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Duncan Browne - Give Me Take You CD (album) cover


Duncan Browne


Crossover Prog

3.33 | 9 ratings

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3 stars Review: Duncan Browne "Give me Take You" First of all I must say that Browne is my favorite artist. As a result, I know all of his music and I was the one who got him into progarchives. This album is the first of his two baroque folk albums. Those albums are NOT the reason for his inclusion on the site and are VERY different from his work with Metro and his two late 70's albums.. It is a very tender, pleasant, warm but also heavily dated piece of work. Musical influences are Donovan, Dylan and Nick Drake. It has the positive vibe and baroque-feel of Donovan(think "Atlantis"), the folk-inspired guitar playing by Dylan and the intimistic atmosphere of a Drake recording. However, a huge difference with the latter artist are the lyrics(which Browne didn't write himself). Those are very na´ve and highly romantic(in a pastoral English kind of way). It are sweet poems about childhood adventure, nature and young man's love(Browne was only 21 himself when the album came out). British 17th and 18th century music must have also been a big part of young Duncan's input. Browne's classical trained acoustic guitar playing is obvious throughout the album, as it is places central in all compositions. The biggest role however, is played by the human voice. Vocal overdubs of Browne's voice and hired choirs of men, women and children(which Browne wrote the score for) give the album a heavenly atmosphere. Sometimes you can hear some drumming/handclaps, piano, strings and wind instruments, but this is definitely not a band effort. The compositions are mostly in the singer-songwriter vein: very repetitive verse-based songs that tell linear stories, very much akin to French chansonniers like George Brassens and Jacques Brel. Browne's voice is already in shape: his McCartney-like tenor is a gift from heaven. It's full of life(yes, you could call it a bit shaky) and warmth and it is always earnest. His guitar playing, though very charming, still needed a lot of improvement. Small mistakes can be heard throughout the record, which is not inexcusable, but it does reflect the state of affairs of the young Duncan. He was in many ways just a boy writing well-behaved, honest songs far removed from his strongly sexual-tinged, enigmatic later work. So if you want a dark, broody prog folk album get a Nick Drake record instead. The biggest problem with "Give me Take You", however, is that almost all of the songs sound the same: they use the same melodic motifs and twists and build up in exactly the same way. That wouldn't be so much of a problem if it were a concept album, but instead of unifying it makes it very hard listening to the album as a whole. If a song passes along on your Ipod, you probably won't hit the "next" button, but when you hear a couple of songs in a row your probably gonna accuse Browne of plagiating his own music! Let's discuss all of the songs apart.

"Give me Take You" *** kicks off with a choir and is very exemplary for the rest of the album, albeit a more orchestral arrangement with the use of strings and woodwinds. Its baroque feel will certainly be able to bring you in a good mood, like a Vivaldi record also can. Pleasant, but certainly not memorable(apart from the beautiful little instrumental ouverture). Extra credit goes to the scoring of the wind instruments, which is very tasteful.

"Ninepence Worth of Walking"***: here Browne's voice is very reminiscent of Paul McCartney. It uses the same kind of vocal overdubs as the first tune. This song will gets your fingers tapping but also has a strange major/minor musical twist with shows Browne's willingness to add unexpected dissonants to his music . Light-hearted song with a sad undertone, which gives it a melancholic quality.

"Dwarf in a Tree"*** is more blues-inspired. Drums and bass are used and in the chorus a harpsichord pops up. Completely Donovan-like and -if I may- also akin to Pink Floyd's earlier work with Syd Barrett at the helm or even David Bowie's debut album. Certainly a shift in style, but one that is rather dictated by the time it was created. At 3.15, however, from out of nowhere, the ouverture of the title-track looms up with treated spoken word on top. Browne's theatre education certainly had to do something with that. A very proggy twist for sure.

"The Ghost Walks" **sounds as if it was recorded in another century, which gives it a unique atmosphere. Such a shame the composition is overly soft(like something a musical student would make) and borrows to many ideas from his other songs. It leaves the listener rolling with the eyes, slightly annoyed... Anachronism in the modern world.

"Waking You" ***is a two-part miniature with Bach-like inventions and simple, yet very effective lyrics. "Waking you and not knowing quite why": say no more! Splitting this song in two is maybe a bit unnecessary(certainly because the second part is almost exactly the same as the first one), but it does show Browne's affinity with artier music.

"Chloe in the Garden"** starts with the sound of a cold breeze, directly summoning the right atmosphere. What follows is probably the saddest song of the album. Strings sound like the quartet used in the opening tune of "Fawlty Towers": This takes away the universalness of the song and makes it, again, very British. Nothing wrong with that ofcourse. Very passable song, only for if your in a sombre mood.

"On the Bombsite"** is a true baroque folkpop song with Byrds-like guitar strumming and full-in drums. Lyrics are pretty silly and childish but effective as written from a little boy's perspective. The vocal inventions are starting to wore out though.

7 very mediocre songs until now, that's not great is it? Strangely enough the true genius of Browne begins to shine on the second part of the LP.

"I was, You weren't" ***hit the right spot in my heart. It's the first song that really struck a tear for me, and it's a pity it didn't last longer. An church-like ouverture played by organ opens up for a simple but beautiful song. The psychedelic vocal overdubs on the end of the song are present again, as is the harpsichord. A timeless song in a dated coat.

"Gabilan"**** could have fit right onto Browne's self-titled second album. It is a fully realized effort: Browne sounds more mature, the vocalizing is very effective and sounds more like wailing ghosts then a church choir(like on the rest of the album). The raindrop like guitar playing accentuates the autumnish atmosphere. Ranks among his best work.

"Alfred Bell"**** starts off like a Beatles song. The more stripped-down sound is a relieve, as it doesn't sound dated at all. While not abandoning his classical/folk roots Browne turns in more of a pop song here, and does it with aplomb. Another highlight.

"The Death of Neil"***** is what I call the true uppercut of "Give me Taking You". What a greatly composed, arranged and performed song. It sounds bigger and more timeless then any other song on the record and would still be an inspiration for young singer- songwriters/chansonniers. It tells the story of an Icarus-like man whose only dream was "to fly on selfmade wings". Browne hands out a great, unexpected melodic twist again which always brings tears into my eyes. The reversed vocals at the end are also a great find. Hidden gem.

"Cherry blossom Fool"*****, the last official track of the album and arguably the most beautiful one. It displays the same melancholic feel as the previous songs and is a perfect closer. The lyrics sound almost Shakespeare-like. Credit goes to Browne's art school friend David Bretton, a gifted poet. Browne portrays himself as a modern day minstrel here, turning out the fifth heartbreaker in a row.

The difference in quality between the first and second side of the LP is remarkable and remains a mystery to me. Anyway, not a hardcore Browne fan? Just skip the dated first side, it's only "interesting" as a child of it's time. The second side is purer, more original and far more memorable.

Now, the bonus track on the reissued edition of the album, "Here and Now"***, is also a worthwhile listen: the most Beatles-inspired song, with excellent use of cello. It's sadness is more subdued and the overall feel is more regal and baroque, similar to side 1 of the album(but better). It doesn't feel as "finished" as the other songs though, and that's a pity.

Check the four and five stars songs on youtube if you're interested. If you like beautiful acoustic folk with arty aspirations and a sad undertone that is present on the entire ride, this one's for you. It's follow up album, however, carries on in a similar vein but is clearly superior to this one. It is less monotone and sounds more mature and modern. That's not all that strange: Browne waited 5 years to release another LP!!!

(A real debut album where all the standout tracks are on side two. 3 stars, because of the dated feel and monotony. )

JeffELOLynne | 3/5 |


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