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Amazing Blondel - Blondel CD (album) cover

BLONDEL

Amazing Blondel

 

Prog Folk

3.38 | 26 ratings

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DavidMinasian
5 stars For my first Prog Archives review I thought I would take a trip back to 1973. It was an interesting year for this quaint little trio (soon to be duo) from the UK known as Amazing Blondel. Under the leadership of John Gladwin and with the able assistance of Eddie Baird and Terry Wincott, these talented musicians strove to create new music which sounded as if it had originated a few centuries earlier. By utilizing a variety of acoustic medieval instruments, they came up with a sound that was not unlike what you might hear at a Renaissance Faire. It was an idea that would later be adopted by Blackmore's Night a few decades later, but make no mistake, this was quite 'progressive' at the time.

The first self titled album was experiemental in nature as John and Terry forged ahead on this uncharted path, with admittedly mixed results. By the 2nd album, Evensong, they had added Eddie Baird as primary guitarist/lutist and solidified their sound. On Fantasia Lindum they smoothed off the rough edges. And with 1972's England, they added orchestrations.

Each of the four albums had been a dramatic improvement over the previous one and their record label wanted them to keep touring. Problem is, John's marriage was falling apart and he wanted some time off. The label said "no." So John opted to walk away. With the sudden loss of their lead singer and primary composer (John had written 95% of the band's material), Amazing Blondel had apparently come to an end... or had they? It seems the record company wanted another album (these record execs can sure be pushy).

The mantle of leading the band onward fell to guitarist Eddie Baird who had previously only sung background vocals and had only composed two or three short instrumental tracks. Nevertheless, I think Eddie ended up surprising everyone by stepping up to the plate (to borrow an American baseball cliche) and hitting one out of the park. Not only was Eddie's songwriting highly melodic and uniquely catchy, his voice was instantly appealing. In both areas, Eddie had surpassed his former mentor.

A decision was made to keep the music fairly acoustic on this album although bass and drums were added for the first time, courtesy of guests Steve Winwood and Simon Kirke. Eddie's liberal use of 12 string guitars here is reminiscent of Genesis' Trespass or Anthony Phillips' Geese & The Ghost. And although the compositions themselves are much less 'medieval' oriented than on the previous John Gladwin led albums, the renaissance flavor is still around courtesy of Terry Wincott's supply of crumhorns, recorders, and harpsichords. And this is what makes this album so wonderful - unique instrumentation being applied to well crafted and highly appealing folk ballads. In addition, the first half of their program has been linked together into one continuous piece of music with a small chamber orchestra playing recurring themes between the main tracks similar to what the Moody Blues did on Days of Future Passed (but not nearly as big!). A nice little touch to be sure.

Leaving of the Country Lover, Young Man's Fancy, and Festival seem to work the best although all of the tracks are five star gems in my opinion. The odd song out is Weaver's Market which employs guest Paul Rodgers of Free/Bad Company/Queen on lead vocals along with market place sound effects for good measure.

Unfortunately, Amazing Blondel would jettison the crumhorns, recorders, harpsichords, and linking themes on their next three studio albums and would thus lose their uniqueness, which ultimately makes this album - Blondel: The Purple Album all the more special. You could say it's the ultimate transitional album, I suppose.

With the exception of the mid tempo Easy Come Easy Go (which features vocals by Eddie and Terry - not by Paul Rodgers as others have stated), all of the songs are rather slow. And there's not an electric guitar in sight. So don't expect any prog fireworks here. However, if you are a lover of the acoustic side of Genesis or classically flavored folk, then you may want to check this album out - even if you haven't been attracted to Amazing Blondel's earlier work. Is this a prog masterpiece? Yeah, in its own quiet little way, it is.

DavidMinasian | 5/5 |

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