Although it was released in 1975, there’s something contemporary about this album. Often regarded as the band’s high point, the way in which Michael Dunford’s quite forthright guitar interacts with John Tout’s keyboard swathes and Annie Haslam’s vocal performances are simply stunning, capable of ranging from delicacy to delirious.
In many ways, this is best heard on opening track Trip To The Fair, which incorporates all of the above elements on a lengthy song that has a dark undertone that is almost disturbing; it’s actually based on what happened when Annie Haslam first dated Roy Wood. There’s a sense of the band exploring the fear of loneliness on much of the album, which is present in both the musical arrangements – augmented by some impressive orchestrations which veer from expansive to subliminal – and also the insights from Betty Thatcher, who wrote most of the lyrics here.
Of course it’s the epic title track, Song Of Scheherezade, that really holds the attention. Split into nine sections spread over nearly 25 minutes, it’s almost an opera given the way in which it relates the classic tale of the queen who manages to escape threatened execution at each dawn by telling her husband 1001 tales.
Although not based on the classical masterwork by Rimsky-Korsakov it does occasionally proffer a nod of acknowledgement in that direction. But such is the quiet power of this epic that it does hold you in its thrall throughout. A brilliant album given extra boost by this newly remastered format.