Personnel: Stuart Amesbury (vocals, guitar); Cherie Musialik (vocals); Martin Steed, Paul Cook (guitar).
It's been reported that only 500 copies of this super-rare early-'70s British folk LP were pressed, half of them getting lost in a flood. For that reason, it'll be expensive should you find a copy for sale (and, as of this writing, it has yet to be reissued on CD). As with many such small press items, its high price tag might not be on par with its musical value, but it's a pretty good recording, if somewhat derivative and unoriginal. To begin with, unlike many below-the-radar efforts from the era, the sound quality is good and clear, and the performances crisp and professional. This acoustic group's main asset is Cherie Musialik's voice, which like the best British woman folk singers of the late '60s and early '70s has a high, pristine timbre -- not on the level of Jacqui McShee and Sandy Denny, but closer to their level than most singers in the same territory. Her voice is backed with sensitive accompaniment on acoustic guitar and bass, as well as occasional male backup vocal. The main flaw is that much of the material presented consists of basic and well-played, but not extremely inventive, covers of folk songs and more recent singer/songwriter compositions in the same style. Fortunately, most of the songs are not overly familiar, but when they are ("Scarborough Fair," "The Circle Game," and "You Ain't Going Nowhere"), the interpretations are not going to strike many listeners as being in the same league as the famous earlier versions by Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, and the Byrds (particularly as "You Ain't Going Nowhere" doesn't have Musialik on lead vocal). Those who have heard the version of "Anathea" that Judy Collins did early in her career might feel the same way about Folkal Point's cover -- nicely done but no match for the better-known one (and, in fact, Musialik sounds somewhat like the folk-era Judy Collins on some of the other tracks as well). On the other hand, the cover of Tom Paxton's "Victoria Dines Alone" -- easily spotted as a highlight -- is a good idea that definitely gains something appreciably different when sung by a clear-voiced woman. Another standout, "Once I Knew a Pretty Girl," has notably more forceful, dense guitar than anything else on the record, pushing the LP as far as it gets toward folk-rock; "Sweet Sir Galahad" sounds a little like something Donovan might have done on his earliest folk recordings, though sung by a woman. Ultimately, Folkal Point might have been the kind of act better appreciated in a pub or coffeehouse than on vinyl, but that doesn't mean that it's not pleasant to hear this record should you get it, especially if early-'70s British folk is one of your specialties. ~ Richie Unterberger