Wicca & Neo Pagan Folk releases :
The demo and new releases Review Page 2
Green Crown,
Victoria Parks,
Izolda,
First Of May,
Belladonna Bouquet,
Kwannon (3 X),
Wendy Rule (2 X)
Private   Green Crown : With Which to Feed the Fairies 1997-2001 : the first five live (US,2003)***°

From the last summerfestival this new CD has been presented, but the distribution still is not secured yet. Never the less I luckily obtained a copy through Rick R. Johnson (supporter, spokesman and webmaster for Green Crown, and painter for the cover).

Green Crown's Discography..

Green Crown have had a number of releases before which I will quickly overview first :
 
-The best and most significant release I knew so far, and which I considered one of the best starters (of the whole genre of pagan folk as well) is "Washed in her blood" (1998)****°, a beautiful prog/psych folkrock release with the talent of Prydwyn (one of the most mature beautiful bards around, also harp-and guitarplayer, with occasional other instruments), Whitedeer (percussion & tablas), Jim Brewer (flutes & percussion), Violette, acoustic bass, Diana McFadden, cello, and some other occasional musicians. Songs of Country Joe McDonald, Gong, Incredible String Band, -all songs related with Pagan themes-, were interpreted with their typical, and beautiful original sound. It's one of the best pagan releases I know of. (audio : "Spirit Waltz") But also the tape of Prydwyn with Diana McFadden, "The Witch in the Well" (1997)****° has pieces of imense beauty : harp or mandolin with cello & male, female voice, with an incredible interpretation of "See Emily Play" (Syd Barrett). Prydwyn released also a solo CD, "At the feet of Mary Mooncoin" (1995)**°°°, from which especially the magical track "Attis & Cybele", a beautifully arranged old Roman poem is outstanding. Later Prydwyn participated with various Stonebreath (& Stonebreath related) releases too. Green Crown released also two tracks on a compilation album for the Heartland Festival, from which one medieval track again has a certain individual beauty.  There was also a limited live CDR released from a 1997 concert, "Il Principio", a fine release, close in sound to the original recorded songs, but not a necessary artefact to gain when you have all the other material. This release is another live recording, which sounds pretty varied.

review of the album..

"Tir Na Nóg" has the recognisable nice arrangements I was used to hear from Green Crown. The rest of the album had more different elements. Some tracks are a bit more earthly (on "Bedlam Boys" (combined with a terrific trance / psychfolkrock version of the "Break on Trough" song from The Doors ), or down to the tribal earth rhythms like on the magical circle dance effect of "Witches Reel") or a bit more common on traditionals, which are sometimes a little less arranged (like "Cuckoo's nest", the least surprising song on the album).
Another track, a nice medieval track, is "Tourdion" played with a 'tarantela' energy . Further on we hear two Donovan tracks, "Season of the Witch", which has a good up tempo bluesfolkrock drive and more powerful playing  and singing, while "Enchanted Gypsy" (also from Donovan) sounds close in sound to the Prydwyn and McFadden "The Witch in the well" release, basically with the drive of cello arrangements and raga like improvisations combined with Prydwyn's voice and mandolin, and some additional tabla and flute.
Glad to have also the "Willow's Song" performed by a suitable female voice, acoustic guitars, handpercussion and improvising violin, a song known from the hippie cult movie 'Wickerman', recalling this unique moment with its own beauty.
Further we also have "Legend of a Mind / White Rabbit", first part by Ray Thomas (or Moody Blues), in a very varied, almost progressive arrangement, with lots of acoustic instruments (including 2 cello's ? and violin ?) and drums, second part by Grace Slick (most known from her group Jefferson Airplane, but first performed by her earlier group, The Great Society, a song about the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, talking about the "pil" making everything look bigger and smaller, -this is..let's say a symbol for the mindexpanding (or in general an LSD) experience-), here musically very dynamically expressed with cello's, drums, pipes, flutes etc. and Prydwyn almost freaking out along with the energy of the group, possibly a track recorded at the end of a concert, with the energy of the group at its most dynamic, with some nice improvisation passages at the end (electric guitars, tabla, violin and cello ?).
What else could end this CD better than a middle eastern psych folk version of another Doors song, "The End", with banjo, percussion, and some flute & violin and cello improvisations, and near the end with a tempered fury in the voice (at moment with some backwards echoe added) of Prydwyn. Beautiful. I'm glad these recordings have been saved for posterity.

