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Review: Reviewers Favourites 2011

Jack Blandiver 02 Jan 12 - 02:27 PM
Jack Blandiver 02 Jan 12 - 02:29 PM
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Subject: Review: Reviewers Favourites 2011
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 02 Jan 12 - 02:27 PM

It occurs to me that many of us here scribble the occasional review for magazines both great & small which many will never get to see. So how about we Occasional Reviewers post here their personal favourite review of their personal favourite album from 2011?

After much deliberation, mine would have to be:

Amazing Blondel

Dead Live in Transylvania

Talking Elephant TECD171

(orginally published in Stirrings)

I'm assuming Amazing Blondel will need no introduction here? Although perhaps younger will remain innocent of such matters, however so innate their curiosity, itself engendered by a lingering reputation firmly cemented in the Mythic Realms of Folk Legend that tells of how, once and long ago, the Blondel walked amongst us, however so briefly, leaving in their wake a trilogy of classic albums that touch the very heart of something called Englishe Musicke - and all thanks to the genius of one John David Gladwin...

Indeed, such was the persistence of Gladwin's stamp, legend barely records how following his departure the other two persevered, but the glorious reality is such that the Blondel without John David Gladwin is like The Fall without Mark E. Smith or Gong without Daevd Allen. On the other hand however, and in all fairness, John David Gladwin without his old colleagues - Terrence Alan Wincott (the man who gave the humble recorder an entirely new voice as thrillingly ancient as anything ever attempted by David Munrow) and Edward Baird (the consummate virtuoso foil for Gladwin's vision) - seems oddly incomplete, as recent archaeological evidence unearthed elsewhere all too readily attests (On Air and Going Where the Music Takes Me - recommended for completists only; naturally I have them both.)

Happily then, here we have the Old Firm, as it were, the original trio re-awakened from a long hibernation, emerging bright-eyed and bushy tailed into the somewhat surreal realms of Ye Olde Reunion Tour some 20 years on from their glory days. However, not content with just getting back together to plough over the old ground for the sake of a few grizzled old fans seeking a dose of nostalgia in their dotage, the reincarnated Amazing Blondel were to record a come-back album (Restoration - 1997) that not only confirmed their pure living genius but effectively, and again in all fairness, blew their earlier albums out the water. All new songs too.

Needless to say Dead Live in Transylvania is Restoration's perfect counterpart - it stands alongside the all too rare live documents of Blondel's classic period (i.e. one CD (There is a Foreign Field...) and a BBC In Concert session that forms part of the dodgy Harvest Gold compilation) so, welcome isn't the word.   Here we have all your old favourites rendered and recorded in pristine hi-fidelity to both the fons et origo of their muse and the high-flying of three master-musicians on top of their game. Kicking off with To Ye (not Toye as many suppose, including the typesetter of the present CD) and the glimmering Seascape, the scene then darkens for the spookily majestic Cawdor (sans Widdershins, alas!) which was one of the chilling highpoints of Restoration. Could have done with more of these actually (Sir John would have been perfect here) but we get to the very lovely Benedictus et Donime taken at a brisker pace than on the album, and a great show piece for their flawless vocal harmonies - think CSN in monk's habits. Or shepherd smocks. Indeed the spooky classic Shepherd's Song, originally essayed with grim seriousness on their first album came to featured as the Concert Comedy Number thereafter, and so it features here. But laughs, banter and Elvis Impersonations aside (oh my aching sides) it still manages to chill, perhaps by dint of hoary association alone.

So, yes, as I say, a most welcome addition the Classic Blondel canon - even allowing for the inclusion of non-JDG era songs such as Sailing and Weavers Song (sung in American accents, I ask you!) both of which only serve to highlight my earlier point that without Gladwin, the Blondel lads are apt to revert to a staggering sort of musical ordinariness (however so well-played it might be) belittled into insignificance by their Greater Genius which you have in spades here anyway.

Terrible cover though, but who's complaining?

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Subject: RE: Review: Reviewers Favourites 2011
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 02 Jan 12 - 02:29 PM

(pre-editing, natch - ahem...)

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