Album review: THE GARDENING CLUB – The Riddle


Advance copy [Release date: tbc]

The Gardening Club’s debut album dating back to 1983 is something of a minor prog classic.

Canadian illustrator and musician Martin Springett, English expat and absorber of distinctly English prog stylings, has now unleashed his latest opus.  In the 35-year hiatus Martin hasn’t exactly been inactive, pursuing his design work and releasing the occasional album or EP.

The Riddle may lack the original album’s consistency but nevertheless there is much to like here.  The overall vibe brings to mind a pop prog band like Deckchair Poets and – for example – their album ‘Who Needs Pyjamas’.

Springett’s vocals on the other hand remind of Dave Cousins and indeed latter-day Strawbs is another musical reference point.  The album is a definite grower with tracks such as the catchy ‘Whirled Away’ and the sub-Level 42 ‘Waltz’ with bassist Sean Drabitt leading the fray.

Perhaps what is lacking – given the musical talent on offer – is a more extended workout, and in that sense the album belies its prog pretentions with no track longer than four and a half minutes.  ‘Blues For Richard’ for example is an all-too-short fusion instrumental followed up by the even shorter ‘Leaving Home’.  Ditto there is an excellent (unnamed) instrumental as track 15.

This time round most lyrics are supplied by Canadian poet Cyril McColgan and there is a feeling in places that the integration of lyrics and music is not as natural as it might be.  This sometimes happens with poems set to music.

Martin receives sterling support on the album from multi-instrumentalist Norm Macpherson (and Norm’s son James on drums and synthesiser) and as previously the liner is sumptuously illustrated by Springett himself.  Like the original album, well worth investigating.  ***1/2

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

Album review (The Gardening Club, reissue)

David Randall plays a selection of new and classic rock in his weekly show first broadcast 14 June 2020 including reference to the Feature series “2020 Vision”.

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