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Mabel Greer's Toyshop

The Secret

Review by Gary Hill

It could be said that Mabel Greer's Toyshop became Yes. In fact, that's essentially what happened. Then years later Mabel Greer's Toyshop returned. This is the second album since they came back into being. It features MGT founders Clive Bayley and Robert Hagger. They even managed to posthumously include some guitar work from Peter Banks on one song. This is probably closest to the kind of music The Strawbs are known for, but it's not limited to that sound. It is an intriguing set with some interesting inspiration listed on various cuts.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Big Brother, Little Brother
There is a bit of a psychedelic rock, space intro to this. The cut works out to a jam that definitely has a lot of that psychedelic element combined with space rock. There is definitely a folk prog feeling to this in a lot of ways. It turns out to a full out prog rock jam later in the piece. They drop out to space and some Native American chanting is heard as the cut continues to evolve.
Love's Fire
A very folk based piece, this is a balladic cut that's focused on the pretty end of the spectrum. It works out to something that's a bit like The Moody Blues meets the Strawbs. The powered up instrumental section makes me think of some of the proggier arrangements of the Welcome to My Nightmare era of Alice Cooper. The cover says that the lyrics to this are from a poem by J. Nurbakhsh.
Turning to the Light
That comparison to the Strawbs is quite apt here. This is very much a folk prog styled number that works pretty well. The mellower segment later is an intriguing variant. The inspiration is listed as being Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
Angel Sent
This is inspired by Beethoven. Starting with a piano and voice balladic movement, this grows very slowly from there. It gets more powerfully arranged further down the road before they take it to its closing. 
More and More
A bluesy kind of number, this is perhaps less prog and more pure folk in some ways. That said there are some intriguing jazzy changes here. The keyboards bring some prog to the table. There is a bit of twisted circus music at the end of this, bringing some real psychedelia.
Swan
This comes in with a proggy element, and drops to a folk ballad style. That section still has prog textures at its heart. The arrangement on this is quite complex and dynamic. At times it makes me think of Yes. A lot of the time I'm reminded of both The Moody Blues and Strawbs. There is some killer keyboard work on this thing. It's one of my favorite cuts of the whole disc. The cover says that this song was inspired by Tchaikovsky and Parry.
Image of Existence
Again a poem by J. Nurbakhsh serves as the lyrical element. Proggy, trippy folk prog is the musical concept here. The intense jam later in the piece does call to mind Yes a bit, while also bringing some space rock to the table. The mellower instrumental segment at the end is particularly effective and pretty in a spacey way.
You
Starting as an intricate ballad, this works out from there. This develops into another folk prog styled number. This is good, but perhaps a bit too much like some of the rest. Still, it works.
The Secret (feat. Peter Banks)
Again I'm reminded of the Moody Blues on this cut. I love the Peter Banks guitar parts that are worked into the song. They lend something different to this piece. The instrumental section is a real powerhouse in so many ways. It makes this most overtly progressive rock piece of the disc. It's also arguably the strongest. Gustav Holst is listed as an inspiration on this.
 
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