Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Mark Fry - Dreaming With Alice (1972)

Mark Fry - Dreaming With Alice (1972)

This album was originally recorded in Italy and England during 1972 by an almost unknown artist who is now a mystery. The album was only ever released in Italy and was almost entirely unknown in the UK and elsewhere around the world. Like many albums after a limited release it receded to a forgotten back page of musical history. It was in the late 1990s that Akarma Records in Italy reissued the album on CD with the original sleeve on the evocative cover.

When we read of an album being labeled 'psychedelic folk' it is often a dubious use of the term and a listener may be at a loss to find the elusive element of psychedelia. However there can be no such doubt with regard to this album which is a defining masterpiece of the style.

From the cover it is clear that this album seeks to fuse the whimsical text and graphics with a deep sense of the rural and with the tarot styled cards elements of folk low magic are also implied. The back cover shows some kind of pagan princess or holy woman in a trance like state and inside we see a young woman asleep. With such an evocative cover the scene is set for something special and for once here is an album that lives up to it's fusion of the surreal, rural and magical.

The whole album seems to be about sharing some kind of surreal psychedelic dream with Alice from the Alice Through The Looking Glass book. This book had like the nonsense wordplay of Lear been a defining influence on British psychedelic culture, linking the new mental expansion with a quaint gentle surreal element. Throughout the album minute long miniature songs explore these dreams and visions carrying on the 'Dreaming With Alice' theme and eventually submerging it in echo, fuzzed wah wah guitar and backwards tapes. From the first version of this onwards we immediately experience something strange, a little one verse song with just acoustic guitar and heavily processed, echoed vocals that seem distant, removed and emotionally disconnected. The first lyrics we hear start as it then continues.

"Did you pass the glass mountain?
Where Salome opened her dress.
Did you see the dolphins feathered fountain?
Oh the King made a bloody mess"

Disconnected and remote it may be but it is also warm and enveloping, a hazy opiate lullaby. It is then quickly on to 'The Witch' weaving guitar with pulsing eastern percussion and sitar topped by flute and the vocals which carry on the heavy processing. This is a darker song which seeks the Witch to cure his loneliness by coming through the window, the sound is heavily psychedelic and gives way to a beautiful ballad which is followed by the innocent childlike 'Roses for Columbus', a song s delicate it almost seems an effort to sing it and considers the discovery of America. Next is 'A Norman Solider' which seems beamed from the twelve century and provides a picture of a fog filled landscape, the solider half seen through grey light. By now the 'Dreaming With Alice' interludes are becoming ever stranger as some kind of inexplicable narrative develops with Cleopatra eating Christmas cake and asking to be called Pyramid Prostitute, however the words are almost beyond meaning becoming a soft tapestry over the soothing music which has you similarly drifting mentally. 'Lute and Flute' is baroque medieval folk that is quite exquisite and similar to Amazing Blondel.

'Down Narrow Streets' roots us back in some kind of memory from the singer's past, it is very moving yet cannot be placed. The guitars weave around each other in layers, the vocals shimmer and glide across the music, as though trying to remember the distant, hazy recesses of childhood. From here we enter the psychedelic epic of 'Mandolin Man' which clearly is meant to be the singer and even has this in the title. This starts as a driving primitive folk rhythm with a fantastic riff, if this had been earlier I'm certain it would have inspired a Jimmy Page adaptation.

'Oh Mystery man, where are you going?
I can see, your eyes are snowing'

The guitar probes and pushes with a circular riff and blues slide soloing over the top, a heavy deep drum beat comes it and it evolves to take in seething wah wah guitar with banks of hugely processes vocals like a heavenly choir, the soloing becomes more frenetic and it achieves a deep heavy folk sound that few have ever achieved.

The final version of 'Dreaming With Alice' is so heavily processed, so 'gone' that the lyrics are all but indecipherable and we end as we began, in thrall to Alice and her entrancing dream.

