Gandalf 2

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Though Gandalf's sole album was barely noticed upon its initial release in the late '60s, it eventually attracted enough of a reputation among collectors to warrant a CD reissue. Impressed and gratified by the surge of interest in the record decades later, Gandalf's Peter Sando dug up enough acetates, demos, and live tapes from 1968 to 1971 to fill up this disc of largely previously unreleased material. While the songs, performances, and sound are for the most part decent, the stylistic range is so wide that it might surprise those expecting something very similar to the Baroque-psychedelic pop on the Gandalf LP that came out in the late '60s. One thing it certainly does offer is a greater concentration of original compositions by singer-guitarist Sando, who wrote just a couple songs on the Gandalf album, but penned most of the material on this collection. Much of it's nicely haunting, wistful period folk-rock-pop with an only very slightly bittersweet tinge. The 13 tracks are so diverse, however, that they almost sound like a compilation of different artists. There's the mystical-classical aura, complete with flute, of "Days Are Only Here and Gone" and "No Earth Can Be Won" (two of the cuts that most strongly recall the Gandalf record in flavor); rootsy, almost pastoral singer/songwriter folk that occasionally verges on early-'70s mellowness; full-band gutsy rock with a late-'60s underground feel; a creative rock arrangement of the forlorn "Golden Earrings" (from a late-'40s Marlene Dietrich movie) that is, despite the demo-like recording quality, a highlight; and a six-minute live cover of Chuck Berry's "Downbound Train" with raunchy fidelity (though the sound quality on the rest of the CD is appreciably better). There are also three tunes by late-'60s hit songwriters Alan Gordon and Garry Bonner (most famous for "Happy Together") that Sando did with the group the Barracuda, and which have a forceful pop/rock sound missing in the other tracks. Individually, most of the disc's cuts are pleasant and impressive, though not brilliant. Together, though, they add up to less than the sum of the parts, and seem indicative of a talented singer/songwriter who had yet to establish a firm direction, though passionate fans of the Gandalf album will appreciate the chance to hear more material from Gandalf's figurehead.

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