Peter Bellamy's second album of settings of Rudyard Kipling's verse, 1972's Merlin's Isle of Gramarye, is entirely based on Kipling's two children's books, Puck of Pook's Hill and Rewards and Fairies. These books are Kipling at his most playful, and Bellamy rises to the occasion with a puckish set of original tunes based on traditional British folk forms. Unlike the more spartan Oak, Ash and Thorn, Bellamy's first collection of Kipling settings, Merlin's Isle of Gramarye makes use of the talents of a wide variety of British folk luminaries, including Nic Jones, Dolly Collins, and Chris Birch, who add vocal and instrumental accompaniment to Bellamy's richly nuanced vocals. Among the highlights are the wry "Smugglers Song" and two of Kipling's portraits of military life, "The Queen's Men" and "Eddis Service," each given multi-layered performances that match the levels of irony in Kipling's verses.
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