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DAVID BEDFORD

Crossover Prog • United Kingdom


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David Bedford picture
David Bedford biography
Primarily an avant garde composer before entering the world of Rock, his basic training started with classical music and was educated at The Royal Academy of Music, London. His avant garde work began in the mid 60's before working alongside Kevin Ayers of The Soft Machine. It is here he joined Kevin Ayers and The Whole World Band playing keyboards. A certain bassist in the band at the time was none other than Mike Oldfield with whom he struck up a close friendship.

Bedford then began recording solo work in the early 70's at the same time working with the likes of Kevin Ayers, Robert Wyatt,John Lord, Mike Oldfield and Roy Harper. His composing skills came to the fore after Tubular Bells was released and he was the key motivator behind The Orchestral Tubular Bells played by The London Philharmonic Orchestra. David Bedford also recorded with Mike Oldfield on the Collaboration project off The Boxed album release. This is a highly underrated work, other notable solo works included Nurses Song With Elephants, Rime Of The Ancient Mariner and Odyssey.

Bedford continued recording well into the 90's although saw a huge drop off in popularity after the Odyssey project in 1976.He turned 70 in 2007 and currently resides in Bristol,UK.

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

2.75 | 18 ratings
Nurses Songs with Elephants
1972
3.11 | 18 ratings
Star's End
1974
3.31 | 25 ratings
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
1975
3.24 | 27 ratings
The Odyssey
1976
3.76 | 19 ratings
Instructions for Angels
1977
3.09 | 6 ratings
Star Clusters, Nebulae & Places in Devon / The Song of the White Horse
1983
3.69 | 4 ratings
Rigel 9 (with Ursula Le Guin)
1985

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

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DAVID BEDFORD Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Instructions for Angels by BEDFORD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.76 | 19 ratings

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Instructions for Angels
David Bedford Crossover Prog

Review by trout.phosphor

4 stars If you had to pick just one album to showcase a 1970s analogue sequencer, which would you choose? The one that slowly goes out of tune in Tangerine Dream's 'Phaedra' might be representative of the somewhat primitive technology, but in terms of how well such a piece of equipment was ever utilised, you need look no further than 'Instructions for Angels', for it not only boasts the archetypal analogue sequencer sound, but also incorporates it in the musical texture better than anywhere else. There are times on this album when one wishes that digital synthesis had simply never happened.

'I4A' is the last of David Bedford's tetralogy for Virgin records and also the most consistent. At least (again), "side one" is. With their ingenious twists and turns, these first three tracks have a warm, mildly trippy feel, melded with a gentle and unpretentious pastoral quality, with the sequencer breaking through the textures like rays of rhythmic sunshine. They never fall foul of the crossover hubris of 'Star's End' or of the crowd-pleasing attempts of 'The Odyssey'. Nevertheless, it shares a similar malaise with one of Bedford's previous albums, namely the same running-out-of-steam that bedevilled 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'. Again, it is the first half of the album, or maybe in this case up to the end of the first track of "side two" where the interest lies.

"Side two" (tracks 4-6) as a whole is a bit of a let down. 'First Came The Lion Rider' is not so bad, if a little bit lightweight. It is jolly, decorously arranged and very well played (including some lovely oboe and french horns) and with an excellent solo by Mike Ratledge, but once that fades out, the wheels really come off. The title track is just Mike Oldfield being Mike Oldfield for six tedious minutes to no purpose whatsoever. The finale (a piece written for and played by the Leicestershire Schools Orchestra), though better than that, is from another sound-world entirely. Apart from the appearance of the original theme, neither of these last two tracks seems to belong with the rest.

Rating: "side one" 5 stars; "side two" 2.5 stars

Postscript: Where to Find the Best of Bedford

'The Tentacles of the Dark Nebula' (1969) sung by Peter Pears (Decca), never released on CD, but available on YouTube

'Star Clusters, Nebulae and Places in Devon' (1971) by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Voiceprint)

'The Golden Wine is Drunk' (1974) on 'English Choral Music' by the Netherlands Chamber Choir (Globe)

'Fridiof Kennings' (1980) on 'First & Foremost' by the Apollo Saxophone Quartet (Decca)

and from the four albums for Virgin Records:

'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner', part one only;

'Circe's Island' from 'The Odyssey';

and

'Instructions for Angels "side one" only.