Except for the bit more normal, second track, the CD is again another classic by one of my favourite folk related groups from today.  And it surely is one of the most varied CD's they have made as well.

Band participants

Participating in these recordings are Jakob Breitbach, Jim Brewster, Ingrid Eyen, Sironna Gibson, Penny Goody, Hank Knaepple, Diana McFadden, Prydwyn Piper, Violette Rose and Whitedeer with guest appearances on one track by Michelle (on "Tir Na Nóg"), and Billy "Bardo" Thorpe (on three tracks).

Conclusion...

Green Crown has gone through some significant changes over the past year. I have been told by R.Johnson that the current Green Crown sound is closer to the original group than before, or like on these (more ethereal) recordings. White Deer and Violette are no longer involved with the band. The current line-up consists of Prydwyn, Diana McFadden (also active with Kiva, so also on the Izolda release), Peg Aloi, Diana Sunday and for the summer Festival this might be expanded with Jake and Ingrid Breitbach, Hank Knaepple and Billy Woods. Jim Brewster will focus on other endeavours for a while.

Covers of earlier releases can be seen at my Wicca event page. More information can be found at the Green Crown WebPages.
PrivateGreen Mistletoe : Pentacle Braid (US,2005)***°

2 Green Mistletoe reviews added at http://psychedelicfolk.homestead.com/acidfolkreview4.html
Wild Mane MusicVictoria Parks : Wild English Rose (US,2003)**°'

Although all songs but one are written by Victoria, they're all drenched in the English / Irish folk style. On the romantic songs (-most of it is very romantic, some part of them also somewhat nostalgic-) she succeeds beautifully, singing like a blossoming rose, with nice arrangements added (with "Dear Sister" as my favourite example of this). Only "Brandy from the Cherry" and near the end "Ballad of Uncle Davey" are a bit more like English countryside folk, as songs performed to encourage the public to sing along.

There's a friendly (healthy / well balanced portion of) naivety and a purity involved, a good and light heartedness and friendliness. "Song for Ostara" has is a more elegant (neo-flowerpower) gentleness.
Some other songs are as if from a storyteller melodically even more in the old English folk style (like in "Banks of Kennybec").

I hind the whole CD, but for me being non English it will take various listens to unfold. Several of those stories, from various songs are explained in the booklet. Almost every song has this very English styled melodic part, and they're always very nicely arranged. "Song for Beltaine" I want to mention especially for its arrangements with fine violin and bodhran, acoustic guitars and flute arrangements with reels all very well interwoven.
"Beautiful Hand" is a romantic song that stands on its own in style, with piano and violin arrangements.
"Wild English Rose" can be seen as one of the main founding expressions. Here this is performed with all fragility coming deep from her heart, loving, caring and sharing. The fragility of such expressions is more clear on "We are not alone", when the arrangements are more sparse and the singing much more slowly evolving. On "Song for Shamhain" the nostalgia overwhelms. It has nice choir (or harmonic voice) arrangements. This song could have been an even a better closer with even more of such arrangements, maybe even with a full choir. The listening experience had the effect on me that I just wished to hear angels sing this closer with gratefulness.

This release might not appeal at all to lovers of "progressive music". But for those willing to go to the heart of (common) man, they can find here deep human expressions from a 'Lady' with a fine arranged and solidly structured concept. The enjoyable voice of Victoria has an ability to express in a varied way. I believe she has succeeded in performing and arranging her concept just perfectly.

More info : www.victoriaparks.com with some audio : http://www.victoriaparks.com/audio.html
Folk Nouveau Music     Izolda : Sound the Deep Waters (US,2003)**°

I was very curious about a solo album by former Kiva member Izolda. Members of Kiva and other additional musicians participated. Wicca group Kiva combines ethno woman tribal tracks with a beautiful acid folk style with songs inspired by Pagan themes, both styles with much female energy. Although the music has as its core one person leading with her Wiccan singer-songwriting and it has been almost ten years since she was in Kiva it could also be regarded as another related Kiva album for there's similarity in style, mostly with their acid folk styles.

First track, "Sun-Warmed" is a great upbeat Indian flavoured folkrock track about sun-warmed stones. Also the second song has this flavour. It's inspired by woman's Victorian poetry (like from Christina Rosetti). It has fine acoustic guitar, hand percussion and some cello a bit more at the background. "Gaia Speaks", vocals and earth drum, is inspired by what Izolda experienced from natural landscapes during travels, and is much more basic, as a native ritual Soul serenade, with only handpercussion and Native American flute. Izolda has a very appealing voice, that will be liked by everybody. She sounds at her best when other musicians contribute with extra arrangements, above the basic melody and text inspiration. The arrangements on most of the following tracks are not always building up the tension as much, or are not always brought together with the same uniqueness that uplifted the tracks on a purely musical level. Instead various songs often fall back on the expression of the Wicca content without much equal research, for a combined independently working musical and instrumental expression. The track "Moldovanka" seemed to have been derived completely from a musical night time jam on Russian & Jiddish melodies, but it is especially songs like "Solstice Morn" where all the talent of those involved uplift the music to this higher level of expression. This particular song (as successful as the first two) has again a haunting melody and a nice acid folk arrangement, a song dedicated to Loreena McKennitt.  Also the last track "Try again", dedicated to persons who are able to enjoy their life again after a depression, has some contributing arrangements. Musicians involved on this release were Jim Brewster (also with Green Crown), John Grant, Jeff Laramee, Janet Morton, Louis Nasser, Diana McFadden (also with Kiva, Green Crown), Jeff Sieracki, Diana Sunday. I think most contributions sound somewhat accidentilly made by the improvising talent of the contributors during playing the songs of Izolda.

Audio : "Sunwarmed" Info : www.folknouveau.com  E-mail : izolda@folknouveau
Flowingglass MusicFirst of May : For Earth and her People (US,1986)****°

This is a reissue from a session from some years back. It was a cooperation between Karl Franzen from Broceliande and Sharon Knight. I asked Sharon about this release but it seemed she didn't want to say much about this release from a time when she was very young. Never the less this is a very beautiful release with the same magic as the best UK folk releases in the 70's, with the same energy, spontaneity and freshness.

Both "John Riley" and "Nottamun Town", with Finger picking acoustic guitars, kalimba, and beautiful dual vocals reminds me of groups like StoneAngel,...  Four songs are by Sharon Knight from which the first two are my favourite, "Laura" and "The Faerie Song", as stylish as the best Sandy Denny, Mandy Morton or Sharron Kraus. On "Laura" a harmonica takes over a second voice and improvises on top of the guitar based song. "The Faerie Song" has beautiful finger picking and glockenspiel, and is another classic beauty. But also "Rise Up" and "Sugar" are fine songs, the first in a folk/folkrock style, the second in a rockin' blues folk rock style, with the same wonderfully coloured and fitting vocal harmonies of the duo.

Karl Franzen wrote 4 tracks, from which my favourite is "Love is when". Also "The Wheelright", a duo folkrock song could have derived from any early Kissing Spell release. "It's a mystery" has a touch of a more American bluesfolk style. The duo singing, especially on this song, might be comparable with how Sally & Mike Oldfield as "The Sallyangie" arranged their vocals.

The last traditional "Wild Mountain Thyme" might be inspired by groups like Steeleye Span or early Fairport Convention, acoustic guitars and multi-layered vocal arrangements.

"Fountain and River" sounds like a cross of a hippie folk song and the folk style from before, with a naivity that recalls a purity and beauty at the same time.

My favourite K.Franzen song "Love is When" is the last song which leaves me wondering how many of such treasures were still hidden in the US repertoire.

We all know how magic the English scene was in the early 70's (we care to remember the finest heritage). But can you imagine similar things happened in the US, especially in the Wicca and Pagan Folk scene ? I suggest starting with Darragh's and Green Crown's last albums, Gwydion's first release and then this release. These are (some of the) classics.

I am very glad this release made it onto CD. It's recommended to fans of English 70's Folk and Folkrock.

