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Brigitte Fontaine (France): 13 Chansons Décadentes Et Fantasmagoriques (Jacques Canetti 48 815, 1966)
Brigitte Fontaine (lead vocals)
Brigitte Fontaine has apparently disowned her obscure solo debut, and I share her opinion: this is a rather arch fusion of big band jazz and chansons with a somewhat mediocre set of (entirely self-penned) songs. It’s certainly interesting as a historical document, however,. The album has twice been reissued on CD, as 17 Chansons Décadentes Et Fantasmagoriques (with four bonus tracks) and Dévaste-Moi (without the bonus cuts). Like many sixties French LPs, this is remarkably short, with more than half the tracks being under two minutes. GRADE: C–.

Brigitte Fontaine & Jacques Higelin (France): 12 Chansons D’Avant Le Déluge (Jacques Canetti 48 846, 1966)
Brigitte Fontaine (joint lead vocals)
The opening ‘Maman J’Ai Peur’ is an impressive piece of weird folk with odd jazzy and avant-garde touches, but after that the album mostly offers jazz: sometimes modern and sometimes quite traditional. Whilst there is some good material here, this is a scrappy LP that doesn’t really hang together, and the very short running time (well under half an hour) contributes to its insubstantial feel. Further, not everything is new, with several songs being duplicated from 13 Chansons Décadentes Et Fantasmagoriques. More (separate) recordings by Fontaine and Higelin were later compiled as 15 Chansons D’Avant Le Déluge, Suite Et Fin… in 1976; all Fontaine's contributions were again taken from her solo debut. GRADE: C.
Brigitte Fontaine (France): Brigitte Fontaine Est… Folle (Saravah SH 10001, 1968)
Brigitte Fontaine (principal vocals)
Nowhere near as freaky as its beautiful and weird cover, this is a charming album of orchestrated pop with a few avant-garde edges. The irresistibly catchy ‘Eternelle’ is the best cut by far, but unlike her earlier work there are no weak moments. GRADE: C+.
Brigitte Fontaine & Areski with Art Ensemble Of Chicago (France/Algeria/USA): Comme À La Radio (Saravah SHL 10006, with book sleeve, France, 1969)
Brigitte Fontaine (principal vocals)
Fontaine’s first album with her husband, Algerian percussionist Areski Belkacem, was also the first where her distinctive sound took shape. Whilst some tracks here are modern jazz with avant-garde edges, others introduce Areski’s trademark ethnic percussion and lots of North African elements. The result is a highly original and creative album with a rather unsettling feel that’s streets ahead of anything she’d done previously. GRADE: B–.
Brigitte Fontaine (France): Brigitte Fontaine (Saravah SHL 1034, 1972)
Brigitte Fontaine (principal vocals)
Dropping most of the jazz elements, Fontaine offers an album of unusual ethnic-tinged folk. This is a very experimental record, with snatches of dialogue and screaming between tracks, a spoken-word number, an eerie long cut with a classical cello arrangement (‘L’Auberge’) and even a piece consisting of Fontaine sobbing against an acapella backing (‘Une Minute Cinquante-Cinq’). Unsurprisingly, not everything works brilliantly, but this is certainly a very bold and exciting LP. Strangely, all CD reissues omit the final song ‘Merry-Go-Round’ and replace it with an alternate take of ‘L’Éternel Retour’ from Fontaine’s 1980 album Les Églantines Sont Peut-Être Formidables. GRADE: B–.
Areski & Brigitte Fontaine (Algeria/France): Je Ne Connais Pas Cet Homme (Saravah SH 10041, 1973)
Folk/World Music
Brigitte Fontaine (joint lead vocals)
Slightly less experimental than its predecessor, this is a fine album of rather weird ethnic folk with lots of Algerian elements and occasional classical touches. By now, Fontaine and Belkacem had really hit their stride, creating music of considerable distinction and originality. GRADE: B–.
Areski & Brigitte Fontaine (Algeria/France): L’Incendie (BYG 529.026, 1973)
Folk/World Music
Brigitte Fontaine (joint lead vocals)
In parts, this is a little straighter and a little more sombre than the last few albums. However, there is some outstanding music on offer, expecially ‘L’Engourdie’ with its squalling fuzz guitar, and the manic, mantric ‘Les Borgias’. GRADE: B–.
Areski & Brigitte Fontaine (Algeria/France): Le Bonheur (Saravah SH 10059, 1975)
Folk/World Music/Avant-Garde
Brigitte Fontaine (joint lead vocals, tambourine, effects)
Much weirder than the last couple of Areski & Fontaine albums, this mixes tracks recorded in the studio and in concert and adds in lots of sound effects and unexpected shifts of mood. The result is another excellent LP, whilst not really breaking any new ground for the duo. GRADE: B–.
Brigitte Fontaine & Areski Belkacem (France/Algeria): Vous Et Nous (Saravah RSL1071, double, France, 1977)
Brigitte Fontaine (joint lead vocals)
This 33-track double album isn’t just Fontaine’s most ambitious and expansive project, but also easily her best. The opening title track sounds like Malicorne with weird synthesiser effects (and is later reprised in a quasi-mediaeval version that’s even closer to Malicorne) whilst the following ‘Patriarcat’ is a lengthy piece resembling a less frenetic Catherine Ribeiro with electronic backing. Subsequent tracks are folkier, but still much more varied than their usual fare, making this an album of considerable depth. A single LP version was also released (Saravah RSL1070). GRADE: B.
