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Secret Oyster - Secret Oyster [Aka: Furtive Pearl] CD (album) cover


Secret Oyster

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars 4.5 stars really.

The debut of Secret Oyster holds the promise of a supergroup from Denmark. Everyone of its members had belonged to other great Danish bands such as Coronaria Dans, Hurdy Gurdy and Burnin' Red Ivanhoe. This album got released outside of Denmark with a different cover and title (Furtive Pearl >>> Danish humour I suppose ;o))) but the tracks are the same. Actually the cover of this album pictured above is the self-titled Denmark release and the Furtive Pearl album has a artwork cover in the form of a post card with their portrait as stamp. This album as well as the others from the group have released a recent complete over-haul and features bonus tracks. The Laser's Edge label's superb work is so important that it is actually the first and only official reissue of the SO albums.

As for the music on this album, it is rather strong departure from the music played in their previous groups. We are into a very inspired and inventive early fusion or Jazz-rock somewhere in between Bitches Brew, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi, Headhunter or Sextant albums or also the fabulous Nucleus or Soft Machine (circa Six-era). Starting on the wildly progressive Damexpressen, a 100MPH progressive jazz-rock track, the album consolidates quickly with an equally uplifting Fire & Water, where logically Vogel dominates the debates, being the author of these tracks (and the main songwriter on this album). The lengthy Vive La Quelle is unfortunately the weakest track of the album , aven if the intro is very prog, the track quickly becomes a hard rocking jam that was obviously allowing the solo lives (as shown by the very average drum solo here), and it shows drummer Thirge being the weaker link in the band, he would get ousted (substances dependences) prior to the second album along with bassist Vinding. Don't get me wrong this track rocks pretty hard and wild too, but it tends to overstay its welcome. Blazing Lace is constructed a Bohling riff (his only writing credit on the debut album), and stays a little too repetitive, but allows for some blazing guitar solos.

The lengthiest track (almost 11 mins) Public Oyster is where keyboardist Knudsen makes its presence best felt as the track is the most adventurous with plenty of bruitage and soloing, with its ending finishing in a fish tail, with Knudesn giving a short coda to it through a piano interlude. The weird and experimental Ova-X closes the the album

This music is totally instrumental but so evocative that you feel that there are lyrics or more like you do not need them to understand what they are getting at. Karsten Vogel is clearly the leader but everyone of those musicians hold their own with solid playing. Only "Vive La Quelle", I think, is a little inferior. The bonus tracks do not bring much added value; with a live (and superior, but not soundwise) version of the opening track, and a weird (even derangesome) goofy track. A good debut only to be topped by their following album Sea Son as well as Straight To The Krankenhaus. This album's particularity being the different rhythm section, and the fact that the main writers were only at their first album together are the two elements making this album slightly inferior, but no doubt that the group's oeuvre can be discovered chronologically.

Report this review (#33161)
Posted Thursday, November 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first album from Secret Oyster is much in the vein of where the Burnin' Red Ivanhoe left off. Though now the band, also incorporating members from at least one other Danish prog/psyche act Hurdy Gurdy, were mainly composing instrumentals with a wild free form attitude and developing their looping hypnotic tunes around Karsten Vogel's swirling and loud saxophone's. Though the band do lay down a steady rhythmic pattern the guitar and aforementioned saxophone improvise and express hints of psyche with a tendency to develop progressive like patterns and tasting the realms of jazz/rock fusion, the genre which was making heady waves during the early seventies. "Dampexpressen" is certainly expressive but never damp, there is a humourous element here in the music and it is very much like Burnin' Red Ivanhoe on this track, while "Fire And Water" presents a sound that would be more inclined to be regarded as typical Secret Oyster, if it would be fair to label them that. "Public Oyster" is a cool breeze trip of avant garde with some textured wah wah guitar from Claus B°ling and a clever play on words before we get stoned and zoned out of our minds with "OVA-X". While stepping into the waters of fusion the Secret Oyster retain a quality and style in their music that is very familiar when compared with the bands later albums, here they sound rough and ready. They would progress and get better, become more cohesive and acquire a Secret Oyster sound rather than simply be a band that derived from the Burnin' Red Ivanhoe. But they frustratingly moved along producing solid albums without the commercial success that many lesser acts were adorned with. Not only were they just one of Denmark's finest groups but one of the better fusion acts from that period.
Report this review (#33162)
Posted Sunday, April 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars 4.5 stars.This has to be the greatest band ever to come out of Denmark. A supergroup of sorts with the drummer, sax, and bass player from BURNIN' RED IVANHOE joined by the Avant-garde keyboard player from CORONARIAS DANS, and the amazing guitar player from HURDY GURDY (Claus Bohling). By the way Donovan's song "Hurdy Gurdy Man" is about THIS guitar player. Cool. This album is one of those great discoveries I come across once and a while that makes the search so worth while. The album cover is from a post card of the mainstreet of the little town where they recorded this their debut record. This really is a blend of Jazz / Rock / Fusion with Claus just ripping it up throughout on his guitar.

