Red Jasper - A Midsummer Night's Dream

Year of Release: 1993
Label: SI Music
Catalog Number: SImply 35
Format: CD
Total Time: 46:50:00

Vocalist/lyricist Davey Dodds writes in the introduction to this album that "This album is based on themes derived from Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream. The songs deal with the tension between illusion and reality, love and marriage and the supernatural." This is, then, a concept album, one that is carefully laid out, researched, and presented.

The music incorporates traditional, Celtic, compositions, which seems perfectly natural, bringing these pieces to a modern audience with modern instrumentation and arrangements, and yet there's one track ("Virtual Reality") that borrows heavily from Jethro Tull's "Steel Monkey" (Crest Of A Knave). Overall, too, once can describe Red Jasper's sound as being very heavily influenced by Tull of most vintages.

But, I need to tell you that this is and has been for a while, one of my favourite albums - from the richness of Dodds vocals, to the lyrical way Robin Harrison plays guitar to ? everything about this release is very classy. Aside from "Virtual Reality" the arrangements and instrumentation are warm, most notably on the two sonnets that open and close the album (named, appropriately enough, "Sonnet I" and "Sonnet II"). It is because of this album that I discovered Tempest and Celtic music in general (both Celtic rock and traditional). And, one doesn't have to be a student of Shakespeare or of literature, or care too much about the structural elements to enjoy this album. But doing some exploring on your own, beyond the music, and reading the full text of Dodds introduction will add so much to the listening experience.

"?Score the winning goal/Make love to Marilyn Monroe/Shoot the president - he can pull the trigger ? " "Virtual Reality," takes the obvious view of the idea, as I've seen the same ideas explored in fiction. William Gibson is perhaps the most known name in fiction, with his Neuromancer and subsequent novels.

In the virtual world we can be anything, do anything - such power we can weld. It can become intoxicating to the point where the real world seems the artificial. And while VR isn't to the stage that is presented in fiction - our cyberworld, where one gets so hooked on chat rooms, on virtual conversation is having the same effect. Face to face conversation is a frightening prospect - much better to hide behind the monitor screen, be anything you want, anybody you want.

However, the better material is the Celtic styled material, such as the centrepiece to the album "Dreamscape (Part I & II)" or "Invitation To A Dance." In "Berkana" has a delivery that made me think of early Fish (a la Script), though is cadence is much different. And of course, like Fish, Dodds has a poet's way with words (even if one uses Shakespeare's meter, doesn't mean you're going to pick the right words). "Dreamscape (Part I & II)" run parallel to each other, following the virtual paths the that Mr. Browne character of "Virtual Reality" has taken - in his head more than in a digital sense. In the first, it spying the fair maiden from afar, being smitten, only to find in their next encounter that she is not what he thinks she is, put in very strong, demonic type terms. In the second, it is an affair that ends in a simliar fashion. As you might expect, I've pulled out my Shakespeare text, to offer you this*: "...Midsummer Eve, June 23, [is} a night when men are proverbially subject to fairy tricks and queer fancies," though the date setting for the play is the eve of May Day instead. Essentially, Mr. Browne has "woman issues" as he has shipped his wife off on holiday in order to explore this alternate reality, only to find the women he encounters are "evil" there, too. So even in an environment in which he thinks he's in control, it is his subconscious that's truly in control.

This is such great stuff that I can't recommend it enough. Sadly, it too was released on the defunct SI Music label - but I'm more confident that Cymbeline will re-release this at some point, as they did release Red Jasper's recent Anagrammary (and I think they're still a going concern) [I thought wrong].

*Madeline Doran, The Complete Pelican Shakespeare, Viking Press, 1986 ed.

Sonnet I (4:31) / Virtual Reality (3:54) / Berkana (5:29) / Dreamscape (Part I & II) (13:27) / Jean's Tune (4:17) / Invitation To A Dance (5:52) / Treasure Hunt (5:52) / Sonnet II (3:32)

Davey Dodds - lead vocals, mandolin, tin whistles
Robin Harrison - acoustic guitar, 'angel string' guitar, electric guitars, backing vocals
Dave Clifford - drums, backing vocals
Jonathan Thornton - bass
Lloyd George - keyboards, piano, backing vocals
Dave Wood - violin (3)

Sting In The Tail (1990)
Action Replay (1992)
A Midsummer's Night Dream (1993)
A Winter's Tale (1994)
Anagramary (1997)

Genre: Progressive Folk

Origin UK

Added: March 1st 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Hits: 1362
Language: english


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