Brigitte Fontaine & Areski Belkacem (France/Algeria): Les Églantines Sont Peut-Être Formidables (Saravah RSL 1091, with inner, 1980)
Brigitte Fontaine (joint lead vocals), Ann Ballester (keyboards)
The last album jointly credited to Fontaine and Belkacem marked a considerable change of direction, with the latter sticking to vocals and contributing none of his trademark ethnic percussion. Instead much of the backing is provided by Édition Spéciale, with Mimi Lorenzini in the producer’s chair. If their brand of slick jazzy prog appears an odd match with Fontaine’s style, the results are indeed quite variable, although some cuts simply feature accompaniment from kanoun and there are even spoken-word sections. The ten-minute ‘Tout-Le-Monde Se Rappelle Peut-Être De Quoi Il S’Agit’ is the most ambitious composition the duo ever attempted, but despite some interesting moments this is a definite step down from the last few LPs. Fontaine herself disowned the album and refused to allow it to be reissued for many years. GRADE: C+.
Brigitte Fontaine (France): French Corazon (Midi MIL-1040, with booklet and obi, Japan, 1988)
Brigitte Fontaine (principal vocals)
Even more wide-ranging than its predecessor, this covers everything from funky pop to new wave to hard rock to borderline prog to Arabian music. Whilst it’s a solid album throughout, the overall impression is of an artist trying desperately to remain contemporary whilst broadening her market appeal. Although this is credited as a solo set, Areski produces, co-writes everything and duets on two songs. The disc was originally released only in Japan, but subsequently appeared in France both under its original name and as Le Nougat. GRADE: C+.
Brigitte Fontaine (France): Genre Humain (Virgin 724384050023, CD, 1995)
Brigitte Fontaine (lead vocals)
This succeeds where the last two albums failed (as did Fontaine’s contemporaries like Catherine Ribeiro and Béatrice Tékielski) in updating her sound for the nineties. With funky, mildly proggy rock backings and quite a few influences from modern dance music, Fontaine creates some outstanding grooves and shows herself to be an artist of considerable relevance and import. GRADE: B–.
Brigitte Fontaine (France): Les Palaces (Virgin 7243 8451062 6, CD, 1997)
Brigitte Fontaine (principal vocals)
Somewhat different from its predecessor, this shows her moving closer to electronica on some numbers and returning to her chanson roots (with mainly keyboard and orchestral backing) on others. The result is another good album, but overall a far less striking piece of work (even if it is arguably more innovative). GRADE: C+.
Brigitte Fontaine (France): Kékéland (Virgin 724381066126, CD, 2001)
Brigitte Fontaine (principal vocals)
With the involvement of everyone from Sonic Youth to Jim O’ Rourke, this sees Fontaine upping the rock quotient considerably, though the cuts range from borderline psych to electronica to sweeping orchestrated ballads. Not everything works well, but in general this is a bold and successful album. GRADE: B–.
Brigitte Fontaine (France): Rue Saint Louis En L’Île (Virgin 72434732361 1, CD, with slipcase, 2004)
Brigitte Fontaine (principal vocals)
As varied as its predecessor but a little more pop-oriented, this breaks no new ground for Fontaine – but it’s still another fine album. GRADE: B–.
Brigitte Fontaine (France): Libido (Polydor 984 322 0, CD, with digipak and booklet, 2006)
Brigitte Fontaine (lead vocals)
Possibly the most inventive of Fontaine’s recent albums, this alternates epic orchestrated ballads and avant-garde rock, mixing the two approaches on the excellent ‘Mendelssohn’. With consistently fine material throughout, Libido proves that her artistry really stood the test of time. GRADE: B–.
Brigitte Fontaine (France): Prohibition (Polydor 5320222, CD, 2009)
Brigitte Fontaine (principal vocals)
Rather more rocking than her last few LPs, this is another strong set that shows Fontaine continuing to experiment subtly, whilst remaining within her established style. GRADE: B–.
Brigitte Fontaine (France): L’Un N’Empêche Pas L’Autre (Universal Music 276 739-1, CD, 2011)
Brigitte Fontaine (joint lead vocals)
This unusual album features four new songs and nine re-recordings of older numbers (three of them not having appeared on Fontaine’s regular albums in their original forms), with the majority being performed as duets. The latter concept doesn’t work especially well, but this is nonetheless a consistently fine album, with the spacy, psychedelic ‘Gilles De La Tourette’ (significantly, a new song and not a duet) being the highpoint, followed by a heavy garage-rock reinterpretation of ‘Inadaptée’ from Brigitte Fontaine Est… Folle. GRADE: B–.
Brigitte Fontaine (France): J’ai L’Honneur D’Être (Silène 375156-4, CD, 2013)
Brigitte Fontaine (lead vocals)
This is a varied set indeed, ranging from borderline psychedelic and mildly avant-garde rock through dramatic ballads to borderline music hall-style stuff. As usual, it’s very creative and beautifully executed, but the archness factor is frequently a little high for me. GRADE: C+.

