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


Woolly Wolstenholme's Maestoso


Eclectic Prog

3.84 | 15 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars Talk about a late bloomer!

Woolly Wolstenholme joined the music industry already back in the 60's. But it isn't until this new millennium that he has written his best material! But not only his best material, it is also the case that he has written more material during this millennium than during the previous one, despite the fact that this one has just started. Woolly was, of course, a member of Barclay James Harvest from the late 60's to the late 70's for which he wrote about one song per album. He then left the band and released one solo album called Maestoso in 1980. After that he started to work on a second one, but it didn't work out for some reason (I don't know the details) and he then left the music industry altogether.

However, as I have already mentioned, in this new millennium he returned and has so far released as many as three further studio albums under the name of Maestoso in 2003, 2005 and 2007 respectively! The first one of these I heard was the 2005 release Grim, and I was really impressed with it, so I had to check out Caterwauling as well. Both these albums are really good (I have not heard the 2003 one yet).

On the sticker that was on the Caterwauling CD case there is a quote from All Music Guide saying "Wolstenholme's recorded work with Maestoso is not just the best of any Barclay James Harvest side projects, but is equal to any work by Barclay James Harvest in their prime". I completely agree! Indeed, I find this more interesting than any album by Barclay James Harvest!

Musically, Caterwauling is very similar to Grim. Maestoso is listed under Eclectic Prog which I think is very appropriate. However, there are influences here from Symphonic Prog, Prog Folk, Crossover Prog and Proto-Prog as well as straight Folk and even a bit of Country thrown in for good measure. If you want references to other bands I can mention Strawbs, which is the closest point of reference I can think of. But also Procol Harum, King Crimson and, of course, Barclay James Harvest, but not too much, maybe even a bit of John Lennon might give you an idea. As on Grim, there is a perfect mix between the harmonic and the dissonant, the humours and the serious, the conventional and the weird, the sombre and the gritty. And it all holds together well.

Overall the album is very melodic and quite mellow with many ballads, but there are some rather surprising harder rocking passages and some very good lead guitar work on many tracks. The album starts with a short spoken introduction with the word Caterwauling being repeated over and over in different voices. I must say that I don't quite see the point of this introduction. The 11+ minute Soldier Of Fortune is the first real song of the album. The brutal and dissonant guitar sound on the opening section of this song is strongly influenced Robert Fripp as it sounds very much like King Crimson. It then changes radically to a much more harmonic and symphonic guitar solo, more reminiscent of John Lees of Woolly's former band. After this the song changes again, radically, to a very mellow, folky vocal part backed by washes of Mellotron. The earlier parts of the song are then repeated towards the end of the song. This song tells a story of a man who went to war and this story is continued on the third track, The Road To Nowhere.

All instruments are very well played and the backing band here has nothing to envy from Barclay James Harvest. The keyboards, mainly Mellotron and piano, are omnipresent, but as on Barclay James Harvest's albums, the keyboard playing of Woolly was never flashy or virtuosic. He was never a Rick Wakeman or a Keith Emerson, or even a Tony Banks. The keyboards here rather just provide a symphonic backdrop for the lead guitars and vocals. Woolly's vocals are fragile and tender but not weak. I think he has matured as a vocalist over the years and I find his voice pleasant.

This album is a very nice addition to any Prog collection, but I do recommend you to start with Grim, which is the better of the two in my opinion. Both these albums are very recommended!

SouthSideoftheSky | 4/5 |


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