If symphonic prog with organ, mellotron and piano is your thing then listen up and check out English band Cressida..
Written by: gdmonline
LABEL: Vertigo/Swirl Records
SERIAL: VO 7 /847 904 VTY
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England
LINEUP: Angus Cullen – vocals * John Heyworth – guitars * Peter Jennings – harpischord, organ, piano * Kevin McCarthy – bass * Iain Clark – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 To Play Your Little Game * 02 Winter Is Coming Again * 03 Time for Bed * 04 Cressida * 05 Home And Where I Long To Be * 06 Depression * 07 One Of A Group * 08 Lights I My Mind * 09 Only Earthman In Town * 10 Spring’ 69 * 11 Down Down * 12 Tomorrow Is A Whole New Day
Prog rock in the UK was a landscape of rich offerings back in the 1970’s. There were many acts that went onto great things, and some that should’ve, but didn’t. Take Cressida for example, a band mentioned here on this site by Eric in some of his earlier reviews.
Starting life off as The Dominators, the band changed their handle to Charge, and with the addition of Peter Jennings, thus became Cressida. If you like symphonic prog with large doses of organ with shades of mellotron and piano, then these guys are for you.
There are many reference points with Cressida. Take The Beatles. The Moody Blues, Procol Harum and many more. The band line-up all seem to come at you with their prevalent styles intermingling, but somehow being quite individually unique when looked at in a different perspective. What do I mean by that?
Well, the singer Angus Cullen has a delicate and warm vocal, guitarist John Heyworth provides 60’s stylings, whereas keyboardist Peter Jennings is the glue holding it all together, fusing organ and mellotron to good effect. It’s a mixture, but it works for them. The other positive thing (well for me at least) are the shorter duration on most of the songs. No extended epics here. Signed to Vertigo offshoot Swirl Records, Cressida delivered two albums and hastily disappeared back underneath a rock. What a shame.
As a keyboard fan (I collect them mainly) it was wonderful to hear an album full of enjoyable organ work. Not just layered sounds but entertaining organ solos. If AORsters can remember back to Tom Scholz organ work on the first two Boston albums then you’ll have a fair idea what I’m on about. Don’t get me wrong, Cressida aren’t some lost AOR wannabes, far from it.
It’s very easy to get happily lost in some of these tracks. Opening up with ‘To Play Your Game’, you hear the influx of organs right from the outset, which turns into a happy but trippy number. ‘Winter Is Coming Again’ plays its part well, sombre tones mostly, until Heyworth lets loose with some well placed guitar solos. ‘Time For Bed’ is an acoustic workout part folk and jazz, it’s followed by the wonderful title track ‘Cressida’, very much a product of its time, with organ and bass lines prominent.
‘Home And Where I Long To Be’ is a rambly number which wanders all over the soundscape, ‘Depression’ has this great organ intro a la Vincent Price’s Dr Phibes, but soon moves away from that to something much more mainstream. Perhaps my favourite track here is ‘One Of A Group’, this would’ve sounded great even if released ten years later, with John Heyworth ripping off a few Buck Dharma Roeser riffs in true Blue Oyster Cult fashion. The ending changes to a jazz piano excursion from Jennings. Very unusual, very cool!
‘Lights In Mind’ sounds quite commercial, perhaps a nod in the direction of Ray Manzarek and The Doors in some places. In fact, it’s on a song like that where you think Cressida might in fact be a Californian band from the 60’s! Again, you have to sit back and admire the organ work of Peter Jennings on ‘Only Earthman In Town’.
‘Spring ’69’ is another near total acoustic affair, however it’s back to the mesmeric proto prog of ‘Down Down’, where Angus Cullen’s vocals are very prominent. The band finish off with the excellent up-tempo ‘Tomorrow Is A Whole New Day’ with everyone finding a solo spot in which to excel. It’s very much a prog template that many band’s would copy over the years.
The band released a further album in 1971 entitled ‘Asylum’. Not sure what the significance of the name was, hopefully they weren’t committed to one! Good on Italian label Akarma for re-releasing both ‘Cressida’ and ‘Asylum’ during 2002 on CD. You can pick these up quite easily nowadays. As mentioned, Cressida disappeared off the musical map, only for car manufacturer Toyota to nick the name and release a whole series of cars under the banner.
The name Cressida may have become famous eventually, but for many, it is the association to British prog that it will be revered by. You really do have to dig deep to find some of these old gems buried in the record collection. Thank god for the Internet! As a result, expect to see a lot more of these older albums being reviewed in future.