Follow Us on Twitter

Duke Special - The Stage, A Book & The Silver Screen

Duke Special presents The Songs From Mother Courage and her Children

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

DUKE Special, one of Ireland’s most successful musical exports, returns with three unique new projects to be released simultaneously on March 8, in a box set entitled The Stage, A Book & the Silver Screen.

The three albums are comprised of the following…

The Silent World of Hector Mann – an album based on The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster, recorded by Steve Albini in Chicago and featuring Neil Hannon and Ed Harcourt.

Huckleberry Finn – an unfinished musical by Kurt Weill based on Huckleberry Finn and which makes Duke the first person ever to record this suite of songs

Mother Courage – Duke has written the music to a new production of Brecht’s Mother Courage and has just played to 100,000 people at the National Theatre – the entire production is based around his music and the band’s performance. The show is being taken to Broadway next year.

As the diversity of these three LPs suggest, Duke Special is rapidly becoming known for being a stand alone, vaudevillian ringmaster. But while there’s no faulting the ambition, or the quality of the delivery, they are an acquired taste.

Of the three LPs, his Huckleberry Finn collection is arguably the best… strangely enchanting offerings that showcase all that’s great about the more traditional Duke Special sound.

His vocals on this record are at their most vibrant and honest, and less showman… while the melodies that accompany them are a treat. Songs like Come In, Mornin’ and the jazzy stomp of Apple Jack are great fun… and contrast nicely with the dusky likes of a slow burner such as This Time Next Year (a genuinely romantic offering).

Catfish Song, meanwhile, is a real show-stopper to round the album off.

All are much breezier than the somewhat epic likes of Mother Courage or the wistful, often kooky offerings of The Silent World of Hector Mann – but then this is more about taste than any failings with Duke Special’s compositions.

And you can’t help but hope that Duke Special’s ambition is rewarded in sales, as his adventurous recording spirit is one that should be cherished and encouraged.

Indeed, Duke Special is self-releasing the three albums after raising capital via a unique fan funding model called Pledge Music

Rather than just putting the records in the shop, Duke Special is offering all sorts of unusual artefacts and experiences for which fans can pledge varying amounts to help raise money to fund the project, rather than relying on a traditional record company advance.

Pledge Music allows artists to raise funds via their fans in form of ‘pledges’. In simple terms an artist sets a target for an amount of financing they wish to raise to fund the recording and marketing of their new album.

The artist then approaches their fans to ask for pledges towards the total in return for participating in an exciting menu of unique items, content and experiences.

The pledges available are tiered so that the fan can pledge one amount for a simple digital download, ranging all the way up to a top tier pledge of Duke Special playing a private concert.

Duke Special’s Pledge went live in December, raised £10k in one hour, and in one day reached over 50% of its target.

The Stage, A Book & The Silver Screen – Ratings:
The Silent World of Hector Mann – 3.5/5
Huckleberry Finn – 4 out of 5
Mother Courage – 3 out of 5

Track listings:
Disc 1: Mother Courage

  1. Prelude
  2. Mother Courage
  3. Eilif (Song About The Soldier And His Wife)
  4. Yvette (Song Of Fraternization)
  5. Song Of The Hours
  6. Great Capitulation, The
  7. Soldier’s Song
  8. Mother Courage (And The Threat Of Peace)
  9. Cook’s Song
  10. Farmhouse Song
  11. Lullaby
  12. Mother Courage Finale

Disc 2: The Silent World of Hector Mann

  1. Hearth And Home
  2. Wanda Darling Of The Jockey Club
  3. Jumping Jacks
  4. Mister Nobody
  5. Tango Tangle
  6. You’ll Be Detective
  7. Double Or Nothing
  8. Country Weekend
  9. Old Folks And Cow Pokes
  10. Prop Man, The
  11. Scandal
  12. Teller’s Tale, The

Disc 3: Huckleberry Finn

  1. River Chanty
  2. Come In Mornin’
  3. Apple Jack
  4. This Time Next Year
  5. Catfish Song