Music review: Bright Phoebus Revisited

FIRST released in 1972 but shoddily pressed and soon withdrawn, Bright Phoebus, an album of extraordinary songs by Lal and Mike Waterson of the English folk dynasty, gained fabled status as a lost folk-rock masterpiece. Both siblings have since passed on but, remastered and re-released, Bright Phoebus finally entered the album charts last year, after 45 years.

Bright Phoebus Revisited
Bright Phoebus Revisited

Mitchell Theatre, Glasgow ****

Delivered by a rumbustious ensemble including Lal’s daughter Marry, Eliza Carthy and her father Martin, though unfortunately lacking matriarch Norma Waterson due to ill health, this celebration had its creaky moments but was also a vivid and at times moving reminder of a brilliant and often dark muse.

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Proceedings opened with the singalong bounce of Rubber Band and ended with the catchy title track jogging along mightily somewhere between vaudeville and gospel hall. In between, standouts included Eliza’s rich voicing of the wry Red Wine Promises, her commanding delivery of Jack Frost and her warm duet with guest John Smith in Evona Darling.

Martin seemed a bit uncertain in his solo rendition of Winifer Odd, and another guest, Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Perry, brought rockabilly drive to Danny Rose, though his rendition of one of the most memorable songs, The Scarecrow, with its shadowy pagan overtones, really needed starker clarity.

Marry was also in fine voice in Revoiced, a moving tribute to her mother, and for the dreamlike Fine Horseman, with haunting oboe from Kate St John, while powerful ensemble singing punctuated the incantatory Child in the Weeds.