FOR HIDDEN AGENDA
MORRIGAN - "Hidden Agenda" CD '02 (English Garden, Eng) - Moving on
smoothly from their last release, "Masque," & main man Colin Masson's
"Isle Of Eight," THE MORRIGAN deliver a grand statement with "Hidden
Agenda." You could call this progressive Celtic rock, but in doing so,
would lose all reference to the levels of beauty & diversity in
the music here. Traditional work-ups like "Joe Cooley's Reel" &
"The Parting Glass" stand side-by-side with originals like the epic
"A Night To Remember" & the nearly Broadway-sounding piece, "The
the long wait is over and The Morrigan finally deliver their long awaited
follow up to "Masque" and the question is was the wait worth it........And
the answer is you 'bet it was!'
of Hidden Agenda and other titles can be viewed at the following sites:
The Morrigan have
been peddling their unique brand of folk rock since 1984. The quintet
stretch the genre further than most, bringing progressive and jazz elements
to the brew. Masque is without doubt their most varied album yet, rich
in content, with flutes, recorders, accordions, and violins combining
well to make a complex mix, offset by Cathy Alexander's crystal clear
vocals. Highlights include the superb title track and the traditional
Merrily Kissed the Quakers Wife", an Irish jig as spirited as it's name
The last time I heard the Morrigan
was live at Whitchurch, Hants. and then on their CD single "War in Paradise",
so it's been a few years and a couple of line up changes since - but
I remember them to be a feisty folk rock band who could easily play
a simplistic English folk tune one minute, and then be playing some
heavier rock rhythms the next. the good news is that they've got better.
The links between their heavier sections and the more medieval is mind
boggling. Take the opening to Merrily Kissed the Quakers Wife", the
guitar equals Gilmour and takes the Morrigan onto another plane before
the flute of Mervyn B (a spicy joke or two there!) pushes the guitar
backwards and then pulls the band together into a mighty electric jig
- the Morrigan at their hearty best. All the band are multi instrumentalists,
which conjures up the picture of a musical riot - it never gets to that
stage though. they have their haunting moments too, as you might expect
for a band of their type. Former bass player Cliff Eastabrook returns
to do a bit of bas and Cathy Alexander remains as the central voice
while Colin Masson also remains and shares bass duties with Lodder.
Oh, and drummer Arch is still there too with his garage full of percussion
instruments that includes a 2,000 gallon oil tank. As I have said, the
Morrigan can do it all really. When you arrive at "the Lykewake Dirge"
you may well hear what I mean as Mervyn takes on a regal counter tenor
with the rest of the band accompanying him. Quite medieval and beautiful
too - until Arch hits the 2,000 gallon oil tank. Boom! Hear the clock
strike thirteen on "The Demon Lover" before Cathy takes on the role
of seduced maiden, and Archie goes mad on drums. Great music, especially
for progressive fans who like a bit of mystic and history mixed among
lively solos and a fusion of musical styles. I must say Cathy Alexander
sounds excellent throughout and she produces the goods on the very recognizable
"She Moved Through The Fair", the album's final track.
The Morrigan's main point is
that they mix traditional and early music with progressive rock and
produce an intelligent thoughtful and completely original slant on the
well worn folk rock theme. "Masque is also their finest hour to date.
As the triumphal opening of
synthesized trumpets breaks into exquisite electric guitar and the tune
changes direction five times in as many minutes, before opening out
into the Latin harmonies of the Boars Head Carol, You just know that
it is Morrigan through and through. Dever the Dancer weaves mysteriously
through a frozen yew forest and allows room for the more delicate touches
of this infinitely versatile combo. New stuff blends brilliantly with
the high wattage monasticism of the Lykewake Dirge in which Arch adds
a 2,000 gallon oil tank to his wondrous percussiveness. Its all here:
moodiness, magnificence, sly humour, and just plain rollicking good
fun, And boy do they mean business!
THE MORRIGAN - "Masque" CD
'98 (English Garden, Eng) - Sometimes, it just all comes together for
you. Such a time was finding 3 CD's by England's THE MORRIGAN at a convention
in PA recently. This is Celtic rock music, but so far beyond that, that
it is merely a jumping-off-point for trying to describe an awesome wonder.
With "Masque," THE MORRIGAN has created a work of such stirring beauty
and passion that it renders genre labels useless. This is music that
takes it's heart from ancient traditions and builds on them with rock
instrumentation, yet never jarringly so. The interpretation of classic
trad pieces like "Blarney Pilgrim" and "She Moved Through The Fair"
(I love this!) stand side-by-side with original epics like "The Demon
Lover," each filling up their nearly 8-minute lengths with lush, deep
excellence. This CD introduces me (and hopefully you!) to the gorgeous
vocals of Cathy Alexander, the deft multi-instrumentation of Colin Masson
and the scalding lead guitar work of Dave Lodder, who's effort in "Moon
Ghost" (a 7 minute opus of it's own) is breathtaking. Awesome stuff
as well, are the earlier albums "Wreckers" and "Spirit Of The Soup"
that I picked up as well, the latter showing a less-rock side of the
band (before they had a drummer), but drenched with killer, catchy &
well-played songs. Simply put, THE MORRIGAN is superb and anything with
their name on should be yours.
