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Prog Folk • Ireland

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Formed in Dublin in the early 70's, MUSHROOM* were one of Ireland's leading pop bands from '70 to '74. In fact, they had a huge hit with their first single "Devil Among the Tailors" from their LP "Early one morning" which reached no. 2 in the Irish top 20 charts in 1973, selling over a 100,000 LP's and singles; another song, "Kings and Queens", reached number 13 the following year. They band comprised five musicians among whom were violinist Pat Collins and guitarist Aengus McNally, son of actor Ray McNally; the other three contributed to the band's acid folk sound with organ, moog, harpsichord, bass, drums, tin whistles, chimes, bodhran and vocals. As far as comparisons go, HORSLIPS comes immediately to mind.

Their album features traditional Celtic folk-flavoured melodies that are given both a delicate and hard-rocking treatment: delicate in the form of melodic, mellow ballads, and hard rocking when Collins's fiddles battle it out with McNally's fuzzy, blazing guitar, particularly on traditional instrumental jigs. Although not as sophisticated and instrumentally accomplished as a FAIRPORT CONVENTION or a STEELEYE SPAN, for example, MUSHROOM's release is still worth a spin despite the average sound quality, if only for the pleasure of hearing some vintage psychedelia given a nifty Celtic folk treatment. Note: the CD version includes the band's famous mid-70's singles in the form of 3 bonus tracks.

Not essential but could be of interest to fans of HORSLIPS, MELLOW CANDLE and Jimi SLEVIN.

* Not to be confused with a contemporary American space-rock band of the same name.

: : : Lise (HIBOU), CANADA : : :

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MUSHROOM discography

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3.73 | 29 ratings
Early One Morning

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Early One Morning by MUSHROOM album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.73 | 29 ratings

Early One Morning
Mushroom Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars It's a tribute to British Isles folk rock that spontaneous hybrids of traditional music and psychedelic and progressive rock can be propelled by sheer exuberance and, get this, reach the upper reaches of the national charts. LINDISFARNE did it with their take on country rock in 1972, and, while HORSLIPS appears to have narrowly beaten MUSHROOM to the punch, they can perhaps both lay claim to engineering the first genuinely Celtic rock albums ever made. Sadly, while HORSLIPS rose to legendary heights and achieved some international recognition throughout the 1970s, MUSHROOM came and went, a victim of too much success, too soon. I think their incongruous name didn't help matters either.

After the initial and generally underwhelming and timid ballad that gives the album its name, the "Liathden" wipes the slate clean and inaugurates the band's capabilities as rock and rollers who can seamlessly blend traditional melodies. While "Crying" and "Unborn Child" propose a more conventional rock, the former includes fine fiddling from Pat Collins. The rollicking instrumental "Johnny the Jumper" is a group triumph, with Michael Power's organ carrying the main melody punctuated by lead guitar embellishments by Aengus McNally and the kinetic rhythm section. "Standing Alone" is closest to a prog power ballad, and offers up a moog solo.

Finally we arrive at the piece de resistance and, paradoxically, the big hit single, "Devil Among the Tailors", a breathless romp with auctioneer styled vocals around a screechy fiddle riff that jettisons the very tradition it embraces at escape velocity. While the remaining tracks don't quite rise to this level, "King of Alba" plows a similar furrow and could have also charted.

The bonus material isn't bad, especially the funky bass-led story song "Met a Friend", but it also suggests the band had few ideas remaining beyond scoring another hit single. It's also odd that their success didn't translate to even modest financial backing, if the jittery production is any indication. Still, the ragged quality has its own charms, as did that of a certain Irish band named the POGUES a decade later, and for this and the skill, synergy, and enthusiasm of the playing, MUSHROOM's sole document deserves a few more moments out of the shade, and an extra half star.

 Early One Morning by MUSHROOM album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.73 | 29 ratings

Early One Morning
Mushroom Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

4 stars Any band from Ireland featuring a violin and frame drum is inevitably going to be classified as some sort of folk music. That’s because inevitably any band from Ireland with a fiddler and someone wielding a bodhrán is inevitably going to be playing jigs and reels. So much for stereotyping.

