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Mellow Candle - Swaddling Songs CD (album) cover


Mellow Candle


Prog Folk

3.87 | 82 ratings

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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.

Jeff Carney | 5/5 |


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