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Water Into Wine Band

Prog Folk

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Water Into Wine Band Hill Climbing for Beginners album cover
3.49 | 5 ratings | 2 reviews | 20% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1974

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Stranger in the World
2. I Used To Be Blind
3. Jesus I've Been Walking
4. Hill Climbing For Beginners
5. Start of a Run
6. Song of The Cross
7. I Have Seen the Lord
8. Hill Climbing For "Bieginhers" (Different Version) *

* = "beginners" spelling as shown in Hugo-Montes track listing

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter McMunn / vocals, guitar
- Trevor Sandford / vocals, guitar, bass
- William Thorp / vocals, violin, piano, bongos, bass, tenor recorder, tuning fork
- Ray Wright / vocals, guitar, bass, bongos

- Bobbie Graham / congas, drums, tambourine, cymbals, snares, tom toms
- Gari Williams / flute
- George Caird / oboe, recorder
- John Payne / clarinet
- Nigel Robson / horn
- Jeremy Ward / bassoon
- Frances Kelly / harp
- Stephen Jones / violin
- Wilf Treasure / viola
- Darrell Davison / cello
- Mike Wade / drums, percussion

Releases information

1974 LP Myrrh Records MYR1004 (UK)
1975 LP Myrrh Records MSA-6543-LP (US)
1999 Hugo-Montes HMP CD-003 (Korea)
2001 CD Kissing Spell KSCD918 (UK)
2005 CD Radioactive RR-109CD (UK)

Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the addition
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WATER INTO WINE BAND Hill Climbing for Beginners ratings distribution

(5 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(20%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(20%)
Good, but non-essential (40%)
Collectors/fans only (20%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

WATER INTO WINE BAND Hill Climbing for Beginners reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars Here's an interesting album with unfortunately too little information available to help fully explain it. The band gets mentioned quite a bit even today as an influence by many Christian musicians, but some of that may be just pretention since the band and this album are pretty obscure, and weren't even very well known when they were active a quarter-century ago.

Water into Wine Band have been connected to the so-called hippy 'Jesus Movement' of the Woodstock era. Overtly Christian themes lyrics like "this box of wood I'm playing 'though I call it my guitar, will not come with me when I'm gone" and "I've done my share of sinning lord, yeah I've laughed and though of you - but now I'm ready for You" bear testament to that (pun partially intended). But if you can get past the sometimes overbearing self-flagellation, this is a pretty decent folk album with some very creative variations despite being a mostly acoustic and mellow recording.

The band apparently first recorded these tracks in England for a UK release, but following the band members' graduations from Cambridge they undertook a brief tour of the U.S. and another, more water-down version was released there. My Radioactive reissue is a bit of a disappointment since there are virtually no liner notes save for album credits printed in an unreadable 4 or 5 point font. The Kissing Spell release is said to be a double-disk CD with copies of both the UK and U.S. versions of the album, along with a booklet containing pictures and extensive biography notes. I haven't managed to find a copy of that one yet.

The opening track "Stranger in the World" sounds like a St Peter-inspired 'just waiting for the rapture' tune that features mostly acoustic guitar and a little bit of violin. Not an auspicious beginning, but things do pick up after this one. "I Used to be Blind" features a stunning violin solo that raised the hair on the back of my neck the first time I heard it, and it immediately found its way onto one of my many violin compilation CDs.

"Jesus I've Been Walking" is a come-to-Jesus lament whose lyrics fit into that overbearing category, but the guitar and percussion rhythm is quite good, while the vocals and mood remind me quite a bit of another dirty-sinner Jesus group, Wovenhand. This track also has some outstanding a haunting violin work.

The title track is set to bongos and piano in an easy lumber with almost whispered vocals that I can't really be bothered to try and make sense of. The piano makes this one work despite the garbled vocals, and the bongos set the context squarely in the early seventies.

