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Red Jasper

Prog Folk

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Red Jasper A Midsummer Night's Dream album cover
3.45 | 29 ratings | 8 reviews | 17% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1993

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Sonnet I (4:31)
2. Virtual Reality (3:54)
3. Berkana (5:29)
4. Dreamscape (Parts I & II) (13:27)
5. Jean's Tune (4:17)
6. Invitation to a Dance (7:08)
7. Treasure Hunt (5:52)
8. Sonnet II (3:32)

Total Time 48:10

Line-up / Musicians

- Davey Dodds / vocals, mandolin
- Robin Harrison / guitars, backing vocals
- Dave Clifford / drums, backing vocals
- Jonathan Thornton / bass
- Lloyd George / keyboards, backing vocals

Releases information

CD SI-Music SIMPly 35 (1993)

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RED JASPER A Midsummer Night's Dream ratings distribution

(29 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(17%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(52%)
Good, but non-essential (31%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

RED JASPER A Midsummer Night's Dream reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by erik neuteboom
3 stars This was one of the better SI Music releases in the Nineties but in my opinion a bit overlooked. Their sound is a wonderful blend of folk and neo-prog featuring pieces that ranges from dreamy with mandolin, tin-whistle and acoustic guitars to up-tempo with propulsive drums, fiery electric guitar and pleasant keyboards. The vocals have a very distinctive undertone, especially in the more folky tracks they add a very warm dimension. The highlight on this CD is the long composition "Dreamscape Part 1 & 2" (more than 13 minutes) delivering lots of shifting moods, from folky with mandolin, acoustic guitar and tin- whistle to bombastic with fiery electric guitar (evoking Jethro Tull).


Review by NJprogfan
4 stars A definately overlooked Folk-prog band if there ever was one. Just imagine if you will, an early 80's Tull album with Peter Hammill as lead singer. Sound intriguing? You bet! The mixture is apparent in the longest track on the album, "Dreamscape (part I & II)". Davey Dodds voice is as hard to get into as Peter Hammill's, but is just as rewarding. They don't use horns, but traditional rock instruments with a mandolin thrown in to give you that Steeleye Span classic folk sound. And, as an added bonus for you prog metal fans, they do rock out on songs "Invitation To A Dance", and especially "Treasure Hunt" which is very symphonic with riffing galore! Overall, a very unique album to these ears and a pleasant surprise. To bad they didn't last to long, but if you can find this album and are in the mood for a unique mixture of genres, give it a try. 3.5 stars rounded to 4.
Review by richardh
3 stars I know very little about prog folk to be honest and only picked up this CD because my boss at work was having a clearout! (He also let me have Anagramary) .So this is basically what I what expect prog folk to be.A bit over the place and lacking in focus with too many influences for my liking.The music will appeal to real fans of this sub genre.Quite nice but inconsequential to my ears.3.25 stars.
Review by kenethlevine
4 stars This is a near classic British prog folk album with a touch of neo thrown in. It features pleasantly strummed acoustic guitars, wistful whistles, warm baritone vocals from Davey Dodds, syncopated jigs, and some searing lead guitars.

The album is judiciously bracketed by two "Sonnets", both of which illustrate the quieter side of folk prog. "Virtual Reality" is the only tune in which the neo aspect really predominates, but what a winner. This is an instantly infectious tune that rivals a lot of what IQ and Marillion were on about. But instead of filling a disk with more of the same, Red Jasper then opts for a mixture of haunting folk influenced prog and prog bolstered folk, and believe me there is a difference.

Berkana is a mysterious and melancholy ballad where the aforementioned whistles provide a spine tingling break before morphing into a simple heartfelt jig that could be taking place in a glade somewhere. This is like the long forgotten band, Forest, but with 1990s production values and not a trace of faux cleverness that marred the works of that band and, even more so, the Incredible String Band. The main event for most readers will probably be "Dreamscape Parts I and II", clocking at over 13 minutes. A synth heavy introduction is followed by the main vocal section backed by a mandolin and joined by a rhythm section and more string synths. The band appreciates and exploits mood and time swings in a sensitive and cohesive way, and this piece gives them more time to do so both instrumentally and vocally.

The instrumental Jean's tune is more of a gentle folk affair until the last couple of minutes where one of the album's monumental guitar leads kicked in, still backed by a potent push from the rhythm section which even incorporates some type of woodwind as a backdrop. This is such a group effort! Invitation to a Dance is very Steeleye Spannish from the Parcel of Rogues/Now we are Six school. Not one of my favourites in terms of how it fits in with the overall flow, but it's by no means weak, and it does provide a number of heavier movements later on, before ending with another fast paced lead guitar solo fadeout.