But if you can get past the obvious you’ll quickly see there is an awful lot of psychedelica on this record as well, along with not a little 70’s smooth rock pastiche. Although the band admittedly existed in the 70s I don’t get the impression they every intended to be a Teen Magazine heart-throb cover, even though some songs could lead to that presumption, particularly the slightly cheesy “Crying” and the very cheesy love ballad “Unborn Child”.

Beyond those tunes though there is some pretty good music here, and no actual reels as near as I can tell. Violinist Pat Collins does wail on the fiddle from time to time though, and whenever he does a jig seems to be about to break out as he warps notes furiously over the top of Aengus McNally’s power chord guitar work and Mike Power’s stilting harpsichord. These are really the best purely Irish tracks of the album in my opinion, so if you do have a chance at least check out “The Liathdan”, “Potters Wheel”, “Devil Among The Tailors” and “Drowsey Maggie”. And speaking of stereotypes, how’s that for an Irish fiddle album that includes both a reference to the Devil as well as one to a lass named Maggie in the context of hopping in the sack?

The two overall highlights are “Johnny the Jumper” and the closing “King of Alba”. With “Johnny the Jumper” the band manages to feature the fiddle without an overt jig and without overpowering the other artists’ contributions, which results in a rather powerful instrumental that both keeps your toe tapping and also provides a very well-placed transition point in the album between a rather languid lull and the drinking/dancing section. The sequencing of this record is itself an interesting study, but one I’ll leave to someone more adroit at understanding and explaining those sorts of decisions.

I can say with confidence though that “King of Alba” should have been the opening track, not the closer. Had the band done this and featured it as a single I wonder if they would have lasted longer, or at least made some decent cash. Who knows? Like “Johnny the Jumper” this one is energetic, fairly polished and with a very balanced bend of fiddle, guitar and keyboards so the Irish influence is obvious but not overpowering. Unlike ‘Johnny’ this one has vocals though. I haven’t mentioned the vocals on the album yet and suppose I should. Although all five members are credited with singing on this record, I believe the majority comes from fiddler Pat Collins and keyboardist Michael Power. None of these guys can sing all that well though, which isn’t really that big of a deal since there are a few all- instrumental songs and long instrumental breaks even on the tracks that do have vocals.

I’ve read glowing accounts of this album and think that reissued obscure 70s prog rock sometimes gets swept up in lore and hype and tends to be overrated. I think there’s just a little of that at work here as well, but in the end this is a very good album despite a couple of tacky tracks in “Crying” and “Unborn Child”. Despite those (and since some folks like that sort of thing) I’m going to err on the side of caution and go with four stars (since 3.7 rounds up), and give this a warm recommendation to violin, Irish, and happy acid-folk fans, as well as to people who like to dance and drink (and dance after drinking).


 Early One Morning by MUSHROOM album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.73 | 29 ratings

Early One Morning
Mushroom Prog Folk

Review by Joolz
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars I have always had a soft spot for British folk-rock, going back to the early days of Steeleye Span, but somehow this album slipped under my radar until recently. It is strange approaching it from the 00s as the welding of rock and tradional-folk is today a well established form, led by the likes of Oysterband, Wolfstone and more progressive outfits like Bluehorses. But in 1973 this must have been sensational and I wonder why they didn't make more of an impact. It is very much a product of its time: for example, an energetic rhythm section typical of many of the rock bands in the early 70s underpins most of the songs here, whether frenetic jigs-n-reels workouts or slower ballads. Production values are also primitive by todays standards - I may be wrong, but I suspect they didn't have access to a great deal of expensive studio time or outboard gear as its sound processing and mix values are quite rudimentary - I am reminded of the old days of wrestling with 4-track cassette based portastudios where you were forced to pre-judge elements of the mix before bouncing tracks, a lost art in the digital age.

But that is all part of the charm of this record. Allied to some accomplished songwriting, singing and playing - especially impressive is the fiddler - is an infectious pioneering sense of adventure, of exploring a new world full of exciting corridors and alleyways, in the same way that people like Zappa or King Crimson were doing in the late 60s. They may not have been the first to marry folk to rock, but their spiky rock sensibilities must have seemed innovative for the time, bearing in mind that most existing folk-rockers were electrified folkies rather than folked-up rockers. Surely the history of Bluehorses starts here. Like all the innovators at the time, their music is as rough edged as the recording, undimmed by studio over-indulgences, allowing the sheer natural exhuberance of the music to flow out throught the speakers.

