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Various Artists (Label Samplers) - Wowie Zowie! The World Of Progressive Music CD (album) cover

WOWIE ZOWIE! THE WORLD OF PROGRESSIVE MUSIC

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Dick Heath
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Jazz-Rock Specialist
4 stars This could be claimed to be the first prog sampler, although at least one CBS/Columbia Records 'Rock Machine' was released in 1968 - although it has few obvious prog rock tracks. But 'Wowie Zowie' was certainly the first with that word 'Progressive' in its title. A historical album and certainly a good reference to the early days of progressive music/rock. The cover artwork by David Anstey is modern while not psychedelic, perhaps suggesting a move from the music of the summer of love.

But take a step back: 'Wowie Zowie: The World Of Progressive Music'? The title reminds you that the term 'progressive MUSIC' was being used in 1969, and there is a surprising breadth in the range of musics that fall under the heading of progressive music. Music sampled by Decca's 60's compiler included a couple of what from the 21st Century viewpoint would seem obvious: Genesis (but a couple of years before they signed to Charisma, and still rock fledglings under Jonathon "Everyone's Gone To the Moon" King's wing) and the Moodies ( the most obvious track being sampled, but here to pull the punters in to buy the album, if they hadn't already bought the single). However, there is the obscure: in particular Touch, arguably the first US prog band and here being acknowledged in the UK in 1969; this sampler would be perhaps the only reference a handful of knowledgeable people would have of this groundbreaking band, for nearly 30 years. And possibly surprising to a young fan in the 21st Century, the blues is there too (Mayall, Savoy Brown - with the great voice of Chris Youlden - and the Keef Hartley band). No need to question such inclusions: electric blues was amongst the first to be labelled 'progressive music' in the late 60's. And the jazz - and we were yet to call it 'jazz rock' then. Plus the psychedelic folk.

This album was released on Decca's 'World Of' series, a cheapo label of back catalogue albums and compilations, retailing for less than a quid, (then about 50% of the cost of full priced albums). Because of 'Wowie Zowie's' rarity a mint copy will now set you back many times that - if you see a copy beg, borrow but perhaps don't steal it..

Not quite a 5 star.

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Send comments to Dick Heath (BETA) | Report this review (#38233)
Posted Friday, July 01, 2005 | Review Permalink
Certif1ed
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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A masterly collection

From the opening notes of Touch's "Down At Circe's Place" you just know you're in good territory, with the driving piano riff providing an ELP level of aggression and bombast. This evolves via a maelstrom of guitar, bass, drums and keyboards, contracts into reversed vocals and a wonderful guitar dive-bomb, which then settles into a whirlpool of manic psychedelia that goes somewhere into deep Amon Duul II territory. Watch out for the surprise re-entry!

Next up, the maestro of Blues, John Mayall is showcased in a fine example from his "Bare Wires" album - surely a proto-prog album in itself. Delicate bluesey guitar, violin and sax combine beautifully with Mayall's classic blues vocals into a dreamy drifting texture that goes way beyond mere "blues", yet manages to stay very close to it's roots.

Staying in blues territory, the superb Savoy Brown's "Train To Nowhere" is another great example of the masterful work of the bluesmen in the late 1960s. This track is a fairly surprising inclusion, however, as there is not much about it that suggests prog rock - there are far batter examples in Savoy Brown's catalogue, especially the wonderful "Raw Sienna" album. It is a wonderfully nostalgic piece of blues, however, and Chris Youlden is always a joy to listen to, as is the inventive guitar work of Kim Simmonds.

Johnny Almond's "Voodoo Forest" is much more firmly in prog territory, however - a haunting multi-timbral piece of floating ecstasy replete with vibraphones and saxophone creating a truly unique sound that would definitely appeal to fans of Gong or the more "out there" fusion. Johnny Almond, for those who don't know, was a widely respected session musician in the 1960s - and this track is a superb example of why. The track appears on the album "Music Machine" if you want to track down some more of the same!

East Of Eden round off side 1 of the vinyl verynicelyindeedthankyouverymuch with a pummelling drum propelling a manic bass/violin texture, over which the song is delivered in a style very reminiscent of Arthur Lee/Love. A fine example of how a standard pop/rock song can be made progressive - check out the wicked flute/violin duet in the instrumental coda.

Side 2 Kicks off with what is probably the best - at least, the only dark flavoured track on "From Genesis To Revelation". If you're curious to find out what Genesis sounded like before Trespass, this is actually not a good example, as the rest of "FGTR" is much lighter. However, as part of this collection, this is a superb track, with Gabriel showing his dramatic potential, and the band enjoying a good workout with some great "moments" including the dark keyboard intro and the all too brief bass and piano solos.

"Nights In White Satin" is well covered elsewhere - surely you already know this. Treat as a moment of familiarity in the middle of a world of the unknown and it's like a ray of sunlight through the dense forest.

William R Strickland is very hard to find information on - he released an album entitled "William R. Strickland Is Only The Name", on Deram, and the title track appears here. A somewhat edgy beginning with electronic noises kicks off a peculiar folk song along the lines of The Incredible String Band. You kind of wish that the guitar was in tune, but Strickland's society/technology and computer bashing vocals are engaging enough.

The John Cameron Quartet entry is a bit of an oddity, having a kind of "lounge-jazz" feeling overall, and a very obvious base on the Ray Noble classic "Love Is The Sweetest Thing" - but it's inclusion is very welcome and underlines the variety of influences in the Prog Rock genre.

Finally, the Keef Hartley Band give a rousing blues/psych fusion closer - nothing startlingly progressive, but a nice ending to an excellent collection of proto-prog, providing a superb base on which to branch out and explore the world of Progressive Rock in the 1970s and beyond.

The rating says it all: An excellent addition to any prog collection.

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Send comments to Certif1ed (BETA) | Report this review (#39115)
Posted Monday, July 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
mystic fred
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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars ...WOWIE ZOWIE!

This is where it all started, this album was my first official Prog purchase, at age 16 my world of live music involved visiting murky smoke-filled pubs with my mates digging many dubious and now long forgotten unsigned bands, until one week I had German Measles and missed the best one, namely Genesis, upon one of their rare visits within my little beat, my mates were ecstatic about Gabriel and Co, ...and many other music fans as history will tell !

Realising I missed a good band I consoled myself with this album, "In the Beginning" being the most exciting track here, though containing an eclectic collection of groups under an odd title, a confusing definition of Progressive Music by today's standards, but in those days anything a little bit out of the mainstream was labelled Progressive.

John Mayall I knew from a year or two before during my Blues period, an excellent track from his "Bare Wires" album, a highly recommended album by any standards, the Moody Blues "Nights..." must be the most well known track on the album, so well known it was considered mainstream, and East of Eden were well known for their folky hit "Jig a Jig", but nice to hear some of their other material on here. Other bands such as Savoy Brown are an odd selection on here as they were unashamedly Blues, and the James Cameron Quartet sounded like a Jazz group.

My copy of Wowie Zowie was never played in its entirety more than once, the track I kept playing was Genesis for many weeks until it found its way back into the used store racks, as there were other avenues to explore. I eventually tracked down a copy of "Genesis to Revelation" but was disappointed with it having sampled the delights of their next three albums by then, but looking back Wowie Zowie was the spark that got me onto the Prog trail, then a 'B' road, then a highway and onto an expressway....not an essential album but Decca's "World" series threw up some excellent music on a budget, and are a good introduction to many genres.

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Send comments to mystic fred (BETA) | Report this review (#247820)
Posted Monday, November 02, 2009 | Review Permalink

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