Kinesiscd.com Review of Elbows & Antlers September 2011
Kinesiscd.com Review of Avalon Rising September 2011
The Metaphysical Music Man Review of Elbows & Antlers August 2011
San Francisco Examiner Review of Live Show at Modesto Scottish Games June 2009
The Metaphysical Music Man Review of Storming Heaven May 2007
The Metaphysical Music Man Review of Avalon Rising May 2007
Celtic Mp3s Magazine Review of Storming Heaven July 2005
Excalibur Magazine Review of Storming Heaven May 2005
Renaissance Magazine Review of Storming Heaven May 2005
thepaganreview.com Review of Avalon Rising May 2005
thepaganreview.com Review of Storming Heaven May 2005
Amazon.com Review of Storming Heaven October 2004
Guitar Player Magazine's Review of Storming Heaven September 2004
Dirty Linen Magazine's Review of Storming Heaven September 2004
New Witch Magazine's Review of Storming Heaven August 2004
Chaos Realm Review of Storming Heaven July 2004
kinesiscd.com's Review of Storming Heaven July 2004
progressiveears.com's Review of Storming Heaven June 2004
Amazon.com Review of Storming Heaven June 2004
thehereandthere.net's Review of Storming Heaven March 2004
East Bay Express - Article by Rob Harvilla March 2004
The Bohemian - Article by Sara Bir February 2004
The Daily Review - Article by Dhyana Levey December 2003
Rambles.net Review of Avalon Rising March 2003
Chaos Realm Review of Avalon Rising February 2001
Psyche Van Het Radio Show Review of Avalon Rising February 2001
Green Man Review of Avalon Rising March 2000
Pagan Rock Bands Website Review of Avalon Rising March 1999
Radio Limerick Review of Avalon Rising June 1998
KKUP Radio Review of Avalon Rising January 1998
the folknik Review of Avalon Rising December 1997
Hypatia's Hoard Review of Avalon Rising October 1997
Awareness Magazine Review of Avalon Rising August 1997
Relix Magazine Review of Avalon Rising October 1996
Pagan Muse & World Report Magazine Review of Avalon Rising Fall 1996
Victory Review of Avalon Rising June 1996
Asterism Magazine Review of Avalon Rising Spring 1996
Galesburg Register-Mail - Article by Janet Saunders March 1996
HarpBeat Magazine Review of Avalon Rising January 1995
Avalon Rising, from the San Francisco Bay area, play progressive Anglo-Celtic folk-rock with some medieval music and world fusion. They use male & female vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, electric & acoustic violin, flute, Celtic harp, recorder, mandolin, bass, and drums. The arrangements are complex, the rhythm section powerful, and there is plenty of high-energy instrumental content and impressive musicianship. They have the big, expansive sound of a progressive rock band as opposed to the smaller sound of a folk band. Storming Heaven (2004, 74-minutes) and Elbows & Antlers (2011, 77-minutes) are recommended to fans of Tempest, Wolfstone, Loreena McKennitt, Pentangle, Blackmore’s Night, Horslips, the folky side of Jethro Tull, Azigza (also from San Francisco) and, if it means anything to you, Pyewackett. We might also mention Breton bands such as Sonerien Du, but then we’d probably have lost you. Start with Elbows & Antlers, just take the Peter Tosh song that opens the CD with a grain of salt. It’s the finest American album we’ve heard in this genre.
Their first CD predates their second by nearly a decade, so it’s not too surprising that Avalon Rising (1995, 52-minutes) is a slightly different beast. There is some of the Anglo-Celtic folk-rock that would carry forward to the later albums, but much of the material is more atmospheric and psychedelic/progressive, like a blend of Loreena McKennitt, Popol Vuh, Jade Warrior, Dead Can Dance, and early Strawbs. A beautiful and sometimes mesmerizing album, as accomplished as the work of any of those artists mentioned as reference points.
It’s only fitting, with Lughnasadh being one of the most overtly Celtic of our feasts (named for an Irish god, after all), that Avalon Rising, that stalwart band of Celtic/Mediæval rockers from Oakland, CA, would treat us now to a brand new CD, their first since Storming Heaven, 7 years ago. This has been a long time coming, but when you have musicians of this caliber, more than well worth the wait. Avalon Rising is Margaret Davis and her partner Kristoph Klover, plus Cat Taylor, Scott Irwin, and Mark Ungar—more or less the same cast of characters as in 2004. The late Cynthia McQuillin (someone I should have learned about a long time ago but, alas, did not) is also on hand again as featured songwriter. Her “The Chieri,” the Beltane song from another planet, was a standout on Storming Heaven. Here she brings “The Shadow of the Sea” and “Arise, My Love.” The former begins with plaintive sounds from Margaret’s harp but quickly evolves into a full-blown oceanic epic by the time it reaches the first chorus, And the wind blows high / When the sea grows wild / Rain blinds your eyes / So you cannot see / But your heart is hard / Like a wandering child / And your soul is like the shadow of the sea. It’s the tale of a man possessed by the siren song of the wide-open waters. “Arise, My Love” is hauntingly romantic (for a vampire song, I mean). Margaret’s sweet soprano soars on this one, and so does her flute for the intro. The first chorus reads, Arise, my love and come to me / And we may one forever be.
The set opens with “Stop the Train,” a musical tour de force that introduces each member of the ensemble and provides each an opportunity to shine. It’s kind of a Celtic Doo-wop song with Beatles overtones, if you know what I mean, but it goes almost gospel before the end. “The Queen of Argyll” is a rousing Scots piece from Andy Stewart and Silly Wizard circa 1983—sounds verra t-r-raditional, but it’s not. I’ve heard Avalon perform it live several times. It has never sounded better than it does right here. The final chorus with its rhythmic change of pace and vocal clarity brings a tear to me eye and stands my hair on end. “Chansonetta Tedesca/Douce Dame” is an instrumental then vocal medley that sounds Renaissance but is imminently suitable for belly dancing today. What is that language, Galician, Old Provençal? It gives Margaret a chance to shine on winds, harp, and vocal. Cat Taylor’s fiddle is also delightful. And speaking of the versatile Cat, she provides the instrumental “A Dinner with Bill and Dan,” which starts out funky and low with the violin sounding almost cello. Then it goes many other places in a variety of fiddle styles.
The Lughnasadh song in this sparkling set is “John Barleycorn,” perhaps the most widely known ballad about the Green Man. It’s a complete Wheel of the Year in one listen, and I should mention a wildly different arrangement than “The Barley Corn” from Barley Rigs, the autumnal offering by Kristoph and Margaret’s alter ego Chamber Folk group, Brocelïande. Kristoph waxes well nigh operatic on the first verse, before the electric guitars kick in and run away with the melody. As wonderful as they sound on CD, I hasten to point out that Avalon Rising is first and foremost a dance band working wherever they can find a gig with a floor in the San Francisco Bay Area and up and down the coast. “John Barleycorn” segues smoothly into a rocking electric reel called “The Scholar Set.” This madly spinning, 10-minute medley is designed to get you up on your feet and keep you moving. It succeeds beyond expectation. Every number in this inventive and wide-ranging set is backed, of course, with impeccable instrumentals and tight, precise arrangements (witness the hoary folk chestnut “Nottamun Town” made fresh, or the insanely rhythmic “Rom Syrto” from the Balkans with its Dick Dale surf guitar intro)). String man and vocalist Kristoph doubles as arranger, mixer, and engineer. In addition to being a primo musician, Mr. Klover is one of the most accomplished studio men on the West Coast today, and his talent is clearly audible here. I confess I’m always hungry for something new from Avalon Rising (and Brocelïande) and hope we don’t have to wait another 7 years for more, but in the meantime, Elbows and Antlers will be good for many fully satisfying spins.
A group that can provide a stark contrast to Golden Bough is Avalon Rising. Avalon Rising also performs Celtic music but with a touch of new age, or maybe fusion, or maybe …? Putting a label on this group is difficult and unwarranted but I find it necessary to describe their music and these are the things that come to mind. First, they are without a doubt, very talented musicians. Their music and musical interpretations are original. Originality is important to establish a foothold in the music industry. In their music I heard elements of rock and jazz that were intertwined with Celtic and other musical genres. The musical styles of Cream, Grateful Dead, and Tubular Bells came to mind.
I listened to a couple of tracks/videos on their Web Site and I was very impressed with their performance of Andray Soulet. This work was written by Matteo da Perugia who lived from 1380 to 1418?. Very little of his works have passed down to us. He is associated with the group of Italian composers who provided music to Venice and other Northern Italian cities. These composers represent the early Quattrocento period of Italian music. Margaret Davis performed masterfully on the recorder in this video. I would say that this performance has a strong Byzantine influence as represented by the group’s use of dumbeg type drum and the guitarist’s chords and rhythmic strumming. The Armenian music I play on clarinet would fit well into this performance. The contemporary influence is evident with the use of tremolo by the guitar and fuzz pedal. This is most evident in the bridge passage of the piece. The vocal by Margaret contains the melismatic style of Perugia and other composers of this period.
As I stated earlier, the musicians in Avalon Rising are outstanding. My concerns have to do with the way they fuse music of early periods with contemporary techniques. At times this seems more of an after thought than as complete merging of the different elements.
The group is comprised of five members. These are Margaret Davis on flute, recorder, Celtic Harp, and lead vocals; Kristoff Klover on electric and acoustic guitar, mandola, and lead vocals; Scott Irwin on drums; Cat Taylor on electric violin; and Mark Unger on bass, mandocello, and vocals. Check out their Web site and make your own determination about them. I believe they are well worth listening to live or on recordings. I am sure I will be hearing more of them before this summer is over.
So there’s no shadow of doubt, let me start by saying up front that Storming Heaven is the finest new (to me anyway) CD of any musical genre I have heard this year. Each track is a cunningly crafted, obvious labor of love. This is a stunning Pagan piece of work, and I commend it to you. Now to the details.
After Bob Dylan did the unthinkable and took American folk music from acoustic to electric in 1965, several astounding British groups followed his lead. Foremost among these in the early 1970s were The Pentangle and Steeleye Span. These people, Jacqui McShee, Maddy Prior and the rest, had the temerity to mix the hallowed, traditional lyrics of British folk music with arrangements involving electric guitars, amplified bass and kit drums. Scandalous, I say! I consider the earliest (original membership) recordings of both of these bands to be absolute classics and well worth a Pagan listen. I mention this because Avalon Rising in their second outing here deliver very much the same sort of creation---traditional English, Irish and Scots folk music, plus a couple of contemporary American tunes thrown in for good measure, all served up with rock band instrumentation in addition to the acoustic folk implements you might expect. This is a different lineup of musicians, Margaret Davis and Kristoph Klover along with four new player/singers. Only Deirdre McCarthy returns from the original Avalon Rising and just to contribute some lively bodhran tips on “Lark in the Morning.” Many of the songs here are earthy and lusty in nature, the perfect musical accompaniment to any Beltane celebration. The aforementioned “Lark,” “The Hexamshire Lass,” and “Glasgow Peggy” all deal with the manifold delights of courting in the springtime and summer. Perhaps the finest Beltane song in this set is Cynthia McQuillen’s “The Chieri” from 1979, an ample, driving, five-minute piece about a young man’s encounter with an otherworldly lover. Here’s a wee taste.
In the forest, silver moonlight
Lit the branches like a flame
And drunk with Spring’s enchantment,
Lightly down the path she came
Her voice trilled like a nighting bird
As she danced beneath the moon,
I longed to join her madness
And feared I would to soon
Totally earthy Celtic as this may sound, you would never know Cynthia is actually writing about a silver haired alien of ambiguous gender from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series of science fiction novels, a series Ms. McQuillen herself has taken a hand in continuing after Bradley’s untimely departure. It’s still a Beltane song far as I’m concerned. They have Beltane on Darkover too, don’t they? And I would be remiss if I finished this without saying something about Kristoph Klover’s 2002 composition, “Jack Daw.” It’s a new riff on the venerable “John Barleycorn” theme that somehow conjures up for this listener the image of hippies hanging out in Big Sur. It’s a complete Wheel of the Year song, as all John Barleycorn songs are. The Beltane verse stands out.
Jack Daw went to the Maypole
With ribbons for the Spring
And maidens wrapped around him
As befits the Summer’s king
He leapt into their bonfire
And his body filled with light
And he lit up in his glory
And he blessed us in the night
I must say I am also growing increasingly fond of Kristoph’s cover of Papa John Phillips’ “Dancing Bear” from 1965. Sir Klover has done it both here and in a different, acoustic arrangement on Brocelïande’s harvest season CD, Barley Rigs, so I guess it’s becoming his own signature tune. He sang it as an encore live at PantheaCon. If you want to appreciate the difference in musical approach between Avalon Rising and Brocelïande, “Dancing Bear” is a good place to start (“Dulaman” works well too).
Steeleye Span and The Pentangle may have sounded this good in their heyday, and they certainly did, but never better. Avalon Rising’s musicianship, singing, instrumentation, and arrangements are all on a par with the very best. The vocal harmonies are breathtaking (just listen closely to the a cappella, four-part “Health to the Company” that closes Storming Heaven). This superb recording faithfully captures every note, and the mix brings them all back with crystal clarity. If you want an idea of how incredibly well engineered this disc is, attend to the instrumental track, “Hunt the Blarney Cat,” a medley of three traditional Irish reels, then follow the sequence into the opening measures of “Glasgow Peggy” which starts out quietly acoustic before totally rocking out.
At PantheaCon Margaret Davis promised me a new Avalon Rising project before the coming Yule, one that will feature the image of Cernunnos on the cover. I can’t wait. Amazing as Storming Heaven is, who knows what these people might accomplish next?
A long time ago (1995 to be exact) near a bay far away (San Francisco, CA), a group of stalwart and talented performers gathered to make some joyful noise. Margaret Davis and her consort Kristoph Klover teamed up with half a dozen friends to record the eponymous Avalon Rising. This was the beginning of a musical tradition that continues and grows down to this very day. This debut CD features the electric instruments and drum kit that are Avalon Rising’s hallmark, along with the eclectic Early/Traditional/Celtic Folk/song selections that would later become Brocelïande’s stock in trade (Brocelïande is Avalon Rising’s acoustic alter ego---more about that merry band next time). Three of the songs here are also Kristoph Klover originals, with more contributed by ensemble members Deirdre McCarthy and Pete Gascoyne. Margaret leads off with “The Great Selkie,” a staple of the ‘60s folk music revival, then presents traditional European pieces like “Andray Soulet” from Renaissance France and “Contre le Tens/Toda Cousa” from Medieval France and Spain. For the Pagan taste, you will enjoy Cynthia McQuillen’s “Dark Moon Circle,” in which witches fly, dance, and revel on what might just be Beltane Eve. I offer the third verse as evidence.
Gladly join the circle dance,
There’s no telling what may chance,
Linger while the fire dies,
With the Sacred Lover lie
This sprightly bit of fun breaks in the middle for a jolly rendition of Irishman Tommy Makem’s signature tune, “Little Beggarman,” on penny whistle. The following track, Pete Gascoyne’s “Reborn,” a reincarnation song, has a nice Pagan resonance as well. Avalon Rising’s musicianship and singing here are impeccable. The engineering and mix, done by Kristoph Klover himself, applies a bit more echo chamber “sweetening” to some of the vocals than suits my taste, but that’s me. Excellent as this recording is, and I do recommend it, it sounds like a garage band warm-up when compared with Margaret and Kristoph’s later work, as we will hear.
Celtic Mp3s Magazine Review of Storming Heaven
Reviewer: J. Wallace
Avalon Rising has quite a track record. Twelve years in the Bay Area and on stages throughout the Pacific Northwest has honed the skills of this Celtic/Medieval rock group to a high degree. Fans of Avalon Rising's blend of traditional, slightly psychedelic and Mid-Eastern influences will be quite pleased with Storming Heaven. It gets off to a rousing start with The Hexamshire Lass and Hunt The Blarney Cat. There are good old-fashioned sounds on The Lark In The Morning, but this is far from a traditionalist release. The song Jack Daw is a progressive rock ballad some are comparing to Jethro Tul,l and the band shows off their a capella talent on Health To The Company, which closes out the CD.
It's not an easy feat to pull off such a wide range of diverse sounds and influences while keeping a heavy Celtic flavor, but Avalon Rising is up to the job. The band scores points with "old school" Irish music lovers with the pagan overtones of their music, and makes the grade with fans of skilled guitar playing. Some will pick up this album out of sheer curiosity -- how can a band manage hints of the Middle East, psychedelia, and on Musical Pesto Set, a hint of the Red Hot Chili Peppers while still uncompromisingly Celt? Avalon Rising is a group giving big headaches to music store employees who can't quite find a category for this progressive/traditional band.