A genial offering
if somewhat out of time. The Morrigan are an old fashioned folk rock
band -no excuses- they sound quite happy to be one. Consequently this
could so easily have come from the fag end days of the Electric Muse's
first flush. They have markedly similar intentions to those of later
Sprigguns, and a sound made all the more amusing by bursts of pure proggery
and acoustic interlude. Chiefly "trad arr." the material comes slick
and substantial - loads of guitars, synths, electric percussion. Even
their originals fit snugly with the overall formula though fave nips
from the folk quarter are a claustrophobic but highly effective Yarrow,
with so much caged in energy, and a stately Agincourt
Carol, heavy on the deep booming beat. Then to top it all off splendidly,
The booklet has them all posing windswept on the local moor. Predictable
but perfectly fitting. OK, Wreckers is not cutting edge in the
slightest, but it's a hoot of a way to spend an hour or so and it'll
put a ruddy big smile on your mug.
....From here the music flows on, through
notes of unconventional pop,easy going reggae and shivering cold. Then
to the finale, once again, an ambiguous interpretation between the modern
and the classic. The sequence "Dark Girl Dressed In Blue\The Doubting
Page" fuses a musical song of the most noble tradition with one by Masson,
and the difference is imperceptible. So intimate is the colloquy of
the Morrigan with their own roots, that they can choose to either pay
homage, or challenge them. But, because they are more appreciable for
their effervescent style rather than their experimental attitude, The
Morrigan will rapidly become part of our listening habits, and remain
there a long time.
The Morrigan are a British
folk-rock band whose previous adventures in the recording world haven't
as yet received their due acclaim. Wreckers is the sequel to "Rides
Out", and sees them heading for the heartland of the British folk tradition
In the same tradition as their
previous work: traditional and own songs form subtle Celtic spiritual
atmospheres (with beautiful vocals by Cathy and superb flute playing
by Mervyn) Although a few of their own songs sound like modern festival
rock (heavier guitar and synth arrangements, dub rhythms, etc.). The
CD sounds more 90s than previous releases and has a fuller more elaborate
FOR THE MORRIGAN RIDES OUT
Morrigan's "Rides Out" album was originally released on vinyl in 1990
and established their very English brand of folk rock. Now re-released
on CD for the first time with an additional bonus track in "The Well
Below The Valley", the album projects a style of Elizabethan drama mixed
with folk rock and progressive rock overtones. Chorpus Christi is subject
to an ethereal almost ghostly treatment with Melanie Byfield and Cathy
Alexander's creating a breathy otherworldly atmosphere. "Buskett's Folly
" resembles a French courtly dance with a 70's prog undercoat and "Girls
Will You Take Him" is the most obviously Celtic influenced piece on
display here. "Rides Out" is an undiscovered masterwork now given a
new lease of life.
This five piece English electric
folk band comes off as a cross between Fairport Convention and Jethro
Tull. The material is mostly traditional, with keyboardist Cathy Alexander
(sounding much like Cathy Le-Surf) doing most of the lead vocals. Along
with bass, guitars, and drums, are keyboards and various woodwinds mixed
together and superbly played. Much more interesting than most 90's folk-rock
material and certainly worth a listen for any fan of the genre.
THE MORRIGAN - "Rides Out"
CD '97/'90 (English Garden, Eng) - Having already reported on this English
band's excellent "Masque" CD below, as well as giving a serious thumbs-up
to a couple of their older discs, it was cool to receive this one from
1990. This is the band's early foray into more electric rock, as it's
predecessor "Spirit Of The Soup" (a great one, by the way!) did not
feature a drummer. The wonderful blend of Celtic folk and prog that
blossomed so on "Masque" is seen here in a bit more basic form, yet
it is still quite impressive in stuff like "Night Comes Closer," "The
Well Below The Valley" & "The Black Nag." Interestingly, this CD
is also previous to guitarist Dave Lodder's entry into the group (note
my commentary on his work on "Masque" below). That allows the listener
to hear that main-man Colin Masson is no slouch on the 6-string himself
and, once again, the whole thing is tied together by Cathy Alexander's
wonderful vocals. Highly recommended, like all THE MORRIGAN's stuff.
