EARTH AND FIRE – Song of the Marching Children (1971)

Review by: B.B. Fultz
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn

This is an album by a prog(gish) Netherlands band called Earth and Fire. I say proggish because they are unusual for a prog band. Their sound, at least on this album, is more folkish and antiquated than the common definition of prog rock. They’re more like Jethro Tull than anything, and Tull was always sort of a white crow among the British and American prog bands of the time. Earth and Fire with its female vocalist (rare for any prog band) is maybe even more of a white crow.

The opening song is called “Carnival of the Animals.” It is about animals in the forest doing various animal things. My first impression was Jefferson Airplane. Lilting female vocals and a vaguely martial drumbeat. Both the words and the music set the theme for the rest of the album. Storybook lyrics, crisp drum rhythms, and prominent synthesizers dominate the songs. It is very much an album of its time. The synthesizers especially have that early 70s synth sound that was to change in a few years as synths became more advanced. The overall mood, to me, seems more 60s than 70s. There’s a sense of lost innocence and a yearning for a simpler and more natural world.

“Ebbtide” is an idyllic song about tides and gulls. It’s an interesting combination of watery synths, flute solos, random guitar licks, and an almost jazz-like rhythm background. It reminds me of another song, or a few other songs, that I can’t name at the moment. 

“Storm and Thunder” is reminiscent of early ELP, but with more baroque elements. The keyboards are more dominant here than on the other songs.

“In The Mountains” ventures into Pink Floyd territory. The lead guitar is slow and lilting, very much in the Gilmour style. The keyboard as well is more the art-rock of Rick Wright than anything by Emerson or Wakeman.

The closing multi-part suite “Song of the Marching Children” is an interesting piece. I’m not sure I get it, lyrically, but it seems to be about the endless legacy of war, which the human race seems like it will never entirely escape. It sounds like a lament for all the future generations that will have to send their youth off to fight. The very end confirms this idea … all the other instruments fade and there is only the relentless martial drumbeat, the endless march.

Overall impression — a mostly soothing and pleasant album, pretty on the ear, and with interesting moments here and there, but rarely rising above the level of basic prog-folk. Then again, maybe a little basic prog-folk is just what you’re in need of. Worth a listen or two, at any rate. 

The version I located on YouTube had bonus tracks. “Invitation” is the first of them, notable because it rocks a lot more than the original album tracks, so it’s an abrupt change of pace after the solemnity of the album. It’s different, and it’s quite good.  “Lost Forever” is another rocker among the bonus tracks, and it’s also quite good — slow and heavy and brutal, unlike the album. There’s some surprising guitarwork in it too, striking little arpeggio-moments that wouldn’t be out of place in an Iron Maiden song (!) although Iron Butterfly comes closer to describing the song in general (either way it’s a very metallic song). For me the highlights of this band are when they rock. They have a nice heavy sound when they rock, not unlike early Budgie, a band that I like a lot. There’s another new track called “Memories,” not quite as good as the other two, but worth a listen. There are also single versions of “Song For The Marching Children” (not “OF the Marching Children” for some reason) and “Storm and Thunder.” If you seek this album out, I’d recommend finding the version with the bonus tracks. To me Earth and Fire is at their most interesting when they rock.
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Author: tomymostalas

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