Lindisfarne's third album, following two huge successes, was their make-or-break record, in terms of staying a major British act or achieving a major international following. It fell short of the mark, as far as the British rock press was concerned, and the group never recovered, splitting into two factions and breaking up soon after. Precisely what was wrong with Dingly Dell is unclear listening to the album today. The band's playing is spirited enough -- they sound like Pentangle with higher wattage, dueling with Fairport Convention, and there are lots of enjoyable songs, even if they lack the cutting lyrical edge of "Meet Me on the Corner" or "Fog on the Tyne." "Court in the Act" is a classic piece of folk-rock & roll, with a rousing chorus, a wonderful melody, and memorably funny lyrics. "All Fall Down," "Poor Old Ireland," and even the country-style "Bring Down the Government," are also good enough songs that have memorable tunes. Simon Cowe's "Go Back" recalls some of Syd Barrett's solo work in its simplicity, humor, and surreal imagery. And one original by violinist Rod Clements, "Don't Ask Me," sounds like the blueprint for Steely Dan's "Josie," cut some years later. The closing live cut, a concert version of "We Can Swing Together," also shows off the group's live prowess, holding together despite a few instrumental meanderings. Additionally, the sound here is excellent: "Mandolin King" lives up to its name, in terms of the glittering texture of that instrument, and the acoustic guitars, harmonium, fiddle, etc. are all cleanly presented in the mix (a surprise given the contortions that the group went through with producer Bob Johnston to get this album released). On the other hand, there was no equivalent to "Fog on the Tyne," and that was probably -- along with the more overtly poetic "Meet Me on the Corner" -- what the rock press was waiting for. When they didn't get it, and when principal songwriter Alan Hull suddenly revealed that he might be less than the Bob Dylan rival they'd presumed him to be, they savaged the album unfairly, and the group never recovered their lost momentum. The CD has new cover art and a fascinating Lindisfarne family tree inside the inlay card.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder