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PROVIDENCE

Prog Folk • United States


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Providence biography
Providence were the only American band signed to the MOODY BLUES' Threshold label back in the seventies. The group hailed from the Pacific Northwest, and distinguished themselves by their lack of a drummer, featuring instead nothing but various stringed instruments and a keyboardist. The keyboardist played piano, harpsichord, and sometimes organ, rather than ARP or Mellotron like so many of the band's contemporaries.

The band's lone released album was produced by longtime MOODY BLUES producer Tony Clarke, and the band's music, particularly the vocals, reveal the strong influence of that band. The band recorded original compositions that featured languid string arrangements, sometimes psychedelic guitar as well as acoustic, and a bass that pretty much comprised the rhythm section for the band. Their lyrics ranged from fantasy to nature to hippy philosophy, and tended toward naively-positive themes.

Providence would record one more album before breaking up ('Heavenly Harmonies'), but the master tapes were stolen from the studio and never recovered. The album would surface years later as an unauthorized Russian import CD.

Several of the band's members would go on to tour with the Moodies, as well as perform with Mike Pinder on Blue Jays project recordings. All the original members of Providence are still in the music business in one form or another, except for keyboardist Bartholomew Bishop, whose whereabouts are unknown.

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  • Smile Ever Sense The Dawn, 1972

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PROVIDENCE discography


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

3.79 | 11 ratings
Ever Sense The Dawn
1972

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

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PROVIDENCE Reviews


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 Ever Sense The Dawn by PROVIDENCE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.79 | 11 ratings

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Ever Sense The Dawn
Providence Prog Folk

Review by Boluf

4 stars I'd like to write a review on this odd but fine album - but there isn't very much for me to add to what reviewers Jeff Beauchamp and ClemofNazareth have already written. Both their reviews give a good picture of Providence's music. Read them!

I tend to agree more with Jeff because he's more enthousiastic about this album, and so am I. I give it four stars, easily. I think they are similar to Moody Blues as the other reviewers mention but I also come to think of Mellow Candle and Gryphon for the use of almost merely accoustic instruments. It seems to me that these guys had an idea of playing (soft) rock music although they had "only" violins, cello and a harpsichord and so they went their own way with their mix of rock and chamber music.

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 Ever Sense The Dawn by PROVIDENCE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.79 | 11 ratings

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Ever Sense The Dawn
Providence Prog Folk

Review by Jeff Beauchamp

5 stars "Ever Sense The Dawn" has been a favorite of mine since it was released in 1972. It is hard to categorize since I've never heard another album quite like it.

I suppose you could call it folk-prog due to the lack of drums; I tend to think of the instrumentation more as a strong string quartet with added electric bass and light keyboards. The music at times has an almost Elizabethan feel to it, especially when harpsichord is present. Vocal harmonies abound throughout and one particular vocalist has a Justin Hayward-styled "hook" to his voice ("Lady", "The Island Of Light") which would lead one to think that these were two of the reasons that the Moody Blues signed Providence to their Threshold label. While the influence of the Moody Blues is clearly evident, Providence is by no means a clone of the Moodies - their styles and approach are quite different from each other. Although I like the Moody Blues very much their music sometimes suffers from an overabundance of bombast which is thankfully absent here.

Themes of Nature feature prominently in the lyrics to their pastoral songs, especially the sea, oceans, streams, and rivers, which tend to be used as allegories or metaphors for the human condition, as well as mountains, trees. stars and the sun. The lack of hard rock instrumentation and the reliance on such naturalistic lyrical elements also contribute to the feeling that the music has it's roots in a pre-industrial age. The song "Lady", with it's reference to it's title character playing a zither and dreaming of her man at sea also evokes a feeling of days gone by. Even the cover art points in this direction; the front cover features a photo of Mt. Hood as seen through a ships porthole, the inside gatefold shows portraits of the band superimposed over the widows of a sailing ship, and the back cover has a group photo of the musicians playing (except for a Fender bass) all acoustic instruments in a grassy clearing with trees in the background.

