Review - Fat Lady Singing - Net Rhythms
Yes, finally! We thought them immortal, but after 40 years the legendary Plainsong are definitely calling it a day. Having played their final UK dates they’ve only two nights in Japan left (next month), then that will be that. But what a history! Two of its four current members - Iain Matthews and Andy Roberts - were founders of the original incarnation, which in 1972 made a great impact with the In Search Of Amelia Earhart LP; 20 years later, Iain and Andy re-formed the band with new members Julian Dawson and Mark Griffiths, who have remained in the lineup to the present day.
Fat Lady Singing is their sixth - and absolutely final -– CD release. Recorded live in the studio back in 2003, it not only documents highpoints in the band’s career up to that point, but also heavily features the band’s then-current release Pangolins, which itself was a very fine record. As you’d expect, these live renditions are polished but not sterile, accomplished but not auto-pilot. Everything is in its place, and yet there’s also that quietly dynamic edge of immediacy that comes with live performance when you’ve got musicians of this calibre working closely together.
Much as I love the Pangolins tracks, I also welcomed the chance to revisit early, more folkier-Americana-styled material like Yo-Yo Man, Raider, Old Man At The Mill and Charlie, and it was interesting to hear the band tackle Iain’s Tigers Will Survive outtake Guiding Light (something of a lost classic if ever there was one). Oh, and there’s a really nice version of the old Fairport (Full House) chestnut Sloth (without any hint of predictable or extended workout!). The songwriting credits for this swansong set are shared just about equally between Iain, Andy and Julian, and the selection cannily covers all the relevant bases.
Finally, the presentation of this release is fittingly lavish too, with sensibly-perspectived essay, biog notes, song notes and credits and plenty of photos, all excellently reproduced. It may by now be all over ‘cos the fat lady’s singing, but at least you’ll have half-a-dozen Plainsong albums to treasure, and this one ensures they go out on a true high.
David Kidman - September 2012