Album review by Patrick
Maddy Prior - Lionhearts
Lionhearts is a fascinating new album from Maddy Prior. It is written from the
point of view of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor was wife to Henry II and mother
to Richard and John. Dysfunctional families are nothing new as a look at this
one shows. Eleanor favoured Richard while Henry favoured John. The track Maman
says of Richard:
"You are proud and young, you are kind and strong
You're the goal of all my schemes
You will bear my torch in future times
Yes, you're my precious dreams".
Contrast this with the treatment of John in the excellent track of the same
You treacherous cur
How can you be a Son of mine?
You've connived and survived
Engineered and profiteered
Cringed, and whinged and whined."
John is one of the most effective songs on the album. A harsh lyric and beat in
passages like the one above followed by a wistful "where is the lad I
knew" expressing the bitter disappointment felt by Eleanor as a mother.
We should remember however that Richard had little interest in England, didn't
speak the language and spent only fifteen months here. Maddy describes him as
" kind of like a football hero, a football star" in a woman's hour
How popular he actually was in England is I think a moot point.
In addition to rival favouritism from parents Henry also set the Sons against
one another. The motive for this is expressed well in the track Old Lion:
"Did you think you'd live forever
Immortal, fated to die never
You kept all the power to the bitter end
To wind up with no son for a friend."
It called to my mind the film The Lion in Winter. Visions of Henry II of England
played by Peter O'Toole and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine by Katharine
There are two instrumentals on the album. I wasn't keen on Salah Ed-Din. I would
have preferred a lyrical treatment of this fascinating figure (read the book by
Tariq Ali!). I loved the interpretation of the Andante Maestoso section of
Gustav Holst's suite The Planets, however. Naturally, and especially in the
context of this album, I associated it with the Hymn 'I Vow to Thee My
There are also some versions of traditional songs. I really liked 'Yellow
Handkerchief'. I couldn't help thinking that a fuller treatment of the main
theme would have been a better use of the time. A song exploring Richard's
relationship with Philip of France would have been interesting, if
controversial. There is just so much to say of this quarrelsome, passionate,
cruel and talented family and I just wanted to hear more about them!
3. The Old Lion
5. War Games
6. The Yellow Handkerchief
7. The Ship In Distress
8. Salisbury Plain