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Titus Groan

Crossover Prog

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Titus Groan Titus Groan album cover
3.36 | 69 ratings | 11 reviews | 20% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1970

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. It Wasn't for You (5:33)
2. Hall of Bright Carvings (11:37) :
- a) Theme
- b) Dusty High-Value Hall
- c) The Burning
- d) Theme
3. I Can't Change (5:41)
4. It's All Up with Us (6:07)
5. Fuschia (6:18)

Total Time 35:16

Bonus tracks on several reissues:
6. Open the Door Homer (3:30)
7. Woman of the World (4:32)
8. Liverpool (5:54)

Line-up / Musicians

- Stuart Cowell / guitar, organ, piano
- John Lee / bass
- Tony Priestland / saxophones, flute, oboe
- Jim Toomey / drums & percussion

Releases information

Artwork: Sue Baws

LP Dawn ‎- DNLS 3012 (1970, UK)
LP See For Miles Records ‎- SEE 260 (1989, UK) With 3 bonus tracks from the 1970 EP
LP Music On Vinyl ‎- MOVLP1905 (2018, Europe)

CD See For Miles Records ‎- SEE CD 260 (1989, UK) With 3 bonus tracks from the 1970 EP
CD Esoteric Recordings ‎- ECLEC2226 (2010, Europe) Remaster by Craig Thomson w/ 3 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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TITUS GROAN Titus Groan ratings distribution

(69 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(20%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(39%)
Good, but non-essential (33%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

TITUS GROAN Titus Groan reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars Here’s some fairly dated-sounding heavy prog from the UK made distinctive mostly thanks to the various wind instruments played by Tony Priestland. You won’t find a whole lot of prog albums that include an oboe, and especially not any where that instrument is featured prominently alongside Priestland’s saxophone and flute blowing as well. In fact, this may be one of the only records fitting that description.

I’ve read the overall impression of the music here described as neo-medieval, which despite being sort of an oxymoron is a pretty depiction. A lot of what leads to that impression is thanks to the flute and oboe playing, but bassist John Lee also contributes with an almost martial sound that isn’t very complex but gives the music a depth that serves to ground it in the sort of timeless setting that many of Jethro Tull’s albums also have. The harmonizing vocals are pure early seventies, particularly on the album’s longest song “Hall of Bright Carvings”. But despite it’s length of more than eleven minutes this isn’t a prog epic or anything; in fact, the band spends quite a bit of time just jamming in the middle and toward the end of the song and I’m left with the impression this was primarily meant as a crowd-pleasing live number.

The “heavy” part of the heavy prog here is due to Stuart Cowell’s intense electric guitar riffs, which along with his organ bleating on tracks like “I Can't Change” make for a hard-rocking sound that was quite popular at the time.

At times the harmonizing vocals serve to date the music even more definitively. “It's All Up With Us” is the best example of this, along with “Woman of the World”, which is one of the bonus tracks not on the original album but included on most of the CD reissues.

Same goes for “Open the Door Homer” (another CD bonus track), but this one is the closest the band would come to a commercially viable work thanks to an ear-friendly and accessible tempo and some BS&T-like saxophone. I don’t know if this one was released as a single, but in 1970 it probably would have charted had it been.

This album (and band) don’t do much for me personally, but their sound would have been quite acceptable at the time this record was released. The biggest knock is on the lyrics, which are sort of petty really and don’t do much to advance the music. A couple of extended instrumentals would have helped considering the fact that the three members of the band were all very decent musicians. I suppose the album deserves a bit more than a collectors-only label, if only because of the decent flute playing and unusual employment of a prominent oboe. So three stars it is, but recommended mostly to folks who have a fondness for pre-synthesizer era prog and don’t mind mediocre production.


Review by stefro
3 stars There are several top-notch reissue labels at work today - Repertoire, Sundazed, Sunbeam, Revisited - all releasing wonderfully obscure material from a host of once-ignored progressive, psychedelic and jazz-rock groups from the late-1960's and early-1970's, but it is surely Mark Powell's Esoteric Recordings who have embraced the reissue market in the quintessentially true, hyper-enthusiastic fanboy style needed. Thanks to Esoteric's exhaustive efforts, great albums such as 'Space Shanty' by Khan, 'One Niter' by Eela Craig, National Health's 'Of Queue's And Cures' and 'Bundles' by Soft Machine have been re-branded and re-invigorated, complete with attentive sleeve notes, top-quality sound and a genuine respect for the material. And now it is the turn of Titus Groan, an obscure, jazz-hued British group who released their one-and-only self-titled debut in 1970, and, like so many before and after them, vanished into the big dark black hole of rock 'n roll. The group, before their premature split, was four-strong, featuring Stuart Cowell(keyboards, guitars, vocals), Jim Tooney(drums), Tony Priestland(sax, flute, oboe) and John Lee(bass). Their sound was a jazzier and much lighter variant on the Van Der Graaf Generator school of prog, just without the discordant rumblings and shrieking vocals, though elements of Egg, Nucleus, Chicago, Soft Machine and Gentle Giant are also evident. The jazz element is not all-pervasive however, and the album drifts from style-to-style, taking in country rock, bluesy breaks, King Crimson-style discordia and flecks of heavy psychedelia in an engaging, unfussy and highly melodic fashion. Fans of obscure British prog should feel right at home then, and there is much to admire on this fiercely eclectic album, but 'Titus Groan' was obscure for a reason - and despite the genuine musicianship on offer the album does mine a fairly workmanlike style that doesn't really deliver in terms of truly memorable tunes. Jazzy then, and nice, and full of good songs - but it's no classic. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010
Review by GruvanDahlman
3 stars When my eyes for the first time took a glance at the odd cover of this album I just couldn't believe it. I just loved the cover and still do. In it's foul ugliness there are so much beuaty and in part the music within equals that of the exterior. The only album by Titus Groan has followed me around for the good part of 25 years now and it is still as dear to me now as when first discovered in that dusty old basement of record store in the fair university city of Lund, Sweden.

