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Jan Dukes De Grey

Prog Folk

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Jan Dukes De Grey Mice and Rats in the Loft album cover
4.21 | 246 ratings | 28 reviews | 39% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Sun Symphonica (18:58)
2. Call of the Wild (12:48)
3. Mice and Rats in the Loft (8:19)

Total Time 40:05

Line-up / Musicians

- Michael Bairstow / flute, clarinet, saxophone
- Derek Noy / guitar, trumpet, trombone, "Zelda Chord"
- Denis Conlan / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Caroline Browne

LP Transatlantic Records ‎- TRA 234 (1971, UK)

CD Breathless ‎- 52001 (2004, Italy)
CD Mischief Music ‎- MM02 (2008, UK)

Thanks to frenchie for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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JAN DUKES DE GREY Mice and Rats in the Loft ratings distribution

(246 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(39%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(38%)
Good, but non-essential (13%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

JAN DUKES DE GREY Mice and Rats in the Loft reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by con safo
5 stars Jan Dukes De Grey are a forgotten relic of progressive music. Their brilliant free-from album "Mice And Rats In The Loft" was the pinnacle of their musical expression, a semi-improvised journey into madness. The album opens with the epic track "Sun Symphonica" which embodies everything that was excellent about this band. Starting rather lighthearted, bracing you for the sonic assault soon to be unleashed in your mind. Lots of clever instrumental work and 12 string strumming, Noy and Bairstow create a spiraling maelstrom with many different instruments including saxophones, flutes, trumpets, trombones, even a zelda chord(!). All made with the help of a backing orchestra, which gives the music a symphonic and epic feel. Brilliant. A more sinister atmosphere is revealed halfway through the song, describing the beheading of a young girl, made even more disturbing by Derek's theatric voice. An intense instrumental section kicks in after this, and we are taken on an incredible improvised journey. The song then reprises the beginning, but in a negative light. "Sunshine/Come Screaming Through My Window/Another Lonely Day Is Through" Breathtaking.

The album never does return to the intensity of Sun Symphonica, but the last two tracks are still excellent. "Call Of The Wild" uses multi-vocal harmonies to create an eery sound, very unique. The distorted acoustic guitars give it a very dark mood and original sound. The song structure dissolves and Derek takes us on a journey with his guitar alone. Improvised riffs and atmospheric strumming give the feel of being deep in a forest, surrounded by cool, misty air. Beautiful. At around the 8 minute mark the song bursts into a jazzy finale, very cool outro.

The title track "Mice And Rats In The Loft" is a psych masterpiece. Hendrix style guitar gives the song a very psychedelic feel, creating pools of sound around your feet. The lyrics are a chilling tale of religious sacrifice, all adding to the intense mood and atmosphere of the track. "The blade descended like lightning/Tore him open from chest to gut/And the priest thrust his hand inside/And ripped out the still beating heart". The song follows a similar rhythm all the way through, but builds upon it with odd sounding instruments and awesome buildups.

A criminally underrated album that deserves its place in prog history!

Review by Sean Trane
5 stars Every time I find one of hidden/lost early 70's gems, I find myself always carried some 30 years back even if I discover them now. Of course only a small percentage of those gems turns to be diamonds, but I believe this is one of them. How is it possible that such grandiose masterpieces are still not common knowledge among progheads? Because we are dealing with one of those masterpieces of Folk Prog to be classified along with other pearls such as Comus or Algarnas Tradgard.

The music is of an incredible and highly original nature that bond high vocal prowesses ala Tim Buckley with a rather sombre timber reminding you of Audience's Howard Werth (Hammill is not far away, either and so is Van Morrison) and outstanding musicianship so much that both original members Noy and Bairstow play multiple instruments and apparently with great ease. The third member, drummer Conlan has his hands full accompanying his comrades and I believe he also plays congas, although this is not mentioned on the credits. The only outside help they got are additional strings for the last 12 mins of their magnum opus Sun Synfonia.

