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DULCIMER

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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Dulcimer biography
DULCIMER were a longstanding collective consisting of three musicians, all multi-instrumentalists: Dave Eaves, Pete Hodges and Jem North. The band's origins are sketchy, but they recorded their debut 'And I Turned As I Had Turned As a Boy' as a trio under the direction of Troggs manager Larry Page in 1970. The album made little impression at the time but is widely sought-after by serious UK folk music collectors today. The album has been reissued several times on both vinyl and CD.

The band recorded twice more in the early seventies before fading into obscurity, but neither 'Room for Thought' or 'A Land Fit for Heroes' (with rural English author Fred Archer) would find their way into official release until years later.

DULCIMER had a resurgence of sorts in the nineties thanks to the small President Records label, who released a trio of the band's albums as well as the shelved 'Room for Thought' project on CD ('A Land Fit for Heroes' had been issued thanks to the band's own financing in 1980).

Their music has been described as folk-rock and is mostly acoustic, but the band's penchant for odd themes, creative arrangements and occasional progressive forays merits them inclusion here in the Archives. DULCIMER will appeal to fans of understated, acoustic-driven music with classic folk instrumentation such as mandolins, acoustic guitars, flutes and of course dulcimers.

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

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DULCIMER discography


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

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

3.37 | 13 ratings
And I Turned As I Had Turned As a Boy
1970
0.00 | 0 ratings
A Land Fit For Heroes
1980
3.00 | 4 ratings
Room For Thought
1992
0.00 | 0 ratings
When A Child...
1993
2.00 | 1 ratings
Rob's Garden
1995
0.00 | 0 ratings
Into The Light...
1997

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DULCIMER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 And I Turned As I Had Turned As a Boy by DULCIMER album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.37 | 13 ratings

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And I Turned As I Had Turned As a Boy
Dulcimer Prog Folk

Review by Lizzy

4 stars Nothing changed but the time...

It is no front-page news that the generic effervescent atmosphere of folk music did not always manage to entice a considerable number of prog listeners for whom music seems to have been a mechanism ordained to nourish the intellect. A break from complex arrangements and concept lyrics is sometimes called upon simply to have one's left hemisphere rest for a change. Enter thus Dulcimer, a trio of talented English multi-instrumentalists discovered apparently whilst playing in a restaurant by actor Richard Todd, with their 1971 debut album, And I Turned as I Had Turned as a Boy.

Although 1971 is synonymous with the dark acid folk masterpieces, First Utterance and St. Radigunds, Dulcimer comes as a counterbalance with soft optimistic folk accords. As the band's name suggests, a core role in the music making is held by the usage of the homonymous string instrument, whose acoustic embellishments, along with those of mandolins and six and twelve-string acoustic guitars, give the album an almost baroque English countryside flavour. The narrated fragments provided by Richard Todd himself on Sonnet to the Fall or Caravan, as well as the delicately layered vocals and harmonies are very much in the spirit of Magna Carta. In fact, the seasonal theme on Sonnet to the Fall, makes this piece almost an epilogue to Seasons. In the same vein, Caravan comes across as the album's mini epic about the colourful and vibrant gypsy and Indian convoys in England, with a splendid instrumental mid-section that sees harmonica accompanied by glockenspiel with the playful and upbeat junction of mandolin and acoustic guitars in the foreground while the bass guitar pumps up the sound to make way for a glorious dulcimer finale. The overall light-hearted atmosphere is maintained via short and sweet tracks with catchy choruses such as Time in My Life or the string and harmonica lead, Suzanne. The famous coconut shell horse-trotting effect one can encounter on Morman's Casket, a delightful piece about a Norman's adventure journey on horseback which sees him encounter a dragon and trying to protect his precious casket filled with jewels. The story's soundtrack is the now familiar combination of acoustic guitars with a very alert mandolin which is tempered down with the use of dulcimer. The instrument benefits from a special kind of attention, with Fruit of the Musical Tree being a veritable ode dedicated to the dulcimer, sustained by the surprising use of a tenor recorder.

