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The Morrigan

Prog Folk

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The Morrigan Hidden Agenda album cover
4.02 | 15 ratings | 4 reviews | 13% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 2002

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Swallow's Tail (3:58)
2. In the End / Tristan's Lament (6:03)
3. Basse Danse Bergeret Sans Roche et Reprise / Voltas
Susato / Praetorius (17th century dance tunes) (5:39)
4. South Australia / Roaring Forties (4:13)
5. A Night to Remember (9:50)
6. Sleive Russell / March Hare (5:22)
7. The Other (6:54)
8. Joe Coolies Reel (6:30)
9. The Parting Glass (4:07)

Total Time: 52:36

Line-up / Musicians

- Cathy Alexander / vocals, recorders, keyboards, 12-string guitar
- Mervyn B. / vocals, flute, bass, percussion
- Colin Masson / guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals, producer
- Dave Lodder / guitars, bass, keyboards
- Archie / drums, percussion, vocals

- Matt Carter / mandolin & banjo (8)

Releases information

Artwork: Dave Chivers with Colin Masson

CD English Garden - ENG1024CD (2002, UK)

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and to Quinino for the last updates
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THE MORRIGAN Hidden Agenda ratings distribution

(15 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(13%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(87%)
Good, but non-essential (0%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

THE MORRIGAN Hidden Agenda reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Here Yee, Here Yee, Fans of Mostly Autumn, Iona and Karnataka will enjoy this immensely! The Morrigan is an unknown little jewel of a band that has a few very good things going for it, namely Cathy Alexander's recorders, keyboards and soothing voice (also featured on the 2005 Lands End album "The Lower Depths") and multi-instrumentalist Colin Masson (whose solo album "Isle of Eight" was a delight to listen to and review). If one must, this group is squarely in the more Celtic-folk rock pigeonhole (not a very clean place, come to think of it) but also suggest a harder edge that mélanges a hint of Jethro Tull, a dash of Giant and a slab of Oldfield, with mandolin and banjo thrown in for good measure. Most of the pieces are traditional British folk songs that are rearranged in whole or in part with their special recipe that is utterly original. "Swallow's Tale" is a rambunctious almost heavy sympho-rock intro that evolves into a flute led jig, short, brief and fun that then explodes into a wrapping guitar solo. "In the End/Tristan's Lament" is a definite highlight, a throbbing bass-led vocal melody that grooves along splendidly with slashing shafts of rhythm guitar until the traditional flutes kick in, all topped off with another fluid fret flight. The next one is a towering medieval suite "Volta/Basse Danse/Volta" that is a pure pleasure, a "raconteur-troubadour minstrel in the gallery in the court of the King" electric gavotte, hens roasting on the spit, pewter goblets filled with lusty wine, a torch-lit castle room fantasy. All that's missing is Robin Hood! "South Australia/Roaring Forties" is more upbeat, a cheery barroom sendoff for sailors that serves as a brief interlude. At almost 10 minutes long, "A Night to Remember" is the main epic and a cracker at that! The twin guitars spin a web of arpeggios, lustily abetted by massive hell bent symphonics, until Cathy's beautiful voice kicks in , sounding like a heavy version of Renaissance until the section slings into a crescendo of various lewd guitar leads that are all hair raising. Back and forth, up and down, the ride is exhilarating; a final genius touch adds a speed vocal passage that is dizzying. "Slieve Russell/The March Hare" is another fine instance of combining a well known time-honored Irish recorder-led tune whilst adhering to a The Morrigan twist, this time throwing in a jazzy fret board duet that will knock your knees together. "The Other" is an Alexander penned piece that continues the eerie spooky ritual of infusing atmospherics with dramatic vocalizations, sounding at times almost like a tune out of the famous My Fair Lady musical. "Joe Cooley's Reel" is my favorite here and, you guess it, is another Celtic instrumental romp, with spirited flute/recorder interplay, banjo and mandolin ablaze with fuzzy guitars crackling in the background, rollicking bass and chugging organ to finish off the glee. The disc ends successfully with the gentle "the Parting Glass", a vocally entrancing classic piece that exudes that strong passion that characterizes these proud people, flutes serenading the way into the mist. Gorgeous artwork as well adds to the pleasure ; a definite 4.5 excaliburs!
Review by SouthSideoftheSky
4 stars A night to remember

Hidden Agenda is The Morrigan's fifth, and to date most recent, album. Let's hope that there will be further releases from the band in the future, but if not they certainly went out with bang with this one. Right from the get-go it is clear that this is a more high-powered album compared to the previous two. The electric guitar playing of Collin Masson has never before been quite as potent as it is here. His guitar sound sometimes evokes that of Mike Oldfield and occasionally that of Allan Holdsworth. The opening track is a lively instrumental called Swallow's Tale featuring the characteristic Celtic whistles, a fitting opener. In The End is the first vocal number and a very pleasant one it is. Up next is a dazzling medley of electrified 17th century dance tunes. Gryphon might come to mind here, but The Morrigan is much more Rock than Gryphon ever was. Indeed, they are more Rock here than they ever were themselves before. South Australia is a rather typical raucous British Folk Rock song in the tradition of (post-Sandy Denny) Fairport Convention.

