Pandemonium: The Essential Bellowhead
English roots big band Bellowhead are calling it a day. Jon Boden decided to leave earlier this year and they prefer not to continue without him. So this new 13 track album is a carefully chosen ‘greatest hits’ and goes under the title Pandemonium: The Essential Bellowhead. The album includes songs from all six of their CDs. No new versions or rarities, so fans should have all of these already but this is a chance to listen to the band’s own favourites in one go, while for those new to Bellowhead it really is an absolutely essential introduction.
As a Norfolk man I was pleased to see the inclusion of both ‘Yarmouth Town’ and ‘Fakenham Fair’ but if pushed to choose the highlights on an album packed with them it would be ‘New York Girls’ and ‘Roll the Woodpile Down’. What is noticeable is how adventurous the band became over their 11 year reign as England’s premier folk band. They were continually adding more styles to invigorate these old songs while the production on their last three albums reached and maintained the highest standards they had always strived for in recreating some of the immediacy (bordering on mayhem) of their live shows.
Sadly, they never came to Okinawa but the acquisition of the Pandemonium album and a look at their Hedonism Live DVD would be the next best way to enjoy them and the great legacy they will leave. On the other hand, they haven’t left us yet and are embarking on a two part farewell tour of the UK beginning in November. Tickets are already sold out for many of the concerts including the last three which will be in Norwich, Nottingham, and finally at Oxford Town Hall on May Day 2016.
Running a folk band with 11 members as a viable concern is a major operation and that they managed to do it so well and for so long is a remarkable achievement. All the musicians have other solo and side projects so will no doubt be moving onwards and upwards in different directions. In the meantime be grateful for this and thanks to the band for putting English traditional songs and music to the forefront in such an exhilarating way.
Pandemonium: The Essential Bellowhead is out tomorrow (16th October) on Navigator Records.