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Tea And Symphony iTunes Tracks

Tea And Symphony

1969 was the year prog-rock (via newbie bands such as KING CRIMSON, GENESIS and YES) took off – it was also the year TEA AND SYMPHONY were founded. The city of Birmingham in the Midlands also hosted the next year’s big thing, the heavy and doom-laden BLACK SABBATH, although T&S (comprising trio James Langston, Jeff Daw and Nigel Phillips) were a million miles from their fellow rock citizens.
Together with guests such as guitarist Dave “Clem” Clempson (of BAKERLOO) and drummers Gus Dudgeon (their producer) and Bob Lamb, debut set AN ASYLUM FOR THE MUSICALLY INSANE {*8} was, at the time, dismissed by many critics as an exotic, self-indulgent offering, often submerging into the un-musical abyss. With a voice similar to Roger Wootton of COMUS or Roger Chapman of FAMILY, vocalist/guitarist James Langston was the jewel in the crown here, his vibrato larynx recommended for strange-folk fans everywhere. Guitarist Jeff Daw (also on occasional flute) wrote all five tracks on side one, best examples being `Feel How So Cool The Wind’, `Sometime’ and `Maybe My Mind’. The acid subsided radically via the disc’s DR. STRANGELY STRANGE-like opener, `Armchair Theatre’ (a B-side to non-LP 45, `Boredom’) and the contrasting bluesy, bar-room cue `The Come On’. Side two proffered some other band member contributions, by way of Langston’s INCREDIBLE STRING BAND-meets-PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE track `Winter’, and Philips’ wyrd-folk finale, `Nothing Will Come To Nothing’; the scary COMUS-like `Terror In My Soul’, trailed by a rendition of FRED NEIL’s `Travelling Shoes’, sublimely fitted into proceedings like a glove on a dog’s paw.
TEA AND SYMPHONY’s sophomore concept LP, JO SAGO (1970) {*7} – apparently depicting a Caribbean immigrant’s rite of passage into Middle England – kicked off with the side-long experimental title track, which incidentally evolved through nine wacky, subtitled pieces. Not exactly PC with its controversial naked-black-man sleeve design, the album was like a meeting of COMUS, FAMILY and/or GILES, GILES & FRIPP, although laden with OTT wind and string instrumentation over a BONDO DOG-like narration (`b. Nyada’ the example). A number of personnel diversions saw the inclusion of three other members, Bob Wilson (who’d replaced Phillips), drummer Peter Chatfield and 5th member Dave Carroll, while Tony Cox took control in the studio. `Afrika Paprika’, `Fairground Suite’ and others in the Jef Daw-scribed `Jo Sago’ collage, found no friends with their Jim Davidson-esque stereotype black-man dialogue, although it did fit in with the “Till Death Us Do Part” ethos of the day. Neither folk nor prog, the pre-BOWIE-ish jazz-glam `Desperate Oil’ ultimately shone through on the esoteric and lengthy side one, while the quintessential English folk spirit surfaced on part i, `Goodnight’. Side two opener `Try Your Luck’ and the other leftover Phillips-penned ditty, `The Nortihorticulturalist’, regained some quirky momentum, however T&S were best served up as prog-rockers (example `Seasons Turn To One’ and `View To The Sky’). A subsequent collectors’ item, the vinyl LP was soon worth a 3-figure sum. Sadly, after further reshuffles, the band split around 1972; Langston later finding consolation with heavy-rock band Mean Street Dealer in 1979.
© MC Strong/ MCS 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Nov2016

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