Home Service

Alright Jack

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Home Service was everything that was right about English folk-rock in the '80s, building on the foundation laid by Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span and effectively expanding it. With Alright Jack they created their masterpiece, something that conjoined past and present without any seams showing. The opening title track rocked powerfully, with its political lyric from John Tams (in whom the band possessed a staggeringly good writer) and the brass addition sounding like a Salvation Army band behind the guitar and rhythm section. But they also knew how to treat traditional music, not only a song like the sentimental "Rose of Allendale" (via the legendary Copper Family), but also"Babylon," a piece dating from the English Civil War and an indication that it wasn't the Rastas who first gave that name to an ungodly world. The centerpiece, however, is "A Lincolnshire Posy," a setting of folk songs collected by the late Percy Grainger for large wind ensembles, both adventurous and innovative. Some of the pieces, like "Rufford Park Poachers," are well-known, but none had been heard like this before, arranged with care and great thought to create an epic feel, even if the suite itself is only some 12 minutes long. With it, the band created a fitting memorial to Grainger, a man who'd never believed in working inside the lines. It made for an apt fit, because Home Service blurred the lines, and never more than on this album, where the ancient becomes modern and the brass lies down peacefully with the electric guitar.

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