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SUBWAY

Subway

Prog Folk


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!

This duo's sole album proved to be one of the most elusive collectible vinyls in the folk rock realm, and its reputation of being a lost gem was not usurped. Made from an encounter in the London tube between American singer/songwriter Irvin Mowrey and British classically trained violinist Malcolm Watson. The duo developed an acoustic 12-string guitar-violin sound that sounded quite unique, mixed with Mowrey's great voice and intriguing lyrics.

From the fragile opening I Am A Child to the darker 5-mins Songs From A Sinking Shelter (Watson is all over the track from the foreground to the background and enhanced with a mellotron and percussions) to the absolutely haunting and psychedelic Warm You Are (with a slightly Mauresque ambiance and backwards cymbal effects) and the group-enhanced soundscape of All Good Things, the first side is a pure marvel of psych/acid/progressive folk. Yet, nothing is to prepare us for the flipside.

Opening on the fantastic Enturbulation, where some electric guitars, organ, bass and drums accompany the duo, Watson's violin simply soars to height unsuspected until Mowrey's guitar is taking the song into full-blown jam, ending dramatically. Arizona Sands return to more traditional folk, with Watson's violin is sending chills down your spine. The closing track Trade With You My Mind is another full group effort, pushing the music towards an electric folk rock. Influence-wise the two tracks with the rock arrangements are really close to String Driven Thing's best moments on Machine That Cried.

It is clear that if all these songs are penned by guitarist-singer Mowrey, they would not have the same flavour without Watson's superb and inventive violin, often giving a normal song a haunting and eerie atmosphere to them. Sadly all too short, I'm more than sure there are more tapes lying around from radio shows or unused tracks for the album. And yet after so many years of turning the music racks upside down, this old geezer still manages to discover one of those legitimate lost gems in the acid-folk domain, that this little oeuvre is a real beauty.

Report this review (#123209)
Posted Thursday, May 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
chamberry
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Subway are one of my recent finds in the folk side of music. I've always been a fan of the genre since I heard the albums in Sean Trane's recommendation blog. Since then I've been hunting for bands and long lost gems and in the end it led me to this wonderful band called Subway.

Subway are a duo that played music for a living in the subways of Paris (hence their name). One day they were playing a record producer was passing by and it was a Cinderella story all over again. They got a record deal and wrote and released an album, but they only made a very little amount of copies and the ones they didn't sold got burned. A sad thing to do since this is definitely a tasty gem.

The music in this album is all over the place, but it always keeps a sort of mystical atmosphere (just like what you get by looking at the cover art).They can be as beautiful as the opener, "I Am A Child" to the psychedelic freakout of "Enturbulation-Free Form". As the previous reviewer pointed out the violin in this album owes much to the atmosphere here. Aside from the guitar and violin there are other instruments like the mellotron in the dreamy "Song For Sinking Shelter", drums/ percussions used in "All The Good Things" as well as several other songs and the song with a wide array of electric instruments like electric guitar, bass, drums and organ in the trippy "Enturbation". The song may look out of place in the context of the album, but it doesn't and surprisingly adds a whole different dimension to their already marvelous sound. The same can be said about "Can I Trade With You My Mind", but in a more pastoral way. All the songs blend nicely I personally wouldn't add or take any songs in the album even though its only around 35 minutes long.

In the end this is an excellent album to have if you have the chance to get it. If you're a fan of acid folk and psych folk then you won't have a problem enjoying this album. A great album to play in a sunny day outside.

Report this review (#123246)
Posted Thursday, May 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars SUBWAY were a band made up of an American who wrote the songs and sang while playing his 12 string guitar and an Englishman who was a classically trained violinist. Let's just say that playing in the subway brought the duo success in both the UK and France.You can read their biography here at Prog Archives to get the details. The album cover looks like a picture of two minstrels from the 1600's. They play an Acid-Folk brand of music and there are drums, organ, bass and electric guitar on several of the songs.

You can really get an idea of how they would have sounded playing in the subway on "I Am A Child". The two of them do a excellent job on this song with great lyrics like "I'm a child and I can fly..." On the next song "Song For Sinking Shelters" we hear some unique guitar sounds in this psychedelic flavoured tune with some soaring violin. "Warm You Are" opens with almost dissonant violin melodies. This song has a greater emphisis on violin that plays over the 12 string guitar.

