Ivor Novello

We'll Gather Lilacs: The Songs of Ivor Novello

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Sugary, simple, innocent and at times naïve, the songs of Ivor Novello are pure, old-fashioned English entertainment, exuding gentlemanly early 20th century sentiments that are light years removed from all things postmodern. Living Era's Ivor Novello tribute album taps into the pretty melodies written by this pianist and movie idol, who is honored here as a composer of flowery operettas and stage musicals. Novello's lyrical sensibilities, which appear to have grown up through the turf of his pastoral Welsh heritage, were tempered with an intoxicating wistfulness worthy of Giacomo Puccini. "Wings of Sleep" features a lovely soprano duet by Mary Ellis and Olive Gibert. Gracie Fields appears obsessed with "Thoughts of You" and Richard Tauber becomes infatuated with lilacs. Portraying a love-struck composer, Novello himself sets up "My Dearest Dear" for Mary Ellis by reciting the lyrics with heart melting sincerity. Fortunately, not everything on this compilation is submerged in cling syrup. John McCormack performs Novello's most famous song, "Keep the Home Fires Burning," a utility air of WWI vintage, and Jack Buchanan sings one of this collection's perkier tunes, "And Her Mother Came Too," a happy ditty that comes across as a bubbling font of inoffensive wholesomeness and good, clean fun. Those in need of a break from the rosy cheeked or heavily powdered and rouged vocalists might appreciate this compilation's single instrumental track, the "Leap Year Waltz." Then it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty: "Shanty Town," described in the liner notes as "nostalgic," contains the phrase "nigger heaven," an interesting term especially when sung so daintily by mezzo soprano Elisabeth Welch, who seems to have specialized in racially inflected material, as she also invokes "primitive" Africa during "Dark Music." Since the English essentially invented the word "nigger" and perfected its use during the 19th century worldwide throughout the Empire on which the sun never set, this peculiar obsession with skin pigmentation is bound to crop up in British music just all the time; it appears here and there in W.S. Gilbert's original lyrics and even in the otherwise eminently harmless songs of Ivor Novello.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:28
2
3:11
3 2:56
4
feat: Derek Oldham
2:41
5 2:48
6
2:54
7
feat: Mary Ellis
4:43
8
feat: Trefor Jones
3:24
9
feat: Mary Ellis
4:59
10 4:39
11 2:55
12
feat: Edgar Elmes
3:27
13
feat: Mary Ellis
3:23
14
3:21
15
feat: Mary Ellis
3:36
16
feat: Mary Ellis
3:45
17
3:16
18 3:23
19 2:57
20 3:27
21 4:03
22
4:09
blue highlight denotes track pick