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PROG FOLK

A Progressive Rock Sub-genre


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Prog Folk definition

In the wake of the 1960s, a Folk revival started on both sides of the Atlantic, and got quickly linked with a protest movement, not always, but often linked to more left-wing tendencies, which did not sit well with the authorities. BOB DYLAN, JOAN BAEZ, WOODY GUTHRIE, JOHN DENVER, BUFFY STE-MARIE, but also the FARINA couple Richard and Mimi for the US and SHIRLEY COLLINS and EWAN McCOLL (mentor of BERT JANSCH, JOHN RENBOURN ) for the UK and HUGUES AUFRAY in France. In Quebec, there was the "Chansonniers" phenomenon among which CLAUDE LEVEILLE and FELIX LECLERC were the most popular, waking up the sleepy "Belle Province" and stand up for itself from the English rule. The English part of Canada also brought up JONI MITCHELL, LEONARD COHEN (although he was from Montreal) and NEIL YOUNG.

As DYLAN turned electric with his Highway 61 Revisited album, much to the dislike of purists who yelled for treason, Folk Rock was born, opening the floodgates for younger artists to turn on the electricity. As DYLAN soon abandoned to style to create Country Rock with his next album, his British equivalent Scotsman DONOVAN stayed true to Folk Rock. In the US, THE BYRDS were the main promoters of the style by now, culminating with the superb "Eight Miles High" track with a lengthy (for the times) guitar solo of almost one minute. But countless other bands on the west coast, such as LOVE, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE (and later its spin-off HOT TUNA), GRATEFUL DEAD, QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE, PEARLS BEFORE SWINE, and TIM BUCKLEY all started in the folk rock realm. Even San Fran's SANTANA with its Latino traditional music and, on the east coast, NY's THE LOVING SPOONFUL had folk roots. Notwithstanding the immense popularity of SIMON & GARFUNKEL and their delicious harmonies, Folk Rock was appealing only to the rock public as the older generations turned their backs in folkies.

In the UK, following on their countrymen DONOVAN, many Scotsmen were very influent in exploring new grounds for folk rock: INCREDIBLE STRING BAND (led by Scots Palmer and Williamson) with their two highly influential albums "5000 Layers Or The Spirit Of The Onion" & "The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter" and THE PENTANGLE (led by other Scots Renbourn, Jansch and McShee and their superb bassist Danny Thompson) and its incredible fusion of folk, blues and jazz style were very instrumental in developing the style to the same extent as FAIRPORT CONVENTION and STRAWBS who by that time were still more conventional US "west-coast folk rock". The single artistes in folk rock became known as Folk Troubadours were also numerous and often presented a more progressive side of folk: AL STEWART, NICK DRAKE, ROY HARPER, TYRANOSAURUS REX (actually a duo of Steven Took and Marc Bolan) , JOHN MARTYN etc.

However, the real angular album that will lead to further change of Folk Rock is FAIRPORT CONVENTION's "Liege & Lief" album, that proved to be highly influential for another generation of groups: this album concentrated into electrifying seminal English traditional folk and retained that quaint Englishness taste. It is interesting to see that both leaders of FAIRPORT quit the band after this success to go their respective way: Sandy Denny to a solo folk songwriting career and Ashley Hutchings to a very traditional folk rock. By this time, most connoisseur were talking of Acid Folk, Psych Folk, and Progressive Folk, all having limited differences and no particularly drawn-out limits or boundaries, but all relying on experimental or groundbreaking adventures and good musicianship but not necessarily of an acoustic nature.

Groups like THE THIRD EAR BAND and QUINTESSENCE relied on eastern Indian music influences and, sometimes, medieval tones. Other groups like the weird COMUS, TREES, SPIROGYRA, FOREST, the superb JAN DUKES DE GREY but also TRADER HORNE, TUDOR LODGE, FOTHERINGAY, MAGNA CARTA, and TIR NA NOG were out to break new ground but with less commercial success as their predecessor. By 1972, all of the glorious precursors bands were selling fewer records and had problems renewing themselves and a newer generation of groups was relying in a more Celtic jigs or really traditional sounds. Such as HORSLIPS, DANDO SHAFT, STEELEYE SPAN, AMAZING BLONDEL, ALBION DANCE BAND and SPRIGUNS OF TOLGUS. Although JETHRO TULL had some definitive folk roots right from the start, their only albums that can be regarded as Prog Folk are 1977's Songs From The Woods and 1978's Heavy Horses. Ian Anderson (another Scots) was very keen in acoustical traditional songs. Some Folk Troubadours such as TIM BUCKLEY and JOHN MARTYN started turning records more and more axed towards fusing jazz and folk (a bit in what THE PENTANGLE were doing) , others became more and more electric and they started to be referred to as Singer Songwriters especially those with country rock influences.

In Germany, HOELDERLIN (and their fantastic debut album), EMTIDI, OUGENWEIDE, CAROL OF HARVEST, WITTHUSER & WESTRUPP were exploring German folk while KALACAKRA , SILOAH and EMBRYO were indulging with Indian music. In South America, most notably in Chile, LOS JAIVAS (very bent upon Andean Indian music) and CONGRESO (more Spanish-Latino folklore) were using folk in their rock, so much that some press talked about them referring it with the hateful term Inca Rock. In Quebec, the progressive movement exploded with the cultural identity and the Chansonniers tradition and this was carried out with LES SEGUIN and HARMONIUM and so many more. In France, many groups were out for folk rock such as CATHERINE RIBEIRO AND ALPES, TANGERINE, and ASGARD. In Spain, Flamenco playing a dominant role as well as Basque folk, TRIANA, ITOIZ and HAIZEA were the head of the movement once the Franco regime fell apart after his death.


