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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
2 stars Ithaca is one of the projects that had to do with the Ditching Players, that also saw Agincourt , Tomorrow Comes Someday and Alice Through The Looking Glass albums released but as private pressings and only to small quantities (Less than 500, I gather). As you imagine most collectors will tell you about the marvels of such an album and try to sell the vinyl at high costs. This was the case in the early 90's before Background released all of them, and this series of reissues deflated the quoting prices/values of the vinyls.

As for the music on here , we deal with a relatively poor produced folk rock , not completely uninteresting , but rather anecdotal and certainly not worth the hype made out as there was only the vinyl. The six tracks are about a day in the life of a young man and his thoughts about the world around him.

Unless you are a folk rock fanatic, and you have searched all over the planet and found nothing more to sink your ears into , this might be of an interest. But for progheads, the interest is very relative although the music is rather pleasant and worthy of a spin in your desk. But it is rather inconsequential!

Report this review (#40374)
Posted Tuesday, July 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars I had high hopes for this one, which it didn't quite live up to. It's an album of muddy-sounding (meaning poorly recorded) psych folk mixed with West Coast style psychedelia. There are some very nice atmospheric bits and the rather nondescript vocals have a relaxed, trippy feel (think Roger Waters on "Grantchester Meadows")- in fact, this record reminds me of a lot of the b-side stuff on Floyd's "Relics" album, so if you really dig that, you might want to seek this out. Instrumentally, it's nothing to write home about, a bit generic for psych of the era. Some tunes are marred by a kind of Carnaby-street jauntiness that I could do without, but overall this is much better than the Agincourt album by the same people. If you are an acid folk or folk rock completist, then you'll want to track it down, otherwise "A Game for All Who Know" is a fairly inconsequential release.
Report this review (#84677)
Posted Monday, July 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars This is the same folk trio that released an album in 1970 under the name Agincourt, and while the instrumentation on that album is quite similar to this one, the lyrical theme here is much more cohesive. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is a concept album but the overall concept is a bit too abstract for me to grasp fully.

Various combinations of the three musicians also produced albums under the names and Tomorrow Comes Someday and Alice Through the Looking Glass which based on the titles would seem to be along the same lines as this one and the Agincourt record; unfortunately both of those were issued in small quantities and I’ve not had a chance to hear either of them.

The folk roots are apparent throughout, although there is a fair amount of psych electric guitar, which isn’t all that surprising considering the times in which it was created. The wafting strains of a recorder enhance the folk feeling and one Andrew Lowcock guests as the featured flautist on “Questions”. Not sure who he is/was, and the only other musical credit I can find for him was as a house musician in a 1974 Wilmslow Green House Society stage rendition of a Shakespeare play. I think it’s fair to say none of the artist here went on to fame or fortune, at least not as musicians.

Although there are only six tracks here, each is subtitled with several subsections. “Journey” for example is split into “Destruction”, “Rebirth” and “Patterns of Life”, while “Times” is broken up as “Seven Seasons”, “The Path” and “Given Time”. “The Path” has a surprisingly upbeat pop feel to it, relatively speaking. It reminds me of a number of soft rock/pop female-fronted bands of the eighties like Katrina & the Waves or an audible-range version of Altered Images. This one is an aberration though, as most of the album is well-entrenched in early seventies west-coast pop and suburban psychedelia.

The standout is clearly the title track, complete with mandolin, recorder, piano and organ riffs, acoustic and electric guitar in a sort of harmonized complement, and a flamenco-inspired acoustic guitar courtesy of another unknown artist (Robert Ferdinando). This song takes the tone of a common style found even in a lot of pop albums of the early seventies where the artists closed what amounted to a light rock album with a lengthy and progressive (more commonly referred to as art-rock then) magnum opus. This one also featured mellotron with strings (and possibly some flutes). Not a bad tune, but certainly the exception on the album and not the rule.

My biggest complaint with the album is the rather poor recording quality and virtually non-existent production engineering. The record sounds like it was recorded on amateur equipment, and indeed I’ve read Peter Howell recorded some of his work on a reel-to-reel player so that might account for the dubious quality.

This is a rather forgettable album all things considered, although it is not really what I would call bad or anything. The title track would rate a high three stars on its own, and the three-part “Times” is also fairly well done. But in the end I’ll go with a low three stars, just above 2.5 really. Mildly recommended to prog folk fans who prefer the folk to the prog.