And what a masterpiece this tune turns out to be!! If the first six minutes develop a good mix of folk rock somewhere between the Comus and Jethro Tull (circa Brick album), the strings come in and the music plunges into a deep madness likely to sink you into insanity if the strings were not to bring you back to the surface for a breath of fresh air every so often. The melange between the 12 string guitar strums, superb drumming all underlined by a swirling cluster of wind instruments and the strings (it does not mention the size of the orchestra, but my guess is a quintet) is one of the most perfect blend ever achieved far from the many catastrophes of the era (I will not name the guilty groups but only Procol and Caravan fared correctly). As Travis/Con Safo mentions in his excellent review below, the lyrics become intensely disturbing also, but do not reach the eerie call for murder and rape that Comus does in their song Drip Drip but they do curdle the blood. The beautiful atmosphere is completely different than Traffic's John Barleycorn Must Die masterpiece but one cannot help thinking about it as those wild and sombre ambiances are driving you to the outer edges of reason. Nevertheless, the superb 12 min finale is completely spine chilling, hair raising, shivers and goose bumps being also on the menu as the abrupt end leaves a empty feel that can be assimilated to the last glass of wine of a 1947 Grand Cru Cos D'Estournel is emptied.

The second side pales a bit in comparison, but by no means are those two tracks anything else than gems themselves. Call Of The Wild is probably the folksiest of the three tunes, starts off with a great acoustic 12-string guitar beautifully underlined by a splendid yet serene flute. Again Comus is not far away from the mind even when the track moves through a series of wild tempo changes sometimes hinting at Indian Classical music. Yet another perfect call! A strange siren alerts you that the third and final track (the title track depicted by the strange artwork sleeve) just got under way, and that you are not yet through with madness as comes in a psyched guitar and great sax and insane vocals. The last part of the track is dedicated to improvisations on that theme and they come out grandiosely successful at it.

This is the kind of album I will personally make sure more people will know within the following months - a bit the same as I did for Comus, Circus and a few other gems. Run, walk, fly to your first vendor and order it (it is distributed by Sanctuary Record - a fitting name for such a masterpiece), because your life cannot be complete without having heard this. A pure moment of intense orgasmic pleasure!!!!!!

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Devendra Banhart fans take note!

This album is the spiritual grandparent of Devendra's music. Like Banhart, you'll need to hear this. Jan Dukes is the collaboration of Derek Noy, Denis Conlan, and Michael Bairstow. "Mice and Rats" contains some of the purest campfire acid-psych-folk you'll ever set ears on, think of Bolan doing "The Light of the Magical Moon" with Syd Barrett and Jefferson Airplane on acoustic instruments after a few hits of acid and you'll have an idea what this sounds like. "Sun Symphonica" is a side-long epic that starts out like a nice friendly song before taking you to edges of your sanity. The acoustic guitars that are used do not give off the standard "pretty" sounds you expect when you think acoustic, Noy instead attacks the strings in a rough manner sometimes strumming hard enough to give the sound a punkish energy. You will also hear various chamber instruments giving a strange regal opposition to the rather tribal sound of the band members. "Call of the Wild" features some great flute work and a long guitar solo that even manages to slip in a bit of "Three Blind Mice" if you're paying attention. We even get some sax thrown in for good measure adding yet another color. It gets fairly jamming late in the game before succumbing to a nice flute ending. "Mice and Rats" gets more rocking yet as we start to approach sounds that you might have heard in the Haight scene around this time. Lots of wah-wah and echoed vocals produce a trippy though obviously pretty dated sound. While I consider this a good album I don't know that I share the enthusiasm of others for the long term musical experience. It does have it moments and it is a rare, mysterious piece of music that should be heard. But personally it's not something I long to play very often. It's more of an oddity than something which really moves me. I think I admire the counterculture spirit of the album more than the music itself-it certainly has an air of danger about it. You can tell these aren't your standard hippies as they chose to pose with a shotgun of all things. If you're a fan of the "Acid Test" level of strangeness in your music then this comes highly recommended. If you're idea of good folk music is Dylan or Joni this might not be for you. 3 stars.

