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


McDonald & Giles


Crossover Prog

3.36 | 137 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review 56, McDonald And Giles, s/t, 1971


After the break-up of the original Crimson, the multi-talented Ian McDonald and stunning percussionist Mike Giles head off to create this album. Fairly light-hearted, and not nearly as tight or bleakly compelling as In The Court Of The Crimson King, this won't appeal to all fans of that album. However, the playing is pretty faultless, and only the Birdman Suite exhibits a couple of cracks in the composition. Recommended highly to anyone who enjoyed I Talk To The Wind or the lighter parts of a Caravan album, as well as those who love a highly distinctive and excellent drummer/percussionist. If you don't fall into any of those categories, it's probably not for you.

The album opens with Suite In C. Relaxed bass and guitar show up, complimented by a distant vocal. Handsaw and snaking drums thunk away in the background. After a 60s-style harmony, the piece moves onto a jazzy section with relaxed flute, a good rhythm section groove and various organ and piano chaos from guest Steve Winwood. The 'Here I Am' section is heavily reminiscent of Crimson's softer atmospheric moments, with mellotron, distant vocals and haunting percussion choices. It cheers up fluidly with string and brass, handling genuine cheer without seeming over the top or frivolous. A bluesy piano/guitar-based bounce kicks us on to the final section. Mike Giles is on top form throughout this piece. A great bit of music, and if the rest of the album hit this level, I'm not sure it would evade the fifth star.

Flight Of The Ibis was the original melody of Cadence And Cascade with a new set of lyrics. It is absolutely wonderful without Gordon Haskell's ill-suited vocal getting in the way, and the twists from the In The Wake Of Poseidon piece are very enjoyable. Mike Giles especially gives us a wonderful percussion performance, and the gliding piano/keys at the end of each verse is a genuinely enjoyable moment every time. Lovely.

Is She Waiting, aside from fairly nice lyrical content, is a gorgeous balladic piece, with just acoustic guitar and piano making appearances. There's not really much more to say other than that everything is used to good effect and fits together seamlessly.

Tomorrow's People begins with solid solo drum and vocals in the accented tones you might expect from a Canterbury band. Ian McDonald provides a couple of neat guitar licks, while Michael Blakesly's trombone baaaaaaaaaams nicely. Peter Giles comes in with the bass to support the percussion appropriately (on occasion leaping up to the high reaches, which always gets the great muppet: Orb), and later on flute also jumps around with tasteful optimism. Mike Giles' brief percussion solos are brilliantly handled and the piece is hugely fun. The piece calms down to reach its conclusion with a rather 'not yet' feel.

The Birdman Suite might be expected to be a huge highlight, but despite its good, nay, great, bulk, I feel far too tempted to skip The Inventor's Dream opening secton. It opens with a lovely vocal melody and then tense sustained bass before zither and various chaotic percussion hits home. A bouncy organ, bass and drumming introduce the rather disappointing vocals (complete with rather twee lyrics). Clarinet also makes a brief appearance, before some various twists on the parts move to create a busy workshop feel.

This section is a little more impressive with a very nice rhythm section, a couple of jazzy saxes jolting off in all directions, various deliciously moon-touched organ and percussion choices. After this extended jazz outbreak, we hit 'Wishbone Ascension', with a more enjoyable return of the vocals and excellent percussion.

A faded organ and consistent percussion take us onto the gorgeous reflective piano melody of Birdman Flies. Gradually this basic structure builds up to include some drums, background guitar, swirling flute, different instruments taking over the main melody. A neatly incorporated leaping brass section makes an appearance.

Wings in the Sunset and Birdman - The Reflection bring us calmly to an ending with the vocal melody from the introduction featured again. Piano, bass and percussion dominate before organ also leads in. Sharply dropping drums roll calmly, and brass and strings add to the potency of the conclusion. An organ melody reminiscent of that backing the piano in Birdman flies leads the piece to its conclusion-with a distant, fading brass-related thing. Warning: the above sections may have been confused at some point. As a whole, the piece is almost one of the great epics, but with a slightly stronger opening section, it could really have stood out a lot more.

So, overall the album is no masterpiece, but it also has only one real weak spot. Probably not for everyone, though I do really love most of this album and would in open conscience recommend it to most people. On the verge between a three and a four, and on this occasion I'll round down. A much-enjoyed album, and a personal four, certainly not 'Fans Only' but probably not essential or for every collection. I don't think anyone should be too disappointed with it unless they all they seek from it is another Schizoid Man or they really dislike alright, but slightly accented, vocals.

Rating: Three Stars (personal four). It may well deserve more. Favourite Track: Suite In C

Felt that a four was the right rating. Hence, changed it.

TGM: Orb | 4/5 |


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