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Kandahar - Long Live the Sliced Ham CD (album) cover



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4 stars Kandahar made two excellent albums and this, their debut, is one of them. Jaggy whammed-out and often fuzzy guitar, sumptuous saxophone squawks and squirts added with some highly melodic bass and drums mark this album as something of an unknown gem. Almost every track is enough to put me into an almost higher state of consciousness, because Kandahar really throw in lots of foot-tappingly stunning moments of worthy jazz and brass rock. They are hard to compare to any other band precisely, but they are by no means unique, but they do not have to be. There are some hints to Colosseum (the first incarnation, e.g. Valentyne Suite) and with the added underlying synth, they also remind me of some of the more symphonic jazz-rooted bands, especially from the Italian scene and one must not forget the obvious nod to Canterbury bands such as Nucleus and Soft Machine. The music is mostly of a light nature, but is juxtaposed with some almost haunting and ambient sections at times, which for me, show some great creativity. The use of many instruments, such as saxophone, flute and different synths, such as the ARP and Davoli makes their sound varied and interesting.

Jeff de Visscher's guitar playing is quirky also and because I am not a musician myself, it is difficult to describe, however, it seems he may have been listening to Chris Spedding who was with Nucleus. On Outside of Reality, for instance, his guitar playing has an Eastern feel to it (kind of Egyptian), which bearing in mind the band is named after the capital city of Afghanistan and that Karel Boegard lived in the Far-East, makes me believe that was very much intentional.

With track six Survivin' Boogie you get an odd jazz and R&B smattered score with vocals, which as the name suggests has hints of barrelhouse piano and although it is one of the weaker tracks on the album, it is still enjoyable because a. it is so fun to listen to and b. because there is some great interaction between all the musicians. The trumpets in the background give the track its jazz element (think of Keef Hartley Band here). As for The Walkin' Place, well, the intro sounds just like something Zeuhl band Weidorje or Japanese avant-progsters Koenjihyakkei would make their own and it even has some fuzz bass at the beginning, until the track lycanthropically changes into another beast entirely, having a somewhat Spanish feel to it, with some odd percussion playing on toms toms I believe. Near the end, the Zeuhl-feel returns and reveals a wonderful flute outtro. However, the highlight track for me is The Hobbit, which is so catchy, I have had it stuck in my head for days before, even though the track is one of their most laid-back and ambient, as well as not their compositionally best attempt. It just has some allure to it that I cannot fathom. The Fancy Model is their most avant-jazz effort, reminding me of Nucleus or Graham Collier Sextet at their absolute finest. It is full of lots of noise, due to the fact that there are two saxes being blasted to bits and you even get the John Marshall (who was the drummer in Nucleus, Graham Collier Sextet and Soft Machine at various times) style drum solo. This is certainly another highlight of the album and some may feel this is the strongest track on the whole album. When She Flies Away is an odd synth track at the beginning that reminds me a bit of disco and 80s synth-pop that would later be very much in the publics faces and ears a few years later, except in this case, it works brilliantly and the jazzy overtones again make this track somehow unique and definitely unforgettable. Being as this is the longest track on the album, it cannot obviously stay the same throughout and it certainly does not, it changes throughout with many timing shifts and mood. The background vocals at one point strangely remind me of a moment from Jack Black's School of Rock and I can actually imagine him on stage singing this... whether that is a good thing, you will have to decide for yourself.

The entire album is full of character and cunning compositional brilliance at times and I find it difficult to find a poor track. I have always had an affinity to the trumpet style of Henry Lowther of Keef Hartley Band and the occasional jaunts of that style of this sound really pleases me, however it is a shame that the trumpet players (including the saxophonist(s) and flautist) are not listed. However, there are some lesser moments, including the not so enjoyable Survivin' Boogie and the 13 second Interlude. Also, some of the synth sounds, sound a bit twee at times, but with so much brilliant music on offer for the listener, it is very difficult to complain about such things and that is why I have given it 4 stars.

This is one of those rare gems that get discovered occasionally and it definitely deserves a re-mastering and reissue on CD so more people can hear its brilliance. Their next album In the Court of Catherina Squeezer would continue on in a similar vein (yet with many different nuances and an even more Canterburian sound) and I am hard pushed on which of the two I prefer at this juncture.

4.4 (rounded down to 4), for this lost relic.

Report this review (#161326)
Posted Friday, February 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Coming from Belgium's fourth city, Ghent, Kandahar chose its name after the third city of Afghanistan, sign of keyboardist & leader Karel Bogard's love of Eastern philosophies, flavours and etc.The quintet, a standard prog quartet plus a wind player, played a pleasant humorous jazz-rock that could be easily related to Canterbury's best moments with the invariable songwriting team of guitarist De Visscher and Bogard reminiscent of Caravan meeting Hatfield. Coming in an orange and pink speed-related futuristic artworks, and humorously titled LLTSH was recorded in November 74 and the group invited many guests to make this album quite a pleasant debut.

Starting on the smooth-gliding instrumental Down At Finckle's, Kandahar has three frontmen to showcase and here Jacky Eddin that gets the early call but De Vusscher's guitar takes a solid revenge just after. The lengthy Eye Of Glass is a striking difference to its fore runner, the group constantly changing tempo and moods, where it was absolutely not the case previously. Here, the hero is bassist Cleays, but Bogard,s songwriting is the key among his keyboards. Influence-wise, Supersister or Hatfield are not far away here. Again an ever-changing tempoed track, Outside Of Reality is a rare sung track where Eddin gets help from guests to boast a very brassy attack. Surviving Boogie is the obvious hit on the album (it was a single twice), but it's clearly the weakest track, developing a fast reedy blues with relatively weak vocals (this is not a strong point of Kandahar, but it's generally not too catastrophic.. Just weak) and gain strong brass section.