FOR SPIRIT OF THE SOUP
In 1985 The Morrigan recorded an album on a Tascam
portastudio, called "Spirit of the Soup". A very good initiative because
this album has the same high musical qualities as "The Morrigan Rides Out":
traditionals like "Cold Haily Windy Night", "Turtle Dove", "Cold Blows
the Wind" and the title track are performed and treated with the solemn
dignity these ancient Celtic songs deserve, and self penned numbers like
"Executioners Song", "Agincourt", and "Silent Seasons" are prime examples
of modern psychedelic folk with electric guitars, synths, flute, and fairy
tale atmospheres. "Spirit of the Soup" is an excellent psych\folk CD that
will please anyone interested in this discipline.
FOR ISLE OF EIGHT (Colin Masson's first solo album)
Review from Classic Rock Society magazine ìWondrous Storiesî
If come the end of this
year this album hasnít won or come close to winning the CRS Best Album
of the Year there will be no justice. I can remember hearing this album
almost a year ago in its rough form on a tape sent to me by Colin Masson,
known also for being one member of the band The Morrigan (soon to visit
the CRS), and I was blown away by it immediately. That wasnít because
it was breaking any new ground, quite the opposite in fact, as comparisons
with Mike Oldfield classic albums are very easy. No, it
was merely because this album is a wonderful production full of highs
and no lows with a mature mixture of progressive rock, folk and medieval
too. It all comes together as a beautiful piece of music and one
that sits very high in my collection of thousands of albums. This
would have been a classic in its own right twenty years ago but should
still create a buzz now among readers of magazines such as this one.
Colin Masson "Isle of Eight" Headline HDL505 n
Although recorded in 1999 the Headline release came out in 2001 and although it contains passages very much in the vein of The Morrigan reveals Colin as a gifted composer and musician in his own right. There are only three tracks on 'Isle of Eight'. The opening title track lasts for a full 251/2 minutes and is a dream for lovers of skilfully conceived and executed progressive rock with guitar playing matching Camel's Andy Latimer in expressiveness and also reminiscent of Mike Oldfield. There is an orchestral feel near the end of this epic track but even this is eclipsed (!) by the 27 minute long 'Total Eclipse'- this starts in gentle traditional style but Colin shows he can also rock- witness the blazing guitar riff 20 minutes in! 'Return to the Northern Wasteland' seems so short- it's only 13 minutes long for goodness sake! This has a superb pulsing bass line and a memorable mandolin like guitar riff.
Colin plays all the instruments himself on this remarkable album (various guitars, recorders, keyboards, percussion, trombone and drum programming) assisted on the first two tracks by The Morrigan's Cathy Alexander and by Ryan Masson on the final track (random noises)
He is also a talented artist of a different kind judging by the fetching cover artwork. Highly recommended.
Isle of Eight
Reviewed by: Stephanie Sollow, August 2001 Progressiveworld.net
Firmly rooted in the classical folk tradition Colin Masson (who is also a member of the folk band The Morrigan) has used his multi-instrumental strength and inspiration to spread over three lengthy tracks. The occasional use of recorders certainly highlights the atmosphere of this album. Add to this the typical guitar style and you immediately land yourself in the Mike Oldfield back garden. Although the drums are programmed, they rather sound OK, which doesnít happen a lot in these cases. Colinís acoustic guitar playing, combined with the use of the recorder, certainly creates a medieval feel to the music. After Cathy Alexanderís (also from The Morrigan) guest vocal, the title track speeds up, unleashing freaky guitar sounds. Towards the end itís as if Gordon Giltrap steps in to help a hand. In fact I can easily see myself in rural England enjoying a good pint of the local brew and a ploughmanís lunch whilst this music keeps me amused.
Thereís a mixture of Bert Jansch, Gordon Giltrap and John Renbourn to be found in the acoustic intro for "Total Eclipse." Once again the fragile nature of the music is extra underlined by introducing sparse recorders. "Return To The Northern Wasteland" starts with sequencer loops and dark sounds as if thunder and black rainy clouds are packing over the Masson flagship. This Colin Masson solo album sounds as if the best bits out of Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge and Ommadawn have been mixed together and spiced up with extra folk elements. Isle of Eight is a nice album that sadly will not sell millions of copies as there will always remain a big gap between Masson and the real Mike Oldfield!
Tracklist: Isle Of Eight (25:32), Total Eclipse (27:06), Return To The Northern Wasteland (12:56)
Recorded during 1998/99 at Greenacres Farm in Wiltshire, Isle of Eight is the first solo album from Colin Masson, who is no stranger to the world of progressive rock, being a member of one of the foremost progressive folk-rock bands in circulation, The Morrigan. Regarded as an excellent guitarist as well as a multi-instrumentalist, Masson demonstrates his musical capabilities on this album, which though only containing three tracks, runs at over one hour in duration.
