Perhaps one of the most overlooked and obscure bands to come out of the Folk Rock scene in the 1970s that were way ahead of their time. Formed in 1972, they were originally Spriguns of Tolgus which had a mysterious and mythical sound in their music before shortening it to Spriguns and carrying the sounds of the first five albums of Steeleye Span in their music to capture the spirit and essence of the inspiration of the homage and staying true to the band’s sound.
And their two albums (Revel Weird and Wild, Time Will Pass) have finally received the Esoteric treatment this year and it features an interview with Mandy Morton done by Marco Rossi who does the Prog Nosis on SHINDIG Magazine. Now while Mandy’s voice resembles Maddy Prior’s voice as if she could have been her younger sister, gives an insight on how Spriguns came to be and how their albums were released at the wrong time at the wrong place when Punk was unleashing its fury in 1976 and ’77.
The band considers alongside Mandy Morton on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Wayne Morrison on Guitar, Dick Powell on Guitar and Keyboards, Tom Ling on violin, Mandy’s wife Mike on Bass Guitar, Chris Woodcock and Dennis Dunstan on drums. Their third album, Revel, Weird and Wild, originally released on the Decca label in 1976, has the touches of British Folk sound with a huge punch and some catchy melodies that are perfect for a dance and sing-along songs to sing to your children.
You have some perfect touches of Country and Folk combined into one as Tom’s violin sets the scenery on the swinging Laily Worm, Nothing Else To Do and Hasberry Howard. The gentle and emotional introduction homage to Fairport Convention on Trysting Tree, is beautiful and soft as Mandy’s voice comes at you as if she’s right behind you to calm you down whether you had a bad day while the dark-psychedelic sound of Lord Lovell, featuring a catchy melody and Tom’s wah-wah solo on the violin and the acoustic guitar setting the adventures about the character who’s leaving his wife to go on this spiritual journey, but will return in seven years, will take you by surprise.
Time Will Pass, their fourth album, sees the band going into a rock orientated sound and still carrying the Folk sound with a vengeance as they move away from the country folk rock sound as they wanted to break loose and come out like a tidal wave and to give five centerpieces. The evidence is the eruptive opener, Dead Man’s Eyes which sees the band going into harder/crunchy sound as they pay homage to String Driven Thing with a thunderous beat as Mandy just nails it of the final days of the man’s life towards death.
The thumping mourning beauty yet dynamic beauty of the title track has this emotional structure featuring a synth playing different chord changes, guitar layered sound, and the spookiness of Mandy’s voice setting a sail for adventure while the symphonic string section comes in for the sun to rise for a beautiful morning on the magical fairy tales to tell on the White Witch. But then, Mandy gives the band a chance to go into darker territories and give it a gothic atmosphere on Blackwaterside. The synths and guitars help out in the melody as Mandy just nails it with her voice as it goes from soft and gentle in to a thunderous rocking solo done by Wayne Morrison that goes into his Gilmour-like solo to give the listener chills like no other as well as the mellowing You’re Not There.
Spriguns could have been bigger than Fairport Convention and it would have been amazing to see where the yellow brick road could have taken them and its really interesting hearing the band’s music from start to finish. A highly recommended obscure folk rock group that were ahead, overlooked, and out of this world to make you understand the band’s music is a hidden treasure.