Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Carol Of Harvest - Carol Of Harvest (1978 )

A masterpiece of an almost perfect combination of psychedelic/ folk and progressive rock.

Hailing from Germany Carol Of Harvest sole album is a real collectors item , selling for hundreds of dollars and probably one of the few thats really worth it!

Imagine if you will then , german bands like Emitidi and Holderlin fused with Rennaisance and Pentangle, and you will have a pretty good idea of the style of music on offer here. Although bands like the ones just mentioned only hinted at this. Sounds closer to me more like " Solstice " with a similar roaring emotive power as on there first release.

The simplistic but superb ( english )vocals by one Beate Krause are really delightfull and the longer songs such as "Put On Your Nightcap"and "Try a Little Bit" give the band plenty of room to stretch out with soaring lead guitar and expressive harmoniuos , synth mellotron infused passages, full of atmosphere. Most of the songs do sound similar , but more like a theme everything seems to flow as a whole. 
If your a fan of the aforementioned bands then this is an ESSENTIAL album.

A really nice record here. The sound is reminiscent of bands like Emtidi (Saat) or Holderlin (Holderlin's Traum/Hoelderlin). You get a similar feel, though there is more of a (prog) rock approach. It sounds like it came out of the early 70s too. The music is generally quite melodic, generally melancholic and or poignant, and contains common structural variations common in prog and instrumental sections and or solos as well as generally a very high level of musical skill. Beate Krause's vocals are beautiful and delicate yet confident and soulful."Put On Your Nightcap" is the best song here and is the most developed idea, with many parts and high quality musicianship and songwriting. My only complaint is that it ends randomly without any conclusion. It is a poignant and sorrowful song about war (it isn't ever graphic, you just have lyrics like "Who can decide when to love when to fight?" or "Preachers of god you have never understood" or the refrain "Close to the edge of the world"). The other four songs on this album sound a little unpolished songwriting-wise and for that reason sometimes sounding patchy or like unfinished or patched-together ideas. Those are my harshest criticisms. "You and Me" is a nice short upbeat song that concludes "side A". "Somewhere at the End of the Rainbow" is the most fully polished song on here and is a very nice melodic and meaty enough song (instrumentation/musicianship/songwriting-wise). "Treary Eyes" for me is the weakest track on here, though it is melodic and holds enough interest to get the listener across 4 minutes to the next song. The final song "Try a Little Bit" is a good one, with several very good parts, though it is slightly uneven in flow and quality. It is perhaps more ambitious than "Somewhere at the End of the Rainbow" but it is also more unfinished and less polished.
There are more than a few very good ideas in the three bonus tracks though they are not fully-formed songs, more like fragments or ideas, and they are played live and have a horrendous recording/sound at times. They are a nice addition and leave me wishing they recorded a second album.
This record is essential for fans of acid-folk of the 70's and the more melodic and melancholic sides of krautrock, and highly recommended to fans of progressive music, folk rock, and great female singing.

Carole of Harvest, like Emtidi, Gurnemanz, Ougenweide and Hoelderlin, showed that a psychedelic prog folk scene did exist in Germany in the 70s, but their sole effort came along when the other bands had shifted or disappeared, and therefore the genre was of less interest by then. In fact, one might even ask what the point was. Most of the ideas presented here were long past their expiry date both in their native land and elsewhere, often sounding more like early than late 70s. The instrumentation is sparse and samey, featuring mostly heavily strummed electric or amplified acoustic guitars, with the keys secondary.
Where Carole of Harvest departs from all of the above in a favourable sense is the superb vocals of Beate Krause, who is reminiscent of the singers in the aforementioned groups but also of Jacquie MacShee and Annie Haslam. It is expressive and is in perfect sync with the accompaniment, no more so than in the finale of the original LP, "Try a LIttle Bit", 10 minutes of prog folk bliss with more bite than Pentangle or Renaissance could ever hope to muster. Ms Krause's wordless acompaniment that follows the main part of the song is masterfully expressive and harmonious, and the synthesizers, and perhaps mellotron at the finale, provide just the right augmentation to the basic sound. While drums are present on this track, they are kept low and are not needed, so potent is the basic groove. That is the general trend in the album.
The other major highlight is the longest song, the 16 minute anti war reflection called "Put on Your Nightcap" that opens the album with tentative guitar reflections, unrushed and pregnant with promise, accompanied by the sounds of the wind. The structure and manner of buildup is very progressive, with time given to express the lyrical themes and some impressive synthesizer and lead guitar work, mostly played at a slow pace reflecting the ponderous nature of the theme. A second part is slightly more upbeat with more emphasis on the rhythm, and some prominent bass work.
The other three original songs from the LP are all shorter and decent but not quite to 5 star level, being like more concise but less interesting versions of the two monsters. The bonus material is live, shows a more straightforward rocking side of the band, and sounds quite out of place given the strength and style of the other material.
While the harvest reaped is superficially similar to the usual autumn fare, the album manages to carve a feast for the prog fan with an interest in electric folk, as well as an indelible niche among the many German one-offs in existence. Highly recommended.

