Milkwood Tapestry


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1969-72)

- Roland G. Antonelli -- vocals, guitar

- Joseph Ransohoff -- vocals, percussion

 

 

 

- none known

 

 

 


 

Genre: pop

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Milkwood Tapestry

Company: Metromedia

Catalog: MD 1003
Year:
 1969

Country/State: New York, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve, minor ring wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $80.00

 

So Milkwood Tapestry was actually a New York City based duo consisting of singer/guitarist Ronald Antonelli and singer/percussionist Joseph Ransohoff.  The pair shared a background in music.  Antonelli had studied classical guitar and cello and was teaching music.  Ransohoff was studying law while also studying voice and recorder.  The pair met through an ad Ransohoff placed in New York's Village Voice looking for a songwriter/composer to collaborate with.   The pair clicked and began writing material together, splitting their time between New York City and Antonelli's home in Poughkeepsie.  Antonelli eventually relocated to NYC and the pair began working on the NYC club circuit.

 

Their big break came when they were spotted by Donovan's manager who helped them audition and sign with Len Levy's Metromedia Records.  Signed to a contract  the pair went into New York's Record Plant with Manny Kellem producing.  So first let me say I've seldom heard an album that is as musically diverse as 1969's "Milkwood Tapestry".   Perhaps I'm being overly generous and should just say the results were outright schizophrenic.  Over the span of twelve songs, you were left with the impression these guys couldn't figure out if they wanted to be an American version of The International String Band; they wanted to ditch orthodoxy and become early punk rock advocates, or they were a pair of children's' storytellers who somehow got locked up in a recording studio.  Yeah, the musical gear shifting was that dramatic - first to fourth gear, with a quick shift into reverse over the span of twelve songs.  With the pair responsible for co-writing all twelve songs, the opener 'Beyond the Twelve Mile Zone' came off as a raw and jittery proto-punk anthem.  That was followed by a precious acoustic ballad in the for of 'Wonderous Fairy Tale'.  The rapid switches in style continued unabated throughout the rest of the album.  Given this was released in the late-'60s might explain some of the endearing weirdness factor. Judging by song titles like 'Window Sill's Song', 'Seas of Marshmellow Bees' and 'Pink Painted Butterfly'  I couldn't tell whether they were stoned out of their minds, or playing it straight.  They were certainly technically proficient (both had music backgrounds).  Ransohoff had a strong and varied voice, though it took a little getting use to his strained vibrato and poetic lyrics.  As for those lyrics; well they were either playful, strange, or twee.  Sometimes all three at once.  Antonelli could also sing well, though his niche focused on playing electric and acoustic guitar - if you want to hear how good he could be, check out the closing rocker 'The Purple Side of Sunset.')  It was just hard to get your arms around what was going on here.  It was also hard to imagine what it must have been like to see these guys in a NYC club.  New York audiences are known as brutal so if your repertoire included a song titled 'Tockless Time Morning', I doubt you were taking requests for 'Free Bird'.

 

In support of the album they pair undertook a brief tour of Northeastern colleges (and a performance at New York Museum of Modern Art).  The album attracted some media attention, but by 1972 the pair had split over musical differences.

 

"Milkwood Tapestry" track listing
(side 1)

1.) Beyond the Twelve Mile Zone   (Roland G. Antonelli - Joseph Ransohoff) - 2:34   rating: *** stars

The title led me to expect something pastoral and folk-ish. Instead 'Beyond the Twelve Mile Zone' exploded into a proto-punk tune featuring Antonelli's raucous electric guitar and the pair's equally wild vocals.  I'll be damn if I have a clue what they were singing about, but they sounded pretty anxious about it.

2.) Wonderous Fairy Tale   (Roland G. Antonelli - Joseph Ransohoff) - 3:33   rating: *** stars

At least the title of 'Wonderous Fairy Tale' (their spelling, not mine), proved a more  accurate indicator of what to expect - This time out the song was a pretty acoustic ballad, powered by some nice harp.  A bit precious, but pretty.

3.) Window Sill's Song   (Roland G. Antonelli - Joseph Ransohoff) - 2:19   rating: *** star

I'm a child of the '70s so I guess I'm naturally jaded, but there was just something so '60s about the song title 'Window Sill's Song'.  If you were wondering about the Baroque-pop tag that's frequently slapped against this album, then check out this tune.  Powered by the pair's fragile vocals, some pretty harpsichord and flutes, it was a pretty, but plodding ballad.

4.) Signs of an Invisible Creek   (Roland G. Antonelli - Joseph Ransohoff) - 5:23   rating; **** stars

Geez, and just when I figured that I understood these guys, along comes the scorching and quite trippy  'Signs of an Invisible Creek'.  Powered by Antonelli's blazing lead guitar, you could almost overlook the pair's truly strange lyrics, including a meandering spoken word segment that ended with Ransohoff seemingly killing his larynx.

