Saturday, 30 November 2013

A Glint At The Kindling and Other Music For Autumn and Winter Evenings

I love this time of year, preferring Autumn and Winter, and here is a small selection of music that evokes an autumnal or wintry atmosphere in some way, that have some essence about them that suits this time and are ideal for cosy Autumn evenings, in front of the hearth.
 We will begin with the rustic countryside themes of 'Songs From The Wood' by Jethro Tull, a long favourite album, and difficult to even try to describe this album of a highly superior standard.    I still remember the effect it had on me when I first heard it, as I had never heard anything like it before and was stunned by its brilliance and from then on wanted to write songs.  Here Ian Anderson lyrically indulges in some jaunty and even naughty country-mood cleverness, all done in a refreshingly witty way, with the songs having a more folkloric inspiration.  This is the album that introduces some new elements of instrumentation, using such instruments as lute, mandolin, portative organ and medieval percussion.  Listen to this unique, brave and masterly work and remember it was released in 1977, when Disco and Punk were at the fore.
The Whistler

'Heavy Horses', the 1978 album that followed 'Songs From the Wood', continues the countryside and often autumnal tone, yet with a more contemporary theme.  It is another favourite album and great inspiration, like the previous one, and everything about it is wonderful, including the fine lyrics.  Songs about creatures such as horses, cats, mice and moths are in the mix.  I'm fortunate to own the large promotional posters for both these albums, and even the rare Heavy Horses songbook.  I could into much greater depth about these albums, but I intend to write about them separately at a later time.

'A Glint At The Kindling' by Robin Williamson & his Merry Band, is an enjoyable album and reflects Robin Williamson's turning to making more traditional, Celtic-based music.  He is a very talented and creative man, from singing, songwriting, poetry, painting, playing an endless number of instruments, etc... Some notable songs on this album include 'The Road The Gypsies Go', 'Me and the Mad Girl', 'The Woodcutter's Song' and 'By Weary Well'

 I also recommend Robin's various storytelling cds: Gems of Celtic Story series, Five Humorous Tales, Four Gruagach Tales, etc...which are a delight to listen to.  He is one of the finest storytellers you will ever hear, a true bard, using different voices and accents;  with some tales he will mesmerize you, with others make you laugh out loud.  His 'Legacy of the Scottish Harp' records are particularly lovely, but I've lost track of his releases, as there are so many.

'Suite Irlandaise' a set of Irish tunes played by master Breton musician Alan Stivell and band in 1972:
Scottish, Irish, Welsh and Breton fiddle ,harp and acoustic guitar music always suits this time of year very well, bringing a comforting, peaceful atmosphere.
Here is a lovely clip of an Irish tune, played by Jackie Daly and Alec Finn
Next are two of my favourite Genesis albums: 
 A Trick of the Tail
'Wind and Wuthering' with an evocative cover painting that conveys the feel of the music

There are many more pieces that could be added here.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Dizzy Man's Band - The Opera

I happened upon this music performance of 'The Opera' by the Dutch band Dizzy Man's Band (on the German music programme Musikladen in 1976) a few nights ago and really like it; it is just loony, funny and very silly!  If you need cheering up, watch this!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Steve Howe: Beginnings

Here is Steve Howe, of Yes, and Patrick Moraz performing 'Beginnings.'  It's an exquisite piece of classical guitar and harpsichord music played by two fine musicians in a handsome setting.

Monday, 14 October 2013

FOX 1975 Self-titled Record

This first record by the band Fox is one I've been interested in for some time and recently got the compact disc with bonus tracks, released by Cherry Red Records.  They were a very good band of regular looking, non-flashy fellows fronted by Noosha, a glamorous lady with a penchant for 1920s and 30s inspired frocks (I suspect some of them may actually have been very lovely vintage dresses, just as later Kate Bush would wear vintage dresses too).  She has a unique voice, quite beautiful yet sometimes going into a childlike style; which also was reflected in her stage presence, which seemed an unusual combination of seductiveness and innocence together.
There are some great songs on the record, which has a certain kind of atmosphere, a definite feeling and sound of 1975 sophisticated and original pop music. 

Here is a video of Fox performing 'He's Got Magic' on German television:

Here are Fox on Top Of The Pops on the 13th of March 1975, performing 'Only You Can':
'Red Letter Day', 'The Juggler' and 'Pisces Babies' are some other songs that stand out for their good melodies and music, and the production quality is high on the whole record, so a nice album and one to be recommended if you are in the mood for this sort of thing.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Sweet : Love Is Like Oxygen & the Level Headed Album

Until a sudden fascination, I'd oddly not been very familiar with Sweet earlier ( but swiftly altered that), but I did know 'Love Is Like Oxygen' and always loved it.  It was written by guitarist Andy Scott and Trevor Griffin and was on the album 'Level Headed', becoming a big hit in 1978 ( I can never understand why some people thought this was ELO, as no one sounds like Jeff Lynne but Jeff Lynne, or Sweet but Sweet, although many have tried).  'Love Is Like Oxygen' is a superb composition in every way, a rock masterpiece.  The full length version of the song, with the progressive instrumental passage in the middle, is the one that really must be heard to fully appreciate this song. 
  This was the last album with the classic four-piece line-up, as lead singer Brian Connolly would depart afterwards.  Listening to this album, one notices a change of direction; it's a softer and more romantic record, different from the previous one 'Off The Record', which was very hard rock, but which also had variation in the styles of songs (and which I probably should have written about before this one).   'Level Headed' showed a further maturity of the band's sound and songwriting (although every album was a progression), a more sophisticated touch with Renaissance and classical elements on some of the songs (Anthem No. 1 Lady of the Lake and Anthem No. 2 are very beautiful).  They sound as if they were bursting with creativity and could set off in many different directions, but this does not reflect negatively on the record, it gives variety and interest.  One can only imagine what further excellent music could have been made if Brian Connolly could have carried on; yet there were three more worthy albums afterwards, with a three-piece Sweet, (with Steve Priest singing most of the lead vocals) and a keyboardist or two.

All the band members were/are highly talented, being masters of their instruments, and all having very good voices (which is not a common skill in most bands).   I like hearing the songs with Steve Priest and Andy Scott singing lead vocals, and of course Brian Connolly was a great lead singer, and Mick Tucker on drums and backing vocals.  There was something extra special about when the four were together, as their harmonies were glorious.  How wonderful it would have been if we could have had another decade or two of more music from this talented band, who could really play anything (and their harder, livelier songs, which show them at their best, are among the most exciting you will ever hear).
 There are various different clips of them on television miming to the shorter, half-length version of 'Love Is Like Oxygen', but this one is my favourite (on German television show Disco, which I hasten to add was nothing to do with disco music) because of the obvious amusement going on:
Here are two more promotional videos of top songs from Level Headed, the first being 'California Nights' with bassist Steve Priest on lead vocals:
and 'Fountain', with Andy Scott on lead vocals, and a lovely harpsichord ending:
The other songs are the pretty 'Lettres D'Amour' and 'Dream On', 'Silverbird', the funky 'Strong Love', and the mysterious and progressive 'Air On 'A' Tape Loop.  There were also two songs for B-sides recorded:  'Cover Girl', and 'Show Me The Way', a sizzling tune left over from the previous album.  I found a little video of it, which I'm featuring here because it is not on the record or cd and only available as a 45 rpm B-side.  There should really be a new expanded edition of this album on cd, including the B-sides and rarities, any Sweet fan would be delighted with that.
Do seek them out and listen!
 Top Of The Pops countdown picture


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Colin Blunstone

Sometime back I heard some Colin Blunstone songs from the seventies, such as 'Andorra', 'Wonderful'  'This is Your Captain Calling' etc... that were very good and I've slowly been getting some of his records.  In the sixties he was in the band The Zombies,  and following that has been a long and successful solo career.  He also sang in the band Argent and has appeared on many of the Alan Parsons Project albums. 

                                       The first record I bought of his was 'Journey',

and recently after hearing this wonderful title song from his album 'Never Even Thought', from 1978, I had to get that one.  Here is the fantastic song (which lures one into listening to over and over), sung with a great depth of feeling as usual:

Ennismore was the next one I listened to, and like the others, has a nice pop rock sound with excellent musicians and wonderful sound and production. 
 Listen to the excellent 'Andorra':
And 'Wonderful:
I will be hunting out more of his enjoyable music in the future.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull: Made In England live

Here is a wonderful video of Jethro Tull in 1983 playing 'Made In England' from Ian's solo album of the same year:

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Steeleye Span: Now We Are Six, and Seven Hundred Elves

 'Now We Are Six' by Steeleye Span, from 1974, is a favourite one of mine.   I believe this was the first of their records I listened to back many years ago, and thought it was wonderful.  What first put me on to them was reading that Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull was the production consultant for the album, and Jethro Tull being my newly favourite band, I had to seek it out.  So over I went to the secondhand record shop and was delighted to find that they had several Steeleye Span records, and I ended up buying them all.   
One thing that immediately strikes one is the beautiful album cover art and design, I think one of the best covers of all time.  It's reminiscent of an exquisite, but rustic medieval wood painting; like a fascinating discovery that was long-lost in a dusty attic in a 15th century half-timbered house.
This album has a much fuller, polished, more rock sound than their previous ones, with the sound quality much improved from the earlier recordings (no doubt due to Ian Anderson's superior supervision and Robin Black's engineering).  The only track I don't like is the final one, 'To Know Him Is To Love Him' with David Bowie on saxophone; it's not up to the standard of the other tracks and doesn't fit in with the tone of the rest of the album.
'Now We Are Six' would be one of the folk albums I would recommend to anyone who isn't too familiar with folk-based music but would like to listen to some and expand their musical horizons.  It's rocky enough to please some, but with traditional ballads as a base and plenty of old-world and eccentric touches to interest anyone like myself who revels in those sort of ingredients.

Here is a video clip of Steeleye Span at the time, performing 'Seven Hundred Elves':

Welcome To The Folk & Rock Musical Box

Hello and welcome to this new musical blog, where I will be journeying through the archives of good music from times past and present, but with a preference for the 1970s.  I'm a musician/artist, and have been an avid record/CD collector for most of my life, and will be sharing some favourites and also rarities from my searches and finds. My musical interests range from traditional English, Celtic and northern European Folk music, Folk/Rock, Rock, Progressive Rock, Early music/Medieval, Baroque, Classical, etc... I'm continually finding fantastic music previously unknown to me, and enjoy hunting out rarities.

There will tend to be a leaning toward whatever I'm particularly into at the moment, so it may be more focused on Rock, or Folk, or something else, then may shift into another direction.
The Folk & Rock Musical Box is meant to be a lovely and enjoyable place for music lovers to visit.  Comments are very welcome.