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PAUL BRETT

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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Paul Brett biography
PAUL BRETT began his career appearing (while still a teenager) as an uncredited backing guitarist on ROY HARPER's 1966 debut 'Sophisticated Beggar' which is generally acknowledged as contemporary British folk classic although not especially progressive when compared to some of Harper's later work into the mid-seventies and beyond.

The same can be said of AL STEWART's 'Zero She Flies', recorded in 1969 with Brett again appearing as a nameless studio musician while other studio players such as Trevor Lucas and Gerry Conway of FOTHERINGAY do appear in the liner notes.

Brett appeared (with credits) on the STRAWBS' 'Dragonfly' studio album which was also recorded in 1969, and cut a couple of singles with ARTHUR BROWN. That same year he played guitar on most of ELMER GANTRY'S VELVET OPERA second and final release 'Ride a Hustler's Dream', and closed out the decade as a member of the short-lived psych band FIRE, largely leading the studio effort for the now ultra-rare 'The Magic Shoemaker' LP.

After his work with the STRAWBS Brett formed his own band (PAUL BRETT SAGE) and released three studio albums between 1970-1972. That group consisted at various times of Nicky Higginbottom (flute, saxophone), Mike Piggot (later of the PENTANGLE), bassist Dick Dufall (STRAWBS, FIRE), Stuart Cowell (guitars) and percussionist Bob Voice (FIRE), among others. The band's sound ranged from contemporary to progressive folk and mildly heavy rock with occasional blues-rock and even a bit of jazz.

Brett would go on to a lengthy solo career as a mostly 12-string guitarist, recording contemporary rock albums, along with a few progressive works including the complex guitar instrumentals 'Earth Birth' and 'Interlife'. In later years he would release a number of modern folk, instructional and mainstream albums including several K-Tel records. He also amassed a lengthy body of work as a session and touring musician, appearing with the likes of STEVE HILLAGE, JIMI HENDRIX, VAN DER GRAFF GENERATOR, MOTT THE HOOOPLE, STATUS QUO, FREE and many others.

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

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PAUL BRETT discography


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

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

3.96 | 5 ratings
Paul Brett Sage
1970
3.00 | 2 ratings
Jubilation Foundry
1971
2.93 | 4 ratings
Schizophrenia
1972
3.00 | 1 ratings
Paul Brett
1973
3.00 | 1 ratings
Clocks
1974
0.00 | 0 ratings
Phoenix Future
1975
3.00 | 1 ratings
Earth Birth
1977
3.33 | 3 ratings
Interlife
1978
4.00 | 1 ratings
Eclipse
1979
2.00 | 1 ratings
Guitar Trek
1980
0.00 | 0 ratings
Romantic Guitar
1980
0.00 | 0 ratings
Acoustic Power (with Johnny Joyce)
2001
0.00 | 0 ratings
Free Spirit
2002
0.00 | 0 ratings
Anal Tap
2005
3.00 | 1 ratings
Songs from the Compleat Angler
2009
3.00 | 1 ratings
Calm Before the Storm
2009
0.00 | 0 ratings
Blues for 12 String Guitar
2009

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

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PAUL BRETT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Guitar Trek by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 1980
2.00 | 1 ratings

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Guitar Trek
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
2 stars The final album of guitar virtuoso PAUL BRETT's 3 disk contract with RCA, "Guitar Trek" is by far the most obscure. It was met with a dearth of promotional effort, but it's hard to know whether this was because Brett had already signed on to produce a K-Tel record, its predecessors were fracturing the cutout bins or their day, or it's the least inspired of the three.

Nothing is missing from Brett's technique, which is more focused on acoustic guitar in a rock setting, but most tracks do seem almost like placeholders for exhibits of the man's awesome fretting power. His ability is such that he can overpower pieces that other guitarists might complement better. Here and there we find snippets of what was generally better developed on prior albums; for instance, "In Search of Aztecs" hearkens back to the suite "Interlife" while failing to capture the ensemble effect that really propelled the flow of those 16 minutes flow. "Alternative 12-string" at times approximates works like "Calypso" and "Silent Runner" off "Eclipse" but tries out too many concepts for its own good in under 6 minutes. Gershwin's "Summertime" does not revive the magic of Brett's prior adaptation of Brubeck's "Take Five", but perhaps it is just not as fresh or appealing a number to begin with.

The three tracks that work the best do so for different reasons - "Forever Autumn" succeeds as much because the Jeff Wayne composition is so brilliant as anything, but one must give substantial credit to Brett for treating it sensitively and imbuing it with his own identity, while leaving its spirit intact. "Even when the sun shines" expands upon the courtly folk of "Overture for Decadence" off "Eclipse", but incorporates more rock aspects, consistent with the album as a whole. Finally, the closer "Blood on the Frets" actually parlays the guitarist's prowess into the realm of country, bluegrass and rock and roll all at once, succeeding brilliantly.

I wouldn't particularly recommend this to you unless you are a big fan of PAUL BRETT and acoustic guitar prowess, but, if you do happen upon it smothered in a musty corner by multiple copies of "Interlife" and "Eclipse", you might want to dust it off and go where this man has gone before. 2.5 stars rounded down.

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 Interlife by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.33 | 3 ratings

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Interlife
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars English guitarist, born in 1947 in Fulham.He spent much of his early career as supporting guitarist for Roy Harper, Al Stewart and The Strawbs among others as well as a member of Psych Rockers Velvet Opera, before forming the Psychedelic/Folk Rock group Paul Brett's Sage in 1970.After three albums Brett decided to focus on 12-string guitar and move on to a solo career.His acoustic suite ''Earthlife'' from 1977 was much in the vein of ANTHONY PHILLIPS' acoustic albums, before Brett made an attempt to Soft Progressive Rock with the RCA-released album ''Interlife'' in 1978 (for both the UK and US market but with a different cover).Among his guest musicians were The Strawbs' drummer Rod Coombes and King Crimson's Mel Collins on brass instruments.

The album is highlighted by the 16-min. sidelong eponymous track, an attempt by Brett to mix acoustic soundscapes with his 12-string guitar with soft electric passages.Resemblances with ANTHONY PHILLPS' and GORDON GILTRAP's works are more than strong.His guitar touch on the electric parts has a light STEVE HACKETT leaning, while his 12-string guitar passages are very dreamy and folky-sounding.All his work is supported by the calm background synths of Derek Austin and, at moments, by Collins' melodic sax work, covering the spectrums of Folk Rock and Prog.This particular style continues on ''Celebration'' and ''Segregation'', a good alternation of acoustic and electric instrumentals with ethereal keyboards and smooth brass sections.''Isolation'' is another instrumental, this time entirely based on Brett's 12-string guitars, very mellow and slightly boring for my tastes.The closing ''Into life'' marks the more psychedelic side of Brett, a groovy Psych Rocker with very interesting guitar work, which also contains a funky piano/keyboard-based middle section.

If you like the works of STEVE HACKETT, ANTHONY PHILLIPS or GORDON GILTRAP, Paul Brett's ''Interlife'' definitely deserves a chance.Cool guitar instrumentals with decent arrangements, played with passion and emotion.Recommended.

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 Interlife by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.33 | 3 ratings

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Interlife
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Nice "easy listening" Prog

With a handful of albums that I wanted to hear that are not available on CD or digital download, I decided a few years ago to purchase a USB turntable and the wanted albums on vinyl LP. Paul Brett's Interlife was one of them. Inspired by the previous review (by kenethlevine), I wanted to check this album out and now I have it my computer, personally transferred from vinyl.

This album is my first and only acquaintance with Paul Brett and while a pleasant listen throughout, I cannot claim to be very excited. The music is wholly instrumental and reminds of Mike Oldfield's and Gordon Giltrap's respective works. This means subtle, folksy, guitar-based instrumental Rock. Interlife also adds a Jazz flavour. A more recent purveyor of this kind of music is Collin Masson, especially his Isle of Eight album.

As I said, this is wholly pleasant and enjoyable music, but for me, it is a bit too easy on the ear and it works primarily as background music. It is music for hearing, but not for listening.

Good, but by no means essential or even particularly special or memorable.

