Thursday, June 4, 2015
Fly on Strangewings - Marian Segal with Silver Jade
Marian Segal with Silver Jade
DJM Records DJM 9100
This is the American release of the sole album by Jade originally released in England in 1970. The group's name was altered because there was already a group in America called Jade. Collectors might want to pursue the British version of this album which was released in a more attractive gatefold sleeve which I believe is also the case with modern reissues of the album. I've mentioned in past posts my fondness for British folk-rock and this is an excellent example of the contemporary version of that genre. All the songs are originals, composed by Marian Segal, but they show the influence of traditional musical styles throughout similar to the work of Richard Thompson, John Martyn and Sandy Denny. It is a delightful album that deserves to be better known. It opens with "Amongst Anemonies" featuring sterling work from guest performers Terry Cox on drums and guitarist James Litherland contributing to a robust instrumental sound. The vocal interplay between Segal and her bandmates Dave Waite and Rod Edwards is quite dynamic. The song contrasts life in the rural countryside with a dream of the sea. Edwards drives the delicate "Raven" with his harpsichord and organ work. It is a cryptic song with gothic imagery that examines a May-December relationship. Waite and Segal trade verses and then duet on the final verse. "Fly on Strangewings" reminds me of Sandy Denny, particularly "Who Knows Where The Time Goes." This soaring song about separation is one of my favorite cuts. The song features a lovely vocal from Segal and engaging piano work from Edwards bolstered by a tasteful string arrangement by Phil Dennys. "Mayfly" sounds like the traditional song "The Cuckoo." It is a jaunty country-flavored song that laments the short life span of the title insect. "Alan's Song" commemorates a childhood friend of Segal's who died in an accident as a teen. It is a nostalgic song that looks back on the aspirations of childhood. "Bad Magic" is a percussion heavy song that mixes rock and chamber pop courtesy of Edwards on his harpsichord. It reminds me of Donovan or early Traffic. The song advises the listener to avoid the witch-like woman who is the subject of the song. Side two opens with "Clippership" which describes a woman living vicariously through the past experiences that her singer-lover recounts to her. It is a propulsive song in the best folk-rock manner with pleasing vocal harmonies. "Five of Us" recounts Segal's experiences sharing a rustic cottage with four friends. It reminds me of the first Fairport Convention album but it has a chamber pop sound as well. Segal's vocal is especially appealing to me on this track. This is another one of my favorite songs on the record. "Reflections on a Harbour Wall" is precisely that, a description of the experience of being in a harbor town. It is a guitar driven track that starts slow and picks up speed as it goes along. James Litherland has a nice lyrical guitar solo. "Mrs. Adams" is about the death of the title character. John Harper's violin playing and the structure of the tune create a traditional folk sound as does the repetition of the lyrics. The song is given a forceful folk-rock push by the rhythm section of Pete Sears on bass and Mick Waller on drums. "Fly Me to the North" is a sensitive and gentle song about running away from heartbreak and sadness. Segal and Waite trade verses and then duet supported by another pretty string arrangement from Dennys. The record ends with "Away From the Family" which is also about escape, this time making it on one's own away from one's family. It is the hardest rocking song on the record with a heavy guitar riff and honky tonk piano from Rod Edwards. This lumbering tune obtrusively departs from the sound of the rest of the record, but it does end the record with a bang. I am a big fan of this album. Segal is a fine songwriter. Her lyrics are personal and intelligent with evocative imagery. Although influenced by folk tradition, the music sounds contemporary and is eclectic in style and instrumentation. The record is never boring and it consistently engages me emotionally and sonically. If you are a fan of folk-rock, it is well worth seeking out. Recommended to fans of early Fairport Convention and Trader Horne.