Gnidrolog - Lady Lake

(CD 2012/1972, 42:49, Esoteric Recordings ECLEC2326)

The tracks:
  1- I Could Never Be A Soldier(11:36)
  2- Ship(6:44)
  3- A Dog With No Collar(2:09)
  4- Lady Lake(8:53)
  5- Same Dreams(2:49)
  6- Social Embarrassment(6:30)
  7- Baby Move On(4:07)

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I was fortunate to have been assigned both Gnidrolog releases from the early 70s to review at the same time. Esoteric Records has reissued them together, and it is common practice to group them together into a single review as anyone who loves one invariably loves both albums. At this point I was faced with a decision, to follow standard practice or take the lesser travelled road and review them separately. My decision was actually fairly easy to arrive at; both albums are so good and each one possesses enough unique points that need to be mentioned that they deserve to be addressed separately. Naturally, some of the review information is shared, so I advise to anyone interested in one album to go ahead and read both reviews, and then purchase both albums. The other album I speak of is entitled In Spite Of Harry's Toenail (see review).

Lady Lake is another essential “Golden Era” progressive masterpiece, and without a doubt the crown jewel in Gnidrolog's catalogue. I again wish to extend deepest thanks to Esoteric Records for wisely choosing to ensure this album is never lost. In fact, they are responsible for keeping many brilliant albums in print and available, so they deserve much appreciation from the progressive music community as a whole.

This is in no way a neo-prog album, and if that's what you're after you're in for a surprise. It is music from the heart and soul, and it will live on well after so many of today's works fade into digital oblivion. It is a bit unpolished, and it is very ambitious. From the moment I heard I Could Never Be A Soldier at a friends' home back in the 1970s, I knew I would always need a copy for myself. Yes kids, that's how we used to learn about great prog, we got together and each brought a few new albums to check out together. Why? Easy.... the radio would never touch anything that wasn't part of the music machine (which represented money not art), and there was no MTV or similar. In the end, whose opinions matter to us? Those of our friends of course! My friends taught me well. And in that spirit my friends, let me introduce you to something wonderful!

Originally released on vinyl in 1972, the second album from the twin brothers Colin (guitars, vocals, recorder, tenor sax, tenor horn), and Stewart (lead guitar, vocals) Goldring, Peter “Mars” Cowling (bass, cello), Nigel Pegrum (percussion, oboe, flute, and piano), John Earle (Lead Vocals on Social Embarrassment, Soprano / Tenor / Baritone Saxophones, and flute), and Caroline Fendrich (piano on Ship) begins with their now classic piece I Could Never Be A Soldier. Nowadays this track is considered to be among the elite works of early prog artists, not only does its message continue to be relevant, the melody is truly timeless. The second track Ship also grabs the listener hard and simply does not let go. Track three, A Dog With No Collar, is something of an extreme piece for its day, it is strongly in the avant-garde realm and is a challenging listen on its own, but it is so much an integral part of the album that it simply must be there. The fourth and fifth tracks are not quite so exploratory, but work far better together as part of the whole. Lady Lake and Same Dreams simply must be there. If ever Gnidrolog had a shot at real air play, it is Same Dreams with its lovely ballad feel that stood the best chance. Every time I hear it I am immediately reminded of David Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust. It is breathtaking. My personal favourite track of the entire work is definitely Social Embarrassment. It is a bit King Crimson circa Lizard meets Gentle Giant on Three Friends. Yes, it's that good! Add in a terrific bonus track (Baby Move On) that was previously unreleased but recorded in 1972 as well.

Included in this reissue is further information as told by Colin and Stewart detailing some of the stories behind Gnidrolog and the recording of this essential album. It is a coherent work, and should not be viewed as a random assortment of songs. It is nothing short of a must for any serious collector, and for those who are just now looking backwards to the roots, it is a foundation stone upon which prog as we know it today is built. It is vastly superior in its composition and integrity to much of what has been released since the late 1970s when art music was in danger of extinction at the hands of disco, new wave, and punk rock. Further, it is one of the reasons those styles came into existence. They represented music for the masses, simplified and repetitive, a backlash against the ultra creative and exploratory groups of the early 70s. This is music for the love of music, state of the by the Fathers and Grandfathers of the music we know and love today! It is a musical Rembrandt as seen through the eyes of Warhol.

****+ Thomas Rhymer

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