As the seventies progressed Folk and Folk Rock increasingly got a hard time in critical circles although it was always loved by its audience. Amazing Blondel took it to another level by playing Medieval Folk, finding the beauty in Elizabethan music and finding favour with the Progressive Rock audience in the early seventies. What upset the critics the most – was everything. It was the clothes, the hair, the instrumentation, the twee melodies and the pure fact of singing about battles and characters in taverns murdering wenches whilst wearing a beard and ramming your finger in your ear.
Of course beards are now a crucial accoutrement of hipdom and ‘Creative Anachronism’ that is Renaissance fairs, acting out the detailed exploits of our medieval ancestors, a popular pastime. Here we see Amazing Blondel in all their garb, although in actual fact they just look seventies rather than Elizebethan and in this clip they play less exotic instruments than they are able. Terence Alan Wincott does a fantastic job of getting from the tambourine to the church organ of Lincoln cathedral and back again (probably witchcraft) but otherwise, Edward Baird and John David Gladwin seem to be just playing simple guitars but they are likely 7 stringed and tuned as lutes. Surely the Cathedral’s acoustics are not responsible for the massive sound on its own? Of course not, it was centuries later that a performance like this would be known as a video clip. (The photo is by Brian Cooke).
Somehow under the direction of session maestro Big Jim Sulliavan their first album was released by Bell records – like Black Sabbath being signed to Motown, it didn’t last. The band toured with its contemporaries, Genesis, Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span as well as Cat Stevens, Traffic, Procol Harum and surprisingly Free and apparently it was Andy Fraser, Free’s bassist and songwriter that introduced the band to Island records where they were signed for their second album Evensong in 1970, followed by Fantasia Lindum in 1971 where they dressed in medieval clothes and named the album after the Latin name for Lincoln – Fantasy Lincoln in fact, a thought that no-one from that town had ever considered before and with the trio originating from Scunthorpe their sense of humour might be underestimated.
Cantus Firmus To Counterpoint comes from the 1972 album England and below are the credits for the album. You can see by the titles what it was all about but the instrumentation was a fascinating mixture of modern and ancient instruments. They also incorporated other musicians into their line up for different occasions whether recording or playing live but interestingly recording is what they loved to do and those commercial pressures of profile and income ultimately got them in the end as the management pushed them in the wrong creative direction.
1. Seascape (6:13)
2. Landscape (7:38)
3. Afterglow (3:40)
4. A Spring Air (3:41)
5. Cantus Firmus to Counterpoint (3:21)
6. Sinfonia for Guitar and Strings (3:11) (from the suite ‘For My Ladys Delight’)
7. Dolor Dulcis (Sweet Sorrow) (3:25)
8. Lament to the Earl of Battesford Beck (3:11)
Total Time: 34:42
John David Gladwin / second guitar, lead vocals, double bass, tabor, tubular bells.
Edward Baird / first guitar, vocals, dulcimer, twelve string guitar, percussion.
Terence Alan Wincott / vocals, flute, recorders, harmonium, pipe organ, mellotron, bongos, assorted percussion.
Adrian Hopkins / harpsichord and string arrangements
Jaque La Roche / strings conductor
LP Island ILPS 9327 (UK, 1972)
CD Edsel Records EDCD 501 (UK, 1996)
After four albums main singer and writer John David Gladwin left under pressure to become more commercial (what were the management thinking? Was there a disco Amazing Blondel clawing to get out of the velvet pantaloons?). Baird and Wincott decided to stay together as a duo and made one more album for Island, Blondel in 1973 with Baird taking over the main role of writing and singing. As a duo they signed to DJM Records and made three more albums Mulgrave St. 1974, Inspiration 1975, and Bad Dreams 1976. (Later Paul Kossoff recorded with them).
Whilst touring the band had issues with keeping the lutes in tune so they had guitar maker David Rubio build them a modern version of the instrument, a kind of 7 string guitar that could survive the road, the lights and the temperature changes. Amazing Blondel were a hit live with their 15th Century jokes, eccentric dress and never before seen instruments such as the crumhorn, an early reed instrument. They referred to themselves as “pseudo-Elizabethan/Classical acoustic music sung with British accents”. They are listed as playing a multitude of instruments, lead singer John David Gladwin played lute, theorboe, cittern and double bass. Terence Alan Wincott pleyed crumhorn, recorders, pipe-organ, tabor pipe, tabor, flute, harmonium, lute, harpsichord and Edward Baird, lute and cittern.
So below we have Amazing Blondel (named after Blondel de Nesle, the musician in the court of Richard I) on July 4th 1972, left to right, Terry Wincott, John Gladwin and Eddie Baird at Lincoln Cathedral performing Cantus Firmus To Counterpoint. In 1997 the original band made Restoration and here they are together performing Celestial Light in Norway in 2004 minus their hair, their boots, their beards and their flares but with wonderful harmonies and a beautiful and original sound leaving you under their spell.
In 2010 they made The Amazing Elsie Emerald without John Gladwin and sadly that’s where the story ends but there is at least 500 years worth of history to catch up on and important outstanding questions such as, how did John Gladwin get flairs into those boots?