10,000 MANIACS: TWICE TOLD TALES (2015)
1) Lady Mary Ramsey; 2) The Song Of Wandering Aengus; 3) She Moved Through The Fair; 4) Dark Eyed Sailor; 5) Misty Moisty Morning; 6) Bonny May; 7) Canadee-I-O; 8) Do You Love An Apple?; 9) Greenwood Sidey; 10) Carrickfergus; 11) Death Of Queen Jane.
As of 2015, it's officially alive — and no, it's not «Mary Ramsey and friends», it is still a more or less authentic version of the 10,000 Maniacs, with the original keyboardist, bassist, and drummer still loyally in place, and even John Lombardo making an appearance as the protective husband and the keeper of the flame, all in one. The only problem is that this time, they did not bother to compose any original material at all; instead, the idea is to really put the old «folk» back into «rock» and come out with an album of nothing but old folk tunes — an idea that both Natalie Merchant and the late Robert Buck would probably have abhorred. But it is 2015, and chances are that even if they manage to come up with another ʽDon't Talkʼ or ʽNoah's Doveʼ, nobody will give much of a damn anyway; so why, indeed, can't they just relax and be playful?
Actually, it's a nice little record. Not much to speak of: the arrangements are very straightforward and conventionally accessible — bass, drums, acoustic and soft electric guitars, some strings and keyboards, strictly middle of the road: no odd touches of electronica, and no attempts at strict acoustic-only «authenticity». It just sounds good, and Mary Ramsey's vocals still sound young and sweet, despite her recently pushing 50. Of course, it's also the kind of record that has already been produced countless times — more like Tales Told To Infinity, if you ask me — but if this material is handled with enough love and depth, well, it won't hurt to enjoy the old stuff once more in a very slightly different reading.
Oddities include the record being bookmarked by two strings-only performances of the instrumental ʽLady Mary Ramseyʼ (amazing that, with a Mary Ramsey actually in the band, they never tried this stunt before!) and an accappella rendition of Yeats' ʽThe Song Of Wandering Aengusʼ, which sort of acts as a promotional introduction to our ageless national treasures, like a foreword or something. There the oddities end, and you get your predictable selection of Saxon, Irish, and Scottish ditties, shanties, canticles, and an occasional murder ballad thrown in.
I do reiterate that everything sounds nice, and they even put some effort in the arrangements — for instance, ʽShe Moved Through The Fairʼ gets a fairly complex set of overdubs and even a vaguely psychedelic guitar solo. The worst thing about the record is probably its album cover, cheesy to the point where you'd have to be a very cartoonish stereotype of a folk enthusiast to even want to pick up a CD like that at your local store; I do give my word that the music is much more rewarding than the album art would make it seem. However, none of the songs deserve individual comments — even Loreena McKennitt injects more personality into ʽCarrickfergusʼ than Mary Ramsey and 10,000 Maniacs, who, by the way, should really have changed their name to «10,000 Diligent, Respectful, Bookish Folkies» before giving us something like that.
Still, it's somehow nice to know that the band still has enough fans to support them, as the album was funded through PledgeMusic and released on an independent label — although why it feels nice, I'm not able to answer even to myself. I mean, when Jon Bon Jovi gets old and tired and washed up and penniless and starts appealing to fans on PledgeMusic, will that feel nice, too? Shouldn't that kind of compassion be reserved for people who still have something left to say even when long past their prime?.. Ah well, anyway, that would be taking it too seriously. All I know is, this record generated a decent vibe for fifty minutes, then sank into the swamp, but maybe it still made me a better man in the process; who really knows?