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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Amazing Blondel: A Foreign Field That Is Forever England


AMAZING BLONDEL: A FOREIGN FIELD THAT IS FOREVER ENGLAND (1972-1973/1999)

1) Introduction; 2) Seascape; 3) Dolor Dolcis; 4) Willowood; 5) Pavan; 6) Spring Air; 7) Shepherd's Song; 8) Celes­tial Light; 9) Fantasia Lindum; 10) Landscape; 11) Saxon Lady.

No missing this archive release — for anyone who is even mildly interested, that is, in learning what Amazing Blondel were really all about in their prime. Recorded on the band's 1972-73 Eu­ro­pean tour (most of the tracks seem to be from some French club gig), it's a prime slice of live Blondel at their peak — right before Gladwin's departure twisted the neck of the hen with the gol­den eggs — and it's LOADS OF FUN.

Basically, if you had any doubts about it, during the band's live shows the entire presentation was a buffonade — a bunch of jesters that never for one moment thought of their pseudo-recreation of the musical gallantry of old as any sort of «solemn» or «serious» activity. Light entertainment for the ladies and gentlemen of the audience, punctuated every now and then with bad (occasionally, good) jokes, intentionally flubbed notes, village idiot impersonations, and at least one sing-along number that's gotta rank among the goofiest audience-teasers ever put on record.

None of which belies the band's professional reputation: if anything is played «wrong» here, it is played so on purpose, and the group's collective harmonies are every bit as concentrated and con­trolled as they were in the studio. In fact, most of the songs are generally done very much by the book, and the performances themselves do not give you an Amazing Blondel that would be ama­zing in some sort of different way. The album is really treasurable for the atmosphere and the un­predictable surprises — such as singing "I'd screw you if I could" instead of "I'd woo you if I could" ('Willowood') to a stone-faced French audience, whose mastery of «Ænglisc» clearly does not extend that far.

Concerning other individual tracks... well, 'Shepherd's Song', turned into a ten-minute musical joke, may be delightful or annoying, depen­ding on your DNA structure, but is definitely unforgettable (how could one forget an aggressive­ly out-of-tune crumhorn?). 'Seascape' and 'Landscape', stripped of their orchestral arrangements, may please one more if the orchestration on England seemed too corny and overbearing (not to me, though). And 'Fantasia Lindum' is here complete in all of its 20-minute glory (one of the bits, 'Celestial Light', is even done twice).

Although I am usually wary of live albums that go over their heads in attempts to be lightweight and funny, Blondel were all right. They'd built up this weird collective personality that was, in it­self, much more English than the music they performed, and the album shows that they were fully capable of upholding it at least for the running length of one performance. Thumbs up. Not sure if Rupert Brooke would enjoy the joke at his expense, though.


Check "A Foreign Field That Is Forever England" (MP3) on Amazon
Check "A Foreign Field That Is Forever England" (MP3) on Amazon

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