Amazing Blondel


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Amazing Blondel's fourth album is a gorgeous evocation of the England that seems to exist in so many of the land's loveliest folk songs, a peaceful world of picturesque farming folk, doughty fishermen, immortal sunsets, and halcyon summers. Just six songs convey this impression, all dominated by the side-long three-piece suite "The Paintings," which places into words and gentle orchestrations the impressions conjured by the imagery of "Seascape," "Landscape," and "Afterglow." Described by the band itself as "three pastoral settings for voices, flute, guitars and orchestra," it's an incredibly ambitious piece, but never so much that it loses sight of its intrinsic romance. Played alongside Roy Harper's "One of Those Days in England," it could set even the sternest expatriate's thoughts winging homewards. The shorter songs are less entrancing, with "A Spring Air" coming so close to TV ad theme territory that one can almost see the spring lambs bouncing through fields of freshly laundered shirts and sheets. The chanted "Cantus Firmus to Counterpoint," however, is a stirringly churchical piece, with just a hint of "We Three Kings of Orient Are" floating around the melody, while "Sinfonia for Guitar and Strings" is as well executed as its title suggests it ought to be. The finest moment, however, has to be the Gothic organ-led "Lament to the Earl of Bottesford Beck," whose own country churchyard tones take listeners straight back to the start of the album, and another 20 minutes spent with "The Paintings."

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