Heron – Twice as Nice & Half the Price
I really like the cover of Heron’s 1971 double album Twice as Nice & Half the Price. It depicts the band and the Devon gameskeeper’s cottage, outside of which the album was recorded.
Situated in a wood near to the village of Black Dog, it’s a snapshot of pastoral bliss from a time when bands left, right and centre were decamping to record company-paid, far from the madding crowd retreats, to “get it together in the country”.
Yes, I really like this album cover. I can almost picture myself there too. Enlisted to tickle a triangle, bang a tambourine, or shake a cowbell, which is about the limit of my musical prowess. Outside a cottage. In a wood. In Devon. In 1971.
A few years before I was born, maybe, but one can imagine. Isn’t that what John Lennon said? “Imagine all the people, sharing all the world…” in the exact same year that Twice as Nice & Half the Price was recorded. Mere coincidence? Who knows? All that’s clear is Lennon’s words proved futile, as will any attempt by HFoS to travel back in time and brandish some ineffectual percussion on the sleeve of Heron’s second album.
But did I say how much I liked the sleeve? It doesn’t need my ungainly presence, nor my rhythmical dyslexia spoiling the scene. It’s perfect as it is. It promises so much. Unfortunately the record itself fails to deliver.
Heron’s eponymous 1970 debut – recorded, of all places, in a field (or two) in Berkshire – was a pleasant stroll through some pastoral-folk rock meadows and running at 13 tracks, just about the right length. Twice as Nice & Half the Price however, in being a double album of 24 songs, seems to spread the Heron marmalade (and that metaphor) a little too thinly.
In other words, the prog-folkies with a penchant for recording in the great outdoors, struggle to conserve the interest over the course of this release. Dull, is probably a better way of putting it.
Condensing what they had here into a single entity may have saved it; certainly, cutting out the lacklustre US Soul covers would’ve been a start. But one thinks that overall, the subdued, languorous nature of Twice as Nice… is beyond remedy.
That said, it does have its moments. Their extended arrangement of Bob Dylan’s anti-war song ‘John Brown’ is particularly good, as is the gentle progressive folk of the nine minute ‘Winter Harlequin’, even if, like this review, it does sail close to tedium towards the end.
Two swallows don’t make a summer, and elsewhere things range from passable to pedestrian. Shame really.
Did I mention the cover though? That’s quite lovely.
Twice as Nice & Half the Price is available as part of the Heron double CD, Upon Reflection – The Dawn Anthology, procurable from Amazon.co.uk
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