Les Penning: Belerion (2016)

Written by: Kev Rowland

As is normal, I first played this album without having read the press release, and my immediate reaction was that here was someone who could really play woodwind, and that he was evoking classic Mike Oldfield. This was definitely strengthened by having “Portsmouth” as the opening track. It was only much later that I realised that he had worked considerably with Oldfield, and it was his recorder playing on “In Dulce Jubilo” and “Portsmouth” as well as on Mike’s much-loved third album “Ommadawn”. ‘Belerion’ features 14 newly-recorded tracks, including six re-worked recording of tracks Les originally recorded with Mike Oldfield for his unreleased solo album, back in 1976. Back then, Les and Mike regularly played at the Penrhos Court Hotel during Mike’s time living near Kington in Herefordshire. “When Mike Oldfield left Bradnor Hill and we no longer graced the halls of Penrhos Court, we still recorded at his new home at Througham Slad in Gloucestershire and it was there that we recorded seven pieces that were representative of our repertoire at Penrhos. Although they were intended to form part of an album I was making, somehow it never got made – until now.”

Les is joined by guitarist Phil Bates (lead vocalist and guitarist of ELO2) and multi- instrumentalist Robert Reed (Sanctuary/Magenta), and they understand that their parts are very much that of accompanists, and they are there to let Les really shine. This he does, and the result is an album that will not only be sought out by Oldfield completists, but by those who enjoy pastoral progressive folk music such as Mike was producing himself some forty years ago. This is not something to be purchased and then put on the shelf, but instead needs to be played and enjoyed, as it is bright, beautiful and quite enchanting.

Rating: 7/10

Track list:
Portsmouth // St. Clement’s Isle // Nobody’s Jig // Easter 84 // Sellinger’s Round // British Grenadiers // Tower Hill // The Baskerville Down // The Stones Feel Warm in Belerion // The Sussex Carol // Bach Minuet // Quirk // Lymme // His Rest


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