The HFoS Prog, Psych and Folk Rock Christmas Selection Pack 2011
The constraints of time have decreed that there will only be the one HFoS Selection Pack this year; an amalgamation of three as opposed to the usual singular entities. Time has also put paid to the promised King Crimson reviews, but fear not, they will arrive – like a forgetful Santa – in the new year.
So what festive fare have I picked randomly from the ether for you spend your Our Price vouchers on this year? Read on, my fine fellows and fellowettes:
Rick Wakeman – Journey to the Centre of the Earth
As it’s Christmas, something supremely daft is in order and they don’t come much dafter than this live recording. A man in a cape, with enough electric pianos, organs, Moogs, Mellotrons and what-have-yous to cause an energy crisis on a small Mediterranean island. The London Symphony Orchestra. The English Chamber Choir. Narration from the preposterously eyebrowed David Hemmings (following Billy Dainty’s scheduling conflict). An audience anticipating something with the subtlety of a broken bottle to the throat… What the deuce were they all thinking?
Thankfully, it’s 1974 and this type of thing was pretty much the norm in progressive rock circles. It is also quite the delightful listen, resplendent in its scope and sheer audacity, with grumpy old Rick in fine noodling form, employing the full range of his synthesised arsenal to create a weird and alien soundscape through which Jules Verne’s 19th century tale is interpreted. With Will Malone also on hand to provide the arrangements, Journey to the Centre of the Earth is a fine, if deranged, melding of the rock and classical genres, relayed via the caped wonder’s extensive modular banks.
Journey to the Centre of the Earth, by Rick Wakeman, is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk
Formed by Jimi Hendrix Experience bassist, Noel Redding, Fat Mattress’s self-titled 1969 debut is a refreshing cocktail of psychedelic rock and proto-prog, with generous lashings of folk and bluesy elements for good measure. Undoubted highlights of this thoroughly invigorating mix are the darkly baleful and Traffic-esque ‘Mr Moonshine’, the gentle, trippy psych of ‘Walking Through a Garden’ and the soaring ‘How Can I live’, but with neither hide nor hair of a duffer among the original tracks (with 11 further bonuses on the anthology edition), this musical gateway to a mind-altered reality is an essential addition to any Santa’s wishlist.
Fat Mattress, by Fat Mattress, is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk
The End – Introspection
Included for no other reason than I wrote a feature about The End for Record Collector magazine earlier this year, 1969′s Introspection is a mellifluous collection of psychedelic pop, produced by no other than young William Wyman of popular beat combo, The Rolling Stones fame. Drifting harmonies and a fine line in organ textures, courtesy of sometime Spider From Mars and future record producer, Nicky Graham, provide an otherworldly ambience to tracks such as ‘Dreamworld’, ‘Under the Rainbow’, ‘Shades of Orange’ and ‘Loving, Sacred Loving’. They also add their own unique touch to Larry Williams’ ‘She Said Yeah’, the earlier Stones cover of which is featured on that irritating Bleu de Chanel advert. A full review of Introspection can be found here.
Introspection, by The End, is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk
The Idle Race – Time Is
Recorded and released in 1971, following Jeff Lynne’s defection to The Move, The Idle Race’s third and final album is often overlooked in the grand scheme of things, overshadowed by the previous offerings featuring their soon-to-be world famous, former frontman. True, it lacks the endearing whimsy of Lynne’s toytown-flavoured songs, but there’s still a good deal of mileage to be had from The Idle Race’s new folk/progressive rock direction. The folk flavourings are particularly strong, with the pastoral opener ‘Dancing Flower’, ‘I Will See You’, ‘She Sang Hymns Out of Tune’ and a cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Bitter Green’, all making Time Is the perfect accompaniment to slip into a drunken, late-night Christmas Day reverie.
Time Is, by the Idle Race, is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk
Home – The Alchemist
And Christmas would not be Christmas without a spot of the fantastic, ably provided by Home’s epic 1973 concept album, The Alchemist. A tragic tale of schoolboys, wizards, imminent disaster and a Cornish fishing village makes this a narrative worthy of hungover Boxing Day morning TV, effectively set to some thumpingly good music. Previous albums from Home had enjoyed a guitar-based, more hard/country rock vibe, but in the case of The Alchemist, the four-piece roped in a keyboardist – Jimmy Anderson – and with a range of Mellotron, organ and synth arrangements complimenting the tracks, set forth along the prog rock route. The result is an admirably restrained and a sobering reminder that not all the progressive scene was about excess and grandiose statements. Sometimes the musicianship could be understated, allowing the story to shine through.
The Alchemist, by Home, is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk
And there you have it, the 2011 Christmas selection pack. There should be a special Santa’s stocking prog mixtape on the way in the next few days, so I’ll refrain from wishing you a merry Christmas and making new year promises I won’t hold to, until then.
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