Review of Box Set 1

Many people will mainly know of Phil Beer through his work with Steve Knightley over the last twenty years in BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards “Best Duo” and “Best Live Act” Show of Hands. However, Phil’s musical career is much wider and longer than that and spans some 40 years, with all sorts of collaborations along the way. This box set is intended to be part of a series documenting the extensive body of work outside Show of Hands, although a few Show of Hands rarities are included.

Within Show of Hands, Phil is mostly to be heard adding richness to the vocals and intricacy to the instrumentals of the Steve Knightley and Traditional songs (“decorating” as The Dark One so aptly describes it). Here, in his own box, The Fair One gets to roam far and wide off-piste and away from the that particular sound and those constraints, and in particular to be much more in control of what he is choosing to sing. The material throughout this set reflects his own very wide tastes and ranges from traditional folk songs such as the old shanty Spanish Maidens and hymns to covers of Bruce Springsteen (Youngstown), Graham Gouldman (Bus Stop) and Lowell George (Willin’).

There are 3 CDs and one DVD in the box, together with extensive and thoughtful sleeve notes about how each recording came about and often why the particular song was chosen. At least there are when PB can actually remember!

CD1 is described as “Archive” and kick’s off its musical journey with a school recording of Phil and friends from 1968, then progresses through the Folk Duos OddFolk, Downes & Beer, the folk combo the Arizona Smoke Revue, the Albion Band and finally arrives at Show of Hands, with various Phil Beer solo diversions along the way.

CD2 is described as “Live” and contains some fine examples of live recordings between the 1970s and present day made with various bands and friends. CD3 is described as “Studio”. The collaborators on both these CDs include inter alia Mike Oldfield, Deb Sandland, Chris While, Julie Matthews, Miranda Sykes, Alianza, Jackie Oates, Jim Causley and Ashley Hutchings.

The DVD has an eclectic mix of films, ranging from a 45 minute set of the Phil Beer Band in action on a tour in the early noughties to a TV appearance with Ralph McTell at the Minack Theatre and various pieces of film from various outdoor and backstage locations.

It is a marvelously varied Jambalaya of material, voices, and arrangements. Some of it may not be to every taste, but with so much to choose from there is much to appeal to many. Highly recommended.”

Review of Phil Beer Box Set 1 on amazon, courtesy of keithofchester