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Spirogyra St. Radigunds album cover
4.22 | 241 ratings | 13 reviews | 35% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Future Won't Be Long (4:27)
2. Island (3:39)
3. Magical Mary (6:20)
4. Captain's Log (2:00)
5. At Home In The World (2:40)
6. Cogwheels Crutches And Cyanide (6:00)
7. Time Will Tell (5:32)
8. We Were A Happy Crew (5:29)
9. Love Is A Funny Thing (2:00)
10. The Duke Of Beaufoot (7:08)

Total Time: 45:15

Line-up / Musicians

- Barbara Gaskin / lead & backing vocals
- Martin Cockerham / guitar, lead vocals
- Julian Cusack / violin, keyboards
- Steve Borrill / bass

- Robert Kirkby / arranger (strings, trumpet, recorder) & producer
- Tony Cox / VCS3 synth
- Dave Mattacks / drums

- Bill Bruford / drums (uncredited and unconfirmed)

Releases information

Artwork: Penny Graeme-Barber & Peter Rhodes

LP B&C - CAS 1042 (1971, UK)

CD Repertoire - RR 4070-WZ (1990, Germany)
CD Esoteric Recordings - ECLEC 2410 (2013, Europe) Remastered

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SPIROGYRA St. Radigunds ratings distribution

(241 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(35%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (19%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

SPIROGYRA St. Radigunds reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Spirogyra's first album is the closest thing that comes to Comus's First Utterances. It actually pre-dates it by a few weeks! Please note that Dave Mattacks will drum on al three albums but will never be a member! He was busy in Fairport Convention at the time and will also drum for Jethro Tull during the 80's. Barbara Gaskin is also known for her work with Hatfield And The North (as one of the Northettes along with Amanda Parsons) and her work with National Health and in the 80's with Dave Stewart and Bill Bruford!

What we have here is superb folk rock , avoiding some of the clichés (no done-to-death covers of traditional tunes) , inventive enough to be classified as folk-prog. The main writer Cockerham is also often engaging in great duos with Gaskin and this is , along with the violin of Cussack and Borril's great bass lines, the main reasons for sounding so close to Comus! But where Comus was dark and demonic, Spirogyra is more political and romantic.

Many tracks are stupendous as they work very tightly and have great interplaying. Future , Island and Magical Mary are all very enthralling tracks. Comes in two of the three shorter and more reflective tracks (Captain's Log and At Home In the World) but also slightly less interesting! Cogwheels is absolutely fascinating with Gaskin underlining Cockerham's acidic vocals (much the same way Grace Slick , Balin and Kantner did in Jefferson Airplane). Time Will Tell shows how politically conscious the band was. Happy Crew is relatively slow starting because of lenghty and not entirely successful string arrangement and when it does take off, it is too short. They saved their best track to close the album. The Duke of Beaufoot is simply riveting and really holding your attention much the same way that Traffic did with John Barleycorn Must Die.

I simply cannot recommend this album enough if you are into intricate folk rock ambiances.

Review by Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "First Utterance"

Fans of "First Utterance" by Comus will indeed find much to enjoy on SpiroGyra's debut - although this is not as wild as the latter, and more steeped in contemporary culture, the raw earthiness, dark humour and beautiful melodies should be relished.

Skilled Craftsmen and Honest Workers

"The Future Won´t Be Long" is a strikingly refreshing take on the traditional folk song, with elements that point back to the roots, but also progressive and imaginative ideas that make this rather timeless.

The lyrical construction is simply inspired, juxtaposing lines like "Ah but there was a maiden and her name was Marjorie" with more contemporary stuff like "Shipped out to Belgium to stop them, plastered and shelled them...", the subject matter reflects on life before World War II with rose-tinted glasses and paints a dark and very short future.

The arrangement matches perfectly, with simple acousitc bass guitar and screeching violin - that appears to draw upon the work of the composer Krzysztof Penderecki in its use of long and slow legato bowing that suggests clusters of microtones rather than any kind of diatonic harmony.

In less technical terms, this translates into a sound like a million fingernails being dragged down a blackboard simultaneously, that quickly suggests bones and death with a kind of chilled fear in the pit of the stomach.

