various artists,
Ernie: Songs of Ernest Noyes Brookings
(Gadfly, 2001)

The information accompanying this CD presents it as "the fifth collection of works of the late poet Brookings, who at the age of 80 began writing his poems." It also informs us that the album combines the lyrics with the music of unique and inventive musicians, including Josh Alan, Dave Alvin, The Colorblind James Experience, Robyn Hitchcock and others.

Unfortunately, for me it did not work.

Poems put to music are dangerous beasts. I see many song lyrics as poetic in the greatest sense but have found very few happy instances of even a top poet's words reincarnated as songs -- even an album of W.B. Yeats by well-known stars failed to move me.

Ernest Noyes Brookings is a good observational poet in many ways but overly obscure in others. "Vacation" sung by Josh Alan has a verse:

"Niagara Falls, one of natures wonders
Where water cascades over rocks
A place where no one ever blunders
Always wear shoes and socks"

Another track, "Ape" by The Incredible Casuals, sounds very much like an early Beatles production.

I truly hate to give negative opinions on work which has taken months or even years to produce and which so many people have shared their talents on but Ernie is definitely not my cup of tea. The musical styles are so diverse that most people will probably find a track they enjoy but its very diversity makes it an album that is not as good as the sum of its parts.

[ by Nicky Rossiter ]
Rambles: 20 August 2001