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Sahara - Subject Esq. CD (album) cover

SUBJECT ESQ.

Sahara

Eclectic Prog


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

This Munich-based group took roots in the 60's as The Subjects playing beat music, but its evolution Subject Esq. is definitely a 70's-sounding quintet, dishing an organ-driven proto-prog similar to what was done in the UK in the early 70's. Subject Esq. would be at home on the neon, Dawn or Vertigo labels. It was released in early 72 on the Epic label and was coming with a gatefold sleeve where the inner-fold is way more interesting than the outer-fold, presenting a bland red to yellow degrading naïve logo and band portrait. Lead singer Hoffman also handles the wind instruments, except for the harmonica, played by guitarist Pittwohn. Stadler's keyboards are all over the album, mainly in the form of an organ

If the first track Alone is more "straight rock" than prog, it presents a strong riff, while the following Giantania seems headed in the same "riff-y" direction but halfway though, it has some solid organ work and a superb quiet passage with some beautiful flute and bass, before the riff comes back. A rather weaker What Is Love also features an interesting middle section, but I find the sax-led riff rather cliché and the lyrics un-inspired. The inaptly-titled 5:13 (it's only 4:29 long ;o))) is another fast-paced track with double tracking (flute and sax together in the riff), but soon digress into another interesting slower flute-dominated middle section and slowly building back via the excellent organ into a Graaf-esque riff before fading out.

The flipside presents two longer tracks including the Mammon centrepiece, clocking well over the 12 minutes. If the other side featured tracks that were clumsily proggy, mostly by fitting in good middle sections, this track really shows that the group could indeed be more ambitious and even include harmonica in a prog song. This track is probably best described as a mini-epic, filled with many different instrumental passages and constantly-evolving rhythms. A cross between Colosseum and VdGG , if you ask me. The closing Durance Is Waiting has a West-Coast intro, mainly due to the vocal harmonies, but soon plunges into a demented up-tempo prog with plenty of instrumental interplay, before almost dying of a fade-out and just barely clinging onto life with a delicate background vocals and bass and slowly reconstructing the music, but with the finale ending with the help of a violin, courtesy of guest Manuala Gunther.

The Cd reissue (on the great Ohrwaschl label) comes with two lengthy live tracks as bonus, including a much expanded Giantania (now 19-mins long) and an Untitled track (most likely not its real title). While the sound of these live tracks is hardly perfect, it's nothing scandalous either. The tracks add to the album's enjoyment (IMHO, because that might not be a general opinion), as they unveil a different (live) facet of the group: raw, less-focused, more psychey and improvising/jamming. While Subject Esq.'s sole album is generally a bit over-rated by the majority (IMHO), I find it interesting and enjoyable at homeopathic doses, but hardly essential, especially compared to the group's future albums under the Sahara name.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#9779)
Posted Wednesday, February 04, 2004 | Review Permalink
dusk73@libero
4 stars This is a great jazz-rock album from Germany! I haven't heard Sahara yet, but Subject Esq's sound has a notable equilibrium, even if isn't much original but songs (expecially Giantana and the longest Mammon) are very good! The sound quality of live songs leaves more than a doubt.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#9780)
Posted Wednesday, April 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars The origins of this band hailing from Munich reach back to the year of 1965 when four school friends joined together and named their quartet after an English lesson "The King and the Subject" playing some cover versions of beat staple hits. During the following years they've shown as well ambitions to compose own material and opened for blues legend John Mayall in 1969. It took a couple of years more until 1972 that they released their debut under the name Subject Esq. here in review containing six tracks which are stylistically still rooted much in the late 60's blending psychedelic pop with influences of jazz rock. For their 40th stage anniversary they had a reunion concert of their Sahara 1975-line-up in 2006 here in their home town which I missed unfortunately. But I've got the chance for watching them live again just yesterday and I've got to say their performance presenting a great compilation of the best from all their three albums was absolutely impressing.

The album starts off very lively with "Alone" in a progressive jazz rock vein with excellent sax and Hammond play and continues in a quite up-beat pace with catchy vocal lines in the psychedelic sounding "Giantania" having a nice section with soaring flute in between. "What is Love" then is initially a more pop-ish sounding song in late sixties' style but has great sax and later on a nice percussive section. The all-instrumental "5:13" presents brilliantly played jazz rock on Hammond, guitar, bass, drums and sax alternating with flute. The long-track "Mammon" is certainly the highlight of this disk and offers a very versatile mix of jazz rock and psychedelic with vocal lines reminiscent of US west-coast bands and brass rock bring Blood, Sweat & Tears into one's mind. Sections with mouth organ are alternating with others dominated by sax or flute here, this track was especially on stage a big fun to listen to. Last song "Durance Is Waiting" starts quite different in a Byrds-like manner but soon shifts more into Prog territory with excellent organ/guitar interplay. The two live tracks added on the CD re-issue as bonus had been recorded in 1971 under quite semi-professional conditions and should be considered more a historical document since the sound quality is really low. The version of "Giantania" they played there sounds much different from the final one.

As a summary I can say that this one had been a quite solid and remarkable debut of this band that would present even things on the two following albums released in a slightly changed line-up and under the name Sahara. Though probably not to be considered an essential one it might still be an interesting additional purchase for anyone who owns already their others or for fans of early 70's progressive.

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Send comments to hdfisch (BETA) | Report this review (#107436)
Posted Sunday, January 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Neo Prog Team
4 stars Overlooked progressive rock band from Germany,later known as ''Sahara'',who's roots can be found in mid-60's,when they played beat music under the name ''The king and the subjects''.By 1969 they were renamed to SUBJECT ESQ and began playing a more complicated rock format.In 1972 their eponymous debut was released by Epic Label.

For a 1972 album,I would list it among the best of its time,as it was certainly one of the most varied,diverse and dynamic albums of the year,delivering a great amount of styles,instruments and tempos.There is plenty of tasteful driving flutes,heavy doses of Hammond organ,jazzy saxes here and there and even some harmonica touches to be found in this,making ''Subject esq'' a hard to categorize album,but on the other side one of the most interesting releases of the early progressive rock scene.Hard is also to fully decribe their sound,but a good simulation would if you combined the progressive side of BIRTH CONTROL with all these energetic and complex elements,meeting the vocal harmonies of YES in their 1970-1971 transition era and the elaborated playing of early 70's CARAVAN.So do not pass by this fantastic release,which would heal your ears and fill your time with some excellent music.A lost and overlooked treasure of the past!

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#235369)
Posted Thursday, August 27, 2009 | Review Permalink

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