Tuesday, May 2, 2023

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
- 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 re-master of Hergest Ridge (worked on in 1976 but only published in 1979 in a boxed set) and, while at first I found myself resistant to the added vocals and different levels and imaging of several instruments (some of which were added or diminished for the second version), 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
- 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
- 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) 

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 de la harpe Celtique (1971) or, 

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
- 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. 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. Definitely one of my favorite Prog Folk albums of all-time--eminently listenable at all times, no matter one's mood.

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. 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
- 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.

8. SHAKTI (with John McLaughlin) 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. LILY & MARIA Lily & Maria (1968)

An album (or artistic duo) that I'd never heard of before seeing it recommended on ProgArchives by our own wise and eclectic cheerleaders of the obscure and cabaret, Jean and Friede. Though I first listened to Lily & Marie over a year ago, it took me a while to acquire it and, now, post its review. Though an obvious folk-rooted collection of songs, the elaborately textured and changing and shifting song crafting is highly creative, innovative, and definitely "progressive."

Line-up / Musicians:
- Lily Fiszman / vocals, guitar
- Maria Neumann / vocals, guitar
- Charlie Brown / guitar
- Lou Hemsey / guitar
- Steve Kreider / guitar
- Willard Snyker / guitar
- Garry Sherman / organ, vibraphone, arranger, co-producer & conductor
- Paul Griffin / organ, piano
- Kohon String Quartet / strings
- Bernie Berger / flute
- Hank Freeman / flute, clarinet
- Lou Marro / bass
- Gary Chester / drums

- Ismenê-Jasmine :
1. "Subway Thoughts" (1:39) solo notes from a guitar's bass strings precedes a gap before the airy voice of one of the duo enters, practically a cappella, before spaciously picked acoustic guitar joins in as sole accompanist. (4.425/5)

2. "Everybody Knows" (4:35) beautiful dual vocals throughout. Lily and Marie are so perfectly attuned to one another that their timing is impeccable. The shifts and turns within the course of this four-and-a-half minute song are amazing, wonderful, and totally unexpected/unpredictable. (9.333/10)

3. "I Was" (4:01) incredibly intimate vocal with acoustic guitar and intermittent influxes of clarinet and strings. Amazing! (10/10)

4. "Ismene - Jasmine" (1:46) chamber strings instrumental supporting picked acoustic guitar before everybody backs off for Mellotron-sounding organ to solo. Guitar and others rejoin. (4.5/5)

5. "There'll Be No Clowns Tonight" (6:43) (8.75/10)

- Scatterings :
6. "Aftermath" (3:21) sounds like a standard 1960s folk duet over acoustic guitar. The vocal complexity skyrockets with the more upbeat chorus--amazing harmonizing. Things smooth out again for the second verse and then ramp up again for the next chorus. (8.875/10)

7. "Morning Glory Morning" (3:15) another gentle masterpiece similar to "I Was". Guitar chord progression is familiar but the lilting flute play in the background is so sumptuous. (9.75/10) 

8. "Melt Me" (5:27) opens so gently but then bursts forth with such power and emotion! Similar to some Jefferson Airplane & Grace Slick but really something unique--the likes I haven't experienced since Edith Piaf, Marianne Faithfull, or Anne Pigalle. And such an unusual and interesting yet-subtly-sophisticated song construction/arrangement. (10/10)

9. "Fourteen After One" (3:22) classical organ opens as bass and gently picked acoustic guitars join in before one of the vocalists begins singing. The second vocalist enters later singing as if her own song (in a style imitative of one that Simon & Garfunkle occasioned). Beautifully rendered if not quite my cup of tea (too dependent on the lyrics/words). (8.75/10)

Total time 34:09

92.85 on the Fishscales = A/five stars; a masterpiece of early rock-influenced Prog Folk music and definitely an essential addition to any Prog lover's music collection--especially if one is interested in the history and significant developments within the folk side of progressive rock music movement. Simply put: this is an album that one must hear--as well as one that continues to reveal more and more surprises and delights with repeated listens. 

10. SPIROGYRA St. Radigunds (1971)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Barbara Gaskin / lead & backing vocals
- Martin Cockerham / guitar, lead vocals
- Julian Cusack / violin, keyboards
- Steve Borrill / bass
- 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) (13.5/15)

Total Time: 45:15

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

11. 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
- 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 its 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.

12. 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" 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
- Michael Wirth / congas
- Johannes Menges / spoken voic

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! (13.5/10)

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. (13.25/15)

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) (28/30)

Total Time: 41:04

93.4375 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!

13. 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
- 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 of its 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. Over time this album has really skyrocketed in my esteem.

14. HARMONIUM Harmonium (1974)

I am finally owner of a copy of Harmonium's debut album--one which I first heard over 35 years ago and whose magic has never been far from my internal 'wish list.' 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Serge Fiori / 6- & 12-string acoustic guitars, flute, lead & backing vocals
- Michel Normandeau / acoustic guitar, backing vocals
- Louis Valois / bass, piano, backing vocals
- Alan Penfold / flugelhorn (1)
- Réjean Émond / drums
- Bob Morten / congas

1. "Harmonium" (6:37) the opening passage sounds a lot like America's "I Need You," but then things suddenly shift into third gear for some more powerful singing and instrumental solo/duelling. Revert to soft and delicate for verse #2 but then back to the autoroute for the next chorus and some scat vocalise with fancy acoustic guitar picking. Nice finish with treated vocalise and flugelhorn playing off one another. (8.875/10)

2. "Si doucement" (4:26) very pleasant California-sounding song with incredible vocal(s) over the top. This guy can really deliver a lyric--and sing with amazing dexterity and confidence. A top three song for me. (9.25/10)

3. "Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjour à la vie" (5:45) I love the long guitar set up of this one--over bird and children on the playground noises. It's so confident and planned. Such an uplifting song for living in such a demanding world. And then you get that wonderful outro play (so reminiscent of the jams on Sweden's THE AAMAZING's Gentle Stream album). (9.25/10)

4. "Vielles courroies" (5:48) piano! and guitar. And wonderful three-way background vocal weaves. And beautiful flute! (8.875/10)

5. "Attends-moi" (4:40) the song with drums. For the multi-voice chorus parts. But it's the subtle incidentals and delicacies that make this one so special. (8.875/10)

6. "Pour un instant" (3:21) I love the twin guitar work beneath and at the end. (8.75/10)

7. "De la chambre au salon" (5:43) from the start this one sounds so AMERICA familiar--and yet it's also familiar because I know the band's next album, Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison so well. Another masterful vocal performance. I get the feel that Serge could almost do all of these songs by himself--or maybe with one other guitarist. (8.6667/10)

8. "Un musicien parmi tant d'autres" (7:06) besides its AMERICA feel, this one has a sensitive  CHICAGO quality to it. Such a beautiful song--such beautiful singing. A preview of the next two albums. Not necessarily a great prog song but a great song anyway. My final top three song. (14/15)

Total Time 43:26

My impressions from then--which have definitely been borne out with my recent acquisition and repeated listenings--is that this is a wonderful album with an energy quite similar to that of the debut album of AMERICA, only with its lyrics sung in French. With deepened familiarity, the album has an almost too familiar feeling to it--as if it is too similar to the America album. Throughout the album there is wonderful musicianship, nice song structures, enough interesting instrumental variations (e.g. trumpet in "Harmonium," the flute in "Si doucement," children's playground voices and guitar harmonics in "Aujourd'hui...," piano and flute in "Vielles courroies," electric piano in "100.000 raisons," metronome in "Attends-moi," zither harp in "Pour un instant," ) and, of course, as always, great vocals (both Serge's leads and the group's harmonies), but all in all there is not enough really catchy, memorable melodies, lines, or riffs to make this album anything more than a good album--and certainly not one to be highly recommended for its contributions to progress, progressive music, much less prog rock (though I cannot judge its contribution to the music development within Québec). A very nice French Canadian pop album with one extraordinary song, but nothing on the par of America's eponymously titled first album.

5 star song: "Un musicien parmi tant d'autres," "Si doucement," "Aujourd'hui, je dis bonjours."

I feel so privileged to have known the guitar and vocal (and lyrical) compositions and performances of Serge Fiori. He is one of those rare and exceptional talents.

90.05 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of proto-Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison Prog Folk that will not disappoint the true prog lover. 

15. 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.

16. CAROL OF HARVEST Carol of Harvest (1978)

German band from a rural suburb of Nuremburg whose members were right out of high school (except for late addition, singer Beate Krause, who was only 16 years old when she joined the band--17 or 18 at the time of recording this album.) There are so many diverse influences in the psychedelic nuances to this prog folk music. With Beate's crystalline Celia Humphries/Jacqui MacShee/Sandy Denny-like voice singing in perfect British English, one could easily mistaken this music for something coming from the Isle of the Britons.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Beate Krause / vocals
- Axel Schmierer / guitars
- Jürgen Kolb / keyboards
- Heinz Reinschlüssel / bass
- Roger Högn / drums

1. "Put On Your Nightcap" (16:02) synthesized or filtered wave/wind sounds provide the background for some standard blues chord construction with electric guitar over its two minute introduction. When the haunting voice of Beate Krause enters it is with surprising confidence and maturity. Bass and drums eventually join in as do layers of background vocals (provided, no doubt, by Ms. Krause). Annie Haslam-like vocalise in the fifth minute precede a shift into a second motif in which an interesting synthesizer solos over the foundational two chord rhythm section. Beate's confident, cleary British-accented English is also remarkable for its lack of German accent. Very nice lead electric guitar solo in the tenth minute before the song fades into electronic waves in order to make way for a new, more pastoral movement founded upon arpeggiated guitar chords from multiple guitars. Beate's vocal styling stolidly mimics that of Britain's finest female folk singers of the previous decade--especially those of Jacqui MacShee and Sandy Denny. In the thirteenth minute the band ramps up the pace and volume with a kind of "Just a Singer in a Rock 'n' Roll Band" motif within which keyboardist Jürgen Kolb goes a bit wild. Beate makes a final appearance in the final minute to both bring the uptempo passage to a close and then to usher out the song with a dreamy, lullaby-like melody. Wonderful stuff! (27/30)

2. "You and Me" (2:31) in this more traditional folk song Beate's voice sounds years older than her age would suggest--as if a wise woman singing about a long-time relationship. Remarkable. Two (or) more) acoustic guitars entwine their picking for the second half as Beate's lyrics peter out. (8.6667/10)

3. "Somewhere at the End of the Rainbow" (6:26) electric guitar arpeggiates four chords before Beate joins in with a plaintive voice. Accordion-like synth joins in and then bass and drums kick in to support the chorus as Beate drops her pitch a full octave. Wow! That was unexpected. Can this singer be truly only 17-years old? The music is very warm and engaging though not very technically sophisticated, but the vocal performance is remarkable. (8.875/10)

4. "Treary Eye"s (4:17) the guitar opening of this one sounds so British Folk! Very nice. I kept expecting it to slide into a JETHRO TULL song or something from Fairport Convention. When Beate enters her ethereal vocal moves the music more into the realm of the hypnotic Jacqui MacShee. She is a force! An excellent folk song. (8.875/10)

5. "Try a Little Bit" (9:59) the music is perhaps a little simplistic and one-dimensional but the amazingly confident singing of young Beate Krause illustrates how polished and dedicated the band was to its craft and songs. (18.75/20)

Total Time 39:15

A style and sound of Prog Folk that resonates very deeply with me. Ms. Beate Krause (later Sampson) deserves the credit and recognition lauded upon the great British folk sirens of the era. 

90.21 on the Fishscales = a minor masterpiece of Prog Folk and one of my favorite Classic Era Prog Folk albums.

17. 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)
- 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 = A-/five stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music and, in my opinion, an exemplary representative of the best of what Prog Folk has to offer. 

18. THE AMAZING BLONDEL Fantasia Lindum (1971)

Another imaginary trip back into a relaxing, bucolic time that probably never really existed.

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
- Jim Capaldi / snare drums (6)

1. "Fantasia Lindum" (20:13) this ten-part suite is quite faithful to the free-form antiquated musical constructs that might have been composed and/or performed by courtly or fair performers. The peaceful, relaxed tone of the music might be a bit fantastical--a projection of 20th Century luxury and largesse--as Renaissance and Baroque motets may not have been so fanciful and romantically optimistic. The songs, however, are quite pretty and quite relaxing, which is rather nice if a bit overly naïvely idealistic. The suite is more like a troupe's twenty-minute concert of a collection of their repertoire. I commend TAB for their vision and motivation. What's more, there really isn't a sour or ill song among the ten! (36/40)
- 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) as if Crosby, Stills, Nash &Young sang the RenFaire circuit. (8.75/10)
3. "Safety In God Alone" (4:49) sounds like 1960s hippy togetherness music for sing-a-longs. (8.333/10)
4. "Two Dances" (1:56) dances were certainly short back in the day!
- a) "Almaine" (4.5/5)
- b) "Bransle For My Ladys' Delight" (4.333/5)
5. "Three Seasons Almaine" (3:32) beautiful music over which a rather beautiful male lead vocalist sings in an archaic style--but then a rather clunky male choir performs rather deflating the choruses. (8.75/10)
6. "Siege of Yaddlethorpe" (2:30) a kind of ceremonial / military processional. (4.25/5)

Total Time: 36:24

An album of placid if naïve optimism never hurt anyone--especially when the music is as belightful as this one contains.

88.796 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of anachronistic British folk music. I can't see my listening experience improving much on this!

19. LINDA PERHACS Parallelograms (1970)

American singer songwriter with a voice and style reminiscent of Joni Mitchell's Blue period, Anne Wilson's acoustic torch singer side, and early Suzanne Vega. She has one of those voices that would vault her into the pantheon of the best female folk singers à la Joni, Judy Collins, Maddy Prior, Sandy Denny, Jacqui McShee, Judy Dyble, Barbara Gaskin, Clodagh Simonds, Amanda Parsons, Máire Brennan, Loreena McKennitt, Tirill Mohn and presence

Line-up / Musicians:
- Reinie Press / electric bass, guitar
- John Neufeld / flute, saxophone
- Tommy / harmonica
- Steve Cohn / guitars
- Linda Perhacs / vocals, guitars

1. "Chimacum Rain" (3:20) great introduction to such a clear, pristine sound recording. Linda's breathy, airy vocal approach is an immediate winner--but then you get the multi-track injections of other voices to augment the "rain" word. Gorgeous! Then there is a shift at 1:40 to a different motif that sounds like Suzanne Vega until the eerie psychedelic elements bring in an ANNETTE PEACOCK feel. (9.25/10)

2. "Paper Mountain Man" (3:10) blues. Not my favorite. (8.333/10)

3. "Dolphin" (2:53) a moving, angelic vocal performance. (8.875/10)

4. "Call of the River" (3:46) opens like a Jimmy Webb song over which Linda spreads her airy vocals like a cool breeze on a hot day. The more quick-dictated chorus section is more reminiscent of what would become one of SUZANNE VEGA's signature styles. (8.875/10)

5. "Sandy Toes" (2:52) with full electrified combo of bongs, electric guitars, electric bass, and her voice doubled up. (8.75/10)

6. "Parallelograms" (4:32) two acoustic guitars gently picked while Linda's multi-tracks vocals weave in and around each other. Weird dramatic/cinematic Alice in Wonderland-like psychedelic freak out starting at the two-minute mark. The song returns to the opening motif at 3::40 as if nothing had happened. Great song and vocals despite weird interlude in the middle. (9/10)

7. "Hey, Who Really Cares?" (2:35) ethereal voice sung over gently picked acoustic guitars, perfect bass guitar play, and some Wurlitzer organ. A top three. (4.75/5)

8. "Moons and Cattails" (4:02) more fare on the Beatnik blues side of the folk spectrum. Interesting vocal affectations. (8.6667/10)

9. "Morning Colors" (4:34) opens sounding so much like JONI MITCHELL at her most personal and introspective. The great British folk chanteuses also come to mind--especially when Linda hits and holds those crystalline high notes. Even the lyrical content and delivery feel so Joni-like--though occasionally I find myself (in the lower notes) right inside the SUZANNE VEGA camp. Flute and saxophone interplay is a nice touch. (Is it more than a coincidence that song's final word--carried on a long held high note--is "blue"?) (8.875/10)

10. "Porcelain Baked-Over Cast-Iron Wedding" (3:59) muted drums, electric bass and picked guitar with acoustic guitars (including a 12-string) over which Linda sings a more aggressive/acerbic Joni-Annette Peacock vocal performance. (8.75/10) 

11. "Delicious (4:07) the delicate side of Linda: frail, angelic high pitched voice with one sole acoustic guitar in support. Linda's gift to posterity that is comparable to PETER, PAUL AND MARY's "Wedding Song." Absolute musical perfection. (10/10)

Total Time 39:50

89.64 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a sonic and performance masterpiece of folk music that isn't quite proggy enough to qualify for the "masterpiece" status within the Prog umbrella. HIGHLY recommended for ALL music lovers. 

20. 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)
- 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. 

21. 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
- 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.

22. SPIROGYRA Bells, Boots and Shambles (1973)

Containing one of the stellar voices of Prog Folk in Barbara Gaskin, she is only overshadowed by the sophisticated instrumental arrangements and ahead-of-its time sound engineering.  

Line-up / Musicians:
- Martin Cockerham / guitar, vocals
- Barbara Gaskin / vocals
- Steve Ashley / whistle
- Henry Lowther / trumpet
- Stan Sulzman / flute
- John Boyce / cello
- Steve Borrill / bass
- Dave Mattacks / drums
- Julian Cusack / violin, piano, arrangements (cello, flute, trumpet)
- Dolly Collins / arrangements (cello, flute, trumpet)

1. "The Furthest Point" (8:16) an incredibly emotional and well-recorded, well-constructed "epic." Not what I was expecting (with other Prog folk albums and the band's previous masterpiece, St. Radigunds in mind). (18.5/20)

2. "Old Boot Wine" (4:18) gentle pastoral folk flute and picked acoustic guitar and cello beneath Barbara's soothing angelic voice. 
     Don't know why the band has had to do three very different versions of this song under this title--including an entire album in 1972--but here we have the third. (9.25/10)

3. "Parallel Lines Never Separate" (5:05) cool song, though very 60's feeling. (9.25/10)

4. "Spiggly" (1:12) cute little Beatles-esque ditty with piccolo, guitar and Barabara. (4/5)

5. "An Everyday Consumption Song" (4:29) 
cute little folk song with incredible harmonized vocal duet. Maybe Barbara has that effect on men: they want her to themselves. (guitar flute bass and multiple tracks of Barbara deliver an eerie/odd song. Piano joins in for the second half. Such an quirky, unusal vocal. Reminds me of 21st Century Prog Folk artist Nick Talbot (GRAVENHURTST)(8.75/10)

6. "The Sergeant Says" (3:43) another Beatles- or David Bowie-like acoustic guitar-based song over which Martin sings in a very David Bowie- (or Donovan-) like style. Even a little JTullishness in the second half. (8/10)

7. "In The Western World" (12:59)  (22.25/25)
- Part 1: In The Western World - Barbara with solo piano accompaniment for the first minute. Very delicate and contemplative. Beautiful melodies. And singing. At 1:28, t
he full band of acoustic folk instruments bursts in with a furiously paced display. (4.5/5)
- Part 2: Jungle Lore - At 2:20 there is a brief stop after which the music brings forth a kind fusion of the two paces and styles--becoming much more proggy, with some interesting non-folk melodies coming from singers and lead instruments. Very active flute and cello within the aggressively strummed acoustic guitars. Ends with half a minute of recorded footsteps of a military unit en march. (8.75/10)
- Part 3: Coming Back - dramatic music with a very theatric vocal performance from Martin Cockerham. Almost has a pirate/sea shanty feel to it. (4/5) 
- Part 4: Western World Reprise - amazing acoustic guitar strumming with full band in support. Very MOODY BLUES-like. There is a shift beginning at 10:20 during which the music becomes more symphonic and anthemic with Barbara's vocalise and trumpets blaring. My favorite section of the song and album. (5/5)

Total Time: 42:02

As powerful as St. Radigunds with much better sound production and more proggy and mature song structures and sound palettes. 

