Exposé Online banner

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

by Mike McLatchey, 1994-10-01:

The Winter's Tale Cover art 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.

by Peter Thelen, 1994-10-01:

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.

Filed under: New releases , Issue 5 , 1994 releases

Related artist(s): Red Jasper

More info

Latest news

Seaprog 2018 Artist Announcements Raise Festival's Profile – Seattle's Seaprog festival has been going since 2013, and the 2018 edition features a slate of artists that's sure to bring more attention to the event. Cheer-Accident, Bubblemath, and Free Salamander Exhibit are in the first round announcement of performers. In keeping with their tradition of focusing on regional artists, they will also present a number of artists from Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. [Edit: Just added: Inner Ear Brigade] » Read more

Adelbert von Deyen RIP – Word reaches us that German electronic musician Adelbert von Deyen has died. His recorded legacy reaches back to 1978, when Sky Records released Sternzeit. Von Deyen, who was born October 25, 1953 in Süderbrarup, was also known as a painter and graphic artist. » Read more

Didier Lockwood RIP – Word reaches us today of the death of one of France's great jazz musicians, violinist Didier Lockwood. His playing bridged many worlds, from traditional jazz to fusion to progressive rock, and his talent can be heard on recordings by Magma, Clearlight, Pierre Moerlen's Gong, and many more. Lockwood was 62. » Read more

10 Years of Fruits de Mer - The Incomplete Angler – Those of you who are faithful followers of Exposé will know that we have been promoting Fruits de Mer and its side labels and releases from nearly its first year. Now music journalist and author Dave Thompson has written a book chronicling the past ten years as a celebration of this milestone. » Read more

Tom Rapp RIP – Singer / songwriter Tom Rapp, best known with the band Pearls Before Swine, passed away on February 12, at the age of 70, after a battle with cancer. » Read more

Previously in Exposé...

Dogma - Album – In my opinion, this is what a neo-progressive album should sound like. Dogma's debut is an excellent album, very much in the instrumental style that Pendragon started on with the second part of...  (1993) » Read more

Glass Hammer - Perelandra – If you're looking for a good keyboard album, then look no further. Glass Hammer has lots to offer in that department. There are some great keyboard parts on Perelandra and the keyboards are most...  (1996) » Read more

Bondage Fruit - Bondage Fruit – Having first heard about this band in the fading weeks of 1994 via a bootleg tape of one of their live shows, I was, needless to say, duly impressed, and spent most of '95 looking for a copy of...  (1996) » Read more

McDowell - Rooks Wedding – Considering the cover of this album, you d think that a degree of magic or mystery would surround this album. Mark McDowell has spent a short amount of time in the UK underground scene with...  (2003) » Read more

Rush - Test for Echo & Working Man Tribute – My initial reaction to the new Rush album: "It's bogus." After making this statement, people claimed that it wasn't informative enough, so I sat back and rethought just what I meant....  (1997) » Read more

Listen & discover

Print issues