There is also a very important medieval music influences dimension in some groups as the term Medieval Folk was also mentioned for a while but apparently dropped by musicologists. Among the UK groups are obviously GRYPHON, GENTLE GIANT and THIRD EAR BAND, in France: MALICORNE and RIPAILLE and in Scandinavia: ALGARNAS TRADGARD and FOLQUE.


Hugues Chantraine
with hyperlinks and updates by Ken Levine December 2017

Current Team as of December 2017

Bob Moore aka ClemofNazareth
Ken Levine aka Kenethlevine
Sean Trane

Prog Folk Top Albums


Showing only studios | Based on members ratings & PA algorithm* | Show Top 100 Prog Folk | More Top Prog lists and filters

4.63 | 3270 ratings
THICK AS A BRICK
Jethro Tull
4.35 | 2589 ratings
AQUALUNG
Jethro Tull
4.19 | 1395 ratings
SONGS FROM THE WOOD
Jethro Tull
4.22 | 319 ratings
ALTURAS DE MACHU PICCHU
Jaivas, Los
4.38 | 85 ratings
ERWARTUNG
Eden
4.23 | 208 ratings
ST. RADIGUNDS
Spirogyra
4.16 | 625 ratings
RED QUEEN TO GRYPHON THREE
Gryphon
4.16 | 548 ratings
FIRST UTTERANCE
Comus
4.21 | 215 ratings
MICE AND RATS IN THE LOFT
Jan Dukes De Grey
4.15 | 335 ratings
GRAVE NEW WORLD
Strawbs
4.13 | 338 ratings
HERO AND HEROINE
Strawbs
4.44 | 47 ratings
LUCAS
Araújo, Marco Antônio
4.79 | 22 ratings
DÚLAMÁN
Clannad
4.20 | 100 ratings
I A MOON
North Sea Radio Orchestra
4.15 | 138 ratings
BELLS, BOOTS AND SHAMBLES
Spirogyra
4.04 | 1226 ratings
STAND UP
Jethro Tull
4.03 | 1148 ratings
HEAVY HORSES
Jethro Tull
4.03 | 1184 ratings
MINSTREL IN THE GALLERY
Jethro Tull
4.07 | 289 ratings
THE HAZARDS OF LOVE
Decemberists, The
4.03 | 1432 ratings
A PASSION PLAY
Jethro Tull

Prog Folk overlooked and obscure gems albums new


Random 4 (reload page for new list) | As selected by the Prog Folk experts team

II
Espers
THE WATERS OF SWEET SORROW
Midwinter
A CANDLE FOR JUDITH
Way We Live, The
HAUL AR YR EIRA
Pererin

Latest Prog Folk Music Reviews


 Access All Areas by STRAWBS album cover DVD/Video, 2015
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Access All Areas
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

— First review of this album —
3 stars Taken in 1990, this video of Access All Areas' Central TVs series televised concert of the Strawbs is a very good sounding and looking live outing of the Strawbs on both CD and DVD. I wish it had been from a happier and more productive era of the band, but as an historical document, it shows just how low the band sunk creatively in 1990.

All of the songs are very much by the numbers and offer nothing new except for an all rock approach to Dave Cousins' much loved "Grace Darling". The more modern, for the era, sounding lead guitar of Brian Wiloughby and the thin sounding synths and treated electric piano of Chris Parren give the songs a subtle new wave edge. But again, just subtlety. Cousins is still in good voice at this juncture and he's able to pull off the higher register vocals in the concert's only prog epic "Down By The Sea", that was sung by Dave Lambert in the old halcyon days. It's good to have returning co-founding member Tony Hooper and new bassist Rod Demick harmonize with Cousins in tune, something that was always impossible with the previous line up that included guitarist Dave Lambert and bassist Chas Cronk, so that chorus heavy songs like "Lay Down" and "Part Of The Union" really shine on this disc. It may contain the best live versions of those two songs that I've ever heard with the group actually doing an acapella section in "Lay Down", a first, "Cut Like A Diamond" and "The Hangman And The Papist" are done well and are tight versions. This is also the first recording of Cousins' ode to the late Sandy Denny titled "Ringing Down The Years". Cousins' emotional intro really helps to sell the song.

It's also nice to hear drummer Richard Hudson clearly for once, as he sounds like a lot better player than on past studio albums where he was always down a bit in the muddy rhythm track mixes on the 70's album recordings. And the band sound quite polished and enthusiastic overall.

So, despite Cousins and company in fine concert form, it's sad that this group was at a creative low with Cousins (by his own admission) writing no more that 13 songs since the break up of the group in 1978, when he literally wrote hundreds. This 2 disc CD and DVD set does have a few good things going for it so a rating of 3 stars seem about right.

 Concert Classics by STRAWBS album cover Live, 1999
2.52 | 11 ratings

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Concert Classics
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars Concert Classics is a kick *** live album capturing the late 70s Strawbs who were on fire and with Dave Cousins' voice in absolutely tip top shape. Naturally, Cousins and guitarist Dave Lambert once again struggle to harmonize on the intro to "Ghosts" (it's always amazed me how these two excellent vocalists can sing so well individually and always sound like scalded cats when singing together) while keyboard player Andy Richards supercharges the song with synths while still keeping the gorgeous melodies originally played by the great John Hawken on mellotron. Stunning stuff. Chas Cronk on bass and the incredible Tony Fernandez on drums round out the line up.

The late 70s rockers "The Last Resort", "Heartbreaker" and "No Return" get amped up enthusiastic run throughs, but it's the prog classics "Simple Visions", "Cut Like A Diamond" and "Out In The Cold/Round And Round" that make this album a treasure. And a heavy version of "Hero And Heroine" closes out the album in fine style.

The recording is clear and detailed but sounds a little rough around the edges. However, it actually does sound like a live concert performance, as opposed to the modern trend of sound mixing and mastering that tries to make a live performance sound like a studio recording. Another plus. 4 stars.

 These Trails by THESE TRAILS album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.95 | 2 ratings

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These Trails
These Trails Prog Folk

Review by Logan
Forum & Site Admin Group Forum Moderator

4 stars These Trails are made for walking.

These Trails released just one album, which was a very limited, private pressing release in 1973. It wouldn't be until considerable years later that it got any significant attention, albeit this is still an obscurity. An obscurity that I find charming. While I place this roughly in the acid folk category, most of it is not really psychedelic. It's a mix.

I thought about doing a full track breakdown, but instead I'll mention some that may be of particular interest. While the initial highlight for me was the weird, psychedelic "Psyche I & Share Your Water", which starts off so beautifully, then turns so strange, the rather more conventional "El Rey Pescador" I find so utterly gorgeous that were I to make a mix album with but one song from this album, that would be my choice. It features the terrific vocals of Carlos Pardeiro, who clearly comes across, and was, a professional singer. Such beautiful guitar work, and that addition of sitar gives it something of a Spanish music meets raga quality. "Garden Botanum" is another of the stranger tracks, and the synths give it an unusual off-kilter feel. And tracks like "Hello Lou" and "Waipou" are wonderful.

While I wouldn't so much describe it as folk-rock, I think that the way the synthesizer is incorporated gives it more Prog appeal (of the electronic Prog, Dionne- Bregent ilk). Mostly I would recommend it to those who can appreciate both Acid Folk and sunshine folk,

I think it can fit alongside various acid folk acts in the archives such as Linda Perhacs ( Parallelograms), Vashti Bunyan, Shelagh McDonald, and various acid folk or acid folk related ones outside of it. It has some of Joni Mitchell's qualities, and in parts it reminds me of Comus' To Keep From Crying, which is hardly a bad thing in my estimation. While the mix of Hawaiian music, Spanish, hippyish folk, electronics, chamber folk , and psychedelia is quite unique, certainly to my collection, for those who like this, I would recommend listening to the wondrous Extradition's Hush as well as Linda Perhacs Parallelograms , Additionally, I would suggest that it has something of a "The Wicker Man" (1973) soundtrack (a favourite of mine) vibe to it, only more so if "The Wicker Man" took place on a lovely, breezy, laid back Hawaiian island and was more luau than sinister sacrifice. Still, I rather sense something slightly sinister lurking under the surface of this hippyish album, and perhaps a pig was sinisterly sacrificed for that luau (I'd rather think they were vegans). But that may merely be a product of my disturbed psyche.

If I have a quibble, a minor one, the vibrato of Margaret Morgan can be a little too distracting, but I absolutely love this album. Not that ratings matter much methinks, but five for me, and four for PA purposes (although I would not claim that it is an "excellent addition to any prog rock collection". I would say that it's likely to be an excellent addition to well rounded folkies who like Hawaiian folk music, hippy stuff, and acid folk -- how odd that that is not an option for the rating. I would sooner recommend this to folkies than proggers, and to those into gentle, pastoral music rather than thrash metal, as one might expect of a folk album. This is an essential album in my collection that I have returned to again and again.

 Gryphon by GRYPHON album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.36 | 212 ratings

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Gryphon
Gryphon Prog Folk

Review by Jimta

4 stars Something I wouldn't class as rock nor even perhaps prog, or at least not musically. Being amazing and mind blown when entering folk, I quickly came to understand the excellency of Steeleye span and the genius of Comus, but this was something else. Pure and crisp. Folk had started to become stale and I was perhaps seeking some new genre, but this came out of nowhere and blew me away. The elegance and primal tunes left me relistening to this album multiple times, I couldn't escape the melodies with them constantly stuck in my head. Honestly, I never expected to like this as much as I did and am shocked it wasn't as well recieved as I would've expected. I understand it lacks the "prog feel" of Gryphon's later albums, but in a way by not having that it made it more progressive not bound by the same sound as them and being an entity totally alien on its own, for I'd never personally encountered this type of music at such an accessible level
 Dragonfly by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.16 | 100 ratings

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Dragonfly
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

4 stars Dragonfly is an album that has gotten quite a few 2 and 3 star ratings on PA and frankly, it deserves more stars than that. A very folk based acoustic album, it's main short coming seems to be the lack of symphonic prog found on later albums like Grave New World and Hero And Heroine. In fact there's not a mellotron note to be found on Dragonfly as the Strawbs had not yet progressed that far with this their second album.

The progressive elements found on Dragonfly are subtle and covert despite it's pastoral demeanor. The lead off track "The Weary Song" is a folk gem and is very reminiscent of a Simon And Garfunkel song in both style and execution, with alternate guitar tuning and wonderful harmonizing from Dave Cousins and Tony Hooper. Both vocalists are noticeably toned down as opposed from the belting out both did on Strawbs' previous album, their eponymous debut, and Dragonfly is all the better for it. What sets the song apart is eerie cello accompaniment from new member Claire Neniz, along with treated electric lead guitar and various hand percussion instruments. It's a song that lyrically and musically puts the listener in the singer's brow beaten frame of mind. The title track "Dragonfly" is a song that the Incredible String Band would have envied with it's modal dulcimer, recorder accompaniment (played by producer Tony Visconti), stately cello, backwards cymbal effects, chiming hand instruments and hand percussion. Done in a time signature reminiscent of a medieval court dance, it's case where looking backwards musically is it's progressive edge. The magnificent bowed double bass is played by the Strawbs' forth member Ron Chesterman. (The group still did not have an electric bass player in the group, nor a drummer, at this juncture.)