88.89 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near masterpiece of progressive rock music and a minor masterpiece of Prog Folk.

23. 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.

24. 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
- 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. An absolute perfect example of the blend of all the prog elements that make Prog Folk deserving of its own sub-genre. (10/10)

2. "Peter" (2:57) is standard folk fare. There are some nice chord changes and guitar picking accompanying the pretty melodies sung by the beautiful female singing voice of Nanny DeRuig. (8.6667/10)

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. (4/5)

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 long pause for the sound of some distant nature sounds (a 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. (8.625/10)

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. I feel so grateful--and priviledged--for the experience of having Nanny sing in her native tongue: it feels so intimate. 
     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.

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

25. 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) 

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

Total time 41:25

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.

26. THE PENTANGLE Basket of Light (1969)

Prog Folk's most boundary-pushing pioneers at their most creative. Universally, this album is a fan and critics' favorite.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Jacqui McShee / lead & backing vocals
- Bert Jansch / acoustic guitar, banjo (9), co-lead (3,5,6,9) & backing vocals
- John Renbourn / acoustic guitar, sitar (2,9), co-lead (4,6,7) & backing vocals
- Danny Thompson / double bass
- Terry Cox / drums, glockenspiel (2,6,8), hand drum (4,8,9), high-hat (8,9), co-lead (4,6) & backing vocals

1. "Light Flight" (3:19) delightful "Take Five"-like rhythm-driven weave over which Jacqui gives light performance perfect for the times. The song was even used as the main theme for BBC's first color television series, the popular "Take Three Girls." Wonderful shift in the second half to 7/4 time before returning to the original vocal theme. (9.25/10)

2. "Once I Had a Sweetheart" (4:43) nice slow paced tune with some interesting psych-electric instrumentation (glockenspiel, sitar, rondo background vocals). The weave thickens and feels on the verge of unraveling during the crazy instrumental passage but then is pulled back in order to support Jacqui and the b voxers for the third chorus and fourth part. What a brave composition! (9.25/10)

3. "Spring Time Promises" (4:09) opening with Bert in the lead vocal as the band jazz-folks behind him. Catchy vocal and lyric that could've come from a CARAVAN album. (Never heard how much Bert's voice sounds like Richard Sinclair as I do on this song.) The song feels so fresh and iconic that I wonder at its popularity and influence on other artists at the time and since. The band just sound so confident and loose that they almost can't help but create great, fresh-sounding music. (9/10)

4. "Lyke-Wake Dirge" (3:36) a vocal-centric song that is constructed (and recorded) as if it were in a church or music hall. Very pretty. If I had the desire/inclination to tune into lyrics it might be even better. (8.75/10)

5. "Train Song" (4:47) after a cool little solo guitar intro, the whole band kicks into a high-flying ride that speeds down the tracks with an innovative vocalise leading the way until the train eventually lifts off into the ether, flying off into the cosmos on the wings of Ms. McShee's floating, sustained notes. Very cool and creative song. (9.5/10)

6. "Hunting Song" (6:44) intriguing use of congas and glockenspiel woven into the rhythmic tapestry of the guitars and bass while Jacqui sings a fairly traditional-sounding ballad, solo, over and above. The inclusion of the "Hey, Ho! Nobody home" melody during the multi-voice vocal rondo weave in the sixth minute (of a hunting song!) is pure genius. This is a song that also seems to preview the arrival and star-making quality of the Annie Haslem-led version of the Renaissance project. (13.5/15)

7. "Sally Go Round the Roses" (3:40) opens like a gentle guitar pickin' song as bass, second guitar, brushed drums, and male and female vocals each enter, on at a time, each after another. John and Jacqui play off each other, taking turns leading over this interesting bluesy-jazzy version of an 1963 Chess Records hit by the band The Jaynettes. The song had already been covered by several other artists--both in America and the UK--but this was it's most high profile version since the original. (8.875/10)

8. "The Cuckoo" (4:30) another traditional English folk song that is receiving a very special rendering by this band of extraordinary artists--including a more modern re-write(!). (8.75/10)

9. "House Carpenter" (5:32) a traditional song whose lyric/story is, for me, detracted from by the loud presence of the banjo and sitar. I would love to hear this in a trio format with just guitar, double bass, and voice. (8.6667/10)

Total Time: 41:00

A very unusual "folk" album in which the proggyness is revealed through the unusual time signatures and some very creative and innovative musical ideas and forms. The inventive arrangements of the vocals and rhythm tracks are, of course, greatly augmented by the dynamic bass playing of Danny Thompson on his beloved Victoria, the amazing intuitive interplay between Bert Jansch and John Redbourne, as well as the steadfast and pure vocal performances of Jacqui McShee.

90.04 on the Fishscales = A-/five stars; an essential addition to any Prog Folk loving music collector as well as an excellent addition to any fan of virtuosic instrumental interplay (albeit, herein, mostly acoustic). A truly seminal album from an unconventional and pathbreaking band.

27. CLANNAD Clannad (1973)

How a young group of unknown musicians form West Ireland (Donegal) got a label, producer, studio, and engineer to record a first album with such clarity and depth I'll never know, but this is one album whose original arrangements of their native musical traditions has been rendered close to perfection. The presence of rock drum kit is the most surprising element in these musical mixes but the nature sound recordings, use of their native spoken Gaelic, and warm depth in the soundscapes are the most delightful elements that defy all expectations. I've read that the band had accumulated a catalog of over 500 songs from their family, regional, and national lore by the time they started performing live in small regional venues (in their school years.) While I love original compositions, I have always appreciated the dedication of the artists of the folk scene to the preservation and (modern) reinterpretation of their musical traditions--and I can think of no band who has done a better job than Clannad at this task (mission).

Line-up / Musicians:
- Máire Brennan / lead vocals, harp
- Noel Duggan / lead guitar, vocals
- Pádraig Duggan / guitar, mandola, vocals
- Pól Brennan / flute, bongos, guitar, vocals
- Ciarán Brennan / double bass, guitar, piano, vocals
- Grainne McMonagle / tin whistle
- John Wadham / drums

1. "Níl Sé Ina La" (4:50) drums! Amazing melodies and vocal harmonies--all using the beautiful Gaelic tongue. Both the warmth and the depth captured in the sound engineering is quite remarkable. (9/10)

2. "Thíos Chois Na Trá Domh" (2:55) a more traditional drum-less arrangement renders this one more in the realm of true Celtic folk music. Beautiful lead vocal from Máire. (8.6667/10)

3. "Brian Boru's March" (3:50) a gentle instrumental that has a near-Spanish-Andalusian feel to it. Harp, mandola, guitars, double bass and congas sound perfectly spaced. Wonderful! (8.875/10) 

4. "Siobhán Ní Dhuibhir" (4:30) working again with drummer John Wadham (the producer/label's choice?), this one has such great chord play from the harp. (I'd always assumed that Máire had started out on the steel-stringed Celtic harp à la Alan Stivell but, no: she plays a mid-size nylon string harp like Jon Anderson!) Great jazzified vamp in the middle and then great vocal choir arrangements for the b vox singers in the final minute. Once again, something about the recording and mix of this one renders the music into both rock and prog domains. (9.25/10) 

5. "An Mhaighdean Mhara" (2:10) an a cappella song sung by Máire that I've heard different versions of (from later in Máire's life) but is here performed with amazing confidence and maturity (despite the fact that she was a mere 21 years old when this album was being recorded. This remarkable precociousness has always struck me about Máire's confident presence--both on stage and in recorded renderings.) (5/5)  

6. "Liza (3:05) mixed and performed like a California flower-child pop song: Mama & Papas choral vocal arrangements (with a male in the lead!), busy bass, guitars, congas, and drums. Different! So surprisng to learn that this is the album's only song to have been totally written by the band. (8.6667/10)

7. "An tOileán Úr" (4:03) there is no doubt that this song's harp (the opening instrument) is steel stringed. What a collection of instruments the young band had access to! Again a male vocalist takes the lead on this one as tin whistle and drums add their rock talents. Impressive play from the double bass and what sounds like electrified guitar strumming behind the mandola and acoustic guitar picking. The background vocalists are mixed a bit further in the back than I'd like. Surprising (not "traditional") chord and rhythm patterns. (8.75/10) 

8. "Mrs. McDermott" (3:03) beautiful little flute-led instrumental rendition of a nineteenth century Irish tune. (8.75/10)

9. "The Pretty Maid" (2:40) gentle acoustic guitars and bass dancing around one another beneath the angelic vocal performance of Máire (in English!). The second verse is started by a male vocalist before Máire takes over and this pattern is repeated in the third verse (with the addition of ghostly background harpie voices). (9/10) 

10. "An Pháirc" (3:00) the band's submission to Eurovision 1973. Starts out with gentle music supporting Máire's floating vocal but then fills out with the whole band singing in harmonic support during the second and successive verses. (8.75/10)

11. "Harvest Home" (1:40) a beautiful little instrumental. (4.75/5)

12. "Morning Dew" (3:45) a gorgeous arrangement and rendering of this popular North American folk song. It is realized as if something from an album by The Pentangle or even Peter, Paul and Mary. Amazing! (9.75/10) 

Total Time 38:26

Always a little more circumspect about debut albums from traditional folk artists, I now understand what made Clannad an outlier among calcified Irish patriots: they were definitely open to the influences of developments and innovations occurring in the modern musical world. Thus, the rock settings and constructs of many of this album's songs definitely subjects it to the criticisms of their own native purists. At the same time, this is exactly what offers this album, music, and band to Prog World: brave experimentalism and modern sound manipulation in the recording process.

Whereas the trajectory of the band's 1980s output connotes a leaning toward pacifying "New Age" sounds and textures, their 1970s legacy is more of a band trying to figure out how to make their beloved traditional folk fare popular with the masses.  

90.189 on the Fishscales = a minor masterpiece of Prog Folk and, I think, an album of many delights for any true lover of progressive rock music; perhaps not an essential masterpiece to Prog World in general, but a definite landmark in the expansion and development of the scope and practice of Prog Folk music.

28. ÉMERAUDE  Geoffroy (1981)

A collaboration of friends/amateur musicians from the French Riviera who, I guess, thought they should give recording a shot. This is the result.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Dominique Flachon / guitar
- Gilles Escoffier / guitar
- Bernadette Simonet / piano
- Jean-Paul Ansart / synths
- Gilles Baud / bass, guitar, vocals
- Didier Chas / drums, percussion
- Yann Baud / vocals (1) 

1. "Boule de Plume" (4:05) piano-based, simple drums, electric bass, electric guitar and vocalise join in to populate this sparse and spacious song. A child's spoken words occupies the center. Very pleasant. (9/10) 

2. "Pluie" (1:25) two acoustic guitars being picked. The song sounds as if it came out of Western Europe sometime in the late Nineteenth Century or early Twentieth. (4.25/5)

3. "Viking" (12:02) slow, straggling prog folk with narration spoken in English. The music's intensity increases as more instruments fill the field in the second minute. At 2:10 there is a shift (with the bass line) as two keyboards add their lines, but then at the end of the third minute everything relaxes back into a spacious bluesy groove making room for Gilles' narration and gentle vocalise. The guitar and piano interplay is quite soothing with the bass now the most prominent performer. Dynamics intensify a bit at 4:45 before another thematic shift (in timing, as well) at 5:37 as strumming rock electric guitar enters and eventually, lead electric guitar. The route is interesting if not so very complex, while the well-spaced story never really gains attraction or interest. There are too many moments where the instrumentalists fall "out of the pocket" from one another. While I like the music and ideas here, I cannot reward this unpolished performance with as high marks as they might deserve were the band better rehearsed, fully attuned to one another. (20.75/25)

4. "Geoffroy" (16:29) plodding simple folk music with a bluesy guitar imbedded within and a chimeric lyrical idea. I do like the subtle acoustic guitar work: it has an old, even archaic feel to it. The second half (final 13 minutes) feels a bit more cohesive and (almost) polished--but then, it's so much less populated; I very much like the sparsity of this. The intermittent injection of synth chords is magical giving the music a bit of the HARMONIUM effect. By song's end I can't believe how won over I've become! After the previous songs I never thought I'd be rating anything from this album this highly! Even the scraggly PINK FLOYD-like lead guitar work in the eleventh-through-thirteenth minutes doesn't deter my enjoyment. I am caught in their spell in a way similar to the effect that TIRILL Mohn's work has on me. (27.75/30)

5. "Duo" (1:23) some very nice, competently performed Baroque classical guitar playing from, I'm imagining, the two Gilles. (5/5)

Total Time: 35:24

A creative band of perhaps-not-so-serious musicians (at least some of them) who have not, it would appear, gained complete mastery of their instruments nor their collaborative instincts. There are nice ideas here, they're just, at times, awkwardly realised. Would that they had had more interest and a more serious commitment to one another we might have more. Or, perhaps this is all they could generate with their chemistry and otherwise (ful)filling lives. It'd be fun to track down the members today to see/hear what their memories of the process are.

89.0 on the Fishsclaes = B+/4.5 stars; an excellent addition of obscure, well-intentioned Prog Folk for the true prog lover's music collection. Definitely worth checking out for yourselves.

29. 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) (10/10)
2. "A Tiny Book" (8:03) (13.5/15)
3. "Another Nail" (6:57) (12.75/15)
4. "Shoes And Ships" (6:14) (8.5/10)
5. "The Nothing Song" (8:23) (17/20)
6. "Me And My Kite" (2:34) (8.5/10)
7. "Just Anyone" (3:33) (9/10)

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.

30. 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).

(The album cover to the DVD video from Macchu Picchu.)

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
- 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) (5/5) and 2. "La poderosa del muerta" (11:08) (20/20) 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.

31. 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 (2,3,6,7,9,11), 12-string (5) & electric guitar (8), eletro-acoustic dulcimer (1,3), recorder (11), piano (12)
- Tony Hooper / acoustic guitar (3,5,7,8), 12-string guitar (9), autoharp (11), vocals (1,3,7,9-11)
- Richard Hudson / drums, cymbals, tambourine, sitar & tablas (11), vocals (1,7,11)
- John Ford / bass, acoustic guitar (4), vocals (1,3,4,7,11)
- Blue Weaver / organ, piano, Mellotron, harmonium, clavioline, vocals (12)
- Anne Collins / backing vocals (1)
- Trevor Lucas / backing vocals (1)
- Robert Kirby Silver Band / brass ensemble (4)
- Robert Kirby / brass arrangements (4)
- Tony Visconti's "Old Tyme Dance Orchestra" / members of Ted Heath Orchestra (10)
- Tony Visconti / arrangements (10), co-producer (1)
- Dave Lambert / acoustic & electric guitars, vocals (14)
1. "Benedictus (4:24)
2. "Hey Little Man... Thursday's Child (1:05)
3. "Queen of Dreams (5:28)
4. "Heavy Disguise (2:50)
5. "New World (4:08)
6. "Hey Little Man... Wednesday's Child (1:05)
7. "The Flower and the Young Man (4:17)
8. "Tomorrow (4:44)
9. "On Growing Older (1:54)
10. "Ah Me, Ah My (1:21)
11. "Is It Today Lord (3:04)
12. "The Journey's End (1:35)

Total Time 35:55

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.

32. 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.

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

1. "Le reel des élections" (2:48) straightforward reel with impressive cohesion from all instruments, including electric bass and electric guitar. (4.333/5)

2. "Ateliers I et V" (4:12) (8.6667/10)

3. "Fondation" (6:13) very impressive, intricate whole-group interweaving. (8.6667/10)

4. "Choregraphie lunaire" (8:18) lots of experimental sound percussives fill the "Moonchild"-like opening section. In the second minute acoustic guitar and violin emerge as the leaders with some eerie, nearly UNIVERS ZERO type of chromatic melody-making. The music settles into a very pleasing, even beautiful, support tapestry over which the gorgeous violin and, later, electric guitar do some impressive soloing. The plaintive violin play in the final two minutes is so heart-wrenching. Very cool song. Definitely a top three for me. (19/20)

5. "La belle apparence" (2:15) sounds and feels like background processional music in a beer hall of military campus. (4.333/5)

6. "Fanfare" (4:25) sounds and feels like a Stephane Grappelli Django Reinhardt jam session. Impressive skills but not a lot of melody or emotion. (8.5/10)

7. "Trois petits pas" (4:19) a very spacious yet deceptively full and nicely multi-level melodic song. Amazing to think that humans conceived and constructed this. Another top three song. (9.5/10)

8. "Le reel à mains" (3:26) ticking wall clocks and café conversational noises open this before metallic-sounding guitar (dulcimer?) strumming, hand percussion (including clapping), support violin soloing. Very cool capture. (8.875/10)

9. "Le bureau central des utopies" (10:12) 
recorded live while the band was touring Belgium, this is another favorite. After 36 minutes without vocals, it is weird to hear André's poetic vocal in the first half of this. Thereafter, the weave sounds quite familar: as if a mélange of the key elements and components of the album's previous songs and moods. Interesting how André's electric guitar injections join in at the halfway point and the electric bass becomes more of a presence thereafter. André's soloing in the eighth and ninth minutes sounds so much like today's "microtonal" guitar explications. My third top three song. (18/20)

Though feeling, at times, rather cold and mathematical, the stark sound and whole-group concentration/dedication that comes through with this album's music has always, for some reason, resonated with me. I would never call this music "warm" or emotional; it is calculated, cerebral, even surgical--perhaps even more "classical" than most other Prog Folk albums despite the very prominent omni-presence of the electric guitar and electric bass. I extoll this album as a very shining example of truly professional Progressive Folk music. 

88.875 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of highly technical, almost avant or experimental Prog Folk.

33. 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 over 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.

