Principal Edwards: Round One album review

Pink Floyd's Nick Mason produces entertaining folk rockers Principal Edwards.

Cover art for Principal Edwards' Round One

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Principal Edwards Magic Theatre were one of those support bands you’d encounter in the colleges and town hall venues of the UK in the early 1970s. Whereas Hawkwind had just one interpretative dancer, this outfit had a troupe of them, wending their way not only across the stage but out into the audience itself. Their songs were often bolstered by theatrical devices and eye-catching costumes to articulate several socially conscious, alternative messages via a bit of agit-prop style staging. When Round One was released in 1974, the group had trimmed not only the name but the line-up as well, discarding most though not all of the extraneous theatricality. However, what can be highly entertaining on stage doesn’t necessarily translate too well to a recording studio, and probably goes some way to explaining why Principal Edwards’ nevertheless engaging blend of folk and rock failed to gain commercial traction.

For a group whose energetic transmission of an idea was as much visual as musical, there are times when the resulting signal only comes through at half-strength. Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason delivers an empathetic production, making useful adjustments to the material such as cutting back a chorus or a solo here and there in material that often retains something of a late 60s naiveté to it. The jaunty folk rock groove, with earnest down-strumming, trilling mandolins and harmonies, rollicks along on The Whizzmore Kid, and Juggernaut, the latter dealing with the advent of supertankers on UK roads. A quaint bit of carbon-dating, it’s striking how relevant the environmental subtext within the song remains today. The electrified jigs-and-reels bounce on instrumental Triplets, posits a rockier version of the group, boasting some serious, biting guitar and bright moog. Though Round One doesn’t always reach the extent of its ambitions, it’s a reminder there’s plenty of rough diamonds, scattered away from the beaten track just waiting to be rediscovered.

Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.