Woman, the new album from Gordon Giltrap, is released via Angel Air on 28 February 2020. The album features a set of melodic yet touching and profound songs that were created by Gordon to celebrate some remarkable individuals. On the one hand utterly personal, and yet on the other universal in theme, this is a collection inspired by respect, devotion and of course love itself.
Over the past forty years, Gordon Giltrap has graced the music business with his dedication to his craft and his affection for his audience. As a true craftsman of the guitar, he’s worked with an amazingly broad range of artists, from rock musicians such as Brian May, Rick Wakeman and Midge Ure to the jazz virtuoso Martin Taylor, the classical guitarist Raymond Burley and the London Symphony Orchestra, and is loved and revered by all who have worked with him. He’s been around since 1968 and his music has earned him many plaudits and nominations, perhaps encapsulated with him being appointed MBE in the 2019 Honours List.
Older fans will always remember him going “electric” in the late 1970s, when he produced a series of excellent albums. Woman however is all acoustic, so the this album is a great way for newcomers to sample more recent Giltrap. The album is essentially a compilation of mostly previously recorded pieces brought together under a female theme, being either commissions or relating to those women who have inspired him. The album is at once romantic, passionate, inspiring and solid, and to the credit of the compiler (Paul Ward) the album has a natural ebb and flow, with one piece running seamlessly into the next. It does however make it quite hard to review!
Giltrap supplies a brief note to each song in the liner note, explaining how each song originated or, in several cases, was commissioned by appreciative partners. As Gordon himself says, “Throughout history women have played a major part in shaping civilisation as we know it, from Joan of Arc to Boudicca, Florence Nightingale to Emily Pankhurst, and those brave women who gave their lives willingly in both world wars, fighting for peace and democracy. During my life it has been a privilege to have met some extraordinary women who are featured on this compilation. The most significant and important one to me is my wife Hilary, whose image appears on this CD cover. Eight of the tunes on this album were commissioned by husbands as tokens of love for their wives. Simply Margaret was commissioned by Hilary’s cousin. The remaining five were pieces I felt moved to write for personal reasons. Sadly, two of the woman I wrote melodies for are no longer with us.”
Quite rightly, the album opens with “One for Billie”, the family name for his wife Hilary, which was originally released on Ravens & Lullabies in 2013 (along with Fiona’s Smile). The three following songs were all commissioned by partners or relatives to celebrate larger-than-life individuals. The next piece, entitled Kaz was another commission, written for a lady named Kaz Greenham and commissioned by her husband Leigh for her 40th birthday. It was requested that the piece have a Japenese flavour in recognition of times spent there, so Gordon enlisted the help of Fay Goodman who has worked with Gordon before. She is a film-maker, a songwriter and – an accomplished martial artist (indeed, one of the world’s leading exponents of Iaido, the Japanese ‘way of the sword’!). Her arrangement captures an immersion in Japanese culture.
Next up are Sadie in May, dedicated to Gordon’s daughter, and Fiona’s Smile, dedicated to a friend who does indeed have a special smile, both of these tracks being seen on the following two videos:
More compositional delights follow, my only concern being by following the theme, the tracks are almost too successful at blending and complementing each other! Maddie Goes West is a little different in that it was written for Gordon’s “amazing” banjo-playing friend Madeline Martyn, who does get to play on here, although Gordon insists that the track doesn’t do justice to her phenomenal ability, her real forte being Irish banjo! She was about to embark for America as the first part of a round the world trip at the time, hence the title.
As one of the UK’s most respected guitarists, Gordon has his own signature range of instruments through the JHS company, and he demonstrates another version of “Fiona’s Smile” below:
As I say, many of these songs have already appeared on previous albums, so newcomers should therefore exercise some caution in acquiring Gordon’s considerable back catalogue. The 2016 compilation Heartsongs (which raised funds for a Birmingham hospital) includes five of the tracks on this new album, and four of them are on his last “original” studio album, 2017’s The Last Of England. That aside though, it has to be said that Woman only cements Giltrap as a tasteful, technically proficient, and compelling composer, arranger and player. Respect for him is enormous, and world-wide, as befits among his many other skills, a “thoroughly nice bloke”