34. MELLOW CANDLE 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.

35. TUDOR LODGE Tudor Lodge (1971)

From Reading, John Stennard and Roger Strephens started this band as a coffeehouse duo in 1968 but, in 1969, Lyndon Green replaced Strephens and American singer/flutist Ann Steuart joined to form the band that toured the south of England for a couple years before it recorded this album and released it in August of 1971.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Lyndon Green / vocals, acoustic guitar
- John Stannard / vocals, acoustic guitar
- Ann Steuart / vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, flute
- 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) The vocal performances supported by a gorgeous if simple weave of acoustic guitars and strings are absolutely heart-wrenchingly beautiful. The surprising participation of Danny Thompson is uncharacteristical subdued. Maybe he understood the exceptional chemistry of the lead trio and did not wish to intrude. My first top three song. (9.5/10)

2. "Would You Believe?" (2:29) sounds almost like a song from the musical Godspell. There is a certain surprising maturity expressed through the design and recording of this song that belies the ages of its twenty-something band members. (8.75/10)

3. "Recollection" (3:17) more musical balm. Some of the best three-part vocal harmonies you'll hear.(8.75/10)

4. "Two Steps Back" (2:51) I feel certain that this one should have been a major hit back in the day. Wonderful performances by all musicians but none more than Ann Steuart. A top three song for me.(9.25/10)

5. "Help Me Find Myself" (4:19) harnassing a bit of the Country-Western twang in this one gives it a little more of an American (or Irish) feel to it. The rather straightforward folk ballad feel is also different from most of the album's other songs. Nice vocal arrangements for the choruses. (8.6667/10)

6. "Nobody's Listening" (3:30) this one must have been very informative and inspirational for the work of Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt as it sounds very much like something off of Tracey's 1982 solo album, A Distant Shore as well as a few songs off of their debut Everything But The Girl album. (8.75/10) 

7. "Willow Tree" (3:20) jarringly different from anything else before or after this song, there is an eerie sci-fi free-form jazz soundtrack feel to the opening minute of this. As the guitar, flute, double bass and horn establish the contextual field for the multi-voice singing to come some sense (and beauty) comes out of the chaos. Wonderful play with nuances within minor chord progressions. (8.875/10)

8. "Forest" (3:34) John in lead vocal among guitars and jazzy winds. When Annie takes over for the second verse, the sonic field is much more simplified--with no orchestral embellishments until after her singing when Danny T's bass, the orchestral strings, and Annie's own flute flit and dash among one another. John and Lyndon take on the third verse as Annie continues adding her flute to the mix, but then all three participate in a kind of PETER PAUL AND MARY triune for the final verse. (8.75/10)

9. "I See A Man" (3:00) feels and sounds exactly like the previous song's music with a different vocal over the top and different embellishments coming from individual orchestral instruments like cor Anglais, glute, and horn. Annie drops her flute for vocal assist in the third verse--her independent vocal woven between the voices of the lead male in a kind of rondo fashion. Very creative! (8.875/10)

10. "The Lady's Changing Home" (4:36) a little more 1960s rock feel to this one--especially in the effect used to treat the lead male voice. Very cool (surprising and unexpected) chord progressions throughout. This could rival anything The Mamas & The Papas did. Perhaps a little more radio and rock oriented but it sure adds a lot to the diversity of the album! My third top three song. (9.125/10) 

11. "Madeline" (4:03) a guitar instrumental for solo guitar styled in a nearly Baroque or Victorian fashion. (8.66667/10)

12. "Kew Gardens" (2:18) a pleasantly bucolic finale for this beautiful album. Nice three-part vocal weave though nothing in the song really reaches out and grabs the listener. (4.3333/5)

Total Time: 41:36

A collection of very polished folk original songs that certainly leaves one feeling quite content and pacified.

89.41 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of very finely-crafted pop-oriented Folk Rock--something any Prog Folk lover would love to add to their music collection.

36. 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.

37. 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.

38. 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
- 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.

39. 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
- 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. 

40. 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.

Chemins de terre (1973)

Alan breaks out of his gentler rock-infused presentations of traditional Celtic folk to issue full-on rock renditions of classic Celtic folk tunes.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Alan Stivell / Celtic harp, vocals, Scottish bagpipes, Irish flute, Mellotron, timpani, harmonium, arrangements
- Elyane Werneer / vocals
- Mireille Werneer / vocals
- Gabriel Yacoub / acoustic guitar, banjo, dulcimer, psaltery, vocals
- Dan Ar Braz / electric & acoustic guitars, vocals
- René Werneer / fiddle, vocals
- Bagad Bleimor (band) / bagpipes, bombarde, Scottish drum
- Pascal Stive / organ, piano
- Jean-Luc Hallereau / bass, vocals
- Michel Santangeli / drums
- Marie Yacoub / spoons, vocals
- Michel Delaporte / tabla

1. "Susy Mac Guire" (3:35) What sounds like a kind of modernized version of an old folk song suddenly turns rock with the introduction of a lead electric guitar in the final minute after Alan has stopped singing. Not a fan but I have to admit that it doesn't exactly ruin what was a nice Prog Folk song. (8.75/10)

2. "Ian Morrison Reel" (4:09) a very rock-ified version of an old Celtic reel. Smooth but not really a fan.(8.5/10)

3. "She Moved Through The Fair" (4:13) a more gentle though still electrified rendering of this classic Celtic tune. Nice. Great singing. Kind of a JOHN MARTYN sound and feel. I love the harp work. A top three song for me. (9/10)

4. "Can Y Melinydd" (1:59) flat and dull. (4/5)

5. "Oidhche Mhait" (1:53) great more-traditional rendering. Love the vocal work. The organ is nice, too. (4.4/5)

6. "An Dro Nevez" (3:45) fiddles dominate the opening before rest of the pagan music ensemble joins in, but then drums and electric bass join in and make it a rock song. (Nice bass play; drums are fair.) Strumming rhythm electric rhythm guitar joins in for the next. Then banjo while the electric guitar starts infusing some lead licks here and there. A completely instrumental song, the weave is most successful when drums and electric guitars stay out (though the guitar becomes respectfully distant [muted] in the final minute].)  (8.75/10)

7. "Maro Ma Mestrez" (3:08) an a cappella song sung in what sounds like an Arabic (or Gypsy) tongue. (Is this Breton/Breizh?) It does sound familiar from all of the SEVEN REIZH albums I've collected. (8.75/10)

8. "Brezhoneg' Raok" (3:08) what starts out sounding like an Ian Anderson-led JETHRO TULL rock song turns into an outright LYNYRD SKYNYRD jam as multiple instrumentalists solo each for all the attention and glory over the final minute and a half. I don't know why I feel as if I'm betraying someone or something, but I'm ending up loving this! (Bassist Dan Ar Bras is really good!) (8.875/10)

9. "An Hani A Garan" (4:11) another great acoustic folk weave over which the lead singer seems to dive into another foreign (non-French, non-Gaelic) language. It is, admittedly, quite beautiful--even heart-wrenching. A top three song. (9.333/10)

10. "Metig" (4:07) swirling organ rises and is then joined by male vocal and then male chorus vocals in antiphonal support but then at the very end of the first minute violin introduces the rest of the band--a real ensemble of troubadours (using hand drums instead of drums). At 1:49 searing electric guitar joins in ejaculating intermittent lines to mimic/mirror the violin. Machine gun like snare drum and Scottish drum work also join in, taking the fore for a bit before the whole ensemble bursts into song together. It is interesting and kind of works. (8.66667/10)

11. "Kimiad" (3:34) a distant parade of bagpipes seems to move in the background behind the warm, intimate gentle picking of an acoustic guitar (or two). Male lead singer enters at the end of the first minute to sing a plaintive tale of woe in a low tone, within the mix, for the rest of the beautiful song. (8.875/10)

Total time 37:52

I have to admit to being quite resistant to the rock-roided versions of old classics (or even modern-sounding new compositions/variations of Celtic themes).  It's kind of the same effect/reaction I've always had to Keith Emerson's rock treatment of classical pieces. But I have to give Alan credit: here, on Chemins de terre, Alan and company have made them work. Plus, he's incorporated enough respectfully more-traditional versions of the Celtic fare to allow me to slowly get used to the more aggressive rock versions or applications. 

The Yacoubs broke away from Alan and produced two albums in the next year (Pierre de Grenoble and  the Malicorne debut). The choice of the Yacoubs to collect and render songs from the greater French traditions instead of Bretonese songs leads me to believe that they were inspired by Alan but chose (perhaps out of respect for Alan) to stay out of Alan's territory--a commitment Malicorne would remain steadfast to for the band's duration. 

87.9 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent excursion into Prog Folk's rock side, something every prog lover should hear (though not all will necessarily like). If you like the folkier side of Jethro Tull, you'll probably like this.

42. CLANNAD Dúlamán (1976)

Back before Donegal's Brennan and Duggan families tried on a lot of the synthetics the modern music world was offering they were truly an Irish folk band--a trailblazing force. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Máire Brennan / lead vocals, harp
- Noel Duggan / lead guitar, backing vocals
- Pádraig Duggan / guitar, mandolin, mandola, backing vocals
- Pól Brennan / flute, whistle, bongos, guitar, backing vocals
- Ciarán Brennan / bass, bodhrán, guitar, mandolin, electric piano, glockenspiel, lead vocals
- Nicky Ryan / backing vocals, producer

1. "Dúlamán (Seaweed)" (4:30) in the form of a shanty sing-a-long. (8.75/10)

2. "Cumha Eoghain Rua Uí Neeill (Lament For Owen Roe)" (4:03) a somber weave of traditional Irish instruments that sounds very much in the vein of Alan Stivell's Renaissance de la harpe Celtique. (9/10)

3. "Two Sisters" (4:07) English! (no doubt a true and bitter concession) very standard Irish song with some sing-a-long chorus parts. (8.5/10)

4. "Éirigh Suas A Stóirín (Rise Up My Love)" (5:03) gorgeous weave of gently picked/plucked string instruments over which Máire sings in her angelic wraith-like voice. This one stands up to anything by Pentangle, Fairport Convention, Spirogyra, or Steeleye Span. (9.5/10)

5. "The Galtee Hunt" (3:03) a real reel. The flute and Celtic harp pairing is magical--as is the presence and input of the mandolin later. (8.75/10)

6. "Éirigh Is Cuir Ort Do Chuid Éadaigh (Arise And Dress Yourself)" (4:05) a very traditional sounding Irish song that is given some truly progressive clothes with modern keyboards, bass, treated stringed instruments. Super! (9/10)

7. "Siúil A Rún (Irish Love Song)" (5:43) More stupendous melodies and chord progressions served up in oddly syncopated time signatures beneath a stellar vocal performance by Máire. (9.75/10)

8. "Mo Mháire" (2:38) very familiar melodies from the traditional Irish instruments and their weave support whistle and Máire's vocal trading the leadership point. (4.333/5)

9. "DTigeas A Damhsa (Children's Dance Song)" (1:20) the easy repetition definitely fits the objective audience suggested by the title. Nothing so special here--and really nothing proggy. (4/5)

10. "Cucanandy/The Jug Of Brown Ale" (3:08) a gentle reel with wonderful clarity given all of the instruments participating: flute, harp, mandolin, bodhrán. (8.6667/10)

Total Time: 37:40

Other than a few modern electrical effects and, perhaps, the fine engineering and production, there is not a lot here to qualify the band, music, or album as "Prog Folk." This album is almost purely folk music, however, I do hear the advantages and advances offered by electrical inputs that render the sound on this album's songs more "modern" than pure pub/coffee-house fare. The spectrum of instruments used, the clarity of each contributors' contributions, and the powerful gift that is the voice of Máire Ni Bhraonain are all totally refreshing and genre-defining.

89.16667 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a ground-breaking and truly stellar offering of modernized Irish folk music--one that led to the assuaging of the controversy created by the Brennan and Duggan families with both their "modern" Irish song constructs and forms as well as with their (for the time) unusual renderings of song in the ancient native Gaelic tongue. Bravo, an clann as Dobhar! I applaud their perseverance and fortitude.

43. JOHN MARTYN Solid Air (1973)

Solid Air is an album that puts on display many of the directions available to folk artists.

The album's opener, "Solid Air" (5:46) (9/10) with its xylophone accompaniment shows a very jazzy side.

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

3. "Don't Want to Know" (3:01) (7/10) with its fully electrified rock band bleeds into

4. "I'd Rather Be the Devil (Devil Got My Women)" (6:19) (9/10) which is a kind of Beat/bluesy bebop jam.

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

6. "Dreams by the Sea" (3:18) (9/10) puts a funky BRIAN AUGER-like vibe in your face. Very tight instrumental support from his support band.

7. "May You Never" (3:43) (8/10) 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.

8. "The Man in the Station" (2:54) (9/10) 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. "The Easy Blues" (3:22) (7/10) is a very straightforward acoustic blues song in the vein of Robert Johnson and other Southern rockers. A shout out to bassist Danny Thompson for his wonderful contributions.

In my opinion, John Martyn is one of the unsung masters of the Prog Folk sub-genre. He produced high quality music over the course of a very long career--one in which he continued playing live performances up until just two months before his death in 2009--and one in which he put out over 20 studio albums and over 40 live recordings! Though the Echoplex guitar effects John remained so fond of throughout his career are not heard or used much by other bands or musicians, John remained steadfast in its use. I guess the Echoplex sound is one that runs hit or miss with music fans. I personally love it. The John Martyn studio sound is so warm and intimate and Solid Air remains one of my favorite John Martyn albums though it came out over 40 years ago. It makes me wish I had attended one of his concerts. At least we have DVDs to remember him with. This is most definitely a masterpiece of Progressive Folk music.

86.94 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a wonderful addition to any Prog Folk lover's music collection.

44. ACCOLADE Accolade (1970)

Seasoned folk guitarist Gordon Giltrap tries his hand with a Folk Rock ensemble. I don't know how he got credited with participation on this project, but seasoned American folk artist Eden Abba (1908-1995) née George Alexander Aberle aka "eden ahbez")--who would have been 62 years old at the time this band formed--is sometimes listed as one of the original band members. Being a collection of otherwise all-British street-performers ("buskers"), I find this unlikely; it is more likely that ahbez (here "Abba") was mistakenly credited because of his songwriting copyright on the band's most acclaimed song here present, "Nature Boy." Even the album cover of the original vinyl release shows Malcome Poole (photograph and notes) as the bass player. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Eden Abba / double-bass
- Brian Cresswell / saxophone, flute
- Gordon Giltrap / guitar, vocals
- Ian Hoyle / drums
- Don Partridge / guitar, vocals, vibraphone
- Malcom Poole / double bass

1. "Maiden Flight Eliza" (2:42) catchy guitar riff from Gordon Giltrap sucks one in and lets the listener know that these musicians are serious. The flute and vocal work keeps you engaged. (8.875/10)

2. "Starting All Over Again" (4:45) Excellent and idiosyncratic lead vocal performance (from someone other than the singer of the opening song) as flute and multiple guitars, hand drums and double bass, hold down the fort beneath. Another construct that betrays a little Country&Western/bluegrass influence. (8.75/10)

3. "Prelude To a Dawn" (3:10) a gentler, more smoothly flowing musical foundation makes for great support for a pacifying flute lead. Though the song's construct seems ripe for a lyrical vocal track, none is forthcoming. Though I like the addition of vibraphone in the second half, its performance never gets very interesting. The best part is the rapid-fire syncopated strumfest that is the chorus. (8.875/10)

4. "Never Ending Solitude" (2:36) nice weave of bass and two independently-styled picked steel-string guitars over which a folk-pop lyric is sung in a bright Dylanesque style. (4.4/5)

5. "Nature Boy" (9:35) a familiar (and Grammy Hall of Fame Award-winning classic) American song first made famous by Nat King Cole's cover way back in 1948. Originally about a group of Los Angeles-based raw-veggie eating, long-hair & bearded Naturmensch and Liebensreform movements (proto-hippies, obviously, of  German origination) in the 1940s (of which Eden Abba/ahbez/Aberle was either a member or observer when he lived and worked on Laurel Canyon Boulevard), the song has been covered by many, many artists in versions covering pretty much all genres of music, including pop, R&B, and jazz. 
     This 1970 version of the song opens in its standard pop form before turning down a side road with a blended kind of "Take Five"/"Living in the Past" three-chord merger that repeats beneath a soloing vibraphone ad infinitum à la Andrew Lloyd-Weber's "Everything's All Right" choral finish and later reprise. The motif here is extended for Dan Partridge's long vibraphone solo as well as a drum solo (performed with brushes) from Ian Hoyle. In the eighth minute the slow note play of the double bass brings us back to the opening motif over which the male vocalist, dreamy flute from Brian Cresswell, and fancy guitar work from Gordon and Dan takes us to the song's end. I like it! (18/20)

6. "Gospel Song" (3:31) solid movin' folk fare that sounds quite fitting for the British folk scene at the time. Great choral vocal performances by the men. Could've been another inspiring song (and album) for American expats living in London at the time, AMERICA. (8.875/10)

7. "Calico" (3:03) another solid if not too exciting or ground-breaking song with male tenor singing over solo acoustic guitar for the first verse before being joined by the rest of the band--who immediately transport the song's tempo into a faster, more upbeat pace. (8.75/10)

8. "Ulyssees" (12:32) nice chord progressions and instrumental palette (similar to an acoustic variation on THE DOORS "Light My Fire") turns into a more standard Folk rock song à la JOHN SEBASTIAN. Even some Pete Townsend chord progression imitative of "Pinball Wizard" in a bridge in the third minute. Bowed bass work in the return to the "Light My Fire" passage in the fifth minute. Despite the several borrowed themes and riffs, this song is quite solid and likable. (22.25/25)

9. "Go On Home" (2:37) beautiful song--with some gorgeous melodies (and rather simple music). Kind of like the band's goodbye song from the live stage performance. A top three song. (9/10)

Total time: 44:31

The band is surprisingly tight, playing not-uncomplicated songs--even the choral vocal arrangements/performances are top notch--the music often reminding the listener of THE MOODY BLUES  Though a little late in terms of helping to define the evolving new sub-genre of Prog Folk, this is definitely an album worthy of recognition and praise. 

88.86 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; a near-masterpiece of very-well-recorded and performed Folk Rock music

45. 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
- 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.