Review by Tom Ozric
5 stars This obscure gem of an album could well be considered as a folky version of Van Der Graaf Generator !! Jan Dukes De Grey are unique in every way - from the diverse instrumentation handled by only 3 musicians, the way they utilise strange chords, key changes and varying tempos, to the very personal style of vocal expression. Consisting of 3 lengthy pieces ; Side 1 is taken up by 'Sun Symphonica', a near 19 minute excursion through a variety of moods, textures and colour. Heavily dominated by acoustic instruments, its initial melody suggests a cheerful, sunny vibe, with heavy drums, and some great saxophone. Quickly comes a most unpredictable change of pace, almost psychotic - the drummer starts up a manic beat, and this is built upon by dischordant acoustic guitar and wild sax playing. The singer sounds very shakey in his delivery, but never actually tumbles over the edge. After this section, a lighter movement starts with an orchestral backing, this part is absolutely beautiful. The flute playing adds a quite peaceful and rustic feel to the music. This then merges into a darker part, the core sound of guitar/sax/drums and orchestral strings is embellished by hand percussion, with the singer getting a chance to let loose a bit. The last section features an awesome riff, with weird sounds, horn squawks and off-key harmonica insertions. A vibraphone tinkles away as the song comes to a stop. This is just a basic run-down of this really amazing piece of music actually, there's just so much going on in between. Side 2 track 1 - 'Call Of The Wild' (12.48) starts out very folky, with multi-part vocals, flute and strummed acoustic, quite reminiscent of the Incredible String Band, as is often cited. The tune moves along with stunning guitar play for some minutes, showing off the considerable skills of Derek Noy. He is always playing something different so it never ceases to amaze the listener. A full band sound is achieved when the drums, sax and bass (which is reputed to be a 'cello played like a bass') kick in with some energetic jamming, from which the song is brought to a close with a guitar/sax combination. Title-track 'Mice And Rats In The Loft' (8.19) is a relentless piece of music, driven along by acidic wah-wah guitar and an incessant beat. This one doesn't change much, but doesn't outstay its welcome, either. This is an album which will undoubtedly take a few listens to appreciate and follow, but it is quite a masterpiece within the whole Progressive Folk category - few albums I've heard within this sub-genre reach the inspired heights and creativity of this, special album.
Review by ghost_of_morphy
4 stars This is an album that I've wanted to review for a while now. It's been difficult, because this album has a unique sound and scope. Let me try to characterize this.

First of all, let's talk about genre. Jan Dukes De Grey is currently categorized as Prog Folk. I suppose that's as good a category as any for them to end up in. They have a sparse, deceptively simple sound with a bias towards acoustic instruments. They feature a throbbing percussion sound that could be described as tribal. The songs rework themes that belong to folk (much in the same way that Led Zeppelin did with Gallows Pole.) So Prog Folk is as good a place to put them as any, yet there are clearly other influences at work here. With two talented multi-instrumentalists who are happy to add an instrument here and there as they see fit, there is a certain affinity with eclectic prog. And there is a very strong relationship with psychedelic here, in the concentration on atmosphere and effect and in the raw emotional power of the songs.

Now let me try to describe the character of the music on this album. We are definitely in the realm of prog folk, but it is a very different type of prog folk from what The Pentangle or Fairport Convention played. Despite the impressive number of instruments these guys play, the music has a stripped down sound to it. There isn't as much of an ensemble sound as you would expect, especially once Sun Symphonica is done. The sonic pallette is rich on this album, but it is used sparsely. More sparsely the more you get into it. The last track is stripped to guitar, vocals and percussion for large portions of it.

I mentioned atmosphere earlier. This album has a very raw and primal atmosphere. From the throbbing drums to the sparse sound to the vaguely menacing vocals to the dark lyrics that hint at human sacrifice, execution and such things, the album is drenched in a dark energy that seduces the listener.

Words can only describe so much. Jan Dukes De Grey has acheived a unique and interesting sound here on this album, and it has to be heard to be comprehended.

So four stars for Mice And Rats In The Loft. If I were judging just on adventuresomeness and originality, it would be five stars.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is an original sounding album from 1971 from a British Acid / Folk trio called JAN DUKES DE GREY. No "peace, love & groovy" band here as we get pictures of the band holding a rifle in the liner notes, and lyrics that are very disturbing and dark. In fact most compare this to COMUS' "First Utterance" album, and for good reason. A real nice variety of sounds here as well with trumpet, clarinet, flute, sax, violin and cello along with lots of 12 string guitar, also electric guitar, bass, harmonica, percussion, drums and more.

"Sun Symphonica" opens with flute as vocals and drums take over quickly. A horn melody joins in as acoustic guitar comes and goes. Flutes back before 2 minutes then the tempo picks up. A change 5 minutes in brings cello, flute and vocals. An acoustic guitar solo follows then strings and flute take over with drums. Horns are back 9 minutes in, vocals too as it settles. Violin comes and goes.The passion, intensity and disturbing lyrics end 15 minutes in. Horns then flute a minute later. Harmonica follows before the track ends abruptly. What a song !

