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Prog Folk

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars While I would not call this double trio group as revolutionary as KC's incarnation during the 90's, this group is made of the basic guitar trio and another trio of classical musicians interacting fully. The resulting music is not only charming but also quite interesting for progheads.

In 71, there were plenty of musical possibilities yet unexplored and Tony Durant thought about integrating the strings developing soothing rather between ELO's first three album and JDDG's superb, haunting spine-chilling Sun Symphonia. Rather closer to ELO's sweeter sounds (circa Eldorado) than JDDG's crazed sounds, the album is a pure pleasure for progheads enjoying string works that is precisely between ELO's first three album and JDDG's superb, haunting spine-chilling Sun Symphonia, the album is a pure pleasure for progheads enjoying string works. Although you can sense the inexperience of the group (only Durant had actually recorded before) and therefore an underlying naiveté, the album operates full-charms out on the unsuspecting proghead, even though the album's inventiveness might not appear at first listen.

Although you will probably their music very symphonic, the real feel pervading is a rather soft folk rock with intricate (almost medieval) string arrangements. From the opening Gone With The Mouse (in JDDG's loft? ;-) and its marvellous naïve pastoral feel, to the fabulous mini-epic A Tiny Book with its exuberant feel reminding the better ELO days, where the wise-at-first strings dare go in adventurous demoniac/fiendish grounds. The lyrics throughout the album are hardly innocent or hippy dippy rather concentrating on Mervin Peake's oeuvre, but do not hold much wickedness, but the album is a must for anyone into Titus Groan.

Another Nail is one of two tracks that come from their Durant's Louise days (the other being the sub-par Kite), but it is definitely the first inside the coffin of your sanity. Here the girl trio provide a hellish intro before the group takes over, but Bland's harmonium keeps popping up and the girls come into the group to provide delicious licks on their strings and then outro the track as well.

The second side of the album starts softly on Shoes and Ship, with the whole thing definitely progressive but staying calm and featuring haunting cello drones (I was not sure I could place this line for 100 points ;-) on the closing section. When listening to the extensive mini-epic Nothing Song, one can wonder if Lynne and Wood had not laid their hands on a copy of this album. The album is not always even as there are tracks when the string section is used in a conservative manner: Kite and are hardly more than songs where a strings synths could suffice nowadays. However the closing Just anyone holds a tense suspense where the women are more discrete than on other parts of the album.

While it does not hold the insanity of Tea And Symphony, the pagan savagery of Comus and the extraordinary enthusiasm of Jan Dukes De Grey, this album is yet another just unearthed gems from the early 70's, just waiting for progheads to stumble on it and carve out a 24-carat reputation.

Report this review (#88685)
Posted Friday, September 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars I recently took a trip where I had a seven hour drive. Knowing I would need something interesting and novel to keep me alert, I picked up this reissue of some ancient prog/folk band I had never heard of, along with a couple of South American symphonic CDs to listen to along the way.

One of the other CDs was Crack’s album, which I enjoyed immensely. The other one never got played. I actually listened to this thing about five times in a row on the way to my meeting, and at least three more times on the way back. What a completely enjoyable album!

I have no idea what this band should be classified as. The first track starts off as sort of symphonic, but the strings are almost Baroque at times and lady singing ranges from near operatic to gothic. The acoustic guitar work is exquisite although quite simple, and Tony Durant’s singing reminds me a great deal of a number of early seventies British folk singers. Each track is elegant but not pompous, full of sounds but not haphazard. I have to believe these guys were mostly classically trained based on their precision and formal arrangements, but the feel of the album is one of young, creative artists of the very early seventies or even late sixties, which of course is exactly what they were.

The castanets on “Gone with the Mouse” contrast interestingly with the shrill cello and tinny harmonium. You don’t here those two instruments together, and the castanets make a trio that’s probably unique to this band. The violin passage that comes in at the end is achingly familiar, but perhaps that’s just a result of having heard this song so many times in the past few weeks. This is exactly what I always thought symphonic progressive music was supposed to sound like, although the rest of the album is much closer to a folk sound.

