Saturday, 11 February 2012

Review: Mark Mulholland

Mark Mulholland - The Cactus And The Dragon (Cannery Row Records)
Mark Mulholland’s voice may well be the defining factor as to whether you enjoy “The Cactus And The Dragon”. We have here 13 songs, some of which are great, some less so, and one that’s ridiculous. The title track is by far the best number on the album (more about that later), whereas "Footsteps On The Stairs" is simply preposterous. Everything about the track is wonky, from the off-key voice to the faltering tempo, and the strange keyboard sound that joins just before the bored vocal kicks in. In-between this high and low point there’s a mishmash of songs that you have to make an effort with. Repeat listening is all-important on “The Cactus And The Dragon”.

The nasal, Dylanesque vocal twang adopted for the opening track, "Why D'You Treat Me This Way", gives way to something less novel on "Haunted Feeling", which has a wonderful accordion and acoustic guitar accompaniment. It took me an age to come to grips with them. At first I thought them just too laconic, but they’ve grown on me, particularly the latter. "Floodgates" has a fine psychedelic-type sound, and "This Time Of Night" is an instrumental with inspired strings supporting the acoustic guitar - all very dashing and quite beautiful. Footsteps..." follows immediately after, and this needs to be avoided at all costs. Honestly, I’ve no idea what’s going on there.

After this just three more tracks have the necessary spike and fire. "Something New" has a sparkling electric guitar, but the vocals are not delivered with the same bravado. "Firelight Fantasy" is back to a more Dylan-esque delivery, with a touch of Donovan - good tune, good number, although way too short. Then, right at the end, the title track raises the psychedelic flag. Suddenly, there’s a ‘wow’ factor. It’s off the scale compared to the rest of the album, a titanic track that could sit alongside anything done by any psych band, past or present.

Out of ten, “The Cactus And The Dragon” scores a respectable seven - just don't go near "Footsteps...", okay…
Kev A.

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