Exposé Online banner

Red Jasper — The Winter's Tale
(SI Music SIMPly 55, 1994, CD)

by Peter Thelen, 1994-10-01:

The Winter's Tale Cover art Hard on the heels of their fourth album A Midsummer Night's Dream, this latest offering from England's Red Jasper appears to be, conceptually at least, a companion piece to that album. The basic style of its predecessor remains intact, a combination of Gothic styled neo-progressive in the vein of Asgard and Marillion's darker moments — with flashes of Tull and Ghosts era Strawbs, and a more acoustic-folk based sound with prominent mandolin, not unlike the early efforts of Horslips, with a touch of early Strawbs — that comparison keeps coming up due to lead vocalist/mandolinist Davey Dodds, who sounds much like a cross between Fish, Peter Hammill, and David Cousins — in short, a voice that folks will either love or hate by the time the last track closes. There are few harmonies — Dodds tends to single-voice everything, and unlike the last album, the better part of the music here is of the plodding neo-progressive type ("Bread & Circus's," [sic] "The Night Visitor," and "The Shamen's Song" typify this tendency), while the bright and energetic acoustic folk tunes are fewer or relegated to intros or parts of the instrumental breaks. Many of the rougher edges that gave the previous album character have been smoothed or smothered. But when they decide to get serious about what they do best, the results are splendid. "Shepherds Revels" [sic] and "Ship on the Sea" both exhibit the band's best pure folk tendencies, while "Dark Room" — a hard rocking vocal track — seems to bring the best of both sides of their sound together, if one can tolerate the simplistic boom-bash drumming in the louder passages. "The Scent of Something" begins with a nice mandolin intro, adding layers of piano, keys and guitar as the song builds to a more powerful rock approach with a slight metal inflection, returning later to a more symphonic interpretation of the early verses. In short, when a band has a split personality, it's important to maintain a consistent balance. With this album, the aspect of their sound I personally like best has taken a back seat in favor of a their more heavy neo-progressive side. Still, I'm sure many will enjoy this — and some may like it better.

by Mike McLatchey, 1994-10-01:

More three-four chord neo-progressive? Have that craving for shrill digital patches and maybe, just maybe another vocalist who got locked in a room full of old Marillion records? Well, not exactly — Jasper's fourth CD in a few years is another in their neo sympho sound in a folk format, a hybrid of a slightly different nature than you'd expect. I guess you at least have to give them that, nobody's really tried the Marillion/Fairport Convention combo quite like this. Straightforward, accessible, and certainly an SI release, The Winter's Tale will likely appeal to many fans of the genre as there much familiarity here — the Wall era Pink Floyd effect (the overbearing feeling of depression), the cop to "Starship Trooper/Würm" in "The Scent of Something," the post Gabriel/Hammill angst with the Ian Anderson twist, you name it, it's definitely here. But then there’s the jig-a-jig mandolin-led trad feel that Marillion songs never came close to (the Jester was much too depressed) which make you want to kick up your feet and yell "HEY!" in the vein of Fairport, Horslips, Spriguns and accidentally Malicorne, Stivell, or Gwendal. I think its the heavy metal guitar BOOM-BAP rhythms that make me wince in 4/4 that make me barely take notice or the guitar-solo-over-three-chord jams. Thankfully they only give one go at a single ("Virtual Reality" last time — "Dark Room" this time) which is relieving, but I really doubt this will do it for too many; "Simply" is very appropriate.

by Rob Walker, 1994-10-01:

Evidently you don't have to have a shred of originality, talent, or musicianship to be an active part of the SI (sonically insipid) band roster. Red Jasper continue on in the fine SI (simply insulting) tradition of thoughtless, uninspired neo-prog with this new release. The five-piece lineup of vocals/guitars/drums/ bass/keys plod along predictably through ten long cuts, most of which are so dreadfully slow and rudimentary they seem to last forever. Lead vocalist Davey Dodds does his best Geoff Tate (Queensryche) impression, but has no genuine dynamic control or emotion in his voice. The drummer can find two and four no problem, but can't do much else. The bassist does his best to keep up with him, and the keyboardist clearly marks the beginning of each measure by changing chords like clockwork. Get the picture? The guitarist is the only plausible musician in the bunch, but his copycat Rothery style is so trite and tiresome. The only mildly interesting thing about Red Jasper is the tinge of folk they occasionally drop in with mandolin and pennywhistle, but even that doesn't satisfy. And once again, the mind reels back to Spinal Tap's Stonehenge, a vastly superior musical endeavor. SI is the leading prog label (in terms of sales) and sadly this kind of rubbish is misrepresenting progressive music to the rest of the uninitiated listening world. Die hard fans of SI's stuff will most likely enjoy this album nevertheless. But if you aspire to genuine quality in your music, then run away. You won't miss anything except a good laugh.

Filed under: New releases , Issue 5 , 1994 releases

Related artist(s): Red Jasper

More info

Latest news

2018-09-05
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

2018-07-31
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

2018-07-09
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more

2018-07-01
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more

2018-06-25
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

David Garland - Control Songs – David Garland is one of a rather small group of experimental singer/song writers. They are not cut from same bolt of cloth as, say, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell or James Taylor. Instead, Garland, along...  (1999) » Read more

Team Metlay - Bandwidth – Back in the summer of 1990 Mike Metlay formed Team Metlay from among fellow participants in the electronic music discussion sessions on the Internet. For those of you not yet on the information...  (1994) » Read more

Yeti Rain - Discarnate – It doesn’t take more than one look at the booklet cover and about 15 seconds of the first piece to know this isn’t like anything else that Unicorn has put out before; nor is it like any of the...  (2008) » Read more

Rull's Royce - Rull's Choice – From listening to the music, you would guess that the leader of the band is the guitarist. Not that there are screaming guitar solos all over the place, but guitar does play a significant role at most...  (2004) » Read more

Bassius-O-Phelius - Them No Good Phelius Boys Is Nothin' But Trouble... Trouble I Tells Ya! – Bassius-O-Phelius is a duo not unlike Birdsongs of the Mesozoic in instrumental quirkiness, with a direct lean toward early-70s free jazz and jazz rock. This is not a player's album, but a record...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues