Thursday, March 12, 2015

Frank Turner: "The Third Three Years" (album review)

Something sparked in me a little while ago, and all of a sudden I've become a huge Frank Turner fan.  So I'm excited that the English punk poet is releasing his third compilation of demos, B-sides, and other odds and ends, The Third Three Years.

For this collection, Turner has amassed a set of "throw away" songs that are better than 99% of songwriters best works.

Turner has always been a great blue collar storyteller, but unlike his most close comparable, Billy Bragg, he's actually likable when he preaches his politics.

The stripped down folk rock version of Tape Deck Hearts' "Plain Sailing Weather" is nothing short of astounding.  The rendition of the same album's "The Way I Tend To Be" is just as emotionally wrought as the original, but in a much subtler way.

A wide breadth of styles are reflected on the album.  "Fields of June" is a warm country duet.  "Something of Freedom" sounds almost like a sea shanty take on "The Times They Are A-Changin'".  The live version of "Dan's Song" is a punk rock livewire.

There are a handful of tracks that hit the cutting room floor for good reason.  "Bigfoot", "The Corner", and the ballad "Kiera" are all fairly bland numbers.

Like previous collections, there are plenty of covers songs included.  I love covers, but Turner's originals are so good that covers of "Somebody To Love", "American Girl", and "Born To Run" come across as just middling.  The lively "Live & Let Die" is a true winner, while the country staple "Pancho & Lefty" is a bit odd.

Most compilations like this are really only of interest to the most hardcore fans of a given artist.  That's not the case with Frank Turner.  The Third Three Years would actually serve as a good entry point for anyone interested in getting familiar with this master's work.

Best tracks: "Plain Sailing Weather", "

Track listing for The Third Three Years:
  • Somebody To Love
  • Hits & Mrs
  • Sweet Albion Blues
  • Riot Song
  • Something of Freedom
  • Fields of June
  • Happy New Year
  • American Girl
  • There Are Bad Times Just Around the Corner
  • Pancho & Lefty
  • Bigfoot
  • Live & Let Die
  • The Corner
  • Kiera
  • Plain Sailing Weather
  • Tell Tale Signs
  • The Way I Tend To Be
  • The Ballad of Me & My Friends
  • Broken Piano
  • Born To Run
  • Dan's Song

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