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COME DANCING Reviews
Now here's an interesting background for a band! CCB's accordion player Richard Jones was a founder member of the Climax (Chicago) Blues Band, thence bassist of Principal Edwards Magic Theatre, rejoining Climax Blues Band as keyboardist for their hit years; after a few years out of the business he discovered a love for folk music through Folk Camp in Devon, and decided to form a band to play dance music. This was Meridian, where he was joined by fiddler Anna Tabbush and piper/whistle & flute player Chris Walshaw; but he felt the need to expand the tonal palette into a fuller-blown primarily dance outfit that could actually play ceilidhs and festival stages, recruiting an additional fiddler Holly Sheldrake and guitarist Mark Weaver to provide the rhythmic undertow. Reborn as the Climax Ceilidh Band, here's their debut on record - and pretty good it is too. Richard's aim was for CCB to be a ceilidh group with a subtle twist, and in providing an album full of sparkling, well-organised and expertly played tune-sets, CCB falls between the various orthodoxies as far as accepted practice in ceilidh band approaches is concerned. There's plenty of lively vitality in the playing, a spring in the step which neither clodhops with the leaden feet of overwhelming tradition nor throws out the heritage completely with programmed fusion beats, preferring to keep the instrumentation firmly traditional and primarily acoustic. There's a nicely organic feel to the writing and the arrangements, whereby any influences from world musics (especially French and Breton) are gently integrated rather than thrust in the listener's face - which is quite refreshing in this impression-seeking day and age. Nothing feels needlessly rushed - not even the pell-mell blink-and-you'll-miss-it Staten Island/Kitchen Girls medley that closes the disc with such panache. And don't worry, there's precious little attempt to shoehorn blues or jazz into the proceedings (yet), and Richard and his merry band have no truck with unnecessary ele ctronic gimmicks. Nine out of the thirteen tracks feature tunes composed by band members in various permutations, and several of these come with delightful, often surprising little quirks like unusual chords and innovative rhythms (Richard's step-hop hornpipe Jack-In-The-Green has both!) within the conventions of the dance structure. Although I did get the distinct feeling that the Chipperfield's Circus jig was all poised to morph into Nellie The Elephant! For the music succeeds in its intentions, being both highly danceable (yes, there's even a schottische you can polka to, apparently!) and highly listenable - not an easy trick to pull. Victor Sylvester, eat your feet off!
David Kidman April 2007
Dirty Linen (USA)
If you’re in the mood for tunes meant more for brisk foot-tapping than quiet contemplation, there's Come Dancing [Beautiful Jo Records BEJOCD-49 (2006)], the inaugural recording from England 's Climax Ceilidh Band. This is an acoustic quintet built on the drive of two fiddles and an accordion, supplemented by wind instruments, smallpipes, and guitar, playing a very enjoyable collection of original and traditional jigs, reels, polkas, and mazurkas in modern English country dance style. The jig "Red Crayon" finds twin fiddles skipping along with a pennywhistle and meeting up with an assertive accordion, and then everyone happily marches off together. "Not a Reel Polka" leads off with a satisfyingly reedy blend of pipes and accordion, and in the bouncing horn pipe "Jack-in-the-Green" you can almost hear the dancers clacking away in the background. (Tom Nelligan)
The five musicians here are all well-known faces around folk song and dances in the South of England and they have played in a wide variety of bands in recent years. Four really powerful players lead the melody playing usually with the powerhouse of Richard Jones’s accordion to the fore. The interplay between the fiddles of Anna Tabbush and Holly Sheldrake on the likes of “The Jig of Slurs” is exhilarating and Chris Walshaw is heard on bagpipes and a variety of whistles. Mark Weaver’s guitar completes the group. Many of their tunes are written by members of the band and the gentle and quite stately “Aunty Forever” by Holly contrasts with the straight ahead power of many of the tracks. Almost certainly this band will be coming to a festival near you this coming summer.(Vic Smith)
You've got to the love the fact Richard Jones, accordionist with Climax Ceilidh Band, came to this from a career with Climax Blues (and, before that, Principal Edwards Magic Theatre, for aficionados of the obscure). But what makes it even better is that this group is a crack outfit, with some ace tunes to keep the feet moving. The band consists of a pair of fiddles, guitar and Chris Walshaw, whose pipes, whistles and flute form the centerpiece of the sound. That said, everything is a band effort, with some clever, imaginative arrangements where every element links with the others to build a very joyful whole. A word, too, on the material, much of which comes from their own pens, and which actually throws up a couple of what could become twisted ceilidh classics in "Spike" and the gentle "Aunty Forever," a waltz that drifts lovingly across the scenery. There's a great variety of dances, jigs, hornpipes, polkas and even a short set of traditional American reels, " State Island / Kitchen Girls." It's not merely that the playing is excellent (and the way Walshaw's pipes lead everything is a revelation), it's the thought that has gone into all this to make it light, but with enough rhythm to excite the dancers. Most definitely a top notch debut - they've definitely got it right. — CN
The Climax Ceilidh Band's first CD, shows just why this relatively new ceilidh band is making such headway in the folk scene. With their mixture of accordion, two fiddles, guitar, pipes, whistles and flute, they cover a range of traditional and well-known tunes that are great for dancing. Ultimately however, it is their original material and arrangements, which makes this CD so attractive.
Come Dancing is a varied album of traditional and self-written material, and covers a range of different dance tunes from jigs to mazurkas, and this variety shows what makes them such an attractive ceilidh band. The self-written material is especially good, as some of it has hints of other styles and unexpected rhythms, whilst keeping the beat needed for dancing. Track one, 'Spike', is a great example of this; it has brilliant driving rhythms which make you want to dance, and the tunes are catchy as well.
The mix of instruments of the Climax Ceilidh Band is another reason why this CD would always be worth a listen. The accordion and guitar are the main rhythmic elements of the band and the use of two fiddles adds to this; although sometimes both play the melody, at least one fiddle is sometimes used as a harmonic or rhythmic instrument and this increases the power of the band. The balance between the different instruments is very effective as the power of the accordion and fiddles is balanced out by flute, especially the harmonies, and the pipes. Several of the tracks are pipe tunes such as track four 'Not a Reel Polka', and these are some of the best on the CD.
Interspersed with the self-written material are several traditional tunes, some well known such as 'Mug of Brown Ale'. By incorporating these into the album, they balance out the CD, showing the band to have a varied repertoire, and the two American reels that the CD finishes with, shows the pace of the album as a whole. Overall, this CD nicely demonstrates why the Climax Ceilidh Band is fast becoming known on the ceilidh circuit. Florence Bearman
Meridian are Richard Jones, Anna Tabbush and Chris Walshaw. Add Holly Sheldrake and Mark Weaver and you get the Climax Ceilidh Band (not to be confused with the Climax Blues Band, still gigging). With both the trio and the quintet their own material predominates. This is very much in the slick, modern manner with not a ragged edge in sight. The tunes have a range of European influences (notably French pipe music and bal musette accordeon) and the occasional bluesy touch might be interjected but, unlike some, they don't lay either the eclecticism or the virtuosity on with a trowel. Meridian include three songs (two trad, one Shakespeare) attractively sung by Tabbush, but Climax stick to tunes. Both bands seem to fall somewhere between the various available extremes: they aren't exactly wild and abandoned, nor do they go for clinical, high-velocity virtuosity or down the cerebral/ meditative route. The Meridian album is available via www.meridianfolk.co.uk; the Climax one from www.bejo.co.uk Ni k Beale
Another ceilidh band invites you onto the dancefloor. Fronted by some of the usual suspects, Holly Sheldrake and Anna Tabbush on fiddles, Chris Walshaw (does he ever sleep?) on bagpipes and woodwinds, there’s also a most unusual suspect…Richard Jones on accordion. Readers of a certain age might remember shaking their heads in a semi-rhythmic fashion to a certain Climax Chicago Blues Band. He played bass with them. There’s also some driving guitar from the intriguingly named Swerve.
