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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Comus

First Utterance

Review by Gary Hill

I've not heard of this act before, but apparently they have a cult following. This album was their debut, and it was released in 1971. The band broke up in the 1970s, but have reformed in the 21st Century. This new remastered edition includes the original album with several bonus tracks. This really is the very definition of folk prog in so many ways. It's quite an intriguing (if a bit odd) album.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Diana
Folk music, twisted chamber music and psychedelia merge in this odd, but cool piece. It seems like a combination of early Jefferson Airplane and Curved Air. There are some interesting changes, I wouldn't be surprised to find that this was an influence on Camper Van Beethoven. The first instrumental mid-track includes a lot of violin work and is rather classical. The second one is a percussion workout. This is weird, but somehow very compelling, stuff.
The Herald
Coming in a bit like some kind of horror/science fiction movie music, this shifts toward trippy psychedelia gradually from there. Again I'm reminded of both Curved Air and the Airplane. The folk elements are all over this, really. Around the four and a half minute mark (this cut is over 12 minutes long) this shifts toward an intricate acoustic guitar solo based section. Other mellow, organic, elements rise up as accompaniment as this continues. It eventually makes its way to sort of a folk meets space movement. After a time vocals return, and the cut continues with a space merged with psychedelic texture.
Drip Drip
Weird slide guitar brings almost an old school blues vibe, yet it's twisted toward the weird psychedelic edge. As it shifts out from there it seems to combine folk prog with killer psychedelic rock. After working through the song like section (again seeming a bit like the Airplane and Curved Air both), the cut shifts to a killer instrumental movement that gets pretty trippy. That drops back around the six and a half minute mark and some psychedelic jamming emerges. This is another extensive piece, running nearly 11 minutes. It eventually works out into some frantic and rather freaky stuff to continue.
Song to Comus
This cut works from rocking to seriously rocking stuff. It lands somewhere in the territory between folk rock, psychedelic rock and folk prog. It's freaky and rather twisted. It's also oddly compelling. Although at about seven and a half minutes of music, this is shorter than the last couple, it's still extensive. They make good use of that space with evolution of the sound.
The Bite
This powerhouse jam is very much psychedelically based folk prog. It really rocks and is one of my favorites here.
Bitten
Trippy music that would feel at home in some weird horror movie opens this piece and holds it. It drops back and some classically tinged stuff that's again reminiscent of horror movie music takes it. The cut continues to shift and change, but still remains instrumental and cinematic. This is another cut that at times makes me think of the kind of stuff Camper Van Beethoven would later do.
The Prisoner
Intricate guitar work opens the song that closes the album proper. It eventually works out to more of a psychedelic folk arrangement for the entrance of the vocals. This gets powerful as it drives onward. It also is quite weird in its psychedelic trappings. There is a weird back and forth stereo effect section at the end of the piece.
Bonus Tracks
             
Diana (Maxi-Single Version)

As you might gather from the title and parenthetical, this is a variant of the opening song. It's not hugely different than the main version.

In the Lost Queen's Eyes
In some ways this cut is more melodic and less "odd" than the bulk of the album proper's songs. It has a definite folk prog vibe to it. It's a classy cut. I like this as well as anything on the main album. This gets quite powerful along the road.
Winter Is a Coloured Bird

Trippy psychedelic folk makes up the basis of this number. It definitely reminds me of early Jefferson Airplane. It's a classy cut and gets into some cool territory at times. At around eight minutes of music, this is extensive. They use that space to really work it through a lot of territory, turning it into more pure folk prog later along the road.

All the Colours of Darkness
Folk meets prog and space music in this intricate and powerful cut. They work it out later in some weird space folk sort of stuff. While this song has its charms, of everything here, it's the least effective. Then again, it is a bonus track.
 
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