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Dancer - Tales of the Riverbank CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.19 | 24 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
4 stars Most of the best known and biggest selling progressive rock acts took composition, rehearsal and studio time as seriously as themselves, and even those who relied on improvisation did so painstakingly in multiple takes. But not all were blessed with the lead and studio time to allow their creative seeds to bear fully formed fruit. An example is the ephemeral British group DANCER, who were suddenly offered limited studio time and a big name producer, and built an album around it. "Tales of the Riverbank" was recorded in 1971 and went unreleased until bassist Mike Cuffe was alerted to the presence of master tapes in somebody's attic almost 30 years later. Ultimately, this resulted in a CD release on Kissing Spell in 2001. Knowing the backstory makes the listening experience bittersweet, for this is a rough cut folk/soft rock gem with prog overtones, and recalls a simpler time in the lives of pretty much anyone who was alive back then.

The 11 minute title track is the main highlight, beginning with gentle and deft acoustic guitar soloing before a divine melody announces the full band. It's a shame that the rest of the piece and album don't quite deliver on the massive pastoral promise of that introduction, but the lyrical imagery, pleasant vocals and harmonies, lead guitar figures, strummed acoustic guitar backing, nimble percussion, dancing flutes and shimmering mellotron strings give it their all. Another note about the tron is that it is given to enunciating individual notes in the manner of SPRING, whom they sound like anyway, as opposed to contemporaneous samples by the MOODY BLUES and BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST. While they do attempt to wrap up the suite near the end, including a formidable one armed lead guitar solo, it never quite feels complete to me, lovely though it is.

For the rest, I have to give kudos to the band for their talents and resourcefulness, because it's all good, as much because of as in spite of the wide eyed idealism on display. "America Wood" is a soft rock bridge between some of the work of the BEATLES and SIMON AND GARFUNKEL to AMERICA and mid period AMAZING BLONDEL, neither of whom were active, or at least playing in this vein, at the time. From a prog perspective, "Morning" is similar to the first track, relying on vocal and keyboard talents in particular. Another band that comes to mind is LINDISFARNE, who were actually pretty big at the time in the UK, but a lighter and more keyboard oriented GROUNDHOGS also come to mind, not surprisingly given that the album was produced by their guitarist. The best harder rock moment is "Fairhill Affair", which shifts smoothly and assuredly from slow and bluesy to spirited and raucous.

This sweet one-off manages to crystallize the best qualities of both amateur and professional productions, and deserved a better fate negotiating the unforgiving currents of yesteryear. Luckily, it is yours to discover now. 3.5 stars rounded up...just because.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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