Eric Bogle,
Endangered Species
(Greentrax, 2000)

The species seems all but extinct, at least where I come from, on this compilation of folk music by Eric Bogle. Perhaps, at the root of the failure to thrive is the many references to Australian politics, history and culture.

At first glance, the leading song, "Our National Pride," appears to be a put-down to Australia: "You ask me if I'll feel pride when our country's flag is raised / Above the winner's rostrum and our national anthem's played / While the winners stand with flowers in hand and medals round their neck / We can all share in their glory, but not their sponsor's checks."

Yet, further examination of the liner notes portrays the song as a tribute to five members of the Geelong West Brigade of the Victorian CFA who died in a bush fire. What that has to do with putting down the Olympics, I don't know. Perhaps one issue clouds the other, so that I can't see the forest for the trees, or the fact that I'm not Australian and don't have the background to understand.

Shifting focus, "The Sign," one of the more memorable tracks, tells about hunger-striker Bobby Sands. This lights a spark of recognition for me, if only because I experienced Northern Ireland and know its political history.

"Just Here for the Money" rings out with a knee-slapping beat and an unusual twang, perhaps a little too slap-happy for my tastes. The lyrics, "And if I don't get a gold guitar next year, I'm gonna kill myself," were a particular low point for me. "Jingle Jangle" continues a trend of slow twanging and soft strumming, in a ballad inspired by an obituary and about what might have been. The tide takes a turn with a strange beat in "No Gods At All," about the uncertainties of youth. Next, Bogle entertains with the second of my favorite tracks, a lively arpeggio of Celtic influence in "Robin's Rant/Tom O'Neill's Tantum."

Bogle returns to traditional folk music with "The Road to El Dorado," a fruitless search. "You've Got Nothing I Need" is a funky, outdated vehicle for Bogle's political views. In "Journeys," the vehicle switches gears, transforming to what resembles a sweet Scottish folksong -- now Bogle's singing more to my tune. While Bogle's "Turning Circles," in a flight of fancy, I again become bored with repetitive lyrics, "So I dream and dream and dream and dream and dream. So I dream and dream and dream, and dream and dream." In yet another flight of fantasy, Bogle asks, "Beam Me Up Scotty," in a song that speaks to the Star Trek cast.

"Endangered Species," the title song, brings us to the heart of the album. But rather than sing of endangered wildlife, Bogle requests that middle-aged persons be included on the endangered species list. It would be no wonder if this song became extinct -- I'm sure there are no more of its kind. Quite a strange ditty. "Back in the good old days when it took two to breed, / We swam around the gene pool, scattering our seed." And these are some of the less offensive lyrics. "The Waltzing Matilda Waltz," with "jolly swagmen humping their swags," also held little appeal for me. A sad song about cancer, "Jimmy Dancer," makes me wonder where Bogle's coming from in his strange lyrics (all songs written by Bogle except "Robin's Rant") and odd mix of songs. "River of Time" is a peppy song about a "dirty old man," and I hoping it's the last tune. It is.

Unfortunately, although I can appreciate Bogle and his band's accomplished instrument playing, I think I'm from a different planet than Bogle. Either that, or a different gene pool. Perhaps this CD would better appeal to those of a like species. If it were my choice, I'd opt for selective extinction.

[ by Lynne Remick ]

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