The vocal arrangement is no less inspired, Martin Cockerham croaking out melodies and barking out the verses, and Barbara Gaskin's soft and sublime mezzo-soprano moving around from accompaniment to harmony to picking up the odd line for emphasis.

"Island" by way of contrast, is somewhat nonsensical, but moves to a more rhythmic realm around 2:30 that is somewhat reminiscent of Hawkwind.

Animal Magic

The momentum is kept up with "Magical Mary", the walking bass lines practically running - and the choruses catching us by surprise with their seamless tempo changes. The unison bass and violin that follows the second chorus lends a dramatic surprise to the ensuing developmental passage - something one really wouldn't expect on a folk album. A few mad tempo and key changes later, the drums finally join in - for the first time on this album - and the Prog-Folk genre is pretty much defined here.

Bob Dylan

"Captain's Log" is a nautical tale of desparation - apparently recited by Mr Zimmerman - but replete with sound effects.

The familiar nasal twang is maintained for "At Home In The World", a thoroughly enjoyable piano-driven song with washes of synth strings and brass that lift the texture out of the ordinary, and lend a Strawberry Fields forever flavour to the song.

"Cogwheels Crutches And Cyanide" is pretty much in the same vein - a kind of conglomeration of the styles presented on this album rather than any attempt at development - but is a wonderful song nonetheless.

Flickering Jewels

Cusak kicks off "Time Will Tell " with a firey display, and when the bass and female voice join, we go through a sequence of sudden modulations, and the music starts to feel progressive once more. The introduction of some new piano ideas around 3:00ish takes it into a new dimension, and the development of this material around 4:50 is completely brilliant, running through a gamut of styles in a very short space of time.

Pink Floyd

"We Were a Happy Crew" feels like a standard ballad until around 1:40, when a muted, sawed violin adds an edgy atmosphere that is quickly blown away by acoustic guitar. However, the voices remain edgy "Can we go back and start again, Can we begin where we came in?". The next section begins like a Pink Floyd song, with flavours of "Saucerful of Secrets", but quickly moves into a new musical dimension with the piano, and time signatures fly past our feet - 3/4 to 4/4 and back again in the blink of an ear.

One interesting point to note: This song strongly reminds me of "Dogs" on "Animals" in places - 6 years before "Animals" was released.

Stairway To Heaven

The very short "Love Is A Funny Thing" features what appears to be a recorder duet - and the tune seems vaguely familiar... A lovely little folk song, mind you.

Buggered up his fuse

Rounding off this extremely well rounded Prog-folk album is "The Duke Of Beaufoot", a somewhat mad story about an allegedly nice man who was kind to cats, but sadly passed away leaving only fond memories - or is that fondle memories? Maybe he wasn't so nice after all.

The music is, happily, more of the same. Sparse folk-style accompaniments with piano lending a Beatles-esque sound, and the wandering bass prodiving a richness that leaves plenty of space for everything else. The melodies are as rich here as in any other song on the album, and the instrumental sections romp through texture, tempo and style changes, but stay completely within the overall remit of the album. Although no real surprises are delivered, the music is nonetheless completely engaging and always feels inventive.


A Prog-folk album with something to offer everyone. Engaging, accessible melodies, light accompaniments that never feel as if the drums are missing - but surprise you with their richness when the percussion does join in, lyrics about love, death and change, and plenty of interest to keep you listening to the very end.

Oh, and a smorgasbord of Prog too.

Probably not one for the Death metal fans, but recommended to all listeners of progressive music otherwise.

Review by James Lee
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I probably don't even need to say this, but if you're already a fan of Comus and/or Jan Dukes de Grey, you should get "St. Radigunds" as soon as possible. However, that's not quite fair; similarities may abound, but Spirogyra is immediately unique. There is an earthy, urban edge that reminds me more of The Pogues than anything else - a claustrophobic timeless British Empire folk sound, in which you can almost hear the creaking of wooden ships and smell the sharp tang of musket smoke (and, uh, feces in the gutters and scabrous whores in the alley).

This emerges from the basic folk template of acoustic guitars and one or two vocals, augmented in moderation by various other instruments, most notably the violin and bass guitar. Many of the arrangements consist of precise unison lines (check out the interplay between the bass and violin during "Time Will Tell") and energetic strumming. With or without percussion, this ensemble rocks pretty hard at times - not quite the wild abandon of Comus, but with a ferocity somewhere between a tavern brawl and a protest riot.

Certainly, Cockerham's vocals are as pleasantly grating as Wooton's or Derek Noy's (but not quite as grating as Shane MacGowans, of course!). They take you by surprise at first, and you may not be sure whether to laugh or be annoyed...but if you can make it past that disagreeable first impression, you may come to appreciate the striking emotive power of his singing, especially when he's joined by the lovely harmony of Barbara Gaskin's equally powerful (and admittedly more immediately pleasant) tones.

Her additions are like a surge from a string section: instantly upping the emotional and dramatic ante, so to speak. Her vocals help turn "Magical Mary" from acid to bittersweet (assisted by one of the few times that rock drums make an appearance on the album), and she takes "At Home in the World" from a simple ballad to something almost anthemic. Alone, her voice is plain and poignant, a classic sweet but direct country-Celtic tone with the character and immediacy that I'd always missed in Annie Haslam (hmm, if Renaissance is the castle, is Spirogyra the village square?).

In fact, this band does things for me that many comparable (and relatively bigger) bands never quite accomplished. For example, Fairport Convention often seemed a little too well-mannered to me, perhaps a little over-produced and tame, and Spirogyra provides the missing element. Same with The Incredible String Band...I'd always appreciated the music, but too often felt indifferent to it on a more emotional level. Even Comus, whom I also adore, often lacks the essential human quality - Spyrogyra has the kind of raw human quality heard in the best of folk, Celtic, and other authentic traditional styles.

Will everyone love it? Probably not, and because of that I should reserve one star for the final rating. However, I'm letting my objectivity slip for a moment to acknowledge how much this album impressed me. Fair enough?

Review by friso
5 stars Spirogyra - St. Radigunds (1971)

Though the term 'acid folk' sound quite interesting, it's hard to find a lot of music that you could label as such. Spirogyra is however a more known English psychedelic folk rock group with political and anti-war lyrics. Spirogyra's first album 'St. Radigunds' was released in 1971, the same year as Comus' 'First Utterance' (to which it is most resembling) and Jan Dukes de Grey's 'Mice and Rats in the Loft' (one of my favorite psych folk records). Furthermore the first two albums of Pearls Before Swine could be seen as acid or psych folk.

The sound of Spirogyra is made up of acoustic guitar, bass, male & female vocals and violin ór a key-instrument (piano or organ). On some tracks drums were added, but I must say I hadn't missed any drums before they first appeared on the middle of the first side. Martin Cockerham who plays guitar and sings also wrote all the material and because of his extrovert performances we can assume he's sort of a mastermind of the group. His vocals are confronting, ever on the edge of pitch-perfect and sometimes when he's shouting his meaningful vocals he's really impressive (and psychedelic!). His guitar-playing and compositional style is highly original and right in your face. The violin, played by Julian Cusack is a great element of the music. Often creating beautiful, sweeping melodies, but always right in time to add some psychedelic shrieks to the already troubled atmospheres. The bass of Steve Borrill isn't often on the foreground, be he does a great job in playing both percussive and melodic bass-lines. The female vocals by Barbara Gaskin are very beautiful and are pure, and clean and a perfect element of the atmospheric folk of the band. The end result is a dynamic, balanced folk sound that sounds as REAL music.

As other reviewers have pointed out (in both words and ratings) this album is perceived as being a spectacular piece of psych folk. I think the power of this album lies in these elements; the extremely catchy (in a psychedelic and sentimental way) and powerful song- writing, the progressive instrumental passages (both rhythmically, melodic and original) and above all the perfect balance between the male and female efforts. The heaviness and expressive vocals of Cockerham and the subtle and melodic vocals of Gaskin are a perfect marriage! Whilst their duo vocal parts are particularly strong, I can also admire the songs in which they perform solo. Furthermore, both are more then capable to find the right catchy melodies that stick with you for the rest of the day.

