT’s Waltzing For Dreamers and a fine set of light-on-the-feet instrumentals, perhaps something Mr Hancock wasn’t always given credit for. Chase The Dragon still packs a hell of a punch and The Bloodletting Game sets a sombre but telling agenda. You got a good night out with this crew but you also got lots to think about. Inevitably, perhaps, Absent Friends is the encore and it left the audience of 24 years ago wanting more. Reckon you’ll be the same, this is engaging archaeology. www.eponarecords.com


Simon Jones (Folk Roots.) December Issue 2015.


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Keith Hancock: Compassion

Label: Epona
Tracks: 10
Website: https://www.eponarecords.com
Singer, songwriter and melodeon supremo Keith was a formidable, larger-than-life presence on the wider folk/folk-rock scene in the late-80s and early-90s, during which time he and his compadres made a series of classic albums, the first of which, This World We Live In, was reissued by Epona last year. Compassion was the third in that series, and came out in 1993 on German label Hypertension.

It had more of a contemporary folk-rock air than its predecessors, and a definite alignment and kinship with Clive Gregson’s work of the time – i,e, seriously quality songwriting with a keen message. Compassion’s tracklist includes several really top-notch self-penned songs that still regularly appear in Keith’s current live set: Panacea, I Believe In Magic, The Purple Pas-De-Deux and Funerals Today, Skips Tomorrow to name but four undisputed highlights. And there’s even a singalong-stomper counterpart to This World’s Ee When I Were A Lad in These Weary Days. There’s not a remotely below-par number on the entire album, in fact, although stylistically it’s a typically eclectic collection that achieves an even greater consistency through its willingness to embrace its musical influences without parading them on its sleeve.

Similarly, the instrumental arrangements are sympathetic and gently rich, attractive in tone but allowing the lyrics to take centre stage at all times; The Man Who Pulls The Trigger, which features Lee Collinson’s magnificent slide guitar playing, is a case in point, while Keith’s charismatic melodeon makes the most of its full-toned nature while always observing the niceties of dynamic shading. Terry Mann and Dave Swan together provide an object lesson in supportive rhythm-section behaviour.

This reissue faithfully reproduces all original artwork and contents including full lyrics – but sadly there aren’t any bonus tracks (if nowt else, I might’ve expected to find the session outtake of Lad’s Night, which had cropped up on the late-90s Born Blue compilation). But in any case, this reissue shouldn’t be missed out on this time round. Especially as nowadays Keith’s not averse to a limited amount of touring once again (even though he’s based on the other side of the world, in Saigon, Vietnam, running a successful business). Yeah, you can ignore the literal mantra of Keith’s rock’n’roll that says “Compassion’s not in fashion any more”, for his work has a timeless sensibility and an enduring quality that will always be in fashion.


David Kidman FATEA


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