Amazing Blondel

Live Abroad

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Not only a beautiful record, but an amazing find some 24 years after the fact: a live Amazing Blondel album, 71 minutes of concert recordings made in Europe by the group in 1972 and 1973. All of the tracks were written by John David Gladwin, the composing mainstay of the group, making this a kind of live "best-of" album, comprised of the best songs off of the albums England, Fantasia Lindum (including the latter's 20-minute title track in an astonishingly tight performance, better than the studio recording, marred only by some minor sound distortion toward the end), and Evensong. "Seascape," "Dolor Dolcis" (aka "Sweet Sorrow"), "Willowood," "Spring Air," and "Landscape" are among the highlights. The group acquits itself extremely well, with impeccable harmonies and gorgeous balance to the all-acoustic instruments that would've put most other English folk-rock groups to shame; moreover, on tracks such as "Willowood," the musicianship is quite overpowering, as Gladwin displays a virtuosity on the lute that, four centuries ago, would've made him a star in his local county. The sound is remarkably clean and the stereo separation gives a good sense of the intimacy of the performances, and the joking around on-stage -- especially the account of the sound of the crumhorn by Terry Wincott -- presents a light side of the group that their albums seldom displayed adequately (the botched "Shepherd's Song" opening is also pretty funny, and the performance is beguilingly boisterous).