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Gnidrolog - Lady Lake CD (album) cover




Eclectic Prog

4.07 | 389 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Lady Lake, Gnidrolog, 1972

Gnidrolog's second album, Lady Lake, is slightly better received than the debut. And it's a great album: the increased instrumentation pays off nicely (novus John Earle on saxes + flute fleshes out the sound in a very individual direction, drummer Nigel Pegrum's oboe turns up more prominent, a versatile range of lead guitar sounds are there), there's perhaps an even stronger sense of basic melody here than on the debut. And yet, it's a great album, but it's not as great as its predecessor: first off, a host of reference points (Ian Anderson's flute-work with Tull, a bit of the double-jointed compositional/improvisational blur and weirdness you'd expect from an amalgamation of Caravan and Gentle Giant) are used very effectively, but occasionally feels a bit too calculated... likewise, the guitar sounds are diversified, the guitar use can go either way... always pleasant, but occasionally a bit too cool and bluesy for me, and then, the lyrics only really take off after a couple of false starts. There we go, that's almost everything that annoys me about the album out of the way, and I can kick back and say that Lady Lake is an album any fan of melodic, adventurous and altogether fascinating music should have, but not quite as much as they should have In Spite Of Harry's Toenail.

The opening I Could Never Be A Soldier is a prime example of the band's retained and acquired strengths; the presence of two flautists and a recorder offers a lush woodwind sound, Colin Goldring's sly guitar work echoes and builds themes continually, we have deliciously minimal (driven by the superb Peter Cowling's bass, somewhat reminiscent of what Crimson would be trying to build up a year later with Starless And Bible Black) and folk sections with variously pretty and Anderson-type flute. Lyrically, it hasn't the bite its stereotypically hippy comrades held on Spite, which somewhat hampers the vocal sections. Rounded off by a slightly unconnected but nevertheless superb blues guitar solo, this is a clear success, though not quite a perfect one.

As a slightly impatient type, I have to admit that Ship is not really my thing; stretching out a typically weirded (I like Colin Goldring's voice a lot... but I'm not sure he manages to build this one up as well as he could) chorus beyond its strength... the arrangements are great, the guitar-work is just beautiful, that rather odd horn sound is fantastically quixotic, and there's a bit of spacey guitar-work noone really expected from this synth-free outfit, but the chorus goes on too long, in my view, and there isn't really much of an overall mood to it.

A Dog With No Collar is a bleak acoustic piece with a brilliant four-line lyric and an oboe offering downcast support. Short, but very effective.

Yet more poignant is the title track, opening with a general dark jazz vibe slowly solidifying from its murky horn duel opening and an alternately sharp and ethereal rhythm section into the mystical, horrifyingly bleak and captivating image of our leading lady and the most beautiful cello-sax-bass-guitar background. And the alternation between a classical-type hook and this winding, haunting rhythm is just incredible (even without the spine-chilling lyrics: 'Night, nothing near, nothing said, noone here/Loved once, but ice to tears/Melted slowly, seasons' greetings/somehow turned to fear')... if there's a piece where I'd say Gnidrolog achieved what they aimed to, it's probably this one: the sound is incredible, the solos are astonishing, driving the avant-garde leanings into beauty, the lyrics are superb... just amazing.

And then, Same Dreams, an atypical love song with Colin Goldring's unique voice given a perfect opportunity to stretch out vulnerably, very nice guest piano from Charlotte Fendrich, various backing (oboe from drummer Nigel Pegrum, the occasional dab of bass guitar and an odd bit of warm complimentary guitar), and a striking set of lyrics... ('We shared the same thoughts/The same road/The same line from an old song...'). Mainly, it's the sense of development in this one that gets me... I'm not so sure about whether the bursts of support are even really necessary for what's basically a duet, but it sounds good.

Social Embarrassment takes us onto almost Canterbury-sounding areas, with oddball lyrics, loads of instrumentation (a sax duel, horns,  oboe, flute...), a big, grating, aggressive cello sound, walking basslines, somewhat Caravan-with-bite drumming, snarly guitars, odd ramblings in all sorts of jazz-tinged directions. As you'd expect, great guitar soloing, fun vocals (saxophonist John Earle taking the lead), and a clever general construction for the song... driving it ever towards the end while still leaving the actual content of the moment pretty much free to go where it likes.

Lady Lake is that most awkward of reviews: the great album you don't think is as good as public opinion suggests compared to the available alternatives. So, if given the opportunity (and like me you're a bit strange and not allowed to be DJ any more), I'd make sure you get In Spite Of Harry's Toenail as well (currently, there's a two-in-one-thing and it's serious high-grade under-the-counter prog rock) and remember that, while this is not the cookie, it is, in the words of Bernard Black, 'some sort of delicious biscuit'.

Favourite track: pick one of the last four... nah... Lady Lake Oh, and ratings: Four stars, 12 or 13/15... say 13. I'm feeling nice, today.

Edit: This reviewer is an educated monkey. He probably will say 'oboe' and mean 'sax' on occasions. Blame the copy-paste.

TGM: Orb | 4/5 |


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