Crystal Jacqueline is part of the west of England-based Honey Pot collective,
whose rather enjoyable pop- psych (with a side rural acid- folk) album sneaked out earlier this year. And on this, her debut, she's pushed the dial a couple of years forward into the the '70s, creating some alluring psych-prog interludes not too far away from the likes of Curved Air and Renaissance.
As befitting a Fruit de Mers Records staple, Jacqueline has included a cover or two with the stand out being the atmospheric take on The Troggs' eerie 'Cousin Jane', which sounds even more sinister than the original. Equally as good is a version of Second Hand's 'A Fairytale', driven along by a squeaky organ and some punchy guitar. The originals are entertaining too. The title track is a glam-rock stomper while 'I Break' is a gossamer light acoustic ballad with an odd melodic twist.
Following Crystal Jacqueline's recent EP on Fruits de Mer comes this full length album of covers and new material. Sun Arise is undoubtedly not the Rolf Harris song of the same title, but an intense psych-rock piece with atmospheric, spacerockish touches. A Fairy Tale, from the Fruits de Mer EP and originally by Second Hand, is an effective mixture of freakbeat, baroque and prog. Dream I is excellent ethereal yet strongly melodic psychedelia. Alice is whimsical and dreamlike psych-pop with lyrics inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Cousin Jane, also from the Fruits de Mer EP, adds a whole new lesbian twist to this creepy incest song originally by The Troggs. Fly A Kite, from the Mary Poppins soundtrack, is reinvented here as a mixture of psychedelic whimsy and more intense proggy moments. An enjoyable album, with inventive reworkings of vintage tracks and well crafted new material.
It’s one of those albums that you hear once, play again, and before you know it, an entire day has gone by and you’ve still not heard enough. Crystal Jacqueline may not be a household name … at least, not yet.
But in that corner of modern psychedelia that seems to be expanding with every passing day, a heap of Youtube clips have now transformed into Sun Arise (Mega Dodo) and, as 21st century debut albums go, it takes a lot of beating.
Think… classic Airplane merged with Syd Barrett’s Floyd, then drape them in sunshine flavored gauze. Think Me and My Kites and Us and Them, modern psychedelic warlords who have already run a few lap around our ears, then push them into the things that a starburst dreams of. Think “Let’s Go Fly A Kite,” and imagine Mary Poppins getting high on the first This Mortal Coil LP. Sun Arise is all these things, and every fresh spin brings a new thought to mind.
Crystal Jacqueline herself was a founding member of the Honey Pot, Brit psych merchants par excellence; and a founder, too, of the Green Question Mark, alongside Mordecai Smith and Marrs Bonfire.
She’s familiar, too, to anyone collecting Fruits de Mer, that most intrepid of vinyl 45 labels, and a few songs on the album have already spun on single. But still the main feast will devour you with unfathomable relish, because the songs that soar from the CD are ones you’ve been dreaming might sound like this for aeons.
The Stones’ “Play With Fire,” fragrant and tender, harpsichorded like the best of their ballads, but biting too with a passion that even Jagger-Richard never imagined; the Troggs’ “Cousin Jane,” stately and eccentric, a garage band covered with chintz-colored kisses, while skeletal piano dares you to dance. Jacqueline’s keyboards spin and swirl, her voice soars and sinks… Second Hand’s “A Fairy Tale” lives up its title with dreaming spires reaching beyond the sky, while dark guitar reminds you of the underbelly beneath; and Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” has never seemed so sultry.
If the covers are the album’s easiest point of entry, at least for listeners who like to have at least a suggestion of what’s in store, Jacqueline’s originals come even closer to perfection – acid folk dancing in the arms of psyched out somber froth, precisely the kind of mood you imagine you’ll create when you make a mix tape of your top ten favorite oldies, but which never quite catches the breeze.
Autumn days, bonfire nights, a beauty with just enough beast within to make you huddle closer to the firelight, but you always leave one hand hanging free, just in case she wants to grab it. That is Sun Arise and if my initial response is to regret that it’s only available for now on CD, a newly-launched Kickstarter campaign would appear to agree. Pledges of varying amounts allow you fresh access to the magic, and a colored vinyl gatefold LP is the gold at the end of the rainbow.
This sun will be rising for a long time to come.
Broken Hearted Toy
Singer-keyboards player Crystal Jacqueline was already an active player in Britain’s prog rock/psychedelic scene before releasing her new solo effort, Sun Arise. She’s a founding member of the band The Honey Pot and she joined forces with musician Mordecai Smythe and radio personality/vocalist Marrs Bonfire to record obscure 1960s cover versions under the name, The Green Question Mark. A few of the songs on Sun Arise were previously released as a 45 on the all-vinyl label, Fruits de Mer.
Throughout Sun Arise, Crystal Jacqueline avoids prog rock over-synthesized cliches in favor of more inventive arrangements. On energetic songs like “A Fairy Tale,” originally recorded by Second Hand, and “Dream I,” she seems to command the elements of the universe to swirl around her as she spins tales via her atmospheric keyboards and vocals. On “By The Way” she blends piano and layered vocals in a medieval arrangement that’s both ominous and romantic. The melodic “I Break” is also steeped in Old World folk music. The title track opens with hypnotic chanting before introducing a boogie guitar sound reminiscent of Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky.”
Crystal Jacqueline puts her own stamp on the The Troggs’ “Cousin Jane” and The Rolling Stones’ “Play With Fire,” and reinvents Gordon Lightfoot’s easy-going “Sundown” with a spare, techno approach.
The most contemporary sounding offering from this month's selection, "A Fairy Tale" is made up of three sixties covers, twisted into unfamiliar shapes with the help of fellow Honey Pot member Icarus Peel.
The Trogg's "Cousin Jane" is given a sparse, skeletal arrangement that hints at This Mortal Coil, while Second Hand's "A Fairytale" goes the rave-up route with lashings of organ, harpsichord, slashing guitars and I'm pretty sure I heard a kitchen sink somewhere in there too.
Best of all is "Play With Fire", transformed from it's already moody baroque-pop beginnings, into something even darker with a hypnotic, cascading guitar lick threatening to pull you down into a paranoid filled abyss. In the best possible way, of course.
House of Prog
Vocalist and musician Crystal JACQUELINE is usually a member of The Honey Pot, but have started venturing out on her own these days as well. One of her first solo excursions is released now in August 2013 by specialist UK label Fruits de Mer Records, sporting three cover versions of songs that first were made famous by others issued on a good, old-fashioned vinyl single.
The Troggs Cousin Jane is first up, in this take a frail musical journey with a slow piano motif, occasional symphonic inspired backdrops and odd but effective rhythm effects supporting the sensual, longing lead vocals that might just make this version of the song a lesbian anthem. Second Hand’s A Fairy Tale is a more elaborate construction, alternating between a classic psychedelic sound of darker toned guitar riffs combined with organ garage rock style with lighter toned, richly layered themes sporting gentle guitars and symphonic backdrops of a Mellotron inspired quality as the main features, elements from these two contrasting movements combining in different arrangements towards the end. Calm, controlled lead vocals by Jacqueline on this song, which suits this take perfectly. Rolling Stone’s Play With Fire isn’t known as their most energetic creation, but this frail version of it with careful harpsichord and nervously reverberating light toned lead motif by the guitar is perhaps the most tender version of this song yet. Neat and gentle psychedelic guitar solo details makes occasional appearances throughout, and with lead vocals of a toned down, emotionally edged variety there’s tension by the truckload here too. A splendid take on a classic song.
If Crystal Jacqueline’s apparently forthcoming full length debut album manage to maintain the quality of this three track single, then she’s got all the musical elements she needs for a career going. A highly intriguing production by an artist that at least for me is a new acquaintance.
