Can it really be that we are celebrating twenty years of Belshazzar’s Feast?
For all the jobbing that Paul Sartin (the one with the pierced ear and a penchant for fine wine) gets up to with his higher profile project Bellowhead, it seems strange that the duo he forms with Paul Hutchinson (the one with the risqué sense of humour and penchant for all wine) has been punctuating their career paths for so long.
With a handful of quality albums behind them, this live album, set to commemorate their two decades of tune and merry making, encapsulates pretty much what the two Pauls are all about in the live setting.
Not only musically, with their often quirky arrangements of traditional material from sources far and wide, from Beethoven to Sweden (or even the Manchester locale of Swinton as the liner notes suggest) and onto namechecking both Elvis Presley and the Copper family, but also as a live act where the between song patter can be as entertaining as their playing.
Belshazzar’s Feast is an act almost tailor-made for the Good Old Days-type playhouses; at times it’s pure music hall, the CD booklet showing them cheekily peeking round the curtain with the “what….now?” expressions as Leonard Sachs begins one of his lengthy and immensely loquacious introductions.
There are pun-like witticisms and banter aplenty in both the recording and informative yet highly amusing liner notes - none of which are reproduced here so as not to spoil the fun, plus of course there’s some rather good music played along the way by the two Pauls, who aren’t averse to throwing in a couple of curveballs to the arrangements of the traditional material - Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside being a typically bizarre yet oddly appropriate example which works its way into Paul H’s Gerald Road Mazurkas (a Polish folk dance named after a particularly grisly thoroughfare in Worthing).
The dry humoured announcement and barely contained glee which precedes the world premiere of their arrangement of If I Was A Blackbird sits amid several standouts - Thresherman and Home Lad Home from the Find The Lady album sung by Paul S against the backdrop of Paul H’s superbly earnest accordion, but then what else would you expect from the resident accordion tutor at Cecil Sharp House? Amidst the jesting and hilarity, they sit as fine an example of traditional English folk music as you’re likely to hear.
Paul S’s oboe casts an Eastern flavoured promise over a pair of waltzes including the first of several nods to a seasonal theme: Playford’s Christmas Ball and their take on Rondo A La Turkey, including a snatch of Yakety Sax which older viewers will recall as instantly recognisable from the Benny Hill TV series. It’s a perfect way to round off an evening with Belshazzar’s Feast - the music feels very much a festive (as in joyous) offering and the perfect accompaniment to a roaring log fire, a mince pie and a tumbler of your favourite tipple.Mike Ainscoe
A live album recorded by Andy Bell over two nights at The Pound in Corsham, Wiltshire, in celebration of 20 years of Paul Sartin and Paul Hutchinson performing together.
Released 7th April 2014 on Unearthed.
2. Die Deutsches Washfrau
3. Wild Rover
5. Beethoven’s Piano (Accordion) Concerto For Oboe
6. Home Lad Home
8. Sussex Cotillion/Italian Concerto
10. Boda/Mrs Love’s Waltz
12. If I Was A Blackbird
13. Gerald Road Mazurkas
16. Playford’s Christmas Ball
18. One Cold Morning
20. Rondo A La Turkey