|Heron – 1970|
There’s a sound you faintly hear as you play the opening track from Heron’s 1970 self-titled debut, its the faint sound of a rolling river and bird song. As the gorgeous romantic pastoral folk song unfolds, and ends to the sound of distant bird song, you start to realize the exact reason Heron fit perfectly in its time and place. Recorded, much like the rest of the album, outside, next to the banks of a country river in one take, “Yellow Roses”, captures a certain romanticism, warmness, and communal feel that English neo-folk music had been coalescing around at that time (of which a couple of Beatles were capturing perfectly in varied ways through All Things Must Pass, Ram, and Plastic Ono Band).
|Heron album cover.|
Somehow they convinced their record company, the Dawn label, to let them record their debut album at the place where they’ve been practicing recently, the farmhouse where one of its members had lived in Appleford within a spitting distance from the River Thames. At first things started inside the farm, however they had experienced such a great run of great weather that they decided to load up their instruments and recording gear, pile it up in a truck and head outside. Outside is where their juices started to flow. At first the sonic environment was so pristine that initial recordings sounded as clear as a studio environment. From then on, they’d deliberately place a microphone around 30 yards from their round to capture the sounds of nature cycling around them.
|Cover inlay showing recording environment.|
Such a pastoral setting underneath those huge trees allowed them to come up with songs showing their Incredible String Band and Paul McCartney influences. While the sounds of nature could provide a background ambiance that complemented their warm folk sound. These songs they were creating, all originals, that they would play as a group, and periodically take breaks from to go back to the farm to prepare meals, started to coalesce into the exact sound they were after. Acoustic guitars, melodeon, concertina, flutes, portable piano, bird sound, and harmonies all working toward an extremely unique goal of English comfort folk-rock.
|Twice As Nice & Half the Price album cover.|
This time around they didn’t have quite the same amount of editorial thought and released too many songs that could have been culled to make a proper, strong release that could rival the debut. Shortly, after that release, they went their separate ways. However, that debut is some triumph and a true gem showing the importance of going outside, recharging and releasing the soul for a bit. I traverse further down the English neo-folk sound tomorrow though…
– Upon Reflection: The Dawn Anthology (both albums in one essential compilation)
or stream it here: