Caedmon - When the special and unique bands reform somewhere in the world, I try to get there if I can. When Comus reformed on a boat between Sweden and Finland, I was there. When Pentangle played Royal Albert Hall a few months later, I made the pilgrimage. The trips were magical and I would have forever regretting missing them. Caedmon with its one album issued (500 copies yet) is not going to get the Royal Albert Hall. But thanks to the CD reissue along with a live set and the internet, there was always some interest in this excellent band. They first rehearsed together a couple years ago and enjoyed it and worked on many new songs. Now they have decided to follow through on this and come out with an album soon. Along with that, they decided to treat friends, families and anyone else that wanted to make the pilgrimage to Edinburgh to two shows. This may be the only shows they do since 1978. Based on the results, I hope not. All five original members were present and were nicely supplemented occasionally by Simon's son on drums, Angela's daughter on vocals and some old friends on sax. All five members were spot on throughout the shows. They all sing and although there was some tentativeness at times and at first, their confidence grew and their magical voices came back. Angela's voice (as they even quoted the internet as saying "fragile") was still very recognizable as it kind of floats gently above the music. Jim Bisset's electric guitar was a model of compressed solos and unique coloring. Sam Wilson playing 5-string bass mostly could both ground the songs or run of lead moves of his own. Simon Jaquet grounded things in the folk camp with his acoustic guitar and mandolin, unless he felt like keeping a beat on a drum kit for the newer songs. And Ken Patterson played countless instruments in many ways with the cello and keyboards being the key sounds in the older songs. I go into a lot of detail here as the separate instruments really stand out with clear space in between. Yet it comes together brilliantly on record and in these shows. This really would not have worked with half the band. Newer members would have laid down simpler parts. These five really do put it together in such a wonderful manner like all great bands. On their website and as they discussed on stage, the categories of folk, folk-rock, Christian Rock, Psyche-folk, and Acid Folk have all come into play in discussions of the band. Thankfully freak folk and free folk are for the newcomers, because you could throw those in, too. There are elements of everything mentioned along with even some jazz, world and rock in some of the newer songs. But the category problem is exactly why they are such a success. This is also true of Pentangle and Comus and what do you know? If I had to wonder why I made such long treks for these three bands, it is quite clear. They all achieved a unique and even singular sound. The fact that is of high quality only sweetens the deal.
They picked the key songs from the album. They did Aslan twice four nights (encore bonuses) which makes sense as this the song I usually select when I make compilations for friends. Sea Song set the mood just as brilliantly as the album version did. Columba's Song was a daring choice and they did mention that they used to play it really fast. Even a bit slower, it really is a one of a kind song that still amazes me. Give Me Jesus was a great cover that showed yet another of their many styles. They did a couple from their live CD and also opened each show with a song not on the CDs, but was specially written for their farewell show. It was like the classic bonus track discovery (except I can't go back to it... yet?)
The new songs they performed were varied and quite lovely for the most part. You can hear them at the myspace link. You should also check out their website and stay tuned for when their new album comes out. This band certainly deserves further recognition beyond their cult following. Although most of the audience were friends, I did chat with some older folks who I thought knew them, but instead had no idea who they were, just thought that it looked like a fun event. They were won over, too, which tells me more than I can try to analyze myself. So I will stop now, happy I came for the music and also pleased that I met the band and they were all some of the nicest people you would want to talk to. I certainly understand why everyone cannot fly around to see every interesting band, but it should serve as a reminder to always be on the lookout for interesting music and when in doubt, go for it. You won't regret it.
Quote of the night: Some friends of theirs discussion the poster that mentioned acid folk... "What's acid about it? Sulphuric?"