Friday, November 25, 2022

Amazing Blondel - Amazing Blondel & A Few Faces (UK 1970)

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Amazing Blondel are an English acoustic band, consisting of Eddie Baird, John Gladwin, and Terry Wincott. They released a number of LPs for Island Records in the early 1970s. They are sometimes categorised as Psych folk, but their music was much more a reinvention of Renaissance music, based around the use of period instruments such as lutes and recorders.

John Gladwin and Terry Wincott had both played in a loud "electric" band called Methuselah. However, at some point in Methuselah concerts, the duo would play an acoustic number together: they found that this went down well with the audiences and allowed them to bring out more of the subtlety of their singing and instrumental work. They left Methuselah in 1969 and began working on their own acoustic material.

Initially their material was derived from folk music, in line with many of the other performers of the time. However, they began to develop their own musical idiom, influenced, at one extreme, by the early music revivalists such as David Munrow, and the other extreme, by their childhood memories of the Robin Hood TV series, with its pseudo-mediaeval soundtrack by Elton Hayes.

The band was named after Blondel, the musician in the court of Richard I. According to legend, when Richard was held prisoner, Blondel travelled through central Europe, singing at every castle to locate the King and assist his escape. This name for the band was suggested by a chef called Eugene McCoy who listened to some of their songs and commented: "Oh, very Blondel!" and they began to use that name. They were then advised to add an adjective (in line, for example, with the Incredible String Band) and so they became "Amazing Blondel".

Their first album The Amazing Blondel was recorded in 1969 and released by Bell Records. It was directed by legendary session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan. At about this time, Eddie Baird (who had known the other members at school) joined the band. Following what Baird described as "a disastrous 'showbiz' record signing", Amazing Blondel were introduced, by members of the band Free, to Chris Blackwell of Island Records and Artists. Blackwell signed them up to Island, for whom they recorded their three defining albums, Evensong, Fantasia Lindum and England.

The style of their music is difficult to categorise. Most of it was composed by themselves, but was based on the form and structure of Renaissance music, featuring, for example, pavanes, galliards and madrigals. It is sometimes categorised as Psych folk but would probably have been disowned by both the psychedelic community and the folk community, whilst being instantly recognisable to students of early music. Terry Wincott described it as "pseudo-Elizabethan/Classical acoustic music sung with British accents". Eddie Baird is quoted as saying "People used to ask us, How would you describe your music? Well, there was no point asking us, we didn't have a clue."

Their music has been compared with that of Gryphon and Pentangle: however, Amazing Blondel did not embrace the rock influences of the former nor the folk and jazz influences of the latter. They have also been likened to Jethro Tull.

The band employed a wide range of instruments (see above) but, central to their sound was their use of the lute and recorders.

When touring, the lutes proved to be quite difficult instruments for stage performance (in terms of amplification and tuning) and, in 1971, the band commissioned the construction of two 7-string guitars, which could be played in lute tuning. The design and construction of these instruments was undertaken by David Rubio who made classical guitars, lutes, and other early instruments for classical players, including Julian Bream and John Williams.

Gladwin's instrument was designed to have slightly more of a bass sound, as it was used mainly as an accompaniment instrument, whereas Baird's had a little bit more treble emphasis, to allow his melodic playing in the higher register to predominate. The two instruments were individually successful and also blended well together. They also proved to be stable (from a tuning point of view) for stage performance. The guitars were fitted with internal microphones to simplify amplification.

 - John David Gladwin - vocals, 12 string guitars, lutes, double bass
 - Terence Alan Wincott - vocals, 6 string guitar, harmonium, recorders, flute, ocarina, congas
 - Edward Baird - first lute, vocals, glockenspiel
+ Clem Cattini - drums
+ Chris Karan - percussion
+ Gary Taylor - bass
+ Jim Sullivan - arrangements with Amazing Blondel 

01. Saxon Lady  3:09 
02. Bethel Town Mission  3:15 
03. Season of the Year  2:46 
04. Canaan  3:50 
05. Shepherd's Song  6:14 
07. Though You Don't Want My Love  3:58 
08. Love Sonnet  4:08 
09. Spanish Lace  2:45 
10. Minstrel's Song  5:34 
11. Bastard Love  4:10