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Dancer biography
DANCER were formed from remnants of Isle of Wight folk rockers SHIDE & ACORN and future famed film director the late Anthony Minghella. Minghella had previously appeared as keyboardist in a small jazz group known as EARTHLIGHT.

The musicians were discovered by Wilf Pine, former manager of BLACK SABBATH and future reputed ranking member of the Gotti mafia syndicate in the United States. Pine secured the group studio time at Olympia in the Barnes suburb of London in 1972, where they recorded seven tracks over a month's period under the direction of GROUNDHOGS guitarist Tony McPhee. McPhee, despite having an arm in a cast offered the guitar solo to close the title track. DANCER dissolved soon afterwards and their recordings remained forgotten until copies emerged nearly thirty years later and were released by Kissing Spell.

Minghella would go on to a lengthy and successful career as a film producer, while Athey and Cuffe would form the funk band BIG SWIFTY.

DANCER merit a place in the for their brief but enjoyable contribution to progressive music at a transitional and largely forgotten period in the individual members' careers.

>> biography by Bob Moore (aka ClemofNazareth) <<

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3.22 | 28 ratings
Tales of the Riverbank

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 Tales of the Riverbank by DANCER album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.22 | 28 ratings

Tales of the Riverbank
Dancer Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars Most of the best known and biggest selling progressive rock acts took composition, rehearsal and studio time as seriously as themselves, and even those who relied on improvisation did so painstakingly in multiple takes. But not all were blessed with the lead and studio time to allow their creative seeds to bear fully formed fruit. An example is the ephemeral British group DANCER, who were suddenly offered limited studio time and a big name producer, and built an album around it. "Tales of the Riverbank" was recorded in 1971 and went unreleased until bassist Mike Cuffe was alerted to the presence of master tapes in somebody's attic almost 30 years later. Ultimately, this resulted in a CD release on Kissing Spell in 2001. Knowing the backstory makes the listening experience bittersweet, for this is a rough cut folk/soft rock gem with prog overtones, and recalls a simpler time in the lives of pretty much anyone who was alive back then.

The 11 minute title track is the main highlight, beginning with gentle and deft acoustic guitar soloing before a divine melody announces the full band. It's a shame that the rest of the piece and album don't quite deliver on the massive pastoral promise of that introduction, but the lyrical imagery, pleasant vocals and harmonies, lead guitar figures, strummed acoustic guitar backing, nimble percussion, dancing flutes and shimmering mellotron strings give it their all. Another note about the tron is that it is given to enunciating individual notes in the manner of SPRING, whom they sound like anyway, as opposed to contemporaneous samples by the MOODY BLUES and BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST. While they do attempt to wrap up the suite near the end, including a formidable one armed lead guitar solo, it never quite feels complete to me, lovely though it is.

For the rest, I have to give kudos to the band for their talents and resourcefulness, because it's all good, as much because of as in spite of the wide eyed idealism on display. "America Wood" is a soft rock bridge between some of the work of the BEATLES and SIMON AND GARFUNKEL to AMERICA and mid period AMAZING BLONDEL, neither of whom were active, or at least playing in this vein, at the time. From a prog perspective, "Morning" is similar to the first track, relying on vocal and keyboard talents in particular. Another band that comes to mind is LINDISFARNE, who were actually pretty big at the time in the UK, but a lighter and more keyboard oriented GROUNDHOGS also come to mind, not surprisingly given that the album was produced by their guitarist. The best harder rock moment is "Fairhill Affair", which shifts smoothly and assuredly from slow and bluesy to spirited and raucous.

This sweet one-off manages to crystallize the best qualities of both amateur and professional productions, and deserved a better fate negotiating the unforgiving currents of yesteryear. Luckily, it is yours to discover now. 3.5 stars rounded up...just because.

 Tales of the Riverbank by DANCER album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.22 | 28 ratings

Tales of the Riverbank
Dancer Prog Folk

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

2 stars Dancer came from Isle of Wight, UK and were formed in early-70's by three friends, bassist Mike Cuffe, guitarist/singer Mike Jolliffe and guitarist/flutist Gerry Cahill.They rehearsed regularly and for free in bassist's Tim Marshall cellar, where they met keyboardist Anthony Minghella.He immediately became a stable member of Dancer with drummer Paul Athey joining a bit after.Dancer played live 6-8 times per week and came in notice of Black Sabbath's manager Wilf Pine, who booked a session for the band at the Olympic Studios in London.The problem was they had only 2 and a half songs ready for recording and little time in front of them.They manage to get there with a sum of seven pieces and the session was produced by Groundhog's guitarist Tony McPhee.This material was never released on time and was picked up three decades later by Kissing Spell, which released it as ''Tales of the riverbank'' in 2001.