The atmospheres of St. Radigunds go from haunting, dark and confronting to peaceful and hopeful. On a song like 'Love is a funny thing' even simple happiness is expressed with a beautiful performance by Gaskin. The instrumental folk parts can also have some mysteriousness to it.

Conclusion. Particularly strong psych folk album that is almost guarantied to satisfy every- one interested in the classic prog era. The song-writing and composition has some haunting beauty to it and major moments of intense enjoyment appear during all tracks. 'St. Radigund's isn't yet a perfect album (some vocals of Cockerham are really challenging), but the album has a certain appeal I rarely come by. You are certain not to find it in modern prog though. A great piece of progressive/psych folk that should be looked after by every-one. Five pouncing ponies and five peaceful salutations.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Spirogyra are a group who most fans of the folkier end of the 1970s progressive scene should pay close attention to - and not just because they were Hatfield and the North/National Health vocalist Barbara Gaskin's first group. The group show a mastery of a range of moods, from scary stuff which doesn't quite reach Comus levels of weirdness but does seem on the verge of veering in that direction to happier, sunnier moments to songs of great melancholy. Julian Cusack's keyboards and, in particular, his violin are the keys to the band's command of atmosphere, though bassist Steve Borrill's performance is also particularly deserving of mention.
Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars SPIROGYRA were a British Folk band from Canterbury who forged a pretty good career for themselves. FAIRPORT CONVENTION's drummer would guest on this one and a couple of more I believe. Martin Cockerham is the main man here composing all the songs while also singing and playing guitar. Barbara Gaskin who looks so good (just sayin') also sings. I had to do a double take when I read these words in the liner notes : "Barbara Gaskin was born in Hatfield North of London..." What ? Oh, I didn't just read she was born in Hatfield And The North ? Okay. She just would go on to play with them and NATIONAL HEALTH of course. We also get Steve Borrill on bass and Julian Cusack on violin and keyboards. The album cover makes me laugh everytime I look at it, just looking at the band's faces and the lady who looks like she's walking right in front of the guy who's about to take a picture of the band. Hilarious !

"The Future Won't be Long" is a top four for me. Strummed guitar as vocals join in then female vocals too. Violin follows and it picks up after 1 1/2 minutes. One of the strengths of this album is the song writing. Love the lyrics here. "Island" has picked guitar and violin as male vocals join in. This is melancholic. It does pick up and turn fuller before 2 1/2 minutes. "Magical Mary" has some nice bass work with passionate male vocals and violin. The vocals stop as the violin rips it up. The violin then stops as the drums and vocals take over 3 minutes in. Great sound 4 1/2 minutes in after the vocals stop. Killer bass then the violin returns. "Captain's Log" is short but a top four for me. The lyrics with samples and acoustic guitar all works so well. "At Home In The World" is a vocal track that builds early including piano. Female vocals too.

"Cogwheels Crutches And Cyanide" is a top four as well. Gentle acoustic guitar as the vocals join in. Bass too and female vocal melodies. It kicks in with drums. Violin after 2 1/2 minutes. The lyrics are so good here. It's very uplifting before 5 minutes. "Time Will Tell" is my final top four. Violin to open then bass just before a minute with cymbals. Female vocals join in as well. Great sound. Piano before 3 1/2 minutes. "We Were A Happy Crew" opens with piano, violin and reserved female vocals. It turns fuller with drums and bass along with male vocals helping out. A change after 2 1/2 minutes with the guitar and male vocals leading. Drums and bass join in. Excellent ! "Love Is A Funny Thing" has gentle guitar as female vocals join in. Flute too. "The Duke Of Beaufoot" ends it. Violin and bass before a minute as it builds. Male vocals join in then female vocals after 3 minutes as the violin slices it up. Another change 4 1/2 minutes in as strummed guitar and female vocals take over. Male vocals too before 6 minutes.

