I feel somewhat guilty writing this review because I’m not very fond of folk rock, and force myself to listen only when the occasion comes up to write a review. Maybe this folk/rock prejudice was formed after subjecting myself to so many ‘open-mic’ nights at local coffee shops, being ‘entertained’ (and I use the term loosely) by local amateur musicians strumming acoustic guitars and rambling on aimlessly about who knows what, for as long as Club Management would allow. Most overstayed their welcome and soured the cream in my coffee.
But over the years I’ve come to know and appreciate what constitutes good folk/rock and can easily separate it from the tone deaf individual whose limited talent was spurred on by misguided friends and family members blinded by love.
Bottom line – I’m not a fan, so take this into consideration when reading the review.
Thankfully “PRIVILEGED VAGABOND” isn’t a stale collection of tunes played solely on acoustic guitar, but a collection of finely crafted and lushly arranged symphonic/folk songs harkening back to very early era Strawbs; complete with organ, Mellotron, piano, synthesizers and accordion, all provided by Andy Wells.
The album has a psychedelic prog/rock feel to it, somewhat reminiscent of the Pete Sinfield album “Still”.
Creedy imposed a strict set of rules restricting the use of electric guitars and traditional drum set, opting to utilize only hand percussion like the tabla, and relying solely on acoustic guitars. And even though keyboards are an important part and appear throughout, only analogue keys such as the Mellotron, Moog and Arp synthesizers were used to maintain the rich organic sound he desired.
The line up on the album consists of Creedy (acoustic guitars, vocals, tabla and assorted percussion), Richard Dalby (acoustic guitar), Andy Wells ( Mellotron, organ, piano, synthesizers, accordion, backing vocals, percussion and bass pedals), with additional musicians Judah Lewis (assorted percussion), Simon Trapp (bhodran), Mohammed Ibn Sina (percussion), and Jules Slater (flute).
Instrumentally the tunes are very good – especially “Particle Acceleration”, unfortunately my problem with the album is a big one - I’m not too crazy about Creedy’s vocal style. It’s not that the guy can’t carry a tune because he surely can; it’s just that his voice wasn’t particular pleasing to my ears, making each song seem to drag on much longer than the tunes actually were. Couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but after a while the vocals became a distraction and I had a really hard time getting into the songs, and let’s face it, folk/rock is a storytellers medium, and if you don’t like the sound of the storyteller’s voice you can’t appreciate the tale.
Might all boil down to an EQ problem since there was no real bottom end to the recording, everything including his voice seemed to be in the mid-range spectrum. The inclusion of a bass player might have added the needed guts to the recordings and lessened my ear fatigue.
My favorite song on the album was without a doubt the delightful instrumental “Particle Acceleration” featuring some cool whacked-out vocoder, Ozric style intergalactic synth, soaring Mellotron, and driving acoustic guitar. Had the album featured a bit more of this than I’d recommend it without reservations. .
6 out of 10
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on June 23rd, 2009