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Archive for July 24th, 2010

Tracklisting:

1. If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You (3:07)
2. And I Wish I Were Stoned – Don’t Worry (8:21)
3. As I Feel I Die (5:17)
4. With an Ear to the Ground You Can Make It / Martinian / Only Cox /     Reprise (9:56)
5. Hello Hello (3:46)
6. Asforteri 25 (1:21)
7. Can’t Be Long Now / Françoise / For Richard / Warlock (14:18)
8. Limits (1:34)

Lineup:

Pye Hastings – vocals, guitars, claves
David Sinclair – keyboards
Richard Sinclair – vocals, bass, tambourine
Richard Coughlan – drums, congas, bongos, maracas, finger cymbals

With:
Jimmy Hastings –  sax, flute

In keeping with my intention of offering a wide range of musical styles to the readers of my reviews, my next pick is one of the greatest albums to ever come out of the so-called ‘Canterbury scene’. Though for most people the most obvious choice would be the band’s most celebrated work, its follow-up In the Land of Grey and Pink, I have always found this one to be, in some ways, an even better effort – though, unlike … Grey and Pink, it is  less immediate and more of a steady grower.

The best way to listen to this album is to put on your headphones and wallow in the beautiful vocal harmonies, intricate bass lines and splendid  keyboard work. The opening title-track is an infectious, ’60s-style ditty sung by both vocalists, the deeper-voiced Richard Sinclair repeating the line “Who do you think you are?”, with the higher-pitched, graceful voice of guitarist Pye Hastings singing the verse. Most of the following tracks, though varying in length, are structured as mini-suites, with at least two movements (and accordingly long, hard-to-remember titles). “And I Wish I Were Stoned” starts off as a wistful melody, then becomes increasingly jazzy and dynamic. “As I Feel I Die”, one of the highpoints of the album, has much the same structure, with a slow intro featuring great vocals from Hastings, then culminating in a rousing instrumental duel between the two Sinclair cousins, Dave’s incendiary keyboards and Richard’s complex, fluid bass. “With an Ear to the Ground”, the second longest track on the album, sees more spectacular work from Dave Sinclair,  backed by a very tight, yet understated rhythm section.

“Hello Hello” is a lesson in how to write a song that’s both hummable and intelligent, with the added bonus of one of the strangest percussive accompaniments this side of King Crimson’s Jamie Muir – a pair of hedge clippers wielded by  Richard Sinclair himself, who also sings lead vocals. In fact, if I were to name one flaw of this otherwise flawless album, is that Sinclair does not sing often enough…  The short, delightful “Asforteri” leads the way for the album’s pièce de resistance, the 14-minute-plus “For Richard”, one of the band’s undisputed classic, and a constant presence in their live sets.  David S. gives a stunning demonstration of his impressive skills as an organ player, while Richard S. provides a solid yet intricate rhythmic background. The track ends with a brief yet tasteful guitar solo by Pye Hastings  – perhaps unlikely as a guitar hero,  but also very effective.

The remastered version (featuring the unreleased gem “A Day in the Life of Maurice Haylett”) sounds as fresh as it had been recorded last year, and not 40  years ago. This is vintage prog at its best – impeccably performed, complex and challenging, yet at the same time witty and light-hearted, devoid of the pretentiousness that can occasionally mar the output of some of the better-known bands.

Though, to some people’s ears,  If I Could Do… might sound a tad lightweight,  it is nevertheless a magnificent album by a band who, in their heyday, were able to effortlessly combine accessibility with progressive potential. Highly recommended indeed – unless you are one of those people who will shy away from anything that sounds too conventionally ‘poppy’.

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