[Release Date 25.10.19]
In the late nineties, Breton’s Alan Simon created “Excalibur”, a Progressive/ Symphonic/ Celtic Folk Rock series, based on Arthurian legend. It proved to be hugely popular in Western Europe, yet it has continued to bump along under the radar in the UK. It’s gained some traction recently, as word of its pan European content, and its success in France and Germany filtered through to these shores.
“Live In Broceliande” is essentially the live version of “Excalibur 3, Origins”, staged in Brittany, in 2002. Similarly, “The Mythical Concert” is the 1999 live version of “Excalibur 1”.
The better informed will already know that in each of “Excalibur” albums, Simon brings together a carefully curated art rock ensemble, with each artist chosen to interpret a specific piece of music. The cast here includes Fairport Convention, Martin (Jethro Tull) Barre, Roberto Tiranti, Moya (Clannad) Brennan and Supertramp’s mainmen, Roger Hodgson and John Helliwell.
When it’s a live performance, you might expect the most familiar voices or indeed the dramatic orchestral pieces to have the biggest impact. Like Roger Hodgson showing the lightest of vocal touches on the Byrdsian ‘The Clemence’. But it’s probably Moya Brennan’s intimate, ethereal tones and John Helliwell’s rasping sax, both bringing a level of gravitas to ‘Sacred Lands’ and ‘Evil Day’ respectively, that bring to life the themes of tragedy, loss and emotional betrayal that underpin Simon’s writing. That said, you can dip in anywhere and come up with all manner of compelling pieces of music and stories, adroitly told by a litany of consummate performers.
Both releases are CD&DVD packages, with the DVD being the track for track visual version of the concert. Nothing is lost in the live recording’s translation to disc…the audio has the clarity and depth not found in major label funded releases. In addition, an “Excalibur Trilogy” documentary is included on the “Live In Broceliande” CD&DVD set.
All you need to hear and all you need to know in two neat bundles. ****
Review by Brian McGowan
Album review (Excalibur IV)
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