Various Artists – “Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys”

Album Reviews | Nov 30th, 2006

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Record Label: Anti Records
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Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski of Pirates of the Caribbean found all the pirate lore, fables and sea chanteys intriguing. The duo got Brett Gurewitz involved and he went to get a producer. So they decided to bring in producer Hal Willner to help release this sea chantey, pirate folk album featuring many eclectic singers & musicians, including some actors as well! I think Anti Records is a perfect fit for this type of compilation because they already have a great batch of unique singer/songwriters. Hal Willner collected a bunch of sea chanteys over a few months and then started to record these songs with the people involved over 2 months in various places like Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and London. The final result is a really unique and impressive folk & chantey collection that pirate fanatics will love!

Rogue’s Gallery’s music is spread out on 2 discs and both discs are filled with an impressive lineup of musicians and songwriters. Some of the people featured on this are Richard Thompson, actor John C. Reilly, Nick Cave, Sting, Bono, Joseph Arthur, Loudon Wainwright III, Baby Gramps, Bryan Ferry, Akron Family, Jolie Holland, Jarvis Cocker, Lou Reed and many more! I can’t help but think of four bands/people that should have been on here: The Decemberists, Great Big Sea, Tom Waits and the Pogues. All have done a sea song in their time and are quite popular amongst their genres. With Johnny Depp as executive producer, you’d think he’d try to get his buddy Shane MacGowan and the Pogues on the album. They’ve done songs like “South Australia,” “”Sea Shanty” and “Greenland Whale fisheries.” But here’s hoping they are included on the next compilation.

The first disc starts out with an eccentric, graveled voiced singer called Baby Gramps. I haven’t heard of him now and I’m now interested in checking out more music from him because he seems quite entertaining. One of my favorite songs on the compilation is after that and that’s by Richard Thompson. He sings “Mingulay Boat Song” and I believe it’s a Scottish song. What’s cool about the liner notes is they tell you how each song originated, who sang it and who played on each song. You also get to read an introduction by Gore Verbinski, and then read a few pages from Hal Willner. He talks about how he got approached to produce the album and how he tackled this beast.

To continue, other songs I liked from the first disc were John C. Reilly’s version of “My Son John” and “Turkish Revelry” by actor/singer/songwriter Loudon Wainwright III. I’m really surprised to see John C. Reilly on here because he actually has a good singing voice for sea folk songs. I remember Loudon Wainwright III as the funny father from the TV show Undeclared but haven’t really heard his music before. I’ll definitely have to find some things from him after this. That’s what I like about compilations, people you don’t normally listening to and getting more music from them. Sting’s “Blood Red Roses” was a cool song, it didn’t really sound like Sting though. I guess he’s trying to sound like a sailor or pirate. ARR! Other tracks I liked on this disc were “Sally Brown” by Teddy Thompson, “Baltimore Whores” by Gavin Friday, and “Bonnie Portmore” by Lucinda Williams.

I didn’t like disc 2 like as much as the first, but it still has a lot of great songs on there. The Jack Shit trio opens the album with a shanty rock song “Boney Was A Warrior.” The song stands out from the rest because it’s rockier than the other stuff on the album. There are a lot of filthy (yet very funny) sea songs on this compilation, which the next song is a good example. Loudon Wainwright III sings “Good Ship Venus” and some of the song verses have things like “sucking a dead man’s penis” “was a dirty bugger.” I actually liked hearing those types of songs because they gave me a good laugh. Nick Cave is heard on both discs and I like his takes on the songs; his singing style is very fitting for a good old sea shanty. Other stand-out performers on the second disc include: Andrea Corr, John C Reilly, Van Dyke Parks, Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, Lou Reed and Baby Gramps.

Overall, there are a lot of great sea songs on this compilation. Be warned, this isn’t for everybody and if you don’t like old folk music, you’ll probably be bored with this comp. I think if I heard this album 2 years ago, I wouldn’t have liked it but now that I love folk music, I can appreciate it now. This is definitely an interesting album that I like a lot. Now bring on the sequel!

Bottom Line: A Great collection of sea songs, but it’s not for everybody. I just hope they include Tom Waits, Pogues, Decemberists and Great Big Sea on the next compilation!
Notable Tracks: Music by Baby Gramps, Richard Thompson, John C Reilly, Nick Cave, Joseph Arthur, Sting, Loudon Wainwright III, Gavin Friday, Jack Shit and Lucinda Williams
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