AMAZING BLONDEL: BLONDEL (1973)
1) Prelude; 2) The Leaving Of A Country Lover; 3) Young Man's Fancy; 4) Easy Come, Easy Go; 5) Solo; 6) Sailing; 7) Lesson One; 8) Festival; 9) Weaver's Market; 10) Depression.
Although the band did not really change its name upon Gladwin's departure, I do not think it is just a matter of coincidence that their 1973 and 1974 albums downplay the word «Amazing», relegating it to the back of the sleeve. Music lovers may beat themselves to pulp arguing over just how much exactly the original Amazing Blondel were amazing, but there is no arguing over the fact that, once Gladwin left for good, he packed most of the amazement with him.
A Gladwin-less Blondel, everyone knew, would be somewhat of an Anderson-less Jethro Tull, but somehow Island Records coerced the remaining duo into writing and releasing another record. Eddie Baird, previously «assistant songwriter» at best, had to take on the primary duties, and this resulted in an immediate change: apparently, playing pseudo-Renaissance music was all right with him, but writing pseudo-Renaissance music was governed by an entirely different mechanism altogether, one that Baird knew not.
So, the only thing that still ties Blondel to its past is the soft-silky-pastoral atmosphere: the band clings on to acoustic-based music, dropping, however, most of the exotic instruments and recruiting, for the sessions, such thoroughly non-Elizabethan players as Steve Winwood on bass and Simon Kirke from Free on drums (with the illustrious Paul Rodgers himself making a guest appearance on one of the tracks).
The results are predictably pitiful, if not entirely disastrous. This is inoffensive, easy-going, and, in most cases, instantly forgettable soft-rock, targeted at James Taylor and Bread fans rather than Renaissance Fair goers. Baird is no stranger to either nice melody or decent taste, and as generic as the guitar / flute / strings arrangements are, he does not revel in banalities or hollow Seventies pathos. It's just that there is no «edge» whatsoever to this kind of music, which, by 1973, was turned out in droves by softrockmeisters all around the world.
It makes no sense to try and pick out specific songs. Traces of the original Blondel can only be found on an eight-minute, two-song sequence on Side B: 'Festival', a flute-led proto-waltz for all ye gallant gentlemen and lovely ladies, and 'Weaver's Market', shuffling along like any good homage to Fairport Convention should, with crumhorns and Paul Rogers trading vocals with a pair of girl singer invitees. But they are no more than traces, and most of the rest is built around Baird and his acoustic guitar and his attempts to add introspective singer-songwriter mentality to the mix, and that is not what Blondel were about and not something they could easily become, either. Big disappointment, but the worst was yet to come.
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