Report this review (#170627)
Posted Sunday, May 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A quite terrible William Blake adaptation strikes us first, as we allow this album our observance. It does not reflect the cozy beatnik orientations of the music concealed within the covers very well, but the image possibly gives a hint of these musicians' conceptual idea of the record as a personal mystic vision from surrounding world, in vein of the master referred on the album cover. The songs of these visionary sights are sung forth by the union of male and female voices. "A Game for All Who Know" seems to travel a journey of inner experiences of common man, reacting to the realities of outer world, rising questions for wondering the confronted ages, and the evoked emotions and dreams. I felt the "game" being riddles about universal common issues which we all share, but which we often regard with different ways, some not paying any though to them, possibly left out from the concept of "who know". These contemplations embody musically as mostly melancholic, sometimes naïve happy feelings on the tonal frame of experimental folk pop, sounding like been recorded rather in year 1967 than 1973. This characteristics didn't bother my listening experience, actually I appreciate that the musicians have focused sincerely to their style developed from earlier projects, and do not aim to adjust their expression methods by demands of the moment's fashion.

The journey is set forth with recorded effects, which are installed to the narrative flow of songs in charmingly clumsy way. The album is encircled by the "journey" epochs, the subtitles suggesting to infinite cycles of birth and death as parts of life's patterns. Joe's voice is quite soft, matching well with both beautiful guitar chord studies and tone of Lee's voice appearing later on the record. The lyrics drill from larger perspective to the human scale of witnessing events, staying still on the mysterious pleasant straits, whilst the aural symbol of destruction fatalistically keeps rolling on steady intervals behind the music.

"Questions" are set on a lovely ballad, which presents Lee Menelaus's soft voice and short visitations of Andrew Lowcock's adorable flute lines. Piano and Mellotron's conjure lovely psychedelic flavor for this interestingly meandering composition, growings as the most brilliantly shining jewel on this record, even when listened outside the thematic album entity. The next vision on time starts from slightly boring acoustic ponderings of seven seasons, leading to a more rejoicing Beatlesque sunshine pop path towards the merciless facts related to the given time for two people's union of love, their bond on time's duration and its position in the universal infinity. Nearly baroque starting maneuvers of "Feelings" are then brutally countered away, giving space for bit duller acoustic guitar rant, and starting a longer boring sequence on the whole record. Maybe the keyword missing mostly on this potentially fine album are crystallized to the song's title; In excess of wonderful second song, closing epic, and a few occasional motives the overall emotions of the record do not reach the heights it yearns. There are though very amusing confusing changes in the compositions, this song also fades from the run as more cheerful primitive acoustic pop song in very surprisingly ways. In addition of poorer tracks of Moody Blues, I felt some resemblances to late 1960's UK Nirvana's sounds also on these tracks.

The "Dream" sequence reprises melodies from "The Path" movement of "Times", lyrics being here quite interesting, giving more concrete hints for decoding the album's metaphorical meaning. The second "journey" song closes the circle of love's mystery, skimming with humorously underlined sounds of turningn the pages of ye booke of songes. Whilst reading, the spirit of the ages is also searched from the radio waves, catching glimpses of Isaac Albéniz's Asturias guitar transcriptions and space rocket launching transmissions. The return to the melodic motive allows lovely Lee to draw together the questions processed on the record by her fragile voice, developing the musical themes as quite dramatic symphonic variations, and managing to elevate the impact of this concept record with the last moments much higher than one might have been expect from the tracks building up this enigmatic "A Game for All Who Know". Sadly due some phlegmatic filler tracks this album does not redeem totally the promises flickering from the talent and imagination of the musicians. But however I consider the album quite loveable, especially from CD it is easier to skip the duller moments and focus only to the highlights of this record, and escape the wrath of bankrupting from costs of small copy volumes of the original vinyl. I would recommend this record for the adorers of 1960's artistic folk music and those interested of more obscure hippie albums.

Report this review (#809060)
Posted Thursday, August 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars ITHACA (a Greek island in the Ionian Sea, featured in Homer's Odyssey) is a collaboration between John Ferdinando & Peter Howell, and sweet-voiced female vocalist Lee Menelaus. Ferdinando and Howell worked on several Psych-Folk albums together, although "A Game for All Who Know" (1973) was the only album released under the Ithaca name. The English trio had previously worked together on the Agincourt "Fly Away" (1970) album. The first release from Ferdinando & Howell was "Alice Through the Looking Glass" back in 1969 followed shortly after by "Tomorrow Come Someday" in the same year. In 1974 they released another album together under the pseudonym of "Friends" for their final musical partnership. Peter Howell later worked for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop - famous for the Doctor Who TV theme - during the 1970's and he went on to record a couple of New Age albums, "Legend" (1984) and "Aquarius Rising" (1991) on the New World Music label. The Ithaca album consists of six songs with three bonus songs included in the 2004 CD reissue. If you have a copy of the original LP album, then you're a very lucky bunny indeed as there were only 99 pressings of the album at the time of its release.

