Lindisfarne – Magic in the Air
By Christmas Eve, 1977, professional Geordies Lindisfarne had been through the rigors of line-up changes, dissolution and the inevitable reformation, all within the space of eight short years.
The rough ‘n’ ready combo, often derided for their Rent-a-Geordie posturing, may have been past their creative prime by the time Magic in the Air - a live recording of the culminating event in a short run of Christmas concerts – was released, but the fact remains that their first three albums, Nicely Out of Tune, Fog on the Tyne and Dingly Dell, were compelling and enjoyable slices of hairier-than-thou folk rock.
Thankfully, on Magic in the Air – which brings the original line-up back together – the band knows which side their musical bread is buttered and draws all but one of its songs from those first three albums, resulting in a crowd-pleasing set that returns them to their early 70s heyday.
Forever associated with the tongue-twisting, folk-lite sing-along daftness that is ‘Fog on the Tyne’, there was always much more to Lindisfarne than met the eye. Scratch beneath the surface and one would find a socially conscious band, whose lead singer enjoyed a firm grounding in left-wing politics.
Okay, musically-wise we’re not talking Ewan MacColl here, but songs such as ‘We Can Swing Together’, ‘All Fall Down’, ‘Court in the Act’ and ‘Winter Song’, all touch upon politically-charged topics that acknowledge singer-songwriter Alan Hull’s roots and his years as a Labour Party activist.
Rousing versions of these four songs are included on Magic in the Air, which, at 80 minutes, provides a great window onto the Lindesfarne oeuvre. The band, despite the turbulent waters that passed beneath their bridge over the years, is in fine form throughout, sounding as though they’d never been away and evidently enjoying themselves as much as the Christmas Eve crowd of lads and lasses.
Kicking off with a splendid rendition of ‘Lady Eleanor’ and finishing with the mystical ‘Clear White Light’, Lindisfarne put on a show that, if you’re a fan, is somewhat essential, throwing in the folk jig of ‘Scotch Mist’, as well as digressing into Geordie standard ‘Blaydon Races’, ‘Scotland the Brave’ and the Z Cars theme during ‘We Can Swing Together’, courtesy of Ray Jackson’s enthusiastic harmonica. Of course, ‘Fog on the Tyne’ makes an appearance, but that’s no bad thing – it’s Christmas Eve, after all, and there’s every chance the audience wouldn’t have gone home until they’d heard it.
Altogether, Magic in the Air is a thoroughly enjoyable reissue from a band whose memory is often tainted by one incredibly popular, but unrepresentative song, and an ill-judged 1980′s collaboration with a footballing simpleton.
If you’ve never given Lindisfarne a chance to entertain you, here’s as good a place to start as any. To quote diminutive toupee-bearer Paul Daniels, “It’s Magic!”
Ha’way ya bugger, man!
Magic in the Air by Lindisfarne is reissued by Esoteric and available to buy from Amazon.co.uk
Don’t just read and applaud. Subscribe to the rather splendid RSS Feed