I asked Karl Franzen about the release :

"The recording was finished in 1986, then digitally remastered about 10 years ago, and subsequently released through Flowinglass. it is an heirloom from my life collection. the original masters of this CD were destroyed, this is the only trace left. some day I hope to be able to release other recordings from my collection. thank you for your interest.
When I first came to California in 1985, I came in search of love. I eventually found it in this young, blonde, aspiring folksinger named Sharon knight. we dated for over three years, but she had the wanderlust more than I, and we parted ways. the reality of our emotional natures is woven throughout the narrative of these pieces, as is our mutual love of the earth.
Sharon and I were both very interested in Celtic neopaganism and were members of 'Bloodrose Coven' in San Francisco during the 80's. we included this ethic in the cd as well. most of the songs we wrote ourselves, meant mostly as meditations or dreams, but very influenced by the folk and country music of the united states. My favourite of Sharon's songs is 'Laura'. Considering Sharon was only 19 when it was written, it is a very music savvy and intensely personal folk song about the love of one girl for another.
Laura and Sharon were best friends during those years and i have many happy memories of them from that most tender of times.
The recording was made in two places, in the living room of Charles Laurel (now a builder of environmental structures in Arizona) and Michael Modica (geneticist from Massachusetts), both old friends with whom I have also recorded."

Sharon Knight later made a fine folkrock album with long tracks called "Incantation" (1996), another very fine album, and started a "tribal trance rock" group, Pandemonaeon with two releases from which I own the first one , (1997-2000). Karl Franzen is a member of Broceliande. Brocceliande draws inspiration from medieval themes. From this group I have three related items, including "The Starlit Jewel" with songs from J.R.R.Tolkien (by Marion Zimmer Bradley). A related earlier group is Avalon Rising (1995) who made an interesting good folkrock album, reviewed at the Dead Can Dance & Medieval & crystal voice review page.  Flowinglass has two more cds by the band Broceliande, "Sir Christemas" and "Gathering May". These are the first two cd's of a proposed four cd set covering the four seasons. the third cd will be released in 2004.-

Info : www.broceliande.org with soundfiles at http://www.flowinglass.com/4Earth/disc.html
Orange Entropy Belladonna Bouquet : the scarlet ceremonies (rec.1997-1998,re.1999)**°

Belladonna Bouquet consist of Jenne Micale, vocals, dulcimer, valiha (?), bells, chimes, tinwhistle, deertoes, tambourine, cymbals, with Sarada Holt, classical and electric guitars, vocals, keyboards (on the middle tracks), computer, zither, effects (like reverbs and  background effects) and rain.

At the first 5 tracks we hear a magical witchy world with female voices, sometimes high pitched, heading towards the sky, with a semi-ritual priestess like effect. Some would call this psychedelic folk. But it still is of course neo-pagan ? or Wicca related. Therefore it is clear why Sarada was asked to participate with some of Timothy Renner's projects (she's now a permanent member of Stone Breath,..). These tracks really sound very nice and sound also like another must for those who like to try the more acid folk and pagan related releases !

Then we hear a few keyboard accompanied tracks, still with some weird atmosphere, with a very varied voice and singing (where some might be reminded of Kate Bush), from which "she sit on the edges" is my favourite. "Warm in Winter" is acoustic again, with a similar approach and weirdness in instrumental sounds.
Also "As dark as her eyes" following after that has a weird interaction/transposing of the various musical layers.
Also "Ereshkigal Mourns" is surreal, here even more in singing and melody, accompanied by electric guitar with some echo.
"Inside the hour glass" is a dark, with astral keyboard and weird sounds accompaniment song closer.

Even when you get a bit of tape hiss from its home-recorded source, it is a release worth discovering.

Audio files : "Watching your wings", "she sits upon hedges", "buried deep in the forest"
E-mail : Sarada : srisarada@hotmail.com or xelucha@hotmail.com
& Jenne : soltne@hotmail.com or dulcimergoddess@hotmail.com
Info : http://artists.iuma.com/IUMA/Bands/Belladonna_Bouquet/
Label entry : http://www.orangeentropy.com/Belladonna/
Sarada's homepage : http://xelucha.homestead.com/
Side project of Jenne is called 'Kwannon' : http://www.geocities.com/royvis.geo/kwannon.html
& http://orangeentropy.com/Kwannon/Clear.html
Stone Breath releases with Sarada are reviewed at http://psychedelicfolk.homestead.com/acidfolkreview4.html

A very good solo release of Jenne : Kwannon is reviewed next :
Padma Rec.    Kwannon (rec.2002)***°

Kwannon is a solo-project by Jenne Micale. She has a wide vocal range, and accompanies herself, on this multi-track recording, with high pitched choir chant effects. The songs are very ritualistic, and sung against shamanistic rhythms. The leading vocal layer is somehow, I shall say, "profane".
Because of the use of the bowed psaltery, a hammered dulcimer and a mountain dulcimer, and because there’s a story-teller sense too, she is partly like a medieval troubadour, but in a more operatic way.
At the same time, and perhaps even much more to the fore, in combination with its transposing hypnotic vocal multi-layers, she also sounds more like a priestess-musical-artist, singing ode-to-the-gods & goddess' chants with a very trance-making or hypnotic effect.

