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QUINTESSENCE

Quintessence

Indo-Prog/Raga Rock


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2 stars This eponymous LP actually came in a wonderful gatefold sleeve with a central parting: quite an innovation (now reproduced in CD format). But the content of the vinyl itself was very patchy. Too many chants, too much dross, not enough of what Quintessence were good at - playing "live". One for casual trawlers through the CD racks to miss.

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Send comments to tbstars (BETA) | Report this review (#40880)
Posted Friday, July 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Quintessence made five studio albums during the course of the late 60s and early 70s, with this self-titled second album making the biggest splash as it peaked at #22 in the UK album charts. From what I know of the group however, I'd say that there's too much repetition of its style from one album to another. In fact I'd advise a newcomer to first try the compilation album Epitaph For Tomorrow, and possibly just stop there. That's certainly not normal advice for a prog-group, but then Quintessence was a group that didn't really evolve much.

The sextet started off on the first album In Blissful Company with an excellent combination of Hindu chants, meditative sitar and flute led improvisations and fiery jazz- inflected guitar jams. And really just kept churning out variations of that album until the power diminished and the formula really got too old (this had arguably happened by the time of the third album Dive Deep).

Of course, taken on its own, there is some wonderful music here. The outstanding Only Love (I love Shiva's urgent vocals on this one), Twilight Zones, Sea Of Immortality and Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Gauranga are among Quintessence's finest ever songs with Rajam Ram's flute and Allan Mostert's guitar providing most of the instrumental excitement. The spacey multi-tracked flute instrumental Prism also represents a slight diversion from what has gone before.

On the down side, the wah-wah extravaganzas that are St. Pancras and Burning Bush can get a little dull, and Shiva Chant and Maha Mantra are essentially chant songs which are actually done much better on the first album's Chant and the third album's Sri Ram Chant. A bonus live version of Jesus, Buddha, Moses and Gauranga show what a fine-tuned machine Quintessence was a performing band (a Quintessence concert must have been one hell of a stoner experience!).

Despite the excellent moments on this record, I have to repeat my belief that Quintessence is essentially a one-album band, and that while there's nothing wrong with plumping for either In Blissful Company or this album, I'd go with Epitaph For Tomorrow (which does have four tracks from this album anyway). ... 55% on the MPV scale

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Send comments to Trotsky (BETA) | Report this review (#41971)
Posted Sunday, August 07, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars 3,5 stars really!!!

As fellow reviewer points out at the start of his review , I would also advise propective progheads to first stick to the compilation of the first three albums called Epitath For Tomorrow , for the exact same reasons he gives, as it gives a very good idea of what the bands was offering in terms of indian-laced psychadelia. However, as with the risk of compilations , the track selection is always a bit random and all good tracks will not be represented.

Such is the case for this album, as Sea of Immotality and the linked to tracks opening the second vinyl side Prisms/Twilight Zones are missing on that compilation and this is really two bad because they are clearly among the highlights on this album. Some of the moments developped are simply ecstatic and appear relly enlighted throughout the severe hash fumes emanating your deck as you spin the disc. Along with the opening track Jesus Buddha... and the closing linked Only Love/St Pancras/Infinitum trilogy , this makes a very solid album to listen to. Problem is that the tracks continuity are interrupted by sacred Indian music: although I love listening to it , it is clearly a bit out of context with the original Quintessence essence, and abit out of place on this album.

Please not that the front artwork is now Different from what you see here above , but this last one has been relegated on the back cover by the Repertoire label that has reissued all of their albums (some for the first time ) on CD format.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#43058)
Posted Tuesday, August 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Second album by Quintessence had been in some way slightly advanced compared to their debut with more elaborate tracks and a less pop-ish sound. On the other hand it appeared as well rather incoherent with spiritual chants standing at times blatantly besides acid jamming and Cream-ish heavy blues rocking. Overall it revealed a kind of nice atmosphere not too far away from the one in early Krautrock albums. Their ecumenical hymn "Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Gauranga" which opens the album reflects very well the spirit of this record they dedicated "to Our Lord Jesus". This one's by far the only commercially sounding one on here belonging together with "Notting Hill Gate" and "Gange Mai" from their debut to the most memorable songs by them. "Sea of immortality" sounds considerably more sophisticated exploding into a jam session and here's the place where the hint to Cream becomes obvious. "High on Mt. Kailash" is an excerpt of a planned rock opera starting with birds singing and reveals droning sitar, some jingling temple bells and Shiva's haunting vocals that remind me at times a lot to Jim Morrison's. That one's quite a mysterious and fascinating track and certainly one of the highlights of this album. After that one there's a sudden skip to the live recorded very loud instrumental "Burning bush" featuring heavy jamming of wah-wah guitar, bass and drums. This track seams to be not very well placed between the previous one and the following spiritual "Shiva's Chant" and as Chris Welch suggests in his liner notes the close array of these contrasting performances presented here by the band might reflect in some way the contrast between the two aspects of their style. But in fact the rather imperfect structure of this album and its appearance as more of a compilation of songs than a coherent work is the only reason for considering it less essential. For the song material here is really substantial as demonstrated by the next two tracks "Prisms" and "Twilight Zones". The former one is all instrumental and consists of an improvised flute solo by Raja Ram with the addition of some great echo effects. This one segues seamlessly into the next track being an excellent ballad-type one dominated by Shiva's vocals and backed with flute and guitar. "Maha Mantra" is another hypnotic chant followed by the slow ballad "Only Love" whereas in "St. Pancras" the band presents us once again their live jam qualities. The short track "Infinitum" finally closes this rather strange album with a quite awkward droning sound. But overall such kind of hypnotic and droning sections which aren't not that much my "cup" usually are kept here quite shorted and I really don't find them disturbing at all.

As a summary of my review I've to say though I usually don't favour albums with religious contents this one was quite appealing to me albeit being a more difficult listen than their debut. Nevertheless it's a kind of acquired taste and some people might feel alienated by its religious background. Thus I would not consider it essential in a general Prog context but fans of Krautrock or spiritually influenced "hippie music" might check out this band. Actually I'd rate their first two releases as equally good with 3 stars but since I've put 3 for their debut I'll round up here to 4!

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Send comments to hdfisch (BETA) | Report this review (#101393)
Posted Saturday, December 02, 2006 | Review Permalink
stefro
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars A superior follow-up to their debut 'In Blissful Company', this self-titled effort sees Notting Hill's Quintessence expand upon their exotic raga-rock sound with layers of guitars, drums, sitars and a slighly more progressive lilt. Some may find the quasi-religious mumblings a tad unbearable, and some of band-leader Raja Ram's rather indulgent noodlings do sometimes hinder the otherwise fluid acid rock, but it's all part-and-parcel of this quirky group's appeal. Imagine Hawkwind on valium and with acoustic guitars and tabla's instead of electric instruments and you get the picture, except Quintessence sport a slightly more refined musical style. Both of the group's first two albums are well worth checking out, especially for fans of Jade Warrior, Clark Hutchinson's 'A=Mh2' and ethnic krautrockers Yatha Sidhra, and despite the fairly laughable hippie-dippie lyrics, the sounds of offer here are genuinely progressive in their execution and the instrumentation richly-textured in it's attempt to re-produce the exotic sounds of India and beyond. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010

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Send comments to stefro (BETA) | Report this review (#281870)
Posted Thursday, May 13, 2010 | Review Permalink

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