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SPIROGYRA

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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Spirogyra biography
Although this group is hailing from Canterbury, they are not to be classified as such. Those musicians developed one of the better examples of prog-folk or folk-prog. The original line-up consisted of main writer Martin Cockerham as singer and guitarist, the beautiful and well known to progheads Barbara Gaskin on vocals, Steve Borrill on bass and Julian Cusack on violin. Although Dave Mattacks (of FAIRPORT CONVENTION fame) played drums on all three SPIROGYRA albums, he was never a member but a guest on the albums.

Their first album, "St-Radiguns" was quite successful and very adventurous and can compared to COMUS's First Utterances. Very moody, politically conscious songs full of great interplay (much like THE TREES) and with a great duo of voices in the COMUS or JEFFERSON AIRPLANE manner are the main assets of the highly recommended album. The follow-up "Old Boot Wine" however did not manage to succeed quite as well and Cusack appear only as a guest but they had a keyboardist instead. By the time of the third album "Bells, Boots and Shambles", the band was down to just Cockerham and Gaskin with both ex-member Cusack and Borrill appearing as guest. This album was quite a return to form and there are some real epics full of cello for great melancholy moments. Sadly, this proved to be their last album. Barbara will go on with local bands as HATFIELD AND THE NORTH as one of the Northettes, than work with NATIONAL HEALTH and in the 80's work with Bill Bruford and Dave Stewart.

Highly recommended and much more so than some other folk band (FOREST, HORSLIPS) especially regarding the prog contents.

: : : Hugues Chantraine, BELGIUM : : :

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Bells Boots & ShamblesBells Boots & Shambles
Import · Remastered
Esoteric 2013
Audio CD$9.25
$8.39 (used)
St RadigunsSt Radiguns
Import
Repertoire 2007
Audio CD$9.15
$9.14 (used)
Old Boot WineOld Boot Wine
Import · Remastered
Esoteric 2013
Audio CD$31.51 (used)
BURN THE BRIDGES: The Demo Tapes 1970-1971BURN THE BRIDGES: The Demo Tapes 1970-1971
Import
Repertoire 2000
Audio CD$54.95
$26.99 (used)
SPIROGYRA: A  Canterbury TaleSPIROGYRA: A Canterbury Tale
Import
Castle Music UK 2005
Audio CD$71.65
$37.99 (used)
We Were a Happy CrewWe Were a Happy Crew
Remastered · Import
Mooncrest Records UK 1999
Audio CD$12.99
$7.99 (used)
St Radiguns by SPIROGYRA (2007-10-31)St Radiguns by SPIROGYRA (2007-10-31)
Repertoire
Audio CD$39.60
Bells Boots and Shambles by SpirogyraBells Boots and Shambles by Spirogyra
Repertoire
Audio CD$562.10
Children's Earth by SpirogyraChildren's Earth by Spirogyra
Pid
Audio CD$131.50
Old Boot Wine (Japanese Mini LP Sleeve SHM-CD)Old Boot Wine (Japanese Mini LP Sleeve SHM-CD)
JP-Import
Belle Antique
Audio CD$35.99
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SPIROGYRA discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

SPIROGYRA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.27 | 178 ratings
St. Radigunds
1971
3.56 | 59 ratings
Old Boot Wine
1972
4.15 | 119 ratings
Bells, Boots And Shambles
1973
3.29 | 7 ratings
Children's Earth
2009
3.00 | 4 ratings
5
2011

SPIROGYRA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

SPIROGYRA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

SPIROGYRA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.05 | 3 ratings
We Were A Happy Crew
1999
4.00 | 17 ratings
Burn The Bridges: The Demo Tapes 1970-1971
2000
3.39 | 9 ratings
A Canterbury Tale
2005

SPIROGYRA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

SPIROGYRA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 St. Radigunds by SPIROGYRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.27 | 178 ratings

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St. Radigunds
Spirogyra Prog Folk

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

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.

 St. Radigunds by SPIROGYRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.27 | 178 ratings

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St. Radigunds
Spirogyra Prog Folk

Review by ALotOfBottle
Prog Reviewer

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!

 Old Boot Wine by SPIROGYRA album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.56 | 59 ratings

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Old Boot Wine
Spirogyra Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Despite the surreal cover art, Old Boot Wine actually feels a bit less adventurous and progressive to me than either of the other two albums of Spirogyra's original run. Those who enjoy folk rock with progressive sensibilities will still find the material here to be of interest, Barbara Gaskin still charms on the microphone, and Martin Cockerham and Marc Francis' instrumental sparring is still a treat, but the proceedings feel rather sedate and tame compared to the more unpredictable St. Radigund's - there's no departures into not-quite- Comus spookness, for instance. Call it three and a half stars - add half a star if you really like 1970s British folk rock, subtract half a star if you're here for the prog side of the Spirogyra equation.
 Bells, Boots And Shambles by SPIROGYRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.15 | 119 ratings

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Bells, Boots And Shambles
Spirogyra Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Spirogyra's Bells, Boots and Shambles finds the band in a subdued, contemplative mood, having been pared down to the core duo of Cockerham and Gaskin after Old Boot Wine. With Gaskin's lead vocals given a bit more prominence than the debut and the group's progressive inclinations dialled back just enough to give the singing space to breathe, the album highlights the duo's particular gift both for singing and for penning lyrics. Prog fans need not despair, though, because what the album lacks in flashiness it more than makes up for in intricate, extended compositions. With a mood just as low-key as the dimly-lit cover art implies, the release is not quite as fresh and revelatory as the debut but still worth a listen for all fans of proggy folk.
 St. Radigunds by SPIROGYRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.27 | 178 ratings

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St. Radigunds
Spirogyra Prog Folk

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

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) a hodge podge of nice sections that could all be separate songs. (9/10)

An album that has some real power in both lyrics, musicianship, and composition.

 St. Radigunds by SPIROGYRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.27 | 178 ratings

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St. Radigunds
Spirogyra Prog Folk

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

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.

 St. Radigunds by SPIROGYRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.27 | 178 ratings

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St. Radigunds
Spirogyra Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

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.
 Bells, Boots And Shambles by SPIROGYRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.15 | 119 ratings

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Bells, Boots And Shambles
Spirogyra Prog Folk

Review by Epignosis
Special Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

3 stars Spirogyra's third album exists on the daintier side of progressive folk music, but does a fine job juxtaposing light and dark styles. Despite a slight similarity Peter Gabriel, the male vocals are generally too off-key and whiny for my taste. The lovely singing of Barbara Gaskins tempers the wild grit this album sometimes possesses. Those who like early Genesis or perhaps Renaissance should enjoy this light progressive folk album.

"The Furthest Point" A striking bit of acoustic guitar and flute contrasting light and dark textures fades into murkier music with shrouded vocals. As the drums elevate the music, so does the feminine voice and piano. The final jaunty segment of the song is similar to early Genesis.

"Old Boot Wine" Blithe acoustic guitar and flute accompany a lovely female voice in the vein of "Cadence and Cascade," adding sleek violin.

"Parallel Lines Never Separate" This more straightforward song rocks in a similar way to The Rolling Stones, but has some mystical sections scattered here and there.

"Spiggly" This acoustic interlude has lovely vocals and a bright whistle.

"An Everyday Consumption Song" A slower piece with plodding guitars and a singsong vocal, this tune has a fluttering flute dancing in the backdrop. It does become dull and tedious after a time.

"The Sergeant Says" Bob Dylan fans would enjoy this simple, folky, number. I don't quite care for it, particularly the rambling ending.

