BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

Accessibility help
Text only
BBC Homepage
BBC Music
BBC Radio 2 On air now

 Radio 2 Home
 Shows A - Z
 Listen by Genre
 Presenters A - Z
 Music Club
 Radio 2 Playlist
 Radio 2 Comedy
 Radio 2 Help

 Sold on Song

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

The Transports - Silver Edition
2 CD box set
Free Reed Revival Masters series

Hailed as a tour de force on its 1977 release, this epic tale of 18th century transportation is a masterwork of the British folk revival. Peter Bellamy was a unique and sometimes controversial stylist; a great interpreter of traditional song and the work of Rudyard Kipling; and, with The Young Tradition, a catalyst for new heights of harmony singing. Free Reed celebrate The Transports' quarter-century by adding it to their excellent Revival Masters series, carefully remastered and accompanied by a second CD of new interpretations.

The delightfully courtly piping and parping of Dolly Collins' folk-baroque arrangements sets the musical tone, using instruments associated with the village church bands of the day and played by members of the Early Music Consort. Written with the cream of the contemporary folk scene in mind, it's peppered with classic and moving performances from the likes of Martin Carthy, Norma and Mike Waterson, Nic Jones, June Tabor, A L Lloyd and Dave Swarbrick, cast as characters in a powerful story of poverty, crime, injustice, succour, love and hope. The album made international waves, many live productions were staged over the years, and it remains today seminal listening and a benchmark of achievement.

For CD2, Free Reed invited some of Bellamy's friends, associates and admirers to record a Transports song of their own choosing and it's a testament to the strength of the writing that the whole work is recreated in The Transports 2004. Fairport's Simon Nicol and Chris Leslie reprise the Bellamy/Swarbrick narrative role, while John Kirkpatrick, Coope Boyes & Simpson, Steve Tilston, Grace Notes, Witches of Elswick, Pete Morton, Tom McConville, Damien Barber, Chris Sugden and many more perform their own individual takes on the material. The result is a very different but rewarding production.

The project, the history and Bellamy's own life are illuminated in the lavish 130-page book brimming with fascinating information and previously-unpublished archive photos: don't pass it by. A timely and revealing tribute to a complex, creative individual.

Mel McClellan - March 2004

Have you listened to the album? Want to submit a review of your own?
Fill in the form below and tell us what you think. Please mention the album's name.

The Transports was one of the most ambitious projects of the 70s folk scene. The first ballad opera to be composed since The Beggar's Opera, it featured most of the luminaries of the scene at the time. It is a great tribute to Free Reed that they were prepared to risk so much money on the project. Basically, it tells the true story of Henry Cabell and Susannah Holmes and how they ended up on the 'first fleet' of transportees to Australia. It's re-release in remastered form has been long awaited by some of us. Free Reed has done it's usual wonderful job on the package - a superb book and two CDs - one the original ballad opera and the other The Transports 2004 by Peter's Friends is all new recordings by many of Peter's close friends who have revisited and reinterpreted his classic Transports songs.

The first is as wonderful as ever - Peter Bellamy's masterwork is even better than I remembered. It is a complete entity with various aspects raising their heads in the form of the performers with Mike and Norma Waterson playing the central characters, supported by the likes of Martin Carthy, Nic Jones, A L Lloyd, June Tabor, Cyril Tawney, Martin Windsor and Vic Legg. The performances are linked and often underscored by a 'period' orchestra led by Roddy Skeaping and the whole narrative kept moving by Bellamy himself as 'The Street Singer' almost incidentally accompanied by Dave Swarbrick on fiddle. There is not a bad performance on here - it is dramatic, each singer knows who their character is and where they fit in the story and brings them to life. (Just listen to Mike Waterson's achingly wonderful rendition of The Black And Bitter Night. Which is probably why I have so much trouble with The Transports 2004.

I really REALLY wish that Free Reed hadn't done this - or not in this form anyway. I can understand and sympathise with the fact that there are those whom Peter Bellamy influenced or were his friends who saw this as an opportunity to pay tribute to him. And had this been billed as 'Peter's Friends' it would have been better - but trying to do a contemporary recording of The Transports in this form really doesn't work. There is no cohesion between the songs and some are performed with little meaning (but much art). Simon Nicol sounds uncomfortable in the role of the street singer, although Chris Leslie's fiddle work is immaculate as ever. I dreaded the Fairport version of The Convicts Wedding, but it is, in fact, one of the highlights of the second set - reminiscent in feel to Ashley's Complete Dancing Master (and that's high praise from me!) I loath both versions of The Black And Bitter Night - Cockersdale's version sounds almost apologetic whilst the Damian Barber/John Kirkpatrick/The Wilsons/Grace Notes version is almost a jolly romp that doesn't suit the subject matter. The finest performance of this set comes from The Witches Of Elswick who interpret Norma Watersons I Once Lived In Service both interestingly and in keeping with the feel of the character. (They were so pleased with it they put it on their own album).

I really wish this had been done as just a collection of songs without the attempt to recreate the whole - as a collection it might have worked - as a recreation it doesn't. I'll listen to the first CD a lot, and I'm really enjoying the book. The second CD I really can't see me bothering with much. It's the sort of thing I'll put on very occasionally just to try to convince myself that it really isn't as disappointing as it is - and then put it away again for a few years.
Barry Howard, London
Your name Where you are from
Your review
  Folk & Acoustic
  Mike Harding
  Folk & Acoustic Blog
  Folk Vault
  Cambridge 2008
  BBC Young Folk Award 2009
  BBC Folk Awards 2009
  The Virtual Session
  Message Board
[an error occurred while processing this directive]

An impeccable selection of the best in folk, roots and acoustic music.
Mike Harding
BBCi Music

Celtic Roots - BBC Scotland

Celtic Heartbeat - BBC Wales

Dedicated Transports website

Free Reed's website

Karl Dallas's website dedicated to Peter Bellamy

Note: The BBC is not responsible for external websites.

Catch up on BBC TV and Radio. Watch and listen now.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy