Market Square Records [Release date 11.03.13] www.marketsquarerecords.co.uk
There is a certain ethereal quality in this album, an eclectic mix for sure from the percussionist Peter Ulrich who featured in cult bands Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil.
If Ulrich’s vocal delivery is somewhat limited in range it doesn’t actually matter because there are compensating delights in the use of Sara Wendt on backing and – on some pieces – lead vocals. And Ulrich is also assisted by guitarist David Steele. And anyway, on ‘Starship (Golden Eye)’ and ‘Drug Of War’ there are echoes of Richard Hawley in Ulrich’s vocals – which may be a good thing or bad – but it’s certainly nothing to worry about and it certainly hasn’t done Hawley any harm.
At first glance, and because of its eclecticism, the album may seem somewhat formidable but after a few listens what emerges is a fine folksy journey and a great vibe that’s a little different. The use of unusual instrumentation such as the ‘Chinese moon guitar’ and the ocarina add colour. But I especially like the female backing vocals.
Only ‘Fanfare For The Lost Tribe’ sounds slightly out of kilter: it’s like David Munrow meets Afro Celt Sound System but without the synthesisers, whilst ‘The Desert’ sounds like Peter Gabriel meets George Harrison at a Hare Krishna meeting. But it all adds to the quite unique-sounding proposition. We must remember that Ulrich was a key feature in Dead Can Dance’s melding of folk and world influences with electronica.
The opener ‘In This Or Other Skin’ is stirring and infectious whilst ‘Pureland’ features Wendt on lead vocals and the song almost becomes a mantra with its eastern flavours.
‘The Secret Gardener’ and ‘Children Of The Rain’ are like something straight out of Haight-Ashbury, wonderful sixties mid-tempo grooves with added brass on the former.
‘Dark Lover’ is more straight-forward folk but more accessible than anything the Incredible String Band have ever done. And ‘Hanging Man’ continues the more typically folk theme of jealous love, with Catherine O’Grady’s suitably ringing uilleann pipes.
‘Love’s Skeleton’ has an almost ‘Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald’ lilt and is another standout along with the closing track ‘Tempest’.
I remember interviewing Kingsley Sage when he was in the excellent band Ammo, and Sage has evidently collaborated on two tracks and helped with production. Ammo seem to have disappeared but he is in good company with this musical troupe.
I am sure this album is best enjoyed on a warm summer’s day, imbibing anything that makes you feel happy. In the middle of the winter this effect may be lost but ‘The Painted Caravan’ is no less fascinating for that. A bit hippy, maybe, a bit dippy, but quite wonderful in its own way. ****
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 30 August 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 8 September 2020.
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