Folkways Rec. The Entourage Music & Theatre Ensemble : The Neptune Collection (US,1975)****
By the time of the second album, the group had one more musical member, Wall Matthews, who played acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, dulcimer and temple bells ; Joe Clark played E-flat and B-flat soprano saxophones, electric keyboards, acoustic piano and gong ; Rusti Clark played viola, acoustic guitar, gong, bird and rabbit ; Michael Scott Smith played assorted percussion instruments and did a druid dance with his fists, knuckles and finger pops.
The second album clearly took a step away from pure moody improvisation, to more developed advance, composed and musically rich music. The tracks hang more together, there’s more dialogue, as if they are now cooperative composers involved with the group, more than separate improvisers in a group entity. This is also due to the extra, talent in acoustic guitar playing which has a more composed character, which is enriched with other more improvised arrangements. But also the piano is more descriptive as before, showing waters and rivers of evolutions. Also the tracks have more focused titles which have also a meaning outside the improvised context. And also the continuity and flow between the tracks has developed with the advantage of experience. “Druid Dance” for instance sounds like a next step to the folk dance of the previous album, which with the extra guitar, and the sophisticated hand driven percussion is rather special. “Neptune Rising” has an interesting contemporary acoustic guitar picking lead which shows touches of, -still meditative-, avant garde, mixed with a sort of koto-like guitar, glockenspiel and percussion, with a beautiful interactive creativity. Other tracks are rather chamber-folk-like (an area which is slightly comparable to some Quebec groups of that time, although in a different context). Just one of the parts, near the end becomes a bit weird, called “Space Needle Suicide”, with a series of notes played with electric guitar and viola. It is really a shame to know this was the last recording of the group. I think they deserve a proper reissue, with a decent booklet.
For those interested, the music is made available by Folkways but I must warn that it still is rather expensive (17$) for what is a good quality standard digipack with sticker, with liner notes of the booklet on downloadable PDF-format, only a custom-made cdr which looks like a normal CD, from which I just hope that it really is from a superior quality, so that I can keep it safe for a lifetime.
PS. Live the group had a flexible size. Another member was for instance Ara Fitzgerald.
Other review of 1975 album :