"I Turn My Face To The Wind" is another introspective Cousins song that conjures up feelings of walking a deserted English moor, feeling lonely, in the cold driving rain. Again, all acoustic with alternate guitar tunings, so in vogue in the world of late 60s British folk music, with Miss Deniz adding mournful cello. A guesting Rick Wakeman (he would not join the Strawbs until after the album was released) adds stately but unassuming piano that really drives home the song's uncompromising melancholy feel. "Josephine, For Better Or For Worse" is a beautiful and moving love song with stellar call and response type vocals form both Cousins and Hooper in the song's lilting chorus along with mournful cello from Miss Deniz.

Breaking the spell of lonesomeness is the gorgeous "Another Day" with an sunshine melody and more wonderful harmonizing from Cousins and Hooper as well as alternating lead vocals. "Till The Sun Comes Shining Through" is another upbeat song that doesn't work quite as well but has it's merits with a wonderfully baroque feel supplied by more recorder. "Young Again" is another of sentimental laments that follows the same acoustic formulas and is almost as good as "Another Day", with Hooper taking a solo lead vocal and it's one of his best on a Strawbs record. "The Vision Of The Lady In The Lake", the album's only true progressive song, is a long narration devoid of the standard verse, chorus, verse, chorus sung structure is quite stunning in it's dramatic unfolding. The song utilizes all of the past noted instrumentation (including the returning electric lead guitar found on the albums' first track) along with the album's only full drum accompaniment. Starting out mellow, as expected, the music becomes more sinister in tone as the bizarre cautionary tale unfolds towards a shocking ending, expertly conveyed by Mr. Cousins in a dramatic but unpretentious fashion. The album's sound mix is quite clumsy at times but that doesn't detract from album's listening pleasure. And that's coming from a retired sound engineer.

All in all, Dragonfly is not very progressive overtly, but it's a fine album that I'm sure most fans of prog folk would absolutely adore given it's stellar and utterly unique folk rock basis. Another plus is the greatly improved songwriting of Dave Cousins, who dropped his whimsical narratives found on the group's debut album and turned to more moving and introspective themes.

The 2008 A&M CD edition has a few bonus tracks with the two featured BBC sessions being quite good. The group reprise the beautiful "Another Day" and it's better than the album cut as the recording is more balanced and less sonically dry with added reverb that is so missing on the entire Dragonfly album. The BBC session version of "We'll Meet Again Sometime", a song the group has been licking around for years, is the group's definitive version due to it's stripped down arrangement. All in all Dragonfly is a fine 4 star album.

 Dragonfly by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.16 | 100 ratings

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Dragonfly
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review Nş 314

"Dragonfly" is the second studio album of Strawbs and was released in 1970. It's a more restrained album than their debut, probably due to budgetary restraints. Probably this has always been an underrated Strawbs album, certainly not as dynamic as their later works, but possessing a quieter, rich and somber charm. The band was still very much an acoustic group, but already headed in the musical direction of their greatest fame, though they had yet to go to electric.

The line up on this album is the same of their debut album with the addition of Claire Deniz as a new member of the group. So, the line up is Dave Cousins (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, dulcimer, piano and percussion), Tony Hooper (vocals, acoustic guitar and tambourine), Ron Chesterman (double bass) and Claire Deniz (cello). The album had also the participation of Tony Visconti (recorder), Paul Brett (electric guitar) and Bjarne Rostvold (drums). The album marked the first collaboration of Rick Wakeman with the band, but on this album he was only a guest musician.

"Dragonfly" has nine tracks. All tracks were written by Dave Cousins except "Young Again" which was written by Tony Hooper. The first track "The Weary Song" is a conventional and typical folk song. It's an acoustic song and where the blend of Clare Deniz's cello gives to the song a very special feeling and a different musical dimension. The song, with bitter sweet harmonies and along with Dave Cousins' discreet vocals, is a perfect introduction to the mood of the all album. The second track is the title track "Dragonfly". It's a much darker song than the previous one and is also a song with an unusual tune and where the recorder played by Tony Visconti with the dulcimer played by Dave Cousins, gives to the song a modal perfect feeling, for the usual Dave Cousins' poetic lyrics. The third track "I Turned My Face Into The Wind" is basically a piano and cello driven song. It was a song written after a walk in Yorkshire, near Barnsley, and it brings some darker imagery of the English traditional countryside. This is a nice song where Dave Cousins plays piano and Tony Hooper plays quietly and tastefully an electric guitar. The fourth track "Josephine For Better Or For Worse" is another calm and beautiful folk song on the album, but this time, it's basically performed by acoustic guitar and cello. It seems this is a song rescued from the outtakes of the first musical sessions of their debut studio album, and where to this version, it was given an attractive and nice new acoustic treatment. The fifth track "Another Day" is a song with a very happy mood, which makes me joyful and gives to me an air of hope. It deserves special mention the beautiful vocal performance of Dave Cousins and Tony Hooper. This is a song with an Irish folk tinge, very simple and pleasant to hear. The sixth track "Til The Sun Comes Shining Through" is another West Country inspired song, as happened with the previous track, "Another Day". It's a short track with an intricate blend of beautiful guitars and where Dave Cousins and Tony Hooper are in perfect harmony. The seventh track "Young Again" is another short track which gives to us, perfectly and deliberately, the true innocence of the song. Tony Visconti also provides a recorder on this song and he handle with the vocals too. We can hear Dave Cousins playing a child's piano on the instrumental break. The eighth track "The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake" is clearly a track inspired by the Arthurian's legend. It's the great epic on the album. It's in the same vein of "The Battle", released on their previous eponymous debut studio album "Strawbs". This is a fantastic song that gradually moves in a constantly dramatic growing, which in the end provides to us one of the most build- ups musical experiences I've ever heard. It's by far the best musical moment on the album and it's also, undoubtedly, one of Dave Cousins' most striking musical compositions ever wrote by him. The ninth and last track "Close Your Eyes" is too short, 45 seconds, to have much to say about it. So, I only want to say this is a song entirely performed with the voice and the acoustic guitar of Dave Cousins. This is a nice and a brief way to close this album.