What an incredible find! This album is a true delight from start to finish, and a great example of the modest and short-lived resurgence of interest in folkish psychedelic music in free Germany in the latter seventies.
Carol of Harvest unfortunately released only one album, and that originally only in the form of a small private pressing. The album was re-released in the nineties, and again on CD several years after that. Prior to these releases this music was pretty much reserved for those who were fortunate enough to pick it up at its original release, or those who had thousands of dollars to invest in an auctioned copy. Today the CD is available for little more cost than that of any modern popular band, and includes three live tracks of unspecified origin.
There is almost no information available on the web or in library archives that gives many clues as to where and why these guys came into existence. Too bad, because I’m quite sure the story is fascinating. I also cannot find any evidence any of them pursued music as a career after the band folded, with the exception of bassist Heinz Reinschlüssel who ended up in the pop-nostalgia band Rey Vulcano, with whom he apparently still performs. Again, too bad: singer Beate Krause has a folk-laced, almost operatic voice that should have graced the grooves of many albums, and guitarist Axel Schmierer’s sound is in the finest David Gilmour / Steve Rothery tradition. Jürgen Kolb’s moog would have placed him well in any number of psychedelic, symphonic, or even hard rock bands of that day; while the rhythm section, though not exactly stellar, is well-suited to their subdued supporting role.
The band’s name is taken from the American poet Walt Whitman’s epic ‘Leaves of Grass’, and specifically from the stanzas where he describes the wasteland of the battlefield strewn with casualties, and where he philosophically posits that carrying-on with life is all that remains to do for the survivors (the CD’s liner notes include an excerpt from Whitman’s poem). This sentiment is similar to Voltare’s idea of “cultivating our garden” in the depressing but hopeful ‘Candide’.
And this is also the sentiment of the band, particularly in the lengthy opening track “Put on Your Nightcap”, in which Ms. Krause croons in hypnotically appealing tones about war and its aftermath. Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention comes to mind, as does the activist/musician Peggy Seeger. But it is important to note this album was recorded in 1978, not a decade earlier though that is what it sounds like. Considering the common musical fare of the late seventies, it’s not surprising this one never made any kind of impression on the masses. Our loss. The opening track starts out sounding very much like an old Fairport Convention, Joan Baez, or Peter, Paul & Mary folk song, but quickly proves its mettle by progressing into a borderline psychedelic work with rangy, soaring guitar by Schmierer and a sporadically heavy rhythm. This is undoubtedly the highlight of the whole album, although the rest is well worth many listenings.
“You and Me” is the track most often played on college radio or obscure compilation albums when Carol of Harvest gets represented. This is probably because it is short, mellow, willowingly upbeat, and more representative of the folk side of the band.
From there the band launched into another extended track with “Somewhere At The End of the Rainbow”, which sounds remarkably like the later British band Mostly Autumn, or maybe even Stream of Passion. This is another track that skirts the boundary between hippy and acid folk, and manages both with equal skill. The almost bluesy guitar solo in the middle is simply beautiful, and also features the only really prominent bass lines on the album.
“Treary Eyes” is another short tune, and like “You and Me” features acoustic guitar and very understated keyboards. This one reminds me quite of a bit of the interaction between Nancy Wilson’s acoustic guitar and sister Ann’s soulful singing on Heart’s ‘Dog and Butterfly’ album, and in fact was recorded around the same time.
The first few guitar chords of “Try a Little Bit” are suspiciously similar to the Animals’ rendition of “House of the Rising Sun”, and the track does manage to stray well into the psych R&B sound of that band almost immediately. The guitar work here is again exceptional, intricate and emotive while at the same time disciplined. Aside from the opening track this is probably the strongest work on the album, and the noodling moog and loose bass line sound much closer to the end of the decade in which is was recorded, as opposed to the rest of the album that sounds like a Woodstock-era throwback.
The final three tracks on the CD are live, which of course begs the question of when and where they were recorded. Not sure, but there is definitely an enthusiastic crowd. “River” and “Brickstone” are heavier and more melodic than the original album, and the keyboardist seems to have traded in his moog for an analog organ of some sort. The recording quality of these tracks isn’t so good, but both songs are energetic and fun to listen to, although not representative of the rest of the album.
The remaining live track is “Sweet Heroin”, which I’m positive is a cover of someone else’s, but I don’t know whose. This is an intensely psychedelic composition with extended instrumental passages, moaning vocals courtesy of Ms. Krause, and overall a Jim Morrison Doors-like feel. This is easily the heaviest work on the album, and the crowd responds enthusiastically. Ms. Krause borders on sounding like Patti Smith as she spits out the vocals in between flights of guitar fantasy. Again, great track, but not consistent with the rest of the album.
So in all this is an outstanding album, with only a couple of very minor quibbles to keep it from being considered a masterpiece. Primarily is this feeling that the band was originally scoping this as a concept album (as evidenced by the band’s name, artwork, and opening track), but for some reason the theme doesn’t seem to quite hold throughout. Also, the lack of any kind of detailed credits or liner notes is a bit disappointing considering the relative obscurity of the band. This is a tack that bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and even punk bands could pull off, but it’s just annoying with this band.
Maybe this is a masterpiece anyway, but for now I’ll say it is a solid four stars, and will perhaps revisit that someday.
Reviews from Progarchives.com

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