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Quintessence - In Blissful Company CD (album) cover

IN BLISSFUL COMPANY

Quintessence

Indo-Prog/Raga Rock


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3 stars QUINTESSENCE In Blissful Company is a good psycho-rock album, a little bit inspired by music from India. All ten tracks are very similar, rather simply constructed - without any special effects - and this is unfortunatelly the main problem with this Quintessence first apperance. I find this album rather interesting and I gave 3,5, but if you doesn't like the "narcotic"sounds from the early seventies you wouldn't like it.
Report this review (#34086)
Posted Thursday, February 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars The original LP was formed of tracks 1-8. Tracks 9 and 10 comprised the A and B sides of the band's first (and only?) single. I never rated the popular Notting Hill Gate, and still don't; nor do I appreciate five minutes of unrelenting drone at the end of Midnight Mode (the band had obviously run out of songs when finding themselves pressed into the studio for the first time, with unseemly haste); Ganga Mai used to be the opener for their "live" sets - and a great opener it was, too; Pearl and Bird is a vehicle for displaying Shiva's vocal range; whilst Manco Capac is unquestionably the finest track they ever put out, with all parts of the unit combining perfectly...

...and then there is the omnipresent chant. Oh dear.

Report this review (#40881)
Posted Friday, July 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Flutist and percussionist Raja Ram is a GENIUS. he went on to form Shpongle, arguably the greaest electronic music endeavor weve seen to date. Quintessence gave him his start, and the band displays this genius applied to rock music. Definitely a must have if you like Frank Zappa, Jethro Tull, or even modern prog artists like The Mars Volta and Mike Patton. Buy this album.
Report this review (#54191)
Posted Tuesday, November 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Standing in the shadow of bands like Floyd or Procol and emerging in the late sixties hippie underground scene heavily inspired by Indian culture this wonderful band has been all too often overlooked and underestimated. But in some way they had been far ahead their times in what they were doing and might be considered highly influential for what would be known many years after as world or new age music (as Chris Welch, busy for MM in those days pointed out in his liner notes for the CD re-release). In fact those guys had been brought together by an announcement in Melody Maker magazine and lead vocals of Australian born Phil Jones (aka Shiva Shankar) as well as the delightful flute play of Ronald Rothfield (aka Raja Ram) should become characteristic for their sound. The line-up had been completed by Alan Mostert on lead guitar, Dave Codling (aka Maha Dev) on rhythm guitar, Sambhu Babaji playing bass and Jeremy "Jake" Milton on drums. Soon after their foundation the band signed to Island Records later better known for hosting bands like Jethro Tull for example. Picking up eastern influences in the music of the "Fav Four" inspired by Harrison's India trips and reinforcing the general fashionable trend of late sixties psychedelic bands they created a kind of perfect "quintessence" of western pop/rock/jazz and Indian raga music. Though they've been mainly attracted by Hinduisms also spiritual influences by Buddhism and Christianity can be found in their songs. During their heyday they managed to fill places like the Royal Albert Hall with their splendid concerts and they also played at the prestigious Montreaux Jazz Festival.

The balance between east and west in their music used to be shifted more in favour of western influences making it quite approachable for people being not that much familiar with Indian classical spiritual music. This applies even stronger in the case of their remarkable debut from 1969 here in review. In fact there's only one traditional chant on here with track no. 5 titled not so imaginatively as such. The opener "Giants" presents a nice blend of song-based Indian flavoured psychedelic pop and some more jam-oriented elements and one can easily imagine that this song might have inspired contemporary bands like Ozric Tentacles as well as some more commercially directed one like Cornershop, Kula Shaker and so on. In "Manco Capac" Raja Ram's shiny flute play comes into action and this track offers in particular a great bluesy break by Alan Mostert. "Body" comes closer to hard rock territory in terms of the guitar sound but nicely balanced by Shiva's vocals and Raja Ram's flute as well as some occasional keyboards (which were usually only sparsely present in their music). One can imagine a mix of Cream and Tull here. Revealing stronger eastern touches "Gange Mai" is a more playful and highly rhythmic track getting into a type of repetitive, hypnotising mood especially due to the vocals and the flute. But there's as well a lot of rock to be found here. "Chant" has droning sitar tunes and combines a "Hare Krishna" routine with an old English carol making up to a wonderful unification of eastern and western spiritual culture. In "Pearl and Bird" Shiva presents his strongest vocal performance on this record revealing an extraordinary range of his voice. "Notting Hill Gate" which had been released as well as a single quite reminds to what Jade Warrior did on their first two albums one or two years after with the difference of sitar added here. The original edition had been concluded by the ambitious track "Midnight Mode" starting with some chanting followed by an extended flute solo and some guitar jamming. It finally fades out with some continous heavy drone. That one together with "Chant" is certainly the least accessible track on here. The CD re-issue contains as bonus the single version of "Notting Hill Gate" and its B-side "Move Into The Light" sounding very commercially though and not really worth mentioning.

Though probably being not really an essential one in Prog "In Blissful Company" should be considered an excellent debut of an usually forgotten band that combined religious and spiritual influences with psychedelic and early progressive rock music in a highly appealing (at least for me) and approachable manner. Certainly this kind of music will not appeal to everybody - rock fans might find it to esoteric and for puristic followers of raga prog it will probably sound too poppy. Nevertheless I think this band (especially their first two albums) should not be dismissed by anyone who doesn't mind some eastern flavour in his Prog. ***1/2 really!!!

Report this review (#101082)
Posted Thursday, November 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
oliverstoned
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 4 stars

Quintessence first album presents an under-rated band which appears to be quite precursor in the Indo folk progressive genre for this 1969 year. There's a strong analogy with another progressive band: Sweet smoke. For the jazz and Indian influences, the predominance of flute, the same happy hippy spiritual mood and the excellent guitar work. Quintessence music is never complex but can be well progressive anyway, like on "Midnight mode", the gem here: excellent flute, a mind-blowing psychedelic space guitar solo and an impressive pure traditional (Indian) end. A must! A nice introduction to this great band. The Repertoire CD release has a good sound and is very nice looking in its Digipack form.

Report this review (#125524)
Posted Tuesday, June 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Both this album and Quintessence's output as a whole has become rather dated over the years. Clearly riding the wave of enthusiasm for all things Indian that was inspired by the Beatles, the band's fortunes dried up at around the time that particular fashion did. Still, the group seem to have explored both Indian music and Indian spiritual beliefs to a significantly greater depth than many of their peers; a good many hippies of the era took a rather superficial approach to "Eastern" religions, and in the end of a lot of the cultural appropriation at the time comes across as simply another type of orientalism, a fetishisation of all that's "alien" and "exotic" about other cultures that ultimately comes across as faintly patronising.

Quintessence do not come across as superficial culture-tourists on this album; on Chant, for example, the Hare Krishna mantra is delivered with reverence and without embellishment or tampering. On the one hand, this does show an appropriate level of respect for the culture whose trappings the band adopted. On the other hand, it leaves the album a strange, patchwork affair - I mean, it's like a Christian rock band slapping a five-minute Gregorian chant in the middle of an album, it ruins the flow completely. At one point there will be a sincerely presented Krishna chant, whilst at other points there are flute-laden psych songs which come across a bit like early Jethro Tull cast-offs and the occasional sub-Donovan hippy-folk outing (Notting Hill Gate, the major single from the album, is an absolutely asinine song about how hip the neighbourhood the band lived in was at the time), and then at other points you'll get a psych rendition of some traditional Indian music. The album doesn't flow at all well - the different moods don't blend into each other so much and the transitions are just jarring - and the individual songs are pleasant but never much more than pleasant. Maybe Quintessence really were as sincere as they made themselves out to be, but whilst the sincerity is here the musicality isn't.

