(02 June 2002) The first reissue of Fula's earlier recordings is entitled Songs From Beyond The Merrygolight (Fulamusic (UK) FCD2, 1995-2002). While the album features seven numbered tracks, movements within the epic-length tracks reveals a more complex work. With vocal work by Fula's co-founder and lead singer 1994-1997, Nadeen Plant, the album spans alternative, soundtrack and progressive rock genres. The lineup is completed by Rob Gould (keyboard), Nigel Moss (guitars) and Janson Gilman (guitars). James Lampard (sax) and Kimberley Kitchen (trumpet) guest on "Anything" and "Gingerbread" respectively.
The band's latest album The Beautiful, The Delicate and The True (Fulamusic (UK) FCD3, 2002) with vocal work by Josie Bostin has also just been released (review). A second album of rarities from the 1996-1997 timeframe with vocals by Nadeen Plant is planned. Fula's album Dark Matter (Fulamusic (UK) FCD1 1999) (review) is the only one with female singer Zoe Stafford; the album remains available yet the singer has moved on to another project called
The absolutely stunning 15+ minute epic "Living In Pieces" written by Rob Gould and Nadeen Plant opens the album. The nine atmospheric movements within the piece are reminscent of Clive Nolan and Tracy Hitchings' work with Strangers on a Train. Musically quite moody with soundtrack-oriented arrangements, the material is vocally intense with individual themes developed primarily by Nadeen's sweet and melodic voice and keyboard with only the lightest of guitar sounds in the background. One will immediately be drawn to Nadeen's powerfully soaring vocal work--she sustains the notes playing her voice like an instrument.
The album's powerfully rocking second track "Cynthia Left at the Station" offers a clear similarity to, and perhaps forms the heritage behind, Dark Matter's "Vanity."
Rich keyboard and percussive bass arrangements join guitar solos to provide the backdrop for Nadeen's soaring vocal excursions. Rob Gould's spacey synths perfectly suit Nadeen's sensual vocal work of gentle track "Bliss."
A clear standout track is "Anything," an emotively sung number with jazzy sax and percussive bass adding a sultry texture to the arrangement. Nadeen clearly explores the vast extents of her theatrical vocal range with power spanning the quietest moments in the verses to the most powerfully sustained sonics in the choruses. A tremendous guitar solo by Jason Gilman concludes the track.
Time signature differences break the progressive epic "Promises" into three parts. Although Nadeen's vocals begin the track, the 13/12 "Part 1" is dominated by an extensive keyboard solo with guitar and crisp percussion adding texture to the sound. "Part 2" in 4/4 is soundtrack-oriented number with keyboards, guitar and other effects providing a confusing background to almost-spoken vocals before a more rhythmic melody emerges. The 7/8 "Part 3" brings the piece to a melodic and dramatic conclusion.
Two shorter and memorable tracks conclude the project. The first one is the album's only pure instrumental and is entitled "The Fall Of Icarus." Keyboard and guitar excursions blend perfectly to paint a lush and delightful soundscape, perfectly illustrating Fula's instrumental power and on-stage energy.
The highly accessible and maybe even radio-friendly gentle rocker "Gingerbread World" is the album's closing number. While different to much of the material on the album, similarities to some of the movements of "Living In Pieces" can actually be heard. Obviously an early demo that could be further enhanced with modern production and re-recording, we adored Nadeen's lead vocal work, the trumpet solo and the harmony vocals in the chorus.
Clearly one of the surprise releases of 2002, Fula's Songs From The Merrygolight is certain to delight Musical Discoveries' readers. A pleasure from first listen, Nadeen Plant's lovely voice is perfectly suited to Fula's instrumental arrangements. Our only criticism is the production quality which could be improved upon. The album is available directly from the band. Click on the album cover to point your browser there now. Worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this album is a must listen!