"Dampexpression" opens with piano that builds as sax and a full sound arrives quickly.The sax and drumming stand out along with the keys. The guitar before 2 minutes lights it up as the bass throbs, more great guitar again after 3 minutes. "Fire & Water" has a nice beat as organ and fat bass lead the way. Guitar comes in very psychedelic-like as the tempo picks up. Amazing sound 3 minutes in.The guitar rips it up before 5 minutes. "Vive La Quelle ?" has a memorable, uptempo melody until a calm a minute in where guitar and drums start to make some noise without a real melody. Just raw guitar sounds and random drum patterns. We start to get a melody after 4 minutes. Keys come in and they become dissonant at times. Some good guitar 7 minutes in. The song ends as it began.

"Blazing Lace" has a haunting intro before the guitar comes in and takes over. Sax, drums and bass are all here. Love the guitar after 3 minutes. "Public Oyster" is the longest track at almost 11 minutes. This is actually very Krautrock-like early, the way the keys and guitar lead the way. The sound starts to build 3 1/2 minutes in. Guitar comes in at 5 minutes and plays over top. Nice. Sax comes in sounding really good as does the relentless drumming.The guitar starts to shine after 9 minutes. "Mis(s) Fortune" is lighter, almost Canterbury-like with lots of keys and bass. "Ova-X" opens with sax with not much of a melody as sounds come and go. It's kind of experimental and i like it.

This all-instrumental debut from SECRET OYSTER is so impressive. Just a pleasure to listen to.

Report this review (#185533)
Posted Monday, October 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Furtive Pearl" is the debut full-length studio album by Danish jazz-rock act Secret Oyster. The album was released through CBS Records in November 1973. Secret Oyster was formed by former members of the acts Burnin'Red Ivanhoe, Coronarias Dans and Hurdy Gurdy, so we're taking seasoned and quite prolific Danish musicians.

The band play a jamming type of instrumental jazz-rock on this album albeit with strong and memorable themes which provide some hooks to hold on to. The themes are querky and with the driving rocking type drumming on the album I'm reminded a lot of late sixties Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. The high level of musicianship on display on "Furtive Pearl" is also equal to the high level musicianship of that band. The prominent instruments on the album are guitar, organ/electric piano and alto/soprano saxes. The latter mentioned are played by Karsten Vogel who is known for his work with Burnin'Red Ivanhoe. As mentioned the drums keep a steady driving beat throughout most of the album but there are some variation to be found in "Vive La Quelle?", which features a drum solo. The bass playing is also quite prominent and nicely organic.

There's no questioning the fact that "Furtive Pearl" is a high quality jazz-rock album, but personally I could have done without the most noodling jamming solo parts as I definitely enjoy the music most when those delightfully querky themes are played, but that's most likely an aquired taste and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is still warranted.

Report this review (#615971)
Posted Monday, January 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
5 stars Riding on the red hot heels of one of Denmark's early examples of jazz-rock fusion in the form of Burnin Red Ivanhoe which had a seven year run, the origins of SECRET OYSTER resulted from that band's disintegration through disputes in musical direction. Saxophonist and organist Karsten Vogel had aspirations of creating a more explorative styled jazz-fusion band and commenced to hand pick the new members who could master the art of a continuous rhythmic drive in jazz mode while adding their own creative stamps in virtuoso fueled improv jam sessions. After the star search was complete, Vogel settled on former Coronarias Dans keyboardist Kenneth Knudsen, guitarist Claus B°hling of the short-lived heavy psych band Hurdy Gurdy, bassist Mads Vinding and Bo Thrige Andersen who tagged along from Burnin Red Ivanhoe but also played with the psychedelic jazz-rock Blue Sun.