Overall, despite paling in comparison, progressive wise, to the likes of its fellow folkers, Comus or Spirogyra, Dulcimer has the merit of coming forth with a first album that is plainly beautiful in its simplicity. 4 stars!

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 Room For Thought by DULCIMER album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.00 | 4 ratings

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Room For Thought
Dulcimer Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars Interestingly enough, "Room for Thought" is one of Dulcimer's better albums in terms of its progressive tendencies and general 'listenability'. Unlike some of their later works for President Records, this one is tastefully laced with mildly acid folk arrangements and overall bright, airy sonic sensibilities. The interesting part comes from this having been recorded as a sophomore followup to their "And I Turned as I Had as a Boy" debut way back in 1971. Like their first record, this one was financed by producer Larry Page (the Kinks, the Troggs ? not the Larry Page who started Google). But changing tastes and poor financing for Page's label kept this from being released until the tiny Background label picked up the options for Dulcimer's works in the early nineties.

Lots of decent prog music has come into the public consciousness over the past couple of decades thanks to the internet, improvements in digital duplication and remastering, and the comparatively lower cost to release an album than what existed back when this was first committed to tape. Good thing too, or we wouldn't have works from Midwinter, the Third Estate, Spring and all kinds of other previously forgotten acts from the heady days of progressive music.

That said, this isn't a masterpiece or anything, and at times the band shows an unevenness that demonstrates why they never hit big in their original incarnation (they reformed to record some additional material for President in the mid-nineties, and reportedly continue to piece together lineups for the occasional live show even today). "The Planters Cottage" for example includes a spoken-word passage of original poetry that might be trying to emulate the Moody Blues and their tendency to do the same thing, but it is neither as profound nor artistic as what the Moodies pulled off in their prime. And tracks like "Running on Down the Road" and "Mr. Time" are much closer to the sort of contemporary British folk the band would gravitate toward on their final couple of albums.

But elsewhere the band manages to put out some decent though mellow acid folk that stands up fairly well even today. The opening "To Need Her" shows promise, as does "Empty Hallways" with its lively acoustic guitar strumming and harmonized vocals accented by harmonica and an easy-going bass line. "Missing the Head" and "Scarlet Lady" even employ borderline psych guitar riffs and lively tempos that gets one's foot tapping if nothing else.

But the album ends on an off note with the staid and too conventional "But Maybe Not", a signal of the more conservative approach the band would take as the second iteration of their career played out on the President label in the nineties. So be it ? people age and tend to become more conservative as a result generally, particularly folks who have a penchant for folk music. Too bad, but so it goes.

In all this is a decent album from a band that never really made a major impression on the music industry. It has a place in the collection of serious prog folk fans at least, and most conventional folk fans will probably find something to like as well. So three stars it is, and recommended for folkies of all stripes.

peace

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 Rob's Garden by DULCIMER album cover Studio Album, 1995
2.00 | 1 ratings

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Rob's Garden
Dulcimer Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

— First review of this album —
2 stars President Records made it pretty easy for metal-heads and other non-folk types to avoid this album; the combination of a band named Dulcimer and the title ‘Rob’s Garden’ written below a bucolic painting of an English summer cottage scene should instantly clear up any doubt about this being anything but a staid, easy-going acoustic folk record. Of course, anyone who’s heard Dulcimer before wouldn’t expect anything less.

I haven’t managed to find an actual copy of the CD issue of this album at a price that’s reasonable, but fortunately (and strangely) Amazon has it available as a very economical download. I say strangely because at 838,965th in their sales rank and long out-of-print, I’m actually quite surprised to find it available at all.

