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Jimi Slevin - Freeflight CD (album) cover


Jimi Slevin


Prog Folk

4.03 | 3 ratings

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4 stars Those of us who have roamed the often lonely corridors of prog rock ignominy are well aware that commercial success has as much to do with random chance as merit. I would elaborate that choosing folk music as an idiom might further the likelihood of having a quiet undisturbed restaurant meal even in one's hometown. So there is that, but, for one relatively little known guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, JIMI SLEVIN has sure made the rounds, as his bio cites brushes with some of the more celebrated figures in Irish folk and rock, THIN LIZZY and CHRISTY MOORE among others. In a succession of bands during the 1970s, he rose to some prominence while never quite attaining stardom, potential successes dashed by insufficient financial backing, limited pressings, or both. It must have been surprising when in 1982 he released this first solo effort. Where his prior work had leaned towards classic rock with nary a hint of ethnicity, "Freeflight" adventurously bared his Celtic roots in its appealing blend of singer/songwriter sensitivity and technical virtuosity.

The first 3 tracks are utterly transfixing, and run together for utmost effect. "Summer" is a brief and poignant instrumental that is quite reminiscent of the more acoustic reflective parts of CAMEL's "Snow Goose", with what sounds like a mellotron pitch bend at the end. "Stormy Seas" is under 5 minutes but manages to attain epic status, the first part introducing Slevin's pleasant higher register voice like a cross between IAIN MATTHEWS and DAN FOGELBERG. The choruses are more lively, with spirited piping from Mick Coyne. The haunting and extended instrumental coda is dominated by what sounds like electric violin, but must be part of Trevor Knight's keyboard arsenal. It's probably my favorite passage of the whole effort, though the next tune "The Children of Lir" is just about as accomplished. Also spacey, with both guitars and keys imparting an ethereal quality, evocative organ washes herald the second part, beginning with gently plucked acoustic guitar and offering Maggie Cody's wordless vocalizations and tin whistles. This enchanting number presages bands like NIGHTNOISE.

While the rest of the album is fine, ultimately nothing quite matches the brilliance of those opening 15 minutes. Alternating proficient GORDON GILTRAP styled instrumentals with heartfelt songs, the best is probably the title cut which establishes Slevin's brilliant picking on acoustic guitar while culminating in a quasi acidic romp. The closer "Gentleman Jim's" is a Celtic jazz funk number very much in the vein of MOVING HEARTS, whose influence on Irish folk and rock far exceeded their modest output, and who had stormed out of the gate a year or two prior.

I'm going to round up for this one because, while not quite a "lost classic", "Freeflight" (and Mr Slevin) should be better known. It has also aged very well, which is the hallmark of good prog folk, both of the musical and human variety.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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