The album was named after the long title-track of these sessions, which was also Dancer's most ambitious piece.A soft Progressive Rock composition with definite psychedelic and folky touches, exploring the style of KING CRIMSON and JETHRO TULL and swirling between orchestral lines and more lyrical textures with alternating acoustic and electric guitars, smooth Mellotron showering and mellow flute themes with a bucolic edge.A decent piece of somewhat eclectic musicianship with efficient songwriting.The rest of the material though is far from adventurous, typical example of British Psychedelic Pop/Rock.The proggy vibes are more or less gone, instead you will deal with accesible and poppy tracks, where the Mellotron, Moog synth and piano segments are there, but the overall atmosphere is closer to early PINK FLOYD and THE BEATLES.Some cuts tend closer to Folk Rock with constant use of acoustic textures and smooth singing, others are more rich bit still unoriginal and flat in the process with mediocre songwriting, propably affected by the limited time the band had to record some decent amount of material.The exception may be ''Morning'', which still retains the artistic experiments of the group, featuring some diverse keyboard washes on Mellotron, organ, clavinet and harsichord, surrounded by vibraphones and containg a good electric guitar solo at the end.

A 15-min. version of Soft Machine's ''Why am I so short?'', with McPhee playing the Mellotron, was also recorded during the same sessions, but never included in the album.Dancer seem to have disbanded shortly after the sessions at Olympic Studios and this was possibly the reason the material never saw the light of day.Anthony Minghella went on to become a film producer (he sadly passed away in 2008), while Athey and Cuffe formed the Jazz/Funk act Big Swifty.

Average psych-tinged Progressive Folk Rock with a couple of nice tracks, but also strong poppy influences, which moreover sound quite dated.Recommended mainly to collectors of obcure Prog/Art Rock from the 70's...2.5 stars.

 Tales of the Riverbank by DANCER album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.22 | 28 ratings

Tales of the Riverbank
Dancer Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars Dancer formed from the remnants of the Isle of Wight band Peppermint Snuff of Wight / Foehammer / Shide & Acorn, not lasting long and only leaving behind this delayed release to commemorate their existence. The album is largely centered on an early composition by the late Anthony Minghella, set to music mostly for the purpose of this record. The band recorded it over a few months period under the direction of former Black Sabbath manager Wilf Pine. The music here is unexceptional, but its accessible enough to be appealing to most of the sort of people who tend to seek out obscure prog folk music.

The title track, which also happens to consume about a third of the album’s length, starts off with some light acoustic guitar and a couple well-placed harmonic notes, eventually (though slowly) working up around a couple of minutes to some mellotron strings, piano and a little flute before layering on electric guitar, drums and vocals in an easy-going, Genesis-meets-America melodic passage. This segues eventually as well, this time as an even more leisurely organ and stilted piano instrumental. While the music is enjoyable enough to listen to, there’s not a lot of impetus to build toward anything substantive. The boys in the band seem to be content with lazily laying down sound without any definitive purpose. Fair enough, a lot of progressive folk would fit that description. The obligatory flute wafts in around eight minutes, along with some guitar strumming and more organ. I like the pace of this song, but even though it’s quite long it doesn’t really have the makings of anything that would be considered an epic.

Somewhere around nine minutes or so the whole thing starts to sound like one of Andy Tillison’s Tangent story-songs, which I tend to enjoy but are often accused of being derivative. The ending consists of a spurt of electric guitar burst and rising chorus before ending, too abruptly for my tastes but worth a few spins if you’re in an easy-going mood.

The rest of the album tends to be a bit uneven, with the languid and mostly acoustic “American Wood” flitting past before the band moves back to a keyboard-intensive sound with the easy-listening, good-to- be-alive “Morning” that is distinguished by a couple of lead vocalists that morph into a harmonic duo for most of the track.

“Mac's Café” is more of a heavy-prog composition that also sound an awful lot like a Tangent song, while “The Change in Me” moves back to an acoustic guitar arrangement distinguished by harmonizing vocals in the vein of Tractor. “Fairhill Affair” has a distinctive Neil Young-sounding guitar track but otherwise is a pretty standard contemporary rock number.

Finally the band closes on a bit of a high note by resurrecting the flute and mellotron on the mildly funky “Mind the Houses” that is easy on the ears while at the same time is firmly rooted in the early seventies.

The band actually broke up before this record could be released, with Paul Athey and Mick Cuffe going on to form a white-funk band known as Big Swifty and the late Anthony Minghella branching out to a successful career as a film producer (The English Patient). Copies of the original tapes floated around for three decades before technology and interest from the now mostly mature prog community leading Kissing Spell to release it in 2001.

This isn’t a masterpiece by any means, but it is a pleasant and well-played bit of rare progressive folk that manages to tie together a number of minor acts from the heyday of progressive music. I’d say three stars is a fair way to rate the music, and would recommend it to fans of Shide & Acorn, The Way We Live and bands of that nature.


Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the artist addition.

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