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Decameron - Say Hello to the Band CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.33 | 16 ratings

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3 stars Decameron's debut provides a solid archetype of the sort of folk rock that defined this band's largely unheralded music and career. And while they would veer a bit closer to a pop-rock sound by the time the group ceased full-time operations, this one does folk proud in both its lyrics and musical arrangements.

I don't know if the opening title track is autobiographical but it probably does describe a scene that's played out many times with fledgling bands trying to make it on endless touring and front-room couch accommodations. The band has shown up at the home of one of its former member's girlfriends looking a place to stay, and apparently aren't even dissuaded by the fact the lass has a new beau who just happens to be there at the time. The music itself is rather pedestrian with the possible exception of a soulful harmonica in the intro, but the lyrics foretell some entertaining stories over the next handful of tracks.

Generally speaking I wouldn't consider this music to be all that progressive, although hardcore fans of folk rock will recognize and appreciate that this melding of Anglo folk, traditional and electric instruments and rock arrangements may be pedestrian today but was still fairly novel at the time this album was recorded. 'Byard's Leap' provides a great example of this. The song recounts the legend that gave a small Lincolnshire town in England its name, that of a witch said to torture local farmers by spoiling their crops. An aging soldier offers to rid the town of the witch using a blind horse to lure her to a local watering hole where he sends her to her death at the point of his spear. The lumbering bass and drums provide a tasteful foundation to the gorgeous mandolin and cello work of Al Fenn and Geoff March, which serve to plant the song firmly in British folk territory.

I can't quite follow the storyline on 'Judith' but it seems to have something to do with a destitute gentleman and some gal named Judith. No matte really, it's a charming little ditty with a nice violin line that achieves its emotive intent. 'Innocent Sylvester Prime' is another sad little story accented with plenty of acoustic guitar harmonics that sounds like a cross between John Denver and James Taylor; in fact, there's even a reference to Boston, where Taylor was born. I doubt there's a connection but its an interesting bit of trivia nonetheless.

I'm not sure who's singing on 'Crows' (the band in general employs lots of multi-part harmonies and everyone sings so its hard to keep track). The distinction here is his accent, which I believe is what's referred to as Scouse from the Liverpool area and is most often associated in the U.S. with Ringo Starr and Yakko Warner of Animaniacs cartoon fame. Once again the cello plays a major role along with an uncharacteristically heavy drum rhythm and piano courtesy of guest musician Ian Whiteman who has also appeared with the likes of John Martyn, Shirley Collins and Sandy Denny.

The band lapses back into laconic acoustic folk with 'The Moon's In 'A'' (same lead singer) before laying down the more commercially-oriented 'Stoat's Grope' with a simple one-two beat and a persistent violin presence. This song sounds a lot more like what the band would gravitate toward on their final two studio releases, and in fact the song was the only one from this album released as a single that I know of.

There are a few less interesting moments on the album, mostly toward the end which may be an indication the band was either in a hurry to finish the album or didn't have quite enough strong material, neither of which would be all that unusual for a debut record. 'Ride a Lame Pony' seems to be another song about being a musician, and reminiscing about what could have been and lost love, etc. etc. ('those wonderful boys with the shiny guitars, they ride a lame pony out to the stars with a dream all but faded away'). A nice enough tune and a sentiment that many can identify with, but not quite up to par with the rest of the album. And I'm not a music theory expert but the rhythm and guitar arrangement on 'Shine Away' seems to be not much more than a variation on the title track with different lyrics.

As far as I know the original vinyl release was never reissued verbatim, but there is a CD edition that includes nine additional tracks. If you pick this up today that's the edition you're most likely to get. Most of these tracks appear to be either outtakes or early recordings, and are generally not of the same caliber as the original album tracks. 'Friday Night at the Regal' for example was the b-side to the 'Stoat's Grope' single; 'Call it Sleep' and 'Parade' have some nice vocal harmonies but are otherwise unexceptional; and 'Rock and Roll Away' appears to be a commercial effort most likely intended to be one of the concert pieces for the band's alter-ego 'the Magnificent Mercury Brothers' (I wonder if Jeff Lynne heard this prior to penning his 'Rock 'n' Roll is King' single in 1983). This would also be the opening track to the band's third album. Most of the rest of the bonus material is largely forgettable.

My first spin of this record was not very memorable, and it wasn't until I began to appreciate the rest of the band's discography that I revisited this one and found it was quite a bit better than originally thought. In the end I'll give this three out of five stars and a solid recommendation to folk rock fans, with the disclaimer that it issuant very progressive although despite that it is a pretty enjoyable listen.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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