Saturday, January 9, 2016

Amazing Blondel - 1969 - Amazing Blondel & A Few Faces

Amazing Blonde
Amazing Blondel & A Few Faces


01. Saxon Lady (3:09)
02. Bethel Town Mission (3:15)
03. Season of the Year (2:46)
04. Canaan (3:50)
05. Shepherd's Song (6:14)
06. Though You Don't Want My Love (3:58)
07. Love Sonnet (4:08)
08. Spanish Lace (2:45)
09. Minstrel's Song (5:34)
10. Bastard Love (4:10)

- John David Gladwin / vocals, 12 string guitars, lutes, double bass
- Terence Alan Wincott / vocals, 6 string guitar, harmonium, recorders, flute, ocarina, congas
- Edward Baird / first lute, vocals, glockenspiel
+ Clem Cattini / drums
+ Chris Karan / percussion
+ Gary Taylor / bass
+ Jim Sullivan / arrangements with Amazing Blondel

AMAZING BLONDEL existed throughout the early seventies. Originally formed by John David GLADWIN, Terry WINCOTT and Eddie BAIRD after leaving another even more obscure band called METHUSELAH. For these three, the band was essentially a three piece singing and playing krumhorns, recorders, lute, theorbo, guitars, dulcimers, flute, piano, harpsichord, mellotron, organ, tabor, cittern tubular, bells, glockenspiel and percussion. English mostly acoustic 1969-76. Middle-age renaissance guitar, organ and other instruments, multipart harmony vocals, etc., bordering on the prog movement in England at the time. The musicians had earlier played rock and thus the music cannot be termed classical either. Among lots of famous guest musicians can be named Boz BURRELL, Eddie JOBSON, Steve WINWOOD and Mel COLLINS.

"The Amazing Bondel" was a collection of soft acoustic rock numbers that included one medieval-styled song that seemed to go over better than anything else, and that was the direction they aimed for in their future releases. "Evensong" is a folk album that harked back to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Madrigals and ballads performed on period instruments became their specialty and the trio's creative ideas led to the concept album "Fantasia Lindum", which belongs more to progressive-rock than to folk-rock. "England" used the same technique to craft elegant, lushly-arranged pop songs. GLADWIN left and the surviving duo veered towards STEELEYE SPAN's hard-folk with "Blondel", entirely composed by BAIRD, "Mulgrave Street", "Inspiration", "Bad Dreams". The band reunited 21 years later for "Restoration" (1997), an album which harkens back to their halcon days.

Their third and fourth albums "Fantasia Lindum" and "England" represent the most musically sophisticated of the material, which any progressive fan without an aversion to folk music should have no trouble enjoying. Most fans of early GRYPHON, FAIRPORT, and other British folk rock will be delighted with this band.

 This was actually the first Amazing Blondel album, but spent most of the last 25 years of the century as one of the most sought after collector items. While it's fair to say that the value of the LP was based more on rarity than quality, this is in fact a very good album.
To recap the history up to this point, most members of the band had been in a group called Methuselah, which issued one fairly heavy psychedelic album which featured several strong themes, some of which can be seen infiltrating this somewhat uneven AB debut. About half the tracks owe more to Methuselah while the other half have that Elizabethan flavour for which the group would become better known, if not exactly household names, through the first part of the 70s.

This juxtaposition of styles in almost alternate order actually works quite well, with Wincott's more rugged voice on the delightful "Bethel Town Mission" and the somewhat Blood Sweat and Tears influenced "Canaan" contrasting well with Gladwin's more elfin voice on "Saxon Lady" and "Season of the Year". It doesn't hurt that the songwriting and arrangements are already pretty mature, if simultaneously a bit naiive. The rousing and racous closer, "Bastard Love", produces an unlikely combination of the two styles, resulting in a humour that later would only be perceptible from their live shows.

The weaker tracks hint at Blondel's occasional tendency to overestimate the elasticity of some of their material, as in "Shepherd's Song" which is frankly a bore. But on the whole this is a document that is likely to make more than a few faces happy.

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