Film & Arts Features
Legends of Folk Rock
Read a review following the performance of The Gathering at The Stables in Wavendon.
By Richard Hollingum - Senior Lecturer in Radio at the University of Northampton.
I went to see The Gathering billed as The Legends of Folk Rock at The Stables (on Thursday ,8th November). I suppose I went because I yearn for those heady days that we are not supposed to remember thus proving that we were there. Well, a bit of that but also out of curiosity. The line-up featured people who had played with Lindesfarne, Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull and Magna Carta. Could they still cut the mustard?
Did they rock?
Prompted by the promotional flyer I did begin to wonder what happened to these bands. Fairport still does it stuff, if you can keep up with who is in and who is not. Others pop up every now and again. But what about those that don't - or more specifically those that want to but cannot interest the rest of the band, or perhaps left the band and dwindled into obscurity only to re-surface thirty years later and say in best Mickey Rooney fashion, "I know let's put a band together of all those people who were in 'named' bands but actually no-one has heard of." A great concept? Well, perhaps. Does it work? Well, perhaps not.
The Gathering - The Leg-ends of Folk Rock - comprises Jerry Donahue, Rick Kemp, Clive Bunker, Ray Jackson and Doug Morter. I suppose there will be those amongst you who attend folk club quiz nights (if there is such a thing - "How many bells do the Morris Side from Lower Catchall have on their legs?") and will be able to match these guys with their bands. Certainly Jerry Donahue is not unknown. Besides a sojourn with Fairport he is a very fine guitarist. (Along with Richard Thompson, coincidentally, he is said to be the guitarists guitarist.) But what of the others? Rick Kemp is/was bass player in Steeleye Span, Clive Bunker had been drummer in Jethro Tull and Pentangle (an interesting pair of positions...), Doug Morter from the Albion Band and Magna Carta and Ray Jackson from Lindesfarne. A bunch of old(er) boys having some fun.
There were some good points. The singers still had good voices and the very occasional close harmony vocals worked very well. Jerry Donahue's guitar work was as good as it should be, as was Rick Kemp's bass. But – and I am afraid it is a big but – as a band they did not work. Perhaps that is why they were all in different bands in those heady days three decades ago. They came across as a disparate group of performers, keen enough to do their thing, but not as a cohesive whole.
And into this mix has been added Jerry's daughter Kristina Donahue. She has appeared with Fairport a couple of times and that gives her some pedigree I suppose (but then her Dad was a member...) but to introduce her two main numbers as being sung in the Sandy Denny version and then to perform major surgery on the song and the ears of the audience, was possibly not a good move. Perhaps she had an off night - as perhaps they all did - but perhaps Kristina should avoid the depressive stuff. Her voice struggled to stay down and I wonder if it really is the right voice for the style she aspires to.
Maybe next time...
I went, I saw, I went away. And apart from the three people in the audience who called for an encore, I suspect most people would not run to catch them again. As a bit of straw-poll research I did note that the chap next to me was quite careful in doling out his applause. The usual number of claps was 4 or 5, often accompanied by a questioning or answering sigh. There were a couple of numbers that reached 7 claps and even one that reached nine. I can't remember which one that was so don't ask.
One interesting thing that has come out of this is, looking at the ubiquitous MySpace (link at the top right of this page) to find out more about these guys, I see that their 'Friends' include Steeleye Span, which turns out to be a Steeleye Span fan, not the band; Jerry Donahue, who doesn't appear to have noticed that he is in the band; and Sandy Denny, who has been dead for almost thirty years! What a wonderful thing the Internet is.By Richard Hollingum - Senior Lecturer in Radio at the University of Northampton.
last updated: 15/11/07
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