Decameron


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1968-69)

- Dave Bell -- lead vocals, guitar, percussion

- Johnny Coppin -- lead vocals, guitar, keyboards

 

  line up 2 (1969-73)

- Dave Bell -- guitar, percussion, backing vocals

- Johnny Coppin -- lead vocals, guitar, keyboards

NEW - Al Fenn -- guitar, mandolin, backing vocals

NEW - Geoff March -- cello, violin, backing vocals

 

  line up 3 (1973-75)

- Dave Bell -- guitar, percussion, backing vocals

NEW - Dik Cadbury -- bass, violin, backing vocals

- Johnny Coppin -- lead vocals, guitar, keyboards

- Al Fenn -- guitar, mandolin, backing vocals

- Geoff March -- cello, violin, backing vocals

 

  supporting musicians: (1973)

- B.J. Cole -- pedal steel guitar

- Timi Donald -- drums

- Pat Donaldson -- bass

- Andy Roberts -- dobro 

- Ian Whiteman -- keyboards

 

   line up 4 (1975-76)

- Dave Bell -- guitar, percussion, backing vocals

- Dik Cadbury -- bass, violin, backing vocals

- Johnny Coppin -- lead vocals, guitar, keyboards

NEW- Bob Critchley -- drums, percussion, backing vocals

- Al Fenn -- guitar, mandolin, backing vocals

- Geoff March -- cello, violin, backing vocals

 

  supporting musicians: (1975)

- John Mealing -- keyboards

- John Halsey -- drums 

- Mike Winfield -- horns

 

 

 

- Dik Cadbury (solo efforts)

- Johnny Copping (solo efforts)

- Love To Mother (Johnny Croppin and Al Fenn)

- The Magnificent Mercury Brothers

- Magna Carta (Al Fenn)

- Midwinter (Dik Cadbury)

- Pekoe Orange (Dik Cadbury)

 

 

 


 

Genre: folk-rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Say Hello To the Band

Company: Vertigo

Catalog: 6360 097
Year:
 1975

Country/State: Cheltenham, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3506

Price: $50.00

 

A British version of The Band ?   The rock band Fairport Convention always wished they could become?  Yeah, I'm at somewhat of a loss to properly peg Decameron.

Attending Cheltenham Art College in the mid-'60s Johnny Cropping and  fellow student/guitarist Al Fenn had been in the band Love To Mother.  Fenn introduced Cropping to fellow student/guitarist Dave Bell and the pair began writing and playing together under the name Decameron   By 1969 Decaneron had expanded to include Fenn on guitar and violin player Geoff March. The quartet slowly began establishing a reputation on the UK club circuit,  the members eventually realizing they might be able to make a living in music.

 

The band's big break came when they weresigned by Vertigo, making their recording debut in 1973 with the Sandy Robertson produced "Say Hello To the Band".  At this point, a word of warning.  If you see this one listed as a progressive album, it's not.  These guys were English folk-rockers.  Having listened to the album dozens of times over the years, I'm at a loss to find anything even remotely progressive in these grooves.  Long meandering jams?  None.  Wonking synthesizers?  None.  Intricate melodies with lots of torturous shifts?  None.    Nah, these guys were better described as an accomplished set of English folk-rockers who were at their best when they upped the rock part of their recipe.  Imagine Fairport Convention, or The Strawbs if they'd occasionally indulged their rock and roll demons and you'd get a feel for their repertoire.  With Bell and Coppin responsible for the eight original tracks, other than the plodding acoustic ballads 'Judith' and 'The Moon's In "A"' there weren't any truly bad songs on the album.  Their more traditional English folk numbers like 'Byard's Leap' and 'Innocent Sylvester Prime' weren't going to appeal to everyone, but they grew on you with time. 'At least for me, the highlights came in the form of folk-rockers like the radio-friendly title track, 'Crows', the single 'Stoat's Grope', and the closer 'Shine Away'.

