The Stone Angel story probably begins in December 1972. Guitarists Ken Saul and Paul Corrick were rehearsing for a spot at the Great Yarmouth Folk Club Christmas party, but all they could come up with was a guitar duet version of ‘God rest ye Merry Gentlemen’. They invited singer Jill Child to join them, and worked on a couple of recently composed songs based on local legends, ‘Sanctuary Stone’ and ‘The Skater’. That first performance was so well received that the trio decided to continue, the following two years seeing them perform at clubs, concerts and festivals throughout East Anglia and occasionally further afield, while still doing the resident slot at their local club.
During the summer of 1973 a demo recording of some of their songs was made, on which Midwinter were joined by Dik Cadbury (of ‘Decameron’ and ‘Steve Hackett Band’ fame) on bass, and Mick Burroughes on percussion. This was never released at the time, and in fact the master tapes remained in a box in Ken Saul’s attic until they finally were issued by Kissing Spell in 1993 as the CD ‘The Waters of Sweet Sorrow’.
Midwinter came to an end with Jill’s departure to college, their farewell concert taking place back at the Yarmouth Folk Club on September 11th 1974. Some of their songs lived on, however, as a few months later Paul and Ken formed a new band, again including fellow musicians from the Yarmouth club. This new band had something of a rockier, more gothic, edge and a decidedly experimental approach to folk music: Stone Angel was born!
Stone Angel’s first public performance was at the Wymondham Folk Club in October 1974, then again at the Yarmouth Folk Club on December 20th 1974. The line-up consisted of Joan Bartle on vocals, flute, recorders and crumhorn; Mick Burroughes on bass and percussion; Paul Corrick on electric guitars and harpsichord; Dave Lambert on fiddle and mandolin; Ken Saul on vocals, guitars and dulcimer. Building on the reputation of Midwinter, they began to appear at numerous clubs and festivals around the area.
For a variety of reasons a decision was made to produce a self-financed recording, and this took place in February 1975. The band was assisted in this project by Eddy Green, who from time to time had deputised for various personnel in the live performances. Only three hundred and fifty of the projected five hundred albums were ever produced, and unfortunately these suffered from rather poor sound quality. A busy schedule followed, with the album being hawked around the live gigs, until the end of the summer when both Paul and Mick departed for university and art college respectively.
The resulting trio continued, but became entirely acoustic and more traditional in their choice of material, although still including ‘The Skater’ and ‘Black-sailed Traders’ in their set. The only recording from this period was a basic tape recording of a live concert in the village church at Filby, Norfolk, where Ken and Joan now lived. This too was to later be released on CD by Kissing Spell under the title ‘The Holy Rood of Bromholm’. After spells working in Botswana and Southampton, Dave Lambert emigrated to Australia, where he continued to play as a member of Adelaide-based band ‘The Legends’.
Ken and Joan carried on as a duo for a while, before becoming engaged in a slightly more serious project with early music. Then in 1985/86 they formed a new band with bassist Michael Wakelin and keyboard player Dave Felmingham, occasionally being joined on vocals by Carole Irwin. Reflecting their ‘middle earth’ tendencies, the name ‘Arkenstone’ was chosen, but after their second gig – a local version of Live Aid – so many former fans still referred to them as Stone Angel, that they decided to revert to the old title. Sadly, work commitments away from the area meant the band was short-lived. The next stage was to see a musical involvement with Broadlands Theatre Group, which entailed the composition and performance of original material for various productions. Around the same time, an article had appeared in the magazine ‘Record Collector’ with details of various privately released albums from the seventies, including the original Stone Angel LP. This was subsequently re-released on CD by Kissing Spell in 1994, alongside the previously unissued ‘ live’ recording and the earlier Midwinter album. All of this led to a renewed interest in the band, not only in the UK but also in Europe and the Far East.
With a handful of local traditional songs, some original compositions – some dating from the mid-eighties ensemble – and a few fresh ideas, the ‘new’ Stone Angel re-formed in 2000, chiefly to record a new CD, ‘East of the Sun’. This latest incarnation comprised of Ken and Joan Saul, Dave Felmingham, Andrew Smith, and a re-called Michael Wakelin. By the time the recording was finished, one of the additional musicians, oboe and cor anglais player Richard Danby, had become a permanent member of the band, while Michael’s work commitments necessitated a substitution on bass by Robert Futter. They were then joined by Jane Denny, contributing additional vocals and assorted percussion, and original seventies bass man Mick Burroughes. It is this line-up that produced the album, ‘Lonely Waters’.
Sadly, Richard Danby died in tragic circumstances just as the recording of “Lonely Waters” was nearing its completion. His contribution to the band was greatly missed, but it was decided not to try and replace him, and the album was dedicated to his memory. Due to other commitments, Mick left shortly after the album was released. The vacancy on bass was filled by long-time friend and associate, Geoff Hurrell.
Work then began on another rather different and exacting project with Broadlands Theatre Group – an epic community production of “Green Man”. After much deliberation and a few drinks in that other-worldly time between Christmas and New Year, ideas were made material. Pip Sessions wrote the script and the band wrote songs and arranged and adapted traditional material. In October 2005 “Green Man – a pageant of ancient mysteries” was performed for two nights in Filby Church with Stone Angel playing live in the context of the play. Soon after this, the CD “Circle of Leaves” was produced – all the music from “Green Man” linked together with words from the drama. It was a moment never to be forgotten, when the whole cast was recorded for the final track “The Promise”. A concert version was later put together and premiered again in Filby Church.
November 2009 saw Stone Angel celebrate their 35th anniversary with a concert at the Assembly House in Norwich. It was good to see fans and friends, old and new, from around the country – and indeed, the world – gather for this landmark occasion. Since then, Jane has departed for work and family reasons, leaving the remaining five-piece ensemble to record and release another new album “Between the Water and the Sky”. More recently (2014), the band celebrated their 40th anniversary with a short tour and another concert at the Assembly House in Norwich. In 2015 they marked the 40th anniversary of the release of the original Stone Angel album, recorded in February 1975. The story continues….. (taken from their website)
And here´s their debut album from 1975.
This, along with Midwinter’s “The Waters Of Sweet Sorrow,” is one of the all-time great underground UK psych/folk classics. Ethereal female vocals and acoustic guitars weave a melancholic cloak around the listener while lyrics evoke the mystery and magic of the British isles across the ages. Superb. (thousandfolded)
Or, in other words:
“One of the most remarkable acid folk albums…” (Record Collector)
Joan Bartle (vocals, flute, recorder, crumhorn)
Mick Burroughes (percussion, bass, jew´s harp)
Paul Corrick (guitar, bass)
Dave Lambert (violin, mandolin)
Vocals, Flute, Recorder, Crumhorn –
Ken Saul (vocals, guitar, dulcimer, recorder)
01. The Bells Of Dunwich (Saul) 6.04.
02. The Skater (Saul) 3.13
03. Pastime With A Good Company (Henry VIII) 1.12
04. Traveller’s Tale (Saul) 5.41
05. Black Sailed Traders (Saul) 5.04
06. Stone Angel (Saul) 3.39
07. Galliard / Merrie England’s Musicke Box (Traditional) 2.02
08. The Gay Goshawk (Traditional) 7.08
09. The Black Dog (Saul) 5.42
10. The Holy Rood Of Bromholm (Saul) 4.03
Stone Angel today: