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Tempest - Turn Of The Wheel CD (album) cover

TURN OF THE WHEEL

Tempest

 

Prog Folk

4.10 | 19 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars Taking us by storm!

Tempest is an American-Norwegian-British Prog Folk band that has been around since the 1980's. They should not be confused with the all-British Heavy Prog band of the same name with Jon Hiseman and Allan Holdsworth that recorded two albums in the mid 70's. Also, I think that there is at least one further band also using the same name (not Prog bands though, I suppose?), and no wonder, it is indeed a great band name!

This multi-national, US-based Prog Folk band plays a Celtic-influenced Rock with fiddles, mandolins and flutes in addition to the standard Rock band line up with electric guitars, drums, bass and vocals. They also feature keyboards on their albums and on the present album none other than the great Keith Emerson guests on The Barrow Man adding some great, but admittedly rather sparse, synthesiser lines. Presumably the band met Keith while recording the Jethro Tull tribute album together with other greats such as Roy Harper, John Wetton, Ian McDonald and several others. The rest of the keyboards are played by one Robert Barry (I very much doubt it is the same Robert Barry who sang lead vocals on the 3 album with Emerson and Carl Palmer in the 80's) and is mostly organ and some synthesisers. But keyboards have only a supporting role throughout, fiddle, flute and electric guitars taking the lead.

Surprisingly for a band based in the US their sound is strongly influenced by British Folk music and is, in many respects, similar to that of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, particularly the 80's and 90's albums by that band. Indeed, I think that Tempest has played several very important Folk festivals in the Anglo-Saxon world. But Tempest has a much harder edge compared to Fairport Convention and similar bands, Tempest's music is Folk Rock with emphasis on both the 'Folk' and the 'Rock' part; this is Folk Rock that really rocks! Speaking of Fairport Convention, the multi-instrumentalist and lead vocalist Lief Sorbye has a voice that reminds of that of Simon Nicol. The lyrics are almost all in English, but Tempest has made it some kind of trademark to include one song on each of their albums that is sung in (some old variant of?) Norwegian! On the present album it is Bonden Og Kraka (which means the farmer and the crow).

Comparing the sound of Tempest with British Folk Rock bands of the 60's and 70's like Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span, one notices immediately that Tempest is more progressive. But don't expect too much, however. Their music is still primarily electrified Folk with some progressive touches and tendencies. The band seems a little bit afraid to delve too deeply into Prog territory, perhaps in order not to alienate their Folk following? The "progressiveness" of this band is at the level of 80's/90's Jethro Tull in their best and most progressive moments. The flutes here do indeed sound a bit similar to Ian Anderson's playing. But compared to Jethro Tull, Tempest's material is more traditionally based. Some of the material on this and other Tempest albums is traditional and some is original. Still, I'm sure Tempest's music will appeal to many fans of Jethro Tull (as well as Prog fans in general).

Many seem to think that Turn Of The Wheel was Tempest's first album, but it is actually their third studio album. In addition, they also had a compilation album as well as a live album under their belts already at this time (1996). Maybe they are more well-known in Folk circles than in Prog circles? Anyway, I have been so busy telling the history of the band (as much as I know of it) that I have so far failed to mention how great they are! Combining traditional material with original, Folk Rock with Prog Rock, Kansas-like violin with Jethro Tull-like flutes, etc. have given Tempest a sound of their own that I find highly appealing. You might even say that they "took my by storm"! Other albums by the band are very good also, but this is the place to start investigating the band.

Very highly recommended!

SouthSideoftheSky | 5/5 |

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