May 14, 2019

“Alchemy” remastered edition: a critical review.

 


Just a few words for analyzing the remastered and expanded edition of the TEB’s first album.

The title
As for the second album, I suggested Esoteric Recordings to title “Alchemy” as “Alchemies 1968-1969” suggesting the idea of a project consisting in an audio excursus of the band’s first stage. They preferred the original “Alchemy”, not so coherent with the spirit of these reissues.

The packaging

I really like too much the choice to have this 2CDs digipack edition with great reproductions of the front and back cover, the original Glen’s liner note, the Ray Stevenson’s original b/w picture taken at Kensal Green Cemetery, the discs with alchemical iconography on… So, a great visual impact! 

 


The booklet and the liner note
As for the first two remastered albums, Esoteric asked me to write the notes with a historical approach to the TEB’s experience. For some reasons, Esoteric cut off some parts of my text, especially the one about the symbolic/esoteric meanings of the cover Chief druid David Loxley told me in an interview. A controversial decision, because I think the meanings of the "Alchemy" cover are very important for understanding the full project...

Also, I don’t like the way they assembled the original posters and having published the Ray Stevenson’ original contact sleeve with folk singer Bridget St. John on is nonsense… 


Also, as for “Elements 1970-1971”, the notes don’t include all the line-ups involved but only the one who recorded “Alchemy”. Even if the listener can easily deduce them from the booklet, it would be better to print them on the cover.

The music
As I wrote somewhere on this Archive (read here), for myself this is an esoteric album for initiates. Even if recorded just in a weekend, this music sounds very cohesive and coherent, fully related to some underground Sixties beliefs of the age (i.e. "Gandalf's Garden" and "Albion"), a unique piece of art where music, symbols (images) and meanings are wonderfully integrated.
No words, just sounds
Sounds coming from the Western deep consciousness of a drifted World, so alien from the surrounding music of the post-psychedelic rock scene...

The original masters sound brilliant and sometimes it's a very emotional discover to listen again to some tracks with "new ears", i.e. this astonishing "Dragon Lines"! 

Also, considering the unrealised tracks included in this edition ("Unity", "Hyde Park Raga"...), we have the clear proof of a very mature band exploring new territories of acoustics, a fluid place where classical meets folk, avant-garde and minimalism in a dynamic of rigid structures (English folk, Indian Raga) and modal improvisation.
A big surprise for me was to listen to "The Sea", a.k.a. "Water", maybe the first attempt to record in the studio the following album: in my opinion, this track is the key to deconstructing the first structured compositions and imagine a more open form of music. Also, the rendition of "Druid" recorded on September 12th, 1969 by the new line-up is a clear example of the path our band took for creating the second album.


A little final curiosity
Rightly, Esoteric Recordings leaves on the cover the original dedication by the band: 

""Ghetto Raga" is for Pete, Sumi, John, Steve, all the cats in the Grove and elsewhere who gave us the energy and created the karma that put it all together".

Apart from the jazz slang word "cats" to indicate all the friends of the band (a typical Glen saying), the most living in the Grove (the area around Ladbroke Grove W10); Pete was the manager/producer Peter Jenner, Sumi was his wife, John was cult DJ/producer, John Peel, and Steve was Steve Pank, first TEB manager and roadie, promoter and writer (he run "Albion"...).
 

no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

3 comments:

  1. Thank you Luca!

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  2. Interesting comments. I think I will buy the Esoteric edition. Everything thing by the TEB is valuable

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  3. Many thanks. Interesting info as usual.

    ReplyDelete