Excalibur Magazine Review of Storming Heaven
Reviewer: Raye Snover
Flutes, harps, and electric guitars? Hmm, sounds odd, if not a bit eccentric, but Oakland, CA based band Avalon Rising makes it work and wonderfully so. On their sophomore CD, Storming Heaven this Celtic Rock group blends the old and new into a cohesive whole. Nothing is overpowering, with each instrument and vocal subtly combining to compliment the other. From the violin of Cat Taylor, the guitars of Kristoph Klover, drums of Kevin Fanning and Scott Irwin to Margaret Davis' flute and Celtic harp, their instrumentation is sublime. Whether it be, an Irish jig or southern style rock, Avalon Rising packs an astounding diversity into each song. Plus one hasn't made the flute this viable a tool since Jethro Tull.
"Hunt the Blarney Cat," a lively Irish tune, opens with Mark Ungar's rolling bass and Cat Taylor's haunting violin, kicking in with drums and flute finishing with Klover's Allman Brothers' like guitar riff. "Musical Pesto Set" goes from primal drumming valleys where one can envision ancient dances around a fire, to rocking guitar, while "Sidhe Set" is a quickly running stream in a storm of flute, guitar, bass and drums. "Do You Love An Apple?" a poignant ballad about a woman loving a far from perfect man is given beauty by Klover's acoustic guitar playing and Davis' emotive voice interspersed with a lilting flute that soars.
The band's subject matter is as diverse as their instrumentation. "Dulaman" is charming ode to seaweed or more aptly the sea's bounty and the idyllic life of the common woman on the coast of Ireland. "Jack Daw" written by Klover is about ancient king. Opening with harp this song quickly turns into a more rugged tune with Klover's gritty vocals reminiscent of a refined Lynard Skynard. "Turning In Time" also a Klover creation, is duet that speaks of fear of losing love, while the John Phillips' penned, "Dancing Bear" speaks about a man who would rather have the freedom of gypsy life. This tune sung with Klover's remarkable tenor could be definitely fit into a Broadway show.
Appropriately this CD ends with a bid from the band to "friends and companions to join...in rhyme with' "Health To The Company" an a cappella song of celebration. If Avalon Rising keeps coming up with works like Storming Heaven everyone surely will. This CD is available at Amazon.com and the bands website www.avalonrising. com
Renaissance Magazine Review of Storming Heaven
Reviewer: Marc Alexander
A pleasing mixture of ancient and modern characterizes the work of Avalon Rising on their latest CD Storming Heaven. With a unique blend of recorder, harp, fiddle, percussion , and electric guitar and violin, the reels, jigs, and ballads of traditional Celtic music are infused with modern touches that enrich but do not overwhelm the music. Rock rhythms add flair to many of the pieces, providing a little something for everyone, no matter what their taste.
"Hunt the Blarney Cat" brings electric guitar riffs into a Celtic context while "Musical Pesto Set" adds touches of classic rock and even reggae, giving the rapid-fire sets of reels a funky modern feel. Other songs are generally traditional pieces or written in an authentic ballad style, and all of the musicians harmonize well, especially on "Glasgow Peggy." However, while the sound quality on much of the CD is less than perfect, the musician's instrumental and vocal talent shines through. The "Sidhe Set" lilts and twirls with an almost frenetic pace that owes itself to the wild dances that the fairies are said to have held on moonlit nights. In contrast, "The Chieri" brings rock tempos to a traditional ballad that recounts an encounter with a mysterious woman.
While some pieces follow traditional Celtic forms, Avalon Rising is equally adept at incorporating other styles into their work. "Turning in Time" mixes folk-rock elements with occasional touches of flamenco and Middle Eastern trills while "Dancing Bear" paints an idealized portrait of the freewheeling gypsy life. Classic rock from the 1960s and '70s is also an obvious influence, as shown on pieces, such as "Dulaman", a sea chantey with electric guitar solos, and in "Jack Daw," a rock ballad that recalls the universal stories of death and rebirth. Finally, "Health to the Company" is a rousing rendition of a classic toast, providing a fitting ending to a fine CD.
Avalon Rising has concocted a fun album that breathes new life into classic Celtic music while maintaining the integrity of the tradition they obviously treasure. Despite the title Storming Heaven, such an extreme measure will not be necessary; with their lively style and creatively entertaining music, they should be welcomed there with open arms.
Recently we put out a call for Pagan musicians to submit their work for us to review, and Avalon Rising was one of the first to respond. I'm so glad they did!
This is an interesting CD with an eclectic mix of music. With some bands, all of their songs sound the same, not true with Avalon Rising! The Great Selkie is a traditional song about a maid who gives birth to the son of the Great Selkie who then tell her of her future along with his and their son's sad destiny. My favorite song on this CD is Andray Soulet. I don't have a clue what the words mean, but the beat on this one is amazing, sexy and seductive all the way. Kristoph Klover writes several of the songs, along with playing the 12-string acoustic guitar and singing. These songs sing of olden days, of times long past, and transport you into a different world. Dark Moon Circle, written by Cynthia McQuillin, is another favorite. Asking the Lady to join in a celebration, this is the perfect Beltaine song. Reborn is an upbeat, interesting song about reincarnation from the view of the reincarnated.
Totally awesome! This CD contains some original material, but also includes many Irish, English and Scottish traditional songs. Even the traditional songs are done with a modern twist, giving them extra appeal. Songs on this CD include:
The Hexamshire Lass, Hunt the Blarney Cat, Glasgow Peggy, The Chieri, Sidhe Set, The Lark in the Morning, Jack Daw, Dulaman, Health to the Company
These songs are quite suitable for an energetic festival celebration, and will definitely have participants dancing all over the place! Avalon Rising is able to play a traditional song and make it sound traditional and familiar, yet make it sound new and like a song you've never heard before by making it their own, all at the same time. Although I would have to say I prefer the musical instruments to the vocals, each singer has their own very distinct voice - not the kind you will find on American Idol, but voices that have a highly natural quality to them. Avalon Rising is truly talented, experimental and out to make a name for themselves as exceptional modern day minstrels.
Amazon.com Review of Storming Heaven
This isn't your mother's folk music! Avalon Rising is a music group from the Pacific Northwest Bay area that create an electro-acoustic blend of both traditional and original songs with a Celtic flair. The group unapologetically embraces its roots in Celtic and pagan traditions while weaving in electric guitars and jazzy riffs that give the music a distinct edge of rock and roll. The overall effect is at once comfortable and energy inspiring and a treat for anyone who is a fan of this musical genre. Listeners can tell that cofounders Margaret Davis and Kristoph Klover, along with performers Mark Ungar, Cat Taylor and Scott Irwin love what they do, and have pulled together in the past ten years to craft a musical voice all their own. Mixing and melding traditions and times into a seamless whole that somehow just works incredibly well. The over all sound is not quite as seamlessly polished as mainstream music-sometimes the vocals can get lost amid the instruments, but I find this to be a small complaint considering what the group does deliver. Some of the songs still have a strong traditional and ethereal flair, like the Irish folk song "The Lark in the Morning", "Do You Love an Apple?" and "Health to the Company." Other selections are traditional, but have received a reviving lift courtesy of some rock and roll flair. "Hunt the Blarney Cat" and "Musical Pesto Set" are two such. Perhaps my favorite selection on this album is "Jack Daw" which is written by Kristoph Klover. It's a piece that really brings out the band's talents. Sort of Jethro Tull meets Middle Earth sort of pagan, progressive Celtic fantasy ballad. Kristoph Klover's vocals really shine here. "Dancing Bear" written by John Phillips, is another favorite. "Musical Pesto Set" is my favorite instrumental selection and was the first song I ever heard by Avalon Rising. This selection prompted me to find out about Avalon Rising and their music and then buy this album. I have not regretted the purchase. Fans of Emerald Rose, Loreena McKennit, Blackmore's Night and Fairport Convention will likely find this a welcome addition. If you prefer something more purely traditional, this will probably not suit your needs. You might wish to look for music by Dolores Keane or Karan Casey. Likewise, this is not a peaceful ambient music album to use during meditation-it's great for dancing though! I hope listeners will love this as much as I have. Be sure to check out their earlier album, "Avalon Rising" that was released in 1997. Happy Listening!
Avalon Rising Storming Heaven: Like many things that bubble up in an Irish cultural stew, Celtic music is simultaneously blessed and cursed. The music's passion, angst, and ethereal beauty can be truly astounding, but - like the blues - it can become cliched and almost laughable when embraced by dunderheads and dilettantes. Happily (at least for my ears), Avalon Rising drifts above the curse by being both real and adventurous. The band wisely lets violinist Cat Taylor and flutist/harpist Margaret Davis deliver the major Celtic vibe, and they are absolutely stellar musicians. The duo's soaring, almost achingly sensual phrasing gives age-old and original melodies near-cinematic impact. (Don't be surprised or embarrassed if you shed a tear when listening to their plaintive harmonic dances - it just means you're a living, breathing, feeling person.) The wilder bits are injected by guitarist Kristoph Klover, who employs a bratty Strat tone and an affinity for blues and psychedelia to modernize the standard Celtic formula without tanking the traditional melodic and rhythmic devices that make this music so endearing. Avalon Rising isn't the most trad or the most progressive Celtic-based band I've heard, but it's certainly the group I'd pick to lift up my spirits or drown me deeper into my Guinness.
If you prefer music also designed to sound good when you're sober, the California quintet Avalon Rising is another band that incorporates bass, drums, and electric instruments, but its approach to English, Irish, and Scottish music on Storming Heaven [Flowinglass Music FM011 (2004)] is a little lighter and much more melodic. The old Fairport Convention standard "The Hexamshire Lass" gets a rousing treatment that invies a singalong, while "Glasgow Peggy" has a Renaissance feel with an electric guitar chiming in. Electric fiddler Cat Taylor and flutist Margaret Davis lead the charge on the tune sets, which are also accented by some intricate resonant bass work from Mark Ungar.
Storming Heaven is the second offering from Bay Area Celtic rock band Avalon Rising, a group long known for exciting arrangements of traditional pieces, as well as intense and enthralling original songs. Fans have been waiting several years for this CD, and it doesn't disappoint; the production values are splendid, providing a crisp, complexly layered sound. The song selections are varied, ranging from instrumentals to some heavily rock-influenced numbers, such as the album's most likely hit within the Pagan community, "Jack Daw," a song that includes lines such as "Jack Daw went to the Maypole/With ribbons for the Spring/And maidens wrapped around him/As befits the Summer's King." A common complaint among fans of Celtic rock is that eventually everything can start to sound the same. Avalon Rising avoids this problem by taking advantaqe of the unique skills offered by its members, which include veterans of several other Celtic rock groups (among them Annwn and Phoenyx). Of particular note are Kristoph Klover's soaring vocals, Margaret Davis's harp and flute playing, and Cat Taylor's energetic, skillful fiddling. This is high-quality musicianship, and better still, it's high-quality music.
Mixing Celtic & rock music can be a sticky business. Sometimes it works like a charm, becoming a wonderful, even flow where the thousands of years between the origins of the 2 melt away to a glorious fusion. I'm thinking 7N and Black 47 as examples. Other times, more often, it's like oil & water, becoming formulated and disjointed at best, and a hideous & contrived train wreck at worst. I'll refrain from countless examples but we've all heard 'em. Fortunately, Oakland's AVALON RISING fall on the former side of this steep divide. Of course, any Celtic band with songs as their base is going to need a singer and AR has one in spades in Margaret Davis. Her prowess would be enough to have her in my short-list, along with Maireid Sullivan & Grace Griffith, as her solo CD from a few years ago proves. Here (and on the band's previous disc), she weaves her talents gorgeously into the band tapestry. And, the rest of AVALON RISING is great! From Kristoph Klover's killer guitar work (electric enough for rock & yet not too much so to clash), to Cat Taylor's violin, the playing is top-notch and yet organic enough to avoid the overly-polished black hole. Listen to numbers like "Jack Daw" and "Turning In Time" and be reeled in my one of the year's best Celtic rock releases.
Avalon Rising, from the San Francisco Bay area, play Irish folk-rock with touches of medieval music. While many prog rock fans are familiar with Horslips, there seems to be little activity in this genre in Ireland today, so Avalon Rising may well be the best Irish folk-rock band currently working. There are male & female vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, electric & acoustic violin, flute, Celtic harp, recorder, mandolin, bass, and drums. As one of the band members has pointed out, there are bands out there calling themselves Celtic rock, but they are actually playing a version of Celtic country. The common weakness of bands attempting this style is that the musicians are often coming from the folk side, and to the extent they have a rock pedigree at all, it is usually rock of the mundane variety. The result is a ãsmallä sound by prog rock standards. Have no fear, Avalon Rising sound like they know what theyâre doing, the arrangements are complex, and the rhythm section is powerful. There is plenty of high-energy instrumental content. Obviously then this is recommended to fans of the folky side of Jethro Tull, Tempest, Wolfstone, and of course Horslips. 74-minutes!
Storming Heaven by Avalon Rising: Summary : A refreshing new-age approach to an old-world style. In order to quickly and accurately describe the music of a band not yet on the Clearchannel playlists, reviewers use two tools: Genre, and comparisons with other bands. But Avalon Rising's music doesn't lend itself well to either of those tools. In theory Storming Heaven is Celtic rock. In fact it is very Celtic, rather medieval, and a bit rock. And although it's Celtic rock, do not think of Mostly Autumn or even Karnataka. Those bands are more progressive and far closer to the "rock" end of their genre. Iona may be a stretch too, and many would compare Avalon Rising to Shine Dion, Loreena McKennitt or Candice Night, but those are also uncomfortable references. Perhaps Clannad would be closer. Since neither comparison nor genre will work very well, hopefully a more creative description of the music will help: Remember Glass Hammer's Middle Earth Album? All those hobbits with their barroom sing-along songs? Now imagine that the Prancing Pony's management hired the best musicians of the time and allowed them to use a very limited amount of electric and bass guitar. The band had a male and a female vocalist and used an imaginative array of instruments - violin, flute, harp, recorder, mandolin, oboe , trap drums, celtic harp, recorder, bodhran (a percussion instrument), doumbek (also percussion), and mandocello (tuned about half an octave below a mandolin). Make no mistake, despite that interesting mix of instruments it is Kristoph Klover's guitars that define this music, although they're held tastefully back in the mix and often contribute to the traditional atmosphere. Imagine a distorted guitar picking a riff along the bass strings as an accompaniment to a fiddle and recorder playing frantically-paced, complex melodies. And over the 5 minutes the all instrumental piece introduces percussion and bass, and the guitar's riff is developed into an interesting melody that complements the violin. You'll be left breathless and fascinated. And the rest of the tunes are altogether different! Avalon Rising is a project of husband and wife team Margaret Davis and Kristoph Klover. Davis is a classically trained soprano, and although her voice is one of the sounds that will stay with you long after the CD player has been turned off, the vocals are not the strongest component of this music. That honor belongs to the guitars and to Cat Taylor's violins - one of which is a sometimes-strident but masterfully played 5-string electric. The band resides in the San Francisco area and has gathered a dedicated following through two albums and ten years of local appearances. And Like Glass Hammer, they were selected as the band for an official Lord of the Rings Oscar party in Hollywood. The basis of this sound is in traditional English, Scottish and (mostly) Irish folk music, and there are continental renaissance-era influences. A few of the 15 short tracks are original compositions while the rest are adaptations of traditional pieces. And all 73 minutes are filled with those uplifting, bouncy compositions that will have you tapping your feet the first time you play it, and whistling along with the melodies every subsequent time. Remember Mike Oldfield's stylized Irish ditties? Well this isn't stylized - it is as close to the real thing as you'll get in the 21st century. To appreciate this one your tastes will have to extend beyond just prog and rock. This music applies a progressive spin to retrogressive music and will be appreciated by hobbits and open minded music fans everywhere.
Hoot Mon!! Tap Yer Toes! Better Yet, Let's Dance! Avalon Rising proves worthy...stellar work on both traditional classics, covers and original tunes. They confirm that headlining time is here. Reminiscent of Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention and Pentangle, this band is a gift to Celtic rock fans. "Tempest" move over, musicianship and vitality come through on this bright brilliant mix of sweet, dance and merry songs. My list of favorites : first, traditional and instrumentals; Pesto & Side Sets, Congress Reel/Red Crow, Glasgow Peggy, Hexamshire Lass, Lark In The Morning. For the originals; Jack Daw, Turning In Time, make the grade. Even the cover of John Phillips' Dancing Bear is fun. Kristoph & Cynthia's singing could be stronger, but this cd is a fine effort. Especially musically this is a great experience. The only better thing to do is hear this adept band play these gems live. (Happily, the Celtic harp stood out more live and the solos last longer). Tossed in with their outstanding contagious tunes are surprises; a medley of Tull, and Who and then a few Grateful Dead tunes which makes us old rockers jump with glee.
Avalon Rising is a San Francisco, California-based progressive Celtic and Medieval Rock band. I have been a fan of Avalon Rising even without hearing a single tune simply because one the best musicians I ever met had joined the band. Cat Taylor was in another Celtic band when we first met in San Jose a few years ago. The band was Phoenyx and it was my first taste of Celtic music. I was a fan ever after, but bands like Avalon Rising are few and far between.You get a few "Irish"bands who play lots of harps and verisons of "Danny Boy", but not very many original bands.
Storming Heaven is a jewel, plain and simple. Wonderful vocals by Margaret Davis and Kristoph Klover (who dated the late Marion Zimmer Bradley's daughter for a time. Bradley was famous for the Darkover series and for the "Mists of Avalon"). Cat Taylor plays the fiddles, Scott Irwin is on drums and Mark Ungar is the bass and mandoello player. Davis and Klover also play guitar, oboe, flute, Celtic harp and recorder. This is a seriously talented band. And after 10 years, and hundreds if not thousands of shows,they are a tightly knit group of friends. The interaction is seamless on every track, leading a perfect album. And with 15 cuts,you are getting your money's worth.
My favorite songs on the album were "Sidhe Set" and "Jack Daw," which was written by Klover and is a superb song. Avalon Rising plays a lot of festivals and was chosen as the band for the offical Lord of the Rings Oscar party for the cast and fan club. If you needed any more proof of how good Avalon Rising is, there you go ... one of the year's best. Highly recommended.
All Hail the Halflings
That's right. It's Hobbitmania. So does that mean bands like Jethro Tull are gonna be cool again?
Geeks are the new hipsters. You missed it. It's not your fault. This seismic cultural shift played out slowly and deliberately, a zeitgeist continental drift unfolding over centuries, eras, eons.
Specifically, it happened while you were watching Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
The film, an 85-hour emporium of orc-infested dweebness, has ushered in a bold new era wherein the wedgie-ees have become the wedgie-ers. Return of the King's bombastic dominance of this year's Oscar fiesta cements nerd culture as mainstream culture. The trilogy, which in book form once enraptured and soothed society's outcasts, has now enraptured society itself.
The exact same thing might now happen with prog rock. So meet your new arbiters of cool: Avalon Rising, the Bay Area's finest Celtic-prog band.
Cofounder Margaret Davis calls it "fantasy rock."
Cofounder Kristoph Klover, Margaret's husband, simply calls it "rock."
And soon, so will you.
Avalon Rising spent Oscar Sunday in Los Angeles -- New Line Cinema's official Lord of the Rings Fan Club invited the band to perform at its official party. The ceremony was broadcast onto a big-screen TV, and after Return of the King pranced off with Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Excuse to Piss into a Sprite Cup, the quintet rocked out during the undoubtedly beer-soaked, orgiastic revelry that followed.
This wasn't a celebrity schmoozefest. "There were no big shots whatsoever," bassist Mark Ungar admits ruefully, "although Kristoph was mistaken for Peter Jackson, though he's a third of the size of Peter Jackson."
Do shows like this get, uh, rowdy?
"For extremely introverted, polite people, yes, they did get rowdy. There was some jerking on the dancefloor, even."
Mark, who at 49 is Avalon Rising's elder statesman, conservatively estimates he has read the Tolkien trilogy forty times; he recognizes the significance of the film version walking off with rafts of mainstream culture's most revered and respected awards. "One thing I noticed about our audience at the party -- it was a lot of older people, and I'm sure several had been reading the books as long as I had," he says. "And I did feel from them a sense of vindication: 'This is our moment of glory. '"
What really sealed it, though, was all the screaming. "There were a lot of women there," Mark recalls, "and any time Elijah Wood or anyone from the movie was onscreen, they just screamed. It was the third-loudest sound I ever heard in my life."
(Second-loudest: Mark's Sears-Craftsman hair-clipper, which he uses to trim his beard. First-loudest: a friend's African Grey parrot, which can imitate the sound of a smoke-alarm test.)
Chicks screaming for hobbits? "It kind of reminds me of the Beatles, that kind of reaction," Mark says.
Avalon Rising violinist Cat Taylor was not among this lusty throng. "No, I was the one with my hands involuntarily over my ears," she says. "I was very pleased to see them, but the guy next to me was standing up and yelling like he was at a football game."
So hobbits are the new Beatles, and Tolkien is the new NFL. So is prog the new rock? Avalon Rising plays bright, bouncy Celtic pop -- lotsa tunes about shires and maidens and chimney sweeps -- with a dark undercurrent of technically precise trickiness, as though the Jethro Tull dudes had been sneaking into rehearsals cloaked in the Ring's invisibility.
The chops and the songwriting on the band's latest, Storming Heaven, are stellar indeed, but acquired tastes don't get much sharper -- aural black licorice, either adored or loathed. Avalon Rising will either transport you magically back to Middle Earth or make you want to punch someone.
"In a lot of ways it's really silly music," Mark admits. "It can be sort of pompous and pretentious and airy-fairy, but the thing is, why not do it? We're just doin' this to have fun. That's what being in a rock band is all about. Who's to say what pretentiousness is better than what other pretentiousness?"
Verily, indie rock's pretentiousness is beyond compare, but even those snooty circles are slowly warming to the prog rock they once reviled -- mesh-trucker-hat dudes are snatching up Yes reissues by the crateful. Meanwhile, badass metalheads -- with Tool at the forefront, touring with King Crimson and whatnot -- have long admitted the debts owed to, say, the Alan Parsons Project. Avalon Rising is nowhere near as high- concept, specializing in the sort of feel-good, vaguely Irish party fare you'd expect to hear if you visited the Shire's own Stork Club. But even after a decade of plugging away, the band's tastes will never be more aligned with the mainstream's than they are right now.
That's not necessarily fantastic news. "I think some people become fans of Lord of the Rings because it's kind of a solitary thing, where they don't need other people's approval to do it," Mark says. "There's a certain attraction to it not being something that everyone knows about."
Now that every chump you see on BART is stumbling through The Two Towers, Tolkien fever has steamrolled into the sort of bandwagon pile-on that eventually destroys anything worthwhile.
It's highly unlikely Jethro Tull fans will befall the same fate. But if it's ever gonna happen, it's gonna happen now, in our brave new era of Hobbitmania. Avalon Rising will never headline the Fillmore, but if this Oscar business scores the band a few gigs, God bless it. The irony of folks using the Tolkien epic during childhood to avoid the cool kids and using it in adulthood to be the cool kids is too rich to not savor.
Ask Kristoph, another Tolkien-phile back in his youth. "Well, I'm sure I was an escapist at the time," he admits, laughing nervously. "I liked the fantasy. I wanted to be in the books. I wanted to be in the stories."
"I never actually wanted to be Frodo, though," he adds. "I always liked Sam better. I just thought Sam was way more heroic. Frodo just kind of had his quest and dealt with things, whereas Sam didn't have to go along, and did anyway."
That's enough, geek.
Very rarely do the words "hip" and "Renaissance fair" meet, and perhaps for this we should be glad. After all, who wants to see a bunch of indie rockers traipsing around in Diesel jeans and pirate shirts (well, yeah. those God-awful Ug boots do come close). But with all of this rampant hobbitry going on, even cool kids are coming out of the proverbial medieval closet. Hell, has anyone noticed that an actor whose major credits include playing an elf and a pirate graced a recent cover of Teen Beat?
The Celtic jam-rockers Avalon Rising are way, way past that. They've been in touch with both their inner and outer fantastical selves for years, and have been musically embracing the totem of dragons and fairy queens for a good 10 years. Combining harp, flute, recorder, mandolin, electIic violin and both acoustic and electric guitars along with other miscellaneous reed and string instruments), Avalon Rising inject traditional balladry with a churning rhythm section and a few sprightly touches of good old prog rock to create a sound that's a mixture of Tubular Bells, Dead Can Dance and that song Pippin sings in the film version of The Return of the King. They even recorded an album (2002's The Starlit ]ewel) of J. R. R. Tolkien lyrics set to music composed by Marion Zimmer Bradley, who wrote The Mists of Avalon.
Avalon Rising's newest album, Storming Heaven, is hot off the presses and full of Celtic-jammy vim and vigor. Get in on the Rennie-geek-chic as Avalon Rising play a CD release party at Smiley's Schooner Saloon in Bolinas on Friday, Feb. 20. 41 Wharf Road. Bolinas. For details, call 415.868.1311.
