CE Jones (Canada): (Find Enclosed) The Last Of CE Jones (Creative Electronics CE-1975, Canada, 1975)
Valerie Hudson (occasional vocals), Joy Hisey (occasional vocals), Jeweli Rowlandson (occasional vocals)
The label name might lead you to expect electronic avant-gardism, but this is nothing of the kind. In fact, Creative Electonics was the name of a musical college course, and this album was issued to commemorate the first four years of its work and its name change to Music Industry. The disc gathers together quite a number of musicians performing in different permutations, almost like a Canadian equivalent of the York Pop Music Project LP. Musically, it mostly offers mainstream rock, plus three pretty good progressive instrumentals; whilst in no way exceptional and not particularly cohesive, this is a pleasant album. Female involvement in the disc is limited to a few wordless vocals here and there, plus backing vocals elsewhere. GRADE: C+.
Ceccarelli (France): Ceccarelli (Carla CAR 500 002, 1977)
Chantal Alexandre (occasional vocals)
This project by the prolific session drummer André Ceccarelli has an interesting cast of musicians, including Alex Ligertwood, Jannick Top, François Jeanneau, Didier Lockwood, Alain Hâtot, Claude Engel and Patrick Bourgoin, plus Stella Vander on backing vocals. Don’t expect zeuhl, though: this is cheesy jazz/funk throughout, even including the Jannick Top-penned fourteen-minute suite on side two. GRADE: C–.
Cecil Sharp Centenary Collective (UK): As I Cycled Out On A May Morning (Talking Elephant TECD057, CD, 2003)
Emily Slade (joint lead vocals, guitar, banjo)
Another of the prolific Ashley Hutchings’s numerous projects, this falls somewhere between the acoustic end of the Albion Band and the Morris On project. It’s very pleasant traditional folk/rock, and beautifully put together as one would expect, but not among his most important releases.
See also Ashley Hutchings
Celebrated Ratliffe Stout Band (UK): Songs And Tales From Greenwood Edge (No label, 1975)
Diane Hall (joint lead vocals, keyboards, glockenspiel, psaltery)
Despite their majestic name, this band consisted of only two people: a Mr Tom Hall and his wife Diane. This rare private pressing is a fine acoustic acid-folk set, with a strong mediaeval edge and a delicate and melancholy atmosphere reminiscent of George Deacon & Marion Ross. Elsewhere (notably on the standout track ‘Windsong’) the disc recalls Shide & Acorn, achieving some moments of considerable beauty. Many collectors downgrade the album for the spoken parts (the ‘Tales’ of the title), but overall it’s a strong and cohesive piece of work, beautifully packaged in a striking black-and-white psychedelic cover. GRADE: B–.
Celebrated Ratliffe Stout Band (UK): Dan, Half Dan And The Spaceman (No label, 1976)
Diane Hall (occasional vocals, harmonium, glockenspiel, psaltery)
For their slightly less rare second album, the husband-and-wife duo added a few guests for a fuller sound, including occasional electric guitar and bass for the first time. In contrast to their debut, this tones down the mediaeval elements somewhat, emphasising Tom Hall’s playful, whimsical songs, which somewhat recall the Incredible String Band. The highpoints are the haunting, slightly eerie ‘Yellow Fog’ and ‘Poor John’, but this is an excellent record throughout. GRADE: B–.
Celebrated Ratliffe Stout Band (UK): Behind The Mask (Plant Life PLR 020, with inner, 1979)
Diane Hall (harmonium, backing vocals), Jaye Woodfield (keyboards, accordion, concertina, glockenspiel)
The whimsical nature of Tom Hall’s songwriting, kept in check by the more ethereal, psychedelic side of the band’s sound on the first two albums, gets free rein here. The arrangements are admittedly beautiful, based around accordion, concertina and woodwind, but this can’t save irritating, music hall material like ‘Have You Got A Penny?’, ‘The Circus Comes To Town’ and especially the excruciating ‘Old George Dawson’. In fact, side one is mostly a washout, whilst side two is surprisingly rather good, concentrating on ballads and traditional material, with the mediaeval flavour from their first album making a reappearance. As a footnote, Steeleye Span’s Nigel Pegrum produced the album and played percussion and flute, whilst much-travelled drummer Roger Swallow also appeared. GRADE: C+.
Celebrated Ratliffe Stout Band (UK): Vanlag (Plant Life PLR 030, 1981)
Diane Hall (occasional vocals, psaltery), Jaye Woodfield (keyboards, accordion, psaltery)
Thankfully, the whimsy is kept in check a little more this time around, even though this includes Tom Hall’s attempts at yodelling. Elsewhere this has a fairly introspective mood, with stripped-down arrangements featuring lots of synthesisers, and with two cuts around the ten-minute mark adds a progressive edge not evident in their earlier work. Overall it’s a nice enough LP and something of an improvement on its predecessor. Perhaps surprisingly, Geoff Ide of Back Alley Choir adds vocals to ‘The Bright Lit Pier’. GRADE: C+.
Celebration (USA): Genesis – Rock Mass (Rondo 1117, 1973?)
Dianne Forst (joint lead vocals)
Despite the presence of a few spoken word passages, this doesn’t have the rock opera elements one would normally associate with a ‘rock mass’. Instead, it’s a pleasant collection of covers of religious and vaguely spiritual material – everything from ‘Oh Happy Day’ and ‘My Sweet Lord’ to ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and ‘Let It Be’. Unlike most albums of its type, it’s as close to pop and soul as it is to folk, creating a charming period piece that never becomes too cloying. GRADE: C+.
Celebration (USA): The Celebration (Northwest Christian College 30513, 1974?)
Renée Holcomb (joint lead vocals)
The brief opener ‘My God’s Love’ is dark and haunting folk recalling Vos Cantu Monemus, but the rest alternates a slightly loungy edge on the cover versions and a coffeehouse folk feel on the original songs. Nonetheless, this is a solid album (aside from their cover of ‘One Tin Soldier’ – but I suspect it’s more the song than the performance) that at its best achieves a wistful atmosphere similar to Tryad or similar mega-rarities. GRADE: C+.
Celeste (Italy): 1969•1977 – Il Sistema/Celeste/St Tropez – The Complete Recordings (AMS AMS 167, 4CD, with digibook, 2010, recorded 1969-1977)
Lady Mantide (joint lead vocals), Nikki Burton (joint lead vocals)
As its title suggests, this lavishly packaged set features the entire output by the interconnected Italian prog bands Il Sistema, Celeste and St Tropez. The first two discs feature all-male line-ups, whilst the third chronicles an album’s worth of demos from 1974, with vocals from the British singer Nikki Burton. This is an unusual set, with the first half being mildly jazzy progressive rock (good but a little hesitant, and with mediocre sound quality, so around C+) and the second half, fronted by Burton, is beautiful acid-folk (comfortably B–). The fourth CD is a straightforward repackage of St Tropez’s excellent space-rock set Icarus (B–). Oddly, whilst the booklet makes mention of Cerrino’s other projects La Compagnia Digitale and SNC, their music is not included here. GRADE: B–.
See also Compagnia Digitale, SNC, St Tropez
Cellar Darling (Switzerland): This Is The Sound (Nuclear Blast 27361 39470, CD, with digibook, Germany, 2017)
Anna Murphy (lead vocals, keyboards, flute, hurdy-gurdy, effects)
Anna Murphy was previously in Nucleus Torn (and, more integrally, Eluveitie) but this is a quite different proposition, swapping Nucleus Torn’s chilly minimalism for a denser and more conventional gothic metal/folk crossover. Nonetheless, this is impressive stuff: richly arranged, deeply melodic and beautifully sung, so they’re an interesting proposition in their own right. The limited digibook edition features three bonus cover versions, of material by Henry Purcell, Tears For Fears (inevitably ‘Mad World’, which seems to appeal to progressive metal bands) and Queen. GRADE: B–.
Cellar Darling (Switzerland): The Spell (Nuclear Blast 27361 45320, double CD, with digibook, Germany, 2019)
Anna Murphy (lead vocals, keyboards, flute, hurdy-gurdy, effects)
Whether this is better than their first is debatable: they’re so similar that it’s hard to separate them, but this possibly feels a touch more confident. This time round, the limited edition digibook features a second CD, with Anna Murphy talking through the album’s concept against musical backing. This second CD is much shorter than the first, though it complements the album nicely enough for completists. GRADE: B–.