46. THE PENTANGLE The Pentangle (1968)

One of the more amazing debut albums in Prog World, the quintet here were definitely offering some very fresh, creative, and innovative expressions of folk, folk rock, and, essentially, Progressive Folk rock music. Burt and John were at their peak in terms of experimental passion and Danny Thomsom definitely brought something totally new to the folk world with his dynamic double bass.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Jacqui McShee / vocals
- Bert Jansch / acoustic guitar, vocals
- John Renbourn / acoustic guitar, sitar, vocals
- Danny Thomson / double bass
- Terry Cox / drums, percussion, vocals

1. "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" (2:37) A very different and adventurous song for all--especially Danny's bowed double bass and the guitarists' dynamic/aggressive picking. (8.87510)

2. "Bells" (3:52) dynamic play from all four instrumentalists on this fun instrumental. (9/10)

3. "Hear My Call" (3:01) following more of a blues form, Jacqui's crystalline voice and Danny's innate jazz funk couples with Bert's virtuosity render this classic sound fresh and folk lilting. (8.75/10)

4. "Pentangling" (7:02) rondo-like group weaving with a significant solo given to Danny Thomson in the second half. The man is otherworldly! I love the shared vocal duties used to wrap it up at the end. (13.25/15)

5. "Mirage" (2:00) (4.25/5)

6. "Way Behind The Sun" (3:01) pure blues. (8.25/10)

7. "Bruton Town" (5:05) I love the shared lead vocal duties between Jacqui and whomever (male)--and Jacqui singing in a lower register! It's so strange but so good! Definitely a folk rocker despite no electronic instruments. (9.25/10)

8. "Waltz" (4:54) another great folk-rock instrumental weave with some Dave Brubeck-like jazz drumming as well as another bass solo and great interweaving of virtuosic play from John and Bert. (8.75/10)

Total Time: 31:32

Despite the brevity of this album (as was often more typical of the 60s), there are some truly groundbreaking explorations of the rock, blues, and jazz dimensions of folk music than may have been popular (or usual) for the time. Would there have been any Spirogyra without this album/band?

87.97 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent contributor to the development of the emerging Prog Folk sub-genre.

47. 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.

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
- 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.

49. 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.

The Waters of Sweet Sorrow (1993 from 1972-3 recordings)

Music from a trio of East Anglian folk enthusiasts that was recorded in 1972-3 but not released as an album until 1993. Very mediæval troubadour-like music, not unlike the that of The Mediæval Bæbes or The Pentangle or even early Gryphon. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Jill Child / vocals, recorders, autoharp 
- Paul Corrick / guitars, recorders, mandolin, vocals 
- Ken Saul / vocals, guitar, banjo, dulcimer 
- Mick Burroughers / percussion, Jews harp
- Dick Cadbury / bass

1. "Sanctuary Stone" (4:17) pre-dates The Mediæval Bæbes. Jill Child has a very nice voice. (8.5/10)
2. "To Find A Reason" (3:50) Ken Saul has a very nice voice. (8.5/10)
3. "The Skater" (3:24) Jill singing over guitar, mandolin, and Jews harp. (8.25/10)
4. "Scarbrough Fair" (2:12) pretty standard rendition. (4/5)
5. "The Oak Tree Grove" (2:23) gorgeous. Just Jill's voice and two acoustic guitars. (5/5)
6. "Dirge" (1:48) pure mediæval instrumental. (3.75/5)
7. "Maids And Gentleman" (4:30) nice mix of electric guitars in with the acoustic. Very much an AMERICA America feel to it. (8.5/10)
8. "The Waters Of Sweet Sorrow" (3:08) a gorgeous little folk song--musically and vocally. (9/10)
9. "All Things Are Quite Silent" (2:32) an old English folk song rendered as if it were old. Great vocal by Jill Child. (8.5/10)
10. "The Two Sisters" (4:29) beautiful folk song with great vocals from Ken Saul and Jill Child in the harmony/background vocals spot. Electric guitar and bass enter for the choruses. (8.75/10)
11. "Winter Song" (3:59) delicate yet complex songscapes and performances. If the songs are in any kind of chronological order, this one demonstrates how far the band members had progressed in terms of musicianship and confidence. (9/10)

Total Time: 36:32

87.11 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a very enjoyable journey back in time provided by some very respectful/reverent artists. 

51. 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
- 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).

52. ITOIZ Itoiz (1978)

The debut album from these talented Basque-Spanish musicians. The folk songs and lyrics here are firmly immersed within rock elements, start to finish. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Juan Carlos Pérez / guitar, vocals
- Antton Fernandez / piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond, synth
- Joseba Erkiaga / flute
- Jose "Foisis" Garate / bass
- Estanis Osinalde / drums

1. "Phuntzionariat" (3:40) sounds a bit like a foreign cover Zager and Evans' "In the Year 2525." Nice embellishments by the flutist and the drummer. Definitely a prog song--especially in that wonderful final minute. (8.875/10) 

2. "Goizeko Deihadar" (9:58) opens sounding like a British pop song from the 60s. In the third minute things ramp up into a driving blues rock jam with some nice electric guitar soloing and poppy British choral vocal work. In the fourth minute, then, we move into CAMEL territory with a synth-backed, cruising bass-supported, electric guitar jam. Great motif! Continues to evolve with new motifs while integrating the previous ones quite adeptly. I don't really like the near-disco/80s techno pop predictor in the ninth and tenth minutes but it's still good. Overall, the song feels a bit rushed--as if the band is trying a bit too hard--but what can you expect from a first album from a bunch of youthful enthusiasts? (18/20)

3. "Zati Txiki Bat La M'En" (1:54) what sounds like a more traditional acoustic folk song. Nice three-part vocal arrangements. Nice song but nothing extraordinary. (4.333/5)

4. "Lau Teilatu (4:02) opens with Gordon Lightfoot-like acoustic guitar picking before sole voice enters front and center in what sounds and feels like a ballad presentation. Relaxing, engaging, and quite polished--with a very confident and pleasant lead vocal. Piano adds a nice touch in the final third. (8.875/10)

5. "Hilzori I" (7:08) delicately picked acoustic guitar is joined/backed by piano and then, in the second go round, flute, each setting forth the main melody. In the second minute a pause allows the solo piano to set up the classically-based folk rock motif that launches a few seconds later. Everybody slows down as Juan Carlos sings (in a bit of an unsteady/pitchy voice) before ELOY-like prog soundscape sets up. The Hammond is quite prominent through all of this despite the continued presence of the piano. Flute and cymbals play over arpeggiating piano in the second half as a more extended rock jam plays out. Electric guitar begins to add his two cents to the mix, not quite weaving with the others but going where he thinks he should go; not a smooth mix. (13.25/15)

6. "Hilzori II" (4:36) really a continuation of the previous song, only separated by a shift in dynamics. The harmonized vocal arrangements continue, feeling a bit out of sorts on the bottom end. The swirling Hammond arpeggi, constant flights of high flute, and delicate cymbal play are effective support animals and the sliding guitar notes in the final solo cool, but the fast-changing TULL-like finish is the highpoint. (8.75/10)

7. "Foisis Jauna" (3:13) more boisterous in a Martin Cockerham/SPIROGYRA kind of way. (8.6667/10)

8. "Astelehen Urdin Batean" (5:48) more constructed as a soft jazz-pop kind of song--despite the extended narration in the middle--this one is hypnotically melodic but slightly off from what might be a chart-topper. (8.75/10)

Total time 40:19

If it weren't for the inconsistent quality of the vocal performances (and arrangements) I might very well uphold this album above the band's followup--which is considered by many to be their masterpiece.

88.33 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection--especially if you like rock-supercharged ethnic folk. 

53. OUGENWEIDE Ougenweide (1973)

The debut release from this Hamburg-based band expressing their eclectic world folk tastes.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Olaf Casalich / vocals (1-3,6-8), cymbal (1,3,11), drums (2,4,7), congas (2,6), maracas (6,11), timpani (6), tabla (8), triangle (8), narration (10)
- Renee Kollmorgen / vocals (3,4,6-8), percussion (2,4), triangle (3)
- Brigitte Blunck / lead (1,3,4,6,8) & backing vocals, percussion (2,4)
- Wolfgang Henko / electric (1,2,4,6-8), octave (6,9) & acoustic (3,5) guitars, vocals (8)
- Stefan Wulff / harmonium (3,6), bass (1,2,6-8,11), double bass (4), organ (2,9), percussion (4), guitar (9), narration (9)
- Frank Wulff / guitar (1,2), recorders (1,3,6,7,9), Indian flute (2), concert flute (6,8,11), Arab flute (11), mandolin (4), lute (5), bouzouki (6), sitar (8,9)
- Jürgen Isenbart / glockenspiel (1,3,8), xylophone (2,6-8), percussion (2,4), drums & bells (11)
- Achim Reichel / fuzz bass, flute & timpani (11), producer
- Ulle / backing vocals

1. "Nieman Kan Mit Gerten" (2:26) some engineering issues with track levels diminish this nice song a bit. (8.6667/10)

2. "Es Stunt Ein Frouwe Alleine" (4:50) uptempo and aggressive with great guitar play from Wolfgang Henko. The sound engineering on this one is a little better than the opener but still an issue. Nice palette of harmonic distribution. (8.75/10)

3. "Ouwe" (2:29) gently picked acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, percussives, and recorders accompany and mirror the melody carried by the vocal choir. Harmonium joins in during the final verse. (8.6667/10)

4. "Der Fuchs" (5:25) proceeds like a chorus' stage song filling in details with their choral narration. I have to admit that the performers are all really skilled and very tight with their presentation. (8.5/10)

5. "Eilenau" (1:28) a reel-like instrumental that sounds like the soundtrack to a chase or a race. (4.25/5)

6. "Ougenweide" (6:08) I like the male and female vocalists taking turns on this rollicking song--as if they're having a courtship conversation. Percussion and recorders are the showpieces here, bass and guitars driving the cart forward from beneath. (8.75/10) 

7. "Swa Gouter Hande Wurzen Sint" (3:19) another astonishingly complex arrangement that the band (and vocalists) deliver perfectly! Great breathy IAN ANDERSON-like flute soloing. (9/10)

8. "Der Sohn Der Näherin" (3:10) like "Ouwe" this one starts out with simple instrumental palette as Olaf introduces the topic and melody. Hand percussives and wind instruments join in to add a little more fill to the soundscape as Olaf continues the storytelling. Unfortunately, it never really gets out of "children rock" school mode, remaining quite simplistic. (8.6667/10)

9. "Sarod" (2:45) as the title indicates, somebody's idea to incorporate Indian instruments into the album. It's okay for a first time. (8/10)

10. "Statement Zur Lage Der Ganzen Musica" (1:05) more sitar within an almost-Celtic dittie. (4.333/5)

11. "Es Fur Ein Pawr Gen Holcz" (1:36) Pagan Punk Krautrock? (4.125/5)

Total time 34:41

A smorgasbord of German and English-style folk songs rendered sonically inferior by poor engineering still I am impressed--I have high hopes for this band's future due to the high skill level of the musicians, their stunning ability to pull off very tightly delivered compositions that often display surprisingly complex and nuanced layers. I greatly look forward to the next albums.

86.01 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; an excellent entry-level display of tightly performed Prog Folk.

54. 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
- 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 to the prog side than the folk side.

55. JAN DUKES DE GREY Mice and Rats in the Loft (1971)

Mice and Rats in the Loft sound to me like an Andalusian combination of Traffic, The Doors, The Kinks, John Sebastian, Andrew Lloyd Weber, The Moody Blues, Fairport Convention, Simon & Garfunkle. The orchestration is quite welcome, the 12-string and other acoustic guitar playing is ambitious--perhaps a bit over-ambitious (lots of mistakes and rather raw recording choices)--but, in the era before midi and computer 'air-brushing' this is part of the acceptable defects and even charm of the "almost live" studio recordings--especially of 19-minute, 13-minute, and 8-minute songs.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Michael Bairstow / flute, clarinet, saxophone
- Derek Noy / guitar, trumpet, trombone, "Zelda Chord"
- Denis Conlan / drums

1. "Sun Symphonica" (18:58) has the feel of a combination of and extended version of The Moody Blues' "(I'm) Just a Singer in a Rock'n'Roll Band" and The Doors "The End." It is an awesome song--such great mastery of tension building! But it's not quite folk enough so much as psychedelia. (37/40)

2. "Call of the Wild" (12:48) starts with more of a Jethro Tull feel, despite the multiple voices. Again, I wish the guitar pickups had been able to pick up a cleaner sound--though perhaps the band was going for the ROBERT JOHNSON sound effect? At 2:25 begins an odd vocal section over the unclean RJ almost-dobro sounding guitar. At 5 minute mark there is another shift, announced with some drums and culminating in a prolonged strumming guitar solo--a bit like Jimmy Page's mandolin on "The Battle of Evermore." At 8:40 the song really kicks in with full- band and sax sounding a bit Soft Machine-ish. Sax and guitar play off each other really nicely. (21.75/25) 

3. "Mice and Rats in the Loft" (8:19) The title song is the shortest, last, and, IMO, the weakest song--but it's still good! Just a bit drawn out. Distorted guitars and eery vocal again conjure up a feeling of the theatrics of Jim Morrison and his mates in The Doors. I like the use of the woodwinds and the treated/distorted mystery instrument solo starting at 5:05. (17/20)

Total Time 40:05

A very interesting format/lineup with guitar by far the most dominant instrument, drums, wind instruments, and occasional bass and strings (In the second half of "Sun Symphonica") present for spells and passages. In the end I find the reliance on the singular, rather raw, electrified acoustic or raunchy electric guitar to be a bit too monotonous. The vocals and lyrics are the real stars of this show.

89.12 on the Fishscales = A very enjoyable listen that I can't quite give 5 stars to, but so close! 4.5 for sure.

56. OBERON A Midsummer's Night Dream 

Oxford University friends produce a mish-mash of songs connected in a hodge-podge of seemingly unrelated dots (certainly not all of A Midsummer's Night Dream). Too bad they only had one mic to record from.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Bernie Birchall / bass
- Robin Clutterbuck / vocals, guitar
- Nick Powell / percussion
- Jan Scrimgeour / vocals, guitar
- Julian Smedley / vocals, violin
- Chris Smith / acoustic guitar
- Charlie Seaward / flute

1. "Nottanum Town" (4:47) starting right out of the gate with a song that expresses/mimics an archaic sound and style (almost "Scarborough Fair"-ish), the pacing is slow and plodding. When the vocals enter--at first as female and then male vocalise--they add depth and fullness while merely repeating the already established melody. Flutes and violin join the weave as Jan Scrimgeour's lead vocal moves into the world of the worded. The accompaniment of deep male voices gives the song a kind of minstrel/monastic feel. Interesting if oddly engineered (especially among the murky vocal tracks). (8.6667/10)
2. "Peggy" (2:44) sounds familiar to me because of my long-standing acquaintance with Lindsay Buckingham's "Never Going Back" (on Fleetwood Mac's 1977 album Rumors.) Also has a Spencer Davis/Steve Winwood feel to it. (4.25/5)

3. "The Hunt" (8:55) the best song on the album--a lot due to the theatricity of the song, the excellent violin play, and the unusual vocal choir arrangements. A top three song. (17.75/20)

4. "Syrinx" (2:51) flute solo in the tradition of Claude Debussy. (4.25/5)

5. "Summertime" (5:06) from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. Jazzy (especially thanks to the flute play and. later, the walking bass) with a Parisian coffeehouse/café feel to the rhythm section. Vocalist Jan Scrimgeour's performance is not quite up to the quality of standard renditions (she's no Ella Fitzgerald). (8.6667/10)

6. "Time Past, Time Come" (3:52) opens with the light-/airiness of a classic Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young or Traffic song. Great interplay within the weave by each and every musician (guitar, bass, flute, violin). Another top three song. (9/10)

7. "Minas Tirith" (Parts I & II) (8:21) is quite an excellently engineered and mixed folk song. The interplay between the flute and violin are most delightful. The war & conflict-like drum exposition in the middle 90 seconds is not unwelcome but is overly long. The music returns in the form of a DOORS-like four-chord psychedelic jam with electric guitar, Ian Anderson-like flute, and violin taking turns and even duelling with each other a bit to the song's weird end. (18/20)

8. "Epitaph" (3:36) beautiful (if familiar ["Wildflower"]) chord progression introduced from the strumming guitar provides accompaniment for the heart-felt singing of Robin Clutterbuck. There's even a steady Paul Stookey "The Wedding Song (There Is Love)" presence that Robin seems to be channeling. Powerful. (9/10) 

Total time: 40:14

88.98 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; an excellent find for any Prog Folk loving prog lover.

57. THE PENTANGLE Cruel Sister (1970)

John Renbourn continues to explore the possibilities of the electric guitar--sounding here very much like early Stephen Stills--while the rest of the band matures and performs as solid as rocks.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Jacqui McShee / vocals
- John Renbourn / electric & acoustic guitars, sitar (4), recorder (5), vocals (3,4)
- Bert Jansch / Appalachian dulcimer (1), concertina (3), vocals & acoustic guitar (4,5), recorder (5)
- Danny Thompson / double bass
- Terry Cox / drums & dulcitone (4,5), tambourine (5), triangle (1), vocals (4)

1. "A Maid That's Deep in Love" (5:30) John's constant soloing with Jacqui's most perfect folk singing while the rest of the band supports beautifully. (8.875/10)

2. "When I Was in My Prime" (2:56) a cappella Jacqui McShee. Beautiful but this no Loreena McKennitt or Elizabeth Fraser's "Song to the Siren." (8.6667/10)

3. "Lord Franklin" (3:24) a gentle song sung by John Renbourn in the truest folk tradition lamenting the loss of a son or friend. (8.75/10)

4. "Cruel Sister" (7:03) gentle folk-scape with sitar in support renders this classic folk song--full with its presentation of the song/legend's many verses. Still, it drags on a bit--especially for one (such as me) who hears very little of the lyrics and even less of their content. (13.125/15)

5. "Jack Orion" (18:36) while I appreciate the gradual and continuous development going on over the course of this song, I have to admit to feeling a bit disappointed by the uniformity of both the vocal melody patterns and the rhythm track as provided by Terry, Danny and the guitars. Even the stop and shift at the five minute mark is far less than I was expecting (or would have liked). The shift into more mediæval troubadour mode in the ninth minute feels as if a demotion into listlessness. The stripped down blues section of the tenth and eleventh minute gets a little interesting with the entrance of the tuned percussion, John's electric guitar, and Danny's more loose and improvisational play but the foundational music continues to be rather laissez-faire. As John's electric guitar soloing continues, the sound gets tweaked into a more distorted rock mode--which the player then adapts to with some quite nice rock lead playing. But then we fall back into the song's bluesy folk-rock opening motif for the final two and a half minutes--albeit with a bit more rock dynamic to it. Too bad they couldn't find more dynamic use for Ms. McShee. (34.75/40)

Total Time: 37:29

I like the instrumental explorations but to sacrifice such a gift/force as Jacqui McShee for fully half of the album is, in my opinion, sad.

87.25 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; another excellent contribution to the slowly developing sub-genre of Prog Folk music.

