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The Web - I Spider CD (album) cover

I SPIDER

The Web

Jazz Rock/Fusion


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Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is where The Web became just Web, ultimately offering a powerful point of reference for the evolution of prog rock in the jazz-rock area. The entry of keyboardist Dave Lawson (also owner of a charismatic, powerful singing style, bizarre pitch) refurbished the band's sound by making the keyboards and vibes form the prominent nuclear center of the whole ensemble's sound. It is also obvious that the new fresh air comes from the solid influences from great contemporaries art-rock bands such as Soft Machine, The Nice, Caravan, Egg and Procol Harum. The album kicks off with the monster piece 'Concerto for Bedsprings', a 10+ minute song with five individually defined sections. 'I Can't Sleep' is a slow rocker intro that sounds like a Zeppelin-meets-Egg feast, and it is a real pity that it isn't longer because it's terribly catchy. Anyway, the transitions to the next two sections emphasize the band's jazzy nuclear essence, very Canterbury-related indeed. 'You Can Keep the Good Life' is an uplifting section that straightforwardly reveals the band's good vibe; the featured sax solo is playful enough to complement the quite controlled deliveries of the remaining instruments. A passage like this explains why Lawson was destined to meet Dave Greeenslade some day and form a band together. Once again, this section ends too soon to segue into the closing section 'Loner'. I wouldn't have minded if it had been some minutes longer, but it's really a great start. The namesake track is an excellent showcase for the ingenious use of a simplistic musical idea in order to make it richer. The languid cadence, the lush organ layers and soaring vibraphone, the hazy sax lines, all of them create a pertinently introspective atmosphere; meanwhile, the repetitive minimal guitar phrases fulfill the overall aura with their focused precision. And the gentle chord shift that sets the conclusive portion, well, it's just plain lovely, mysterious in a way. If a track can last 8 ¾ minutes with such an evidently concise motif, then one must acknowledge the genius in the concept and the arrangement. The album's second half kicks off with 'Love You': after an eerie intro of piano and mellotron, the piece unwraps a main body that sounds like one of those R'n'B-toned The Nice songs that made it for any of their first two albums, only Web delivers it with a more meticulous balance among instruments. Lead guitarist plays a brief, rough solo that is closely related to anything that Robin Trower could have performed in Procol Harum's "Shine On Brightly" or "Home" albums. Generally speaking, this track is not too complex, but it certainly portrays a very usual sound in England's underground rock scene at the time. Complexity really comes out in the superb instrumental 'Ymphasomniac', an effective exhibition of pre-Gentle Giant syncopation combined with colorful traces of Egg and Colosseum. The album's last 8 minutes are occupied by 'Always I Wait', a song that brings much of the spirit of the extroverted moments from 'Concerto', only this time provided with an extra touch of blues-rock to feed the overall jazz feel. The track's melodic arrangement is elegantly developed, which shows the band's ability to set constraints to the potential energy in a clever way. Shortly after, the band added a second saxophonist and changed its name to Samurai: "I Spider" is, mainly, a solid precedent of that, and in itself, a great if obscure effort for the installment of early prog.

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#178979)
Posted Wednesday, August 06, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars Last or second last album of this group, depending on how you view the Samurai album that followed I Spider. Personally I prefer this as the second last The Web albums (making Samurai the last), but who cares anyway? Here the group went through an important shuffle, losing their singer John Watson and bassist, the former getting replaced by keyboardist and singer Dave Lawson (ex-Episode 6, ex-Almond Marzipan & future Greenslade), who'll become also the only songwriter on this third album. The latter's replacement is one of the guitarist switching to bass, thus making the group a sextet down from a septet. This change, plus the label change (from Deram to Polydor) made The Web a dramatically different group, even if the music mini-suites from the two previous albums remained, here with the 10- mins+ concerto For Bedsprings. The album came with a stunning gatefold artwork, showing animals with Chinese finger-lade shadow-heads.

