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Titus Groan - Titus Groan & ... Plus (1989) CD (album) cover

TITUS GROAN & ... PLUS (1989)

Titus Groan

Crossover Prog


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bristolstc@ya
4 stars Not quite a "masterpiece," but almost. Titus Groan were an early (they formed sometime in 1969 and released their only album and single in 1970) art rock/ progressive band who sounded uncannilly like a cross between Czar without the mellotron and The Move circa Message From The Country with a bit of Jethro Tull thrown in for good measure. This means high energy melodic songs with lots of guitars. sax, vocal harmonies, and great percussion work/drumming. There's occaisonal organ and electric piano, but mainly a much earlier guitar battling with flute, sax, and oboe sound. The first song "It Wasn't For You" is very bluesy and grooves along with a restrained hard edge. The vocal sounds eerily like Ian Anderson and this is true for the lead vocals for the whole album. I have no idea which of the four band members took care of lead voice, but he has a great one and if you love Tull (I do) you'll love this. The guitar, which is strong and confident, also brings to mind that group, while the bass and percussion have a jazzier approach like Cream or King Crimson. The hard hitting attack balanced with good melodies always reminded me of Czar on this album, and that can only be good. Every song is excellent, and there is no problem with any of the words or music here. The only problem is a "rushed" quality that leaves me salivating for more. It sounds like Titus Groan were a confident band who hurried into a studio and gave it their very best and suceeded in making a fantastic album, why wasn't there a second one? My favourite tracks here are on Side Two, the dark and ominous turning into light and playful at the end epic "I Can't Change" and Czar soundalike "Fuschia." Play the two albums together and you'll see what I'm talking about. Hey, I prefer Titus Groan to Blodwyn Pig- this is prime period Jethro Tull and NOT the much inferior first album with Mick Abrahams. There's strong melodies here, and even at their most daringly progressive on "Hall Of Bright Carvings" these guys cook and are impressive singers and musicians. If you like early prog with lots of energy this album will knock you out. I don't know why Titus G. have always been slammed by critics and dealers, I think this is a great album, in fact I know it is. The single wasn't too good, though, so skip over that if you get the reissue with the 7 inch tracks. Same scenario as another band wonder who that is... Czar. Surprised? Well I'm not, like I said take out the mellotron and put in saxes and flutes, it's the same great solid sound.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#79920)
Posted Wednesday, May 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I first heard this band on a college radio program and was blown away. The thing that struck me was the vocals. Awesome! Strangely, the liner notes to the CD do not credit anyone for singing, and all of the tracks HAVE singing. Anyway, the first song, "It's All Up With Us", is IMO the best song. Second best is the mostly instrumental track, "Hall Of Bright Carvings". The only downer for me really, is the singing on "Woman Of The World", but it's still half decent. Too bad they only produced one album. Excellent. 4 stars.

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Send comments to sco-bro (BETA) | Report this review (#120301)
Posted Monday, April 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars Here’s some fairly dated-sounding heavy prog from the UK made distinctive mostly thanks to the various wind instruments played by Tony Priestland. You won’t find a whole lot of prog albums that include an oboe, and especially not any where that instrument is featured prominently alongside Priestland’s saxophone and flute blowing as well. In fact, this may be one of the only records fitting that description.

I’ve read the overall impression of the music here described as neo-medieval, which despite being sort of an oxymoron is a pretty depiction. A lot of what leads to that impression is thanks to the flute and oboe playing, but bassist John Lee also contributes with an almost martial sound that isn’t very complex but gives the music a depth that serves to ground it in the sort of timeless setting that many of Jethro Tull’s albums also have. The harmonizing vocals are pure early seventies, particularly on the album’s longest song “Hall of Bright Carvings”. But despite it’s length of more than eleven minutes this isn’t a prog epic or anything; in fact, the band spends quite a bit of time just jamming in the middle and toward the end of the song and I’m left with the impression this was primarily meant as a crowd-pleasing live number.

The “heavy” part of the heavy prog here is due to Stuart Cowell’s intense electric guitar riffs, which along with his organ bleating on tracks like “I Can't Change” make for a hard-rocking sound that was quite popular at the time.

At times the harmonizing vocals serve to date the music even more definitively. “It's All Up With Us” is the best example of this, along with “Woman of the World”, which is one of the bonus tracks not on the original album but included on most of the CD reissues.

Same goes for “Open the Door Homer” (another CD bonus track), but this one is the closest the band would come to a commercially viable work thanks to an ear-friendly and accessible tempo and some BS&T-like saxophone. I don’t know if this one was released as a single, but in 1970 it probably would have charted had it been.

This album (and band) don’t do much for me personally, but their sound would have been quite acceptable at the time this record was released. The biggest knock is on the lyrics, which are sort of petty really and don’t do much to advance the music. A couple of extended instrumentals would have helped considering the fact that the three members of the band were all very decent musicians. I suppose the album deserves a bit more than a collectors-only label, if only because of the decent flute playing and unusual employment of a prominent oboe. So three stars it is, but recommended mostly to folks who have a fondness for pre-synthesizer era prog and don’t mind mediocre production.

peace

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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#177415)
Posted Sunday, July 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Titus Groan is not a masterpiece (as sometimes advertised) but is not a bad album either. It has decent melodies, good dynamics and well arranged songs performed by skilful musicians. And it has loads of woodwind parts, which are actually the most distinctive and interesting aspect of the album. Tony Priestland's flute, saxophone and oboe feature prominently on all five songs on the album, and to great effect. In fact, his skilled use of the woodwinds is the most 'progressive' aspect of Titus Groan's music ? which would otherwise be better described as a sort of 'psychedelic hard rock' .

While the 11+ minutes long mostly instrumental "Hall Of Bright Carvings" might look like an obvious candidate for best song of the album, in my opinion Titus Groan's best moments are the first two pieces on side B: the dynamic "I can't change" and the mellower "It's all up with us". Stuart Cowell's rough but emotional singing is convincing in both songs, and Priestland does an excellent job with his flute in "I can't change" and with his sax in "It's all up with us". "Hall Of Bright Carvings" is also a good song, although it feels like it dragged a bit to me. But it has its moments too, with pleasant vocal harmonies and some nice oboe work. The other two songs on the album are "It Wasn't For You", which is a decent bluesy opener, and the disappointing and repetitive uptempo "Fuschia".

"Titus Groan ... plus" comes with three bonus tracks originally released as a single in 1970. These are rather standard psychedelic rock songs, which did not impress me a lot: "Liverpool" is an OK pscyh song with a decent instrumental section at the end, "Open The Door, Homer" is a Bob Dylan song which passes away quite unnoticed, while "Woman Of The World" is just a poor pop/rock song.

2.5 stars really, with another 0.5 for the woodwinds.

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Send comments to lukretio (BETA) | Report this review (#280892)
Posted Friday, May 07, 2010 | Review Permalink
stefro
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars There are several top-notch reissue labels at work today - Repertoire, Sundazed, Sunbeam, Revisited - all releasing wonderfully obscure material from a host of once-ignored progressive, psychedelic and jazz-rock groups from the late-1960's and early-1970's, but it is surely Mark Powell's Esoteric Recordings who have embraced the reissue market in the quintessentially true, hyper-enthusiastic fanboy style needed. Thanks to Esoteric's exhaustive efforts, great albums such as 'Space Shanty' by Khan, 'One Niter' by Eela Craig, National Health's 'Of Queue's And Cures' and 'Bundles' by Soft Machine have been re-branded and re-invigorated, complete with attentive sleeve notes, top-quality sound and a genuine respect for the material. And now it is the turn of Titus Groan, an obscure, jazz-hued British group who released their one-and-only self-titled debut in 1970, and, like so many before and after them, vanished into the big dark black hole of rock 'n roll. The group, before their premature split, was four-strong, featuring Stuart Cowell(keyboards, guitars, vocals), Jim Tooney(drums), Tony Priestland(sax, flute, oboe) and John Lee(bass). Their sound was a jazzier and much lighter variant on the Van Der Graaf Generator school of prog, just without the discordant rumblings and shrieking vocals, though elements of Egg, Nucleus, Chicago, Soft Machine and Gentle Giant are also evident. The jazz element is not all-pervasive however, and the album drifts from style-to-style, taking in country rock, bluesy breaks, King Crimson-style discordia and flecks of heavy psychedelia in an engaging, unfussy and highly melodic fashion. Fans of obscure British prog should feel right at home then, and there is much to admire on this fiercely eclectic album, but 'Titus Groan' was obscure for a reason - and despite the genuine musicianship on offer the album does mine a fairly workmanlike style that doesn't really deliver in terms of truly memorable tunes. Jazzy then, and nice, and full of good songs - but it's no classic. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010

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Send comments to stefro (BETA) | Report this review (#330080)
Posted Monday, November 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Actually this is a song review as I have not listened to the entire LP even though I own the original. I have a bad habit of only listening to the longest track on most any album. That said I will add that I've known the song "Hall of Bright Carvings" for years from listening to college radio in the middle of the night.

I listen to all kinds of music, not only rock & metal so I bring that perspective to the table. I am planning in short order on catching up on all my prog rock though. To get to the point "Hall of Bright Carvings" is a classic !! It has a very memorable melody and I love that oboe. Wish more rock groups used one.

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Send comments to thenaturegurl (BETA) | Report this review (#890939)
Posted Thursday, January 10, 2013 | Review Permalink

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