- 1. When A Man's in Love (Traditional)
These beautifully simple words of youthful love and sexual frustration are carried on a variant of the tune Dives and Lazarus. It is said to have been a popular song in the industrial towns of England during late nineteenth century and probably originates in Ireland.
- 2. The Flighty Tailor (Traditional)
Translated from the Irish, this song evokes a multitude of responses to betrayal. Pride is certainly hurt, but the loss of his love, his reason for living, also diminishes the blacksmith's skills. It should be remembered that a wife would have been expected to work the blacksmith's bellows for him (and this also had sexual connotations in folksongs).
- 3. The Ploughboy and the Cockney (Traditional)
This dates from the seventeenth century when the city of London was bounded by market gardens and farms, and common folk rarely travelled far from home. Here a cockney 'sparra' strays into 'strange country', (which was
prohabiy only a mile or two from where he lived), in order to find a mate; but his ardour is dampened by a right-hander from a country bumpkin prepared to tight for his girl.
- 4. Sweet Thames Flow Softly (Ewan MacColl)
This is one of the songs written by Ewan MacColl in 1966 for a radio production set in contemporary London and based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Having worked on the London river for many years this song has a special appeal for me because it mentions familiar places and reaches along the Thames.
- 5. The Song of the Wandering Aengus (W.B. Yeats & R. Dyer-Bennett)
This magical poem is the work of the great Anglo-Irish poet W.B. Yeats. Here a human glimpses the unattainable, the ideal supernatural lover, but the poem also suggests lost love or missed opportunities. The tune is said to have been set by one Richard Dyer-Bennett.
- 6. La-di-da (Jake Thackray)
This song is a classic plaint against the extended farnily that one inherits with marriage. Yet for all its vitriolic humour and honest fear, there is a gentle understanding and acknowledgement of human frailties to be found in this masterpiece by the singer-songwriter Thackray.
- 7. Spencer the Rover (Traditional)
From the great Yorkshire tradition, this song has appeared many times in print and on record. Kidson believed it to have been made by a wandering ballad singer ''who has not been endowed with much poetical genius'': but despite Kidson's pomposity the song is a powerful and unequivocal evocation of the lessons to he learnt from the separation from loved ones.
- 8. The Red-haired Man's Wife (Traditional)
(Bean An Fhir Ruaidh) There is an old adage ''If you would plead for your life, plead in Irish'' . The same might be said if you would plead for the return ot a lost love. This tragic song was translated from the Irish by Douglas
Hyde but having heard if sung in the original Irish by Tom Phaidin Tom, I feel much must have been lost in translation.
- 9. The Week Before Easter (Traditional)
Just one of many variants, this song tells of endless pain and sorrow which can be produced by the missed opportunity. For courting too slowly you've lost this fair maid. And now you will never enjoy her. There is a curious riddle-like verse in this song which suggests that it may be older than it appears at first hearing and may have once been a song of the supernatural.
- 10. Farewell Nancy (Traditional)
Life aboard the old sailing ships was harsh, yet we know that quite a few women dressed themselves as sailors and went to sea. This little gem tells of one who, for love, was prepared to join her man in the trials of the seafaring life, but he wants her safe ashore and waiting for his return. There are longer versions of this song but it is the brevity of this version that makes it so charming.
- 11. Wish I Could Write a Lovesong (Chas Hodges & Dave Peacock)
I'm sure that many men (including me) could associate with this brilliant song by Chas Hodges and Dave Peacock, better known as the cockney duo Chas and Dave. This song says it all by exposing our vulnerability. Real love makes us awkward, clumsy and very human. Dennis Mitchell's piano playing on this track knocks me out, it evokes a haunting echo of an empty music hall where a sad and solitary player sings to himself.