Emerge from Toynbee Hall on Commercial Street, London E1, the venue where the works on this album were performed and recorded, and you walk into the streets of William Blake's real life and imagination.
You see, feel and hear the same places that Blake knew, loved hated and dreamed of being transformed into an earthly paradise and revolutionary Jerusalem.
It is still Blake's city, cut through by the streets where he listened to every sound: "In every cry of every man / In every infant's cry of fear, / In every voice in every ban / The mind-forg'd manacles I hear."
Mike Westbrook's notes in this live version of his homage to Blake, Glad Day, (first waxed in 1997 with a seven piece brass band and singers Kate Westbrook and Phil Minton) hold Blake's insurgent spirit, his love for humanity and his understanding of its oppression, and with his tunes and musical brain, Westbrook brings Blake's words into union with the life-force of the blues.
For if Blake had been born in the US South he would have hollered the blues and breathed the breath of jazz.
Read Holy Thursday again, know the injustice that it describes and feel its truth: "Is that trembling cry a song? / Can it be a song of joy? / And so many children poor / It is a land of poverty!"
Or in the Con-Dem land in which we live: "Is this a holy thing to see / In a rich and fruitful land, / Babes reduced to misery / Fed with a cold and usurous hand?"
Blake in the land of Wonga and X-Factor, where the gulf between rich and poor widens every day, where learning about the world is not curcumscribed by curiosity, compassion and a human urge for betterment, but by school and examination league tables and the worst cuture of obedience and copy-catting.
Adrian Mitchell wrote of Blake that he was "Unfashionable but politically dangerous. Frankly oposed to all kings, warriors and priests, he was tried for sedition in 1804 and was lucky to escape with his life."
For this performance Minton and Kate are with Westbrook and his piano. Karen Street plays accordion, Billy Thompson violin and Steve Berry bass with the London College of Music Choir, conducted by Paul Ayres. The arrangements are by Mitchell and Kate.
On London Song the humming choir and Westbrook's almost doodling piano subside to a haunting duet between Street and Berry, all a prelude to Kate's icily lucid vocal truly running "in blood down palace walls."
Thompson's violin cries out in outrageous beauty as Minton sings of the freed slave, "his chains are loose, his dungeon doors are open... for empire is no more."
Kate and Minton's voices turn to tenderness and Street's accordion sways through Lullaby.
Pain and empathy rise through Westbrook’s solo piano through the long introduction to Holy Thursday before Kate’s vocal of cool anger and Street’s singing and airy keys take us directly into Blake’s world of 2014.
Blake’s contrasts are harmonised in The Tyger and the Lamb firstly by Berry’s pulsating, delving bass and then by a host of women’s voices and the power of Street’s astonishing accordion.
She is there too at the outset of A Poison Tree, spectral, menacing and full of portent before Kate’s own ominous vocal and Thompson’s grim, dancing solo.
The blues are in Whitechapel and all through Long John Brown and Little Mary Bell, Minton’s growling voice and Westbrook’s aching piano tell the story of the Devil’s spoliation of love before Thompson’s bow adds its shimmering tailpiece.
Berry’s long, thudding then mercurial solo and Thompson’s wailing violin introduce the key opening lines of The Human Abstract: “Pity would be no more / If we did not make somebody poor,” then straight on to The Fields and Blake’s clearest vision of a socialist Jerusalem in the very heart of London’s rare green spaces: “Mutual shall build Jerusalem / Both heart in heart and hand in hand.”
It makes me remember the Westbrooks, Minton, the great trombonist Paul Rutherford and the Brass Band playing at the E1 Festival on Bigland Green, Stepney E1 in 1975.
Blake would have loved it and would have joined in too, with children singing, dancing and writing poems.
Long live his vision, insights and the beautiful sounds of the Westbrooks - all interlaced, all of a piece, all one.
Chris Searle - Morning Star