Brigitte Fontaine (France): Terre Neuve (Verycords, CD, 2020)
Brigitte Fontaine (lead vocals)
Like her fellow octogenarian Yoko Ono, whom she often resembles here, Brigitte Fontaine hasn’t let age blunt her pioneering spirit or her musical experimentation. The scratchy garage backing here is psychedelic in a completely different way from her formative work with Areski Belkacem – as are her wild vocalisations, ranging from singing to speaking to snoring – and thoroughly modern too. Alternatively, one could classify this as Édith Piaf on acid – but whatever you call it, she called it correctly as this does indeed continue to break new ground. GRADE: B–.

Fool (Holland): The Fool (Mercury SR 61178, USA, 1968)
Marijke Koger, Josje Leeger
The Fool were better known as a design collective than as musicians, having been responsible for the Beatles’ Apple Boutique in London and the cover for the Incredible String Band’s 5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion. However, they travelled to America and recorded a one-off album with Graham Nash producing, which gave them some minor commercial success. It somewhat resembles their clients the ISB, with the same sense of scattershot whimsy, although the music here is rooted more in pop and less in folk. GRADE: C+.
See also Seemon & Marijke

Footch Kapoot (USA): Good Clean Fun (Cornball NR9438, with inner, 1978)
Sue Kwiatkowski (joint lead vocals, piano)
Despite the long track times (four out of eight cuts are over seven minutes), this is only marginally progressive, most notably on the opening ‘Don’s Mom’s Green Boiled Ham’. Most of the rest is mellow rock with a singer/songwriter feel and jazzy, rural and nostalgic diversions – charming enough in a down-home sort of way but not what most private pressing collectors crave, which resulted in the album attracting an extremely poor reception when the first few copies sold for big money. GRADE: C+.

Force (USA): Force (Doom DM 1, 1991, recorded 1980-1981)
Simona Queen (principal vocals)
Led by guitarist Alfred Morris III, who went on to form the Black Sabbath tribute band Iron Man, Force not surprisingly played doom metal. Their sound is strongly rooted in the early seventies, and a thin, dry production (completely different to the majestic wall of sound favoured by most modern metal bands) emphasises their suppleness and hard rock, rather than merely metal, leanings. Simona Queen is a commendably understated singer, and some of the songwriting is excellent, notably ‘Not Today’, ‘Two Bit Romance’ and ‘Do It Again’. The band also recorded as Rat Salad, under which guise some tracks appeared on a split LP. GRADE: C+.
See also Rat Salad

Kathy Ford (USA): Kathy Ford (Great Arts & Farces Company 012066, 1980)
Kathy Ford (lead vocals, guitar, synthesiser)
Aside from a Bonnie Raitt cover and the closing version of ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’, everything here is self-penned. The music is rather good lively country/rock with plenty of rock elements and not too much pedal steel guitar (or ‘peddle steel’ as the sleeve credits it), making for an enjoyable LP. GRADE: C+.

’Fore Day Rider Blues Band (Australia): ’Fore Day Rider Blues Band (Muff, with insert, 1969)
Jill Drury (joint lead vocals), Jeannie Lewis (occasional vocals)
One of the rarest and most expensive Australian private pressings, this is great raw blues/rock with powerful female vocals in a style similar to the first Levee Camp Moan album. Jeannie Lewis, later a prolific solo artist, writes and sings one track. The disc was apparently pressed in a run of 300 copies, and comes with handstamped labels, a striking orange silkscreened sleeve and photocopied insert. GRADE: C+.
See also Jeannie Lewis

