Sunday, April 7, 2019

My Favorite Classic Era Prog Folk Album Releases




1. MIKE OLDFIELD Hergest Ridge (1974) My favorite MIKE OLDFIELD album that I happened to pick up for a dollar in a cut-out bin in the late 70s. Tubular Bells was amazing--like the Peter and the Wolf album for young people that used DAVID BOWIE for the story narration--but it seemed to garner much of its attention on the coattails of the William Friedkin film, The Exorcist. We, the public, were really unsure how much was 'hype' and association and how much of it was really critically worthy on its own merits. 
     The quiet, under the radar Hergest Ridge (which refers to a very real geographic location that I climbed while hiking Offa's Dyke on the English-Welsh border) is a much more cohesive, beautiful piece of music than Bells, and far less pretentious and show-off-y piece than its successor,  Ommadawn. Plus, it has one of my favorite melody themes of all-time--the side 2 beginning 2 1/2 minute acoustic guitar piece--which is, thankfully, repeated at the end. Yes, the "loud" bass/organ section on side two does drag on a bit, and Side 1 doesn't grab one as deeply as Side 2, but the peaceful pastoral beauty is such an enjoyable 'break' from so much of the other frenetic music (and world) happening at the same time--or at any time. Between side 2 of Dark Side of the Moon  and Hergest Ridge, it's no wonder I was so ready for Brian ENO's "Science," "Discreet," and "Ambient" albums.


1. "Hergest Ridge Part One" (21:40)
2. "Hergest Ridge Part Two" (18:51)

Total Time: 40:31

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mike Oldfield / acoustic, electric & Spanish guitars, bass, mandolin, organs (Farfisa, Lowrey, Gemini), glockenspiel, gong, tubular bells, timpani, co-producer
With:
- Lindsay Cooper / oboe
- June Whiting / oboe
- Ted Hobart / trumpet
- Terry Oldfield / flute (2, uncredited)
- Sally Oldfield / chorus
- Clodagh Simmonds / chorus
- London Sinfonietta ensemble members / strings & chorus
- David Bedford / chorus & strings conductor and arranger
- Chili Charles / snare drums
- William Murray / cymbal (2, uncredited)

DAVID BEDFORD is a genius.

P.S. I have now become familiar with Oldfield's 1979 re-master of Hergest Ridge and, while at first I found myself resistant to the added vocals, I have now become comfortable with them and understand and appreciate the more 'complete' feeling Mike must have had once he'd remastered it. I had no previous knowledge of the pressure and rush he was under when first composing and recording the follow up to Tubular Bells. It is even more remarkable, then, that this came out such a pastoral, medieval folkish masterpiece. And, yes, it is a masterpiece!

92.5 on the Fishscales = five stars; A; a masterpiece of progressive rock music.





2. HARMONIUM Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison (1975) I heard Harmonium's first album sometime in the 80s and have been haunted by their sound ever since. To see one of their albums ranked in ProgArchives' all-time top 100 (#11 at the time of my purchase of it) was very exciting for me, so I bought it and have been listening to <<Cinq Saisons>> with great joy and amazement ever since. I agree:  It is a masterpiece.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Serge Fiori / 6- & 12-string acoustic guitars, concert flute, mandolin, zither harp, bass drum, cymbal, spoons, vocals
- Michel Normandeau / acoustic guitar, accordion, dulcimer, vocals
- Serge Locat / piano & electric piano, Mellotron, synthesizer
- Pierre Daigneault / concert & piccolo flutes, soprano saxophone, clarinet & bass clarinet, recorder
- Louis Valois / bass, electric piano, vocals
With:
- Marie Bernard / Ondes Martenot (3,4)
- Judi Richards / vocalisations (5-c)
- Fred Torak / co-arranger

1. The first song, "Vert" (5:34) opens, quite appropriately, with echoes of a flute before the gentle vocals and guitars take us into the song. The song's bass and keys are a bit dated and "hoaky," and the melodies or chord sequences never really "hook" us, making this the album's weakest song. (8.5/10)

2. "Dixie" (3:26) is one of the happiest, most upbeat songs I've ever heard, beginning deceptively with a very old-time 1900s folksie/bluegrass-to-1920s-ragtime feel to it but then, wow! Let that rhythm keep setting up the soloists all night! Brilliant! Keep pounding that piano, strumming those stringed instruments (where's the banjo?) till the neighbors fall off the porch! (10/10)

3. "Depuis L'automne" (10:25) is a masterful prog song in the vein of the early greats of Genesis and Crimson and the Moodies. The guitar & clarinet improv at the five minute mark are absolutely brilliantly supported by mellotron before vocal "ooo's" set up the song's high point: the building layers of harmonic vocals over the strumming of multiple guitars and a catchy synth riff. The vocal line that is then repeated to get to the song's end would, I imagine, be a great one to shout out with the band in a live performance, should one know French. (20/20)

4. "En pleine face" (4:51) is an amazingly well crafted song, with very mature and virtuosic commands of sound dynamics both in the instrumentation and the vocals. It has one of the catchiest outros ever, with its beautiful use of accordian, to usher us on to the "fifth" season. (10/10)

5. The "instrumental" "Histoires sans paroles" (17:12) (33.25/35) is a simple yet convoluted piece of art with a folksy, almost-Celtic heaviness to it. Flute and woodwinds and guitars and other strings interspersed with piano/keys are the song's base instruments while mellotronics are used to tie sections together. All of this is packaged together to take one on a very innocent though tension-filled, visual, journey. I absolutely love the simple two-chord climb to resolution from the 11:00 minute mark to the 14:30 climax followed by the shift with the flute into the band's collective answer.  
- a L'Isolement 
- b L'Appel 
- c La Rencontre
- d L'Union 
- e Le Grand Bal

Total Time: 41:28

The LP has a very ANTHONY PHILLIPS Geese and the Ghost feel to it. The guitars and refreshing and unusual rhythms lure you into each song like the fireplace at an old friend's house on a cold, blustery night. The use of mellotron is sparing and often brilliantly timed---practically unexpected but always a pleasant surprise.

96.18 on the Fishscales = five stars; A; a true masterpiece of progressive rock music--and, perhaps the greatest Prog Folk album of all time. What may be even more amazing is the fact that the album contains no drums!




3. ANTHONY PHILLIPS The Geese and The Ghost (1977) Subtle. Bucolic. Crystalline. Pastoral. Mediaeval. There is not much I can say while waxing romantic over The Geese and the Ghost that hasn't already been said by other reviewers. I guess what most stands out for me when revisiting Ant's first solo album is the stunning clarity of every single instrument in the recording mixes. Amazing! No other "prog" LP that I know assembles such a seamlessly integrated ensemblature of instruments; neither does any "prog" recording that I have ever heard imbue one, whether intentionally or not--and oh so effortlessly--with the feeling that one is being surrounded by, communing with--even entraining with--Nature herself. Also, Peter Cross's artwork is among the most interesting, humorous album work ever created. I remember purchasing each Anthony Phillips album with almost as much anticipation for the hours of enjoyment of pouring over Peter Cross's artwork as the music--that and wanting to find out what "Ralph Bernascone" was up to lately--which says a lot since Ant's music has always been among my favourites. Curiously, despite Ant's talent, penchant, and proclivity for piano/keyboards, I've never quite been able to think of him as anything other than a guitarist. Apologies, Ant! More Tibetan Yak Music! Great job in collaboration, Mike Rutherford!

Line-up / Musicians:
- Anthony Phillips / acoustic and electric (6- & 12-string) guitars, Classical guitar, basses, dulcimer guitar, bouzouki, piano, organ, synthesizers, Mellotron, harmonium, celesta, pin piano, drums, glockenspiel, bells & chimes, timbales, gong, vocals (7), co-producer
     With:
- Michael Rutheford / acoustic and electric (6- & 12-string) guitars, Classical guitar, basses, organ, drums, timbales, bells, glockenspiel, cymbals, co-producer
- Phil Collins / vocals (2,4)
- Viv McAuliffe / vocals (4)
- John Hackett / flute (4, 7, 8)
- Wil Sleath / flute, baroque flute, recorders, piccolo
- Jack Lancaster / flutes, Lyricon (8)
- Charlie Martin / cello (5, 6)
- Kirk Trevor / cello (5,6)
- Nick Hayley & Friend / violins
- Lazo Momulovich / oboes, cor Anglais (3, 6)
- Rob Phillips / oboes (6, 8)
- Martin Westlake / timpani (3, 5, 6)
- David Thomas / Classical guitar (9)
- Ronnie Gunn / harmonium (9)

Curio (jokes):
- Tom Newman / heckelphone, bulk eraser
- Ralph Bernascone / soloist
- "Send Barns Orchestra" & "Barge Rabble" conducted by Jeremy Gilbert

1. "Wind-Tales" (1:02) the beautiful soundtrack-like opener (5/5)

2. "Which Way The Wind Blows" (5:51) the first of the Phil Collins vocal songs
 which is most notable for its beautifully textured layers of guitars and keys (and no drums!) (9/10)

3. "Henry - Portraits From Tudor Times" (12:11) a pseudo-mediæval instrumental suite, which is remarkable for the way in which its several emotional themes evoke its subject so well. (24/25):
- i) Fanfare 0:56
- ii) Lute's Chorus 2:00
- iii) Misty Battlements 1:15
- iv) Henry Goes To War 3:36
- v) Death Of A Knight 2:33
- vi) Triumphant Return 1:46


4. "God if I saw her now" (4:09) a
 Renaissance love song in which Vivienne MacAuliffe and Phil Collins sing the duet. (9/10)

5. "Chinese Mushroom Cloud" (0:46) 
(4.25/5)

6. "The Geese And The Ghost" (15:40) t
he gorgeous symphonic 12-string guitar based epic (28.5/30):
- Part One (8:01)
- Part Two (7:39)


7. "Collections" (3:07) 
the heart-wrenching, orchestrated love song (sung by Ant himself) (9/10)

8. "Sleepfall - The Geese Fly West" (4:33) a longer, more developed instrumental used to bookend the album with the opener. (10/10)

Total Time: 44:09

Check out "Henry: Portraits from Tudor Times" (12:09) and "The Geese and the Ghost" (15:51) to see what I mean.

95.0 on the Fishscales = five stars; A; a true masterpiece of folk-infused symphonic progressive rock.





4. ALAN STIVELL Renaissance of the Celtic Harp (1972) Renaissance of the Celtic Harp is an album that was recommended to me by the music reviewers in the magazine Audiophile and for which I have always been extremely grateful as I consider it a masterpiece of beautiful melodies and one of the earliest successes at putting Celtic music to electric rock band accompaniment.


Line-up / Musicians:
- Alan "Stivell" Cochevelou / Celtic harp, Scotish bagpipes, Irish flute, bombard, arrangements
With:
- Dan Ar Braz / electric & acoustic guitars
- Gilles Tinayre / organ
- Mig Ar Biz / bombard
- Alain Cloatre / bombard
- Stephane Wiener / viola
- Gabriel Bauvais / viola
- Paul Hadjaje / viola
- Pierre Cheval / viola
- Jean Huchot / cello
- Henri Delagarde / cello
- Manuel Recasens / cello
- Jean-Marc Dollez / acoustic bass
- Gérard Levavasseur / bass
- Gérard Salkowsky / bass
- Guy Cascales / drums
- Yann Fanch Ar Merdy / Scottish drums
- Michel Delaporte / percussion, tabla
- Anne Germain / backing vocals (4)
- Claude Germain / backing vocals (4)
- Jean Claude Briodin / backing vocals (4)
- Françoise Walle / backing vocals (4)
- Jacques Hendrix / backing vocals (4)
- Danielle Bartoletti / backing vocals (4)
- Denise Mégevand / arrangements (2,8)

1. "Ys" (8:49) is the proggiest song on the album opening with gentle waves on the beach sounds followed by some gorgeous chord sequences and eventually joined in by with double bass/cello and hand drums, and wooden flute. (20/20)

2. "Marv Pontkalleg" (3:34) is a stunningly beautiful song performed on solo harp. (9/10)

3. "Extraits de manuscrits gallois: Ap Huw and Penllyn" (2:58) is a pretty if odd-tempoed piece for solo harp. (8/10)

4. "Eliz Iza" (2:56) is an amazing little piece with the support of chamber strings, choir, and, at the end, bagpipes, drums and electric bass. (10/10) 

5. "Gaeltacht Medley: Caitlain Triall/Port Ui Mhuirgheasa/Airde Cuan/Na Reubairrean/Manx Melody/Heman Dubh/Gaelic Waltz/Struan Robertson/the Little Cascade/Briagh Loch Iall/Port an Deorai" (18:53) contains one of the finest early examples of folk music integrating with the support of both classical and electrified rock instruments (organ, bass and drums). Great selection of traditional Celtic folk themes deftly joined together. (38/40)

Total Time 36:51

Since I first heard this album in the late 1970s, I've harbored a private theory that members of GENESIS must have heard this album before they set out to do Selling England by the Pound because there are melody lines in Renaissance of the Celtic Harp that are heard note for note from the guitars in several songs on Selling England--notably in "Cinema Show," "Firth of Fifth," and "Dancing with the Moonlight Knight." Is this just a coincidence? I find that hard to believe.


93.0 on the Fishscales = five stars; A; a masterpiece of progressive rock music and another stellar example of the early successful blending of traditional folk music with non-folk rock instruments.



5. CELESTE Principe di giorno (1976) Delicate, ephemeral weaves of guitars, bass, piano, woodwinds, and tuned percussion, all set against or accompanied by copius amounts of Mellotron and then coupled with the gentle male vocals of composer Ciro Perrino set within the music and sung the band's native tongue, Italian, make for some absolutely gorgeous music. Celeste came onto the scene with this, a concept album of gentle, pastoral music in which there is a minimum input of percussion instruments. As noted by other reviewers, the similarities to Québeçoise band HARMONIUM's album of the same year, Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison, are strong, but just as strong are the presences of countrymates PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI's early albums--especially in the intricate multi-instrument weaves--as well as the softer side of GENESIS's
Trespass, and even King Crimson's first two albums (in the style of the use of the Mellotron).
     The key words here are "delicacy" and "pastoral." There is very little heaviness or barely any "rock" here. The band uses beautiful instrumental weaves to try to re-construct a beautiful day in the countryside.
     I love this album. I count it as one of the masterpiece gems of the late classical period of prog. Every song is its own gem among the king's riches, but the whole, listened to start-to-finish, is a wonderful excuse for nostalgic daydreaming. IMHO, one can never do enough daydreaming.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mariano Schiavolini / guitar, violin, vocals (3) & backing vocals
- Leonardo Lagorio / acoustic & electric piano, flute, alto & tenor sax, spinet, Mellotron, Eminent & ARP Odyssey/2600 synths, backing vocals
- Giorgio Battaglia / bass, bass pedals, electric (7) & steel (1) guitars, xylophone, backing vocals
- Ciro Perrino / percussion, flute, recorder, Mellotron, xylophone, vocals & backing vocals
With:
- Aldo De Scalzi / vocals (3), "plop" cheek-percussion" effect (7)

1. "Principe Di Giorno" (6:12) (9/10)
2. "Favole Antiche" (8:18) (20/20)
3. "Eftus" (4:17) (8.5/10)
4. "Giochi Nella Notte" (8:11) (13.5/15)
5. "La Grande Isola" (5:04) (9/10)
6. "La Danza Del Fato" (3:56) (9.5/10)
7. "L'imbroglio" (1:06) (4.25/5)

     I love this album. I count it as one of the masterpiece gems of the late classical period of prog. Every song is its own gem among the king's riches, but the whole, listened to start-to-finish, is a wonderful excuse for nostalgic daydreaming. IMHO, one can never do enough daydreaming.

90.71 on the Fishscales = five stars; A-; a masterpiece of pastoral progressive rock music.




6. FLAIRCK Gevecht met de engel (1980) notes the welcome of violin virtuoso Sylvia Houtzager as well as the disposal of any drumming. As usual, there are no vocals, but this is an absolutely brilliant display of tightly woven acoustic folk music of the ancient Celtic acoustic kind. As many many other reviewers have said before me, though this is all acoustic instrumentation, the music of Flairck feels and sounds like the most centered progressive rock music one can find. Full of a broad spectrum of sound dynamics, melodies, frequent variations in time and key signatures, and musicians who are definitely virtuosi of their instruments, this stuff rocks, it impresses, it melts your heart.

 Check out:  2. "De Vlinder" (7:29) (15/15); 6. "Gevecht met de engel, Part II" (8:37) (20/20), and; 4. "De Stoomwals" (8:29) (17/20).

Line-up / Musicians:
- Erik Visser / 6- & 12-string acoustic guitars, sitar, mandolin, spinet, panpipes, gong, kettledrums
- Peter Weekers / flutes (transverse, alto, piccolo), panpipes, Uillean pipes, spinet, castanets
- Sylvia Houtzager / violin, viola, cello, harp, panpipes
- Hans Visser / acoustic & electric basses, Classical & 12-string guitars, panpipes

1. "Oost-west Express" (East-West Express) (4:49) opens with some fast finger-picking on steel-string guitar, joined by second guitar in the second round, panpipes in the third, violin in the fourth and the quartet builds, congeals, detonates, reels, keens, kneels, serenades, danses, and finally spins wildly out of control. Cool song with very diverse and yet very old-feeling folk roots. (9/10)

2. "De Vlinder" (The Butterfly) (7:25) opens with solo flute trilling and flitting before guitar and sitar join in and take over with a melody that is borrowed from a very famous Celtic folk song. At the two minute mark Uillean pipes take over and strings shift beautifully, effortlessly, to support/accompaniment. Then, at the three minute mark, the tempo suddenly shifts with the sudden and forceful arrival of the violin, speeding her way through an amped up variation on the same Celtic melody. Flute takes over with fast-strumming of 12-string for a bit before pipes and violin duet the melody lead with the same 12-string accompaniment. At 5:20 things slow down as the melody transposes into a different key and temporary minor version before returning to the with three different instruments maintaining their own version of the lead melody in speed-dial. Wow! The final 30 seconds of slow-down are almost necessary for cool down. (15/15)


3. "Voor Antoinette" (For Antoinette) (2:08) nice acoustic guitar duet with a lullaby feel. (4.5/5)

4. "De Stoomwals" (Steam Engine Waltz) (8:29) panpipes based, this one represents very simple traditional folk melodies that could come from the Andes, the Pyrenees, the Caucasus, or the Balkans. The guitars, harp and violins accompany throughout but rarely take the lead away from the panpipes. I don't know why some versions of this song lack the calliope- (and steam engine-)like multi-panpipes intro and outro. (17/20)

5. "Gevecht Met De Engel Deel I" (8:25) opens with a flourish of multiple instruments bursting into a very Spanish sounding theme before breaking down after half a minute into a less cohesive, almost classical-sounding loose weave of the individual instruments. Spanish guitar moves into the fore solo, before flutes, violin and guitars come together for another, different frenzy flourish. At 2:00 things slow down into a delicate weave of gently picked arpeggio (sounding very GENESIS-like) setting the scene for a slow, plaintive flute solo. Spanish guitar and other guitar do some very interesting, technically challenging things in support, before the ensemble again rests for a slower Spanish guitar solo. Flute and violin join back in at the 3:40 mark, each carrying its own melody while gently-picked guitars support. At 4:32 a bass guitar enters and the rhythm guitars begin to strum more forcefully while violin and flute continue to play their separate-yet-interlaced (one mirroring the other) solos. After the six minute mark, the group amps up again--especially the strumming guitars--while flute and violin march on steadfastly. Guitars and bass settle back into the fold to support the powerful melody before a kind of Chinese weave of all the instruments (again, sounding very GENESIS-like) forms to play out to the end. Wow! It doesn't get much prettier or impressive than this! (19/20)

6. "Gevecht Met De Engel Deel II" (8:35) pastoral nylon string guitar opens this one before 12-string joins in and then harp. Gorgeous! After 90 seconds of this the classical guitar takes a more aggressive, Andalusian approach to the lead while 12-string and harp continue their beautiful support. At the end of the third minute all instruments drop away except for the classical guitar--doing the solo. In the fifth minute multiple bowed strings join in before classical guitar shifts its tone and force into a very Rodrigo-like (and then Mike Oldfield "Incantations 1") section. At the six minute mark flute enters with another very familiar Celtic melody while violin supports as guitars fall into accompanying roles. Classical guitar steps in to triplicate the lead instruments. What wonderful arrangements this quartet creates! Amazing! (20/20)

7. "Gevecht Met De Engel Deel III" (5:28) a kind of weave of several famous classical and folk styles and melodies--from Beethoven to Romani to Rimsky-Korsakov to Ravel or Bizet. (9.5/10)

Total time: 44:03

Amazing compositions performed by top-notch virtuosi musicians. The only tiny complaint I have is concerning the borrowing of famous melody lines and playing styles from other European folk and classical traditions (even though they do it so amazingly well).

94.0 on the Fishscales = A/five stars; a masterpiece of symphonic Progressive Folk music.





7. SPIROGYRA St. Radigunds (1971)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Barbara Gaskin / lead & backing vocals
- Martin Cockerham / guitar, lead vocals
- Julian Cusack / violin, keyboards
- Steve Borrill / bass
With:
- Robert Kirkby / arranger (strings, trumpet, recorder) & producer
- Tony Cox / VCS3 synth
- Dave Mattacks / drums

1. "The Future Won't Be Long" (4:27) the aggressive Dylan-esque voice of Martin Cockerham is beautifully counterbalanced by the gorgeous, placating tones of Barbara Gaskin. Drumless, the strums of the acoustic guitar, the violin and bass work all provide the strong rhythmic compass for the singers' message of insistent warning. Julian Cusack's violin is as insistent as the singers. Powerful. (9/10)

2. "Island" (3:39) violin and picked guitar provide the only background support for Martin Cockeram's vocal. It picks up speed as it morphs into a kind of reel between Martin, Julian and a second violin track (Robert Kirkby?) (9/10)

3. "Magical Mary" (6:20) races out of the gate with Martin and Barbara doubling up on the delivery of the story. Nice time shifts with the choruses--makes it interesting. Bass, strummed acoustic guitar and frenetic violin play keep it so tight! 
      At the three minute mark the song shifts again, letting Barbara take the vocal lead--in a very seductive way (as contrasted by Martin's abrasive approach). The many shifts and changes over the course of this longer song definitely gives it credibility for the prog world sticklers. I like the instrumental outro. (9.5/10)

4. "Captain's Log" (2:00) soft and pop-folkie more in a 1960s Paul Simon kind of way. A cool, melodic song with all of the synth "wind & water" effects. (9/10)

5. "At Home In The World" (2:40) sounds like S & G's "America" in many ways until the chorus. Piano-based, with background strummed guitar, drums, horns and gorgeous harmony vocals from Barbara during the choruses. Interesting; different. (8.5/10)

6. "Cogwheels Crutches And Cyanide" (6:00) Another Dylan-like vocal supported by full band--acoustic guitar, bass, full drum kit drumming, and violin. At 4:00 bare bones acoustic guitar is joined by an eery Peter Gabriel-like theatric voice while piano, organ, drums, bass and Barbara amp it up. The song ends with Martin's bellicose voice over the crescendo of the full band. My favorite part of this good song is Barbara Gaskin's background soprano vocalise and harmonies. (9/10)

7. "Time Will Tell" (5:32)  a minute of keening solo violin opens this song before bass and female vocal enter to help tell the tale. Very proper, almost operatic singing. Bass, second background violin and lead violin speed up for bridge to a new section with acoustic guitar strumming, piano, and bass supporting Barbara's beautiful delivery. A politically ambiguous song telling us that no system will last forever. Cool song! Nice message (prompting one of those rare occasions in which I hear the lyrics). (9.5/10) 

8. "We Were A Happy Crew" (5:29) gentle piano, strings/synths support Barbara's gentle vocal for the opening half minute before full band and Martin's background vocals join in support. Interesting violin solo at the end of the second minute leads to beautiful old-sounding acoustic guitar play and new vocal section. I like it so much better when Martin is not pushing his message with a Bob Dylan voice--he actually has a very nice voice! As he demonstrates by taking over the lead vocal for the second half of this song. Love the way the instruments get insidiously stronger--building to crescendo before decaying at the end. (10/10)

9. "Love Is A Funny Thing" (2:00) gentle guitar picking supports the diaphanous upper register voice of Barbara Gaskin. Recorders join in with the second verse. Nice! They even get a solo or two! (9/10)

10. "The Duke Of Beaufoot" (7:08) (9/10)


Total Time: 45:15

91.11 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a masterpiece of prog folk music.




8. SHAKTI Natural Elements (1978) This album was my introduction to 1) Indian music, 2) tabla/percussion master, Zakir Hussein, 3) the (then) young violin virtuoso who styled himself as simply "Shankar," and, believe it or not, 4) John McLaughlin. Just hearing the combination of all these amazing, exotic instruments (including/especially John's custom-made guitar) was (and still is) a mind-blowing experience, but hearing them play such complicated music with such tightness, and such melodic beauty has landed this album permanently in my all-time top 20. I still get goose bumps every time I hear "Mind Ecology," "Face to Face," or "Peace of Mind"--they are that good, that powerful.


Line-up / Musicians:
- John McLaughlin / acoustic guitar, vocals, producer
- L. Shankar / violin, viola, vocals
- Vikku Vinayakram / ghatam, nal, kanjeera, morsing, vocals
- Zakir Hussain / tabla, timbales, bongos, dholak, nal, triangle, vocals

1. "Mind Ecology" (5:48) blasts you away with its amazing sonic onslaught--which seems to beckon one to take up Sufi trance dancing (the whirling dervish). (10/10)

2. "Face to Face" (5:58) is without question one of the most beautiful and technically stunning songs I've ever heard. McLaughlin's strumming, alone, takes one to another dimension! Music in absolute perfection! (11/10)

3. "Come on Baby, Dance with Me" is a lot like a brief jazz rondo piece where each of the instruments takes turns carrying the main melody line before gelling to repeat it as an ensemble. Amazing technical feat! (9/10)

4. "The Daffodil and the Eagle" (7:04) feels as if some Indian musicians are laying around in the shade on a scaldingly hot day playing some lazy blues, then getting revved up, they take each other to task, first picking up the pace, then really sitting up and trying to out do one another. Very bluesy, very McLaughlin-like. Shankar really blazes on this one. Really fun! (8.5/10)

5. "Happiness Is Being Together" (4:32) begins like something out of a Santana or South American song catalogue--a mariachi, perhaps? I get so mesmerized when John McLaughlin is strumming! Another Shankar showpiece. Or is that Itzhak Pehrlman? Wow! John, in turn, is so cool and at ease--and so Spanish! (8.5/10)

6. "Bridge of Sighs" (3:52) slows it down to a very emotional pace with a very JONI MITCHELL feel. The space in this song is its most beautiful part, where its emotion really presents itself. The musicians get to show off their instruments' subtle dynamics on this one yet not very much exciting or special happens in order to help make this one stand out. (7/10)

7. "Get Down and Sruti" (7:02) is the showpiece for Zakir Hussein--one of the world's preeminent percussionists over the past 50 years. It also introduces the vocalese call-and-response and rhythmic repetitions that become much more prominent in future SHAKTI and even John McLaughlin works (especially their concerts--of which I have had the privilege of seeing a few). Perhaps a little too laid back to garner a lot of praise. (7.5/10)

8. "Peace of Mind" (3:23) is an absolutely gorgeous song which seems to truly capture the astounding Beauty of true Peace. (10/10)

Total Time: 39:39

Bravo, Mr. McLaughlin and crew. Thank you for this album.

It is hard and beautiful to remember that this is an all-acoustic album and could, therefore, be repeated in concert without the aid of electricity. Something I can't help but think about in these dangerous times: What will my favorite musics sound like in a post-petroleum world? The musicians of India and artists like John McLaughlin, Mickey Hart, Ry Cooder, Flairck and Faun have already provided us with some clues to what that might be like. But rarely with the combination of beauty, joy, and astounding virtuosity of SHAKTI.


89.375 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars; B+; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock and one of the shining examples of pioneering the blending world musical traditions.  





9. PTARMIGAN Ptarmigan (1974) This is an obscure, very hard to find gem from a short-lived band from British Columbia. The Folk foundations with the classic multi-part male harmonies and acoustic (lute-sounding) guitars are brought into Renaissance world by multiple hand percussives and recorders (as well as the lute sound of Monte Nordstrom's guitars). What earns this its "prog" inclusion is its European and Indian classical music influences and California psychedelia sound (and lyrics) as well as its use of electric bass--all possibly due to the influence of the album's producer, world jazz pioneer, Paul Horn. This album is truly a wonderful musical excursion with some quite complex, shifting and evolving song structures performed quite tightly. Though each song or suite of songs can be listened to in isolation, I prefer to hear the album in one continuous play. Despite the continuous high consistency throughout, there are highlights, most due to either the beautiful two- and three-part male vocal harmonies and the interesting and diverse styles of guitar playing, but also from the floating, hypnotic psychedelic feel of the California hippy and Native American influences.

Line-up / Musicians:

- Glen Dias / lead vocals, Alto, Tenor & bass recorder, Incidental percussion
- Monte Nordstrom / vocals, 12 strings guitar, lead vocals (10-11)
- Kat Hendrikse / drums
- Dave Field / acoustic bass
- Richard Mayer / electric bass (3-5)
- Peter Wheeler / hand drums 
- Paul Horn / percussion

1. "Rise" (0:24)
2. "Go Dancing" (5:16) one of those extraordinarily beautiful, haunting songs that once heard can never be unheard. The vocal melodies and harmonies as well as the interplay of 12-string guitars and recorders and percussives are astounding. (10/10)

3. "The Island" (9:01) (19.5/20)
       "Intro" (1:58) dobro-like guitar with recorder
       "Préambule" (0:37) beautiful "White Rabbit"-like motif
       "Main Theme" (6:29) what an amazingly beautiful and powerful lead vocal from Glen Dias while Monte Nordstrom proves all his worth on the guitar tracks.

6. "Vancouver" (4:30) (9.75/10)
        "Reflections" (2:54) solo guitar with reverbed solo male vocal of the power and presence of JESSE COLIN YOUNG or JAMES MORRISON. Ends with flute before:
        "The City" (2:39) guitar, bass and percussives burst forth, pushing Glen's lead vocals into the back. Two tracks of recorders take over the lead as rhythm section swirls and whirls in support, never letting up, never waning in powerful encirclement.

8. "Night of the Gulls" (11:01) a beautiful study in spaciousness and ocean-like emotion. (18.5/20)
         "Night of the Gulls: On the Water" (0:51) wooden flute over creaky dock sounds.
         "Night of the Gulls: On the Wind" (3:10) solo guitar of a classical styling. 

         "An Hymn to the Ocean & The Great Northern Lake: Ocean Song" (6:17) 12-string guitar strumming JOHN McLAUGHLIN-style while bass, percussives and voice of Monte Nordstrom sings, then flute takes over. Flute and vocal sections alternate as tempest and tension rise and fall several times.    
         "An Hymn to the Ocean & The Great Northern Lake: Afternoon Rain" (0:48) tension-filled arpeggio slow-picked by the guitar while a breathy low flute lays down the end of this epic.

12. "Coquihalla (10:02) opens with interesting 12-string guitar riffs soon accompanied by full rock band rhythm section as well as a second guitar and soprano recorder. Turns very jazzy in a kind of Coltrane-kind of way in the second minute. As a matter of fact, the bass, second guitar, drum kit and bowed double bass support feel very rooted in jazz musician approaches and instrumentation. 
     At 3:20 a kind of classical acoustic guitar section begins over which Amerindian flute plays. DEMETRIO STRATOS-like vocal improvisations join in, taking over for the flute, before unleashing another jazzy classical guitar solo section. Fans of LEO KOTTKE, TOM RUSH, JOHN FAHEY, or even STEVE TIBBETTS will love this. (18.5/20)

Total Time: 50:07

95.31 on the Fishscales = A/five stars; a beautiful, intricate masterpiece of progressive rock music with a psychedelic world folk bent to it. 





10. FLAIRCK Variaties op een Dame (1978) The brilliant and startling debut from this collective of young Dutch virtuosi inspired by classical and folk traditions far and wide. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Erik Visser / 6- & 12-string acoustic guitars, sitar, mandolin, mandola
- Peter Weekers / flutes (transverse, bamboo, piccolo), panpipes
- Judy Schomper / violin, viola
- Hans Visser / acoustic bass, Classical & 12-string guitars
With:
- Fred Krens / vibes, marimba, glockenspiel, gong & cymbals (5)

1. "Aoife" (6:28) opens with a soft, laid back, beautiful weave between two string instruments (the Visser brothers' guitars). After a few rounds, in the third minute, the viola and panpipes join in. There is a slight shift in melody with a key shift at the 3:53 mark, the instrumental composition staying the same but everyone moving up the scales a bit to higher pitches. At 5:05 we drop back into the mid-range--though, again, there is a slight shift of melody and pacing. Beautiful song. What an opener! (13.5/15)

2. "Voorspel in Sofia" (7:06) opens with first one guitar, and then another, picking and strumming at a fast speed (they're in a hurry!) before panpipes enter and present the fast melody. At 1:15 the violin enters and there is a shift in structure and form though the pacing is still very fast and relentless. At 2:20 another shift in rhythmic structure ushers in a section in which panpipes and violin trade soli for a minute until bird-chirping from each instrument distracts us from a major slowdown from the guitars beneath. This new slow section doesn't change much in terms of structure or melody as violin and panpipes continue alternating their exposition and play with the pre-existing melody. At 5:45 Erik switches over to his mandola as Hans takes up the acoustic bass as the music speeds back up to the original pacing and as the panpipes and violin continue vying for the lead.  (13.5/15)

3. "April 3rd" (5:39) sitar and mandola open this with a slow, spacious structure in which to present a variation on the main melodic theme of the Adagio from Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez. Before the end of the first minute the sitar's lead switches the melody to something else--original or not, perhaps Celtic (more in the vein of Alan Stivell's work), it is familiar. In the fourth minute the sitar leaves and a flute takes its place. The sitar returns and kind of weaves its lower-range melody into the mix though the flute retains the lead. Nice song. (9/10)

4. "Oneven Wals (7:17) guitar and violin open this song with soft, delicate note interplay before being joined by flute (multiple?) and violin (multiple?). The weave is very soothing and flowing until the end of the third minute when a bridge signals the tempo change that happens at the 3:00 mark. A quickened pace yet retaining the smooth, aquatic flow of the music opens The fast, almost frenzied pace of the two lead instruments--the flute and violin--in the seventh minute is This may be the song that displays these musicians' virtuosity the best. I would also not be surprised to learn that this song was developed and recorded later than the previous three as it's engineering and compositional sophistication seems greater, deeper. (14/15)

5. "Variaties op een Dame (21:25) opening with four instrumentalists entering into a relaxed conversation using a melody familiar to me from Celtic music (or Pucchini opera). Eventually, in the third minute, yielding the center of attention to allow each of the others to have turns "speaking." The pastoral pacing is like a relaxed stroll on the grounds of a country estate or a pleasant tea on the veranda under the afternoon June sun. At 4:40 the music switches gears though the "Ode to Joy"-like melodic theme dominates the violin's play as the piccolo plays his own separate melody and guitar and double bass accompany. In the seventh minute a kind of Vivaldi lull falls upon the quintet as the violin falls into the telling of a particularly heart-wrenching story (using a melodic theme that is familiar to me from Alan Stivell's "Ys" from Renaissance of the Celtic Harp) This long unaccompanied violin solo again moves into Vivaldi territory with several familiar melodic themes being employed--including some more of Rodrigo. This continues to the 10:40 mark when everybody jumps back into a frenzy of activity, fast but not unnerving or chaotic, rather contrived work activity. At 12:30 we have evolved into a dance-like jig with multiple sections repeating over and over with collective weaves and solo sections, but all flowing seemlessly at the same pace. At 13:20 this stops and shifts into a more Iberian theme and style with some nice dual-instrument (piccolo and violin) presentation of the melody while the acoustic guitars strum along in a Spanish fashion. Another abrupt end at 15:14 opens the door for a more minimalists section in which a single bass guitar arpeggio and transverse flute plays a soft, distant, multi-octave melody. Guitars join in softly and the flute solo moves front and center to become more jazz-like until everything scales back again in the eighteenth minute to allow bass arpeggio be the lone supporter for a very active, breathy, vocal-accompanied/augmented flute solo. A very cool section! At the 19:00 mark everything cuts out once more, leaving space in which a viola enters to lay down a slow, plaintive melody. Violin is eventually joined by as the music starts to slowly construct a kind of Romani song, with instruments and pacing coming together slowly and then picking up faster and faster until the panpipes, violin and guitars are brought to a crescendo to close. Wow! What a trip! What masterful performances of a truly amazing composition! I can find neither fault or detriment to either the music or the level of engagement proffered by this song. This is about as close to perfection as music can get. (39/40)


6. "Dubbelspel (1:22) a fast run through a kind of lullaby or nursery song using a folk-bluegrass style. (4.25/5)

Total Time: 49:17


93.25 on the Fishscales = A/five stars; a masterpiece of progressive folk music and a shining example of what virtuosic instrumentalists can create with traditional instruments and melodies.





