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

One of the greatest shames of progressive music are the bands that were incredibly talented yet virtually undiscovered. Red Jasper is one of such bands. A 90's band from Wales, they put out a number of studio albums and a double live before tossing in the towel. I have virtually no information about them except for the music. All but the last release [1997's Anagrammary -ed] is deleted and nearly impossible to get.

A Midsummer's Night Dream is arguably Red Jasper's best album. It's without a weak moment and features the strengths of Davey Dodds amazing resonant voice and exceptional lyrics. Like Gabriel's Genesis era, Dodds singing is complex story telling inspired by the classics (YB Yeats and Alison McLean are credited), back-dropped against a folk-drenched prog that is representative of Jethro Tull's Woods/Horses period. With all the mandolin and whistle/flute parts this could very well be the vintage undiscovered Tull of years gone by. But, Dodds is Dodds and it's almost impossible to describe the color and depth of this man's voice. There's shades of Fish, only he's better, some of the irreverence of Gabriel during his lighter moments; throw in a bit of operatic bass, and there you go.

Now for the songs. Lots of acoustic mandolin and guitar, the odd electric rocker, plenty of melotron and synth-keys and the occasional piano. Almost the perfect combination of symphonic prog.

"Sonnet 1" and "2" open and close the album with beautiful and lyrical folk textures. A rocker, "Virtual Reality" picks up the pace quickly, then we're lulled into the languid beauty of track three, "Berkana," which includes some violin. Dodds voice mesmerizes here. The song is similar to "The Carpet Crawlers" in both melodic perfection and lyrical power.

The epic "Dreamscape" stretches for nearly 14 minutes and is classic prog. All kinds of sounds, bridges, changes and refrains. The folk element is back with "Jean's Tune". Here's where the band really sounds more like Jethro Tull than today's Tull does. It's an instrumental and Dobb's mandolin starts slow but by the end, simply rocks. When the electric lead by a very capable Robin Harrison surges, the song reaches a rousing finale.

"Invitation To Dance" is a song of building intensity, with almost inane refrain thrown in. As crazy and abrupt as the change is, it works. The powerful drumming of Dave Clifford is very evident on this track as well, but in the end it's the voice of Dobbs that takes the track to the limits.

The latter half of the seven minute song changes, adding an instrumental conclusion that strongly reminds me of the Tull offshoot band Wild Turkey.

The soft and beautiful "Treasure Hunt" is second to last. Again it builds and reaches an amazing crescendo (reminiscent of the instrumental break of "Aqualung") before we're dropped into an instrumental version of the opening track.

I repeat that A Midsummer's Night Dream has to be one of the most perfect albums ever recorded. A few minutes under fifty minutes, it holds within it some of the most classic moments of symphonic/folk progressive rock.

Red Jasper's other CDs are great too. Highly recommended is the longer, more spacey A Winter's Tale. Anagramary, their last release, is more modern sounding and takes a while to get going. But once it does, it's excellent.

Whatever it takes, try and latch onto Red Jasper. No prog collection should be without them.

Sonnet 1 (4:31) / Virtual Reality (3:54) / Berkana (5:29) / Dreamscape (part 1 & 2) (13:27) / Jean's Tune (4:17) / Invitation To A Dance (7:08) / Treasure Hunt (5:52) / Sonnet 2 (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 Rock

Origin UK

Added: August 1st 2000
Reviewer: Richard Zywotkiewicz

Hits: 1272
Language: english


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