In itself the music of the group was greatly changed, sounding much more like a brassy King Crimson and Colosseum, starting with the five movement 10-mins+ mini-suite Concerto For Bedsprings, which from the tone of the voice is not about to please our pornographic or erotic hunger, with the depressing I Can't Sleep for first movement. The next sack Song is definitely more upbeat with the horns reminding of Charig, Miller or Evans on early Crimson albums, Lawson's voice certainly not having the strength of their previous John L Watson, but is not that bad a fit for this type of songs. The following three movement keep a Colosseum feel close by. The following track is another lengthy title track, which pumps its main slow riff from somewhere else (it could also be from atomic Rooster), with Lawson's gloomy voice towering over the guitar and the sax, while the drum take dramatic tom rolls. Excellent stuff, especially Harris' soprano sax solo.

The flipside starts with the ultra slow intro-ed Love Song, which soon gets its gallon as a pure brass rock gem that unfortunately overstays its welcome by a minute or so. The following Ymphasomniac repetitive instrumental sounds like a second rate The Nice until the percussion/drum duo changes the tune, as it reprises with horns, but it's a bit too late to save it, even though it's got its charm. The menacing and almost brooding Always I Wait closes the album and it's got some of the best instrumental interplay including some vibraphone, (which again send Colosseum comparisons) and some interesting childish vocals.

Many of these tracks from this album (including the Bedspring Concerto) will find themselves as bonus live tracks of a reissue of the Samurai album. I trust Vicky and her friends from the Esoteric label to have done a good thorough job cleaning and mastering this album in the brand new reissue of all three Web, plus the Samurai albums, which were all in dire need of it, because it takes a bit too much an effort to actually dig out what shouldn't be. In the meantime, This probably the best Dave Lawson album, possibly along with Samurai, I Spider is an excellent album that could turn your shelves into something more special than if you had a [&*!#]load of Greenslade album.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#191477)
Posted Tuesday, December 02, 2008 | Review Permalink
Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Keyboardist/singer Dave Lawson is among the musicians from, as I see it, a musical culture local to mid Southeast England. More a style than a scene - which I've affectionately coined the 'Surrey sound' - it includes artists from this area such as David Greenslade, as well as those from Greater London like Morgan Fisher and Quatermass. It is Lawson [replacing John L. Watson] who gives Web's third release it's distinction and marvelous prog direction, moving the band quite some distance from their previous West Coast psych/jazz approach. Veteran proggies will immediately recognize Lawson's vibrato-less caterwaul from his Greenslade days and I Spider reveals just how much he contributed to that classic band's sound. It also makes it a set indispensable to anyone with a thing for those one-shot prog happenings that appeared and just as quickly evaporated (Quiet Sun anyone?). As stated by AMG's JoAnn Greene; "Lawson's fabulous organ playing was now the band's fulcrum, filling the album with rich, and especially on the title track, haunting atmospheres, as well as providing a fixed point from which the rest of the band could swoop off in their own directions."

Tony Edwards' big fuzz guitar sound, Tom Harris's saxes and Lennie Wright's vibes introduce the 5-sectioned 'Concerto for Bedsprings', soon taken over by Dave Lawson's eldritch piano lines and complaints of insomnia. It wastes no time moving briskly from easy swing to weird Lounge music, hard jazzrock, Lawson's lonely man blues and near-suicidal lyrics. Turning up the class is the title, a sophisticated ballroom that sparkles with modern jazz in a Shirley Bassey mode (Lawson had studied with British jazz great Stan Tracey). Rocker 'Love You' is atonal but nice, facet-cut angles of wonderful 'Ymphasomniac' with Kenny Beveridge's tympani booms, bongos & assorted percussives and a killer jam-out from all, and the album wraps on another fascinating meeting of swing-jazz with hard progrock for 'Always I Wait'.

Lawson would go on to co-lead David Greenslade's band but this is arguably his finest moment in the Prog firmament. These days he and his state-of-the-art sound design system, purportedly the largest Synclavier and synth setups in Europe, do just fine composing for all number of films, television, orchestrations and productions. If you don't already have a taste for this rather pungent Prog milieu, I Spider simply may not excite you the way it will those who love the kind of frenetic and funky rave-ups offered by Morgan, The Nice, Touch, and Beggars Opera. Two interesting live cuts from Sweden in 1971 are offered as well.

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Send comments to Atavachron (BETA) | Report this review (#288508)
Posted Sunday, June 27, 2010 | Review Permalink

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