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Madden And Harris - Fools Paradise CD (album) cover


Madden And Harris


Prog Folk

3.63 | 24 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
5 stars Hard to believe that such progressive folk beauties keep appearing in the new millennium, as if crawling out of the woodwork after a long hibernation. This Sydney duo of folkies (a rather unusual combination of teacher and pupil) only released one superb album on their own private label, Jasmine Records, before sinking from the radars' spectrum and into oblivion. This album is a pure gem in its presentation as in its musical content: an often medieval-sounding progressive folk with delicate arrangements, graced by an opulent gatefold with a rich outer artwork an a stunning inner painting of the album's name, courtesy of artist Jane Lerossignol, and dedicated to the sidelong suite gracing the vinyl's flipside. Teacher Peter Harris sings and plays most of the instruments (from keyboards to winds, harp and guitars) except for the guitars, bass and drums, while student Dave Madden handles the guitars and sings and the duo is often joined by a very apt bass and drums section, giving it a true rock spirit.

The opening Wishes is a haunting piece of dramatic-sounding folk in the Bert Jansch mode with cello, harp and guitar accompaniment, with the cello drones sending chills through your back as the track unfolds and a mellotron soloes away, with the two partners trading vocal lines, the track almost dying in a Harmonium fashion before picking up again in a stunning, jaw-dropping beauty and finally ending. Following is a short condensed recall of the sidelong title track, but it might be a bit short to call this a preview or an epilogue, as musically or sonically, it doesn't offer the same thrills, but nevertheless. FP pt2 has much to offer, but ends in a frustrating fade-out. The Wind At Eve is a superb ambient folk piece, again flooded in mellotron washes, with both singers trading melancholic lines. You'd believe yourself on the Winter track of Harmonium's fifth season album. At times, the prog folk duo of Subway (releasing their only album in 72 in Paris) is also somewhat similar to this duo of troubadours.

However, the rather out-of-place Margaret O'Grady is sticking out like a sore thumb with its barroom piano roll-out-the-barrel folk tune. Not atrocious a song in itself, but almost atrociously out of place, but apparently this is the track that was thought of as a promotion for the album. In the same upper mood spirit is the O'Weary Brain track, which takes a small but refreshing musical delire (almost Stackridge- like), and while it ends in a slow church-organ growl, it gives an intro for the closing Cool September, which keeps the organ flowing openly throughout the track. The more conventional I Heard A Man Say is more in the Fairport Convention mould with a soft flute wraps up the opening side of this album.

The stunning four-movement centre/masterpiece title track filling the flipside of the vinyl is obviously the "pièce de résistance" of Fools Paradise. The first movement (A Children Of Ice) starts on a children choir over guitar arpeggios, providing some charming but naïve ambiance, before some brutal drums shake you from your torpor (providing an ideal change of movement as Will You Be There is launched without much warning), while the choir keeps along, now accompanied by one of our troubadours. A piano, a bass, than an electric guitar successively join up, the later for a soaring fuzzed-up solo, the choir having by now disappeared, replaced by Harris' organ than a second passage of the song sequence. Some dissonant guitar arpeggios open-up "E.I.E.I.O" (don't ask ;-), which is a short and quirky but troubled song. The sinister lengthy ending of this track is the aptly titled End Game, first with huge bass line (thinking of Caravan's C'Thlu Thlu bass line) accompanied by string mellotron twirls, abruptly ended by a baritone sax and acoustic guitar strumming and gentle vocals from both M&H, but soon the ambiance becomes more menacing

Clocking at 20:16, the title track is simply Australia's best song, ranking up there with Rainbow Theatre, millions of miles ahead of the botched up Seb Hardie or Windchase. The non-album single bonus tracks are of the same calibre of FP's first side and therefore add even more value to the CD re-issue. The A- side remember me is a gentle but superb mellotron-drenched prog folk song, while its flipside is slightly rockier, but merllotron-laden as well.

One of the more spectacular aural albums discovered by yours truly, M&H's sole album Fools Paradise is one of those 24-carat unearthed gems, that needs no refining. If I have spoken of Bert Jansch, Harmonium, Caravan, Subway, Fairport, Stackridge, I could also cite Comus or Spirogyra (without the wickedness and the acid vocals), and you might just get an idea how superb this album really is. RUN FOR IT, before it's OOP!!!!

Sean Trane | 5/5 |


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