Spirogyra – St Radigunds – 1971 – B&C Records

Super classic acid folk entry here. Rather too fashionable and collectible for my wee blog about cheapie records. This record currently retails for this original piece at about £200 so why is this piece of gold here? Well, about 5 or 6 years ago I saw it in a whole collection of interesting stuff in my local recycling shop. I bought about 20 records for £2 which made this record 10p. I don’t expect to find many of these bargains particularly in this day and age of vinyl snobbery but this was a genuine one and one of my best finds ever. Of course it would be worth lots more without that big chunk of picture off the top right hand corner

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The general feel with this record is one of paradox between the sinister aggressive rasping vocals of sing writer Martin Cockerham and the sweet folk voice of Barbara Gaskin. They contrast each other wonderfully working best on those tracks which they directly duet with each other.  Gaskin’s perfect pitch and sweet harmonies gives a stable base to give Cockerham the scope he needs to give his voice the true expression of a ruddy travelling story teller . It is a very similar sounding record to Comus’s debut. Oddly Cockerham maintains that he did not know Comus until much later despite being released within months of each other. That’s the power of musical movements eh?

The whole band consist generally of Cockerhams acoustic strumming and characteristic vocals, Gaskin’s faultless folk voice delivery, Steve Borrill’s wandering bass lines and the keyboards and violin of music student Julian Cusack. The is the odd peppering of drums from Fairport mainstay Dave Mattacks.

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Look…its 1971 ……

The album opens with ‘The Future Won’t Be Long’ Cockerham professing his position as a master crafts man being shipped out to the war and losing his girl via the bombing of the armaments factory, the fiddle squealing like an air raid siren…… ‘I called her an angel and I was right, she was’. Great line Martin

Island and Magical Mary are both  angular strumming and fiddling fests going through differing difficult sinister song phases until suddenly without warning Magical Mary brings in Gaskin to prettify the whole song in the middle section with an achingly beautiful melody….only to exit stage left into more wild strumming and fiddling

More war stories from Captains Log takes us aboard a schooner in a monsoon, in fact there are lots of shipping and sea and war references on this record giving it a great historical atmosphere. A rugged, acne scarred face of a record blown ragged by northerly winds and crusty salt.

Some gentle folk with At Home in the World with added strings follows and then another one of Cockerams character heavy epics stories closes the first side with Cockerham yelling, yelping, shouting and scowling while gentle Barbara holds the melody together

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On much of side two Martin Cockerham goes fairly quiet and Barbara takes the reigns. On Time Will Tell and Love is a Funny Thing she sings alone with quiet instrumentation gentle and sweet rivaling her contemporaries Judy Dibal, Sandy Denny, Sheilagh MacDonald etc as one of the high priestesses of early 70’s folk.

We were a Happy Crew and The Duke of Beaufort return to the Gaskin/Cockerham gentle/rough epic stories of Cockerham. He really stretches his range in The Duke of Beaufort to compliment her giving a rousing complex finale where you can hear progressive rock just beginning to wake.

All in all a terrific piece of acid folk history and worth seeking out on any format

 

 

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