Conclusion: Like their previous eponymous debut studio album "Strawbs", "Dragonfly" is also a typical folk album with very few of progressive music. However, and as happened with "Strawbs", "Dragonfly" has the main lines of the progressive group they will become, very soon, and where "The Battle" of their debut and "The Vision Of The Lady Of The Lake" of this, are the two best and perfect examples of that. "Dragonfly" is, in my humble opinion, a step forward in the musical maturity of Strawbs. It's a more cohesive and uniform work than "Strawbs" is. However, I like both albums. But, for my taste, I think "Strawbs" has some songs more conventional than "Dragonfly" and, due to that, I probably prefer "Dragonfly" to "Strawbs". Still, this is only a matter of my personal taste. By the other hand, "Dragonfly" shows one of the first presences of Rick Wakeman on a progressive rock album, along with the second studio album of David Bowie, "Space Oddity". It's true that his presence isn't strongly felt here and we need to wait to Strawbs' next album, their debut live album "Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curious", to can feel his presence perfectly. However, "Dragonfly" represents, in a certain way, the starting point of his brilliant career as one of the best keyboardists ever.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

 When You're Dead - One Second by GHOST, THE album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.64 | 21 ratings

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When You're Dead - One Second
The Ghost Prog Folk

Review by Psychedelic Paul

5 stars THE GHOST briefly appeared like a spectral vision in Birmingham, England in the late-1960's. Their hauntingly-titled one and only album "When You're Dead - One Second" rose from the grave in 1970 before the band just as quickly disappeared in a wisp of hazy smoke like a phantom apparition. The spooky album cover showed a ghostly translucent image of the five-piece band gathered around a large tombstone, headed by a Celtic Cross.

Right from the first few opening bars of "When You're Dead", you can tell we're going to be in for a weird and wonderful wild psychedelic ride here. This acid-drenched music is very reminiscent of the American band H.P. Lovecraft. In fact, The Ghost have such a strong resemblance to the American West Coast sixties sound that it's hard to believe they could be from the gloomy backstreets of Birmingham in England. This "phantasmic" bunch of Brummies really know how to Rock! The Ghost are listed as Prog Folk on ProgArchives, but make no mistake, this opening number sounds like a wild Psychedelic Rock trip back in time to the flower-power freeway of love in San Francisco in the swinging sixties. In complete contrast, the second song "Hearts and Flowers" is a gorgeous Folk Pop refrain that could quite easily have been recorded by Peter, Paul & Mary or The Seekers. It's a truly beautiful melody floating along on a gentle wave of gorgeous guitar strings and uplifting harmonies. This stunning song - featuring Shirley Kent on lead vocals - is a real gem that shines like a sparkling diamond and would have had tremendous hit potential if it had ever been released as a single. We're back on the magic bus again for "In Heaven", and if you love the sound of H.P. Lovecraft, then you'll be "In Heaven" too when you hear this absolutely fabulous psychedelic sixties song. It's groovy, baby! There's a return to gentler Folk Rock territory for "Time is My Enemy", a poignant song about the passing of the years which conjures up fond memories of the classic years of Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention, although this is more of an unconventional slice of Psych-Folk. Shirley Kent sounds in magnificent voice on this hauntingly- beautiful song. It's a compelling blend of Sandy Denny's "Fotheringay" and "Who Knows Where the Time Goes", given a liberal psychedelic sprinkling of glowing rainbow colours. This is turning out to be a very good album indeed! Continuing with the intoxicating blend of storming Hard Rock songs and gentle Folk Rock refrains comes "Too Late To Cry", a rousing rip-roaring rocker, featuring an extended psychedelic wah-wah guitar trip back to the Streets of San Francisco in the hippy sixties, or the wild and untamed streets of Chicago in the case of H.P. Lovecraft.

We're onto Side Two now "For One Second", which opens as a gently laid-back country-tinged melody, but wait one second because there's a surprise in store when the song metamorphosises from a caterpillar into a bright and beautiful psychedelic butterfly for the storming crescendo of acid-soaked guitar reverb in the fabulous finale. And now we come to The Ghost's magnificent magnum opus, "Night of the Warlock", a spirited Demons and Wizards song that barrels along at pell-mell speed, taking the listener on a crazy helter-skelter ride in a headlong rush towards psychedelic nirvana. This is like a maniacal harum scarum version of "Season of the Witch", wound up to 99 and given an energetic burst of adrenalin and raw power. We're off to meet the "Indian Maid" next, so you can expect to hear some exotic far-eastern vibes from the Indian sub-continent, although the song is still firmly rooted in western psychedelia. Either way, it's another great song wherever you are in the world. It's time now to mount the battlements for "My Castle Has Fallen", a storming medieval ballista firing a relentless percussive artillery barrage of pummelling Psychedelic Rock! There's no let-up in the incredible pace either because "The Storm" is on the way, a thunder and lightning display of sonic energy to rattle the windows and light up the sky. It's not all Crash! Bang! Wallop! though, because there's a return to gentler climes for "Me and My Loved Ones", a bright rainbow sunburst of groovy psychedelic colours to close the album in magnificent style. Wait a minute though, we're not quite through yet, because there's the groovy sixties number "I've Got To Get To Know You" added as a bonus track.

The Ghost has risen from the grave of the psychedelic sixties era and reappeared as an awesome apparition fifty years later on ProgArchives. "When You're Dead - One Second" is an album full of haunting Folk refrains and spirited psychedelic acid trips. All in all, it's a heavenly album full of devilishly good songs.

 Strawbs by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.14 | 86 ratings

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Strawbs
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

3 stars Ah, Dave Cousins and the kitchen sink. That's what's come to mind when I listen to the Strawbs' eponymous debut, and for good reason. "Strawbs" was one of the most expensive albums made in the 60s with a budget of $30,000 US. The equal of over $200,000 in today's money.

The reasons for this are manifold but one need not be a genius to assume that the loss of powerhouse vocalist Sandy Denny was a key contributor. Getting a recording contract with fledgling A&M Records on the strength of the Sandy And The Strawbs' material, recorded in Denmark in 1967, was a hard hole for the band to plug. An aborted attempt to hire sexy siren Sonja Kristina (who would find some renown fronting Curved Air a couple of years later) as a replacement certainly didn't help. So what to do? Throw money at the problem in the form of over producing the album with all manner of ornate orchestration, numerous session players and even the services of an Arabic band.

The results are not terrible but the material on "Strawbs" could have been so much better with a less is more approach. What does work well is the shocking (for the times) lead off track "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus", about a man who says he's the Christ in current times. Also good is the sublime album closer "The Battle", a nascent prog-like song about a medieval battle using chess pieces as the characters who suffer through the bloody ordeal, as told by Cousins with Gregorian accents supported by stately church like organ and martial drumming. Brilliant stuff.

The simpler folky songs like "All The Little Ladies", "Pieces Of 79 and 15", and "Poor Jimmy Wilson", while good songs, suffer from over production or, in the case of "Pieces Of 79 and 15", by over singing by Toby Hooper. The sublime "Tell Me What You See In Me", taken from the aborted Sandy And The Strawbs sessions, suffers from the intrusion of Arabic instruments and melodies and comes off sounding clumsy and heavy handed. What does work well with outside musicians is the the wonderfully hard folk rock of "Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth?", which features hyponitic bass lines from future Led Zeppelin member John Paul Johns and jazzy piano from future Quicksilver member Nicky Hopkins. The dramatic symphonic bombast of "Oh, How She Changed" is another song that benefits from the heavy production and is one of my favorites on the album.

"Strawbs" is not a bad album but it could have been so much better if some restraint was exercised in it's production, at least on the simpler songs stated above. It's still a good indicator of where the Strawbs were heading with excellent albums like "Dragonfly", "Just A Collection Of Antiques And Curios" and "From The Witchwood" shorty to follow it. 3.5 stars rounded down to 3.

 Strawberry Sampler number 1  by STRAWBS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1969
2.30 | 9 ratings

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Strawberry Sampler number 1
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by SteveG

2 stars A bit of flotsam and jetsam in the Strawbs' ocean, Sampler Number 1 was a demonstration record issued in 1969 featuring both material that was rejected for the Strawbs first A&M album, along with material from the aborted Sandy And The Strawbs sessions from 1967. The major difference between the material is the obvious inclusion of the great Sandy Denny on vocals and her absence as well as a good dose of over production in an effort to compensate on the material recorded later without her.

Once again, the material featuring Denny is better as it has an unmistakable group dynamic and is mostly upbeat acoustic folk rock. Highlights are "Sail Away To The Sea", "Two Weeks Last Summer" (Which would be resurrected later by Cousins on his first solo album) and Sandy's sublime first recording of "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?" Even the Cousins sung songs from these sessions are good and include "My Own Worst Friend" and "Nothing Else Will Do."

What doesn't work are the post Sandy songs that are strangled with all type of ornate orchestration and these include "All I Need Is You", "And You Need Me", "Josephine For Better or For Worse" and the absolutely garish "Oh Me, Oh My". "Josephine" would be re-recorded and go on to become a Strawbs concert staple while "Oh Me, Oh My" would be placed, unchanged, on the Grave New World album, where it remains forever out of place given the gravitas of that album.

An album that's half good seems to deserve a rating of 2.5 stars (rounded down to 2 stars) and that's just fine for the Strawbs' Sampler Number 1.

 Strawbs by STRAWBS album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.14 | 86 ratings

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Strawbs
Strawbs Prog Folk

Review by VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Review Nş 313

"Strawbs" is the debut studio album of Strawbs and was released in 1969. Strawbs was formed in 1964 as the Strawberry Hill Boys in Strawberry Hill in London. The name was shortened to Strawbs in 1967. Although they started out in the 60's as a bluegrass band the band's repertoire shifted to favour their own material. In 1967 Strawbs recorded thirteen songs for a proposed first album "All Our Own Work" with Sandy Denny. But, the album only saw the light of day in 1973. So, it was only in 1969 that Strawbs released their acclaimed eponymous debut studio album "Strawbs".

The line up on this album is very short and is formed by Dave Cousins (vocals and guitars), Tony Hooper (vocals and guitars) and Ron Chesterman (double bass). The album had also the participation of John Paul Jones, the bassist of Led Zeppelin and Nicky Hopkins, the keyboardist of The Rolling Stones, on some of the tracks on the album.

