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Red Jasper - Sting In The Tale CD (album) cover

STING IN THE TALE

Red Jasper

 

Prog Folk

3.20 | 10 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars Fairport Convention with a bit of saxophone!

Red Jasper is one of the most overlooked bands I have ever come across. After having given high praise to all of the band's three subsequent studio albums A Midsummer Night's Dream, A Winter's Tale and Anagramary, I was anxious to hear this debut. But it was not easy to find this album. My first attempt involved buying this album on vinyl LP, but unfortunately it did not play as it should. Thanks to a fellow Prog Archives reviewer I finally managed to get hold of the music without any defects. The band's official website now states that all the Red Jasper albums will be re-released on CD with bonus tracks which is fantastic news!

Sting In The Tale was Red Jasper's first full length album (they debuted with an EP that was released a few years before). It is fair to say that the band had yet to truly find its own identity at this point and that they later made a major leap forward with their masterpiece A Midsummer Night's Dream some three years later. Some of the band's trademark elements were already present here, most notably the distinctive and unique lead vocals of Davey Dodds. But some other elements of their sound were yet to be developed (the Neo-Prog element) and some would later be altogether removed (the presence of saxophone). In the light of this, Sting In The Tale is clearly inferior to the three albums that came after it and not very representative of the band.

Still, judged on its own merits, and for what it is, this is a good debut from a promising band. About half of the songs here point more or less clearly in the direction that the band would later take while the other half is rather erratic. Faceless People is a slow, rather conventional rocker with strong vocals and discrete Folk elements. It is a good song, but it lacks both the progressive elements and the strong melody of Virtual Reality that would open the band's next album. Guy Fawkes is a complete throwaway; a punky feel to this one. T.V. Screen too is disappointing and the saxophone sticks out like a sore thumb in the band's sound. At this point it is tempting to dismiss this album as stemming from an immature period of the band's career not worthy of attention by us who fell in love with the later albums, but Second Coming quickly reassures us that this really is the same great Red Jasper. Dodds here delivers a haunting vocal and tasteful mandolin and tin whistle. The first highlight of the album for me.

Old Jack is a more typical uptempo British Folk Rock tune in the style of Fairport Convention. Fair enough. Company Director is a decent song but the hope of finding anything Prog here is running out. Secret Society is another throwaway and the listener's patience is once again tried. Thankfully, the the final tracks of the album are good ones. Magpie is the second highlight of the album and again reminds of later efforts. The closing track I Can Hew is another Fairport Convention-like track and indeed it features Ric Sanders from that classic band on fiddle.

Red Jasper is a very highly recommended band, but while Sting In The Tale is a good album, it is certainly not the place for newcomers to begin. Start instead with the brilliant A Midsummer Night's Dream and then on to A Winter's Tale and Anagramary. And only after that, if you still want more, you can turn to the present album.

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |

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