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MELLOW CANDLE

Prog Folk • Ireland


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Mellow Candle biography
From Dublin, Ireland, MELLOW CANDLE specialised in imaginative psychedelic folk rock and early progressive rock, with the singing talents of two ladies (Alison WILLIAMS and Clodagh SIMONDS), in addition to bassist Frank BOYLAN, drummer William MURRAY and guitarist Dave WILLAIMS. They covered both ballad and rock domains equally well. The music displayed a prodigious degree of natural talent for songwriting, harmonizing, and arrangement. A folk-rock in the vein of FAIRPORT CONVENTION or FOTHERINGAY.

"Swaddling Songs" debut album is rich in varied and a true sonic marvel of beauty and simple melodies, and, most of all, a blending of two of the most beautiful voices in all of music. This is a fantastic album that deserves new discovery. A second album, "The Virgin Prophet", featuring unreleased and different versions of songs found on "Swaddling Songs", was released in the mid nineties. In some respects, I think this ranks with the best FAIRPORT CONVENTION, PENTANGLE, and RENAISSANCE albums at the top of the folk rock genre.

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Swaddling SongsSwaddling Songs
Import
Esoteric 2008
Audio CD$11.06
$10.99 (used)
Virgin ProphetVirgin Prophet
Import
Kissing Spell 2004
Audio CD$30.67
$32.63 (used)
Swaddling Songs PlusSwaddling Songs Plus
Import
Imports 2011
Vinyl$54.85
$54.21 (used)
Swaddling SongsSwaddling Songs
Import
Imports 2011
Audio CD$18.78
$19.93 (used)
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MELLOW CANDLE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.80 | 49 ratings
Swaddling Songs
1972
2.71 | 7 ratings
The Virgin Prophet
1996

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MELLOW CANDLE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Swaddling Songs by MELLOW CANDLE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.80 | 49 ratings

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Swaddling Songs
Mellow Candle Prog Folk

Review by Thierry

4 stars Rare are the prog bands from Ireland. Fruupp, yes and Mellow Candle. Coming from Dublin more precisely, this unknown one shot band belongs to the brilliant obscure bands of the seventies who only produced an album, but a gem. I think of England, Spring (the posthumous compilations forgotten). Mellow Candle was an imaginative folk rock band, with the singing talents of two ladies (Alison Williams and Clodagh Simonds), in addition to bassist Frank Boylan, drummer William Murray and guitarist Dave Williams. But the main feature was Clodagh's piano parts. The main comparison coming to mind is Renaissance of course. Well, the classical influences are less strong certainly but "Swaddling Songs", their debut album (1972) is rich in varied and simple melodies. But, most of all, the blending of those two gorgeous female voices is a treat. This was a fantastic album deserving new discovery. Thanks to Esoteric records, we have now a remastered version (the original recording on Deram was produced by David Hitchcock of Caravan fame), some bonus tracks and an elegant booklet. The fans will note a second album, "The Virgin Prophet", featuring unreleased and different versions of songs found on "Swaddling Songs", was released in 1996.

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 Swaddling Songs by MELLOW CANDLE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.80 | 49 ratings

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Swaddling Songs
Mellow Candle Prog Folk

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Another one shot band that unfortunalty didn´t stay around long enough to fulfill their obvious grand potential. This time is an irish outfiit that came out under the name of Mellow Candle. Their only CD, Swadling Songs, was quite strong and had some very good tracks, with agfood musicanship and nice female voals that reminds me of the pastoral side of Renaissance and other prog folk bands of the time like Fairport Convention. David Williams provided some very nice guitar lines and Alison Williams had an excellent voice. I believe they influenced a whole generation fo irish bands that followed in the next decade, like Clannad.

Most of the tracks are very well crafted and recorded, the band had a very tight rhythm section .Clodagh Simonds beautiful harmony vocals and her very effective keyboard playing are one the bands best features. Their sound is a very good mix orf prog rock and folk and i think they were a bit ahead of their time. I can´t find no other explanation why this record failed to make a bigger impact on the folk-rock scene (maybe fueled by bad manangement and/or internal squabbles, I really don´t know). Anyway, at least they left this little gem here for posterity. All tracks are good and varied, helped by their tasteful arrangement and excellent musicanship.

If you´re into prog folk, or good melodic music in general you should not miss this one. An excelent assition to any prog music collectio. Rating: four strong stars.

