By Glenn Astarita
Published: April 28, 2013
Track review of "Harpsong"
British vocalist Judy Dyble is one of the founding members of the celebrated folk-rock ensemble Fairport Convention. After leaving the band, she became involved in transitory but critically successful musical endeavors, and eventually retired from the music scene to raise a family. Four decades later she reinvented her career with this album, originally issued throughout Europe in 2009 and now available for the first time in the USA. The program also marks the first time guitarist Robert Fripp and reedman Ian McDonald have performed together since an abandoned 1969 King Crimson tour. As latter day KC drummer Pat Mastelotto lends his wares amid an aggregation of instrumentalists alternating on a per-track basis.
The acoustic-electric format, and intricately arranged pieces bestow a memorable listening experience. Dyble's virtuous vocals project understated power and authority. It's a prismatic concoction, developed with layered strings, Fripp's electronics-generated soundscapes, sonorous horns and slowly paced rock grooves, occasionally streaked with a sense of antiquity. Dyble's passionate vocals steer the British folk, folk-rock and folk-prog stylizations, drenched with striking melodies, ambient atmospherics, drifting soundscapes, majestic backdrops, and many other components.
Dyble's magnum opus is the 19-minute musical memoire "Harpsong." Commencing as an ethereal folk etude, echoing with male and female background vocal choruses atop tender acoustic guitar accompaniment, Mastellotto energizes the balladry via his steady backbeat. The piece evolves into the prog-rock idiom with spirited sax phrasings, thorny guitar riffs and restrained electronic treatments, coalescing with McDonald's whirling flute passages that preface a spellbinding journey. During the bridge, Fripp and associates execute a classic hard-core King Crimson-like vamp, teeming with controlled turbulence and celestial backdrops, where Dyble reintroduces the warm balladry, leading to the softly spun closeout.
An insightful and glistening, multilayered production abets this extraordinary set. With rigorous attention to detail, the musicians play all the right notes in support of Dyble's earnest lyricism, wistful vocals and eminent artistry. Hopefully, she will enter the studio relatively soon for an encore.
Track Listing: Track #1; Track #2; Track #3.
Personnel: Judy Dyble: vocals, autoharp; Simon Nicol: acoustic guitar; Alistair Murphy: acoustic guitar, keyboards, E-bow, electric guitar, piano, electric piano, organ, synthesizer; Ian McDonald: alto saxophone, flute, alto flutes, ukulele; Mark Fletcher; bass; Pat Mastelotto: drums, percussion; Harry Fletcher: electric Guitar; Paul Robinson: electric guitar; Robert Fripp: guitar, soundscapes; Julianne Regan: vocals; Celia Humphris: vocals; Jacqui McShee: vocals; Tim Bowness: additional vocals, electric guitar; Laurie A. Court: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone; Rachel Hall: violin; Sanchia Pattinson: oboe.
Record Label: Gonzo Multimedia