Regarded as one of the best singers to emerge from the English folk song revival, Mike Waterson’s voice is known to all those who are familiar with The Watersons – Yorkshire’s great gift to 20th century folk song. Less well-known is Mike’s magical abilities as a songwriter of great originality.
In 1972 Mike & Lal Waterson released an extraordinary album of their original songs – Bright Phoebus – on Bill Leader’s Trailer label. This magical collection of very English songwriting as long been acknowledged a classic and one of the finest achievements of the British folk revival. Inexplicably Bright Phoebus was out of print for many years.
Performed by Norma Waterson, Dayteller, Maddy Prior, Richard Thompson, Eliza Carthy, Blue Murder, Dick Gaughan, Linda & Teddy Thompson, Helen Watson, Billy Bragg & The Blokes, Martin Carthy, Christy Moore, Jody Stecher & Kate Brislin, Christine Collister & Oliver Knight … Shining Bright was conceived to pay tribute To Mike & Lal’s remarkable songs, and it draws upon the songs recorded for Bright Phoebus, and on a further dozen songs written at the same time but not previously recorded. Shining Bright has fifteen new recordings by some of the folk world’s finest performers. The songwriting of Mike and Lal is held in such high esteem that soon we had a queue of performers eager to contribute to this collection.
“The Coen brothers did it for the music of the deep south, Ry Cooder ditto for Cuban music.and now Topic Records have done it for Lal and Mike Waterson, two of English folk’s most original and searingly creative singers/songwriters. This is a collection that bristles and shines. A collection to bask in. A glorious gathering” Irish Times
Introducing these recordings on their first appearance in the mid-’60s A.L. Lloyd wrote of this new singing group’s ‘hand-crafted harmonies, an immediately recognisable and uniquely distinctive group sound which is uninhibited, spontaneous seeming and rich in texture.’ What became of The Watersons after that is history, and can be followed step by step in Topic’s other Watersons CDs. Early Days recaptures the youthful sound of the original quartet in 27 performances from long-deleted albums.
The Watersons, the most influential and best loved English vocal group of its day, disbanded in the late 1960s only to reform again in 1973. In 1975, they released their finest recorded work, For Pence And Spicy Ale (TSCD574). Fired up and full of music, Mike Waterson stepped out of the shadows of The Watersons to record his only solo album. Upon its release in 1977, Melody Maker, which was the most popular music paper of the time, wrote of the album, “Almost every track emerges as an epic…no song defeats him…a monumental work”..
Regarded as one of the best singers to emerge from the English folk song revival, Mike Waterson’s voice is known to all those who are familiar with The Watersons. Here, however, the focus is on Mike alone and he brings depths to his material not possible on group projects.” This reissue includes two extra tracks from the 1966 Watersons album, A Yorkshire Garland.
Another masterful performance by the latter-day Watersons. Again, an original album by the full group has been supplemented with solo tracks by Mike and solo and duet tracks by Norma and Lal. In keeping with its title, the album focuses on songs of country life like While Gamekeepers Lie Sleeping, We’ll All Go a-Hunting Today and The Brave Ploughboy.
Lal Waterson, Mike Waterson, Norma Waterson & Martin Carthy vocals
for pence and spicy ale introduced the “new” Watersons of the 1970s – when Martin Carthy joined the group. Two music papers judged it Folk Album of the Year in 1975 and, for many, it is the best album that The Watersons have ever produced. Topic has re-mastered the recordings from the original tapes to produce unparalleled sound quality, and re-packaged it in a handsome digipak. Between the opening song “Country Life” and the closing “The Good Old Way” are some of the most stirring performances ever committed to record.
