‘Before We Go To Paradise’ is singer/songwriter PHIL MARTIN'S debut album. There are ten tracks here, all of which would be described as traditional English folk music. What Phil has done for the majority of the tracks on this album, is compose music, which is woven around some of famous English poems. As most people will be aware of the majority of these, there is little point me quoting the lyrics on all but a couple of exceptions.
The album opens with ‘Rolling English Road’, a nice zingy song with some good guitar work, which complements Phil’s voice very effectively. This is based around a poem written by G.K. Chesterton and appearing in his novel ‘The Flying Inn’, published in 1914. This poem has previously been set to music by Maddy Prior (Steeleye Span). I liked Phil’s take on this and thought that it was a good start to the album, giving the listener a taste for Phil’s, easy going style.
On this album, ‘Rainy Night in Georgia’ is transformed to something a lot closer to home in ‘Rainy Night in Brentford’, but here Phil has interwoven his own lyrics, which name check the local football club, and talks of the “tower block and eco-village”. This lends the song a new dimension, and personalises it.
‘Open Mic’ which follows, is one of Phil’s own compositions, possibly semi-autobiographical, but with tongue firmly in cheek: -
“I set off without a plan, under the tutelage of desperate Dan.”‘Shall I Compare Thee’, based on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, possibly the best-known work among the 154 sonnets that he composed. Here it is reworked as a slow folk song, tender and loving in its sincerity.
Further poems from John Masefield, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Gerald Manley Hopkins follow. There is no faulting the arrangements here, and Phil turns each of these into good folk tunes.
‘Carless Love’ (sic) is one of Phil’s own compositions. This showcases his wit and ability to throw together a good rhyme: -
“On the Queen’s Highway, the car is king. God help me, I love cycling/ Got wind in my hair, drained life to the dregs, got freedom running between my legs/ Lungs of fire and thighs of steel, you won’t find that behind a steering wheel.”
Personally, I really liked this album. Phil’s arrangements were spot on, but I would have liked to hear more of his own material, because as a writer, he hits the nail on the head. Well worth investing in if you are a fan of this genre.