5.) Sunday Raindrops   (Roland G. Antonelli - Joseph Ransohoff) - 2:59   rating: *** stars 

The acoustic ballad showcased lead singer Ransohoff's musical training.  Very pretty and very un-rock and roll. Antonelli's classical guitar provided the song's secret sauce.

6.) Journey-Less Ride   (Roland G. Antonelli - Joseph Ransohoff) - 3:39   rating: *** star

'Journey-Less Rider' injected a full band, West Coast psych element into their unique sound.  Kind of a Jefferson Airplane vibe going on here.

 

(side 2)
1.) Seas of Marshmellow Bees   (
Roland G. Antonelli - Joseph Ransohoff) - 2:32  rating: ** stars

Once again the thought of a NYC sitting through something like 'Seas of Marshmellow Bees' just reduces me to a fit of giggles.  I've certainly heard worse songs, but this one sounded like something you would read to your three year old before putting them to bed.  "A red balloon that explodes on the road to the toads ..."

2.) Look at the Children   (Roland G. Antonelli - Joseph Ransohoff) - 3:31  rating: *** stars

Easily the album's prettiest performance, the ballad 'Look At the Children' had a couple of things going for it including the set's strongest melody.  It was also a tune where the pair's voices actually blended together in a pleasing fashion.  That's not so say it wasn't as pompous and over-the-top as anything else on the collection.  

3.) Tockless Time Morning   (Roland G. Antonelli - Joseph Ransohoff) - 3:18  rating: **** stars

The heavily orchestrated start of 'Tockless Time Morning' made me wonder if I'd slapped on some anonymous film soundtrack by mistake.  And suddenly the song dove into this totally bizarre mixture of tempos and themes - it was like watching a pinball machine explode and was easily the album's most bizarre song (which is saying a lot).  It's also my pick for the standout performance.

4.) Pink Painted Butterfly   (Roland G. Antonelli - Joseph Ransohoff) - 3:07  rating: ** stars

Okay, okay the acoustic ballad 'Pink Painted Butterfly' was just too precious for its own good.  Remember the scene in Animal House where the Delta Tau Chi's are having a fraternity party?  Bluto (John Belushi) comes walking down the staircase and encounters Stephen Bishop playing his guitar for a couple of admiring girls.  Bluto stares for a minute, grabs the guitar smashing it to bits before apologizing - "sorry".  That's how I feel about this song.

5.) Sunshine Castles   (Roland G. Antonelli - Joseph Ransohoff) - 4:05 

Opening up with some medieval sounding flute and orchestration that might not have sounded out of place of a Fairport Convention album, 'Sunshine Castles' abruptly shifted into a rock arrangement that showcased Antonelli's growling lead guitar. And then it went back to the opening medieval feel.  Another tune that was too strange to accurate describe, but provided another album highlight.

6.) The Purple Side of Sunset   (Roland G. Antonelli - Joseph Ransohoff) - 3:06  rating: **** stars

C'mon guys, stick with the plotline.  Showcasing Antonelli's best guitar work, 'The Purple Side of Sunset' was the closest the pair came to an outright rocker.  And surprise, it was pretty good.  Ransohoff's vocals were relatively focused though he sounded like he'd been on speed for the past week, while the lyrics were simply overshadowed by Antonelli's screeching lead guitar.  Awesome way to close out the album.

 

 

I happened to stumble across something Antonelli had written online following the album's 2001 re-release:   

 

"Having creates this album with my old partner John Ransohoff, it is good to know that history has a way of resurfacing under the most enjoyable and auspicious of circumstances.  I'm still in the music business after all these years, and I'm glad to know that I'm part of music history with the re-release of "Milkwood Tapestry."  The music is still very powerful and I can hear how Joe and I set a tones for an era.  The guitar work is unique in many respects in that I was using electronic equipment that was quite new at the time.  The studio effects wee extremely original and set a standard for recording technique.  A lot of younger musicians can learn a thing or two with this recording, and younger listeners of music who would like to touch base with the history of acid rock should give this CD a listening to."

 

 

 

In 2001 Gear Fab reissued the album in CD format (Gear Fab catalog number GF 179).  The reissue included new cover art (what was the inner sleeve of the original album) and  included six bonus tracks:

 

1.) The Jackal's Cry - 3:04

2.) We Are Together Two - 1:54

3.) The Fall of the Horses - 2:38

4.) Frost AT Twilight - 3:02

5.) Big Blue Sky - 3:41

6.) The Bell of Juniper - 2:30

 

 

 

In 2004 the Excaliber Music Group reissued the album in vinyl format with the original track listing restored (Excaliber catalog number XCALM 4040) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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