Louise Forestier (Canada): Louise Forestier (Gamma GS-109, 1966)
This prolific Quebecois singer’s debut is firmly in a chanson vein, owing a heavy debt to Édith Piaf. There are some minor folky touches, but no rock or pop elements of any kind. Nonetheless, it’s a pleasant set, with some well-judged orchestrations, and her singing is certainly more mellifluous than Piaf’s. GRADE: C.
Robert Charlebois & Louise Forestier (Canada): Robert Charlebois Et Louise Forestier (Gamma GS-120, with insert, 1968)
Louise Forestier (backing vocals)
Charlebois wrote three songs on Forestier’s 1966 solo album, but this is completely different. A hard LP to describe, it blends elements of lounge and modern jazz, with a satirical feel to some of the tracks and some notable avant-garde elements. It’s certainly not psychedelic, despite the presence of some fuzz bass, but definitely a part of the late sixties counterculture (whilst also displaying certain beatnik tendencies), and very, very French. The album is much more Charlebois’s than Forestier’s: he penned all the songs and is much higher in the mix on the numbers on which they duet, while she gets no solo vocals and doesn’t appear at all on several cuts. The brown-and-yellow cover, featuring a seemingly abstract drawing, is every bit as strange as the music within. GRADE: C+.
Louise Forestier (Canada): Louise Forestier (Gamma GS-121, with insert, 1969)
Louise Forestier (lead vocals)
It’s all change for Forestier’s second solo album: not only is she co-writing most of the songs, but she’s also posing topless on the cover. The opening cut ‘La Douce Emma’ is a jaunty chanson that wouldn’t have been out of place on her first LP, but ‘From Santa To America’ is hard psychedelia, drenched in fuzz guitar and backwards effects. Side one concludes with the disc’s two best cuts: the catchy ‘Quand Té Pas Là’ and the long, trippy ballad ‘Translation’, which eventually builds into a piece of considerable intensity. Side two is no slouch either, offering a weird mix of pop, oriental and psychedelic elements (‘Je T’Aime En Masse’), an upbeat number with more fuzz guitar (‘Comment – Comment?’), another spacy ballad with some weird synthesiser effects (‘Le Cantic Du Titanic’) and finally a relaxed pop number (‘Le Mont Athos’). Hardly surprisingly, this is Forestier’s most sought-after album, particularly among collectors of underground rock. GRADE: B–.
Louise Forestier (Canada): Avec Enzymes (Gamma GS-139, 1970)
Louise Forestier (lead vocals)
The opening cut is an excellent remake of ‘California’ from her 1968 album with Robert Charlebois, reinterpreted as a stately mid-paced rocker. The remaining songs are new, and again mostly co-written by Forestier. Sadly, they’re a mixed bag, with several having a rather theatrical feel, lots of horns and some shrill and tortured singing (she often sounds as harassed as she looks on the cover). ‘J’ai L’Goût’ is an accomplished long ballad with some progressive rock influences and powerful guitar work, but this is generally a pretty poor LP. GRADE: E+.
Louise Forestier & Les Cyniques (Canada): IXE-13 (Gamma GS-148, 1971)
‘IXE-13’ was a film (apparently a musical comedy) starring Forestier; she also sings about half the material on the accompanying soundtrack album. From the sleeve, the film may have been quite psychedelic, but most of the LP suffers from a jaunty stage musical feel. There are a couple of good numbers, though: the Eastern-flavoured ‘Chanson Pour Mao’ and the strange and jazzy ‘Le Rock De L’Avion’ (complete with lashings of phasing). GRADE: D+.
Louise Forestier (Canada): Louise Forestier (Gamma GS-167, 1973)
Louise Forestier (lead vocals)
This marked another complete change of direction for Forestier, towards a gentle and relaxed folk/rock style, with quite a few progressive keyboard touches. It suits her well: she sounds natural and comfortable here, as opposed to Avec Enzymes, where she often seemed to be straining for every note. The new approach paid off commercially too, with the opening ‘La Prison De Londres’ topping the Canadian charts. GRADE: C+.
Louise Forestier (Canada): Louise Forestier (Gamma GS-186, with insert, 1974)
Louise Forestier (lead vocals)
The overly jaunty cuts that open each side are in a similar folk/rock vein to the previous album, but most of the remainder is singer/songwriter fare with symphonic and neo-classical edges. There’s also a pleasant but decidedly inferior remake of ‘Le Cantic Du Titanic’ from her 1969 LP. Despite some fine material, this isn’t quite as good or consistent as its predecessor. GRADE: C+.

Forever Twelve (USA): Remembrance Branch (Forever Twelve FT-02-1, CD, 2002)
Cat Ellen (lead vocals, percussion)
The first couple of cuts are rather underwhelming, offering the kind of messy, jazz-tinged, ostentatious prog that modern American bands often seem to love. Things improve thereafter, with some pleasantly atmospheric material featuring a high level of complexity, although the simpler moments are often the best. But also like a lot of modern prog bands, Forever Twelve’s chops, riffs and ideas aren’t matched by commensurate songwriting skills. GRADE: C+.
Forever Twelve (USA): Spark Of Light (Forever Twelve FT-04-02, CD, 2004)
Cat Ellen (lead vocals, flute)
On the plus side, this has a powerful, dynamic rock sound, plenty of variety and some good riffs. On the downside, the actual songs are once again fairly slight, but that’s par for the course for this type of outfit. GRADE: C+.
Forever Twelve (USA): Taking Forever (Forever Twelve FT 10-03, CD, with digipak, 2010)
Cat Ellen (principal vocals)
As with their first two, this is interesting, mildly creative, energetic, varied, messy and pretty uninspired in the songwriting department. Whilst this is probably their best album overall, one ultimately wonders whether this type of band chooses to play progressive rock due to a basic inability to craft catchy, memorable songs. This theory is supported by the fact that the finest number (and possibly their best composition overall) is the instrumental ‘Vita Decessus (Life And Death)’. GRADE: C+.

Forgas Band Phenomena (France): Roue Libre (Cosmos Music CMPL 001, CD, 1997)
Mireille Bauer (percussion)
Mireille Bauer’s distinctive vibraphone and marimba immediately give this a late seventies Gong feel, but she’s not the star of the show – all the players get to shine on the three long instrumental cuts. There’s a little too much saxophone soloing for my taste in the middle of the disc, but this is purely a subjective criticism and overall this is a fine set of relaxed yet virtuosic jazz-fusion. GRADE: B–.

Forgas Band Phenomena (France/Russian Federation/Poland/Japan): L’Axe Du Fou • Axis Of Madness (Cuneiform Rune 282, CD, with paper wrap, USA, 2009)
Karolina Mlodecka (violin)
This much later is album is both similar to, and different from, Roue Libre. The loss of Mireille Bauer’s tuned percussion reduces the Canterbury feel considerably, with Karolina Mlodecka’s elegant violin adding a slight classical dimension. With a more pastoral feel and a few slight RIO touches, this is another sleek, elegant and highly impressive set of instrumental jazz/rock.  As a footnote, the CD strangely comes packaged with a paper wrap around the jewel case, which is tightly stuck to it and makes extracting the disc difficult. GRADE: B–.
Forgas Band Phenomena (France/Russian Federation/Poland/Japan): Acte V (Cuneiform Rune 332/3, CD plus DVD, USA, 2012)
Karolina Mlodecka (violin)
More varied and rocking than its predecessor, this is an impressive and powerful work. The accompanying live DVD offers fine music, excellent musicianship and nothing in the way of stage presence or audience interaction – which is precisely what I expected. GRADE: B–.

Forgas Band Phenomena (France/Russian Federation/Poland): L’Oreille Électrique (Cuneiform Rune 447, CD, USA, 2018)
Karolina Mlodecka (violin)
In his sleeve notes, Patrick Forgas refers both to Gong (hence the ‘Électrique’ in the title) and to the humour of the British musicians he admires. Those references are entirely appropriate, as this sits midway between Moerlen-era Gong and Canterbury-style jazz-fusion, though the emphasis is on virtuosity rather than whimsy. There’s no disputing the quality of the band’s musicianship or Forgas’s compositins and arrangements: this is instrumental jazz/rock of the highest order. GRADE: B–.
See also Art Zoyd, Édition Speciale, Gong, Catherine Ribeiro & Alpes

Forgotten Silence (Czech Republic): Thots (Obscene/Metal Age OBP 011/MA-0008-2-231, CD, 1995)
Hana Nogolová (joint lead vocals)
This interesting progressive metal album throws all kinds of jazzy and avant-garde touches into the mix. Whilst not consistently outstanding, it contains some fine musical passages. GRADE: B–.
Forgotten Silence (Czech Republic): Senyaan (MAB MRB 002-2, double CD, 1998)
Hana Nogolová (joint lead vocals), Hana Vanková (synthesiser)
The band’s magnum opus is an impressive double album of complex progressive metal, again with all kinds of jazzy and avant-garde elements (and even ending with a cut close to lounge jazz). A few passages tending towards death metal don’t work quite so well, but overall this is a very successful piece of work. GRADE: B–.
Forgotten Silence (Czech Republic): KaBaAch (Redblack MRB 010-2, CD, 2000)
Hana Nogolová (joint lead vocals)
More concise than its predecessor, this is their best album, with a much more varied and experimental sound. Some death metal elements remain, as do the jazz edges, but the album also introduces lots of ethnic elements and various song styles from far beyond metal. Altogether this is a very striking record, with its only failing being its rather disjointed nature (perhaps inevitable, given the spectrum of music on offer). GRADE: B–.
Forgotten Silence (Czech Republic): Bya Bamahe Neem (Epidemie EPR047, 2004)
Hana Nogolová (principal vocals)
Abandoning metal altogether, Forgotten Silence offered an unusual progressive rock album taking most of its influences from Muslim and Middle Eastern music. With long, minimalist instrumental passages dominated by spacy synthesisers and hand percussion, the album has a mystical, almost ritualistic feel, and is an impressively bold sidestep given their earlier work. After this, Hana Nogolová left to join Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy, and the band continued with an all-male line-up. GRADE: B–.

Forgotten Silence (Czech Republic): Vemork Konstrukt (Magick Disk Musick MDM-XXXVII, CD, 2023)
Andrea Baslová (principal vocals, keyboards)
Forgotten Silence’s first album in nearly two decades with a female member sees them returning to metal, with lots of jazzy tempo changes, angular riffing, relaxed mellow passages… well, you know the drill. Ultimately, that’s its only drawback: whilst it’s unsurprisingly very good, it’s surprisingly unsurprising, mainly because the rest of the world has caught up with (or even surpassed) them in the last 19 years. GRADE: B–.

