The lullaby pace hides a strange mix of emotions: encroaching doom, self-conscious nobility, hustling chivalry and honeyed reassurance. It’s a manipulative song – the guy’s off to war and he wants to get the girl before he goes – and it sounds almost nostalgic for war, and I think it’s a failure. Reeves’ voice has smoothness but no kindness and the ghastly bugles break any spell he’s managed to weave. But it sat at Number 1 for 5 weeks in the middle of one of pop’s most vibrant years so it hit some kind of button. As the success of death songs in the 60s and 70s show there was a steady market for fated romance, and what fates it here is adult duty not teenage folly – maybe that helped “Distant Drums” find an audience, or maybe it got the balance between sad and seductive usefully right. Even if so, there’s not much use for it now.

Score: 2

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