On most of today's albums, the lyrics can be fitted on one side of the inner sleeve in large type, with plenty of room left over for pictures. Not so with British singer-songwriter Leon Rosselson. His "Temporary Loss of Vision" contains four pages of tightly packed lyrics for songs about the joys and travails of family, the immorality of drug company profits, the dangers of post-Falkland jingoism and the challenge of nuclear mindset.
Rosselson, who will be making his Washington debut at the House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park on Monday night, is considered one of England's finest songwriters, variously described as an anarchist Noel Coward or an activist Tom Lehrer. He's also written a number of plays, six of which have been produced, but his main activity over the past 20 years has been the writing of social and topical songs in the folk mold.
"I'm writing in a tradition which is probably more European than it is American, which is why it seems to use a lot of words," Rosselson says. "Americans tend not to, especially if you're in the marketplace. Then you use hardly any at all, and most of those will be repeated. It's just the idiom I'm writing in tends to be more literary."
Rosselson points to the chanson and political cabaret traditions in France and Germany as models and bristles at the term "protest singer." His songs, caustic and cautionary, certainly have greater breadth and depth than most protest songs, so one suspects Rosselson is doing a little putting-on when he says of his concert that "I will sing songs that will be a bundle of laughs from begining to end," including "No One Is Responsible," a chilling number about avoiding blame and conscience in the nuclear weapons community.
"That should have them rolling in the aisles."