SAN­DRA KERR AND JOHN FAULKNER

Mu­sic from 70s chil­dren’s TV favourite gets re­mas­tered and reap­praised.

Prog - - Echoes - JB

It starts with the metal­lic ring of a dul­cimer, and then a sud­den swirl of notes, the sound of a magic cur­tain be­ing drawn back. For those of a cer­tain age, it’s the very sound of child­hood, a mys­te­ri­ous ear­worm that’s been with them since they first heard it, when a saggy cloth cat came to life…

Bag­puss is per­haps the best loved of Peter Firmin and Oliver Post­gate’s an­i­mated TV se­ries, and part of its ap­peal is the mu­sic that was used to help tell the sto­ries at its heart. Just like the pro­grammes them­selves, there’s a folky, idio­syn­cratic qual­ity to these songs and in­ter­ludes.

San­dra Kerr and John Faulkner were es­tab­lished fig­ures on the tra­di­tional mu­sic scene, and had al­ready made a record to­gether, when they were ap­proached to make these record­ings. Along with mu­sic from the se­ries, the al­bum also in­cludes out­takes from their ses­sions with Post­gate and a tape recorder in “a fairly si­lent room in a re­mote house”, where they would con­jure up the re­quired songs and at­mos­pheres with what­ever in­stru­ments came to hand – though man­dolin, fid­dle and the afore­men­tioned dul­cimer fea­ture promi­nently through­out.

As be­fits a chil­dren’s pro­gramme, many of the songs are mis­chievous and com­i­cal, if not a lit­tle sur­real. Row Your Boat be­comes a tale of mice in a boot sail­ing ‘across the ma­hogany seas’ be­fore end­ing up cov­ered in ‘re­volt­ing Stil­ton cheese’, while The Princess Suite is a lovely bal­lad where the suit­ors all turn into drag­on­flies. There’s also The Bony King Of Nowhere, in­spi­ra­tion for Ra­dio­head’s There, There.

Yet among the he­lium-voiced cho­rus of make-do-and-mend mice, there are in­evitable echoes of Kerr and Faulkner’s roots: the grainy melod­ica of The Ele­phant’s Fable could al­most be Dolly Collins’ pipe or­gan, and The Miller’s Song is a com­pen­dium of English weather and hints at the me­lan­choly that comes with it.

Al­ter­na­tive nos­tal­gia for hauntol­o­gists and the young at heart alike.

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