Musically this album resembles in more ways than one the musical output of Mike Oldfield especially with Masson's ability to fuse folk elements, especially Celtic ones, with some great symphonic rock. He is not alone in creating this album as two of the tracks, namely Isle Of Eight and Total Eclipse features the voice of Cathy Alexander while Return To the Northern Wasteland also has Cathy Alexander and Ryan Masson contributing to keyboards and random noises respectively. Apart from that the electric, acoustic, classical and 12 string guitars, bass guitar, recorders, keyboards, percussion, trombone and drum programming are all in the hands of Colin Masson.
As you can expect it is very difficult to try and describe a whole track that runs over twenty minutes in duration, but in synthesis Masson does manage to create masterpieces with his works. The electric guitar is very very similar to that of Mike Oldfield especially when one compares the styles of playing of both guitarists. There is no flurry of notes along the fretboard, but each note is calculated and delayed, giving it the necessary emphasis and importance.
Another similarity is the introduction of various instruments at various sections of the track which play a short tune that is immediately picked up by the guitar and continued from there. Also the common love for folk music, especially what seems to medieval music can be felt throughout the album. At times the music has tinges of Gryphon or Amazing Blondel, not to mention The Morrigan. Cathy Alexander's voice, one of the most beautiful voices in British folk music, further adds to the folk roots feel. Much like Oldfield did with Maggie Reilly, Masson does with Alexander as her voice adds to the depth of the tracks she is present on as well as add to the variety within the track.
Having said that there also times when Masson lets his rock roots take over with his guitar work changing slant (see the introduction of Return To the Northern Wasteland). The use of twin guitar playing, as well as guitar harmonies, similar to Brian May's style of playing, comes as a surprise when compared to the mellow nature of much of the music on the album. On the other hand it makes a great contrast, never straying away from the underlying musical theme of the track while at the same time serving as a bridge between various musical ideas.
On the whole this album
is a great album to listen to and should appeal to all those progressive
rock listeners who are enamoured of Mike Oldfield's solo output. As
I have said there is alot of similarity between Masson and Oldfield,
yet at the same time Masson has managed to create three tracks which
have their own individual identity, making this album worthy of anybody's
The Beltane Bash
Review by David Ash
The headline band today was The Morrigan. I had heard their CD; Wreckers, I was withholding judgement until I had heard them, live. The stage at Conway Hall isn't very large, and The Morrigan's equipment filled it!
After the excellent dancing of Wolfshead & Vixen, The Morrigan took centre stage, house lights dimmed, the stage flooded in a blinding white light, the music, nothing short of perfection! A really tight band. All of them, very proficient musicians, but the music was played with feeling, and although loud, very very good. Their first set ended, as Galatea took the stage. She danced the Oriental dance, and finished her set with everyone up and dancing, as always she was exciting, and wonderful. It really is incredible to think that anyone's hips can move like that!
When she left the
floor, The Morrigan came back, and how! I have always fancied myself
as a bit of a drummer, I've got a D'jemby and a Bhodran, but their drummer!
Oh **** he was good, a weather-beaten drum kit, but played to perfection,
maybe if I practice a lot, like every day for many years... ... ...
... . Everything about this band was top notch, vocals, keyboards guitars
the lot. If you can get to see them live, do it! their CD's don't do
them justice. You can hear them on the web at http://www.hi-note.com/morrigan
from New Horizons website
The Morrigan played
on the second day of this year's festival, taking to the stage in the
smaller of the two concert halls, which was packed with an enthusiastic
lunchtime crowd. The line up was the same as at the Southend show last
November (see above) but to recap we have Cathy Alexander on vocals,
keyboards and recorder; Mervyn B - vocals, flute and percussio; Colin
Masson-bass, guitar and vocals; Dave Lodder on guitar and bass; Archy
Stone - drums and vocals.
Bringing the shipwreck theme
more up to date, 'Night to Remember' is a new and, as yet, unrecorded
song that deals with the sinking of the Titanic. Lyrically it should
be pointed out that it draws more from the real story of events on that
fateful night than does a recent film on the subject! The track, in
some ways, seems a departure from the rest of the band's material but,
in reality, it is a real marriage of folk themes with strongly progressive
elements. from the outset the track is very evocative, starting with
the thrill of the journey and then, by using dynamic mood changes and
by gradually building up an oppressive edge, we are switched from that
thrill to the horror of the catastrophe which we know is going to happen.
Yet even in the midst of the horror, there are moments of calm and the
song brilliantly captures the spirit of the musicians playing on while
the ship goes down by clever use of instrumentation and vocal harmonies
that really convey a sense of pathos. The song finishes off with echoes
of morse code ringing out from the guitar, after which it is hard not
to be hit with a sense of loss. Although this track has only been played
by the band a couple of times before, it was clear that this is a tremendous
piece of writing by any standard and I, for one, cannot wait to hear
a recorded version.