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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cressida - The Vertigo Years Anthology 1969-1971

It’s hard to imagine a band staying together for two years before calling it a day and creating something beautiful and magical at the same time. And there was one band that was considered; iconic, influential, and obscure, was a band called Cressida. They were a part of the Vertigo family and it’s just amazing in a way they sounded with only two albums they released from 1970 to 1971 (Cressida and Asylum). And here on this 2-CD set released by the good people from Esoteric Recordings, shows how not just they were Progressive, but a combination of Hard, Classical, Folk, Jazz, and Soul they have in their roots, proves to be something spectacular.

Since I’ve championed them back in 2011, it is quite obvious that they are now one of my favorite bands and how their music can be a touching yet moving experience to discover on why this band were way ahead of their time. Their first sole-self titled debut album is more of a spiritual and sensitive arrangement that Cressida brings to you with a true gift of honor and a warm-welcome to embark on an amazing ride that is imaginative and innovative. Not to mention some beautiful centerpieces on the album as well.

From the moment you hear the symphonic One of a Group, which has some wonderful flourish organ solo work that Peter Jennings does by paying tribute to a Pre-Tony Banks while guitarist John Heyworth just keeps on going and follows Peter’s hands to see where he’s going with this before ending with a Thelonious Monk piano outro. Then there’s the graceful To Play Your Little Games, which starts off as a sermon then goes into the Psych-Prog-Waltz in the ¾ time signature while the folky touches of Time For Bed and the haunting Spring ’69 gives them a chance to take a break on their organ exercises for a mellowing and poignant numbers.

Meanwhile, the homage to Bach’s Toccata and Fugue turned into an elevating structure on Depression, is raw and intense as John Heyworth goes into overdrive with his guitar solo as the band follow his work wherever they take him to into different places while Down Down has a passionate beauty that has a Fantasy atmospheric story-telling structure. Then you have The Only Earthman In Town, which sounds like a short story from The Martian Chronicles by the late great Ray Bradbury has this exciting and sci-fi feel in which the band are in full circle and are in control and captains of the universe as Tomorrow is a Whole New Day which has a militant turned angelic feel, almost sounds like the Rebirth of a new world has begun and a new day has started.

Asylum, released in 1971, as the band stayed true to their sound from the first album, uses a lot of the Symphonic/Orchestral arrangements along with Brass, captures the listener to go into these pieces of songwriting into a whole new level. Again, on Reprieved, Jennings captures the spirit of Monk as Angus Cullen scats as the band into a walking Jazz dance while he has a gentle side on the warm-like sunrise with a spooky organ section on Summer Weekend of a Lifetime.

But it’s the 9-minute epic, Munich, which is where Cullen himself shines in this part. You have this wonderful string section that sets the tone as the band in the mid-part go into some Psych-Soul Waltz before the last few minutes as it goes back into the haunting introduction as Angus just sings his heart out with the line, “Am I reading into this or that is really there?/Do I really care?/Is it just the Aura of Everything combined?/Dogging up my mind?/Mitigating circumstances all you seem to blame/Though it’s all the same/Now I can really say I know cause I’ve been there/Know cause I’ve been there, I’ve been there.”

It is so powerful and emotional, that you could tell how you almost couldn’t play, because of how beautifully structured it is. While Munich is Cressida’s centerpiece, the 11-minute epic, Let Them Come When They Will, is another highlight on the album that deserves some recognition. It has a bit of a Doors resemblance beginning John Culley’s catchy acoustic folk-like chords as Angus sings the melody that John plays before string quartet comes in before he and Peter go into town with some wonderful improvisations between both electric and the powerful Hammond organ along with Iain Clark’s powerful percussion drum work that goes along with it that gets some tempos into a flaming fire.

Then Angus comes back and really nails it with his vocalization by singing his heart out that makes it a perfect way for bassist Kevin McCarthy to go into full swing with some wonderful jazzy bass lines as the band go into finale mode. The elevating piece, Lisa, which has a powerful orchestral arrangement and session musician, flautist Harold McNair, brought some wonderful flute-like work for the melody. The bonus tracks on the album are the real key that features demos that go back in 1969 and never-before-heard BBC sessions they did for Sounds of the Seventies.

There’s the powerful thumping Mental State that features a heavy introduction between McCarthy, Culley, and Jennings doing some magnificent creativity between the three of them while Situation, which was originally going to be on the first album, but never made it on the album, they go into full gear as Cullen sings about a person who is trying to figure what he or she did was right or wrong “Do you remember saying all the words you said?/I can hear them moving round within my head/I’ve got a situation, but I don’t know right from wrong”

It’s a shame the track never made it on the album, but it’s a deep and stand-out track. The band called it a day back in ’71 and the albums are still selling for an expensive price and while they reunited in December of last year at the Camden Underworld, it’s hard to believe where the band could have gone if they were still together. Their music is still part of the underground and obscure prog scene that shows they were ahead of their time.

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