I am back with my first review in almost two years and boy am I delighted to do so. After listening to scores of new music and when I was deciding on which album to write about comes this beauty which I discovered by chance a couple of weeks ago and have been listening to it almost non-stop.
Here is another gem from the 70′s, 1972 to be exact, “Swaddling Songs” by the Irish folk and progressive rock band Mellow Candle.
The story of Mellow Candle begins way back in the early sixties when the band was formed by three teenagers, Clodagh Simonds and Alison Bools (later O’Donnell) and Maria White. Clodagh was 15 then and Maria 16. But by 1972 the line-up expanded to include William Nurry on drums, Dave Williams on guitar and Frank Boylan on bass when they released thei debut and only album “Swaddling Songs”. The third female voice Maria White wasn’t part of the band then.
The songs and music on this album are so beautiful that they give meaning to the words “Music the life giver, healing and touching the soul”. Unlike typical folk rock albums where you are impressed with the first song only to get tired of the repetitive style later, Swaddling Songs is interesting and likeable.
After ABBA and to some extent (Clannad) this is the first time I enjoying the power of dual female vocals.
You are instantly hooked to the opening number “Heaven Heath” on Side one of the LP. The Harmonium and later Hapsichord played by Clodagh starts an irresistable tune and when the female vocals in unison is heard it’s fresh and melodic. But it is when the guitar and piano piece along with the vocals that plays in between the lines that your heart truly melts. What simple but soul stirring tunes! Difficult to believe how simple tunes can take on a high!
“Sheep Season” follows and the tune of the opening line with the piano (played thrice in the song) literally stops my heart with its beauty and melancholy. I wish the opening tune had been played infinite times but that would have killed the beauty of it as well. There’s more lovely piano and guitar music on this number than vocals. Lovely number. A little flute is also used on the song.
The third song is “Silver Song“, a beautiful ballad and probably the most beautiful song on the album. British band “All about Eve” covered this song in one of their albums.
The rest of the songs can be located on YouTube. I haven’t provided links for them but the reviews follow.
4. The poet and the witch – Starts and ends with the sounds of seagulls in the background. A faster and louder song in the true tradition of folk rock. I though the singing was excellent with good and difficult arrangements. A small song. Not as melodic as the previous ones though.
5. Messenger Birds – Only one female vocal this time. Back to melody again and you’ll be impressed with the beautiful singing.
6. Dan the wing – Faster song in typical folk rock style. Lovely singing by the vocalists.
7. Reverend Sisters – What a way to begin side 2! An incredible song with just piano and vocals and with a piano solo in the middle. A song that evokes strange and mysterious moods. Sounding like chants the vocals are arresting. Beautiful song.
8. Break your token – Another faster number in typical folk rock style. Not a boring song.
9. Buy or Beware – Another good song, good for Side 2. Male vocal can he heard for the first time. The lead guitar sounds very similar to the one used by Fleetwood Mac on their “Future Games” album.
10. Vile Excess – May sound like the continuation of the previous song or a bit repetitive but not a bad song because the band plays more music on this one.
11. Lonely man – Wow! A terrific last-but-one song for the album. A splendid and grand vocal opening for a song with lead guitar, rock piano and drums. Loved the bass on this song too.
12. Boulders on my grave – Never expected a fast number for a concluding song. Vocals sans lyrics are more frequently used.
It’s a tragedy that due to the poor response for the album and dismal sales the band had to break up soon after. It is really sad they weren’t together to make more of their music. Years and decades later the true value of this album has been realised and it has been raised to “cult” status. There was even one comment on YouTube mentioning that an LP sold for $5000 on ebay and I am not surprised. What intrigues me is this. How come an album as this was so poorly received when it was released. The 70′s were the Golden Period of rock and rock styles. Maybe “Swaddling Songs” wasn’t promoted enough because even one casual listen is enough to be moved by the melodies and music of this beautiful album.
In 1996 the album “Virgin Prophet” was released which contained unreleased earlier material from the seventies. “Virgin Prophet” and a guitar based version of ”Heaven Heath” are available on YouTube.
The lead female vocalists Clodah and Alison continue with their singing careers as solo artistes and with collaborations with other artistes and bands. Afer the re-emergence of “Swaddling Songs” they seem to be busier than before.
Clodah’s work as Fovea Hex can be accessed at this website – http://www.janetrecords.com/
There is a bio of the band with pictures of the members at http://www.janetrecords.com/mc/
Alison O’Donnel’s website is at http://www.alisonodonnell.com/
Drummer William Murray who played on this album passed away in 1998.