Monday, November 25, 2019

Pirate ballad barngains

I'd briefly heard the first volume of these when it came out way back in 2006, and loved it (but never owned it), and have wanted it on CD ever since – from a charity shop, of course. I found out recently that there was a Son of Rogues Gallery (released seven  years after the first instalment). This month I got them both within a week of each other: Rogue's Gallery from Oxfam in Exeter, and Son of Rogues Gallery from the British Heart Foundation in Truro, Cornwall. Both for less than a doubloon.

Devised by Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski, director of Pirates of the Caribbean, Rogue's Gallery was inspired by the film and released without fanfare after the second Pirates of the Caribbean film, Dead Man's Chest. If the films have all the gritty realism you'd expect from something based on a Disney theme park ride, the 43 songs on the (2 CD) album feel authentic and ballsy in comparison. Indeed, they are all traditional – and often ribald – 'pirate ballads, sea songs and chanties' sung by a motley assortment of characters: from ancient rock stadium fillers like Sting and Bono to folk royalty from Loudon Wainwright III to Richard Thompson. But it's the unexpected singers (in this context) that really stand out: Bryan Ferry, Lou Reed, David Thomas from Pere Ubu, Jarvis Cocker, Anthony (from ...and the Johnsons fame). Nick Cave, it almost goes without saying, features several times.

Despite being made seven years after the original, Son of Rogues Gallery continues where the first left off, with perhaps an even more motley crew of characters, including a duet by Michael Stripe and Courtney Love plus a song featuring Tom Waits and Keith Richards, two of the most pirate-like legends in rock music. Other highlights are numerous, but include Beth Orton, Iggy Pop, Shane MacGowan, Patti Smith (with Johnny Depp) and Frank Zappa. But the great thing about both volumes is famous names sit comfortably alongside the unfamiliar (to me anyway).

Maybe it's because I've been living in Cornwall a while now, and even been to the Falmouth Sea Shanty festival, but I love both CDs –  a treasure trove of ribald, rousing, sing-along tunes to shiver your timbers.

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