Coa-Con

Coach With The Six Insides (USA): The Coach With The Six Insides (ESP 1019, 1966)
Spoken Word/Avant-Garde
Sheila Roy (joint lead vocals), Anita Dangler (joint lead vocals), Jean Erdman (joint lead vocals)
The subtitle ‘a musical play by Jean Erdman’ gives a fair indication of what’s on offer here. The sporadic musical backing ranges from pseudo-Irish folk (reflecting the fact that this was apparently inspired by Finnegans Wake) to more theatrical sounds. This is one of the rarest ESP releases, but I can’t imagine who would be looking for it. GRADE: D.

Coarbegh (Germany): The Colour Of Happiness (QuiXote CD 66, CD, 2013)
Progressive
Jutta Brandl (principal vocals), Pia Darmstaedter (occasional vocals, flute)
The music here is quite unusual: airy, refined prog defined by hazy washes of flute and echoing programmed percussion. With its lyrics about nature and exploring the outdoor world, and its relaxing cover, it fringes new age and has occasional hints of jazz and even soul, though there are a few rock elements too. The results are suitably elegant and uplifting, hinting towards their countrymen Frequency Drift, but the album is perhaps a little short on excitement. GRADE: C+.

See also Autumnal Blossom, Poor Genetic Material

Coastal Folk (UK): Coastal Folk (Coastal Folk, acetate, 1975?)
Folk
This mysterious acetate comes with no sleeve and printed labels stating ‘Coastal Folk Ltd 197’, with the ‘Ltd’ struck through and the year left uncompleted; ‘MCPS’ has also been manually typed on the label. As such, it’s impossible to tell whether ‘Coastal Folk’ is the artist credit, album title, label name or all three. Since this is traditional folk recorded live, I’d say that it’s a document of a folk club and almost certainly a ‘various artists’ set, but it could be the work of a loose collective identifying as a band. GRADE: C+.

Cobalt Chapel (UK): Cobalt Chapel (Klove KLOVE1CDA, CD, 2017)
Psychedelic/Progressive
Cecilia Fage (lead vocals)
With their swirling keyboard textures and otherworldly edge, Cobalt Chapel could be seen as modern-day successors to Epidaurus or the Ventricle label acts – except that they don’t sound remotely like either. Unlike Epidaurus they’re more psychedelic than progressive and unlike Dusty Lee et al they’re song-based, with a strong pop rather than experimental sensibility. Nonetheless, this is supremely trippy and sometimes quite weird, even taking in a John Tavener piece. I keep thinking I hear Mellotron here and there, but according to the liner notes it was all done with organ – which makes it even more impressive if true. GRADE: B–.
Cobalt Chapel (UK): Variants (Klove KLOVE2CDA, CD, 2018)
Psychedelic/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Cecilia Fage (lead vocals)
Whether these ‘variants’ of their first album (they’re more than just remixes, with Mellotron being credited) are better or worse than the originals is moot, but they’re certainly weirder and spacier. This time round, I can hear clear references to Epidaurus and even more so Mauve Sideshow etc., so those who prefer their keyboard soundscapes on the strange side will certainly prefer this. To my ears, both albums are excellent – and complementary. GRADE: B–.
Cobalt Chapel (UK): Mountain (Klove, download, 2019)
Psychedelic/Progressive/Pop
Cecilia Fage (lead vocals)
This download-only EP lasts for some 25 minutes and feature four songs: two versions of ‘Mountain’ itself, ‘Bohemia’ and the 11-minute ‘Canticle’. ‘Mountain’ is quite different from their earlier work, being uptempo synth-pop that hints towards Stereolab, whilst ‘Bohemia’ is a whimsical wordless piece with an almost waltz tempo and ‘Canticle’ is the most progressive piece and by far the most experimental, offering a weird, minimalistic soundscape. It’s all enjoyable enough, if you can get past the horribly compressed mastering. GRADE: C+.
Cobalt Chapel (UK): Orange Synthetic (Klove KLOVE3CDA, CD, 2021)
Psychedelic/Pop
Cecilia Fage (lead vocals, clarinet, recorder)
The pop sensibilities of the Mountain EP are here to stay, as, unfortunately, is the highly compressed mastering. As a result, this is pleasant enough, but not a patch on their first (or first two, if you count Variants as a second album) and when they hark back to their earlier, folkier, trippier style – as on ‘EB’ – it simply makes you feel rather nostalgic. GRADE: C+.

Cobblers (UK): Warm Are The Sounds (Emblem JDR.314, 1970)
Beat/Lounge
Avril Place (joint lead vocals)
Despite its late date and some psychedelic lettering on the sleeve, this Christian album offers out-of-time mid-sixties garage beat, with an organ-dominated sound and occasional low-budget orchestrations. The band had previously released at least one single and an EP.

GRADE: C.

Cobblers Last (UK): Boot In The Door (Banshee BAN 1012, 1979)
Folk
Pam Cooper (joint lead vocals, concertina, violin)
Issued on Mandy Morton’s Banshee label, this is not electric or psychedelic folk, as sometimes claimed in dealer lists, but a high-calibre traditional folk LP resembling a cross between the Dutch band Opo, Tickawinda and mid-period Mac Murrough. Reportedly only 200 copies were pressed, making it very scarce today. GRADE: C+.

Cockrell & Santos (USA): New Beginnings (A&M SP-4712, with inner, 1978)
Pop/Soul
Pattie Santos (joint lead vocals, glockenspiel)
I can think of worse over-produced soul-tinged pop abums from the late seventies, but I’m struggling to think of one that’s more generic. Whether they’re performing vacuous, cliché-strewn originals by Bud Cockrell and the backing band or offering anodyne covers of material like ‘I Wanna Stay With You’, this is blandness personified, swathed in layers of supperclub saxophone, disco-ish strings and slick, jazzy moves from a profusion of big-name sessionmen. This must have cost a fortune to make, but they might as well have burned the money; even people who like this kind of music would never have gone out and bought this in any quantity. It does, however, achieve the rare feat of making the last couple of It’s A Beautiful Day albums sound like masterpieces in comparison. GRADE: E.
See also It’s A Beautiful Day

Cockshut Hill School (UK): Cockshut 74 (Hollick & Taylor HT/LPS 1448, 1974)

Classical/Folk

This rather oddly named school’s album has a striking front cover, but much of the music is from brass bands and children’s choirs. On the plus side, the Fifth Form Folk Group turn in three rather charming, if also rather twee, numbers with accompaniment from acoustic guitar and hand percussion, and the three songs from the Sixth Form Folk Group are excellent schoolgirl folk. GRADE: C–.

