Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys
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While working on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, the film’s director, Gore Verbinski, and Johnny Depp began to discuss the idea of an album of sea shanties (or chanteys, as they have it) reinterpreted by modern artists. Bringing in the producer Hal Willner to helm the project, they — unsurprisingly — assembled a starry cast, ranging from those you might expect (Nick Cave, Richard Thompson) through to those you probably wouldn’t (Andrea Corr, Bryan Ferry), via some you’ve never heard of (the pedal-steel player and Popeye soundalike Baby Gramps). Sometimes moving (Bono’s Dying Sailor to His Shipmates), sometimes filthy (Loudon Wainwright’s Good Ship Venus), but always intriguing.
While working on the Pirates of the Caribbean films, director Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp became fascinated with the lore and fable of pirates and sailors and decided, along with Anti and Epitaph boss Brett Gurewitz, to create a compilation of songs paying tribute to life on the high seas. Needing a captain for their vessel, the trio enlisted legendary producer Hal Willner, who - just as he did on the fantastic Disney compilation Stay Awake - began matching up maverick musicians with extraordinary songs.
The artists clearly savour the opportunity to play pirate and each give it their own stamp. So, we have Bill Frisell's languid, haunting take on Spanish Ladies and Sting's hoary growl on traditional worksong Blood Red Roses, while Nick Cave snarls his way through Pinery Boy and Fire Down Below.
Never one to shy away from a chance to tackle traditional material, Richard Thompson clearly relishes Mingulay Boat Song, while his son, Teddy Thompson, performs Sally Brown. The family theme continues as Rufus Wainwright and his mother, Kate McGarrigle, play Lowlands Away. Rufus' dad, Loudon Wainwright III, also turns up to play the disgustingly funny Good Ship Venus and Turkish Revelry.
Other highlights include Gavin Friday from The Virgin Prunes' rambunctious take on Baltimore Whores and Antony's (of Antony & The Johnsons) astonishing vocal talents sitting alongside Bryan Ferry's monaural drawl on Lowlands Low. Jarvis Cocker's 7-minute A Drop Of Nelson's Blood is staggering, while the lilting hum of Bono's A Dying Sailor To His Shipmates is perhaps the track most likely to instigate a bout of seasickness.
Rogue's Gallery offers a look at the hardships, the horrors, the lusts, the lurid depths and the beauty that led men down to the sea for hundreds of years. In piratical terms, think of it as a treasure chest overflowing with gems.
1. Cape Cod Girls - Baby Gramps
2. Mingulay Boat Song - Thompson, Richard
3. My Son John - Reilly, John C.
4. Fire Down Below - Cave, Nick
5. Turkish Revelry - Wainwright, Loudon III
6. Bully In The Alley - Old Prunes
7. Cruel Ship's Captain - Ferry, Bryan
8. Dead Horse - Holcomb, Robin
9. Spanish Ladies - Frisell, Bill
10. High Barbary - Arthur, Joseph
11. Haul Away Joe - Thompson, Mark Anthony
12. Dan Dan - Thomas, David
13. Blood Red Roses - Sting
14. Sally Brown - Thompson, Teddy
15. Lowlands Away - Wainwright, Rufus & Kate McGarrigle
16. Baltimore Whores - Friday, Gavin
17. Rolling Sea - Carthy, Eliza
18. Haul On The Bowline - Neuwirth, Bob
19. Dying Sailor To His Shipmates - Bono
20. Bonnie Portmore - Williams, Lucinda
21. Mermaid - Carthy, Martin & The UK Group
22. Shenandoah - Greene, Richard & Jack Shit
23. Cry Of Ma - O'Hara, Mary Margaret
1. Boney - Jack Shit
2. Good Ship Venus - Wainwright, Loudon the 3rd
3. Long Time Ago - White Magic
4. Pinery Boy - Cave, Nick
5. Lowlands Low - Ferry, Bryan & Antony
6. One Spring Morning - Akron/Family
7. Hog Eye Man - Carthy, Martin & Family
8. Fiddler - Jay, Ricky & Richard Greene
9. Caroline And Her Young Sailor Bold - Corr, Andrea
10. Fathom The Bowl - Reilly, John C.
11. Drunken Sailor - Thomas, Dave
12. Farewell Nancy - Harcourt, Ed
13. Hanging Johnny - Ridgway, Stan
14. Old Man Of The Sea - Baby Gramps
15. Greenland Whale Fisheries - Parks, Van Dyke
16. Shallow Brown - Sting
17. Grey Funnel Line - Holland, Jolie
18. Drop Of Nelson's Blood - Cocker, Jarvis
19. Leave Her Johnny - Reed, Lou
20. Little Boy Billy - Steadman, Ralph