England — Garden Shed
(Si Wan SRMC 1042, 1977/1997, CD)
by Mike Ohman, Published 1997-10-01
At last, one of the last touchstone albums of British symphonic prog makes it to CD. Oh, there was a bad vinyl transcription on the Japanese Edison label a few years ago, but now the master tapes have been found, so good sound and an affordable price have been assured. A friend of mine once described them as "the English Locanda delle Fate" and... well... that's not far off the mark. Both bands came after the prog rock scene in their respective countries was in its death throes. And while LDF drew on P.F.M. and Banco as influences, England takes its cues from Genesis and Yes. But England does display on their masterwork Garden Shed a "refined" veneer usually reserved for Italian bands (and if you don't believe me, listen to the layered synth work at the beginning of "Midnight Madness," which is similar to classic Banco). The band's name is perfect, as the music is so quintessentally English in that no one could possibly mistake them as hailing from anywhere else; bouncy melodies, pristine high-pitched vocal harmonies, lyrics about neighborhood markets, etc. It's the little things about this album that make it such a delight: the dramatic guitar themes in the opening section of "Three Piece Suite" and its vivacious falsetto coda, the vibes and tympani in the middle of "Midnight Madness," the Mellotron / 12-string / lead electric instrumental combination in "Yellow," and so forth... As counterpoint, the album closes on a melodramatic note, with the modern Dorian Gray adaptation "Poisoned Youth," the spirited themes of which are never less than breathtaking. A real treat, not one to be missed, and one of the best prog-rock releases of 1977 (not that there was much competition).
Related artist(s): England
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more