Various Artists

Welsh Rare Beat

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Starting in the late 1960s, the Sain label recorded many Welsh-language releases that few have heard outside of Wales. It's unfortunately hard to tell the exact chronological span of the 25 tracks assembled for this compilation, but basically it seems to feature the Welsh rock the company produced during the '70s, the early to mid-'70s being the primary focus. Even within the collector community devoted to tracking down worldwide rock from the era that didn't get a wide hearing, these performers are unknown, the only exception being Meic Stevens, though even he isn't known to many listeners aside from British folk-rock specialists. The Welsh lyrics are going to make this hard to fully grasp for most listeners outside Wales, but basically this material combines some of the better elements of both '70s progressive rock and the era's British folk-rock, sometimes leaning in a decidedly folky direction. The thorough track annotation indicates that some of these cuts are inspired by mythology and folk tales, and much of the music does have a rather innocent, dramatically wistful air that will appeal to those who have a fondness for that sort of thing. It seems less pretentious than much of the English-language stuff produced in that vein during the same era, however, due in part to the relatively basic production (though almost everything sounds clear and professional), but also helped by some nice haunting melodies and singing. The folkier items tend to be the more pleasing ones here, but on the whole it's a nice and diverse listen, recommended to both progressive rock and British folk-rock collectors in search of something different that they likely haven't yet heard.

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