November 16th, 2009

Crazy or smart?

Cædmon’s Hymn

When I was still at school in the early eighties, there was a young minister at the local church who lent me a copy of an album made by a band he’d heard at university in Edinburgh, where they were based. Only 500 copies of the album were made, to mark their retirement from gigging, and originals are apparently now highly collectable, fetching prices of over £1000.

Of course I returned the record after a few listens, and kept no copy – it’s quite possible we didn’t have a tape recorder at the time, even if it had occurred to me. But I remembered it as being a good album. One song in particular made an impression, something about Narnia.

This evening, for no  particularly good reason, I suddenly recalled the name of the band, which had long ago slipped to the back of my mind, and had a quick search on Google.

They’ve recently reformed and have a web site!

Not only that, but you can listen to the whole of that 1978 album online, and even order a CD copy from Amazon.

The band are called Cædmon, and have apparently been described as a number of things: Acid Folk, Prog Folk Rock, Psychedelic Folk, Wyrd Folk and Christian Folk Rock (the last being how they saw themselves at the time). The album is Caedmon’s Hymn, named after one of the tracks:


Forget the labels and give them a listen. Being what they are, they may not be your cup of tea, but I would recommend listening to Aslan at least before making up your mind. There’s not a lot of production, so there’s quite a clean, almost stark sound to their songs, with a female lead vocal, male backing, and few, distinct-sounding instruments. The sound is mostly folky, but with intermittently attacking electric guitar that justifies the rock labels. For a bit of variety, try listening to Living in the Sunshine, which has hints of jazz and calypso; and I was also glad to hear Ten Maidens Fair again – a story song retelling the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. I’m a sucker for songs that tell a story.

Visit the web site, listen to the album online, or buy it at Amazon. There also recent demos to listen to (mostly male vocals –apparently the former lead vocalist is too busy being a vet to rejoin the band). Ouagoudougou is interesting, with slightly Geordie-accented vocals over African-influenced music. A bit rough-edged, but I enjoyed it.

P.S. The band is named after the earliest named English poet. Cædmon's Hymn is his only surviving work, set to music on the album.