ALBUM REVIEW: George & the Champion Swimmers – ‘Once Upon a Time in Woodhouse’


This is the debut album from poet and songwriter George Sproule. Who was born and bred in Woodhouse, Leeds. It charts a journey through life with spoken word and music.

I’m always wary of reviewing sometimes spoken word albums because I know some people may question whether they strictly fall into something that should be reviewed on a music site. However in the case of ‘Once Upon a Time in Woodhouse’ the music is such an integral part of the whole that I couldn’t help but review it. And I like things where I can sit down alone, or with good friends, and really listen to the words AND music. And anyway there ARE lots of songs on this album

The album opens with ‘The Sacred Egg’ – the very start of life. And this introduces George’s style; It is both wryly humorous and emotional. I couldn’t help but smile as his words enrolled over a joy filled ‘classically influenced’ musical piece.

And then, wow, the musical form takes an unexpected turn into the dub of ‘Paint the Pictures’ – see what I mean about there being songs. We are undoubtedly still in childhood, given the joy of the music. But hey, listen and dance. Dub turns harsh, discordant with ‘No Signal.

The dreamy slightly Souly ‘Sea & Stone’ comes up, part spoken word. George comes on like a Leeds’ born Van Morrison over a wonderful organ. I have listened to this so many times in an effort to work out what it’s about. It seems part dream or fantasy. One to ponder on, I think.

Another piece, another style. The harsh and dark urban electro sound of ‘’Slot Droppy to Gambler’. This is basically what it says on the tin. ‘Champion Swimmer’ is about taking the opportunities to shine, to be a star. With a musical style to match.

Skipping forward ‘X-Ray 99’ tells the tale of a life of low-level gang life over angular funky rock. But more it talks of being labelled a loser, of being trapped by outside forces in that life.

‘‘Once Upon a Time in Woodhouse’ will make you smile with its tale of playing snooker in a pub. It’s hilarious. Kinda reminds me of Half Man Half Biscuit’ lyrically. But you see it really isn’t about that, it’s about life.

The quietly hard hitting, and lesson for everyone, ‘Who Are You?’ closes out the album.

I have missed out some tracks – like the dreamily psychedelic dub of ‘Shades & Shapes’ – because they are for you to discover.

This is undoubtedly a music album; yes there are some purely spoken word pieces but these serve as introductions or a means of emphasising the subject. And the music is truly impressive; varying in style but not varying in impressive skill and musical feel. Whatever the style, it is truly fantastic.

The words can be wry, laugh out loud funny, hopeful or harshly real. And when I say real I mean disconcertingly real and true. George’s words are the thing that compels you to listen; even while you are drawn, irresistibly, to get up and dance.

This is an album that draws you in, takes you to a community and tells you something about the people there. Although based in and on Woodhouse, the stories it tells are universal; every town or city has an area like that.

‘Once Upon a Time in Woodhouse’ is a jewel to be treasured. This has connected with my soul in a way I didn’t quite expect.

The info

George Sproule, Vocals
Sam Hobbs, Drums, Percussion, Synthesizer
Mark Creswell, Guitar, Bass
Matthew Bourne, Cello
Pete Shand, Bass
Bob Birch, Hammond, Rhodes
Emily Levy, Vocals

Produced, Mixed and Engineered by Sam Hobbs and Mark Creswell

Lyrics by George Sproule
Music by Sam Hobbs and Mark Creswell

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Frank is the website guy for Local Sound Focus. Takes a lot of photos and loves writing about new music.