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Mellotron Storm
5 stars 4.5 stars. Man this has been treat to listen to of late. I never heard of these guys before but they came highly recommended from Greg Walker so I took the chance, and i'm SO glad it did. Based out of Germany in the early seventies this Jazz / Rock / Fusion band released two albums,this being the debut. Love the album cover as well. While these guys were based out of Munich, Germany it should be noted that this was a multi-national band with a Dutch flautist, American bassist and the guitarist from Belgium. It should also be noted that these guys were all seasoned players, all having played in important bands or projects before this. Most were close to 30 years of age when this album was recorded while the American bassist Jimmy Woode was over 40 years of age. Jimmy by the way played piano and trombone before switching to bass and played in Duke Ellington's big band from 1955- 1959. He also played with Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespi and Charlie Parker amongst others. In the book "The Crack In The Cosmic Egg" they had this to say about the SUNBIRDS : "On their debut "Sunbirds" they made a dreamy, yet powerful fusion with an abundance of solos, extensively featuring Belgian guitarist Philip Catherine, and smooth jazz keys from Fritz Pauer, feeling like a spacey EMBRYO cum Miles Davis. It's one of the great timeless fusion albums of the era that really gets the balance right, even when some of the tunes are so catchy that they linger in the mind long after".

"Kwaeli" has a relaxed beat with bass and flute helping out. Electric piano comes in as the tempo keeps picking up and slowing down. So good ! "Sunrise" sounds amzing as the flute plays over top. Crisp drumming as the organ comes and goes. "Spanish Sun" is mellow with flute and bass. It starts to pick up before 2 minutes as a beat comes in then guitar. Great sound ! The guitar stands out before 3 1/2 minutes then the electric piano comes to the fore. It's building.It settles back before 10 minutes to end it.

"Sunshine" is uptempo as the flute plays over top. Nice bass too. The organ replaces the flute and rips it up. The flute is back before 3 minutes. The guitar leads for a while then the flute is back to end it. "Sunbrids" has some atmosphere to start. A relaxing soundscape takes over around 2 minutes. The guitar leads after 3 1/2 minutes then it's the electric piano's turn. Drums dominate after 8 1/2 minutes. "Blues For DS" is groovy baby ! The flute plays over top as the bass,drums and guitar lead the way. Distorted keys before 2 minutes then the flute returns followed by electric piano.

You'll notice the word "sun" in three of the five song titles as well as in the band's name. Well it's because most of the songs they were creating were in E-minor or E-major and E is the so-called sun note in esotericism. Man I like this album, especially the electric piano. Amazing stuff !

Report this review (#625647)
Posted Friday, February 3, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Discovery is perhaps the single most pleasurable feature that awaits the prog enthusiast, similar perhaps to the wine lover who is in constant search for a new vintage, a fresh varietal to quench his thirst. Because of the vast array of sub genres, there is a seemingly limitless treasure trove of unknown albums that lie hidden barely beneath the sand, waiting to be unearthed. Such is the case with the multi-national Sunbirds, a gift from my pal Mellotron Storm who ignited my curiosity with his review (isn't that the real purpose of this site?) and the find is curiously attractive, as I am currently in a heavy jazz-rock-fusion mode (happens often in winter) with arrivals of the first 4 Nucleus albums and Isotope's Gary Boyle, all to be reviewed imminently. Just like with a sunken cache, the jewel is tarnished only by time and in fact, only glows brighter than ever before with each listen. The first comment remains concretely evident in that the early 70s were nothing more than a giant organic laboratory of experimentation with a huge arsenal of modern instruments for the time, electric piano, synths and treated electric guitars, all conspiring to alter the limits of jazz by providing a solid rock backbone. There is nothing more pleasing than the e-piano, the celebrated Fender Rhodes in particular and this debut has endless cascades of the glorious keyboard within its grooves, here played by Fritz Pauer . Belgian guitarist Phillip Catherine sizzles fiercely when called upon which is often and the delectable flute also has a predominant role. This is groove music par excellence, an all-instrumental blitz that powers forward with reptilian efficiency, urbane at some moments and galactically spacey at others. On "Sunshine", Catherine palpitates brilliantly within the confines of a sweltering mass of trippy notes, while on the scintillating "Kwaeli" the flute and bass enjoy a slow dance of loving embrace, as American jazz stalwart Jimmy Woode lays down a fierce bass furrow that burrows deeply into the psyche, the guitar hovering over the entity with bold confidence, sounding like much very early Santana. When the e-piano enters the fray, well?.wow! You have to marvel at the deft musicianship. That perceivable Latin flavor is proven by the "Spanish Sun" track, perhaps even the highlight piece here, sounding like some soundtrack to a 70s American movie filmed in San Francisco, breezy, trippy, groovy and all the cool words used back then apply. The riffling rhythm guitar is simply superb, whilst the flute dances above the fray with manic delicacy, propelled by Klaus Weiss' spontaneous drumming. "Blues for D.S." just keeps glowing cheerfully, the bass and drums setting down a crawling groove on which the soloists can evoke sensational sequences of sounds that seeks out the most far-flung expanses without becoming cheesy. The rumbling organ does well in inspiring the simmering pot effect. "Sunrise" like the title suggests is vivacious, funky, playful and gently intense. The mood is super-cool and Catherine's playing style explains why he replaced Jan Akkerman in latter day Focus, loads of "flick o the wrist" riffs abound , rekindling images of the jam tracks off Focus "3" album. The finale is called "Fire Dance" and once again, the onus is on heat and shimmer, with the axe blasting forth with relish (and mustard!) , the groove shining bright and you can imagine the smile on the musicians faces as this simmers to an end. Incredible music .

