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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) - Excalibur II - The Celtic Ring CD (album) cover


Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations)


Various Genres

3.46 | 26 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars The myths and legends of King Arthur, from a different perspective

While this album is nominally credited to Alan Simon, it is primarily to acknowledge his role as composer and co-ordinator. This is in reality a compilation of recordings by a fine range of bands and artists with prog connections. The invited crown includes Jon Anderson (Yes), Justin Hayward (Moody Blues), Alan Parsons (Project), John Helliwell (Supertramp), Maddy Prior (Steeleye Span), various members of Fairport Convention, John Wetton (King Crimson, Uriah Heep etc.) and many more.

The overall flavour of the album is undeniably Celtic, reflecting the sub-title of the album. Instruments including Dulcimer, Bodhran, flute, harp, pipes etc., all float in and out, with tracks such as Fairport Convention's "Dragon Breath" and Flook's "Brennan MacFinn". being traditional through and through. Fairport's other track, "Pilgrims" exploit's the bands strong vocal harmonies. In-between their two tracks, the wonderful Maddy Prior offers a delightful vocal performance on the delicate "Secret garden".

Jacqui McShee of Pentangle provides lead vocal on the emotive "Sacrifice", a song which moves about as far into rock territory as you will find on this album. The track features some impressive guitar work plus harp played by Andreas Vollenweider. "Earth and sky" features the distinctive tones of Justin Hayward and the equally notable sax playing of Supertramp's John Anthony Helliwell. The vocals of Jon Anderson on "Circle of life" and John Wetton on "Lugh" are instantly recognisable of course, each adding immeasurably to the overall quality of the album. Anderson's track was released as a single from the album.

Les Holroyd's version of Barclay James Harvest are the featured artists on "Call", a track which could well have been lifted from a BJH album. The album concludes with the two part "Celtic heart", which builds from a simple piano and vocal melody (Justin Hayward once again) to a superb conclusion.

In all, this impressive gathering of artists with significant prog connections is itself an impressive presentation. The flavour is much more Celtic than prog as such, but the strength of the concept ties the track together well, resulting in an album which will appeal to those whose passions include prog folk.

The presentation of the album includes an impressive booklet with full lyrics and further narrative describing the ongoing tale.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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