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Decameron - Say Hello to the Band CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.33 | 16 ratings

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Prog-Folk Team
4 stars In the British version of popular music of the early 70s, some peculiarly English sounding folk rock bands had serious runs at the charts. A group named LINDISFARNE outsold the ROLLING STONES in 1972, STRAWBS vied for number 1 album spot with ELTON JOHN, and STEELEYE SPAN nearly hit the top 10 with a Latin hymn. While none of these groups enjoyed sustained chart success, they proved that even the fickle pop audience had some tolerance for the roots music of their homeland. With these influences as well as those of the even more popular American folk rock of the time - CSNY, AMERICA, and DYLAN among others - DECAMERON produced a mature if mildly dichotomous debut.

The album alternates between playful ditties that seem somehow more substantive than all but the most perceptive of LINDISFARNE's political commentaries, and more somber early progressive sounds, with a lost epic of sorts thrown in to make sure progressive audiences were listening. Interestingly, the more sprightly numbers are superior to the downbeat material, for which the style was still a little embryonic at this point.

In the ebullient title cut, the vocalist and his mellifluous backers beseech his neglected girlfriend to allow the band to stay at her place even if he hasn't seen her in months. "Love me love my band". The down home harmonica augments the good old boy sentiments. A virtual 0 on the prog scale, it earns 5 stars for youthful exuberance, and I give even fewer of these. "Stoat's Grope" and the hair raising closer "Shine Away" are more examples of how to play what you mean and mean what you play.

Of the more introspective sounds, "Ride a Lame Pony" is a lilting ballad, but "Crows" is the definitive tune and the one from which the trademark Decameron style would eventually spring. Shimmering acoustic guitar and cello in the break provide a haunting accompaniment to an ode to palpable difference and its effects. A similar theme is handled less well in "Innocent Sylvester Prime", which veers uncomfortably close to a slice of BREAD, not there is anything wrong with that per se.

That leaves the seven and a half minute "Byard's Leap", a literary story-song about a witch and a blind horse. The story itself is not particularly striking, but its musical settings and embellishments upon the DAVE COUSINS styled narrative - think "The Battle" or "The Hangman and the Papist" - are more noteworthy. This is essentially an improvement on "Matty Groves", self penned yet in a traditional style, and without a trace of ego, only a collective passion.

If you are into hybrid styles of folk rock and sensuous harmonies, and not stuck on the progressive label too much, it's worth saying hello to Decameron at this early stage. Otherwise I would wait a couple of years and as many labels. 3.5 stars rounded up for historical value and enthusiasm.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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