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O.W.L. - Of Wondrous Legends CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

4.08 | 6 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
4 stars Most "lost classics" at least had their day to be judged by more than just greedy capitalists, although one could argue that many of these received so little exposure and promotion that they were essentially deep sixed until the CD/MP3 era. But here before us we have an unloved and roundly rejected psych-folk offering that sat dormant for 37 years in the undignified time capsules of dusty attics and thrift stores...until its accidental discovery by someone with enough interest and influence to right earlier wrongs.

O.W.L is really writer, singer, and visionary Stephen Titra and his Chicago-based collective of skilled musicians formed around 1968, who performed live at local venues for several years. Titra's influence was more ancient Western European than American midwestern, so even the polished wee hours studio sessions of 1971 failed to impress some of the eminent record labels of the day, and the tapes languished. I'm not saying this isn't of its time, but it also seems so self contained, in its own atmosphere in which sound waves do not necessarily adhere to the laws of physics or memory. The tasteful vocals, flute, string, and keyboard arrangements exude both fragility and resilience, and a faith in themselves to weather the coming decades of isolation.

Most of the songs here are on the mellow side, with Olde English folk influences, the best of these being the trad-influenced "Tale of the Crimson Knight" and the hypnotically astounding "On the Wings of Gabriel". Of the 2 or 3 uptempo numbers, "Midnight Carnival", at 8 plus minutes, would be of most interest to prog folk fans, with its shifting phases and eerie motifs, but the bombastic "Everyman and the Philosopher King" is equally impressive.

Several otherwise simple folk tunes are embellished by expressive bass and jazzy electric piano, notably "Be Alive" and "Breton Landscape", both of which refuse to choose the road well travelled with their warm melodies. For points of reference if not outright influences, I would look to the mellow side of early KING CRIMSON as well as PEARLS BEFORE SWINE, TIR NA NOG, MAGNA CARTA, SIMON AND GARFUNKEL, NICK DRAKE, FOREST, FAIRPORT CONVENTION, and STRAWBS.

Those into prog folk or early pastoral psych music would be wise to pick up the sole recorded work of O.W.L.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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