The flipside starts on the weird and fast Walkin Piles, but it's mostly the dissonant saxes and flutes in the background of demented percussion passages that draw the attention of the listener. Too bad the beat stays too rigid in its Magma-itude, though. This could've been much better exploited with a better production. Another instrumental beauty is Hobbit, the gentler track on this album, filled with smooth keyboards. The following Fancy Model has a difficult intro, but once the track is settled, it turns into an infernal inferno filled with spiralling swirls of flames filled with fire, and Eddin's blowing buddies are back to let us know that Kandahar was a force to be reckoned with, especially when they all shut up to let drummer Delaruye shows his chops with Cleays, before reprising. Very enthralling and Canterbury- esque. The closing When She Flies Away is not the album's strongest track, and it has a déjà-vu feeling, especially when the vocals kick in, we get to think of Hendrix's Hey Joe.

True the group's weaker vocals might be an embarrassment (to some), but the rest of their music is nearly spotless and certainly the best thing they've done artistically. Their vinyl albums have become rare and expensive and no official Cd reissue. had happened since Sony surprised us with a cheap reissue.

Report this review (#206244)
Posted Wednesday, March 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Obscure Belgium band's debut album. Very melodic, energetic mix of r'n'b, slightly psychedelic blues-rock and symphonic prog with some jazzy arrangements. This jazzy feeling comes mostly from trumpeter they have in team.

The music is not boring, easy accessible, and contains such elements, as Latin and Eastern folk and Canterbury influence in some moments. From other hand, you will easy hear some pop elements there as well. Deep classic roots and especially drumming remind early zeuhl bands, but differently from them album's atmosphere there is mostly bright, light and very optimistic.

I can hardly name this music jazz-rock, even if there are some brass arrangements. Eclectic prog rock with symphonic, folk, zeuhl and jazz-rock as main components. Not a bad album, but a bit unfocused, cheesy and straight-forward for my taste. Vocals are far from the best as well.

Report this review (#293831)
Posted Monday, August 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars A pretty silly album. It moves between instrumental energetic fusion and vocal jokeyness.

Down At Finckles opens the album with Nucleus esque rhythm and sax powering over as lead. There are some nice tremolo guitar licks, A short song, it fades out at four minutes.

Eye of Glass opens with a little laugh, then a few seconds of silence which is replaced by a quiet guitar line. This is joined by bass, drums and keys as the guitar line changes. Halfway through the song the organ is left alone to drone, then the rest of the band comes back powerful due to the twin saxophone.

Outsiders Of Reality is where they start singing/talking. A minute long monologue with line like "The secret sexual life of little red riding hood" is a poor opening to a poor song in my eyes. After this one gets lullaby keyboard work that heads into a cliche faux eastern guitar line that fortunately segues into a brief instrumental but nice instrumental. Sedated vocals come around three minutes into the song, mixed low in the mix and treated. The rhythm changes to something more driving and guitar plays fittingly. The earlier eastern run returns here and the song heads into just guitar playing. First keyboards return then the rest of the band, this is brief as guitar again changes it up. A faster, smoother section follows which is in turn replaced by a modified version of the eastern theme. I find most of the instrumental parts on this song pretty good however their arrangement is not to my liking, to often everything fades for just one instrument to play a little fill, preventing any strong build up.

Surviv'n Boogie is a real old time rock n roll track with with vocals delivered in a time appropriate bluesy growl. There's even a little harmonica run and back up singers adding doo wops, late 50s, early 60s. Unexpected song and not a fan, thumbs down.

The Walkin' Pile opens with a short monologue intersped with choral shoutings ", Join Us!". The actual track begins with a hypnotic keyboard that is replaced abruptly by a quasi reggae piece with nonsense vocals mumbling loudly. This is joined by the keyboards riff then a short guitar line comes and the rhythm becomes denser as the vocals continues. Saxophone replaces the "singing," squealing sparsely for a bit until the shouts return. The keyboard riff comes back, replacing guitar which then comes back ominously in the background. Both disappear as flute and vocals mumble over a repetitive beat then fade out. Feel the same as last track with this one.

The Hobbit opens with guitar on the left ear, piano on both and violin the right. It's a calm, short, pretty tune.

The Fancy Model opens with coughing and laughing. Then panning distorted keyboard note which is replaced by a jazzy piece led by guitar that is joined by double saxophone, one in each ear (this part is actually really nice, the saxophones progressively get slurred/squonkier). Slowly the instruments begin to drop off till it's just the bass quietly holding th rhythm down as the drums solo. Then *pop* everything comes back, piano chords in the right ear, bass picks up etc. Then the instruments hold their notes and fade out.

When She Flies Away begins with organ chords that are joined by drums and guitar till spine drums change it up. Bass replaces guitar and keyboards begin playing lead. The guitar returns, as keyboard goes back to chords. Vocals then come in, alongside lead guitar and female choral backup. I could do without the backup vocals, aside from that this section is probably my favourite in regard to singing. The guitar/vocals are replaced by trumpet(?) then quickly there's a fill and guitar comes back, this time with vocals like on Survivin' Boogie. The song ages out from here then another stupid dialogue comes, this time the sound of people using the lavatory. I dislike the second vocal part and the organ is used in a very amateurish way, just holding down chords for an eternity, annoying.

Reminds me of Frank Zappas early 70s.

Report this review (#2597896)
Posted Thursday, September 30, 2021 | Review Permalink

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