Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Caedmon

Some time ago I came across a directory of Christian music bands which listed just two under the heading of acid folk, Parchment and Caedmon. I assumed they meant Caedmon's Call, a popular and talented US folk rock band. Pandora certainly include them in our Parchment radio station.

Now it turns out there really was a Caedmon. They are more obscure even than Water into Wine Band. They put out their single studio album in 1978 and then disbanded. It was released a year or two ago on CD by the acid folk label Kissing Spell, who also rereleased Water into Wine Band. There is also a live album. According to Kissing Spell it is perhaps "the greatest folk rock album ever".

The album is a work of art in every sense. 1978 is significant. The band consisted of a group of friends at Edinburgh University who played together for four years before being comfortable enough about their music to put out an album. That is a similar history to Water into Wine Band who were at Cambridge University. There was an album and two more tracks released separately on single.

Listening to it, I heard the influence of Wishbone Ash, the prog rock band of the 70s on the album. But there is also much pure folk and, if there is a theme, it is about the Celtic saints, Columba and Caedmon.

Of course by 1978 there was no market for this music, even amongst the captive Xtian audience, unless you were prepared to hack it around the folk festivals. This was Parchment's last year. So Caedmon should be seen as a project rather than an album or a band, reaching its apogee in a classic but little recognised piece of music. A work of art indeed.

22 comments:

pf said...

On April 16th a copy of the original Caedmon LP plus single sold for $998 dollars on ebay.

pf said...

On April 12th 2007 a copy of Water into Wine Band's Harvesttime has sold for £281 - roughly $560 on ebay. It was notable for being sold by Oxfam in Edinburgh and including a number of letters written by the band about the pressing of the album. A good buy for somebody.

Here's the link (if it works will include a photo of the letters):
http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ih=008&sspagename=STRK%3AMEWA%3AIT&viewitem=&item=180102930622&rd=1&rd=1

pf said...

Another attempt to post the link.

Ken Patterson said...

Water into Wine Band and Caedmon met in 1976 or 1977 when they both played at the Charisma club in Edinburgh's west end.

I was cello player in Caedmon and remember the band fondly. We played throughout Scotland between 1973 and 1978 and once at the Greenbelt festival in a folk tent, 1977, I think.

Ken Patterson

pf said...

Hi Ken! Do you still play?

And there is of course a CD of Caedmon Live! available as well as the original Caedmon album. I found the Live album as remarkable as the recorded one.

Ken Patterson said...

We live in different cities now. We remain in occasional contact. Perhaps a 30th anniversary CD (due this year) would be a good idea?

I am a full time musician, have a look at my My Space page.

Best regards Ken

pf said...

And this is Ken's MySpace site.

Several interesting songs on it. I like the idea of a 30th anniversary CD - are there any more songs, Ken?

Ken Patterson said...

Lots of songs, I'm currently in a period of renaissance as far as finding my own voice. Discovering My Space and other blog sites, as a forum for sharing songs and ideas, is a revelation. (I can see that it could become a bit over compulsive, however.......)

I listened to "The Strange Parallel World of Christian Pop Music" on Radio 4, this week. It featured the discoveries of a record collector, finding vinyl LPs in charity shops and the like.

I posted this passage on the BBC 4 message board, but had no responses:

'I was a member of the Edinburgh based Christian student 5 piece band Caedmon that existed from 1973 - 1978.

We made a vinyl LP in 1978 to celebrate our farewell concert. 500 copies were made.

I was staggered to see a copy being advertised Jan 2008 for a 'buy it now' price of £1500, on eBay.

I can't comprehend why collectors pay such prices. We certainly had no such aspirations. We sold all our 500 albums at the farewell concert in George Square Edinburgh for £2.50... cost price. We organised our own pressing and LP design, printing and production and were glad to have a permanent reminder of our music to carry away.

I'm interested that on present websites and in advertising we are put alongside Pentangle and Spirogyra as examples of the best 70's Acid Folk. We certainly had no fame outside of Scotland church circles as we made our music.

And in 1978 there was no category of Acid Folk, Wyrd Folk or Psychedelic Folk established ....... Christian Folk Rock was our definition, to describe ourselves, ...... but I remember that most people at the time used the category 'Gospel Music' to describe our sort of thing.

It didn't seem strange to be making music influenced by all that we were listening to in the secular scene.
Caedmon was perhaps special because we wrote our own material unlike most other similar bands...... but the curious outcome for me is that there is now a genuine and developing interest in such music, with its own new classifications and discussion forums.

Had we known in 1978 that a cd version would be made in1994 (and other unauthorised vinyl copies later) which would be a niche market success, we would have shelled out more of our meagre university grants to re-record slips in intonation and sort the hissing sounds of the gas cooker warming the unheated home studio!
One always wants more time to get recordings right, but we were by then outside the studio time we had allotted for the task and had final exams to think about. (My memory that we spent two days on twelve tracks).