Coeur D’Une Génération (Canada): Le Coeur D’Une Génération (Gamma GS-129, 1969)

Pop/Psychedelic
Louise Themens
A truly charming period piece, this is an excellent psychedelic pop LP with strong folk edges. The vocal harmonies are top-notch and the arrangements are varied, including intelligent use of fuzz guitars, sitar and electric harpsichord. GRADE: C+.

Christiane Maria Cohade (France): À Voix Basse (AMF Music AMF 1038, CD, Germany, 1993)
Jazz/Rock/Avant-Garde/Progressive
Christiane Cohade (principal vocals, bass)
Cohade’s only solo album is often similar to her former band Les I, comprising a procession of short, off-kilter pop-tinged songs and weirder, jazzier instrumentals, both underpinned by her funky bass work. An impressive line-up of musicians includes collaborators from Étron Fou Leloublanc, La Fille Qui Mousse, L’Empire Des Sons and Les I itself. GRADE: C+.
See also L’Empire Des Sons, Les I, Virgule 4

Linda Cohen (USA): Leda (Poppy PYS-5702, 1972)
Progressive
Linda Cohen (guitar)
Cohen was a classical guitarist, and this album sets her gentle strumming and picking against a subtle backdrop of electronics. The results are haunting, tranquil and almost hypnotic, but there is little or no variety here. Most of the material is self-penned. GRADE: C+.
Linda Cohen (USA): Lake Of Light (Poppy PP-LA53-F, 1973)
Progressive
Linda Cohen (guitar, finger cymbals)
The approach is the same as on Leda, but Lake Of Light covers a lot more ground. The synthesisers play soothing melodies that counterpoint the guitar picking rather than just adding electronic noise; one cut has sitar, another glacial trumpet and a third flamenco-style handclaps. With different moods for different tracks, this is frequently rather brilliant and stands head and shoulders above its predecessor. GRADE: B–.
Linda Cohen (USA): Angel Alley (Tomato TOM 7010, 1982)
Progressive
Linda Cohen (guitar)
Cohen’s belated third and final album is mostly solo acoustic guitar, with occasional accompaniment from keyboards, percussion and home-made instruments. The end result is a pleasant listen, but I can’t help wishing she’d taken the same approach as on Lake Of Light.

GRADE: C+.

Cold Blood (USA): Cold Blood (San Francisco SD 200, 1969)
Soul/Blues/Rock
Lydia Pense (lead vocals)
Cold Blood’s powerful singer Lydia Pense is often compared to Janis Joplin, and the band’s style is rather similar to Joplin circa Kozmic Blues. This is a good album, with a strong West Coast sensibility, well-integrated soul and blues elements, and some fine period guitar and organ work. However, anyone disliking horns should steer clear, as every single track is covered with them. GRADE: C+.
Cold Blood (USA): Sisyphus (San Francisco SD 205, 1971)
Soul/Blues/Rock
Lydia Pense (principal vocals)
The opening ‘Shop Talk’ is a brilliant jazzy jam, and far wilder than anything on their first album. Another highpoint is the short, punchy, hard rocking ‘I Can’t Say’, although handing the vocals over to one of the male band members diminishes its impact. Elsewhere, the LP is similar to its predecessor, though hints of their later, slicker style creep in (notably the massed call-and-response vocals). This is their only album to be almost entirely self-penned. GRADE: C+.
Cold Blood (USA): First Taste Of Sin (Reprise MS 2074, 1972)
Soul/Blues/Rock
Lydia Pense (principal vocals)
Album number three is another good one, and no great departure from what went before. This time round, Donny Hathaway produced, played some keyboards and contributed one song and an excellent instrumental. Once again, I find myself wondering why Pense didn’t take all the vocal leads. GRADE: C+.
Cold Blood (USA): Thriller! (Reprise MS 2130, 1973)
Jazz/Funk/Soul
Lydia Pense (principal vocals)
This is inaptly titled, since it’s by far their least exciting album to date. In fairness, it’s by no means bad, thanks to fine singing and musicianship, but these languid jazz/funk grooves and soulful ballads are unlikely to set pulses racing. With all the songs but one being covers (the sole original being the only number under five minutes, to boot), this is not a record with much personality, although it’s only once completely disposable (nearly eight bland minutes of ‘You Are The Sunshine Of My Life’). GRADE: C.
Cold Blood (USA): Lydia (Warner Brothers 2806, 1974)
Jazz/Funk/Soul
Lydia Pense (principal vocals)
Whilst this isn’t markedly different from Thriller! – it’s laid-back, slick, sterile, commercial and nearly all covers – it is at least a lot livelier, and the songs are all a good deal shorter. There are some nice touches here, including unexpectedly heavy guitar on ‘When It’s Over’, but all traces of their original West Coast leanings have long since disappeared. GRADE: C.
Cold Blood (USA): Lydia Pense And Cold Blood (ABC L 5172, 1976)
Funk/Soul/Rock
Lydia Pense (principal vocals)
The opening medley of ‘We Came Down Here’ and ‘Cold Blood Smokin’’ is a high-octane funk jam undermined by Bob Monaco’s thin and unflattering production, which seems to reduce any bass to a bare minimum. The remainder offers more funk, soulful ballads, a great rock jam (‘Blinded By Love’) and – inevitably – a couple of attempts to hitch a ride on the disco bandwagon. With a different producer and a desire to make good music as opposed to a desire to make money, this could have been a very enjoyable album. GRADE: C.

Cold Blood (USA): Transfusion (DIG Music DIG 116, CD, with digipak, 2005)
Soul/Funk/Rock
Lydia Pense (principal vocals)
Cold Blood’s first album in nearly 30 years is a decent return, offering an enjoyable selection of soulful, funky and bluesy retro rock songs. As a bonus, almost everything is self-penned, mostly by former member Skip Mesquite, who also produces and who is (rather oddly) credited only as a guest musician. GRADE: C+.
Lydia Pense & Cold Blood (USA): Live Blood (DIG Music DIG 131, CD, with digipak, 2008)
Soul/Blues/Rock
Lydia Pense (principal vocals)
This live album by the reunited Cold Blood is far livelier than Transfusion, and far more rock-oriented too, including some great West Coast jamming and some fine Janis Joplin-esque moments from Lydia Pense. The material, as often with this band, is perhaps a touch insubstantial, but there’s no denying the quality of the performances. GRADE: C+.

