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Red Jasper - A Winter's Tale CD (album) cover


Red Jasper


Prog Folk

3.58 | 23 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
4 stars Thank goodness that, albeit all too briefly, this Welsh group chose to blend neo prog with British Isles tinged folk rock. Justified comparisons to JETHRO TULL aside, I think that MARILLION meets a more Celtified STRAWBS might be still more apt. While Davey Dodds may sound more like Peter Hammill, his suspenseful and affected styles both recall Dave Cousins. Whatever the influences, RED JASPER came closer than most to bridging two disparate and yet uniquely Anglo styles, and did it some years before GRACE and MOSTLY AUTUMN.

This album is transparently a sequel to "A Midsummer Night's Dream", this time retooling a fur-and-sleighs Shakespearean classic to 1991 virtual realities. While the overall work is not as uniformly arresting as its predecessor, tracks like "The Shamen's Song" and "Bread and Circuses" seem to do a better job of blending the old and the new, as they dance from synth and methodical lead guitar solos to whistle and mandolin led passages with nary a glance backwards. The airy keyboards set a wintry buffet as they accompany the vocal sections in harmony with the mandolins. The lyrics are also amusingly biting, in one case slamming Christianity for abducting Santa Claus and in another taking a shot at the first Gulf War and its showcase for advanced yet unfeeling military methods. The heavy passage at the end of "Shamen's Song" is a master stroke.

In "Introductia", only the melody hints at the pagan; in fact it sounds like a revved down "Blackleg Miner" before the Xmas music enters the stream (the carol name escapes me). "The Scent of Something" tilts the axis more closely to the folk side and is probably the best of that ilk, with a fine tune and buildup at the end. The instrumental boasts a gentrified post-Pogues aspect that is appealing if a little sanitized.

One of my disappointments is that, while there is plenty of fine lead guitar, nothing approaches the heat of the axe-work on some of the tracks on "Midsummer". In addition, a few cuts are guilty of a degree of over-repetition along vocal lines. Finally, one wonders if the group had many more such efforts left in it, although one suspects they would not have been given the chance anyway. It is so sad that, in this age of re-re-re-releases, high quality works like this, which would appeal immensely to fans of neo and Celtic, remain buried in the permafrost of their age, a casualty of prog's iciest season.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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