The centrepiece of the album is the nearly ten minute A Night To Remember which is a full blown Prog number. The lyric tells a story of a ship that collides with an ice berg; most probably it is about Titanic. Here Cathy Alexander's delightful vocals fully enter the picture backed up the other members. This elaborate song features several different moods and tempos that enhance the story to great effect. Sleive Russell/March Hare mixes Celtic Folk with Jazz to great effect. The Other is the poppiest of the songs on Hidden Agenda in that it has a rather catchy chorus, but this is not to say that it is not good. Alexander sounds a bit like Annie Haslam of Renaissance on this piano-based tune and there is an excellent Steve Hackett-like guitar solo. Joe Cooley's Reel is just what the title implies - a rocking reel in the style of Tempest (the US-based Prog Folk band not to be confused with the British Heavy Prog band of the same name). Simply excellent stuff! The album closes with The Parting Glass which could have been by Sandy Denny-era Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span and is a simply beautiful Folk ballad.

With so many different styles involved, Hidden Agenda could easily have been sprawling and incoherent, but it actually holds together very well. The end result is a perfect balance of acoustic and electric instruments, male and female vocals, rocking and soothing tempos and whimsical and serious moods. There is a certain charm that helps to bind the different elements together almost seamlessly.

Highly recommended!

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Hidden Agenda' - The Morrigan (8/10)

At the time of releasing 'Hidden Agenda', progressive Celt rockers The Morrigan had already been together for nearly twenty years. Returning again once every few years to come back with another album, The Morrigan have never been the most prolific bunch, but they have always released music that is gorged with charm. Although the musical strength has varied, there has been a steady increase in the band's strength as the years have gone by, and it culminates here with the group's fifth album; 'Hidden Agenda'. While keeping a similar formula in structure and style to previous works, The Morrigan has never before achieved such a level of strength at what they do, coupling powerful songwriting with good performance values and evident experience. The result is an album that finally aptly reflects the band's potential.

Since their inception, The Morrigan have made their mission to merge Celtic folk traditions with progressive rock; a lofty goal, to say the least. More often than not, this has led to their albums being a revolving door of Celtic jigs and typical prog rock moments; doing both rather well, but ultimately failing to merge the two in a successful marriage. 'Hidden Agenda' finally realizes this, as can be heard from the combination of shoegazey guitars, and traditional recorder playing. For an album that appears to be a large improvement over its predecessors however, not much has changed in the overall formula. 'Hidden Agenda' still begins with the necessary upbeat Celtic instrumental overture, then digresses into story-driven vocal tracks and rock-oriented renditions of traditional songs.

One place where 'Hidden Agenda' really makes its mark is during its highly successful mini-epic, 'A Night To Remember'. Based on the tragedy of the sinking Titantic, the nine minute piece details a chilling narrative of the boat's fatal voyage, as well as multiple perspectives. Musically as well, there is a much greater majesty to what The Morrigan do here; a larger scale sense of composition that makes 'A Night To Remember' feel like a genuine epic as opposed to an overstretched song. I have always found that The Morrigan's focus on telling stories with their music was always a strength, but it seems to have taken a backseat since the debut 'Spirit Of The Soup'. In any case, the band makes up for it here by creating a piece here that manages to capture the desparation of the story, but keeps things ironically upbeat and catchy.

Anyone who has heard the music of The Morrigan before will expect a great vocal presentation from the band, and here they shall receive. Cathy Alexander has a fantastic and distinctive style of singing that only adds to the Celtic flair of this band. It does feel as if 'Hidden Agenda' faces some of the same weaker aspects that have always plagued them, such as a few inconsistent tracks here and there that feel slightly too derivative of Celtic traditional music. Flaws aside however, there's no doubt in my mind that The Morrigan's most recent album is also their definitive work.

Review by kenethlevine
4 stars After retrenching somewhat for a couple of releases, the MORRIGAN released their most ambitious and eclectic effort to date in "Hidden Agenda". The turbocharged Celtic style remains in several instrumental tracks but with more jazzy arrangements at times comparable to MOVING HEARTS from an earlier time, as the lunatics have decided to run the asylum and it's about time.

The alterations are notable from the opening cut "Swallow's Tail" in which synthesizers and electric guitars predominate and familiar traditional melodies partner up with reggae beats and soaring leads. The band has never glowed to this degree, and the effect is repeated on "Volta". But the real breakthroughs occur in "In the End/Tristan's Lament", "A Night to Remember", and "The Other", in which a certain classicism and theatrical flair is discerned for the first time, and the sound incorporates symphonic and neo prog tendencies while remaining fresh. Mervyn B and Cathy Alexander share duties and both shine in roles seemingly written for them.

"In the End"'s mood is one of breathless yet dreamlike urgency and some of the instrumental sections incorporate middle eastern themes, at times reminiscent of ERIS PLUVIA's early work. "A Night to Remember" is shockingly even more ambitious, beginning with a classical flourish which is carried throughout to varying degrees. It's probably Cathy Alexander's defining moment with the MORRIGAN as her account of a seafaring vessel in trouble, and by extension perhaps the British Empire, recalls the irreverence of MADDY PRIOR's renditions of "Saucy Sailor/Black Freighter" of bygone days but ratchets it up a notch.

With this release, the MORRIGAN's courting of progressive rock is no longer a very well hidden agenda, so I suggest that most readers begin their exploration of this fine band right here. For the folk purists who might be slumming here, work your way chronologically to this point so as to avoid losing your spectacles in this stampede. Highly recommended, simply transcendent music.

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