The next couple of tracks are weaker in my opinion, more piano and some violin but mostly more vocal moaning about the bitterness and toil of The Struggle. "Start of a Run" has some nice vocal harmonies, and "Song of the Cross" is another Wovenhand-like slow number that mostly centers around acoustic guitar picking and violin. This is the longest track on the album and has some mildly interesting tempo changes, but there's only so much you can do with acoustic guitar and bongos so in the end the song comes off as a bit too long and self-indulgent for my tastes.

The Radioactive version ends too soon with a mildly psych electric guitar-led "I Have Seen the Lord", too soon I say because other versions of this album include a longer version of the title track that I've heard and prefer to the one presented here.

The band would record another album ('Harvest Time') before fading away along with most of their Jesus freak brethren in the mid-seventies, but I have to admit their legacy is one of enthusiastic and original music that sounds more sincere than much of Christian popular music today. So for that (and for the exceptional violin work) I'm going to go with four stars for this odd piece of music history. Good luck finding it, but if you do I'd recommend it if you are a prog folk fan or someone who collects religious music but are turned off by the overbearing and polished stuff being passed off under that guise these days. And if anyone comes across the UK version please post a review as I'm really curious to hear about what the record company felt was too rough for American ears.


Review by Sean Trane
3 stars A mid-70's jesus-loving-freaks folk rock quartet that released two albums, WIWB was lead by multi-instrumentalist (keyboards, violin, percussions) Bill Thorp and seconded by three acoustic guitarists, McMunn, Sanford and Wright (bass as well), but the debut album also saw a lot of guest appearances from wind players and a string section. Actually Hill Climbing received two different releases depending on which side of the Atlantic you were, different artwork, same track list and order, but the tracks have been re-recorded for very (and I mean VERY) obscure US public acceptance reasons.

Musically, WIWB is a pretty melodic and gentle Christian folk rock affair with almost laughable contrition-filled lyrics. Often dominated by Thorp's violin, the album's mood is often positive (if not overly or naively), as if celebrating the joys of life, even drawing close to a jig in the middle section of I've Been Walking (no kidding!?!?!). Starting on the over- sweetish Stranger In The World, the album continues on the upbeat bluesy Used To Be Blind (but now I'm short-sighted >>> ROFL), cut into a fast start and a "salutary" violin solo for the second part. Not bad per se, but definitely proselytic. The I've Been Walking track develops a String Driven Thing-cloned eerie ambiance, before turning happily jig-gy. Again, musically, rather interesting. Elsewhere, the title track is a scandalous Leonard Cohen rip- off.

On the flipside, the pastoral-sounding Start Of A Run is mildly progressive, with some brass instrument intervention (trombone and flute), but the mood is soporific. Easily, the highlight of the album is the lengthiest, slow and haunting Song Of The Cross slowly builds a String Driven Thing eerie sound (recalling Grahame Smith's violin), as the previous Been Walking had done so as well, and later (in the second section) features some electric guitar lead and strumming, gentle, but ends by a two-minutes useless coda. The closing Seen The Lord is faster and enthralling piece that includes all-too rare bongos and some electric guitar, sometimes reminiscent of George Harrison's My Sweet Lord (although not as brilliant)

Soooo if musically, the band's music is rather fine and even interesting at times, the sectarian lyrics does bother this writer and kind of ruins his enjoyment, so I'll take a full star away for such an invasive, obtuse and obstructive flaw. BTW, I haven't heard any major significant changes between the US and UK versions of this album, so it remains difficult to understand why they took the trouble to re-record the thing. HCFB has received a CD reissue where both versions of the album are reunited on two discs on the Kissing Spell label (which I reviewed). Whether the difference between the two versions of the album necessitated indeed a double-disc is debatable, but it's rather nice (but fairly useless) to have both, if you're in that type of religious-freak music. Musically inoffensive, but intellectually bothersome (these guys are taking us for fools, or are they real?), you shall not really miss a single thing if you overlook their insignificant oeuvre. If you really want to investigate some religious folk rock freaks, you might want to investigate the US tribal freak folk The Trees (not to be confused with the excellent British band), and get some kind of musical shivers and eeriness.

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