Treasure Hunt is another highlight. with Dodds' voice in fine form. It has been compared to Peter Hammill but I think only in terms of its deepness (depth?). It is actually a lot less angry while not being cloying in the least. The piece slows to a near stop, with almost no instrumental accompaniment. But suddenly THE instrumental passage of the disk is heralded by an odd sort of clarion call to arms, and the band cooks with lead and rhythm guitars cranking out a gorgeous melody that put Rothery and Hackett on notice. It's the sort of thing hinted at in STRAWBS' Down by the Sea but diluted by orchestrations. Here there is no such sentimentality, yet it really does touch me at an emotional level, and the fade out and return is a simple effective touch.

What STRAWBS, STEELEYE SPAN, JETHRO TULL and HORSLIPS spearheaded a quarter century earlier is lovingly adapted for the 1990s by Red Jasper. A strong 4.5 stars

Review by progrules
3 stars A Midsummernight's Dream is actually the most reviewed and rated Red Jasper album on this site with 7 (!) ratings and 4 reviews. So it's their magnum opus I guess. No, I'm really being sarcastic here. I mean, how can this be ? When I bought this album halfway the nineties I thought it was a high quality album, not 100% my cup of tea since I have never been and will never be a true prog folk lover but still, this is really good !

Sonnet I is a quiet, ballad-like opener setting the listener on the wrong foot: 2,75*.

Virtual Reality is much more up tempo and more inspired than previous. But also this song isn't actually what I mean when I say high quality. Yet very good. 3,5*.

Berkana is the second ballad but in my opinion more beautiful than the overture. The folky mandolin tune is really nice here. 3,25*.

Dreamscape was always the eye-catcher of the album to me because of it's length. They are to date my most favourite tracks of any album but also 15 years ago I had that aberrance. Somehow I'm drawn to longer tracks, they intrigue me. And also in this case (as so often) it appears to be the stand out track. Great composition with again nice mandolin, excellent flute passages and many tempo changes. Davey Dodds proves to be a great multi instrumental musician. 3,75*.

Jean's Tune is totally dominated by the mandolin making this album a true folk party. Nice tune this instrumental track. 3,25*.

Invitation to a Dance is the second highlight of this album with the reappearing flute (or tin whistle rather) excelling once again but besides that this is as a composition another very good track. Also the electric guitar is doing a great job at the end. 3,5*.

Treasure Hunt is more of a story telling folk track although the instrumental part after 2,5 minutes shouldn't be ignored here. Really uplifting I have to say. 3,5 *.

Sonnet II is the same sort of song as the opener, also quiet though slightly more impressive. 3*.

Okay, this isn't a masterpiece but at least it's very good progressive folk music. And it shouldn't be overlooked as it has been so far. Recommended. 3 stars (3,4).

Review by b_olariu
3 stars Red Jasper is one of the forgotten folk prog bands from the early to mid '90's from british scene. Looking for their albums for years , only last year I was able to put my hands on two albums , this one A midsummer's night's dream and the next ine Winter's tale. Biggining their career in late '80's as a folk bad but with a special neo prog elements added here and there. This album was released in 1993 and far as I know draw little attention in prog scene. Red Jasper's music has a celtic atmosphere on some pieces, some folk moments but combined very well with neo prog arrangements. From folky moments Red Jasper was inspired from Steeleye Span , a legendary folk group from the '70's, some Jethro Tull moments and even in places some Strawbs is to be heared here but all this combined and very well played with neo prog elements not far from Marillion, Fish era, in fact Davey Dodds is close to Fish on vocal tone. Anyway the music is pleasent most of the time, dreamy with nice balance between acustical passages with mandolin with more rockier ones. While they never gained a wider recognition in prog circles, they made quite some intristing albums in the '90's. This album is based on themes from Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream. The songs deal with the tension between illusion and reality, love and marriage and the supernatural, so I might say is a concept album in some way but a vewry well done in the end. All pieces are great, specialy Virtual reality, a more up tempo tune close to neo prog , great voice by Davey Dodds and a couple more Berkana , and Invitation To A Dance, the rest are ok. A pleasent album for sure, a good album aswell, it desearves 3 stars from me, I like it, but I realy can't go to an upper star, because while the music is ok, great in places something is missing, I don't know what, maybe sometimes is to mellow for my taste. For fans who enjoy Steeleye Span , Strawbs, Marillion, Chandelier.
Review by SouthSideoftheSky
4 stars Come with me to the heart of the country!

This is one of those few albums that had an instant impact on me and then still turned out to be a grower! Already on the first listen I knew that I was going to like this. It is also the kind of discovery that gives you hope of finding more great music in unexpected places even in the future. Red Jasper is a truly unique band mixing British Folk Rock in the style of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span with the drama of hard edged Neo-Prog bands like Arena and bit of Celtic atmospheres and instruments. It is almost as if one took Fairport Convention and poured petrol over it and put it on fire! While listening I am reminded of bands as diverse as Strawbs, Marillion, Horslips, Galahad, Camel (particularly the folky Harbour Of Tears album) and classic Genesis.

