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Dancer - Tales of the Riverbank CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.19 | 24 ratings

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3 stars Dancer formed from the remnants of the Isle of Wight band Peppermint Snuff of Wight / Foehammer / Shide & Acorn, not lasting long and only leaving behind this delayed release to commemorate their existence. The album is largely centered on an early composition by the late Anthony Minghella, set to music mostly for the purpose of this record. The band recorded it over a few months period under the direction of former Black Sabbath manager Wilf Pine. The music here is unexceptional, but its accessible enough to be appealing to most of the sort of people who tend to seek out obscure prog folk music.

The title track, which also happens to consume about a third of the album’s length, starts off with some light acoustic guitar and a couple well-placed harmonic notes, eventually (though slowly) working up around a couple of minutes to some mellotron strings, piano and a little flute before layering on electric guitar, drums and vocals in an easy-going, Genesis-meets-America melodic passage. This segues eventually as well, this time as an even more leisurely organ and stilted piano instrumental. While the music is enjoyable enough to listen to, there’s not a lot of impetus to build toward anything substantive. The boys in the band seem to be content with lazily laying down sound without any definitive purpose. Fair enough, a lot of progressive folk would fit that description. The obligatory flute wafts in around eight minutes, along with some guitar strumming and more organ. I like the pace of this song, but even though it’s quite long it doesn’t really have the makings of anything that would be considered an epic.

Somewhere around nine minutes or so the whole thing starts to sound like one of Andy Tillison’s Tangent story-songs, which I tend to enjoy but are often accused of being derivative. The ending consists of a spurt of electric guitar burst and rising chorus before ending, too abruptly for my tastes but worth a few spins if you’re in an easy-going mood.

The rest of the album tends to be a bit uneven, with the languid and mostly acoustic “American Wood” flitting past before the band moves back to a keyboard-intensive sound with the easy-listening, good-to- be-alive “Morning” that is distinguished by a couple of lead vocalists that morph into a harmonic duo for most of the track.

“Mac's Café” is more of a heavy-prog composition that also sound an awful lot like a Tangent song, while “The Change in Me” moves back to an acoustic guitar arrangement distinguished by harmonizing vocals in the vein of Tractor. “Fairhill Affair” has a distinctive Neil Young-sounding guitar track but otherwise is a pretty standard contemporary rock number.

Finally the band closes on a bit of a high note by resurrecting the flute and mellotron on the mildly funky “Mind the Houses” that is easy on the ears while at the same time is firmly rooted in the early seventies.

The band actually broke up before this record could be released, with Paul Athey and Mick Cuffe going on to form a white-funk band known as Big Swifty and the late Anthony Minghella branching out to a successful career as a film producer (The English Patient). Copies of the original tapes floated around for three decades before technology and interest from the now mostly mature prog community leading Kissing Spell to release it in 2001.

This isn’t a masterpiece by any means, but it is a pleasant and well-played bit of rare progressive folk that manages to tie together a number of minor acts from the heyday of progressive music. I’d say three stars is a fair way to rate the music, and would recommend it to fans of Shide & Acorn, The Way We Live and bands of that nature.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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