11. BRÖSELMASCHINE Bröselmaschine (1971) Very solid Prog Folk from Germany. This album is remarkable for its clarity of sound production and for the amazing vocal arrangements and performances--and in English!

Line-up / Musicians:
- Jenni Schücker / vocals, flute, bells
- Peter Bursch / vocals, acoustic guitar, sitar, flute
- Willi Kissmer / vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, zither
- Lutz Ringer / bass, Metallophone
- Mike Hellbach / congas, tabla, spoons, Mellotron

1. "Gedanken" (5:06) blues folk oriented and fairly simply arranged but masterfully executed and with wonderful vocals--male lead, female lead, and harmony vocals. (9.5/10)

2. "Lassie" (traditional) (5:06) a kind of average though remarkably clear rendition of a traditional folk song. (8/10)


3. "Gitarrenstuck" (2:03) a guitar duet with choir background vocals. The AMERICA-like mid-section is quite gorgeous. (5/5)

4. "The Old Man's Song" (5:26) guitar based but then electric guitars, congas and flutes join in and shift things. Female lead vocal is presented as if added in at the last minute. Nothing too special or innovative here. (8/10)

5. "Schmetterling" (9:31) sitar, zither, tabla, steel-string acoustic guitars fill the first two minutes before the German spoken voice of Jenni Schücker enters for a minute. Then it returns to instrumental. Guitars and, later, flutes do most of the work until the 5:00 mark when Jenni returns only in a vocalise form emulating or mimicking the flute and the rhythm patterns of the tabla. Then she stops (as does the tabla) and we're left with a solo from a strumming guitar. Flute and tabla return and then the final 90 seconds are filled by Mellotron-supported sitar in support of the flute melodist and tabla and guitar. Nice song. (17.5/20)

6. "Nossa Bova" (8:06) gentle finger-played acoustic guitar opens this one before tremoloed zither joins in. In the second minute hand percussion joins in as guitar and zither go their separate ways (both still playing, though). Reverbed voice enters at the 2:45 mark as Jenni sings a pretty, whimsical hippie lyric. Metallophone solo follows to fill out the fifth minute. The song has some timing/cohesion issues, otherwise it's pretty nice and very transportative. I'm rating it high because of its desirable, nostalgic "feel good" feel. (14/15)

Total Time: 35:18


Though not the most sophisticated or complex musical compositions, incredible sound reproduction (except for Jenni's vocal tracks), clear and pure voice and instrument arrangements of simple song constructs win the day. Truly an unusual and exceptional album for its time.

88.57 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of Prog Folk.





12. FOTHERINGAY Fotheringay (1970) This was Sandy Denny's breakaway album from FAIRPORT CONVENTION--before she went on to a solo career--and amazing record it is! She is joined by four stellar musician/vocalists—all of the male pursuasion:  ECLECTION’s Trevor LUCAS on guitars and Gerry CONWAY on drums and POET AND THE ONE MAN BAND’s Jerry DONAHUE on guitars and Pat DONALDSON on bass. 
     This is a deceptively powerful album due to its rather soft, slow, and laconic song starts. But you need only follow Ms. Denny's incredibly emotive storytelling and the way the band joins in to build toward each song's climax before you will find yourself hooked. Only three songs are penned by Denny--and they are jewels--but the male-lead vocal songs are quite good as well.
     What makes Fotheringay such a powerful album is the amazing recording and powerful emotions in both Sandy Denny's vocals and lyrics but also all of the accompanying musicians. I just love the clarity and feel of the mix of the guitars, piano, and drums. Each and every song is artfully done, with subtle flourishes and idiosyncracies that make them so delightful to listen to time and time again. If there's a weakness in the album, it's in the recording of the vocalist’s voices—especially in songs which try to display the band’s singing in harmony like “The Ballad of Ned Kelly” (3:36) (7/10) and, to a lesser degree, “Peace in the End” (4:03) (8/10). But the listener can easily get past this as, let’s face it: there have not been many vocalists in the history of recorded music with the gifts that Sandy Denny had.


Line-up / Musicians:
- Sandy Denny / vocals, piano, guitar
- Trevor Lucas/ vocals, guitar
- Jerry Donahue/ lead guitar, backing vocals
- Pat Donaldson / bass, backing vocals
- Gerry Conway/ drums, backing vocals
With:
- Linda Peters (Thompson) / backing vocals
- Tod Lloyd / backing vocals

1. "Nothing More" (4:37) a Sandy Denny-penned song that is one of the most shining examples of Prog Folk perfection you'll ever come across, Sandy Denny is something so special and this is a great band. The only song on the album on which piano appears as the lead accompanist of the vocalist and band. (10/10)

2. "The Sea" (5:32) another Sandy Denny song that is built upon by her amazing band so that it sounds like the foundation for one of THE ALLMAN BROTHERS' best songs with comparisons also appropriate for bands like JONI MITCHELL and SEALS & CROFTS. Outstanding musicianship of this gorgeous, many-layered composition. (10/10)

3. "The Ballad Of Ned Kelly" (3:34) a song created by guitarist-vocalist Trevor Lucas and sung by Lucas in his Kris Kristofferson-like voice. A now-famous song that fails to impress (me; but then, I'm not a lyrics guy). (8/10)

4. "Winter Winds" (2:13) a third Sandy Denny song that opens with guitars and bass and Sandy's plaintive voice. Drums join in for the final stanza. (8.5/10)

5. "Peace In The End" (4:02) written by Sandy and Trevor strummed guitars, thick C&W bass, pedal steel guitar, choir vocals with a male in the lead, later alternating with Sandy. The chorus approach feels church-based--definitely oriented to a sing-a-long crowd-appeal. (8/10)

6. "The Way I Feel" (4:46) a Gordon Lightfoot song that opens with fast arpeggio from guitar, fast strumming from another, bass and drum lines potent with latent power waiting to bust out. Beautiful choral vocals with perfected harmonies carry this song from start to finish. Again, the little instrumental flourishes and nuances added here and there are so cool--they remind me of the sophisticated layering of peak LYNYRD SKYNYRD. (9.5/10)

7. "The Pond And The Stream" (3:20) multiple picked guitars with bass and drums in gentle support of Sandy's solo voice. A true folk song, very JONI MITCHELL-like. (9/10)

8. "Too Much Of Nothing" (3:55) a male-voiced cover of a Bob Dylan song that is delivered in a very Country & Western style and sound; the whole thing sounds like something from THE BAND,  the MARSHALL TUCKER BAND, or HOOTIE AND THE BLOWFISH. Smooth and memorable. (9/10)


9. "Banks Of The Nile" (8:04) a Fotheringay/Sandy Denny arrangement of a traditional folk song, the key is, once again, Sandy's amazing vocal delivery. Great simple and sparse support from the guitar, bass and cymbals over the opening four minutes allows Sandy and the story to have the listener's full attention (as it should). Still, this is a Prog Folk song with a more rock'n'roll musical support in the second half. Full of subtleties and nuances that add greatly without distracting or detracting from Sandy's story delivery. Gorgeous outro to fade over the last 30 seconds. (13.5/15)

Total Time: 40:03


     Check out "Nothing More" (4:39) (10/10), "The Sea" (5:33) (9/10), "Banks of the Nile" (8:04) (13.5/15), "The Way I Feel" (4:45) (10/10), and "John the Gun" (5:06) (8/10) (from their second album of songs recorded in their 1970 recording sessions but only released as the album Fotheringay 2 in 2008).

90.0 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music and a wonderful display of diverse Prog Folk.






13. STRAWBS Ghosts (1975) Often overlooked as outside of the "classic" period of Strawbs "masterpieces," this album is so well produced, the sound so good, and the song-writing so tight and mature I find it hard to not consider one of the finest achievements of Prog Folk. As a matter of fact, as highly touted and revered former Strawbs' keyboard contributor Rick Wakeman is, I prefer the work of John Hawken. I love ways in which he combines the harpsichord, organs, piano and Mellotron better than those of Maestro Wakeman.


Line-up / Musicians:
- Dave Cousins / vocals, acoustic & electric guitar, recorder
- Dave Lambert / vocals, electric & acoustic guitar
- John Hawken / piano, electric piano, harpsichord, Mellotron, Moog, Hammond, pipe organ (West Wycombe Church ?)
- Chas Cronk / bass, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
- Rod Coombes / drums, congas, percussion, backing vocals, lead vocals & guitar (10)
With:
- Clare Deniz / cello (3)
- Robert Kirby / choral arrangements


1. "Ghosts" (8:31) From the opening weave of multiple guitars (some 12-stringed!) and harpsichord, the amazing vocal dynamics, awesome lyrics, and excellent keyboard layering into the jam-on adrenaline bursting "Night Light" middle section of the title song, this is a prog masterpiece.  (20/20)


2. "Lemon Pie" (4:02) seems to follow the format of previous Strawbs albums in that a socially-significant pop-oriented anthemic tune is second on the album, following the opening "epic"--and "Lemon Pie" does not disappoint. It delivers with it all of the zest and vigor one would expect of Dave Cousins' best efforts--with some delightfully playful lyrics. (9/10)


3. "Starshine/Angel Wine" (5:14) opens with two minutes of nice folk rock before an almost-"Layla" electric guitar riff opens up the heavier, more dynamic second section. (8/10)


4. "Where Do You Go (When You Need a Hole to Crawl in)" (3:04) has a kind of CAT STEVENS "Peace Train/Another Saturday Night" calypso feel to it. Upbeat and bar-room appropriate. (7/10)


5. "The Life Auction" (6:52) opens with some cool piano effects which is gradually joined by a low PETER GABRIEL-like half-spoken poetic story telling before the song bursts into a full blown bombastic Very Trespass-era, "Knife" or "White Mountain"-like--complete with defiant affect and flange effects on the vocals and electric guitar "power chords." Very cool song! (15/15) 


6. "Don't Try to Change Me" (4:29) takes the listener back to a pleasant, innocent time like the Flower Child 1960s--at least until the shock of the emphatic first chorus at the one minute mark. now wide awake, we travel through the rest of the song on the nice verses fully expecting and ready for the rather abrasive shout of the chorus repeats. (8/10)


7. "Remembering" (0:59) (5/5) is a beautiful little interlude of electronic keyboard and cymbal play that turns out to be the introduction to the next song, my favorite song of theirs, 

8. "You and I (When We Were Young)" (3:59) is a Cousins-Hawken collaboration which is pure perfection to these ears and, lyrically, to my mind as well. Pop music doesn't get better than this. (10/10)


The album's finale, and a John Hawken song, 9. "Grace Darling" (3:57), is another gorgeous song founded on a rock combo with the lovely accompaniment of a full chorus throughout and, later, from an awesome church organ. (10/10)


Total Time: 41:07

Side 2 makes up my favorite single side of Strawbs songs and Side 1 is not too bad either. 


91.11 on the Fishscales = five stars; A-: a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music and, in my opinion, an exemplary representative of the best of what Prog Folk has to offer. 





14. ROY HARPER Stormcock (1971) is an unusual folk album for the fact that it has only four songs and that they are all performed, for the most part, by one artist (no offense, David BEDFORD and Jimmy PAGE). Roy and his engineering/production team are quite creative and adventurous with their rendering of background, support, and incidental musical support throughout the album, but moreso on Side 2 with the heavy "Donovan-warble" effects placed upon Roy's voice and on he and Jimmy's guitars on 3. "One Man Rock and Roll Band" (7:23) (9/10) and on the album's highpoint, the haunting multi-faceted suite, 4. "Me and My Woman" (13:01) (10/10). (Did I mention how brilliant David Bedford is?) Despite this discrepancy between Side 2 and Side 1, Side 1 is still very good. The opener, "Hors d'oeuvres" (8:37) relies on Roy's DONOVAN-like voice dirging over a very repetitive foundation of two guitars riffing the same riffs over and over for the entire song. At the 3:00 mark background "choir" of mulit-tracked, heavily treated voices (all sounding like those of Roy, himself) begin accompanying the guitars and lead vocal. Around 4:30 an organ joins in the accompaniment in the background followed by an electric guitar solo in the final 45 seconds--after the vocal has ended. The song is also quite notable for the 5:50 point at which Roy acknowledges--in the very lyrics that he is singing--that his lyrics will most likely prevent the song from ever seeing radio play. (9/10) 2. "The Same Old Rock" (12:25) must rely more on its lyrical content for its appeal cuz, up utnil the 6:50 mark, I find it quite boring. (8/10) 


Total time 41:25

Line-up / Musicians:
- Roy Harper / vocals, 6- & 12-string (2) guitars, Moog (1), piano (3), co-producer
With:
- David Bedford / Hammond (1), orchestral arrangements (4)
- Jimmy Page / lead guitar (2)

A fairly recent discovery for me, I liked it immediately and like the way increasing familiarity has helped it to grow even more in my esteem. 

90.0 on the Fishscales = Definitely a four star album, maybe even worthy of five; A-; a shining example of classic prog with a folk foundation.




15. HÖLDERLIN Hölderlin's Traum (1974) I like this album because it's rare that your get to hear the German language sung beautifully over and with some beautiful music. This is also a remarkably well recorded and engineered album.


Line-up / Musicians:
- Nanny DeRuig / vocals
- Christian Grumbkow / guitars
- Joachim Grumbkow / cello, acoustic guitar, transverse flute, piano, organ, Mellotron
- Christoph Noppeney / violin, viola, flute, piano
- Peter Käseberg / bass, acoustic guitar, vocals
- Michael Bruchmann / drums, percussion
With:
- Peter Bursch / sitar (3)
- Mike Hellbach / tablas (3)
- Walter Westrupp / recorder (5)


1. "Waren Wir" (4:51) is one fantastic song. Starting slow and simply with piano-based music being sung over by female voice auf Deutch, there is a pause at 1:12 followed by a jazzy organ-based, flute-soloing, congo-accompanied section until a male spoken voice says something in German before musicians jam till fade. (10/10)

2. "Peter" (2:57) is standard folk fare. There are some nice chord changes and guitar picking accompanying the pretty female singing voice. (8/10)

3. "Strohhalm" (2:06) reminds me of some acoustic CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG/JONI MITCHELL only with a singular male singer, small hand drums, acoustic guitar and sitar playing very prominently. (7/10)

4. "Requiem fur einen Wicht" (6:39) is a pretty, sometimes waltzy, folk song. I especially enjoy the swirling effects created by the violins. Nice lilting female vocal from Nanny DeRuig in the middle section--with the long held notes. The middle section of militaristic drumming and violin is haunting. Then everything quiets down to a more Bohemian 'gypsy' violin and guitar duet--rejoined by flute, rhythm section and vocal at the 5:30 mark. Intriguing song. (9/10)

5. "Erwachen" (4:06) opens with recorder, piano and tambourine playing a little medieval troubadour-like song, before there is a pause for nature sounds (wolf in the woods?) The song picks back up with piano, acoustic guitar, bowed bass and tambourine playing some old folk melody--joined by Nanny DeRuig's lower, more authoritative voice from the 1:50 mark on. I'm not sure if I'm more reminded of The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" or some Eastern European dirge. (8/10)

6. "Wetterbericht" (6:39) is a very spacious, bare-bones true folk song that opens with multiple acoustic guitars picking. Eventually, they are joined by Nanny in one of her best performances on the album. There is an eerie Harmonium feel to this one--with some very beautiful chord changes and an awesome Harmonium-like tempo shift at the 3:30 mark--soon after which sees the background entrance of a very spacey synthesizer moving slowly from one note to another (reminiscent of Genesis' "Stagnation" though shorter and further in the background). There is then a return to the song's original sound and structure for the last minute before it fades. (9/10)

7. "Traum" (7:26) starts with picked 12-string guitar like a Genesis song from Selling England before the guitarist switches to strumming so that the rest of the band can jump in with some awesome bass, drumming, conga, flute, and violin jamming together --and, what's this? Introducing: Electric Guitar! Strumming along in the right channel while the violinist, bass, and rhythm section jam to the 4:35 mark. Then the instrumentalists seem to each go off on their own sprees--each stuck in a tremolo mode--until 5:50 when they all are brought back together by the strumming guitar. Awesome bass and violin/cello playing! (15/15)

Total Time: 34:51

Great first and last songs--totally proggy--with some otherwise very nice more standard folk fare in between. 