- “This is the pinnacle of their prolific career – a wonderful collection of passionate solo voices and inspired harmonies. Ageless songs + sharp sense of adventure = certified genius. All time classic album.” HMV Choice
- “A staggering album – the luminous power and rich texture of their acapella voices unmatched in English Folk Singing. This is traditional folk music elevated to the highest art. The finest, most fragrant flowering of the English Folk tradition in the past 50 years.” HMV Choice
- “This classic album of British Folk Music sounds as fresh and astringently beautiful today as it did in 1975, when it was originally released…the harmonies they produce are sharply beautiful. The Watersons’ many fans will be thrilled to see this album newly available on CD with its tracklisting in the original running order – ESSENTIAL” All Music Guide
- “This reissue of a classic album is a must-have” Dirty Linen More Details >>
The folk ballad,’ wrote A.L.Lloyd, ‘is a folk tale put into verse and set to music. Among British ballads are some of the oldest as well as greatest folksongs we have.’ His claim is trenchantly justified by this exceptional collection, as dramas of the distant past are restaged in vibrant performances by Ewan MacColl, Anne Briggs, Louis Killen, Mike Waterson, Norman Kennedy and Lloyd himself.
The original classic album recorded in 1965 is now released in a re-designed package with extra photographs and with unbeatable remastered sound quality that makes it feel as though the group is in the room with you.
Seasons of anxiety, seasons of joy. The common people had their rites of propitiation and triumph, older than the rituals of the church and closer bound to their daily lives. This album takes us through a year’s calendar, displaying songs that accompanied these ceremonies, season by season.
The Watersons perform in the original classic lineup – Lal, Mike and Norma Waterson and John Harrison.
- “Quite without parallel amongst British group singing” English Dance and Song
- “Frost and Fire contains all the urgency of talented young people determined to record songs from a seemingly dying tradition. The results sound as fresh today as any recent Waterson:Carthy offering.” Morning Star
- “The Watersons’ first album was released in 1965. It remains a revelation” ★★★★ Songlines
- “These venerable releases shine in their newly remastered form.” Dirty Linen
For the first time on CD, the complete album as recorded in 1977 with Lal, Mike and Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy. Remastered for outstanding sound quality and presented in a redesigned digipack.
On this record The Watersons give us a panorama of sacred song – from the deep folklore of wassail songs and vernacular carols, through various folky kinds of meeting-house hymn, and on to exuberant camp meeting pieces – folk songs, or near folk songs that we have lost or that have become unfamiliar – but all worth restoring to life.
- “This album displays the rich a cappella polyphonies that were the Watersons’ trademark.” The Independent Music Review
- “These releases, beautifully packaged and re-mastered in such stunning clarity, will blow away any complacency that familiarity may have bred and will serve as a reminder of what groundbreaking albums they were upon release and remain today.” Properganda
- “Truly glorious” ★★★★★ Songlines
- “These venerable releases shine in their newly remastered form.” Dirty Linen
The seven piece group Blue Murder, made up of Waterson:Carthy, Coope, Boyes and Simpson and Mike Waterson, has been described as “Harmony Heaven” and one listen is enough to explain why – seven of the greatest English folk voices performing together with passion and spirit. The repertoire ranges between great traditional standards, selected compositions and original songs by some of the band members. Whilst much of the album is the full glory of the seven voices, about half of the tracks have the added benefit of Martin Carthy’s understated but impeccable guitar work.
- “..seldom has the unadorned human voice sounded more exhilarating. No One Stands Alone is destined to be one of the best British folk albums released this year.” ★★★★ The Times
- “A glorious rush of perfectly pitched and counterbalanced vocals that offers up a spellbinding celebration of the human voice and makes this a firm contender for Folk Album of the Year” Netrhythms
- “…singing and harmonising…top of the range…selection of songs…spot on, but more than that, there is a startling chemistry about them. There is a real mood of spontaneity and the idea of a group united by..a mutual love of the songs they are performing. Stand-out tracks include the rousing Bully in the Alley, the sentimental Land Where you Never Grow Old, and the devotional Standing on the Promises of God. Choruses made in heaven all. It is an album of qualities and values. Timeless.” fRoots
- “The collective warmth of their intricately meshed harmonies fully bears out the togetherness made explicit in the title track. The septet’s burnished tones bring dignity and affection to their songs, with Norma Waterson’s commanding voice proud and plangent at its heart. – …beautiful renditions of traditional songs such as “Stars in My Crown” and “The Banks of Sweet Primeroses” tempered by the poignant sway of something like “The Land Where You Never Grow Old”. The Independent Review
- “Performed in a dazzling array of harmonies by the best singers in the business – exhilarating – majestic and heartwarming. Essential” Mojo