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Peter Dawson – The Floral Dance
His 49 Finest 1925-39

Various accompanists
RETROSPECTIVE RTS4306 [77:44 + 77:51]

As I noted when reviewing a Beulah download nearly a decade ago, Peter Dawson is a popular subject for reissue, but his discography is enormous, and given his propensity to record under a pseudonym or two, I think it unlikely that we’ll ever have a truly comprehensive stable of reissues. What record companies have largely done is to group his recordings schematically into things like Empire songs, or ballads, and art-songs, or his Handel records, and this has served well enough as an entrée. Retrospective has decided to go for the lighter element of his repertoire, perfectly consistent with their reissuing priorities. Thus, no Handel, or Verdi.

One thing this company likes doing is presenting an artist’s Greatest Hit, out sequence, as an opening number. And that is what happens here, with The Floral Dance, made in May 1934 with an orchestra directed by the versatile Clifford Greenwood. Then we backtrack to December 1925 and move forward until the final session in April 1939. The astute reader can therefore also note that there are no acoustics, and we don’t delve into the early days of Dawson’s extraordinary career on disc and cylinder, which ran from 1904 to 1955. This is the ‘electric’ Dawson.

Though I wrote that this is Dawson in light mood, there are examples of a richer vein of art song – VW’s The Vagabond, Elgar’s Speak, Music and Mussorgsky’s Song of the Flea, for example – but they are very much the exception: the first two examples show his rich commitment to the cause of British song and there are examples of its lighter manifestations via Amy Woodforde-Finden, Edward German and Albert Ketèlbey, three composers close to German’s musical heart. Nauticalia and Empire songs feature strongly – there’s Stanford’s Drake’s Drum, and Coleridge-Taylor’s Sons of the Sea as well as geographical travelogue inaugurated by Gershwin’s I Got Plenty o’Nuttin’ and Alfred Hill’s Waiato Poi – these were part of sessions directed by Walter Goehr in 1938.

Popular items like Waltzing Matilda, Bless this House, Roses of Picardy, and On the Road to Mandalay ensure that there is a spread of his best-known items. The sleeve notes are helpful and very readable and the transfers smooth and efficient.

Jonathan Woolf

CD 1: 1925-1931
1 The Floral Dance
2 Simon The Cellarer
3 The Vagabond
4 Jerusalem
5 The Pride Of Tipperary
6 The Kerry Dance
7 The Gay Highway
8 The Toreador’s Song (Sirs! A Toast)
9 The Banjo Song
10 The Song Of The Flea
11 The Yeomen Of England
12 The Man Who Brings The Sunshine
13 Boots
14 Glorious Devon
15 The Fishermen Of England
16 The Drum Major
17 A Bachelor Gay
18 The Miner’s Dream Of Home
19 Auld Lang Syne
20 Rocked In The Cradle Of The Deep
21 The Mountains Of Mourne
22 Jhelum Boat Song
23 The Cobbler’s Song
24 Friend O’ Mine
25 Shipmates O’ Mine

CD 2: 1932-1939
1 I Travel The Road, Who Cares?
2 El Abanico (We’d Be Far Better Off In A Home)
3 In A Persian Market
4 Kashmiri Song (Pale Hand I Loved)
5 Drake’s Drum
6 Old Father Thames Keeps Rolling Along
7 In A Monastery Garden
8 When The Sergeant-Major’s On Parade
9 Sons Of The Sea
10 Watchman, What Of The Night?
11 We Saw The Sea
12 A Song For You And Me
13 Phil The Fluter’s Ball
14 I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’
15 Snowbird
16 Waiata Poi (Tiny Ball On End Of String)
17 Waltzing Matilda
18 Speak, Music
19 Bless This House
20 Parted
21 Roses Of Picardy
22 Somewhere A Voice Is Calling
23 On The Road To Mandalay
24 I’ll Walk Beside You



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