Sunday, September 20, 2015

Madden & Harris - 1975 - Fools Paradise

Madden & Harris
Fools Paradise

01. Wishes (4:23)
02. Fools Paradise Part 2 (3:20)
03. The Wind At Eve (4:00)
04. Margaret O'Grady (3:12)
05. I Heard A Man Say (1:59)
06. O'Weary Brain (3:20)
07. Cool September (1:34)
08. Fool's Paradise: a) A Children Of Ice (2:15)
09. Fool's Paradise b) Will You Be There (7:38)
10. Fool's Paradise c) E.I.E.I.O (3:18)
11. Fool's Paradise d) End Game (6:58)
12. Remember Me (2:55)
13. A Simple Song (3:16)

Dave Madden / guitar, vocals
Peter Harris / sax, synthesizer, violin, harp, guitar, mandolin, vocals

Paul Baker / bass
Doug Gallagher / drums

A folk duo from Sydney Australia, Madden And Harris had the particularity of being a teacher/pupil team, Peter Harris being a classically trained music teacher who was a multi-instrumentalist (from keyboards to winds, harp and guitars), while Dave Madden was a guitar student of the former. The duo started playing together as early as 72, releasing a single in 74 (Remember Me and its flipside, A Simple Song, both track a pure UK/Celtic-like folk drenched in mellotron), before releasing their only album in 75, Fools Paradise. This album was released on their own private label, Jasmine Records, and only 500 copies were pressed. It was a suopebly illustrated gatefold album with an extremely fascinating innerfold, drawn by Jane Lerossognol and named Fool's Paradise. The album's sidelong suite is dedicated to this painting, and the arrangements are fully progressive some movements are drowned in mellotron drones. Harris once said of Fool's Paradise: "our music lies halfway between a 16th century chamber sound with light jazzy influenced breaks", but there is a pure 60/70's folk-rock vein to be found in their music as well.

Hard to believe that such progressive folk beauties keep appearing in the new millennium, as if crawling out of the woodwork after a long hibernation. This Sydney duo of folkies (a rather unusual combination of teacher and pupil) only released one superb album on their own private label, Jasmine Records, before sinking from the radars' spectrum and into oblivion. This album is a pure gem in its presentation as in its musical content: an often medieval-sounding progressive folk with delicate arrangements, graced by an opulent gatefold with a rich outer artwork an a stunning inner painting of the album's name, courtesy of artist Jane Lerossignol, and dedicated to the sidelong suite gracing the vinyl's flipside. Teacher Peter Harris sings and plays most of the instruments (from keyboards to winds, harp and guitars) except for the guitars, bass and drums, while student Dave Madden handles the guitars and sings and the duo is often joined by a very apt bass and drums section, giving it a true rock spirit.

The opening Wishes is a haunting piece of dramatic-sounding folk in the Bert Jansch mode with cello, harp and guitar accompaniment, with the cello drones sending chills through your back as the track unfolds and a mellotron soloes away, with the two partners trading vocal lines, the track almost dying in a Harmonium fashion before picking up again in a stunning, jaw-dropping beauty and finally ending. Following is a short condensed recall of the sidelong title track, but it might be a bit short to call this a preview or an epilogue, as musically or sonically, it doesn't offer the same thrills, but nevertheless. FP pt2 has much to offer, but ends in a frustrating fade-out. The Wind At Eve is a superb ambient folk piece, again flooded in mellotron washes, with both singers trading melancholic lines. You'd believe yourself on the Winter track of Harmonium's fifth season album. At times, the prog folk duo of Subway (releasing their only album in 72 in Paris) is also somewhat similar to this duo of troubadours.

However, the rather out-of-place Margaret O'Grady is sticking out like a sore thumb with its barroom piano roll-out-the-barrel folk tune. Not atrocious a song in itself, but almost atrociously out of place, but apparently this is the track that was thought of as a promotion for the album. In the same upper mood spirit is the O'Weary Brain track, which takes a small but refreshing musical delire (almost Stackridge- like), and while it ends in a slow church-organ growl, it gives an intro for the closing Cool September, which keeps the organ flowing openly throughout the track. The more conventional I Heard A Man Say is more in the Fairport Convention mould with a soft flute wraps up the opening side of this album.

The stunning four-movement centre/masterpiece title track filling the flipside of the vinyl is obviously the "pièce de résistance" of Fools Paradise. The first movement (A Children Of Ice) starts on a children choir over guitar arpeggios, providing some charming but naïve ambiance, before some brutal drums shake you from your torpor (providing an ideal change of movement as Will You Be There is launched without much warning), while the choir keeps along, now accompanied by one of our troubadours. A piano, a bass, than an electric guitar successively join up, the later for a soaring fuzzed-up solo, the choir having by now disappeared, replaced by Harris' organ than a second passage of the song sequence. Some dissonant guitar arpeggios open-up "E.I.E.I.O" (don't ask ;-), which is a short and quirky but troubled song. The sinister lengthy ending of this track is the aptly titled End Game, first with huge bass line (thinking of Caravan's C'Thlu Thlu bass line) accompanied by string mellotron twirls, abruptly ended by a baritone sax and acoustic guitar strumming and gentle vocals from both M&H, but soon the ambiance becomes more menacing

Clocking at 20:16, the title track is simply Australia's best song, ranking up there with Rainbow Theatre, millions of miles ahead of the botched up Seb Hardie or Windchase. The non-album single bonus tracks are of the same calibre of FP's first side and therefore add even more value to the CD re-issue. The A- side remember me is a gentle but superb mellotron-drenched prog folk song, while its flipside is slightly rockier, but merllotron-laden as well.

One of the more spectacular aural albums discovered by yours truly, M&H's sole album Fools Paradise is one of those 24-carat unearthed gems, that needs no refining. If I have spoken of Bert Jansch, Harmonium, Caravan, Subway, Fairport, Stackridge, I could also cite Comus or Spirogyra (without the wickedness and the acid vocals), and you might just get an idea how superb this album really is.



  2. Hi Drago. The first time I heard a Mellotron is propably on Ummagumma or This weel is on fire courtesy of Brian Auger. But when I was 15 I heard it on Pawn hearts, Wolf city and Atem among others. Since then I am a huge fan of this 'instrument'. So when I disover a new blog I search with keyword Mellotron and so I found this one. Never heard of it. So... thanks!