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 Earth Birth by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Earth Birth
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars Perhaps PAUL BRETT's first wholly progressive release, "Earth Birth" utilized an unlikely instrumental approach to the genre - solo 12 string acoustic guitar and....that's it. Nonetheless, this is no folk album. It consists of intricate work that pretty much solidifies Brett's status as one of the world's best.

Paul Brett was later to produce instructional videos for 12 string guitar technique, and in many ways "Earth Birth" serves as an audio predecessor to those targeted items. Therein lies the major problem I have with this admittedly groundbreaking work - it's a triumph of technique over art, of tutelage over composition. Not being capable of playing much more than my iPOD, I am nonetheless able to appreciate that many of his nifty moves probably have a name that would resonate with axepersons far and wide, and I enjoy them for their clarity and appealing sonic images. But my attention wanders, and a few melodies like the main theme of "Christened by Fire" would be more than welcome. Here and there we find the embryos of the album's successors "Interlife" and "Eclipse", germs of ideas lacking maturity.

"Earth Birth" is caught in the netherworld of releases, too significant to warrant less than 3 stars and too academic to warrant more. Luckily it whelped several superior progressive albums by Brett in the years that followed.

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 Calm Before the Storm by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Calm Before the Storm
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars It's hard to find much information about this Paul Brett effort, even the year of release. In fact, the near omnipresence of cheesy new age keyboards raises questions about whether this is in fact the same Paul Brett who is a world renowned 12 string guitarist and not a bad lead player. "Mercury the Messenger", the opener, is devoid of any such contribution but is nonetheless perhaps the best entirely electronic piece here thanks to reasonable development, not unlike some of PETE BARDENS' later work.

Luckily Brett does enough axe-work to lift this disc well above the average California baby-boomer Zen. This is especially true of "Metamorphosis" which begins acoustically mellow before his plaintive MIKE OLDFIELD styled lead makes its first of several welcome entrances on this album, all the while underpinned by the expressive acoustic work. Brett sports a flamenco style on "Wave Dancer", with a middle section that will have any budding guitarist drooling, even if the synth accompaniment is a bit tacky. Probably the best cut here is "All that Mine Eyes Can See", with bright celtic inspired acoustic work that references his earlier classics. Just in case you missed it here, the main tune of the title cut of his "Eclipse" album is reprised at the start of "The Altar and the Crown", which then wisely breaks away and becomes its own worthwhile exercise in closing this gentle oeuvre.

While you might want to stay clear of what is basically a new age effort, "Calm Before the Storm" does showcase enough of Paul Brett's prowess as musician and arranger to warrant due credit, even if this is so calm it's liable to put the pending storm to sleep.

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 Songs from the Compleat Angler by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Songs from the Compleat Angler
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars If you enjoyed AMAZING BLONDEL's classic "England" release, this 2009 offering by PAUL BRETT will bring a tear to your eye and a lump to your throat. Based on a centuries old reference for the angler, it transports the listener back to an idyllic era while capturing the exhilaration and freedom of carefree days and nights casting about. While it is the thrill of the catch that keeps anglers returning to their favourite spots, Brett, with Isaak Walton as inspiration, brings out the inner Zen Buddhist in every fisherman. But, to the music.

This is in no way, shape or form a rock album, and it is only progressive in a regressive sense, its flutes and strings augmenting the precision of Brett's immaculate 12-strings while softening the appealing gruffness of his sexagenarian voice. Entirely acoustic, "Songs from the Compleat Angler" is replete with lovely Olde English melodies inspired by the past but freshened by Brett's vision. Only in "Spring" and "Corridon's Song" does he seem somewhat overwhelmed by his surroundings and ambition, but this is more than redeemed by "O, the Gallant Fisher's Life" and the jaw-dropping beauty of "Virtue" and "Angler's Wish", trilling tunes that capture the spirit of the early Blondel album and John David Gladwin's odes to the lovely English countryside. I also hear a little of PETE MORTON's muse in the closing "Angler's Song".

So, how to rate this anachronistic work of art? When considered in the context of Paul Brett's canon and a progressive rock website, it is little more than a brief if lovely diversion. But if the descriptions above speak to you, you will fall for it hook line and sinker, and it's easily available from legit download services.