"Call Of The Wild" opens with acoustic guitar as all three members come in vocally and doing harmony parts. Some flute then violin as well. The acoustic guitar really dominates this song. A change 8 minutes in as it turns almost haunting and psychedelic, then a horn melody comes in. It settles 12 minutes in then flute leads the way. "Mice And Rats In The Loft" opens with sirens before electric guitar and drums take over.The guitar is great here. Vocals after a minute describe a ritual human sacrifice. What an intense track !

As Tom Ozric mentions in his review this is all about creativity.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I'm still not sure, if first, let's say two minutes of first track (chorus) isn't re-used from something (or otherwise, used by someone else). It's familiar, while second option seems more likely to.

Anyway, this doesn't matter. Important thing is this album of course. Reminds me little bit of Jethro Tull. And in a moment when I start to realize that there could (no are) JT influences, it quickly changed style into something completely different. And then again, again. Whole first tracks seems like collection of about 10 short songs glued together with skill. They fits one to another (but I'm not sure if for example second fits with sixth), while second song being more consistent and thematic. I wouldn't say bad, but is verging from long solos, to some not so interesting singing. Whole song turns out to be quite a disappointment, after Sun Symphonica which set line very high. And third song also similarly sounding, but also, not so appealing. Not so nice and wanting to catch my attention. While there certainly are strong parts in first song, second half quite ruins it all.

4(-) and I feel rather sad by doing this. Maybe in future, my mind will change.

EDIT: half a star upwards, it really is getting better, more and more.

Review by friso
5 stars Jan Dukes De Grey's first record isn't even that promising, but their second album should be taken in consideration by every serious collector of progressive music. It's the type of progressive music that isn't a copy of anything, just a wonderful work of originality. The music is mixture of acid folk (think of Comus and Spirogyra) and Canterbury-esque avant-prog with a chamber music sound (almost a bit like Henry Cow). The band was a multi-instrumentalist trio and I would love to know how they ever recorded this at times almost orchestral work of beauty with a small budget in 1971. The recording sound is fine as well. Key to the album's sound are the authentic throaty mad men vocals, the heavy beating of the Irish Bouzouki (sounds a bit like a twelve-string guitar), the bass played on a cello, the dubbed string sections and a variety of percussion (a bit like on Robert Wyatt's 'Rock Bottom'). The epic 'Sun Symphonica' opens in a gentle psychedelic fashion (though that Bouzouki hits early on) and evolves into this ever intensifying symphonic folk song that tells of the horrors of war. The fast paced ending sections is particularly Canterbury-like with it repetitive jazzy patterns. On side two 'Call Of The Wild' has a similar sound, whereas the title song of the album is distinctively more acid-like and visceral. This is a simply mind-blowing listening experience and one of the best truly progressive albums of classic period.
Review by Sinusoid
4 stars I came into MICE AND RATS at the same time as SORCERERS through the CD remaster bringing both albums together; boy are the differences noticeable even if the only lineup change is the addition of drummer Dennis Conlan. Jan Dukes de Grey seem to magically change from being a folksy leaning prog type of band to full blown prog folk band between albums yet keeping a certain trademark from SORCERERS. The tracks spike in length too; SORCERES had nothing over five minutes while the title track here is the shortest at 8+ minutes.

This is an album that more of the prog community can get behind, not that SORCERERS is bad (in fact, I think it's great), but MICE AND RATS definitely has more of a prog sound, there's more electric instrumentation from Derek Noy and the fact that there is an actual drummer here. Plus, you can't disregard the epicly lengthy tracks like the nearly 20 minute ''Sun Symphonica''.

The band does a stellar job at making these long pieces work considering their one previous album. Don't blast the title track out in public; the sax wail at the beginning will make people around think an ambulance is nearby. Add that with the near possessed singing, the eerieness of the track and the warbling wah-fed guitars and this censored is scary. ''Call of the Wild'' almost sounds like a rite-of-passage song for the band as the first half could fit on the debut with little argument, but then the band expands into a jazz-processed jam with more instrumental development than SORCERERS could dream of.

''Sun Symphonica'' is the typical highlight for most prog fans, probably for epic length but also for the string symphony underscoring some of the themes here. I actually find this epic to be the reason why I don't give a perfect five for MICE AND RATS; the themes are all nice and well-drawn-out and the drumming is spectacular, but the segues between the themes are too choppy to the point where it doesn't flow precisely well. It's still one of the better sidelong epics in the prog rock world.

If you need some prog folk in your collection not named Jethro Tull, this will do nicely. The epic length and well-developed themes should keep prog fans busy for forty minutes.