In my opinion the best song on the album is "If We Were Wise", a song which questions just how smart we humans really are, even in our love lives . Other notable songs are: "Mountain", "Isle Of Light" and "Smile".

As for the quality of the recording, I believe that this album was never mastered properly from the start. Over many years I have acquired many copies of the US LP, looking for one with decent sound, including a new-old-stock still sealed example and all were found to be wanting even when played on a VPI turntable with a Blue Point Special cartridge/needle. The 2008 Retro Disc International "remastered" CD is only slightly better. While all show good lows, the mids are muddy and the highs distorted to the point of distraction at times. In my opinion this recording deserves to have a proper remastering done from the original multi-tracks, if possible.

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 Ever Sense The Dawn by PROVIDENCE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.79 | 11 ratings

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Ever Sense The Dawn
Providence Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars An unusual album from an unusual and forgotten folk band. Providence were the only American band ever signed to the Moody Blues Threshold label that I’m aware of. Their only released album is really more like an EP, clocking in at a paltry 29 minutes.

But it’s a pretty interesting 29 minutes at least. The instrumentation of the band would be considered atypical in any era, although in the early seventies they were probably on the outer edge of that period where fringe bands like this could still attract some attention. The band had no drummer per se, although multinstrumentalist Tom Tompkins’ percussion included a tad bit of hand drumming. Instead, bassist Bob Barriatua sets the tempo (such that it is) for the music.

And speaking of the Moodies, there is a clear influence in the inflection and overall timbre of vocalist Andy Guzie, as well as in the harmonic accompanying vocals of the other singers (and just about all the band’s members sing here at one time or another). The rest of the music comes courtesy of Tompkins’ cello (and sometimes violin), as well as the twin violins of Jim Cockney and Jim Corkey, along with Barriatua’s bass and Guzie on guitar. Keyboardist Bartholomew Bishop rounded out the band with his piano, harpsichord (especially noticeable on “If We Were Wise” and “The Stream”) and less frequently on organ. There’s also a bit of glockenspiel and uncredited flute on a couple numbers, although except for “Island of Light” the flute is barely noticeable, and in fact it may be the product of Bishop’s occasional organ play rather than an actual flute. Come to think of it, it probably is.

Comparisons are pointless for the most part, as I’m not aware of any bands of this era that had even a similar sound. Maybe Sindelfingen, another American band who also favored acoustic and stringed instruments, although their sound was decidedly heavier at times and they had a traditional drummer.

The lyrical themes are similar to those of the Moodies as well, and the album’s producer was long-time Moodies producer Tony Clarke, so that influence was probably unavoidable. “If We Were Wise” especially could easily be mistaken for a Moody Blues studio outtake or ‘lost’ recording.

I’ve read this is a hard recording to find, but it really isn’t, although most often the vinyl releases that surface are promo copies. There are CD versions around that I’ve seen, but I don’t know much about their quality or the source material for them, and doubt if they were remastered from original studio tapes.

A couple notable tracks include the heavier “Island of Light” where Guzie even manages a bit of guitar fuzz and comes off sounding surprisingly like a tamer version of some of the late eighties grunge bands that came out of the American Northwest; and “Mountain” features some fairly well-developed complex vocal harmonies. Otherwise most of the songs are heavily laden with string arrangements, Mike Pinder-like vocals, and a rather folksy feel.

Providence hung on for a couple more years after this album’s release, but fractured around 1975 in the wake of the mysterious and suspect disappearance of their second album’s master tapes from the studio where they had just finished recording it. I’m told that album has surfaced on CD in recent years, but several members of the band has since sued to stop its distribution. All of the members are involved in music today in one form or another except Bishop, whose whereabouts are unknown.

This is a bit of a novelty recording, and isn’t developed enough to merit consideration as an essential prog recording. But it is interesting to listen to, and calls to mind a simpler time when this kind of rather naïve music was still being made with a straight face by the little brothers of many old sixties hippies. 3.4 stars and recommended to string fans, lovers of folk music, and anyone who digs the kind of music the Moody Blues got famous making.

peace

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