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Simon, Alan: Excalibur : The Ladies Of The Lake

There’s little doubt that there’s been a concerted effort to take French composer and song writer Alan Simon and his music to a wider audience. Recent times having seen the release of Songwriter, a two disc compilation split into his classical work and pieces from his rock operas, which was revealed alongside a resurgence of his Excalibur series (even though Simon had previously stated is was complete). And as if that and a space themed studio album weren’t enough, now, a second compilation of pieces also from those Excalibur albums (of which there are four) arrives.

Conceptual and, rather obviously, based round the Excalibur story, the three original albums Simon released in 1998, 2007 and 2012 are undoubtedly amongst his most popular work, what with them being grandiose and varied prog-rock operas featuring a whole host of well known guest contributors. Bringing the series out of retirement in 2017 with the well received and rather excellent Excalibur IV: The Dark Age Of The Dragon, it seems that the idea is to keep that momentum rolling. Hence we are now to receive a number of themed compilations from the series, with this first offering being dubbed The Ladies Of The Lake and, as you may have guessed, featuring choice selections from the female singers who have adorned these releases. Across the fifteen tracks collected, vocals come from Moya Brennan, Maddy Prior, Karan Casey, Kohann, Siobhan Owen, Jacqui McShee, Nikki Matheson, Maite Itioz and Sonja Kristina (Curved Air), allowing a mix of vocal styles to gently wend their way across a collection of Gaelic themed pieces that are more suggestive and cajoling than they are forceful or insistent.

On their parent albums these individual tracks are often scene altering changes of pace and focus, but brought together they do all begin to feel a little too similar to each other, losing some of their potency along the way. That’s not to say that “Skye” (Kohann) isn’t a beautifully surging mix of Clannad and classical, or that “There Is Someone” (Owen) doesn’t sit in fragile isolation with a vocal that envelopes and caresses, because they both undoubtedly do. However by the time Kristina has added her unmistakably folk-prog twist to “The Passion”, Prior, who is rather wonderful, has shown you the way into the “Secret Garden” and McShee has offered up a “Sacrifice”, you can’t help but yearn for the yin to this album’s yang. Or at least an occasionally brutish riff to make the beauty all the more captivating.

Excalibur IV was something of a revelation for me, the breadth and scope of what Alan Simon was capable of achieving often quite breathtaking. However, as with his Songwriter compilation, taking these pieces of music out of the context of their overarching themes lessens their impact considerably. This is a nice idea and if slow to mid-paced symphonic-rock-folk fare with some wonderful vocals sounds appealing, then you should delve in. Personally I’d suggest you swerve this collection and head straight for the full Excalibur releases, because these and the other tracks you’ll find there, make much more sense in that setting.


Track Listing
1. THE ORIGINS
2. SECRET GARDEN
3. THE GIRL & THE DEMON
4. SKYE
5. CALLING FOR YOU
6. THE LAST LAMENT OF A FAIRY
7. THERE IS SOMEONE
8. SILVER MOON
9. YSEULT
10. SACRIFICE
11.A PRAYER FOR MY LOVER
12.MORNING SONG
13.THE PASSION
14.DREAMING AGAIN
15.DUN ANGUS II

Added: January 5th 2019
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: The Ladies Of The Lake @ Cherry Red
Hits: 195
Language: english

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