In 2008, Steve Palmer threw Mooch fans for a loop with the release of 1967 1/2, the first of three albums (followed by 1966 and 1968a) of songs inspired by 1960s psychedelia. In a recent five-favorite-Mooch-albums post I submitted to Steve’s blog, I commented that these three would go together well as a triple album set. The latest Mooch album – Stations Of The Sun – returns to the song format, though this time the inspiration is, as the promo sheet says, 70s Folk/Rock/Progressive territory in the style of bands such as Renaissance. The theme of the album is summer solstice 2013, with the 11 songs covering the pagan wheel of the year: eight festivals (two solstices, two equinoxes and four Celtic cross-festivals), plus two songs for the Oak King and Holly King who symbolically battle every solstice, and a final song covering the whole year.
Steve plays all guitars, bass and virtual synths/keyboards on Stations Of The Sun, with drums and percussion by the irrepressible Erich Z. Schlagzeug. Vocals are handled by two newcomers to Mooch, and I’ll tell you right out of the chute that their contributions are to be credited for much of the flavor and character of the album. Beck Sian is a native Australian living in Wales whose Ye Olde Silent Inn album Steve recorded and co-produced last year. And Shelagh Teahan is a Midlands, England based classical singer who contacted Steve after he put out a call for pagan musicians when planning Stations Of The Sun.
Beck and Shelagh have very different vocal styles, both ideal for this music. The Yule Garden is a mystical Folk-Prog song with acoustic guitars, light percussion and flowing orchestral keys, and Beck’s beautiful Folk styled vocals. Equinox and A Samhain Mask both consist of chamber ensemble Folk with a medieval twist, and Beck’s vocals have a sort of Broadway show tune quality. Come-A-Maying is similar, conjuring up images of barefoot maidens in flowing dresses and flowers in their hair dancing about in a field. This one has some great instrumental passages and acoustic instrument interplay. The Holly King & The Oak King has a Renaissance (the band) vibe, being a Folk-Prog song with intricate instrumentation and arrangements. Fred Barleycorn is a little different, having a bit of jazzy swing during the vocal sections that Beck and Steve trade off.
Shelagh’s vocals have a one-women-choir feel that I love. Imbolc Chant has a traditional sound, with slow dance rhythms, and makes me feel like I’m participating in a medieval village faire. Summerland is another song with a chamber music cum medieval show tune feel. The Oak King & The Holly King is a spacey, dreamy, orchestral Folk-Prog song that’s one of my favorites of the set. And there are two songs with both Beck and Shelagh that are treasures of vocal contrast and cooperation – Looking Inward, and then Wheel Of The Year, which is the album closer and one of the most uplifting songs of the set, making full use of the two women’s vocals. In summary, Stations Of The Sun is a captivating set of beautiful songs, and I’m glad Steve decided to once again explore this side of Mooch.
Digital distribution for Stations Of The Sun is through iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify.
CDR copies are available directly from Steve Palmer upon request. They come in hand-printed, recycled card sleeves, with printed art inside. Steve operates on a pay-what-you-think-it’s-worth basis, and any offer above the cost price + postage will be accepted. Email Steve at email@example.com
Visit the Mooch blog at: http://moochmusic.wordpress.com
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz