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Accolade - Accolade 2 CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.47 | 21 ratings

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4 stars The band chose the mundane title '2' for their second and final studio release, but that's about the only thing that's ordinary on this record. I find it hard to believe only a single Japanese CD of dubious lineage exists as a reissue of this excellent studio work. In fact, I find it hard to believe the band isn't better known and more revered by progressive music fans today considering the quality of the work and the relative success many of its members have found since the group disbanded in the early seventies.

There are several lineup changes here and all are reflected in the more electric, poppy and often bluesy sound as opposed to the heavy jazz-meets-folk vibe of their first record. Gordon Giltrap was gone by the time the quartet (plus a couple of part-time members) reentered the studio to record these ten tracks. He did contribute one original composition though with the somewhat depressing faux biography "William Taplin". Raymond "Wizz" Jones (Lazy Farmer) adds a layer of vocals on several tracks and also contributed a song, the very folksy "If Only I'd Known". And a young Mike Moran gives the band's sound an added dimension with piano on a handful of tracks, where keyboards were not a part of their debut release. The eclectic bassist Eden Abba had by this point gone off to munch tree bark or whatever and was replaced by Malcolm Poole who also plays violin to rather muted but decent effect here and there.

Like I said, the songs here have moved considerably away from the decidedly jazz-infused folk motif of the band's earlier sound. This is immediately apparent on the opening "Transworld Blues", a clever tale of a world-traveling bard written by the perennial busker Don Partridge, who was probably reminiscing of his earlier days wandering around Europe playing for change at street corners and parks (Partridge also penned the more folksy "The Time I've Wasted" as another busker biography later on the record). Despite the acoustic guitar/flute opening this works out to be more of a whimsical blues number that lumbers along like a lazy train ride through bucolic countryside on a hazy spring afternoon.

The dynamic of new musicians and influences are manifest on the next track, a short and slightly acid-folk leaning number titled "The Spider to The Spy" which was apparently written for a television series although not one I'm not familiar with. Partridge wrote this song too and dominates with two-tracked vocals of himself and an unoriginal but deftly-delivered electric guitar riff, but the sound is more akin to pop-rock of that era and clearly the arrangement was tweaked in the studio by some of the fresh blood in the band's lineup (probably Jones in particular).

Partridge completes his trifecta offering with the light jazz vocal number "Baby, Take Your Rags Off" that features piano for the first time and recalls the cooler and more laconic tracks on the first album.

Given the times (very early seventies), the eleven-minute plus and weirdly titled "Cross Continental Pandemonium Theatre Company" probably shouldn't be a surprise. This sprawling hodge-podge of sounds was a group compositional effort by the band and was clearly a studio creation including the widespread noodling that is generally a sign that a group has entered the studio without all their material solidly locked down. Poole is the star here with his gripping bass fiddle, while Partridge weaves a folk tale that seems to transcend both style and time. The song starts off as a tight folk-rock number but becomes increasingly jazzy (eg., improvisational) as it meanders along toward its anticlimactic ending. Brian Cresswell's flute is omnipresent here as it is throughout the album, but the addition on this particular song adds a dimension that really cements the band's unique jazz/folk style.

I'm not sure why the band chose to include "Snakes in a Hole" which isn't much more than a fairly accurate cover of this obscure Made in Sweden tune that was originally released only a couple years prior. Perhaps this was their attempt to garner some radio attention in Europe at the time, but musically it adds little to the album.

I suppose every band needs a sci-fi space-rock number in their repertoire, and "Sector Five Nine" gave Accolade theirs with a brief ditty that regales the listener with a weird future- vision that includes regulated sex and apparently humanoid cannibalism, all delivered to an upbeat tempo with pleasant acoustic strumming and flute work that can't quite find the groove. Odd but entertaining.

The band seems to portend their own future with the pleasant light-rocking "Long Way to Go" to close the album, but unfortunately for them that future would not include their mutual association as the group broke up before this record even managed to be fully distributed.

None of the songs here stand out the way "Nature Boy" or "Ulysses" did on their first record, but every song offers something and none are even close to being filler, even the Made in Sweden cover. That one is the only track that would make me consider something less than a four (out of five) star rating, and given the excellent musicianship throughout and the clearly progressive nature of the album in-total, I would say that's not enough to drop off another star. Very well recommended to all manner of progressive music fans if you can find it.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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