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5 stars McLuhan is an american band that released just one album in 1971. Very unusual characteristics for a prog rock/jazz fusion band. Maybe that's why it's mostly unknown.

These guys were ahead of their time. A lot. It's surprising how an american band recorded this taking into account that as they are americans, they probably didn't have so much contact with the british prog context (maybe I'm mistaken about this, if so, sorry).

The album starts with "The Monster Bride". If I were to describe it with one word, I would say: chaotic. This is delicious chaos. It has many prog elements, with a catching theme that ends the song. The saxophone here is very present, with nice keyboards plays. I read on the internet they used to play it with the movie Frankenstein, and that's why there's the Fox theme on this song (again, maybe I'm mistaken).

The second song, "Spiders (In Neals Basement)" is where the vocals get the most attention. It's an incredible song. If you want to hear a sample of the album, hear this song.

"Witches Themes and Dances" starts with a fast saxophone melody, which turns some seconds later into a calm and beautiful melody from the vocals. If the first song is chaos, this is contrast. The calm melody turns itself into frenetic instrument solos.

It ends with "A Brief Message From Your Local Media". As the previous song, it starts with a calm and beautiful vocal melody, which persists until half the song. Then a keyboard leads us to the agitated part of the song, which ends the album in a fantastic way.

Just impressive. A very solid album from an unknown band. This is one of the best prog rock records I've ever heard. Do it some justice and listen to it.

Report this review (#1054257)
Posted Saturday, October 5, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
4 stars The sole album of jazz-fusion from this Chicago band is an interesting eclectic mix of various unorthodox instruments which include not only the standard instrumentation but also a trumpet, tenor sax, slide whistle, a xylophone, timpani, chimes and something called a Maestro Woodwind Device. Some sources say this came out in 1971 and others 1972.

Lots of changing around on this one from slow and tender passages to full on jazz-fusion but rarely of the chaotic kind. It's always melodic and nicely done. The guitars are rather subdued and the rich brass rock reminds of early Chicago only more eccentric. The slower parts remind me of King Crimson's in their mellower moods. There's even the occasional ragtime segments.

Only four long tracks give this a proggy feel to the whole thing. Too bad they didn't stick it out because I really like this and it would have been interesting to hear how their sound would have evolved. Definately of interest for fans of Zappa, Canterbury or just anyone who loves complex and rich eclectic yet melodic jazz-fusion with occasional bombastic organs.

Report this review (#1075593)
Posted Monday, November 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
Retired Admin
5 stars Proper McCoy Material

McLuhan was more than your basic run-of-the-mill band playing experimental rock music. Perhaps the best way of describing them is to call them a multi media art group that just so happened to play music. The idea behind came swooping through head honcho David Wright's head one particularly inspired day, and it was to interweave the music performance with movie segments, weird noises like a toddler crying, frenetic whistles, a spoken anecdote about Henry Ford, machinery tinkering and all kinds of experimental sounds that must come from somewhere, but where that exactly is, is beyond this already rather loopy listener. This McLuhan vision of Wright's, while somewhat sketchy and let's face it: seen before, still managed to crystallize at the University of Illinois Chicago, where friend and fellow student Paul Cohn (sax, flute, clarinet) and his former band mates joined the group.

Focusing strictly on the music and you get this warm seductive jazz rock that flirts around with a distinct early European psychedelic sound - either that or that of the more swampy and immeasurable acts from the late 60s San Franciscan scene. Anyway, the music is anything but what you'd call "jazzy" - the jazz note comes strictly from the reeds and the, at times, ch-chii-ch drumming. There's so much more to the music, and what you find in stead of a typical fusion album, is a wild concoction of wobbly frenzied psych-drenched jams, soulful yearning blues moments of burning guitar and bleeding vocals and something akin to kosmische musik brought straight over from the German heartland.

Then you get to the ever oscillating beauty of the organs and piano - oh my word and what about the mystic touches of timpani and chimes that give to the pieces that little bit of the delirious and dreamy. Something that blurs your view in gelatinous mass and treats your surroundings and the music you listen to with a glistening sheen. Makes it shine.

The final touches to an otherwise extremely tasty dish, are the brass booms - the Chicago whiff - the thing that makes you go "SLIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDE ON BABY!!" while you rhythmically jive on down the street walk with a cat like bounce in your step. This is the shizzle right here! Just remember to include a little xylophone in your shake and everything'll be right as rain...OH they did did they? Why sure, of course you get a little xylophone in the mix. Why wouldn't you?

Fact of the matter is, that you don't need all the fancy trickery surrounding this release. It stands proudly on it's own. The feel and warmth of the jam is just so damn intense and contagious, that you forget everything about it needing some cinematic backdrop. The cinematic backdrop IS there though - that's how good these guys are!

Get this baby for it's seductive charm - get it while it's hot - get it because you love music and you love to dance like you did back when you snuck in at The Doors gigs and had a weird belt in your hair - get it while you can - get it because I said so, and most importantly: because it makes a certain time and place real, if only for a short while. This is the real McCoy.

