The Amazing Blondel - what a truly scrumptious name for a
band from the early seventies, and not only a band from the early seventies,
but a true hippy band playing music on lutes, guitars, flutes, Irish drums,
pipes, whistles, and of course a crumhorn.
The Amazing Blondel were at their respective peak between
1970-1972. They did carry on after that but lead singer and chief songwriter
John Gladwin left in 1972 and things were never really the same after that.
The Amazing Blondel was originally a duo of John Gladwin and
Terry Wincott before being joined by guitarist Eddie Baird. During this time
they released four albums, all on the prestigious Island record label: Amazing
Blondel (1970), Evensong (1970), Fantasium (1971), and England (1972).
This album, “A foreign field that is forever
England’’, is a collection of live recordings from The Amazing Blondel’s
tour of Europe during this time, with the best recordings selected out to give
you the impression of one typical concert from that time, although the album
itself was not unleashed on its eager Amazing Blondel Fan’s fans until 2001.
The music itself is totally timeless, wandering minstrels in
the sixteenth century probably roamed the land earning their crust by playing
very similar music to that which The Amazing Blondel played. Certainly no
electric instruments, and actually any instruments they have could be hand
As all of these concerts were recorded in halls all over
Europe, there must have been some form of language barrier, as is shown by the
muted applause given to the band after being introduced by the French compeer
at the start of the first song. But by the seventh song the band has truly won
over the audience, getting them to sing, stamp, and clap along to the music.
The live setting really suited The Amazing Blondel, as the
warmth of their songs envelope their audience, cleverly written songs, but with
an underlying current of bawdiness, and a certain element of schoolboy humour.
The song title “Dolor Dolcis’’ means sweet sorrow in Latin, but dolar
dolcis is the only thing Latin about the song. Figure that out for a bit of
There was almost four members of The Amazing Blondel, John
Gladwin and Terry Wincott sat at the front with Eddie Baird sitting just behind
them, passing forward whatever instrument to the front of the stage, whichever
was needed for that particular number. Then in-between them all was always a
crate of beer. Before the first song was sung, three beers would be popped open
and when the crate was empty the band finished playing, so if you were enjoying
an Amazing Blondel concert you simply invested in a few more beers and kept the
band on stage. Seems like a reasonable deal to me, doesn’t it to you?
Of course one of the nicest things about The Amazing Blondel
live was the spontaneity, which is delightfully represented here. The instru
ments are all played with genuine ability, which is only to be expected as the
Amazing Blondel was formed at music college.
The in-between song banter is earthily funny, for example
“This next song is from our last album, it did not sell well, in fact it only
sold two copies, he bought one, and I bought one. He hated it.”
I won’t tell you any more, as I will leave it to you to
get a copy and have all the banter unfold as you plough your way through the
joys of the Live Amazing Blondel.
The band is essentially English; who else could write a folk
song that is twenty minutes long on their home county of Lincolnshire, a rural
farming county from middle England (Aerosmith could only be American but that
did not stop them going onto international success, and the only place that
Lynyrd Skynyrd could possibly be from is Texas, and everybody knows “Sweet
Home Alabama”). So there could still well be a place for The Amazing Blondel
in the international market, especially with such a ground swell of support
developing for them on their home shores at the moment.
On the Amazing Blondel studio albums over forty different
instruments were used, plus on some tracks a full orchestra, but it’s here in
the live environment that their star really shines. In between songs,
instruments are quickly changed, but this only gives each song its own
definition, or in some cases a definition of each section of the song. The
three part harmony vocals are nearly perfect, and when I say nearly perfect,
that little rough edge gives the songs a charm of their own. The whoops and
hollers emanating from the band as they get the crowd to sing-along to
“Shepard’s Song” cannot help but bring a smile to your lips as the band
brings out the inhibitions of the crowd to join in on the chorus.
Live in concert now The Amazing Blondel are more popular
than they have ever been, and the original trio reform every year to get away
from their day jobs and go out on the road, not only in Britain but all over
Europe. They often perform at huge open air events and steal the show with
their whimsical charm.
Although long gone are the days of waist length hair and
beards, Kaftans beads, tie dye t-shirts and 28'’ loon pants, to be replaced
by sensible hair cuts, if there is enough to cut sensibly, expanding
waistlines, shirts with collars that don’t create a health hazard in high
winds, and trousers they call slacks, but such is how time marches on.
Nonetheless the music remains the same: timeless.
The music of The Amazing Blondel is not something to freak
out to, or leap about your room to if you want that (which we all do from time
to time). There are few certainties in life on this planet; however, one is you
cannot perform a contemporary modern dance to the music of Amazing Blondel,
unless you are incredibly drunk or aiming at pure farce. I for one will never
give up or forget the beguiling clipperty clop, clipperty clop, clipperty clop,
of the charming Amazing Blondel.