The acoustic guitar that opens “A Tiny Book” quickly gives way to a driving guitar/ tambourine/cello rhythm that is totally seductive, accompanied by harmonic backing (a couple of ladies with a guy who pipes in occasionally) and Durant’s vocals now sounding a bit like very early Moody Blues. A couple of tempo shifts give this one a bit a character, and the almost martial slow ending makes for an elegant closing.

“Another Nail” has a dissonant string opening that could have come from a Silver Mt Zion album just as easily, and this also gives way to a driving rhythm, this time acoustic guitars and a lively bass (perhaps upright, I actually can’t tell). The strings throughout this composition are lush and beautiful, not at all like the strident opening. Durant’s voice by now is almost driving me mad for its vague familiarity to someone else I can’t quite place. This is a ‘hug the sunshine’ kid of folksy number that also features some pleasing harmonium, and finishes with a catchy guitar riff that slowly fades to the same string discord that opened the song. Very well done.

The acoustic guitar continues on “Shoes and Ships”, and in fact this one sounds a lot like “A Tiny Book” but without the persistent guitars in the middle. The violins and cello are featured prominently with Durant’s simple vocals for a casual, almost ballad-like number.

The “Nothing Song” is announced as just that by the vocalist straight away amidst a formal string arrangement that reminds me a lot of very early ELO. This is the longest song on the album, but frankly there’s quite a bit of wandering around on guitar and meandering vocals that could have been firmed up a bit. But this was recorded in 1971, and things just didn’t move as quickly then, so one shouldn’t ask something to be what it is not, I suppose.

“Me and My Kite” could have easily been a Moodys song, a completely unaffected and simple ditty about a guy and his kite just meandering through the day without a care. I guess that thing I said about things moving a bit slower in 1971 was dead-on after all.

Finally comes “Just Another”, a pulsating guitar number with philosophical lyrics about the tranquility of personal observations of one’s surroundings despite the discord happening all around. Or something like that, not really sure to be honest, that’s my impression though. This one has more great acoustic guitar, but it a bit more aggressive than the rest of the album, and also includes some almost angry piano behind the thudding bass. Another fadeout ending, and I already want to play it again.

I don’t know what happened to these guys, but I hope they found other ways to express themselves throughout the rest of their lives. I suppose they could still be around, or at least some of them could be, although they’d be pretty old now. Too bad they didn’t put out more of this kind of music though. It’s really engaging, and makes for a nice drive through the countryside on a warm fall day. Highly recommended. Four stars.


Report this review (#104109)
Posted Thursday, December 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
3 stars Fuchsia only produced this one album, exploring the netherlands between folk, psych, prog and light classical. I enjoy the distinctly English flavour that saturates the disk, and the groundedness of the tunes and lyrics that favourably distinguishes this band from many of that era. I mean, a song called "Me and my Kite" about actually flying a doesn't get better than that as a slice of English whimsy without the smarminess of a Caravan or Stackridge.

The opener gets the listener involved at the outset with slam-dunked acoustic guitars, fascinating rhythms and the in-house strings section contributing to the general quirkiness. In addition, while Tony Durant dominates in the vocal department, Janet Rogets is allowed to contribute ethereal soli and wordless "ahs" to further the appeal of the song.

Everything here fits together quite well, with "The Nothing Song" being another particular highlight. My only real criticism of the album in general is that, in the end, there really isn't a classic track or a high impact piece, just a lot of nice at times interchangeable tunes that I might find myself humming, sometimes a little too often! But I am glad for the tiny legacy of this interesting and quirky yet easy listenin' band.

Report this review (#131980)
Posted Sunday, August 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars The male vocals leave a bit to be desired, but this one has some solid moves. Very much electric folk in spots with slamming drums and syncopations.

Good album but be warned that the officially released CD on Night Wing is one of the most poorly remastered progfolk CDs you will ever encounter. It's mastered like a modern heavy metal record with loads of compression, and the EQing is nearly insufferable. I believe that the tapes are probably lost for this album but just running a clean copy of the LP would have done this album much more justice.

