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England - Garden Shed CD (album) cover

GARDEN SHED

England

 

Symphonic Prog

3.89 | 178 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
4 stars This is another one that I missed out on when it originally came out in 1977, though I can only be partly reassured that it went unnoticed by many more fans, being that 1977 was the universally agreed death year for prog. Punks with bad teeth and worse manners entered the mainstream and kicked serious musicians in the behind and right off the main stage! In retrospect that may have been a good thing as the dinosaur mentality had crept in by then (Hello Tony Emerson and Keith Banks). England released this puppy to little fanfare, even though it is regarded in hindsight as a quirky little masterpiece, featuring a gifted talent in keyboardist Robert Webb. The cover is perhaps one of the most fascinating in prog, very English style like Robertson and Sons' Marmalade or Twining's Tea. The music is quite reminiscent of The Enid in that classic symphonics are blended with orchestral arrangements, sugared by some blatant rock multi-tracked vocalizations that can run the span between Gentle Giant, Yes, Supertramp, Genesis, Druid, Greenslade etc?

"Midnight Madness" provides exactly that kind of premise, the high pitched vocals meandering down a symphonic river, with clever little e-piano motifs that wink at Supertramp, vibraphones wrestling with slippery synths, slamming organ ushering the crew along. Of course, harmony vocals add a great amount of choral depth to the arrangements, which is easily admirable to any prog fan. High-pitched vocals almost have a Russell Mael feel (he of Sparks fame) or even Freddie of Queen. In fact, I would not be surprised if Webb and company had been influenced by the Champions. England, Queen, yeah! All in all, a thrilling introduction.

A mini-piano etude "All Alone" simply sets the table for the first section of the main opus here the "Three Pieces" suite, as such I cannot help but feel a reminder of an artist such as Anthony Phillips , meaning it's all very British, wot? "Introducing Three Pieces" is definitely symphonic in style that at times sounds a lot like Yes, what with the grandiose orchestrations and the ruthlessly trebled bass guitar, veering close to the edge in more ways than one. Drummer Jode Leigh has his Bruford tapes working nicely for him, Martin Henderson must have heard of Chris Squire, while only the guitarist Franc Holland differs a tad, being more Hacketty than Howey. Robert Webb can compete with the Wakemans, Emersons and the Greenslades of the world, a clever utilizer of all forms of ivories. The result is a brisk-paced, densely choired as all four musicians sing, reverential homage to "Close to the Edge" in a multi-hued, uncanny reworking that is ultimately enjoyable. The electric guitar has a muffled 'in a tube' sound that actually fits the mood quite well, followed by a thunderously harmonious bass solo from Mr. Henderson, Webb shuffling in his cozy mellotron to great effect, even discreet winks at snippets of la Marseillaise. The Queen/the Korgis/Sparks high pitched voice is actually cool and well performed.

"Paraffinalea" is a jaunty little affair, heavily vocalized, and doused in waves of glorious mellotron splashes as well as some coily synth loops. I actually liked the next piece a great deal, "Yellow" wallows in pastoral noodling, handled by some quality orchestrations and a Beatles-like vocal presence, a reminder of a psychedelic past that once ruled over the first prog wave. The Anthony Phillips hints are again quite clear and determined. There is even room for some brief soloing to make matters more interesting.

The tectonic plate on which this album revolves is the epic 18 minute + monster "Poisoned Youth", a scintillating composition that wastes little breath in getting the troops moving forward. The bass is up-front and brash as it leads the crew into some multifaceted territories where all is molded into a whole musical experience, tight drum attack, spooky vocalisms and the obvious colossal keyboard colorations. Paced in such a manner as to provide a slew of unpredictable peaks and valleys, wrapped in various layers of mood and contrast, this is a perfect example of a typical progressive rock epic.

Nice music ! Great cover , really!

4 Lawn barns

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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