While Folk music usually doesn't do much for me this certainly impressed me big time. I'll put this with my COMUS, THE TREES, PERERIN and JAN DUKES DE GREY. Yeah that's my Folk section.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars As I've gotten used to the Prog Folk sound of the 1960s and early 1970s, I can now understand why this album has received such high ratings. Aside from the important social commentary in the songs' lyrics, there is a real expression of virtuoso musicians in the song arrangements--both in restraint but moreso in the amazing ability to seemlessly weave a song together--vocals, too! (Note the amazing background harmonies from future Northette and Dave Stewart partner, Barbara Gaskin.) Julian Cusack's violin is amazing throughout the album--always adding an important voice--as if a counterpoint or an alter-ego to the lead vocalist (and to his/her message!)

1. "The Future Won't Be Long" (4:27) the aggressive Dylan-esque voice of Martin Cockerham is beautifully counterbalanced by the gorgeous, placating tones of Barbara Gaskin. Drumless, the strums of the acoustic guitar, the violin and bass work all provide the strong rhythmic compass for the singers' message of insistent warning. Julian Cusack's violin is as insistent as the singers. Powerful. (9/10)

2. "Island" (3:39) violin and picked guitar provide the only background support for Martin Cockeram's vocal. It picks up speed as it morphs into a kind of reel between Martin, Julian and a second violin track (Robert Kirkby?) (9/10)

3. "Magical Mary" (6:20) races out of the gate with Martin and Barbara doubling up on the delivery of the story. Nice time shifts with the choruses--makes it interesting. Bass, strummed acoustic guitar and frenetic violin play keep it so tight! At the three minute mark the song shifts again, letting Barbara take the vocal lead--in a very seductive way (as contrasted by Martin's abrasive approach). The many shifts and changes over the course of this longer song definitely gives it credibility for the prog world sticklers. I like the instrumental outro. (9.5/10)

4. "Captain's Log" (2:00) soft and pop-folkie more in a 1960s Paul Simon kind of way. A cool, melodic song with all of the synth "wind & water" effects. (9/10)

5. "At Home In The World" (2:40) sounds like S & G's "America" in many ways until the chorus. Piano-based, with background strummed guitar, drums, horns and gorgeous harmony vocals from Barbara during the choruses. Interesting; different. (8.5/10)

6. "Cogwheels Crutches And Cyanide" (6:00) Another Dylan-like vocal supported by full band--acoustic guitar, bass, full drum kit drumming, and violin. At 4:00 bare bones acoustic guitar is joined by an eery Peter Gabriel-like theatric voice while piano, organ, drums, bass and Barbara amp it up. The song ends with Martin's bellicose voice over the crescendo of the full band. My favorite part of this good song is Barbara Gaskin's background soprano vocalise and harmonies. (9/10)

7. "Time Will Tell" (5:32) a minute of keening solo violin opens this song before bass and female vocal enter to help tell the tale. Very proper, almost operatic singing. Bass, second background violin and lead violin speed up for bridge to a new section with acoustic guitar strumming, piano, and bass supporting Barbara's beautiful delivery. A politically ambiguous song telling us that no system will last forever. Cool song! Nice message (prompting one of those rare occasions in which I hear the lyrics). (9.5/10)

8. "We Were A Happy Crew" (5:29) gentle piano, strings/synths support Barbara's gentle vocal for the opening half minute before full band and Martin's background vocals join in support. Interesting violin solo at the end of the second minute leads to beautiful old-sounding acoustic guitar play and new vocal section. I like it so much better when Martin is not pushing his message with a Bob Dylan voice--he actually has a very nice voice! As he demonstrates by taking over the lead vocal for the second half of this song. Love the way the instruments get insidiously stronger--building to crescendo before decaying at the end. (10/10)

9. "Love Is A Funny Thing" (2:00) gentle guitar picking supports the diaphanous upper register voice of Barbara Gaskin. Recorders join in with the second verse. Nice! They even get a solo or two! (9/10)

10. "The Duke Of Beaufoot" (7:08) (9/10)

Total Time: 45:15

Five stars; a masterpiece of prog folk music.

Review by ALotOfBottle
4 stars Canterbury Folk?

