Eric Bogle,
I Wrote This Wee Song
(Greentrax, 1994)

This double CD has 25 tracks and is a showcase of the work of one of the finest songwriters of the modern age. Eric Bogle has written hundreds of songs of which very few fail to grab either the head the heart or the "laugh muscles."

He is one of the great unknowns for many people. They love his songs but don't have a clue of who he is. They heard "Green Fields of France" or "Leaving Nancy" by some other group and assume either that they wrote them or they are traditional songs picked up like berries on a bramble bush -- free, beautiful and underrated.

Bogle opens with an unaccompanied new song called "Sound of Singing," which celebrates what he does best and is embarking on with this live show. "Leaving the Land" is another of his excellent tales about ordinary people affected in extraordinary ways by very ordinary events.

His "Silly Slang Song" is one of the funniest songs of the past few decades but it is also a fantastic social history document. He recalls when gay meant you would sing and shout, a queen was "an old tart in a tiara" and a joint was something between bones. How words have changed!

He returns again and again to songs with an anti-war message. The brilliance of Bogle is that he can get this message across in a sad tale of soldiers in the aftermath of war. None do this better than "No Man's Land" and "The Gift of Years." "Mirrors" brings us face to face with the often-sad reality of children's lives away from fairytales and PlayStation. In the following track he gives us the heart-rending tale of old people dying alone in bustling cities -- a sad reality in every country.

He does occasionally write and sing a romantic ditty. "Somewhere in America" could be a classic of this genre. It was written for his wife as he toured America without her. "Singing the Spirit Home" is a combination of diatribes against apartheid and capital punishment. It expertly blends a well-written set of lyrics, a memorable tune and some traditional South African tribal sounds.

Fans of Eric Bogle will already have many of these tracks from Plastic Paddy to Vanya, but to have this live collection is a must, as you will hear the maestro introduce and sometimes set the songs in context. If you do not have a Bogle CD in your collection, here is a chance to remedy your shortcomings.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 31 May 2003

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