 

"Say Hello To the band" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Say Hello To the Band    (Johnny Coppin - Dave Bell)  - 3:50   rating: **** stars

The breezy, autobiographical  title track was a folk song for people who didn't like folk music.  With Bell and Croppin sharing lead vocals, the song showcased the band's wonderful harmony vocals and a melody that you simply couldn't shake out of your head.  The plotline, seemingly revolving around the band crashing with an ex-girlfriend (even though she's moved on to someone else), was hysterical.

2.) Byard's Leap   (Johnny Coppin - Dave Bell) - 7:27   rating: *** stars

In case you couldn't guess from the song title, 'Byard's Leap' found the band spotlighting their English folk roots.  Apparently inspired by a small town in Lincolnshire, if you were Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, or Strawbs fan then this one was going to appeal to you.  Otherwise, probably not as much.   It started out as a pretty acoustic number with a suitably horrific lyric, but built up a surprising energy as it went along.

3.) Judith   (Johnny Coppin - Dave Bell) - 3:24   rating: ** stars

The ballad 'Judith' had too much of a country feel for my ears - blame it on Geoff March's violin .  The song probably sounded better in a bar after a couple of IPAs.

4.) Innocent Sylvester Prime   (Johnny Coppin - Dave Bell) - 4:25   rating: *** stars

In my younger years I spent way too much time in a local Irish bar.  On Fridays and weekends the bar featured a string of Irish folk bands.  The pretty, hyper-sensitive, acoustic ballad 'Innocent Sylvester Prime' would have effortlessly fit into virtually every one of those bands play lists.  

 

(side 2)

1.) Crows   (Johnny Coppin - Dave Bell) - 5:00   rating: **** stars

'Crows' was another folk-rocker where the musical focus was on the rock component.  Okay, the glorious a-cappella segment sounded like something out of a Gregorian monk mass.  Regardless, the result was another standout performance.

2.) The Moon's In "A"   (Johnny Coppin - Dave Bell) - 4:39   rating: ** stars

'The Moon's In "A"' was a return to a pretty, if anonymous acoustic ballad format.  The moon landing references always bring a smile to my face.

3. Stoat's Grope   (Johnny Coppin - Dave Bell) - 2:30

 

Opening up with a bouncy hoedown flavor, 'Stoat's Grope' was the album's most overtly commercial track.  I'll grudgingly admit to the song's charms, but it wouldn't have been my choice for a single, which did absolutely nothing to stop Vertigo from releasing it as a UK single:

 

1973's 'Stoat's Grope (All I Need)' b/w 'Friday Night at the Regal' (Vertigo catalog number 6059 088)

 

 

 

 

4.) Ride a Lame Pony   ( Dave Bell) - 5:22   rating: *** stars

Pretty, autobiographical folk tune that was dragged down a bit by the obvious life's-tough-when-your in-a-band lyrics.  Al Fenn's nice mandolin earned them the star back.

5.) Shine Away    (Johnny Coppin - Dave Bell) - 2:36   rating: *** stars

Another ballad, but 'Shine Away' was framed in a top-40-ish rock arrangement.

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: folk-rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Third Light

Company: Transatlantic

Catalog: TRA 304
Year:
 1975

Country/State: Cheltenham, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1130

Price: $20.00

 

Decameron's third album in seven years ...   

 

promo photo

 

Tentatively entitled "Beyond the Days", the band had actually signed with the B&C/Charisma affiliated Mooncrest label and recorded what was to be their third album.   The background is lost to history, but the album was shelved (though a single was released) with Decameron moving on to the folk-oriented Transatlantic label.   1975's "Third Light"  teamed the band with former Strawbs producer Tom Allom.   Interestingly, about half of the songs were reportedly salvaged from the earlier Mooncrest album - the back cover photo featuring a slice of melting vinyl was supposedly a reflection on the band's Mooncrest experience. With singer guitarists Dave Bell and Johnny Coppin responsible for most of the ten tracks, the album found the band seemingly trying to find a sweet spot between traditional English folk-rock ('a cover of Tim Buckley's 'Morning Glory'') and a more conventional and commercial sound ('Rock and Roll Away').   Not to imply this was a sell-out album in any fashion.  Say what you will about Decameron, but appealing to a wide audience didn't seem to have ever been a motivating factor for the band.  That don't-care attitude made for an album that was highly varied and occasionally jarring with the band abruptly switching from one genre to another.   In spite of a couple of clunkers, it was a surprisingly enjoyable spin with the band at their finest when at opposite ends of the musical spectrum - bouncy pub-rockers like 'Road To the Sea' and traditional folk-ish numbers like 'Journey's End'.

