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Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso - Caterwauling CD (album) cover

CATERWAULING

Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso

 

Eclectic Prog

3.83 | 15 ratings

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alextorres2
5 stars Caterwauling is the third studio album by Maestoso, the band led by former Barclay James Harvest (BJH) keyboardist Woolly Wolstenholme.

As in the previous two, "Caterwauling" contains an eclectic mix of musical styles which is difficult to describe - but I'm going to try for "English pastoral symphonic folk prog-rock"! You will probably think from the term alone that it is not music that is going to appeal to everybody, or perhaps even that there is no-one who will actually enjoy all of the 14 tracks on the CD and you might well be right. Equally, there is always much wonderful music making from Woolly that delights many people and this latest offering from his band is no exception to those rules. As always with Woolly's music, a number of listens are required before you can develop full enjoyment from the album.

"Caterwauling", then, is an album containing some wonderful music and..some other moments. The overall effect, for me, is mesmerising and I absolutely adore the album. Fans of Maestoso and Woolly will almost certainly buy the album anyway but, for others, here's my views on it.

The album contains a number of themes that Woolly has visited before: the victimisation of the common soldier; the angst of the break-up from his wife; English humour. Musically, there is also revisited territory but with a move towards folk music that began with Maestoso's last album "Grim" but which is reminiscent of some of Woolly's earliest work with BJH in the late 60s/very early 70s. As a result, the overall feel of the music on "Caterwauling" is actually quite different to that of "One Drop in a Dry World" or "Grim" where there were more and lengthier passages of symphonic mellotron work.

The album's one and only "major" opus, which in actual fact should be seen as the combination of "Soldier of fortune" (a joint composition between Woolly and drummer Kim Turner) and "Road to nowhere", focuses on the victimisation of the common soldier, a recurring theme in Woolly's work. The musical journey through these tracks is not always pleasant but that is exactly what is intended! "Soldier of fortune" boasts the most complex song structure on the album, consisting of six discrete sections. The song's introduction is like a musical representation of warfare: loud, cacophonous and unpleasant; leading into more expansive, more traditionally Woolly territory of a melody carried on a mass of keyboards and lead guitar which acts as the first music proper of the album and introduces the first sung movement - the optimistic soldier - "God will save me God will help" - followed by an instrumental musical bridge representing the awakening of reality in our soldier. In the second sung movement he is fully aware.."Now I lie in Flanders fields/Basra, Helmand - who can tell"..."God won't save me from this/Hell" - and Woolly's wonderful musical twist is that the last word in the lyric there is not sung (although once you are familiar with this piece you will always voice it in your mind) but is instead played out by the band - and as you would expect the sound is not pretty at all! In the sung movements the music sounds to me like traditional English folk song - I'm sure June Tabor could do a cracking rendition of this if she fancied - perhaps highlighting musically that this was the fate of all young men from the country in those (and these?) times. The companion song, "Road to nowhere", is more conventionally composed as a rock song and allows the listener to regain some composure from the musical onslaught of "Soldier of fortune" whilst at the same time delivering a strong lyrical bite. Strong stuff - not always easy to listen to but an extremely compelling piece of music nevertheless!

Later in the album there is one more song on the same theme: "Shoes" muses about why we can't stop this cycle of violence to a beautiful melodic accompaniment that includes a contribution from guest Geoffrey Richardson on viola.

As an antidote to the despair of "Soldier of fortune"/"Road to nowhere" comes "Matilda Yarrow", a song composed by the band's guitarist Steve Broomhead. This has the sweetest and most beautiful melody, sung to a pastoral accompaniment from the band, quite folky but absolutely gorgeous - reminiscent of some of BJH's late 60s folky sound - definitely one of the album's highlights!

After this momentous start the album settles down to a series of gorgeous songs: "The Collector" is a pacier song viewed from the perspective of the grim reaper - but despite the macabre angle is another of the highlights and my personal favourite. "Closure" is one of Woolly's bitter-sweet love songs that, as the title implies, draws to an end a series of songs (from the "One Drop" album) about the break-up of the relationship with his wife. Wonderful melodic writing continues on most of the other tracks too: on "Always", another joint composition between Woolly and Kim Turner, the accompaniment lends the music the feel of classic Procol Harum; "I Don't Like You" and "Blossom Hill" (another pastoral symphonic song) in particular are two other gorgeous songs.

For me, these are the highlights of the album - and I find enough to enjoy in the remaining 5 tracks to make the overall experience of this album rather

alextorres2 | 5/5 |

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