Review by Dobermensch
4 stars An album that I hated 10 years ago has now struck a chord which I would never have thought possible.

Beginning off in almost Jethro Tull '72 manner, this record takes more twists and turns than you could wave a sword at. I guess it's an British thing, we seem to be good at schizo music, unlike Americans, where it seems forced. Although in saying that, the French were very good at it too.

'Mice and Rats in the Loft' is however, one freaky recording which holds itself together effortlessly. Usually these type of recordings fall flat on their face - trying so hard to be strange they more often than not end up sounding stupid. Not this one.

There's a lot of nice interplay with stringed instruments which give this album an important and well produced feel throughout. What really makes 'Mice and Rats in the Loft' worthwhile, are the crazy lyrics sung by the very capable Derek Noy.

The highlight of the album is certainly the last track, where Noy sings among other monstrosities 'The priest tore him open and thrust his hand inside... the still beating heart' is ripped out from his dying body' ... What the??!

This, aligned with a repetitive but scary guitar scraping and John Carpenter keyboards out of the blue makes for very uncomfortable listening

Similarities can only be found in the equally, if not stranger but quieter 'Tea and Symphony'

Such a pity they only made the one album in the 70's. These were guys who could have gone places.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Mice and Rats in the Loft sound to me like an Andalusian combination of Traffic, The Doors, The Kinks, John Sebastian, Andrew Lloyd Weber, The Moody Blues, Fairport Convention, Simon & Garfunkle. The orchestration is quite welcome, the 12-string and other acoustic guitar playing is ambitious--perhaps a bit over-ambitious (lots of mistakes and rather raw recording choices)--but, in the era before midi and computer 'air-brushing' this is part of the acceptable defects and even charm of the "almost live" studio recordings--especially of 19 minute, 13- minute, and 8-minute songs.

"Sun Symphonica" (10/10) has the feel of a combination of and extended version of The Moody Blues' "(I'm) Just a Singer in a Rock'n'Roll Band" and The Doors "The End." It is an awesome song!

"Call of the Wild" (9/10) starts with more of a Jethro Tull feel, despite the multiple voices. Again, I wish the guitar pickups had been able to pick up a cleaner sound--though perhaps the band was going for the ROBERT JOHNSON sound effect? At 2:25 begins an odd vocal section over the unclean RJ almost-dobro sounding guitar. At 5 minute mark there is another shift, announced with some drums and culminating in a prolonged strumming guitar solo--a bit like Jimmy Page's mandolin on "The Battle of Evermore". At 8:40 the song really kicks in with full- band and sax sounding a bit Soft Machine-ish. Sax and guitar play off each other really nicely.

The title song (8/10) is the shortest, last, and, IMO, the weakest song--but it's still good! Just a bit drawn out. Distorted guitars and eery vocal again conjure up a feeling of the theatrics of Jim Morrison and his mates in The Doors. I like the use of the woodwinds and the treated/distorted mystery instrument solo starting at 5:05

A very enjoyable listen that I can't quite give 5 stars to, but so close! 4.5 for sure.

Review by VanVanVan
5 stars I won't lie, I discovered this album by clicking on the prog folk link and reading down the "best of" list until I got to something I didn't have yet. I'd never heard of Jan Dukes de Grey before that, but there's definitely a reason that "Mice and Rats in the Loft" appears on that list, because this is one of the most consistently excellent, bizarrely brilliant albums to be found anywhere out there. With reference points ranging from Jethro Tull to Magma, this is a truly excellent album and certainly one that's not to be missed.

The album begins with "Sun Symphonica," a massive 19 minute track which itself begins with a fantastic folky theme accompanied by some eccentric vocals and a perhaps surprisingly groovy bass part. It's a very cheery motif, but the smiling veneer shows some cracks with a jangly, atonal guitar part, and it isn't long before the track loses it completely. Scarcely two minutes pass before the sunny (no pun intended) disposition of "Sun Symphonica" gives way to a frenetic, dark, acid-folk freak-out that almost reminds the listener of Magma. Folky undertones continue to show through, however, especially during an extremely intense acoustic guitar solo that sounds like it may have destroyed the guitar in the process. Another drastic style change follows, with a pastoral, Tull-ish vocal theme appearing briefly before another acid-drenched instrumental section. It's at this point (around the six minute mark) that symphonic elements begin to appear as well, with some awesome string parts that really add to the sound. Vocals don't reappear until about 9 minutes in, but when they do, they're fraught with enough Comus-esque dread to make the listener forget how cheerily the song began. The lyrics, too, are nothing short of chilling, with obscure descriptions of blood running and all sorts of other arcane topics. The pseudo-zeuhl sound returns after this, and if the vocals were somewhat droning before they positively turn into wails in the track's final third. The track ends with what can only be described as a rhythmic, psychedelic freak out, with all kinds of instruments and sounds layering on top of one another over a repetitive bass groove. "Sun Symphonica" is truly one of the overlooked epics from the early days of progressive rock, and boy is it a killer one.

