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Perry Leopold - Christian Lucifer CD (album) cover


Perry Leopold

Prog Folk

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Retired Admin
5 stars Lucifer, charismatic and gentle

Following the experiments started in the 60s - folk music suddenly grew out of its, by then, increasingly uncomfortably tiny shell, branching out in a wide variety of sonic ventures. Bands like Tea & Symphony and The Incredible String Band were already stretching the boundaries of the "genre" towards the end of the decade, and with the new one unfolding the sounds and different undertakings were suddenly taken to another level altogether - culminating in the likes of Comus' First Utterance and Jan Dukes de Grey's rather cacophonous masterpiece Mice and Rats in the loft. There were, however, still the odd leftovers from the preceding decade, people who seemed enamoured with the feel of sweet crisp atmospheres of a bare naked acoustic guitar served up with a singer-song writer's heart and soul.

Perry Leopold fits in with the latter, and just popping this record on the stereo will send you off to a time where people wore flowers as garments and happily sat down in the grasses at a concert. This is how Christian Lucifer feels to me. The fact that Leopold was an avid tourer of coffee houses and green pastured knolls does indeed add another dimension to my line of thinking, but it is more than that. The music contained within this somewhat obscure album never looses its temper and transforms into what many other folk rockers were trying at the time, that is the kind of pseudo rock you'd hear on some of the aforementioned acts, -no no, on this little album the feel is grounded and warm - slowly wandering guitar sprinklings that hold your hand while they whisper softly in your ear.

Realising that I am painting a picture of a hippie antiquity out of time, I must confess that there is far more to the equation than just that. Far more. First of all, one of the more brilliant and intelligent attributes of this release, and Perry Leopold no less, is the fact that these soft and warm folk melodies are hiding the true colours of the songs. There is a devil lurking underneath with forked tongue and a big smirk on his face - telling you stories of beautiful garden roses and sunsets red, all the while he's stealing your soul and setting fire to your house. In other words: there is a great counter pointing effect that underlines all of this record - painting shadows all over the place like a dark menacing wizard of the underworld. These next lines speak volumes of the sort of masked danger hiding beneath the obvious feel good vibe:

"Fire... breathing clouds tell of treason. Father... are your prayers out of season. In the mourning... when the Son returns to shine. Heed the warning... see the light

You say you're hoping to find. All the love in the world. Waiting to hear the chimes. Ringing in the new world (of love...) The new world (of love...) But the Sun King carries out... His Word..."

Apart from the lyrical universe, the devil is very much in the details - meaning that on the face of it, the music doesn't exactly spell Lucifer or anything close to that, but when you really submerse yourself in the moods and ambiances of the tracks, you suddenly encounter a whole new world stretching out in front of you. Whether it chooses to appear in the form clavinet, bassoon, French horn, cellos, flute or the occasional moog synth excursion - there is always something happening away from the straightforwardness of Leopold's earthy guitar. One of my absolute favourite things about Christian Lucifer is the omnipresent oboe that wafts over and under the music like some kind of mellow serenade of sadness. What this instrument lacks in power and girth, it conveys through pure feel and intonation, and rather like the voice of the man himself here, the oboe gives off that nasally charged melody that marries so well together with the rest of the musical imagery.

Whilst Perry Leopold's music may sound like a second cousin to Roy Harper - he never really hits those same frail and quivering vocal notes. His voice is sweeter and rounder with a touch of masculine meatiness to the low basement notes - reminding this listener of a softer and cleaner version of Ian Anderson. Leopold basically has two instruments where his voice counts as the more versatile of the lot.

I heartily recommend this little album to anybody with a penchant for the late 60s folk scene, and to people who fancy the likes of Roy Harper, John Fahey, Bert Jansch, Tim Buckley and John Renbourn. Christian Lucifer is a record that enhances the orange colours of a fading sun - it makes the food and wine taste better, and in spite of its gentle nature, it still manages to compliment the darker beauty of the lyrical content hiding underneath.

Report this review (#731661)
Posted Tuesday, April 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
Prog-Folk Team
5 stars In the realm of prog rock, we are quite desensitized to the reality that, even in the genre's heyday, many LPs were issued with the stingiest quotas, which at least kept them out of cutout bins. We can argue that, for some of these, their only virtue was scarcity. But what of releases that never escaped in any form in whole or in part? Philadelphia-born PERRY LEOPOLD boasted one of each. His first, "Experiment in Metaphysics", had only 300 pressings, which he then proceeded to give away without even testing the open market. Even more wildly, his sophomore effort, "Christian Lucifer", was cursed into purgatory for a quarter century by a defunct studio that couldn't even fulfill its final directive, that being utter destruction of all master tapes. Somehow at least one survived, becoming the essence of the first ever issue of the recording in 1999. While I can't particularly fault those company execs for balking at the time, I do question their intellectual curiosity, for from the first listen "Christian Lucifer" wove itself into my folk DNA, while craftily mutating with each subsequent iteration. The only cure is salvation, which isn't going to happen, so I'll settle for the next best thing, rapt indulgence for the next 25 years, should I be so lucky.

Somehow "Christian Lucifer" manages to be uniform but not monotonous, consistent but not predictable, highly melodic but not cloying, lyrical but not precious, earnest but not preachy, devotional but not rigid, and free thinking but not blasphemous. All of these balances are achieved on more levels than most album-a-year artists could muster in a long career. They are essential to the duality of this work. Start with Leopold's words themselves, both poetic and street smart, resplendent with allegory, and his voice is earthy with just a slight trace of Americana, given to neither excess emotion nor indifference. His omnipresent and expressive acoustic guitar is serenaded by a variety of classical instruments like oboe, flute, horn and cello, with delicate accents on synthesizer, so painstakingly interspersed that they sound as rooted as everything else.

It is rather telling that, though smatterings of influences can be discerned over the course of the 7 tracks, the only one that is really worth echoing back is in the first words of the weakest track, the ultra low PH "Serpentine Lane", taking the form of "Ground Control to Major Tom". The best are the first two epics, the wafting and hypnotic "Sunday Afternoon in the Garden of Delights", and the slightly more emphatic "the Windwill", with its sprinklings of clavinet. But my personal favorite is the relatively lively "The Annunciation", which, is styled like a mellower JETHRO TULL circa "Benefit". But this is such a unified work that picking favorites is little different from playing favorites.

Like a grand friend, "Christian Lucifer" now seems like it's always been right there at my side, or maybe in front of me, my prog folk pied piper, leading me who knows where. But it's about the journey, isn't it?

Report this review (#1786189)
Posted Saturday, September 23, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars Christian Lucifer was recorded between 1971-1973 before the studio went bust, but the master tapes were kept and eventually found their way to a label in 1999. Thank god/lucifer for that.

With the world of 90s "prog" quite dominated by metal, a slightly obscure acid folk record is a welcome change. I am in no way a deep thinker, so don't feel I can do this album justice at all, but even I have visions of wandering lost a desert, stumbling onto a crossroads at a dirt track and finding Perry Leopold sitting with his guitar on a rock.

Simplest way to describe it is Jethro Tull with an element of darkness. But that's not really giving it the recognition it deserves. Just kick back and have a listen. Quite brilliant.

Report this review (#2479172)
Posted Monday, November 23, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars Christian Lucifer by Perry Leopold was a studio album recorded in 73 but wasn't released until 99. This album is strictly folk prog by contrast to something like Aqualung by Jethro Tull that is more like prog rock with folk instrumentation in the mix, and I can appreciate both of those. Jethro Tull's rock elements make the music more fun, while I find the strictly folk instrumentation of Perry to leave room for more beautiful melody's and songs. So if you can dig that , then I would highly recommend this album. Some songs on the album have a medieval, feif sound in the mix, and as someone who likes dungeon synth I can appreciate that. I really like this album and will give it a 5/5, I highly recommend this album.
Report this review (#2508629)
Posted Wednesday, February 24, 2021 | Review Permalink

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