In the summer of 1967, Spirogyra was formed by a guitarist Martin Cockerham and Mark Francis in Bolton, Lancashire. The group functioned as a duo for two years, until Cockerham went to continue his further studies at the University Of Kent in Canterbury. There, he met a vocalist Barbara Gaskin (who later appeared on recordings by Egg, Hatfield And The North, and National Health, being one one of the founders of the female choir The Northettes), a bassist Dave Bornill, and a violinist Julian Cusack, who joined the band. The quartet regularly played local concerts and was soon offered a recording contract with B&C Records. In 1971, the band recorded their debut album St. Radigunds, which was the name of the street the members' student house was on. The album enjoyed relative success and made a name for Spirogyra in the English folk underground. The legend has it that Bill Bruford, one of progressive rock's most admired drummers, appeared as a guest on the album, although he is not credited and the story is not confirmed.

Spirogyra's style is largely shaped by contemporary folk acts such as Pentangle, Fairport Convention, The Incredible String Band, Lindisfarne or Steeleye Span. Similarly to many other "puristic" folk acts, the quartet does not feature a drummer in its full line-up. Some of the tracks include light percussion touches, but I have not found a simple snare beat throughout the work. The band's violinist, Julian Cusack does fantastic work at enriching plain acoustic passages with his typically English fiddle playing. He also adds interesting keyboards touches on some songs. An electric bass guitar played by Dave Bornill keeps the music lively and keeps it from sounding uninteresting and not lively. Martin Cockerham's acoustic guitar is the key element of Spirogyra's sound, it is bright, percussive, and dynamic ? in short features all of the elements that a folk guitar should have. Barbara Gaskin and Cockerham are the main singers on the album. Gaskin's gentle, feminine, attractive, angel-like voice puts the listener in heaven. Cockerham's singing is the polar opposite. His voice is wild, throaty, and perfectly suited for English outlaw-folk.

St. Radigunds consists of ten tracks, some of which are arrangements of traditional folk songs. The album has a great consistency, sometimes perhaps even too much of it, as the tracks do not have a great variety between them. They are not boring though. I never caught my thoughts up on drifting away from the music.

All things considered, Spirogyra's debut St. Radigunds is a really solid effort with many traditional melodies and arrangements. The thing is, the album doesn't have anything that sets apart good from great. However, this is a real treat for prog folk fans and might be very pleasing for progheads only getting into the folk territory. Four stars!

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
5 stars The early 70s was a magical time for the British folk scene as the contemporary folk of the 60s suddenly was infused with a burst of creative vigor that found the once placid genre branching out in myriad directions and taking on hitherto unexplored avenues of musical fecundity. Jethro Tull would launch their most successful brand of folk rock with "Aqualung" whereas the psychedelic folk scene found their best freak folk contributions to the genre with Comus' "First Utterance" and "Mice And Rats In The Loft" from Jan Dukes De Grey. Add to that, a flurry of albums by the Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and The Strawbs and this era produced some of the best musical gems this genre has ever heard. Add to this list the debut album ST. RADIGUNDS by the Canterbury band SPIROGYRA. While the regional scene was seeing a renaissance of creative whimsical jazz-rock albums launched by The Soft Machine, Gong and Caravan, SPIROGYRA went a totally different direction and produced one of the best progressive folk albums of 71.

SPIROGYRA named themselves after a species of freshwater algae that has chloroplasts in spirally twisted bands, and much like the photosynthetic aquatic organism, this musical entity twists its music into unique and captivating forms. In case you're wondering the album title is derived from the Thuringian princess Radegund (note spelling difference) who became a queen and the patron saint of several churches in both France and England and lived sometime in the sixth century. The band was the brainchild of lead vocalist and guitarist Martin Cockerham who formed it with Mark Francis and Andy Duckworth way back in 1967 but everything changed a few years later when Cockerham met Barbara Gaskin (vocals), Steve Borrill (bass) and Julian Cusack (violin) while attending the University of Kent at Canterbury. The chemistry was instantaneous which saw the new members replace the founders with only Cockerham remaining. The band had no problem finding both a record contract and management based on strong compositions and an unorthodox approach to contorting traditional English folk music into strange new concoctions. The band released their debut ST. RADIGUNDS in 1971 and found instant success selling over 200,000 copies at the time of release as it struck a chord at the peak of the psychedelic and progressive folk boom.

