“By Gloucester Docks I sat down and wept” Ashley Hutchings MBE (TE CD 236)

I’m going to tell you about a remarkable album. That’s probably put some of you off already, and that’s a shame.

I’m really interested in what music actually does to and for us. It can be perfectly acceptable background noise or it can make a tedious journey seem quicker. It can help in building friendships and relationships through shared tastes.

It can also enhance our day like a kind of auditory super-vitamin, and potentially do a lot more.

So, perhaps I should explain about this album and where it fits in.it was first released in 1987 and it’s a concept album…no, keep reading, you’ll be glad you did. It tells the story of a real-life relationship from its beginning through the various stages until eventual parting and ending.

It’s a mixture of songs and spoken word. Initially I found the spoken word passages a bit stilted and reserved. Paradoxically that’s exactly the point; repeated listens reveal that is precisely how the two protagonists are. They are unprepared for this love story which has so vigorously shaken up their emotional lives .The nearest recording that I can think of that shows such visceral rawness is “Blood on the Tracks”.

The songs are superb (particularly “Under the Rose” and “Brief Encounter”) and complement the spoken word passages contributing to the overall narrative. The musicianship is committed and top-class, well what would you expect from Ashley Hutchings MBE, Polly Bolton, Clive Gregson, Christine Collister, Phil Beer, Graeme Taylor, Dave Mattacks etc ?

This is not background music; you can’t talk over it and you can’t ignore it.

It moves me and I’m so glad I discovered it. This is not an album that the listener can “get” first time (although you might be lucky, it took me several listens) I imagine that some of you may not search it out and among those that do some will not like it, but I hope that some of you will discover the beauty, heart and soul of this album and be glad that you did.

PS  your appreciation of this unique album may be enhanced by reading Elizabeth Smart’s prose poem “By Grand Central station I sat down and wept” which was a major source of inspiration for Ashley Hutchings…..

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