 The Odyssey by BEDFORD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.24 | 27 ratings

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The Odyssey
David Bedford Crossover Prog

Review by trout.phosphor

4 stars In the 1970s, David Bedford gravitated towards producing more melodic fare than the avant-garde style that had been his stock-in- trade in the 1960s. 'The Odyssey' is the first of his solo projects where melody takes centre stage throughout. It is also the most well known of his four Virgin albums, and by all accounts caused quite a stir on its release, with full page ads in the music press and a star- studded live performance at the Royal Albert Hall no less (including Dave Stewart, Neil Ardley, John Lord, Mike Ratledge, Mireille Bauer, etc.).

Alas, as an album, it doesn't really work. There are some decent enough tunes ('King Aeolus', 'The Phaeacian Games'), some pleasant enough textures ('The Sirens'), but is "enough" enough? Mr Bedford was by all accounts less than happy with the results and one has the sneaking suspicion that he had reluctantly bowed to pressure to be a bit more commercial. Needless to say, Mike Oldfield turns up, twice in fact - first time bad, second time good - as he was clearly a selling point in those days.

'The Odyssey' sits at the end of Prog's golden period, just as punk cynicism came and spoiled everything. Compared to, say, The Damned's 'New Rose' or the first Clash album, it must have seemed very tame fare, breathing the air of private school privilege rather than gobbing in the face of authority. ('The Odyssey' is hardly unique in that regard, but the Ommadawnish full-beard head shot on the front cover adds a distinct touch of yesteryear. The BBC 'Omnibus' programme about Bedford's 'Song of the White Horse' made the following year began with Bedford shaving off said beard, bidding adieu to the 70s two years early.)

So why if 'The Odyssey' is not that good does it get a four star rating? Simply because the album has one superb track which transcends its historical moment. 'Circe's Island' is a stunning piece of music: creepy yet seductive, with ethereal voices, an incongruous yet highly effective slide guitar (Andy Summers) and a hypnotic synthesiser sequence, all backed by tuned wine glasses. It is one of the strangest and yet most beautiful creations that 70s prog has to offer. It's just such a shame that none of the rest of the album can match it.

Ratings: Circe's Island: 5 stars; everything else: 3 stars

 The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by BEDFORD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.31 | 25 ratings

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The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
David Bedford Crossover Prog

Review by trout.phosphor

4 stars If one thinks of sequences of albums on Virgin Records in the 1970s, which artistes spring to mind? Mike Oldfield, obviously. Gong, natch. Tangerine Dream, most definitely. Henry Cow? Hatfield and the North? Steve Hillage? Maybe even Ivor Cutler. My older sister's boyfriend (twelve years senior to me) had them all and much more besides, yet none of his vast prog collection entranced me as much as 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner': partly because I knew of the poem from school, partly because of its minimal and understated cover art, but mostly because I had never heard anything like it.

Mr Bedford tends to be overlooked in the history of Prog. This is understandable as he was often a collaborator or arranger, rather than someone whose priority was making Prog albums of his own. His focus was on his serious, avant-garde "classical" compositions (though it's debatable whether his classical compositions from the late 70s onwards were avant-garde at all) and latterly on works for school and community projects. His Prog-cred is further muddied by the fact that his Virgin albums are a real mixed bag: sometimes very, very good indeed, and sometimes decidedly underwhelming. His first for Virgin Records,'Star's End' was a very unsuccessful cross-genre marriage. The orchestral writing is interesting enough, but Mike Oldfield's guitar sound doesn't blend with it at all (and his long solo near the end of part one is excruciating).

Thankfully, 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' was a much more successful entity (and, sans orchestra, no doubt a lot cheaper to make.)

Part One. The album starts straightforwardly enough, with a simple rendition of a basse-danse by 16th century Flemish composer Tielman Susato (which reappears in various guises throughout the album). However, once that's over, we are in very different territory. Part one builds slowly into something eerie and ominous, perfectly capturing the sense of dread of Coleridge's poem. It is beautifully paced and totally original, helped no end by Robert Powell's clipped and sparse narration. Without attempting a blow-by-blow account of the narrative, part one captures the mood of the original text perfectly.

Part Two. The division between parts one and two of 'TRotAM' exemplifies a division in David Bedford's career as a whole. Part one is perhaps closer to some of his compositions of the 60s and early 70s, whereas part two is more akin to the melodic style of his later work. It starts with Mr Powell showing off his superior reading chops again, but after a few minutes of expectant calm, the guest star (Oldfield - who else?) turns up. He solos for about 5 minutes to fill up some time, there's a brief return to the tense sound-world of part one (though less well-executed), then everyone sings a sea shanty (with Mr Oldfield soloing over it of course). Finally, there's a triumphant restatement of the opening basse-danse theme, and we can all go home. It's nice enough, but a bit too normal for its own good, and pales in comparison to part one.

