Softley's debut LP is one of the rarest '60s British folk albums, and one of the most coveted by collectors. While it's not as musically impressive as it is collectable, it's notable as one of the first U.K. singer/songwriter folk albums in the contemporary style pioneered earlier in the U.S. by Bob Dylan and the North American performers Dylan inspired. Indeed, there were few others in Britain taking a similar approach at the time of Songs for Swingin' Survivors' release, with the exception of Donovan and perhaps Bert Jansch. Early Donovan is an unavoidable point of comparison when listening to this solo acoustic guitar album, both for the earnest social consciousness and romanticism, and also since Softley actually wrote a few songs covered by Donovan in 1965. One of them, "The War Drags On," appears here in Softley's own version, and while it's not as good as Donovan's, it's notable as one of the first protest songs to directly mention the Vietnam War. Softley isn't as good a singer or tunesmith as early Donovan, however; his voice is a bit on the nasal and restrained side, sometimes coming off a little like a male equivalent to how Marianne Faithfull sounded after her voice lowered. Other than "The War Drags On," the voice of protest is felt in "After the Third World War Is Over," but, in fact, Softley was a fairly versatile writer, espousing early Donovan-like romance in "All I Want Is a Chance" and "What Makes the Wind to Blow"; got-to-ramble troubadourisms in "Keep Movin' On"; and a surprisingly direct (for 1965) reference to cocaine addiction in the love lament "Jeannie." Not everything is youthful singer/songwriting, as there are also covers of "Strange Fruit," "The Bells of Rhymney," and Woody Guthrie's "Plains of the Buffalo," as well as a couple of folk-blues instrumentals. Though it might be a minor album in all, it's still a rather good one, more tuneful than many a mid-'60s folk record based around original material, with impressive guitar work.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger