Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams

Those decent types at Talking Elephant rarely fail to offer music of interest, and this is no exception, having been a frequent visitor to the Wizardmobile’s sound system since its arrival. Released to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its US debut, yet never previously available in the UK, for anyone unfamiliar with The Slambovians, this should encourage you to search out further works and for those of us with at least a nodding acquaintance we now have a lost gem to treasure.

Any listen will show that it has not lost any freshness in the intervening quarter century, the only loss being the emblematic character of Gandalf Murphy as the band are now known simply as The Slambovian Circus of Dreams. It may be the case that ringmaster, lead singer, omnipresent musician and songwriter Joziah Longo, was the inspiration for the non-existent frontman as he is variously referred to as the shaman and oracle of Slambovia, delivering lyrics that hint at interests in both orthodox spirituality and native wisdom without ever truly giving up their meaning.

All 3 multi-instrumentalists share their duties, so it is impossible to attribute praise to individuals for some marvellously understated yet greatly affecting guitar work – though in the case of Tink Lloyd her various contributions, including accordion, do allow her Celtic roots to show through.

In fact, the influences are there to see and enjoy. The band are upfront in their celebration of their predecessors, indeed the album title hints at it, and it would be true to say that they are grateful to them rather than indebted, as they do very much stamp something of themselves on everything they do, whether it is the Dylan and Bowie inflected vocals, along with shades of The Band, Neil Young, The Dead, even some glimpses of The Beatles and The British invasion, all with the joyously ramshackle feel of The Rolling Thunder Review meeting West Coast Psychedelic Happenings – without ever losing sight of folky/rootsy roots.

The range of textures and sound is made all the more remarkable for being the product of a basic 4-piece (albeit expanded in a live setting), it may vary in tone and tempo but ultimately whether engaged in some laid back blues or prog folk pomp, uplifting celebrations of life or state of being introspection, there is always the feeling that the Slambovian state of mind is exactly where they want to be – and who can blame them? The inclusion of 2 self-referential tracks and found sound name checks does give this the feel of a manifesto, as much as an introduction to the band, with ‘Never Fit’ expressing this with introspective and poignant beauty. The album serves up surprises right up until the end, as the 11th and final track appears to finish yet suddenly appears with a further few minutes of an avantgarde melange of found sounds.

Having just missed out on the band touring the album – with the 4-piece augmented by additional players – and having heard nothing but praise for their appearances at the likes of Cropredy and Wickham festivals – that’s not a mistake that in intend to make again.

I commend this album to the house!!

Visit Gandalf Murphy website



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