Every so often something new, exciting and different comes along that makes me sit up attentively. From the first haunting notes of the flute on this wonderful album, you know you’re in for a treat.
Given the name ‘folk-rock’, you might expect a blend of traditional English songs and instruments with the more modern sound of electric guitars synthesizers. This is mostly what you get, but when put together expertly, the resultant production is tuneful, seamless, melodic and, to me, exhilarating. There is nothing loud, thudding or brash in this, but there is beauty and it’s very pleasing to the ear.
Yet . . . a whole album based around Richard III? Can it be possible? Yes, it can, and every track of Loyaulte me lie pays homage to the last and most enigmatic of the Plantagenet kings. The songs are in chronological order, with only the first undated. The others lead us from 1471 and end, of course, in 1485. Well, actually, it ends more recently, with the rediscovery of Richard in that Leicester car park.
York City Fayre brings to mind a day when a youthful Richard takes his sweetheart, Lady Anne Neville, to the fair in York and gives her ribbons to wear in her hair. It’s a gentle, light-hearted song of a lover and his lass. I believe the song started out as something else entirely, but was adapted to fit Richard’s time. Whatever its original meaning, to me it’s a day out at York fair, with Richard and Anne as loving and carefree as all young sweethearts should be.
The Battle of Barnet Song (1471) is, despite its subject, an amusing account of some Yorkist soldiers on their way to the battle, but getting themselves side-tracked by too much ale and wine, so they end up missing the fight. Jaunty and wry, this is a foot-tapping track.
In Loyalty Binds Me (1472), Richard tells us of his unerring adherence to his brother, King Edward IV. He is Lord of the North, with Anne at his side, a faithful, contented man who will always support his brother. This, probably the happiest, period of his short life is told in an easy, lilting song.
When King Edward IV died suddenly, the queen wanted her family to be supreme, but he had entrusted everything to his brother Richard’s care. Lord Anthony Woodville (1483) is about the poet and famous jouster who was the queen’s brother, and who had charge of his nephew, the new boy king, Edward V. Musically, the pace is somewhere between a trot and a canter, bringing to mind Anthony’s swift procession of two thousand horsemen as he took the new king from Ludlow to London, intending to side-track Richard. But he made a fatal halt at Stony Stratford, where Richard found him out. It cost Anthony dearly.
At the moment of Edward IV’s death, his queen fears that Richard was named The Lord Protector (1483). She does not like Richard and suspects his motives, but only after it’s too late does she discover that he is a man of honour. This is a sad, slow song, filled with regret; not only that of the queen, but also of Richard, whose discovery of Edward IV’s bigamy means he, Richard, is the rightful king, not his nephew, Edward V. Richard does not want the crown, it is thrust upon him, and his days of happiness are at an end.
The splendour and pageant of Richard and Anne’s coronation is easily evoked by the instrumental Fanfare for the King (1483). Dignified, yet lively, it manages to conjure the solemnity of the ceremony but with a lighter refrain to remind the listener that Richard will be a good, honest king and true leader. England will prosper under his rule.
The Lady Anne Neville (1485), a plaintive but uncompromising melody, tells of the sad year in which Richard lost both his son and his wife, before losing his own life. It relates the grief through Anne’s eyes, even to the eclipse of the sun on the day she died. Sad, but defiant.
Sorrowing, alone and doomed, Richard and the House of York must then face a foreign threat led by the Lancastrian usurper Henry Tudor. The Wheat in the Field (1485) tells of the invasion, with Tudor’s army of traitors and Frenchmen marching through the fields to Bosworth, crushing the harvest and caring nothing. Tunefully determined, the song strides along, creating a vision of the relentless approach of Richard’s enemy. And the inevitability of his heroic and noble death.
Bosworth is over, and the solemn, graceful instrumental Tudor Danse pictures a slow dance at the court of the new king, Henry VII. The music is beautiful, but makes one think of what it might have been like had Richard still been king. It is, I think, intentionally slightly muted, a tinge of regret perhaps, but very lovely. The elegant movements of the dancers are almost visible.
Slain through the treachery of the Stanley lords and others who had sworn allegiance to him, The House of York (1485) tells of the cruel treatment dealt to Richard’s body and reputation after Bosworth. Henry Tudor has no intention of allowing his predecessor any honour, and thus destroys his own. The better man lost. This track is wistful and filled with heartache for what has gone forever.
We still do not know the fate of the two sons of Edward IV, but those who believe in Richard, believe in his innocence. The Mystery of the Princes (1485) reflects upon the rumours and unsolved question of what happened to the boys known to history as the Princes in the Tower. There is no answer to this infamous mystery. The music sways along, spreading like ripples . . . and rumours. Down the centuries those whispers come.
Sans Charger (1485) is another instrumental, sprightly and yet with an edge of something undefined. The title is the motto of Thomas, Lord Stanley, who deserted Richard at the Battle of Bosworth and just happened to be Henry Tudor’s stepfather. I don’t want such lovely music to be for the likes of him! So instead I high-handedly choose to hear it as a celebration of Richard’s innocence. Vindicated, without charges against him.
In 1924, a company of early Ricardians formed The Fellowship of the Whyte Boare, eventually becoming the Richard III Society. The story of the unstoppable growth of support for Richard is told to in this lilting track.
The final track is The King in the Car Park, the title of which is self-explanatory. It begins with imperative drumbeats, and then moves along gladly to tell the incredible events that culminated in Richard being found again where Greyfriars once stood in Leicester. Played over by schoolchildren, walked over by office workers, even parked upon by vehicles, he has been rescued at last. The most talked-about English king ever—he reigned for only two years—he arouses more passions than the others put together. And deservedly so.
This album is not just a treat, it’s a royal banquet, both for music lovers in general and for Ricardians in particular. Richard’s life is celebrated with superior tunes, lyrics and production. The music is peculiarly intimate, as if you are in the room as it is being played. It is also novel, exceptional and well worth hearing. You may not like folk or rock, let alone folk-rock, but if you give it a chance, you may be very agreeably surprised.
And there will soon be a second royal banquet . . . er, album. Again all about Richard!
Loyaulte Me Lie by The Legendary Ten Seconds
Pastime Records 030
© 2014 The Legendary 10 Seconds
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