Red Jasper - Anagramary

Year of Release: 1997
Label: Cymbeline Records
Catalog Number: CYMPLY 5082-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 54:32:00

While a literary background isn't necessary to understanding, listening to, and liking Red Jasper, it can be helpful in some cases. The themes and subjects that Red Jasper have tackled in the past have had a decidedly Celtic or Shakespearian bent. That is obvious given the titles of previous albums - A Midsummer Night's Dream, A Winter's Tale, for example. Here on Anagramary Shakespeare only gets a name check. While some of the arrangements have a Celtic feel, it isn't as apparant as on past albums.

Musically Anagramary picks up where they left off. Davey Dodds handles vocals on most of the tracks here, except where drummer/percussionist DC (Dave Clifford) sings lead on the gentle, acoustic based "In Her Eyes" and "Through The Dawn."

My favourite track is the intrumental "Flag" - a musical tour de force, beginning with heartpounding drums, symphonic keyboard washes, and soaring guitar. There is a strong sense of movement here, flying over lush green landscapes at a dizzying pace as the guitar becomes staccato for a few bars, a line echoed by the parping keys. Perhaps the most musically interesting track here, as most of the others are fairly typical for the genre and for Red Jasper.

Certainly there is a beautifully trilling tin whistle on "In The Name Of Empire" (track 4) followed by a warm, but slightly melancholic violin (Dave Woods) over a gurgling bass and drums. This latter track also features a whimsical, comical pipe organ (probably keys) passage (that made me think of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine animated movie, for reasons too long to explain).

"Babylon Rising," the second track in, goes from a gentle acoustic guitar appregio over a delicate tin whistle to a dense drums/bass driven track with militaristic overtones. With vaque references to Saddam Hussein (as shorthand for meglomaniacs everywhere), it isn't suprising that halfway in, the song takes on a Middle Eastern feel, with jangling bell-like percussion and a keyboard (bodhran?) line that trills down the scale, repeated again for the outro. (All I can think of is an Easternized "Carol Of The Bells").

"In Her Eyes" is an acoustic based ballad that, in some ways, reminds me of Bryan Adams' oft played "Everything I Do" (from Robin Hood), especially the keyboard parts.

Relating the imperialism of 19th Century Europe with the imperialism of 20th Century America is the topic of "In The Name Of Empire" (which features vocal effects at its start that obviously made me think of Queenryche). I really can't fault this analogy - certainly we have a certain arrogance about ourselves, believing ourselves the ideal all other nations should aspire to - even if it means forcing our will. Like the Roman Empire, like the British Empire, the American Empire will not last forever - and that is part of the warning in this song. The next Empire may be of an Asian nature. While this isn't the place to discuss politics at length, this song does bring up some very valid issues.

Post Arthurian Britain is the setting for "Island Of The Mighty" - Arthur's dead, Emrys (Myrddin or Merlin) is entrapped, and the once united kingdom has ended - where do they go from there? And will Arthur return as prophesied? Here, familarity with the Arthurian legend lends much more to the track. "Island Of The Mighty" goes through several meters - from driving rock, to a shrill keyboard trill, to gentle synth wash over bass, and then to acoustic guitar and vocals. From this point, it slowly wends its way back to where it started. Behind this there is an annoying strobing effect, whether intentional or accidental, I can't say.

While it doesn't state it as such, "People Of The Hills" seems like a sequel to AMSND's "Virtual Reality" - both musically and thematically. Even if it isn't, it pursues the same theme of escaping the pressures and truths of the real world. Instead of a virtual world, it is the land of Faery. This also harks back, in a way, to Arthurian legend and Celtic tales of the time.

The closing instrumental, "Waterfall (Rhaeadreau)," is more ambient than anything else, featuring a keyboard wash and a digital drum loop, giving way to a crying guitar overlying a generic analog (i.e., likely Clifford) drum rhythm.

Perfect Symmetry (6:00) / Babylon Rising (6:18) / In Her Eyes (6:22) / In The Name of Empire (7:28) / Flag (4:28) / Island Of The Mighty (6:15) / People Of The Hills (4:56) / Through The Dawn (7:07) / Waterfalls (Rhaeadreau) (6:58)

Davey Dodds - lead vocals and tin whistle
Robin Harrison - guitars and backing vocals
Dave Clifford - drums, lead vocals (3, 8), bodhran, and percussion
Jonathan Thornton - bass and backing vocals
Lloyd George - keyboards, backing vocals and voices

Sting In The Tail (?)
Action Replay(1992)
A Midsummer's Night Dream (1993)
A Winter's Tale (1994)
Anagramary (1997)

Genre: Progressive Folk

Origin UK

Added: January 1st 1999
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Hits: 1265
Language: english


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