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TEA AND SYMPHONY

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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Tea And Symphony biography
This Birmingham sextet developed a weird but wonderful breed of acid or psych folk, but took it so far that they are best described as Folk Prog. They released only two albums on the great Harvest label and both are now much sought after. I have only seen the debut on Cd format.

Their strange folk is a cross of Celtic (and more ancient music is not far away from some GRYPHON tracks) and more obscure experimental music (Roy Harper and Zep's third album come to mind) and wrote wilful and oblique tracks that often lead to pandemonium and frantic magic , but they can repell some or make you fall completely under their spell.

Their first album, aptly titled "An Asylum For The Musically Insane" produced by Gus Dudgeon, saw members of BAKERLOO and LOCOMOTIVE helping out in this uncannily weird oeuvre. It remains some 35 years later a cult classic, but demands repeated listenings and is an acquired taste. Their second album, "Jo Sago" is relatively calmer but still very interesting for progheads especially the side-long title track. Bob Wilson had then replaced Nigel Phillips on KB.

TEA AND SYMPHONY is one of the most bizarre act to find in the Folk Prog sub-genre, along with COMUS, DUKES DE GREY and SPYROGIRA and should please the progheads into those acts.

: : : Hugues Chantraine, BELGIUM : : :

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3.80 | 22 ratings
An Asylum For The Musically Insane
1969
3.79 | 10 ratings
Jo Sago
1970

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TEA AND SYMPHONY Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 An Asylum For The Musically Insane by TEA AND SYMPHONY album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.80 | 22 ratings

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An Asylum For The Musically Insane
Tea And Symphony Prog Folk

Review by Dobermensch

4 stars A strange little album by a few guys from Birmingham which, at times, borders on the downright weird. There's a very unusual effect on the vocals that reminds me of the beginning of 'One of these days...' by Pink Floyd. After around eight or nine listens to this I still can't tell if it really IS an electronic effect or not. The whole thing sounds a bit schizo to me... There are one or two 'normal' sounding tracks immediately followed by something completely bonkers. This is a good thing as it enables each part to stand out more. There are bits of Floyd's 'Piper at the Gates...', Vaudelillian dance hall and bar room sing alongs. A real mish mash that holds itself together brilliantly. A true gem that I was very surprised to find considering it was recorded in 1969.

My personal favourite is 'Feel How So Cool The Wind' - a very unusual tune that sounds chilly and creepy with the aforementioned vocals and wouldn't be amiss on Floyd's 'Ummagumma' on one of it's more experimental parts.

Fans of Comus should definitely check this album out.

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 An Asylum For The Musically Insane by TEA AND SYMPHONY album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.80 | 22 ratings

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An Asylum For The Musically Insane
Tea And Symphony Prog Folk

Review by Matthew T
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Often placed in the acid psych bin but although in places the album does sound in that catergory it is progressive as well. A lot of acoustic guitar is used throughout these tunes with a mixture of keyboards. Eccentric could be used to describe the style of this album.

Armchair Theatre is the 1st track on this album and could be described best as something that seems to be from the 1930's in places with a blues vaudeville sound which takes a more modern approach to the end of the tune with a Kazzo used in places.Feel How Cool the Wind is the 2nd tune with a slow dreamy feel and with what sounds like wind in the background primarily over acoustic guitar with keyboards . Why I am listing tracks in order because there is a far amount of variation and styles used throughout as with the next song Sometime is another Acid folk tune and shows the vocals employed throughout with which were sung with different band members at the same time in unison or used as an echo effect with the backing vocals. Track 4 Maybe My Mind( With Egg) has the strangest title and is very acid in texture. Blues influence is present on this album with folk as with the following track The Come On. The last track 9 would be considered Avante Garde for me and the song leads in with a flute intro and a Keyboard sounding like a Harpsichord, the tune at the start and end remind me of Peter Hammil but that is about as far as it goes and the tune quickly goes to a keyboard ( piano) solo and then the Avante Garde seems to appear.

All in all a very interesting listen that takes time to appreciate but the reward is there with a bit of peserverance. I will admit with my first listen of this album the response was Ehhhhh but give it another go and enjoy what really is something you will not hear anywhere else. Original and different and that most likely is the reason this album did not sell well back then. Great cover as well.

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 An Asylum For The Musically Insane by TEA AND SYMPHONY album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.80 | 22 ratings

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An Asylum For The Musically Insane
Tea And Symphony Prog Folk

Review by Concentration Moon

4 stars This interesting album is certainly for the musically insane (in a good way). It is not the traditional prog folk album like one by Trees or Fairport Convention, despite being released around the same time. The instruments are more or less standard for a folk band: vocals, guitar, bass, percussion, flute. However, their style is very unique. I feel that going track by track will do the best for this curious band's first album.

"Armchair Theatre" - This energetic track is a mix of multiple genres. It has a bluegrass or country style guitar, paired with a lively flute. The kazoo (I think it is) solo adds a bit of humor to the song. One of my favorites on the album.

"Feel How So Cool The Wind" - This track is a bit more down to earth. The vocals have a ton of vibrato, making them stand out the most in this song. It is slightly reminiscent of Comus's First Utterance. The end of the track has humorous piano and singing.

"Sometime" - Again, the weird vibrato vocals that makes it special. The syncopation from the percussion makes the song catchy. Nice guitar.

"Maybe My Mind" - By this point, the vocals have become standard. The percussion gives the song a bouncy feel, while also making it sound a bit primitive. The winds solo is interesting.

"The Come On" - This reverts back to a slow bluesy folk song. It is reminiscent of more popular music from the time. The piano is nice.

"Terror In My Soul" - Excellent, excellent piano in the beginning, though depressing. This track is very Comus-like. The vocals remind me of "Drip, Drip". The flute livens it up. Around 3:23 is my favorite part, aside from the piano opening.

"Travelling Shoes" - This track is also more popular sounding. Not one of the best tracks on the album.

"Winter" - I cannot decide whether this beautiful track is depressing or uplifting. It is very similar to the traditional prog folk bands like Fairport Convention, with the exception of the wind solos between verses.

"Nothing Will Come To Nothing" - Nice keys in the beginning. After that, it is a slow blues bit of just vocals and piano. It then switches to a very jazzy piano solo. Hats off to Nigel Phillips for that. It continues to be jazzy, thought more atonal. It ends with a reprise of the vocals and keys. One of the best of the album.

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 An Asylum For The Musically Insane by TEA AND SYMPHONY album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.80 | 22 ratings

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An Asylum For The Musically Insane
Tea And Symphony Prog Folk

Review by Mlaen

3 stars When I purchased this fairly odd album, a seller at my prog music shop must have thought I was going insane. Luckily for me, I wasn't. I was just curious.

Tea And Symphony's debut is a progressive folk album with psychedelic elements, bits of classical influence and often a hysterical feel. It could be compared to Jan Dukes de Grey (which is quite better) and Comus. Album opens with amusing Armchair Theatre and the first thing I noticed here are somewhat disturbed vocals which accompany the listener through most of the album. The next song, Feel How So Cool The Wind, has very creepy atmosphere and psychedelic sound, while The Come On and Travelling Shoes are in bluesy vein and are the least weird songs with nice guitar, flute and mouth-organ work. Terror in my soul opens with a horror-movie sounding piano and develops into the weirdest song on the album - terrifying. Winter offers very nice use of woodwinds and cello and has apparently calmer atmosphere - it would even be enjoyable if there weren't those pesky vocals! But hints of calm last shortly - Nothing Will Come To Nothing is, though being a good song (jazzy break), very arduous to listen to.

An Asylum For The Musically Insane certainly has fine musicianship, originality (which earns it 3 stars), diversity and a dose of bizzareness, some may even find it brilliant, but not me; I'm not very fond of music that generally lacks true beauty and power, and tends to make me uneasy. Insanity? No thank you. Worth a spin twice a year or so, nothing more.

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 Jo Sago by TEA AND SYMPHONY album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.79 | 10 ratings

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Jo Sago
Tea And Symphony Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!

T&S's second album got a real peculiar and one of the most undeserved treatments in rock's history. Just why did the Harvest label actually sabotaged T&S' second album, the conceptual Jo Sago, a Caribbean immigrant's adaptation into England's post economic boom crisis year of the early 70's. Maybe the controversial naked black man artwork didn't help the album, or Harvest didn't believe in T&S's potential after such an incredible and promising debut album? In either case, before this reissue in Cd format, Jo Sago was fetching around 500 USD in auctions, mostly because Harvest only pressed way too few copies and some ended up getting trashed in the bins. The group is still the original trio of Langston (vocals, guitars), Daw (guitars, flute, bass) and keyboardist Wilson, with all three members sharing percussions (since drummer Nigel Phillips is not mentioned but wrote three tracks) and guitar playing, but apparently getting no outside help as they did on the debut.

The A-side is made up of a sidelong title track, which tells of Sago's adventures taking a silly turn, reminding in many ways the atmosphere of Giles, Giles & Fripp's Cheerful Insanities. While not quite as brilliant as they were on the debut album, T&S pulls a mini tour de force in this "epic", where there are some Caribbean music interludes, with langston's voice reminiscent of Family's Roger Chapman. Starting on a cello line, then 12 strings guitar arpeggios, the track has quintessential English folk spirit and the opening Miniature is absolutely superb. An imperturbable narrating voice leads us under a cello underlining, into a weird Monty Python-like sound collage of Nyada. The tracks goes along smoothly, passing from chapter to chapter, with some highs and not- so highs, but overall, it retains enough the attention to be fully a enjoyable track and ending on a totally wacky Goodnight movement.

The flipside is no less interesting, opening on the bizarre and almost grotesque Try Your Luck, with its intricate construction and time sig. The following yourself is another interesting track, but goes a bit unnoticed just before Green Fingered-Redhanded's total wackiness, which in itself serves as an intro to the superb flute& cello-laden Seasons Turn To One. View To The Sky and its successor Nortihorticulturalist are both again laden with that typical English weirdness that seems to emanate from the Python spirit meeting The Beatles' quirky arrangements. The album closes on a short guitar arpeggio threesome called Dangling.

Overall, maybe not as brilliant as their Asylum debut, Jo Sago is nevertheless a superb, and still is a breathtaking album that is all too ashamedly forgotten nowadays. This FootPrint Record reissue might not be a legit release (but I really don't know of this), but it has indeed one huge merit: give a second life to one of the most obscure rock albums and to give it a much-needed small ray of sunshine. Don't walk to your local store, run for it!!

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 An Asylum For The Musically Insane by TEA AND SYMPHONY album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.80 | 22 ratings

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An Asylum For The Musically Insane
Tea And Symphony Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars 4,5 stars really!!!

This amazing thing about the Archives is that you get a fair amount of albums in all sub- genres that rank from the strange , obscure all the way to the frankly bizarre. And all genre considered , one of the more bizarre is the aptly titled debut from this trio. This record dates from 69 ( on the great progressive label Harvest) and is a perfect example (almost a textbook case) of acid-folk but with such a twist of bizarre that it must rank into the folk-prog sub-genre , which has its own share of bizarrerie. Wrapped in a superb psych drawing ( a bit in the style of Beatles 's Yellow Submarine) gatefold sleeve with a no-less superb inside artwork , this uncanny and baroque oeuvre is really a lost gem, one of those rare 24 carrat stuff that only comes so often.

The opening track is a hard to classify track meandering between a few styles (even developping for a few second into the Greensleeves theme) , but staus unfocused enough to destabilize the unwarned listener , but if experienced enough to get him ready for what comes up next. The second track delves into the frozen depths of demon worlds and chilly tales , freezing you to death, only to bring you back to reality with a barroom sing-along tune. Sometimes takes a plunge back into the bizarre and oblique world just left before , reminding the proghead of the insane world of Comus , and warning you of dangers soon to come in your affective life. Maybe my mind is another sombre affair with a voice that sometimes rings like Family's Roger Chapman and might just be the highlight of the first side. This first side ends into a blues , probably the low point on the album , but this might be up for debate because they are equally at ease into this style as well!

The second side is clearly the better one , and it is the succession of a few masterful "songs" like those that make an album a real classic. Terror In My Soul is just as scarry and terrorizing as Comus's Drip Drip , with its sinister flute underlining a superbly tense acoustic guitar strumming. Comes next is a superb adaptation of Fred Neil's Travelling Shoes , and if it was not for the vocals , you'd swear you'be on the Traffic debut album with its delightful pastoral/hippy imagery. Outstanding and astounding! The next track , aptly titled Winter returns to the chilly athmospheres with a haunting cello in the background and bizarre noises evoking stressed and chilled birds calls . The closing track starts out on a harpsichord and flute intro to diverge back into the madness we have now grown accustomed to (we had no choice unless getting locked in forever into the Musically Insane Asylum), but soon we waltz into a great swingy jazz tune to plunge into deep madness (almost free jazz) forever as they apologize for their mischief just accomplished.

Guess what , even if you are not insane , you might want to get a room into this asylum/hotel , where you might just never leave but not really want to check out either, to mis-quote our dear Maani!! Another one of those pearls that I will fight for all progheads to investigate just like I did for Comus , Spirogyra and recently Jan Dukes De Grey. Flabbergasting masterpiece even if I do not give the fifth star.

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