"In the Western World" This more upbeat extended song begins with a faux-Medieval style, featuring several captivating rhythmic turnarounds. Midway through, the music tapers off with some marching sounds just prior to becoming nearly nonexistent. The growling during the second half is like a drunken lout singing in a pub stale with spilt beer (is that Lee Jackson?). That unfortunate section leads into an upbeat four-chord acoustic guitar sequence, which in turn becomes an anthem-like conclusion.

 St. Radigunds by SPIROGYRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.27 | 178 ratings

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St. Radigunds
Spirogyra Prog Folk

Review by ibnacio

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 done and original brew of sounds and influences, being the main the afore mentioned TISB.

Indeed, Martin Cockerham follows Williamson & Heron's credo putting his music to the service of the text and adapting it to the necessities of the line, stress and pronunciation. and in doing this he finds an invaluable help in the form of the violing playing of John Cusack (also playing piano). Moreover, the music develops and evolves to higher levels of expression with the inclusion of bass guitar (Steve Borrill) and percussions, transforming itself and progressing to rock, as in 'Magical Mary', 'Cogwheels Crutches and Cyanide'.

On her side, Barbara Gaskin's voice stars in 'Time will Tell' and 'Love is a Funny Thing', a beautiful ballad.

The need of a drummer would also be felt for the next two albums and would be impersoned, as here, in the likes of Dave Mattacks, whose omnipresence in the folk scene is only comparable to that (indisputable) of Danny Thompson. Tony Cox added synthesizer. Wind instruments would also be added (Jon Gifford) lately.

The inspiration of these songs -The Future Won't Be Long, At Home with the World, Cogweels Crutches and Cyanide, etc- makes this album one of the best in its genre.

Four and half stars or 9 out of 10 really.

 Bells, Boots And Shambles by SPIROGYRA album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.15 | 119 ratings

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Bells, Boots And Shambles
Spirogyra Prog Folk

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Spirogyra - Bells, Boots and Shambles (1973)

After getting very excited whilst listening to the pleasant psych(acid)-folk the band created on the debut 'St. Radigunds', I was glad to find yet another vinyl reprint of Spirogyra, this time the respected third album of this English progressive/psychedelic folk group from Canterbury.

At first spin I was slightly displeased by the differences in sound and style. On the debut Spirogyra sounded wild, original, very psychedelic in an authentic way and relentless when it comes to artistic expression (almost like Comus). I loved the relentless vocals and shouts of song-writer Martin Cockerham, though I was also a bit troubled by his not so pitch-perfect abilities as a vocalist.

On 'Bells, Boots and Shambles' the band has lost its flexible sound and sounds a bit over- produced. The band's style has moved towards the neighbouring bands of the Canterbury scene with extremely tight playing, simplistic drums on almost all the tracks (by Bill Bruford) and a less troubling and exciting impact. No more shrieking violins, no more shouts. Furthermore, the reverb-folk sound was replaced by a 'dry' recording. In exchange we get to listen to a pleasant recording with most vocals being pitch-perfect, the songs concrete and professional. Luckily, Barbara Gashkin is there to save the day with great angelic vocals on most tracks and Cockerham manages to write yet some more memorable songs. The occasional trumpets of John Boyce are a good addition to the instrumental passages and the keyboards sound professional. On the tracks on which Cockerham does sing he sounds as if very deprived from his personal style, but he still manages to touch me with his lyrics. Some vocal passages on 'The Sergeant Says' and 'In the Western World' are not very beautiful, I really would have preferred the vocal style of 'St. Radigunds'.

Conclusion. Indeed another strong prog-folk record, but I must admit I'm not too happy with the choices made when it comes to how the bands sounds much less like itself then on 'St. Radigunds'. It doesn't need a wise man to tell me that I'm not the one to decided how Spirogyra should sound, but I have my intuition. However, for fans of not too psychedelic folk rock this is likely to be the most pleasant and memorable album of Spirogyra. I can warmly recommend this to fans of folk rock, Canterbury and all-round progressive rock collectors. The small four star rating.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to NotAProghead for the last updates

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