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David Bedford - The Rime of the Ancient Mariner CD (album) cover

THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER

David Bedford

 

Crossover Prog

3.31 | 25 ratings

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splyu
4 stars This is an album that shows Bedford on middle ground, so to speak; not as hardcore avantgardistic as some of his recordings but not as accessible and prog-compatible as others. It still leans more towards the avantgarde side than to any form of prog save the most experimental though. Mike Oldfield appears on guitar once again, but except for two instances towards the end he's quite removed from what we've come to expect from him, while blending in very effectively with the avantgardistic nature of the album, proving once again just how versatile a musician he is.

As for the actual music; I must admit that I have never read the poem, only a summary and of course the narration from this very album, but from what I gather I believe the music must capture the mood of the poem very well. It is for the most part rather sparse; piano, guitar, and other instruments take turns in creating an eerie atmosphere, and as the piece moves on, the narration also becomes a part of the music itself, at times initiating rather dramatic turns.

Many of you will be aware that Iron Maiden also have a track called Rime of the Ancient Mariner, of course based on the same poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Surely there is no relation between the two pieces, except through the poem itself, you will say. Well, bear with me for a minute here. The Iron Maiden track has this atmospheric part starting around the 5 minute mark, which depicts the ship in the doldrums. If you can imagine this part extended to full album length, retaining the same basic mood but refracted through the language of avantgarde music, then you'll have a pretty good idea of what, not all, but a good portion of this album sounds like. I'm quite serious; the Iron Maiden piece is of course much more conventional in composition, but the eerie, maritime atmosphere is very similar.

The rating is to be taken in context; I honestly believe Bedford to be a master of his craft, and as an avantgarde piece this works really well as it conveys exactly the atmosphere that - I have to assume - the poem calls for. At times, it can become downright frightening, while most of the time it's just very eerie (this word really describes the album best); towards the end, when the curse is lifted off the mariner, there's a noticeable relaxation in the music and it becomes much more tonal.

However, I doubt that this is to the taste of most fans of progressive rock. Even the Oldfield fans probably won't find this album particularly rewarding. So while I can't bring myself to rate this album as non-essential, it is also hardly a masterpiece of progressive music. Hence the four star rating.

splyu | 4/5 |

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