Philip Chevron: The Tuner – This self-contained musical is a trove of previously unreleased treasures

Quality songs recorded with guests including Kirsty MacColl, Ronnie Drew and Chevron’s Pogues bandmates Spider Stacey and Andrew Ranken

The Tuner by Philip Chevron
The Tuner
    
Artist: Philip Chevron
Genre: Musical theatre
Label: JRTuner

What a find of previously unreleased treasures. Almost 30 years ago the Dublin songwriter Philip Chevron, of The Pogues, asked the journalist Declan Lynch to help him realise a creative project he had been working on, a musical based on the fictional Irish-American boxer Jack Rooney, a character partly inspired by a scene from Frank Loesser’s 1950 musical Guys and Dolls.

Chevron had the background for such an undertaking: in his pre-Pogues days he had collaborated with theatre royalty such as Agnes Bernelle, and had been an integral component of The Radiators’ classic album Ghostown, which is as much Brecht’n’Weill as rock’n’roll.

The Tuner is a self-contained musical, albeit one written in the knowledge that it might never see the inside of a theatre. That it didn’t isn’t a surprise (all of the songs were works in progress, and West End impresarios such as Cameron Mackintosh weren’t exactly taken with the concept of a musical about a boxer), but neither is their innate quality. The songs – show tunes referencing Broadway greats such as Loesser; Stephen Sondheim; and the team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, the writers of, among many other works, Cabaret and Chicago – were recorded with numerous guests, including Kirsty MacColl, Ronnie Drew and Chevron’s bandmates Spider Stacey and Andrew Ranken.

There is a lot to tap a toe and sing along to. Songs such as The Great Silence (with Drew singing “A nice girl like you, a place like this, would it be detrimental to me if I were to sit beside you, miss?”), The Likes of Me (“Come all you ladies, true and fair, I’ve a philosophy to share”) and Manhattan Moon (Chevron and MacColl sharing lines such as “The night was darker than my scared and lonely eyes, and then that old Manhattan moon began to rise”) evoke a time and place when guys and dolls did their thing, and the world was in tune with the magic and madness of romance and optimism.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture