An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
Rickshaw Productions
Suite 125
99 Warwick Street
Leamington Spa
CV32 4RB
9.99 [US$17.40]

NHI review home page
FAQ page
Notes for Publishers

book reviews
other media

Web design by Gerald England
This page last updated: 13th October 2008.

If I were the jealous type I'd now be a deep shade of cypress for here is a hugely talented and gifted man. He's a first class composer and song writer and a highly accomplished acoustic and bass guitarist, currently with Satsangi. Richard Heath from the same line up plays sax on this CD too. Mark's band has toured the UK and Europe, he's worked with artists as diverse as Gil Scott Heron and Level 42 and even played the world famous Ronnie Scott's in London when he was only 25. As if that's not enough, Mark writes melodic folk music and funky jazz as well as exceptionally clever poems for performance. I can however gloat just a little and it is only a little Mark can't sing for toffee!

When it comes to poetry I'm up for anything but I don't often get the chance to review CDs so here was an interesting challenge. I was delighted to find that Rickshaw Productions have tackled the classic dilemma of exactly how best to display and promote first class performance poetry in an accessible, interesting and fun way. With Mark Yakes, they have pulled an ace from the top hat.

The CD plays for just over an hour and includes ten musical tracks and twenty eight poems. The music ranges between beautifully crafted folk acoustic pieces to improvised jazz. Some of each have wet gravel vocals but most are just highly accomplished writing and playing. Full marks.

His vocals are, as I say, wet gravel and you know instantly that Mark has cut his larynx on too many smoke-filled bars and loud gigs, has yelled his vocal chords hoarse night after night and returned time and again to do it some more. Somewhere along the road he found performance poetry, and what a good thing he did. This isn't the stuff of poetry slam, this is more surreal, time to chill while you sip your three fingers of rye or real ale and listen to the man perform his stuff.

If I have a criticism then it has to be about some of the delivery. It's confusing. The track following the superb acoustic CELEBRATION opener is HERE IS A POEM. First impression is that this man with rather thick vocals, now living in Leamington Spa, originates from Scotland, but hold on...track three THE LETTER G dispels that myth. Here, Mark sounds much like Mike Pinder of Moody Blues fame. I suspect these are his day-to-day vocals, so it was similarly confusing when later he broke into a convincing Irish accent to deliver FINE MORNIN'. I suppose it's all about Performance, and keeping the listener interested and on their toes.

As for the poems, well, Mark lists Wendy Cope, Lewis Carroll and John Hegley as some of his inspirations, so it's no surprise that this CD is a mix of off-kilter humour, direct rhymes, loads of alliteration and a helping of humorous absurd whimsy. You've heard of the 'Just So' stories by Rudyard Kipling, well I'd call these the 'What If' poems. The result is highly inspired and utterly fantastic.

IN ATTIC ROOMS is talking about making plans and touching on wider issues, MURIEL is a short biography of a 1920s lesbian wanting to be a man, WHEN THE LIGHTS GO ON is definitely a clever 'What If' piece, and there's a really unusual poem about love called THE YELLOW BUS.

Fully rhymed poems include DAY-GLO YELLOW, about a woman dropping a train ticket, THE LETTER G, another 'What If' about the letter G being banned and then there's THE PICTURE FRAME, an esoteric poem about a small insect inspecting the hidden mystery of a picture erm well I think that's what's crawling up it!

Mark uses alliteration and half-rhymes a lot loads and loads of similar sounding words carefully collected together and beautifully crafted into his poems. Fine examples include ESMERELDA, all the words alliterate with 'attorney' and TRACY WATKINS words alliterate with 'blender'.

And as if that isn't feast enough, there are story poems. CELLAR OF THINGS tells the tale of a greedy man who, predictably, has nothing, and my favourite poem on the whole CD called IN ORDER. It tells the tale of how the elders of the town decide they want the sun to shine seven days a week so send a messenger to seek the Sorcerer of Power. The outcome of this enterprise is, however, a little unfortunate to say the least!

But there's nothing unfortunate about this CD. I have no hesitation at all in giving POEMS AND MUSIC VOLUME ONE a full five stars and recommending it highly. Smashing stuff. Here's to Volume Two.

reviewer: Steve Anderson.