Report this review (#457643)
Posted Monday, June 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
3 stars Many roads in rock and pop music since the 60s lead back to The Beatles and the fertile cross-pollination of Indian music with Western rock was one of the more popular ones following the Fab Four's brief stay at an ashram in India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as their guru. Once George Harrison recorded his famous "Within You Without You" on the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album, the genie was out of the bottle and suddenly every musician was incorporating some sort of Indian reference in their music. While some rockers were content to simply find a spiritual guru, other's like the London based QUINTESSENCE went all the way and developed their own unique mix of jazz and psychedelic rock with progressive touches all completely infused with musical influences from India including full on chants, Indo-raga droning effects and of course the mandatory sitar and percussion. They were known for energetic and dynamic live performances.

The popularity of the whole East meets West thing grew so fast and so big that bands like QUINTESSENCE were literally snatched up after only performing a few gigs. The original line-up included Sambhu Babaji (bass guitar), Maha Dev (rhythm guitar), Shiva Shankar Jones (vocals, keyboards, percussion), Jake Milton (drums, percussion), Allan Mostert (lead guitar), and Raja Ram (flute, percussion), the last of which chose the name of the band implying a five unit quintet despite the band actually consisting of six members. Keeping with the trend, the band members were actually christened by Swami Ambikamanda who was the band's spiritual guru. Right from the bat the band had multiple record contract offers and chose the less lucrative route with Island Records because of the fact they could retain creative control.

The band's debut was released in 1969 at the height of the Indo-rock craze. The album contained eight tracks with most displaying the band more as rockers rather than Indian fusionists since the majority of the tracks are fairly typical and unfortunately rather dated sounding psychedelic rock songs from the era that implement a standard rock, bass and drum base with a passionate sort of Tom Jones vocal bravado. While firmly steeped in rock, the sitar, flute and occasional Indian percussion do add an exotic flare to their sound which for the time was fairly innovative (save The Beatles notwithstanding). Interspersed amongst the rock oriented grooves are segments that delve completely into the Indian spiritual practices such as the fifth track "Chant" which takes the listener on a psychedelic journey into the ashram for a musical meditation. Likewise the album's closer "Midnight Mode" ushers the album out in a mystical mode with more transcendental chanting and Indo-raga droning effects.

While other Indian inspired bands like John McLaughlin's Shakti were pioneers of stunning virtuosic fusion, QUINTESSENCE was a pure hippie band through and through with garage band musical talent, rather cheesy pan-continental fusion and an overwrought vocal style that seemed more fitting for the Las Vegas strip rather than a fitting tribute to Bollywood. The guitar delivers a rhythmic drive for the rock aspects and occasional bursts out some soloing as heard in "Manco Capac," but don't expect Jimi Hendrix or anything even close. One of the most pleasant aspects of the music is the sensual flute runs that sound to me like they could have inspired the flute aspects of Comus' masterpiece "First Utterance" as the style is actually quite similar although not nearly as accomplished. My buddy Ashratom (from Rate Your Music) nailed it when he pinpointed the band as a major influence on Marupilami as the vocal style, flute sounds and other aspects seemed to be primary influences in their more adventurous form of progressive rock a year later.

IN BLISSFUL COMPANY, as many others have stated, is well, rather dated! This is a period piece if there ever was one. This is not something i would choose to listen to on a regular basis. While some Indo-raga and Eastern influenced albums of the day were transcendental beyond the zeitgeist of the era and still retain an avant-garde aura, QUINTESSENCE sounds like they came out exactly when they did, namely the tail end of the 60s in the midst of the drug fueled psychedelic days of the hippie era. To be fair, the band had only just begun and immediately thrust into the studio to record this debut and they apparently were not ready for prime time. While they would improve their musical chops on subsequent albums, they would experience less than peace and love filled episodes that would cause them to slowly splinter off into irrelevance. Despite playing alongside bands like The Who and Mott The Hoople, QUINTESSENCE never quite caught on within the larger rock world. Perhaps things happened too soon for them to catch the right wave. Interesting as a relic from the era. Not a bad album but not great either.