58. OUGENWEIDE All Die Weil Ich Mag (1974)

Enter mutli-dimensional singer/multi-instrumentalist Minne Graw to replace singers/percussionists Renee Kollmorgen and Brigitte Blunck from the band's debut from the previous year and you have the core sextet that will remain steadfast Ougenweideren for the next decade.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Olaf Casalich / vocals, drums, percussion
- Minne Graw / vocals, recorder, harmonium, harpsichord, piano
- Wolfgang Henko / guitars, mandolin, vocals
- Stefan Wulff / bass, acoustic guitar, electric piano
- Frank Wulff / acoustic guitar, mandolin, flute, recorder, Jew's harp, Indian harmonium
- Jürgen Isenbart / glockenspiel, xylophone, marimba, percussion
- Gesine Schröder / cello

1. "Der Fuchs und der Rabe" (3:00) introducing Minne Graw over a fast-paced sea-shanty-sounding song. (8.75/10)

2. "Der Rivale" (6:37) theatric singer Olaf Casalich takes the front and center stage to perform with a kind of Martin Cockerham (SPIROGYRA) intensity. Nice weave coming from the strings. As mentioned with my review of their debut album, these musicians are skilled and they know how to perform tight renditions of their nuanced compositions. (8.75/10)

3. "Der Rattenfaenger" (3:35) performed like an old-fashioned motet--flute, cello and classical guitar supplying all the evidence of its classical roots. (8.875/10) 

4. Fuer Irene (3:24)
5. "Merseburger..." (3:30) close to being a liturgical song--one that might be sung for an audience at some outdoor venue. Wonderful vocal performance by Minne Graw in the distant background. A top three song for me. (9/10)

6. Ich spring an disem ringe (2:18)

7. "Wan sie dahs" (2:16) very pretty (if simple) chord and melody progression with Olaf in the lead vocal and Minne and the others in background. Nice. Minne takes the lead for the final verse. (4.5/5)

8. "Der Blinde und der Lahme" (6:17) the sound is 1966-7 West Coast California as Minne leads over a song that could very well be performed on a popular American television variety show. (8.875/10)

9. "Palaestina Lied" (3:41) multiple recorders are present over the stringed instruments to introduce the melody before Olaf takes over with a very convincing, almost-monastic archaic vocal performance. I love the harmonized interplay of the wind instruments. (8.875/10)

10. "Wintertanz" (3:04) sounds and feels like a holiday song performed late in the evening while well under the influence of some mulled wine and other spirits. At the halfway point the music suddenly bursts into a run, shifting speeds a couple of times over the course of the instrumental second half. (8.875/10) 

11. "Einen gekroenten reien" (3:04) (/10)

Total Time 40:46

The band has pared down their sound a bit, keeping it more to single tracks per instrumentalist, but the skill level and cohesion of their goal is still quite present. More polished songs, more theatric vocal performances, but there is still a ways to go.

88.667 on the Fishscales = B+/4.5 stars; an excellent addition to any Prog Folk lover's music collection.

59. 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
- 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.

60. MALICORNE Almanach (1976)

A vocals-dominated folk band from France that uses some electrified instruments in their arrangements. Similar to the French-Canadian band CONVENTUM. This is a band totally new to me--and, unfortunately, I decided to start with their most highly regarded album (on ProgArchives). Apparently band founder Gabriel had worked with Alan Stivell before striking out on his own.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Gabriel Yacoub / acoustic & electric guitars, dulcimer, mandocello, vocals
- Marie Yacoub / electric & acoustic dulcimer, psaltery, zither ("épinette des Vosges"), hurdy gurdy, vocals
- Laurent Vercambre / violin, cello, keyboards, electric dulcimer, mandolin, vocals
- Hughes de Courson / percussion, bass, keyboards, crummhorn, recorder, vocals
- La Bamboche / traditional Folk ensemble (4)
- Jean-Daniel Mercier / string arrangements (4)
String quartet (4) :
- Michel Cron / violin & 5-string violin
- France Dubois / violin
- Paul Hadjaje / viola
- Hubert Varron / cello

1. "Salut à La Compagnie" (0:55) choral vocals with bass drum. They sound tired--as if it's well past midnight and the wine has run out. (4.333/5)

2. "Quand J'étais Chez Mon Père" (3:44) layered vocals with simple stringed accompaniment (electric bass, acoustic guitar, violin, mandolin). Rather one-dimensional and monotonous. The additional instruments in the final minute are nice. (8.375/10) 

3. "Margot" (0:59) an all-male start gives a different feel and sound but then the female voices join in and spread the harmonies out nicely. (4.5/5)

4. "Les Tristes Noces" (7:45) solo male voice opens this before single female joins in the second half of the opening minute. Instruments anciens and more voices join in around the one-minute mark as the train tries to gain momentum. By 1:37 things are finally rolling with bass and violin showing the movement. Lone male vocalist takes the singing over, weaving his way between/among the bass and violin. All stop at 4:10 for shaker bells and what sounds like a processional dancing through. When voice, violin and bass return they sound funereal--really somber and sad. (13.5/15)

5. "Voici Venir Le Joli Mai" (0:24) sounds like a Xmas carol sung by tired chorus.

6. "Voici La Saint-Jean (ronde)" (3:13) electrified instrumentation and syncopated song structure give this one a bit of a 20th Century sound and feel. I like the prominent role female vocalist Marie Yacoob is given on this song. Plus, the vocal arrangement (and its sound engineering) is very creative and interesting. There is almost an early CLANNAD feel to this song. (8.875/10)

7. "Les Luneux" (5:04) very interesting engineering to the delicately played opening instruments (lots of echo) here. Then they all disappear as Marie Yacoob takes on the lead vocal as a solo, a cappella artist. When the sparsely played echoed guitar returns, it gives the music quite a Brian Eno eerie ambient effect. I LOVE this! Easily my favorite song on the album. (10/10) 

8. "Branle De La Haie" (2:08) a more traditional RenFaire-like song amped up with some electricity. (4.375/5)

9. "Quand Je Menai Mes Chevaux Boire" (4:39) would that I liked a lyrics-driven song. The music of this is just too repetitive and monotonous. (8.4/10)

10. "La Fille Au Cresson" (3:40) the weave at the start of this one sounds a bit too out-of-synch/cacophonous but then it all thins out as the vocalists enter. I absolutely love this unique and unusual vocal performance (and arrangement). (Perhaps it is the fuzzy effects/recording techniques employed to some of the full-tapestry instruments [electric guitar and hurdy gurdy] that cause the illusion of timing/synchrony issues.) Again the music serves more to support the lyric/singing, which is, to me, unfortunate. (8.75/10)

11. "L'Écolier Assassin" (8:38) soft picked acoustic guitar, electric bass, and organ support Gabriel's lead vocal. The ethereal support vocal team for the chorus is excellent. After three minutes of highly repetitive music, there is an interesting interlude of sharpened knives (violin) and other attention-grabbing sounds within the musical weave, but then we're back at the same boring repetition. Again: it's too bad that I'm not a lyrics/story-driven music listener or this would fare better in my ratings. The next, second sharp-knives interlude lasts a bit longer than the first but then at the seven-minute mark we're back at the monotonous vocal-carrying motif. (17.5/20)

12. "Noël Est Arrivé" (2:03) military drumming with bass and violin jumping to provide a texture for a kind of rollicking cabaret song. At least the song and performers sound alive and alert on this one. (4.4/5)

Total time 43:12

Emanating much more from the mediæval troubadour traditions, if that's the way you like your Prog Folk, there are enough unusual, creative sound and structural choices here to make this both proggy and highly interesting for the prog music lover. I do find it interesting that the band chooses to intentionally avoid the Celtic traditions of Brétagne (especially since Marie and Gabriel both performed with Alan Stivell before forming Pierre de Grenoble [their original name for the band before Malicorne]). Still, I am very grateful for their efforts to uncover and resuscitate some of France's old folk classics. 

88.48 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent dip into the ancient traditions of French folk music though perhaps more for the Prog Folk lover, not so much for the true prog lover. Highly recommended if you like storytelling and have a fairly good command of French.  

61. STRAWBS From the Witchwood (1971)

The first Strawbs album I ever owned. I picked it up when I saw that YES- and Six Wives of Henry VIII keyboard hero Rick Wakeman had been a member.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Dave Cousins / acoustic & electric guitars, banjo (1,2), dulcimer (2), tenor recorder (7), vocals
- Tony Hooper / acoustic guitar, autoharp (1), tambourine (7,10), vocals
- Rick Wakeman / organ, piano, electric piano (4), harpsichord (7,9), Mellotron (8), Moog (6,8), celesta (1), clarinet (2)
- John Ford / bass, vocals
- Richard Hudson / drums, snare drum (5), sitar (3,7,8), vocals

1. "Glimpse Of Heaven" (3:53) as becomes the band's pattern, they open the album strongly with an inspiring/emotional song that inspires sing-a-long participation from the listener. Wakeman's keyboard prowess is notable from the very start. It feels so unusual for me to hear organ and banjo paired as two lead instruments. A top three song for me. (9/10)

2. "Witchwood (3:26) more sedate, traditional folk arrangement. (8.6667/10)

3. "Thirty Days (2:55) sounds very much like THE BEATLES 1967--especially with the John Lennon-like vocals (not Dave Cousins). (8.66667/10)

4. "Flight (4:27) weird electric piano intro shifts into guitar-picked weave with another BEATLES-like vocal (lead and harmonies) and structure/sound palette--though the amped up chorus section sounds and feels more like THE HOLLIES (with Wakeman barrel-room vamping on the piano). (8.75/10)

5. "The Hangman And The Papist" (4:14) a long, multi-keyboard intro morphs into a more traditional almost-JTULL-sounding English folk rock tune. Wakeman's organ is going gonzo behind the vocal and strumming 12-string--like a seething predator on the hunt. (8.75/10)

6. "Sheep" (4:16) more theatric and ARTHUR BROWN-like--even to the point of sounding like it came from 1968 or 9. The dichotomy of old blues-rock rhythm section and structure with wailing away organ play may be a bit too extreme. Wakeman is impressive but I'm not sure it works with the more folk-centric leanings of the rest of the band. (8.6667/10)

7. "Canon Dale" (3:49) "There goes Rick, again, so let's just do our thing as if he isn't here." Were these guys on the same page? in the same room? In the same ballpark? (8.75/10)

8. "The Shepherd's Song" (4:35) back to more Strawbs sounding folk music. I could do without the sitar, but the vocal arrangements here are awesome and Wakeman is more subdued (or, at least, mixed more into the background); putting him on the Mellotron while allowing him intermittent Moog flourishes was a really good idea. The "White Rabbit"/"Bolero" rhythm track also helps. A top three song for me. (9/10)

9. "In Amongst The Roses" (3:50) I like the gentle pastoral sound and feel to this one--predating the debut album from London-based AMERICA. Another top three song. (9.25/10)

10. I'll Carry On Beside You" (3:11) another sing-a-long styled in a rockin' kind of Procol Harum-meets-Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fashion. (8.667/10)

Total Time: 38:36

Now I remember why I never really attached to this one: though all songs are competently formed and performed, there is a lot of tension between the lavish gasconade of Rick Wakeman's keyboard playing style and the simpler folk leanings (and trainings?) of the rest of the members.

88.166667 on the Fishscales = B//four stars; a nice addition to any prog folk loving proghead's music collection though the tensions between keyboard wunderkind Rick Wakeman and the rest of the core band members might be a bit too obvious and too disparate for universal acclaim. 

62. ITHACA A Game For All Who Know (1973)

After Agincourt came Ithaca. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Lee Menelaus / vocals
- Peter Howell / guitar, mandolin, piano, organ, recorder, percussion, effects
- John Ferdinando / guitar, bass, auto harp, organ, vocals, composer
- Cement (?) / backing vocals
- Martin Garrett / 12-string guitar
- Robert Ferdinando / Classical guitar (6)
- Brian Hussey / drums
- Andrew Lowcock / timpani, flute (2)

1. "Journey" (4:56) cool fast-paced folk romp with Jon Ferdinando in the lead vocal. There is a MOODY BLUES-like familiarity to this. (8.75/10)

2. "Questions" (4:03) piano, autoharp, tambourine and multiple flutes pen this before the doubled-up voice of Lee Menelaus enters. In the third motif John Ferdinando takes over as the lead singer, singing in a lower range. (8.25/10)

3. "Times" (8:19) John singing in a gentle Robert Wyatt-like pitch and timbre over strummed acoustic guitar, organ, tympani and electric lead guitar. At 3:30 there is a clean break and switch into an entirely different more-upbeat, poppy motif as Lee Menelaus takes over the lead vocals duties. A little more C & W feel to this one. Lee, who was so amazing on the Agincourt album, feels so under-utilized. (16/20)

4. "Feelings" (5:32) John singing in the low almost noncommittal voice over some standard music. At 3:20 there is a shift in dynamics to which John shifts his singing voice to his higher voice. Lee performs as a superfluous b vox. I like this section much better than the soporific first two-thirds. (8.25/10)

5. "Dream" (2:58) another pop-jazz tune over which Lee is let loose to perform her best vocal of the album (even if it is doubled again). Nice fuzz guitar beneath. (8.75/10)

6. "A Game For All Who Know" (7:06) The proggiest song on the album, having multiple themes and all kinds of theatric effects and recordings in the mix, we are once again graced with the (doubled) voice of Lee Menelaus for the first singing exposition. This is followed by a rather nice instrumental passage (great drumming despite the pounding of an utterly annoying piano.) The second part of this instrumental section is quite CAMEL-like. Then organ and classical guitar return for the final section and then a page is ripped out of the book and we're done! I wish it would go on forever! (14/15)

Total Time: 32:54

85.33 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; a very enjoyable display of placid Prog Folk.  

63. PEARLS BEFORE SWINE The Use of Ashes (1970)

An American folk singer-songwriter who has attracted a lot of praise for his lyrical flair and Dylan-esque song delivery style.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Elisabeth Rapp / vocals
- Tom Rapp / vocals, guitar
- Charles Ray McCoy / dobro, guitar, bass, harmonica
- Mac Gayden / guitar
- David Briggs / piano, harpsichord
- Hutch Davie / keyboards
- Buddy Spicher / violin, cello, viola
- Bill Pippin / oboe, flute
- John Duke / oboe, flute
- Norbert Putnam / bass
- Kenneth Buttrey / drums

1. "The Jeweler" (2:48) interesting lyrics but I am not a fan of this voice--and it's not just his lisp: it's his 'fragile' vibrato warble. I feel the influence/style of Jacques Brel in this song. (8.75/10)

2. "From the Movie of the Same Name" (2:21) an instrumental (despite multi-voiced vocalise throughout) sounds so 1960s (especially the recording and the presence of harpsichord). (4.333/5)

3. "Rocket Man" (3:06) beautiful compositional arrangement is detracted for the murky sound rendering.(8.75/10)

4. "God Save the Child" (3:08) an obviously emotional song is diminished by the dated quality of its sound. (8.66667/10)

5. "Song About a Rose" (2:21) (4.25/5)

6. "Tell Me Why" (3:43) gorgeous melodies with the wonderful Latin arrangement. By far my favorite song on the album. (10/10)

7. "Margery" (3:03) the worst recording of Tom's voice on the album--and not even a very good performance. Even the song and instrumental construction is poor. (8.3333/10)

8. "The Old Man" (3:16) another song that just overreaches: it feels so dated and naïve--especially in its design. (8.4/10)
9. "Riegal" (3:13) the highlight here, for me, is the appearance/presence of Tom's wife, Elisabeth in the lead vocalist role while Tom serves as the harmonizing background vocalist. The interplay is charming! Too bad it's not more interesting musically and melodically. (8.6667/10)

10. "When the War Began" (5:07) Another song that conjures up Jacques Brel comparisons--for its subject matter, treatment of its subject matter, tired, plaintive vocal delivery and very simple arrangement of its musical accompaniment. (8.666710)

Total time: 32:06

The sound engineering on this one is, sadly, murky--which detracts from the lovely multi-layered orchestra-laden arrangements throughout. Though I appreciate Tom Rapp's lyrical and compositional genius, I am not a fan of his voice. It's just a tad better than that of Richard Harris--and it's recorded poorly. Many of the songs just seem so affected and clichéd.

87.57 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice listening experience for any Prog Folk-loving music collector but not really something I highly recommend as an addition to one's album collection. In fact, despite my high marks for its song-crafting, I would definitely categorize this as "good, but non-essential."

64. STEELEYE SPAN Below The Salt  (1972)

British folk rockers fourth album shows them honing their skills as well as drawing some classics from their countries folk tradition.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Maddy Prior / vocals, bells, tambourine
- Tim Hart / vocals, electric & acoustic (9) guitars, tabor, spoons, Appalachian dulcimer
- Bob Johnson / vocals, electric & acoustic (8) guitars
- Peter Knight / violin, fiddle, mandolin, tenor banjo, viola, piano (9), vocals
- Rick Kemp / bass, drum, vocals

1. "Spotted Cow" (3:06) If ever there was a truer Engllish folk song please let me know it: singing about one's errant bovine seems so mundane it must be a common enough event to make a valid topic for a folk song--a song worth singing (obviously). (8.6667/10)

2. "Rose Bud In June" (3:41) very traditional English Folk. (8.5/10)

3. "Jigs: The Bride's Favorite, Tansey's Fancy" (3:10) a very traditional English Folk instrumental with some rock and country elements. (8.66667/10)

4. "Sheep-Crook And Black Dog" (4:44) brooding electric guitar strums the opening before Maddy enters, accompanied by a second electric guitar, electric bass, and violin. Kind of cool. Halfway the music takes a left turn with arpeggiated guitar chords and a more subdued vocal style coming from Ms. Prior. I don't know why the band fashioned this rather radical shift--unless it's due to an entirely different song being tagged onto the opener--but then the music shifts back to the original motif for the final minute. Odd! But interesting enough to make my top three. (8.75/10)

5. "Royal Forester" (4:33) a more-dance-oriented song with some lively singing from Ms. Prior. The electric bass is too far forward while the annoyingly distorted electric guitar strumming is way back. Then, after the first verse and chorus, the electric instruments balance themselves in the foreground while Maddy dances along. I like the multi-voice vocal arrangement for the next chorus in the middle section. (8.75/10)

6. "King Henry" (7:09) A long story that suffers from the too-forward annoying bass play but is made interesting from the crazed violin and lead electric guitar play.  (13/15)

7. "Gaudette" (2:25) an all-vocal performance in the ancient church traditions. Very cool effect of slowly fading in as if the troupe was coming up a street toward the listener. A top three song. (5/5)

8. "John Barleycorn" (4:48) Steeleye Span's take on a traditional English folk tale. This is surprisingly upbeat and loose--like a late night drinking song--quite dissimilar to the interpretation made by fellow Brits, Traffic. I like Traffic's version better. (8.75/10) 

9. "Saucy Sailor" (5:47) odd choice to give Maddy the lead vocal on a sea shanty--but then, this doesn't play out at all like a rollicking drunken sailors' song. The delicately played treated acoustic guitars and piano are quite interesting (though the bass is typicaly dull). My final top three song. (8.875/10)

Total time 39:23

A little more pure traditional English Folk fare than is my liking, I appreciate these skilled performers, I just prefer something a little more progressive or "proggy." 

86.62 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a recommended addition to any Prog Folk lover's music collection though not necessarily for the straight-laced prog rocker. 

