Water Into Wine Band (UK)

Hill Climbing For Beginners Myrrh 1973
Perhaps the best album issued by Myrrh in the 70's. And I'm not referring to the neutered and de-clawed version that ended up being released in the US. Apparently the original UK issue was deemed too rough-edged for the American market, hence the band had to re-enter the studio to produce the less folky, more homogenized version. How typical - these executive types clearly didn't realize what a work of art they had on their hands. I suppose if you've never heard the original you'll still enjoy the later pressing - but once you've heard this one listening to the other is like following up filet mignon with chopped steak. Here the acoustic guitars are given prominence over electric (save for the rough fuzz guitar on the closer 'I Have Seen The Lord'). The percussion is more folky and innovative, with such instruments as bongos, tympani, and gong-like cymbals. The songs are all the same and are performed in the same order, but there's more of a raw hands-off interpretation - away from rock, more towards folk. For those not familiar with either version, suffice it to say it's a progressive folk masterpiece which reaches its apex on the stunning mysterious 11-minute 'Song Of The Cross' where haunting harmonies, brilliant violin work, and jamming acoustic guitars mix magically. The whole work is very unique and refreshing. Much better cover art, too. I kid you not - this version is infinitely superior in every way. KS

Harvest Time CJT 1977
 Wedding Song
All rock influences were left behind for this privately-released and immensely rare follow-up to Hill Climbing, the band opting instead to explore folk and classical themes yet still within a solidly progressive framework. Opens with a pair of dreamy folk ballads, 'Wedding Song' (not the Stookey tune) and the stunningly beautiful 'Waiting For Another Day'. Listening to Bill Thorp's passionate violin here it's easy to see why he was accepted into the London Symphony Orchestra (so I've read). The medley 'Scottish Suite' follows with some fine traditional folk/reel noodling including bits such as 'Coming Through The Rye'. Somewhat out of place are the more pop-sounding 'Patience Is A Virtue' and the 40's-ish crooner 'Moonglow' (where Judy MacKenzie and Dave Cooke assist). That leaves the whole of side two for the ambitious title track where violin, flute, oboe, bassoon, clarinet, and piano in a classical context intertwine with atmospheric acoustic passages for some spellbinding moments. Oooooh, how I wish there were more gems like this! KS