So is this an invitation you’re likely to accept? I would if I were you. Come Dancing offers a mixture of traditional and self penned tunes, and each has that all important danceability factor. Any band featuring fiddles and pipes is going to invite comparisons to early Blowzabella, but such a comparison is only useful as a musical signpost. CCB are very much their own band. Each of them can write a good dance tune (which isn’t always the same as a good tune!) and the trad arr is sympathetically played. The opening track Spike sets a high standard which is maintained throughout. Red Crayon (2) and Jack-in –the-Green(10) are particularly fine and Not a Reel Polka (4) (it’s a schottische!) a delight. The closing Staten Island/Kitchen Girls proves them no mean hands at that stuff from over the water, albeit englished up a bit.
All in all, a good thing. And three cheers for a booklet with a typeface and background colour that’s easy to read without searching the house for a magnifying glass. Just one small complaint. Their website promised me an”orgasmic” experience. I must have the wrong sort of record player.
Remember Blowzabella? Remember the Climax Blues Band? Well, the disintegration of the former might have left a big void in the English music scene, had a string of new combos not stepped into the breach. Climax Ceilidh Band is the latest to don the mantle and, by gosh they wear it well.
And CBB's bass/keyboards player, Richard Jones, has swapped attitude and electrickery for a simple accordion, to be joined by Anna Tabbush (along with Jones a member of Meridian) and Holly Sheldrake on fiddles and Mark Weaver on guitar. But perhaps the weightiest contribution comes from the third member of Meridian, bagpiper Chris Walshaw, who also adds whistles and occasional flute to the heady mix.
They create wonderful music, which constantly changes, divides, reforms, recedes and resurges. Their emphasis is firmly on engaging, stimulating arrangement with an almost classical feel yet, as the title proposes, it's still feet shifting material all the way, and the album has been stuck on my CD deck for weeks.
A handful of original arrangements of traditional tunes nestle amongst a feast of perfectly memorable band compositions, quite a few of which I'm certain will start cropping up in sessions before the summer's out. Do look out for them.
Great instrumental CD from a very talented group of players who are, I am pleased to see, proud to call themselves a ceilidh. They breathe and bow great life into old favourites like 'Jig of Slurs' and the self penned offerings have an equally tempered and lilting sound. I liked the drive and pace of 'Spike', the moodiness of 'Aunty Forever' and the stagger of 'Anna and Nick's Marriage Mazurka". The band are Richard Jones (Accordion), Holly Sheldrake (Fiddle), Anna Tabbush (Fiddle), Chris Walshaw (Pipes, Whtles, Flute) and Mark Weaver (Guitar). The album ends with two 'supercharged' American reels, 'Staten Island' and 'Kitchen Girls'. This is the kind of music you already enjoy, well played and fresh to the ear. Look out for them. And buy the album.
Before you ask, not all the tunes end with a crescendo! Climax Ceilidh band have a very traditional line up of Accordion (Richard Jones), 2 Fiddle players (Anna Tabbush and Holly Sheldrake), guitar (Mark ‘Swerve’ Weaver) and pipes/flute/whistle (Chris Walshaw), but they have included many self penned tunes here, and very good they are too. They are all highly competent musicians, and the chemistry between the players in this band is something special. Somehow you can tell that the band are good friends by the balance of the music and the warmth and cheerfulness with which they play. The jokey, intimate sleeve notes are also a giveaway! "Anna and Nick's Marriage Mazurka" is one of my favourites, written by Holly Sheldrake for Anna Tabbush's wedding. Sometimes the best presents are homemade!
The various band members bring together a range of influences and experience, with Richard Jones ‘a renegade from rock music’, Anna Tabbush and Swerve coming from strong folk backgrounds , and Chris and Holly bringing in a sound knowledge of European folk traditions. The result is that the dances are impressively diverse and erudite - from Scottish jigs to American reels to polkas, mazurkas, a hornpipe and a schottische.
Traditionalists are sure to love this album, as there’s no drum, bass or vocals – but those of us who have admired Anna’s distinctive, clear voice from her solo work and with the trio Meridian may wish the CCB had stretched a point!
As has been mentioned by other reviewers, CDs by ceilidh bands are unusual things with an uncertain market. After all, the dancing is a big part of the enjoyment of any ceilidh band and, given the general antipathy of the ceilidh fraternity to dancing to anything other than live music, the CD is unlikely to be used for dancing and it therefore needs to hold its own as a listening experience.
The Climax Ceilidh Band are a very talented five piece outfit from the South East that comprises two fiddles, accordion, pipes and whistles, and guitar. They write tunes as well, because nine of the 13 tracks on this album are the compositions of members of the band, either singly or in various combinations.
The answer to the question posed above is that the album does work for the listener. Much thought has been put into the arrangements and the excellent recording quality brings out the texture of the various instrument combinations. The fiddle-led tracks are, for me, the outstanding ones, but that's purely my personal inclination. It's an enjoyable listen, but I would still prefer to dance to them.
Sing Out (R Weir)
Toss what you think a ceilidh band sounds like; this English quintet features big accordion-driven sets and a full sound more akin to the orchestral spirit of Ceoltoiri Chualanin than a pub pickup session. Jazzy interludes, lacey-interweaving, meaty hooks, a sense of swing and exuberance make this a memorable release that's miles from ordinary.
English Dance & Song magazine (Chris Pitt)
The Climax Ceilidh Band came together a few years ago as the combination of two southeast England based bands, Pesky and Meridan, although the band members themselves have a wealth of experience playing for a whole raft of other bands, past and present. Indeed, the band’s name is drawn from accordionist Richard Jones’s years as founder member and keyboard player of the venerable Climax Blues Band. However, apart from a bluesy version of ‘Yeller Girls’, (the album’s only song, beautifully sung by Anna Tabbush), a rant version of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady’ (called ‘Foxy Rant’ here), and an introduction to ‘Horny Miss Hart: Yes Miss Hart’ (after last issue’s Whapwesel review, I see the trend for eccentric tune titles is being maintained!) which sounds suspiciously like ‘Peaches’ by the Stranglers, there are no blues or rock influences here. What you do get are five acoustic musicians at the top of their game, and eleven beautifully crafted sets of tunes, mostly composed by members of the band (to the title mentioned above, you can also add ‘Hot Bitch’, ‘Mouse Proof Pedals’, and ‘Ecstatic Spider’). The aforementioned Ms Tabbush links up perfectly with fellow fiddler Holly Sheldrake; the flute, whistles and bagpipes of Chris Walshaw add extra layers of texture; and Jones’s accordion is rhythmic and unflashy. The solitary rhythm section is Mark (Swerve) Weaver’s excellent acoustic guitar, but the whole band is so together his job is made easy. In fact it is the rhythmic drive of the band that impresses me most – they never forget that they are first and foremost a ceilidh band, and do check them out if they are playing for a dance in your area. Overall, a most impressive CD.
Moors Magazine (Netherlands) (Google Translate!)
The music of the Climax Ceilidh Band sounds at first hearing traditional, but soon you hear that more is going on here. Er wordt op een verrassende manier met ritmes gespeeld en er zijn arrangementen te horen die toch wel behoorlijk uniek klinken. There is a surprising way with rhythms played and there are arrangements to hear anyway pretty unique sound. Er wordt door de vijf muzikanten van de band, die overigens ook vrijwel alle composities voor hun rekening namen, niet alleen technisch fantastisch gespeeld, maar er wordt ook zeer intensief samen gespeeld, waarbij de doedelzak bijvoorbeeld nooit gaat overheersen, maar altijd een deel van het machtige, volle totaalgeluid van de band uitmaakt, waarbij zowel de twee fiddlende dames als de gedreven gitarist en de accordeonist/pianist even sterk aan dat groepsgeluid bijdragen. It is the five musicians of the band, which also nearly accounted for all compositions, not only technically excellent games, but is also very closely played, with the bagpipes for example never dominates, but always a part of the powerful, full overall sound of the band member, with both the two ladies fiddlende as the driven guitarist and accordionist / pianist equally contribute to the group sound. Op Five Play hoor je vrijwel alleen instrumentals, al zorgen ze halverwege voor een soort pauzemoment door een bijna acapella gezongen oud meerstemmig lied in te voegen. On Five Play almost hear instrumentals alone, though they provide a kind of half time break through an almost acapella singing old glee to insert. Dan blijken ze ook nog eens te kunnen zingen. Then they appear again to sing. We laten hier wat willekeurige fragmenten horen die duidelijk maken dat de band op een bijna achteloze manier de moeilijkste stukken speelt. We show here hearing some random clips that show the band in an almost casual way the hardest pieces of play. Virtuoos, maar er is ook passie te horen, en lol. Virtuoso, but also to hear passion, and fun. Een magnifiek plaatje. A magnificent image
Taplas (Mike Greenwood)
I'M ANNOYED at missing two Climax Ceilidh Band dances in south Wales. But - and excuse the cliche - their's really is music for the head as much as for the feet, and their second album is as enjoyable as their 2006 debut. If you're unfamiliar with them, think Blowzabella with lots of bagpipes, woodwind and accordion over rhythm guitar, with duelling fiddles thrown in for good measure. Climax's self-composed dance sets always take a sideways slant on jigs, rants and hornpipes. The polkas could be taken to be bourrees a 4 temps, while Many a Slip conceitedly shifts the beats around in a 9/8 signature. Long hours must have gone into honing the intricate and cinematic arrangements. There are two strategically sited breaks from the often intensely developed band compositions. In the first, the traditional air Harlequin is treated simply and taken at a majestic pace. Later, the band uncharacteristically bursts into song. Bob Fox & Stu Luckley's 1978 album Nowt So Good'll Pass was played to fiddler Anna Tabbush as a kid and she now leads Yeller Girls with the other Climax members adding harmony vocals and accordionist Richard Jones underscoring it with swing-era piano. Great stuff.
fRoots (David Kidman)
The idea for this band originally arose out of dance music band Meridian, which was formed by accordionist Richard Jones (Climax Blues Band's founder) after a late conversion to folk music; its three-piece lineup (Richard, fiddler Anna Tabbush and piper/whistler Chris Walshaw) was later expanded to a quintet, ostensibly to play ceilidhs and festival stages, by the addition of additional fiddler Holly Sheldrake and guitarist Swerve (Mark Weaver), both of Pesky; a sparky debut CD (Come Dancing, 2007) swiftly followed. You might say Five Play presents more of the same, but with arguable more assurance as the five players exhibit even greater intuitive sympathy both with each other and with their respective roles within the band sound. The fiddles dance their melodies quite deliciously, interweaving with the wind instrument parts above the driving rhythms of the accordion and guitar; and the tunes - a significant majority of which are self-penned by band members - tend to have rhythmic or textural surprises round every corner but without resorting to gimmicks, while often fearlessly employing riffs from Jimi Hendrix (Foxy Rant) or the Stranglers (Horny Miss Hart), to organically inventive effect. The fun and vitality of the playing has a rather as-live feel, and only on one track (the waltz On The Fly) does its composer Chris get to indulge in a a mild surfeit of overdubbing, though it's carried out very musically! And just when you're not looking, one lone vocal track gets snuck in - a jazzily syncopated treatment of the shanty Yeller Girls (sung by Anna) which leads neatly into a vigorous set of jigs that conjures up irresistible images of dancing spiders... All of which adds up to a stimulating disc of dance music, built around lively and immediate acoustic-based textures that are rich and full enough to appeal to the head as well as the feet.
