Spring Fantasy is an unusual album. Rather than follow up his first album Ascension with a similarly sounding sequel, Clifford decided to go in a completely different direction with Spring Fantasy. Digital sampling had just come of age, and Clifford wanted to experiment with recording natural sounds and making them an integral part of his music, as can be heard on the tracks April Showers and Merlins Cave amongst others. At the same time, Clifford had also become interested in fairy stories – old tales of leprechauns and faeries, as well as the idea of nature spirits, sprites, devas and elementals, and he decided to weave all of these ideas into a concept album of faerie big proportions…
Spring Fantasy opens with First Born, a gentle piece suffused with Springtime energy; the sound of waves and birds act as a backdrop to this wistful piece, and with the addition of a babies cry and a distant whistle, the music is strangely evocative of a place and a time only seen and experienced in a half-remembered daydream.
April Showers is almost a nature-inspired Pachelbel’s Canon, with cascading arpeggios and bouncy water droplets, wind chimes and palm shakers (samples made by Clifford rubbing his hands together) supplying the back-beat to rich and fantastical psychedelic washes of bubbly synthesizers and watery shimmers, almost as if we are sneaking in a look at a group of water sprites, nereids and mermaids having their own private party.
Clifford’s flights of imagination and humour become further evident in the dainty funk of Daddy Long Legs, as a group of six and eight legged creatures emerge for a little springtime dance, whilst in Anemone we join thousands of dandelion clocks as they are whisked into the distant blue on gusts of rarefied springtime air. Things take a turn to the middle ages in Evensong, a medieval waltz through some ancient castle ruins complete with suitably adorned costumes and instruments.
Into the Blue takes us up into the stratosphere with an icy clarity, as pulses of rhythm emerge from the clouds to carry us on a journey to distant climes. Then we are back with the fairies again in Dandelions, where we find ourselves joining groups of the little people as they hitch taxi rides on dandelion clocks, at which point we experience the awe of meeting The Rainbow Makers, those beings who tirelessly build rainbows for the sun to shine through (if you listen carefully, you can even hear them chatter). The title track Spring Fantasy seems to sum the album up nicely with its uplifting and positive theme, which is followed by the cavernous Merlins Cave track, suggesting a tale of magical miners in crystal caves hunting for elusive treasures, and the album is wrapped up nicely with Ballet of the Ripple Skaters, an imaginative and somewhat romantically wistful track rich with Springtime aromas.
Like many of Clifford’s albums, Spring Fantasy is an album full of joy and inspiration, although it is also suffused with a child-like sense of wonder and discovery. Whilst not as successful as his first album Ascension, it is richly inventive and imaginative, and has as a result gained something of a cult following over the years.