87.14 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars; B+. This album would make an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.




16. FUCHSIA Fuchsia (1971) sounds sometimes like their own sound of YES-meets-THE WHO 'Renaissance folk rock' (on 1. "Gone with the Mouse" [4:59] [10/10]), sometimes like early MOODY BLUES (2. "A Tiny Book" [8:03] [9/10]), at others like CURVED AIR (the instrumental 3. "Another Nail" [6:57] [8/10]) and ELO (4. "Shoes and Ships" [6:14] [8/10] and 5. "The Nothing Song" [8:23] [8/10]), THE HOLLIES and HERMAN'S HERMITS ("Me and My Kite" [2:34] [8/10]) and even THE WHO ("The Nothing Song" and "Just Anyone" [3:33] [9/10])), the combination of three male acoustic rockers with a trio of female classical musicians turns brilliant with the surprisingly beautiful vocal contributions of both male and female contingents. As a matter of fact, when both are combined within the same song, that is when this surprising jewel is at its best.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Tony Durant / acoustic & electric guitars, lead vocals, composer
- Vanessa Hall-Smith / violin, backing vocals
- Janet Rogers / violin, backing vocals
- Madeleine Bland / cello, piano, harmonium, backing vocals
- Michael Day / bass
- Michael Gregory / drums, percussion

1. Gone With The Mouse (4:59)
2. A Tiny Book (8:03)
3. Another Nail (6:57)
4. Shoes And Ships (6:14)
5. The Nothing Song (8:23)
6. Me And My Kite (2:34)
7. Just Anyone (3:33)

Total Time: 41:43

88.75 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars; B+; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music and a shining example folk-founded rock music.




17. LOS JAIVAS Alturas de Macchu Picchu (1981) is the seventh release of these Chilean Prog Folk masters but this one stands head and shoulders above the rest of their output for two reasons: 1) it is a concept album based around the poems that Pablo Naruda did of the same name, and 2) a movie version of the album was filmed on site among the ruins of the ancient Incan capitol city of Macchu Picchu. The film gives the music a much fuller impact. Check it out if you can, it's breathtaking for the scenery (if a bit comical for the period clothing and hair styles).

Line-up / Musicians:
- Gato Alquinta / lead vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, bass, cuatro, siku, quena, ocarina, tarka
- Eduardo Parra / Fender Rhodes, Mini-Moog, tarka, handclaps
- Claudio Parra / piano, Fender Rhodes, Mini-Moog, harpsichord, marimba, tarka
- Mario Mutis / bass, electric guitar, siku, quena, tarka, vocals
- Gabriel Parra / drums, chimes, marimba, timbales, bombo legüero, trutruca, tarka, handclaps, vocals
With:
- Alberto Ledo / vocals and all instruments (1): siku, trutruca, trompe, sleigh bells, bombo legüero
- Patricio Castillo / quena (4), tarka (5)

     LOS JAIVAS is exceptional for the extraodinarily effective way in which they were able to blend traditional Andean and Hispanic folk instrumentation with the European and electrical rock instruments and effects--and Alturas de Macchu Picchu is a brilliant representation of this fact. Pan flutes, ceramic pipes and flutes, big mountain drums and horns mixed into the same weave with piano, electric bass, synthesizers, expanded drum kit and acoustic and electric guitars--with neither backing off to the other, each holding their own in the mix, in the weave--it's amazing to hear!
     The first fourteen minutes of the studio album--consisting of 1. "Del aire al aire" (2:14) (10/10) and 2. "La poderosa del muerta" (11:08) (10/10) are absolutely flawless. It is only with the festive drinking song, 3. "Amor americana" (5:26) that the choice of song styling gets a little out of my comfort zone (though many native Latin Americans would probably love and appreciate it). (7/10)
Luckily, the music gets back on track with the gorgeous multi-instrument weave of 4. "Aguila sideral" (5:19) in which bass and piano are as important as native flutes and voices. (10/10)

5. "Antigua America" (5:37) opens with a kind of multi-instrumental Native American Jethro Tull riff before solo flute and solo classical grand piano preparing us for the build and blend into the powerfully paced and dynamic themes of the body. I can't help but hear a kind of Asian influence in the melody--I don't know if this is intentional as representational of the anthropologic evidence of the arrival of Native American population from Asia via the former Bering Straits land bridge or not, but it could be. (9/10)

6. "Sube a nacer conmigo hermano" (4:47) brings us back into the realm of local, traditional Latin/Andean musical styles and rhythms. Very dynamic with the choral call-and-response sections that seems so pervasive in Latin American musical traditions.
     I would like to mention here how pianist Claudio Parra shines throughout this album. He is extraordinary. (8/10)

7. "Final" (2:33) is a gentle weave of multiple voices singing over a sea of ever shifting chords of rapid piano arpeggi. (9/10)

Total time 37:04

88.57 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars; B+. Though not quite the equal of the video movie presentation, this music does stand on its own quite well. This is definitely a masterpiece of progressive folk rock music.





18. STRAWBS Grave New World (1972) (Sorry for poor sound quality--this is the only YouTube link I could find for this album!)

This album puts on display a more acoustic, more raw rock version of the Strawbs. It also exhibits a more 60s-sounding production value. I happen to enjoy this less-electric enmeshed sound--it makes for a much more consistent sounding and feeling album. Though the band would peak, in my opinion, with the perfectly blended Ghosts in three years, Grave New World is a wonderful album of truly folk-founded progressive rock.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Dave Cousins / vocals, acoustic & electric guitar, recorder
- Dave Lambert / vocals, electric & acoustic guitar
- John Hawken / piano, electric piano, harpsichord, Mellotron, Moog, Hammond, pipe organ (West Wycombe Church ?)
- Chas Cronk / bass, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
- Rod Coombes / drums, congas, percussion, backing vocals, lead vocals & guitar (10)
With:
- Clare Deniz / cello (3)
- Robert Kirby / choral arrangements

1. Ghosts (8:33):
- a) Sweet Dreams
- b) Night Light
- c) Guardian Angel
2. Lemon Pie (4:01)
3. Starshine / Angel Wine (5:15)
4. Where Do You Go (When You Need A Hole To Crawl In) (3:02)
5. The Life Auction (6:53):
- a) Impressions Of Southall From The Train
- b) The Auction
6. Don't Try To Change Me (4:28)
7. Remembering (1:00)
8. You And I (When We Were Young) (4:00)
9. Grace Darling (3:55)

Total Time: 41:07
Five star songs:  powerful in its emotional sincerity yet slightly bombastic is the anger-filled lamentation, 5. "New World" (4:13) (10/10); the wonderful anthem of optimism and gratitude, 1. "Benedictus" (4:25) (9.5/10); Dave Cousins' gorgeous, sensitive folk solo, 2. "Hey Little Man... Thursday's Child" (1:06) (9/10), and; the Jethro Tull/"Norwegian Wood"/Bob Dylan-like, 4. "Heavy Disguise" (2:53) (9/10).

Four star songs:  the keyboard-driven rocker, 8. "Tomorrow" (4:49) (8.5/10); the pop harmony vocals, lyrics, and guitar base of 9. "On Growing Older" (1:56) (8.5/10); the nice Blue Weaver piano-accompanied solo, 12. "The Journey's End" (1:35) (8.5/10); 3. "Queen of Dreams" (5:32) with it's spooky middle interlude of psychedelia (8/10); the reprise of #2, 6. "Hey Little Man... Wednesday's Child" (1:07) (8/10); tho oft-verlooked anti-war song, 7. "The Flower and the " (4:18) with its wonderful harmonies and in the lead vocal (8/10); the Indian instrumented (sitar, harmonium, & tablas) George Harrison-influenced, 11. "Is It Today, Lord" (3:08) (8/10), and; the fun, Monty Python-like farming whist, 10. "Ah Me, Ah My" (1:26) (8/10).

85.83 on the Fishscales = a solid four star album; B; an excellent addition to any prog rocker's music collection.




19. CONVENTUM Le bureau central des utopies (1980) is a gorgeous folk jazz album from a group of Québec virtuosi going by the name, Conventum. The band was, unfortunately, short-lived, but this album remains as a testament to their amazing instrumental prowess. Tightly-woven ditties that sometimes feel like Celtic reels, at others like Arabic folk stories, and still others like avant-jazz, this is an album well worth your listen. There are not many syrupy, catchy melodies but brilliantly constructed harmonic and temporal weaves abound.

My personal favorites include: "Trois petits pas" (4:22) (10/10), "Chorégraphie lunaire" (8:19) (9/10), "Le reel à mains" (3:29) (8/10), and the title song (which was recorded live while the band was touring Belgium).

Line-up / Musicians:
- Bernard Cormier / violin, percussion
- André Duchesne / acoustic guitar, dulcimer, voice
- Jacques Laurin / bass
- René Lussier / electric guitar, 12-string, percussion
guest:
- Jean Derome / flute

1. "Le Reel Des Elections (2:48)
2. "Ateliers I Et V (4:12)
3. "Fondation (6:13)
4. "Choregraphie Lunaire (8:18)
5. "La Belle Apparence (2:15)
6. "Fanfare (4:25)
7. "Trois Petits Pas (4:19)
8. "Le Reel A Mains (3:26)
9. "Le Bureau Central Des Utopies (10:12)

on the Fishscales = 





20. GRYPHON Midnight Mushrumps (1974) Bringing forth the more mediæval side of folk music, Richard Harvey's Gryphon could almost be given their own category for the more ancient, traditional instrumentation and typcially totally acoustic arrangements of their songs. 1973 brought forth two albums, Midnight Mushrumps and Red Queen to Gryphon Three, which are their most highly acclaimed--at least by prog rock aficionados. I find myself enjoying the collection of older folk-feeling songs of Mushrumps--and, even more, its 18-minute epic--more than the four cold, Änglagård-like instrumental pieces of the Red Queen. I have a private theory that Midnight Mushrumps' title song had quite a little effect on former Genesis guitarist Anthony PHILLIPS, for his debut album, The Geese and The Ghost, released four years later in 1977, displays quite a mediæval flavour of its own--both topically and stylistically as well as instrumentally. I wonder if either David BEDFORD or Mike OLDFIELD had heard their music before they embarked upon their own careers--and especially their collaboration for the very medieval-sounding Hergest Ridge.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Richard Harvey / recorders, soprano, alto & tenor crumhorns, harmonium, pipe organ, grand piano, harpsicord, electric piano, toy-piano, glockenspiel, mandolin, vocals
- Brian Gulland / bassoon, bass crumhorn, tenor recorder, keyboards (4), vocals
- Graeme Taylor / guitars (acoustic, electric, semi-acoustic, 12-string & classical), vocals
- Philip Nestor / bass guitar, vocals
- David Oberlé / drums, timpani, percussion, lead vocals

1. "Midnight Mushrumps" (18:58) opens with harmonium and bassoon in a pretty duet until crumhorns and "distant" piano join in during the second minute. In the third minute the bass crumhorn and acoustic guitar take over while bass and drums/percussives join in. At 3:20 a 12-string guitar joins in while horns and recorders take their turns at the fore. The royal processional feeling of this music strengthens in the fifth minute until at 5:05 a bouncing piano chord introduces another section, this one more receptive to the participation of louder and electric instruments--bass, harpsichord, electric piano, electric guitar, and pipe organ. At 6:20 everything quiets down for a pipe organ solo before bass joins in and takes the lead. Organ takes over again in the second half of hte eighth minute before acoustic steel stringed guitar takes a turn (with calming pipe organ in the background). At the 9:00 mark everything switches again as a persistent electric piano arpeggio forms the baseline for a bunch of instruments to join in and take turns exposing the melody--horns, bass, crumhorm, mandolin, toy-piano, organ, bassoon, and then dropping away for classical guitar to have a turn (again, pipe organ supported, as in church service). A church-like organ solo follows in the twelfth minute before a carnivalesque section bursts forth at the 12:00 mark. Fun and frivolity seem the theme of the moment for the next minute as crumhorns, timpani, and harpsichord and, later, recorders share the lead in a kind of rondo weave of the main melody. At 13:40 things are brought together by the soprano recorder and pipe organ. But then, halfway through the fifteenth minute, things quiet down as pipe organ, bass, and timpani slowly build a blanket of sound until guitars, bass crumhorn, bass, harmonium and glockespiel merge into a festive crescendo which then falls away to leave an organ-supported echoed-soprano recorder and glockenspiel section as cymbals help out. Kind of an angelic entry into Heaven or sleep or out of the mystical reverie, it feels. How does mediæval-inspired music composed and played by modern musicians get any better than this?(38/40)

2. "The Ploughboy's Dream" (3:02) a wonderfully bucolic tale of the toils and tribulations of farm life. The song is particularly remarkable to me for its reminder of how similar the vocal approach of Gryphon can be to contemporaries GENTLE GIANT. (8.5/10)

3. "The Last Flash of Gaberdine Tailor" (3:58) more mischievous melodies worked out by these ancient-instrument-obsessed artists. So glad they found each other! (8/10)


4. "Gulland Rock" (5:21) the piano-based beginning gives this one a classical feeling until the ancient church organ and harpsichord take over at the 1:20 mark. The third minute is dominated by a recorder before the jarring entry of a guitar's strums at the 3:00 mark. Guitar softens and eventually takes over as the lead instrument before percussives and horns burst in. The song ends rather oddly with a less-than-resolute guitar and organ softness. Still, a pretty instrumental. (8.5/10)

5. "Dubbel Dutch" (5:36) opens with full band playing what sounds like an old dance song. The second section is speedier and different, but everything reverts back to the motifs of the opening section for another "stanza" of that before the second offshoot takes the instrumentalists into a little more noodling sort of weave. Then a slowed down, very melodic Mike Oldfield-like section takes ver for the third minute. The fourth switches to a very pretty melody brought forth by the horns over the wonderfully supportive strings beneath. All very staccato and woven from multiple layers throughout. At the 4:30 mark we move back toward the opening theme and style, though in a varied and more spirited form. My favorite song on the album. (10/10)

6. "Ethelion" (5:15) opens with wild human laughter with bass and bass drum in staccato accompaniment before crumhorn and toy piano join in. As usual, several themes are worked into the order of things with many instruments playing their supportive or integral parts to the weaves. (8.75/10)

Total Time: 42:10

90.83 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor-masterpiece of anachronistic music performed by dedicated virtuosi of period musics--all fitting into the Prog Folk and Progressive rock umbrellæ by virtue of the eclectic and electric nature of the artists' recording preferences.





21. EDEN Erwartung (1978) From it's powerful and clear opening notes the listener knows that it is in store for a well-recorded, well-constructed, well-performed album. Flutes, violins and synths play side-by side with classical sounding piano accompaniment and orchestra-sounding drums with a kind of RENAISSANCE Jon CAMP bass sound. The recording of the drums, mix and style of the bass, and the slightly treated vocals give a little bit of a dated feel to some of the music--not unlike some of CAMEL's albums from the 1970s--but the fullness and maturity of the sophisticated song constructs make this a deeply interesting and satisfying listen every time I put it on. There is always something new and beautiful to discover with each listen. All songs are wonderful but the side-long epic "Ein Anderes Land" (16:26) (10/10) is a special piece--with instrumental themes and a feel that would have fans of recent MOTORPSYCHO releases and old CAMEL feeling equally at home.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Dirk Schmalenbach / violin, piano, ARP & Moog synths, acoustic guitar, sitar, percussion, vocals, arrangements & production
- Anne Dierks / vocals
- Markus Egger / vocals
- Annette Schmalenbach / vocals
- Hans Fritzsch / guitars
- Michael Dierks / organ, piano, clavinet, Strings, vocals
- Mario Schaub / flute, clarinet, saxophone, vocals
- Michael Claren / bass, vocals
- Hans Müller / drums, percussion
With:
- Michael Wirth / congas
- Johannes Menges / spoken voice

1. "Spatregen" (7:15) opens with a display of quite a diverse palette of sounds coming from a wide range of instruments--all in the course of the first two minutes. By the time the strong male vocal begins we are already feeling duly impressed with this prog rock band. When the song switches at 3:30 into a more dynamic instrumental section (over which the vocalist and his choral supporters eventually sing) I find myself quite reminded of CAMEL circa 1975. The rather wild final minute comes as quite a surprise with its soaring electric guitar and saxophone playing over the cowbell- and clavinet-driven fast paced music. Wow! (8.5/10)

2. "Erwartung" (6:48) opens with some gentle acoustic guitar picking with Mellotron accompaniment over which a young man speaks as if reading the Gospel from a lectern in the middle of a church. The switch to strong electric at 1:48 doesn't work for me but it is only for a very brief few seconds before it is as quickly gone. The ensuing soft section with sitar and choral singing feels half like Quebec's HARMONIUM at their best and half the cast of Hair! This section is followed by a pleasant soft rock section over which some very nice flute playing occurs. A brief pause is filled with a return to the HARMONIUM cinquième saisons sound and feel. Then chorale and acerbic electric guitar take turns with the lead before the song finally comes to end. (9/10)

3. "Eden Tell I" (4:40) reminds me of some of my favorite music from modern artists WOBBLER and CICCADA. A song that transcends its time and era. Great music (listen to that bass!), though the vocals perhaps weigh it down a bit. (10/10)

4. "Eden Tell II" (6:17) What happened to the amazing music that was so beautifully constructed for Part I? The band has devolved into some kind of preachy church theater--strangely using some melody lines straight out of KING CRIMSON's song "The Court of the Crimson King" from 4:32-4:38 and then ending with strains of THE MOODY BLUES "Nights in White Satin." Luckily, the song builds into quite a strong song--bolstered by both the nice piano and violin based middle section over which the lovely voice of an operatic soprano and then the incredible voice of the young man in the lead throughout the fifth minute (and half of the sixth). (9/10)

5. "Ein Anderes Land" (16:26) (26/30)

Total Time: 41:04

90.71 on the Fishscales = five stars; A. Even if this were not a folk-founded album, Erwartung is a definite masterpiece of progressive rock music--one that was a little late to the game, but, as the saying goes, better late than never! The Christian overtones and occasional Godspell-like church theatre sections are well-suited to this music without detracting from its progginess. Well made! Deserving of masterpiece status and far greater recognition than it currently receives!





