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Springett, Martin: The Gardening Club

Originally released in 1983, The Gardening Club was the debut album from Canadian Martin Springett. A collection of pastoral prog taking a huge dash of the seventies sound of Anthony Phillips or maybe even Steve Hackett and bringing an eighties sensibility to it all. In essence that should be right up my street and internet chatter has many other reviewers all a-froth over this 'lost masterpiece'. Yet, for some reason I simply cannot hear what all the fuss is about. Mixing vocal and instrumental cuts, the feel can often be dreamy and loose, but it appears to me more like a selection of songs lacking for an anchor than some beautiful shimmering evocation. Too often ideas are set free to simply float off on their own without a care in the world, or a thought for who might be listening. Springett's twelve string playing � which is the driving force throughout � is sublime, if aimless, and his touch deft, while his vocals do suit their surrounds. But there's an of their timeness about it all that seems to niggle and gnaw rather than sooth and salve; the echoing nature of how they are presented verging on slightly annoying.

On occasion a more forceful burst breaks through and tries to make its presence felt, or at least drive things on a little but these moments are often fleeting and the remains are allowed to wander and dander with no real purpose. Psychedelic patterns sometimes weave below a thrumming beat but just as you feel we're getting somewhere, so we return to the start and relive it all again. In the end I can't pretend that I haven't found this quite a trial and while I certainly feel like I'm missing out on the party, as praise is heaped on this album everywhere I turn, the only real feeling I'm left with is one of humdrumness being played out with no real force or meaning.

Beautifully packaged and presented (although omitting to name one of the bonus cuts in the track listing) this reissue from Gonzo Multimedia certainly looks and feels like a thing of real worth, but beyond that I'm struggling to convey just how cold it has left me and just how confused I am by the love its receiving elsewhere. That's not to say that it doesn't deserve that priase, just that I definitely can't find any reason to echo it. Maybe you will, so give it a shot and hopefully you find this to be much more exciting than the meandering dullness I discovered.

Track Listing
1. Midnight Road
2. Mole Hole Blues
3. The Traveller
4. Andromeda
5. The Garden
6. Three Days At Brighton
7. Rebirth
8. The Stone That Speaks
9. Endersby Meets The Team
10. Aerial Adventures
11. Endersby Meets The Chef
12. Nirvana Isn't
Bonus Tracks
13. After The Glow
14. Upside Down Blackbird
15. When You Live This Way
16. New York Moon
17. The Riddle Overture

Added: August 2nd 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Martin Springett @ bandcamp
Hits: 1427
Language: english

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Springett, Martin: The Gardening Club
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2018-08-02 22:32:54
My Score:

Here is an album I had no idea existed, that is until now. The artist is Martin Springett and the album is from 1983 titled The Gardening Club. The good folks from Gonzo Multimedia has seen fit to give this one a complete revamp and after listening to the album it is readily apparent why they did.

First a little about this enigmatic artist. Springett was born in the UK but moved to Canada in 1965. He recorded an album’s worth of material based on Tolkien’s poems from The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit. Unfortunately for Springett, Christopher Tolkien did not allow the album to be released. Springett played in a few bands in the late ‘60/ early ‘70s and moved back to England in 1971 searching for a record deal. After touring in England for a while he moved back to Canada and hooked up with his friend Don Geppert who produced and engineered the album. Looking at the artist’s website it appears Springett has been fairly busy releasing a number of albums, artwork and quite a few children’s books through the intervening years.

What a pleasant surprise listening to The Gardening Club has been. Springett has an exceptionally melodic voice and when paired with his lovely twelve string acoustic guitar the results are superb. The Canterbury and late ‘70s era Camel influences are readily apparent but it doesn’t overwhelm the disc as this album has its own voice.

The first track “Midnight Road” is a real treat for the ears. The gorgeous melodies and combination of acoustic and electric guitar brings a light and airy feel to the proceedings. The ‘70s influenced “Andromeda” has a pastoral/spacey approach with lyrics to match. Later the track gets quite heavy, a nice contrast to the lighter moments and the wordless female backing vocals add more lushness to the sound. The crisp and clean electric guitar fills in “Mole Hole Blues” and the gorgeous soprano saxophone, recalling hints of Pink Floyd, in the up-tempo instrumental “The Traveller” are more highlights. The floating keyboards and swirling rhythm guitars in “Three Days At Brighton” and the acoustic arpeggios in the pastoral instrumental “The Garden” are more fine moments to savour.

Also included are four tracks from the digital EP titled The Greenhouse released in 2016. These tracks were originally recorded during The Gardening Club sessions and make a nice addition to the original release. The first of these is “After The Glow”, a nice bit of proggy pop rock with excellent guitar work followed by the funky grooves in “Upside Down Blackbird” where the quirky rhythms remind me a little of Talking Heads. All the extra tracks are worth hearing and certainly fit nicely within the framework of the original album.

Martin Springett is a true artist, in every sense of the word. I just hope more people get to hear his music including a new album titled The Riddle that should be released this year. For now, check out this thirty-five year old platter. You will be glad you did.

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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