Enchanted Garden - Reviewed by Raffaele Galli

Enchanted Garden Album CoverWe last heard of her as the partner of ex-Them Jackie McAuley in the duo Trader Horne, whose album Morning Way we have previously reviewed. But her real debut on disc had taken place the previous year with Fairport Convention, which included Richard Thompson, Simon Nicol, Ashley Hutchings and Martin Lamble, a band with whom she was the first vocalist. Her voice was considered to be too soft and light - but it’s worth listening to songs like If I Had a Ribbon Bow and One Sure Thing - and she had to step aside for the more decisive and determined Sandy Denny. After contributing to Giles, Giles and Fripp’s album The Brondesbury Tapes, a fusion of jazz folk and rock,  (two tracks of which were later to reappear on a King Crimson disc), she moved with her husband Simon to Oxfordshire, where they ran a tape-duplicating business. From time to time she reappeared at Fairport’s summer festival at Cropredy. I had the the good fortune to hear her singing in in 1981. Given that she’s now 55, it’s somewhat surprising that she’s making her début with her own album. It’s been produced by Marc Swordfish, who has worked with artists such as Berlin, Guns and Roses and Bob Marley. The album is not a collection of folk-rock numbers, as you might expect, knowing her musical background, but brings together folk music and the New Age. It evokes enchanted fairy kingdoms peopled with elves and fairies, romantic visions of enchanted gardens lost in the mist, but rich in fruit and other produce from the earth. The atmosphere is full of dramatic tonality, with delicate and heavenly melodies. Judy’s voice is more mature than ever. She wrote most of the songs with Marc, though in a few cases there is a third writer. Violin, organ, drums, saxophone and synthesiser form the backing. To my mind, the synthesiser is over-used, making the melodies almost heavy. The album is pleasant and easy to listen, and will suit both jazz and ambient fans. Summer Gathers is a song full of dreamy, easy movement. It has a touch of early 60s’ psychedelia about it. The bass is reminiscent of Danny Thompson, bassist with the Pentangle. There’s a saxophone intermezzo and an inspiring instrumental ending. The title track is a delicate ballad whose opening seems to be played on the sitar. The words are from a poem by Brian Patten. Here’s a part of the text of New World, which has an optimistic melody: “There is space in the heart of the snow, A sanctuary where we’ll go and no one will find us.” Nimbus Thitherwood is a number which opens with little bells, organ and guitar. The guitar sketches out a pleasant melody which contrasts with the synthesiser. For you is a desperate plea, aimed at someone who is not listening to the lover’s song. A sound like that of a spaceship disappearing forever recurs regularly throughout the song. Starcrazy creates a fascinating atmosphere with the saxophone in its opening bars. Rivers Flow is the rock song of the album. It’s rhythm is more decisive than that of the other songs. Synthesiser and guitar melodies melt together in several instrumental breaks, but it’s the wrong time and the wrong place and so ‘I’ll kiss you now and gently let you go.’ Going Home is a gentle ballad. It’s the most engaging song on the album and Judy sings it perfectly. The melody is irresistable. The organ conjures hypnotic images that make an immediate impression.
Raffaele Galli
Buscadero, December 2004