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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Big Sleep - Bluebell Wood (1971 uk, marvelous baroque prog folk, 2007 remastered edition)

Having previously released two favourably received, but commercially neglected, albums for Mercury under the name Eyes Of Blue in the late 60s, Welsh band Big Sleep recorded Bluebell Wood for the Pegasus label in 1971. Though Eyes Of Blue had started out playing Motown numbers, they’d expanded their range by covering Love’s 7+7 Is and opening themselves up to psych and progressive rock.

They’d split by the time of Bluebell Wood’s release, with drummer John Weathers joining Gentle Giant and keyboardist Phil Ryan decamping to Welsh prog rock legends Man. But the result of their Chappell Studios deliberations was an adept and stylistically diverse collection that explored the band’s progressive interests, while still leaning on the classical influences that Eyes Of Blue had followed.

The music ranges from the very 70s travelogue sounds of the title track, though the ludicrously baroque opening strings on Saint & Sceptic and on to the lively and marketable closing song, When The Sun Was Out. Never before available on CD, this is a pleasingly easy-on-the-ear album that effortlessly blends its warm and hazy sounds with contrasting downbeat lyricism.
by Ian Abrahams

1. Death Of A Hope (John Weathers) - 5:35
2. Odd Song (Gary Pickford Hopkins) - 3:54
3. Free Life (John Weathers) - 6:29
4. Aunty James - 4:44
5. Saint & Sceptic - 6:36
6. Bluebell Wood - 11:26
7. Watching Love Grow -2:35
8. When The Sun Was Out - 3:42
All songs by Ritchie Francis except where stated

Big Sleep
*Phil Ryan - Organ, Piano
*Ritchie Francis - Bass, Piano, Vocals
*John "Pugwash" Weathers - Drums, Vocals
*Raymond "Taff" Williams - Guitar
*Gary Pickford Hopkins - Vocals, Guitar

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  1. One of my favorite bands I have this already several years
    Personel: Ritchie Francis (śpiew, fortepian); Ray Taff Williams (gitara), Phil Ryan (instr. klawiszowe), John Weathers (perkusja).
    Even in a time of feverish experimentation, the group had an incredibly unique hybrid sound that seamlessly stitched together pop elements, classical, R&B and blues, psychedelia and rock with incredibly tight and egalitarian arrangements. That latter was important, as every bandmember was a virtuoso, and thus each deserved the space to shine. Unusually, the group boasted two keyboardists, but forget comparisons to the likes of ELP, as Big Sleep's numbers often counterpointed lavish organ passages with R&B styled piano or electric keyboard, underpinning their numbers with a jazzy or bluesy aura. Acoustic guitars further enhanced the rich atmospheres, and usually followed the organ's lead. The electric guitars arrived well into the pieces, a further musical counterpoint that accentuated psychedelic organ passages or pulled the numbers into rock. Although there's an improvisational feel to it all, the songs are, in fact, very tightly structured, including the fiery guitar solos that wind around the keyboards. The band's pop sensibilities are evident too, especially on the catchy chorus of "Aunty James," passages within "Death of a Hope," and particularly on the clap along R&B of "When the Sun Was Out."
    However, it was the epic eleven-plus-minute title track that sent prog rock fans wild, a showcase of Big Sleep's many styles and talents. Filled with the kind of dynamics that any modern emo band would die for, quiet passages give way to grand up-tempo segments, downbeat blues shift into raging psychedelia, and strings pile onto ballads before the band breaks into rock and the splendid vocals fill the air: Bluebell Wood had it all. Yet the album still failed to excite the masses. The band never even took the stage under their Big Sleep name, and folded soon after the set's release. So much talent would eventually find homes elsewhere (notably with Gentle Giant and Man), but it's no wonder the album has been long sought after by collectors. 2007 digitally remastered reissue of this Welsh band's only album, originally released in 1971. The band members (formerly with Eyes Of Blue) would all soon head for greater things in bands such as Gentle Giant, Man and Wild Turkey (formed by ex-Jethro Tull bassist Glenn Cornick) and Rick Wakeman's band. An album that features many fine songs and styles, Bluebell Wood has been sought after by collectors for many years thanks to its influence and place in the history of British Progressive Rock and in the annals of Welsh rock. Remastered from the original master tapes, Bluebell Wood has never sounded so good. Eight tracks. Esoteric.

    Neither their 1968 debut Crossroads of Time nor their proggier, Quincy Jones produced follow-up In Fields of Ardath brought the commercial success Eyes of Blue so sought. Although the Welsh quintet were losing hope, their label head and manager Lou Reizener wasn't throwing in the towel yet. In his view, only a new moniker stood in the way of stardom; thus Eyes were renamed Big Sleep and set to work on their third and final album, 1971's Bluebell Wood.
    @ Marios.... Thanks a lot for reviving this beauty
    Cordial Greetings from Polish

  2. Another day, another killer album. Many thanks Marios.

  3. I really enjoyed this, thanks Marios!

  4. Ευχαριστώ άρχοντα!!!!

  5. A pleasant surprise. Thank you Marios

  6. Grande álbum!


  7. New to me, can't wait to check this out, thanks Marios!

  8. Very good choice, indeed. Thanks a lot...

  9. Thanks for sharing. Great that links (at least 2 mirrors) are still alive! Flogger's original distribution in e-mule don't seem to have any seeds at the moment.
    For those who may be interested in the Eyes of Blue albums; antonyart in Avaxhome recently posted new Flawed Gems editions of both albums in his blog. Great stuff...

  10. Marios: when you have time, if you can a re-up, you do me happy. Thanks!