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
EDEN Erwartung (1978) - 93.4375
FLAIRCK Variaties op een Dame (1978) - 93.25
ALAN STIVELL Renaissance of the Celtic Harp (1972) - 93.0
LILY & MARIA Lily & Maria (1968) 92.85
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
HÖLDERLIN Hölderlin's Traum (1974) - 91.85
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
JOHN MARTYN One World (1977) - 90.625
CAROL OF HARVEST Carol of Harvest (1978)90.21
CLANNAD Clannad - 90.189
HARMONIUM Harmonium (1974) - 90.05
THE PENTANGLE Basket of Light (1969) - 90.04
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 (1970)- 89.77
ITOIZ Ezekiel (1980) - 89.67
LINDA PERHACS Parallelograms (1970) - 89.64
MELLOW CANDLES Swaddling Songs (1972) - 89.58
TUDOR LODGE Tudor Lodge (1971) - 89.41
SHAKTI Natural Elements (1978) - 89.375
CLANNAD Dúlamán (1976) - 89.16667
JAN DUKES DE GREY Mice and Rats in the Loft (1971) - 89.12
ÉMERAUDE  Geoffroy (1981) - 89.0
OBERON A Midsummer's Night Dream (1971) - 88.98
SPIROGYRA Bells, Boots and Shambles (1973) - 88.89
RAGNARÖK Ragnarök (1976) - 88.89
CONVENTUM Le bureau central des utopies (1979) - 88.875
ACCOLADE Accolade (1970) - 88.86
THE AMAZING BLONDEL Fantasia Lindum (1971) - 88.796
FUCHSIA Fuchsia (1971) - 88.75
LOS JAIVAS Alturas de Macchu Picchu (1981) - 88.57
BRÖSELMASCHINE Bröselmaschine (1971) - 88.57
MALICORNE Almanach (1976) - 88.48 
ITOIZ Itoiz (1978) - 88.33
TREES The Garden of Jane Delawney (1970)- 88.25
STRAWBS From the Witchwood (1971) - 88.16667
THE PENTANGLE The Pentangle (1968) - 87.97
ALAN STIVELL Chemins de terre (1973) - 87.9
THE PENTANGLE Solomon's Seal 
(1972) - 87.78
PEARLS BEFORE SWINE The Use of Ashes (1970) - 87.57

B / Four Star Albums of Virtue (87.49 to 83.34):
THE PENTANGLE Cruel Sister (1970) - 87.25
MIDWINTER The Waters of Sweet Sorrow (1993 from 1972-3 recordings) - 87.11
JOHN MARTYN Solid Air (1973) - 86.94
HORSLIPS The Tain (1973) - 86.74
STEELEYE SPAN Below The Salt  (1972) - 86.62
THE AMAZING BLONDEL England (1972) - 86.18
AGINCOURT Fly Away (1970) - 86.15
OUGENWEIDE Ougenweide (1973) - 86.01
PERERIN Haul Ar Yr Eira (1980) - 86.0
STRAWBS Grave New World (1972) - 85.83
ITHACA A Game For All Who Know (1973) - 85.33
FAIRPORT CONVENTION Liege & Lief (1969) - 85.0
STRAWBS Hero & Heroine (1974) - 85.0
OUGENWEIDE Eulenspiegel (1976) - 84.33
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):


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).

GOTIC Escenes (1978)

Not really prog Folk but replete with some folk melodies and pastoral sounds.
The Catalon music scene has certainly given us a lot of beautiful music--and Escenes is one shining example; perhaps even the highest point of the region's contributions. 

1. "Escenes de La Terra en Festa I de La Mar en Calma" (4:02) a Chick Corea/Joe Sample like display of keyboard-led artistry. I like the second half's dreamy reverbed flute passage the best. (8.75/10)

2. "Imprompt I" (5:53) more impressive whole-band weaving that sounds very much like something from the Los Angeles pop jazz/jazz rock scene of the same period (session musicians who participated on Steely Dan, Tom Scott, Joe Sample, Crusaders albums and the like). (8.75/10)

3. "Jocs d'Ocells" (3:33) a gentle, contemplative soft jazz start that is led by flute and supported by some very nice piano play reminds me very much of some of FOCUS' most beautiful songs--like "Love Remembered" and "La Cathédrale de Strasbourg." Very enjoyable. (9/10)

4. "La Revolucio" (4:08) a wonderfully engaging, cheerful, almost childishly optimistic song (9.5/10)

5. "Danca d'Estiu" (3:30) awesome upbeat, uptempo folk-infused song with great melodies coming from the keyboards and flutes with very tight rhythm section beneath. (9.25/10)

6. "I Tu Que Ho Veies Tot Tan Facil" (5:39) more somber symphonic fare (due to the presence of church organ) this one is more keyboard-led and Celtic in melodic sensibilities making it sound as if it could come from the mind and hands of a keyboard wiz like Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, or Pär LIndh. (8.875/10)

7. "Historia d'una Gota d'Aigua" (10:14) opens as a gorgeously pastoral guitar and multi-track flute-based folk suite. The development is slow and subtle, and the complexity is lacking some sophistication, but it is definitely a pleasant listening experience. (17.5/20) 

Total Time: 36:59

A wonderful display of regionally-based melodies and highly mature and impressive compositions from virtuosic musicians. Too bad the band did not thrive and continue.

90.16 on the Fishscales = A-/4.5 stars; a minor masterpiece of progressive rock music bumped up for its overall consistency and skillfulness. 

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 First 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)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Robin Williamson / lead (2-4,6,7,11,13) & backing vocals, acoustic guitar (2-4,6,7,11,13), oud & mandolin (10), bowed gimbri (1), bass gimbri (12), flute (2,3,10,12), drums (5,8,10,12), rattle (5)
- Mike Heron / lead (1-3,5,8-10,12) & backing vocals, acoustic guitar (1-3,5-10,12,13), harmonica (7)
- Christina "Licorice" McKechnie / backing vocals (3,6,12), finger cymbals (3)
- Danny Thompson / double bass (2-4,7,9,10,13)
- John Hopkins / piano (4)
- Nazir "Soma" Jairazbhoy / sitar & tamboura (4)

1. Chinese White (3:40)
2. No Sleep Blues (3:53)
3. Painting Box (4:04)
4. The Mad Hatter's Song (5:40)
5. Little Cloud (4:05)
6. The Eyes of Fate (4:02)
7. Blues for the Muse (2:49)
8. The Hedgehog's Song (3:30)
9. First Girl I Loved (4:55)
10. You Know What You Could Be (2:46)
11. My Name Is Death (2:46)
12. Gently Tender (4:49)
13. Way Back in the 1960s (3:11)

Total Time 50:10


Line-up / Musicians:
- Robin Williamson / guitar (2,5,11,12,15,16), 12-string guitar (3), mandolin (2,3,16,18), bass (2,5,8) violin (4,6,9,16,18), flute & guimbri (1,16,18), jew's harp (4), washboard (4), shenai (6,10), soondri (10,18), piano (14), percussion (1), drums (18), vocals
- Mike Heron / guitar (6,8-11,18), sitar (1,16), mandolin (9), piano (4,6,7,18), organ & bass (18), vocals
- Christina "Licorice" McKechnie / spoons (9), drums (10,18), guitar (17), vocals (2,16-18)
- Rose Simpson / guitar & tabla (1), bass (6,7,9-11,18), vocals (4,8,11,18)
- Paul Bradley Couling / vocals (18)
- Malcolm Le Maistre / vocals (18)
- Pete Grant / banjo (4)
- Janet Shankman / harpsichord (5), vocals (4)
- Tom Constanten / arrangements (5)

Disc 1 (53:57)
1. El Wool Suite (8:31)
2. The Juggler's Song (3:13)
3. Time (3:58)
4. Bad Sadie Lee (3:49)
5. Queen of Love (8:37)
6. Partial Belated Overture (2:56)
7. Light in Time of Darkness/Glad to See You (10:16)
8. Walking Along With You (3:59)
9. Hirem Pawnitof/Fairies' Hornpipe (6:20)
10. Bridge Theme (2:18)

Disc 2 (53:10)
11. Bridge Song (8:49)
12. Astral Plane Theme (4:52)
13. Invocation (4:49)
14. Robot Blues (4:09)
15. Puppet Song (6:16)
16. Cutting the Strings (5:10)
17. I Know You (3:24)
18. Rainbow (15:41)

Total time: 107:07

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

Line-up / Musicians:
- Robin Williamson / lead (1-3,6-8,10) & backing vocals, acoustic guitar, guimbri, whistle, percussion, pan pipe, piano, oud, mandolin, Jew's harp, chahanai, water harp, harmonica, arrangements
- Mike Heron / lead (4,5,9) & backing vocals, acoustic guitar, sitar, Hammond organ, hammered dulcimer, harpsichord, arrangements
- Dolly Collins / flute organ, piano, arrangements (6,7)
- David Snell / harp
- Christina "Licorice" McKechnie / vocals & finger cymbals (2)
- Judy Dyble / vocals (2) - not credited
- Richard Thompson / vocals (2) - not credited

1. Koeeoaddi There (4:49)
2. The Minotaur's Song (3:22)
3. Witches Hat (2:33)
4. A Very Cellular Song (13:09)
5. Mercy I Cry City (2:46)
6. Waltz of the New Moon (5:10)
7. The Water Song (2:50)
8. Three Is a Green Crown (7:46)
9. Swift as the Wind (4:53)
10. Nightfall (2:33)

Total time: 49:51

AMAZING BLONDEL Blondel (1973)

Founding member John Gladwin has left leaving only Edward Baird, Terence Wincott, Adrian Hopkins, and Jack La Roche to carry the torch forward.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Edward Baird / vocals, guitar
- Terence Wincott / vocals , guitar, percussion, flute, crumhorn, piano, recorders
- 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

The music here steps closer to (if not into) the 20th Century compared to previous album releases by the band, losing it's anachronistic feel (and charm) while gaining more modern forms, lyrics, and simplicity.

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, yet 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?"

JETHRO TULL Minstrel in the Gallery (1975)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Ian Anderson / vocals, flute, acoustic guitar, producer
- Martin Barre / electric guitars
- John Evan / piano, organ
- Jeffrey Hammond / bass, string bass
- Barriemore Barlow / drums, percussion
- David Palmer / orchestral arranger & conductor
- The London Philomusica (members):
- Patrick Halling / violin, leader
- Bridget Procter / violin
- Elizabeth Edwards / violin
- Rita Eddowes / violin
- Katharine Thulborn / cello

1. Minstrel In The Gallery (8:13)
2. Cold Wind To Valhalla (4:21)
3. Black Satin Dancer (6:53)
4. Requiem (3:45)
5. One White Duck/0^10 = Nothing At All (4:39)
6. Baker St. Muse (16:42)
- a Pig-Me And The Whore
- b Nice Little Tune
- c Crash-Barrier Waltzer
- d Mother England Reverie
7. Grace (0:37)

Total Time: 45:10

JOHN RENBOURN The Black Balloon (1979)

Line-up / Musicians:
- John Renbourn / acoustic guitar, producer
- Tony Roberts / flute
- Stuart Gordon / tabors (snare)

1. The Moon Shines Bright (3:59)
2. The English Dance (2:53)
3. Bourree I And II (2:24)
4. Medley: The Mist Covered Mountains Of Home / The Orphan / Tarboulton (9:31)
5. The Pelican (7:07)
6. The Black Balloon (11:34)

Total time 37:28

JOHN RENBOURN The Nine Maidens (1985)

Line-up / Musicians:
- John Renbourn / acoustic guitar, drum (4,5), cittern (5), composer & producer
- Rémy Froissart / guitar (2)
- Toby Pedley / recorder (4,6)
- Tony Roberts / Northumbrian small pipes & recorder (5)
- Joe Tancock / bodhrán (5)
- Jeff Merrell / fiddle (5)
- Ben Burrow / congas (6)
- Julian Diggle / tambourine (6)

1. New Nothynge (4:07)
2. The Fish In The Well (2:31)
3. Pavan D'Aragon (5:46)
4. Variations On My Lady Carey's Dompe (6:15)
5. Circle Dance (4:29)
6. The Nine Maidens (13:27) :
- Clarsach (5:39)
- The Nine Maidens (5:00)
- The Fiddler (2:45)

Total time 36:35

STEELEYE SPAN Parcel of Rogues (1973)

With their use of several electrified instruments per song--as well as their instrumentally-dominant song arrangements--this is truly what I'd call centrist Prog Folk. Great song constructs with the amazing voice of Maddy Prior (usually) in the lead.
Line-up / Musicians:
- Maddy Prior / vocals
- Tim Hart / vocals, guitar, Appalachian dulcimer
- Bob Johnson / vocals, guitar
- Peter Knight / violin, mandolin, viola, piano, harmonium, recorder, vocals
- Rick Kemp / bass, drums, vocals

1. "One Misty Moisty Morning" (3:30) Maddy in the lead over a nicely constructed song. (8.5/10) 
2. "Alison Gross" (5:29) group choir with electric guitars in accompaniment. Sounds like THE HOLLIES or some multi-voiced vocal group from the 1960s. (8.5/10)
3. "The Bold Poachers" (4:18) male voice in lead over this slow, sad ballad. Great instrumental choices and arrangements. (9/10)
4. "The Ups And Downs (2:45)
5. "Robbery With Violins (1:47)
6. "The Wee Wee Man (4:01)
7. "The Weaver And The Factory Maid (5:21)
8. "Rogues In A Nation (4:34)
9. "Cam Ye O'er Frae France (2:49)
10. "Hares On The Mountain (4:33)

Total time 39:07

BERT JANSCH & JOHN RENBOURN Bert and John (1966)

Though this might not truly qualify as "Prog" folk, it is an interesting and landmark album of recorded guitar duets. More what the elders in southwestern Wisconsin would call "Old Time" music than folk, there isn't even any singing until the fourth song and then again not until the tenth! yet this is a much-revered album. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Herbert "Bert" Jansch / acoustic guitar, banjo (13), vocals (4,10), arrangements
- John Renbourn / acoustic guitar

1. East Wind (1:25)
2. Piano Tune (1:39)
3. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (3:51)
4. Soho (3:00)
5. Tic-Tocative (1:56)
6. Orlando (1:40)
7. Red's Favourite (1:34)
8. No Exit (1:26)
9. Along the Way (2:04)
10. The Time Has Come (2:55)
11. Stepping Stones (2:43)
12. After the Dance (2:26)

Total time: 26:39


An Essex artists commune began touring with their multi-media show and were finally swooped up by John Peale.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Root Cartwright / guitar, mandolin, recorder
- Belinda Bourquin / fiddle, piano, recorder, vocals
- David Jones / percussion
- Lyn Edwards / percussion
- Terry Budd / drums, lights, props, effects
- Roger Swallow / drums
- Jeremy Ensor / bass guitar
- Joe Read / bass guitar
- Martin Stellman / vocals
- Vivienne McAuliffe / vocals

1. "Enigmatic Insomniac Machine" (5:00) (8.5/10)
2. "Sacrifice" (7:18) (12.75/15) 
3. "Death of Don Quixote" (13:33) of theatric interest but musically is quite long and tedious. (23/30)
4. "Third Sonnet to Sundry Notes of Music" (7:34) combining minstrel, chantry music with JTull-like blues rock! The musicianship on the electric instruments is loose and flawed. (11/15)
5. "To a Broken Guitar" (2:41) (4/5)
6. "Pinky: A Mystery Cycle" (9:53) has a GODSPELL / early/unpolished RENAISSANCE sound and feel to it. (16/20)

Total time: 44:59

7. "Ballad (Of the Big Girl Now and the Mere Boy) [bonus track] (2:41)
8. "Lament for the Earth [bonus track] (4:49)

Theatric music, to be sure--especially in the performance singing of Vivienne McAuliffe. There may not be a better female vocalist in the classic prog era in terms of clarity in pronunciation and pitch-perfection than Vivienne McAuliffe--even superior to Annie Haslem. 

80.26 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; a fair contribution to Prog World. 

PHOENIX Cei Ce Ne-Au Dat Nume (1973)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mircea Baniciu / lead vocals, 12-string guitar, percussion
- Nicolae Covaci / lead & 12-string guitars, flute, percussion, vocals, composer, arrangements
- Iosif Kappl / bass, violin, percussion, vocals, arrangements
- Costin Petrescu / drums
- Valeriu Sepi / percussion

1. "Ciclul Anotimpurilor: Preludiu: A Oilor" (1:05)
2. "Ciclul Anotimpurilor: Preludiu: Jocul Timpului" (3:18) though the repeated single note from the electric guitar feels annoying, it eventually digs into your brain, recedes from notice, becoming integral to both the rhythm and foundation of the song, so that the other instruments start to gain some attention.  (8.75/10)

3. "Ciclul Anotimpurilor: Primãvara: Introducere" (1:03) silence!?!
4. "Ciclul Anotimpurilor: Primãvara: Pãpãruga" (2:35) has a Latin, almost South American folk feel to it. Nice weave between electric bass, electric guitar and percussives--almost South African or Juju-like. The vocals are good. (8.75/10)

5. "Ciclul Anotimpurilor: Vara" (4:21) sounds like something from Britain or the US's West Coast Psych Pop scene in the late 1960s. The vocals are quite poppy--almost in the whole-band doowop style. Could be The Zombies, The Hollies, or even The Association. (8.75/10)

6. "Ciclul Anotimpurilor: Toamna" (4:31) a standard Brit psych pop rock tune with vocal stylings and melodies that sound so South American to me. Nice guitar playing in the solo section, despite the bass player's natural ability stealing the show (again). (8.75/10)

7. "Ciclul Anotimpurilor: Iarna: Introducere" (1:15) taking us back to old BEATLES and YARDBIRDS. (4.25/5)

8. "Ciclul Anotimpurilor: Iarna: Jocul Caprelor" (1:35) fuzz bass and cymbals, then bass drum and hi-hat, then fuzz bass before drums and guitar riff take over and drive us to the end. (4/5)

9. "Nunta" (4:19) more old-styled "early" rock sounds and structures over which traditional folk song has been adapted. (8.5/10)

10. "Negru Vod? - Balad?" (14:56) sounds like it could be the early teenage band of Jan Akkerman or some members of FOGHAT. The twin machine gun fire of the lead guitar and bass are highlights. (26/30)

11. "Pseudo-Morgana" (6:49) I've seen this song compared/paired with Pink Floyd's "Echoes"! The second half does get a little more interesting with some more dynamic lead guitar work, and the percussion work throughout is good, but in the same league with Pink Floyd? No way! (12.5/15)

Total time 45:47

The bass player, Iosif Kappl, seems to be the leader here--even in the melody-making department--as his playing seems to constantly draw my attention. The South American/Latin vocal stylings are quite unxpected to me. (Is there a reason for this?)  

85.95 on the Fishscales = C+/3.5 stars; nothing here whatsoever that would lead me to categorize this music in the Prog Folk sub-genre--even less than Jethro Tull. This might be of interest/entertainment value to any lover of early blues-psych rock music.  

PHOENIX Cantofabule (1975)

Romanian Folk Rock!

Line-up / Musicians:
- Mircea Baniciu / lead vocals, acoustic guitar
- Nicolae Covaci / lead, acoustic & 12-string guitars, recorder, vocals
- Günther Reininger / piano, electric piano, synthesizer, celesta, electronic organ, Korg keyboard
- Iosif Kappl / bass, violin, recorder, vocals
- Ovidiu Lipan / drums, bongos, timpani, gong, bells, tambourine
- Florian Pittiș / narration (1)

1. "Invocatie (10:13)
2. "Norocul Inorogului (3:19)
3. "Scara Scarabeului (2:20)
4. "Definul, Dulce Dulful Nostru (5:49)
5. "Uciderea Balaurului (4:35)
6. "Stima Casei (2:21)
7. "Pasarea Calandrinon (5:50)
8. "Filip Si Cerbul (4:30)
9. "Vasiliscul Si Aspida (3:55)
10. "Sirena (3:45)
11. "Pasarea Roc..k And Roll (5:32)
12. "Canticlu A Cucuveaualiei (7:07)
13. "Zoomahia (6:04)
14. "Phoenix (3:44)

Total Time: 69:04


More avant jazz to my ears than Prog Folk.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Egill Ólafsson / vocals, keyboards
- Þórdur Árnason / guitar, vocals
- Karl J. Sighvatsson / keyboards, Hammond, backing vocals
- Rúnar Vilbergsson / bassoon
- Tómas Tómasson / bass, keyboards, vocals
- Ásgeir Óskarsson / drums, backing vocals

1. Sigtryggur vann... (3:24) (/10)
2. Brúðkaupssálmur (0:35) 
3. Brúðkaupsvísur (3:00) (/10)
4. XXX (0:07)
5. "Æri-Tobbi" (6:32) meld Eloy with Focus and  and this might be what you get. (/10)
6. "Frá Vesturheimi" (6:15) alternating funk and space in a Rickie Lee Jones/Weather Report kind of way. (8.75/10)
7. "Skriftagangur" (5:40) more FOCUS-like but in a laid-back, slightly jazz-psychedelic way. (8.667/10)
8. Bannfæring (3:47) (/10)
9. Sjö sinnum..... (6:45) (/15)
10. Tóbaksvísur (3:40) (/10)

Total Time: 39:45

CARNASCIALIA Carnascialia (1979)

A one-off of world folk music from a group of Milan-area musicians--a project that might have produced more were it not for the untimely and tragic death of Demetrio Stratos later the same year. 
Line-up / Musicians:
- Pasquale Minieri (CANZONIERE DEL LAZIO, MAURO PAGANI) / acoustic & electric basses, vocals, co-producer
- Giorgio Vivaldi (CANZONIERE DEL LAZIO, MAURO PAGANI) / percussion, flute, co-producer
- Demetrio Stratos (AREA) / vocals
- Clara Murtas / vocals
- Nunzia Tambara / vocals
- Piero Brega (CANZONIERE DEL LAZIO) / vocals
- Danilo Rea (FABRIZIO DE ANDRÉ, PERIGEO) / piano
- Luciano Francisci (ANGELO BRANDUARDI) / accordion
- Tommaso Vittorini / saxophone
- Pablo Romero / panpipes
- Carlo Siliotto (CANZONIERE DEL LAZIO) / violin
- Mauro Pagani (PFM) / violin, mandolin
- Marcello Vento (ALBERO MOTORE) / drums

1. "Canzone Numero Uno (c'è Chi Batte I Denti, Chi Prende Il Ritmo E Ci Balla Sopra)" (5:57) gently picked acoustic guitar opens this giving the song a MAXOPHONE-like sound. Voice and wandering/solo fretless bass enter, doing little to detract from that initial impression. As the song moves along more and more layers are heaped on with multiple voices, winds, percussion instruments, accordion, and violins all claiming territory in the mix. My favorite song on the album. (9/10)

2. "Fiocchi Di Neve E Bruscolini" (3:03) fun with Demetrio Stratos. (8.75/10)

3. "Almeisan" (9:39) as if a bucolic Eric Satie piano piece were embellished with all kinds of Italian nuances. Interesting, relaxing, and nice. (17.5/20)

4. "Kaitain (22 Ottobre 1962)" (6:56) a polyrhythmic weave of several rudimentary African instruments with panpipe, Demetrio Stratos' odd vocalizations, and jazzy saxophone. Interesting if not winning/relaxing. Has a bit of Weather Report feel to it. (12.75/15)

5. "Cruzeiro Do Sul" (5:41) shaker bells are joined by multiple female vocals each doing their own vocalise rendered onto one panning track. Centralized piano and, later, slow-panning violins and bass join in to fill the soundscape in way that is reminiscent of an orchestra doing their warmups and tunings. I don't know who's playing the sustained synthesizer chords beneath the nasally / muted rudimentary saxophone  in the final 90 seconds, but I love it! (8.75/10)

6. "Gamela" (6:59) as indicated by the title, an experimental foray into the band members' perception of the Gamelan phenomenon. The bouncy, percussive bass play gives it a more African or Caribbean feel (again conjuring up reminisces of the adventurous music of Weather Report). The violin, mandolin, and fuzzy electric guitar work (and/or is it a nose flute?) in the fourth minute is very cool. Female and male scat and call-and-response style vocals enter in the fifth minute making it feel much more like Juju music.  (13.25/15)

Total time 38:15

An interesting if not always engaging or completely enjoyable collection of musical experiments, I think this album only showed the potential the collective was only beginning to tap--that future expeditions would have shown much more complete musical compositions.

8.75 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an interesting listen/addition for any prog lover's music education but hardly anything that I would call essential--or even highly recommended. 

FIORI-SÉGUIN Deux cents nuits à l'heure (1978)

Québecois folk sensations Serge Fiori (HARMONIUM) and Richard Séguin (SÉGUIN) began a brief collaboration in 1976 which resulted in Richard's participation on Harmonium's last studio album L'Heptade (November 1976) and then this award-winning hit album, released in 1978. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Serge Fiori / vocals, 6- & 12-string electric & acoustic guitars, Fender Rhodes (1,4), tambourine (7)
- Richard Séguin / vocals, 12-string acoustic guitar
- Monique Fauteux (CONTRACTION, HARMONIUM) / vocals (1,2,5,6)
- Robert Stanley (VILLE EMARD BLUES BAND, HARMONIUM) / guitar
- Jeff Fischer (HARMONIUM) / synth (1,3,4,6,7), organ (3)
- Neil Chotem (HARMONIUM) / Yamaha e-piano
- Libert Subirana (HARMONIUM) / flute (2,5,7), alto (2,5,6) & soprano (3,4) saxophones
- Michel Dion (TOUBABOU, VILLE EMARD BLUES BAND) / fretted & fretless (1,4) basses
- Denis Farmer (TOUBABOU, CONTRACTION, VILLE EMARD BLUES BAND, HARMONIUM) / drums, cowbell (5), tambourine (7)
- Pierre Cormier / congas (4,7)
- Michel Lachance / tambourine (7)

1. "Deux cents nuits à l'heure" (8:22) pop Country-Western; not very proggy at all. (17/20)

2. "Ça fait du bien" (8:31) more like what one comes to expect from anything involving Serge Fiori. (17.75/20)

3. "Illusion" (7:30) more dynamic and prog rocky than the previous two songs--though it does get a little EAGLES-like at times. The finish (final 90 seconds) is by far the best part--perhaps the best thing on the album. (13.25/15)

4. "Viens danser" (6:04) light and bouncy Fender Rhodes backs Serge's melodic vocal. Apparently, this song was quite the hit in French-speaking countries at the time--probably helping to propel the album to it's "Album of the Year" Félix prize at the first annual Gala de l'ADISQ. Infectious Latin rhythms and melody quite similar to those that would render Joe Jackson's "Cancer" a minor hit in 1982. (8.875/10)

5. "Chanson pour Marthe" (4:26) the lead vocal here sounds so fragile with its DONOVAN "Hurdy Gurdy Man" exaggerated vibrato. Again, radio-friendly pop schlopp is what this sounds and feels like, not Prog Folk. (8.6667/10)

6. "La moitié du monde" (6:34) French Billy Joel anyone? A very emotional song construct--one that is obviously intended to pull hearstrings. (8.75/10)

7. "La guitare des pays d'en haut" (6:14) more jazz-tinged pop music in the TOTO/STEELY DAN vein. Polished, professional, and highly engaging. Gino and Joe Vannelli would be impressed. (9/10)

Total Time 47:43

86.49 on the Fishscales = B-/3.5 stars; a wonderful collection of expert song-crafting that is, unfortunately, not as prog-worthy as one might be led to believe: To my ears, the music encapsulated in this album is more pop-oriented than true folk or prog folk.


Avant Fusion of World Music, Jazz-Rock, and Prog Folk from Italy. I am guessing that thanks are due to the input and support of AREA's Paolo Tonati in the production booth.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Carla Murtas / vocals
- Carlo Siliotto / vocals, violin, piano, percussion
- Pasquale Minieri / guitar, bass
- Maurizio Gianmarco / tenor & soprano saxes, flute, piano
- Marcello Vento / drums, percussion, vocals
- Giorgio Vivaldi / percussion

1. "Nu Gatto Come nu Lione" (9:21) the loose, free-form jazz feel of this one reminds me of JONI MITCHELL's collaborative album with the majority of the members of WEATHER REPORT, Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (one of my 10 Favorite Albums of All-Time). Wonderful energy here! And wonderful musicianship on display in the world-fusion music represented here. I love the ethnic vocal "conversations" going on over the course of this song. Both the African and gipsy references seem quite appropriate. (17.75/20)

2. "Glorias" (10:14) guitars and violin open this with a Grappelli-Reinhardt-like weave before the music turns more to an open-air folk call and response style (reminding me of the next decade's Les Negresses Vertes project from France). (17.3334/20)

3. "Zandamela (Timbilas)" (3:10) again, the Afro-Latin (Caribbean!) rhythm play here is so fun--and so reminiscent of Don Juan's Reckless Daughter. (9/10)

4. "Poeta (Borgata Camion)" (7:00) bleeding over from the timbales/kalimba song, things slow down and thin out so that piano, bass, and, later, violin can join in on the plodding, relaxing weave. Choral vocals in the sixth minute. They sound almost Bulgarian! About two-fifths of the way into the song, a break occurs before a radical shift in the music unfolds. Latin rhythm base fuses with African and Arabian themes and techniques in the horns, bass, percussion, and vocals to give this quite an unique sound. The nearly all-percussive seventh minute reminds me of the jam in Chicago's "I'm a Man." Hypnotic. (13.25/15)
5. "Mogadishu" (8:15) once again bleeding over from the previous song, the rhythm weave slowly changes pace and then form as piano and saxophone join in to give the song some blues-rock context. The repetitiveness of the first half of the song becomes rather tedious despite some nice sax, synth, and percussion work, but then with less than three minutes to go the song kicks into gear with a driving blues rock motif (wich sounds quite a bit like The Moody Blues' "I'm Just a Singer [in a Rock and Roll Band]") over which Carla Murtas sings in her intriguing warbly voice. The finish is fantastic with its Don Pullen-like piano flayling. (17.25/20)

Total Time 38:00

87.745 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a solid contribution of World Music-Jazz-Rock-Prog Folk fusion that makes for a very interesting, entertaining, and often uplifting musical listening experience.

OUGENWEIDE Ohrenschmaus (1976)

With this, their third studio album release, the German sextet finally succumb to rock forms and formats. The result is less Prog Folk and more Prog-Rock Folk--much more dramatic in the musical construction (to match the theatric vocal performances of Olaf Casalich?).

Line-up / Musicians:
- Olaf Casalich / vocals, drums, percussion, tubular bells
- Minne Graw / vocals, harmonium, piano
- Wolfgang Henko / acoustic & electric guitars, mandolin, vocals
- Stefan Wulff / bass, piano, zither, accordion
- Frank Wulff / acoustic guitar, mandolin, flute, recorder, Indian harmonium, bouzouki, bombard, vocals
- Jürgen Isenbart / glockenspiel, vibraphone, marimba, drums, tubular bells, vocals
- Achim Reichel / backing vocals (4), producer
- NDR Sinfonieorchester / strings (2,5,7)
- Peter Hecht / string arranger & conductor (2,5,7)
- Stewart Fahey / trumpet & trombone (6)

1. Bombarde-Ment (1:10)
2. "Kommt Ihr Jungfern Helft Mir Klagen" (5:03) more mature compositionally but, in my opinion, a sad rock sellout. (8.75/10)
3. Eines Freitags Im Wald (3:11)
4. "Pferdesegen (Contra Uermes)" (2:00) (4.5/5)
5. "Bald Anders" (6:32) farily plain first three-quarters before moving into Jethro Tull territory for the final 90 seconds. (8.75/10)
6. "Im Badehaus" (3:08) weirdly campy--like a FALCO song. (8.5/10)
7. "Ouwe Wie Jaemerliche" (4:21) another song in which Minne Graw's soprano in the background draws attention. Nice atmosphere. Strings should/could be replaced by Mellotron. (8.75/10)
8. Engelboltes Tochter Aven (3:01)
9. "Rumet Uz Die Schäemel Und Die Stüele" (1:54) (/5)
10. Alfol (1:00)
11. Der Schlemihl (3:55)
12. Merseburger Spieluhr (0:37)

Total time 35:52

I have to admit it: I don't like the new clothes, the new direction. It would appear to me that someone with money and status took them under their wing (a record label, producer, or even a highly respected engineer in some higher class recording studio) and convinced them that they deserved to sell more records and that going more rock 'n' roll was the way to do that. I love the unique, more creative and less homogenized version of the band and their music from their first two albums--which are more folk-oriented--where their unique creativity came shining through in the subtleties and in the details of their song construction. Plus, I admit it: I'm a more acoustic snob; I like my Prog Folk more on the folk side than the rock side.

on the Fishscales = / stars; 

OUGENWEIDE Eulenspiegel (1976)

The core sextet has remained intact for three albums now and the band has made a conscious choice to return to more folk arrangements of the songs they are writing and resurrecting.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Olaf Casalich / vocals, drums, percussion
- Minne Graw / vocals, harmonium, grand piano, electric piano, flute
- Wolfgang Henko / guitar, mandolin, vocals
- Stefan Wulff / bass, guitar, accordion
- Frank Wulff / guitar, mandolin, banjo, flute, crumhorn, bouzouki, vocals
- Jürgen Isenbart / percussion

1. "Till (0:23)
2. "Tyllurius Spiegelius" (3:21) sounds like a travelling minstrel's simplistic song for the rural audiences. (8.5/10)

3. "Der Hofmaler" (5:05) a sad dirge-like song that is drawn out. (8.5/10)

4. "Till Und Die Gelehrten" (4:28) sung like a classical motet despite the banjo and, later, drums and barrelhouse piano in the background. (8.5/10)

5. "Tills Ende Und Vermächtnis" (5:20) another folk song intended to rouse and get a rise from the plebian masses. (8.4/10)

6. "Welscher Tanz Und Hupfauf" (2:46) a very pleasant anachronistic instrumental. (4.5/5)

7. "Totus Floreo" (2:36) opening as a more high-brow courtly piece of music, it eventually drops into what sounds/feels like a more sarcastic tone (à la acerbic masters COMUS). (8.75/10) 

8. "Wol Mich Der Stunde" (5:28) (/10)
9. "Durch Den Ermel Gat Dâz Loch" (4:58) again opening as something being performed for a high class audience with Minne's solo voice singing in a reverent operatic tone. When the full band joins in at the one-minute mark it sounds like GRYPHON before moving a little more toward a rock form. The delicate COVENTUUM start to the instrumental section is nice but then it all goes blues rock with the electric guitar taking over the lead from the tuned percussives. (8.667/10)

10. "Enzio" (2:06)

Total time 36:31

Too bad that most of the songs and their presentations are replete with irreverent, often tongue-in-cheek humor. 

84.33 on the Fishscales = C/three stars; despite being, in my opinion, a step down from the band's first two albums, this is still a fair addition to one's music collection--especially for Prog Folk lovers or Ougenweide completionists.

CLANNAD Clannad 2 (1975)

Donegal's royal family of Gaelic modernism takes a step toward more traditional renderings of their cherished Irish music.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Máire Brennan / lead vocals, harp
- Noel Duggan / lead guitar, vocals
- Pádraig Duggan / guitar, mandola, vocals
- Pól Brennan / flute, bongos, guitar, vocals
- Ciarán Brennan / double bass, guitar, piano, vocals
- Pádraig O'Donnell / vocals
- Mícheál Ó Domhnaill / guitar, vocals
- Tríona Ni Dhomhnaill / keyboards, vocals
- Dónal Lunny / synthesizer, guitar, percussion, producer

1. "An Gabhar Bán" (3:14) a Gaelic lyric sung over the music of a classic Celtic tune. (8.667/10)

2. "Eleanor Plunkett" (2:49) harp intro before guitar, mandola, piano, double bass, and, lastly, flute and, later, pipe join in to support and carry the gentle pastoral melody. Beautiful; almost lullaby-like. (9/10)

3. "Coinleach Glas An Fhómhair" (5:46) fancy folk guitar play opens this before the plaintive voice of Máire Brennan and her brother Ciarán's double bass join in. The Pentangle influence is pronounced. Very solid, professional. I like the supportive background choral vocalise in the second half. (9/10) 
4. "Rince Philib a'Cheoil" (1:50) nice traditional-sounding little ditty. (4.25/5)

5. "By Chance It Was" (5:40) a stripped-down palette with only piano and guitars supporting Máire's vocal until the first instrumental bridge when flute takes a very pretty, airy, extended solo. The verses following this are stripped back even further with just muted guitar strums from two of the guitars providing the rhythmic accompaniment for Máire's classic folk vocal. Full weave and flute return for the final section/outro and fade out. (8.875/10)

6. "Rince Briotánach" (3:14) solo harp opens this one--steel string harp! After 30 seconds over which Máire has established both melody and pace, other acoustic instruments gradually join in--including hand drums, flute, pipes, and even snare. Sounds very much like Alan Stivell's work. (8.75/10)

7. "Dhéanainn Súgradh" (5:38) harp opens this one, but soon the whole ensemble has joined in and male lead and background vocals enter in a kind of call-and-response format. It feels strange to have Máire's vocal presence so hidden/almost absent, but the males have very nice voices. Distorted electric guitar takes the most dominating solo in the instrumental passage in the middle. This one must have provoked some controversy. (8.75/10)

8. "Gaoth Barra Na dTonn" (2:33) a cappella Máire. (4.25/5)

9. "Teidhir Abhaile Riú" (2:48) more traditional sound palettes and group-vocal arrangements. (8.6667/10)

10. "Fairly Shot Of Her" (2:20) nice harp, full strings (guitars, mandola, harpsichord, bass), and flute weave. (4.5/5)

11. "Chuaigh Mé Na Rosann" (6:18) Máire singing in her native tongue over gently-picked guitars. Piano and double bass join in for the second round and then tin whistle solos in the second minute before the next verse. More of the same rotating twice more over the next four minutes. (8.75/10)

Total Time 42:10

The more close-to-traditional arrangements and constructions of the bulk of this album's songs must have been the band (and record label)'s response/reaction to criticism from national purists. It's nice--with very full arrangements--but I like it more when they stick to their own directional instincts in terms of the more modern stylization of the music they choose to record. Other than the presence of drums on a few songs and one song with saw-like electric guitar, there is less proggyness in the engineering and production of this album than their debut from 1973. For a prog lover like me, this is a step backward for the band.

