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SPRING

Spring

 

Eclectic Prog

3.71 | 129 ratings

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kc29
5 stars Bought this when it first came out after hearing it on the Peel programme. In some ways, as other people have mentioned, one of the greatest mellotron recordings ever allowed into the world. Superb songs. Great playing. But for me it has one great drawback/irritation which everyone always mentions - Pat Moran's voice. I've owned this album (and subsequently the CD reissue) for over 35 years and I've still never quite come to terms with his impersonation of a cat and dog fighting. Didn't any of the other band members want to sing? They couldn't all have been worse. Even a band member's dog might've sounded better. It says a lot for the strength of everything else on the album that, despite the voice, I still think it is a superb LP and I can still listen to it without it sounding dated. Some LPs from the late 60s/early 70s can have a flat, dull sound to modern ears (especially the drum sound) but Gus Dudgeon's production work here has a depth and resonance which stands up well.

Starting with "Prisoner" you are immediately introduced to all the main Spring elements. "That" voice which I'm sure must prevent a lot of people ever getting past the first few seconds. Pique Withers sharp, precise drumming (brilliant all the way through the album). Ray Martinez's often strange, trebly, compressed guitar sound. Adrian Maloney's heavy rubber-band sounding bass. And Kips Brown on mellotron/organ/piano. "Holy Grail" is slightly more laid back and floaty, but still keeps the main characteristics of the band. "Boats" is just Moran vocals and Martinez guitar. Not like the rest of the album, but I like it because of that. It's a bit of a lightweight breather in amongst all the doom and gloom of the massed mellotrons. Leading into "Shipwrecked Soldier" with its military drumming and almost funky organ at times. And one of the few occasions anywhere on record where I've heard a mellotron played in an almost pizzicato fashion. "Golden Fleece" is ok. That's all. It doesn't have quite the dynamic range of the other songs. Doesn't go anywhere or do much. But its got mellotrons in it, so it can't be all bad. "Inside out" is the closest Spring come to being an ordinary band with an ordinary track. If the rest of the album had been like this, we wouldn't be talking about it today. "Song to absent friends" is another break in the doom. I agree with others who've said it sounds like early Elton John. Finally "Gazing". For me the peak of the LP. Great rolling percussion from Withers, a superb guitar solos from Martinez (and I'm not a big fan of guitar solos), and a massive Phil Spector-like production sound.

One of the main things which hits you about all the songs is the relative simplicity of the structure and composition. Dare I say it, they are quite catchy? They don't go off in King Crimson-like strange time signatures with mad frantic riffing. There are instrumental breaks but self-indulgence was obviously banned, nobody outstays their welcome.

Anyone who has the CD reissue and has never heard the original vinyl might be interested in a few variations between the two versions. (And I wonder if this problem applies to other CD reissues of old LPs).

F'rinstance.. On "Prisoner" the CD reissue (on Repertoire) uses a different vocal track to the original vinyl - it's the same words but not the same version. On the CD track of "Holy Grail" there is a mad out-of-tune piano at the fade-out end of the song - that piano is not on the original vinyl. On "Song to absent friends" on the CD it is just Pat Moran's voice and a piano - the original vinyl also has an electric guitar come in after verse 2; it doesn't appear on CD. And on "Gazing", on the CD version the lyrics to verses 2 and 3 are different to those on the vinyl. And finally..on the inner sleeve of the CD (which is almost a reprint of the LP) there are four dark, shadowy pictures of the band members. But it's a five-piece band..! Adrian Maloney is missing on the inner CD, even though there's a space for him.

An previous reviewer mentioned the fact that the three bonus tracks on the CD don't have any mellotron on them, and I don't rate those tracks too highly because of that, so maybe this was the direction the band were going in. But given the variations I've mentioned about the reissues, I wonder whether the lack of mellotron on the bonus tracks is simply because the remastering engineer didn't put them on the final product. They're still out there somewhere!

kc29 | 5/5 |

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