To die-hard fans of the Wessex folk troubadour Frank Turner, the “three years” albums are a blessing. Landing between the albums full of new material, these compilations of covers and B-sides take all of the singer songwriter’s material which never made it to albums (or didn’t fit in) and puts it in one huge treasure trove of tracks. It’s hard to argue with the value for money here, you get a good 20 songs for the price of a normal album. The problem with it is that it never feels like a normal album.
Although not in the same league as his “proper” albums (Love Ire and Song, England Keep my Bones and Tape Deck Heart), The Third Three Years is still an enjoyable collection of Turner’s unique brand of punk infused folk music. He covers familiar oldies (Queen’s ‘Somebody to Love’ and McCartney’s ‘Live and Let Die’), sings versions of folk songs, includes some of the tracks included in the deluxe editions of his albums and some brand new and live material. Although Frank Turner fans (like myself) will take pleasure in hearing the Winchester chap’s melodious – yet distinctly abrasive – voice tackle some unheard material there is a distinct impression that this is simply a collection of his worst material passed off as a new album.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Frank Turner but there is a lot of material here that fans will have already heard (at least seven songs have been on previous albums). I can’t help but think people will be disappointed by the lack of new material. And without the distinct theme of previous albums guiding the new songs they feel strangely disjointed and a little random.
Still, the new music here is as good as ever; ‘Sweet Albion Blues’, the afore mentioned ‘Somebody to Love’, ‘Fields of June’ and ‘Bad Times Around the Corner’ are particular standout tunes. Turner has a way with words and a guitar which still fills you with joy or sorrow (when it’s appropriate); a skill which is still rare in modern musicians.
Does he reach the dizzying heights of his masterpiece England Keep My Bones? Unfortunately not. The triumphant beauty of that album is still unparalleled and nor do any songs hit the heart breaking, sorrow filled tracks of his previous album Tape Deck Heart. But if you simply want to fill your ears with the achingly beautiful voice from the south downs then this is still a wonderful way to top up the archive.
An album designed for Frank Turner completists but anyone should be swept away on the wings of Turner’s eclectic mix of covers, joyful and melancholy tunes (old and new).