This three-track 7” EP is the first Crystal Jacqueline release on Fruits de Mer and this lovely-voiced lady is skillfully assisted by another The Honey Pot band member Icarus Peel. First we’ve got the rather peaceful and small-scale cover of The Troggs song “Cousin Jane”. There’s some nice orchestration on this one. Things get much more interesting with the energetic, driving rendition of “A Fairy Tale” by Second Hand originally released in 1968. This is just marvelous 60’s freakbeat stuff! A nice guitar solo as well. Excellent! The third song is the dark, hunting The Rolling Stones B-side “Play with Fire” that I also enjoy very much. This is a very deep and emotional version that should please all psych and Stones fans. This 7” definitely makes me want to more stuff by Crystal Jacqueline. Check it out!
Crystal Jacqueline’s debut album on Mega Dodo, “Sun Arise” mixes classic pop-psych with new on her enjoyable long player. Building on her work with neo-psych group The Honey Pot and success of her recent Fruits de Mer EP, album opener “Sun Arise” branches into proggier territory mixed with glam stomping guitar. We then hear EP duo Second Hand’s “A Fairy Tale” weaving I Can’t Explain mod-freakbeat then the Stones “Play With Fire” played darker than the baroque original. All the tracks highlight her excellent vocals with a new dimension brought to some of the male led originals, like the now even creepier “Cousin Jane” (originally by The Troggs). Despite blending originals with new material “Sun Arise” works as a whole album, with other stand-outs include the romantic melancholia of “Who Do You Love” and “By The Way”.“Sun Down” rounds off this delightful record with more mellotron sounds and exquisite harmonies with another warning to its female protagonist. For a refreshing approach to the UK psych scene do give check out Crystal Jacqueline’s “Sun Arise”.
Terry Flamm Broken Hearted Toy
Crystal Jacqueline has been keeping busy within England’s psychedelic music scene; performing with The Green Question Mark (which also includes Mordecai Smythe) and The Honey Pot. (See January 30, and February 2013, respectively, in Archives.) This three-track single finds her working with Icarus Peel, from both of the previously mentioned bands. The eclectic choice of covers on “A Fairy Tale” ranges from the well known to the obscure, but she gives each song an authentic late 1960s feel.
“Cousin Jane,” originally recorded by The Troggs on their Trogglodynamite album, is one of those songs where a creepy underworld lurks beneath deceptively simple lyrics. Crystal Jacqueline gives it an ominous piano, synth, and strings arrangement that’s fairly similar to the original. Virtually no one in the States has heard of Second Hand, but Crystal Jacqueline does the English group’s 1960s gem “A Fairy Tale” proud with a swirling, high octane mix of psychedelic and garage rock. She doesn’t bother to flip the genders on The Rolling Stones’ “Play With Fire,” but her bewitching vocals and haunting keyboards suggest there might be other-worldly consequences if you did try to cross her.
Ever since I discovered Crystal Jacqueline from her two Fruits de Mer releases, I have been fascinated and trying to fully grasp what she is doing musically. With the release of her debut album I have now concluded that she has created something new, what I will call Gothic psych. You only got a taste of this on her debut 7-inch single, all three songs are included on the album (“Cousin Jane,” “A Fairy Tale,” and “Play with Fire”). In addition there are seven songs penned by Icarus Peel, fellow Honey Pot band mate, and two other cover tunes that will surprise you: “Fly a Kite” from the Disney movie Mary Poppins and the album closer, Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown.” Many of these cover songs I would normally consider to be upbeat and cheerful. But Crystal’s beautiful voice and singing lends a sinister ambiance to the psychedelic and otherwise trippy music. I did not understand this when I listened to Crystal’s recent double 7-inch on FdM, which put me a little off on her renditions of “White Rabbit” and “I Had Too Much to Dream.” Now that I can listen to her cover tunes in context with her other songs, I can truly understand and appreciate what she is doing. As the FdM releases are all limited editions that sell out quickly, I highly recommend that anyone interested should by all means get a copy of Sun Arise. This album is available both as a CD and a juicy slab of bright yellow vinyl in a gatefold sleeve.