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JADE WARRIOR – BORNE ON THE SOLAR WIND: THE VERTIGO ALBUMS, 1971-72 3 x CD (Released 28th June 2024 on Esoteric/ Cherry Red)

On their 1971 eponymous debut album Jade Warrior was a trio of Tony Duhig on guitar, Jon Field on flute and percussion and Glyn Havard on bass and vocals. It was self-penned and self-produced but, for some inexplicable reason, didn’t sell well, and has become highly collectable. ‘A Prenormal Day at Brighton’ was perhaps a strange choice as the A-side of the concomitant single release when ‘Telephone Girl’ and ‘Psychiatric Sergeant’ on the album better demonstrate the more commercial, psych rock side of the band. They don’t fit especially well with the rest however, interrupting the smooth flow, at times ambient and pastoral, at others the zen-like flute, acoustic guitars and soaring electric ones, transmogrifying into a hard-edged rock sound rooted in the blues, think JETHRO TULL, perhaps. The lack of a drum kit allows much use of much African and eastern percussion. Start with the gorgeous ‘Dragonfly Day’, ‘Masai Morning’, another multi-part piece and ‘Sundial Song’ as great examples of what the early Jade Warrior were all about.

Jade Warrior’s second album from 1971 (‘Released’) still shows the band in their formative years. There are guitar riffs, fills and solos and frantic percussion, some sax and the occasional flute, approximating Afro rock on the opener. The following number, ‘Eyes on You’, is more of a JETHRO TULL styled blues. ‘Bride of Summer’, a gentle ballad, reminded me of KING CRIMSON’s ‘I Talk to the Wind’. There is some jazz-oriented rock, some rock ‘n’ roll CHUCK BERRY style, and an interminable Afro-rhythmic number entitled ‘Barazinbar’, which epitomised the band’s lack of original material at this point- much better was to come.

‘Last Autumn’s Dream’ (1972), the group’s third album, was not so much east-west (drums this time with Allan Price having joined), but continues the approach of mixing ethereal and atmospheric passages (like the tribal rock of ‘Dark River’ at the end) with the hard rock of ‘Snake’, fuzz bass and all, which could have been label mates BLACK SABBATH in disguise, .Why ‘The Demon Trucker’ was released as a single instead of opener ‘A Winter’s Tale’, with its repetitive wordless chorus of ‘Hey Jude’ proportions, is anyone’s guess. Tony Duhig goes into JIMI HENDRIX freak-out mode on ‘Joanne’, a strange juxtaposition to what comes before and after. The lovely ballad ‘May Queen’, with its inspired fuzzed-up guitar solo, is an obvious candidate for a progressive rock sampler.

A change of label to Island brought a fantastic quadrilogy/ tetralogy (as they were distinctive but also related artistically and stylistically) of albums: “Floating World” (1974), “Waves” (1975), “Kites” (1976) and “Way of the Sun” (1978), also compiled as a box set by Esoteric.

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