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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Amazing Blondel: Mulgrave Street


1) Mulgrave Street; 2) Iron & Steel / Leader Of The Band; 3) Light Your Light; 4) Hole In The Head; 5) Help Us Get Along; 6) See 'Em Shining; 7) Love Must Be The Time Of Your Life; 8) All I Can Do; 9) Goodbye Our Friends; 10) Sad To See You Go.

With this record, Blondel officially close the book on their pseudo-Elizabethan past and step into their pseudo-Carpenters present. With a full rhythm section, electric guitar leads, silky hippie vo­cals, and generic 1970s soft-rock melodies, Mulgrave Street is... a brave and honest move for­ward: the band freely and openly admits that, without Gladwin's participation, it is unable to draw any more inspiration from the Tudors. Now they draw their inspiration from Bad Company, all of the members of which (except Paul Rogers) are here to help them out.

The natural thing to do would have been to change the name, but since the name remained the only rea­son why anyone could bother with buying the new album, it was decided to keep it, much to the dismay of all future review writers. Yet, to be fully honest, I found my­self enjoying Mulgrave Street. There is nothing specific here to distinguish it from, say, a con­temporary Carly Simon record, but Baird is clearly a better songwriter in the regular folk-pop vein than he is in the medievalistic/Renaissance genre, and the arrangements of the songs do not at least attempt to drown them in a messy strings/pianos/horns syrup, as it so frequently happens with Seventies' soft-rock.

There is one oddly brief attempt to «rock out», on the two minutes of 'Hole In Your Head': the song really sounds like a snippet that should have been a coda in a larger art-rock epic, the best thing about it being the cathartic electric guitar soloing from Free's Paul Kossoff — but it is faded out almost as soon as it starts, a pretty silly teaser (perhaps the band was still feeling uncomfor­table about loud electric lead sounds, but they must have felt the power of this particular bit any­way — so yeah, thanks for letting it out of the studio, but give us the whole thing, dammit).

Everything else is silky soft, sweet, melodic, and occasionally memorable if one's memory stands so much sweetness, romantic acoustic guitar, falsettos, and cooing back vocals. Highlights in­clude: the title «suite», particularly its 'Dear Prudence'-inspired first and last movements; 'See 'Em Shining', a song that does borrow some elegance from the band's past, somewhat amazing in how its exemplary wimpiness is redeemed by a well-written vocal part; and 'Sad To See You Go', graced by Eddie Jobson's violin playing and living up to its name.

Obviously, there is no need whatsoever to shoot for this rare album, not until one has thoroughly assimilated the James Taylor textbook, at least. But to shoot it down would be fairly cruel: it has not done anything that bad. The worst thing that Mulgrave Street could be is «boring», which it is not, due to its cheerful, catchy choruses. As for «disappointing», «generic», and «wimpy», well, I can live with that for a while.

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