Mormos — Great Wall of China
(Spalax CD14540, 1971/1997, CD)
Mormos — ...The Magic Spell of Mother's Wrath...
(Spalax CD 14541, 1972/1997, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2016-07-11
In some ways, Mormos can be seen as an American equivalent to the Incredible String Band. They have a similarly free-wheeling take on folk music, infusing it with flower-power enthusiasm and disrespect for conventions, rendering it on a variety of instruments from ancient to modern. There are no real overt psychedelic touches except the general attitude. The band was originally from Illinois, but worked in Paris playing festivals and recording these two albums for the French CBS label (along with another in collaboration with singer François Béranger that I haven’t heard). And while it could be argued that the singers in Mormos actually have better voices than Robin Williamson and Mike Heron in ISB (with the glaring exception of the really grating crone-on-helium performance on “The Crimson Uniform”), to my ear the music is less successful. Many of the lyrics have a very dated ring to them, with lines about seeing “the hand of your brother.” Some of the musical arrangements are inventive, featuring recorders, balalaikas, cello, bongos, and tambourines. The style is often a kind of pseudo-medieval balladry, but touches on ragtime blues occasionally, as many bands did at the time - though in some ways, this music sounds more like it would have been at home in 1966 Greenwich Village than 1971 Paris. The original LPs apparently drew ridiculous prices on the collectors’ market, but luckily the late-90s reissues provide a less-expensive way to experience a really obscure corner of music history. While I can’t fault the quality of the players, the music just never gels for me, leaving it a curiosity rather than a recovered classic.
Related artist(s): Mormos
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart $amp; Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more