Report this review (#1949508)
Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars QUINTESSENCE were a quintessentially English Psych-Folk band. Their unique brand of Indian-influenced psychedelic folk music came to be defined as Raga Rock. The London-based, six-piece band released five albums between the years of 1969 and 1972, beginning with the album we have here "In Blissful Company" (1969), and followed by "Quintessence" (1970), "Dive Deep" (1971), Self (1972), and finally "Indweller" (1972). There were also two later offshoots of the band, named Kala's Quintessence and Shiva's Quintessence. The 2004 CD remaster of "In Blissful Company" included two bonus tracks added to the original eight songs on the album. It's time now to cook up a hot Madras curry and settle down with the sitar for some psychedelic Raga Rock.

"Giants" opens the album with a real giant of a song. It's a four and a half minute long psychedelic freak-out, featuring not only the sound of a wailing acid guitar, but some wailing vocals too. Tune in, turn on, and drop out to this psychedelic blast from the past. In the immortal words of Austin Powers, "It's groovy baby!" Onwards now to the intriguingly-titled "Manco Capac", who, just in case you wondered, was the first governor and founder of the Inca civilisation in Cusco, Peru. This Lovely song is overflowing with Love and flower power. It's sensual, it's spiritual and it's a song with perpetual appeal 50 years on from its recording. Take a look at these inspirational and devotional lyrics:- "High on a mount in the sacred place, The Holy sun is born to the lake, He radiates his life - the sun's so, In water and cosmic energy the God's flow, And he is the spirit in the lake of time, His eyes are the Truth you seek, His face is blue wishing cloud skies." ..... Hallelujah brother! This spiritual slice of late 1960's psychedelia will take you on a cosmic journey along the free love freeway, without the aid of any psychedelic substances. Far Out, Man! Onto Song No. 3 now and "Body", another song drenched in swinging psychedelic 1960's vibes. If you're looking for fun and feelin' groovy, then chill out to this mellow and laid-back groove and dream about going to San Francisco and wearing some flowers in your hair. And now we come to an uptempo and uplifting number "Gange Mai". What's it all about you may well ask. Well, it's all about the sacred (but very polluted) River Ganges as these lyrics reveal:- "Gange Mai, The river, Gange Mai, Holy water." ..... Yes, that's it in a nutshell. It's a lyrical, spritual hymnal tribute to the Indian river and Hindu goddess Ganga. The title of the next song, "Chant", might give you a clue as to what to expect. You won't be surprised to hear it's a devotional song full to the brim with repeated chants of "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna", so you might be inclined to put on a robe and shave your head for this spiritual number. Then again, perhaps not.

Onto groovy Side Two now and it's time to get on the magic bus for "Pearl and Bird". It's an enchanting and entrancing, laid- back devotional groove, with the golden-voiced rich mellow tones of the singer inviting us on a spritual journey. This inspiring music is your ticket to musical heaven. Onto Song No. 7 now and the best-known song by Quintessence which they'll always be remembered for, "Notting Hill Gate", which just happens to be the district of London where the band originally hails from. This bright and lively, flutey psychedelic number was released as a single in 1970 and reached No. 22 in the UK charts. We come to the end of this inspirational and spiritual album now with "Midnight Mode", an epic 9-minute midnight mass, featuring a gorgeously-long flute solo. which Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull would be proud of. It's a song full of Indian mysticism and psychedelic guitar grooves. It's hippy, it's trippy, and if you're in the right kind of mood, the music will make you feel part of an ever-expanding, loving, joyful, glorious, and harmonious universe.

If you've remained in blissful ignorance of this marvellous album for the last 50 years, then give "In Blissful Company" a listen. This beautiful, inspirational and spiritual album will take you on an emotional, mind-expanding, psychedelic journey of love and devotion. Who needs a dopamine high from drugs to reach the heights of spiritual ecstasy when you can achieve an emotional and devotional high with this wonderful debut album. "In Blissful Company" is indeed a blissful album, which is best listened to in romantic company. It's fabulous, baby!

Report this review (#2287282)
Posted Saturday, December 14, 2019 | Review Permalink

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