22. JOHN MARTYN One World (1977) was a lucky discovery for me at a city open air market in the city of Norwich in 1980. In one fell swoop I was introduced to the deeply moving, introspective
work of this bluesy folk artist as both Solid Air and One World played over a cheap sound system while I perused the bins of albums and tapes. I bought both. Though One World's "Couldn't Love You More" (3:09) (9.5/10) was remade in 1981 for the Phil Collins-produced Glorious Fool a year later under the production guidance and instrumental ensemble assistance of one Eric Clapton (featuring Max Middleton, Alan Thompson and drummer Phil Collins in support), the original version remains a favorite of mine. For me the stunning and haunting "Small Hours" (8:44) (10/10) remains the centerpiece and jewel of the album though it is the last song on Side Two. The Echoplex guitar sound--which Martyn hung on to as a signature sound for most of his career--is used to absolute perfection here, as if the song was recorded outside, with the sound of boats and wooden docks creaking in the water.

Line-up / Musicians:
- John Martyn (Iain David McGeachy) / vocals, guitar, drum machine (2,8)
With:
- Steve Winwood / electric piano (2,6), Yamaha organ (5,8), Moog (1,3,8), bass (1)
- George Lee / sax (3)
- Rico Rodriguez / trombone (6)
- John Field / flute (2)
- Hansford Rowe / bass (2,4)
- Neil Murray / bass (3)
- Danny Thompson / bass (5,6)
- Dave Pegg / bass (7)
- Andy Newmark / drums (1)
- John Stevens / drums (3,4)
- Bruce Rowland / drums (6,7)
- Keshav Sathe / tabla (3)
- Morris Pert / percussion (4,8)
- Harry Robinson / string arranger (3,6)

1. Dealer (4:55)
2. One World (4:03)
3. Smiling Stranger (3:26)
4. Big Muff (6:25)
5. Couldn't Love You More (3:00)
6. Certain Surprise (3:48)
7. Dancing (3:41)
8. Small Hours (8:40)

Total time 37:58

Other outstanding favorites include:  the lovely, upbeat, STEPHEN BISHOP-like "Certain Surprise" (3:52) (9.5/10); the delightfully playful, 7. "Dancing" (3:43) (9/10); "Dealer" (4:58) (9/10); "One World" (4:10) (9/10); the funky, bluesy, worldly, 3. "Smiling Stranger" (3:32) (8.5/10), and; "Big Muff" (6:30) (8/10).

90.625 on the Fishscales = five stars; A-; a masterpiece of progressive folk music. 





23. RAGNARÖK Ragnarök (1976) instrumental folk jazz at its smoothest and most beautiful--not at all unlike CAMEL.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Peter Bryngelsson / acoustic guitar
- Henrik Strindberg / guitar, concert flute, recorder, soprano saxophone
- Peder Nabo / concert flute, piano, acoustic guitar
- Staffan Strindberg / electric bass
- Lars Peter Sörensson / drums
- Stefan Ohlsson / drums, acoustic guitar

1. "Farvel Köpenhamn / Goodbye Copenhagen" (2:30) (8/10)



2. "Promenader / Walks" (4:40) This is my second favorite song on this album of beautiful melodic grooves. (10/10)

3." Nybakat Bröd / Freshbaked Bread" (3:01) (9/10)

4. "Dagarnas Skum / Foam Of The Days" (8:07) (8/10)

5. "Polska Fran Kalmar / Reel From Kalmar" (0:46) 

6. "Fabriksfunky / Factoryfunk" (4:49) My favorite song on the album. Kind of like SANTANA playing CAMEL. (10/10)

7. "Tatanga Mani" (4:34) opens as an acoustic guitar solo sounding much like the wonderful harp music of Alan STIVELL--only with a little more Spanish influence in the flourishes and progressions. Then, at 2:10 flute and bass join in as the music transitions into a little more of a bluesy rock John MARTYN way. Nice bass and flute play. (9/10)

8. "Fiottot" (1:23) Rhodes electric piano chords bouncing along with electric bass and muted electric guitar--and drums! A brief, upbeat little stroll through the park.

9. "Stiltje-Uppbrott / Calm-Breaking Up" (4:21) opens with some bluesy piano play like from a smokey piano bar--before turning into a soft acoustic ELP like song with gentle flutes and picked acoustic guitars leading the way. Then, at 3:20, aggressive downstrums on the guitar and firmly plucked bass notes announce a louder message--which the flute and recorder respond to until song's end. (8/10)  


10. "Vattenpussar / Pools Of Water" (4:08) opens with fery deliberate and steady Fender Rhodes arpeggiated chords playing in a couple of minor keys. Electric guitars (one in each channel) and acoustic guitars and electric bass complete the weave. Woodwinds play separate yet harmonious melodies over the top before yield for acoustic guitar and Fender piano interplay. Beautiful, very emotional song. My third favorite on the album. (9/10)

Total Time: 43:19


88.89 on the Fishscales = 4.5 stars; B+; a near-masterpiece of soft jazzy folk-oriented progressive rock music.






24. PERERIN Haul Ar Yr Eira (1980) Except for the last song, the music on this album is not very proggy. The Welsh tongue is interesting, the troubadour-like instrument choice enchanting, but it is the voice, that amazing voice of Nest Llwelyn that keeps me pushing repeat on the likes of "Titwrm Tietwrm" and "Gloyn Byw," and, to a lesser extent, "Royal Charter"--though giving her the lead vocal, as on "Ni Welaf Yr Haf" did not please as much as when she's the accompanist. And "Pan Ddaw Y Brenin Yn Ol," the album's afore-mentioned finale, is IMHO a little prog masterpiece.


Line-up / Musicians:
- Arfon Wyn ab Eurig / guitars, vocals
- Charli Goodall / guitars, bass, vocals
- Einion Williams / bodhran, congas, bongos
- Aneurin Owen / flute
- Nest Llwelyn / vocals, keyboards

1. "Haul Ar Ur Eira (Sun on the Snow)" (3:21) has a little J TULL and THE WHO in the intro before it becomes more mediæval sounding (10/10).

2. "Titwrm Tietwrm" (3:46) (9/10).

3. I like the flange effect on the strummed 12-string during the powerful centre of "Dechrau Y Gan" (3:35) (9/10).

4. I love the electric guitar solo with pipes and channel-bouncing synth during the middle and end instrumental sections of "Can Y Melinydd (The Flour Miller)" ( 3:36) (8/10).

5. "Ni Welaf Yr Haf" (4:35) (7/10). 

6. By the time "Royal Charter" (4:35) (7/10) rolls around I'm kind of getting tired of the style and format (just as I get tired of The Decemberists after a few songs). (Though I really like the MIKE OLDFIELD-like electric guitar solo in Royal Charter.)

7. "Gloyn Byw" (3:52) has a kind of PINK FLOYD "Wish You Were Here" feel to it, along with Nest's awesome background vocals and plenty of MIKE OLDFIELD-sounding electric guitar. (8/10)

8. "Llongau Caernarfon (Carnarvon Ships)" (3:57) has a very strong MOODY BLUES feel to it. Upbeat with a great acoustic-electric mix. (9/10)

9. "Hiraeth Y Mor (Yearning)" (1:24) is a beautiful little ALAN STIVELL-like Celtic steel-stringed harp piece. (9/10)

10. "Pan Ddaw Y Brenin Yn Ol (Here Comes the Crooked Old King)" (4:08) is my favorite song overall for its 12-string acoustic guitar, whimsical piano, beautiful flute melodies and breathier vocal harmonies--as well as for the proggy synth and electric guitar and bombastic rhythm section in the second half of the song. Definitely the proggiest of all songs on the album. (10/10)

Total Time: 36:49

86.0 on the Fishscales = a solid four stars; B; a near-masterpiece of ethnically-orienteded prog folk music.

Though this is a collection good music and fine performances that I think Prog Folk lovers will love.





25. JOHN MARTYN Solid Air (1973) is an album that puts on display many of the directions available to folk artists. 

Line-up / Musicians:

- John Martyn (Iain David McGeachy) / vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, synthesizer (9), producer
With:
- John "Rabbit" Bundrick / acoustic & electric pianos, organ, clavinet
- Danny Thompson / acoustic bass
- Dave Pegg / bass
- Dave Mattacks / drums
- Neemoi "Speedy" Acquaye / congas
- Tristan Fry / vibraphone (1)
- Tony Coe / saxophone (1,6)
- Richard Thompson / mandolin (2)
- Simon Nicol / autoharp (2)
- Sue Dranheim / violin (2)

The album's opener, "Solid Air" (5:46) with its xylophone accompaniment shows a very late-night jazzy side. (9.5/10) 


2. "Over the Hill" (2:51) is very bluegrass with its prominent RICHARD THOMPSON (FAIRPORT CONVENTION) mandolin contribution. (9/10)


3. "Don't Want to Know" (3:01) (8.25/10) with its fully electrified rock band bleeds into 


4. "I'd Rather Be the Devil (Devil Got My Women)" (6:19) which is a kind of Beat/bluesy bebop jam. The instrumental section in the second half is amazing with Danny Thompson's amazing double bass play. (8.5/10)


5. "Go Down Easy" (3:36) is one of those timeless STEVE WINWOOD-like beauties that wrenches the heart in a JEWEL-kind of way. Definitely a folk classic. (9/10) 


6. "Dreams by the Sea" (3:18) puts a funky BRIAN AUGER-like vibe in your face. Very tight instrumental support from his support band. (8.75/10) 


7. "May You Never" (3:43) is a guitar and voice solo song that became one of Martyn's signature songs and had the distinction of being covered by Eric Clapton four years later on his Slowhand 

album. I'm just not a lyrics guy, so it goes by unappreciated. (8/10) 

8. "The Man in the Station" (2:54) is an edgy song that vacillates between quiet guitar and electronic keyboard to bluesy rock band to great effect. There is also an odd tension of jazz and Latin feel to the song. One of my favorites. (9.25/10) 


9. "The Easy Blues" (3:22) is a very straightforward acoustic blues song in the vein of Robert Johnson and other Southern rockers. (8/10) 


     A special shout out to bassist Danny THOMPSON for his wonderful contributions throughout the album.

86.94 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent contribution to the Prog Folk subgenre.





26. JONI MITCHELL Court and Spark (1974) Joni, too, explores and incorporates more electric and rock elements into her folk-based songs to produce her most successful pop album, Court and Spark. (Is the title a nod to Fairport Convention and their 1969 masterpiece, Liege & Lief?) It's very difficult to rate down any Joni song from this era because of her masterful, poetic, insightful lyrics.

Five star songs:  one of my all-time, ALL-TIME favorite songs, 2. "Help Me" (3:22) (11/10); 3. "Free Man in Paris" (3:02) (10/10); 1. "Court and Spark" (2:46) (9.5/10); 8. "Just Like This Train" (4:30) (9.5/10); 6. "Car on a Hill" (3:02) (9/10), and; the beautifully orchestrated, 7. "Down to You" (5:44) (9/10);

Four star songs:  the jazzy, 9. "Troubled Child" (4:00) (8.5/10); 4. "People's Parties/The Same Situation" (5:13) (8.5/10); the song that created RIKKIE LEE JONES, 10. "Twisted" (2:21) (8/10), and; 8. "Raised on Robbery" (3:06) (7/10).

90.0 on the Fishscales = five stars; A-; a masterpiece. Period.




27. AGINCOURT Fly Away (1970) They call this "psychedelic folk" as there are a lot of instruments and arrangements common to those genres at this time 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Peter Howell - acoustic guitars, mandolin, piano, organ, recorder, percussion
- John Ferdinando / vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, auto harp
- Lee Menelaus / vocals, backing vocals
with
- Andrew Lowcock / flute (4, 10, 12)
- Brian Hussey / drums (7, 11)

1. "When I Awoke" (3:21) sounds remarkably like a 60s folk band like Peter Paul and Mary. (8.5/10)
2. "Though I May Be Dreaming" (3:18) a fine acoustic folk song with wonderful vocal arrangement and vocal performances by John and Lee. (9.5/10)

3. "Get Together" (2:56) 
no, not a cover of the American Youngbloods' song of the same title, this one opens with full rock instrumentation setting up a kind of rudimentary blues rock song before John Ferdinando begins his gravelly sexy-voiced singing. Nothing too special but solid. (8/10)

4. "Joy in the Finding" (3:15) again, this happy-go-lucky instrumental conjures up the 60s--American folk pop and Brit pop in general. (8/10)

5. "Going Home" (2:34) this one sounds more like a Turtles or Association song. Nice work from the instrumentalists on this unusually thickly orchestrated song. (7.75/10)

6. "All My Life" (3:00) piano and finger-picked guitar provide foundation support for John's rather washed out/"background" lead. With multiple layers of male vocals, the song has some very pleasant even haunting melodies and an eerie psych ending (8.75/10)

7. "Mirabella" (1:45) incredibly engaging and hypnotic--the guitar tremolos and multiple layers of John's voice and then Lee's turn in the second half. Awesome! (10/10)

8. "Take Me There" (2:38) sounds like a Spanish version of the previous song's music, until Lee begins to sing the lead. Nice guitar work; poor recording of the drums. (8.75/10)

9. "Lisa" (2:40) piano with a sad, emotional feel over which John's multi-tracked voice takes the initial lead. (8.75/10)

10. "Dawn" (3:24) flute, cymbal play, nylon string guitar arpeggios and humming are the foundation for this song before John's multi-track lead opens the singing. Lee takes the lead for the second stanza and holds it with John joining in with harmonies for the chorus. (8.75/10)

11. "Barn Owl Blues" (3:09) a bluesy, almost ASSOCIATION-like organ opening shifting over to a bluesy guitar and vocal scat. Interesting. Dated but cool. At the 1:00 mark the tempo and key shifts though the guitar-and-voice scatting continues. Farfisa organ lays down a cool solo at the end of the second minute before the gang recoups for a repeat of the opening two sections. Interesting song. Not what I'd call a folk or even Prog Folk song; more of a quirky pop song. (8.5/10)

12. "Kind Sir" (3:04) acoustic foundation for multi-tracked vocal of Lee in one of her lower, more somnambulant performances. At 1:16 John takes the lead while the music shifts slightly and drums join in. Flute solo before John and Lee take turns in the lead over the final half minute. (8.25/10)

13. "Through the Eyes of a Lifetime" (i) The Poem (ii) Peace of Mind (iii) Closing In (5:21) Spoken poem recital for the first 40 seconds before the music kicks in. John sings with Lee in harmony as rock band accompanies. At 4:10 the song seems to end but then a kind of piano-and-orchestra outro plays out. Interesting collage! Very pleasant. (8.25/10)

Total time: 40:25


Sound engineering seems to be the major detractor from this collection of fine songs. The arrangements and compositions are all actually quite nice, simple yet unique and professionally performed with some great pop sensibilities and pretty awesome vocal performances and clever arrangements.

86.15 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a very enjoyable musical journey from a trio of highly creative songwriters.






