‘Box of Frogs’ from Tony Morris - part theatre, part aural illusion, part intense drama(March 06, 2013)
Tony Morris describes himself as ‘more of a folk performer than a folk singer’ - his latest ‘folk’ album ‘Box of Frogs’ is proof of that. On first listen there is perhaps an inclination to use phrases like ‘acquired taste’ or ‘each to their own’, there is even a sense that ‘Box of Frogs’ could become a distinct ‘Marmite Moment’. That simply doesn’t do justice to this unique, unorthodox album. It’s not a question of ‘hate or adore’ (to borrow from Jennifer Eccles) it’s more allowing yourself to surrender to the surreal and relish the experience.
This is not an album of folk songs, neither is it an album of poetry. It is dialectic prose and spoken word set to the gentle accompaniment of a lyre. It’s a collection of acid-observation, convoluted word-jousting and sharply etched satire seasoned with a touch of derision. Tony delivers his words with expanse and depth - allowing them to wander lazily in tranquil reflection or sending them darting and skipping across the stories. Each successive tale seems to feed off the eccentricities of the previous offering.
The album opens with a suitably bizarre fable of retailing underwear with ‘B-Wear Knickers’ - if you’re unaware of Tony Morris it is a perfect start. The wonder continues through ‘Come See The Mackerel Running’ and the strange imagination-soaked tale of ‘Cow Bar’. The symbolism and philosophical ponderings of ‘Fry Up’ pours out its puns in profusion, preparing you along the way for the parallel-universe mockery of ‘Johan Sebastian Coe’, the suitably sardonic morals within ‘Just So Ruddy Kipling’ and the masked child-perceived dangers of ‘Song Of Eggs Isle’.
There’s an elusive mixture at work here – both light and dark. Released on 1 April 2013, ‘Box of Frogs’ is part theatre, part aural illusion, part intense drama. Listen once and you might be intrigued or confused, mystified or deterred. Listen twice and you may explore the pathways this ‘player with words’ sets out before you. In the same way that Alice in Wonderland is readable on many levels this embarkation to the far shores of fantasy works on multiple layers. On the surface somewhat simplistic, perhaps not for everyone, but dig deep and allow its enchantment to prick your consciousness. You will find ‘Box of Frogs’ here www.tonymorris.org.uk - go on, throw yourself down the rabbit hole.
Reviewer: Tim Carroll