I suppose if that one can envisage 1 percent of any given sample of listeners might like a particular old album or genre. ....and if that be the case....... if the sample of potential listeners who have access to such material is continually growing (because of the internet) .......... then an interested audience of thousands, or tens of thousands is possible.'

Is pf 'Parchment Fan'?

pf said...

Yes!

This is the link to the Radio programme which I'm just listening to now...

James Bisset said...

Connections:

I'm Jim, the fuzz guitar in Caedmon. When Caedmon retired, I joined Ever After, the Scottish Christian rock band which had been gigging and recording under various names since the mid sixties. Annie McCaig, who used to sing with Ever After, was in London working with Paul Field in Nutshell.

Nutshell were offered the support slot on the Andrae Crouch tour in '79 and asked Ever After to play as their backing band. The rest of the band couldn't do it, but I took up the offer and played guitar in the pickup band that Nutshell put together for the tour.

The bass player in the pickup band (can't for the life of me remember his name - was it Alan?) was putting a band together with Sue Mclellan, and I was auditioned for the guitar slot. This was going to be a Christian super-group. In January 1980, I went down to London to join them and spent a desultory six months booking rehearsal rooms and auditioning other musicians. London's a big, lonely old place when you don't have any money. I was finally evicted from my rented room and fled to Manchester.

I'm still here, but I guess that's another story.

pf said...

Welcome Jim!

Did the proposed supergroup have a name?

And were any songs written?

James Bisset said...

Heh - we must have done something in those six months, but I don't remember much except seedy rehearsal rooms and disappointing auditions. I had the feeling that too many other things were going on elsewhere.

Sue was producing full-time, the bass player whose name I can't remember (do you think that's significant?) had a day job as an accountant at EMI and I was alternating between temporary jobs and reading the complete works of Dickens. Frankly, between the pipe-smoking, cheap lentils and erm... flatulence, it's no wonder I was evicted!

It's probably more relevant to remember the state of the music industry at the time. It was post punk, post disco and very definitely post folk. Which way was forward? I think we all had different ideas.

One of the things I had to do at my audition was 'play like the Rolling Stones'. I saw myself as a kind of hired gun - maybe that was my mistake, but in those days I was just another guitarist, not a ex-member of the band which had created the second best folk-rock album ever (or whatever the hyperbole claims).

In retrospect, the whole escapade could probably be summed up in the phrase 'it seemed like a good idea at the time'.

Although I'd love to know how Sue and uhmmm - whatsisname - remember it. :)

pf said...

!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm Sam, bass and occasional vocals. Like Ken I'm flabbergasted (ghasted?) that there's so much hype about the album. We were just doing what we liked doing - no aspirations or feeling of anything out of the ordinary. I'm now a computer guy in Edinburgh, playing in church and in a ceildh band with Simon - http://www.flamingnora.org.uk/ (sorry, I haven't managed to work out how to include a link). Angela lives in Brum.

Weird...

pf said...

Well this is a sample of your reviews on Amazon:
This cd has been described as "the best folk rock LP ever made, perhaps 2nd only to Mellow Candle". Well, I believe it to be better than Mellow Candle. The music is much more varied and diverse. The best folk rock ever? That is very possible. My God, what phenomenal music!

So I've now added Mellow Candle to my Amazon wishlist. Has anybody heard it?

pf said...

I've now obtained Mellow Candle on CD. It is a great album, distinguished and unusual for having two great women vocalists. Musically not as interesting as Caedmon however. It would be interesting to have a poll at some time of the greatest prog folk album.

Ken Patterson said...

Four of the original five Caedmon met this weekend (17 - 19 May) to play together for the first time for 30 years! We played non stop for 2.5 days
The chemistry was still there with an number of new instruments not on the 1978 Acid Psychedelic Folk album 'Caedmon': drumkit, accordion, trombone now add to the eclectic mix. Time in Africa, Manchester clubs and the ceilidh band circuit have all made their mark.

There's enough material on demo for a new album which will be recorded in September/October 1008.

See a video of the rehearsals
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gjzrs6bVYVg

and our new website which is coming together well

http://www.caedmonsreturn.com

pf said...

Ken
This is incredibly exciting news!

Ken Patterson said...

Hi pf

There are four new tracks on Caedmon's myspace page. www.myspace.com/caedmonsreturn. Let us know what you think of them.
Ken

pf said...

Hi Ken.

This is amazing!

Is that Angela singing?

kentpatterson said...

Yes it's Angela. We've got plenty more to work on but have decided to record again with a producer next year to get a definitive version....... it's difficult when you are doing it yourself to know where to add and when to leave things alone in the editing.

But we're working on the live set now ready for appearances in 2010

Anonymous said...

Caedmon are playing their first live concerts for 30 years at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh on 7th and 8th May.

Ken