BELTANE...A MUSICAL FANTASY
review by Barry Smith
To borrow a line from George "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" Michael, you must "Listen without Prejudice" when you place this superb disc into your player! It cannot be dismissed as just a cover version album, although all of the tracks contained on it are Bolan penned, rather it should be treated as a musical masterpiece in its own right.
I was a little apprehensive myself when I heard that Marcs magical "Tyrannosaurus Rex" tracks had been interpreted using harpsichords, cello's, organs and a female vocalist in Baroque style but that apprehension was soon dismissed once I'd heard the result. To say I was stunned is an understatement and i was amazed by the sounds that drifted out of the speakers.
It took a couple of plays for me to fully appreciate what Michel Laverdiere and Robert Lafond had created as it is strange to hear Marcs music played "olde worlde" style, but each time I have played it since, and that now numbers dozens, I hear something new.
Michel Laverdiere is a long time Bolan fan dating back to the 1960's and he even met Marc in 1972 whilst in Montreal. Having spoken to him recently, and on reading the informative sleeve notes, it is obvious that Michel has a deep love and respect for Marc and this beautifully created tribute is a great monument to his feelings. He is a renowned Classical music producer and both Catherine Lambert (vocals) and Robert Lafond (Harpsichord and organ), along with the "Lore Liege Ensemble", are experts in their fields.
Catherines voice is beautifully clear and she sings Marcs words as if they were written especially for her. The album starts with "The Children of Rarn - Overture" (which closely follows Marcs arrangments) and the atmosphere is immediately set as her ethereal vocals and church style organ make your spine tingle. A medieval harpsichord refrain then leads into a gentle "Pavilions of Sun" which uses recorders and vocals against an acoustic guitar backing and sounds very "Henry VIII Greensleeves"...if you know what I mean. "The Sea Beasts" wafts in next using a similar arrangement and comes over as very "Irish" in its feel...folklike and pretty and completely absorbing.
This is followed by an organ dominated "Dragons Ear" which is both militaristic and peaceful and then, for me the highlight of the album, a breathtakingly beautiful version of Marcs love song "A Daye Laye". Catherines vocals are crystal clear and are sympathetically augmented by a minstrel style acoustic guitar and a lowing cello. Its absolutely stunning - I can't stop playing it - and I'm sure you won't either.
"Rarn, Rarn", from Marcs demo, is then given a "Stairway to Heaven" feel and you can almost see her slight frame praying to the omnipotent being. This, and "Beltane" ends with an uplifting theme that could teach the Salvation Army a thing or two about having the best tunes.
"Organ Blues", "Great Horse" and "Wind Cheetah" then all come in for the baroque treatment and all blend wonderfully well with those that have gone before. Incidentally by the time that you have reached "A Daye Laye" it will seem as if Marcs music always sounded this way!!
"Beltane", again from Marcs demo, is the next track up which is followed by a rousing "Stones for Avalon" before finally finishing - in good old Bolan tradition - with "The Children of Rarn - Finale". This last track, containing tinkling harpsichord, cascading acoustic guitar, lowing cello, weaving recorders and lifting vocals, takes the listener to the end of the musical fantasy and leaves you elated - and really sorry that its over. But theres always the repeat button!!!
As you can tell, I'm delighted with this release and I highly recommend it to any fan. The packaging is classy and uses a fairy image on the sleeve plus a picture of Marc inside. It also contains the lyrics as well as sleeve notes by both Michel and Robert and a shot of Catherine on the reverse. I feel sure that Marc himself would have been impressed by - and proud of - this work. Tony Visconti was so impressed that he has offered to help Michel to do a volume 2! "The cd is superb. Marc would've loved it I can assure you. I think the concept, the arranging and the performance from all the artists are beyond what anyone imagined. It is a work of the highest calibre" (from Tony's fax sent to Michel after hearing "Beltane").
Michel also tells me that he would like to produce a stage show based around the CD using Catherine, "The Lore Liege Ensemble" and film slides and lights to create a unique magical experience. Lets hope that it comes to fruition as he will bring it to Britain should he proceed with the idea.
Barry Smith (Electric Boogie fanzine