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Jan Dukes De Grey - Sorcerers CD (album) cover

SORCERERS

Jan Dukes De Grey

 

Prog Folk

3.78 | 44 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars Having met via an 11-piece 60s soul band called Buster Summer Express in Leeds, England in 1968, the duo of Derek Noy and Michael Bairstow found that they shared a similar musical adventurousness and as Noy, then only 21 was setting out to find his own way after leaving the band, he crossed paths with Barstow who was auditioning for the band at the tender age of 18. Together they would become renowned for their nonesuch classic release 'Mice And Rats In The Loft,' an album so outside of the norms of the contemporary folk scene that the only other musical entity of the time that could be of equal comparison would be the similarly demented English act Comus. The duo's reputation of being one of the most original acts around caught on quickly as they gigged many venues and led to a signing with Decca Records which landed them an early touring with Pink Floyd and The Who. The duo successfully recorded their first album SORCERERS by October, 69 and released it early on in 1970 which caught them immediate attention on the university campuses although high sales and success eluded them.

While the progressive behemoth 'Mice And Rats In The Loft' syphons away every bit of attention away from this early beginning, it would be a great mistake to overlook this unique debut album from the oddly named JAN DUKES DE GREY which was a spontaneous impromptu appellation designed to sound esoteric but in reality carries no actually meaning behind it at all. SORCERERS is the exact opposite of their following paragon of progressive folk. While 'Mice' had three sprawling tracks that swallowed up the entire album allowing ample time for excursions into the most lysergic experimentation of any folk album in history, SORCERERS on the other hand is a collection of 18 tracks that hover around the three minute mark with only a couple even breaking over four. Despite performing as a mere duo with only a couple extras providing a few extra sound effects, JAN DUKE DE GREY sounds like a full band as Bairstow weaves his musical magic on clarinet, flute, tenor sax, bongos, congas and various other percussion as well as lending his vocal harmonic counterpoints. Noy on the other hand handled all the guitars, bass, celesta, piano, more percussion as well as being the other vocal half that belted out the most confident lyrical tales.

If the sheer amount of instrumentation on board isn't impressive enough, so too are the musical influences creeping in at every corner. While the main sources of inspiration at this early stage reside in bands like T. Rex and The Incredible String Band, Noy and Bairstow were far too talented to simply copy their idols and employ a range of extracurricular musical ideas that mix and meld confidently including Donovan inspired psychedelic flute patterns, classical and flamenco guitar as well as the rich melodic tradition of English folk music. Every single track on SORCERERS distinguishes itself from the next conveying everything from dark and sinister moods on tracks like 'MSS' to the more benign little joys of life as heard on tracks like 'Butterfly.' While some are more straight forward melodic developments like the rich melody heard on 'High Priced Room,' some such as 'Cheering Crowd' have a bombastic progressive time signature barrage of off-kilter guitar riffs that give a glimpse to where the music would lead them.

For me, SORCERERS is an instant classic and addictive on every level as the instrumentation is delicately forceful while the melodic harmonic lyrical prose delivers a totally new style of the era that somewhat reminds me of what Gnidrolog would advance a few years later. Also unusual for the day was the use of a heavy percussive drive adding tribal elements to melodic folk guitar which can range from the usual contemporary acts as heard from Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs to the more unusually experimentally psychedelic as heard on 'Yorkshire Indian Sitting In The Sun' with adventurous classical riffing with glissando guitar slides. Also experienced on SORCERERS is a variety of ethnic influences experienced by the Indo-raga sounding percussion to the mondo exotica oriental touch in 'Turkish Time.' SORCERERS should not be overlooked in the least and is a majorly satisfying counterpart to the one two punch that JAN DUKES DE GREY conjured up in a short timespan before disappearing into the musical ethers and allowing their acid folk creations to simmer for vast oceans of time before finally emerging as buried treasures several decades later. While the progressive compositions are nearly nonexistent at this stage, the experimental features are firing on full pistons and i cannot think of any acid folk album released before that is as unique and all-encompassing in scope as SORCERERS.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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