Saturday, October 3, 2015

Bread Love and Dreams - 1969 - Bread, Love and Dreams

Bread Love and Dreams 
Bread, Love and Dreams

01. Switch Out The Sun
02. Virgin Kiss
03. The Least Said
04. Falling Over Backards
05. Lady Of The Night
06. Main Street
07. Artificial Light
08. Until She Needs You
09. Mirrors
10. Poet's Song
11. The Yellow-Bellied Redback
12. 95 Octane Gravy

David McNiven / guitars, keyboards and vocals
Angie Rew / vocals , flute
Carolyn Davis / guitar, voices

Another acid-folk act coming from Scotland, this time Edinburgh, BREAD LOVE AND DREAM was a trio lead by Glaswegian David McNiven, joining in with a two-women act: Carolyn Davis on guitar and Angie Rew on flute and lead vocals. They toured around Scotland for a while and started a loyal local following, but they sounded much influenced by another Scot act THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND, which was not surprising since they ruled acid folk and it was not the first band inspired by ISB: indeed the Irish Dr STRANGELY STRANGE sounds much like BL&D.

Spotted by Decca staff Ray Horricks at the Edinburgh Festival in 68, they were brought down to London by him to record their first album and it was released in early 69. This self-titled album contained some acid folk with some string arrangements, but the market being flooded by such albums, it sold poorly, enticing guitarist Carolyn Davis to quit.

Decca wanted to cut the band from its roster, but Horricks held good and the group was grudgingly allowed a second chance. Aware of this BL&D first went on the road (sharing stages with MAGNA CARTA and TYRANOSAURUS REX) and wrote new material for their upcoming album. It was during this time that BL&D developed a working project with the Traverse Theatre Group in Edinburgh. Their director Max Stafford wanted McNiven to adapt one of his pieces Mother Earth to the stage actors. It eventually became Amaryllis, given a twist of name. This piece was then performed in Edinburgh, then London, than on a European tour (Scandinavia, Benelux, France & Spain) to apparently great acclaim.

Although reassured of their recent successes, but still not well with Decca, BL&D recorded over 5 days in the summer of 70 two albums' worth of material with a bunch of added guests (including THE PENTANGLE's bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Terry Cox); they even considered releasing a double album (ala ISB's Wee Tam & The Big Huge), but Decca decided against it. Strange Tales Of Captain Shannon was therefore released fall of 70 to critical acclaim, and it contained the lengthy title track that was again in the ISB mould. As their second album failed to sell, Decca quickly released (botched-up marketing and too few copies pressed) in early 71, Amaryllis, which is arguably their best works, but it fail to sell, or even match the sales of the preceding two albums. Although both albums came out with superb sleeves, it was not enough for the public to invest in a second version of ISB. Decca dropped the band after an Edinburgh's Royal Court Theatre's presentation and wrote the whole thing down as a tax write-off.

McNiven and Rew first married, then kept courageously on for a year or two before finally quitting. They would resurface in a Scot band in the mid-70's Mama Flier. McNiven has been writing music for Granada TV in the past two decades and Rew is toying away in theatres

Yet another Scot group that made a dent on the folk-rock scene and their music was inventive enough to be labelled progressive folk as well.

 The first Bread Love & Dreams album, much like the band’s brief career, is a study in glimpses of unfulfilled promise and underappreciated talent. It would be followed up with the more eclectic and ambitious duo of records ‘Amaryllis’ and ‘The Strange Tale of Captain Shannon and the Hunchback from Gigha’. The former explored the ‘acid’ side of acid folk more fully then the debut; and the latter employed a broader array of guest musicians including Carolyn Davis, who departed the band after the first album. Both albums (originally intended to be a double-disc release) would be the more memorable contributions the group gave to progressive folk music, with their self-titled debut relegated to back shelves for years before being quietly reissued on the dubious Hugo-Montes Productions label in 2001.

But in some ways this opening exhibits charms that draw belated fans like me to acid folk, more so than their more well-known works. This one is rather sparse despite having both Angie Rew and Carolyn Davis to accompany multi-instrumentalist David McNiven on the abundant vocals that fill every track. The latter two albums featured only Rew and McNiven for the most part, with more emphasis on varied instrumental arrangements and psych-leaning lyrics as opposed to rich vocal harmonies. The band also doesn’t seem to be taking themselves all that seriously on this record, with songs like the hangover anthem “Switch out the Sun” and the somewhat silly “The Yellow-Bellied Redback” showing a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor on the band’s part.

At times the trio doesn’t stray far from what most would consider traditional folk, particularly in the middle of the album with the laconic “Lady of the Night”, the almost too-staid “Falling Over Backwards” and the slightly self-indulgent ballad “Poet's Song”. But elsewhere there are little flashes of creativity. “Main Street” layers backing vocals from both ladies with harmonica and an upbeat tempo for what is probably the liveliest song on the album. McNiven lapses into ballad-like vocals and acoustic guitar- strumming on “Mirrors”, but here again the vocal harmonies are quite beautiful and the string arrangements and other keyboard flourishes make for a charming vignette.

This isn’t a very memorable album, but it is certainly good enough to merit a proper reissue on some prog-friendly label at some point. Bread Love and Dreams were clearly heavily influenced by the Incredible String Band, and although they began their brief career in a similar vein, the duo of McNiven and Rew would never reach the level of creativity or establish the following that kept ISB going for so long. Too bad. Three stars (but just barely) for this record, with a mild recommendation for serious prog and acid folk fans if you can find it. The Hugo-Montes CD is the only reissue I’m aware of, and doesn’t include any bonus material or anything else to enhance interest, but like I said – hopefully someone, someday will give this a proper re-release with handling appropriate to its place in prog folk history.

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