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PROG FOLK

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Prog Folk definition

In the wake of the 1960s, a Folk revival started on both sides of the Atlantic, and got quickly linked with a protest movement, not always, but often linked to more left-wing tendencies, which did not sit well with the authorities. BOB DYLAN, JOAN BAEZ, WOODY GUTHRIE, JOHN DENVER, BUFFY STE-MARIE, but also the FARINA couple Richard and Mimi for the US and SHIRLEY COLLINS and EWAN McCOLL (mentor of BERT JANSCH, JOHN RENBOURN ) for the UK and HUGUES AUFRAY in France. In Quebec, there was the "Chansonniers" phenomenon among which CLAUDE LEVEILLE and FELIX LECLERC were the most popular, waking up the sleepy "Belle Province" and stand up for itself from the English rule. The English part of Canada also brought up JONI MITCHELL, LEONARD COHEN (although he was from Montreal) and NEIL YOUNG.

As DYLAN turned electric with his Highway 61 Revisited album, much to the dislike of purists who yelled for treason, Folk Rock was born, opening the floodgates for younger artists to turn on the electricity. As DYLAN soon abandoned to style to create Country Rock with his next album, his British equivalent Scotsman DONOVAN stayed true to Folk Rock. In the US, THE BYRDS were the main promoters of the style by now, culminating with the superb "Eight Miles High" track with a lengthy (for the times) guitar solo of almost one minute. But countless other bands on the west coast, such as LOVE, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE (and later its spin-off HOT TUNA), GRATEFUL DEAD, QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE, PEARLS BEFORE SWINE, and TIM BUCKLEY all started in the folk rock realm. Even San Fran's SANTANA with its Latino traditional music and, on the east coast, NY's THE LOVING SPOONFUL had folk roots. Notwithstanding the immense popularity of SIMON & GARFUNKEL and their delicious harmonies, Folk Rock was appealing only to the rock public as the older generations turned their backs in folkies.

In the UK, following on their countrymen DONOVAN, many Scotsmen were very influent in exploring new grounds for folk rock: INCREDIBLE STRING BAND (led by Scots Palmer and Williamson) with their two highly influential albums "5000 Layers Or The Spirit Of The Onion" & "The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter" and THE PENTANGLE (led by other Scots Renbourn, Jansch and McShee and their superb bassist Danny Thompson) and its incredible fusion of folk, blues and jazz style were very instrumental in developing the style to the same extent as FAIRPORT CONVENTION and STRAWBS who by that time were still more conventional US "west-coast folk rock". The single artistes in folk rock became known as Folk Troubadours were also numerous and often presented a more progressive side of folk: AL STEWART, NICK DRAKE, ROY HARPER, TYRANOSAURUS REX (actually a duo of Steven Took and Marc Bolan) , JOHN MARTYN etc.

However, the real angular album that will lead to further change of Folk Rock is FAIRPORT CONVENTION's "Liege & Lief" album, that proved to be highly influential for another generation of groups: this album concentrated into electrifying seminal English traditional folk and retained that quaint Englishness taste. It is interesting to see that both leaders of FAIRPORT quit the band after this success to go their respective way: Sandy Denny to a solo folk songwriting career and Ashley Hutchings to a very traditional folk rock. By this time, most connoisseur were talking of Acid Folk, Psych Folk, and Progressive Folk, all having limited differences and no particularly drawn-out limits or boundaries, but all relying on experimental or groundbreaking adventures and good musicianship but not necessarily of an acoustic nature.

Groups like THE THIRD EAR BAND and QUINTESSENCE relied on eastern Indian music influences and, sometimes, medieval tones. Other groups like the weird COMUS, TREES, SPIROGYRA, FOREST, the superb JAN DUKES DE GREY but also TRADER HORNE, TUDOR LODGE, FOTHERINGAY, MAGNA CARTA, and TIR NA NOG were out to break new ground but with less commercial success as their predecessor. By 1972, all of the glorious precursors bands were selling fewer records and had problems renewing themselves and a newer generation of groups was relying in a more Celtic jigs or really traditional sounds. Such as HORSLIPS, DANDO SHAFT, STEELEYE SPAN, AMAZING BLONDEL, ALBION DANCE BAND and SPRIGUNS OF TOLGUS. Although JETHRO TULL had some definitive folk roots right from the start, their only albums that can be regarded as Prog Folk are 1977's Songs From The Woods and 1978's Heavy Horses. Ian Anderson (another Scots) was very keen in acoustical traditional songs. Some Folk Troubadours such as TIM BUCKLEY and JOHN MARTYN started turning records more and more axed towards fusing jazz and folk (a bit in what THE PENTANGLE were doing) , others became more and more electric and they started to be referred to as Singer Songwriters especially those with country rock influences.