28. STEELEYE SPAN Hark! The Village Wait (1970) is the band's debut consisting of "rock" arrangements of 10 traditional songs including the much covered and renowned "The Blacksmith"  (3:40), "Blackleg Miner" (2:45) The album is remarkable for multi-instrumentalist Tim HART's contributions of banjo, electric guitar, dulcimer, fiddle and harmonium with other traditional folk instruments (mandola, concertina, autoharp, acoustic guitars) over a foundation of drums, electric bass and gently picked electric guitar. Also notable are the presence of two female vocalists, Gay Woods and Maddy Prior--the former of whom would break off after this album to form a new band with her husband, Terry, called The Woods Band. The instances in which the two female leads sing together are quite magical. The pacing on the album is quite constant and slow, like a slow dance, and much of the music sounds familiar to Americans in a YOUNGBLOODS or CROSBY, STILLS & NASH way. This is an awesome album of electrified folk music. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Maddy Prior / lead (2,3,6,7,8,12) & backing vocals, 5-string banjo (10), step dancing (6)
- Tim Hart / lead (4) & backing vocals, guitar (2,4,7,8), 5-string banjo (3), electric dulcimer (5,6,12), fiddle (10), harmonium (11)
- Terry Woods / guitar, mandola (2,3), 5-string banjo (4,12), concertina & mandolin (6), backing vocals
- Gay Woods / lead (3,5,9,10) & backing vocals, auto-harp (3), concertina (5), bodhrán & step dancing (6)
- Ashley Hutchings / bass
With:
- Gerry Conway / drums (2,3,5,6,7,8)
- Dave Mattacks / drums (4,10,11,12)


1. "A Calling-On Song" (1:12) a cappella folk harmonies; folk perfection. (5/5)

2. "The Blacksmith" (3:40) rock instruments expand upon the usual arrangements of this traditional classic. Maddy Prior has THE classic folk voice. (8.5/10)

3. "Fisherman's Wife" (3:14) Gay Woods in the lead vocal of this rather dull, droning song. Even the musicianship is sloppy and lackluster. (7/10)

4. "Blackleg Miner" (2:47) Tim Hart and what sounds like Gay Woods in dual harmonized vocals for the opening while Tim takes sole possession of the lead thereafter. Nice steady banjo work from Terry Woods. (8.25/10)

5. "Dark-Eyed Sailor" (5:58) an electrified rock format, this song has my favorite blend of instrumental palette on the album, with some really nice vocal arrangements as well. (8.75/10) 

6. "Copshawholme Fair" (2:34) the music on this one gives the song an awesome tension to augment the story being told by Maddy Prior. Also, there are "parts" to this song (with the brief instrumental outro). (9.25/10) 

7. "All Things Are Quite Silent" (2:39) slow tempo, simple instrumental backing for a very special vocal (with great background harmonies in the chorus sections). A top three song for me. (10/10)

8. "The Hills Of Greenmore" (4:01) opens like a sea shanty with a male lead vocal (solo through the majority of the song). Classic folk tune very tightly performed. (9/10) 

9. "My Johnny Was A Shoemaker" (1:11) another a cappella song with excitingly complex vocal arrangements. (5/5) 

10. "Lowlands Of Holland" (6:00) with Terry Woods in the lead we get another flawless rendering of a traditional folk classic. Great instrumental support and fills. (9.5/10)

11. "Twa Corbies" (2:06) opens with full band a cappella vocal arrangement. Bass, harmonium and cymbal play join in during the second verse with electric guitar chord strums added thereafter. (9/10)

12. "One Night As I Lay On My Bed" (3:30) electric guitar and banjo with full support of laid back rhythm section play a syncopated kind of foundation while the ladies sing the lead in tandem. Great song. (9.5/10)

Total time 38:52

An album of very polished, very professional renderings of traditional folk classics performed by some of the all-around best folk musicians Britain ever put out.

89.77 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; this classic of folk and Prog Folk music is a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music marred by the blemish of one lackluster song. 




29. PENTANGLE Solomon's Seal (1972) continues to expose the world to the extraordinary talents of jazz-oriented bass player Danny THOMPSON and his friend Victoria (the name he gave to the Gand stand up double bass that he has used almost exclusively throughout his much lauded career). In fact the presence of that bass playing alone renders this album unique in my listening experience (it is only my second Pentangle album)--I can think of no other folk or prog albums up to this time (1972) that use the double bass in this fashion. Then throw in the wonderful lead vocal work of Bert Jansch and Jacqui McShee and the delicate and selective interplay of the other strings (acoustic guitars, banjo, and sitar) and you have a full band of virtuosi weaving their weaves in quite a masterful way. And I did not even mention the amazing work of percussionist Terry Cox.
     I do not know of many bands even in the jazz fusion sub-genre who weave together their songs so intricately. How this album goes so poorly rated I do not know. It is a masterpiece by my standards--one that never ceases to make my jaw drop with every listen. The musicians are so accomplished in their instrumental play and Jacqui McShee is at her very, very finest. I find it mystifying.
     This album was apparently the last of the original "classic" Pentangle lineup. I see a bit of a parallel to the course of the band RENAISSANCE during a phase of their career in which one of their final "prog" albums (Novella) feels "tired" to many listeners. Well, I don't hear it. They sound like they're at the top of their games (except the weak male vocals on "Snow" and "People on the Highway." And I know that these amazing musicians all went on to continue producing top-notch music for years after this album.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Jacqui McShee / vocals
- Bert Jansch / acoustic guitar, dulcimer (6), banjo (4,9), vocals (1,3,5,7,8)
- John Renbourn / acoustic (2,6,9) & electric guitars, sitar (3), recorder (3,4,6), vocals & harmonica (9)
- Danny Thomson / double bass
- Terry Cox / drums, percussion, finger cymbals (5), vocals (9)

Favorite songs:  1. "Sally Free and Easy" (3:56) (10/10); 7. "No Love Is Sorrow" (2:47) (10/10); "The Cherry Tree Carol" (3:04) (9/10); 4. "High Germany" (3:19) (9/10); the incredibly emotional, delicate 6. "Willy O' Winsbury" (5:56) (9.5/10), and even; 5. "People on the Highway" (4:45) (8/10),  the Bert Jansch lead, "The Snows" (3:48) (8/10), "Jump, Baby, Jump" (3:13) (7.75/10), and the Mississippi harmonica bluesy "Lady Carlisle" (4:45) with the surprise move of having Jacqui in the full lead (7.75/10).

Total Time: 35:58

Wonderful sound, wonderful arrangements, wonderful instrumental performances with the highlight, for me, being the incredibly creative musicianship of Danny Thomson on the double bass (though the crystalline voice of perfection that Jacqui McShee possesses is also quite mesmerizing).

87.78 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent contribution to the lexicon of progressive rock music for this "classic" of the folk/prog folk world.




30. MELLOW CANDLES Swaddling Songs (1972) Another "psych folk" group--this one from Ireland. I hear The Byrds, The Association, The Moody Blues. I like the piano base, reverbed female voices of Alison Williams and Clodagh Simonds--the Mama Cass and Michele Philips of Irish folk music--and the Mellotron flutes. Apparently the three girls were still in school--15 and 16 year olds when they formed the band and barely into their 20s at the time of the making of this album. Wow!


Line-up / Musicians:
- Alison O'Donnell (Williams) / lead vocals
- David Williams / acoustic & electric guitars, vocals
- Clodagh Simonds / piano, vocals
- Frank Boylan / bass
- William Murray / percussion

1. "Heaven Heath" (3:00) dual female vocals over harpsichord, bass, and simple time-keeping drums. The two girls are so tight that it almost sounds like one! Great sound, great song. (9/10)

2. "Sheep Season" (5:01) the dual voices of Alison Williams and Clodagh Simonds are one heck of a team--the perfect voice duo. Alison here has the lead but Clodagh is with her every step of the way. Effected guitar plays out a Roger McGuinn-sounding solo in the fourth minute over the piano and is then followed by a Melltron flute solo to the end. (9.5/10)


3. "Silver Song" (4:26) a slow, blues-based song with Alison starting out in the solo lead. Clodagh joins in with amazingly perfect crystalline harmonies but doesn't stay, kind of comes back and forth. Gorgeous! Awesome electric guitar solo in the C part. (10/10)

4. "The Poet And The Witch" (2:51) very interesting for the sudden confrontation with the voice of Clodagh Simonds--which is much more forceful and powerful than that of the angelic Alison. (8.5/10)

5. "Messenger Birds" (3:39) a more countrified music with solo lead from Alison Williams. (8.5/10)

6. "Dan The Wing" (2:45) another turn for Clodagh up front--and another more rocking song. When Alison joins in harmony it's dangerous cuz she becomes more attractive to listen to (is it my imagination or is the mix even favoring her over Clodagh?) Their dual scatting in the final minute is interesting. (8/10)

7. "Reverend Sisters (4:21) gently, hypnotic piano opens before Alison and Clodagh enter in perfect unison. Wow! Telling a story from school days in a rather dispassionate-yet-haunting fashion. (10/10)


8. "Break Your Token (2:27) a raucus up-beat rock song that opens with Alison on lead vocals. Clodagh joins in for the second verse and that's when it gets super interesting! These girls could sing--and play with and off of each other almost magically well. Did they sell their souls to the devil? They can't be real! 20-year olds don't sing with this kind of maturity, do they?! (8.75/10)

9. "'Buy Or Beware'" (3:05) another upbeat, faster-paced rock song with piano and rhtyhm section pounding away at a brisk pace while the girls do their Mama Cass & Michele Phillips magic. If these songs were rated on vocals alone they'd pretty much all be earning full marks, but the music, though very good, is often less stellar. Clever pseudo-religious tongue-in-cheek lyrics. (9.25/10)

10. "Vile Excesses (3:14) a kind of progressive blues bass and drums opens this one before piano and percussion join in followed thereafter by the girls--at first together, then alternating (by channel). One of the more poorly recorded songs for the vocals but the instruments get a chance to really shine on this one--especially Clodagh's (poorly recorded) upright piano. (8.5/10)

11. "Lonely Man" (4:28) a little C & W twang to go with the rock foundation while Alison and Clodagh once again perform vocal magic. Even when singing in a more controlled, sedate fashion, they are mesmerizing for the interesting way they each render their tracks--and more, how they blend--how the whole comes out. (8.5/10) 

12. "Boulders On My Grave" (3:40) a rocker that could compete with The WHO or The HOLLIES! Opens with full rock band supporting Clodagh and Alison's "la-di-da" and "na-na-na" scatting, respectively. Tru-ra-luraloo is mixed in there with some English lyrics as a chorus. What a show!(9/10)

Total time 42:57


89.58 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music, bluesy folk with one of the most amazing vocal duos ever put to record.




32. COMUS First Utterance (1971) The highly-acclaimed and strikingly unusual debut album from original Brit folk-rockers Comus.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Roger Wootton / lead vocals, acoustic guitar
- Glen Göring / slide, 6- & 12-strings acoustic guitars, electric guitar, hand drums, vocals
- Colin Pearson / violin, viola
- Rob Young / flute, oboe, hand drums
- Andy Hellaby / Fender bass, slide bass, vocals
- Bobbie Watson / percussion, vocals
With:
- Gordon Caxon / drums (8-10)

1. "Diana" (4:37) Wickedly odd and creepy. Great instrumental performances. (9/10)

2. "The Herald" (12:12) eerie with that prominent saw but covered with gorgeous vocal harmonies and woven support from the acoustic instruments. At 3:45 everything fades away and a new solo acoustic guitar-driven "song" arises. Beautiful Steve Hackett/Anthony Phillips play. At the end of the seventh minute violin joins in, guitar backs off, and flutes and female vocalise join into a new etheric weave. At the very end of the eighth minute another, new section arises from the void--this one with "saw," viola, oboe, and occasional strums from the 12-string. At 9:30 these instruments rejoin the form and sound of the opening enabling the female-led choir to recommence their story singing. An interesting and masterful song. (23/25)

3. "Drip Drip" (10:54) lots of note-bending from the Dobro-like sound of the initial guitar gradually plays into a multiple guitar-based song with plenty of heaviness in the drama--especially augmented by the wild and inventive lead vocals (from Roger Wootton) and percussion play. Eerie, almost scary, yet mesmerizing and inescapably ensnaring--at least, the first third. The middle section gets tedious and boring, but then there is a quick shift into a kind of Tex-Mex border song. At 8:40 there is another shift into a section in which a deranged-sounding creep sings frantically about his love for some ... one. Weird and unsettlingly . . . violent. Powerful, too. How does one rate such an odd and disturbing song that is undeniably an expression of genius? (17.5/20)

4. "Song To Comus" (7:30) sounding like a song from Rumpelstiltskin, this is another highly unusual yet purely ingenious song composition rendered so powerfully! I may not like or enjoy all of this music--it is not really the type of music you walk around humming or singing aloud (it has more of the effect of DAEVID ALLEN's GONG music in that it is entertaining and comprehensible for its creativity and for the author/composer's intent)--but I truly and fully appreciate the genius expressed here. And I understand and appreciate the necessity of the band members to collectively buy into their leader/songwriter's vision and mood in order to be able to execute such an undeniably powerful musical experience. (14/15)

5. "The Bite" (5:26) a more "normal" song, this one still packs a wallop; it is powerful in the conviction of each and every one it's performers' contributions. The band is so tight! (9/10)

6. "Bitten" (2:15) droning, zooming, bug-like guitars and strings congealing into a menacing cloud before a single creature emerges in the lead. The other members of the swarm are cowed, listening, before bursting into the explosive rush of the final mission. Weird but, as above, ingenious and so expressive. (4.5/5)

7. "The Prisoner" (6:14) the most sedate song on the album is still quite edgy. The sudden Jeckle-Hyde transformation at the 2:20 mark is remarkable. What a performer is this Roger Wootton! The female background vocalists remain committed to being supportive--no matter their leader's mood or temperament. (9.75/10)

Total Time: 49:08

91.32 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of folk-oriented progressive rock music and one of the true, standout, singular creations of the genres. 




















33. GRYPHON Red Queen to Gryphon Three (1974) Gryphon are an example of true period specialists, virtuosi at their craft, and 1974's Red Queen is considered the pinnacle of this specialized form of prog folk. I happen to prefer the band's earlier release from the same year.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Richard Harvey / keyboards, recorders, crumhorn
- Brian Gulland / bassoon, crumhorn
- Graeme Taylor / guitars
- Philip Nestor / bass
- David Oberlé / drums, percussion & tympani
With:
- Ernest Hart / organ
- Peter Redding / acoustic bass

1. "Opening Move" (9:42) from the opening sounds of this song Gryphon lets you know that they're going to use more of the 20th Century options that electronics afford them. Even the kit drum play is far more rock/prog than anything on their previous album. Thick electric bass is prominent throughout despite use of horns and recorders. At the two minute mark the band falls away so that antique percussives and soprano recorder can have some time. Bass, electric guitar, organ, and drums soon join in. These are GENTLE GIANT proggers! Soprano recorder carries the lead into a slow dreamy section with slow strums from 12-string and piano before bassoon takes the lead with piano in lone accompaniment. At 5:10 an odd electronic keyboard enters before bassoon tries to take on a slowed-down variation of the opening melody. Snare, electric bass, piano and guitar take the next turn before high-pitched electronic keyboard spits out a few. A weave of drums, bass, synths, electric guitar and delay/echoed electric guitar enter before going totally synth-space cray-cray. 
     The constructs are intricate and fast-changing as on the previous album but the electronic instruments and electronic effects are all new. I understand the desire to experiment and grow, but the "old" way was pretty cool. (18/20)
2. "Second Spasm" (8:15) opens with all acoustic, antiquated instruments (the OLD Gryphon!) guitar, recorders, harpsichord, bassoon and timpani and other percussives. At the 1:00 mark a chunky CHRIS SQUIRE-like bass and electric guitar enter with a fast-paced thread accompanied by drum kit and, later, clavinet. In the second verse of this movement some kind of synth is used to mirror and mimick the guitar and bass melody line. At the end of the third minute a rather silly crumhorn and kazoo section begins (including flatulence) before giving way to a very patriotic-sounding march section of rock instrumentation (electric guitar, piano, drums, bass, and, later, synths) all taking turns guarding the rhythm and melody. Then, at 5:10 a kind of muffled industrial gong "sounds" before another round of the antique instrument band plays takes their turn playing over harmonium and bass. Guitar and bassoon are the main leads until the chunky bass and "Wipe Out" drums drive them out, creating space for the synth and soprano flute to dominate the high end. (17.5/20)

3. "Lament" (10:45) carrying forward variations on two major melodic themes, this song is much more drawn out and sedate than the music of their previous album release from the same year, Midnight Mushrumps. So much so, that I find myself rather bored and put off--as if the band is purposely "dumbing down" their music in order to reach a broader audience. The music of this song is much more modernized, more simply woven and constructed, and more boring. Even the speeded up section in the sixth minute feels too contrived, too much a diversion intended purposely to dupe the listener into thinking that this is something new. (The guitar work is pretty cool, though.)  (17.5/20)

4. "Checkmate" (9:50) opens with a very GG-sounding section--instruments, rhythms, constructs, and sound/instrument palette. Then bassoon enters and everything shifts to a softer, almost jazz march. The bass's counterpoint is so pinpoint to the lead melody-makers! Snare and soprano recorder take a turn in the third minute before guitar and bass join in the weave (the second movement's weave). Organ (Wurlitzer?) enters for a brief spell but then is pushed out by guitar, bass and recorder again. Another slowdown/standstill at 3:45 lets soprano recorder and echoed guitar strums bridge to a piano and bass crumhorn duet. Twinkle-synth enters briefly before horns take us into another march with pipe organ taking the lead (supported by strumming electric guitar). Piano and horn again as everything is happening, switching, very quickly, going from theme to them about every 20 to 40 seconds. So classical in its construction yet so eclectic and confusing in its instrumental representation. I'm almost tired from the constant handoffs and rotations of instruments. It's admirable but when are they going to present something hummable? The ninth minute! Synth and soprano flute on top, bass and horn and electric guitar beneath with guitar and piano (and saw-synth) in the middle. A masterpiece of Baroque classical music performed by a revolving door of modern and antique instruments. Each musician must have had three or four instruments beside them while playing in the round for this true "rondo"! (18/20)

Total Time: 38:32

The musicianship here is amazing (as always) but I'm not sure I like the new sound--the back and forth blending of old and new. Songs like the last one that are more purely classical I get but then there are the more obsequiating efforts of "Lament" and the show-off entertainent factor of the opener. I have to admit to feeling more drawn to Midnight Mushrumps for return listens.