87.85 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; an excellent collection of more traditionally rendered Celtic folk songs but not quite the proggy touch that the band's debut album seemed to promise--or that would indicate the direction their future would take.  

HARMONIUM L'Heptade (1978)

Serge Fiori's final studio album under the Harmonium moniker is quite ambitious but realizes wonderfully the busy and full brain of a musical genius.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Monique Fauteux / vocals (7) & choir vocals (4,5), electric piano
- Michel Normandeau / acoustic guitar (5)
- Robert Stanley / electric guitar (5,7,8)
- Serge Fiori / 6-string (5,8,9) & 12-string (2,4-6) electric and acoustic 6- & 12-string guitars, vocals & choir vocals (4,5), musical co-director
- Serge Locat / Mellotron (2,4-6,9) & synthetized (7), organ (2,4,6) & pipe organ (8), piano & electric piano, synthesizer (2,4-6)
- Libert Subirana / clarinet & bass clarinet, flutes (4,9), alto saxophone
- Louis Valois / bass, Fender Rhodes electric piano (5), organ (6), musical co-director
- Denis Farmer / drums, percussion (2,5,9), congas (4)
- Neil Chotem / celesta, Fender Rhodes (6,7,9), piano & synth (8), orchestral co-arranger & conductor
- Michel LaChance / tambourine (5), musical co-director
- Anthony Chotem / classical guitar (8)
- Montréal Symphonic Orchestra
- Calvin Sieb / 1st violin
- Jack Cantor / 1st cello
- Jeanne Baxtresse / flute
- Peter Bowman / oboe
- Dorothy Masella / harp
- Louis Charbonneau / percussion
- Estelle St. Croix / vocals (9) & backing vocals
- Pierre Bertrand / backing vocals (4,5)
- Richard Séguin / backing vocals

CD 1 (46:01)
1. "Prologue (4:20)
2. "Comme un fou (7:52)
3. "Sommeil sans rêves (1:23)
4. "Chanson noire (8:10) :
- i) Le bien, le mal
- ii) Pour une blanche cérémonie
5. "L'appel / Le premier ciel (11:21)
6. "Sur une corde raide / L'exil (12:56)

CD 2 (39:20)
7. "Le corridor / Les premières lumières (8:13)
8. "Lumières de vie (14:12) :
- i) Lumière de nuit
- ii) Éclipse
- iii) Lumière de jour
- iv) Lumière de vie
9. "Prélude d'amour / Comme un sage (14:04)
10. "Épilogue (2:50)

Total Time 85:21

Bombastic. Theatric. Conceptually ambitious, grandiose and interesting but, perhaps, Serge bit off a little more than he (or his band mates) could handle. There is a lot of attention to detail and subtlety--certainly a lot of love and energy went into the creation and production of this album but, I have to ask myself, was it rally worth it? Does Serge look back at this product and project with more pride than embarrassment, more satisfaction or regret? This is, IMO, not unlike the creation, production, realization, and performance of an opera or a five-act Broadway musical: a gargantuan undertaking. While I like the project overall, and find many, many wonderful and wonderous moments, I also find myself at times getting bored and getting confused: How does he want me to feel here? Up or down--cuz I feel both. The music changes so often and so dramatically that I'm often confused. For example, during "Comme un fou" the speed-up and slow-down, minor and major rollercoaster is so regular that I almost find myself nauseous. The point is that each and every 'feature' song has so many shifts and changes that it's virtually impossible to come away with a singularly comprehensive impression from any one song much less a one number rating for each. There are parts of every song that are outstanding. There are also parts of every song that become tedious, overworked, or seem superfluous--which then makes it very difficult to give any one song a 10/10 rating (or five stars). I love the prologues, interludes, and epilogues--kind of like the Eric Woolfson effect on the first Alan Parsons Project album--though much more Broadway-esque here (the seeds for future bands/projects like UNEXPECT and CIRQUE DU SOLIEL?)--yet they are kind of innocuous and can't be said to really add to or augment much of the album's effect. There are many magical moments in this 85 minute journey, but not enough to earn it masterpiece status much less my highest recomendations. My guess is that the collaboration with Neil Chotem and the preferential employ of female singer Monique Fauteux may have contributed to the exodus of other Harmonium founding members. Too bad. "Si on avait besoin d'une cinquième saison" was--is--really something extraordinary. "L'exil" (a truly emotionally enrapturing song--musically, lyrically, and, especially, vocally) is really the only song that truly fulfills--and may even surpass--the promise of their previous work. "Lumières de vie" is far too self-indulgent and melodramatic and "Comme un sage" is too long and totally reliant on the hook of one vocal melody--albiet a gorgeous one--though not as one-dimensional as "Le corridor."

5 star songs: "L'exil," "Le premier ciel,"

4 star songs: "Comme un fou," "Chanson noire," "Comme un sage"

This is a tough album to rate because it is so ambitious, so full, so emotional, yet it ultimately disappoints, seems to have fallen short of expectations, and presents not enough brilliance to keep one coming back again and again. A 3.5 album I'm going to rate up for the sheer effort and dreams of an extraordinary soul. Wherever you are now, Serge, I thank you profoundly for your contributions to my life.


Popular Brazilian musician who died young was friends to some very fine musicians but none were as amazing as he. 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Marco António Araújo / acoustic guitars, arrangements
- Alexandre Araújo / guitar
- José Marcos Teixeira / synthesizers
- Max Magalhães / piano
- Eduardo Delgado / flute
- Jaques Morelembaum / cello
- Ivan Correa / double bass
- Lincoln Cheib / drums
- Nando Carneiro / synthesizers arrangements (3)

1. "Lembranças (16:35) I cannot recall a composition in which flute plays such a dominant role.
2. "Caipira (6:22)
3. "Lucas (4:22)
4. "Para Jimmy Page (5:17)

Total Time: 32:36

Though late to the prog scene in Anglo-American terms, Marco was an example of the ripple effect of prog across the globe--and especially across South America. 

CLANNAD Fuaim (1982)

After a few stumbles, Donegal's an clann as Dobhar climbs back on top of its more progressive wagon toward the heights that their debut and 1976 Dúlamán predicted. Almost as significantly, this was the debut album for the Brennan's baby sister, now-21-year-old Enya (though she did participate in one song from the band's previous Crann Ull album, "Gathering Mushrooms"). 

Line-up / Musicians:
- Máire Brennan / vocals, Irish harp
- Enya Brennan / vocals (5,11), keyboards
- Noel Duggan / guitar, vocals
- Pádraig Duggan / harmonica, mandola, vocals
- Pól Brennan / flute, guitar, tin whistle, vocals
- Ciarán Brennan / double bass, guitar, mandolin, piano, synth, vocals
- Pat O'Farrell / electric guitar
- Neil Buckley / clarinet, alto & soprano saxophones
- Noel Bridgeman / percussion

1. "Na Buachaillí Álainn" (2:55)
2. "Mheall Sí Lena Glórthaí Mé" (4:16) (/10)
3. "Bruach Na Carriage Báine" (2:35) (
4. "Lá Breá Fán DTuath" (0:45) (/5)
5. "An TÚll" (3:05) (/10)
6. "Strayed Away" (2:43) (
7. "Ní Lá Na Gaoithe Lá Na Scoilb?" (6:11) (/10)
8. "Lish Young Buy-A-Broom" (3:27) (/10)
9. "Mhórag 'S Na Horo Gheallaidh" (1:40) (/5)
10. "The Green Fields Of Gaothdobhair" (4:07) (/10)
11. "Buaireadh An Phósta" (2:52) (/10)

Total time 34:36

on the Fishscales = / stars; 

KEBNEKAJSE Kebnekajse II (1973)

Swedish band gathering traditional music eclectically from many world sources.

Line-up / Musicians:
- Kenny Håkansson / guitar
- Ingemar Böcker / guitar
- Mats Glenngård / guitar, fiddle
- Pelle Lindström / guitar, fiddle, harmonica
- Thomas Netzler / bass
- Göran Lagerberg / bass
- Pelle Ekman / drums
- Gunnar Andersson / drums
- Hassan Bah / percussion
- Marit Turid Lundqvist / vocals (1)

1. "Rättvikarnas gånglåt - Med Turid" (5:03) an instrumental (aside from wordless choral vocalise in the background) folk/country reel that just repeats over and over. Nice full band weave. (8.66667/10)

2. "Horgalåten" (6:16) krautrock/psych rock palette and buildup over a one chord base for the first two minutes. Then things settle back into a more laidback groove over which guitars and others solo and weave, shifting to and from a variety of themes that feel old and quite possibly drawn from several ethnic musical traditions. (8.875/10)

3. "Skänklåt från rättvik" (8:30) GRATEFUL DEAD (/20)
4. "Barkbrödlåten" (4:18) (/10)
5. "Comanche Spring" (16:14) (/30)

Total Time: 40:21

Though it seems obvious that the music definitely draws on traditional or "folk" themes and that the instrumental tapestries are quite intricate like some of the top-notch Prog Folk bands, the bluesy rock, even countrified foundations to much of the music almost distance if not disqualify the album from welcome inclusion into the centre of the subgenre fold. Like other blues or world music eclecticists (JTull, Shakti, Gotic, Maxophone, Canzoniere Del Lazio, and Carnascialia), I think of them more as outliers or members of a fringe society.

on the Fishscales = / stars; 

STRING CHEESE String Cheese (1971)

A folk rock band trying to make it out of Chicago.

Line-up / Musicians:
- John Maggi / Drums
- Gregory Bloch / Electric Violin
- Louis Constantino / Bass
- William Dalton / Organ, Piano, Celeste, Guitar, Harpsichord, Keyboards, Sitar, Orator
- Sally Smaller / Vocals
- Larry Wendelken / 12-String Guitar, Vocals

1. "For Now" (3:48) sounds as if it were recorded live on a stage. I love the prominent role of the violin--and the excellent backing vocal harmonies from Sally Smaller. (8.75/10)
2. "Crystal" (5:18) Sally Smaller on the lead vocal over gently picked electric guitar, cymbal play, and violin. Very impressive vocal harmonies for the chorus. (/10)
3. "We Share (3:01) (/10)
4. "Here Am I (6:29) (/10)
5. "Empty Streets (3:01) (/10)
6. "Forage (5:06) (/10)
7. "Soul of Man (4:00) (/10)
8. "Certain Kind of Day (4:32) (/10)
9. "Woke Up This Morning/Coming (1:42) (/5)
10. "Coming (1:41) (/5

Total time: 38:38

I love the prominent contributions of violin as well as full drum kit and electric bass throughout.

FOREST Forest (1969)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Martin Welham / 12-string guitar, organ, harmonium, piano, pipes, percussion, lead vocals (2,4,9,12), arranger
- Derek Allenby / mandolin, pipes, harmonica, harmonium, percussion, lead vocals (1,5,8,10)
- Hadrian Welham / acoustic guitar, mandolin, cello, electric harpsichord, organ, harmonium, pipes, harmonica, percussion, lead vocals (3,6,7,11)

1. Bad Penny (2:38)
2. A Glade Somewhere (3:08)
3. Lovemakers' Ways (3:23)
4. While You're Gone (2:30)
5. Sylvie (We'd Better Not Pretend) (3:49)
6. A Fantasy You (2:46)
7. Fading Light (4:27)
8. Do You Want Some Smoke? (2:55)
9. Don't Want To Go (6:50)
10. Nothing Else Will Matter (4:10)
11. Mirror Of Life (4:43)
12. Rain Is On My Balcony (4:24)

Total time 45:43

FOREST Full Circle (1970)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Martin Welham / 6- (2) & 12-string (1,2,5,10) acoustic guitars, electric harpsichord (10), harmonium (9), piano (3,6), violin (3), percussion (3,6,10), whistle (3,8), lead (3,6,10) & backing vocals
- Derek Allenby / mandolin (2,3,5,7,10), harmonica (1,6,10), percussion (5,10), whistle (3,8,9), lead (1,5,7) & backing vocals
- Hadrian Welham / violin (1,3), bass (1), acoustic guitar (2-6,8,10), cello (2,8), whistle (8,9), percussion (2,3,6), lead (2,8) & backing vocals
- Gordon Huntley / steel guitar (1)

1. Hawk The Hawker (5:48)
2. Bluebell (3:10)
3. The Midnight Hanging Of A Runaway Serf (5:04)
4. To Julie (3:36)
5. Gypsy Girl & Rambleway (4:01)
6. Do Not Walk In The Rain (3:54)
7. Much Ado About Nothing (3:10)
8. Graveyard (5:46)
9. Famine Song (2:12)
10. Autumn Childhood (6:22)

Total time 43:03

YGGDRASIL  Yggdrasil (1972)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Walter Waldosch / vocals, recorder, bass
- Peter Jakob / flute
- Werner Vill / vocals
- Fred Beck / guitar, flute
- Uli Kellner / guitar, bass
- Reinhold Fries / drums

1. "Something On My Mind" (5:13) (8.6667/10)

2. "Birds Still Flyin' in the Rain" (7:51) poor sound on the electric guitar's rhythm play doesn't disqualify this for praise: the sensitive lead work with the beautiful choral vocal work over the final two minutes is quite magical. Otherwise, this sounds like a beginning rock 'n' roll band's attempt at electrification--maybe a folk-ified copy of IRON BUTTERFLY or the like. The flute work is nice and the drumming is solid and proficient. (13.3333/15)

3. "Mothers and Seeds" (7:17) nice 60s rock with the wonderfully talented acoustic folk instrumentation pervading the fringes of some pretty basic heavy blues rock. (13/15)

4. "I'm Setting Old" (4:42) another heavy rock song made better by the flutes and solo instrumental performances; or, rather: another Folk Rock gem dragged down by the out-of-place heavy blues rock orientation of the singer and electric rhythm guitarist. (8.75/10)

5. "Lizzy's Song" (4:43) an acoustic palette (aside from the electric bass)! And a gentler vocal approach. Much more befitting the strumming acoustic guitars, recorder, and gentle choral vocals. Too bad for the blues rock foundational chord structure. (8.6667/10)

LP Total time: 29:46

This is one of those rare albums whose modern reissue offers some really great songs (not just unpolished demos), thus expanding the listener's understanding and appreciation of this wonderful, rare fledgling rock band. But, I will rate the original songs separately so that their place as a 1972 release remains accurate and fair.

Very basic, standard blues rock on the heavy side that is lifted a notch or two by the wonderful lead work from the flutes (two of them!), recorder, bass, and acoustic guitars over, around, and within the rather straightforward boring blues-rock chord progressions. The heavy rock orientation of the lead vocalist (as talented and confident as he is) also seems a bit incongruous, even detracting from what could be some really nice music. 

87.36 on the Fishscales = B/four stars; a nice listening experience for any lover of early prog folk, blues rock, and the experimental territory in-between. 

2009 CD reissue bonus tracks:

6. Harmonie I (1:40)
7. Harmonie II (3:34)
8. Sommer in Sizilien (2:31)
9. Maultrommelpiece (0:16)
10. Stille Tage (3:35)
11. Fliegende Fische (2:30)
12. Lizzy's Song (2:00)
13. Chaos Blues (1:25)
14. Timeless Time (5:54)
15. A Long Distance Call (4:27)
16. Things and Steps Ahead (3:39)
17. Today it Just Seems (2:57)
18. It's up to you, Lizzy (2:40)

CD Total time: 67:14

GABRIEL ET MARIE YACOUB Pierre de Grenoble (1973)

SYNANTHESIA Synanthesia 

A London-based trio whose genre-defying music was probably backed by major record label RCA because of the wild soup of musical experimentation going on in the late 1960s.

Line-up / Musicians:
Dennis Homes - vibes, guitar, vocals
Jim Fraser - alto/soprano saxophone, oboe, alto/nose/concert flute
Les Cook - guitar, bongos, violin, mandolin, vocals

1. "Minerva" (Homes) (4:16) an interesting sound palette with only three band members trying to cover many instrumental inputs without using multi-tracks or overdubs. I can see the basis for the comparisons to COMUS. (8.5/10)
2. "Peek Strangely And Worried Evening" (Cook) (2:48) a nice, simple, upbeat yet-off-beat song rendering. (8.75/10)
3. "Morpheus" (Homes) (5:52) strummed guitar, vibes, and woodwinds (saxes and oboe) used to accompany the solo singer. A truly odd mix (for an odd lyric). (8.66667/10)
4. "Trafalgar Square" (Cook/Carlton) (3:03) (/10)
5. "Fates" (Homes) (2:02) (/5)
6. "The Tale Of The Spider And The Fly" (Cook) (5:59) (/10)
7. "Vesta" (Homes) (4:46) (/10)
8. "Rolling And Tumbling" (Cook/Carlton) (3:15) (/10)
9. "Mnemosyne" (Homes) (5:21) (/10)
10. "Aurora" (Homes) (3:52) (?10)
11. "Just As The Curtain Finally Falls" (Cook) (5:02) (/10)
12. "Shifting Sands" (Homes) (3:15) - bonus track on 2006, Sunbeam reissue.

AMAZING BLONDEL Evensong (1970)

Line-up / Musicians:
- John Gladwin / lead vocals, theorboe, cittern, lute, double bass
- Terence Wincott / crumhorn, pipe organ, recorders, flute, tabor pipe, harmonium, lute, harpsichord, vocals
- Edward Baird / lute, cittern, vocals
- Chris Karan / percussion
- Adam Skeaping / viola da gamba, violone

1. Pavan (3:19)
2. St. Crispin's Day (2:19)
3. Spring Season (3:39)
4. Willowood (3:24)
5. Evensong (3:10)
6. Queen of Scots (1:39)
7. Ploughman (3:06)
8. Old Moot Hall (2:41)
9. Lady Marion's Galliard (3:41)
10. Under the Greenwood Tree (3:15)
11. Anthem (2:53)

Total Time: 32:03

MAGNA CARTA Magna Carta (1969)

Line-up / Musicians:
- Glenn Stuart / vocals
- Chris Simpson / acoustic guitar, vocals
- Lyell Tranter / acoustic guitar, vocals
- Harold McNair / flute
- Johnny Van Derek / fiddle
- Danny Thompson / string bass
- Frank Hedges / percussion
- Tony Carr / percussion
- Spike Heatley / string arranger

1. "Times of Change (2:50)
2. "Daughter Daughter (4:08)
3. "Old John Parker (2:47)
4. "I Am No More (4:14)
5. "Ballad of Francis Alabadalejo (5:22)
6. "Spinning Wheels of Time (3:23)
7. "Romeo Jack (3:39)
8. "Mid Winter (3:35)
9. "Shades of Grey (3:13)
10. "Emily Thru' the Window Pane (3:31)
11. "Sea and Sand (The Isle of Pabay) (3:25)
12. "Seven O'Clock Hymn (6:18)

Total Time: 46:25

on the Fishscales = 

MR. FOX Mr. Fox (1970)

MR. FOX The Gipsy (1971)


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