Band members Related acts
line up 1: (1971-72)
Bartlett -- vocals
- Bulldog Breed (Rodney Harrison)
- The Earth (Ted Bartlett and Ian Snow and Pete Spearing)
- Neon Pearl (Rod Harrison)
- Please (Rodney Harrison)
- Stonehouse Creek (James Smith and Ian Snow)
- Tammi Souix (Rod Harrison)
Rating: 4 stars ****
Title: In the Realm of Asgaerd
Country/State: Plymouth, England
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: UK pressing; gatefold sleeve
Catalog ID: 6305
Another one I bought without any knowledge of the band - in this case I happened to recognize the record was released on The Moody Blues' Threshold label. Expecting this to sound like second tier Moodies may have had something to do with why I let the album sit around in my to-listen-to-pile for a couple of years.
The band was built around the talents of singer/lead guitarist Rod Harrison who had previously recorded with the bands Please and Bulldog Breed. Taking their name from an ancient Norse religion, as Asgaerd, Harrison was accompanied by singers Ted Bartlett and James Smith, bassist Dave Cook, violin player Peter Orgil and drummer Ian Snow. Smith a Snow had previously been members of Stonehouse Creek who had recorded a rare LP for RCA. The band somehow attracted the attention of Gerry Hoff who made them one of his first signings to The Moody Blues newly formed Threshold Records.
Like The Moody Blues catalog, most of these eight tracks featured a distinctive progressive vibe, but with a surprising commercial sheen. While Asgaerd's take on the genre was just as pretentious and over-the-top as The Moodies, for the most part they avoided over-orchestrated, hyper-romanticism in favor of an odd, but engaging mixture of Tolken-esque (or Norse) fantasies coupled with some surprisingly nice pop flavored touches. Okay, okay I'll admit 'Starquest' found them venturing into deep space ... Harrison wrote most of the material (he shared writing credits on one track) so he deserved both the credit and the criticism. The good news is that while there wasn't anything particularly earth shattering here, most of the set was engaging and enjoyable. The collection certainly benefited from having two decent lead singers in Bartlett and Smith. For what it was worth, to my ears Bartlett had the better delivery of the two. Smith was good, but his occasional detours into falsetto territory were best avoided. In case anyone cared, these guys exhibited far better group harmonies than The Moodies. Check out their performance on 'Austin Osman Spare' and the title track. Perhaps the biggest surprise for me came in the form of Orgil's violin. I'm usually not a big fan of violin in rock and roll and while I wouldn't rave over his contributions to the collection, the violin shadings weren't without their charms - check out 'Town Crier (Hear Ye All)'.
Maybe a bit short in the originality department, but song-for-song a surprisingly enjoyable collection and it is better than virtually every studio set in The Moody Blues' catalog. Good luck finding an original copy.
the Realm of Asgaerd" track listing:
1.) In the Realm of Asgaerd (Rodney Harrison) - 4:26 rating: **** stars
I know absolutely nothing about Norse mythology and can't say I have much interest in the subject so the lyrics to 'In the Realm of Asgaerd' were largely wasted on me - Thor looking for love ? That said, the song had a nice melody with a nice Harrison lead solo and the group's sweet harmonies were on display throughout. While it wasn't particular commercial, or radio friendly, Threshold tapped the song as a single.
- 1973's 'In The Realm Of Asgard' b/w 'Town Crier' (Threshold catalog number TH 15)
2.) Friends (Rodney Harrison) - 4:39 rating: **** stars
Opening up with a nice Harrison guitar riff that kicks in throughout the song, 'Friends' was one of the album's most conventional and commercial rockers. Dave Cook's energetic bass line provided the song's secret weapon.
3.) Town Crier (Hear Ye All) (Rodney Harrison) - 3:59 rating: **** stars
Offering up an oddly engaging mixture of Toytown and English folk moves, 'Town Crier (Hear Ye All)' was one of the album's strangest songs. The song certainly had a great refrain ...
4.) Austin Osman Spare (Rodney Harrison - Blunt - Junks - Farrell) - 4:15 rating: **** stars
Showcasing Bartlett and James twin lead vocals, 'Austin Osman Spare' featuring the album's most pleasing melody. Imagine Ray Davies and the Kinks dipping their toes into the progressive pool and you'd get a feel for this one. Very English and I love it all the more ...
At least for a couple of seconds Harrison's fat guitar chords made 'Children of a New Born Age' sound like one of those top-40 Moody Blues songs, but then the song took off in a different direction reminding me of an British version of Styx.. Another track with a surprisingly commercial tilt, this one would have sounded right at home on early-1970s FM radio probably explaining why it was tapped as a UK single:
- 1972's 'Children Of A New Born Age' b/w 'Friends' (Threshold catalog number TH 10)
2.) Time (Rodney Harrison) - 5:11 rating: **** stars
'Time' found the band returning to a more conventional rock attack with suitably impressive results. Yeah, the country-tinged segment sounded out of place, but the rest of it was really good and included some English-styled CSN&Y-styled harmony vocals. rating: **** stars
3.) Lorraine (Rodney Harrison) - 4:45 rating: ** stars
The band's stab at a pop song ... 'Lorraine' was quite commercial, but was also the song where Bartlett and James vocals came off as shrill and irritating. This one actually sounded a bit like a crappy Styx song.
4.) Starquest (Rodney Harrison) - 5:17 rating: *** stars
Opening up with some first-rate Harrison fuzz guitar (wish he'd played more of it throughout the album), 'Starquest' was built on an unexpected jazz vibe and a similarly surprising science fiction lyric - those dumb humans mess up the Earth and need to find somewhere else to live ... Always loved he cheesy early-1970s synthesizers.
full gatefold sleeve
Smith and the late Snow had previous recorded an LP with the short-lived Stonehouse Creek who released a hard-to-find self-titled set on RCA Victor (RCA catalog number SF 8197)
you don't want to blow a month's worth of disposable income on an original
copy, in 2010 the Esoteric label reissued the collection in CD format
(Esoteric catalog number ECLEC 2209).
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