Monday, March 30, 2015

Lost Gem Of 1973: "Blondel"

Have you ever come across a band or artist, whose name and records you've seen for years, but have somehow never heard a single note of music? One band that comes to mind is Wishbone Ash. I really have no idea what they sound like and just the other day, a friend told me the same thing. He decided to listen to what is regarded as their best, "Argus," and gave it a thumbs up. (I think I'll check it out.)

Up until a few years ago, I had never heard a single note of music from Amazing Blondel, though I admit, their name and catalogue hadn't been as prevalent as Wishbone Ash. I purchased a record collection which included a half dozen Amazing Blondel records.

This is what Wikipedia has to say-

Amazing Blondel are an English acoustic progressive folk band, containing Eddie Baird, John Gladwin, and Terry Wincott. They released a number of LPs for Island Records in the early 1970s. They are sometimes categorised as Psych folk or as Medieval folk rock, but their music was much more a reinvention of Renaissance music, based around the use of period instruments such as lutes and recorders.

And Bruce Eder opens his bio of the band on AMG with this line, "One of England's more unusual rock outfits of the 1970s, Amazing Blondel were a trio whose members played instruments dating from medieval to Elizabethan times, and songs styled to those periods.

Both of these descriptions are accurate and the records, if you happen to dig this brand of British folk, are quite enjoyable.

But it was 1973's "Blondel" that really spoke to me. I found these words, written by Keneth Levene, on a blog:

"In the broad brush world of progressive rock and its many sub genres, the transitional album is a fascinating beast. Some of the best offerings in history could be so described, as the band has its feet in two eras, the one past and well documented, the other in a yet unrealized future.

In the realm of these denizens, "Blondel" is the representative from Amazing Blondel and, depending on your taste, you might regard it as their best. Because it is not quite as unique as their previous efforts, I cannot quite succumb to such platitudes, but suffice to say it is definitely up there."

In as few words as possible, "Blondel" reminds me of what Emitt Rhodes would have done had he played more guitar and less piano.

This is a beautiful piece of work. The albums that followed got further away from the unique sound of earlier records like "England" and Fantasia Lindum," both worth checking out, as long as you know what you're in for. But 1973's "Blondel," seems to nail it, at least to my ears.

Paul Rodgers, Simon Kirke and Steve Winwood, all make appearances, if that means anything to you.


Anonymous said...

the fm station in my college town, wonderful WOXR, specialized in English folk and prog and even they rarely touched Blondel. never understood why that was.

Wishbone Ash inspires those same line-up debates that plague fans of the Stones, UFO, Procol Harum, and Drive-By Truckers. People who were with them the longest favor the old albums like Argus. I came to them at the start of their middle period, so favor Front Page News (when they cut the solos shorter they write pretty good pop songs) and New England. No Smoke Without Fire is the last one I really like.

William Repsher said...

I tend to go with the title track from Mulgrave Street -- a song that sounded like it should have been a hit, but never was. I don't think I've ever sorted through individual albums -- mostly compilations, so I'm not sure of song order/album for a lot of my Amazing BLondel tracks. A lot of the earlier stuff strikes me as straight on British Folk (without the pop tinge you get with a track like Mulgrave Street.)

But wasn't rock supposed to be "dead" at this time before punk came along to save us all? I always cringe at that theory when I consider the British Folk movement was in full flower during the early-mid 70's. Never mind any other number of genres that were healthy at the time, particularly in the U.K.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Back in the day I took chances on almost anything released on Island. Somehow I missed Blondel, and from your description, it sounds right up my alley.
I had a similar experience with Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel's "The Best Years Of Our Lives". They don't sound like Blondel.

Here is "Make Me Smile", the hit I'm rather taken with:


dogbreath said...

At the same time as I disgracefully failed to appreciate the ephemeral music of Amazing Blondel (too many lutes & dulcimers for me) I was very much into the melodic twin lead guitar tunes of Wishbone Ash, seeing them numerous times in their 70s prime (and beyond). Perhaps I should check out some Blondel back catalogue one of these fine English summer evenings (supposing we get some). Thanks for the reminder.

Gene Oberto said...

Don't hesitate with Wishbone Ash. I'm in a Pentangle jag now, so let's check out Blondel-

buzzbabyjesus said...

I just ran a search for Wishbone Ash in my computer, and I have an "Argus" era BBC concert. Sounds pretty good.

A walk in the woods said...

I like this a lot better than I was expecting to… really, really nice.

whattawino said...

Just finished listening to the Blondel up on BW...loving it! A bit of it actually rang a distant bell from the memory archive. Thanks for that. And as I kinda stumbled onto the Argus album by Wishbone Ash, I was taken with it immediately as it put me in my mind of the guitar interplay of early Fleetwood Mac circa Future Games era. And that is some damn fine stuff for me, mister. So, thanks again.

Dave L said...

@ buzzbabyjesus - so glad you like 'Come Up and See Me' one of the most perfect of pop songs with a guitar solo on a par with John Perry, 'Another Girl, Another Planet'.
If you want to dive deeper, listen to 'Face To Face', which has to be one of the greatest live albums ever. When you get to 'The Best Years Of Our Lives', experience the artist-audience call and response.
By the time you reach 'Tumbling Down' - "You don't need Cockney Rebel", says Steve. And 'Love Compared To You'? Don't get me started....Greetings From Berlin, Germany.

Anonymous said...

does anybody really know what is on those albums by Audience/Max Webster/Trapeze/City Boy/the many Taylors/Charlie?

hpunch said...

I missed out on Blondel as well. Why did I think they were a Blondie Chaplin project?
This sounds quite good. I will leave your page to track down a copy for myself.


ken rowley said...

I caught them one evening when they were playing at Royal Holloway College circa 1975 and still listen to this album and Fantasia Lindum regularly. Glad to come across other fans.