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 Swaddling Songs by MELLOW CANDLE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.80 | 49 ratings

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Swaddling Songs
Mellow Candle Prog Folk

Review by Marty McFly
Special Collaborator Errors and Omissions Team

4 stars Folk prog always manages to get me. Especially when there's bass line clear to hear. I don't know why, but to this beautiful voice and mild instruments, bass guitar simply fits me perfectly. Whole album sounds surprisingly fresh and new. First I though that it's new release (if I wouldn't be aware of it's year of birth). And not only sounding refreshing, but surprisingly proggy. I though that I should rate prog folk albums as good folk ones with flavour of prog, but this one (again, mostly due to bass and piano) sounds like prog. I feel like listening something influenced by (or something that influenced) Renaissance at times. Even it's not as good and her voice is not as good as (but after all, what is). I'm pleased very much.

4(+) for great prog folk album. There are flaws, it's sometimes not strong enough, but that's rare.

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 Swaddling Songs by MELLOW CANDLE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.80 | 49 ratings

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Swaddling Songs
Mellow Candle Prog Folk

Review by Jeff Carney

5 stars If I had to choose just one album to carry me through the rest of my life, I would seriously consider choosing this gem.

Absolutely breathtaking from beginning to end. Well, check that, because oddly, I would rank the very first track as the least important, but after that, it is just one masterpiece after another. Comparisons to Denny-era Fairport would be appropriate but not particularly telling, as this album is a true original.

The melodies here are often described as "beautiful" but they are much more than that. They are often extremely sophisticated and incredibly original. "Sheep Season may well be the greatest single piece of 5 minute music I have ever encountered. The female vocals here are (and I do *not* exaggerate) simply not to be believed. Utterly breathtaking. The melodies wrap around soft, flanged out guitar, acoustic piano and breezy drum and bass work. This is the stuff of legend and when you see the original album goes for a couple of grand, it's easy to see why.

The rest of the album ranges from super complex, fast-paced rockfolk with twists and turns to the breezy, soft passages that are just a perfect calling for the haunting vocal approach that is surely their greatest asset.

In terms of quality, this is right up there with Fairport's 'Liege and Lief.' Perhaps only the second Dando Shaft album would also compare in its own way.

Now, in terms of sound quality, I advise that you track down one of these five options if CD is your game: The Edison Japan CD release (ERC-29223), Polydor Japan CD (POCD-1903, Acme CD (ADCD 1040) or Si-Wan (SRMC 0021). These are all the same and very good. See For Miles CD (SEECD 404) is also good and fairly similar. Maybe not quite as good as it seems just a little brighter. The more recent release on Esoteric seems to have some upper midrange boost that is a bit glassy at higher volumes. I find this version a bit sterile and it also seems to have had the hiss level lowered from the earlier versions, which already seemed to have had some annoying dehissing but this takes it even further. It is most noteable on something like "Reverend Sisters" and seems to leave the recording sounding just a bit closed in and less natural. Also avoid the Japan SHM mini lp CD like the plaugue. It is brickwall compressed and worst version ever released on CD. The older Japan mini from 2001 was decent, but basically sounds like original transfer for Edison only a little louder with some compression.

On vinyl, I have heard the Si-Wan version from 1993 and the more recent Universal/Si-Wan white vinyl release. Both of these sound just like the original CD transfer. Same with the Acme LP and the Tapestry bootleg. The new Deluxe version on Rise Above Records is a great package, but again, it sounds like it also originates from the same old CD transfer that's been around since that first release on Edison.

I recently obtained a 2nd UK Deram LP pressing of this album with handwritten matrix and it is glorious. It finally seemed to confirm what I have suspected for some time now, and that is that even the original CD transfer done for Edison (which as mentioned, basically seems to have been the source of every CD and 90s to present LP version ever issued) had some no-noise applied. It also has quite a smiley-faced EQ curve compared with the older vinyl. The midrange on the vinyl is stunning in comparison. If you think this album sounds nice on one of the CD versions, you should hear how amazing it was prior to digital intervention.

5 Stars all the way for 'Swaddling Songs'. This is truly a musical masterpiece.

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 Swaddling Songs by MELLOW CANDLE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.80 | 49 ratings

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Swaddling Songs
Mellow Candle Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

4 stars I’ve heard several of these tracks in early form thanks to the 1996 rarities & demos release ‘The Virgin Prophet’, and I have to say these finished versions benefited greatly from some studio polishing and production.

Mellow Candle are near-legendary in prog folk circles, and deservedly so. This was their only studio release, but every song here is a folk delight with mild psych overtones and occasionally even a little rocking out. Best of all, the band features a pair of women whose voices seem to have been made to sing folk music - Clodagh Simonds and Alison Williams. Both have rich, expressive voices that carry each tune to heights that a male troubadour would not have been able. The two of them also either wrote or co-wrote all but two songs on the album (“Vile Excesses” and “Buy or Beware”, both of which are credited largely to Ms. Williams’ brother David).

These are short songs in traditional folk form for the most part, all of them lasting less than five minutes with several of less than three minutes. But each seems to portray a complete thought or theme without coming across as rushed or incomplete, something novice folk bands sometimes have a tendency to do.

