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Freedom's Children - Galactic Vibes CD (album) cover


Freedom's Children

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3 stars Freedom's Children is one of a tiny number of groups from South Africa known to have recorded and performed progressive rock music, their history going as far back as 1966. There are folk proggies Hawk and a few artists as Robert Calvert and Manfred Mann, but documented art rock from the nation is sadly lacking due to political issues. It was also difficult for bands to play outside the country, which makes this final LP that much more a treasure. FC really knew how to record with limited means, though, and a presumably tight budget. Oh, this is prog alright, it just tends to be spat it in your face, coming more from the schools of Sabbath, Creedence and Zeppelin with only hints of the Nice and Tull. But these guys had visions of art and hard rockin power come together at a time when it was usually one or the other. And they could play like mutherf*ckers. 'Sea Horse' is a standout rocker, Julian Laxton's cutting wah-wahed ax, Brian Davidson howling up a storm with drummer Colin Pratley and Barry Irwin (Ramsay MacKay only appears on the live 'Homecoming') on heavy bottom. Evidently they had lost their keyboardists and on this night only Laxton plays synthesizer. Pratley takes a mammoth and very jazz drum solo in 16-minute stomper 'The Homecomming'. A taste of Zep in 'That Did It' and a good one too, perfectly dirty, raggedly beautiful and bruised in all the right places, just like those English rockers on a good night. Acid folk of 'Fields and Me' is more than it seems, with a swelling 25 piece string section as it becomes a trip through an Arabian desert at sundown. A remarkable piece. Brief 'The Crazy World of Pod' interrupts the moment with electronic warbles, hokey country-psych bit '1999' doesn't quite work, and 'About the Dove and His King' shines with more Eastern mystique and makes ample use of the strings.

Good music from a band denied its part in progressive rock history till recently, and a rare treat from the truly sparse South African prog scene.

Report this review (#176570)
Posted Saturday, July 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars FREEDOM'S CHILDREN with this galactic Vibes proposes here a progressive rock much more directed years the end of 60 and less twisted than the previous album. The music rings even very pop sometimes, forgetting the originality very pronounced by the group. The music is beautiful the harmonies pleasant has the ear, the instruments has wind give an aerien and psychedelic aspect.

The album is sometimes in search(research) for purity of strengths, the production when has it suffocated(suppressed) enough rest and discrete, damage for a group so original.

This album deserves of the interet because it is necessary difficille to find a direct influence and thus has this strength of independance.

Report this review (#226224)
Posted Sunday, July 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Freedom's Children were a band from South Africa that formed in the sixties. Initially a part of the psychedelic movement, they became domestically famous for their fuzz-toned guitar covers of songs like "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and other popular guitar hits. Their early concerts were advertised to feature 30-minute freak outs. Being South African led to problems for the band with such a bold name that appeared to challenge authority. Their first album "Astra" had to be released under the band name Fleadom's Children. They began recording music for the second album but feeling stifled in South Africa, they moved to the U.K. before the album was complete. The record company decided to finish it for them and hired guest vocalists to sing the songs and added horns to some of the songs. All this was done without the band's consent.

Being from South Africa delivered more problems for the band in the U.K. Because of their home country's apartheid policies, South Africans found it difficult to get work. Eventually Freedom's Children began making headway, and by 1971 they released their third album, "Galactic Vibes".

Freedom's Children may be regarded as both a progressive band and a heavy rock band. This album features both styles of music, albeit the progressive side is not similar to the giants of prog in the early seventies. It is more accessible and not so experimental or bold.

The first track "Sea Horse" is very loud hard rock. It makes a good start to the album, but as many bands in the day often put their heaviest rocker as track one, it does make you wonder if this is going to be the only one in this style.

Recorded live, "The Homecoming", begins as another heavy guitar rock song. Three minutes in, the song part ends and there is a 1-minute instrumental followed by a 3-minute guitar solo. Then comes a 7-minute drum solo. It might be a very good drum solo for all I can tell. The thing is that so many bands around this time felt it was necessary to include drum solos that I find it tedious to listen to them now. The main complaint I have is that any other "solo", be it guitar, keyboards, flute, saxophone, violin, or whatever, will usually be played to background music. Why is it that drum solos have to be exactly that: drums only? Ginger Baker's "Toad" was good, and I really like Ron Bushy's drum solo in "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" because he makes it rhythmic and musical, not just an assault on every piece of percussive instrument set before him. So this drum solo is perhaps a good one but it's a long one. After the solo the song returns and ends soon. It's rather a good song and so I wish they had recorded a studio version with about 8 minutes of soloing, both guitar and drums, removed.