Time now to see whether Ithaca is a Greek island of musical treasures or whether it's as dodgy as a Greek bearing gifts. Our journey begins with "Journey" appropriately enough. Shhhhh! It's a VERY quiet beginning. Prepare to be taken on a magic carpet ride with some lovely harmonising from the three singers, because this is beautiful English Folk music at its melodic best, with a slice of prog thrown in for good measure to spice things up. If you're familiar with the trio's previous Agincourt album from 1970, then you'll know you're in for another real treat. Our journey continues with "Questions", and there's no question that this is sublime English Folk music. Just let the music gently carry you away to a land of dreams as you listen late at night in bed with the lights turned down low. Don't forget to let the cat or dog out before you go to bed though, because this gorgeous pastoral Folk music will put you in such a relaxed frame of mind that you won't feel like getting up again. Now we arrive at "Times", the longest song on the album at over 8 minutes long. It's really two shorter songs in one though, as there's a complete change of pace midway through, beginning with a gentle ballad and emerging like a butterfly into a bright and breezy poppy number. This lovely music is enough to make you long for the warm summer days again, especially if you're listening to this album on a damp and dark November day. And now we come to "Feelings", another 2-part song, combining a ballad and a lively up-tempo number. This beautiful song is sure to inspire feelings of joy that you were lucky enough to discover this long-lost album treasure, nearly 50 years after its release. Onwards now dear friends to "Dream", with the charming and delightful lead vocals of Lee Menelaus. What a voice! Her sweet and gentle voice is perfectly suited to this charming music. And now we come to the final song on the album and the title track "A Game for All Who Know" (subtitled "Journey - Part II). The song begins intriguingly with the sound of pages turning and a swirling synth and acoustic guitar. It's a song full of mystery and imagination. There's the sound of a rocket taking off and then a reprise of the opening number of the album with the hauntingly atmospheric sound of an organ carrying the song through to its conclusion. It's idyllic, it's bucolic, and it may even be soporific, but not in a bad way. At 7 minutes long, it's a song of almost epic proportions, or as epic as a Prog-Folk song can be. It might not have the pomp and bombast of a blast of Symphonic Prog, but it's none the worse for that. After all, you may have drifted off into a sleep of blissful dreams by this stage, so you don't want to be woken up with a start, although the song does end rather abruptly, so be prepared!

Thanks to ProgArchives, YouTube & the Internet, this long-lost album treasure is now gaining some of the recognition it truly deserves. It's a charming pastoral Folk album with timeless appeal that you can come back to again and again. It's not essential if you're into Prog-Rock, but it IS essential if you want to hear a sublime slice of 1970's English Prog-Folk at its absolute best.

Report this review (#2284140)
Posted Tuesday, November 26, 2019 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After Agincourt came Ithaca.

1. "Journey" (4:56) cool fast-paced folk romp with Jon Ferdinando in the lead vocal. There is a MOODY BLUES-like familiarity to this. (8.75/10)

2. "Questions" (4:03) piano, autoharp, tambourine and multiple flutes pen this before the doubled-up voice of Lee Menelaus enters. In the third motif John Ferdinando takes over as the lead singer, singing in a lower range. (8.25/10)

3. "Times" (8:19) John singing in a gentle Robert Wyatt-like pitch and timbre over strummed acoustic guitar, organ, tympani and electric lead guitar. At 3:30 there is a clean break and switch into an entirely different more-upbeat, poppy motif as Lee Menelaus takes over the lead vocals duties. A little more C & W feel to this one. Lee, who was so amazing on the Agincourt album, feels so under-utilized. (16/20)

4. "Feelings" (5:32) John singing in the low almost noncommittal voice over some standard music. At 3:20 there is a shift in dynamics to which John shifts his singing voice to his higher voice. Lee performs as a superfluous b vox. I like this section much better than the soporific first two-thirds. (8.25/10)

5. "Dream" (2:58) another pop-jazz tune over which Lee is let loose to perform her best vocal of the album (even if it is doubled again). Nice fuzz guitar beneath. (8.75/10)

6. "A Game For All Who Know" (7:06) The proggiest song on the album, having multiple temes and all kinds of theatric effects and recordings in the mix, we are once again graced with the (doubled) voice of Lee Menelaus for the first singing exposition. This is followed by a rather nice instrumental passage (great drumming despite the pounding of an utterly annoying piano.) The second part of this instrumental section is quite CAMEL-like. Then organ and classical guitar return for the final section and then a page is ripped of out of the book and were done! I wish it would go on forever! (14/15)

Total Time: 32:54

B-/3.5 stars; a very enjoyable display of placid Prog Folk.

Report this review (#2502965)
Posted Saturday, February 6, 2021 | Review Permalink

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