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DARRYL WAY'S WOLF Canis Lupus/Saturation Point/Night Music Esoteric (2008)

Darryl Way

Post the demise of progressive rock pioneers Curved Air, ace rock violinist Darryl Way formed this four-piece, including future Soft-Machine guitarist John Etheridge, to record albums of progressive rock with jazz stylings for Deram and it's the interplay between these two musicians that shines still today.

A highly proficient composer and player, Way knows how to hold court but he's almost usurped by the dexterous Etheridge in some fabulous sparring.

Produced by King Crimson's Ian McDonald, 1973 debut Canis Lupus is period prog with pleasant but undemanding vocals from bassist Dek Messecar until the classically-trained Way jumps in with playing as precise and vibrant as anything in his tenure with Curved Air. Its period fare structurally, with extended workouts counterbalanced by passages of soothing balm. ***

The formula was to be pursued on Saturation Point, but - although boasting equally proficient musical fare - it was let down by the absence of vocals (tricky chaps, instrumental albums). And, record buyers perhaps confused as to the band's true purpose, there was also the absence of charting. ***

Way was to bring ex-If vocalist John Hodkinson into the line-up for 1974's Night Music. Wolf's most accessible and commercial release benefited from his rich, individual vocal while greater use of keyboards changed the band dynamics to something more focussed. Ironically, this is where Way bowed out, rejoining his former band, and Wolf disbanded.

Bonus tracks in the singles and the story nailed down cogently in their booklet notes (hallmarks of Esoteric releases) help make all of these worth engaging. Not as quirky, nor compelling as Way's old band, but with high points in the melding of his and Etheridge's talents.

Review by Peter Muir

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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