See also Endless, Love History, Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy

Forgotten Tales (Canada): All The Sinners (Union Métal International MP-08L, 2004)
Sonia Pinneault (lead vocals)
This offers melodic power metal with strong progressive edges; on the downside, Sonia Pinneault’s vocals are somewhat strained at times, and the catchy, anthemic choruses soon begin to grate. GRADE: C.

Formula (USA): Formula (No label 100, 1975?)
With only a couple of copies known to collectors, this obscure album comes in a simple sleeve with a blank back lacking even the most rudimentary credits. Consisting almost entirely of cover versions, it is firmly in a West Coast vein, with a loose, jamming feel, some excellent guitar work and occasional use of horns. The female singer’s raunchy style adds a strong barroom feel, especially on a soulful cover of ‘Piece Of My Heart’ (midway between the Big Brother & The Holding Company and Erma Franklin versions). At times, a fair comparison for the vibe might be Stoneground. As a footnote, the band’s male singer Dave Riordan had previously been in Yankee Dollar. GRADE: C+.

Fort Mudge Memorial Dump (USA): The Fort Mudge Memorial Dump (Mercury SR 61256, 1970)
Caroline Stratton (joint lead vocals, piano, flute, clarinet)
The band’s distinctive name is matched by their sound: unlike most also-rans of the psychedelic era, they don’t immediately resemble anyone else. The best cuts alternate between powerful, doomy acid-rock jams (‘Crystal Forms’, ‘The Seventh Is Death’ and ‘The Singer’) and eerily beautiful ballads (‘Actions Of A Man’ and ‘What Good Is Spring?’), with fine instrumental performances and interesting lyrics. It’s a varied record, too, thanks to two very different vocalists: Caroline Stratton instantly recalls Grace Slick, whilst Richard Clerici has a deep, sincere crooner style that’s unusual for this type of music (although very effective). This isn’t a perfect album, though: a couple of tracks are rather throwaway, especially ‘Blue’s Tune’, a blues/rock number so basic and formulaic that I assume it’s intended to be humorous. That misstep aside, this is an exciting and original LP that’s well worth obtaining. GRADE: B–.

Fortuna (Czechoslovakia): Fortuna (Supraphon 0 13 0536 H, 1969)
Petra Černocká, Jitka Kočařiková
The trio Fortuna was Czechoslovakia’s answer to the West Coast and Swingin’ London bands, offering a cross-section of late sixties underground pop styles. On the opening ‘Démant Zeklatý V Písni’, they sound vaguely like early Jefferson Airplane, but most of the rest is far closer to pop and folk than rock. Nonetheless, this is a charming curiosity that sounds two to three years earlier than its release date due to its musical styles, quaint arrangements and mono recording. Both the female members went on to have prolific solo careers, with Jitka Kočařiková performing under her married name of Jitka Vrbobá. 


Fortuna (UK): From The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 1976 (Sweet Folk & Country SFA 058, 1976)
Folk/Spoken Word
Miriam Backhouse (joint lead vocals, guitar)
Not so much a band as a loose collective, Fortuna featured folk singers Miriam Backhouse (who later cut the collectable solo album Gypsy Without A Road), Dave Goulder and Brian Miller, plus modern poet and humorist Irvine Hunt. Apart from two tracks played en masse, the album comprises solo performances by the various members, with the three singers contributing some pleasant traditional folk and Hunt a number of tedious and unfunny monologues that effectively sabotage the efforts of his colleagues. GRADE: C.
See also Miriam Backhouse

Jody Foster (UK): Good Morning Country Rain (Westwood WSR073, 1975)
Jody Foster (lead vocals)
The combination of the ‘country’ in the title and the Westwood label might make you expect the worst, and this is indeed country music. It’s unfortunately much closer to cabaret than to country/rock, but on the plus side there is no pedal steel guitar, no strings and a fairly direct lineage back to country music’s fifties rockabilly period. Two of the cuts are self-penned and are perfectly competent, whilst Foster has a very unusual voice, combining Dolly Parton’s pitch with Buffy Saint-Marie’s vibrato. She also has a slight but definite lisp on the letter S, notable on ‘Cryin’ Time’, where it sounds like she is attempting to parody Sean Connery. GRADE: C–.

Rex Foster With Don & Merrily (USA): Roads Of Tomorrow (Barclay 80432, UK, 1971)
Merrily Weeber
An enjoyable rural folk/rock set with all-original material by an American trio. For no obvious reason, this was released only in the UK and France, with the former pressing being rarer. The impassioned ‘Busted In The Grass Blues’, with its florid organ work, is by far the best song. GRADE: C+.

