Album of the Week 31-2014: Fool’s Garden – Once In A Blue Moon

This week, I’d like to take you back to the first album I ever purchased with my own money. Back in the mid-nineties, Fool’s Garden had an enormous hit all throughout Europe and Asia with ‘Lemon Tree’. I was nine years old when the song came out and immediately fascinated by it. It took me at least another year to figure out what the band was called, but once I did, I came across this gem of an album in my local record store. ‘Lemon Tree’ wasn’t actually on it, but I was spellbound by it and now, almost two decades later, it’s still a brilliant record.

Fool’s Garden is a German band, but the sound they’re opting for is very much British. If the cover of ‘Cry Baby Cry’ or the fact that the album is dedicated to John Lennon didn’t give it away yet, the influence of The Beatles is fairly obvious. And while those influences would come to the surface even more on subsequent records, the band is much more than just another Beatles clone. Especially in Volker Hinkel’s big guitar sound, the Arena Rock edge is present, while this record especially has some references to the Soft Rock sound that graced many albums in the early to mid-nineties.

What mainly sets ‘Once In A Blue Moon’ apart from the band’s other output is the fact that Peter Freudenthaler and Volker Hinkel are still sharing lead vocals. The choice of letting Freudenthaler sing everything following this album is understandable, figuring that he technically has the better voice, but there’s something fundamentally bad-ass about Hinkel’s vocals. Just listen to the rocking Blues of ‘The Part Of The Fool’, on which he goes wild both vocally and on his guitar. A part of the abum’s charm is the interaction between Hinkel’s grit and Freudenthaler’s smoother delivery.

Most of the album would classify as easy listening. Songs like ‘One Way Out’ and the delightful ‘Careless Games’ could perfectly function as background music, despite the fact that that would undermine the quality of the compositions. However, the band proves they can rock out if they want to. Opening track ‘Awakenings’ is the perfect Arena Rock opener both musically and lyrically, with especially Hinkel’s guitar themes between the verses giving me euphoric goosebumps. The sultry ‘Lena’ has Freudenthaler seemingly on his knees begging the titular woman to give him another chance to a powerful backing with a somewhat southern European flair, while the U2-ish light-and-shade contrast of ‘Spirit ’91’ is quite likely the band’s most socially critical moment yet.

As with many albums in this style, there’s quite a large number of ballads. Luckily, most of them are pretty good. ‘Sandy’ is borderline cheesy, but the darker section with a fantastic guitar solo by Hinkel and Freudenthaler’s passionate delivery save it, while the short acoustic ‘You’re Not Forgotten’ is simply beautiful. One of the album’s absolute masterpieces, however, is the title track. The song evokes an atmosphere of being in a smokey Jazz café near closing time and Freudenthaler is once again on fire. The way this song works towards its climax is a compositional triumph.

Sonically, the album is treated exactly the way it should be. For Ralf Wochele’s drums, the perfect balance between Rock’s force and Pop subtlety of his playing is reflected in the way they are produced and the way Thomas Mangold’s bass is often doubled with Roland Röhl’s synths works fantastically. There’s a lot of room for the vocals, but not in a way that distracts from the fantastic music.

Fool’s Garden is still around today – minus the apostrophe – and they’re still creating expertly written music with prominent British influences. And while all of their albums are fantastically crafted Pop records, ‘Once In A Blue Moon’ is still the one I hold in highest regard both sentimentally and musically. The album is quite hard to find these days, but definitely worth tracking down. It’s been making my life better for almost two decades now and if you like good Pop and Rock music, that will quite likely be the case for you as well.

Recommended tracks: ‘Awakenings’, ‘The Part Of The Fool’, ‘Once In A Blue Moon’, ‘Lena’

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