88.75 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive folk rock music.





34. HORSLIPS The Tain (1973) This was such a well-recorded, produced and pioneering album of music! From the opening notes of "Setanta" (1:52) one cannot quite be sure what one is in for: blistering electric guitar riffs seemingly randomly dispersed over disjointed and disorganized instrumental play. Surprising yet mesmerizing! By the time we get to the third song we are able to get a sense for the style that Horslips are going for--not far from that of Jethro Tull with electric guitars and flutes over drum and bass foundations with folk-styled vocal story-telling--though much more folk feeling than that of JT. Reels and rock, Celtic and military drumming, electric guitars and a variety of flutes occupy pretty equal lead time throughout. The vocalists are quite oriented in the stylings of the Sixties--British bands like The Beatles, Donovan and The Buckinghams--but they are notable for the remarkable variety.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Charles O'Connor / fiddle, mandolin, concertina, vocals
- John Fean / guitar, banjo, vocals
- Jim Lockhart / keyboards, concert flute, whistle, Uileann pipes, vocals
- Barry Devlin / bass, vocals
- Eamon Carr / drums, percussion, bodhrán


Favorite songs:  the instrumental 13. "The Morrigan's Dream" (3:26) (8.75/10); the album's finale, 14. "Time to Kill!" (5:07) (9.25/10); 5. "You Can't Fool the Beast" (3:40) (9/10); 8. "Chu Chulainn's Lament" (3:02) (8.5/10); the wonderful psychedelic 7. "Ferdia's Song" (2:44) (8.75/10) (with it's follow up for its guitar solo, "Gae Bolga" [1:12] [4.5/5]); 10. "Faster than the Hound" (5:38) (8.25/10), and; 4. "The March" (1:34) (4.5/5). The album's opening instrumentals, "Setanta" (1:52) + "Maeve's Court" (1:41) = (10/10), serve as introduction to the story, which begins with the bleed in from the latter to the Jethro Tull-like 3. "Charolais" (4:04) (8/10). 6. "Dearg's Doom" opens with "Theme from Shaft"'s cymbal play before an unique, pre-punk kind of choral shanty starts up. It's actually quite good. (8.5/10) The only truly weak song is the silly, almost pandering 12. "More than You Can Chew" (3:15) (7.5/10).

Total time 42:39


All in all this is a very nice listen, start to finish, one that grows on the listener over time. It helps that the album ends on such a strong note with the final two songs, "Morrigan" and "Time to Kill!" I can see how and why many regard this as a masterpiece of progressive rock music--it is certainly exemplary of the era. I am also a great admirer of the great sound production and stylistic variety of the compositions.

86.74 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a solid demonstration of the rock-side of Prog Folk and a very nice demonstration of a folk concept album. Interesting that I hear in this album a herald of the work of Andy Partridge and XTC.





35. STRAWBS 
Hero & Heroine (1974) One of the most acclaimed Strawbs albums, Hero and Heroine has never been able to keep me engaged the way that some of the band's other albums do. It is a good album but without the highs and consistency of Ghosts or even Grave New World. Founder and heart and soul of the band, singer-songwriter Dave COUSINS, sounds to my ears like Ian Anderson doing Peter Gabriel while the music the band created in this period sounds like the prog folk music that JETHRO TULL never made but everyone wishes (or thinks) that they did. Cousin's similarity to the voice qualities of an Anderson-Gabriel melange are so remarkable that I hear it in virtually every song the band does. It's not a bad thing, it's just an eerie, noticeable thing.
     The album opens with 2:15 of some of the proggiest stuff the band ever did in the form of the KING CRIMSON "Epitaph"-like intro to "Autumn," but then retreats into mostly nice sounding folk rock. A very good album of great pop folk songs with the opener and it's followup, the anthemic "Sad Young Man," as its high points. I much prefer Grave New World and Ghosts.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Dave Cousins / lead & backing vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, co-producer
- Dave Lambert / lead & backing vocals, acoustic and electric guitars
- John Hawken / piano, electric piano, organ, Mellotron, synthesizer
- Chas Cronk / bass, synthesizer, backing vocals
- Rod Coombes / drums, percussion, backing vocals
With:
- Clare Deniz / cello (6)

1. Autumn: Heroine's Theme, Deep Summer's Sleep, The Winter Long (8:26)
2. Sad Young Man (4:07)
3. Just Love (3:40)
4. Shine On Silver Sun (2:46)
5. Hero And Heroine (3:20)
6. Midnight Sun (3:12)
7. Out In The Cold (3:17)
8. Round And Round (4:44)
9. Lay A Little Light On Me (3:27)
10. Hero's Theme (2:27)

Total Time: 39:26
Favorite songs: 1. "Autumn"(8:26) (10/10); 2. "Sad Young Man" (4:08) (10/10); the beautiful AMERICA-like 6. "Midnight Sun" (3:13) (10/10); the Peter GABRIEL-like 9. "Lay a Little Light on Me"(3:27) (9/10), and; the heavier, mostly instrumental outro, 10. "Hero's Theme" (2:27) (8.5/10).

85.0 on the Fishscales = a solid four star album; B; an excellent addition to any prog rocker's music collection.




36. TREES The Garden of Jane Delawney (1970) Here we have the real deal: an album of folk songs ably performed by folk musicians who have decided to use rock instruments and give their songs--many of them traditional British folk songs--prog rock arrangements. The engineering and sound, the arrangements, and the performances, both individually and collectively, are of the highest caliber. There is a lot of Neil Young feel to the lead electric guitar.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Celia Humphris / lead vocals
- Barry Clarke / lead & acoustic guitars
- David Costa / acoustic & 12-strings guitars
- Bias Boshell / bass, acoustic guitar, vocals, producer (12,13)
- Unwin Brown / drums

1. "Nothing Special" (4:29) opening the album with one of the band's original compositions, we hear a rather raw sounding strumming electrified 12-string guitar before the band joins in and the lead electric guitar launches into an emotional solo straightaway. Interesting! This guitarist has a lot to say! He may not be as flashy or polished as others but he is skilled, smooth, and confident. Lead vocalist Celia Humphris has a very nice voice of the crystalline higher register persuasion. (8/10)

2. "The Great Silkie" (5:11) * arranged with soft instrumentation--acoustic instruments able to stand above the muted electric ones--at least for the first 90 seconds as Celia sings. The band then shifts into a heavier, electric-centric stretch with more active drums and not one, not two, but three forward tracks dedicated to screaming electric guitars, all soloing at the same time. Everything settles back into the folkie sound of the opening for the final 30 seconds and Celia's final verse. (9/10)

3. "The Garden Of Jane Delawney" (4:05) a delicate folk song that opens with harpsichord before Celia's very soft, breathy voices launches into a painfully sad sounding song. Supported by softly picked nylon-string guitars, a second track of her voice is added in harmony as the multiple guitars become more active and the harpsichord returns. A very impressively arranged and delivered song--another of the band's originals. (9/10)

4. "Lady Margaret" (7:09) * an arrangement of a very familiar ("classic") folk song that has a sound like BLIND FAITH's "Can't Find My Way Home." Unfortunately there is not much excitement or development to this one except in the story itself and, of course, in the amped up psychedelic instrumental jam at the end (though the sudden addition of reverb on Celia's voice in the fourth minute and the subtle Stephen Stills-like electric guitar solo in the fifth minute are pretty cool). Still, this is probably the most memorable song from the album. (14/15)

5. "Glasgerion" (5:15) * single note on the high E string of the electric guitar provides the metronome for the first minute of the song as all instruments and Celia rise and gel in order to deliver and support this classic melody. The instrumental arrangement is very cool but I fear that Celia falls "out of the pocket" a few times with her delivery of the intricate lyrics. (9/10)

6. "She Moved Thro' The Fair" (8:04) * A unique rendering of a classic song. I love the dichotomy of the very slow vocal and acoustic guitar strum delivery coupled with the speed-walking of the bass finger picking on the second and third guitars. (13/15)

7. "Road" (4:33) a Trees original, there is a traditional feel to the foundational rhythms of this song while the electric and acoustic guitar work make it more BLIND FAITH-like. The alternation of male and then female voices for the four verses is nice. (8.75/10)
8. "Epitaph" (3:23) another Trees original that sounds very steeped in the structures and sounds of traditional British folk music, the vocal work by Celia Humphris here is quite skillful and impassioned. The bluesy lead acoustic guitar work--especially the matching of Celia's singing and vocalise is neat. (8.75/10)
9. "Snail's Lament" (4:39) the fifth and final Trees original opens with slow strummed electrified acoustic guitar before lead electric guitar and the rest of the band join in to support the twin-singing of Bias Bashall and Celia. Nice soft rock song, nicely constructed and rendered. (8.75/10)

Total time: 46:51

* Traditional songs

88.25 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of progressive rock music and a brilliant example of early prog folk.





37. ITOIZ Ezekiel (1980) is prog folk from the Basque Region of Spain. This is the folk side of prog folk, yet it has a very strong jazzy flavor with its flutes, fiddles, saxophones, and pianos joining the acoustic guitars, electric bass, drum kit, and, of course, vocals. Try listening to the following YouTube links:  2. "Ezekielen Esnatzea" (6:02); 5. "Ezekielen Ikasgaia" (6:30); 6. "Ezekielen Ametsa + Ezekielen Erantzuna" (6:10), and; 8. "Ezekiel: Ia maitasun kantu bat" (5:51).

Line-up / Musicians:
- Juan Carlos Pérez / guitar, vocals
- Antton Fernandez / keyboards
- Joseba Erkiaga / flute
- Shanti Jimenez / bass, vocals
- Mitxel Logaron / percussion
With:
- Fran Lasuen / violin, mandolin
- Carlos Jimenez / sax, piano
- Joseba Beristain / cuatro
- Itziar Egileor / lead vocals (5)
- Etorkizuna children choir (from Ondarroa) / chorus vocals (4,6)
- Joseba Saenz Ortuondo / choir conductor

1. "Ezekielen Prophezia" (5:10) (8/10) 

2. "Ezekielen Esnatzea I" (6:01) Nice electric guitar solo. (8.5/10)

3. "Ezekielen Esnatzea II" (4:37) awesome plaintive pastoral opening with a weave of violin, guitar, keyboard and bass. Multiple voices work their way into the weave for a minute before a solo sax takes the lead and the weave smooths out and a blues-rock rhtyhm foundation takes over. Breathy, fast-flitting flute takes over at 2:45, Wurlitzer organ at 3:30. (9/10)

4. "Ezekiel" (3:01) excellent acoustic guitar picking opens this one until a stop at 0:40 signals the entry of the Etorkizuna Children's choir with support from strumming mandolin and picking guitar. Interesting, though the power and melodies of the choir are not as high until the softening and cheering in the third minute. Still, cool song. (9/10)

5. "Ezekielen Ikasgaia" (6:29) picked acoustic guitar is joined by piano (very well recorded, btw) before laying scant support for the operatic voice of mezzo soprano 
Itziar Egileor. Nice melodies and song arrangement. At 2:30 there is a radical shift into organ-rock band playing a soulful support to solos from alto sax, flute, and electric piano. At 4:27 we return to the opening section of acoustic guitar to support Itziar--this time without piano! Basss and violin and then drums join in as song gets very expressive, vocal becomes very jazzy with some very cool and unusual scatting. Very classy, polished song. Great sound engineering. (9.75/10) 

6. "Ezekielen Ametsa" (1:52) solo acoustic guitar intro for a "little girl" vocal and child-like upper register piano support which then turns into Fender Rhodes rock band song to bleed into the next song. (5/5)

7. "Ezekielen Erantzuna" (4:17) carried over from the previous song, the Fender is strong but a very active rhythm section makes for an interesting contrast to the rather bland male vocal over the top. Acoustic guitar solo in the middle before vocals are doubled up for the second half. Now this is cool! Sax and organ join in for solo coupled with electric piano solo to close. (9/10)

8. "Ezekiel: Ia Maitasun Kanta Bat" (5:49) railroad noises before a violin defines the pace and melody for a bass-heavy folk reel. Violin, flute, and sax performing a wave to support the lead melody before cutting out at 1:02. Strummed guitar supports animated lead vocal from 
Juan Carlos Pérez. Bass and intermittent drum and cymbal support before flute-sax-violin weave fills the instrumental interludes between vocal verses. Weird electric guitar enters around 3:20, providing metronomic counterpoint to everything else going on. I find it annoying. Luckily, it leaves for the fifth minute. Screaming electric guitar solo starts at 4:40 and persists to the end over the jamming musicians beneath. (9/10) 

Total time 37:16


89.67 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a wonderful example of Prog Folk coming from the Iberian Peninsula, particularly refreshing for its representation of a very specific regional folk tradition (and language).





38. FAIRPORT CONVENTION Liege & Lief (1969) Explorations of the electric/rock side of folk music yields Liege & Lief. Not the most proggy album on my list but it was a progenitor to many other experiments/developments in the Folk and Prog Folk realms.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Sandy Denny / vocals, arrangements (10)
- Richard Thompson / electric & acoustic guitars, backing vocals
- Simon Nicol / electric & acoustic guitars (6- & 12-string), backing vocals
- Dave Swarbrick / violin, viola
- Ashley Hutchings / bass guitar, backing vocals
- Dave Mattacks / drums, percussion
With:
- Harry Robinson / string arrangements (bonus 2,8)

1. Come All Ye (4:55)
2. Reynardine (4:33)
3. Matty Groves (8:08)
4. Farewell, Farewell (2:38)
5. The deserter (4:10)
6. Medley : The Lark In The Morning/ Rakish Paddy/ Foxhunter's Jig/ Toss The Feathers (4:00)
7. Tam Lin (7:20)
8. Crazy Man Michael (4:35)
Total Time: 40:19

Album highlights (for me):  Sandy Denny's mesmerizing vocal over the fascinatingly sparse and intermittent support of the band in 2. "Reynardine" (4:34) (10/10); her second best vocal on the album's finale, 8. "Crazy Man Michael" (4:37) (9/10); the aggressive presentation of the 7. "Tam Lin" (7:13) story (8.5/10), and; the electric guitar play in general and the guitar-violin duel at the end of 3. "Matty Groves" (8:10) (8/10).

85.0 on the Fishscales = a solid four star album; B; an excellent addition to any progressive rock lover's album collection. Obviously my list of Prog Folk favorites leans more on the prog side than the folk side.




39. THE AMAZING BLONDEL England (1972) I do like these attempts at recreating old/ancient musics, folk, courtly, minstrel, and religious. Thus, I am thankful for artists "obsessed" with these forms and instruments as John Gladwin, Terry Wincott, Edward Baird, Adrian Hopkins, and Jaque La Roche were.

Line-up / Musicians:
- John Gladwin / lead vocals, 2nd guitar, double bass, tabor, tubular bells
- Terence Wincott / flute, recorder, harmonium, pipe organ, Mellotron, bongos, percussion, vocals
- Edward Baird / 1st guitar, dulcimer, 12-string guitar, percussion, vocals
With:
- Adrian Hopkins / harpsichord (6,7), strings / oboe / horn arranger & conductor
- Jaque La Roche / strings ensemble leader

- The Paintings (Three Pastoral Settings For Voices, Flute, Guitars And Orchestra):
1. "Seascape" (6:13) nice pastoral music using ancient instruments that fails when the multiple voices sing the choral sections. (8/10)


2. "Landscape" (7:38) a continuation of the previous song with slightly different themes and weaves but using the same pacing, flow, and instrumentation. Voice and oboe enter together in the second minute while the orchestrated background weave supports beautifully. The lead vocal, melody, and lyric are much more engaging here and even the little choral support is improved from the previous "setting." At the 4:00 mark a different voice adds something in the left channel while an instrumental section seems to go on. Nice guitar work within the orchestra but it sometimes it feels a little buried there. The flutes and oboes and strings are definitely more forward in the mix. The final minute going out is kind of a slowed down, choir-supported crescendo. (13.5/15)

3. "Afterglow" (3:40) a third "setting" using the exact same pacing and structure, hand percussives, recorder, bass, oboe, multiple male lead voices and antiphonal choir help present this more light and frivolous song. (8.5/10)
-
4. "A Spring Air" (3:41) guitars, orchestra, flutes support this more-traditional folk-sounding tune. The entire feel here feels so RenFair appropriate. (8.75/10)


5. "Cantus Firmus To Counterpoint" (3:21) presents itself as a religious (Christmas) choral song of the pre-Thomas Tallis era--almost as if the congregation of a small countryside church service were being recorded. Some of the voices are able to be singled out due to their . . . idiosyncracies. (7.75/10)


6. "Sinfonia For Guitar And Strings" (3:11) (from the suite 'For My Ladys Delight') an instrumental just as the title indicates--a guitar with orchestra strings backing it--though the appearance and takeover of a harpsichord in the second section surprised me. The third and final section reverts back to strings support though there is a more Spanish feel to this section. (9.25/10)


7. "Dolor Dulcis" (Sweet Sorrow) (3:25) acoustic guitars, orchestra strings, support this minstrel-like folk song (a courtly love song?). The chorus presents in the choral form that we've now come to expect. The lyrics bring this one up to a higher level than the music alone might do. (9/10)


8. "Lament To The Earl Of Battesford Beck" (3:11) an odd and eerie song using electronic engineering techniques to create some of the sonic landscape here. Weird--especially for a song to close an album with. (7.5/10)

Total Time: 34:42

86.18 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition to any lover of Prog Folk music and a great example of the effort within progressive rock music to explore, recover, and preserve the instruments, styles, and traditions of older musics--here pre-Enlightenment.






