Album Reviews

Album Reviews

Here are some of the many reviews of the Cressida albums that have been published or posted on-line over the years:

MINT Magazine (Germany), Vertigo Special Issue, December 2019

“Cressida” LP
A dozen songs, not one alike any other, are the best preconditions for a classic album with timeless potential. But success, whether small or big, was denied to Cressida with their sole two albums. Although, their debut starts almost pop-like with To Play Your Little Game and Winter is Coming, before very different influences start to break their ground. The organ heavy (literally “organ impregnated”) sound refers to early Moody Blues, or Deep Purple’s first incarnation, but the band, among them Iain Clark, who would become Uriah Heep’s drummer, ride out the many moods of the psychedelic 60s – exuberance and melancholy – to the very limits. Thus, Cressida becomes a hard to describe melting pot of impromptu capers (/antics), like the, in its buoyancy mistakably titled Depression, and pointed half-hits such as the Hendix reminiscent smoochie-number Lights in my mind. The intoxicating, opulent title track evokes sentiments of Colosseum, whereas main songwriter John Heyworth seems to be plucking his acoustic guitar with velvet gloves on the minimalistic Time For Bed, while pastoral Folk Rock shines through in Spring 69. In the end, the album remains promising, perhaps too much so and – not last because of its disturbing, ragged cover artwork – fails to convince a mainstream audience.

Reviewed by Andreas Schiffmann

“Asylum” LP
When Asylum was released in 1971, Cressida had already been history for three months. The semi-tragic glamour which accompanies the band actually fits the inflection of the album, through which a potpourri of autumn like sentiment pervades. The great thing about Cressida is, that this melancholy never drifts into theatrical dimensions, something which other Prog Rockers are notorious for. On the contrary: the eight tracks manage to balance along the fine edge where emotionality and reservation meet. In plain musical terms, Asylum is chiseled even finer and more virtuous than their debut. Folk, Jazz and Classical influences are scattered across the whole album, without ever standing in the way of the powerful rock music. John Culley, the new guitarist, shines with instinctively solid solos on Lisa and Summer Weekend, his predecessor John Heyworth bids his farewell in true gentleman manner with a last long track, Let Them Come When They Will. Speaking of long tracks: Those who have never heard a single note of Cressida best start with Munich, the Englishmen’s undisputed masterpiece. Sublime, continuously set and ambitious to the last. There are few progressive rock bands where a nine and a half minute song between heaven and earth sounds so succinct and enthralling.

Reviewed by Markus Hockenbrink

One of Vertigo’s finest hours, this is. It’s progressive rock from Scotland, nothing less, but almost all irritating traits of that genre are carefully avoided. The mellow emotional singing is free from any mannerisms, the compositions are among the most moving in this realm. There is room for everyone in the production and the playing is refined, even restrained, but without sacrificing any of its splendour.

Another point in favour: there is great variety of approach, both instrumentally and stylistically, yet the sound is immediately recgonizable. Stately striding from one climax to another, this still stands as one of the highlights of early British prog. A record that proves that aspirations do not necessarily become pretensions. Melodically extremely affecting with too many highlights to mention, this comes wholeheartedly recommended.

CRESSIDA were an excellent band of early British symphonic progressive scene. Their sound is mostly dominated by the most beautiful and symphonic Hammond organ (dirty, and mellow), piano, bass, guitar, and drums. The instrumental sections are equally good, and tend to be typical of early 70s English prog rock. Thanks to the captivating atmospheres and the technical ability of the musicians.

Similar bands include FANTASY, BEGGARS’ OPERA, CIRKUS, GRACIOUS, and SPRING.   Both CRESSIDA albums are excellent and very rare now (both were original Vertigo “Swirls”). Their self-titled debut is an early seventies forgotton classic with delicate vocals, gobs of organ and acoustic guitar. CRESSIDA’s second “Asylum” is the best of the genre represented by BEGGARS’ OPERA, SPRING, FANTASY, FRUUPP, and many more. The combinations of instruments used for this album featuring the flute and different keyboard configurations accompanied by acoustic guitar works. This album, though, was by far the better one, with long instrumental passages and more elaborate arrangements. Thus, if you’re interested, “Asylum” is a recommended starter of great early British rock. DEFINITELY A CLASSIC!

Cressida Symphonic Prog
Review by Barrett Sinclair
In the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, I bought a lot of records “on spec”, based largely on the album art. This album instantly intrigued me with its dark, surrealistic, and inexplicable imagery, and I was pleased to discover that the mood of the music complemented the cover art very nicely (and vice versa). I perceive a dark quality to much of the music on this album, thanks in large part to Peter Jennings deep and beautiful Hammond B3 sound (which is usually enhanced with a perfectly measured dose of reverberation). The songs are generally short (by prog-rock standards) but remarkably well-crafted, with strong melodies, plenty of interesting changes, and the occasional odd time signature, and there really isn’t a throw-away track on the entire album.

The musicanship is of a very high level throughout, with Jennings’ keyboard work being the standout: his arrangements are excellent throughout, moving from single note riffs to deep chords and back again effortlessly, kicking the Leslie speaker in and out at just the right moments, and displaying an impeccable sense of dynamics. John Heyworth’s solos have been criticized by some: he’s certainly not the best lead player in the world, but I felt his solos worked very well within the context of the music and his acoustic contributions here are excellent (and overall, I would rate him much higher than John Culley, who replaced him on the band’s second album). Angus Cullen’s vocals are very well done (although the dry production makes them stand out in a very in-your-face way). Here and there I find moments that remind me of the Moody Blues, Procol Harum, and Caravan, but overall Cressida stand as a unique musical entity, and I consider finding this album to be one of my luckiest musical acquisitions. Although I’m not sure exactly where I would place it in the pecking order, this album is definitely one of my top 25 all-time favorites.

Cressida Symphonic Prog
Review by Lozlan
I rate this a five after very careful consideration. Ultimately, the organ lines won out: this band has to be heard to be believed. Angus Cullen’s vocals are warm, rich, and complicated, with an impressive amount of control, and Peter Jennings is a magician, weaving complex organ lines that seem, in the moment, effortless. Often compared to other early English prog groups (Fantasy, Gracious etc.), and likewise often intimated to be the least of this august company, I would argue the inverse.

There is a competence of songwriting, a sense that is both holistic and powerful – putting on a Cressida album is, for me, an act of complete trust in a band. There are no moments of sudden mediocrity or forgettable filler. Consistency, coupled with some of the best lyrical work in early prog, elevate this the status of completely necessary music. Find it. Listen. Enjoy.