Taking it's name from Mervyn Peake's novel they do not disappoint since they include an epic based on the novel, The hall of bright carvings. I would say that this is the center piece of the entire album. Clocking in at around 12 minutes it is the most progressive of the tracks and easily the best. Consisting of several pieces of quite intense horn-laden prog with a strong blues and jazz bottom it really lets my cop floweth over. The harmony vocals are all very typical for the era. Very, very nice indeed. The guitar is of special interest to me. It has a doomsday feel to it, as if hell is about to break loose. This track is easily 5 stars in my book. The title, the content, the lyrics... But it doesn't start there. The opener, It wasn't for you, is really a magnificent way to start off the album. Frantic jazz-rock with good horns and terrific riffing. I love this track, the way it shifts from the frantic opening to the slowed down vocal part and heavy playing.

The album works for me, from star to finish. Liverpool is a great song with great playing and time changes. The ballad on the album, I can't change, is a lovely piece of early progressive rock with beautiful flute and evocative lyrics. "It's all up with us" is a nice track but not on par with those coming before it. "Fuschia" offers yet again frantic jazz-prog with flute and fuzzed out guitar.

I won't say that it sounds "dated", because obviously it does. It's dated due to being recorded in 1970 and thus is a product of it's time. "Dated" sounds, to me, negative. The music of Titus Groan is very much of the early 70's and that is one thing I love about it. The warmth on display grabs me everytime. It's a great album that I really do like to listen to. If you're into classic and/or early prog this might be for you. I wouldn't call this "classic", because it isn't a classic album but it's a good one.

Review by Menswear
2 stars Just get a load of that cover!

I scraped the barrel for oddities and boy did I found one. They use oboe, but in a rock context. They use flute, but not like Camel or Tull. They use lots of 'Saturday Night Live' sax, surprising for an early 70's record. Their sound is leaning toward the 60's, and especially in the vocal department (oooh's and aaah's are hippie-like).

While the songs are longer than pop acts, their approach is not groundbreaking at all; no musical epiphany here. It's mostly the more rockish approach of a flower-power band. There's no real desire for complexity or exploration, it's just just adding here and there a wind instrument solo to a rock song.

Glad to hear it but soon forgotten. But what is not easily forgettable? The art cover. I dare you to wear this visiting grandma.

Latest members reviews

3 stars 3.5 Most of the songs I find pretty average nineteen seventy British blues influenced hard rock fare, however, one song is good. In The Hall Of Bright Mountain Carvings is a nice song about the book series by Mervyne Peake, Gormenghast. A classic trilogy of books he released in his life and a ... (read more)

Report this review (#2523450) | Posted by Beautiful Scarlet | Thursday, March 11, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars TITUS GROAN were a short-lived British Jazz-Rock quartet, named after the first Gormenghast novel by Mervyn Peake. Their one and only self-titled album, released in 1970, contained five tracks all over five minutes long, including one extended suite "Hall of Bright Carvings" with a running time ... (read more)

Report this review (#2308308) | Posted by Psychedelic Paul | Tuesday, January 21, 2020 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This English prog formation was rooted in the late Sixties, as the band Jon, they recorded two singles at EMI but both were ignored. Then Jon changed the name into Groan (derived from a Fourties fantasy book ) and the band succeeded to get attention from a record company during a festival. Titus ... (read more)

Report this review (#2137839) | Posted by TenYearsAfter | Tuesday, February 19, 2019 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Actually this is a song review as I have not listened to the entire LP even though I own the original. I have a bad habit of only listening to the longest track on most any album. That said I will add that I've known the song "Hall of Bright Carvings" for years from listening to college radio i ... (read more)

Report this review (#890939) | Posted by thenaturegurl | Thursday, January 10, 2013 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Titus Groan is not a masterpiece (as sometimes advertised) but is not a bad album either. It has decent melodies, good dynamics and well arranged songs performed by skilful musicians. And it has loads of woodwind parts, which are actually the most distinctive and interesting aspect of the album. ... (read more)

Report this review (#280892) | Posted by lukretio | Friday, May 7, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I first heard this band on a college radio program and was blown away. The thing that struck me was the vocals. Awesome! Strangely, the liner notes to the CD do not credit anyone for singing, and all of the tracks HAVE singing. Anyway, the first song, "It's All Up With Us", is IMO the best ... (read more)

Report this review (#120301) | Posted by sco-bro | Monday, April 30, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Not quite a "masterpiece," but almost. Titus Groan were an early (they formed sometime in 1969 and released their only album and single in 1970) art rock/ progressive band who sounded uncannilly like a cross between Czar without the mellotron and The Move circa Message From The Country with a b ... (read more)

Report this review (#79920) | Posted by | Wednesday, May 31, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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