Just a gorgeous, inimitable, eternal album, that deserves to live forever.
Behind this album is one of those stories that makes (Prog) music so special for fans – and often so hard to sustain for the artists / protagonists. Because the quality offered here has simply nothing to do with the recognition or success it received… The protagonists were originally brought together almost by coincidence or rather the idea of an old mutual friend, to introduce the guitarist Norm MacPherson (also: mandolin, bassoon, Keyboard instruments) to singer / guitarist / composer Martin Springett. What promptly proved to be beneficial and fruitful, even more so, as after some time Norms son James Macpherson filled the originally exclusively programmed drum parts continuously with more life and Wayne Kozak joined as a saxophonist. More than just the icing on the cake was the arrival of jazz bassist Sean Drabbit, whose warm-singing fretless playing grounded and enhanced the sound of the project. But what sound?
Elsewhere, the album was compared to The Strawbs and / or The Syn. The own associations were more in the direction of the solo works of Anthony Phillips and / or Colin Bass, but each with guest contributions by G.E. Stinson (Shadowfax) – mainly because of the great slide solos. But above all, the music is positive – not cheerfully or boisterous but slowly and continously uplifting, like a day spent outdoors in a beautiful landscape.
The ‘The Riddle Overture’ introduces the music gently but inexorably – like a beautifully chiselled, mysterious garden gate into a magic garden. ‘Whirled Away’ turns out to be a gentle, melodic as well as rhythmically catchy tune. Why has such a thing of beauty just never become known better? The same might be asked about ‘Seven Year Old Poet’. Speaking of poets, did we mention that? – The lyrics are also readable and tasty. And this is best done when listening to the record and based on the 24-page booklet, lovingly illustrated and provided with a typo suitable even for older eyes. Illustrated? Yes, because one of Martin’s many talents is just that and Wikipedia knows him, for example, as an illustrator of Guy Gavriel Kay’s “The Fionavar Tapestroy” trilogy of fantasy books.
While we continue to listen to some more samples of his art here …
Although ‘Blues for Richard’ is not that (twelve-bar), it still is proof that this team succeeds at exciting instrumentals as well. The enchanting ‘Pauline’ is dedicated to a colleague of Martin, the illustrator of Narnia books Paulina Diana Baynes. The jazzy ‘Notes On The Affair’ as well as the two parts of ‘The Original Sleep’ remind the author pleasantly of The Tangents Andy Tillison. Another highlight of the album.
The artist sells this gem for 20 (presumably Canadian) dollars, including postage (presumably within Canada). Even better: with each order he adds a signed copy of the CD “Diving Into Small Pools” – Martin’s “autobiographical journey in song”. Otherwise, it used to be available for £ 9.99 in the UK at Gonzo Multimedia, but is sold out there.
Rating: 12/15 points
by Klaus Eckart at Betreutes Proggen / Bonn Germany
Jeff Low, Broken Pencil
Gonzo Media Magazine
See the full issue HERE.
The music lies within the setting, within the context of these musings about poetic lyrics, gorgeous art work, miraculous meetings.
It simmers with sophistication, with acoustic guitars and with synthesizers, with intelligent arrangements, with wistful vocals, with fretless bass down beneath, with slide guitars decorating the sound, with meticulously programmed drums, with artful, spritely saxophone, and sometimes with full-bodied band-work using jazz-tinges to reveal the quiet, elegant heart of this project.
The music glides like a ‘soft river flowing’. As we listen, as we absorb it all, ‘no common sense enchanted us/ it was too much like being in love/ making one broken bird of another’.
A special treat: Martin Springett’s Gardening Club and the first year anniversary of this blog, October 13th, 2014…
Comment on the review:
Wow – Special treat indeed! Real killer artwork & a masterpiece of music – this is a Monster!! Enchanting, moody and beautiful…love the instrumentals, they strike a chord in my soul…
Hearty Thanks my friend 🙂
And can’t believe it’s already been a year,
Thank you so much for all the rare and wonderful music,
forgotten treasures uncover new horizons…
Here’s to many more bro!!!
Written by: Kev Rowland
Martin Springett is probably best-known as an artist, but over the years he has also released some albums, and this one from 1983 has just been reissued by Gonzo. I had not heard of Martin, and it was only because I had read a review in the mighty Gonzo magazine (what do you mean you don’t read it? As Jon says, “It’s stylish, it’s witty, it’s subversive, it’s free. It’s everything you want from a music magazine”. I was intrigued, and knew that I had to find out more, so soon had a copy sent to deepest darkest New Zealand. To say that I was blown away on hearing it is something of an understatement. That this is a classic isn’t even up for debate, the only question in my mind is how on earth has this been missed by progheads? It all has to be down to timing, if it had been released ten years earlier then it would have been written about by the mainstream press, but back in the early Eighties it was hard to discover any prog unless you had a frontman called Fish – even Twelfth Night and Pallas suffered, so an ex-pat living in Canada didn’t stand a chance.
But, thanks to Gonzo we all now have the opportunity to relish this. Think ‘Breathless’ era Camel, combining forces with Steve Hackett and Anthony Phillips, and it is an album which made me smile from the first song to the very last. I must make mention of Bob Brough, who contributes some very fine soprano sax, and makes instrumentals such as “The Traveller” very much his own. There is a great deal to discover and enjoy on the album, with songs making way for instrumentals, 12-string acoustic guitars to electric, always with a strong sense of melody. It is dream, it is reflective, it is pastoral, it is very simply bloody excellent! This is simply one of the finest reissues I have ever come across in terms of pure musical enjoyment. To find out more about Martin, his art and his music, then visit his website. All progheads should have this: I personally could play it all day and not get tired of it.
Caitlin Sweet, author of The Pattern Scars, The Door in the Mountain and The Flame in the Maze among others
How I unearthed a long-lost Toronto prog rock album
Martin Springett’s The Gardening Club is cosmic Canadiana at its best, and his story is a CanCon prog rock version of the Searching For Sugar Man saga