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PROG FOLK

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Prog Folk definition

In the wake of the 60's, 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 "Chansoniers" 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 THE 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, THE TREES, SPIROGYRA, FOREST, the superb JAN DUKES DE GREY (all listed in the ProgArchives) but also TRADER HORNE, TUDOR LODGE, FOTHERINGAY, MAGNA CARTA, TIR NA NOG (all of whom could also be in the ProgArchives) 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 77's Songs From The Woods and 78'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, WITTHEUSER & 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 EL CONGRESSO (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 Chansoniers 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 RIBEIRO ALPS, 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

Current Team as of January 1, 2015

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 | 2746 ratings
THICK AS A BRICK
Jethro Tull
4.33 | 2128 ratings
AQUALUNG
Jethro Tull
4.16 | 1154 ratings
SONGS FROM THE WOOD
Jethro Tull
4.19 | 265 ratings
ALTURAS DE MACCHU PICCHU
Jaivas, Los
4.40 | 57 ratings
ERWARTUNG
Eden
4.14 | 450 ratings
FIRST UTTERANCE
Comus
4.20 | 164 ratings
ST. RADIGUNDS
Spirogyra
4.15 | 269 ratings
GRAVE NEW WORLD
Strawbs
4.12 | 505 ratings
RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE
Gryphon
4.17 | 181 ratings
MICE AND RATS IN THE LOFT
Jan Dukes De Grey
4.15 | 262 ratings
HERO AND HEROINE
Strawbs
4.55 | 30 ratings
LUCAS
Araujo, Marco Antonio
4.04 | 1005 ratings
STAND UP
Jethro Tull
4.07 | 257 ratings
THE HAZARDS OF LOVE
Decemberists, The
4.16 | 95 ratings
BASKET OF LIGHT
Pentangle, The
4.14 | 108 ratings
BELLS, BOOTS AND SHAMBLES
Spirogyra
4.02 | 1194 ratings
A PASSION PLAY
Jethro Tull
4.02 | 938 ratings
HEAVY HORSES
Jethro Tull
4.13 | 100 ratings
EZEKIEL
Itoiz
4.00 | 970 ratings
MINSTREL IN THE GALLERY
Jethro Tull

Prog Folk overlooked and obscure gems albums new


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

NYA LJUDBOLAGET
Nya Ljudbolaget
ODGIPIG
Sindelfingen
A CANDLE FOR JUDITH
Way We Live, The
THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX
Sad Minstrel

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Latest Prog Folk Music Reviews


 Gryphon by GRYPHON album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.33 | 162 ratings

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Gryphon
Gryphon Prog Folk

Review by ALotOfBottle

4 stars Gryphon was formed in the early seventies, soon after two graduates of Royal Academy of Music, a multiinstrumentalist Richard Harvey and a woodwind player Brian Gulland, met, finding a mutual approach to music. The duo played a few local concerts and were soon joined by a guitarist Graeme Taylor and a drummer and percussionist Dave Oberlé. In March of 1973, the quartet entered the studio to record the first tracks for what would become their self-titled debut album, which was released in June of the same year under the Transatlantic label. The cover art, portraying a mighty, masculine creature, half an eagle, half a lion, Gryphon, was designed by Transatlantic's artist, Dan Pearce.

Since its very first days, Gryphon's aim was to put the original English folk of the middle ages and renaissance into the framework of modern folk music, reminiscent of the sixties folk revival, artists like Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, and even Bob Dylan. The results are absolutely charming. The interplay of a wide plethora of instruments like recorders, flutes, crumhorns, a bassoon, a mandolin, a guitar, a harpsichord, a harmonium, organ, and various percussion instruments gives the album a rich, majestic sound. Furthermore, Gryphon is dripping with cascading, labyrinthine arrangements. Everything, as technical and sophisticated as it could be, is often executed in a tongue-in-cheek manner. All these elements do not give an impression of overabundance. Everything seems to have its own place in the musical layers, while the minimalistic factor makes Gryphon's material sound authentic. The emotion, character, spirit, and atmosphere of this album are dense enough to fire up listener's imagination and put their "alter ego" on a busy street of the 14th century London. With this release, Gryphon created an image of medieval troubadours with incredible instrumental skill.

What undoubtedly shaped Gryphon's sound to a high degree, was its members' classical training. The previously mentioned variety of wind instruments works in favor of the band's unique sound. The instruments are played with great precision and passion. Dave Oberlé's percussion playing is versatile, he finds himself incredibly proficient in rapid rhythmic play on many types of drums at once. While a good most of folk bands at the time usually used two acoustic guitars, Gryphon only needed one - Graeme Taylor's traditional, percussive style covers all guitar parts needed. Harmony vocals, which play a crucial role in the band's sound, range from deep, washy bass, to baritone, to a high, tounge-in-cheek, almost Monty Python-like countertenor.

The album opens with an instrumental piece "Kemp's Jig". Although the title suggests so, this is not a jig in the traditional meaning of the word. Nonetheless, it proficiently sets up the right atmosphere for the rest of the album. "Sir Gavin Grimbold" is the most comedic of the songs, telling a story of an adventurer, who set out on a journey never to be seen again. "Three Jolly Butchers" is quite similar in appeal, showcasing the fantastic harmony vocals of the band's members. "The Unquiet Grave" is less cheerful than the previous tracks, with its meditative, pastoral feel. "Juniper Suite" is in fact not a suite, but only a five minute track with great interaction of various wind instruments and a moody harpsichord. "The Devil and the Farmer's Wife" is another comedic, short-format story song, which closes the album with a quick allusion to Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" on harmonium.

Gryphon are most often associated with their instrumental 1974 release Red Queen to Gryphon Three, which showcased the more classical-oriented, electric folk sound. However, just one year before that, the group had recorded their all-acoustic self-titled debut. It could shortly be described as an incredibly moody take on music of the middle ages and renaissance. The album is an incredibly pleasing journey through medieval England and should be a pleasing experience for folk fans! Highly recommended!

 Threnodies by MESSENGER album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.03 | 18 ratings

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Threnodies
Messenger Prog Folk

Review by Angelo
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

4 stars When Messenger appeared on the musical stage in 2012, they claimed to be influenced mainly by folk rock and progressive psychedelia. I haven't heard their first album, released in 2014, which seemed to live up to that statement. However, their 2016 release Threnodies does the same, adding what could be best described as metal influences here and there.

The album, entitled Threnodies (payers for the dead), was written and recorded at the end of 2015, and the title and music were partly inspired by the Paris shootings, during the Eagles of Death Metal gig at the Bataclan.

The first track, Calyx is an instant claim to attention. The slow, atmospheric first half changes it's rhythm a few times almost unnoticeably. It makes the listener at ease, with the soothing combined vocals of Khaled Low and Barnaby Madock, when suddenly a synth and a rolling drum and bass pattern come in, quickly joined by guitar and keyboards to create a musical storm - waking us up to what is yet to come.

On Oracles of War this continues, a track that starts with a dark guitar and then speeds up rapidly in a way that is influenced by Black Sabbath, according to the press release that came with my promo copy, but it could just as easily be influenced by early Deep Purple. The track slows down, back into the psychedelic, early 70s Pink Floyd realm half way, making it into a very enjoyable and varied piece of music. The slow, melodic guitar solo near the end proofs that point perfectly.

The band proofs itself further on the rest of the album. Balearic Blue reminds me of Pink Floyd again, but with an early Porcupine Tree flavour added. On Celestial Spheres, the pulsing bass intro makes me expect someone to shout "One of these days?", which of course doesn't happen, although it is joined soon by a very Floydian guitar soon. The music on this one goes straight into the psychedelic region again, with the two vocalists working tighter again very nicely. Somehow, the way they cooperate reminds me of IZZ, another great band I discovered only recently and far too late. Halfway, a bit of grinding bass adds darkness underneath the clean guitars introducing a nice twist into a slightly heavier sound.