"Strawbs" has eleven tracks. The first track "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus" written by Cousins is an interesting song with strange lyrics. It reflects how the society might react if Jesus came back to the world. It's a very good song and one of the best moments on the all album. The track was a controversial selection as a single and unfortunately the BBC objected the lyrical content and quickly banned it from the airplay. The second track "That Which Once Was Mine" written by Cousins is a short song as almost all the songs on the album. It's a simple and calm song, very melodic, well performed, and where the voice of Cousins marries perfectly well with the acoustic sound of the instruments. The third track "All The Little Ladies" written by Cousins and Hooper isn't as good as the two previous tracks. It's another simple and melodic acoustic song, but it's more repetitive and less original and creative than the other two are. The fourth track "Pieces Of 79 And 15" written by Cousins and Hooper is, without any doubt, one of the most beautiful pieces on the album. It's a very beautiful song very well performed and where the vocal harmonies are perfect. It's a song with some symphonic parts that reminds me the early musical work of Genesis, "Trespass", especial due to the keyboard work. The fifth track "Tell Me What You See In Me" written by Cousins is one of the two lengthiest songs on the album. It's a song with an oriental flavour performed by several acoustic instruments, which give to it a very special and exotic musical ambience. This is a song that reminds me the early psychedelic musical period of Pink Floyd. The sixth track "Oh How She Changed" written by Cousins and Hooper is another short song, but nevertheless, it's very beautiful. Again, we are in presence of a very simple song but where all the elements, the vocal performance and the musical performance, are perfectly mixed. This time, the song reminds me the two early albums of Tim Buckley, his eponymous debut "Tim Buckley" and "Goodbye And Hello", both already reviewed by me here. The seventh track "Or Am I Dreaming?" written by Cousins is also a nice song, especially due to its catchy sound of the 60's. It deserves a special mention the use of a beautiful orchestration on the song. This is a song that brings to our memory the good old 60's, particularly Donovan, Simon & Garfunkel and the eponymous debut studio album of David Bowie. The eighth track "Where Is This Dream Of Your Youth?" written by Cousins is another song with a simple musical structure. It's one of the most ambitious pieces on the album and has a very nice and interesting piano performance. When I played this album to my youngest son, when he heard this music, he told me that it reminded him R.E.M. Sincerely, I must confess that I never had noticed that. However, after listening to it again, I think he can probably be right. The ninth track "Poor Jimmy Wilson" written by Cousins is a very simple song, with a nice and sad story. It has a beautiful flute performance, not listed, and the final result is a beautiful and pleasant song to hear. Despite be one of the weakest points on the album it's pleasant enough to not spoil it. It was the song chosen to be the B side of the single "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus". The tenth track "Where Am I? / I'll Show You Where To Sleep" written by Cousins is another weak track and was written in the same vein of the previous track "Poor Jimmy Wilson". These two tracks are with "All The Little Ladies" the three weakest points on the album. The eleventh track "The Battle" written by Cousins is the lengthiest and is their first mini epic. This track represents the highest point on the album and it can show perfectly well the glimpses of the future progressive lines, which were to follow, especially after the release of their next studio album "Dragonfly".

Conclusion: "Strawbs" was one of the good surprises and one of the most pleasant albums released in the end of the 60's. It's true that it shows some weak musical points, but in general, we may say this is an album that shows some consistency and some great musical moments too. Some of the songs are wonderfully composed in terms of lyrics and music, and even we may say, that some of them have already some complexity. Despite the poor initial reception, this is a good debut album by a well regarded and respected progressive band. It has, without any doubt, some of the main characteristics of their future music. And, in a certain way, it represents the birth of their future progressive folk roots.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Data cached

