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Mushroom - Early One Morning CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.76 | 38 ratings

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4 stars I have always had a soft spot for British folk-rock, going back to the early days of Steeleye Span, but somehow this album slipped under my radar until recently. It is strange approaching it from the 00s as the welding of rock and tradional-folk is today a well established form, led by the likes of Oysterband, Wolfstone and more progressive outfits like Bluehorses. But in 1973 this must have been sensational and I wonder why they didn't make more of an impact. It is very much a product of its time: for example, an energetic rhythm section typical of many of the rock bands in the early 70s underpins most of the songs here, whether frenetic jigs-n-reels workouts or slower ballads. Production values are also primitive by todays standards - I may be wrong, but I suspect they didn't have access to a great deal of expensive studio time or outboard gear as its sound processing and mix values are quite rudimentary - I am reminded of the old days of wrestling with 4-track cassette based portastudios where you were forced to pre-judge elements of the mix before bouncing tracks, a lost art in the digital age.

But that is all part of the charm of this record. Allied to some accomplished songwriting, singing and playing - especially impressive is the fiddler - is an infectious pioneering sense of adventure, of exploring a new world full of exciting corridors and alleyways, in the same way that people like Zappa or King Crimson were doing in the late 60s. They may not have been the first to marry folk to rock, but their spiky rock sensibilities must have seemed innovative for the time, bearing in mind that most existing folk-rockers were electrified folkies rather than folked-up rockers. Surely the history of Bluehorses starts here. Like all the innovators at the time, their music is as rough edged as the recording, undimmed by studio over-indulgences, allowing the sheer natural exhuberance of the music to flow out throught the speakers.

The album begins with an alarm clock wake-up call, leading into Early One Morning, a gentle acoustic song about waking up to find a lover has gone. A gentle enough start, but The Liothdon soon bangs in with an electrified up tempo reel/jig partly played on a keyboard with a distorted bass, heavily distorted rock guitar solos and lifts provided by key changes, a total assault on the senses. The vocal passages of The Liothdon are short, but they help to set the scene for Crying, which enters at the same pace as before, but soon settles into a calmer atmosphere where fiddle and contrasting guitar alternate solos before ending with a more frenetic duelling where the guitarist struggles to keep up.

The Farfisa made a significant contribution to the background of Crying, and continues into the gentle rock song Unborn Child. Poor sound, especially from the guitar, mars this song a little, but there is some excellent fiddle work ably supported by wah-wah rhythm guitar. There is again some lovely interplay between fiddle and guitar, but otherwise this is a fairly straightforward rock song. Johnny The Jumper changes the tone completely as it leaps in with heaps of big 60s psychedelic keyboards on an up tempo jigs-n-reels instrumental workout. You can almost smell the sweat of the dancefloor.

Potter's Wheel, which begins side 2 of the vinyl version, is a traditional acoustic jig complete with fiddle and tin whistle before being joined by some more wah-wah electric guitar. Standing Alone has a rather ordinary melody, but is a dreamy mid-paced song with a mellow sound driven by a prominent hi-hat pattern and Farfisa. The slightly out-of-tune Moog makes its appearance on a couple of solos before the track takes off with a soaring guitar solo.

Dramatic sound effects herald a traditionally based song, Devil Among The Tailors, evoking the later sound of Horslips, with both fiddle and guitar solos, before the harpsichord quietens the pace for Tenpenny Piece which is not a million miles from Steeleye Span territory with chiming guitars and a recorder. Drowsey Maggie is another energetic rock-a-jig led by the fiddle, though the improvisational guitar solo doesn't quite come off. One by one the instruments drop out, leaving just an insistant solo fiddle before the band return for a rousing finale and some audience applause. King Of Alba is an up tempo folk-rocker, a direct ancestor of Oysterband or Wolfstone with some nice soloing from guitar, fiddle and keyboard building to a crescendo finish.

Aside from a few singles, this was the only album Mushroom made, so it is a shame it suffers from such poor sound in places. However, that doesn't detract from one's enjoyment, nor does it deflate the achievement of being a lost foundationstone of both British folk-rock and Prog Folk, and anyone interested in the development of either genre should check this out.

"Please play very loud" it says. Indeed!

Joolz | 4/5 |


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