Ratings. Part One: 5 stars. Part Two: 3 stars.

 Nurses Songs with Elephants by BEDFORD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.75 | 18 ratings

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Nurses Songs with Elephants
David Bedford Crossover Prog

Review by baz91
Prog Reviewer

3 stars When I was 15, we were taught about experimental music in school. We were given examples of experimental musicians, such as John Cage, and got to hear clips of their music, where all manner of things were allowed. These artists would write scores using non-standard notation, but rather lines, symbols, text and even pictures. The musicians involved would play their instruments in an unconventional way, e.g. drumming on a piano or using a violin bow on a guitar string. These pieces would invariably be dissonant and jarring, and at such a young age I was put right off by the genre. Yet here I am, writing a review of an album which fits perfectly within the genre I've just described. Given that I've had to become extremely open-minded about my music since listening to progressive rock, how do I feel about the genre now?

The first track It's Easier Than It Looks is a relatively brief track for eight recorders and eight melodicas. This track was written for young people to perform, but here Bedford has played all sixteen parts. It sounds like an interesting piece, and the eerie feel of the track fits right in with the otherworldly front cover, but without being able to see sixteen people play this together, this number loses a lot of its original appeal.

Just shy of 16 minutes, the longest piece is the title track Nurses Song With Elephants. Written for ten acoustic guitars, this piece goes through many different sections. You may be wondering how the title was chosen. It turns out that the 'elephants' in the song are represented by the rubbing of moist thumbs along the body of the guitar, whilst the 'Nurses Song' refers to the poem by William Blake which is recited towards the end of the piece, when the guitarists start playing more tunefully. It feels like Bedford is rewarding you for your patience, and as an extra treat, Mike Oldfield joins in on bass at the end. However, 16 minutes is still quite long, and one can't help but think that there are better things to be doing with one's time.

The most intriguing track on the record is Some Bright Stars for Queen's College, written for eighty girls' voices and twenty seven plastic pipe twirlers. At 3' minutes, this is another brief eerie track. The girls voices create a liquid sound, and the pipe twirlers in the back (apparently including John Peel) create a spooky backdrop. To those who have seen '2001: A Space Odyssey', this track is very similar to the music played over the coloured light sequence. A very effective piece indeed Mr. Bedford!

At 12 minutes, Trona is simply too long and lacks creativity. The liner notes reveal that the instruments used are a flute, oboe, bassoon, two trumpets, clarinet, two trombones, two violins, viola and a cello. The staccato figure heard near the beginning is heard nearly all the way through the track and gets old very quickly. However, this piece is the closest that I can come to working out what the score looks like, and for that it is interesting.

The final track, Sad and Lonely Faces is the only one written for the record itself. This is easily my favourite for a number of reasons. The structure of the song is an experimental piano piece followed by a symphonic ending with Kevin Ayers reading a poem over the top. His baritone voice sounds amazing here, and he leads the piece and album out beautifully. Strangely enough, an ending as lovely as this seems to make listening to this record absolutely worth it.

To answer my question posed at the beginning of this review: it's been an eye opener. With a fresh mind free of prejudice, I've been able to appreciate this genre more than I ever expected to. However, the parts of this record I enjoy the most are where Bedford isn't being experimental at all, which shows that I've not exactly been converted. If you're willing to try something completely new and different, I'd definitely recommend this album, but if not, you might want to save your money for something closer to home.

 The Odyssey by BEDFORD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.24 | 27 ratings

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The Odyssey
David Bedford Crossover Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

2 stars Fourth album, but this is the first overtly commercial one for Bedford, thus leaving the experimental and avant-garde realm for a more electronic and ambient sound, surfing and gliding on the wave of Oldfield, Tangerine, Schulze and Eno. Again, on the present, Bedford plays most of the instruments (which is mostly synths anf kbs), except for guitars (Olfield and Andy Summers of the future Police) and some wind instruments (recorder and oboe), but the vocals are entirely feminine and for the most part choral. Graced with Bedford's golden portrait, this concept abum (not too difficult to figure out about what, uh?) was released on Branson's Virgin label in late 76,as were previous works of him and his protégé; but the Sex Pistols were just around the corner for the label.

