by Sandra Heath Wilson
At last, the much anticipated follow-on album from The Legendary Ten Seconds. Those who revelled in Loyaulte me lie, will exult anew in the equally Ricardian Tant le desiree.
This album is as brilliant as the first, with many new paths and twists, and is a pleasure to listen to. At once sweet and strong, lilting and demanding, it is most certainly not boring or unrewarding. Maybe its subject, Richard III, will not mean anything to a lot of people, but that does not matter, because it is the music that counts. This folk-rock group is very talented indeed, and so different. Finding something novel and new in music these days is a little like seeking the philosophers’ stone, but in The Legendary Ten Seconds that ultimate treasure has been found.
At this point I must confess that there are two versions of Tant le desiree, on one of which there are narratives that are of my writing and voice, but this review is concerned solely with the music, to which I had no input whatsoever and about which I therefore feel able to comment. So here is my track-by-track take on this new offering.
Shakespeare’s Richard – 1592
All the wrongs done to King Richard III, by Shakespeare and others, follow on from the delicate but jaunty traditional mandola solo that begins the album. The mandola soon blends into modern folk-rock as the song reproves them all for perpetuating lies about Richard. The song flows, and is a very worthy opening track.
The Ragged Staff – 1470
Dramatic and compelling electric guitar notes command attention before giving way to other instruments that create an audible mediaeval tapestry. Melodic and foot-tapping, it takes its name from the bear and ragged staff badge of the Earls of Warwick.
Tewkesbury Tale – 1471
The reminiscences of an old soldier are at the heart of this track. ‘Concertina’ ripples change into a marching gait that summons images of the Yorkist army assembling for battle. At first intimate, it then sweeps away into a ‘wall of sound’ effect that seems to echo with the past. A truly beautiful song, and one of my favourites from the album. Mind you, it’s very difficult to choose a favourite—they’re all excellent.
The Gold it Feels so Cold – 1475
Richard did not approve of his brother’s treaty with France, and modern drum beats accompany his defiant song. The music strides forward without being aggressive, and has a brave quality that perfectly sums up Richard’s feelings.
To Fotheringhay – 1476
A tolling bell, the sigh of the wind and a slow, lilting song marks the journey to reburial at Fotheringhay of Richard’s father and brother. He accompanied the cortège, and fluting notes pick out the melody. There is an imperative and yet muted beat that tells us how seriously Richard takes his responsibility.
Confort et Liesse – 1480
A truly infectious instrumental that conveys Richard’s pleasure on leaving court to live and rule in the north of England. It is a track that makes me want to smile.
By Hearsay – 1483
A ‘choral’ opening leads into this song about Edward IV’s widowed queen’s plotting against Richard, who had been named as Lord Protector during her son’s minority. The tune swings along as she lays her treasonous plans, only to see them dashed.
Royal Progress – 1483
King Richard sets off on his royal progress. The colour and glamour of the great cavalcade are captured, with the motion of the horses carrying the pageantry forward. And amid it all is the hint that betrayal is close to him.
The Court of King Richard III – 1484
The splendour of Richard’s court is depicted in music as he presides over the festivities. But again, in the midst of joy, there are stirrings of treason.
Fortune’s Wheel – 1485
In this song Richard’s happiness has been torn apart. He is king, a young man, but his wife and child have died and he is surrounded by enemies. His life is as hollow as the crown he wears, and there is an edginess in this track that reveals his despair. Tuneful music and haunting words that warn of what is to come.
White Surrey – 1485
Richard’s great warhorse is believed to have been named White Surrey, and he carried the king in that glorious but ill-fated final charge at Bosworth. The beauty and strength of the horse and the sound of hooves meld with Richard’s immeasurable courage in the final moments of his life.
The Boar Lay Slain – 1485
Folk-rock at its haunting best as Richard lies dead on the battlefield. The production of this song is absolutely wonderful, with sounds that echo with the tragedy of the last Plantagenet King of England. A truly favourite track.
The Rose of Tudor – 1509
The rose in this instance is Henry Tudor’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, who was as dark and defiant as the notes that run through this song, and was deserving of the reproach and condemnation that are also present.
Yorkist Archer – 1513
The harp at the beginning of this song makes me think the archers must have come from Wales. It is sung through the eyes of three generations of the same family, the singer being the one who survived to fight under Henry VII, but it is for the lost House of York, especially Richard III, that he still laments.
The Road to Middleham – 2013
An exquisite instrumental to end the album, true mediaeval sounds with a modern beat. It isn’t a sad track, but I can feel its regret for the loss of Richard III. A very appropriate piece to end on, and as lilting as every song on this wonderful album.
The above is how I have heard and reacted to the tracks of Tant le desiree. Add it to your list, for it is surely something you’ll want to listen to again and again. A very worthy successor to Loyaulte me lie. I am hopeful of a third collection, because the music is terrific. Highly recommended.