There are two bootlegs on the market that actually sound better (one in jewelcase and one in mini lp that are the same mastering), but they are just taken from vinyl and are drenched in digital noise reduction instead of being properly declicked and treated with care. Hence, they also sound like garbage, but amazingly, the official release manages to sound even worse. When I first put it in I was shocked. I wonder if the people who worked on it have lost all hearing above 4k or something? The drag of this is that the original vinyl goes for big $$, and one is left with little choice but to support the artist and rarely listen to this because of digital earbleed. ;-(

Report this review (#183566)
Posted Thursday, September 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars Dark, but optimistic atmosphere of these songs surrounds this record wholy. The kind of folk I love, enhanced by something more, providing much needed free mood, air of choice and good will. It is a story about accomplished dream, how just another color inspired (Magenta, Cyan, Fuchsia, Orange, endless Blue groups, Red ones, Black metal types etc, Yellow fevers, whatever). There are orchestral (like, private orchestra consisting of violin) arrangements, but the problem is that they're quite muted, as other instruments are more prominent (guitar). Vocals are fine, sounds quite new (reminding me vocalist of Art Brut group, which as fact is strange). Backing vocals aren't that pleasant, but they're sparse. For folk group of this time (no psychedelic influences to be heard here), compositions are quite long and gives a lot of space to develop the song, to the good of this album as whole.

I also like this lazy English feeling I have from this album.

4(+), nice prog folk, full of usual stuff and something more, but together working extremely good. And again, clear bass lines to be heard here. I think that when you want to hear bass, just listen some prog folk songs and you're done.

Report this review (#267300)
Posted Sunday, February 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Named after the fictional character of Fuchsia Groan from the Titus Groan novel this short-lived British band was found by guitarist/singer Tony Durant in early-70's, while he was a student at Exeter University, along with bassist Michael Day and drummer Michael Gregory.Attracted by the use of string instruments, Durant recruited a three-piece female string section for the first Fuchsia release, Janet Rogers, Madeleine Bland and Vanessa Hall-Smith.The self-titled debut was recorded at the Sound Techniques Studios in Chelsea, London and released in summer 1971 by Pegasus.The same album was released a year later in France by Kingdom label.

Durant was not keen of complex arrangements or trully adventurous concepts, his aim as admitted was to build popular music orientations around string sections in an orchestral mood and the final result is very close to his likings, like THE BEATLES jamming with ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA with a touch of early RENAISSANCE.The overall atmosphere with the major use of simple-tuned acoustic guitars and female choir parts kind of remind of CARMEN on their less Andaluz-influenced side.But Fuchsia's music is also dominated by instrumental string arrangements in a Classical Music path, supported by a smooth rhythm section and the acoustic guitars of Durant along with his decent vocals.The album would have been trully original back in 1971, but I am not sure it has stood well against the sands of time.It sounds quite dated, easy-listening and far from the true aspects of progressive music, although there is a certain charm coming out of all these grandiose string parts dominating the album.The tracks sound very similar to each other with the same elements heard time after time without a wind of change throughout.

The band did a few concerts back in the days but lack of promotion and a promised but never fullfilled tour by their manager led to the demise of Fuchsia, shortly after their debut was released.

For fans of E.L.O., British Folk Rock or Orchestral Psych/Prog, Fuchsia has a decent value among their collection's item.For the rest be warned that this is a quite accesible release, closer to British Psych than the emerging prog movement...2.5 stars.

Report this review (#743755)
Posted Tuesday, April 24, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Fuchsia's debut album sounds sometimes like their own sound of YES-meets-THE WHO 'Renaissance folk rock' (on 1. "Gone with the Mouse" [4:59] [10/10]), sometimes like early MOODY BLUES (2. "A Tiny Book" [8:03] [9/10]), at others like CURVED AIR (the instrumental 3. "Another Nail" [6:57] [8/10]) and ELO (4. "Shoes and Ships" [6:14] [8/10] and 5. "The Nothing Song" [8:23] [8/10]), THE HOLLIES and HERMAN'S HERMITS ("Me and My Kite" [2:34] [8/10]) and even THE WHO ("The Nothing Song" and "Just Anyone" [3:33] [9/10])). The combination of three male acoustic rockers with a trio of female classical musicians turns brilliant with the surprisingly beautiful vocal contributions of both male and female contingents. As a matter of fact, when both are combined within the same song, that is when this surprising jewel is at its best.
Report this review (#1470077)
Posted Sunday, September 27, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars

This is an album that is of its time, the production is basic and at times frustrating, but when you listen to the songs you start to appreciate the complexities of what the band where trying to achieve. The album starts off with the majestic 'Gone with the Mouse' a song that glides along and then changes tempo and speed in that prog/folk way. Whats interesting about the record is that it captures that early seventies prog/folk scene really well with songs like 'Me and My Kite' and 'Shoes and Ships'. This is an album that is a real gem, its a pity that the band did not go on to make more records, they have something really special here.

Report this review (#1694647)
Posted Monday, February 20, 2017 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Taking their name from Lady Fuchsia Groan of the 1940's novel `Titus Groan', Fuchsia were a British progressive-folk group made up of students who delivered a single cherished little album that has since picked up quite a legendary underground status over the last few decades. Comprised of charming and sprightly folk tunes with lush orchestrated instrumentation and keen pop melodies, it almost sounds like a cross between early Pink Floyd and the Syd Barrett solo albums, Electric Light Orchestra and a pinch of Gentle Giant, Caravan and Fruupp, making for a whimsical, energetic and sweet psych-lite folk gem.

The group is directed by lead singer and guitarist Tony Durant, who fleshes out Fuchsia's acoustic/electric sound with a predominantly female band on violin, cello, viola, harmonium and piano. Opener `Gone With The Mouse' is softly energetic and lively, propelled by forcefully jangling plugged-in guitar strums, sighing plaintive backing vocal longings from the girls and lightly proggy orchestral-like violin interludes that soar gently with confidence.

`A Tiny Book', one of the more ambitious pieces at eight minutes, is a mini-suite of subtle reprising passages that seamlessly move in and out of each-other, darting through everything from frantic electric bursts, wearily wistful ballad ruminations and regal-flecked pomp in the finale that would make Gentle Giant green with envy! Pay close attention to this track - Tony's likable voice here often sounds like the results of a lovechild between the Floyd's Syd Barrett and the nasally Steven Wilson of the early Porcupine Tree works! But moving on, `Another Nail' is bookended with violin-fuelled whimsy that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Caravan albums like `For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night' before crashing into a politely wilder vocal psychedelic runaway rocker with a touch of Pink Floyd/`The Piper at the Gates of Dawn's `Astronomy Domine' to it!

The B-side's `Shoes And Ships' is one of the strongest tunes on the album, a fragile yet elegant folk-popper with frequent orchestral reprises in place of a vocal chorus and a longer instrumental acoustic guitar outro, and it almost sounds like a template for a million indie-pop/folk bands ever since. The playful and loopy `The Nothing Song' practically screams Syd Barrett and his `Madcap Laughs' and `Barrett' albums, and along with some darker little traces locked in, there's a deliciously bent and slightly `off' quality to it all! It's a psychedelic romp that throws in everything from big percussion crashes, rumbling drums, dramatic orchestration, with shambling acoustic guitars alongside manic and mischievous electric guitar soloing.

`Me And My Kite', a favourite amongst fans of the album and group, is a gorgeously twee pop-charmer with a sweet and achingly simple chorus, and the dreamy bluesy guitar bends of closer `Just Anyone' again reminds of the earliest Floyd works.

Sadly, sparse advertising and failed touring opportunities lead to the premature demise of the group soon after, until a compilation of unreleased and related pieces entitled `Fuchsia, Mahogany and Other Gems' emerged in 2005, and more excitingly a revamped modern line-up assembled by Mr Durant, now based in Australia, delivering a well-received proper follow-up `Fuchsia II: From Psychedelia...To a Distant Place' in 2013. But for over forty years now, this charming self-titled work has been Fuchsia's defining musical statement, one that holds an effortlessly melodic crossover quality that would also likely appeal to non-folk fans, and it has retained its infectious and precious charm ever since.

Four stars.

Report this review (#1743770)
Posted Saturday, July 15, 2017 | Review Permalink

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