It’s remarkable and noteworthy when a composer-songwriter of great stature decides to make an album featuring lyrics by another artist. Not a covers project, exactly, but a kind of semi-collaborative effort. The Hollies’ readings of Dylan loosely fall into this category. But a perfect example – and I use that adjective advisedly – is the latest release from underrated artist Bill Pritchard.
While Pritchard has an impressive body of work himself, on Sings Poems by Patrick Woodcock he sets aside his own lyrical gifts, instead drawing from the written words of Canadian poet. Now, poetry and music don’t always combine easily; song lyrics ain’t always poetry, and poems don’t always mesh with music. But in Prichard’s capable hands, they most certainly do. His simple, uncluttered arrangements and distinctive vocal manner turn out to be ideal vehicles for Woodcock’s vivid wordsmithery.
The album blows by in an instant; only one of its 11 songs breaks the four-minute mark. But quality beats out quantity. Working remotely (via email), the pair put together an album in a manner not wholly removed from the process employed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Woodcock’s words seem as if they were created expressly for these melodies, and Pritchard’s music and arrangements are the sonic equivalent of a Savile Row suit to Woodcock’s body (of words). The music is bouncy or moody as the lyrics dictate. And those listeners who have luxuriated in Pritchard’s work – and who might be wondering if they’ll enjoy him singing lyrics that aren’t his own – need not worry. Sings Poems by Patrick Woodcock is a wonderful collection of songs.