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David Bedford - Instructions for Angels CD (album) cover


David Bedford

Crossover Prog

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4 stars The follow-up to ''The Odyssey'', this album continues in a similar vein. The instrumentation is again comprised of synthesizers, Solina Strings, piano, orchestral instruments and female voices, and again we have an appearance by Mike Oldfield and this time also by Mike Ratledge.

The whole album is a set of variations on a mediaeval tune by an ''anonymous composer of the School of Worcester''. Stylistically, the bulk of the album is comparable to ''The Odyssey'' in its dreamy mood and - in spite of the heavy use of synthesizers - vaguely pastoral atmosphere; it leans however a bit more to the ''avantgardistic'' side in compositional development, though nothing like Bedford's truely avantgarde pieces like ''Star's End'' or ''Nurses Song With Elephants''; it merely takes more unexpected turns than the music found on ''The Odyssey''. Bedford manages to create many interesting and unexpected variations out of the simple main theme here; in spite of that, it can seem a bit repetitive with its constant reference to the same tune. (Although I understand that each variation is of a different section of the original piece, they all appear to be quite similar.)

Mike Ratledge plays a nice synthesizer solo on ''First Came the Lion Rider''; the title track is a duet (or should I say duel? It almost sounds like it in its intensity) between Bedford on church organ and Mike Oldfield delivering a ferocious guitar solo.

This is definitely one of Bedford's more proggy albums, though I'd recommend you get ''The Odyssey'' and possibly ''Rigel 9'' first. Oldfield fans, however, need this disc for the title track alone (it's not featured on the ''Boxed'' compilation which, if I remember correctly, was released the same year).

Report this review (#184178)
Posted Tuesday, September 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars If you had to pick just one album to showcase a 1970s analogue sequencer, which would you choose? The one that slowly goes out of tune in Tangerine Dream's 'Phaedra' might be representative of the somewhat primitive technology, but in terms of how well such a piece of equipment was ever utilised, you need look no further than 'Instructions for Angels', for it not only boasts the archetypal analogue sequencer sound, but also incorporates it in the musical texture better than anywhere else. There are times on this album when one wishes that digital synthesis had simply never happened.

'I4A' is the last of David Bedford's tetralogy for Virgin records and also the most consistent. At least (again), "side one" is. With their ingenious twists and turns, these first three tracks have a warm, mildly trippy feel, melded with a gentle and unpretentious pastoral quality, with the sequencer breaking through the textures like rays of rhythmic sunshine. They never fall foul of the crossover hubris of 'Star's End' or of the crowd-pleasing attempts of 'The Odyssey'. Nevertheless, it shares a similar malaise with one of Bedford's previous albums, namely the same running-out-of-steam that bedevilled 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'. Again, it is the first half of the album, or maybe in this case up to the end of the first track of "side two" where the interest lies.

"Side two" (tracks 4-6) as a whole is a bit of a let down. 'First Came The Lion Rider' is not so bad, if a little bit lightweight. It is jolly, decorously arranged and very well played (including some lovely oboe and french horns) and with an excellent solo by Mike Ratledge, but once that fades out, the wheels really come off. The title track is just Mike Oldfield being Mike Oldfield for six tedious minutes to no purpose whatsoever. The finale (a piece written for and played by the Leicestershire Schools Orchestra), though better than that, is from another sound-world entirely. Apart from the appearance of the original theme, neither of these last two tracks seems to belong with the rest.

Rating: "side one" 5 stars; "side two" 2.5 stars

Postscript: Where to Find the Best of Bedford

'The Tentacles of the Dark Nebula' (1969) sung by Peter Pears (Decca), never released on CD, but available on YouTube

'Star Clusters, Nebulae and Places in Devon' (1971) by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Voiceprint)

'The Golden Wine is Drunk' (1974) on 'English Choral Music' by the Netherlands Chamber Choir (Globe)

'Fridiof Kennings' (1980) on 'First & Foremost' by the Apollo Saxophone Quartet (Decca)

and from the four albums for Virgin Records:

'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner', part one only;

'Circe's Island' from 'The Odyssey';


'Instructions for Angels "side one" only.

Report this review (#2543204)
Posted Sunday, May 16, 2021 | Review Permalink

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