"Call of The Wild" begins with significantly less insanity, making use of a very Tull-esque (Tull-ish? Tullian?) sound as well as some excellent vocal harmonies to craft a folky soundscape that ends up being quite pretty. Fret not, however, that the track will be too vanilla next to "Sun Symphonica," however, as the band includes multiple intervals of frenetic chanting and of course a variety of insane guitar solos that range from standard, acoustic folky fare to darkly bleak walls of sound. In fact, a good portion of the middle of the track features an instrumental section that sounds like it was performed on a single guitar, and it's impressive how much sound the band is able to wrench from one (or at most two) instruments playing unaccompanied. Like the first track, however, it's the last few minutes that really shine if you're looking for psychedelic freak-outs: darkly frenetic guitar strumming leads the way, but all kinds of instruments pop up in this ending section. The final minute even features some guitar playing that actually sounds surprisingly similar to some of the playing that would come to exist in Opeth's quieter moments (though, given the title of My Arms, Your Hearse it may not be too great a stretch to imagine that Mikael Akerfeldt has heard this album). "Call of the Wild" may not be the masterful epic that "Sun Symphonica" was, but it's still a killer acid-folk trip.

The title track that concludes the album is by far the darkest and weirdest. Beginning with a high pitched siren noise but quickly delving into a weirdly rhythmic groove, "Mice In The Raft" contains some of the most ominous vocals this side of First Utterance and one of the weirdest instrumental sections this side of Amon Düül II. The lyrics as well are excellent, with dark and creepy imagery used to great effect and put together subtly enough that it doesn't sound corny. "Mice And Rats In The Loft" is by far the most simply constructed song on the album (though it's still the farthest thing from straightforward), but it's probably also the most visceral and intense track of the three on the album.

If there is one warning to be issued about this album, it's that you shouldn't let the opening strains of the album fool you, because if you go into it expecting cheer and frivolity you will be bitterly disappointed (and probably slightly terrified). "Mice And Rats In the Loft" is an excellently weird, weirdly excellent masterpiece of an album, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who can't get enough of Comus or wants to hear what Jethro Tull would sound like if they dropped acid and jammed with Christian Vander.


Review by Warthur
4 stars This one gets plenty of comparisons to the work of Comus, particularly the style of First Utterance, but of the two I actually think this one is markedly more accessible. Not that it doesn't have its moments of spooky progressive folk dissonance - but whereas Comus' debut masterpiece has them starting out in Creepsville and staying there for the duration, Mice and Rats In the Loft offers a substantially more nuanced and varied listening experience, with a few more moments of lighthearted joy or peaceful tranquility than Comus are typically willing to offer the listener. The strangeness ramps up progressively as the album proceeds, with Call of the Wild degenerating into trippy chaos by the end of its running time and the title track incorporates siren-like keyboards and rhythmic sections which start creeping towards the "motorik" rhythms of the Krautrock scene.

VanVanVan compares them to Tull jamming with Christian Vander; I'd be more inclined to suggest a collaboration between Fairport Convention and Can, but whoever you compare these guys to, it's clear that this is a bizarre little album which, along with rodents upstairs, has more than a few bats in its belfry too.

Review by b_olariu
3 stars Mice and rats in the loft issued in 1971 with an intresting art work is considered one of the most aplaused and unique albums of it's era, partialy agree, but not entirely. 3 pieces grace the album with a total running around 41 min. What we have here is a trip in a odd/dissonant acid folk with jazzy interplays and some prog elements added. While I do like the instrumental orchestration, has enough great moments to really like here, I'm not attached at all by the vocal abilities of Derek Noy, he sounds like a joke to my ears. Partialy considered similar with bands such as Comus or The Incredible String Band, Jan Dukes de Grey manage to pull a pleasent album , but to me is nothing groundbreaking here, only good towards great pieces, typicaly for that period bith in sound and in manner of composing. My vinyl is a re issue with a great white disc and a perfect sound. 3 rounded to 3.5 for some parts specially from the opening track Sun Symphonica, to me the best tune of the album.
Review by kenethlevine
4 stars There's the progressive folk that largely grew out of 1960s folk rock and incorporated symphonic and psychedelic influences, and then there's the twisted, psychotic and voyeuristically mesmerizing "Mice and Rats in the Loft". As part of my personal project to finally familiarize myself with a few obscure classics of the sub genre, it has been an education in itself, so eclectically proportioned as to recall, at various times, sometimes momentarily and sometimes insistently, the works of such seemingly orthogonal artists as CARAVAN, AMON DUUL 2, MOODY BLUES, ARTHUR BROWN, KING CRIMSON, and others not yet familiar to these ears.

