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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Birch Book

Volume III: A Hand Full of Days

Review by Gary Hill

This music is billed as folk. I’d have to say that a better description, in my mind, is folk based progressive rock. I’d put it close to the sounds of say The Strawbs, but mixed with Porcupine Tree. This is moody and beautiful. It’s gentle and powerful at the same time. I like this album a lot. There are a couple tracks here that are pure folk music, but for the most part there is enough progressive rock (and at times space rock) in the mix to consider it prog. Whatever you call it, though, this is a great album!


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Birch Leaves

A nearly classical arrangement leads to an acoustic based, and very powerful, folky movement. It moves slowly and grows organically with bits of space rock distant in the arrangement. In some ways this reminds me of early Hawkwind, but with a more folk approach to it. 

Feet Of Clay
The vocal arrangement is the most intriguing part of the arrangement here. Some of the alternating sections are layered almost on top of one another. This is very much a folk song in general, but that vocal approach really steals the show here. The music does get rather intricate at times. There’s a cool instrumental section at the end.
Empty Corner Of The Page
A dramatic arrangement on this calls to mind Traffic meeting the Strawbs to my ears. I like this piece a lot. It’s got more energy, and yet is still rooted in acoustic folk music. 
Left Hand
More purely progressive rock in its arrangement, this has a real early Pink Floyd element to it. It’s moody and quite pretty and yet moody, too. It’s another instrumental and quite space rock oriented. 
Patchwork Woman
This pretty and gentle piece is spacey. It’s a more rock oriented motif than some of the other stuff here and makes me think a bit of Porcupine Tree or Marillion. It’s definitely moody and slow moving, but it’s also quite cool. 
Stray Summer Song
Folk music meets moody progressive rock and space on this tasty number. It’s both pretty and tasty. 
Hatched In Stone
Rising up gradually and growing slowly, this is another that makes me think of early Hawkwind in a lot of ways. It’s another instrumental.
Sad Song
While this is more fully folk oriented, there are still some space rock bits in the upper parts of the arrangement. In fact, some of this reminds me of very early Pink Floyd quite a bit. 
Nothing More
This cut is the first that’s purely folk. 
White Angel
In a lot of ways this is pure folk music, too. However, it does get quite involved and intricate and has some other elements in place. 
Right Hand
This comes up almost classical in nature. It grows out from there in a pretty, moody, progressive rock meets folk approach. It moves very slowly and that classical music element remains throughout. This is another instrumental. 
Life's Lace
The vocal arrangement draws the most attention on this piece. It’s nearly full folk, but there are some prog elements here. It’s quite a pretty and intricate cut, with most of that intricacy coming from the vocals. 
Will Of The Wind
There’s really no progressive rock in this. It’s got a lot of country in the mix, though, and is quite similar to something from Neil Young’s folkier output. It’s got some harmonica in the arrangement.
Birch Leaves
The disc is closed by another instrumental. This is very proggy with some definite bits of symphonic music, too.
 
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