The instrumentation is pretty simple: bass, guitar, drums and keyboards (mostly piano). The bulk of the music comes from the voices of the two ladies, typically with one singing lead and the other harmonizing, but occasionally in duet. The two of them make for a beautiful medley of sound throughout.

Most of the tracks are unhurried, introspective and somewhat earthy in tone. A few times David Williams ratchets up his guitar a bit with a combination of psych and mellow rock flair such as on “Lonely Man” and “Buy or Beware”, but these times are few and far between. A few tracks like “Dan the Wing” and “Break your Token” have a decidedly Irish lilt to them, but mostly this is just some good folk music without pretension or pompousness.

One track sticks in my mind as something I’m sure I heard as a youngster, the Mamas & Papas- sounding “Buy or Beware”. Ms. Williams and Ms. Simonds sound just like Mama Cass Elliott and Michelle Phillips. I don’t know if this was ever released as a single, but the line “I want no water with my wine” strikes me as something I’ve heard before.

This is a very easy to listen to album, and doesn’t really strike me as dated-sounding although the musical style was in decline even when this was recorded in the early seventies. No matter, prog folk fans hold the album in high esteem for the most part, and now that I’ve had a chance to play it a few times so do I. Four stars for the ladies and their accompanying men. Too bad Mellow Candle weren’t able to make more of a go of things back then, but this album leaves an impressive and lasting legacy. Highly recommended to prog folk fans for sure.

peace

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 The Virgin Prophet by MELLOW CANDLE album cover Studio Album, 1996
2.71 | 7 ratings

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The Virgin Prophet
Mellow Candle Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars I don’t own the only album Mellow Candle released in the seventies (‘Swaddling Songs’) although it is buried midway down my wish list. So normally I wouldn’t have been interested in this thing either, especially not knowing much about the band anyway. But I had a chance to pick up a used copy so it seemed like the right thing to do.

This is pretty much an album that is only going to appeal to a limited audience, mostly folk fans but by extension probably most prog folk fans as well. I wouldn’t say there’s much about the record that’s progressive other than possibly some of Clodagh Simonds and Allison Williams’ vocal harmonizing which is quite pleasant but a bit of an acquired taste since they’re not particularly melodic nor does either of them have great range when singing in this style. But the sound fits quite well in a folk setting.

This isn’t a ‘lost’ studio album; it’s just a collection of demos and assorted unreleased tracks the band made early in their career. The timing of its release it a bit of a puzzle, although the mid-nineties saw quite a few older vinyl releases be reissued on CD so I suppose Kissing Spell wanted to have more than just the ‘Swaddling Songs’ disk to offer fans.

This being what it is (outtakes and remnants), and having been recorded more than thirty years ago, the sound quality isn’t the greatest; and the production is mostly in the form of whatever engineering went into the CD reissue (which probably wasn’t much). There are no tracks that stand out for me, but I suppose hard-core Mellow Candle fans will find many things to pick over and enjoy. A couple observations from a neophyte Mellow Candle ‘fan’ might be in order though.

First, Clodagh Simonds has a very interesting piano style. There are the occasional solo piano bits (like the sanguine passage on “Lords Of”), but with several songs on the album she seems to be trying to parrot the bass, which gives the tunes sort of a lumbering feel to them (“Buy or Beware”, “Break You”, “Boulders on my Grave”, “Crabtree”). I’m not a pianist so can’t describe this very well, but it is a mildly awkward style, and not one that reflects her lack of ability since she performs beautifully elsewhere like on the almost medieval “Reverend” and “Pretty Polly” as well as the delicate and exquisitely mournful title track.

Another is that this band took an interesting approach to folk music back when these tracks were recorded. The combination of harmonizing female vocalists, piano and a pretty funky electric guitar and bass made them a bit of an enigma. They weren’t really folk, weren’t quite rock. I can see where the fans they did have would have probably been quite loyal to this narrow range of music that attracted them in the first place.

But for me this release is a curiosity more than anything else. I should probably give it two stars since it is clearly something that only fans of the band are likely to find appealing; but I like the vocal and piano combination even if it does fuzz out at times due to the poor recording quality. So I’ll go with three stars but the disclaimer that this shouldn’t be purchased in lieu of the band’s self-titled seventies release, which is generally considered a classic and is therefore is probably the better choice of these two.

peace

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 Swaddling Songs by MELLOW CANDLE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.80 | 49 ratings

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Swaddling Songs
Mellow Candle Prog Folk

Review by Matti
Collaborator Neo-Prog Team

4 stars The original LP flopped at the time but has later been prized up to 500 pounds among collectors, informs the leaflet about this folk- rock classic. (The CD appeared as late as in 1994 and I had the opportunity to borrow this from library, as usual.) How unfair can music biz be! A band as talented and music as nice as this is ignored? I believe one even doesn't have to be a FOLK-rock enthusiast to like this, quite the opposite, listening to this today can MAKE one interested in that genre and era.

It may be said that this Irish quintet didn't bring anything clearly new; genre's major acts Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, and several lesser bands such as Trees, had started some years before. Mellow Candle, however, were just slightly more psychedelic, and they composed all songs by themselves (instead of Trad.). I find this album more interesting than what I've heard from the mentioned bands. The playing is sharp and intricate - piano, acoustic and electric guitar, bass and drums - and the harmonic vocals of ladies Alison and Clodagh are absolutely lovely. (Here and there I came to think of the women of ABBA - and this is NO bad thing, whatever opinion you may have on ABBA's music.) Musically the tracks can be roughly divided into ethearal beauties and edgier uptempo songs, both handled equally well, though maybe the latter ones offer more-of-the-same towards the end of the album. The wonderful opener 'Heaven Heath' is a mellow and rich song in between, with a medieval-like feel. 'Reverend Sisters' is a fantastic number of the female duet and piano.

Singer-pianist Clodagh Simonds, the writer of the majority of songs, has later worked with Andy Warhol and Robert Fripp, and drummer William Murray has played for Mike oldfield and Richard & Linda Thompson, but otherwise they disappeared without a trace. For Prog Folk lovers this is a MUST. Not quite 5 stars but pretty close...

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 Swaddling Songs by MELLOW CANDLE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.80 | 49 ratings

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Swaddling Songs
Mellow Candle Prog Folk

Review by JohnnyC

5 stars One of the finest and best folk albums from England in the 70's. Have a melancholic feeling, beautiful female dual vocals and loads of superb acoustic guitars. This is one of the folk albums you really need !

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 Swaddling Songs by MELLOW CANDLE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.80 | 49 ratings

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Swaddling Songs
Mellow Candle Prog Folk

Review by OpethGuitarist
Prog Reviewer

2 stars We wait in the Cathedral

Swaddling Songs is very, prog-churchy if you will. Many of the songs seem as if they could be turned into Christian hymns quite easily (though their already is obvious religious references. The female vocalist here is quite good, with a very angelic voice and fits well with the low key nature of the music.

As others have stated, it's not exactly revolutionary. Much of it is very simple, relaxing music. Melodies have a nice quality to them, but don't particularly stand out. My favorite moment is in Silver Song, where the piano seems as if it is weeping, a very touching moment. However, these moving moments are few and far between, and the album seems far too "nice, and pleasant". I realize this is a good quality to have, and one might wonder why I would dislike such notions. It's not that it's merely pleasant, it's that it is almost too laid back. In spite of this, Mellow Candle would have been interesting to see at a prog show, and much of this seems like it would fit right in with events like the Renaissance Festival.

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 Swaddling Songs by MELLOW CANDLE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.80 | 49 ratings

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Swaddling Songs
Mellow Candle Prog Folk

Review by Eetu Pellonpää
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars As this band originates from Ireland, it is not a surprise that there are exceptionally fine melodies on their songs, along with some Christian themes. The gentle amplified bass and electric guitars with drums keep the band within rock frame of reference, but this isn't very psychedelic music in my opinion, as the songs are coherently logical and do not contain very surreal feelings in them. In the song "Heaven Heath" some harpsichord runs bring a slight baroque feeling to their music, but this is not very purist medieval folk music either.

The song "Sheep Season" reminded me the sounds on the "On The Shore" album by The Trees. There are also some slightly symphonic passages at the end of the song, where guitar, piano and flute do solos over the nicely pulsing rhythm section, and they let it to grow in wonderful heights. Sadly the climax remains unheard, as there is a fadeout here, a solution which I got quite serious issues at one time. "Silver Song" is then a more bluesy tune, having truly unbelievable beautiful guitar and singing melodies. Stunning harmonies for two female singers are introduced here, and they are maybe the most notable feature of this record. These double vocals are also powerfully present on "Break Your Token", and on song "Reverend Sisters" which is a pretty piano driven piece. "Vile Excesses" has a nice dialogue with these voices mingling in the verses, and the fast final song "Boulders on My Grave" has interesting wordless singing on it. There are also few faster slightly rockier tunes here, like "Buy or Beware" and the strong "The Poet and The Witch", which emerges from a short soundscape of a sea.

I think that the songs on the beginning of the album are a bit better compositions, though the rest are no bad either. Sadly my version didn't have the two bonus tracks, as they would have been interesting to hear. If you want to hear more Irish proggy folk, check out Mushroom's "Early One Morning", being a fine album done in bit more rockier acid folk style.

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