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Dodson and Fogg - In a Strange Slumber

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 14 / 11 / 2014

Dodson and Fogg - In a Strange Slumber
Label: Widsom Twin Books
Format: CD


Exceptional 60’s-influenced psychedelia, prog rock and folk on sxith album, the project of prolific Leeds-based musician Chris Wade, which includes a guest appearance from ‘The Young Ones’ actor Nigel Planer

The sixth album from multi-instrumentalist Chris Wade under the Dodson & Fogg banner is, Wade feels, a concept album centered on the conception of dreams and death and their connection. Wade also writes in the sleeve notes that ‘In a Strange Slumber’ is a departure in sound from the other Dodson & Fogg albums. While Wade, having written all the songs, playing the majority of instruments and producing the whole affair is obviously in a better position than any other to make these judgments, in reality the sound isn’t so far removed from that unique psych/prog/folk sound that Wade created and held true to over his previous five albums. And while there is indeed a thread running through these songs each and every track can be enjoyed separately. It’s impossible not to listen to the whole album all the way through in one sitting, that’s true, but that’s because every song has so much to offer, not because they have to be taken as a whole. There are those who still have an aversion to the words “concept album” for some reason, yet it’s those very same people who will find so much to love here. There are fourteen tracks, including three instrumentals and two short monologues read by Nigel Planer (his accomplishments far too long to list here for the few who might not be familiar with his work but Planer is the voice on the audiobook versions of the ‘Discworld’ novels. although he will forever be Neil from ‘The Young Ones’ for a certain generation), which are scratchy, surreal little tales that, if they were not so fascinating in their weirdness and read so expressively by Planer, could disrupt the gentle flow of the songs. But when Planer’s vocals appear between songs it feels entirely natural and they don’t lose their appeal even after repeated playing. Imagine ‘Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake’ without Stanley Unwin, unthinkable after all these years, and like Unwin’s interjections, Planer’s contributions form an important part of the overall feel of ‘In a Strange Slumber’. There’s also another point to be made here. It’s been mentioned before that for all Wade’s influences shining brightly and proud in his songs one artist who isn’t mentioned so often but who has made an increasing mark on Wade’s work is Marc Bolan. Not the Glam-Marc but Elfin-Marc. It is more apparent than ever on Wade’s latest outing that Wade’s excellent guitar playing has more than a few shades of Bolan colouring his work, Wade has electrified Bolan’s more hippy Tyrannosaurus Rex work in a much deeper and meaningful way way than Bolan did when he morphed into T. Rex. While Wade’s music is unlikely to attract the attention of the little girls like Bolan did once he electrified his music, what Wade produces is a lot more satisfying and long-lasting. Again remember that Bolan utilized John Peel in a not too dissimilar way, just like Wade has with Planer on early Tyrannosaurus Rex albums. Despite Wade feeling that he has altered his sound somewhat from that on his previous albums, the sound on ‘In a Strange Slumber’ is unmistakingly Chris Wade. Wade’s lysergic vocal style hasn’t changed since the first Dodson & Fogg album; that is a good thing, particularly as his laid-back dreamlike voice is a major attraction of his sound and it obviously suits the concept of these songs perfectly. As for the overall sound, there has been some movement there. The piano-led closing track, ‘A Sweet and Strange Surprise’, is a co-write with Kevin Scott (who plays the piano on this song), and, with Alison O’Donnell (Mellow Candle) making a reappearance on vocals, this song rates as one of the best Wade has ever put his name to. It’s an atmospheric piece, O’Donnell’s heavenly vocals acting as the perfect foil to Wade’s exceptional lead guitar once Wade’s wistful, piano–backed vocals give way to that stunning guitar work. For years those of a certain age have been buying up every 60’s lost classic album that wasn’t released at the time. Then discovering the reason, in most cases, why it failed to get a release back then, was because it just didn’t cut it. Instead of buying the next long lost classic that’s given the shiny CD experience they’d do better supporting an artist like Wade; someone who understands the era and music so well and is actually producing music that while based around the sounds of those faraway times is actually taking them a step or two further. The album opens with one of the instrumentals, ‘The Dance’; although elements of Wade’s beloved Incredible String Band weave in and out of the mainly vocal-less song the appearance of Ricky Romain’s sitar adds texture and another element to the song. It’s good to see Wade using the talents of Romain again; if anything was missing from a few of the songs on the early Dodson & Fogg albums it was the sound of the sitar. It makes Wade’s music complete. ‘I’m Coming Back’ has the listener thinking that Wade has produced an album of instrumentals, the nagging but irresistible two minute instrumental introduction finally gives way to Wade and Celia Humphris’s (The Trees) floating vocals which work so well together as the song builds to an unexpected climax of Colin Jones’s trumpet and Wade showing his skills once again on electric guitar. ‘When You Were Young’ displays a heavier side to Wade. It’s a smouldering, mesmerising piece that, not for the first time in his work, recalls early Pink Floyd and, surprise, it features yet more blistering guitar work from Wade. We’ve been here before but when is this guy going to get the accolades he so rightly deserves for his instrumental skills? The Spanish guitar that informs ‘Along the Way’ is soon joined by more stunning guitar confirming that for all his folk leanings Wade is also fond of a little of the fuzz guitar that launched hundreds of garage bands back in those golden days. The psychedelic waltz that is the title track is simply stunning. The string-laden melody is irresistible; the images Wade conjures up through his lyrics are those of an afternoon tea party in that mythical English garden where all is not quite what it seems. ‘Never Be Alone’, an instrumental, is where Wade combines the riffage of, say. Black Sabbath with Romain’s sitar to great effect, while ‘The Wind’, the third instrumental, brings to mind ‘Magical Mystery Tour’-era Beatles. Wade has certainly upped the psych element on this latest album. Maybe that’s what he was indicating in his comments about ‘In a Strange Slumber’ being a departure from his other albums, and in many ways he has defined the Dodson & Fogg sound even more. ‘Don’t You Pass Me By’ reinforces the Bolan influence even more. While it is more Wade’s guitar playing that brings that particular artist to mind, there’s even something in Wade’s vocals here that recall Bolan when he was showing his vulnerability. Wade’s dreamy vocals are far removed from Bolan’s warble, but there is a similarity buried deep in there somewhere. ‘In a Strange Slumber’ works on so many levels. Wade is unlikely to ever make an album that doesn’t pay tribute to his heroes in some small way at least but he is forever taking those influences and building on them. There are all these cool bands about just now trying to capture the sound and sprit of the golden time in music. Wade simply keeps turning out album after album of classic psych/prog/folk, and, while he is gaining more attention with each album, he is still not receiving all the acclaim he so rightly deserves. If you’ve the slightest liking for classic rock, folk, psych or prog, then check Wade out and start with this latest album; there is simply no other artist today who comes close.

Track Listing:-
1 The Dance
2 I'm Coming Back
3 When You Were Young
4 Along the Way
5 In a Strange Slumber
6 Entrepreneur in the Garden
7 By Your Side
8 A Day in Your Life
9 The Wind
10 When I See Her
11 Never Be Alone
12 Clunes the Gravedigger
13 Don't You Pass Me By
14 A Sweet and Strange Surprise

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