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Andromeda - Definitive Collection CD (album) cover

DEFINITIVE COLLECTION

Andromeda

 

Proto-Prog

2.82 | 8 ratings

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FragileKings
Prog Reviewer
3 stars I originally wrote this review for the metal archives but found this band is not represented there. Bear with the metal slant, will you kindly?

I firmly believe that 1969 was a keystone year in the development of both heavy metal and progressive rock. While it was prog that would define itself sooner by the early seventies, the elements associated with heavy metal had already been laid to vinyl over the past several years. That pivotal year followed the important years of heavy psychedelic music - 67/68 - when the American rock guitar and the British electric blues guitar styling were processed through further experimentation with fuzz boxes, extended instrumental sections, and for many musicians a copious consumption of LSD. By 1969 there were so many directions to take heavy rock guitar and Led Zeppelin's debut probably set the loudest example.

Though not as sonically polished in the studio, John Du Cann's Andromeda melded the guitar aggressive sound of the 1966 Yardbirds with the more aggressive rhythm approach emerging in the wake of Blue Cheer's January '68 release, "Vincebus Eruptum," but also blended a prescient vision of progressive heavy rock that was to stamp its footprints into the music scene of the early seventies, albeit mostly in the shadow of its symphonic prog brother.

The double disc here includes the entire album that was Andromeda's sole LP release along with the single "Go Your Way" and the b-side "Keep Out Cos I'm Dying", and also some additional demos all on disc one. Disc two includes more demos, BBC sessions, earlier versions of released songs and some live material.

The album opens with a heavy rocker, "Too Old" that roughly sets the tone of the band musically (not age-wise). The guitar sound, though making use of distortion, is lighter in tone than Led Zeppelin but still played with energy and power chords figure prominently. Lyrically the album also suggests this will be no love, peace, flowers, and beads affair.

The second song, "The Day of Change" while not as heavy in atmosphere, maintains the guitar distortion. Partway through it is strongly reminiscent of the Yardbirds' "Shapes of Things" but with more emphasis on the distorted guitar.

"Now the Sun Shines" is the obligatory laid back track sounding like lounge jazz with a heavy hand and lyrics that begin with observations of sunshine and playing children. Not proto- metal at all, this song is still well crafted and fits in very well with the song selection of an album of the times.

Now the album becomes more interesting with the first of a trio of three-part songs, "Turns to Dust". Without considering the parts, this song is an interesting listen as the music changes pace and mood but always with the heavy rock guitar at the forefront. It begins with a rolling riff and lightens a little for the first verse before going into a galloping riff. Perhaps where the song lacks real metal power is in the vocals which don't have the power of the likes of Robert Plant or Ian Gillan. When the song builds in heaviness after two minutes the vocals also contrast with the heavy power chords. One thing I noted was the pick slide and it had me wondering when pick slides became trendy. Around 3:30 the song changes into a more melodic arrangement very beautifully played. This is a power trio of drums, bass, guitar with guitar overdubs and they manage to take this piece through various moods and tempos. The last minute and a half is devoted to a speed-burner instrumental section resembling Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused" in manic guitar playing and charging rhythm section.

Next up is another three part song, entitled "Return to Sanity". "Part 1. Breakdown" starts off very calmly but slowly builds in tension until it becomes a full on powerhouse doom metal affair. If Diamond Head had decided to take this intro and us it for "Am I Evil" I would not be in the least bit surprised. After the thundering first part the song moves into its main sequence in "Part 2. Hope". This calm electric rock number keeps the guitar distortion close at hand however and brings it in near the end of the song before the dramatic heavy conclusion. By now, John Du Cann's approach to music composition and song structure is looking really advanced for the time.

"The Reason" sounds like it could have come from Cream somewhere between "Disraeli Gears" and "Wheels of Fire". The guitar solo part at 1:20 again turns into music structure more than soloing, illustrating once again how Andromeda are not just about going from one fuzzed out guitar solo to the next. "I Can Stop the Sun" is the second real slow break on the album. Not much to say about this one when the next track is much more interesting.

"When to Stop" is the last of the three-part songs on the album and Andromeda suggest from the beginning that this one is going to be epic. After a dramatic introduction they slip into an easy jazz rock type pace before moving into a little more aggressive rock format. The Zeppelin-esque guitar bursts come in around 3:40 and until 5:30 it's very much a driving rock guitar solo affair with the rhythm section barreling along. Then a new direction: a Spanish guitar solo that references the Yardbirds' "Still I'm Sad" The song concludes with washes of cymbals and strums on acoustic guitar.

Thus concludes the album. "Go Your Way" sounds like a blend of Iron Butterfly from "Heavy" and more 1966 Yardbirds. The b-side "Keep Out Cos I'm Dying" resembles a re-write of Cream's "Politician" until the "Dazed and Confused"-like speed guitar solo comes in and the song rocks on until fade.

The remainder of the tracks on disc one carry on the rock guitar atmosphere of the album and the most interesting surprise is the all too short instrumental "Return to Exodus" which sounds like it was recorded in the early seventies and had me thinking of Nazareth's version of "Morning Dew" at first. The music changes at least twice before fading out in the midst of something good. This could have been something more.

Disc two Includes some early or alternate versions of songs, plus other songs that were possibly for a next album. While the recording quality of some of the demos is a little weak, there are still some very good tracks here Though I've mentioned the Yardbirds, Cream, and Led Zeppelin often, I also hear a lot of similarity to the 70's American hard rock band, Dust. The only thing about the second disc that I dislike is the live tracks which I can't get through. There are simply too many other interesting songs worthy of playing again than forcing myself to listen to such an abominable recording.

In the end I have to say that although the sound of the guitar is a bit behind the times and the vocals could use more power, the music itself is a couple of years ahead of almost everything I've heard from 1969 (some tracks I read go back to '68 and '67). Several songs could be given a 1979 sound and with a more powerful vocalist they could fit right in with the NWOBHM movement. Andromeda took their post-psych aggressive hard rock very seriously and sought out ways to create songs of a more advanced composition level, with at least three tracks bordering on progressive rock while still providing the aggressive energy musically expected of heavy metal.

Interestingly, some days ago, after I had been listening to this album a bit, I was listening to a playlist I had made a couple of months ago and "I Can't Take No More" from Atomic Rooster's "Death Walks Behind You" came on and I could not place it. I thought to myself, "It sounds a lot like Andromeda but a couple of years after 1969". Well, there was good reason for my conjecture because it was the same John Du Cann playing guitar on both albums.

As a prog album I'd say the three longer tracks in three parts are the most interesting. For those you don't need the "Definitive Collection" but if you like them it might be worth while to get some of the other stuff presented here, too. I personally believe this album is better suited on the MetalMusicArchives as a proto-metal band. Good but not essential, especially if aggressive hard rock is not your taste.

FragileKings | 3/5 |

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