This is another of their ‘lost’ recordings from back in the seventies when Troggs manager Larry Page took a shining to the band and produced a couple of unreleased studio recordings for them. This was the last one to find its way into print as far as I know, and of all their records that I’ve heard this is by far the most laid-back and starkly acoustic. Pretty much every track consists of the same general motif: acoustic guitar, mandolin, occasional dulcimer and quiet harmonized vocals. Remember the scene in ‘Animal House’ where the dude is playing acoustic guitar while singing a corny ballad for some ladies on the stairs during a wild party? The one where John Belushi smashes the guitar against the wall in disgust? Well this is that sort of music. To be fair though, that guy was really out-of-line to be playing stuff like that in such a setting. The right place for this music is exactly the sort of scene depicted on the album’s cover: quiet country meadow, lazy day with Bambi sipping out of a clear brook while butterflies dance around the clusters of flowers in the gently waving grass. If you aren’t in that particular sort of setting, this album loses an appreciable amount of its appeal pretty quickly. If you’re the sort of guy who would relish shooting and skinning Bambi for dinner in such a scene, you really should be warned away from this album altogether.

There are a couple of mildly interesting moments, like during “Indiana Jones” where the vocalist does a pretty decent Bob Dylan imitation; or during “Creation” when one of the male singers decides to lay out some falsetto, operatic-sounding vocals for no apparent reason.

But mostly this is exactly what it appears to be – very mellow, very traditional-sounding British folk music from the latter days of when that sort of thing was still somewhat in fashion, but not released for general consumption until many years later. I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to find this CD, even if you are a folk music fan – it’s not all that special. Mildly interesting, but only appropriate for old gents who wear tweed and have tufts of hair growing out of their ears. Not the sort of thing any progressive music fan is going to find appealing. Two stars for fans of the band, but that’s about all.

peace

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 And I Turned As I Had Turned As a Boy by DULCIMER album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.37 | 13 ratings

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And I Turned As I Had Turned As a Boy
Dulcimer Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars Well seriously, with a name like Dulcimer and an album cover like this one, you really should know what you’re getting into without even listening to this record. And your preformed impressions would be dead-on correct for the most part: acoustic folk, mostly languid, and full of little fantasy vignettes and a slightly bawdy tale or two. The instrumentation is stock of the trade as well with 6- and 12-string guitars and bass, but also glockenspiel, harmonica, mandolin and even a couple songs with a dulcimer. There’s even a few passages of ominous-sounding and stiff-lipped British spoken-word passages courtesy of the Richard Wood (aka Baron Holderness? Not sure. If so he is also the late Richard Wood, and a war hero to boot).

But there are enough little dalliances with humor and fantasy and the occasional charming lyrical turn or arrangement to place these guys within at least the past half-century musically. On “Ghost of the Wondering Minstrel Boy” for example, a dead lad’s spirit wanders from a Tudor manor to an Eskimo igloo in a fruitless search of someone who will trade him a spot at their warm fire in exchange for one of his tales. In the end he is seen passing through the vacuum of space past a couple of chess-playing astronauts in their ship who refuse him admittance as well. Weird stuff, delivered with soft acoustic guitar strumming and a bleating harmonica.

But much of the album is pretty much stock folk, including the staid “Gloucester City”, the mandolin- laden “Starlight”, and the lithe love ditty “Lisa’s Song”.

Most of the songs here are a scant two or three minutes, pretty much in keeping with most traditional folk music of the period. The band does manage one extended track, the eight-minute “Caravan” that features lengthy dulcimer, mandolin and glockenspiel passages and more of Sir Wood’s spoken-word baritone in the vein of Richard Burton on Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the Worlds’ but a bit less dramatic. This is the song that gives the album its title, coming from a passage of the now aged lad in this tale of world travels who looks back from whence he came at the end of a lifelong journey. A bit corny today, but solid stuff nearly forty years ago.

I don’t know that this is much of a progressive album strictly speaking, but the band would do better on some of their subsequent recordings. This one is underdeveloped and not particularly ambitious, but then again it comes from a time when everything pretty much fit that description so accommodations have to be made for the period in which it was recorded I suppose. And extra kudos for the excellent album artwork and tastefully arranged liner notes. You don’t see that kind of attention paid to album art these days thanks to digital wizardry which can render something like this in minutes as opposed to the likely days or even weeks that were spent in creating it by hand so many years ago.

This is a solid three star album, not four but one that will likely appeal to many prog folk fans as well as those who just enjoy British folk music in general. Recommended if that describes you.

peace

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