AMAZING BLONDEL: RESTORATION (1997)
1) Benedictus Es Domine; 2) Preludium In D; 3) Highwayman; 4) Fugue; 5) Cawdor And Widdershins; 6) Aubaird; 7) Love Lies Bleeding; 8) Edagio; 9) Sir John In Love Again; 10) Interlude; 11) Road To Sedgemoor; 12) Cawdor Revisited.
Brilliant title, and an awesome idea for a photo to go along with it — the heroes of Fantasia Lindum twenty-five years later. With Baird, Wincott, and Gladwin suddenly and unexpectedly crossing their paths once more, this is indeed a «restoration» rather than a «reunion», since the resulting music once again carries us into the (not so distant) past in which loyalty to one's sovereign could bring on great artistic inspiration. (Alas, today we just have Ted Nugent).
As tempting as it is to state something like «Restoration takes off from where England left us in 1972», this is not quite the case. The original Blondel, at their most self-assured, tended to drown you in sights and sounds, layering on archaic instrumentation piece by piece, dub over dub, until you were almost ready to accept its authenticity just because there was so much. Restoration is a far more low-key affair than that. The album is completely dominated by classical guitar — granted, they still prefer to play it mandolin-like — very frequently in a gentle duet with some woodwinds. The other instruments (organs, harpsichords, dulcimers, etc.) are used only occasionally, and there is no orchestration anywhere in sight, unlike on England.
Which means that this is a very moderate restoration, of a constitutional order, if you wish, rather than an absolute one. But why should that be a problem? Certainly not in a situation when Gladwin, once again, assumes his natural role of chief songwriter; Baird is only credited for two instrumentals (the very oddly spelled 'Aubaird' and 'Edagio') — which, frankly speaking, merely work as cute interludes — and Wincott comes up with the tragically martial 'Road To Sedgemoor' (with guest singer Joan Crowther adding atmospheric vocals).
The rest is Gladwin, and twenty years of sitting in his nowhere land have not impaired his ability to create enthralling archaicized hooks none. An atmosphere of chamber solemnity is set immediately with the Latin-sung hymn 'Benedictus Es Domine' — a little tongue-in-cheek, perhaps (actually, hopefully a little tongue-in-cheek), but still inspiring — and then several well-written Renaissance ballads like 'Highwayman', 'Cawdor And Widdershins', and, particularly, 'Love Lies Bleeding', nothing to do with the Elton John song, just a highly stylized, manneristic, courtsy lament whose retro gallantry is obvious even without hearing the music: "Savour the kiss, for love lies bleeding / The horn beneath her rose pricks your pleading / The end so gently comes disguised in pity / That flower once warm, sublime, falls bereft in decline" — pretty impressive Shakespirian stylization, if you ask me. Or is that Southwellian?
Obviously, the album did not sell (in 1997, the band could appeal only to its old old fans, most of which were probably sitting on the dole and couldn't afford the record anyway; younger folk revival audiences preferred to go with something of a less dinosaurian nature), but I have yet to see a negative critical response — the only people who noticed Restoration were those who respected the original Blondel, and if you like Fantasia Lindum at all, there is no way you won't like this experience. It didn't work out for long: the reunited band stuck around for some touring, but no further new music came out of this. Well, no wonder — restorations do not tend to last long, and, considering how much these original guys owed to the original Tudors, they could hardly hope to outlast the briefly-restored Tudors. But it was fun, and quite touching, while it lasted — hence, a loyal thumbs up from your humble servant.
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