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McDonald & Giles - McDonald & Giles CD (album) cover


McDonald & Giles


Crossover Prog

3.36 | 137 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Attention fans of early King Crimson!

Here's one of those lost gems that should be discovered once you have plowed through some of the more essential albums of the day. Two members of King Crimson apparently decided they could have more fun without the schoolmaster Mr. Fripp cracking the whip. They likely did although some serious Crimson fans will write this one off as lightweight. I rather like it myself.

While there are some obvious nods to the feel of "In the Court of the Crimson King" this album sounds much more like Caravan and even Supersister to me. It has a very hippie vide, a stubborn desire for playfulness, and a "let's find Utopia" attitude. While it doesn't push the envelope like Fripp would it is still an extremely enjoyable album for fans of the bands mentioned above. Top notch playing is everywhere from Giles very tasteful percussion to McDonald's lovely flute and guitar. The arrangements are quite adventurous and the sound is really good. Lyrics are absurdist and silly sometimes but that's part of the fun.

"Suite in C" opens the album with a Crimson sound to the vocal and I don't care for this first part. For me the track would have been better starting at the 2:30 mark where some tasty bass and flutes dance around with top notch drumming. A few minutes later the keys get interesting as well. They jam until the 6 minute mark when dreamy vocals come back accented by acoustic and strings in various places. At 7:40 we've changed again and a sarcastic sounding sax has intruded. Around 10 minutes we're into a bluesy lounge mood and you realize there's nothing they aren't going to try.

"Flight of the Ibis" is a short and sweet psych-pop treat. "Is She Waiting" is the kind of McCartney-like nostalgic melancholy of songs like "She's Leaving Home" or "For No One." "Tomorrow's People" begins with a good groove and is a solid rocker. There is a fine percussion solo, great flute, and relentless bass in between some optimistic hippie lyrics. There is even some trombone here. While these middle three songs could be accused of being far more pop than prog, the latter especially does have prog elements and is very enjoyable. The debate is very similar to the "Land of Grey and Pink" example where songs like "Golf Girl" and "Love to Love You" might lead people to dismiss the album. Here, as there, I think that would be an unfortunate mistake.

The 21 minute long side two epic is called "Birdman" and is divided in several parts. In its spirit and grandeur it does make you think of "Nine Feet Underground" from Land of Grey and Pink. The first part is The Inventor's Dream and it begins with some nice choral voices rudely interrupted by some psych noise oddities that lead into a rather childlike verse part. "Long ago in Warnerstone, A man he dreamed a singular scheme, had no wish to join the fish but inside I'd love to fly." It sounds a little Barrett-esque doesn't it? Well it's important to keep in mind that while this album came out in late 70 or early 71, the material was started as far back as '67 so it wouldn't be surprising to hear some Piper/Pepper influence as well. It continues with an almost circus atmosphere until part 2 The Workshop kicks in with a nice drum burst. This part is a pleasant jazzy pop with some sax and strong bass lines punctuated by perfect drumming. Really nice! Part 3 Wishbone Ascension is a pleasing vocal interlude leading into Part 4 Birdman Flies. This begins with quiet keyboards and a light cymbal beat as it slowly builds. Some flute and acoustic guitar will join in and make this piece quite lovely and pastoral as the crescendo plays itself out. "Wing in the Sunset" is just a brief interlude leading into the final of "Birdman-The Reflection" which opens with nice piano. Slowly drums and bass increase in volume and usher in the majestic choral voices that we began with. Strings and brass abound as it builds to a dramatic majestic sounding finale, kind of like the climax music from an old movie.

So it's not a perfect album and I won't try to tell anyone it exceeds the music they made with Crimson. But I do feel this is an underrated gem that will please a good deal of the people who track it down. And to be honest, I would play this album before some early Crimson stuff because it's more FUN! Progressive rock in the finest tradition weaving together all kinds of styles and ideas into one hazy patchwork quilt. Bravo! My rating is between 3 1/2 and 3 stars rounded to 4.

There is also a very nice reprint of a painting inside my CD booklet that I love, just an FYI for you album artwork junkies out there. Very psychedelic.

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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