The very impressive vocals of Davey Dodds remind alternately of Peter Gabriel and Dave Cousins but Dodds has undoubtedly also picked up a few tricks from both Neo-Prog singers like Marillion's Fish as well as classic Folk Rock singers. Some vocal moments are so beautiful that it "melts my soul"! The rest of the band are just as competent with the traditional (Prog) Rock line up with electric guitars, bass, drums and keyboards being enhanced with Folk instruments like mandolin and tin whistle. A unique and very appealing and affective sound is produced!

The album opens and closes with Sonnet I and II. These are rather laid back numbers based on acoustic guitar and Dodds deep moving vocals. While not very representative for the rest of the album the Sonnets open and close the album in great fashion and the opener sets the mood for what is to come. The second track Virtual Reality is the only song on this album that has no Folk influences at all; it is a pure, hard edged Neo-Prog song, but a very good one that also lends diversity to the album without interrupting the flow.

Berkana slows things down again with another moving vocal performance backed by keyboards, piano and Celtic whistle. Simply beautiful! Surprisingly, the song ends with an up tempo mandolin section very much in the style of a Fairport Convention instrumental. I just love that kind of music!

The 13 plus minute Dreamscape (parts 1 & 2) is the centrepiece of the album and reminds in its structure of Fairport Convention's Matty Groves and Strawbs' The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake in that it tells a story chronologically. Rock and Pop songs are usually not written in this way. Dreamscape is, however, a much more progressive piece than any of those Folk Rock classics. The vocals are very strong here again, and I even think that Dodds rivals Dave Cousins' wild and "out of this world" vocal on the Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios-version of The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake! Dreamscape "explodes" instrumentally towards the end to great effect. Jean's Tune is a lovely instrumental piece that blends acoustic guitars and mandolin with a backing of drums and discrete keyboards. The tempo changes a few times and electric guitar is added towards the end. I must again emphasise the Fairport Convention similarity (similar but evolved) and also how much I enjoy this kind of music!

Invitation To Dance is again a more diverse and progressive song that partly reminds of early Genesis with some more cheerful and folky parts. As indicated by the title, a part of this is some kind of Jig (a form of lively traditional Folk dance tune) with some hard edged guitars and electric guitar soloing. This is perhaps the track that most of all captures the essence of Red Jasper in a single track. Treasure Hunt features very tasteful electric guitar soloing and some pleasant Jethro Tull like vocals. Finally, Sonnet II ties the album together very nicely.

Overall, I must say that I am completely blow away by this! As those who know me know, I never give out five star ratings lightly and always reserve that rating to those albums that I think really deserves it. But this very interesting and solid album by this extremely underrated band really deserved an upgrade from four to five stars! Red Jasper clearly deserves much more attention from Prog Folk fans and Neo-Prog fans alike.

A surprising masterpiece that I keep coming back to time after time!

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars ''Sting in the Tale'' received positive reviews back in early-90's, but tensions within the band started to grow, leading to the departure of both Pat D'Arcy and Tony Heath.Jon Thornton became the new bassist of the band.Later Red Jasper went on for their first live album, first attempt was unsuccesful due to technical problems after a show at the Bristol Bierkeller, they took another chance a few months later at The Fleece and Firkin in Bristol and the album was released on HTD in 1992 as ''Action replay''.Keyboardist Lloyd George helped the band during these lives and eventually became Red Jasper's fifth ful-time member.With a growing fame even outside Europe they were signed by the Dutch label SI for the release of ''A midsummer night's dream'' in 1993, inspired by the work of William Shakespeare and recorded at the Broad Oak Studio in Herefordshire.

Red Jasper's sound had become more focused and direct around the time, their style was heavily rooted in the past works of JETHRO TULL, but they had an obvious MARILLION-esque flavor during the more energetic parts and lyrical moments.Despite adding Lloyd George on keyboards, the material is rather guitar-oriented with powerful rhythms, expressive singing and laid-back, bucolic soundscapes, featuring a few bombastic synth runs but also plenty of delicate piano work.Apart from their standard references to British Folk they had now added some pinches of Celtic Music in the process with all these rural guitar tones, while they flirted strongly with the 80's British Neo Prog stylings with Dodds sounding like the reincarnation of FISH.Lots of mandolin string themes and whistles combine with some spacious keys and the passionate electric guitars for music, that is ethereal, dynamic and vintage at the same time.The whole style also reminds me of Italians ASGARD, especially when Dodds' voice becomes very trobadour-like and the grandiose keyboards support the strong electric riffing.Very enganging and unique music with a convincing approach.And while Red Jasper's debut was filled with short compositions, this one shows an attempt by the band to create solid epic cuts, like the beautiful ''Dreamscape'', a nice amalgam of Folk sounds and modern Prog Rock.

A step closer to the warmest of recommendations.Very cohesive music with bucolic touches and Neo Prog aesthectics, sounding like Marillion meeting with Jethro Tull and The Strawbs.Good and strongly recommended music...3.5 stars.

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