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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$9.29
$9.28 (used)
Old Boot WineOld Boot Wine
Import · Remastered
Esoteric 2013
Audio CD$19.59
$28.67 (used)
St RadigunsSt Radiguns
Import
Repertoire 2007
Audio CD$7.86
$7.85 (used)
BURN THE BRIDGES: The Demo Tapes 1970-1971BURN THE BRIDGES: The Demo Tapes 1970-1971
Import
Repertoire 2000
Audio CD$29.99 (used)
SPIROGYRA: A Canterbury TaleSPIROGYRA: A Canterbury Tale
Import
Castle Music UK 2005
Audio CD$58.32
$43.46 (used)
We Were a Happy CrewWe Were a Happy Crew
Remastered · Import
Mooncrest Records UK 1999
Audio CD$12.99
$9.94 (used)
We Were a Happy Crew by Spirogyra (1999-12-06)We Were a Happy Crew by Spirogyra (1999-12-06)
Mooncrest
Audio CD$57.94
Bells Boots & Schambles by SpirogyraBells Boots & Schambles by Spirogyra
Cool Sound
Audio CD$522.98
Old Boot Wine by SPIROGYRA (2013-10-08)Old Boot Wine by SPIROGYRA (2013-10-08)
Esoteric
Audio CD$55.86
Bells Boots and Shambles by SpirogyraBells Boots and Shambles by Spirogyra
Repertoire
Audio CD$855.59
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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)

4.18 | 167 ratings
St. Radigunds
1971
3.55 | 52 ratings
Old Boot Wine
1972
4.14 | 110 ratings
Bells, Boots And Shambles
1973
3.33 | 6 ratings
Children's Earth
2009
3.33 | 3 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 | 16 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
4.18 | 167 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
3.55 | 52 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
4.14 | 110 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
4.18 | 167 ratings

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St. Radigunds
Spirogyra Prog Folk

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

4 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!)

Five star songs: 6. "Cogwheels, Crutches and Cyanide" (5:53) (10/10); 1. "The Future Won't Be Long" (4:16) (10/10); 5. "At Home in the World" (3:04) (10/10); 4. "Captain's Log" (2:07) (10/10); 7. "Time Will Tell" (5:36) (9/10); the Dylan-esque 3. "Magical Mary" (6:19) (9/10), and; shades of things to come with the Cockerham-Gaskin duet, 9. "Love Is a Funny Thing" (2:08) (9/10).

Four star songs: 2. "Island" (3:41); 8. "We Were a Happy Crew" (5:30), and; the hodgepodge attempt at an epic, "The Duke of Beaufoot" (8:05).

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

 St. Radigunds by SPIROGYRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.18 | 167 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
4.18 | 167 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
4.14 | 110 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
4.18 | 167 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
4.14 | 110 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.

 St. Radigunds by SPIROGYRA album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.18 | 167 ratings

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St. Radigunds
Spirogyra Prog Folk

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

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.

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

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