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The Morrigan - Masque CD (album) cover

MASQUE

The Morrigan

 

Prog Folk

3.57 | 8 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars Hidden beauty

Only a couple of years after their previous album, Wreckers, The Morrigan released this album, which was their fourth album overall since their formation in 1984. In some respects Masque can be said to be a continuation of what they did on the previous album, but in other respects it is quite different. Wreckers featured some very good Folk Rock songs, but the band seemed slightly unsure about in which direction they were heading. On Masque they present a more confident and original brand of Celtic/medieval Folk Rock. Like the previous album, this one too alternates between folky ballads and raucous, electrified Celtic dance numbers, but the present album flows a bit better. It also reintroduces some of the progressive aspects that were more evident on the excellent Rides Out album from 1990. This music might perhaps not fit everyone's definition of Prog, but it is certainly not your regular Folk Rock affair.

Steeleye Span and similar bands still seem to be a major influence on The Morrigan but no longer to the degree that the band could be confused with such traditional British Folk Rock bands. The electric guitar sound of Collin Masson often strongly evokes that of Mike Oldfield (this is especially true of the opening track) and Oldfield's music (especially in his folky/Celtic moments) seems to be an influence on the band's music as a whole too. Because of the strong female vocals of Cathy Alexander, Mike's sister Sally Oldfield might be a good reference point as well (think of her Water Bearer album, for example). There are though some quite heavy, rocking parts here as well alternating with the acoustic, folky ballads, but it never rocks as hard as, say, Jethro Tull or Tempest (the US-based Prog Folk band not to be confused with the British Heavy Prog band). Jazz influences might also be detected in some parts. But even though the tempos and styles change, the mood remains basically the same throughout; the music here conveys a rather mellow atmosphere. They never degenerate into merry bar sing-a-longs or straightforward Rock 'N' Roll on this album.

The line-up remains the same with Colin Masson on guitars and vocals, Cathy Alexander on vocals, Mervyn B. on bass, Dave Lodder on guitars and Archie (no last name?) on drums and various percussions. Several members provide backing vocals, keyboards, flutes and other instruments. There are also a few guests on this album including ex-member Cliff Eastabrook on bass and three others adding accordion, violin and banjo respectively. Despite this large array of instruments, the music never comes across as cluttered. The mix between electric and acoustic and between traditional and modern elements is appealing. The songs alternate between female and male lead vocals on different songs which makes the album a bit less coherent than it might have been. The compositions might not be very elaborate standing on their own, but the album is best heard as one piece.

Overall, Masque is an improvement over Wreckers and will probably please Prog-fans more. It is, however, not my personal favourite Morrigan album. Masque is less energetic and rocking compared to the earlier Rides Out album and the subsequent Hidden Agenda.

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |

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