After the lineup was complete, SECRET OYSTER proved to be a veritable powerhouse of talent that has gone down in history as Denmark's most accomplished jazz-rock-fusion act with quite the accomplished career that started in 1972 Copenhagen and lasted for five years before the changing tides swept many of these progressive bands out to sea including this almighty band that more than stands the test of time with its heavy rock fueled energetic drive hybridized with the intricacies of stellar jazz workouts and a well-packed magic paintbox that allowed the creative juices to flow like Amazonian waterfalls. The band's name SECRET OYSTER paid homage to Vogel's previous band Burnin Red Ivanhoe by mining the idea from the track "Secret Oyster Service" from the band's second album.

Long out of print, SECRET OYSTER's four album canon was finally reissued on the Laser's Edge label in 2007 for the first time on CD and this debut featured two bonus tracks. The original debut album that was released in 1973 had two completely different album covers and titles depending which side of the Atlantic you happened to reside. On the European continent the album was released eponymously with the cover art depicting some undisclosed quaint Danish city setting while in the USA the album was penned FURTIVE PEARL with a rather unremarkably drab beige cover with a canceled postage stamp on what was supposed to resemble a postcard from Denmark with selling points about the nature of the music contained inside. As far as the music itself, the track listing was identical but over time there has been a truce between the two versions with the European artwork sitting in tandem with the more flattering album title FURTIVE PEARL.

Somewhat sounding like the Danish version of the Mahavishnu Orchestra only more focused on an instrumental jamming style steeped with psychedelic and hard rock energy, SECRET OYSTER expanded on the members' strengths that they developed in their respective prior bands and in the process crafted one of my all time favorite heavy psych tinged jazz-rock albums of all the 70s. While the jazz provides that bass fueled swinging rhythm section with the incessant drive of hard rock driven by B°hling's feisty guitar heft, the band also were masters of drifting off into heady psychedelic soundscapes that focused on cyclical repetitive grooves which allowed all the tricks and trinkets up the sleeves of the keyboardist to erupt into seriously trippy excursions that remind the listener that the 60s were not too overly far away at this point. The dexterity of these juxtapositions is what makes FURTIVE PEARL an absolute gem of musical prowess where the balancing act between technical guitar infused jazz-rock is pacified by psychedelic groove sessions that switch back and forth with admirable precision.

Not leaving the world of Burnin Red Ivanhoe too far behind, the three tracks "Dampexpressen", "Free & Water" and "Vive La Quelle" follow that band's style only taken to the next level with piano and organ dominated drifting jazz-rock that finds a few saxophone squawks adding some color but brought to a more energetic frenzy by B°hling's decorative guitar solos that offer textures much like a skilled the decorative art of Steve Hillage crafting a more surreal counterpoint to the martial rhythms . "Public Oyster" and "Mis (S) Fortune" display the strong Canterbury connections with Soft Machine sounding organ runs and that special warm British sound effect in the form of chirping guitars and those unique chord progressions.

While the psychedelic touches punctuate the album throughout, by far the most experimental track overall is the avant-garde jazz closer "QVA-X" which features a series of saxophone squawks, droning effects and freeform piano, percussion and features a Krautrock kosmische effect which shows the strong influence of neighboring Germany from this same era. Add the decorative Canterbury flavors which culminate in oddball oscillations, talking saxophone lines and one of the most successful mashups of jazz, rock and psychedelia and it sounds more like something out of the Sun Ra playbook than what the rest of the album offers. For those with the CD version, the bonus tracks are worthy editions with a live version of "Dampexpression" and the military march meets psychedelia track "Orlav/er."

SECRET OYSTER would develop a more focused sound on the sophomore release "Sea Son" but on this debut crafted its most explorative and experimental journey that makes this one an unexpected treat for those who love an album that branches out in different directions. While this album is certainly less focused than those that follow, it's exactly that unabashed pioneering boldness to seek out myriad directions of expressionism that make this one absolutely perfect in my book! I can't count the number of "normal" jazz-fusion albums of the 70s but these wild roller coaster rides that are as decorative as the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland are fewer in number. This one was a grower that kept begging me for a return visit but after a while i became hooked and mesmerized by SECRET OYSTER's seductive charm. For my tastes, album #1 is their true magnum opus but what followed was brilliant as well.

Report this review (#2480519)
Posted Friday, November 27, 2020 | Review Permalink

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