'And I'm With Alice In Wonderland
Skipping through the rain
Flowered marbles in our hands
as we roll on down the lane
as we laugh on down the lane'
(repeat last line to fade)

Reference points for the album are hard as it is truly unique. Donovan was often as surreal but never as distant, Nick Drake explored acoustic music in a similar way but to far different more personal effect, artists like Steve Tilston were never as extreme. Perhaps it is closest to the modern generation, to such as In Gowan Ring' who merge the psychedelic with a focused distant quality, or Fit and Limo with their genuine sitar folk sound, or Stone Breath with their mystical evocations that beguile and scare in equal parts, or Drekka with their low-fi rumbling darkness. However none are truly close and that is because the artist here is not giving us his personal feelings but connects on a deep more sub-conscious level, with our innate feelings, with the part of ourselves we cannot reach. Whether by drugs, religion or music that was the purpose of psychedelia, to connect with that we cannot grasp in ourselves except through the shortest glimpses of forgotten child hood. In this it provides a defining album that not only in sound, but in it's quest attempts to connect the broken synapses of memory. Inevitably by the end the processing of the music is so extreme that the fragile connection is lost, we cannot find these places in ourselves except in the fragmented transitory illusions of sleep when we once again dream with Alice. (

Mark Fry - Dreaming With Alice (1972)


Anonymous said...

Notice the artwork's extreme similarity to Donovan's Barabajagal album

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

A fantastic album. It's really great.

Thanks for all the things I found in this site.

Paisley Panties said...

Wow,this is a really great album. I can't make head or tails of the review, though. But I've never heard anything quite like this. It's hard to find really great acid folk, but this is a genuine lost classic.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a lovely, thoughtful piece. I'd just like to add a couple of points:
- The album was recorded only in Italy, in Rome. None of it was recorded in England.
- The Akarma reissue was done without Mark's knowledge and is not the original artwork - as someone points out, it is a rip-off of the Barabajagal cover. For the original artwork see the 2006 Sunbeam reissue.
- Finally, I am happy to confirm that Mark is alive and well and has just recorded a new album (his first for 35 years) which will be released in January 2008.

best to you all

bigandtall' said...

thank you very much

Anonymous said...

this link doesn't work for my computer. any reason why? thanks in advance

Anonymous said...

try for the man himself...

paisley Panties said...

There is something very strange going on. The first album by the band Trader Horne, called "Morning Way" IS THIS ALBUM EXACTLY, same exact recording. All the songs in it are attributed to to Jackie Mcauley, but there's no little piano interludes between the songs. What's with this? Someone ripped someone off--I have a feeling Mark Fry never existed! See for yourself:

paisley Panties said...

Oops, never mind. I guess I downloaded the Trader Horne album and THOUGHT it was Mark Fry. Heh. I must be high...

Sakis said...

What a magic rare staff!!
Thanks a lot and for the information

Anonymous said...

Can anyone please re-upload the album? I'm curious about his music. Please re-upload it! In mp3 format please...... sorry for being such an annoying brat but I really do want to take a listen to his music...!!!

Sakis said...

Hello Anonymous
Here is a link for you and for anybody who wants to enjoy this so sweet and lyrical project.
Personally I enjoyed and once more I want to thank the owner of this blog

Eric said...


The link doesn't work.


Sakis said...

Sorry for that .
Just to help
try my link above Eric

Anonymous said...

I was lucky enough to see Mark Fry perform with Terry Reid in Chicago this past Fall at the Empty Bottle. It was the most amazing show I've ever experienced. Mark Fry is a musical genius!! I love his work!

Anonymous said...

Thanks but I'm waiting for the second album "shooting at the moon" is possible..

Simon House

Ivan said...

Exelent ! I'm Argentinian, and I can't hear exaclty what he sings, but that pieces of lyrics you left, helped me a lot. thanks you !

Anonymous said...

Lovely stuff here:)