61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2006
I was lucky enough to hear this release before I actually bought it and I'm glad I did. Reviews posted here had led me to expect something very lo-fi and unexceptional. Instead, I heard the past echo firmly and enticingly in these songs. Anyone afraid that the recording quality on these performances "blows" should closet their fears immediately. No such problems exist and all is sonically fine (those readers who reported of poor recording quality should have their equipment checked). Anyone also worried that these interpretations aren't special or exciting should grab those misgivings and hang 'em from the yard-arm (Richard Thompson's contribution is as fine as anything he's ever done and certainly deserved being heard thanks to excellent guitar playing). People, let's remember one thing about these ditties: they're NOT Top 40 songs! They're sea chanteys, ballads of longing, or songs designed to take the drudgery out of work tasks. Frankly, not every experiment works. But it succeeds far more often than it fails (which it only does on rare occasion). I especially enjoyed Loudon Wainwright's two songs (though keep the kids away from his Disc 2 contribution as it's very, very filthy!). And listening to the stuff whilst driving home after a hard day in the "salt mines" certainly will put both a smile and a tear on your face. I especially recommend Rogue's Gallery if you're a fan of British folk-rock of the sixites/seventies variety (it would've been really cool to include Fairport Convention's "I'm Already There", a recent sea song the guys recorded celebrating Franklin's ill-fated Arctic sea trip or even the classic "A Sailor's Life"). In short, a special set worth savoring. But definitely not for everyone.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2007
As someone who has long been interested in folk music, maritime history, and piracy, I was intrigued by this attempt to compile an accessible collection of traditional sea songs, pitched at today's listeners.
'Rogue's Gallery' is certainly a very mixed bag, both in terms of the material selected, and the way in which it is performed. Some of the songs (for example 'Fathom the Bowl') are not especially nautical in flavour, although given the subject matter (in this case, the joys of convivial drinking) they would surely have been sung by seafarers down the centuries. Many of the commentators below have picked up on the fact that most of the treatments fail to reflect the usual requirements of the genre, and are inferior to more 'traditional' interpretations. To my mind, such criticisms miss the point behind this venture. The object was to assemble a motley crew of performers, some of them famous, others less so, and allow them to give their own spin on a batch of hallowed sea songs.
Not surprisingly, the results are variable. To be sure, some the songs are terrible: ironically, shanties that were intended to ease the labours of shipboard life here become very hard work indeed. However, there are many other tracks where the performers come up with original interpretations which not only add something new, but also (and this is surely the real point) stay true to the spirit of the originals.
Of the 'celebrity' contributors, I'd single out Bryan Ferry for his atmospheric renditions of 'The Cruel Ship's Captain', and 'Lowlands Low'. Of the rest, Baby Cramps turns in two excellent tracks ('Cape Cod Girls', and 'Old Man of the Sea'), while Gavin Friday's 'Baltimore Whores' and Joseph Arthur's 'Coast of High Barbary' both convey an authentic sense of menace.
So, despite the occasional duds, there are some fine performances here, and even purists should at least give this compilation a chance.
By the way, anyone who wants to hear 'traditional' shanties sung in context could do a lot worse than watch John Huston's evocative film of 'Moby Dick'.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2014
I agree with many reviews that the eclectic nature of this album has some songs that you will love and others that you will hate. As a Hal Willner production, the many unique artists are free to interpret the shanty songs in a personal and often modern way. My favorite music seems to lie within the spectrum of Americana, folk, country, pop, chill techno, pyscadelic, and alternative rock so this fits right in.
I admit that the songs jump around a bit more than I'd like. Hence, I prefer Willner's second project The Son of Rogue's Gallery for maintaining a more consistent sound that makes it more of an album than a mixed-tape. Tom Wait's rendition of Shenandoah is a standout but all songs are great! With that said, there are still some great songs on this CD from some less-known but still great artists. There's Van Dyke Parks who is always been a quirky guy fascinated with the wide world of music; Akron/Family and John C. Reilly!
Sea Shanties are a really fun genre to get into. I recommend those diehards out there to get the book What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor? Unexpurgated Sea Chanties and for strictly traditional music renditions, you should check out: 1) Classic Maritime From Smithsonian Folkways 2) Blow Ye Winds in the Morning 3) Blow Boys Blow. Enjoy.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2006
There seem to be three types of reviewer making comments on this album. Fans of the film "Pirates of the Caribbean" aren't going to enjoy this much but then it's not really aimed at the Disney audience. Traditional fans of sea chanteys and folk music should be cautious. I can understand a lot of the bad reviews from you guys, especially when there seem to be so many similar, more traditional disks available out there that are most definately not acknowledged in the sleeve notes of Rogue's Gallery, though please give it a chance... you might find out that there's more to music than old beardy guys with one finger in their ear. However, Jo Public Music Lover (like me) should find a lot of great stuff here and because I'm Scottish I don't mind the swearing! (not that there's really as much bad language on this CD as a lot of other reviewers seem to think there is).
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2007
Those familiar with Hal Wilner's mad genius won't expect a traditional set of sea songs from this compilation. Apologies to those who did; I see a lot of negative reviews from people who expected something more like the excellent Smithsonian/Folkways collection.
Willner & company have done it again, though. The genuinely eclectic set of performers and styles are typical of his work and as good as ever. If you enjoyed "Stay Awake" or "Lost in the Stars" this one is gold.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2006
Traditional Sea Shanties have a rich history, but there is a reason that no compilations have ever reached a large audience -- work songs become repetitive, and were created for working, not listening.
This album is for listening. Purists will decry and direct your attentions to shanties that are "faithful", but I prefer experimentation, taking the melodies and lyrics to places that could never have been imagined by sailors toiling on tall ships on the open sea. I especially enjoy Baby Gramps version of Cape Cod Girls.
For a project of this scope, with diverse artists, under the eclectic direction of Hal Willner, there are certain to be selections that appeal more to some than others. I have my favourites; they will differ from yours. And if anyone claims to have listened to all these artists previously, you'd better query them. This is an extraordinarily diverse assemblage. Many voices, many styles. I prefer diversity and surprises to uniformity and predictability.
If you prefer to sing traditional shanties while dangling from the yardarm, you'll hate this compilation. If you love music going in new directions, you'll delight in this compilation.
For an interesting review, I direct you to a public file from the Manchester Guardian weekly, written 15 Sept. 2006 by Tim de Lisle. You can find the paper's web site by googling, and then search the public archives.
54 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2006
This is a Hal Willner production, which practically guarantees some very eccentric production choices: material unsuited to the performer, unusual and often genre-inappropriate arrangements, a rough 'live' feel. So some of it works and a lot doesn't. You could make a great single disc out of this double set, but for my money there's too much outright awful music here.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2012
This collection of seafaring songs is Good, Bad & Ugly. The Ugly first, because they are few:
David Thomas is atrocious with Dan Dan (fortunately less than 1 minute) and What Do You Do
With The (A) Drunken Sailor. Drunken Sailor may be the best known shanty of the 20th century,
but this version should be kept in Davy Jones locker. It sounds as though you are in a haunted
house at a cheap carnival and in the distance someone is trying to find the words to the song.
A Drop of Nelson's Blood (AKA: Roll the Old Chariot Along) is a classic shanty. The title is a double
entendre. First describing the courage and cleverness of Admiral Nelson, but also the brandy
(or, in later lyrics, the gin, the beer, the wine, etc.) that his body was was placed in. Jarvis Cocker
(former frontman for Pulp) plays it on this cd. It starts as a funeral dirge, then devolves into
The Doors having a bad trip. Baby Gramps would have made the ugly cut on first hearing Cape Cod
Girls, but not now. His voice can sound just like a didgeridoo, which is handy in a song with
"bound away for Australia" in the lyrics. The Bad (and by that I mean bawdy) are excellent:
Fire Down Below, Baltimore Whores & Good Ship Venus are well done, but may be too explicit
for some ears. Finally, The Good: Loudon Wainwright III, singer of Dead Skunk in the Middle of the
Road & actor on MASH (among others), sings Good Ship Venus & Turkish Revelry about perfectly.
While on the subject of actors, John C. Reilly does an admirable job with My Son John & Fathom The Bowl.
Sting, of course, is top notch. With his Blood Red Roses you can almost see sailors on a ship in the south
Atlantic working in unison. The rest of the songs in this collection would rate middlin' to excellent.
I suggest buying Rogue's Gallery, but I can't give 5 stars. I hope you enjoy it.
178 of 242 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2006
I have been listening to, researching, and performing
traditional sea songs for two decades.
There are many better complilations out there, in terms
of both authenticity and listenability.
Some of the performances are just abysmal. Good songs
made bad. Some of the production values are similarly
so, as if a mike were stuck in the midst of a pub
Some tracks combine both of these problems.
I'm not certain what Sting was after on his tracks. They're
okay, but they sound like he's trying to ape a traditional
singer who sings very differently (including in a different
register) than he.
It's clear that not only don't the most of the artists understand
the material; some of them don't care enough to.
A couple of the performers tried to 'modernize' the material,
folk-rock style. That can be good. But this isn't the best
example even of that.
A couple performances seem egregiously (and inauthentically)
obscene. Potty-mouthed rap meets unexpurgated sea-songs. Both
are fine by me, but the crossover seems kind of silly.
Virtually any of the other sea-song compilations from here,
from Mystic Seaport, from Folkways, or from Folk Legacy are
Here, look up 'Sailors Songs and Sea Shanties' or 'Sea Songs
and Shanties' by 'various' or 'Blow the Man Down' or 'The Roast
Beef of Old England' or 'Shanties and Songs of the Sea.' All
by credible artists, who understand the material, done well,
There are a few good tracks on this compilation, such as those
by Martin Carthy.
However, in any collection of nautical music, this would be
way down the list!
This is one of those collections where people seem to have to
say 'well it may sound awful but if it brings this music to a
new audience, then it's great.' Most audiences have good enough
ears to run for the doors, and they'll not darken another door
where 'sea music' is being sung inside.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2006
I will admit that some reviewers are right that it all doesn't work, but there are some great tracks on these CD's and you can only listen and judge for yourself. I thought Stings two tracks worked well and fit his voice well(coming from Newcastle he sang Blood Red Roses with authenticity.) Bono's track was also good. and there are others that even have a Celtic Rock flavor.
Baby Gramps's tracks are just funny, I liked them. But I have never heard Drunken Sailor sung like this before and trust me I've spent enough time in Irish Pub's that I have heard it a thousand times.( Irish music is a hobby of mine)it is a strange track. These are still good recordings to have just for their historical value. And we really don't know how they were sung in the past. This could be closer than we think. The album notes are very informative and educational, trying to give as much information as possible on each track. So don't let the naysayers scare you away it's still pretty darn good.