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Stone Angel - Circle Of Leaves CD (album) cover


Stone Angel


Prog Folk

3.00 | 2 ratings

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4 stars This may actually be about as close as modern-day music can come to being quintessential progressive folk. All the trappings are here: established literary and mythical themes set to modern music; a tasteful blend of electric and traditional instruments; continuity of tone; and even a choral arrangement as an epilogue. I’m not sure I’d consider this a masterpiece if for no other reason than it isn’t overly original, but in all this is a very good bit of music that is a welcome surprise from a band that has lumbered along in various stages of existence for more than thirty-five years.

Stone Angel were spawned from the mild acid folk act Midwinter some time around 1974, and were a relatively minor player in the glut of British & Celtic folk bands that peppered the musical landscape in the early and mid seventies. Like most of the others, they released a couple of albums and basically faded away as some members drifted away from music, others wandered off to pursue educations, and still others toiled along as forgotten local acts for many years. The band reformed at times over the years under this and other names, with none of those lineups making much of a lasting impression. Fate shown on the core group when Kissing Spell rediscovered them in the mid-nineties and reissued their first two albums. The group reformed with several new members and appear to be somewhat active even today, with this being the third release of new material since being signed by Kissing Spell in the late nineties.

This if really their most polished offering, and consists of both original and traditional tunes carefully arranged to a bevy of instruments and voices. The core of the original seventies band Ken Saul and Joan Saul (nee Barlte) have assembled a new lineup of local talent, and have compiled a collection of songs set to a drama and spoken-word production called ‘Green Man’ that has been performed as local theater in the Norfolk area. Many of these songs are based on traditional arrangements, including “Good Mayers All”, “The Perfect Curve” and “Now Lammas Comes In”. Others are based on literary themes, including the Peter Bellamy tune “Oak, Ash & Thorn” based on the words of Rudyard Kipling; and an energetic and vibrant rendition of the 12th century German nun St Hildegard’s ode “O Viridissima Virga”.

The music seems to be sequenced somewhat chronologically, with a handful of opening pieces written by Joan Saul but based on historically mythical characters such as Puck and Jack-in-the-Green. These are followed by an undated traditional Norfolk dance tune (“The Perfect Cure”), the St Hildegard song, Kipling, and the 18th century hymnal “Now Lammas Come In”. Other offerings include the 15th century “Make We Merry” and other original works referencing the Christ child and mother Mary as well as nature themes of holly, ivy and lithe meadow lassies. The album closes with a sweeping and vaguely medieval ballad (“The Promise”) which features a two-dozen voice choir, references to Robin Hood and spirits of the seasons, and a lulling bowed psaltry and acoustic guitar delicately plucked between soaring choral choruses. A majestic ending to an altogether delightful album.

Like I said, this isn’t a masterpiece, but that doesn’t matter really since it probably wasn’t meant to be. The CD is still in print but rather difficult to obtain (I had to pay dearly to have it imported to the U.S.); but I would recommend it as well worth the effort for serious fans of bucolic progressive folk music. No question this is a four-star affair, and one that will command a place of prominence in your collection to be played on lazy spring evenings with close friends and a suitable outdoor backdrop. Enjoy it in that setting if you can.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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