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David Bedford - Star Clusters, Nebulae & Places in Devon / The Song of the White Horse CD (album) cover


David Bedford

Crossover Prog

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3 stars Even though the recording is from 1983, both pieces on this disc were in fact written in 1971.

''Star Clusters, Nebulae & Places in Devon'' is a piece for choir and brass ensemble. The lyrics sung by the choir are exactly what the title refers to: the names of star clusters, of nebulae, and of prehistoric sites located in Devon. The music goes through many different moods, but remains firmly in the avantgarde vein. The choral arrangements are, at times, reminiscent of Ligeti's ''Lux Aeterna'' (the piece that was used in ''2001 - A Space Odyssey''). While somewhat more accessible than, say, ''Star's End'', it's certainly not easy listening.

''The Song of the White Horse'', on the other hand, is definitely the more accessible of the two pieces on this disc, getting at times very melodic, vaguely mediaeval or folkish while retaining an experimental nature; rather than avantgardistic, I would perhaps describe this as a postmodern composition. It utilizes a more diverse instrumentation, with orchestra, choir, a female soloist, and Mike Ratledge and the composer himself on synthesizers and organ.

In the words of the composer, the piece is ''a musical evocation of the Ridgeway footpath between Wayland's Smithy (a stone-age burial chamber) and the White Horse of Uffington, and culminates in a setting of words from 'The Ballad of the White Horse' by G.K. Chesterton, celebrating King Alfred's conclusive victory over the Danes in the 19th century.''

Mike Oldfield acts as producer and engineer on both tracks, but does not appear as musician this time. Open-minded Oldfield fans and prog fans in general may find ''The Song of the White Horse'' a rewarding listen; I can't really think of anything it can comfortably be compared to as it's neither hardcore avantgarde like some of Bedford's recordings, nor really classifiable as prog like others. Rating this disc in a prog context once again proves difficult, especially as the two cuts on it are quite different from each other, but since I guess it can't really be said to be an ''essential'' addition to a prog collection, I'm going with a three-star rating.

Report this review (#184285)
Posted Wednesday, October 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!

After an almost six year break, where he produced early-80's pop music, Bedford returns to his then-abandoned solo career, with another 'grandiose' concept cosmic album that comprises two orchestral sidelong suites, that can be considered a mix of symphonic and avant-garde music the whole thing being sprinkled with a sometimes heavy dose of new age. Actually, given the time of release (early 80's), this is rather surprising a release, given its 'progressive' nature, but then again the mainstream pop current probably didn't give a hoot.

In some ways, the album can easily be the target of ridicule arrows, both on the pop side, but also the prog side, because some of the passages are bloody cheesy and kitsch. But on the whole, I think there is certain amount of respect that comes from this project from both sides, because given the means developed, this was quite a daring bet for release. Not sure Bedford saw immediate financial rewards from this oeuvre, but I'm rather certain he prides himself of the birth of these two pieces. Sometimes close to Kubrick's 2001 soundtrack music, it can go to slightly dissonant lengths (but never shocking), but in general, the listener will remember the choral passages and the symphonic orchestral arrangements to back them up; and let's face it: this is about as fine as it gets, despite its grandiloquent dimension. More than once, you'll also be reminded of Floyd's Atom Heart Mother's title track suite, and that's definitely a compliment.

If I must give the closest Bedford works to the present, I'd no doubt say that Ancient Mariner is the one, but in some ways, we're more between Stars' End and AM, than we are between AM and Odyssey. But Places In Devon is definitely the best place to start on Bedford's musical realm, and in some ways, it is also the pinnacle of his career.

Report this review (#506604)
Posted Sunday, August 21, 2011 | Review Permalink

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