Keith Christmas

Timeless & Strange: Selected Tracks 1969-1971

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Drawn from his first three albums, this compilation provides a lengthy overview of the early (1969-1971) career of Keith Christmas, although the first of those three albums (1969's Stimulus) is only very lightly sampled. Indeed, just one song from Stimulus is here; the rest is drawn from 1970's Fable of the Wings and 1971's Pigmy, with the addition of a previously unreleased live 1969 recording of a tune from Stimulus, "I Know You Can't Lose." It documents a hard-to-get-ahold-of British folk-rock singer/songwriter who had his moments of interest, but was something of an also-ran in the genre. His compositions were on the vague and rambling side; his voice thin and high, his pitch wavering; and the arrangements sometimes pedestrian, occasionally going on for way too long. This makes him seem worse than he is, perhaps; he had a likable well-meaning earnestness and was an accomplished acoustic guitarist, the material sometimes bearing slight similarity to the less traditional-influenced British folk-rockers of the period, like Al Stewart and Donovan. Some of the better numbers have a winding, Baroque delicacy that is lightly reminiscent of Tim Buckley in spots, and arranger Robert Kirby (best known for his collaborations with Nick Drake) added some nice string and choral arrangements on parts of Pigmy. Yet while the tunes have some of British folk-rock's better hallmarks, like pastoral wistfulness and a facility for appealing bittersweet melodies, they're not as striking as the best works in the genre.

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