‘Once I Was An Eagle’ (Virgin)
‘Once I Was An Eagle’ is ambitious, but thankfully it’s not a concept album about the early career of Don Henley. Instead, it’s the longest and best Laura Marling record yet: a 63-minute modern folk opus that should earn the Hampshire lass her third Mercury Prize nomination.
The first four tracks tumble into each other effortlessly, establishing some recurring themes: power games in relationships, and the ability to be loved. Then comes the thrilling thrash of ‘Master Hunter’, on which Marling snarls: “You want a woman who’ll call your name / It ain’t me, babe.” She turns in an instant though, and the very next song, ‘Little Love Caster’, is delicate and flamenco-like.
Around the halfway mark, things become warmer and more wistful. ‘Once’ and ‘Where Can I Go?’ showcase Marling’s melodic gifts, and ‘Love Be Brave’ sees her finally surrender to love. “Here comes a change over me,” she sings, and it’s heart-warming stuff.
There’s an occasional slip into folky hokum (hello ‘Undine’), but even then, Marling will hold your attention. By the end of 63 totally-engrossing minutes, you’re left thinking that if she wanted to write a concept album about Don Henley, she could probably pull it off.