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David Bedford - Nurses Songs With Elephants CD (album) cover


David Bedford


Crossover Prog

2.78 | 18 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars When I was 15, we were taught about experimental music in school. We were given examples of experimental musicians, such as John Cage, and got to hear clips of their music, where all manner of things were allowed. These artists would write scores using non-standard notation, but rather lines, symbols, text and even pictures. The musicians involved would play their instruments in an unconventional way, e.g. drumming on a piano or using a violin bow on a guitar string. These pieces would invariably be dissonant and jarring, and at such a young age I was put right off by the genre. Yet here I am, writing a review of an album which fits perfectly within the genre I've just described. Given that I've had to become extremely open-minded about my music since listening to progressive rock, how do I feel about the genre now?

The first track It's Easier Than It Looks is a relatively brief track for eight recorders and eight melodicas. This track was written for young people to perform, but here Bedford has played all sixteen parts. It sounds like an interesting piece, and the eerie feel of the track fits right in with the otherworldly front cover, but without being able to see sixteen people play this together, this number loses a lot of its original appeal.

Just shy of 16 minutes, the longest piece is the title track Nurses Song With Elephants. Written for ten acoustic guitars, this piece goes through many different sections. You may be wondering how the title was chosen. It turns out that the 'elephants' in the song are represented by the rubbing of moist thumbs along the body of the guitar, whilst the 'Nurses Song' refers to the poem by William Blake which is recited towards the end of the piece, when the guitarists start playing more tunefully. It feels like Bedford is rewarding you for your patience, and as an extra treat, Mike Oldfield joins in on bass at the end. However, 16 minutes is still quite long, and one can't help but think that there are better things to be doing with one's time.

The most intriguing track on the record is Some Bright Stars for Queen's College, written for eighty girls' voices and twenty seven plastic pipe twirlers. At 3' minutes, this is another brief eerie track. The girls voices create a liquid sound, and the pipe twirlers in the back (apparently including John Peel) create a spooky backdrop. To those who have seen '2001: A Space Odyssey', this track is very similar to the music played over the coloured light sequence. A very effective piece indeed Mr. Bedford!

At 12 minutes, Trona is simply too long and lacks creativity. The liner notes reveal that the instruments used are a flute, oboe, bassoon, two trumpets, clarinet, two trombones, two violins, viola and a cello. The staccato figure heard near the beginning is heard nearly all the way through the track and gets old very quickly. However, this piece is the closest that I can come to working out what the score looks like, and for that it is interesting.

The final track, Sad and Lonely Faces is the only one written for the record itself. This is easily my favourite for a number of reasons. The structure of the song is an experimental piano piece followed by a symphonic ending with Kevin Ayers reading a poem over the top. His baritone voice sounds amazing here, and he leads the piece and album out beautifully. Strangely enough, an ending as lovely as this seems to make listening to this record absolutely worth it.

To answer my question posed at the beginning of this review: it's been an eye opener. With a fresh mind free of prejudice, I've been able to appreciate this genre more than I ever expected to. However, the parts of this record I enjoy the most are where Bedford isn't being experimental at all, which shows that I've not exactly been converted. If you're willing to try something completely new and different, I'd definitely recommend this album, but if not, you might want to save your money for something closer to home.

baz91 | 3/5 |


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