A valuable work of art had gone missing. Detective Inspector “Crotchety” Mann was on the trail. His only clue was this track on Spotify from an album called Excalibur II: The Celtic Ring, under the artist name, Excalibur.

The thieves should have been more careful to cover their tracks. Although Spotify had no information about the artist, a quick Google would soon turn up the gang’s hideout and the DI would be able to wrap up another case in no time at all. But a search for “excalibur band” only found an English metal outfit who disbanded long before The Circle of Life was recorded. The criminals had not been as foolish as Crotchety had thought.

But the DI had another trick up his sleeve. The international police database, discogs, would be sure to have the information he sought. And, sure enough, discogs listed 10 artists under ‘excalibur’; one of them must be the culprits. Puzzlingly, though, the list includes Starchild Excalibur and nine plain Excaliburs distinguished only by a parenthetical number ranging from 2 to 19. So, by the process of Sherlock Holmes deduction, there must be somewhere between 9 and 19 bands called Excalibur.

With a sigh, DI Crotchety began to sift through the entries in the list. One by one each band was traced; detective work is often repetitive and tedious like this. Eventually, all the Excaliburs known to discogs were eliminated from the detective’s enquiries. None of them had made Excalibur II: The Celtic Ring, the album that The Circle of Life had come from. The criminal gang had been far more cunning than our Mann in music had ever imagined.

Crotchety scratched his head. He wasn’t really thinking; he just had the annoying itch that always seemed to come when his investigations had become bogged down. Then an idea struck him like a raindrop out of a clear blue sky; if one of Excalibur‘s albums had an unusual title he could search for it and that would be bound to lead him to his elusive gangster quarry.

The detective was in luck. Both the first and last Excalibur albums on Spotify were releases of Generación Maldita; no other band would have an album with that title. But it stood out like the DI’s sore scratching thumb from all the other titles on Spotify and discogs attributed it to Excalibur (19), whose albums did not include Excalibur II: The Celtic Ring. Spotify must have conflated two different Excalibur bands and Crotchety was stymied again.

The poor DI’s head was beginning to ache now. But there was one more lead he could try. Why not, he reasoned, look up the Excalibur II album on discogs? And, finally, he had his breakthrough. Excaliburs I, II, III and IV were all albums by Alan Simon; they are a four-part trilogy [sic] that Spotify has chosen to list under the non-existent artist, Excalibur. Crotchety cursed himself; he should have thought of this strategy ages ago.

Alan Simon

The detective’s bloodhound nose had caught the scent and the chase was on. Information on Alan Simon soon came flooding in. He is a French folk-rock musician and composer whose rock operas have attracted innumerable guests from folk and prog rock circles. The Excalibur albums alone include credits for: Fairport Convention, Flook, Barclay James Harvest, Alan Parsons, Jon Anderson, John Wetton, Justin Hayward, Maddy Prior, Moya Brennan, John Helliwell, Mick Fleetwood, Martin Lancelot Barre, Jacqui McShee and dozens of less well known artists. It was a mystery how the name of Alan Simon could have stayed under the police force radar for so long.

The first Excalibur album was originally released as Excalibur, (La légende des Celtes) in 1998. It tells the story of King Arthur in a series of songs sung mostly in English and linked by a narrative in French. It’s a pleasant enough listen but its Breton-folk roots are a little too prominent for this English blogger. Excalibur II: The Celtic Ring (2007) on the other hand sits bang in the middle of the Inspector’s favourite magnifying glass. It’s a perfect mix of folk and prog rock that recounts the history of Anwynn before Arthur’s birth there. These were the stolen riches that DI Crotchety Mann had vowed to recover.

Here’s another gem from that treasure chest.

Excalibur III: The Origins (2012) goes back even further in mythological time to describe the emergence of the demonic proto-human Formeriis who brought ruin to the land of Anwynn until Arthur and Merlin were able to defeat them. It is another fine collection of folk fused with prog rock but with rather more elements of Moody Blues symphonic rock.

The final part of the work is Excalibur IV (according to discogs) or The Dark Age of the Dragon (if you believe Spotify). It was released in 2017 and sounds like a rock opera meant for a big theatre stage rather than the intimacy of your living room – a kind of Andrew Lloyd Webber musical for the prog/folk aficionado. There are some nice touches in this fourth episode of the Excalibur saga but it doesn’t command quite the same market value as the previous three releases.

DI Crotchety Mann sat back with a smug smile. Another case closed; another little treasure recovered for its owner. Detective work has its rewards at times like this.

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