British singer-songwriter Frank Turner can’t by any stretch of the imagination be described as unproductive. Since the release of his first solo recording, Campfire Punkrock, almost nine years ago, Turner has gifted his fans with five full-length studio albums, five EP’s and what is now four compilation albums. When he’s not releasing a seemingly endless litany of recordings, or selling out arenas, Turner can be found appearing on (and winning) British televised quiz shows. The Third Three Years is the latest in Turner’s compilation efforts: a collective series of B-sides and rarities that forms a comprehensive look into his varied musical influences and abundant output.
The substantial 21-song compendium gets underway with a studio version of live favourite Somebody To Love by Queen. While Turner understandably does not have the indescribable vocal chops of Freddie Mercury, he brings a raw charm to the untouchable classic. From there Turner strips back some of his own tracks, including the raucous Sweet Albion Blues from this year’s Polaroid Picture EP – an energetic and enthusiastic look at his sublime storytelling abilities.
Turner tackles a range of covers and collaborations on the album. His take on Emily Barker’s Fields of June is particularly wonderful; the Australian songstress lends her vocals to the duet, and brings a sensual femme fatale to the murder ballad. He throws in some American classics as well, stripping the songs right back their innards. His acoustic version of Tom Petty’s American Girl is beautifully basic, while he brings an affecting melancholy to Townes Van Zandt’s bandit tale, Pancho and Lefty. The addition of a sensitive Kiera, originally by pop-punk frontman Tony Sly, allows a further, intriguing glimpse into Turner’s diverse musical leanings. There are a couple of misses on the record, however. Noel Coward’s There Are Bad Times Just Around The Corner is confused and muddled, while on Live And Let Die Turner’s vocals go from endearingly raw to unpleasantly pitchy.
The tail end of the album serves up stripped-back versions of some heartbreaking Turner originals, including Plain Sailing Weather, Tell Tale Signs and The Way I Tend To Be, as well as a live recording of The Ballad Of Me And My Friends from Twin Cities, Minnesota. Perhaps the standout of the album, the complete crowd-takeover of the refrain is testimony to the dedication of his audience as well as the energy and passion with which he performs. While it is unlikely that The Third Three Years will reach far past Turner’s existing devoted fan base, it is certainly proof of the musician’s unyielding and rewarding work ethic.