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
Eurock Documentary Seeks Funding – We've been fans and fellow travelers with Archie Patterson and his Eurock project on the journey to discover great music. After many years of promoting and trying to spread the word,a new phase is beginning: a documentary film. Things like this don't just happen, and money does not magically appear to make it happen, so it's up to the fans to get it done. » Read more
Marty Balin RIP – One of the architects of the 60s psychedelic sound of San Francisco has died at the age of 76. Marty Balin was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the founders of Jefferson Airplane. After the split of the original Airplane, Balin went on to form the highly successful Jefferson Starship. » Read more
Krautrock Documentary Seeks Funding – The next installment of the Progressive Warriors documentary series will focus on the vast body of music that falls under the banner of "krautrock." As most of our readers will know, previous films have tackled RIO and the Canterbury scene, as well as what we might call "mainstream" prog rock. » Read more
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more