Jan Dukes De Grey iTunes Tracks

Jan Dukes De Grey

Fusing prog-rock and acoustic folk-rock, Yorkshire’s underrated JAN DUKES DE GREY (songwriter/singer Derek Noy – from Buster Summers Express – and fellow multi-instrumentalist Michael Bairstow) kicked off their musical manifesto from their base in Leeds, in early 1969. Almost immediately signing to Decca Nova records, the duo delivered their debut LP, SORCERERS (1970) {*7}, an 18-track extravaganza of psych-folk with just a nod to JETHRO TULL, The INCREDIBLE STRING BAND and TYRANNOSAURUS REX; incidentally, they’d opened for PINK FLOYD. With a selection of instruments (guitars, percussion, woodwinds, brass, keys, the kitchen sink, etc.) at their disposal, the mystical, medieval-infused set shifted through odd subjects such as `Dragons’, `Texas’ and the angsty `M.S.S.’, all with Noy’s unique, throat-twisting, part neo-narrative/part-shouty style – ROGER CHAPMAN, eat your heart out. Although a little daunting at first, the album finally gets to grips through mostly longer, freak-folk gems `Trust Me Now’, `City After 3.00 am’, `Butterfly’ and `Turkish Time’.
Subsequently adding a third member, drummer Denis Conlan (also from Buster Summers), and shifting labels to the more folk-friendly Transatlantic records, sophomore set MICE AND RATS IN THE LOFT (1971) {*8}, incensed many acolytes for its full-on and ambitious prog-rock approach. However, its three lengthy, acid-fuelled tracks did have elements of self-indulgent folk-rock – think FOREST, COMUS or KING CRIMSON. `Sun Symphonica’, for instance (a 19-minute opus), twisting unerringly between orchestral-backed suites and multi-faceted segued passages. Oft mind-blowing and ultra-adventurous, second opus `Call Of The Wild’ (at over 12 minutes!) included an unknown female vocal accomplice, its up/downscale strictly for fans of YES. Last but not least, the 8-minute title track had moments of `Dazed And Confused’/Zeppelin-like guitar solos (or even Welsh wizards MAN!), although Noy’s Champion-the-Wonderhorse vox was an acquired taste. Many are called but few get up, and on that note, the JAN DUKES disappeared into musical cyberspace after years of press alienation. In this time, personnel changes came by way of Eddy Spence being added on sax, while other “tour-ists” involved were guitarist Patrick Dean (replacement for Bairstow, in ’73) and Noy’s wife Fiona Dellar on percussion and spoken-word (in for Conlan); she was in turn superseded by Danny Lagger (bass) and Maurice McElroy (drums). A switch of moniker to The Noy’s Band resulted in a one-off cover single for Dawn Records (`Love Potion Number Nine’; b/w `Eldorado’) was hardly convincing, despite the addition of bassist Alan Ronds.
A brief incarnation as XTC-esque punk combo, Rip Snorter, kept Noy, Dellar, McElroy and newbie Nick Griffiths in the music game, but this was far removed from their association with keyboard player Peter Lemer (and PINK FLOYD) for recordings at Britannia Row. Very costly and with esteemed guests such as Ray Cooper, actress Lydia Lisle and sax-playing actor Michael Gothard on board, JAN DUKES DE GREY’s long-lost third album (STRANGE TERRAIN {*6}) was shelved until Cherry Tree Records gave it a chance in 2010. They’d certainly moved with the new wave times; Derek quirky and STACKRIDGE-like stylistic on the likes of `Saved By The Bell’, `Venus Time Trap’ and `You Won’t Fool Al’.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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