The album begins with an alarm clock wake-up call, leading into Early One Morning, a gentle acoustic song about waking up to find a lover has gone. A gentle enough start, but The Liothdon soon bangs in with an electrified up tempo reel/jig partly played on a keyboard with a distorted bass, heavily distorted rock guitar solos and lifts provided by key changes, a total assault on the senses. The vocal passages of The Liothdon are short, but they help to set the scene for Crying, which enters at the same pace as before, but soon settles into a calmer atmosphere where fiddle and contrasting guitar alternate solos before ending with a more frenetic duelling where the guitarist struggles to keep up.

The Farfisa made a significant contribution to the background of Crying, and continues into the gentle rock song Unborn Child. Poor sound, especially from the guitar, mars this song a little, but there is some excellent fiddle work ably supported by wah-wah rhythm guitar. There is again some lovely interplay between fiddle and guitar, but otherwise this is a fairly straightforward rock song. Johnny The Jumper changes the tone completely as it leaps in with heaps of big 60s psychedelic keyboards on an up tempo jigs-n-reels instrumental workout. You can almost smell the sweat of the dancefloor.

Potter's Wheel, which begins side 2 of the vinyl version, is a traditional acoustic jig complete with fiddle and tin whistle before being joined by some more wah-wah electric guitar. Standing Alone has a rather ordinary melody, but is a dreamy mid-paced song with a mellow sound driven by a prominent hi-hat pattern and Farfisa. The slightly out-of-tune Moog makes its appearance on a couple of solos before the track takes off with a soaring guitar solo.

Dramatic sound effects herald a traditionally based song, Devil Among The Tailors, evoking the later sound of Horslips, with both fiddle and guitar solos, before the harpsichord quietens the pace for Tenpenny Piece which is not a million miles from Steeleye Span territory with chiming guitars and a recorder. Drowsey Maggie is another energetic rock-a-jig led by the fiddle, though the improvisational guitar solo doesn't quite come off. One by one the instruments drop out, leaving just an insistant solo fiddle before the band return for a rousing finale and some audience applause. King Of Alba is an up tempo folk-rocker, a direct ancestor of Oysterband or Wolfstone with some nice soloing from guitar, fiddle and keyboard building to a crescendo finish.

Aside from a few singles, this was the only album Mushroom made, so it is a shame it suffers from such poor sound in places. However, that doesn't detract from one's enjoyment, nor does it deflate the achievement of being a lost foundationstone of both British folk-rock and Prog Folk, and anyone interested in the development of either genre should check this out.

"Please play very loud" it says. Indeed!

 Early One Morning by MUSHROOM album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.73 | 29 ratings

Early One Morning
Mushroom Prog Folk

Review by Man Erg
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars I have mixed feelings about this one.The production and mixing is basic and sometimes amatuerish with some instruments blotting out others.The songwriting on the other hand is superb,as are the arrangements, sometimes bordering on the mildly strange to out-right weirdness.The use of the Moog with traditional instruments was a goodl idea but sometimes seems a bit over-bearing,Tuning the Moog may have been a good idea before recording it.At times it is painfully out of tune! Some of the guitar work is reminiscent of Trees and another Irish Folk-Rock band ,Mellow Candle . A strange album that I have a love-hate relation with.
 Early One Morning by MUSHROOM album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.73 | 29 ratings

Early One Morning
Mushroom Prog Folk

Review by dannymccormack87NOSPAM

4 stars This album, if you can find it, is a truly brilliant piece of musical excellence. The traditional aspect of their music mixed with undoubted rock influences is continued by other artists such as the Horslips, but I believe that Mushroom have pioneered the genre with this album. Some classic tunes include Liothdon (along with it's counterpart Crying), and the second side of this disc is almost all memorable rock riffs mixed with fantastic flute reels and minor chordage, such as Standing Alone, Johnny The Jumper, Potters Wheel, King Of Alba et al.

A definite purchase for anyone wanting to explore the Irish side of progressive music. Horslips were not the only band to call themselves traditional rock in Ireland!

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition.

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