There have been some epic folk albums over the last couple of years with the commemoration of the First World War, Show of Hands, Oysterband, The Full English and there was also Ian Anderson, of Jethro Tull fame, who gave us his rock opera, so not to be outdone, Paul Mosley & The Red Meat Orchestra have come up with their folk opera, The Butcher.
This complex tale, which links back to Harry Nilsson's The Point, Kate Bush's The Ninth Wave and Anais Mitchell's Hadestown, is on it's simplest level, the story of a good man gone bad.
Mosley intends to perform the whole shebang in June. You have to hand it to him, it's a massive project which has a wide range of sounds, tunes and songs and it's a production which has unbelievable ambition, but the more you listen to it the more you realise the project is entirely feasible because Mosley produces the goods. From the opener The Lighthouse, where you also first hear from Josienne Clarke, you understand this is a class act which has been given a great deal of thought and very little has been left to chance.
There are occasions when the remit moves away from the folk strand, Soul To Save is a good example, but then you kind of expect that from someone who has spent timing working on the alt-folk circuit and, let's face it, there is unlikely to be a music genre which could contain Mosley's talent.
The World is Flat is one of the offerings where Mosley takes a back seat and leaves it to Jamie Lawson and Esther Dee of the Mediaevel Baebes and who likes to get her voice into a dark tale.
You get to hear from The Red Meat Orchestra for the first time on Introducing.... This acoustic, Spanish style guitar is just a teaser for what opens out to be avalanche of sound and introduces The Butcher.
The one thing which the music allows you to do is grasp Mosley's concept and a feel for the musical narrative but of course the full picture will not be revealed until it's put together with the visuals which are planned for the big launch.
There are so many styles included in this work that you kind of wonder if Mosley is going for overload. He is definitely pushing the boundaries of folk along with people's perceptions of the genre, and while he steps outside the mark on occasion, he does give that reassurance that the roots are still there. You listen to tracks such as Shadows on the Wall and there is a familiar folk sound to it with Dee's voice, but by the same token you have a musical show strand to it so Mosley manages to fuse the niche with the big production.
If you want to hear a clear example of Mosley's talent then You Don't Need Love should divvy up the goods. It's short but sweet and shows you that while he has the bigger picture in his mind of the overall project he still has time to provide the detail in a single track. There are some great and experimental songs on this collection, one example being Satellites, that it's going to cover a lot of ground for a lot of people. The more you listen to the tracks the more you hope this lies somewhere between the Rocky Horror Show and The Wall to become a cult offering. You can almost hear the lyrics of songs such as Lighthouse Pt 2 - "Heave ho, ships below, guiding light gonna save my soul" being sung back to them by the audience.
Mosley will be premiering in June with the full cast and it's probably only then you will get the complete feeling of this epic work, even though the music side of the production is impressive enough and certainly whets the appetite for the full monty.
Dee lets her silky voice slide over My Armour followed by Mosley teaming up with Catherine Earnshaw for the soft ballad No Hound Dog On Your Trail. With tracks such as Nothing In The Desert, where Mosley teams up with Lawson, there is a real retro Sixties feel with a smattering of the Polyphonic Spree about it. There is certainly a great deal of thought and experiment gone into this piece of work and the logistics of putting it all together and organising all the musicians must have brought more than a few headaches. Calling it a folk opera could also limit its appeal and marketability which is another chance Mosley is taking but like the Budweiser slogan says, if your dream doesn't scare you then it's not big enough.
|The epic album|
There are certain tracks where you just want to see the images Mosley intends to marry it with such as The Rage which he performs with Sophie Bradley to produce a thumping song which is full of life and energy.
Mosley has laid out his vast array of talents along with those who have contributed to build this incredible work and he will be touring with it in various combinations of musicians and scale. The album is released on May 27 through Folkwit Records but the all bells and whistles launch is at The Courtyard Theatre, Shoreditch, London on Thursday June 2, tickets are £12 plus a booking fee, show starts 8.30pm.
Going purely on the incredible collections of tunes and songs which he has laid down it should be a night where you are going to see and hear something special.