Nocturne lives up to its name, with a pulsing bass and guitar and slightly haunting vocal harmonies. The guitar solo on this one works really well, giving a slight folky feel without loosing the dark edge of the music.

On Pareidolia, the band takes us to the early 70s hard rock sound again, with the first half alternating between this and a more friendly, almost folky sound. The second half of the track is a more psychedelic sound scape again, almost as an intro to the soft, melodic - almost bluesy Crown of Ashes. It has a slight folk ring to it as well, but is more powerful than the works of Aďnulindalë, whose album I reviewed last month.

This band had not appeared on my radar until the promo of this one landed in my digital inbox, but I'm definitely going to check out their debut album as well after hearing this. Warmly recommended.

Also published on my blog www.angelosrockorphanage.com

 Florasongs by DECEMBERISTS, THE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2015
2.00 | 1 ratings

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Florasongs
The Decemberists Prog Folk

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
2 stars You might have thought his long sabbatical after recording 'The King is Dead' would have given Colin Meloy enough time to recharge his creative batteries. That hope was quickly spoiled by the release of 'What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World' in 2015: an album sounding like the flotsam of earlier, unrealized projects, exhumed from the bottom drawer of Meloy's songwriting cabinet.

Predictably, this modest collection of leftovers from the same studio sessions appeared shortly afterward: in effect an EP of outtakes from an album of outtakes. If nothing else, the five songs here marked a full-circle retreat to the unremarkable Indie Rock of the '5 Songs' EP from 2001, in retrospect hardly a Decemberists classic but at least showing some of the youthful aspirations missing from the band's current efforts.

After fifteen years of escalating success the group now sounds a bit jaded, content to rest on their wilting laurels. 'Riverswim' is a pretty song, once again mining the same vein of faux-Americana exploited for 'The King is Dead' a half-decade earlier. 'Fits and Starts' presents another plagiarized R.E.M.-style rocker, one of many already dotting the Decemberist landscape. There's even a song titled 'Stateside', by coincidence (or maybe not) a bookend reflection of the '5 Songs' ballad 'Oceanside'.

Even the signature vocal tremolo of Meloy, so distinctive when he's singing about 'brickbats and Bowery toughs', is fast becoming a tiresome affectation. The Decemberists certainly deserve all the acclaim their music has earned them in the past. But with the eclecticism long gone, and with Meloy complacently treading very shallow water, it might be time to admit his band's best years are behind them.

 Benefit by JETHRO TULL album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.92 | 846 ratings

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Benefit
Jethro Tull Prog Folk

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

5 stars Coming off a 30 week tour of the US with bands like Led Zeppelin, Grand Funk Railroad, Creedence Clearwater and even Blood, Sweat & Tears and with constant pressures from the record company to engage in incessant radio interviews following the success of 'Stand Up,' Ian Anderson returned back to his native England and began writing new material for the third JETHRO TULL album BENEFIT. After the grueling touring schedule Anderson states that this album is much darker as a result of his cynicism with his frustration with the music industry. This album also develops the band's sound to the more classic period with the addition of classically trained keyboardist John Evan who added a new element to that band that kept the melody churning allowing Martin Barre the luxury to focus on his famous monophonic riffs and guitar solos instead of being limited to merely strumming chords and this is the point is where all the elements stack up side by side to create that instantly recognizable JETHRO TULL sound. While Evan's intent was to join on a temporary basis, things worked out so well that he stuck around for ten whole years.

BENEFIT continues the folk elements with strong songwriting, addictive melodic developments and the beautiful poetic adroit vocal suaveness of Ian Anderson's vocal style accompanied by his signature flute fills, however the addition of the keys and Barre's new freedom to expand his guitar duties make this a much harder rocking album than 'Stand Up.' A whole new layer has debuted here adding to an already rich tapestry of sounds. The band expands these elements with ease. They figured out right from the start how to meld all the folk and rock elements together in a seamless manner and alternate the soft passages with the harder edged ones. There is not a bad song on this one and this is actually one of my favorite JT albums. Starting with the very first echoing flute sounds that begin the album, Anderson kicks off the album with his saturnine singing style and the melodies unfold with addictive verses and chorus' that flow together so flawlessly with bridges and unexpected yet pleasing transitions. I have always considered Ian Anderson to be one of the best songwriters out there and on these early albums he just shines like the brightest supernova in the distant universe.

Because record companies were totally evil back then (or are they still?), they decided to complicate things and there were two versions of the album. The usual one for the UK and one for the US. While not as ridiculously complex as Beatles or Rolling Stones album, the UK version contains the track 'Alive And Well And Living In' whereas the US version doesn't but rather has the track 'Teacher' and vice versa. Luckily the remastered CD version has the whole kit and caboodle and bonus tracks to boot. BENEFIT is just bereft of any flaws in my opinion. Every track just hooks the listener and takes you to that special JT universe where you can escape into the seductive song structures where guitar riffs conjure up your inner rowdy rocker while the calming keys and flute solos take you on a folky sojourn through the pastoral lands of rural England. BENEFIT is a strong album that has been perhaps one of the most listened to on my playing list. This album may be written off by some as a mere practice session for the even better albums like 'Aqualung' and 'Thick As A Brick' which were just around the corner and true this doesn't quite hit high on the progometer quite yet, but the melodies, musicianship and strong performances make this one a very slick and savvy listen nonetheless. Just as enjoyable as the classics that follow IMHO. 4.5 rounded UP!

 Bröselmaschine by BRÖSELMASCHINE album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.83 | 56 ratings

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Bröselmaschine
Bröselmaschine Prog Folk

Review by ALotOfBottle

4 stars At the turn of the seventies, Germany witnessed a radical musical revolution, which would fructify in a genre that we currently know as krautrock or kosmische musik. The term "krautfolk" was recently created to describe the German bands of the time, which based on influences of folk music and prominently used folk instrumentation. Bröselmaschine is commonly known as one of the most representative bands of the narrow sub-genre. The group was formed in Duisburg in 1969 by vocalists and guitarists Peter Busch and Willi Kismer, a female vocalist and flautist Jenni Schucker, a bassist Lutz Ringer and a percussionist Mike Hellbach. Two years later, the quintet recorded their self-titled debut album.

The impact of the sixties folk revival on later hippie folk acts, such as Fairport Convention, Pentangle or Lindisfarne, was undeniable. Bröselmaschine's style relies heavily on its legacy, but adds various their own original elements. The group's pastoral, meditative sound is enriched with influences of Indian raga, Celtic chants, and European art music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. In addition, the album tends to have a strong trance-like feel, which becomes evident on lengthy and dynamically varied instrumental passages with detectable psychedelic hints. Even with so many original ingredients and such a fresh feel, the release's style does not sound unfamiliar.

Bröselmaschine's debut is dominated by gentle, feminine instrumentation. The great interaction of two acoustic guitars is supported by exotic sounds of sitar, tabla, congas and percussive, celestial sounds of a traditional European zither. Other unorthodox instruments include spoons used as percussion, a metallophon, and shells. Mike Hellbach's Mellotron plays an important role on distant, dreamy passages. Classic acid folk sounds are delivered through high-pitched flute sounds and harmony vocals of Peter Bursch, Willi Kismer, and Jenni Schucker. Electric instruments are rather rare with an exception of an electric bass and Willi Kismer's overdriven wah-wah guitar fills appearing from time to time. The overall impression one will highly likely get is that the musicians work together effectively and professionally.

The album is relatively short, with a time frame of only 35 minutes. It comprises six tracks, each with a slightly different feel. The opening piece, "Gedanken", is based on a lament bass pattern and is kept in a rather melancholic mood. "Lassie" is a ballad having a much brighter sound than the previous song. "Gitarrenstuck" is somewhat of a duel between two guitars of Peter Bursch and Willi Kismer without any help from other instruments. "The Old Man's Song" opens with a catchy motif, which returns after dreamy instrumental passages. "Schmetterling" has a very distinct, trance-like flavor, reflected in exotic-sounding jams. This track is probably the most representative of the whole release. "Nossa Bova" closes the album with an intricate meditative theme.

Bröselmaschine is one of countless bands that did not manage to leave a significant mark despite their original and worthwhile material. The band's self-titled debut album is an excellent example of German folk with psychedelic piquancy, somewhat reminiscent of krautrock. By no means a must-have, but well worth your listen. Recommended!

 What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World by DECEMBERISTS, THE album cover Studio Album, 2015
2.72 | 26 ratings

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What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World
The Decemberists Prog Folk

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

2 stars The first Decemberists album after a four-year recess continued in the same, mainstream direction as "The King is Dead", to the dismay of anyone who, like me, first discovered the group through their ambitious "The Hazards of Love" project in 2009. Since then the band has retooled its idiosyncratic style in pursuit of a more commercial muse, playing shorter songs with fewer eccentricities, explicitly tailored for lower common denominator NPR airplay.

There's nothing wrong with that. When properly motivated, Colin Meloy can write incredibly well-crafted pop songs ("Make You Better") and lovely acoustic ballads ("Lake Song", and is that a Mellotron I hear over the chorus?). But the material here sounds oddly disengaged, lacking even the lightweight thread of backwoods Americana that held the "King" album loosely together.

"We had to change some", Meloy insists at the start of the album, in a narcissistic ditty transparently named "The Singer Addresses His Audience". The author denies any autobiographical bias, but I don't believe it: he's too smart not to realize the song plays like a slap in the face to longtime fans who treasured the band's originality. We get it, Colin: you've outgrown that trademark antique Victorian charm and tongue-in-cheek narrative whimsy. Change is good, but not when you're defending your weakest album to date (and still performing "The Mariner's Revenge Song" on stage).

Ironically, "The Singer Addresses..." is by far the album's strongest track: a thrilling return to form, at least musically. Elsewhere the songs too often go in one ear and out the other, and thankfully too: "Easy Come, Easy Go", as Meloy sings in the (almost) catchy rocker of the same name. That old-thyme American folk sound from "The King is Dead" resurfaces in "Carolina Low" and "Better Not Wake the Baby" (what was that you said about needing to change, Colin..?) And the band hits rock bottom in the twin nadirs of "Cavalry Captain" and "Philomena", the former sounding not unlike the worst of '80s Phil Collins (but with pithier lyrics), and the latter a fluffy pop nonentity with atypically smarmy lyrics unworthy of the pen that wrote "The Crane Wife".

Let's hope such a unique songwriter, who describes himself (in "Lake Song") as being at one time "seventeen and terminally fey", soon grows tired of career-building and reconnects with the buoyant spirit of his wayward youth.

 Solomon's Seal by PENTANGLE, THE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.24 | 26 ratings

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Solomon's Seal
The Pentangle Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The final album of Pentangle's original incarnation gets short shrift, but I actually quite like it. Yes, the band sound weary here - and it's not hard to imagine why if you know about the interpersonal strife within the group and the legal and contractual issues they were having - but I actually think the weariness adds something to the sound of the album, a sort of wistful sadness shot through with the occasional hot dose of bitterness which adds texture to the proceedings. Otherwise, it's business as usual, competently delivered and tastefully accomplished. It wasn't enough to save the band, but it's more than enough to keep me happy.
 Fřrt Bak Lyset by TUSMŘRKE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.82 | 19 ratings

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Fřrt Bak Lyset
Tusmřrke Prog Folk

Review by Progfan97402

4 stars Third full album from Tusmřrke and it's a great on. Their previous album Riset Bak Spielet featured some great material, but it got bogged down with "Black Swift" and "All is Lost", songs that were a tad repetitive and going on too long, especially "Black Swift", easily my least favorite from these guys. Fřrt Bak Lyset fixed whatever flaws on their predecessor, and make it their best since their debut Underjordisk Tusmřrke. Here they sing all in their native Norwegian. Marxo Solinas aka Lars Fredrik Frřislie brings his analog gears, even the occasional Chamberlin and Mellotron. There is less reminders of Jethro Tull this time around, but the flute is still present. I really got a kick off "Ekebergkongen" where the flute quotes Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King". I knew their music frequently got me thinking of Grieg, this time they actually quote Grieg. Helps that "Ekebergkong" translates something like "The King of Ekeberg" (Ekeberg is a neighborhood in Oslo, so obviously these guys aren't taking themselves too seriously). The music still has that wonderful mystic fairytale vibe with a Nordic feel to it. I still have trouble understanding the Canterbury and Krautrock acts these guys were frequently compared to, to me they're basically a psychedelic band that incorporates folk and prog elements, but comparing them to Can or Amon Duul II, that I don't understand. Maybe a bit of Caravan had they been Nordic (the vocals sound a tad like a Scandinavian Richard Sinclair). Jethro Tull and Black Widow I understand more clearly.

I also really get a kick off the cover, a toad eating pills, probably uppers or downers. Another example of the band not taking themselves always serious.

I am so glad this music exists in 2016, and it's probably destined to me one of my favorites this year. This is something I can highly recommend.

 Mice And Rats In The Loft by JAN DUKES DE GREY album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.17 | 181 ratings

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

Review by ALotOfBottle

5 stars In 1968, Jan Dukes De Grey was formed in Leeds as a duo consisting of a wind player Michael Bairstow and a guitarist and vocalist Derek Noy. The two quickly made a name for themselves in the English folk underground. By the end of 1969, their debut album Sorcerers was released and they were soon joined by a drummer Denis Conlan. The band got a chance to open for acts such as Pink Floyd and The Who. In 1971, the trio recorded Mice And Rats In The Loft, released on the Transatlantic label.

The band's second release, Mice And Rats In The Loft consists of three tracks. The album starts out with the side-long epic "Sun Symphonica", which highlights all basic ingredients that contribute to the album's unique sound. The feel of the track is very ominous and every instrument has its very own part there. Side B features two pieces: "Call Of The Wild" and the title track "Mice And Rats In The Loft". The songs are very diverse without becoming inconsistent.

The music of Jan Dukes De Grey comprises influences of English folk music, root blues, and contemporary acid folk with psychedelic coloring. One can also notice Indian music influences, which give the release a trippy, trance-like feel. The mood of Mice And Rats In The Loft is dark and sinister. Common comparisons to Comus' First Utterance are very much justified, as both albums share stylistic similarities. However, Jan Dukes De Grey's sound is less structured and relies heavily on free-form improvisation. In fact, strong emphasis put on lengthy improvisational passages gives this album a very distinct quality.

Michael Bairstow handles all wind instruments, including a flute, a clarinet, a saxophone, a trumpet, a mouth harp as well as keyboards and some percussion. He proves to be a very proficient and a versatile musician with stylistic abilities ranging from the pagan-sounding flute to the jazzy trumpet to the middle-east-influenced clarinet. Derek Noy plays all guitars. These mainly include an electric 12-string guitar, but acoustic guitars are not uncommon, either. His performance is very experimental, the guitarist is capable of wild, dissonant, exotic-sounding solos as well as more traditional folk guitar play. Where needed, he also provides bass parts, again very proficiently. His vocals possess a dark timbre, which fits for the band's musical nature well. Denis Conlan's drumming keeps up with the band's lively and dynamic style. Jan Dukes De Grey were definitely very competent, accomplished, and experienced mavericks. The lyrical aspect of the album is really hair-rising, often giving the impression of being written by a madman. Although not noted in the liner notes, the album also features violins, whose sound owes a great deal to traditional folk music.

Jan Dukes De Grey's Mice And Rats In The Loft, did not enjoy much success. For many years, the group remained a fairly obscure act. It wasn't until many years later that the album was recognized as a masterpiece. The overall feel of the album is very eccentric and unconventional, the band's sound unique and distinct. Highly recommended! Five stars!

 ja tik butu... by ALVA album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.00 | 2 ratings

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ja tik butu...
Alva Prog Folk

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

4 stars A female fronted Latvian group from the mid-Seventies that were actually based in England, Alva are regarded as a prog-folk group, but they're a lot more varied and complex than just that! Despite many of their tunes being grounded in more typically folk-based melodies, the tunes on their sole debut work from 1977 `Ja Tik Būtu' worked in everything from little traces of acid rock, psychedelic pop, Sixties garage toughness, loose jazzy runs and an almost punky murkiness (you can even hear the guitars struggling to stay in tune here and there throughout the album!), making for a very unpredictable and colourful album with a charming do-it-yourself production.

The title track opener is a melancholic pop tune with Diana Ābols' weary purring voice over chiming electric guitars , and `Pilsēta Kurā Piedzimst Vējs' is the first folkier interlude where one of the fellas takes the lead vocal (unsure which member), a gently manic tone to his voice! Buoyant bass and jangling ragged guitars on both `Kopā' and `Svesinieks' sound like lost proto-punky girl-group rockers from the early Sixties, and the much more ambitious seven minute psychedelic epic `Akts' holds wonderfully shambling acoustic guitars strums, dreamy keyboards , scratchy dingy pipes, rambunctious drumming, and Diana's treated voice taking on an eerie unhinged snarl to close the first side.

The baffling and out-of-place tough psych rocker `Vilcienu dziesma' opens the second side with the guys growling unbearably, but thankfully the ragged electric guitars and runaway bass keeps things interesting! `Miglā' is bookend by spiky up-tempo indie rock guitars, and despite being sweetly sung, there's a weary tone to `Ziemeļvēji'. Reaching electric guitars drone manically and twist between pumping bass and bashing drums throughout the raga-like `Es Izkūlu' (with the second half throwing in a deliciously putrid and rough-as-guts reinterpretation of the melody of `Mary had a Little Lamb'!), and `Jo Beigas Ir Klāt' is a sombre and contemplative folk rumination to close on.

Despite a variation on the group reactivating in the new millennium, `Ja Tik Būtu' remains the sole Alva release to date, which makes it even more unique and precious. Many rare and mostly unknown prog-related albums are seeing reissues these days, and while many turn out to be forgettable, lost to the ages with good reason, some are exciting little obscurities in desperate need of fresh exposure and reappraisal. In that respect, `Ja Tik Būtu' is a refreshingly out-of-time album that proves to be hugely addictive and enjoyable, and prog/acid-folk and garage/psych fans should investigate this welcome female-led curio immediately!

Probably really a three star album, but well worth four stars if you come to love it!

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Prog Folk bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
0.720 ALEACION Mexico
3 DAFT MONKEYS United Kingdom
A PRESENÇA DAS FORMIGAS Portugal
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
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DAN AR BRAZ France
MARCO ANTONIO ARAUJO 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
BANDA DO CASACO Portugal
A BARCA DO SOL Brazil
BARR Sweden
TOMAS BATISTA Argentina
BAYON Germany
BEAT CIRCUS United States
BEDEDEUM Italy
BERNARD BENOIT France
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BLOPS Chile
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BRECHE Canada
PAUL BRETT United Kingdom
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BUCIUM Romania
TIM BUCKLEY United States
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PHILIPPE CAUVIN France
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CURRENT 93 United Kingdom
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ELANE Germany
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VOICE OF THE SEVEN WOODS United Kingdom
RILEY WALKER United States
JUNE WALLACK Canada
WATER INTO WINE BAND United Kingdom
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THE WAY WE LIVE United Kingdom
LEAH WAYBRIGHT United States
WERWOLF (WEREWOLF ART ROCK) Germany
ROBIN WILLIAMSON United Kingdom
WITTHUSER AND WESTRUPP Germany
WOVEN HAND United States
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