Side two opens with "That Did It" which is even a heavier rocker than "Sea Horse". It is often included on proto metal and early hard and heavy rock playlists on YouTube. The vocals sound borderline hysteric in some moments. Great heavy rock!

"Fields and Me" begins with, oh no, a drum solo again? No. It quickly switches to an acoustic number with a very pretty melody. An orchestra joins. Beautiful composition. The vocals could be a little more in tune in moments but generally they do a good job of delivering the melody and emotion. Here, however, the production becomes an issue. It's not so clean at the louder moments with the orchestra and sounds like a live recording. Actually the whole album sounds like the master tapes were either dusty or the studio's equipment couldn't handle higher volume well. This is not bad for the heavy rockers as it adds to the distortion and energy. But this more beautiful music suffers somewhat.

"The Crazy World of Pod" is a bizarre psychedelic spacey sound experiment. I often wonder what the point of these ventures were. Should we drop acid first in order to appreciate it better? Thankfully it's only just over two minutes.

The next track "1999" is closer to a pop number. It has a country groove but with a guitar that sounds oddly like early new wave. Again the sound quality is not so good. It's more like a 1978 demo except the chorus which resembles some of the tracks from Episode Six's "Corn Flakes and Crazy Foam" double album of demos and poorly recorded live performances. Icecross recorded a song called "1999" around the same time and it's much more interesting and great a proto metal song, too!

The album closer is "About the Dove and His King". It's another song with vocals and orchestra. It seems that the sound quality is getting worse in places and both the louder and softer parts sound like some four track demo at times. Not a bad effort musically but the sound should be cleaner.

The biggest problem is the sound quality. It may be alright for the rockers but especially the orchestral parts are hurting. The CD comes with a detailed history of the band which can be found verbatim on a web site about South African music. The author claims that, hyperbole aside, this may have been the greatest band that the world never got to know. I do think the album has some great moments and in particular I enjoy "Sea Horse" and "That Did It" and also most of "Fields and Me". But for the band to have made a bigger impression, I think they should have presented their music with a cleaner sound and worked a bit more on the vocals which do go off the note occasionally in the slower songs.

The copy I have doesn't include all the additional songs listed in the track list above. Perhaps that version has been cleaned up better?

Report this review (#1387668)
Posted Wednesday, March 25, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars I wasn't too impressed when I finally heard this album many years after wearing the grooves off 'Astra' with its layered mystical soundscapes, Galactic's 'one-take vibe' makes it less mysterious and more like a Black Sabbath / Led Zeppelin wannabee. I'd read that the master tapes of both 'Astra' and 'Galactic Vibes' were destroyed in a fire so there is no chance of a newer version with fuller drum sound or clearer orchestration. If you're not happy with your cheap seat ticket...

I wasn't at Woodstock but I'm thankful the movie producer left in Michael Shrieve's drum solo and included more than the 'Purple Haze' hit in the Jimi Hendrix finale. The same goes for Freedom's Children's producer. The fact that the live 'Homecoming' is relatively well recorded is astounding and after all these years it's a confirmation that I witnessed something special in '71. Colin Pratley broke his wrist in that concert but if you listen to this earlier recording, when he changes from bare hands back to sticks, he does so without a break. As for Julian Laxton's echoed guitar solo, it's up there with the best,, but be warned, it takes a few good listens before the ears are gargled, especially when its competing with Ramsey Mackay's pulsating bass and Pratley's menacing drums.

The other hard rock tracks benefit from more searing guitar breaks though I'm not too enamored by the riffs, in fact, I can't discern any riff in 'That Did It' though it's a reasonable Zeppelin pastiche. 'Sea Horse' takes a bow to 'Paranoid', while '1999' could have been an 'Astra' outtake with multi-tracked vocals over a hijacked Duul 2 Amon riff.

Both 'Fields and Me' and 'About The Dove and His K/Ring' have a 'Bolero' sounding orchestral arrangement which slows the pace down considerably and probably loses a couple of stars from disappointed hard rock fans. As for the nightmarish 'Crazy World of Pod', I'm reminded of Pink Floyd's 'Sysyphus' and the hammer march in 'The Wall', so bang goes another star. The less said about the long mono version of '1999' the better.

A disjointed album was improved by starting with the live track, adding the rockers then the electronic concerto and ending with the orchestral tracks.

Report this review (#1481329)
Posted Monday, November 2, 2015 | Review Permalink

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