Label / Cat. No: World Record Club T877
First Released: Unknown - Probably Early 60s at latest
What The Album Blurb Says...
A man of the cloth seldom is able to take up a second occupation, yet it was as a singer, even more than as a Roman Catholic Priest that Father Sydney MacEwan was renowned. A Glaswegian born and bred, Father MacEwan studied at Glasgow University and at the Royal Academy of Music. This was followed by ecclesiastical training at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome.
On returning to Scotland he discovered that his fine tenor voice so suited to the fine ballads of the Highlands of Scotland, attracted the friendship and enthusiasm of John McCormack, the celebrated irish singer, himself a possessor of a Vatican awarded title - "Count".
MacEwan, while specialising in Irish and Scottish folksong, also sang and recorded classical, and semi-classical art songs and took this repertoire to Canada, USA and Australia on special leave from his post, attached to Glasgow's St. Andrews Cathedral.
This collection of songs presents a cross section of Father Sydney MacEwan's favourite songs - from Scottish ballads to Stephen Foster and Handel.
What I Say
There is a theory that states that those of us unfortunate enough to spend the afterlife in the hot place with the guys with the pointy sticks, will find ourselves subjected to an incalculably malicious form of eternal torture, tailor made to draw out your own, personal nightmares. I had assumed that if such a place exists (and thankfully, I seriously doubt it...) I would end up spending all eternity melded, conjoined twin style, to a Roman Catholic priest.
However, on listening to this album, I have revised my opinion to suggest that my own personal hell would be to spend all eternity melded, conjoined twin style, to this Roman Catholic priest.
But it was the very priestly nature of the man that drew me to this album in the first place. Perhaps I should explain, but when selecting which albums to review, I take absolutely no notice of conventional wisdom, and judge the contents almost exclusively by the cover. The more creepy, dated, ugly, posed, vulgar or bizarre the album is, the more likely I am to pick it up and give it a whirl. My decision is probably 90% based on how much the cover made me laugh. Or squirm. Or vomit.
But sometimes, it's the concept that sells it. I defy anyone who comes across an album called 'Father Sydney MacEwan Sings Some Of His Favourites' to pass it by without a second glance. It can't be done. You have to know. And then you get sucked in, and find that you're paying hard cash to take this delight away with you, to take it home, to play it....
I'm constantly amazed at what good condition these records are in. They've obviously been kicking around for 40 or 50 years, and yet they generally seem to be scratch free and in nearly mint condition. People have cherished these albums, and I wouldn't be surprised if each and every one had a prized place in someone's collection, only to be dumped, wholesale down the charity shop when they died. Somebody, sometime in the past was so enamoured with Father Sydney MacEwan (or at least his voice - having searched on the internet, he wasn't much to look at) that they went and bought this album.
And it's shite. Really. Dreadful, dreadful shite. I don't even care that he's a Roman Catholic priest. I wouldn't buy this if it were recorded by my mate Dave. It's just awful.
In the interests of fairness, I should probably qualify this. I'm sure that technically his voice is wonderful, and again, from what I found on this wonderful internet of ours, he was a fairly harsh self critic, and stopped recording aged 50 when his voice had "lost its bloom".
I can only assume then, that he made this album when he was 70.
I like to think I have fairly catholic tastes (see what I did there) when it comes to music. I'll listen to pretty much anything and try and find some merit. But this really isn't my kind of music. Maudlin old Scots singing maudlin Scottish songs in a warbly tenor? Just doesn't push my buttons I'm afraid. He sounds to my uneducated ears like the guy who sits in the corner of the pub, nursing his whisky, and sings, unbidden, at the end of every Saturday night in the hope that one of the regulars will buy him a drink.
But at least that guys got passion. These songs are delivered in a manner so devoid of emotion that I wonder if they really were his favourites. I mean, I have no singing voice. Really. I tend to sing through my nose (which is a good trick if you can pull it off (the trick, not the nose that is)), so I shouldn't be criticizing others. However..... when I sing some of my favourites, I give them my all. Passion, vigour, showmanship, the works. I can't picture old Sydney even bothering to stand up to sing.
And the arrangements of the songs? It's either Father Sydney and a lone guitarist or Father Sydney and a lone pianist. Not a banjo in sight which, after last week, is a bit of a disappointment. There's just not enough variation to make this interesting.
But, the biggest disappointment, the cruelest blow, is that "I Dream of Jeannie" was not the theme from the TV show of the same name, but some dirge about a girl he once loved (yeah, right) with light brown hair who looks like a zephyr or something.
In short, avoid. Really.
I Dream Of Jeannie
In Summertime On Bredon
Ye Banks And Braes
Home Sweet Home
Where E'er You Walk
Little Boy Blue
Maiden Of Morven
In Praise Of Islay
1 out of 10 - Just for suckering me in with the promise of 'I Dream Of Jeannie'. Doo do do doo de doo do, doo do do doo de doo do.....
I also think I should be congratulated on not making a quip about John McCormack's Vatican awarded title.