Cold Blood (USA): Live At The Fillmore West, 30th June 1971 (Keyhole KHCD9019, CD, 2014, recorded 1971)
Soul/Blues/Rock
Lydia Pense
With excellent sound quality, this archive releases captures a lively performance from the last night of the Fillmore West. For my own tastes, it has a little too much in the way of horns and backing vocals and not enough in the way of guitar, but it’s a good set of rootsy West Coast rock by any standard. GRADE: C+.
Cold Blood (USA): Vintage Blood (DIG Music 104, CD, 2001, recorded 1973)
Soul/Funk/Blues/Rock
Lydia Pense (lead vocals)
Significantly shorter than the 1971 archive release, this features five songs lasting 42½ minutes. Whilst this allows the band plenty of room for jamming, it also results in a rather slight album, though still a worthwhile one. GRADE: C+.

Cold Comfort (UK): Cold Comfort (Falcon FRLP-4001, 1971)
Pop
As the back cover notes make clear (‘Falcon Records’ main policy is to promote the material of new songwriters’), this is a collection of songwriters’ demos with full band backing, plenty of horns and mainly male but occasionally female vocals. There are no musician credits, and the sleeve is extremely basic, so Falcon was presumably a very small enterprise, notwithstanding the Central London address. Despite the sleevenotes’ claim that ‘the talent of these composers will not long remain unrecognised’, these rather MOR pop songs are pretty undistinguished, and the male singer (who is far inferior to his female counterpart) is sometimes off-key. Hardly surprisingly, songs like ‘Sleepy’, ‘I’m Tired’, ‘The Tide Of Your Love’ and the wonderfully titled ‘Reflections Of Love’s Loving Light’ did not generate any hit covers, and the songwriting teams of Erkyn/Les Bons, Percival/Holman and Todhunter/Edwin did not go on to rival Lennon/McCartney. GRADE: C–.

Collage (USA): The Collage (Smash SRS 67101 / MGS 27101, 1968)
Pop/Folk
Donna Byrd, Jodie Cline
This is characteristic period harmony pop, with multilayered vocals and lush orchestrations. The latter are a bit overbearing, as is the case with many albums of this type, and the songs where they’re toned down (notably ‘My Mind’s At Ease’) are far superior. Whilst there are some nice moments here, the standard of songwriting isn’t particularly great and the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production approach stifles what potential there is (although lovers of the genre will appreciate the disc’s kitsch qualities). As a bonus, the period sleeve is quite beautiful. Ironically, some of the bonus material on the CD reissue (notably the catchy ‘Fly Big City Love Bird’ and the instrumental ‘Someday Man’) is better than the album proper. GRADE: C.

Collage (USA): Collage (Golden Crest CRS 31023B, 1971)
Jazz/Pop
Liz Brandesky (joint lead vocals), Chris Brandesky (joint lead vocals)
Completely different from the band above, this is a soft jazz outfit fronted by twin sisters. Almost like a commercial, pop-oriented yin to Sound Of Feeling’s avant-garde yang, the Brandesky sisters offer some lovely, gentle vocals over restrained and well-judged instrumental backing; the results are lightweight and loungy, but also undeniably charming. GRADE: C+.

Collective Star (USA): Music Of The Mantric Wave Vol II (Unan 999, 1974)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive
Tulsi (percussion, tamboura, backing vocals)
Whilst it’s rooted in chanting and hand percussion (plus some Eastern instrumentation) like most hippie commune albums, this one is different in that the underlying style is based on jazz as much as folk or ragas. The material consists of long, trippy jams with a light, floating mood and effective use of acoustic and electric instrumentation. Despite the title, this appears to have been their first LP.

GRADE: C+.
Collective Star (USA): Garuda (Unan 1001, 1975)
Progressive/Jazz/Funk
Patti Nolan (occasional vocals, percussion), Tulsi (occasional vocals, tamboura), Mara Purl (occasional vocals, percussion, koto)
Their second and final album is a game of two halves, with one studio side (‘Take Five’) and one recorded live (‘Band Alive In Boston’), each featuring different line-ups. The studio cuts are slick jazz/funk with a pop edge and occasional hints of Gong (notably in the Didier Malherbe-like saxophone work) but are quite patchy. The live material is a lot more cosmic and easily outclasses the three other sides the band committed to vinyl. Despite a few low points, this is overall the better of their LPs. GRADE: C+.

Collective Tools (USA): Collective Tools (Silver Crest Custom NT-5272, with insert, 1971?)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic
Cindy Knight (joint lead vocals), Ginger Barner (occasional vocals), Lorraine Hilton (flute), Charity Sumners (flute)
Cut by a group of recovering addicts at a drug rehabilitation clinic (not in a mental hospital, as has been suggested), this is as eerie and wasted an artefact as one could hope to find. The style is folk with electric backing, all shot through with a spacy, trippy atmosphere of dislocation and loss. The many highpoints include the loungy, trumpet-led instrumental ‘Pure Silver’, the sinister ‘Sail To Maine’ (in which the singer expresses her desperate desire to score some cocaine and drift away into oblivion) and desolate versions of ‘Four And Twenty Years’ and ‘If I Were A Carpenter’; the only real missteps are a superfluous ‘Long Tall Sally’ and a dreadfully sung ‘Let’s Get Together’. As a footnote, the album is credited to two separate bands called Eon and Silverwood, plus some supporting musicians, but is usually known by its title. GRADE: B.

Shirley Collins (UK): False True Lovers (Folkways FG 3564, USA, 1959)
Folk
Shirley Collins (lead vocals)
From a modern perspective, Collins’s debut album sound like beautiful but rather unadventurous traditional folk, albeit distinguished by her uniquely plaintive voice – but half a century ago this must have been revelatory. The principal difference from her later albums is that a fair proportion of the material is of North American origin, whereas she would go on to focus almost exclusively on English traditional songs.

GRADE: C+.
Shirley Collins (UK): Sweet England (Argo RG 150, 1960)
Folk
Shirley Collins (lead vocals)
Recorded at the same sessions as False True Lovers, this is unsurprisingly very similar. Once again, she’s in fine voice, but the backing is strictly conventional – and there’s too much banjo, an instrument whose brash, metallic tones do very little for me. GRADE: C+.