Fotheringay (UK/USA/Australia): Fotheringay (Island ILPS 9125, 1970)
Sandy Denny (joint lead vocals, guitar, piano)
Fairport Convention songs like ‘Fotheringay’ and ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes?’ suggested that Sandy Denny was a prodigious songwriting talent, but this was the first album dominated by her own compositions – and a fine affair it is too. Unfortunately, husband Trevor Lucas also gets to write and sing: whilst there’s nothing wrong with his more uptempo contributions, they’re simply not as good as Sandy’s. But the finest cut of all – an eerie eight-minute prog-folk interpretation of the traditional ‘Banks Of The Nile’ – was penned by neither of them. GRADE: B.
Fotheringay (UK/USA/Australia): 2 (Fledg’ling FLED 3066, CD, 2008, recorded 1970 & 2008)
Sandy Denny (joint lead vocals, guitar, keyboards)
This interesting project saw a number of Fotheringay demos from 1970 overdubbed to create a simulacrum of their abandoned second album. It’s doubtful whether this batch of songs would have constituted the final line-up, since only two of the eleven cuts are Denny originals, but this is a lovely record nonetheless. This version of ‘Late November’ had previously been released on the El Pea sampler and a number of Denny compilations, whilst an early take of ‘John The Gun’ is radically different from the performance that appeared on The North Star Grassman And The Ravens. The remainder mixes Trevor Lucas numbers, covers and interpretations of traditional material, with the latter being particularly good. Whilst this isn’t brilliant throughout, it’s certainly an impressive folk/rock set and a very worthwhile release.

Fotheringay (UK/USA/Australia): Essen 1970 (Thors Hammer THCD 006, Germany, 2011, recorded 1970)
Sandy Denny (joint lead vocals, guitar, piano)
With good (but not outstanding) sound quality, this excellent archive release features a nine-song set drawing on their first album and material intended for their second. It simply serves to confirm what an exceptional electric folk outfit Fotheringay really were. GRADE: B.

Fotheringay (UK/USA/Australia):  Nothing More – The Collected Fotheringay (Island 471 848-2, triple CD plus DVD, with digibook, 2015, recorded 1970)
Sandy Denny (principal vocals, guitar, piano)

This boxed set is a marginal case for review here, as not that much of its contents is new. Disc one is the original Fotheringay album from 1970, plus six bonus tracks (all previously released studio demos, with the bonus tracks from the earlier remastered CD appearing elsewhere in the set). Disc two comprises 2 with six bonus tracks (most previously released), whilst disc three offers a nine-song live set from Rotterdam (four cuts from which had previously appeared as bonus tracks on the original album and a further two on Denny's 19-CD boxed set) plus an interview and six songs recorded for the BBC. Finally, the DVD features four songs from a German TV performance. However, it’s pointless railing against what isn’t here: this is the most comprehensive overview of Fotheringay that could be assembled (notwithstanding my surprise that their Essen set wasn’t included), complete with excellent liner notes, and it demonstrates what an excellent band they were. GRADE: B.

See also Bunch, Sandy Denny, Fairport Convention, Strawbs

Fourpenny Bridge (UK): Etton Alive (Workhorse WHR1, with insert, 1975)
Sue Williamson (occasional vocals, mandolin, psaltery)
This extremely rare private pressing, which comes housed in an decidedly unpromising sleeve, documents the band’s farewell gig at the Processed Pea Club (which also yielded a much less interesting sampler Just A Taste Of The Processed Pea a couple of years later). Musically, this is excellent traditional folk/rock, with instrumentation of acoustic guitars, electric bass, percussion, violin, recorder, mandolin and psaltery and a sound very similar to Sprigiuns Of Tolgus. The whimsical ‘A Mon Like Thee’ and ‘The Molecatcher’ aren’t up to much, but they’re counterbalanced by strong versions of ‘The Two Magicians’, ‘The Cutty Wren’, ‘One Misty Moisty Morning’ and ‘Poverty Knock’.


Foursome (UK): Upside Down (Fanfare FR6490, 1977?)
With its lovely, minimalist silkscreened sleeve and coffeehouse-influenced style, this Christian folk album looks and sounds like something from the late sixties. However, from the catalogue number I suspect it dates from the mid-to-late seventies. Whilst it’s nowhere near the cutting edge, it’s actually very good, concentrating on delicate and haunting material with lovely female vocals whilst keeping the joyous singalongs to a minimum. Finally, the Lord does not appear to have blessed the band with the ability to count: the Foursome is actually a trio. GRADE: C+.

Fovea Hex (UK/Ireland): Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent, One – Bloom/The Explanation (Die Stadt Musik DS83/JR001, double CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2006)
Clodagh Simonds (principal vocals, keyboards, zither)
Extending the ambient elements of her solo album but dropping the electronics, Clodagh Simonds returns with a new project that sounds more influenced by Nico than Enya. The configuration here is rather odd – a three-song EP plus a limited edition bonus EP with a single, entirely ambient, track – and the music is exceptionally fragile and gentle. With collaborators including Brian and Roger Eno, this is naturally of a high quality but the lack of any rock elements or changes of pace means it never really seizes the attention – but then that was never really the point. GRADE: C+.
Fovea Hex (UK/Ireland): Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent, Two – Huge/The Discussion (Die Stadt Musik DS86/JR002, double CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2006)
Clodagh Simonds (lead vocals, harmonium, chimes, psaltery, effects)
Volume two follows the same unusual format as its predecessor and the same basic musical style, though the material here is a little weirder, a touch more experimental and a mite more progressive. Once again, it’s interesting stuff, especially on the much more formless bonus disc, which hints towards Ligeti and modern classical music, with much of it resembling the soundtrack to a slightly surreal science fiction film. GRADE: C+.
Fovea Hex (UK/Ireland): Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent, Three – Allure/An Answer (Die Stadt Musik DS89/JR003, double CD, with gatefold minisleeve and booklet, 2006)
Clodagh Simonds (lead vocals, keyboards, zither, effects)
The first disc comprises their best work to date, with far greater variety than before, including some guitar and even a rhythmic section that lifts the mood considerably. In contrast, the hour-long bonus disc is remarkably tedious, despite a few intriguing moments. All three discs (plus bonuses) were available as a boxed set with a postcard. GRADE: C+.
Fovea Hex (UK/Ireland): Here Is Where We Used To Sing/Three Beams (Janet JRDS004A/B, double CD, with digipak, minisleeve and booklet, 2011)
Clodagh Simonds (lead vocals, keyboards, percussion, psaltery, lyre, effects)
Fovea Hex’s first album proper emphasises the singer/songwriter roots underpinning their music: strip away a few mildly avant-garde touches and this is essentially a collection of Clodagh Simonds’s ballads. They’re exquisite ballads, too: dark, haunting and slightly neoclassical, though once again it’s the lack of variety that keeps this from greatness. As usual, the bonus disc – included with the first 400 copies – features interesting remixes adding experimental and modern classical dimensions. GRADE: C+.
Fovea Hex (UK/Ireland): The Salt Garden I (Headphone Dust HDFH1021/Die Stadt Musik DS116, 10" plus double CD, with minisleeves and insert, 2015)
Clodagh Simonds (lead vocals, keyboards, percussion, treatments)
Returning to their original format (the 10" and the first CD have the same contents; the second is a remix of one of the songs), The Salt Garden I offers a more symphonic and epic twist on Fovea Hex’s usual sound. Resembling the soundtrack to an imaginary film, this is eerie, atmospheric and majestic stuff that appears to ooze out of the ether, soothe the senses and then disappear as unobtrusively as it arrived. GRADE: C+.

Fovea Hex (UK/Ireland): The Salt Garden II (Headphone Dust HDFH1026/Die Stadt Musik DS118, 10" plus double CD, with minisleeves

and insert, 2015)
Clodagh Simonds (lead vocals, keyboards, programming, treatments)
There’s a limit to how exciting I can find ambient music, but there’s also no doubt that this is Clodagh Simonds’s best work yet under the Fovea Hex banner. The songs are delicate and emotional, representing a more minimalist sidestep from Enya (or possibly a logical step on from Mellow Candle’s ‘Reverend Sisters’), whilst the remix CD included with early orders is genuinely a thing of tranquil beauty. GRADE: C+.

Fovea Hex (UK/Ireland): The Salt Garden III (Headphone Dust HDFH1034/Die Stadt Musik DS121, 10" plus double CD, with minisleeves and insert, 2019)
Clodagh Simonds (lead vocals, keyboards, programming)
This is a further step forward for Fovea Hex: the music here is beautiful, haunting and neither too pretentious or too ethereal, sometimes hinting towards a singer/songwriter sound. The bonus remix CD adds a spacier, trippier edge that works well, and the whole thing is effectively haunting, beautiful and mesmerising. GRADE: C+.

See also Mellow Candle, Clodagh Simonds

Fox (UK/Australia): Fox (GTO GTLP 001, with inner, 1975)
Susan Traynor (lead vocals)
After Wooden Horse, Susan Traynor joined Kenny Young’s successful pop project Fox under the alias of ‘Noosha Fox’. The opening cover of ‘Love Letters’ is underwhelming in the extreme; it’s also a strange choice, as everything else is self-penned and enjoyable, offering feather-light mid-seventies pop and ballads with a nicely trippy feel and lots of studio trickery. GRADE: C+.
Fox (UK/Australia): Tails Of Illusion (GTO GTLP 006, with inner, 1975)
Susan Traynor (joint lead vocals)
The gorgeous textured psychedelic sleeve suggests that this is going to take their music in an Eastern direction, but it’s actually straighter than their first. It’s nice enough pop nonetheless, and the decision to share the vocals among the band members creates some welcome variety. GRADE: C+.

Fox (UK/Australia): Blue Hotel (GTO GTLP 020, with poster, 1977)
Susan Traynor (lead vocals)
Traynor is singing everything again, and she’s the only one pictured on the cover and the poster. Indeed, the band and session players (including Ann Odell on synthesiser) are mixed up in the credits, so this has the feel of a solo album even though Kenny Young wrote and produced everything. Musically it’s nice lightweight pop and possibly their best album, though many listeners may find its relentless sweetness and lack of substance offputting. GRADE: C+.

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