Red Jasper - 'Sting In The Tale' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     August 17, 2012    
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A compelling debut album that illustrates great verve and skill.

Having formed in 1987 in the county of Wiltshire, it took until 1990 for Red Jasper to shape an odd jostling mixture of folk, prog and punk into their first full length album ‘Sting In The Tale’. Now up front I’ll say that I’ve really been rather taken by this release, with the angry political lyrics, enigmatic vocals and constantly style shifting themes making for captivating, if naive songs. However I have to be honest and say that I was rather surprised when I found out that it was recorded in the 90’s, as in terms of sound quality and recording standards it falls far behind what you would have expected from even a low budget release from this era, especially where the overtly distorted drum are concerned. Put that to one side however and ‘Sting...’ does just that. 

If prog could ever be described as aggressive, then Red Jasper at this stage of their development were prog-aggressive, with a punky attitude bringing the John Jowitt led Ark to mind. However where things really vary from the normal progressive paths, is in the bands use of folky themes. Yes, I know that the likes of Jethro Tull had been fusing flute to their own brand of prog for some time. However they never came up with anything as overtly folk as the chant of ‘I Can Hew’, which feels like the sort of thing that you’d have heard sung down the mines many years before - something the song title confirms was the intention all along. Elsewhere the jazzy saxophone led ‘Company Director’, the oddly rock ‘n’ roll prog of ‘Guy Fawkes’ which spouts off about blowing up parliament and the frantic, simplistic burst of ‘T.V. Screen’ all feel predominantly like vehicles for the politics of the band and the era. 

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Oddly enough, considering their twenty two year age, the lyrical themes sound like they could have been written yesterday, so pertinent are they to everyday life in 2012, although the Thatcher references belie their age. Singer Davey Dodds obviously spent time studying the mannerisms of a certain Scottish vocalist who had fronted Marillion. However the chanter possessed enough rustic charm of his own to be easily forgiven for showing his influences so strongly during his first time spent in the studio. More traditional Neo-Prog ground is trod with ‘Second Coming’, where early Marillion is again an influence. However the variety on show on this album ensures that the copyists tag could never be pinned to Red Jasper. Add to that three hugely energetic bonus tracks and this really does become quite an interesting little release.

Red Jasper would go on to bigger, better things (something that upcoming reissues, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘The Winter’s Tale’ will attest) however ‘Sting In The Tale’ is still, for all its faults, a compelling debut album that illustrates great verve and skill.

Steven Reid

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