O.w.l - Of Wondrous Legends
If you didn't know this was recorded in 1971, you might guess that this is a new addition to the growing, erratic and hit and miss psych-folk sweepstakes. That O.W.L's long-forgotten release sounds fresh today is not really a nod to them as much as to the fact that their style has become hip once more. One of the glories of the new file share world is that almost anything that people obsessed over can be posted, unearthed, for us to obsess over. Oftentimes that means a lot of shitty "finds," but O.W.L is the opposite: a band with a lot of heart that got lost in the shuffle back in the day getting a new hearing.
Formed by Guitarist/.singer Stephen Titra from the ashes of jam band Mountain Bus, O.W.L is a vehicle for slightly mystical, slightly precious folk that is given its kick through art-rock touches and the sincere, but never fey delivery from Titra. In lesser hands this might have sunk to Association level; he keeps the poetry and a nice, honest, Tims Buckley and Hardin feel.
A song-cycle as much devoted to an idealized past as to a valentine to future peace, "Of Wondrous Legends" has several highlights, though the entire set is meant to work as a whole. "Renaissance & Rococo" has a sweet and melancholy depth, announced and sustained by a mournful flute; a much better dreamlike renaisaance feel than "A tale of Crimson Knight," the opening track. "Midnight Carnival" is trippy psych complete with reverb-laced vocals, while "Dawn Of Blbion" even has some quick silences, almost ambient, and a Simon & Garfunkel feel. "Everyman And The Philosopher King" has an oddly jittery melody that gives some kick to offset the pompus vocals and dramatic drumming, a moody blues-like stumble. Other songs anticipate Jesus rock and early prog, and "Be Alive," with its quiet but forceful poetry, is the best of the set.
"Of Wondrous Legends" was found in a Chicago flea market a few years ago. There is hope for us all that our noise will be remembered by someone eventually. You could do worse than help resurrect O.W.L.
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