Comparisons have been drawn to COMUS' contemporaneous "First Utterance", which is valid per the morbid subject matter and general disrespect for structure, but Comus was a conventional English folk group by comparison. The first two tracks reinvent themselves many times over from folk to jazz to chamber to symphonic and back around through tight and improvised passages. The title track is more minimalist, but seems indebted to Kraut rock more than anything, with stabs of rhythm guitar throughout this depiction of a satanic ceremony of sorts.

While I highly recommend this and do consider it an underrated classic, it's not a slam dunk in the likability department. It has that "je ne sais quoi" which can possess you to listen again and again until you have absorbed as much as you can without having to ring up the exterminator. 4.5 stars.

Review by ALotOfBottle
5 stars In 1968, Jan Dukes De Grey was formed in Leeds as a duo consisting of a wind player Michael Bairstow and a guitarist and vocalist Derek Noy. The two quickly made a name for themselves in the English folk underground. By the end of 1969, their debut album Sorcerers was released and they were soon joined by a drummer Denis Conlan. The band got a chance to open for acts such as Pink Floyd and The Who. In 1971, the trio recorded Mice And Rats In The Loft, released on the Transatlantic label.

The band's second release, Mice And Rats In The Loft consists of three tracks. The album starts out with the side-long epic "Sun Symphonica", which highlights all basic ingredients that contribute to the album's unique sound. The feel of the track is very ominous and every instrument has its very own part there. Side B features two pieces: "Call Of The Wild" and the title track "Mice And Rats In The Loft". The songs are very diverse without becoming inconsistent.

The music of Jan Dukes De Grey comprises influences of English folk music, root blues, and contemporary acid folk with psychedelic coloring. One can also notice Indian music influences, which give the release a trippy, trance-like feel. The mood of Mice And Rats In The Loft is dark and sinister. Common comparisons to Comus' First Utterance are very much justified, as both albums share stylistic similarities. However, Jan Dukes De Grey's sound is less structured and relies heavily on free-form improvisation. In fact, strong emphasis put on lengthy improvisational passages gives this album a very distinct quality.

Michael Bairstow handles all wind instruments, including a flute, a clarinet, a saxophone, a trumpet, a mouth harp as well as keyboards and some percussion. He proves to be a very proficient and a versatile musician with stylistic abilities ranging from the pagan-sounding flute to the jazzy trumpet to the middle-east-influenced clarinet. Derek Noy plays all guitars. These mainly include an electric 12-string guitar, but acoustic guitars are not uncommon, either. His performance is very experimental, the guitarist is capable of wild, dissonant, exotic-sounding solos as well as more traditional folk guitar play. Where needed, he also provides bass parts, again very proficiently. His vocals possess a dark timbre, which fits for the band's musical nature well. Denis Conlan's drumming keeps up with the band's lively and dynamic style. Jan Dukes De Grey were definitely very competent, accomplished, and experienced mavericks. The lyrical aspect of the album is really hair-rising, often giving the impression of being written by a madman. Although not noted in the liner notes, the album also features violins, whose sound owes a great deal to traditional folk music.

Jan Dukes De Grey's Mice And Rats In The Loft, did not enjoy much success. For many years, the group remained a fairly obscure act. It wasn't until many years later that the album was recognized as a masterpiece. The overall feel of the album is very eccentric and unconventional, the band's sound unique and distinct. Highly recommended! Five stars!

