Mellow Candle

Swaddling Songs

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Filled with multi-layered harmonies and complex arrangements, this unfortunately underlooked album of beautiful, flowing, and wonderfully recorded British folk-rock (originally released in 1972) has been a favorite of record collectors for years. Luckily, the strength of the music holds up beyond its scarcity. Not merely electric updates of lost traditional numbers, the album works because it establishes a voice and a sound that is truly compelling. The arrangements range from the zigzagging light progressive bent of the opener, "Heaven Heath," to the more storming tempo changes of "Dan the Wing." Strewn across the record is some truly remarkable guitar work, with the blanks filled in with lush violin and piano fills. The high-toned, occasionally strained interplay of Alison Williams and Clodagh Simonds may not always reach the notes as they ought to be reached (this rings especially true on the bombastic "The Poet and the Witch," an otherwise fine song), but their voices have their own peaceful rewards. The vocals see most of their limitations during the more up-tempo numbers -- which is fine, seeing that this record is able to soar on the quieter moments. On "Silver Song" (the one track that was actually released as a single with "Dan the Wing" during Mellow Candle's short tenure at Decca's Deram Records offshoot), the band falls into a mid-paced ethereal haze, within which it finds its strongest points. Gliding guitars and equally haunted vocals wrap around each other in a fog of vaguely mystical lyrics. The crystal clear recording and the lack of reliance on overly fantastical lyrics make Swaddling Songs sound remarkably current. Anyone who is able to track down the CD reissue will be more than pleased with this lost treasure.

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