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DVD: Jake Thackray and Songs (BBC DVD 2014)

Star rating: 

Having arrived on the maternity ward of Doncaster Royal Infirmary in 1981 - the year the BBC gave Jake Thackray his own six-part series - it's little wonder that I don't recall this masterpiece of musical television. For the last thirty-three years, Jake Thackray has existed only, for me, inside the sleeves of my dad's LP collection and the plastic boxes of reissues from the 1990s. Indeed, having grown up in the world of Grunge and Brit Pop, I feel extremely fortunate to have noticed Jake at all.

Thankfully, his complex tangle of percussive lyrics, his melancholy classical guitar chords and delicately hilarious subject matter has been upholstering my ears for many years and, thanks to the fan-fuelled Jake Thackray Project and the BBC, I'm now able to further illustrate my love for the late Thackray's genius with this DVD release.

Presenting the entire BBC series, complete with thirty performances from the much missed Leeds chansonnier, JAKE THACKRAY AND SONGS is not just a must for all Thackray fans, but a compulsory item for any self-respecting music collector.

If you're looking for the upper hand in any argument about filming live musical performances, here's your ammo. Without the presence of cameras at this series of performances in places such as Birmingham, Nailsea and Newbury, we would be deprived of the chance to broaden our enjoyment of such classic songs as Bantam Cock, Lah Di Dah and Fine Bay Pony. Each song is enhanced by the enigmatic facial expressions of its author, as well as equally eloquent and comical intros from the man who says "perversely enough, if you're a singer you have to talk!".

Swathed in curious north country mythology and clouds of cigarette smoke from the audience, Jake's delivery is paradoxically blunt yet soft, his double entendres shocking yet gentle. Some songs are delightfully silly whilst others would manage to move even the most modern audience with their political message, especially The Bull with its evergreen observations of authority and hierarchies and The Remembrance with its smartly observed anti-war message and the sharply resounding refrain "this was a couple of weeks before we got killed in the war". And then there's the blissfully daft poetry of On Again! On Again! and Sister Josephine - songs that leave the works of other comedic songwriters trodden into the mud.

The DVD also includes footage from the show's guest stars such as Pete Scott, Alex Glasgow and Ralph McTell – just a few other reasons to add this treat of a disc to your collection.

Liam Wilkinson
Northern Sky