B & C 1971 / Esoteric 2013
Another Canterbury tale – relayed in different terms to draw on the past and bring it up to date.
Unlike many other British folksters, this hirsute bunch rose not from roots clubs that saw revival in the late ’60s but from the college circles. It was there that guitarist Martin Cockerham found Barbara Gaskin, to contrast his voice with much clearer, and convincing, pipes, as well as violinist Julian Cusack and bassist Steve Borrill, and it was there, in the students house in Canterbury’s St. Radigunds Str, that they became a vital force on the scene. It takes no more than opener to explain why they soon won a cult following, as “The Future Won’t Be Long” springs into life on the theatrical convergence of fiery agitation and bucolic cooing which paint an arc from the previous decade’s innocence to nihilism to come, all dipped in the ancient balsam, before it coils into an intense prog reel thanks to the synth wizardry from guesting Tony Cox. Idealism might return in the piano-and-brass glory of “At Home In The World” as shaped by Robert Kirby’s orchestration, yet the initial tension stays on to the end.
It feeds the doomy anger of “Cogwheels Crutches And Cyanide” and unravels in the strum of “Island” where electric lightning strikes and fiddles run amok before they are joined by bottom-end four strings in “Magical Mary” as the drums of FAIRPORTS’ Dave Mattacks support their fierce soloing. But there’s sedation and hope in the chamber ebb of “Time Will Tell” remindful of both Satie and Monk, while the three-part “We Were A Happy Crew” refracts bittersweet yearning through the temporal lens and adds a VCS3’s cosmic vibe to the vocal veneer. Still, the angst and the gloom are banished from the tracks once epic “The Duke Of Beaufoot” whirls its European wares alternatively fast and slow, imploring the listener to give ourselves a chance, until one’s spirit transcends the straits of today’s reality. Not many records are able to do such a transporting so this one’s a winner.