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English Rebel Songs 1381-1914

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Album Review

When Chumbawamba recorded the first version of English Rebel Songs 1391-1914 in 1988, it was a very unusual step for a band of anarcho-punks. After all, a bunch of unaccompanied traditional folk songs was in direct contrast to the loud noise of electric music. But the album spoke very eloquently, showing the band was committed to learning — and disseminating teaching — from history. And the singing was far better than anyone expected. Fifteen years on, they've learned a lot more about their voices, about music, and about the world. Additionally, the use of folk samples on Readymades has increased their folk credibility (which should never have been in doubt in the first place). And the songs remain utterly relevant — anthems of the downtrodden and oppressed through the ages, from the 14th century to today and the miners' strike of 1984. The songs actually range from real folk pieces, like "The Cutty Wren" with its potent political symbolism, to music hall ("Idris Strike Song") and the cynical marching pieces of soldiers ("Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire"). This version, with a much better sound and singing, adds two songs not on the original — "The Bad Squire" and the epic "Coal Not Dole," long a favorite in mining communities and a very succinct, cutting song. Putting this album in the public's gaze again is doing everyone a service.

Customer Reviews

Songs of Struggle and Rebellion

This album describes many struggles for social change in England through the songs written in each era. Here are protests against oppression and demands for equal voice in government, songs describing the cost of sweatshops, union busting, and the inequities in war and society. Make no mistake - this is an a capella album meaning vocals only, and because of that I find it a vibrant performance that brings these radical songs to life ! I consider "English Rebel Songs" to be one of Chumbawamba's most important works. Fans who prefer a more punk rock sound will want ITunes to carry "Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records" and "Never Mind the Ballots" - both searing indictments of hypocrisy in government and the corporate world.

Mind opening and well done.

This is one of the most thought inducing and artistic albums I have ever heard. The only way it could have been better, is if there was more instrumentation, but it's great nonetheless.


I initially only knew these guys from Tubthumping, but this is amazing and an album I can listen to over and over. Fantastic vocal work.


Formed: 1984 in Leeds, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Formed in a squat in Leeds, England, in 1984, the anarchist pop group Chumbawamba were a most unlikely mainstream success story. After more than a decade in relative obscurity, much of it spent attacking the very notion of stardom, the band signed to a major label in 1997 and quickly scored a major international hit with the riotous single "Tubthumping." The single would prove to the band's commercial peak, even though...
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English Rebel Songs 1381-1914, Chumbawamba
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Customer Ratings