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 Jubilation Foundry by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.00 | 2 ratings

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Jubilation Foundry
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars The second Sage album is a bit of a sampler of sounds, but in all I find it to be a fairly ear- pleasing collection. Paul Brett would go on to amass a fairly large discography of pretty serious guitar music, but at this point in his career he seemed to still be trying to find his niche.

Flautist Nicky Higginbottom had departed by the time the group entered the studio to record these songs, but her sounds are replaced by both Titus Groan guitarist Stuart Cowell as well as some rather lush orchestral arrangements. The effect of both are noticeable and welcome, although the foolish lilt Higginbottom added to the band’s debut album is somewhat missed.

Like I said, these songs contain a mix of sounds, many of them leaning in the direction of pop. The opening “Cottage Made for Two” for example (penned by bassist Dick Dufall) is an obvious nod to the Everly Brothers, and the follow-up “Hold My Hand Mother” as well as “Good Old-Fashioned Funky Kind Of Music” are both sort of Sam & Dave type things. “Goodbye Forever” is a little bit Beatles-sounding, and “I Fell So Far” isn’t too far away from the early Cat Stevens sound (while the guitar could also be construed as a John Denver- picked piece).

But despite the heavy pop and R&B influences this is in the end a fairly progressive folk album. Brett’s guitar picking alone are worth picking the album up for. Though he was only in his early twenties when these songs were recorded, his confidence and adept fingers project the sound of a much more mature musician. The orchestral arrangements, something not that unusual with pop, folk and rock music of the early seventies, are well- placed and understated on the tracks where they appear (“Written in Winter” for example, which also features gorgeous electric guitar from Brett, bongos and other acoustic percussion). That one has a little bit of the Beatles in it as well.

The two most memorable tracks are “Tuesday Evening”, a lazy summer tune that includes more orchestral backing and tight two-part vocal harmonies; and “Help Me Jesus”, one of four John Hutcheson-penned songs that tells tale of a good kid gone bad who realizes he’s in over his head, a scenario played out not only during the early seventies but pretty much throughout recorded history. That one also reminds me of a lot of Jesus-freak music of the late sixties/early seventies (U.S. Apple Corps, Caedmon, Earthen Vessel, bands like that).

The title track gets a little funky with some wailing electric guitar, lyrics about the hand of the Devil, and dire warnings as to the fate of ne’er do wells. The contrast between this song and the prior “Help Me Jesus” remind me of the transition from “All the World” to “Child of Innocence” on Kansas’ Masque album which would release a few years later.

I’d lean just slightly toward the band’s debut album if forced to pick a favorite of the three they recorded, but just barely. This is a tightly written, well-executed and professionally produced bit of studio work, and once again I’ll express surprise that Paul Brett’s Sage didn’t make more of a go of things considered how well they melded together as a band. I’m only going to give this one three stars, but this is as close to a four-star record as I think a band could get without quite achieving that status. I may even revisit that rating in the future, as I’m already having second thoughts. Well recommended.

peace

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 Clocks by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Clocks
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars By the time I acquired "Clocks" in one of those glorious used LP shops in the 80s, I was utterly smitten by his late 70s unheralded classics "Interlife" and "Eclipse". Given that "Clocks" originated in the progressive fires of 1974, I expected to herein find his most compelling work. I was roundly disappointed and have only recently accepted that, while this LP cannot compare to Brett's best work, it is actually pretty decent in its own right.

One must remember that many styles other than prog were big in the early to mid 70s, among them a British take on American country rock, popularized by LINDISFARNE among others. Brett doesn't embrace this wholeheartedly on "Clocks", but it's certainly one of the main focuses of this eclectic work that I had unfairly branded as MOR and relegated to the shelf accessible only by ladder. One need only listen to "Soho Jack" and "One Sunday Morning" to get the gist. Mike Piggott's fiddles and Dave Griffiths' mandolin and fretless bass play an equal role to Brett's guitars on many of the tracks, among these "Explanation Blues". While Brett focuses on his acoustic playing, "Circles" boasts some fine lead guitar licks. Among the mellower tunes are "Captain Dan" and "What you mean to me". Nick Sterling's cello and tasteful orchestral arrangements envelope these tunes with a sweet wistfulness.

