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Jade Warrior - Jade Warrior CD (album) cover

JADE WARRIOR

Jade Warrior

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.61 | 115 ratings

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kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars While the term 'influential' is often code for 'commercial flop that has gained some notoriety with the passage of time', in the case of JADE WARRIOR the acclaim is well earned and deserved. They may be best remembered for their time on Island Records between 1974 and 1978, in which they pioneered a bewitching fusion of world, ambient and new age when all were the Jane Does of popular music. Before this near brush with non-anonymity, they released three albums on Vertigo which have justly attracted a cult of prog fans, even if they only scored the record deal as a 'throw in' along with the band that the label really wanted to sign.

Both Tony Duhig (guitar) and Jon Field (percussion, flute) had known each other for the better part of a decade and worked with other future luminaries like Tom Newman and in pop and psych bands of the 1960s, which allows even their Jade Warrior debut to sidestep accusations of immaturity. Most of what would form the core of their mid 1970s accomplishments was already in evidence here, from the fascination with world music to the appreciation for pastoral folk to a voyeuristic tendency to shock the listener with crude transitions. Apart from the presence of vocalist/bassist Glyn Havard, what's different here, and what was largely bled out by the time the Vertigo had subsided, was a predilection for blues and rock of their day and of by then bygone days. How well they balanced these disparate influences largely dictates my evaluation of this period. In the case of this inaugural work, they did rather well.

Skirting the clear comparisons to what JETHRO TULL and KING CRIMSON were doing at the time, I also note a kinship with some of the early proto prog, at times veering close to a SPRING with far better musicianship and no mellotrons. The perceived whimsy of some of the lyrics and some of the heavier guitar work approximate some of the early Canterbury like EGG. Not surprisingly, I'm a bigger fan of the more pastoral Crimson oriented work like 'The Traveller', 'Windweaver', and 'Dragonfly Day', and even more so the sublime closer 'Sundial Song' with a nod to PETER GREEN's FLEETWOOD MAC in Duhig's liquid lead guitar. Still, if I had to pick a single highlight, it would be the stunning 'Masai Morning', with three equally 'hairs on end' chapters that refute any notion that the Warrior came at its cosmopolitan pretensions dishonorably and should therefore logically choose to die on its sword.

Even the plod rockers plod and rock with dignity and a stylish savvy, spruced up as they are by playful flute, percussions (no drums are credited here) and lead guitar. The lyrics may not be the most inspired, but even on the weakest number, 'Telephone Girl', they are more naive than offensive. My favorite of the up-tempo numbers is 'Psychiatric Sergeant' but they all integrate well into the band's at times schizophrenic vision.

I would not have believed it when I was done hearing and reviewing the Island anthology, but I now can state with the minimal authority vested in me that this inaugural release is a mighty fine way to begin your exploration of a band, and album, that fully earns its cachet.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |

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