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3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 8 October 2012
I've got one of this band's previous releases (Corbeth) and also their Bonnie Prince Billy collaboration album. I liked both of these well enough without them becoming big favourites. A few months ago I also saw Lavinia Blackwall perform as part of the Sandy Denny homage tour "The Lady"; she sang beautifully.
I, thus, approached this album positively; unfortunately I've found the experience very frustrating.
The recording is very "dirty" - it sounds like its been recorded in a room separated from the performers by a thickish curtain. Several other reviewers have mentioned this aspect so I don't believe it's just a duff copy that I've got.
There are some good tunes/material here and Lavinia Blackwall seems to be singing well - but I can pick up very few lyrics and can't even ascertain what instruments are being played.
The pack is also a big let down. Its got a track listing but nothing else at all- no band member names/who played what/lyrics/writing credits etc. When I pay £10+ for a cd I expect the label/performers to make a better effort to give value for my hard-earned money. All the more frustrating in that there's probably a very enjoyable album in there somewhere.
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It always good to do some research prior to a concert on the support act and high on expectation prior to tonights Unthanks gig in Cardiff the Gods have indeed smiled. Trembling Bells provide the opening slot, a band which the Modfather Paul Weller has championed in various interviews over recent years and whose new album "The Constant Pageant" has received an emphatic five stars from this week's Sunday Times. They describe it "as reaching new levels of excellence" and after intently listening to this for the past couple of days its hard to disagree. Led by Alex Neilson and hailing from the great city of Glasgow this is the band's third album and it is a mighty and eclectic beast. The influences are all over the place but Fairport Convention must be name checked along with West coast rockers the Jefferson Airplane and singer Lavinia Blackwall has one of the best voices heard this side of a young Grace Slick. This is no nostalgia fest however since the Trembling Bells bring a freshness and verve to their folk rock based music which transcends mere comparisons and cries out for your rapt attention.

Listen to the glorious seething opener with "Just as the rainbow" and you realise finally what Mike Scott was on about in his search for the "Big Music". It chases you around the room, offering no respite whatsoever and Blackwall's vocal is a monster. Up next is "All my favourite mistakes" which would sound equally at home on the "Treme" soundtrack as it would a "best of folk" album, although two minutes in it takes a sort of Carnaby Street inspired turn and sounds like the sort of music that blared out of a Mary Quant Boutique on a Saturday afternoon. Other honourable mentions go to gentle looping ballad "Colour of the night" plus the real ale inspired "Goathland" which the Unthanks should cover as a matter of urgency. On the excellent and very pop orientated "Where do I go from you" I swear they lift some melodic lines from Paul McCartneys "Jet'; but the big centrepiece of the album is "Otley Rock Oracle" which proves that the band intimately know the Incredible String Band back catalogue yet are keen to move forward with brilliantly hard edged folk rock that shifts into an almost free jazz workout. Finally in sharp contrast is the albums' closer which they previously released with the one and only Will Oldham the poignantly sad "New Years Eve's the loneliest night of the year" which will have you searching for both the kleenex and the repeat button and is a tremendous melancholy finish to the album. Overall "The constant pageant" is a triumph for this new band and leaves you wanting more. While the records cover perhaps takes the traditional into the realm of pastiche, the bands music takes folk into new and ever more inventive directions with the sort of elation sadly missing in more high profile recent releases.
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on 16 April 2011
Fairport Convention is the oracle, and of course Steeleye Span and Pentangle and a swathe of others articulated, to varying degrees, entwined rock and folk elements in their musical voices.

Trembling Bells, a Glasgow-based band, takes the most fundamental of traditional music forms - folk - and pursues this further tradition of marrying hard-core rock with hard-core folk vocals [the glorious Lavinia Blackwall] and instrument requisites.

The rock thread is not the dominant seam, but tracks like 'All My Favourite Mistakes' and 'Otley Rock Oracle' do wear it well, the former hinting at Ten Years After but stealing freely from The Rolling Stones, and the latter cherry-picking from a wider range of garage to psychedelic rock influences. These two are superb.

It's a varied album and all the more engaging for this.
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on 3 April 2011
I agree with most of the comments written about this CD. I too read a very positive revue in the press and as a consequence sought out the music on the web. The clips which I listened to were very promising. I have, however, been rather disappointed by the actual CD as I find that even in the car it sounds as though it has been recorded in .mp3 format or is digitally remastered from an analogue recording from thirty years ago. In the house on better equipment the music sounds very thin indeed to me. It is disappointing and I cannot imagine I will listen to it much - the sounds are not well differentiated.

The problem lies with the quality of the recording and not with the musicians or the tracks. I would listen to them live. I might even buy another CD by them, but had I heard this one before I bought it then I would would have put it back on the shelf. Sorry.
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on 13 June 2011
What a frustrating album! Great songs, terrible recording. Vocals fighting with guitars. Distortion where clarity is needed. I'd love to hear this recorded and produced again. Nods to Fairport Convention and Jefferson Airplane/Grace Slick are fine, though I did feel that the album has a bit of an identity crisis and lacks coherence. Maybe this is a band who should be seen live? I'll give it a go.
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on 8 August 2011
This third album from Trembling Bells is a masterpiece. Despite drawing on many themes and influences the music is absolutely unique. I've not stopped listening to the cd since getting it.
Listen to the clips here on Amazon for a feel of the music and then buy it!
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on 6 April 2011
Like another reviewer, I came across Trembling Bells at an Unthanks gig (the ghastly Nottingham Glee Club). The Bells were personally introduced by Rachel Unthank, a rather nice gesture, but I was not expecting what was to come! After a live gig that blew me away, I went and bought this CD and have nearly played it to death after only a week. 'Just Like the Rainbow' and 'Goathland' have magnificant soaring vocals and quite understated backing, while 'Otley Rock Oracle' is a manic guitar-driven ride across West Yorkshire. 'New Year's Eve..' is a perfect closing track that could well end up on a lot of people's list of classic tracks.
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on 17 April 2011
A future classic let down by too much compression. The music has a rockier edge than their previous albums and their songwriting has become progressively more focused over the years. This album is also blessfully free of inspiration from the overrated and underwhelming Incredible String Band; the guys that single handed made hippies unfashionable. This is genuinely a great album with great songwriting.

Although this album sounds fuller than the two previous ones it is still too compressed with almost no dynamic range. The rockier arrangement lent themselves more to compression so it isn't as spoiled soundwise as its predecessors.
The idea that every instrument should be as loud as everything else doesn't work for this kind of music (or any kind of music). Lets hope Trembling Bells apply more professional production values for their next album; something more in tune with the music that inspired them. Music that breathes.
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on 17 August 2015
Different to their previous album but a peach nonetheless. They remind me of The Incredible String Band but they have their own unique sound going on. Very accomplished musicians and Vinnys voice is tremendous. Looking forward to seeing them soon! Lisa
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on 20 April 2011
I decided to review this simply because I am undecided how I feel about it. I have loved this band's previous output, and had gathered from reviews of live gigs that they had progressed. Unfortunately i have not had the chance to see them live. I do like this cd, however, agree with other comments about the recording quality. Certainly wouldn't though concur with comparisons to Jefferson Airplane (who I did see). I feel some of the songs might work better in a live situation - the "free jazz" excerpt i personally find grating - but might well work in a live performance. Overall I would still buy any future releases and take the opportunity to see the band but am not quite sure where they are heading at present based on the changes this cd show.
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