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Decameron iTunes Tracks

Decameron

+ {Magnificent Mercury Brothers}

Bridging the gaps between folk, prog and rock, Cheltenham’s finest, DECAMERON, were formed in 1968 by singers Johnny Coppin and Dave Bell, who were also adept on the odd but conventional instrument. Over the course of the next few years, the pair gradually found new members Al Fenn (guitars, etc.) and Geoff March (cello), while road manager Jonathan March (Geoff’s brother) found them venues to play in the south of England.
By 1971, all four were residing in a large flat in Cheltenham’s rather posh Parabola Road, an action that cemented the band’s ambitions to eventually go full-time. Already booked to play the summer festivals at Cambridge, Trowbridge and Norwich, the band were picked up by the esteemed Vertigo Records, who almost immediately assigned Sandy Robertson to produce their debut LP, SAY HELLO TO THE BAND (1973) {*6}. Coming off a bit like LINDISFARNE, FAIRPORTs (just) or MAGNA CARTA, their best bits came by way of the single `Stoat’s Grope (All I Need)’, `Judith’ and the title track.
Having finally found a permanent bassist, Dik Cadbury (John Halsey was their unofficial sticksman), DECAMERON were back in the studio quick-time for MAMMOTH SPECIAL (1974) {*6}, a slightly above average set released on Mooncrest Records that ventured into prog-rock territory without losing their harmonious backdrop. The BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST-esque `Late On Lady Day’ was a natural contender for a single here, but wasn’t, while the STEPHEN STILLS-penned `Rock And Roll Woman’ and `Breakdown Of The Song’ verged on pop-rock rather than folk – unlike fiddling-folk tribute to `Jan’.
The Tom Allom-produced THIRD LIGHT (1975) {*7} was DECAMERON’s third attempt to get it right, released as it was on their third record label, Transatlantic. Lying somewhat neatly in the prog-pop camp or in record collections next to STRAWBS, the album (shelved by Mooncrest as `Beyond The Light’) was a mixture of AOR and light-folk accented nicely by `Journey’s End’, `Trapeze’, `The Ungodly’ and the emotively-sung `The Strawman’; it was bookended by a mediocre reading of TIM BUCKLEY’s `Morning Glory’.
In the mid-70s and influenced equally by other genres as much as folk-rock, the band completed a couple of alter-ego 45s (`Why Do Fools Fall In Love’, etc.) under the guise of pastiche 60s doo-wop act the MAGNIFICENT MERCURY BROTHERS. But there was one more attempt at creating a stir in the rock world, TOMORROW’S PANTOMIME {*6}, a inaugural debut for new drummer Bob Critchley, although his presence wasn’t exactly permanent as the band broke up soon after its release. Certainly catchy and contemporary in most respects (`The Deal’, one example), the record has low-points such as the funky `Dancing’, while the highlights come through `Crazy Seed’, `The Shadow On The Stairs’ and the title track.
JOHNNY COPPIN was first to press the solo button, while Cadbury went off to join STEVE HACKETT. It would take some 20 odd years for DECAMERON to return to the fold, although only one set, the live at Bacon Theatre AFTERWORDS (2001) {*6} was issued.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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