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Red Jasper - A Midsummer Night's Dream  CD (album) cover


Red Jasper


Prog Folk

3.56 | 28 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars Come with me to the heart of the country!

This is one of those few albums that had an instant impact on me and then still turned out to be a grower! Already on the first listen I knew that I was going to like this. It is also the kind of discovery that gives you hope of finding more great music in unexpected places even in the future. Red Jasper is a truly unique band mixing British Folk Rock in the style of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span with the drama of hard edged Neo-Prog bands like Arena and bit of Celtic atmospheres and instruments. It is almost as if one took Fairport Convention and poured petrol over it and put it on fire! While listening I am reminded of bands as diverse as Strawbs, Marillion, Horslips, Galahad, Camel (particularly the folky Harbour Of Tears album) and classic Genesis.

The very impressive vocals of Davey Dodds remind alternately of Peter Gabriel and Dave Cousins but Dodds has undoubtedly also picked up a few tricks from both Neo-Prog singers like Marillion's Fish as well as classic Folk Rock singers. Some vocal moments are so beautiful that it "melts my soul"! The rest of the band are just as competent with the traditional (Prog) Rock line up with electric guitars, bass, drums and keyboards being enhanced with Folk instruments like mandolin and tin whistle. A unique and very appealing and affective sound is produced!

The album opens and closes with Sonnet I and II. These are rather laid back numbers based on acoustic guitar and Dodds deep moving vocals. While not very representative for the rest of the album the Sonnets open and close the album in great fashion and the opener sets the mood for what is to come. The second track Virtual Reality is the only song on this album that has no Folk influences at all; it is a pure, hard edged Neo-Prog song, but a very good one that also lends diversity to the album without interrupting the flow.

Berkana slows things down again with another moving vocal performance backed by keyboards, piano and Celtic whistle. Simply beautiful! Surprisingly, the song ends with an up tempo mandolin section very much in the style of a Fairport Convention instrumental. I just love that kind of music!

The 13 plus minute Dreamscape (parts 1 & 2) is the centrepiece of the album and reminds in its structure of Fairport Convention's Matty Groves and Strawbs' The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake in that it tells a story chronologically. Rock and Pop songs are usually not written in this way. Dreamscape is, however, a much more progressive piece than any of those Folk Rock classics. The vocals are very strong here again, and I even think that Dodds rivals Dave Cousins' wild and "out of this world" vocal on the Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios-version of The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake! Dreamscape "explodes" instrumentally towards the end to great effect. Jean's Tune is a lovely instrumental piece that blends acoustic guitars and mandolin with a backing of drums and discrete keyboards. The tempo changes a few times and electric guitar is added towards the end. I must again emphasise the Fairport Convention similarity (similar but evolved) and also how much I enjoy this kind of music!

Invitation To Dance is again a more diverse and progressive song that partly reminds of early Genesis with some more cheerful and folky parts. As indicated by the title, a part of this is some kind of Jig (a form of lively traditional Folk dance tune) with some hard edged guitars and electric guitar soloing. This is perhaps the track that most of all captures the essence of Red Jasper in a single track. Treasure Hunt features very tasteful electric guitar soloing and some pleasant Jethro Tull like vocals. Finally, Sonnet II ties the album together very nicely.

Overall, I must say that I am completely blow away by this! As those who know me know, I never give out five star ratings lightly and always reserve that rating to those albums that I think really deserves it. But this very interesting and solid album by this extremely underrated band really deserved an upgrade from four to five stars! Red Jasper clearly deserves much more attention from Prog Folk fans and Neo-Prog fans alike.

A surprising masterpiece that I keep coming back to time after time!

SouthSideoftheSky | 5/5 |


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