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The Sea Kings are a male trio from Cornwall, now resident in London, with a steadily blossoming reputation for their harmony based vocal sound. This is commandingly demonstrated by the closing track on this album, a beautifully crafted setting of Thomas Hardy’s Lyonesse. It is, in a word, sublime: a perfectly suited tune, rich considered developing harmonies, variety in structure. If the rest of the album lived up to the peak reached on that track, I’d have been blown away. Sadly it doesn’t.

A couple of traditional songs – Ship In Distress and Two Sisters – are fine, if a little melodramatic and seemingly missing the point of the songs’ structures: the latter track is, for some reason, in part accompanied by bizarre random percussion that gives the impression of someone moving furniture in the room above.

However, it’s when we come to their own songs that the real problem arises. Dominated by tricksy vocal and instrumental devices, they seem throughout prosaic and trite. Too often the group fails to do itself justice and emerges as a kind of poor man’s Show Of Hands. So, frankly one has to sit through a lot that often fails to hold the attention before arriving, at last, at fair Lyonesse. But, boy, is it ever worth the wait.

Currently thinking of this as a great single with 10 b-sides I probably won’t play again.

Nigel Schofield

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This album was reviewed in Issue 110 of The Living Tradition magazine.