AMAZING BLONDEL: FANTASIA LINDUM (1971)
1) Fantasia Lindum; 2) To Ye; 3) Safety In God Alone; 4) Two Dances; 5) Three Seasons Almaine; 6) Siege Of Yaddlethorpe.
Blondel's third album finds the band in dire need of adding complexity to their sound — what with folk and medieval motives becoming more and more merged with the «progressive» ideology. Unfortunately, none of the musicians were quite up to that task, so instead they offered a ruse: join some of Gladwin's songs into a multi-part «suite» that would swallow up the entire first side of the album, yet consist of exactly the same catchy pseudo-Baroque ditties, loosely connected through brief instrumental links.
As strange as it seems, though, either the links are capable of throwing one off the track, or they assembled the whole «Fantasia Lindum» from scraps and leftovers — the individual parts are way too glossy and smooth to stand out. It is twenty minutes of the usual refined gallantry, but without memorable choruses or particularly distinctive instrumental lines: everything sounds too angelic, too even, to make much of a lasting impression. Perhaps that was the exact intention, keeping in mind the name of the suite — a tribute to the stately (and static) beauty of Lincoln and Lincoln Cathedral. But you wouldn't know that, anyway, without consulting the sources.
At first, I thought this feeling was just some sort of emotional echo of some of my long-time past difficulties with «complex» music of the 1970s, but it never passed, and, besides, let us reiterate that there is nothing particularly complex about Blondel. Then there is also Side B, which has all the real highlights. 'To Ye' introduces a vivid demarcation line between soft verse and loud chorus, with an uplifting recorder melody to boot. 'Safety In God Alone' is one of the tenderest songs ever offered to the Almighty — in fact, its tenderness is so sexy that when the chorus enters with "Light up all your candles, keep the vigil tonight", you'd think they were singing about escorting the young king to the royal bedroom on his wedding night rather than about "praying for salvation, for it's always just in sight".
The only track that seriously stands out from the rest musically is 'Siege Of Yaddlethorpe', a short martial fantasy with a Scottish mood created by multi-tracked crumhorns (the more multi-tracked they are, the more they sound like low-tuned bagpipes) and powerful drumming courtesy of guest star Jim Capaldi. (For the record, Yaddlethorpe is the name of a district in Lincolnshire, and, to the best of my knowledge, there has never been any «siege» of it, nor could there possibly be since there is next to nothing to besiege — just another little self-ironic hint at how «faux» this whole enterprise really is).
Thus, reaction to Blondel's evolution in this direction may be mixed. On one hand, yep, it all generally works, and the band is certainly true here to the rules of the game it has defined for itself. On the other hand, there are signs of insecurity — if there ever was one «artsy» band at the time that had no need of sidelong suites whatsoever, it'd be Blondel, and the fact that they went ahead and did one anyway shows an odd, perhaps subconscious, tendency to «conform» that spoils part of the fun. Thumbs up, anyway, for I love this style, but they would still have to tighten up their act one more year before reaching the perfect synthesis.
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