"Clocks" has minimal progressive qualifications but it is a perfectly pleasant if somewhat dated set of mid 70s soft rock with country accents. 2.5 stars rounded up.

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 Schizophrenia by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.93 | 4 ratings

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Schizophrenia
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars Over the course of his 40 year career, PAUL BRETT has insisted in dabbling in all manner of musical styles, not all of them traditionally progressive. While I remain convinced he is a folky at heart, his feats at the helm of PAUL BRETT'S SAGE in the early 1970s reflect his eclecticism across the psychedelic rock spectrum.

By 1972, this style was growing a bit longer in the tooth and yielding to full grown prog or the soft rock boom, but Brett wasn't through exploring, and his stunningly clean playing really rescue this final Sage installment from the recycling centre. "Custom Angel Man" and "Slow Down Ma" are model examples of guitar oriented psych with surprisingly strong vocals from Brett. Side 2 is more acoustically oriented, with "Take Me Back and I Will Leave You" being the most progressive of the lot, segueing from Strawbs styled ballad to...well...Strawbs styled rocker with nary a trace of contrivance. The presence of Rod Coombes on drums and new Strawbs guitarist Dave Lambert on keys (the guitar role was pretty much under Brett's domain) might have something to do with the sound, but this is more ragged than anything that group could come up with. "Tale of a Rainy Night" and "Autumn" are also fine predominantly unplugged tunes.

In several instances, Brett veers into insipid pop territory as on "Charlene", or Christian cliche in "Saviour of the World", or filler like "Limp Willie", which predates EAGLES "Life in the Fast Lane" but otherwise reminds me why I dislike the Eagles.

This certainly can't compare favourably to Brett's late 70s work from most progressive perspectives, but it would be sage to at least arrange a trial of the "Schizophrenia" treatment if you get a chance.

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 Schizophrenia by BRETT, PAUL album cover Studio Album, 1972
2.93 | 4 ratings

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Schizophrenia
Paul Brett Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars The third and final studio album from Paul Brett’s Sage took on a more electric and rather more conventional tone than the two that preceded it, and in some respects that makes it the least appealing of the trio for me. That said, Brett’s wonderful guitar playing, solid supporting cast and great song selection still place this record above the fray compared with much of what was being released as the mid-seventies approached.

The band had become a quartet by this point (with a few guest artists thrown in for good measure), although the group wasn’t making the commercial impact they or the label expected and wouldn’t be around much after the record released. Too bad because these many years later I find myself wondering why they didn’t take off back then. The musicianship on this album is mostly impeccable, the songwriting creative and engaging, and most of the songs combine tight guitar work with catchy rhythms to the extent that they should have been FM radio-friendly, especially back then when both DJs and listeners were more open to exploring the fringe beyond Top-40.

Along with a noticeable shift from acoustic and folk-tinged instrumentation, the band also moved a bit away from the eclectic percussion so prominent on their first two records. While Bob Voice still whips out his bongos from time to time (“Slow Down”, “Autumn”), the bulk of songs here feature more conventional drumming and not so much else. Strawbs drummer Rod Coombes also appears on ‘Slow Down Ma!” (with his name misspelled in the credits).

On the backside of the album Brett’s acoustic guitar prowess resurfaces on songs like “Tale of a Rainey”, “Autumn” and the brief instrumental “Bee”. His penchant for 12-string is most noticeable on these tracks, something Brett would become rather renowned for in subsequent years.

I’ve read some reviews that point to this album as the highlight of the Paul Brett Sage discography but I would disagree – the first was definitely the most adventurous and creative from a musical standpoint, while with several songs on this one the group appears to be taking the easy route with jam-like arrangements and easygoing lyrics. Still a very good record, but I can’t quite rate it as high as ‘Paul Brett Sage’ or even ‘Jubilation Foundry’. A solid three stars nonetheless, and recommended to most fans of mid- seventies rock music (though it may not appeal to purist prog fans).

peace

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Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the artist addition.

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