Shirley Collins & Davy Graham (UK): Folk Roots, New Routes (Decca LK 4652, with insert, 1965)
Folk/World Music
Shirley Collins (lead vocals, banjo)
Without this remarkable fusion of English, European and Arabian elements, which still sounds remarkably fresh and original today, there would arguably have been no Pentangle, no acid-folk and no folk/rock. But it’s not just influential; it’s a hugely listenable album in its own right. GRADE: B–.
Shirley Collins (UK): The Sweet Primeroses (Topic 12TS 170, 1967)
Folk
Shirley Collins (lead vocals, guitar, banjo)
Even by Collins’s lachrymose standards, this minimalistic LP is remarkably mournful. Whether bemoaning enduring poverty on the acapella ‘Rigs Of The Time’ or lamenting a lost loved one to sister Dolly’s quasi-medieval portative pipe organ on ‘All Things Are Quite Silent’, she explores depths of misery uncharted by the gloomiest of goth bands. GRADE: C+.
Shirley Collins (UK): The Power Of The True Love Knot (Polydor 583 025, 1968)
Folk
Shirley Collins (lead vocals, dulcimer)
Both a logical step forward from The Sweet Primeroses and a harbinger of more radical albums to come, The Power Of The True Love Knot sees sister Dolly handling all the arrangements and contributing her delicate flute-organ to most songs. With occasional cello and Mike Heron and Robin Williamson of the Incredible String Band helping out on percussion, this blends folk and classical music, all shot through with Collins’s customary melancholy. GRADE: C+.

Shirley & Dolly Collins (UK): Anthems In Eden (Harvest SHVL 754, 1969)
Folk/Progressive
Shirley Collins (lead vocals), Dolly Collins (organ)
The Collins sisters’ magnum opus, and a landmark of progressive folk, the magnificent Anthems In Eden is one of few albums to deserve the descriptor ‘unique’. Backed by the Early Music Consort playing a wide variety of medieval instruments, the sisters devote the whole of the first side (almost half-an-hour) to a breathtaking suite charting the social changes in Britain following the First World War. The second is given over to shorter individual tracks, and is inevitably less memorable, although the material and performances stand up well on their own terms. GRADE: A–.
Young Tradition With Shirley & Dolly Collins (UK): The Holly Bears The Crown (Fledg’ling FLED 3006, CD, 1995, recorded 1969)
Folk
Shirley Collins, Dolly Collins, Heather Wood
Recorded for Argo after Anthems In Eden – and notoriously unreleased due to the Young Tradition’s break-up – this was long rumoured to be the gem in the Collinses’ catalogue. I wouldn’t go that far: this isn’t the equal of Anthems In Eden or even No Roses. Nonetheless the juxtaposition of the Collins sisters’ refined style with the earthy unaccompanied singing of the Young Tradition, whilst surprising, is effective, and this is an album of rich textures and evocative moods. Even the narrations work well enough, creating an excellent Christmas album that fully deserved release at the time. GRADE: B–.
Shirley & Dolly Collins (UK): Love, Death And The Lady (Harvest SHVL 771, 1970)
Folk
Shirley Collins (lead vocals), Dolly Collins (keyboards)
Recorded with a stripped-down version of the same ensemble as Anthems In Eden, this is a darker and more sinister album. Indeed, the opening ‘Death and the Lady’ – on which a woman pleads unsuccessfully with the Grim Reaper to spare her life – actually charts depths of despair beyond those explored on The Sweet Primeroses three years earlier. GRADE: B–.
Shirley Collins & The Albion Country Band (UK): No Roses (Pegasus PEG 7, 1971)
Folk/Rock
Shirley Collins (lead vocals)
Shirley Collins goes electric, and the combination of her haunting, plaintive voice and full band backing from the cream of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span makes for a superb album. The accompaniment may be more upbeat than usual, but the sentiments are customarily dark, whether on the prog folk tour de force ‘Murder Of Maria Marten’ or possibly her eeriest recording, the closing ‘Poor Murdered Woman’. GRADE: B.
Shirley Collins (UK): Adieu To Old England (Topic 12TS 238, 1974)
Folk
Shirley Collins (lead vocals)
After three remarkably adventurous LPs (including two with her sister Dolly), Collins returned to specialist folk label Topic and her trad roots to cut an LP that sounds like the logical follow-up to The Sweet Primeroses. GRADE: C+.
Shirley Collins (UK): Amaranth (Harvest SHSM 2008, 1976)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Shirley Collins (lead vocals)
When the time came to reissue Anthems In Eden, Collins professed dissatisfaction with the short songs on the second side and recorded a new side of material to accompany the ‘Anthems In Eden’ suite. The new songs are largely in the electric folk vein, and of the same exemplary standard as No Roses, peaking on the breathtaking ‘Adieu To All Judges And Juries’. The long-deleted CD reissue of Anthems In Eden contained all three sides of music, making it one of the most essential purchases for folk/rock lovers. GRADE: A.
Shirley & Dolly Collins (UK): For As Many As Will (Topic 12TS 380, 1978)
Folk
Shirley Collins (principal vocals), Dolly Collins (occasional vocals, keyboards)
The sisters’ final album together has an almost liturgical feel due to Shirley’s pure, haunting singing and Dolly’s extensive use of portative pipe organ. The material is mostly traditional, but also includes a medley of John Gay compositions and a desolate version of Richard Thompson’s ‘Never Again’ that presumably reflects Shirley’s sorrow at her crumbling marriage. GRADE: C+.

Shirley & Dolly Collins (UK): Harking Back (Durtro 016 CD, CD, 1998, recorded 1978 & 1979)
Folk
Shirley Collins (lead vocals), Dolly Collins (keyboards)
This collection of 22 live songs, with accompaniment solely from flute organ and piano, is vastly better than I anticipated. For a start, the recording quality is outstanding; and secondly, both Collins sisters are on top form, with some of Shirley’s most beautiful singing and some of Dolly’s most inspired playing, resulting in music whose simplicity and sameness is its greatest strength. Shirley’s pleasant onstage demeanour, and interesting between-songs chats, provides the icing on the cake. GRADE: B–.

Shirley Collins (UK): Lodestar (Domino WIGCD389X, CD, with minisleeve, inner and booklet, 2016)
Folk
Shirley Collins (lead vocals)
Collins’s first studio album in 38 years represents a truly remarkable return – particularly given that she is now in her eighties. Her voice has changed considerably in the intervening decades, but musically this offers the kind of eerie, mournful and minimalist folk for which she is renowned, eschewing both Anthems In Eden-style mediaeval stylings and No Roses-style folk/rock. GRADE: C+.

Shirley Collins (UK): Heart’s Ease (Domino WIGLP454, coloured vinyl LP plus single-sided 7", with booklet, 2020)
Folk
Shirley Collins (lead vocals)
This is the logical follow-up to Lodestar, with the same sparse acoustic arrangements, but Collins is in more confident voice this time around. Whilst this doesn’t break new ground in the same way as some of her landmark albums, it’s as haunting and downbeat as her more traditional sixties and seventies albums, cementing her very welcome return. That said, the closing ‘Crowlink’ is spectacularly eerie and gothic, and a whole album in a similar vein could be on a par with her most ground-breaking work. GRADE: C+.