In Germany, HOELDERLIN (and their fantastic debut album), EMTIDI, OUGENWEIDE, CAROL OF HARVEST, WITTHUSER & WESTRUPP were exploring German folk while KALACAKRA , SILOAH and EMBRYO were indulging with Indian music. In South America, most notably in Chile, LOS JAIVAS (very bent upon Andean Indian music) and CONGRESO (more Spanish-Latino folklore) were using folk in their rock, so much that some press talked about them referring it with the hateful term Inca Rock. In Quebec, the progressive movement exploded with the cultural identity and the Chansonniers tradition and this was carried out with LES SEGUIN and HARMONIUM and so many more. In France, many groups were out for folk rock such as CATHERINE RIBEIRO AND ALPES, TANGERINE, and ASGARD. In Spain, Flamenco playing a dominant role as well as Basque folk, TRIANA, ITOIZ and HAIZEA were the head of the movement once the Franco regime fell apart after his death.


There is also a very important medieval music influences dimension in some groups as the term Medieval Folk was also mentioned for a while but apparently dropped by musicologists. Among the UK groups are obviously GRYPHON, GENTLE GIANT and THIRD EAR BAND, in France: MALICORNE and RIPAILLE and in Scandinavia: ALGARNAS TRADGARD and FOLQUE.


Hugues Chantraine
with hyperlinks and updates by Ken Levine December 2017

Current Team as of December 2017

Bob Moore aka ClemofNazareth
Ken Levine aka Kenethlevine
Sean Trane

Prog Folk Top Albums


Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Prog Folk | More Top Prog lists and filters

4.63 | 3007 ratings
THICK AS A BRICK
Jethro Tull
4.34 | 2353 ratings
AQUALUNG
Jethro Tull
4.18 | 1283 ratings
SONGS FROM THE WOOD
Jethro Tull
4.27 | 182 ratings
ST. RADIGUNDS
Spirogyra
4.41 | 74 ratings
ERWARTUNG
Eden
4.21 | 293 ratings
ALTURAS DE MACHU PICCHU
Jaivas, Los
4.14 | 557 ratings
RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE
Gryphon
4.20 | 194 ratings
MICE AND RATS IN THE LOFT
Jan Dukes De Grey
4.14 | 496 ratings
FIRST UTTERANCE
Comus
4.16 | 296 ratings
HERO AND HEROINE
Strawbs
4.15 | 298 ratings
GRAVE NEW WORLD
Strawbs
4.05 | 1119 ratings
STAND UP
Jethro Tull
4.20 | 88 ratings
I A MOON
North Sea Radio Orchestra
4.42 | 39 ratings
LUCAS
Araújo, Marco Antônio
4.15 | 121 ratings
BELLS, BOOTS AND SHAMBLES
Spirogyra
4.08 | 269 ratings
THE HAZARDS OF LOVE
Decemberists, The
4.03 | 1048 ratings
HEAVY HORSES
Jethro Tull
4.15 | 110 ratings
BASKET OF LIGHT
Pentangle, The
4.03 | 1087 ratings
MINSTREL IN THE GALLERY
Jethro Tull
4.77 | 20 ratings
SECOS & MOLHADOS
Secos & Molhados

Prog Folk overlooked and obscure gems albums new


Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Prog Folk experts team

II - DEJANJE
Sedmina
NYA LJUDBOLAGET
Nya Ljudbolaget
THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX
Sad Minstrel
ODGIPIG
Sindelfingen

Latest Prog Folk Music Reviews


 Mice And Rats In The Loft by JAN DUKES DE GREY album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.20 | 194 ratings

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Mice And Rats In The Loft
Jan Dukes De Grey Prog Folk

Review by Progfan97402

5 stars If you were first exposed to Sorcerers, nothing's going to prepare you for Mice and Rats in the Loft. Sorcerers sounds like a positively ordinary psych folk album compared to this! Instead of a bunch of relatively short songs, this album consists of only three songs, the first piece taking up all of side one. The music really goes way beyond their debut in terms of ambition and complexity. "Sun Symphonica" may start off rather lightweight, but after a few minutes the band really gets to business. Lots of great use of percussion, acoustic guitar, mandolin, violin, sax, with some rather ominous lyrics with an ominous vibe going on. Lots of wonderful jams too. The next two are also equally complex and ambitious. These guys certainly didn't sit on their laurels in between the year between albums. As far as I'm concerned, the reputation of Jan Dukes de Grey rests on Mice and Rats in the Loft. This album really blew me away, and by far one of the best things I've heard off the Transatlantic label. You hadn't lived until you hear this!
 Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios by STRAWBS album cover Live, 1970
3.74 | 71 ratings

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Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Review Nş 163

'Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious' is the debut live album of Strawbs. It was at the same time their third album and was released in 1970 too. It was recorded at the Queen Elisabeth Hall in London. For their benefit, this album was released outside of the UK, including the USA, giving them the international exposure they needed. It might seem a bit strange that a live album be the first Strawbs' album and the people outside of the UK have heard about. It's a very special live album, because although it was recorded live, none of the tracks were released on any studio album before, except 'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth', originally released on their eponymous debut studio album 'Strawbs'.

The line up of the group had changed drastically in relation to their two previous studio albums. Only the two founder members Dave Cousins and Tony Hooper remained, Ron Chesterman and Claire Deniz left the group. The band had the addition of two other new members John Ford and Richard Hudson, and Rick Wakeman also became a full-time member of the group. So, the line up of the album is Dave Cousins (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and dulcimer), Tony Hooper (vocals, acoustic guitar and tambourine), Rick Wakeman (piano, organ, harpsichord and celeste), John Ford (bass guitar) and Richard Hudson (vocals, congas, percussion and sitar).

'Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious' has six tracks. All tracks were written by Cousins except 'Temperament Of Mind' which was written by Wakeman. The first track 'Martin Luther King's Dream' is, as its name says, a tribute to Martin Luther King and was obviously written about his 'I Have A Dream' speech. It's the shortest track on the album, a kind of a folk troubadour epic which benefits from the newly acquired rhythm section and backing vocals from John Ford and Richard Hudson and the brief performance from Rick Wakeman on organ. The second track 'The Antique Suite' is a song divided into four parts, 'The Reaper', 'We Must Cross The River', 'Antiques And Curious' and 'Hey It's Been A Long Time'. It was a song written about a doctor friend of Dave Cousins and his collection of antiques. It's the lengthiest musical piece on the album and it comes on the same vein of the two folk epics of their previous studio albums 'The Battle' and 'Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake'. It's an excellent piece of music, one of their best, and an excellent example of what is the early Strawbs' musical compendium. The third track 'Temperament Of Mind' is a completely different piece of music. This is a Rick Wakeman's classical piano solo piece of music which includes several quotes from several classical musical pieces. This was the piece of music that brought Rick Wakeman to the forefront of the rock scene and shows all the virtuosity, capacity and originality, of his music in the future. The fourth track 'Fingertips' was written about a very beautiful Swedish girl that Dave Cousins met on those days. It's a more experimental song, the only real psychedelic song on the album, and the use of a sitar gives to it some Oriental musical ambience. It's an incredible track where the intimate and almost reticent vocals from Dave Cousins with the intricate instrumental performances, especially the use of sitar and dulcimer, gives to the song the final perfect touch. This is a pure genius song, probably my favourite track on the album. The fifth track 'Song Of A Sad Little Girl' was written about Dave Cousins' little daughter, Joelle. It's a very nice song that shows some intricate acoustic guitar performed by Dave Cousins and also shows a perfect interplay between Rick Wakeman and Dave Cousins, which stands as one of the best examples of Rick Wakeman's integration with Strawbs. The sixth and last track 'Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth?', was a song released on their debut studio album 'Strawbs'. However, this live version of the original studio track may practically be considered a totally new song. The 3 minutes of the original version go to 9 minutes and it has also an extraordinary and killer performance of Rick Wakeman on keyboards. This is a perfect example how a simple and vulgar folk song can be transformed on a great folk progressive track. This is undoubtedly a truly great track.

Conclusion: 'Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious' is a great album and remains as one of the most memorable live performances made by the group. It isn't for sure their best or even a perfect album, but it's for sure their most pure, na've and probably the most beautiful musical working made by them. 'Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious' reminds me one of the earlier albums from Genesis, 'Trespass'. Both albums were released in the same year, both remain the sweetest, delicate, fragile, romantic, innocent, na've and pure albums from them and both represent the turning point into their musical careers. 'Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious' represents a wonderful evening with a superb acoustic concert and where a certain unknown Rick Wakeman made his first memorable performance on a live set. This album represents also the turning point on band's music, where the bluegrass, folk and medieval band, moved to a progressive rock band, in my opinion, in one of the best British progressive rock groups that ever existed.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 La Vieille Que L'on Brűla by RIPAILLE album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.45 | 35 ratings

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La Vieille Que L'on Brűla
Ripaille Prog Folk

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

3 stars It never ceases to amaze me how many progressive bands carried on after the first wave of prog's peak popularity that started waning big time with the advent of punk and disco. Many of these feisty groups were determined to get their product out and often released one or two albums and then disappeared into the annals of historic obscurity. France's RIPAILLE was one of countless such bands who released one album and called it a day. This band emerged from Nantes, France and released a diverse palette of proggy delights on their only album LA VIEILLE QUE L'ON BRŰLA (translates into "The old woman who got burned." The album came out in 1977 just when the Sex Pistols and Saturday Night Fever were changing the music scene, so this album never had a chance in the shuffle but clearly shows more of an allegiance to the early 70s than forward looking into the latter half.

While only consisting of nine tracks, LA VIEILLE QUE L'ON BRŰLA cranks out very different sounding compositions ranging from the Medieval prog folk sounds of Gryphon such as on "La Veuve de Nicolas Kremer", "Epilogue" and "Le Jardin des Plaisirs" to the theatrical Ange flavored ones that occur on Satané Jardin" and "Le Sabbat des Sorcičres." The Ange effect is on full display when the vocals are the star with that same sort of shouting madman rant dominating the scene however on instrumental workouts such as on the title track there are a lot of nods to the more eclectic side of Gentle Giant as well. The music is quite dynamic as there are eleven musicians on board cranking out all kinds of instrumental flavors with not only a the expected guitar, bass and drums but heavy symphonic prog keyboards, accordion, alt sax and a huge number of percussive instrumentation.

RIPAILLE certainly cranked out the worthy obscurity to check out however the band hadn't quite simmered down all their influences into a cohesively interesting and totally original excogitation quite yet but they were clearly onto something as certain tracks like "La Verve de Nicole" manage to implement the Medieval Gryphon type vibe with a more pastoral symphonic prog folk that feels more like English prog than French, however the lyrics all sung in French bringing the Ange connection into play display a very unique Anglo-friendly version of Gallic fusion. That tracks is one of the best as it meanders on into a psychedelic symphonically dominated frenzy that fits in well with the album cover imagery. If only the entire album would have been this mature and focused it would have been substantially better.

While not a perfect album, this one has a lot of musical treats on it to recommend. While all the influences are worn proudly on their sleeves, RIPAILLE did churn out a very interesting mix of them all. LA VIEILLE QUE L'ON BRŰLA is roughly a 50 / 50 mix of progressive folk and heavier rock in the vein of Gentle Giant. All lyrics are in French and this was probably never heard outside of their homeland until the advent of the internet although the album saw a second coming when it was released on the Musea label in 1997. Perhaps one more complaint is that the electric piano can present a rather harsh bombastic tone at times as well as moments of oom-pa-pa polka flavored music peeking in from time time. While a sophomore releases surely would've corrected a lot of the rough draft ideas that are presented on LA VIEILLE QUE L'ON BRŰLA, sadly it was never to be leaving this sole album as the only evidence that the band RIPAILLE ever existed.

3.5 but misses enough marks for me to round up

 Mundos Bizarros by FLOR DE LOTO album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.75 | 43 ratings

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Mundos Bizarros
Flor de Loto Prog Folk

Review by TenYearsAfter

3 stars This Peruvian formation was founded in the late Nineties, in 2005 Flor De Loto released their eponymous debut album, two years later followed by Madre Tierra and in 2009 the band released their third studio album entitled Mundos Bizarros. I have listened to all their three albums and in my opinion this is their best and most mature effort. What a captivating and often exiting progressive blend of prog and ethnic music from Peru.

The 13 tracks (total running time more than 1 hour) contain a lot of dynamics, due to the frequent shifting moods, accelerations and breaks: from dreamy and hypnotizing with soaring flute (like the ethnic quena) and twanging acoustic guitars to powerful and heavy rock with fiery guitar run, swirling flute traverse and a propulsive rhythm- section, This is topped by excellent Spanish vocals, both male as female. The one moment the music evokes the Chilean Los Jaivas or Dutch prog folk band Flairck. The other moment it reminds me of Jethro Tull, Biglietto Per L'Inferno or Rush (the final part of Volver A Nacer sounds very close to 2112).

In my opinion this third Flor De Loto album is a strong example of adventurous and interesting progrock music. I don't hear keyboards, neither these are mentioned on the album. But the guitar play is very good in the strong rock tradition, the interplay with the other instruments (lots of ethnic sounds) is great and the compositions are very tasteful arranged. Especially the epic title track in which we can enjoy Flor De Loto in its full splendour, what a thrilling atmosphere, what a great dynamics. And I love the duo vocals, a big hand for this wonderful Peruvian formation!

Meanwhile Flor De Loto have produced another four studio albums and one live record, all well received album looking at the ratings. Their latest entitled Arbol De La Vida is from 2016, so hopefully Flor De Loto is working on a new album ' My rating: 3,5 star.

 The Clash of Ages by GORGO album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.00 | 1 ratings

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The Clash of Ages
Gorgo Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars Ukrainian band GORGO's second album is like the mirror image of their first, "Once Upon a Time". Early on it is more electronic, suggesting a new philosophy, coinciding with their wider distribution on Musea. Not that this has resulted in a flood of English or Euro reviews mind you. Like the first, it's essentially all instrumental.

While the title implies a tense dance between tradition and modernity, in most tracks one wins out over the other, For the first few, the old school is rarely in evidence beyond a few motifs that might be drawn from a synthesizer board or a shading on traditional instrumentation. The overall sound is dark wave/industrial, with myriad percussion and rhythm guitars hastening breathlessly to some finish line. that's a bit too far in the future. Still, the opening track is a superb MOODY BLUES on steroids romp.

The latter half of the album glances backwards, like the Celtic sounding "Road to Lubetch" with its pipe-like melody, and the wonderful Klezmer-Celtic blend of the closing number "Dance Tonight Die Tomorrow". The other soft tracks like "Morning Star" are more ambient than pastoral.

Initially my assessment of this disk was less favorable than the first, and it does seem even more schizophrenic, but you are bound to find at least some of it to your taste. Personally I think it would have been better to combine the mellower numbers on one album and the more frantic ones on another, but that would have effectively severed the chain between the two. Perhaps on the next release they can better blend their disparate passions, so that the clash is more within than between.

 Once Upon a Time by GORGO album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Once Upon a Time
Gorgo Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

— First review of this album —
3 stars Is there a separate internet for the Ukraine, or for music from the Ukraine? Perhaps searches using Cyrillic would yield more than a terse and inadequate bio for GORGO, most of which is concentrated on their second release via Musea Records. While I cannot find any Latin alphabet reviews for "Once upon a time", one well worn cliche deserves another: the music on this instrumental production speaks for itself.

Without the benefit of the instrument list let alone credits, I can describe this as generally pastoral chamber prog with plenty of flute and oboe along with strings and prominent bass, perhaps of the acoustic variety. Winds from across Asia, Africa and the Middle East are swept into the mix. The themes are relatively simple without being simplistic, but "Orch" is a bit too Bolero-like, leaving me to wonder if other composers are also targets. The succinctness of "Tiny Greatness" draws me in the most, with a fragile then dancing flute over acoustic guitar, working in some unobtrusive organ and harp along the way. Similar to HOSTSONATEN's seasonal works, I find GORGO a less frustrating listen, more successfully negotiating the at times disparate influences.

More electronic elements blend in as the album matures, taking a shape that would become more familiar on the following album. These include synthesizers, even a quavering mellotron perhaps on "Toy", and an arsenal of percussion on the closing number. The moody "Crusade" is not without similarities to eventual label mates ARTSRUNI who interestingly released an album called "Cruzaid" some years ago. ATILA KOLLAR also comes to mind.

While not as earth shattering as earth spanning, "Once Upon a Time" is a promising start to an eclectic story, but where it leads and ends is anyone's guess.

 Thick As A Brick 2 [Aka: TAAB2] by ANDERSON, IAN album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.73 | 390 ratings

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Thick As A Brick 2 [Aka: TAAB2]
Ian Anderson Prog Folk

Review by Jzrk

4 stars I'm not looking to write an extensive album review here. I have read a lot of the reviews here on site.I just wanted to say that I had listened to this when it came out being a big fan of the original.2 is a pretty good album and follow up to the original after all these years.Could it have been better?Yes.But I think over all it happens to keep the spirit of the original and offer up some of that good old Tull like instrumentation and Ian's witty folk vibe.So worth an occasional listen to when I am in that Tull mood.I happened to listen to Homo Eraticus lately which brought me back to this again.I have read a lot of here like Homo Eraticus better than this,but for me I like this a little better.Maybe because it is pretty much Tull full on.
 David Clark Allen: Widescreen by CARMEN album cover Studio Album, 2007
2.92 | 15 ratings

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David Clark Allen: Widescreen
Carmen Prog Folk

Review by poito

2 stars Who knows why David Allen revived the name of the band. This is not even close. He is the only member left of the original band and the music is totally unrelated. This is allen acoustic/Spanish guitar playing solo or with occasional support by others, but the music is New Age type, introspective, just for his glory and fun. It may fit ambient or landscape stuff, for inattentive listeners. Not of the like of Progheads. I'm afraid he did the move to promote the remastered copies of the original band, which is worth a visit, but not this one that targets other audience.
 The Gypsies by CARMEN album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.25 | 35 ratings

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The Gypsies
Carmen Prog Folk

Review by poito

3 stars Third release of the Americans that loved Flamenco. For those who never checked Carmen before, the band plays a free style Prog Rock Fusion of the mid 70's that includes plenty of Flamenco elements. This album contains more melodic themes with plenty of choral work, tinted with glam. Choral singing has been a main feature of the band, but in this occasion it is less effective than before, it comes to tiring. The themes are instrumentally attractive, but the voices don't let space to enjoy the instruments. Definitely this is one of clear example where unnecessary voices derailed a good project. This probably was an influence of their friends Bowie, Ferry and company. A pity because I think the band had reached maturity and the music was beginning to be consistent and with a uniform personality. But they bet it all on voices, and I think they lost the game. The most accomplished theme is the album title, an extraordinary 7 min long that blends rock music and flamenco percussion beautifully in a slow and rather dramatic melody that is run by a great solo work at the guitar. This would have been a good path to follow.
 A by JETHRO TULL album cover Studio Album, 1980
3.21 | 554 ratings

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A
Jethro Tull Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars My first taste of the "A" album by Jethro Tull came via listening to "Working John, Working Joe" on one of NYC's FM stations sometime in 1980. It sounded solid and refreshing, especially after the staid "Stormwatch" and the lackluster "Heavy Horses". Don't get me wrong, as both albums were chock full of quality songs but they just seemed to lack the fire and inspiration of the stellar hit album "Songs From The Wood" released previously to both album by Tull in 1977.

I believe that the backstory of "A" is pretty well known. A proposed solo album by Anderson with backing from prog alumni Eddie Jobson (ex UK and Roxy Music) and ex Fairport Convention bassist Dave Pegg with drums handled by an American mate of Jobson named Mark Carney. The only other current Tull member, aside from Anderson, to participate was the erstwhile Martin Barre. And supposedly, that's were the all drama originates from, as Tull's record label Chrysalis wanted the album put out as a Jethro Tull release as it at least featured both Anderson and Barre from the former incarnation of Tull. Tull bassist Dave Glascock had sadly passed away just after Stormwatch was recorded and super drummer Barry Barlow no longer wanted to play. So, dual keyboardists John Evan and David Palmer were excised from Jethro Tull for the sake of good business sense. At least that's, more or less the official version from Ian.

On to the music on "A". Without doubt, Jobson could almost be the co creator of "A's" magnificent sound. A combination of his unique sythn tones and playing style is perfectly and sympathetically meshed with Anderson's harmonic and melodic genius. Using near Styx styled synth melodies matched up with quirky but subtle synthesized atmospheric embellishments, Jobson lives a modern (for Tull!) sounding sonic template that's mated perfectly with Barre's own atmospheric and slightly quirky guitar playing. Jobson also adds his electric violin to two songs with all manner phasing, delay and echo while still remaining absolutely grounded in the song's folk based melodies and stance.

Drummer Carney, while being no match for the proceeding prog fueled drumming of Barlow, still holds his own with a more rock orientated sound and playing style that's greatly enhanced by being loudly recorded with tons of reverb applied by studio means. His exhausting playing is a major feature of every song on the album and does make "A" sound somewhat one dimensional. Ah, but what a dimension to be stuck in! With Pegg's rubbery bass playing and many stop-start rhythm passages and breaks, trying to remember any one song absolutely is nearly impossible. And that says quite a lot for an album that's made up of ten 4-6 minute songs!

Standouts include "Flyingdale Flyer", "Working John, Working Joe (in which Anderson resurrects his multi tracked chorus vocals from "Songs From The Wood)", "Black Sunday (in which Anderson tempts his abilty to breath while singing run on song verses ad infintium)", "Black Sunday", "Protect And Serve (featuring a tour deforce of synths and piano from Jobson)", "Uniform" and the truly prog folk of "Pine Martin's Jig", in which Jobson smokes his electric fiddle. Only "Batteries Not Included" , which is too cute for it's own good, and the workman like "4 W.D. (low ratio)" seem week to me, but quite tolerable.

If I have a criticism of "A", it's only that the lack of a break in the music's non stop rapid fire delivery for something acousticly soothing as a palette cleanser seems remise. After all, "A" is a creation of the acoustic based Anderson, be it a veiled Anderson solo album or a true Jethro Tull project. Regardless, the music is killer. So, damn it, I like it. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

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Prog Folk bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
0.720 ALEACION Mexico
3 DAFT MONKEYS United Kingdom
AALTO Finland
RABIH ABOU-KHALIL Lebanon
ACCOLADE United Kingdom
ACCOLADE United States
ADARO Germany
AFFORESTED United Kingdom
AFION Croatia
AGAPE Canada
AGINCOURT United Kingdom
AIGUES VIVES Germany
AKTUALA Italy
NICU ALIFANTIS Romania
ALMÔNDEGAS Brazil
ALVA Multi-National
AMANITA Italy
AMAROK Spain
AMAZING BLONDEL United Kingdom
AMBER United Kingdom
AN DRO Germany
ANACRUSA Argentina
IAN ANDERSON United Kingdom
THE ANGELS OF LIGHT United States
ANNAMY Sweden
APARECIDOS Multi-National
AQUAPLAN Finland
AQUARIUM Russia
DAN AR BRAZ France
MARCO ANTÔNIO ARAÚJO Brazil
DAN ARBORISE United Kingdom
THE ARBORISTS Canada
ARIA PALEA Italy
ARMY OF BRIARS United Kingdom
ARTSRUNI Armenia
ASGARD France
ASHADA Japan
ASHTAR Brazil
ASI SOMOS Puerto Rico
ATMAN Poland
AUCAN Argentina
AVALANCHE Netherlands
AVE SANGRIA Brazil
AZAHAR Spain
BABADAG Poland
BABY WHALE Multi-National
BAMBIR / THE BAMBIR Armenia
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