"All The Good Things" is where we hear some drums for the first time. "Enturbulation - Free Form" is my favourite song on this record. This song feels like a jam and the violin is outstanding ! We also get some organ and electric guitar. Great song ! "Arizona Sands" is ok,kind of melancholic. "Rosanna Of The Roses" has some keys late in the song with drums earlier. "Can i Trade With You My Mind" has the usual terrific guitar and violin as the sound gets fuller as the drums come in after 2 minutes.

This is a tasteful folk album with some nice violin,12 string guitar and vocals. Although this is far from my favourite genre there is something very special about this release.

Report this review (#123591)
Posted Sunday, May 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars You can get the quick story of Subway's history on the back side of the record sleeve. American guitarist/songwriter Irvin Mowrey goes to England in the early seventies just because that's what a lot of American artistic-types did back then. He meets Englishman Malcolm Watson who is a journeyman violinist and the two of them end up busking in the subways for spare income. Though the duo attract some interest, Mowrey has to leave the country due to work visa issues and the two land in France where they continue busking, are 'discovered', and end up recording this album. What the album notes don't explain is that the record was limited in production, had basically no promotion and sank like a stone although the duo did attract somewhat of a following opening for Supertramp for a while. Mowrey and Watson continued their nomadic ways through the mid-seventies and eventually released another album under their own names titled (appropriately) 'Busker' along with a film of the same name documenting those days. Mowrey also released a solo record at the end of the decade, but I haven't been able to find much information other than the title ('Continental Drift').

As far as the album goes, this is some pretty interesting and darn good music, especially considering its humble beginnings. You would think a songwriting 12-string acoustic guitarist from the early seventies U.S. and an English violinist might end up making mostly stilted and faux-Renaissance British folk music, but such is really not the case. True, the music is pretty much all acoustic, heavily influenced by English folk (along with hints of Celtic and possibly even a little Welsh). And the singing tends to be very close to what is usually referred to as 'bard-like'. And the first fifteen minutes of the record are dominating by three slow, acoustic, folksy numbers consisting exclusively of Mowrey's vocals and 12- string strumming along with Watson's bowing. "I Am a Child", "Spmg for Sinking Shelters" and "Warm Are You" are very decent folk music to be sure, but certainly not groundbreaking or even particularly progressive.

But after that things improve remarkably, mostly thanks to the addition of some very good percussion including both hand and snare drums and beginning with the haunting and enchanted "All the Good Things". "Enturbulation (Free Form)" goes even further by adding heavy doses of tasty, pysch-leaning electric guitar and I believe even some piano/ keyboards, although quite faint so it's a bit hard to tell for sure. This one is an instrumental and highlights Watson's skill on strings, which may be one of the earlier demonstrations of just how much the depth and range a violin can bring to rock-oriented music. 'Free Form' is unlike anything else on the album, and the one track that most certainly was not performed behind an open violin case at the foot of stairs leading to a subway. This one is a richly arranged and produced studio concoction and gets quite trippy as it lumbers along. "Rosanna of the Roses" is another rather rocking number with crisp snare drumwork and more emphasis on Mowrey's comfortable 12-string strumming.

Despite the fact that Mowrey wrote all the songs, provides all the vocals and presumably plays all the acoustic guitar parts, Watson dominates most of the second half of the album with his evocative violin playing. It's a perfect musical marriage, and one that probably should have yielded much more material than what the two of them managed to record together.

Today Malcolm Watson is based out of Colorado in the United States and is in demand as a motivational speaker and new-age musician, and bills himself as The Barefoot Violinist. His discography includes a half-dozen new new-age, classical and holiday recordings and his 5-member band includes - you guessed it, Irvin Mowrey.

This is a very charming and highly enjoyable album that should appeal to most any progressive, folk or acoustic music fan. It's been reissued on CD and is well worth seeking out. Four out of five stars, missing on the fifth only because the first couple of songs don't distinguish themselves quite as much as the rest of them do. Highly recommended.

peace

Report this review (#343092)
Posted Saturday, December 4, 2010 | Review Permalink

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