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Aunt Mary

Eclectic Prog

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4 stars "Self-titled" album from the norvegian band Aunt Mary may be considered as one of the first (and, possibly, the best) progressive rock product from this country. Eleven tracks present an interesting mixture of psychedelic, blues and jazz with some prog tendencies. Each track has a memorable melodie with short, but sweet to ears solo part from musicians. Jan Groth with his hammond makes a unique atmosphere on tracks like "Whispering farewell" and "Rome wasn't bult in one day". Alongside with with guitarist Bjorn Christiansen they provide some strong vocal - separetly and together. Their fromula of keyboard-oriented progressive rock later will be used by such legendary norvegian groups as Polol Vah and Titanic, but musicians from Aunt Mary were the first on this way. Great album by a great band! Should be heard by any lover of early prog.
Report this review (#28024)
Posted Thursday, August 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars I was surprised to find this to be the most approachable, and probably the closest to actual progressive music, of all the Aunt Mary albums. There isn’t as much emphasis on keyboards as there would be on the next three records (although there is a bit more piano than on ‘Loaded’ or ‘Janus’), and the presence of flute, Jew’s harp and harmonica is more noticeable.

The band reminds me a lot of a stripped-down Blood, Sweat & Tears on their more free-form songs such as “Did You Notice?”, “Come In” and “47 Steps”. Guitarist/vocalist Bjoern Christiansen has this sort of Joe Cocker thing working for him that would become even more pronounced later, but here against the horns and piano he sounds more like that almost jazzy sound that BST and even Chicago had in their early days.

But this is a band in transition from the sixties to the seventies, and that is quite evident on tracks like “Rome Wasn't Built in one Day” where the guitar shows some mild psych tendencies, the bass is heavier than most seventies bands, and the band shows a preference for layered, harmonizing vocals in the vein of CSNY or the Byrds.

Like their other albums the songs here are mostly short, and none of them is complex to any degree. Some, such as “Why Don't you try Yourself?” sound to me as if there was a fair amount of improvisation going on in the studio since the organist and guitarist seem to go off for a couple minutes and then everything just stops. A decent display of keyboarding on that track, but as a cohesive song it comes off as rather disjointed and incomplete.

“The Ball” is similar, but here the band sounds like they’re trying to pull of some sort of Ekseption-like Bach-on-organ interpretation that turns into a free-form mini-jam session with vocals not quite matching the music. In reality this kind of irreverent and totally non-commercial music is one of the reasons we prog fans seek this stuff out though; the rough edges and experimentation are what make it fun to listen to. Toward the end of this one I start to wonder if these guys maybe took some influences from Arthur Brown even.

The album ends with the short, heavy organ “Yes, By Now I've Reached the End” that sounds, if you can imagine this, like a Norwegian Jim Morrison trying to sound apocalyptic and somber. He doesn’t really pull it off, but nice effort, and the organ presence here signals the band’s direction for their two albums.

This record has never been properly reissued on CD to the best of my knowledge, and actually I think it’s the only Aunt Mary album that hasn’t. Too bad, because this is actually the best of their four studio records in my opinion, and while none of them are masterpieces this one is a very decent representation of the early seventies transitional sound from psych and blues to a more structured progressive sound. You can pick up the record in pretty much its original form as part of a 2-for-1 CD issue along with ‘Janus’ though, and while I’ve only rated ‘Janus’ as a three star album I’m going to give this one four, so between the two of them that’s a fairly strong endorsement for the CD combo. Worth picking up.


Report this review (#173910)
Posted Saturday, June 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
3 stars I see something. It looks like signs of progressivness, but for example first track, "Whispering Farewell" is combined with so annoying melody, that it's hard to hear them here (first I though that the line is ""ice cream man""). but second one, "Did You Notice?" is instant change. And second change (in pace, from flute driven sound to heavy prog) within song, after 1/3 is done.

Anyway, it's strange pattern in their albums. GOOD-BAD-GOOD. But there is something I don't like about how this album sounds. This is strange kind of prog, which does not sound like it should for me, for my prog taste. It has all ingredients (I hoped that I will never use this phrase), but don't fit me at all. Something here is not right. I listen to good albums, if I can make a decision. It's difficult to rate album which (as I know) will never listen to again.

3(+) and strange feeling.

Report this review (#237733)
Posted Sunday, September 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars Aunt Mary's debut album isn't really in the prog style they would eventually develop on Janus, their third album; instead, it's a rather typical and not especially interesting hard rock album with plenty of psychedelic touches. There's brass and string sections popping in here and there, but they're used in a fairly unimaginative way and don't add very much to proceedings. The performances and the material performed are adequate, but adds nothing particularly new or vital to the body of psychedelic work from the era.

Most of the ideas the band try out had previously been done better by other groups back in the 1960s, so the sound of the album must have been rather dated even when it first came out. By modern standards, it's decidedly inessential; there's plenty of superior hard rock-psych hybrids out there, and most of them are more memorable than this album.

Report this review (#472089)
Posted Wednesday, June 29, 2011 | Review Permalink

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