Maralene Powell - Just For You
Label / Cat. No: Cambrian MCT 219
First Released: 1972
What The Album Blurb Says...
Maralene Powell made her first record as a solo artiste. Her second recording was in comapny with Gareth Edwards who for a brief moment exchanged the rugby field for the sound studio.
In this, her first album, Maralene presents a collection of songs which are as varied in subject as they are melodic in nature.
Family music at the fireside has been usurped in past decades by radio and television, but these technical wonders are now commonplace and making one's own music is becoming a rediscovered pleasure. This is indeed a talented family for in this record Maralene is joined by her brother and sister, Aubrey and Denise and her brother in law - John. The quiet mid Wales valley of Pantydwr must often echo to their songs.
"Amazing Grace" cannot be too frequently recorded for each singer brings something new to the listener. The Gentlemen Songsters who join Maralene in this version with such effect are too well known to need introduction. "Morning has Broken" is an old melody which lingers in the mind long after the echoes have died away.
This is a collection of ballads and folk songs, some old and some new. "Love is Teasing" is from the distant past while "Deportee" underlines how cheaply human life is sometimes held in the modern world.
Together they are a collection without a theme - unless what ordinary people feel and experience is thematic. Maralene is already well known on record and in concert, but this is the first recording of the Four P's and it must widen even further their circle of admirers.
What I Say
In light of the fact that the Taffs had a lucky victory on Saturday, I thought it only right we should look at one of their countryfolk for today's outing. And so we have the lovely Maralene Powell, a farmer's daughter from Pantydwr in Radnorshire. I'm not sure Radnorshire even exists any more, though there is a pub just a stone's throw from here called the Radnorshire Arms. See, a little background colour for you there.
Although it's ostensibly a Maralene album, the full title is Just For You - Maralene Powell and the Four P's sing a selection of folk and country songs for your pleasure. And I thought Script For A Jester's Tear was enough of a mouthful. These 'Four P's' confuse me though. There's a picture of them on the front, matching Salmon pink tops, flares armed and dangerous, and rolling Welsh landscape behind. And I think Maralene is one of the Four Ps. It certainly looks like her, and the sleeve notes refer to how Maralene is "joined by her brother and sister, Aubrey and Denise and her brother in law - John". That makes three other people, Maralene being the fourth. So why is it Maralene AND the Four Ps. Surely it's either 'The Four Ps' or 'Maralene and the Three Ps'. Surely Maralene is being counted twice. I shouldn't let it bother me, but this is exactly the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night.
I've just noticed that on the back of the album it says it's called 'Maralene Powell with the Four "P's" and the Gentlemen Songsters present a selection of Folk and Country songs for your pleasure.. Seems like everybody's getting in on the credits. Good job they didn't put that on the cover of the album, or there wouldn't have been enough room for that lovely picture of Maralene looking foxy.
The songs are a bit of an odd mix. Understandably, given the nature of the Welsh, there are a few religious songs on here - 'Tramp On The Street' stood out for likening the treatment of Jesus to the death of an unloved Tramp. On The Street. A strange comparison to make, but at least I remembered it! Amazing Grace is handled well, and the Male Voice Choir, sorry, the 'Gentlemen Songsters' make sure you know this is a Welsh record. But the version of Morning Has Broken struck me as a little... off. The pianist and the guitarist seemed hesitant, and not quite sure when to come in to best compliment the vocals. It leads me to believe (though I may be completely wrong) that the song was recorded 'live' in the studio.
I do have a few concerns though with the choice of songs. Firstly, there is a tendency on this side of the Atlantic to believe that Country songs hold some meaning for us. They don't. Really. It's nice to listen to, and I've learned over the last few years to love Country music, but there is something so very wrong about a singer from North Wales telling me about her Louisiana home, and how the cotton crop has done this year. I'm not saying you have to stick to what you know and sing about daffodils and leeks, but there is only a certain degree of credulity I can muster, and it stops short of believing you're a prairie flower.
What causes me more of a worry are the two songs that start side two - 'Love Is Teasing' and 'I Will Never Marry' - they both carry the same message, which is that men are feckless bastards who will get what they want from you, then cast you aside. You can't trust them, so don't waste your time on them. I shant comment further, only to suggest that maybe Maralene had one or two boyfriend issues at the time....? Mere speculation....
We also have a rendition of 'Nobody's Child', a song last seen on Tony Best - By Request, and of such awful sludgy sentimentality that it makes me nauseous just to think about it. It's a song about how the narrator goes to an orphanage and finds a blind boy who nobody wants (because he's blind, obviously), and how said blind orphan believes he'd be better off dead because at least in Heaven he'd be able to see. This really is the most unpleasant song I think I've heard since No Charge. Yes, it's really that bad.
The record is released on Cambrian Recordings, a label I hadn't come across at all before, and one that has a strong Welsh pedigree, boasting Max Boyce and Mary Hopkin as signed artists.
Maralene's voice is rather lovely. It has that pure, clean tone that was so favoured in folk circles in the 60s and 70s. That may however have been her downfall in that while the voice is technically good, it doesn't ( to my ears at least) stand out above the other recording artists of the time. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it, but it lacks that distinctive edge that could elevate it into wider public recognition.
Equally, the album doesn't have a focus - had it been an album of religious songs or an album of standards, it might have fared better, but it seems to lack identity as one or the other, and so ends up a bit of a hodge podge. That's not to say I won't be listening to it again. But you can be sure I'll be skipping Nobody's sodding Child.
(This is, by the way, the first album that I have ever seen that listed it's tracks a, b, c.)
(a) Amazing Grace
(b) Morning Has Broken
(c) See That Little Boy
(e) There But For Fortune
(f) Tramp On The Street
(a) Love Is Teasing
(b) I Never Will Marry
(c) Nine Hundred Miles
(d) Country Girl
(e) Cotton Fields
(f) Nobody's Child
6.75 out of 10