Saturday, June 16, 2012
Fantasia Lindum - Amazing Blondel
Orizzonte ORL 8302
I've been neglecting the blog lately. I've been obsessed with the Los Angeles Kings' amazing Stanley Cup playoff run. I haven't been listening to records much, instead I've spent all my free time on hockey blogs and internet forums not to mention watching the games. It has been an incredibly exciting experience for us Kings fans. But now it is over, we've celebrated and had our parade and I can get back to music. I picked this up last year at a record store in Pasadena. It is an Italian re-issue of the 1971 Island LP (ILPS-9156) and I believe it dates from the late 1970s. I had never heard of the group prior to spotting it in the bin. It looked interesting and I have a lot of respect for Island Records, so I took a chance on it figuring that I wasn't likely to see another copy of it any time soon. I assumed it was some sort of folk-rock akin to the Pentangle, but when I played it, it sounded more like John Dowland than John Renbourn. I don't have a problem with that, I have a record of Dowland's music that I like, but I don't play it nearly as much as I do my Pentangle records. This certainly isn't folk-rock or any other kind of rock for that matter. Basically it features modern recreations of courtly Renaissance music mostly using acoustic instruments from that era such as lutes, recorders and harpsichords. Most of the album is composed by John David Gladwin who is also the lead vocalist. I find his singing weak and annoying, he sounds like a prissy version of Dave Swarbrick with a sore throat. The songs aren't that strong to start with and would greatly benefit from a more distinguished singer. Side one consists entirely of the title tune, which is a song suite devoted to Lincolnshire where the band grew up. Songs alternate with dance music and instrumental themes. I like the instrumental passages best, but I must admit that the song "Swifts, Swains and Leafy Lanes" is a catchy song that sticks with me after the record is over. "Celestial Light" on the other hand I can hardly endure. It is a sappy ode to Lincoln Cathedral that I find tedious. Side two opens with "Toye" which is a love song with pseudo-Elizabethan lyrics and a compelling melody. I think it is one of better songs on the album, it reminds me of a wimpy Jethro Tull. Gladwin's "Safety In God Alone" is the sole song on the album that sounds contemporary and it is the one I like the least. It is a hippie folk song with heavily religious lyrics, yuck. The Renaissance returns with "Two Dances," which consists of a pair of instrumentals. The first one is "Almaine" which is lead lutist Edward Baird's sole composition on the album. It is a lovely short piece that is followed by the sprightly "For My Lady's Delight" which is indeed delightful. Gladwin returns to the mike for "Three Seasons Almaine." It is the band's most satisfying foray into Renaissance style music. If I heard it on a Nonesuch Renaissance music compilation I'd fully believe it was from that era. From the lyrics to the instrumentation and the song construction it is completely convincing. For most of this album I have my doubts about the band's approach, but on this one song, I can see some validity in their efforts. The album concludes with the sole composition by the band's keyboardist and wind player, Terence Alan Wincott. It features drumming from Traffic's Jim Capaldi, but alas it does not rock. It is a droning instrumental that is the most dour tune on the album. I look at the cover of this album with the three lads posing as if Rembrandt were painting them and marvel at the utter weirdness of this band. I know a lot of hippies were looking to the past for inspiration, the Incredible String Band comes to mind, but the idea of slavishly imitating 400 year old musical styles seems crazy to me. At least it's different I suppose. I greatly prefer the approach of Ashley Hutchings, infusing the vitality of rock and electric instruments to traditional music while respecting its values and authenticity. The dynamic quality of his hybrid creations is sadly lacking on this album. I do enjoy most of this record but it does seem pointless to play it when I could be listening to the real thing performed by an ancient music consort. Recommended for people looking for a soundtrack for their next road trip to a Renaissance Faire.