Report this review (#1080108)
Posted Friday, November 22, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Between the cover art and the overall musical style, McLuhan is highly reminiscent of early underground British progressive rock bands - in particular, echoes of Warm Dust's style can be heard in the use of spoken word and brass instruments to craft a decidedly different texture from the rest of the pack. In fact, they were a US group, offering an intriguing style of progressive rock with fusion-derived flourishes which so far as I can make out never made much of a splash in its time. Possibly they'd have had better success in the UK or Europe, though equally this style of early progressive rock was already passing out of fashion in 1972, so it's only thanks to recent rediscovery on the Internet that they're beginning to get the appreciation they deserve.
Report this review (#1124608)
Posted Friday, January 31, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars The superb cover art is the most memorable thing about 'McLuhan'. It's such a pity that the music within is so dated and of it's time.

Maybe some electronics would have helped. 'Anomaly' is played on all the conventional instruments you'd expect to hear from an album released in 1970. It's very 'horn rock' orientated and has some pretty whacked out lyrics to boot which is a plus point. At times it almost enters the territory of Big Band Jazz.

Despite being from Chicago, there's an air of underground Britishness about the whole feel of this recording. I think there's actually twelve musicians that make up 'McLuhan'. I've seen photos of them with their shoulder length hair over their faces like half drawn curtains. In fact I've not seen as much collective facial hair since I was last in the Monkey House in Edinburgh zoo.

David Wright's vocals are pleasant enough but have very little originality, but his spoken parts are pretty good, though infrequent.

All the instruments are played competently enough on this brassy proto-prog album but I always feel disconnected and remote from proceedings. It sounds nothing like the way the cover art looks. I can't give points for artwork so it doesn't look too promising for 'Anomaly' scoring high marks from me.

Report this review (#1392186)
Posted Thursday, April 2, 2015 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars MCLUHAN were a short lived band based out of Chicago who put out this one incredible album brimming with adventurous ideas and humour. It's clear these young College students were very intelligent and talented but I'm most impressed with the "out of the box" thinking when it came to their music and live shows. David Wright the trumpet player was the leader of this group and we also get sax, flute, clarinet, prominent bass, synths, organ and piano besides the usual instruments. We also get some guest tympani and xylophone. Man this is such a refreshing album to listen to and to think it was released in 1971. The music at times recalls KING CROMSON's debut and early ANEKDOTEN but also Frank Zappa and early CAMEL. The blasting horns do bring CHICAGO to mind at times. For me this is more of an Eclectic release although I do get that this has a Jazz flavour.

"The Monster Bride" is as David Wright mentions in the liner notes "A series of effects more like a film score than a song, it mixes elements of terror, comedy and beauty. Science marches on." It opens with floating organ as piano, bass and a melancholic horn joins in. It changes after a minute with piano, drums and a horn leading the way before kicking into gear before 2 minutes as the horns blast. It turns Zappa- like with xylophone before another change arrives with dissonant horns and a driving rhythm. Organ too before it turns surprisingly haunting with multi-vocal melodies before it kicks back in. A calm before 5 minutes with flute, a beautiful section. Reserved vocals a minute later reminding me of early KING CRIMSON and ANEKDOTEN. Love this stuff. The vocals stop and it starts to build around 7 1/2 minutes with horns, bass and drums standing out. Nice. Silence before 9 minutes as we get a funny monlogue with sound affects. Priceless! It kicks back in before 10 minutes with plenty of horns.

"Spiders(In Neals Basement)" gets it's title from a neighbour's basement that they used to rehearse in. Again David Wright's thoughts. "This piece combines a bizarre Latin feel with American Dixieland." Man this has such a groovy sound to it early on as the vocals and horns join in. Catchy stuff. Nice bass before 1 1/2 minutes as we get an instrumental section. The guitar starts to solo over top then the organ and horns take over. A calm follows then that American Dixieland vibe kicks in. Piano only 3 1/2 minutes in then it kicks back in with vocals and that Dixie flavour. That groovy sound from the start is back before 5 minutes with vocals. So good!

"Witches Theme" is led by horns and drums early on before it settles as reserved vocals join in. This reminds me of early CAMEL. Some spacey synths along with organ arrive before it kicks back in as themes are repeated. The guitar starts to solo over top 3 minutes in then synths replace the guitar before it kicks back in. Organ to the fore to 6 minutes in then it settles with flute leading the way, nice bass too. The vocals and that laid back sound return at 8 1/2 minutes before it kicks back in to end it. "A Brief Message From Your Local Media" opens sounding like the start of a movie before relaxed vocals, a beat, bass and floating organ take over. It's very KING CRIMSON and ANEKDOTEN-like. Then after 4 1/2 minute the music stops as we get a monologue about Henry Ford and the assembly line. A shuffling beat, bass and flute take over then horns as it builds. Vocals and plenty of horns before 7 1/2 minutes before a brief circus-like melody ends it.

This is such a charming recording that recalls the early days of Prog but with Jazz elements. And those intelligent lyrics and ideas show that this young band were wise beyond their years.

Report this review (#1592986)
Posted Saturday, July 30, 2016 | Review Permalink

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