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Mellow Candle - The Virgin Prophet CD (album) cover

THE VIRGIN PROPHET

Mellow Candle

 

Prog Folk

2.78 | 13 ratings

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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

ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |

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