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Red Jasper - A Winter's Tale  CD (album) cover

A WINTER'S TALE

Red Jasper

 

Prog Folk

3.57 | 20 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars A midwinter night's dream

A Winter's Tale is a very nice companion piece to the band's previous A Midsummer Night's Dream album. Indeed, these two albums can be seen as companions like Queen's A Night At The Opera and A Day At The Races albums. However, this should not hide the fact that the band evolved and that in many respects the two albums are quite different from each other. We have here much less of the overt British Folk and Fairport Convention influences and a bit more Strawbs and, perhaps particularly, Barclay James Harvest similarities. The tempo is also overall slower than on the previous album. A Winter's Tale is, then ,slightly less original and slightly less diverse than A Midsummer Night's Dream. But, on the other hand, A Winter's Tale is perhaps slightly more consistent. Anyway, both are solid albums!

We can favourably think of the two albums as representing the seasons of summer and winter respectively. Like summer, A Midsummer Night's Dream is shorter, warmer, swifter, more spontaneous and full of life. By contrast, A Winter's Tale, like winter itself, is longer, colder, slower-moving and more fitting for melancholy and nostalgia. While A Midsummer Night's Dream evokes green hills and forests, flowing streams, festivities and dancing, A Winter's Tale evokes snow covered plains, frozen lakes and a dark tranquillity and calmness. What I just said is also represented visually on the covers of these albums.

The first track is an instrumental "overture" that flows nicely into atmospheric Introductia. The latter features a simply haunting, Celtic sounding vocal performance by Davey Dodds and some mood setting church organ towards the end. This then flows into the Barclay James Harvest/Poor Man's Moody Blues-like The Shaman's Song. The tempo is slow and the mood is serene with a strong presence of sustained lead guitar. The Night Visitor, which is the third part of Dreamscape from the previous album, increases the tempo a little bit. There are again some very nice sustained guitars here and pleasant keyboards.

The Scent Of Something is the first song on this album with strong Folk Rock influences due to acoustic guitar/mandolin and the storytelling type of lyrics. The song alternates between acoustic passages and more intense Rock passages. Ship On The Sea is a haunting Folk ballad with lots of flute/whistle, acoustic guitars and accordion-like keyboards backing up another moving vocal performance. The ten and a half minute Bread & Circuses is perhaps the most progressive number of the album, alternating between calm, Celtic sounding passages featuring piano and acoustic guitars and more intense (Neo-) progressive passages featuring keyboards, electric guitars and strongly Peter Gabriel/Fish- like vocals. The end section of this song is very symphonic with floating, sustained guitar.

Compared to the previous album, as I said, the overt British Folk influences are much lower on this album with only the next track Shepherds Revel being a fast paced Jig based on mandolin and Rock drums in great Fairport Convention style. I would not have minded more of this as I love this kind of stuff!

Dark Room is hard edged Neo-Prog that reminds a bit of Arena, but it is still far away from the intensity of the out-and-out Neo-Prog of Virtual Reality from the previous album. This song also features some calmer, acoustic passages and some effective tin whistle. Finally, the album ends with Sonnet III (Sonnet I and II opened and closed the previous album). As these three Sonnets are musically more like three versions of the same song than different parts of a longer piece, one wonders what justifies this inclusion. However, they enhance it here with a nice guitar solo at the end. This song is not the only backward looking feature of A Winter's Tale, also in the lyrics we find many common themes and fictional characters that figure on both albums, further emphasizing the union of these two albums.

To conclude, all I can say is that even though I prefer A Midsummer Night's Dream over A Winter's Tale (these are the only two albums I have so far by this severely underrated band), both albums are hidden gems and excellent additions to any Prog collection.

Highly recommended in addition to A Midsummer Night's Dream!

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |

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