8 Oct 2017

Marian Segal & Jade - Fly On Strangewings: The Anthology

Reviewed by Nathan Ford

Ooh, this is a lovely box set from Cherry Tree. Marian Segal & Jade's sole 1970 album "Fly On Strangewings" is a bit of a folk-rock classic, but if you're reading this, you likely already know that.

This three disc box set aims to tell a more complete version of Segal's story, including an expanded version of "Fly On Strangewings", "Paper Flowers" (a collection of pre-Jade acoustic folk duets recorded with Dave Waite), and most intriguingly of all, "Kiss of the Buddha" a collection of archive material recorded after the Jade album spanning the years 1971 to 2013.

First of all "Fly On Strangewings". Often compared to Fairport Convention, with Segal's voice frequently likened to Sandy Denny, I'd suggest that it's Segal's songwriting and the album's arrangements that are more comparable to Denny's. Certainly there are a great deal more strings than Fairport ever employed, and Segal's songs are rooted in the contemporary with little of the trad imagery that Fairport employed. Fans of Sandy Denny's 1972 album "Sandy" will likely feel right at home here though.

Segal's songs are uniformly strong across "Fly On Strangewings". It's easy to see how it's acquired its stellar reputation, with the album's few detractors seeming to be those who've approached it expecting something with a psychedelic approach (understandably as dealers have been labelling this as acid-folk for years to drive up the prices). Try the delicate title track, or the fantastic opener "Amongst Anemones" (both embedded below) for an idea of whether this is your bag or not.

Moving on to "Paper Flowers", originally released in 2004, but recorded between 1967 and 1969, this is made up of acoustic based folk duets with Dave Waite (who was also in Jade). Soundwise it's quite similar to Sandy Denny's pre-Fairport recordings (solo, with Alex Campbell and with the Strawbs), although most of the material is Segal's own, bar a few Dylan covers (of which "Percy's Song" is particularly lovely). It's a very pleasant listen, with Segal's songwriting developing nicely but not quite up to the caliber of what she'd achieve on "Fly On Strangewings" as of yet.

"Kiss of the Buddha" kicks off with two lovely recordings from an aborted 1971 solo album which steps away from the UK folk sound and betrays a welcome Laurel Canyon influence. There's also a selection of demo recordings from the early to mid seventies which have a contemporary singer-songwriter vibe to them. Also of interest are a pair of recordings produced by Jeff Wayne in 1976 featuring the likes of Chris Spedding, Julie Covington, Tony Carr and Alan Hawksworth. Don't expect "War of the Worlds", but in a musical climate that saw Cat Stevens racking up hit after hit, it's easy to imagine these sides doing well had they been released at the time. The only mistep I'd mention is the non inclusion of anything from the 2007 album "The Gathering" which Marian (or Marianne by this point) recorded with Circulus, a necessary chapter in the story, especially for those interested in her psych-folk credentials. Omissions aside, what is here is very interesting indeed.

The box comes with each album packaged in attractive vinyl replica sleeves and an informative 22 page booklet which sheds further light on Marian's post-Jade activites.

Get it here.

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