Prog Folk bands/artists list

Bands/Artists Country
0.720 ALEACION Mexico
3 DAFT MONKEYS United Kingdom
AALTO Finland
RABIH ABOU-KHALIL Lebanon
ACCOLADE United Kingdom
ACCOLADE United States
ADARO Germany
AFFORESTED United Kingdom
AFION Croatia
AGAPE Canada
AGINCOURT United Kingdom
AIGUES VIVES Germany
AKTUALA Italy
NICU ALIFANTIS Romania
ALMÔNDEGAS Brazil
ALVA Multi-National
AMANITA Italy
AMAROK Spain
AMAZING BLONDEL United Kingdom
AMBER United Kingdom
AN DRO Germany
ANACRUSA Argentina
IAN ANDERSON United Kingdom
THE ANGELS OF LIGHT United States
ANNAMY Sweden
APARECIDOS Multi-National
AQUAPLAN Finland
AQUARIUM Russia
MARCO ANTÔNIO ARAÚJO Brazil
DAN ARBORISE United Kingdom
THE ARBORISTS Canada
ARIA PALEA Italy
ARMY OF BRIARS United Kingdom
ARTSRUNI Armenia
ASGARD France
ASHADA Japan
ASHTAR Brazil
ASI SOMOS Puerto Rico
ATMAN Poland
AUCAN Argentina
AVALANCHE Netherlands
AVE SANGRIA Brazil
AZAHAR Spain
BABADAG Poland
BABY WHALE Multi-National
BAMBIR / THE BAMBIR Armenia
BANDA DO CASACO Portugal
A BARCA DO SOL Brazil
BARR Sweden
TOMAS BATISTA Argentina
BAYON Germany
BEAT CIRCUS United States
BEDEDEUM Italy
BERNARD BENOIT France
BIG LOST RAINBOW United States
BLACKMORE'S NIGHT United Kingdom
BLOPS Chile
BLUEHORSES United Kingdom
BOULE DE SON Canada
BRAN (BRÂN) United Kingdom
DAN AR BRAZ France
BREAD LOVE AND DREAMS United Kingdom
BRECHE Canada
PAUL BRETT United Kingdom
BRÖSELMASCHINE Germany
BUCIUM Romania
TIM BUCKLEY United States
VASHTI BUNYAN United Kingdom
C.O.B. United Kingdom
CAEDMON United Kingdom
CALIBAN United States
CÁLIX Brazil
CAMELIAS GARDEN Italy
CAN AM DES PUIG Multi-National
CANDIDATE United Kingdom
CANO Canada
CANZONIERE DEL LAZIO Italy
MARCELLO CAPRA Italy
CARMEN United Kingdom
CARNASCIALIA Italy
CAROL OF HARVEST Germany
GIAN CASTELLO Italy
PHILIPPE CAUVIN France
CHARLIE CAWOOD United Kingdom
CHAC MOOL Mexico
CHALIBAUDE France
CHERCHE-LUNE France
CHIMERA Netherlands
CHRYSALIDE France
CIRCULUS United Kingdom
CLANNAD Ireland
CLOGS Multi-National
COMUS United Kingdom
CONGREGACION Chile
CONGRESO Chile
CONNIVENCE Canada
CONSTANTINE United States
CONTRALUZ Argentina
CONVENTUM Canada
CORDE OBLIQUE Italy
DAVE COUSINS United Kingdom
CREMATORIUM Russia
CRYSTAL PHOENIX Italy
CRYSTAL THOUGHTS Greece
CURRENT 93 United Kingdom
DAEMONIA NYMPHE Greece
DANCER United Kingdom
DARNAKES Greece
DAWNWIND United Kingdom
DEAD CAN DANCE Australia
DECAMERON United Kingdom
THE DECEMBERISTS United States
DEMI-HEURE Canada
DETEKTIVBYRĹN Sweden
DIEGO DE MORON Spain
DODSON AND FOGG United Kingdom
DR. STRANGELY STRANGE Ireland
DULCIMER United Kingdom
DUN AENGHUS Multi-National
DUNWICH Italy
JUDY DYBLE United Kingdom
EDEN Germany
ELANE Germany
ELECTRIC DESERT Israel
ELFONÍA Mexico
NANCY ELIZABETH United Kingdom
ÉMERAUDE France
EMTIDI Germany
ENBOR Spain
ENGEL (MIGUEL ANGEL DE LA LLAVE JIMENEZ) Spain
L' ENGOULEVENT Canada
RÓBERT ERDÉSZ Hungary
ERGO SUM Chile
ERROBI Spain
ESPERS United States
ETERNIDAD Argentina
LA FAMIGLIA DEGLI ORTEGA Italy
FARAWAY FOLK United Kingdom
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FAUN Germany
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FAVERAVOLA Italy
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FEATHERS United States
THE FELLOWSHIP Italy
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FIABA Italy
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SERGE FIORI Canada
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FLAIRCK Netherlands
FLIBBERTIGIBBET South Africa
FLOR DE LOTO Peru
FOLKLORE Australia
I FOLLI DI DIO Italy
FOLQUE Norway
FORENINGEN TIL LIVETS BESKYTTELSE Denmark
FOREST United Kingdom
FORSETI Germany
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GAROLOU Canada
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GJALLARHORN Finland
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IBIO Spain
ILL WICKER Sweden
ILOUS & DECUYPER France
BRIAN IMIG United States
IN THE LABYRINTH Sweden
THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND United Kingdom
INDACO Italy
IONA United Kingdom
IRAKLIS Greece
ITHACA United Kingdom
ITOIZ Spain
ITZIAR Spain
IZUKAITZ Spain
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LOS JAIVAS Chile
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JOX France
JUSTINE Multi-National
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MUNDI DOMINI Canada
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NIRGAL VALLIS Mexico
THE NOCTURNES United States
NOMADS OF HOPE Sweden
MICHEL NORMANDEAU Canada
NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA United Kingdom
THE NOVA PROJECT United States
NUEVO MEXICO Mexico
NUIT CALINE A LA VILLA MON REVE Belgium
NYA LJUDBOLAGET Sweden
GAVIN O'LOGHLEN & COTTERS BEQUEST Australia
OBERON United Kingdom
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OF WONDROUS LEGENDS (O.W.L.) United States
OFFA REX Various
OLOFERNE Italy
OMNI Spain
OPEN EYE BAND Finland
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ORPHEUS GHOSTSONG United Kingdom
ORYZHEIN Canada
OUGENWEIDE Germany
P. G. SIX United States
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PARADOX Poland
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A PRESENÇA DAS FORMIGAS Portugal
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PROVIDENCE United States
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PTARMIGAN Canada
THE PUDDLE JUMPERS United States
QUICKSAND United Kingdom
QUINTAL DE CLOROFILA Brazil
QUINTETO ARMORIAL Brazil
RABBIT RABBIT (CARLA KIHLSTEDT & MATTHIAS BOSSI) United States
RAD ORCHESTRA United Kingdom
RADA & TERNOVNIK (THE BLACKTHORN) Russia
RAGNARÖK Sweden
RAMASES United Kingdom
RASPUTINA United States
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RED JASPER United Kingdom
REIFROCK Germany
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RUJA Estonia
S VREMENA NA VREME Yugoslavia
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SAINT JUST Italy
SAKRE Spain
THE SALLYANGIE United Kingdom
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NATE SCOBLE United States
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SINTESIS Cuba
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STACKRIDGE United Kingdom
VLATKO STEFANOVSKI Macedonia
ALAN STIVELL France
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STÓRSVEIT NIX NOLTES Iceland
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PEKKA STRENG Finland
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STUMARI Georgia
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SUPAY Peru
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LOU MAXWELL TAYLOR United States
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TEMPEST United States
TENHI Finland
TERRA MYSTICA Slovenia
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THOBY LOTH Finland
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THE TREES COMMUNITY United States
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TUSMŘRKE Norway
TYRANNOSAURUS REX (NOT T. REX) United Kingdom
U I BLUE United States
UDRAYA France
UNCLE DIRTYTOES United States
UNGAVA Canada
UNITED BIBLE STUDIES Ireland
STEVE UNRUH United States
UQBAR Argentina
US AND THEM Sweden
VEGA Spain
VIIMA Finland
VOICE OF THE SEVEN WOODS United Kingdom
RYLEY WALKER United States
JUNE WALLACK Canada
WATER INTO WINE BAND United Kingdom
WATERTOUCH Sweden
THE WAY WE LIVE United Kingdom
LEAH WAYBRIGHT United States
WERWOLF (WEREWOLF ART ROCK) Germany
WITTHUSER AND WESTRUPP Germany
WOVEN HAND United States
WURTEMBERG France
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GABRIEL YACOUB France
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YOKE SHIRE United States
YOU AND I Hungary
ZAGUAN Spain
ZARTONG Armenia
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ZEIT Italy
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ZYWIOLAK Poland

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