Avalon Rising will revisit its early years during an anniversary performance in Hayward on Saturday. A Celtic rock band based in Oakland, the group has been together for a decade. Although some musicians have replaced others over the years, the band still offers a solid rock sound, members say. "But we have gotten a little less acoustic and more electric over time," says Margaret Davis, an Avalon Rising vocalist who also plays the flute, Celtic harp and recorder. Another vocalist in the band, Kristoph Klover, added that the Celtic rock group's sounds have gotten a bit more psychedelic as well. Klover, who also plays the electric and l2-string guitar, octave mandolin and the oboe, started the band with Davis, his wife, when they began to play as a duo. They added a few members, changed a few others and now rock out with Scott Irwin on the trap drums and Cat Taylor, who plays the electric and acoustic fiddle. Former Avalon Rising musicians Deirdre McCarthy, Beth Milne and Pete Gascoyne will also make an appearance at Saturday's l0th anniversary show.
Klover says the main feature of this concert will be the inclusion of a large selection of music from the unique rock group's first album, including songs it has not performed in a very long time. "We're one of the only bands that play Celtic rock," he says. "Most bands out there call themselves Celtic rock, but they are actually playing a version of Celtic country." Avalon Rising's l0th Anniversary Show will begin at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at the Bistro, 1001 B St., Hayward. Admission is free. Call (510) 886-8525 or (510)569-0437.
Avalon Rising didn't have to do much to win me over. The self-titled album starts with "The Great Selkie," a traditional song I've been longing to hear performed since I was wee. I would have loved the song even if it hadn't been wrapped in music that so clearly held the swell and crash of waves, carried by the ice-clear voices of Margaret Davis and Deirdre McCarthy. The inclusion of the Peter Gascoyne's refrain for the song's gunner was a completely unnecessary bribe.
Following the shining perfection of "The Great Selkie," "Where the Sunset Is Golden" has an inappropriately dark quality. The melody becomes repetitive too quickly, and Kristoph Klover's vocals have a distant, dull sound that makes a poor companion to Davis' lighter background vocals.
Happily, most of the album follows the feel of "Selkie." "Andray Soulet" opens with a high, winding flute that leaves the ear open for the captivating, caravan beat of the drums. Davis adds to the exotic feel of the song with keening vocals very different from her performance on the rest of the album. Her performance on the equally exotic "Contre Le Tens/Toda Cousa" is a light, ethereal thing, lightly touching on the solid, deep notes of the instruments.
And the instruments on display on Avalon Rising could impress an orchestra. Songs are enhanced by flute and harp, recorder and mandolin, French horn and electric guitar. Peter Gascoyne's drums add a vital heartbeat to the faster songs and a steady pulse to more thoughtful compositions. Avalon Rising has a great sense for which instrument benefits which song; from the electric guitar storming through "To the Sea" to the nightingale flute echoing across the "Dark Moon Circle," the instruments add as much flesh to the songs as the vocalists.
The vocalists themselves are a grand array of voices. Besides Davis's high, haunting tones, McCarthy adds a rougher, wild woman's voice that burns through "To the Sea" and adds a comforting warmth to all of the songs lucky enough to have her background vocals. Gascoyne only leads one song, but his voice has a young, innocent quality well suited to the confident hope in "Reborn." Even Klover, who sounds maddeningly distant and bored in most of his performances, puts on a fireworks show of energy for the galloping pace of "Black Davies' Ride."
Avalon Rising travels the realms of Celtic to Renaissance to rock. The mix of delicacy and passion draws a compelling story around deep oceans and strange forests, and changes maudlin sentiment to subtle insight. Avalon Rising dates from 1995. I hope the group is preparing a new offering; a decade is too long to wait for this quality of music.
Yes, I know this one is from awhile ago, but I just recently got a tip on it and I'm glad I did, 'cause I like it! AVALON RISING play a unique blend of music that takes the best aspects of Celtic folk and progressive rock. In this way, they remind me of a couple other cool bands I reviewed on here further below, Fenja Menja and Finn MacCool (both also quite recommended). AVALON RISING include a few traditional pieces, like the striking opener "The Great Selkie," yet the majority of the works are their own. Excellent examples are "To The Sea," "Reborn" and the killer epic "Perilous Garde." While the latter times in at 7 1/2 minutes, it's not length for the sake of it, rather a journey of intricate pacing both lyrically and musically. AVALON RISING do a great job of combining rock instrumentation with the timelessness of mandolin, bodhran and even French horn, then adding the diversity of both male & female vocals. This is a top-notch album that will appeal to people across the genres mentioned below and the earth-based spirituality in the lyrics is an added bonus.
Although this release is already some years old, I remembered it as having strong capacities, which I liked so much I believe it deserves some extra attention for a small review. I really like the full group's sound with Margaret Davis, female crystal clear medieval vocals, harp & flute and Kristoph Klover, male vocals,guitars, mandolin on the lead, with Deirdre McCarthy, backing vocals and additional instruments texturing the music, with Peter Gascoyne, drums and backing vocals, Beth Milne, bass & French horne arrangements, and Mike Pooler some additional keyboards. This 'full' sound is a strong folkrock sound with medieval touches, and originally arranged songs (like "The Great Selkie"). In "Where the Sunset is Golden" I like especially the melodic touches of the combination of flute and French horn on the folkrock sound with 12string and electric guitars drums and keyboards with romantic singing. "Andrey Soulet", for instance, a 15th century song by Matteao da Perugia, has also a fine interpretation, and has been transformed into prog folk through the extra drums, electric bass and guitar (by Kristoph) driving the rhythm on medieval flute and outstanding multilyered vocals (by Margaret), and with a slightly exotic touch of doumbek & riq (by Deirdre). The group has the luck to have the professional vocals by Margaret to perfom songs like "Contre le Tens / Toda Cousa" two French medieval troubadour songs. Two tracks fit less in the musical concept : "To the sea" (by Deirdre), which is the only rock track, which has in the first part not such finely arranged instrumentation, and altough the band improvises a bit in between the chorus parts, it falls off the record as a more forgettable track. Also "Reborn" (by Pete Gescoyne) has a different starting point, and despite it's textured folk and electric guitar arrangements that uplift it, it remains a mainstream poprock track. Also the last track "Black Davie's Ride" (by Cynthia Mc Quillin) misses some refinement of the more outstanding tracks on the album. Songs like "God walks among us" has a much more romantic folkrock feel, with just enough openness for the fine textures of the harp, a vocal arrangements part, and an electric guitar solo with harp and additional textured percussion and keyboards. "Dark Moon Circle" is a Pagan tribal song that sounds like a folkrock medieval traditional. The album has very strong moments, with a group's sound that is just perfect for it, with a good balance of folkrock and refined textures, making this album worth to discover.
Based in the San Francisco Bay area, Avalon Rising belongs to that Celtic/New Age-Pagan/Medieval-Renaissance nexus. Featuring fine vocals - four different members take their shot at lead vocals and all of them nail their songs - this self-titled debut is a fine CD. The layered instrumental arrangements and harmonies give provide a level of mystery that occasionally goes too over the top, but is usually a treat to listen to. The lead-off track, "The Great Selkie," is one of the finest. The arrangement is perfect, with flowing lyrics and instrumentation - and a nice touch of snare drums for emphasis at the right point. The 15th century "Andray Soulet" is a masterful work of mixing with Margaret Davis handling several lines. Pete Gascoyne and Deirdre McCarthy's percussion work is outstanding. Cynthia McQullin's female pagan "Dark Moon Circle" gets a nice arrangement with Kristoph Klover shining on mandolin; an instrumental riff on "The Red-Haired Boy" (a.k.a. "The Little Beggarman") somehow comes off as a very good joke. Gascoyne's "Reborn" is a joyful song of reincarnation and new meetings of old souls. This is another CD that has been growing on me, as each listening reveals another level to the tunes and arrangements. While it appears from their Web site that Avalon Rising is still together with at least Davis and Klover remaining, they don't seem to have made another CD (although they've pursued their share of individual and other group projects). I'm looking forward to when they do another recording as Avalon Rising.
With their debut CD, Avalon Rising offers their own fusion of traditional Celtic and Medieval instrumentation (harp, octave mandolin, recorder, and Middle Eastern percussion) with electric rock sounds and attitude. The result is an enchanting musical stew, alternating between delicately melodic and groove-laden. Much of the delicacy is due to the prominence of the harp on several tunes, most notably "God Walks Among Us", where it provides a lovely counterpoint to the 12-string guitar. AR has its rocking moments, though, such as in"To the Sea", where a slow synth and vocal intro leads into a briskly uptempo, ska-inflected rune. The musicianship throughout is solid, with well-crafted arrangelnents and lovely harmonies. I would prefer, however, to hear Kristoph Klover's voice placed a little more prominently in the mix, as it tends to blend timbrally with his guitar. The songs range from traditional Celtic ballads ("The Great Selkie") to a medieval Portuguese court song ("Contre Le Tens/Toda Cousa") to originals by several band members and pagan singer/songwriter Cynthia McQuillan, and cluster around themes of longing, fantasy, and the sea. A good choice for fans of Celtic and acoustic rock. Scott's picks: "To the Sea", "The Great Selkie"
Based in the Oakland area of Califronia Avalon Rising combine the best elements of traditional and contemporary folk, rock , medieval and renaissance music into a powerful and cohesive package. Fronted by harpist/singer Margaret Davis whose strong and commanding vocals lead the fray, Avalon Rising's suit is a fresh vibrant yet lyrical slant on electric folk and similar fusions. "The Great Selkie" provides a melodic yet powerful take on a familiar ballad combining inventive musical muscle with luscious vocal harmonies. Deirdre McCarthy's "To the sea" and Kristoph Klover's "Where the sunset is golden" mix straight rock with folk and psychedelic influences convincingly. "Reborn" reveals a pop sensibility while ~'Perlious Garde" is sublime acid folk balladry and ''Contre Le Tens" highlights their medieval leanings. Finely honed and finetuned with a powerful blend of classic rock and folk styles "Avalon Rising" is a superb debut album.
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Avalon Rising represents a melding of traditional, mythopoetic folk tunes with modern studio techniques to powerful effect. This is an engaging combination of folktunes with high technology arrangements. Listen especially to the Great Selkie and Black Davieís Ride. Andray Soulet is a stunning example of vocalise with Margaretís voice overdubbed to mythical 3-part harmonies.Margaret Davis sings with power, subtlety, and a purity of tone that adds a special quality to all the songs on which she is featured.
It's been a while since I've been so blown away by a group's vocal harmonies, instrumental skills, and driving energy. Avalon Rising's ability to honor and reinvent traditional music reminds me vividly of Pentangle and Steeleye Span, although this album only has three and a half traditional pieces (too few!): "The Great Selkie," "Old Johnny Doo" (instrumental) and two medieval French songs. Margaret Davis is an incredible singer, but they all sing; Deirdre McCarthy in particular emotes like a young Maddy Prior in her husky alto. They also play guitar, mandolin, flute, harp, recorder, bodhran, drums, bass, horn, keyboards, and eiectric guitar. The only parts of the album that are not, in my opinion, of international caliber are the lyrics to their original songs-- but with music and arrangements like this, you don't have to listen to the words to be impressed. Catch them locally while you can.
If you love folk or filk music, you'll recognize many of the names:in Avalon Rising: Kristoph Klover, Margaret Davis, Deirdre McCarthy, Peter Gascoyne, and Beth Milne. Rich Celtic influence blends with more modern themes and stylistic elements for a great Pagan feel. Featured instruments include octave mandolin, 12-string guitar, flute, Celtic harp, bodhran, doumbek, bass, and keyboard. Clear vocals bring out the beauty of the songs, and complete lyrics for all of them appear
in the liner notes.
Some of the songs are classics, like "Black Davie's Ride" (4:10), "Perilous Garde" (7:31), "To the Sea" (4:30), and "Dark Moon Circle" (3:34)/ Consider these words from "God Walks Among Us" (4:35):
God wakes among us
Stands in our shoes
Wraps the world 'round us
Singing the blues
For we are all her children
These evocative Pagan songs lend themselves well to a variety of uses; play them by yourself or during the social part of your coven meetings. Some are suitable for ritual use, too. Highly recommended.
Avalon Rising" is a beautifully crafted tapestry, deeply enriched in the story-telling fashion of traditional English folk music. The stories being related are usually based in loose historical fact, orally and musically passed down through generations. This style is also used by "Avalon Rising" to incorporate modern thinking, straddling the lines of current spiritual folklore, bespeaking of the seeker's quest and journey. Surprisingly, the bulk of the music is played on modern instruments, i.e, guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. The sprinkling of harp, alto recorder and octive mandolin added a refined thread to the sonic mix. The strength of "Avalon Rising" was evident in the feel and movement of the songs. The emotion of the vocals seamlessly meshed with the music, cresting, rolling and weaving in a synchronized flow. Each song had a live feel; it was obvious this was a polished band, not just a group of talented musicians who decided to come together to produce a recording. "Avalon Rising" promoted a credible representation of neo-energy through an updated and revised archaic style of music. "Avalon Rising" represented the vision and path of these musicians. Their intent tangible and attainable, their songs depicting the results of an ongoing project. The music felt good, the lyrics were poetic yet plaintive. The message alluded to triumph through life's lessons, the ensuing joy and the renewed ability to carry on. I was satisfied.
Avalon Rising is an interesting folk-based band that melds together Celtic melodies and instrumentation with touches of Middle Eastern rhythms and a wry rock sensibility. The band's self-titled album is a sheer delight. Vocalist Margaret Davis is quite mesmerizing throughout, particularly in an intense version of the traditional "The Great Selkie." Fans of Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Silly Wizard and Renaissance should find something of interest here as should fans of Celtic-based music in general.
The musicians who make up this ensemble are all what I define as artists. Ones who learn from their teachers what is expected for working their chosen craft, but after learning the methods of the Masters of their trade, they work to take their avocation where it has not been before, as the unique individuals and ensemble they are. Kristoph Klover, Margaret Davis, Deirdre McCarthy, Peter Gascoyne, and Beth Milne all fall into that category. I enjoyed the sounds of these people so much that I made it a point to see them live at PantheaCon in February 1996. Throughout many of their songs, these artists demonstrate how a backup instrument or vocal may make the lead melody better. Untrained ears think this to be the mastery of the lead sound alone, which is impressive; as a trained ear, I was left breathless more than once. Their self-proclaimed title--a Celtic/Medieval/Rock fusionband--put me off before I listened to this CD. I expected a mishmash of chords and misrepresented fast ballads; fortunately, that didn't happen. A Celtic lament, "The Great Selkie," flows easily into a country French round, "Andray Soulet," and then to early medieval ballads, "Contre le Tens/Toda Cousa," all capped by original works from the artists like "God Walks Among Us." Mediterranean rhythms mix with court language; the Irish bodhran drum takes you through the pulse ofwater, fire, and a horse's hooves. Luckily for your heart, these transitions are in different songs. Most oftheir melodies are conceived in "classic" style to whatever form is being given: ballad, love song, lament, and so on. There was only one song, "To the Sea," which I may dislike, but that was only due to the singer's interpretation, not the song. True, they have taken some license with the medieval and French melodies, changing some of the original note lines, but this would only be noticed by musicians who have studied these styles. Complainers would be in the same group that believes we shouldn't use toilets at Medieval Fairs either, because indoor plumbing wasn't around at such. This self-titled debut recording by Avalon Rising should be heard by any Pagan-friendly spirit.
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This amazing band brings together some major talents to create a mystical, spiritual experience. The cover artwork suggests a distant, perhaps magical island, and the harmonies and melodies attempt to lift us to that higher place. The songs (lyrics are included) are about magical lovers "The Great Selkie", reincarnation "Reborn", and fast-riding highwaymen. Lyrics are written in French, Spanish, and English for the Thirteenth-Century "Contre Le Temps". I loved this album. Like a rich wine or an encounter with an old flame, Avalon Rising is to be experienced more than described.
Rarely does an album open up with so beautiful a tune as "The Great Selkie," an ancient oral tradition ballad that is rendered with amazing grace and gentility by singer and harpist Margaret Davis. Her voice is redolent of popular Celtic artists Loreena McKennitt and Mgire Brennan, and floats above an inviting mtlange of modern and Medieval instrumentation. Unfortunately Davis' singing is prominent on only about half of the 10 songs, leaving the other works to be interpreted by band members who do not have the same vocal range or power. Consequently the impact of compositions like "Reborn," a wonderful fable that tells of a repeatedly reincarnated love, are weakened by the relatively inadequate crooning of the other singers. Most of the tracks on this debut disc have a mythic quality which allows even the contemporary cuts to sound antediluvian, and the collective musical talents of the band are unquestionably high. It's the voices that don't consistently maintain the same perfection, and as a result the act achieves their fantastical potential only a portion of the time.
It's not often you hear the sounds of a mandola mixed with a Celtic harp and punctuated by the vibrancy of zils, congas, bones, a bodhran, tar, doumbek and riq. Now you can, and just in time for St. Patrick's Day. Margaret Davis has brought the sounds of these rather exotic and unusual instruments here. Davis, a Galesburg native now living in Oakland, Calif., has with her band Avalon Rising recently released her first compact disc recording of music which she terms a "Celtic-Medieval-rock fusion." The self-titled CD is for sale at the Galesburg Civic Art Center, 114 E. Main St., and the Prairie Peacock, 53 S. Semiaary St. Davis earned bachelor's degrees in music and French from Knox College in 1983, then moved to California that year and continued her studies in voice, harp and recorder. Shebegan performing, and met her husband, singer/songwriter Kristoph Klover, in 1989. Together they formed their band Avalon Rising in 1993 and built their own 16-track recording studio the next year. Last October, they produced the CD through their own music company, Flowinglass Music, in Oakland. The band promotes its sound as a fusion of original rock and jazz flavored by Middle Eastern, Celtic and Latin rhythms. Members also play modern arrangements of original traditional Celtic music. The band's CD includes lyrics sung by both Davis and Klover. Other members are Beth Milne, who sings and plays bass and French hon; and percussionist Deirdre McCarthy, on the Irish bodhran, congas, bones, zils, riq and bones.
Davis said in a recent phone interview that the unusual and cross-cultural sound of Avalon Rising has found its niche. "I think it is a movement that's happening now -- incorporating Middle Eastern music into contemporary, original music," she said. In addition to the traditional Irish and Scottish tunes that comprise Celtic music, Avalon Rising performs songs in medieval French, and in Portuguese, and the band combines Northern European instruments with those of Middle Eastern origin to produce its sometimes haunting and sometimes high-spirited sound. "I love Celtic music. My ancestry is Scottish; my great-grandmother was from Scotland Davis said. "I just find (the music) particulary haunting and attractive." Davis said Avalon Rising performs at medieval folk festivals, in small concert halls and occasionally in pubs in California. Before Davis and Klover founded Avalon Rising, Davis performed for six years in a band playing medieval music. The sounds her band is making now are shaped by her earlier influences. "This is really our own sound," she said. "My husband does most of the writing. I do a lot of the arranging. "The CD took us a whole year. We recorded it in our own studio, and it was a complicated recording with many, many tracks." Klover was the studio engineer for the recording. Davis, who is the daughter of Rod and Norma Davis of Galesburg, returns here to visit about once a year.
Avalon Rising is Kristoph Klover, Margaret Davis (the resident harper), Deirdre McCarthy, Peter Gascoyne, and Beth Milne (here, with special guests Mike Pooler and Phil De Bar). This, the bandís debut recording (made in a first-class home studio) wets the mind like Irish mist (meteorological or alcoholic). It is clear and bright, up-front and passionate, with a fundamental seriousness (even if a good time is obviously had by all). Best of all, the musical teamwork is superb; nobody hogs the vocal, instrumental or compositional spotlight. (A harper may be forgiven for especially admiring Margaretís vocals, harping and recorder work, as well as her modern updates of medieval tunes.)
ARís fusion of modern, medieval, Celtic and Middle Eastern influences sounds like Clannad and Atrium Musicae de Madrid scrambled by Jefferson Airplane-cum-Starshipís transporter beam. (Kristophís slightly demented electric guitar and Deridreís inspired world-beat contribute much to this effect.) But why compare the band to any other? Its melos and ethos are unique, born in unique times and begotten by unique confluences...or are they?
Well, not quite. These neo-pagan bards could well rename their band Babylon Rising. Reincarnation, immortal souls, ìheavenî upon death, nature spirits, the ìQueen of Heavenî (Catholic and otherwise) and her Lover, illicit love (inspired by Cupid or sought through ill-gotten gain), mixed with noble dreams of sunsets and seamanship ñ theyíre all here, as in the Babylonian Mysteries from which they sprang. (There really is nothing new under the sun.) The fact I totally enjoyed the album, despite my near-total opposition to its spiritual message, is a tribute to the musicianship of its makers.
I just returned from a gig of Avalon Rising, a local group I like, who do music that ranges from Celtic to rock, and home to Medieval via the southern route. They have their first CD out ñ I am listening to it as I write these words. It features music some of you might like: Singer Margaret Davis has style and taste not unlike Loreena McKennittís.
The five members play a generous election of conventional instruments, both electric and manual, plus Celtic harp, recorders, mandolin, and a large collection of interesting percussive devices, including a very mean bodhran. All do vocals. The music is full of rhythm and movement. Much of it is composition or arrangement by one band member or another. Let me mention some of the cuts. The rendition of ìThe Great Selkieî is marvelous ñ splashing harp and thrumming bodhran wonderfully evoke the ebb and flow of surf; the first time I heard this one live I involuntarily looked down to be sure my feet werenít getting wet. ìAndray Souletî, an arrangement of a 15th-century composition, seems a French round with a hint of North African rhythm, and ìContre le Tens/Toda Cousaî presents two 13th-century works with voice and instruments. ìDark Moon Circleî, a get-up-and-dance song, begs for a sweetly-scented bonfire on a wild and glimmering night, while ìGod Walks Among Usî addresses religious themes in a more traditional style. The next-to-last title, ìRebornî, is a contemporary love song with a fast beat.
The CD, also called Avalon Rising, is produced under their own label, Flowinglass Music, who are bold enough to list a net address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
"...Avalon Rising (is) in the 16 CD of my current top ten. I love their work and I highly recommend their CD to anyone..." Robert d'Arkal
"Playing Celtic-Medieval-rock-fusion, Avalon Rising is a shimmeringly original 4-person band. The intricate interplay...evokes a blend of Loreena McKennitt and early Grateful Dead. Recommended!" Ladyslipper Catalogue
REVIEWS OF THE STARLIT JEWEL CD
"Anyone who dares to put music to the 'songs' from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings has to make us believe that people sang these songs over and over, that they were part of an oral tradition. So it makes perfect sense to write the new music 'in the tradition' of British Isles music, or even to tweak familiar tunes. Of the thirteen cuts, my favorites are the rollicking 'Troll Song' and 'Merry Old Inn,' but there are serious and lyrical pieces such as 'Galadriel's Lament.' About half of the music was written by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and the other half by Kristoph Klover (whose tenor voice works well for hobbit song) and Margaret Davis (whose clear soprano and harp playing I cannot praise enough). The overall feel of the album is light and simple, although the talents of many people, on many instruments, went into it. " Peg Healy, the folknik
"Avalon Rising will be known to many Mythcon attendees, as the group performed songs from their recording at both the 1995 and 1996 Mythcons. Half of their songs are settings written many years ago by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and published as sheet music but rarely heard.... The other half were composed by the band's principals, Margaret Davis and Kristoph Klover. It's hard to to tell the difference between the composers: the songs are all well-written, and imaginatively arranged and performed in a colorful folk-song manner. Kristoph's lively renditions of bumptuous Hobbit songs are as enjoyable as Margaret's beautiful 'Lay of Nimrodel' and hymn to Elbereth. " David Bratman and Berni Phillips, Mythprint
"I first heard Avalon Rising at Mythcon 26 in Berkeley: the first song I heard was the 'Bath Song.' and I wanted a copy of it then and there. It's still my favorite. The vivacious lilt of the recorders and the accompanying merriment of the guitars add zest to the voices, while Klover's music creates a perfect complement to Tolkien's words and strongly shows off his performance strength: a down-to-earth projecting tenor which strong-arms the listener into enjoying the piece.... I've yet to mention the sheer grace and beauty of Margaret Davis's singing, and most especially, her rippling, heart-piercing harpistry. Each note is well-defined, never muddled, and rivals anything done by Sileas, especially on 'Galadriel's Lament.' " Diane Joy Baker, Mythprint
"...The group plays beautifully to its strengths - effortless harmonies and deft facility in numerous traditional and modern instruments....The Starlit Jewel is a rare collection - a must for admirers of Tolkien's Middle-earth poetry and for lovers of well-played, well-sung music." Paula DiSante, Mythopoeic Society Web page Full review
BOOKING: Kristoph Klover, stoph at flowinglass dot com, phone (510) 219-9836