Peter Howell & John Ferdinando

Alice Through the Looking Glass

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Even when judged against other limited-edition reissues of psychedelic obscurities, this is a pretty odd bird. As part of Agincourt and Ithaca, Peter Howell & John Ferdinando were well regarded by some heavy British psychedelic collectors for their neat if lo-fi fusions of folk-rock and early British progressive rock in the late '60s and early '70s. Slightly before that, they worked together to provide the musical soundtrack for a stage production of Alice Through the Looking Glass in their Sussex village of Ditchling. A very limited edition (approximately 70-80 copies) was put out in early 1969 as a souvenir, and then reissued with historical liner notes on LP by the Tenth Planet label in 1997, in a bigger limited edition of 1,000 copies. It's more an instrumental sampling of ideas (with some occasional voice-over singsong) that would come to greater fruition in their subsequent group projects than it is a standard rock album, the music marrying elements of British folk music and the more playful aspects of late-'60s British psychedelia. While the fidelity of the music is acceptable, it's unfortunately broken up by very lo-fi excerpts of dialogue from the play itself. The musical pieces do occupy most of the running time, and as period light psychedelic background music they have a fair bit of twee charm. Sometimes the organ in particular closely approximates the sound of Rick Wright's organ on the gentlest tracks by the Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd (listen to "Dance of the Talking Flowers" for a particularly vivid example). This is something that will interest only the most intense psychedelic collectors, but that's what labels such as Tenth Planet are for -- to produce items that have no hope of reaching a general audience, but which '60s specialists will certainly find of some historical interest and entertainment value.