Shirley Collins (UK): The Ballad Of Shirley Collins (Earth EARTHCD029, CD and DVD, with book sleeve, 2018, recorded 1959-2018)
Folk
I didn’t have high hopes for this unusual set, which couples a documentary about Collins with a disc of songs she collected in America (plus three or four previously unreleased Shirley or Dolly numbers, which is why I bought it). However, the documentary is superb, with stunning picture and sound quality and Collins’s warmth shining through in every scene. In fact, it’s so good that I immediately watched it again with the audio commentary (also surprisingly good) switched on. Extras include trailers and teasers, interview clips with other musicians (including Billy Bragg, Graham Coxon and Linda Thompson), backstage and live footage, a couple of performances by artists influenced by Collins, a short ‘making-of’ feature and a short film about an old man. The accompanying CD, mostly featuring her field recordings from the fifties, is a lot less compelling, and would be about a C+ in its own right, but it’s a nice addendum to a fantastic package. GRADE: B.
See also Albion Band, Ashley Hutchings

Collusion (UK): Collusion (SRT 71114, 1971)
Rock/Metal/Progressive
Sandy Baker (joint lead vocals)
Only two copies have resurfaced of this album, which was pressed in a run of 99, without sleeves or inserts. The material is all-original, with odd titles like ‘I’ve Got That Cold Porridge Feeling’ and ‘Sweetbread Line’; this might suggest psychedelia but this is actually hardish guitar rock with strong progressive edges and both male and female vocals. The nearest comparisons I can find are their contemporaries and labelmates Grannie (though this has no flute) or an earlier, rawer version of the Welsh band Brân. In any case, it’s certainly one of the more interesting finds of recent years. GRADE: B–.

Colors Of Noise (Germany): Fragments (No label, download, 2020)
Progressive
Kristin Faust, Lena-Marie Fornefeld
The band name and album title might make you expect something spiky and experimental, but this 33½-minute, four-song set offers richly melodic sympho-prog with lush keyboard textures and chunky guitar riffs. For sure, this isn’t the most adventurous of albums, and it certainly doesn’t break any new ground, but it’s all pleasant, lush stuff. GRADE: C+.

Combat Astronomy (USA/UK): Dreams No Longer Hesitate (Zond 01CD, CD, UK, 2008)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Elaine Di Falco (lead vocals, piano)
This interesting outfit was led by multi-instrumentalist James Huggett and included the prolific British avant-gardist Martin Archer; this was their third album and the first with a female musician. Musically it’s rather good zeuhl, whilst also hinting back towards the early work of Di Falco’s first band Caveman Shoestore, with Huggett’s growling fuzz bass and staccato drums underpinning Archer’s free-form winds. At times it sounds almost Japanese, hinting towards the faint industrial and metal edges of bands like Bondage Fruit and Koenjihyakkei, though the long, minimalist soundscapes and emphasis on bass and drums put me in mind of fellow Americans Ga’an. If it has a failing, it’s fifteen or twenty minutes two long, but at least it ends with something completely different – the uncharacteristic ballad ‘Ordinary Miracles’ penned by Di Falco. GRADE: B–.
Combat Astronomy (USA/UK): Earth Divided By Zero (Zond 02CD, UK, 2010)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Elaine Di Falco (principal vocals)
This is shorter than Dreams No Longer Hesitate, which works in its favour: so does its drive, its energy and its single-minded intensity, creating music that goes beyond contemporary Magma in its raw power. Almost exclusively instrumental, highly formless and strongly influenced by free jazz, it hints towards some of the craziest seventies performances of Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh, whilst also recalling numerous modern zeuhl acts in its doomy simplicity – uncompromising stuff. GRADE: B.

Combat Astronomy (UK/USA): Time Distort Nine (Zond 06CD, double CD, UK, 2014)
Jazz/Rock/Progressive/Avant-Garde
Kelli DeNoyer (occasional vocals), Julie Archer (occasional vocals)
The scope afforded by a double album really allows Combat Astronomy – this has everything from driving zeuhl to avant-garde improvisations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, not everything works perfectly, but perhaps surprisingly this lengthy set holds the attention from start to finish. 

GRADE: B–.

See also 3 Mice, Caveman Shoestore, Empty Days, Ligeia Mare, Luciano Margorani & Elaine Di Falco, Thinking Plague, Dave Willey & Friends

Comfortable Chair (USA): The Comfortable Chair (Ode Z 12-44005, 1968)
Psychedelic
Barbara Wallace (joint lead vocals)
This album is best-remembered for being produced by two members of the Doors, but it’s an interesting piece of work in its own right. The opening ‘Ain’t No Good No More’ is almost proggy, built around a distorted organ riff and with a rather amateurish feel, but most of the rest is dreamy ballads with an eerie and rather trippy mood. The heavier ‘Be Me’, which opens side two, is probably the best thing on offer. GRADE: C+.

Combe Raleigh Country Folk (UK): Combe Raleigh Country Folk (MJB BEV LP 1134, 1971?)
Folk/“Incredibly Strange Music”
Carolyn Eagles (joint lead vocals), Vicky Gosling (joint lead vocals), Jenny McCabe (joint lead vocals), Adele Eagles (joint lead vocals), Val Fielden (occasional vocals, guitar)
Although not a school project, this kiddie-folk oddity certainly sounds like it, with massed vocals from youngsters aged six to 15 plus acoustic guitar and double bass backing from adults. With its quaint silkscreened sleeve and low-budget labels, it’s a nice enough historic artefact, but it’s certainly not a good album. On the plus side, the self-penned ‘Reflections On Love’, sung by Val Fielden, is very pleasant, and their version of ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ is bizarre enough to be memorable. GRADE: D+.

Common Sense (Greece): Sun Comes Up (Pegasus PEG 020, with inner, 1995)
Folk/Rock/Progressive/Psychedelic
Tatiana Stavroulaki (principal vocals)
The first three tracks are guitar psychedelia with new wave and gothic edges (notably resembling Siouxsie & The Banshees) but the remainder is haunting progressive folk, with the eerie ‘Draft’ being the best number. Whilst the band sounds more comfortable in a folkier mould, this is consistently good if never very distinctive. GRADE: C+.

