Saturday, September 16, 2006

"Folkal Point" (UK Folk 1971)

Review by Patrick the Lama: Since noone else seems to be doing it we continue our examination of overlooked British folk titles, based on the assumption that they some day will be reissued, as they must. Of four such folk obscurities I recently got to hear thanks to the generosity of a fellow country-man the unspeakably rare album by FOLKAL POINT was clearly the best. The LP came out on the hallowed (among less than 50 people) Midas record label, an operation masterminded by the same cunning gentleman that ran the Folk Heritage operation; his Midas £1000 stable also includes the slightly better known Gallery LP and a couple of less rare titles by Janet Jones, one of which I've heard and wasn't impressed by.

Bristol area outfit Folkal Point on the other hand is an obvious delight, with elements likely to attract almost anyone with an ear for gentle rural 1970s sounds with psych overtones. Sweet female vocals is the poison of many a folk fiend and this has an abundance of it, in fact the sounds emitting from Cherie Musialik are gorgeous to a point where I have to cast a wide net to come up with comparisons; but if you can imagine a warm tone halfway between the girl-child charms of Vasthi Bunyan and the lush village-beauty sound of early Mandy Morton, then I guess we're in the right shire. So appealing are these vocals that they become the defining characteristic of the album, and fortunately the Folkals seem to realize this as they play a selection of material that is absolutely right for the asset; haunting minor chord ballads with obvious debts owed to American 60s folk as well as the psychedelic sounds of subsequent years. If you expect a marvy "Scarborough Fair" from this description, you've got it. "Once I Knew A Pretty Girl"? Yes. Both are done in a manner closer to Shide & Acorn than Shirley Collins, with the arrangements displaying a clear bias towards the "rock" rather than "trad" side of the equation. The liner notes refer to the band playing electric on occasion and while this is an acoustic-oriented album, it's easy to imagine it being re-recorded with a full electric setting, the imaginary result recalling the Trees at their best.

Beginning at the beginning, there is a version of gospel tune "Twelve Gates Into The City", although there isn't much gospel left after Folkal Point have chased it through their enchanted forest. Then there's "Scarborough", which is followed by "Sweet Sir Galahad", whose artfully descending stair of minor chords may crown it my favorite on the whole album. Cherie's vocals are just stunning, it's like if one of those princess girls serenaded by Donovan suddenly started singing back. The hippie folkpsych takes on trad material progresses successfully through "Lovely Joan" before a contemporary note is introduced with "Circle Game" and its clever carousel metaphors. The footstomping US folk boom Pete Seeger sound of "Cookoo's Hollerin'" is less appealing, not because it's bad but because it fails to take advantage of the band's strengths. Luckily, it's the shortest track on the LP. Then there is a Spriguns-like take on "Edom O'Gordon" before the modern theme resurfaces in Tom Paxton's "Victoria Dines Alone", whose theme of female loneliness and depression seems highly poignant in 2003. It's a flawless performance, and likely to be the favorite track of listeners of a less folky persuasion. The Americanisms linger via a charming take on Dylan's "You ain't going nowhere", although it would have been more interesting to hear this one with female vocals -- but I guess the Folkal boys wouldn't settle for just picking guitar on ALL tracks.

Entering the last quarter the LP tightens its grip on the listener again, presenting the unorthodox chord structures and wave-like rhythms of "Anathea" which the liner notes credit to Lydia Wood, although the lyrical content is essentially the same as "Seven Curses" as done by young Bobby Dylan and others. This dark, despairing story is given a matching presentation by the band, opening doors to an eerie "downer folk" cellar not found elsewhere on the album. This is followed by the atmospheric, ensemble-sung "National seven", after which an excellent, folkrock-style take on "Once I Knew A Pretty Girl" closes the book on 40 minutes that are as impressive as anything you can hope to find within the genre. According to UK folk expert Ian at Ammonite, 500 copes were pressed of which half were lost in a flood. Let's hope it gets reissued ere the next millennium.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is one of the best albums you've posted.

17 September, 2006 04:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can be a rarity, but I agree, this
album is sublime. The first track
seems something lost from Insect Trust
(a strange folky USA band 68-69),
with a marvellous voice that
is floating also on the incredible
touching "Anathea". One can't hear
this without cry.
A fondly beautiful record, really
"rare" in this awful world.
Thanks lizardson.

17 September, 2006 14:42  
Blogger sophisticatedbeggar said...

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this. Along with Karen Beth this is the best album I have downloaded so far from "Time Has Told Me". I can't explain how beautiful it is and it begs for reissue. I wonder if further recordings from Folkal Point exist (in an ideal world the answer would be yes).

01 June, 2007 06:56  
Blogger UK folk junkie said...

Very pretty indeed but without trying to rain on anyone's parade I find this somewhat less adventurous than say, Midwinter, and less skilled than fellow stablemates Gallery. This said, I do realize it's understated brilliance.

18 September, 2007 05:32  
Anonymous Folk Music in Bristol said...

Yes, there is another recording available by Folkal Point - I can't remember the name of the track offhand, but there is one track on the "Folk Heritage" compilation LP on the budget Windmill label. LP was issued in about 1973.

05 January, 2009 20:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Any chance this album might be re-posted in the near future? Many thanks in advance!

09 July, 2009 03:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, I heard Folkal Point's "Lovely Joan" on youtube today and then found your blog about their album. I'd love to hear the whole album. Could you repost it? Thanks. John

30 July, 2009 06:37  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*sigh* seems practically a battle against the windmills to beg for re-uploadings... how sad... once the link is dead, my friends, it's practically "let it go, farewell he". What else is left to us than singing "All around my hat..." ?

23 August, 2009 23:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'll find it here:!

73 mb... Hope it's not a low-bit rate upload like most of what's uploaded on this blog.

14 January, 2010 00:45  
Blogger leelapad said...

most favorite album..... soo good!!!

19 January, 2010 02:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not so obscure. All four of us were in touch with each other today. Thanks for the kind comments folks.We were schoolkids when we made the album. The single track on the windmill label was Sweet sir Galahad. played by me and sung by Cherie
Mark(not Martin as the album cover incorrectly calls me)Steed
7th Feb 2010

08 February, 2010 06:52  
Blogger Timmy Day said...

Hello all My name is Tim,,As a kid 20 or so years ago I used to play this vinyl record for a past time.
Stuart Amesbury is my second cousin and Cherie is his wife,,I am still in touch with them and occasionlly use their services for sound control..
Anyway I have a vinyl copy of this album which it seems is a bit sought after, so anybody wishing to purchase this album, then leave a message and I will get back to you.
Cheers all
Tim Day

23 February, 2010 06:18  
Blogger Timmy Day said...

Hi All
My name is Tim,I used to play this record back in the 70's for a past time (Iloved it) although I haven't heard it since(apart from youtube).
Stuart is my second cousin and Cherie is his wife..I still see them and use their sound system services occasionally.
Anyhoo I have a vinyl copy of this album, which it seems is very sought after..
Is anyone interested in purchasing it..? if so leave me a message...
Take care all
Tim Day

23 February, 2010 06:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Soon, you will find a website, available to; friends, family and worldwide fans.
The original band members are all contributory to this belated endeavour.
There may be more than you'd anticipated.
We all hope so!

15 March, 2010 04:09  

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