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Accolade - 2014 - "Legends"

(42:33, ‘Accolade’)


1.  Gelfling Song 1:58
2.  Elf King 5:22
3.  Hymn to the Moon Goddess 2:24
4.  The Journey 11:54
5.  The Lady of Shalott 20:55


Aaron Goldstein – keyboards; guitars, bass, mandolin, ocarina, zither 
Stefanie Renee – vocals; recorders; percussion
Cade Burkhammer – drums, doumbek, djembe
Mark Grisez – trumpet 

Prolusion. The US project ACCOLADE was formed back in 2006, with the creative duo of Stefanie Renee and Aaron Goldstein the backbone of this venture, from what I understand. They released their full-length debut album "Festivalia" in 2012. "Legends" is their second studio production. It was self-released on a limited edition vinyl in December 2013, and was also made available as a digital download.

Analysis. Among the numerous subcategories usually sorted under the progressive rock umbrella one of the directions that hasn't received all that much of media attention in the last few years is the one that draws in the greater majority of influences from old folk music. There have been quite a few popular bands exploring this landscape in previous decades, Renaissance and Gryphon are both highly regarded artists in this field, but new bands exploring this specific variety of progressive rock haven't been given too many front pages that I can recall in magazines, catering for the progressive rock crowd. Accolade mentions Renaissance as a source of inspiration, and have dedicated this album to their late guitarist Michael Dunford, whilst also referencing a visit to Glastonbury in England as a key source of inspiration for this album as a whole. And whether they have taken their main cues from one or the other, the end result is a distinctly English-sounding affair, of the kind that brings forth associations to Arthurian legends, damsels in distress and medical times. All wrapped up in a coating that should feel right at home with just about anybody with an interest in the bands active in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s that sought to blend ancient folk music with what was then the modern, vibrant sound of rock music. Still, the opening pieces on this production have more of a basis in folk and atmospheric music, with lots of room for the vocals of Stefanie Renee to soar on top of medical and medieval-inspired arrangements of a frail as well as a more majestic nature. It isn't until the concluding composition on the A side of this album that the rock aspect of this production kicks in, and then with a fairly vintage approach that alternates distinctly folk-oriented sequences with subtly harder edged passages with more of a rock music foundation. All along with lead vocals clearly in the limelight, supplemented by a fairly rich array of instruments that move back and forth between the medieval inspired and a classic around 1970 folk-oriented progressive rock style. The B side of this LP is a one song affair, The Lady of Shalott. The lyrics were penned by Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson, back in 1833, and the band has sought to weave them into their particular take on progressive rock, and while I can't say that I find the end result amazing, it is an intriguing ride. The lyrics obviously add a lot of historical flavor to the song as the language is more archaic in nature than modern English in the first place, and as the topic of the poem is a side story to the Arthurian legends, the medieval atmosphere is rather set from the get go here. The alternating sections of distinct folk-oriented sequences and those with a firmer base in rock function well though; we're also treated to a sequence that subtly and gradually develops from a fairly pure folk music to a progressive folk rock style. It's well made and evocative, but not quite as impressive as The Journey, the song that concluded the A side of this album.

Conclusion. "Legends" is an album that contains music and lyrics that fit the album title to a T. Ancient myths and legends, and of course the Arthurian side story of Tennyson that is the quite literal inspiration for the B side of this vinyl LP, caters quite nicely for the lyrics part of this, and the blend of medieval-like folk music and progressive rock that has the sound of a classic early ‘70s production will also evoke associations to legends, albeit of a different sort. Renaissance has been stated as a source of inspiration by this band, and I estimate that fans of that band should find this album to be rather enjoyable as well.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: April 2, 2015
The Rating Room

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