When hearing the present album, it is difficult not to think of Oldfield's Herdgest Bells tainted with Eno's Summer's Star or Tangerine's then-current works, and other Virgin label oddities. Often hovering over semi-symphonic ambient music, the album would've been called "new age", had it been released a decade later, but then again, I never fund the present particularly relaxing because it often makes me cringe in horror at the derivative nature of the contents, especially given his previous ventures. This is the kind of album that some would call timeless, but to this writer, it sounds rather dated and cliché, partly because of the technology used on it, but also the supposedly grandiose and pompous matter of the music. No wonder the punk wave would sweep some of that complacent stuff. Don't get me wrong, there are some rather interesting moments, sometimes almost (key word, here) innovative passages, but it's quickly lost in the shuffle.

Don't know if this album sold in significant quantities, but it would turn out to be his second last for a few years, as he will concentrate on producing some electro-pop acts in the 80's. Anyway, The Odyssey is really too derivative for me to appreciate it, but if you're into symphonic- new-agey stuff, this could be up your alley.

 Star Clusters, Nebulae & Places in Devon / The Song of the White Horse by BEDFORD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.09 | 6 ratings

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Star Clusters, Nebulae & Places in Devon / The Song of the White Horse
David Bedford Crossover Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars 3.5 stars really!!

After an almost six year break, where he produced early-80's pop music, Bedford returns to his then-abandoned solo career, with another 'grandiose' concept cosmic album that comprises two orchestral sidelong suites, that can be considered a mix of symphonic and avant-garde music the whole thing being sprinkled with a sometimes heavy dose of new age. Actually, given the time of release (early 80's), this is rather surprising a release, given its 'progressive' nature, but then again the mainstream pop current probably didn't give a hoot.

In some ways, the album can easily be the target of ridicule arrows, both on the pop side, but also the prog side, because some of the passages are bloody cheesy and kitsch. But on the whole, I think there is certain amount of respect that comes from this project from both sides, because given the means developed, this was quite a daring bet for release. Not sure Bedford saw immediate financial rewards from this oeuvre, but I'm rather certain he prides himself of the birth of these two pieces. Sometimes close to Kubrick's 2001 soundtrack music, it can go to slightly dissonant lengths (but never shocking), but in general, the listener will remember the choral passages and the symphonic orchestral arrangements to back them up; and let's face it: this is about as fine as it gets, despite its grandiloquent dimension. More than once, you'll also be reminded of Floyd's Atom Heart Mother's title track suite, and that's definitely a compliment.

If I must give the closest Bedford works to the present, I'd no doubt say that Ancient Mariner is the one, but in some ways, we're more between Stars' End and AM, than we are between AM and Odyssey. But Places In Devon is definitely the best place to start on Bedford's musical realm, and in some ways, it is also the pinnacle of his career.

 The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by BEDFORD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.31 | 25 ratings

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The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
David Bedford Crossover Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars The least we can say is that Bedford's "rock adventures" with the Ayers & Oldfield crowd are certainly not representative of his own solo works, as his NSWE and Star's End albums have shown us so far. To be honest, his orchestral re-working of Olfield's Tubular Bells (a major commercial success) is no less representative of it either, and it's certainly not the present ambitious project of an adaptation of the famous poem from Samuel Taylor Coleridge (into two movements, one aside), which gives its name to the present album. With Bedford playing most of the instruments himself, save Oldfield's guitar parts and the vocals (narration and others), this album is slightly easier of access to more mainstream progheads, but still dissonant enough to discourage many of them, although the discordant tone or dissonances are not very pronounced, compared to his previous works. A vry XIXth Century graving artwork graves the album's sleeve, the whole thing released on Branson's Virgin label.

The opening movement is the more difficult half of David's adaptation, often bordering on the discordant and dissonant, with many keyboards interlocking and/or clashing, and Oldfield's strident guitar twitches adding a certain kind of eeriness to the ghostly ambiance. The narration goes on through the album no matter how the gentle or dissonant the musical backdrop is, and even gets magnified by the dramatic dynamics around the second third of the movement, adding a bit more speed to a generally very slow album. The closing movement starts on a few verses before entering a slow church-organ-lead, later joined by Oldfield's gentle guitar and later a female choir taking things ever so gently on the grandiose and lyrical side (despite a certain amount of cheesiness), despite keeping a slightly-dissonant feel throughout most of the movement.

I believe that Bedford's adaptation of Oldfield's TB album attracted him a lot f attention and that, as a result, this album sold lots more than it would've normally, but I'm not sure many mainstream music buffs appreciated it to its just value. Those who actually like narration albums, like Wakeman's Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, might actually love this album, and if not nearly as cheesy as the latter, it's definitely more challenging because of the light dissonance.