I’m not sure which other ritual instruments she uses except for bells and chimes. I noticed in the booklet the mentioning of instruments, unknown to me, like the valiha (?) & ektara (?), sistrum (?), zills (?) and I saw even the mention of deertoes (!). On a track like Old Woman”, I hear such unknown instruments, like coming directly from some Far East ancient ritual temple-in-nature music. There’s also a very sparse use of synthesizer. On Steel Grey Sea for instance I also heard, except for some flute, a dark metallic-like (-distorted (?) or however it’s made-) sound reminiscent of the sea, accompanying the song rhythm.

The Cap and Bellsused a text of W.B. Yeats.

The building up of the music has this story-teller lead, which also has a shamanistic character, always going into the pulse of the expression, leaving out in more than half of the tracks real compositions, as if driven completely from within.

The more medieval dance-like tracks compensate for this much more trance-transposing part, so that the music always goes from a call-to-God/Goddess, to an enjoyment / dance and more direct communication on our earthly existence and vivid experience.

In its complete score this makes the release strong and consistent, and very enjoyable. I guess this will be also enjoyable to acid folk lovers. On half of the album the listener is invited to go into the trance like music, with a purely feministic creative aspect, than this transcends towards a troubadour like world.

The album is dedicated to a number of people, but also to Sri Sarasvati, the Goddess Brigid (?), and to Lord Ganesha.

Audiofile : "Brahma" & info : http://www.geocities.com/royvis.geo/kwannon.html & http://www.orangeentropy.com/Kwannon/Clear.html
Review : http://www.othergods.org/NOG%20Sam%2003/clearstarreview.html

New 2005 and 2010 release are reviewed on review page 3 here
Shock Records  Wendy Rule & The Parallel Dream : World Between worlds (AUS,2000)****

Stylistically this is professional and sophisticated, well mixed art-folkpop with clear and expressive and varied, heartfelt vocals by Wendy Rule, who besides singing, also plays acoustic guitar. She’s accompanied here by a group called The Parallel Dream, which consists of Rachel Samuel, cello, Craig Patterson, piano, piano accordion, hammond, with programming on one track, and Simon Dichson, djembe, with guitar on one track. A few guest musicians on a couple of tracks play bodhran, violin, bass and guitar.

Just one track, voice and drone only go into the direction of Dead Can Dance. All other songs are nice acoustic inspirations on Pagan's themes. All songs have a strong and expressive sound. One of the best and most enjoyable pagan-related releases.

Audio : "Dissolve","The Call", "Animus", "Singing to the Bones", "Three Colours", "Hail to the Moon", "World Between Worlds", "Under the Willow", "Slow Down", "Evolve", "Entropy", "Inanna", "Creatures of a Day".
Info : http://www.wendyrule.com
Shock RecordsWendy Rule : The Lotus Eaters (AUS,2003)***°

For this record the artwork were photographs of Wendy tending to make her look like underwater creaturean . I don’t know how deliberate it was  but here Wendy looks more like a bad-vibe lizard. So I tried to change with Photoshop the original photograph a bit so that she looked more like a waterelf, but in this form it still seems to show a creature of a dangerous unpredictable nature (mabe that is the intention !). Various texts and themes of this album are based around the water. The music still has a form of progression following on from where it came last time. It is more gentle and friendly as the cover might indicate. Wendy’s voice is again expressive and varied. She’s accompanied by guitar, cello, vibraphone or marimba, drums & percussion, bass, chorus (on "Circe"), flute (on “Come to the Lake”).

Audio : "Horses", "Everywhere and Nowhere", "Penelope"(full song), "My Heart is Like an Open Flower", " Strange Little Soul Bird", "The Lotus Eaters", "La Femme de la Mer"(full song), "Circe", "Hecate", "Ulysses", "Calypso", "The Water", "Come to the Lake", "The Raven Song", "Descend to the Ocean"
Info : http://www.wendyrule.com
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