The Music Lives On: Now The Mines Have Gone - The Best Of Colliery Bands
The Music Lives On: Now The Mines Have Gone, featuring The Best Of Colliery Bands, was released on 1st March on Universal - Island Records to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the end of the last great miners' strikes on 3rd March 1985 and to celebrate the survival of the colliery bands. A most welcome album, even if a compilation with all the flaws of that genre, that is set to chart.
Some of the finest and greatest of the former colliery bands are featured, including the illustrious Grimethorpe Colliery Band among others. Bands from up and down and across Great Britain are represented, from Scotland and the North East of England to the Yorkshire heartland of the brass band movement to the Midlands and even Kent in the South East, from North Wales and the valleys of South Wales to the East Midlands. A simply glorious collection of bands, in fact. (For those wondering why a further two of the grandest names among brass bands are missing form this compilation - the Black Dyke [Mills] Band never was a colliery band but rather was originally linked to a cotton mill, while the Brighouse & Rastrick Band also never was associated with any colliery but is purely community-based.)
The selections played are equally glorious, from that immortal brass band perennial, the second movement from Dvorak's Symphony No.9 in E minor, From The New World, and the ambitious arrangement from Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, to classic film scores and classic pop like He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother and beyond. For the true brass band aficionado, every single track is an absolute delight.
While The Music Lives On: Now The Mines Have Gone means to celebrate the survival of the great colliery bands after the end of the miners' strike and the subsequent utter destruction of the British mining industry by the Thatcher government of the time - as had indeed been claimed to be their intention, more or less, by the miners' union and its leader Arthur Scargill - that celebration is sadly somewhat tempered by the inescapable fact that many brass bands have fallen by the wayside since the movements' glory days in the 1970s, and many brass bands that are left today are struggling to survive.
It has to be hoped that this wonderful album will go some way towards boosting the popularity of the great British Brass Bands as a whole. The brass band is a British tradition, a heritage, that is far too good to lose. The loss of even a single band more would be one too many, surely.
Of the fifteen tracks on The Music Lives On: Now The Mines Have Gone, only the first, Desford Colliery Band's The Champions, is live, the rest being studio recordings. There are two minor points that let this otherwise superb album down just a tiny bit - the gain between different tracks tends to vary a bit (almost unavoidable with a compilation of this kind) so it's useful to have your volume control to hand, and the recording quality of some tracks could have been a touch better perhaps. But I'm being picky here, and these things are easy enough to forget if you just enjoy the glorious brass band music.
And enjoyable this album certainly is - hugely so. A sheer joy of brass at its finest. And a great 'taster' of some of the finest bands around that surely ought to encourage the appreciative listener to seek out individual bands' albums, of which there are a good number available.
An indispensable compilation of some of the finest of the (mostly, former) colliery bands, The Music Lives On: Now The Mines Have Gone ought to be in any good music collection. Long may this glorious music live on!
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