ST RADIGUNDS is a veritable folky feast of musical yumminess. While there are great style shifts between tracks, there are a few constants involved. Firstly, Cockerham displays his best Beatles worship and and fortifies each compositional edifice with the most infectious earworms with the full harmonic heft of the Lennon / McCartney 60s with the one / two punch of Cockerham's frantic narrative descriptive rants and sing-a-long intensity that trade off with the angelic vocal diva performances of Barbara Gaskin who provides both an ethereal backing to Cockerham but also takes full command as she ratchets up the dynamic tension when she sings lead. On lead vocals she sounds somewhat like Annie Haslam of Renaissance and it's immediately apparent that she would go on to great things after the performances on ST RADIGUNDS which would eventually lead to her great sessions with Hatfield and the North (Barbara is actually from the English town of Hatfield.)

Adding a third harmonic counterpoint to the lyrical articulation in full modulation is the incredible virtuosic violin skills of Julian Cusack who somehow plays a mean Jean-Luc Ponty channeling his inner Paganini. The deftly performed finger breakers skirt the grey areas between gypsy folk, traditional classical and the contemporary folk of the era which was one of the key ingredients that set SPIROGYRA apart from almost all other acts of the day. While marketed as a folk act, this music is so much more with touches of psychedelic organ runs as well as snippets of trumpets, strings and recorders. Steve Borrill provides the perfect antithesis to the triple harmony effect of the vocals and violin as his bass skills perfectly compliment yet exist as a counterpoint. Percussion is scarce but appears intermittently with a purported uncredited cameo appearance by none other than Bill Bruford.

SPIROGYRA are often compared to the English contemporary act Comus and in many regards it is a fair comparison as they both branched out into daring new worlds of folk music never before attempted. Surely the violin is the main glaring similarity but so is the utter unpredictability of a seemingly stable song that suddenly takes a left turn into bizarre twists and turns, plays it out and then takes yet another bizarre detour into the unknown. While stylistically similar, Comus was more a freak folk band whereas SPIROGYRA never stray far from a more stable band and would be more appropriately compared with The Incredible String Band, which was one of Cockerham's primary influences as well. While the compositions are based in catchy sing-songy types of constructs, there are plenty of time signature deviations that emerge unexpectedly as well as extended instrumental passages that display the fully engaged virtuosity of the musicians. Lyrically the poetic songwriting skills of Cockerham cover the gamut of whimsical mythology to romanticism and political protest. ST RADIGUNDS is instantly a lovable album upon first listen and an easy 4 stars from the get go, however it takes digging in a little deeper for the more subtle standoffish tracks to sink in. This has become a staple in my musical world and one that sinks in a little deeper on every subsequent spin. This is one NOT to be missed.

Latest members reviews

4 stars In the subgenre of acid folk, one of the first victims of The Incredible String Band's infectious syndrome was Spirogyra, whose nucleus was formed by Martin Cockerham -guitar, voice and writing- and Barbara Gaskin, vocals. Psychedelia, folk tradition and blues mix here to make a particularly well d ... (read more)

Report this review (#620212) | Posted by ibnacio | Thursday, January 26, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Spirogyra's debut is one of their essential albums and is a landmark in the acid folk genre, comparable to Comus' First Utterance. St. Radigunds, however, could be considered to have a more "normal" approach to prog, albeit their own interpretation. The album is driven by Steve Borrill's bass a ... (read more)

Report this review (#387550) | Posted by A Person | Thursday, January 27, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars When I first listened to this album, after 3 or 4 songs I immediately decided to love this type of music. The only prog folk act I've listened to before Spirogyra was Jethro Tull...but that's very different, not so much authentic as this band. The orchestration is very well constructed: acous ... (read more)

Report this review (#197778) | Posted by Diaby | Thursday, January 8, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars St. Radigunds is the only album in this genre that comes close to Comus's First album although it is not as rich with insruments as First Uterrance!!!!!!! No One can say that there's a weak song in this album ........all the songs are simply brilliant full with amazing guitar and violin ... (read more)

Report this review (#115828) | Posted by Giorgi U. | Wednesday, March 21, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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