See also Eluveitie, Nucleus Torn
Celtarabia (UK): The Lost Music Of Celtarabia (Grinnigogs International GRINCD 942, CD, 1995)
Amanda Lowe (occasional vocals, dulcimer)
As their name and the album title make clear, Celtarabia aimed to unify Celtic and Arabian musical traditions, although I don’t hear much of the former in their sound. Overall this sounds like a blend of Middle Eastern influences played on a wide range of acoustic instruments and tinged with a slightly psychedelic atmosphere. Unsurprisingly, they were frequent attendees at hippie festivals throughout the nineties. GRADE: C+.
Celtarabia (UK): Ancient Forces (Osmosys OSMO CD011, CD, 1997)
Amanda Lowe (lead vocals, dulcimer, harp)
With the band down to a duo of Quentin Budworth and Amanda Lowe plus guests, this is slightly different from their first. The Celtic and mediaeval aspects of their sound are much emphasised, taking the music closer to folk and occasionally recalling an earthy and elemental, rather than refined and academic, Carnival Band. With some jazz and dance elements thrown in, this is a good and accomplished album and something of a step up from its predecessor. GRADE: C+.
Rootsman Meets Celtarabia (UK): Union Of Souls (Third Eye Music TEMCD013, CD, 1998)
Amanda Lowe (principal vocals, dulcimer)
Whilst not a Rastafarian as I had suspected from the name (he looks more Middle Eastern in the band photograph), the Rootsman brings a strong reggae and dance sensibility. Indeed, with lots of synthesised bass and programmed percussion this is sometimes quite different from their first two, although it’s also a logical progression in its marriage of Arabian and Caribbean sounds. GRADE: C+.
Celtarabia (UK): Cult Of Audio (Grinnigogs International GRINCD 942, CD, 2000)
Amanda Lowe (lead vocals, dulcimer, harp, programming)
The band’s fourth and final album completes the progression begun on Union Of Souls, being a straightforward techno effort with a few spacy and ethnic edges. I’ve certainly heard worse examples of the style, but this is pretty one-dimensional and unimaginative stuff that’s barely worth a second listen. At least the delicate Gregorian chant-flavoured ‘On A Star’ provides some respite from all the thudding backbeats. GRADE: C.
See also Amanda Lowe
Cenotaph Corner (UK): Every Day But Wednesday (Cottage Cot.031, 1979)
Louise Heslop (joint lead vocals), Megan Davies (bass)
This lovely, mellow folk LP features mostly original songs with backing from acoustic guitars and basses (the latter, surprisingly, provided by former Applejacks member Megan Davies). On ‘City Girl’ they sound uncannily like Pentangle, whilst a radical reworking of ‘Southern Man’ is a commendably bold opener. GRADE: C+.
See also Applejacks
Centaure (France): L’Erreur (No label, France, 1981)
Bernadette Quïao (occasional vocals)
This obscure privately released album features one side composed by the bassist (apparently the soundtrack to a low-budget film for which he provided the screenplay) and one composed by the keyboardist (and simply titled ‘Rock Progressif’). Both offer relaxed, melodic progressive with keyboard-dominated arrangements; the LP is instrumental throughout apart from the opening cut, a ballad sung by Bernadette Quïao. GRADE: C+.
Centipede (UK): Septober Energy (RCA Neon NE9, double, 1971)
Julie Driscoll (joint lead vocals), Maggie Nichols (joint lead vocals), Jill Lyons (contrabass), Wendy Treacher (violin), Carol Slater (violin), Louise Jopling (violin), Mica Gomberti (violin), Esther Burgi (violin), Suki Towb (cello), Katherine Thulborn (cello), Catherine Finnis (cello), Channa Salononson (flute)
One of the most excessive double albums of an excessive period, this features an all-star fifty-strong orchestra creating four side-long cuts mixing some groovy and heavy fusion with all the hallmarks of free jazz (screeching and scuttling saxophones, manic outbursts of flailing drumming, Ligeti-like off-key choral sections). With an amazing list of musicians including Ian Carr, Mongezi Feza, Elton Dean, Ian MacDonald, Dudu Pukwana, Gary Windo, Karl Jenkins, John Marshall, Brian Godding, Maggie Nicols, Julie Driscoll, Mike Patto, Zoot Money, Boz Burrell, Roy Babbington, Jeff Clyne and Keith Tippett (plus Robert Fripp producing), this inevitably contains some great moments. But at the same time it’s proof positive that too much of a good thing can be surprisingly bad. GRADE: C+.
See also Julie Driscoll