Friday, 16 September 2016

Home Service - Tune in and enjoy


So why would a blog site ostensibly about Yes include a review of the reborn Home Service's new project. The seed was planted in 1975 with Gryphon, a kind of renaissance progressive rock band, supporting Yes's 1975 Relayer Tour. My interest was peaked by the astonishing "Rising Up Like the Sun" LP from the Albion Band which had a breadth and audacity which took the term "folk rock" to a new level. Many of the members of the core band morphed into Home Service with an expectation that journey begun on "Rising" would continue.

Now 30 years after the excellent "All Right Jack"comes a reborn band with new players and a new CD.

"New Ground" 

Overall Impressions

The introduction of John Kirkpatrick as vocalist, replacing John Tams, reminds me how important it is to have a singer who has their own identifiable style. John sits snuggly inside the "Home Service" ethos but is entirely his own man with a solid purposeful tenor voice, rich but not manufactured, which gives the music a sense of self without being to plaintively "folky".

The sound has evolved from "Jack" and it is as if the wind and brass instruments have been promoted into the front-line. Graeme Tayor's playing is beautifully featured but concise, so the brass and wind sound gives Home Service their unique signature sound and as a result you notice a real broadening of styles and moods.


"Kellingley" starts proceedings with a classic restatement of HS's pre occupations with the nobility and sacrifice of the mining tradition. The brass sets up the riffs and the pace but there are some wonderful atypical flourishes wrapped around the verse sections, this is entirely in the tradition of the unorthodoxy of 1977.

"The Last Tommy" begins with a grungy echoing guitar figure and forms into a classic folk marching song the vocals are authentic and heartfelt but it is the trumpet interjections which gives the piece its specialness and adds greatly to the pathos.

So far you may feel your about to receive a programme of folk music but next up in the delightful "Papa Joe's Polka" striking up images of vaudeville and a parisian street band, gorgeous fun.

These three pieces set out the stall for the rest of the project heartfelt songs in the folk tradition laced with fascinating new ideas mixed with wonderfully left field contributions.

"New Ground" is a signature piece high point, whereas "Wallbreaker" has a distinctly "Harry South" feel, sophisticated drumming, beautiful playing from the reeds and horns creating some thing fresh and new and John keeps it nailed in the bands personality rather than sounding like a random experiment. This bandwidth of styles is what makes the CD such a captivating experience.

"Dirt, Dust, Lorries and Noise" is a chant song with some squiggly interjections from the flugelhorn giving the piece a strange and wonderful enchanting feel. No obvious musical answers here hurrah for that !

"Kings Hut" takes me back to Gryphon, with its formal renaissance dance feel, but unlike 1973 the arrangement is more about the piece and less about clever playing. A great tune and one of the quantities this piece highlights is Michael Gregory, like all the great Fairport drummers, drums for the piece, no more no less, he is there at the root offering propulsion, as Bill Bruford would say this is about expressing oneself for the greater good rather than drum magazines.                    

Next up is the beautiful evocative "Melting" a lovely plaintive introduction on the piano then the brass before a heartfelt but unsentimental reading from John. I hope one day to hear this played live it would be a great stage performance. How do you follow such a gorgeous ballad, well you do not the accordion lead "Ten Pound Lass" is a restatement stylistically of previous achievements. Strong wind and brass building to a strong marching vocal and then on to the lollipop "Cheeky Capers" vaudeville, dance fun and a chance for the horns and brass to stretch out offering long languid lines before a final howling solo from Mr Taylor.

There is a great deal to enjoy here and what is most precious to me is the notion that thinking knowledgable musicians still want to eschew the obvious, stretch themselves and communicate something emotional and real which stays with you just as "Jack" has over 30 years.