Chanter: The Bagpipe Society Magazine (John Tose)
Five Play is the second album from the Climax Ceilidh Band - the first album we had in to review but it was generally agreed that there were insufficient tracks featuring Bagpipes to warrant a review, This second recording, however, goes a long way to redress this issue, there being 6 tracks of the 12 with Chris Walshaw's bagpipes in the mix. As he also plays flute and whistles I would guess this is as good as it will get for pipe lovers. The Climax Ceilidh Band are the afore-mentioned Chris Walshaw (who incidentally is currently the only Bagsoc member who bothers to send in his gig dates so we can include them in the What's on section of Chanter), along with Anna Tabush on fiddle and vocals. Mark Weaver on guitar, Richard Jones on Accordion and Piano, and Holly Sheldrake on fiddle. From this line-up alone you can see that the band are essentially a fiddle led ensemble with the pipes there to add colour and perhaps impact, though this is somewhat lessened as the bagpipes appear at times a little turned down in the mix - which I have to admit is one of my pet dislikes; after all what is the point of including an instrument one of whose main characteristics is it's power and volume, and then not allowing this to come out? But back to the CD. The music is of course all first rate English ceilidh band stuff, a few traditional tunes, the rest being penned by various members of the band which all work together very well. The tracks are presented 'concert' style rather than 'ceilidh' style, by which I mean they don't start with a little introduction as you would need if you were going to use the CD to play for actual dancing (like the Hosepipe Band did on their Kettleburgh Fete CD). Not that that would bother most listeners, though personally I prefer it as that is after all what the music is all about really. The album kicks off with a set of polkas, New Green Dress and Molly's Polka which after a quick fiddle start feature Chris' pipes to good effect with other instruments coming in and out as it progresses. The first part of Molly's Polka was one of those annoying tunes that remind you of something else - it turned out it was extremely similar to the Welsh tune Cadi Ha. Not plagiarism though as both are traditional. The second track is noteworthy as it is based in part on Hendrix's 'Foxy Lady' which works pretty well but as it doesn't feature bagpipes I'll move on to Hot Bitch / Red Sofa' a set of Jigs which has Chris on pipes though rather low in the mix to begin with. Both perfectly trad, sounding though as you can tell by the titles they're by members of the band. As are ‘Fanfare: Mouse Proof Pedals/Who Knows' a set of polkas which is the next track to feature pipes after a gentle beginning of fiddles and whistle. You can tell this is a studio album though as the whistle gives way to pipes without a break and as Chris is playing both.. .Nice tunes though. The only song on the album is the next track - Yeller Girls' sung accapella before being joined by piano. Can't say this did much for me, maybe because it contrasts too much with the rest of the album. It is however followed by two tracks heavily pipe led - and as both are compositions mostly by Chris himself perhaps this is not surprising - the pipes seem to stand out more from the rest of the band as well. For the record they are: 'Ecstatic Spider Vertigo1 (Walshaw / Jones) a set of jigs and 'On the Fly' (Walshaw) which is a waltz. All very infectious stuff and for my part a shame that the rest of the CD isn't quite as good. Again though, in the waltz track - much evidence of studio trickery as Chris seems to be playing flute and at least two sets of pipes all simultaneously. Sounds good, but what do they do live'. The album finishes with a set of slip jigs credited to Walshaw / unknown / trad., starting off with pipes and piano - never a combination 1 feel terribly at ease with but it soon changes to whistle, fiddle and accordion. Fortunately the pipes rejoin the mix before the end for a rousing finale. On the whole a good album if you like this kind of thing, which I do.