Review: A Knife to Remember

Rating: ★★★☆☆
The Musical Blades

Genre: A Capella Festival Songs
Rating: PG-13
Target Audience: Late teens to early retirement

In my humble opinion, traditional-style pirate bands have a unique chanllenge set before them. Being as much of their music is performed live on the festival circuit, they must cater to the live-action, beer-guzzling, turkey-leg-waving-to-the-music crowd. This is what I consider “renny” music – quasi-baudi, slightly goofy, and sometimes requiring audience participation. And this is all fine until this same band enters the recording studio, where much of this live performance just doesn’t translate well to the digital medium…

I should stop myself before you reach a forgone conclusion that I’m going to describe the Musical Blades’ album “A Knife to Remember” as a renny band that just doesn’t work on CD, as that’s not accurate. What they do, actually, is straddle the fence, bouncing between renny songs that would work well live (but indeed fall a bit flat in your home theater), and other songs that show a budding piratey genius perfectly suited to modern media.

The “renny” songs on this album are generally a’ capella. They are often fun, sometimes sing-songy, and occasionally include pop-culture references (Larry the Cable Guy is evoked in “I’ll Have Me Beer” – likely a first in pirate CD history.) The songs “Whoo Whaa!!” and “Tigo Bitty” are PG-13 dirty, and along with many of the other renny songs include brief tangents whereby the singers step aside to share a joke, comment, or gag. These songs are all good, although I feel better suited to outdoor live settings.

More fitting to the CD medium are “Scurvy Lousy Blokes” and “The Derelict” (this last is NOT the same as the famous “15 Men on a Dead Man’s Chest” song by the same name, rather being a slow, melodious – even forboding – song that’s at once heroic and strong. Very nice.) Also included in these superior songs are “Drink, Drink, Drink” (certainly the Musical Blades’ most famous number) and “Devil Knows our Name”, being a catchy piratey tune that can only be faulted for apparently being recorded in a studio that didn’t own a pop-guard (a must for any singer making frequent use of the word “pirate.”)

Knife to Remember also features a few in-between songs, being more suitable to CD than the renny songs, but not quite as superior as the others previously mentioned. “Down to Old Maui” features decent vocals and fun guitar work, although the tune feels a little rushed. “Ode to a Pirate” is easy on the ears and piratey, and “Blow the Man Down” is serviceable if not overly memorable.

All told, “A Knife to Remember” is a decent, if not stellar, pirate album. In it, The Musical Blades show real talent – they clearly have what it takes to place themselves on the piratey charts. This skill is clearly displayed on several songs, making this a fine album for any piratey collection. But hopefully future efforts will see the Blades branch out a bit and leave their festival roots behind as they further explore the recording medium. Should they do so, I expect they’ll prove capable of fantastic works.

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