Some may slimily claim that this is very dated and has no context by today's standards but we are dealing with an ancient musical artifact that is essentially timeless. Hey, Miles Davis, Mozart, Bach and countless others still thrill to the gills, so why not the Sunbirds? This is a tremendous recording that has a distinctive place in the prog heritage. Thanks, John via Greg Walker (networking works!). In terms of prog academia, if you ever wanted to get into an electric piano orgy, look no further!

Perfect Happy Sunday sunny morning wake up music.

4.5 solar avians

Report this review (#636695)
Posted Monday, February 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Surely the German equivalent to Soft Machine - and in a very good way - teutonic sextet Sunbirds debut album should seriously excite jazz fans who like a bit of the exciting 1970's and furiously inventive fusion movement. Released in 1971 and featuring a line-up consisting of four different nationalities overall - Philip Catherine(guitar), Ferdinand Povel(flute), Fritz Pauer(keyboards), Jimmy Woode(bass), Juan Romero(percussion) and Klaus Weisse(drums) - this impressively-played, mystically-potent psychedelic opus finds the musicians firing-up electric jazz and oddball krautrock invention into a densely cosmic mixture that stretches across the bulk of albums six excellent tracks, colouring each-and-every with a slick, neon-lit fluidity that lights up the complex passages and quicksilver timing There are of course lighter moments, with opening number 'Sunbirds' exhibiting a more conventional streak and slight big-band-bent, yet for most this is very much Soft Machine- meets-Miles Davis 1969 to 1975 'electric' period-meets-Embryo-meets-German underground- of-the-late-sixties. So, highly recommended then. Go Listen. Now. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012
Report this review (#636855)
Posted Monday, February 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Jazz/Fusion ensemble from Munich led by German drummer Klaus Weiss (R.I.P.) and Austrian pianist Fritz Pauer (R.I.P.) and found in 1971.When Pauer presented Weiss some new songs, the two of them gathered Belgian guitarist Philip Catherine, Dutch flutist Ferdinand Povel and American drummer Jimmy Woode (R.I.P.) and formed Sunbirds.The recordings of their debut took place at the Union Studios in Munich on 24th August 1971.Weiss had good connections with various labels and the album was eventually released on BASF the same year.''Sunbirds'' features also as a guest Juan Moreno on percussion.

The style of Sunbirds was a cross between Electric Jazz and Psychedelic Kraut-Fusion with changing atmospheres and plenty of enjoyable rhythms and solos.Quite diverse music, that goes from hypnotic and more psychedelic material to dynamic and energetic Fusion with good breaks and solos.The first relies much on the mellow rhythm section and the delicate flutes of Povel, the more powerful moments though find the band in full collaboration with Catherine's very effective guitar work next to Pauer's long and virtuosic solos.And there are plenty of them in this album in a semi-improvised approach along with endless interplays with flutes, guitars and electric piano in evidence.Some moments, maybe because of the presence of Catherine and especially on ''Spanish sun'', recall the style of PORK PIE, having a light spacey atmosphere blended with a tremendous Psych-Kraut feeling.Beats of Funk can easily be traced throughout the releae, but I do not regard them as the more succesful addition next to the main style the band has chosen.

Originally the band had composed 8 tracks, including ''Fire Dance'' and ''Dreams'', which were cut due to 55-min. long material, unable to be filled in the vinyl version.However the remastered and excellent Garden of Delights re-issue (no surprise here) includes both of them along with a fantastic booklet, containing the history of Sunbirds and BASF label both in English and German.

Very nice and adventurous Jazz/Fusion, which can be easily heard even today.Kraut-Rock and Jazz-Rock fans should simply hurry to get this one, followed by another warm recommendation for the rest of the readers...3.5 stars.

Report this review (#804335)
Posted Tuesday, August 14, 2012 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars What a mesmerizing album! What a discovery! It's like the gold mine of these golden 60's/70's years is never ending and that vintage records like this seem to pop out from nowhere...especially the year 1971. This album is simply a jazzrock monument! But it's actually considered as a Krautrock band and indeed their music is a brillant synthesis of both genres. The influences and comparisons evoke at times SOFT MACHINE, EMBRYO for the world influences. Long freeform jams with tons of joyous flute and of course, great psychedelic guitar solos, reminding me of at times a lighter form of fusion ŕ la HERBIE MANN. We can notice the participation of belgian guitarist Philip Catherine at his debuts. The record is well recorded and well reissued by Garden of delights (thanks a lot!). A must have for any serious jazzrock and/or krautrock fan!
Report this review (#1476025)
Posted Wednesday, October 14, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars A song and a half in I'm sure this is a lost Herbie Mann album, and pow! In comes distorted electric piano with Philip Catherine's guitar mid second song.

Sunbirds is a very pleasant album that features bright, ornate rhythms that are given the happy treatment with loads of flute and a heavy dose of electric piano. This is one of the great early progfusion albums, and it finds a way to delicately balance the jazz and rock aspects effectively. Highlights include the extended "Spanish Sun" and the sublime "Sunshine". Unfortunately, " Blues for DS" sounds too much like a seventies soundtrack to an American TV sitcom for this album to be a masterpiece. This sterile piece brings the second side down a notch. Still a classic album for me that exemplifies the potential of the burgeoning worldwide jazzrock style.

Report this review (#1649939)
Posted Monday, November 28, 2016 | Review Permalink

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