When the books of Titus Groan and Gormenghast were released in 1946 and 1950 by Mervyn Peake, they were introduced to a character who was the lover of Steerpike, and the daughter and first child of Sepulchrave, 76th Earl of Groan, and his countess, she also was considered a gauche in the movement and in sense, with an ugly of face, but how small twists that her mouth was sullen and rich with her eyes smouldered.
Her name was Fuchsia Groan. That and the name of the six-piece band, which is taken from Peake’s novels, were formed in Exeter University in 1970 by singer-songwriter Tony Durant. Alongside Tony Durant who both plays both Acoustic and Electric Guitar and does lead vocals, they consider; Michael Day on Bass, Michael Gregory on Drums and Percussion, Janet Rogers on Violin and Backing Vocals, Madeleine Bland on Cello, Piano, Harmonium, and Backing Vocals, and Vanessa Hall-Smith on Violin and Backing Vocals.
They released their only sole self-titled debut album originally on the short-lived record label, Pegasus in November of 1971, and it’s for me, in my opinion, one of the most amazing, unsung, obscure, and buried treasure gems of lost albums that is deserving recognition thanks to Gianpaulo Banelli who 13 years ago who reissued it on his label, Night Wings Records back in 2003. Last year, Esoteric Recordings have reissued the album and it is still a powerful cult classic Acid/Prog-Folk album that is up there with Comus, Trees, Spriguns, Mellow Candle, and Spriogyra.
Tony Durant’s vocals resembles Kaleidoscope/Fairfield Parlour’s Peter Daltrey’s arrangements and he nails those changes in the vocals very well. When I heard that Esoteric was going to reissue this, let’s just say that I jump in the swimming pool and reach the lap and bought this from the Kinesis website and I was very impressed from the moment I put the CD on in my Portable CD player.
Songs like the galloping yet thunderous haunting introduction for the Gone with the Mouse. There’s a bit of almost as if Jim Croce had written the continuation of Peake’s stories with a driven beat. I love the eruptive and mellowing rhythm section between guitars and string sections as if they were adding the drama and tension. Lyrics have almost a renaissance-era, but it’s an excellent way to start the album off with a big bang!
The Nothing Song has a sinister ominous crescendo between drum fills, violin, and rhythm guitar introduction as if something terrible had gone wrong, before delving into a militant rhythm section. It’s very catchy at times and almost a split personality in the composition, but it works very well different signature when it transforms into memorable and disturbing at the same time and not to mention a folk-pop tradition in there.
Meanwhile, Another Nail starts off with the first 3-minutes with the music going into a journey into outer space before delving into the Syd Barrett-era of Pink Floyd as they channel the Crazy Diamond’s lyrics that resemble at times Astronomy Domine and almost if championing Barrett himself before going into a shuffling train rockin’ adventure. You could hear the essence of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn thrown in the music and it’s another knockout.
The mourning and resembling childhood years with a touch of Harry Nilsson and early Bowie’s psych-folk touches with the string section will touch your heart on Me and My Kite. This is for me, one of the albums that I will cherish for many, many years. After the album was released, and received a little attention thanks to the advert on Melody Maker, the band broke up and went on to do other projects.
Now, since reforming with a new line-up few years ago, the band’s music is still going strong and with recognitions thanks to the Internet and the word-of-mouth about this album, it is finally getting the light at the end of the tunnel it deserves. It features the lyrics, a 16-page booklet with liner notes done by John O’Regan, including the artwork done by Anne Marie Anderson’s design of Fuchsia Groan’s mystique and allure, makes it beautiful and stirring. All in all, this is again the unsung obscure Acid Folk gem of 1971.
And the band themselves are still continuing to bring more of the psych-acid folk adventures to bring more complete, eccentric ideas for songs in a strange, but beautiful complexes brainstorming ideas on where Tony Durant would come up with next. This is a must have if you love the Acid Folk and Psych-Prog Folk adventures of Comus, Trees, Spirogyra, and Spriguns.