My Review Of Hill Of Beans By Ralph McTell

Written by Jan Rosser in Music on 09 Nov 2019 | Views: 607

My Review Of Hill Of Beans By Ralph McTell

After a nine year wait, Ralph McTell has a new CD out!

I have recently been to see Ralph McTell in concert, this time in Bromsgrove. Must be about the fifteenth time now to see him perform and I am never disappointed! I have been playing his new superb CD, Hill of Beans over and over since it came out on 20th September 2019 and am now sharing  a few lines of my review track by track. 

1. Oxbow Lakes. The term Oxbow Lake means 'a curved lake formed from a horseshoe bend in a river where the main stream has cut across the narrow end and no longer flows around the loop of the bend.' This is a song where someone in a relationship strides on ahead in the world without thinking of all those he has left behind. Almost bluesy in parts and very quirky!

2. Brighton Belle. Ralph reminisces about his grandfather who was a driver/engineer on the Brighton Belle steam train after W.W 11 and lets Ralph ride on the footplate. We hear of the war exploits and the memories. Brilliant guitar playing, plus Toni Visconti on recorders.

3. Clear Water.  When sailing the person asks for clear water as the ship makes its way across the sea. Lots of strings, piano and superb backing track. 

4. Gertrude And Alice.  This is a song about the relationship of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, two artists from Paris. Based on a true story, it's a wonderful tale. The accordian makes an appearance here and you can imagine being in Paris listening to this track.

5.Gammell Dansk. A weary sailor drowns his sorrows in a bar whilst thinking of the ships he has sailed on and has a shot or two of 'Gammell Dansk!'  

6. Shed Song. Another song about Ralph's grandfather and how the shed is a male only territory. So many memories are sung to share with us regarding the shed's contents etc. 

7. Close Shave. This is a  comic tale of a friend who goes for a shave at his local barbers and we hear of a possible affair with the barbers' wife. Will the friend escape without having his throat cut by the blade??! A foot tapping song, again with shades of the blues. 

8. When They Were Young. I have heard this track before when Ralph has played it at concerts. A song of those lucky enough to fall in love when they were young. The addition of an accordian and strings make for a charming sound.

9. Sometimes I Wish I Could Pray. Ralph may not follow a religious path, but like all of us, when things are bad, we may look up and wish we could pray for some clarity. With a gospel like choir backing and Ralph on the piano, it is a track that is growing on me and makes me think.

10. Hill Of Beans. The title track and refers frequently to the Humphrey Bogart film Casablanca. A short but pleasant song featuring just Ralph and his piano.

11. West 4th Street And Jones (Live). This is classic Ralph and a fabulous track which I have heard many times 'live.' Harmonica and guitar blend perfectly to tell the tale of Bob Dylan and his romance with Suzie Rotolo in 1963. 

Toni Visconti's production of this album is exemplary and also features Mary Hopkin, Mary Hopkin's daughter Jessica Morgan, Frank Gallagher and Smith and Brewer on backing tracks, plus Danny Thompson on bass. There is a fine strings section too. All the musicians are quite superb!

If you only know Ralph for Streets of London, do have a listen to this CD.  Every track tells a story and his voice is as fine as ever.

Ralph McTell

Taken on October 27th 2019. 

Ralph performed tracks 2, 7 and 11 at Bromsgrove along with many other well known songs. It was great to have a chat and a photo with him after the show. He always has time for his fans and shows no signs of slowing down.

Below are three YouTube videos which all feature on Hill of Beans CD.

West 4th Street and Jones

Hill of Beans

Brighton Belle

Looking forward to seeing you somewhere down the road in 2020 Ralph!

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