 

"Third Light" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Rock and Roll Away   (Dave Bell) - 3:40   rating: **** stars

For a band best known as a folky entity, 'Rock and Roll Away' was a surprisingly straight-forward Byrds-styled rocker.  True, the melody wasn't the most original composition you've ever heard, but it was performed with considerable conviction and it was a good introduction to Bell's dusty voice.   Probably the album's most conventional, radio friendly tune which explains why it had previously been tapped as a UK single.  The track was supposedly salvaged from an album the band had recorded for the British Mooncrest label. 

--1974's 'Rock and Roll Away' b/w 'Twinset and Pearls'  (Mooncrest catalog number MOON 34)

2.) All the Best Wishes   (Johnny Coppin - Dave Bell) - 5:20  rating: **** stars

Starting out as a pretty, slightly ominous ballad with some nice sinewy lead guitar (though I'm not sure who played it), the song built speed and energy, turning into an impressive rocker by the end.  Showcasing some gorgeous group harmonies, this was my pick for standout performance. 

3.) The Strawman   (Dave Bell) - 4:37   rating: ** stars

A strange and stark acoustic number with a classical arrangement, Bell's lyrics were a complete enigma to me (maybe it was something uniquely British ...)   Can't say I particularly enjoyed this one. 

4.) Saturday   (Dik Cadbury - Dave Bell) - 3;03  rating: **** stars

Ever heard a band playing at an Irish bar on a Saturday evening ?   Well, this would slot perfectly into their repertoire.    Breezy, sunny, and fun through and through.   One of the album highlights with some hysterical lyrics ("let me shout profanities with the best of them ...")   I think Dik Cadbury was featured on lead vocals. 

5.) Wide As the Years   (Johnny Coppin - Dave Bell) - 6:05   rating: *** stars

Perhaps because the lead vocal reminded me of Richard Thompson, 'Wide As the Years' sounded very much like something out of the Fairport Convention or early Strawbs folk-rock catalog.   Not that there's anything wrong with a deep and thoughtful lyric, but this one struck me as being a bit heavy on the navel gazing side.  Pretty, but something I didn't need to hear too often.   

 

(side 2)
1.) 
Journey's End   (Johnny Coppin - Dave Bell) - 4:43    rating: **** stars

Sounding a bit like an early Al Stewart tune (Coppin on lead vocals), 'Journey's End' was another pretty acoustic ballad with some subtle religious overtones.   Very nice and I've always loved the violin solo on this one (when's the last time I liked a violin on a rock song ?).  
2.) Road to the Sea
   (Johnny Coppin - Dave Bell)- 3:09   rating: **** stars

'Road to the Sea' was a nice return to electric folk-rock.  Al Fenn's mandolin was particularly nice on this one.   Should have been tapped as the single.  
3.) Trapeze
   (Johnny Coppin - Dave Bell) - 4:55  rating: *** stars

Another one that sounded like an effort to stitch English folk to a more conventional pop arrangement.  
4.) The Ungodly
   (Johnny Coppin - Dave Bell) - 4:12    rating: **** stars

Weird mash-up of a pop song, an English folk tune, and some progressive moves.   Nice electric guitar solo.  
5.)  Morning Glory   (Beckett - Tim Buckley - 5:36
   rating: **** stars

I always liked Fairport Convention's cover of this Tim Buckley song, but Decameron's version is also pretty good.    Very pretty.


The band actually toured Europe and the UK in support of the album, but minimal promotion from Transatlantic, changing popular tastes, and the band's interest in their alter-ego band The Magnificent Mercury Brothers spelled a quick death for the album.

 

 

 

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