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Paradise and Thorns – Gloucester Docks revisited and Other Tales of Love 2CD
Ashley Hutchings’ gem of an album devoted to Love in its many forms…
…featuring Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, Anton Chekhov, John Donne, William Shakespeare and an awful lot of wonderful singers, musicians, spoken word and, of course, songs.
“Ashley Hutchings is the single most important figure in English folk-rock” – Bob Dylan 2015
In 1987 Ashley Hutchings released By Gloucester Docks I Sat Down and Wept, an album that told a very personal love story. It was unusual in that the story was not told from a ‘looking back’ perspective, Ashley had written the songs, the poems and letters as the story itself was unfolding. Only later did he realise that all those fragments could come together to tell some of the story. But it was an unfinished symphony – there was more to tell and there was no real end as Hutchings was to discover many years later when he finally re-established contact with the heroine of the tale.
Hutchings’ new double CD ‘Paradise and Thorns’ is all about love and its consequences. Disc One – ‘Gloucester Docks Revisited’ – adds more detail to the unfolding relationship Hutchings depicted in the original album and brings into focus other scenes not previously described. It includes several brand new songs, ‘Devil May Care in Our Dancing Shoes and ‘Thirty Two Years and A Lifetime’ both of which were inspired as a consequence of Hutchings and his love having found each other again after so many years.
As on the original album Hutchings’ writings have drawn inspiration from all aspects of the arts; from rock and traditional music, through poetry, history, storytelling and folklore, photographs and cinema. A true romantic at heart, Hutchings – playing the part of the main character, relives the scenes from those writings to create with his paramour their own screenplay. The result is an unfolding drama one might watch on television or at the cinema. The story is ‘theirs’ but the images conjured by the words and music become a personal screenplay that many people will identify with.
Disc two is Hutchings’ personal selection of love songs and stories demonstrating the many faces and types of love and what it means in different contexts. ‘And Other Tales of Love’ – illustrates the inevitable unfolding path of a love affair. The symbolic description of ‘angels, air and flight’ convey a lightness and ephemeral state experienced during the first months of a new found love. Followed by the turmoil of impending break-up juxtaposed to war and the thoughts of serving soldiers dwelling on the ones they have left behind. And finally to the fleeting memories of that early love, and the confusion of bowing to the inevitable before the grief of final parting.
Ashley’s references and influences act as a guide throughout and invite exploration below the surface of these two albums. The contrast of ideals in the title itself ‘Paradise and Thorns’ the bliss and the pain – provokes more than just a single listen – and the listener is justly rewarded for spending time in its company.
Disc One – Gloucester Docks Revisited
1 Elegie XII – an excerpt
2 Kitty come down the lane (Hutchings)
3 The meadow (Louis MacNeice) from The Strings are False
4 Art Nouveau (Hutchings/Ken Nicol)
5 St. Valentine’s Day sonnet (Hutchings)
6 Trip to Bath (Hutchings/John Shepherd)
7 Sultana Cake
8 Cul-de-sac (Hutchings/J.J. Stoney/Fred Claridge)
9 Our stolen season (Hutchings)
10 Has this hotel so many secrets? Excerpt from Last Year in Marienbad
11 Devil-may-care in our dancing shoes (Hutchings/Blair Dunlop)
12 Eugene Onegin – excerpt (Aleksandr Pushkin)
13 It was my heart From Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne
14 I dreamed a dream (Hutchings)
15 Thirty-two years and a lifetime (Hutchings/Blair Dunlop)
16 Epilogue / French Catholic wedding tune (Hutchings / trad., arr. Hutchings)
Disc Two – And Other Tales Of Love
1 Avona and the giant (Kitty Macfarlane)
2 Above the angels (Hutchings/Joe Topping)
3 Aire and Angells (John Donne)
4 I f there’s no other way (Hutchings/Joe Broughton)
5 If love has wings from the play The Marriage of Figaro (Pierre Beaumarchais)
6 The Swift (Becky Mills)
7 Such a crazy marriage from the film A Farewell to Arms
8 Polly on the Shore – an excerpt (Trad., arr. Blair Dunlop)
9 I remember every detail from the film Casablanca
10 I was thinking of Clarissa from the film Charge of the Light Brigade
11 Welcome to the world (Hutchings/Gillie Nicholls/Ken Nicol)
12 Notes from the journal of a quick-tempered man – Part One (Anton Chekhov)
13 Sykaleshe (Trad., arr. Saz’iso)
14 Notes from the journal of a quick-tempered man – Part Two
15 Lost in the haze (Hutchings/Blair Dunlop)
16 Romeo and Juliet excerpt / song from Cymbeline (William Shakespeare / William Shakespeare, arr. Kitty Macfarlane)