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Jade Warrior - Now CD (album) cover

NOW

Jade Warrior

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.73 | 28 ratings

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kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars With the benefit of almost a half century of hindsight, one can assess the classic era of JADE WARRIOR as being divided into two equally significant epochs, conveniently demarcated by the labels on which they recorded but also by something of a shift in style and content.

The first chapter, the Vertigo years, offered 3 releases and one minor classic, that being the self titled debut. It was characterized by a vocal orientation and a certain collision between yin and yang that didn't always end happily. Still, the blend of early KING CRIMSON and JETHRO TULL meets BLACK SABBATH in the quaint college town of Canterbury turned a few heads I dare say, and with reason.

The next phase was on Island records, where they magically parlayed a 3 record deal with continued lack of commercial windfall into a 4 record sojourn, of which the first and fourth, "Floating World" and "Way of the Sun", can be considered minor classics as much for the quality of the work as for their uniqueness and their apparent influence in the prog world and beyond. This was an all instrumental proposition, more ambient and world oriented but still with occasionally uneasy outbursts of fuzzy guitar that didn't always work. Hmm plus ca change...

That takes us to the end of the 1970s. But this is a review of their 2008 album, so I'd like to fast forward over the 30 intervening years to just say that, while to varying degrees they tried to resurrect the lifeblood of the Island work, they hadn't attempted to reclaim the early Vertigo sound, until "Now". It could not have been otherwise given that original songwriter and vocalist Glyn Havard was back in the fold for the first time since he was kicked out simply because he was a singer, coincident with the Island signing. The simple monosyllabic title is so a propos, for this is JADE WARRIOR now, today, but also now is all that matters; all the past experiences and reflections upon them can help inform our today, but only if one can learn to be in the here and now.

JADE WARRIOR has never made it easy upon themselves, but what "Now" does accomplishes is that most elusive triumph of drawing upon the old sound without retreading, updating without losing their vintage coolness, even if nobody can even imagine, let alone remember when they were cool. A group that barely managed to produce one near perfect piece has arranged two here, in a row! First is the ROUSSEAU like ballad "Journey", which would be miraculous if it didn't name-check "Last Autumn's Dream", but it does, and fully merits the shout out. Then we have "Lost Boys", with all the wisdom of an elder chiding today's spiritual bankruptcies. Yet as lyrically fascinating as it is, the meter here is the real marvel.

While the rest doesn't maintain this high level, "3 AM meltdown" manages to channel frenetic outbursts into gentle aftermaths better than most of what they attempted before. Everywhere are Field's flutes softening the face of the new band, while Gowan Turnbull and Theo Travis contribute lazy brass to persuade us of a jazzy timbre we may have missed before, especially noteworthy on the opener "Fool and His Bride". Shockingly, a dulcimer player happened to be in the studio at that time! Havard dominates in his DAVID SYLVIAN voice...or had Sylvian borrowed Havard's pipes for his uber elegant 1980s albums?. Either way, I do wish DAVID/GLYN would not use them to convey "Screaming Dreams" ever ever again.

Since this last JADE WARRIOR release is 12 years old as of this writing, and FIELD and HAVARD are both pushing 80, one would be pardoned for thinking that "Now" is the final chapter, though apparently there has been work on a successor since at least 2012, called "Haiku". One can hope, but "Now" is a vital release that more or less closes all those pesky loops that were uncomfortably littering our prog fairy tales for too long, if in somewhat typically chaotic WARRIOR fashion. 3.5 stars, of course rounded up!

kenethlevine | 4/5 |

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