Commuters (Holland/West Germany): Commuters (Amphibious A 009, Holland, 1983)
Avant-Garde
Dagmar Krause (lead vocals)
This odd record, combining the playing time of a 12" single (16 minutes of music) with the format of an album (a full 10 songs) unites the voice of Dagmar Krause with the solo piano of Ronald Heiloo on ten short Brechtian vignettes. This skeletal approach could have worked well if the songs were good, but these tuneless nonentities merely resemble tenth rate Art Bears castoffs. GRADE: C.
See also Art Bears, City Preachers, Lindsay Cooper, Henry Cow, ID Company, Dagmar Krause, Slapp Happy

Compagnia Digitale (Italy): La Compagnia Digitale (Mellow MMP 109, CD, 1992, recorded 1979)
Progressive/Psychedelic
Lady Mantide (piano)
Like its previous incarnation as SNC, this Celeste offshoot seems to have existed only as a live act, though musically this is closer to its other incarnation as St Tropez. The music here is close to seventies Steve Hillage, with three long jams drenched in trippy synthesisers and glissando guitar; anyone liking Hillage or You­-era Gong will find plenty to enjoy here. GRADE: B–.
See also Celeste, SNC, St Tropez

Company Caine (Australia): Doctor Chop (Lamington LAM-329, with insert, 1976)
Rock
Shirley Smith (backing vocals)
They were a legendary Aussie band, but this is a pretty inconsequential LP, mostly consisting of lightweight boogie rock. That may be partly because it was thrown together from different bits and pieces: one side is live, two cuts are previously unreleased full-length versions of a 1971 single and its B-side, and the remaining three numbers are new studio recordings. On the plus side, there is some good lead guitar work on offer. GRADE: C.

Computer Sex (USA): Body Electric (Eclectric, 1984)
Pop/New Wave
Jewel Star (joint lead vocals, guitar, bass, Chapman stick, synthesiser, programming, flute)
This husband-and-wife duo look like a slick metal act on the cover, but this is actually electronic pop/rock typical of the era. The music sometimes draws on psychedelic and progressive influences (notably on the instrumental ‘In The City Of The 7th Sun’), which has led to its being offered on underground rock lists. Overall it’s mildly interesting, but ultimately dated and very patchy. GRADE: D+.

Comus (UK): First Utterance (Dawn DNLS 3019, with insert, 1971)
Folk/Psychedelic
Bobbie Watson (occasional vocals, percussion)
Quite simply one of the most bizarre and unforgettable LPs in history, featuring music that is almost indescribable. Comparisons can be made with Amon Düül II’s Phallus Dei in terms of the clattering polyrhythms, wailing violin and warbling falsetto vocals, but First Utterance is far less rock-oriented, and thereby darker and more disturbing. A definite Incredible String Band influence can also be discerned, though Comus were far more assured and dynamic musicians. The weirdness of the music is further compounded by the almost unbelievable lyrics, including graphic depictions of rape, mutilation, murder and execution. The beautiful, serene 12-minute ‘The Herald’, featuring vocals from female member Bobbie Watson, is an unexpected oasis of calm amid the maelstrom. A 3-track EP was issued shortly before the LP, featuring an alternate take of the extraordinary opening cut ‘Diana’, backed by the brilliant non-LP tracks ‘Winter Is A Coloured Bird’ and ‘In The Lost Queen’s Eyes’. GRADE: A.
Comus (UK): To Keep From Crying (Virgin V2018, 1974)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Bobbie Watson (joint lead vocals, percussion, recorder)
Apart from Roger Wootton’s peculiar warbling vocals (far less prominent here, since Bobbie Watson takes a large share of the vocal leads), this is unrecognisable as the work of the band that cut First Utterance. Whereas their debut offered a terrifying insight into the dark side of the human psyche, this is a pleasant and inoffensive blend of folk/rock, pop, progressive and mildly avant-garde elements, with backing from luminaries such as Didier Malherbe (Gong) and Lindsay Cooper (Henry Cow). GRADE: C+.
Comus (UK): Live At Melloboat 2008 (No label CDV030, DVD, with booklet, 2009)
Folk/Psychedelic
Bobbie Watson (occasional vocals, percussion)
Comus’s first gig in 36 years isn’t a spectacular affair visually, with the band, some seated, crammed onto a tiny stage. But to hear most of the First Utterance album (plus their version of ‘Venus In Furs’) performed live is a remarkable experience, and the musicianship is simply astounding. GRADE: B.
Comus (UK): Out Of The Coma (Coptic Cat NIFE 014CD, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2012)
Folk/Psychedelic/Progressive
Bobbie Watson (joint lead vocals, percussion, recorder)
The band’s belated third album is an odd beast, consisting of an EP’s worth of new songs plus an archive recording of the previously unreleased ‘Malgaard Suite’ from 1972. The new material offers good pastiches of the First Utterance style, whilst the 1972 suite is interesting if raw (and not brilliantly recorded). Nonetheless, this is a worthwhile release and augurs well for a whole album of new compositions. GRADE: B–.
Comus (UK): Live In Japan 2012 (Captain Trip CTCD-679, double CD plus DVD, with photographs, tour laminate and box, Japan, 2013)
Folk/Psychedelic/Progressive
Bobbie Watson (joint lead vocals, percussion)
Beautifully packaged (including a tour laminate and numerous glossy black-and-white photographs with lyrics and credits on the reverse), this limited edition release features a live set by the band in Tokyo. As with the Melloboat DVD, the contrast between their sedate, seated stage persona and the complexity of their music (not to mention the viciousness of their lyrcs) is remarkable. One could never acuse Comus, at least the noughties incarnation, of having any particular stage presence, but musically and conceptually they’re beyond compare. GRADE: B.
See also Bobbie Watson

Concent (UK): Music-Go-Round (Rudi 01, 1975)
Folk/Pop
Val Edens, Laura McDowell, Irene, Ann, Lynna, Pamela, Ann
Issued on a tiny local label, this obscure album was cut by a group of eight young girls from Northern Ireland who appear to be in their late teens or early twenties. From the cover, this looks like it should be Christian folk, but it contains pop and lounge elements as well, with partly electric backing and all-original songs. Describing them as ‘an exciting new group’, the sleevenotes claim that their music is ‘reminiscent of the middle-of-the-road music made popular by top groups such as the New Seekers and the Carpenters’, making the disc ‘a MUST for all age groups’. In reality, this sounds nothing like the New Seekers and only occasionally like the Carpenters, resembling a school project LP with its rudimentary backing and multiple pure voices. As a footnote, only the two songwriters are credited; I gleaned the forenames of five of the other six girls from autographs on my copy. Only a couple of copies have resurfaced of the album. GRADE: C+.

Concern (USA): America, Where Are You? (No label CLP-813, 1973)
Folk/Rock
Mary Kay Johnsen
Effectively, the third Guitar Ensemble album, this includes remakes of several cuts from its predecessor The You-N-You. The new material is a bit more uptempo and electric, and overall this is easily the equal of their earlier work. GRADE: B–.
See also Guitar Ensemble

Concrete Rubber Band (USA): Risen Savior (American Arts Custom AAS-1164, 1974)
Garage/Psychedelic/Avant-Garde
Jan Long (occasional vocals, keyboards)
This is possibly the oddest Christian private pressing ever made, with a style that’s extremely difficult to describe. The music is minimalist and keyboard-based, with a lo-fi, end-of-the-pier quality, though shot through with garage rawness rather than lounge kitsch. Some of the songs are almost MOR whilst there are moments of full-blown psychedelia, proggy keyboard fugues, weird synthesiser textures and lots of trippy and bizarre electronics that interject when least expected. The official CD reissue (Green Tree GTR 123, with digipak and booklet, Germany, 2007) features a full album’s worth of bonus material, much of which is significantly weirder and better than the LP proper. In particular, the suite ‘3 Ghost Stories’ is spectacularly eerie, and a whole album of such material would have been a classic. GRADE: C+.

Condition Green (Japan): ’83 Live (Disques Jean-Jean JJ1013CG, with insert, 1983)
Rock/Metal
At heart Condition Green are a barroom rock band: side one appears to be originals rooted in fifties rock and roll, whilst side two offers covers of ‘Get Back’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’. However, their propensity for jamming and the sheer ferocity of their guitar work really sets them apart, and there is some superb hard rock and borderline acid-rock here. As a footnote, the band had previously cut two studio albums with an all-male line-up. GRADE: C+.

Condition Red (Finland): Condition Red (Lion Music LMCD 2003 2, CD, 2000)
Progressive/Metal
Ella Grussner (joint lead vocals, violin)
This progressive metal album has an unusual style, with the emphasis on the prog part of the equation (though there are heavy riffs aplenty). Jazzy jams and symphonic moments come and go, acoustic interludes are used to excellent effect and some early seventies-style organ links the band back to its roots in the music of Deep Purple, creating a fascinating tapestry of sound that constantly changes and surprises. GRADE: B.
Condition Red (Finland): II (Lion Music LMC077, CD, 2003)
Progressive/Metal
Ella Grussner (joint lead vocals, violin, flute)
By any standard, this is an impressive follow-up – alternating songs and instrumentals, it offers a fair degree of complexity. Nonetheless, something is clearly missing compared to its predecessor. In particular, the loss of the unpredictable jazzy elements, coupled with a thin and trebly production, moves this closer to a neoprogressive/hard rock hybrid – a very good neoprogressive/hard rock hybrid, it has to be said, but the depth and derring-do of their first is conspicuously absent. GRADE: B–.

Confrèrie Des Fous (France): La Confrèrie Des Fous (Ballon Noir BAL 13008, with inner, 1979)
Folk/Rock/Progressive
Emmanuelle Parrenin (occasional vocals, dulcimer, harp, vielle, épinette), Valérie Terrell (occasional vocals)
This unusual outfit brought together several luminaries from the French folk scene, including Laurent Vercambre (Malicorne), Gérard Lavigne (Lyonesse) and the traditional folk specialist Emmanuelle Parrenin; guests include La Bamboche’s Evelyne Béline Girardon and Malicorne’s Hughes de Courson. The end result is an odd progressive folk album with strong classical influences but also mainly electric instrumentation and quite a bit of electronics, with much of it having a light-hearted, somewhat satirical feel reflecting the odd cover. It’s an interesting and creative record, and a huge departure for the increasingly unpredictable Parrenin, but hardly likely to rival Malicorne among the greats of French electric folk. After this, Parrenin did not record for more than thirty years, finally returning in 2011 with a new solo album Maison Cube. GRADE: C+.
See also Chants À Répondre Et À Danser, Phil & Emmanuelle Fromont, Galant Noyé, Gentiane, Yvon Guilcher, Emmanuelle Parrenin, Phil Fromont & Claude Lefebvre

Conqueror (Italy): Istinto (Conqueror CNQ CD 001, CD, 2003)
Progressive
Simona Rigano (lead vocals, bass pedals, keyboards)
With tracks ranging from five to nine minutes and simple instrumentation of guitars, bass, keyboards and drums, this isn’t an enormously ambitious album or a particularly varied one. However, this is simply great progressive rock, with the band showing real flair for melody, riffs and dynamics, and an impressive standard is maintained throughout. GRADE: B–.
Conqueror (Italy): Storie Fuori Dal Tempo (Ma.Ra.Cash MRC 006 CD, CD, 2005)
Progressive
Simona Rigano (lead vocals, keyboards), Sabrina Rigano (saxophone, flute)
This is a huge step forward from their debut, with the second Rigano sister’s flute and saxophone adding a mellow jazzy edge that considerably deepens their sound. With five individual songs and a suite lasting over half an hour, this is an album of great dynamics and variety, with well-crafted melodic compositions and beautifully judged, restrained musicianship. In short, this is one of the best Italian progressive rock albums of recent years. GRADE: B.
Conqueror (Italy): 74 Giorno (Ma.Ra.Cash MRC 013 CD, CD, 2007)
Progressive
Simona Rigano (lead vocals, keyboards), Sabrina Rigano (saxophone, flute)
Whilst it contains some livelier passages, this concept album is in parts ominously mellow, showing the band settling into comfortable midtempo soft rock. It’s by no means bad, but it’s also by no means memorable, representing a significant step down from their first two LPs. GRADE: C+.
Conqueror (Italy): Madame Zelle (Ma.Ra.Cash MRC 019 CD, CD, 2010)
Progressive
Simona Rigano (lead vocals, bass pedals, keyboards), Sabrina Rigano (saxophone, flute)
A big improvement on its predecessor, this is a fine progressive album containing some good songs and excellent instrumental passages, incorporating some Eastern motifs for the first time. GRADE: B–.
Conqueror (Italy): Stems (Ma.Ra.Cash MRC 040 CD, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2014)
Progressive
Simona Rigano (lead vocals, keyboards)
The opening ‘Gina’ is rather dreary, packing reams of lyrics and a lengthy instrumental break into eleven leisurely minutes during which nothing much seems to happen. Sadly, it sets the mood for most of the album. The main culprit is the return to a simple line-up of vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards and drums: there is no incendiary instrumental work here, nor any really memorable hooklines, making for a competent, if rather one-dimensional, neoprogressive set. GRADE: C+.

Conqueror (Italy): Un’ Altra Verità (Ma.Ra.Cash MRC 049 CD+DVD, CD plus DVD, with digipak, 2015)
Progressive
Simona Rigano (lead vocals, keyboards)
Conqueror’s first live album is musically superb: this is top-class progressive rock that is dynamic, complex and assured without ever being ostentatious or pretentious. The accompanying DVD doesn’t add much to the experience – like many bands without a dedicated frontperson, they’re pretty static on stage – but the music here is quite sublime. GRADE: B.

Conqueror (Italy): In Orbita (Ma.Ra.Cash MRC 075 CD, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2019)
Progressive
Simona Rigano (lead vocals, keyboards), Sofia Ferraro (saxophone, flute, electronic wind instrument)
In Orbita is a curious album: it’s consistently tasteful and melodic, beautifully recorded and produced, and every now and again the music really takes flight, reminding you how great Conqueror can be. But for the most part it’s a touch too mellow for its own good, and ultimately falls just on the wrong side of the dividing line between ‘nice’ and ‘special’. GRADE: C+.

Constantine (USA): Day Of Light (No label CLP 968, 2015)
Folk/Rock/Psychedelic
Jen Williams (joint lead vocals)
The first run of this private pressing sold out almost immediately, becoming a fêted and expensive rarity, leading to a (much more costly) second pressing. It’s hardly surprising, as Day Of Light is a modern masterpiece. Constantine Hastalis is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist of enormous talent and his album blends moments of crystalline beauty with passages of heavier and more dynamic acid-rock recalling early Pink Floyd. In fact, this is clearly among the best acid-folk albums of the new millennium. GRADE: B.

Construção (Azores): Hå Qualquer Coisas… (Disreco DR.L-00.03, with insert, 1982)
Folk/Jazz/Rock
Maria Antonieta (occasional vocals), Luisa Margarida (occasional vocals)
This extremely obscure album features jazzy folk/rock with a dreamy feel, sophisticated arrangements and plenty of flute. An enjoyable record throughout, it peaks on ‘Histórias Do Meu Avô’ and the closing ‘Sou Do Mar’. GRADE: C+.

Michel Conte, Angela Laurier & Mark Conte (Canada): Les Enfants Du Ciel (London LFS 90245, double, 1977)
Pop/Progressive
Angela Laurier (joint lead vocals)
This Québecois concept album avoids most of the pitfalls of the genre, with no rock opera elements; instead, it offers a procession of charming, sophisticated and whimsical pop songs plus a couple of effective instrumentals. Oddly, the final track consists of the album credits read over musical backing. Anyone who enjoys, naïve, otherworldly (yet quite assured and complex) pop music should love this. GRADE: C+.

Continental Uptight Band (Holland): Beautiful Friendship (Imperial 5C 054-24 319, 1970?)
Folk/Pop/Rock
Letty Verhoef (occasional vocals)
Although very dated, this is a lovely album of folky pop/rock, drawing on sunshine pop but with a distinctly European sound. The result is a charming period piece packed with great melodies and warm yet wistful vibes. GRADE: C+.
Continental Uptight Band (Holland): Roots (Imperial 5C 056-24 504, 1971)
Folk/Pop/Rock
Letty Verhoef (occasional vocals, percussion)
Their second and final album is in the same vein as their first, and again contains some lovely tunes. GRADE: C+.
See also Various 'FCU'

Contraband (UK): Contraband (Transatlantic TRA 278, with insert, 1974)
Folk/Rock
Mae McKenna (joint lead vocals, guitar, piano, tambourine, violin)
Inspired by Liege and Lief-era Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, Contraband produced a classic album of electric folk, mixing superb traditional interpretations, tasteful covers and three excellent original songs. Best cut of all is a simply stunning version of ‘The Banks Of Claudy’, which achieves a haunting and mesmerising atmosphere. In a world where the most mediocre folk club album can sell for hundreds of pounds if it’s rare enough, it’s a relief to find a record of this calibre that can be picked up for a tenner. GRADE: B.
See also Dave Bainbridge, Mae McKenna

Contraction (Canada): Contraction (Columbia FS 94014, with insert, 1972)
Rock/Progressive
Christiane Robichaud (lead vocals)
Contraction are usually considered a progressive rock band, but their debut is often closer to soft rock. It’s a fine LP too, with well-structured songs, mellow moods and rich, dreamy instrumentation topped with Christiane Robichaud’s fine vocals. The proggy, wordless ‘Trois Ou Quatre’ is a particular highpoint, with some excellent ensemble work. GRADE: C+.
Contraction (Canada): La Bourse Ou La Vie (Deram XDEF 106, with insert, 1974)
Progressive
Christiane Robichaud (lead vocals)
Their second and final LP is as mellow as the first, but more adventurous and progressive, with the title track taking up 18 minutes of the second side. As with their debut, the band doesn’t deliver any real surprises, but the disc is lush, richly melodic and atmospheric.

GRADE: C+.
Contraction (Canada): Live 1974 (ProgQuébec MPM33, CD, 2009, recorded 1974)
Progressive
Christiane Robichaud (lead vocals, tambourine)
Mixing material from their studio albums plus some unrecorded compositions, this archive live set features the band at its best and most progressive. In fact, with excellent sound quality (though very little live ambience) this outclasses both their studio albums and is their best release. GRADE: C+.
See also Franck Dervieux, Yvan Ouellet, Ville Emard Blues Band

Contrappunto (Italy): Subsidea (Progressive Rock Worldwide PRW 050, CD, Brazil, 1998)
Progressive
Sara Arrigone (lead vocals)
Comprising seven songs and two instrumentals, averaging around the five-and-a-half minute mark, this is a pleasant album of keyboard-led progressive. Some complexity and mild experimentation is evident, particularly in the instrumentals, and there are some slight metal influences as well, but the songs can tend too far towards the mellow and commercial. GRADE: C+.
Contrappunto (Italy): Lilith (Megahard PRW 049, CD, Brazil, 2001)
Progressive
Adelaide Loru (lead vocals)
Recorded with a somewhat different line-up, the band’s second album shows them attempting to be more atmospheric on some cuts and jazzier on others. The new direction is not an improvement, not helped by relatively few instrumental passages or by Adelaide Loru’s thick Italian accent, which makes one wish she had sung in her native language. Strangely, this has a lower catalogue number than its predecessor, released three years earlier. A third and final album Elegie D’Inverno (Mellow MMP 455, CD, 2003), credited to Contrappunto Project, was an instrumental solo venture by band leader Andrea Cavallo, helped out by a few reeds players here and there. GRADE: C.

Convivium (Norway): Convivium (Polydor 2922 001, 1971)
Folk/Rock
Kristi Kinsarvik (principal vocals)
This enjoyable folk/rock album owes an obvious heavy debt to Pentangle, with its dual acoustic guitars and jazzy double bass. However, it also has a cool Scandinavian feel and a slightly more traditional mood in parts, with some baroque orchestrations in others. Highpoints include a very different reading of ‘Matty Groves’ from the Fairport Convention version and the sumptuously arranged ‘Lady Gwendoline’. GRADE: C+.