Review by Progfan97402
5 stars If you were first exposed to Sorcerers, nothing's going to prepare you for Mice and Rats in the Loft. Sorcerers sounds like a positively ordinary psych folk album compared to this! Instead of a bunch of relatively short songs, this album consists of only three songs, the first piece taking up all of side one. The music really goes way beyond their debut in terms of ambition and complexity. "Sun Symphonica" may start off rather lightweight, but after a few minutes the band really gets to business. Lots of great use of percussion, acoustic guitar, mandolin, violin, sax, with some rather ominous lyrics with an ominous vibe going on. Lots of wonderful jams too. The next two are also equally complex and ambitious. These guys certainly didn't sit on their laurels in between the year between albums. As far as I'm concerned, the reputation of Jan Dukes de Grey rests on Mice and Rats in the Loft. This album really blew me away, and by far one of the best things I've heard off the Transatlantic label. You hadn't lived until you hear this!

Latest members reviews

4 stars JAN DUKES DE GREY sounds like a French nobleman, but they were actually a short-lived Prog/Psych-Folk band from Leeds in northern England. Their first album "Sorcerers" (1970) passed by virtually unnoticed at the time of its release, but their second album "Mice and Rats in the Loft" (1971) wil ... (read more)

Report this review (#2306438) | Posted by Psychedelic Paul | Monday, January 13, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Not Tull, not Comus, but just as spectacular as them both: 9/10 The late 60s was a blossoming age for experimental bands. It was, too, the epoch of JAN DUKES DE GREY's conception, consisting of ex-soul musician Derek Ney and guitarist Michael Bairstow. Despite their debut, SORCERESS, obtaining ... (read more)

Report this review (#1779820) | Posted by Luqueasaur | Wednesday, September 6, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Well hello! The first time I listened to this record I swear I was freaked, you know this thing is strange, challenging and complex. After some listens I could really see what it was. Most people compare this one to Comus' First Utterance, but the only reason they do that is because neither Mice ... (read more)

Report this review (#1521226) | Posted by MyDarling95 | Wednesday, January 27, 2016 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I discovered this album 5 years ago and it completely didn't catch my attention back then. If you compare this stuff to famous prog albums of that era you'll know why Jan Dukes de Grey didn't make it. It's a half professional musicianship plus not very good production. The guys were ambitious but th ... (read more)

Report this review (#1108739) | Posted by LSDisease | Monday, January 6, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars The success of this album on this site is, in my opinion, largely attributable to its obscure nature. People who are into non-mainstream music seem to delight in "quality" favorites that no one else has heard of and thus exaggerate their quality. The 4.25 star rating seems entirely unjustifi ... (read more)

Report this review (#996481) | Posted by dragonspirit | Friday, July 12, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars bizarre, psychedelic, obsessive, experimental and above all...unique. This is one of the greatest acid folk albums ever. Always compared to another milestone of the genre (First Utterance by Comus), this album reveals all the desire by Noy and Bairstow for experimentation and improvisation. ... (read more)

Report this review (#839812) | Posted by Dark Nazgul | Wednesday, October 17, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Usually I am not big fan of these overlengthed songs because I think for song to be considered as a good or great it should also be that with its music. It should be interesting all the way. That is hard and some bands have fallen into trap trying to make very long song which would in the end turn ... (read more)

Report this review (#370288) | Posted by Archangel | Sunday, January 2, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I was amazed this weekend listening to this CD over and over again. This is prog-folk at the best. This one is the long lost twin brother of Comus but with lighter lyrics (not that much on the first track) but You will be simply amazed at the number of instruments They play here. Sun Symphonic ... (read more)

Report this review (#299890) | Posted by steelyhead | Monday, September 20, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A fantastic album of the acid folk genre and one that manages to be quite progressive, as well as quite unique. The music here is mostly tangential in its orchestration and feels free-flowing. Jan Dukes de Grey have masterfully combined folk, progressive rock, psychedelic rock and elements of jazz. ... (read more)

Report this review (#214803) | Posted by listen | Monday, May 11, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars 10/10 Masterpiece I have waited months, almost a year now, to review this album which I, at first, disliked or just didn't really understand. This album is completely brilliant, and I love it to death. Usually I am not a fan of the chaotic music herein, usually I don't have a strong taste f ... (read more)

Report this review (#167814) | Posted by The Lost Chord | Thursday, April 17, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Rating: B+ Those who are familiar with Comus' First Utterance will be delighted to learn that First Utterance has a twin brother in Mice and Rats in the Loft, the magnum opus of Jan Dukes de Grey. A similar psychedelic folk release (even down to the mildly disturbing lyrics, especially on the ... (read more)

Report this review (#163466) | Posted by Pnoom! | Saturday, March 8, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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