The Metrics


A / Five Star Masterpieces (100 to 92.50):
PTARMIGAN Ptarmigan (1974) 95.31
HARMONIUM Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison (1975) - 94.12
FLAIRCK Gevecht met de engel (1980) - 94.0
FLAIRCK Variaties op een Dame (1978) -93.25
ALAN STIVELL Renaissance of the Celtic Harp (1972) - 93.0
MIKE OLDFIELD Hergest Ridge (1974) - 92.50

A- / Five Star Minor Masterpieces (92.49 to 90.00):
ANTHONY PHILLIPS The Geese and The Ghost (1977) - 92.14
COMUS First Utterance (1971) - 91.32
SPIROGYRA St. Radigunds (1971) - 91.11
STRAWBS Ghosts (1975) - 91.11
GRYPHON Midnight Mushrumps (1974) - 90.81
CELESTE Celeste (Principe di giorno) (1976) - 90.71
EDEN Erwartung (1978) - 90.71
JOHN MARTYN One World (1977) - 90.625
JONI MITCHELL Court and Spark (1974) - 90.0
FOTHERINGAY Fotheringay (1970) - 90.0
ROY HARPER Stormcock (1971) - 90.0

B+ / 4.5 Star Near-Masterpieces (89.99 to 87.50):
STEELEYE SPAN Hark! The Village Wait - 89.77
ITOIZ Ezekiel (1980) - 89.67
MELLOW CANDLES Swaddling Songs (1972) - 89.58
SHAKTI Natural Elements (1978) - 89.375
RAGNARÖK Ragnarök (1976) - 88.89
FUCHSIA Fuchsia (1971) - 88.75
LOS JAIVAS Alturas de Macchu Picchu (1981) - 88.57
BRÖSELMASCHINE Bröselmaschine (1971) - 88.57
TREES The Garden of Jane Delawney - 88.25
PENTANGLE Solomon's Seal (1972) - 87.78

B / Four Star Albums of Virtue (87.49 to 83.34):
HÖLDERLIN Hölderlin's Traum (1974) - 87.14
JOHN MARTYN Solid Air (1973) - 86.94
HORSLIPS The Tain (1973) - 86.74
THE AMAZING BLONDEL England (1972) - 86.18
AGINCOURT Fly Away (1970) - 86.15
PERERIN Haul Ar Yr Eira (1980) - 86.0
STRAWBS Grave New World (1972) - 85.83
FAIRPORT CONVENTION Liege & Lief (1969) - 85.0
STRAWBS Hero & Heroine (1974) - 85.0
AMAZING BLONDEL Blondel - 83.44

B- / 3.5 Star Albums of Distinction (83.33 to 80.00):
JETHRO TULL Songs from the Wood (1977) - 82.50


C+ / Three Star Albums of Merit (79.99 to 76.67):



C / 2.5 Star Albums (76.66 to 73.34):




C- / 2.0 Star Albums (73.33 to 70.00):



 CONVENTUM Le bureau central des utopies (1980)








OTHER ALBUMS WORTH MENTIONING:



MAXOPHONE Maxophone (1975) This is an album of very melodic and beautiful music, at times quite complex, especially in the vocal arrangements and support from the orchestral instruments. Some songs are founded in old instruments, old folk or classical sounds, but truly this is a prog rock album, not a prog folk album.

1. "C'è Un Paese Al Mondo" (6:39) opens with a dynamically diverse piano-based song that has what seems to be an entire orchestra making contributions and with Alberto Ravasini's pleasant, husky voice in the lead vocal position. I really like the inputs of the woodwinds and brass. It's not really until the 4:40 mark when this song really declares itself a 'rock' song with full rock band lineup and searing electric guitar lead. The choral vocal arrangements in the final minute are nice. (9/10)

2. "Fase" (7:04) opens with an almost hard rock sound as lead electric guitar, electric bass, and drum kit churn up some. Around 45 seconds in the keyboards finally enter--first clavinet, then electric piano and two different organs. Saxes and a wide variety of keyboard/organ sounds permeate the first half of the song--none lasting more than a few measures (it seems) until things slow down and get soft for a 40 second vibraphone solo. The music amps up into near-hard rock territory again (similar to KC's 21st Century Schizoid Man"--which always leaves me asking, "Was that hard rock or soft rock?") before solo horn and wind instruments again their two-cents to the maintenance of the lead melody. Guitars go acoustic in the beginning of the sixth minute as horn section and flute give me a kind of Canterbury/PICCIO DAL POZZO-NATIONAL HEALTH feel. Me like! (9/10)

3. "Al Mancato Compleanno Di Una Farfalla" (5:52) opens with a classical guitar soloing for the first 45 seconds before flutes and, a little later, piano join in. Then at 1:20 everybody drops out to make room for a softly picked electric guitar and nice choral-presented vocal. It appears that the chorus is alternatively sang by lead vocalist with harmonizing background vocalists while the verses are sung collectively as a chorus. Interesting! Then, at 3:40, organ, electric bass and drums announce a harder, electrified section--over which Alberto's lead vocal gets quite aggressive. Great power here! I am so intrigued by the multiplicity and fluidity of keyboard choices through out this band's song play. At 5:35 things quite down for an soft little electric guitar outro. (10/10)

4. "Elzeviro" (6:47) opens with church organ and Alberto singing solo. It feels aggressive but unravels fairly evenly despite the increasingly menacing chord progressions used by the organ. At 1:35 the rest of the band begins their entrance--which breaks out in quite a nice, somewhat jazz-rock form. This could be BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS, ELP and GENESIS! Great section! At 3:30 lone piano hits signal the commencement of a piano-based instrumental section over which another searing guitar solo is blasted. Then at 4:05 things soften quite a bit with a beautiful choral vocal section. At 4:50 organ, horns and Alberto take center stage again. At 5:38 the rock band smootly re-enters but this time the RENAISSANCE-like jam beautifully incorporates the contributions of all kinds of orchestral instruments to the end. Awesome song! (9/10)

5. "Mercanti Di Pazzie" (5:21) opens with a harp solo! When Alberto's voice enters at the 0:40 mark it is soft and high pitched. He is joined by his amazing companions of voices off and on over the next minute until a kind of classical section with vibraphone and electric bass take over. Eventually, by the 2:11 mark, they establish a new foundation over which a more rock-sounding choral sings. But then, just before the three minute mark the music returns to the section we opened with. I adore these gorgeous melodies and harmonies! A very delicate picked electric guitar section ends the fifth minute before shifting into a hypnotic, aqueous section of instrumental beauty (like the end section of PETER GABRIEL's "Humdrum")--which then plays out to the end. My favorite song on the album. (10/10)

6. "Antiche Conclusioni Negre" (8:54) opens in full band-with-orchestra form (not unlike the album's opener) with a very jovial, uptempo melody before shifting into a more Broadway-like horn-led section. It has the feel of an overture--a review of themes. When it calms down around the 1:45 mark it feels like a PFM moment. Piano-based, alternating chorus and solo lead vocals, the song is pretty. The mid-section is back to more of the uptempo sections with sax and guitar soli. At 6:40 everything stops and a solo church organ rises to the fore before a low-register vocal choir sings what could be an anthemic or intentionally significant section to the song's close. Great song; kind of three in one. (9/10)

As always, I think these songs would mean much more to me if I knew Italian--especially in terms of how the music was created to match/support the lyrical messages. But, in terms of sound, composition, ability and performance, this deserves a place among the classics.

A a masterpiece of progressive rock music--Italian or otherwise.

93.33 on the Fishscales = five stars; A; a veritable masterpiece of progressive rock music with folk elements. More prog and rock than folk but has many very folkie moments, including:  "Al mancato compleanno di una farfalle" (5:53) (10/10); "Mercanti di piazza" (5:51) (10/10), and; "Il fischio del vapore" (4:56) (10/10).

















AL STEWART is a great British songwriter whose pop sensibilities often inhibit prog listeners from giving his music a chance, but his folk-tinged (often acoustic guitar based--probably due to his compositional style) music always touched on the proggy side of things. Listen to albums any of his albums from the first decade of his production (Love Chronicles, Zero She Flies, Orange, Past, Present and FutureModern Times, and even 1976's The Year of the Cat and 1978's Time Passages) and you can't help but pick up the unmistakable "signs" of progressive rock themes, motifs, and production and sound nuances.









RICHARD AND LINDA THOMPSON (née "Peters") I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (1973-4) husband and wife and members of FAIRPORT CONVENTION produced several albums together Hokey Pokey (1975) and Pour Down Like Silver (1975) before retreating from the music business in their residential Sufi community in East Anglia in 1976. After rejecting that way of life, they returned in 1978 with Fist Light and Sunnyvista (also in 1978), and Shoot Out the Lights in 1982. Wildly pessimistic and without any commercial desire, the music is undeniably top notch; it's just depressing to listen to.









THE WOODS BAND The Woods Band (1971) is a "solo" spinoff from original STEELEYE SPAN background vocalist Gay Woods with the support of her husband Terry Woods and Ed Deane, both multi-instrumentalists. The band produced a very nice album before the couple's relationship went sour and Gay soon retired from music while Terry went on to participate in several projects before settling into the band The Pogues and then The Bucks.












THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND The 5000 Spirits or The Layers of the Onion (1968)




THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND U (1970)




THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter (1968)




STEELEYE SPAN Below the Salt (1972)




AMAZING BLONDEL Blondel (1973)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Edward Baird / vocals, guitar
- Terence Wincott / vocals , guitar, percussion, flute, crumhorn, piano, recorders
With:
- Paul Rodgers / vocals (7)
- Sue Glover / backing vocals (6-8)
- Sunny Leslie / backing vocals (6-8)
- Steve Winwood / bass (Yep! THE Steve Winwood!)
- Simon Kirke / drums
- Adrian Hopkins / harpsichord, string arrangements
- Jack La Roche / strings leader

1. "The Leaving Of The Country Lover" (6:34) the first two minutes are made up of a beautiful Aaron Copeland-like intro called "Prelude" followed by the strings and crumhorn-supported folk song. (13/15)

2. "Young Man's Fancy" (5:20) has a little BEATLES and a little TRAFFIC feel and sound to it. The antique instruments only come in as ancillaries or at the end, but the strings are ubiquitous. Beautiful outro. (8.25/10)

3. "Easy Come, Easy Go" (6:09) nice rock folk guitar foundation with the BEATLES/WINGS-like vocals. Pretty song. Ends with a classical guitar solo (called "Solo" on some copies of the album).(8.75/10)
4. "Sailing" (4:30) John Denver. (7.25/10)
5. "Lesson One" (2:50) solo guitar with lone male vocalist. Nice song. (8/10)
6. "Festival" (3:27) the other male Dan Fogelberg-like vocalist takes the lead here. Lots of female b vox and strings. (7.75/10)
7. "Weavers Market" (4:35) opens with "Lucky Man"/"Stormcock" guitar strumming within which male pans in and alternates with kazoo. I like this vocal (Paul Rodgers) even though it's rather ad hoc and unpolished. Female takes lead in second with many sea-shanty drunk-on-the-dock voices behind and around. Actually a very cool song. (9/10)
8. "Depression" (3:25) nice gentle 12-string picking opens this one before flute joins in and then clear male voice. This is beautiful. And emotional. (9.75/10)

Total time 36:50

83.44 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; a nice addition to the Prog Folk catalogue but nothing too exciting or ground-breaking.




JETHRO TULL Songs from the Wood (1977) Songs from the Wood and I go way back. To 1977. Never a real Tull fan, despite many of my friends worshipping them and Ian Anderson and their "amazing" concerts, I kept buying Tull albums thinking, "This might be the one" (to win me over). Don't get me wrong, JT have some awesome songs and some very cool, memorable riffs (I remember listening to A Passion Play over and over to find those few passages of sublime prog heaven). Ian and the boys have always been one of those bands that I can only take in small doses. So, I was very excited upon acquiring Songs from the Wood because of the pastoral cover (promising some more pastoral, folk-like music, I hoped) and the fact that there were a collection of mostly short songs. But, as was still is: I find some great skill and a fair amount of listening pleasure--I count "Fire at Midnight" (9/10), "Jack-In-The-Green" (9/10), "The Whistler" (10/10), and "Pibroch (Cap in Hand)" (10/10) as five-star efforts. And now, as I dive deeper into the heretofore hidden (to me) world of Prog Folk, I compare Songs from the Wood with other efforts from the likes of Ragnarök, Faun, Fauns, Itoiz, Horslips, Jan Dukes de Grey, The Strawbs, Amarok, Conventum, Pererin, Comus, Iona, Dunwich, and even Hölderlin, Cos and Fruupp. The title song (8/10) has a nice Gentle Giant start to it but by the two minute mark seems to meander and lose its steam and lyrically is almost embarrassing. "Velvet Green" (8/10) has two outstanding mid-sections, but the first 1:40 and final minute seem so tired and old. Been there, JT; done that before. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Ian Anderson / vocals, flute, acoustic guitar, mandolin, whistle (all instruments on track 2), producer
- Martin Barre / electric guitar, lute
- John Evan / piano, organ, synthesizers
- David Palmer / piano, portative organ, synthesizers
- John Glascock / bass, vocals
- Barriemore Barlow / drums, marimba, glockenspiel, bells, nakers, tabor

1. "Songs From The Wood" (4:55) (8.5/10)
2. "Jack-In-The-Green" (2:32) (8.5/10)
3. "Cup Of Wonder" (4:34) (7.25/10)
4. "Hunting Girl" (5:13) (7.25/10)
5. "Ring Out, Solstice Bells" (3:47) what happened to the engineer on this one? The vocals and bass sound horrible! Pure filler. Embarrassing. (6/10)
6. "Velvet Green" (6:05) (8/10)
7. "The Whistler" (3:31) IMHO, one of Tull's best songs, ever. (10/10)
8. "Pibroch (Cap In Hand)" (8:38) (19/20)
9. "Fire At Midnight" (2:27) (8/10)

Total Time: 41:42


82.50 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars. This is a very polished JTull, more mature and sophisticated, with some excellent production value, some very mystifyingly poor engineering choices. IMHO, this is a good addition to any prog lover's music collection but no masterpiece. Not even close.




CARMEN Fandangos in Space (1973) Another album that sounds far more rock/progressive rock like SPIRIT, LIGHTHOUSE, or early AMBROSIA or KANSAS (even early Indie-rock like QUEEN, 10CC, B-52's, XTC, and ABC) the compositions and delivery are far more quirky and not very folkie (except maybe in the melody department--where there are definitely Latino melodies and instrumentations employed). The musicianship is very good and the song constructs very intricate and beautifully rendered, but this is far from a folk or even prog folk album--despite the middle songs of the album.





PIERRE LUNAIRE Gudrun (1976) A highly recommended "prog folk" album that, to my mind, has very little folk feel to it. Operatic female voices, classical and progressive electronic instrumentation and engineering experimentation dominate while world folk instruments make their first appearances in the third song, 16 minutes into the album, along with the Piaf lyrics and operatic voice and harpsichord. The music is certainly very experimental and atmospheric, but way more classical and electronic than folk. Should you listen to this album, ask yourself, "Is this music what I'd be hearing in a folk music setting?"


















TUDOR LODGE Tudor Lodge


Line-up / Musicians:
- Lyndon Green / vocals, acoustic guitar
- John Stannard / vocals, acoustic guitar
- Ann Steuart / vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, flute
With:
- Mike Morgan / electric guitar
- Graham Lyons / bassoon, clarinet
- G. Wareham / oboe, cor Anglais
- Douglas Moore / horn
- Tony Coe / alto flute, clarinet
- Sergei Bezkorvany / violin
- David Marcou / violin
- Fred Buxton / viola
- Suzanne Perreault / cello
- Danny Thompson / bass
- Terry Cox / drums
- Sonny Condell / African drums

1. "It All Comes Back To Me" (4:19)
2. "Would You Believe?" (2:29)
3. "Reflection" (3:17)
4. "Two Steps Back" (2:51)
5. "Help Me Find Myself" (4:19)
6. "Nobody's Listening" (3:30)
7. "Willow Tree" (3:20)
8. "Forest" (3:34)
9. "I See A Man" (3:00)
10. "Lady's Changing Home" (4:36)
11. "Madeline" (4:03)
12. "Kew Gardens" (2:18)

Total Time: 41:36

on the Fishscales = 






THE AMAZING BLONDEL Fantasia Lindum (1971)

Line-up / Musicians:
- John Gladwin / lead vocals, 2nd lute, double bass, theorboe
- Terence Wincott / recorders, crumhorn, harpsichord, piano, harmonium, percussion, woodwind, vocals
- Edward Baird / 1st lute, glockenspiel, dulcimer, guitar, vocals
With:
- Jim Capaldi / snare drums (6)

1. "Fantasia Lindum" (20:13)
- a) Prelude and Theme
- b) Song: Swifts, Swains, Leafy Lanes
- c) Dance: Jig Upon Jig; Theme (lutes and recorder)
- d) Dance (Galliard): God Must Doubt
- e) Song: Lincolnshire Lullaby
- f) Dance: Basse Dance; Theme (lute duet)
- g) Dance: Quatre Dance Pavan
- h) Song: Celestial Light (for Lincoln Cathedral)
- i) Dance: Coranto; Theme (lutes and recorders)
- j) End
2. "To Ye" (3:24)
3. "Safety In God Alone" (4:49)
4. "Two Dances" (1:56)
- a) Almaine
- b) Bransle For My Ladys' Delight
5. "Three Seasons Almaine" (3:32)
6. "Siege of Yaddlethorpe" (2:30)

Total Time: 36:24

on the Fishscales =