 Nurses Songs with Elephants by BEDFORD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.75 | 18 ratings

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Nurses Songs with Elephants
David Bedford Crossover Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars Debut solo album from one of England's most surrealist composer, and this bizarrerie came out after a spell in Kevin Ayers' Whole World and helping Kevin reach an entirely different dimension than his usual quirky pop songs with the very strange Shooting At The Moon. But Bedford's works are in an entirely different realm as well and if progressive music it is, it's anything but pop or rock music. Indeed, his songwriting has more to do with unclassifiable contemporary avant-garde music or minimalism (not exactly either, because it's not really repetitive enough to qualify as such), often being disjointed and dissonant, but it's definitely still accessible to reasonably open progheads, because NSWE is a mix of both difficult instrumental passages and much easier sung songs. The album's lunar landscape-like artwork is actually somewhat representative of the un-earthly music, but it might also (mis-)lead a few unsuspecting progheads into error.

Some of the music is played or created by Bedford himself, and while there are many un- credited musicians and singers (on melodicas, recorders, guitars and vocals), but he gets some help from buddies like Kevin and Mike Oldfield, and more surprising DJ John Peel, who released on his own Dandelion label. After the short and dissonant Easier Than It Looks, played with 8 recorders and 8 melodicas (droning in the background), the album veers towards the more accessible (well sort of) guitar realm. Some ten acoustic guitars (The Omega Players) are indeed interlocking and fighting it out, sometimes in gently, sometimes much more indigestibly, but overall it goes down fairly well, especially in the second phase, just before the Elephants passage from hands sliding down the guitar necks; and somewhat later down the track, the sung folk passage over a W Blake poem seems like a welcome, but unrepresentative of the album, resting passage.

Across the slice of wax, some 80 female voices fight it out in the short Some Bright Stars, where space sounds are overwhelmed by 2001-like chitter-chatters from chickens and hens. The 12-mins Trone track is more like totally dissonant contemporary musique concrete (played by the Sebastian Bell Ensemble) and can sound like Stockhausen's followers or something of the genre. The closing Sad And Lonely Faces opens on some difficult piano before Ayers come in for a short poem, softening the piano's propos and Kevin singing to some grandiose classical music ending, which is mostly unrepresentative of the album's general feel.

A good deal of this music was apparently created before Bedford's membership in Kevin's Whole Word, and the least we can say is that it was a lot more "serious" music than Bedford seems to care to remember in the liner notes from the Voiceprint CD reissue. This musical medical treatment is best indicated to avant-prog fans and contemporary music fans, rather to anyone who wants to listen to some prog-light rock. Be warned and this is valid for the following Star's End.

 The Odyssey by BEDFORD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.24 | 27 ratings

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The Odyssey
David Bedford Crossover Prog

Review by Chris S
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Along with Star's End, Odyssey from 1976 marks David Bedford providing arguably his strongest album releases. Much more accessible than Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, which if guilty of anything was being too avante garde at times ( which is no crime anyway) but this album provides the best all round sound IMO. Mike Oldfield and Andy Summers both guest on guitars. This is agreat concept album with some beautiful choral arrangements from The Queens College Choir. Highlights would have to be ' Sirens', the hugely orchestral ' Phaecian Games' ( This song can also be found on Mike Oldfield's Boxed set) and ' Scylla and Charibdes. Overall a very strong release from David Bedford, some excellent wine glass effect accompaniment from the backing singers too. I would recommend listeners perhaps starting with this album or the debut ' Nurses...' Three and a half stars.
 Star's End by BEDFORD, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.11 | 18 ratings

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Star's End
David Bedford Crossover Prog

Review by Chris S
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars In many respects this is a stronger album than his follow up album Rime of The Ancient Mariner. Stars End is made up of two self titled parts, strong orchestral pieces with long periods of random themes not always taking a necessarily likeable direction. David Bedford has always been one for unpredicatble sound however on side one in particular Mike Oldfield's contribution on guitar is a definite highlight which kind of acts like the glue putting the pieces together. Highlights of his contribution can be heard on his Boxed release. Side two is more accessible but still very much more of the same demonstrating the eccentric tendencies of David Bedford's sound. For any interested listeners I would recommend starting with the Nurses.. debut album but Star's End is still good material. Three and a half stars.
Thanks to chris stacey for the artist addition.

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