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England - Garden Shed CD (album) cover

GARDEN SHED

England

 

Symphonic Prog

3.83 | 134 ratings

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Joolz
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars England were another 'one-shot' band from the tail-end of the Classic Prog era who stepped up to the mark too late to play any significant role before the record buying worm turned against them. Their music is firmly ensconced in 'mainline' Prog so not surprisingly it bears comparison to Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant, King Crimson and PFM etc, a fact not lost on those who claim this music is too derivative. Clearly they were influenced by their peers, yet England managed to conceive a sound distinctly their own that, had their timing been better, may well have propelled them into Prog's major league instead of being merely a footnote in its long history.

Garden Shed bears repeated listening, but doesn't take long to work its way into the brain - catchy melodies, superb song-writing, clever lyrics and inventive arrangements are allied to lush and intricate keyboard textures, and tight ensemble playing topped off with wonderful vocals, all performed with energy and enthusiasm. Indeed, the vocals are a major strength, ranging from lush harmonies and multi-part counterpoint to solo voice, sometimes 'straight' and 'dry', at others 'theatrical' - always involving and interesting. Instrumentally, the album is awash with vintage keyboards, but is especially memorable for being a king-pin Mellotron album and the swan-song for the mighty Mk II.

At the core of the album are two lengthy set-pieces - 'Three-Piece Suite' and 'Poisoned Youth', the latter inspired by 'The Picture Of Dorian Gray' by Oscar Wilde. Both are brilliant examples of organically progressive 'symphonic' Prog, song-based 'epics' that sound naturally cohesive and never forced. These are accompanied by shorter tracks: wonderful ensemble vocals [I love the whispered countdown 1-2-3-4 into the second verse] and bitter-sweet lyrics make 'Paraffinalea' one of my all-time favourite songs; the mellow 'Yellow' is one of those beautiful acoustic based 'pastoral' songs most bands did so well in those days; superb opener 'Midnight Madness' packs a lot of Prog into its seven minutes; while the simple piano accompanied 'All Alone' acts as a calming bridge before the next Prog epic.

Faults? I can sometimes become irritated by the distinctive 'dustbin lid' snare sound, but other than that, it is a good sounding production in keeping with the times, and has transferred well to CD. The album is now available from the band's website in a lavishly packaged edition. Expensive it may be, but this is one 70s album you would be wise not to miss.

Joolz | 5/5 |

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