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Steamhammer - MK II  CD (album) cover



Crossover Prog

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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Easily Steamhammer's crowning achievment (certainly as far as progheads are concerned) , although many rockers will prefer Mountains. The main difference with this album and other Steamhammer albums is Steve Joliffe who is not unknown to progheads since he went through Tangerine Dream , albeit on their controversial Cyclone , the only TD album to have acoustic instruments and yes! Vocals!!!!

Hardly controversial Mk II album, though as it is simply their most refined album , much thanks to the afore-mentioned Joliffe who playds KBs but also flutes and saxes. B ut howeever progressive this effort may be , don't look here for CTTE or SEBTP, as the general resulting music gives a very pleasant proto-prog but hardly anything groundbreaking or earth-shattering. Martin Pugh and Kerrian White make a solid duo on guitars but clearly the addition of KBs and winds is the difference.

Easily the highlight is the 16 min+ Travelling tune but also noteworthy are the bonus tracks which are non-album rarities except for the single version of Junior's Wailing (present on their debut album). A real classy album and a must for early 70's loving progheads.

Report this review (#40222)
Posted Monday, July 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Steamhammer's second album shows great evolution: their first album was rooted exclusively in blues. This album is more jazzy than the first, thanks to the addition of saxophonist/flutist Steve Joliffe. Mr. Hugues Chantraine got it right: prog-rock fans will probably enjoy this album and will find it more interesting than "Reflections" or "Mountains"; the compositions are more inventive, arrangements are more immaginative and the overall performance of the band is better. Highlights: "Supposed to be Free", "Contemporary Chick Con Song" (both are still bluesy, but more ambitious than other efforts), the short "Sunset Chase" (a beautiful acoustic guitar solo which reminds me Leslie West), "6/8 for Amiran" (with this unusual tempo structure), "Passing Through" (with his fake ending) and the wonderful "Another Travelling Tune". Highly recommended for anybody who ever thought how a prog-blues album would sound.
Report this review (#42012)
Posted Monday, August 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is another surprisingly elaborated record of the 60's. Sometimes, the tracks are blues, hard rock and jazzy with excellent sax parts. There are also some psychedelic elements revealed by the harpsichord and the typical fuzzy guitar notes a la early Pink Floyd. The omnipresent hard rock/bluesy electric guitar has a pretty conventional sound: there are some good solos, but the sound is a bit subdued. Steve Joliffe, who contributed for the Tangerine Dream's Cyclone album, plays here the flute & the harpsichord parts: I cannot recognize his typical expressive voice present like on the Cyclone album, but some of his flute parts are identifiable, slightly approaching the PFM's and the Ian Anderson's styles. The tracks are not particularly catchy. There are very good fast and complex drums parts.
Report this review (#123350)
Posted Friday, May 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars More blues-rock than prog-rock, Steamhammer's second album would see this powerful outfit begin to accomodate more progressive elements into their rough 'n' ready sound, yet also affirm their wonderfully earthy style thanks to that rare mixture of grit and polish that is rarely found in late 20th century rock music. By now featuring their 'classic' line-up of Kieran White(vocals, guitar), Steve Davy(bass), Martin Pugh(guitar) and Mick Bradley(drums) and augmented by wandering multi-instrumentalist and future Tangerine Dream member Steve Joliffe, 'MK II' rivals follow-up effort 'Mountains' for the title of best Steamhammer album thanks to it's nicely-judged brew of ever-so-slight psychedelic ingredients, heavy riffing, old-style blues workouts and the occasional complex musical workout(evident on the superb sixteen-minute epic 'Another Travelling Tune'. Though their progressive rock credentials are rather thin, Steamhammer's muscular blues-drenched musical course makes lightweight groups such as Greenslade, Curved Air and The Strawbs seem positively feeble, especially when the group let their musical imaginations run away with them. The group's real strength lies in guitarist Martin Pugh's dextrous playing and Kieran White's gruff vocals, yet this is very much band music made by men who have obviously been playing on the road for sometime. Later albums such as 'Speech' - their ill-judged foray into prog-rock proper - would find the line- up fragmenting and the original magic slipping away, yet, for a few brief years Steamhammer were genuinely the real deal, straddling the gaping chasm between blues and prog with genuine aplomb. Highly recommended. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2011
Report this review (#537588)
Posted Thursday, September 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'm all for progress when it comes to musicians expanding their sound, but while this album is ultimately fairly successful, it plays a little too closely with serious misstep.

The debut album had such a warm, inviting sound. Beautifully produced and executed with real care, but also an admirable level of musical focus. Here, while the great production and excellent, disciplined playing continue, the band become somewhat lost in an endeavor to expand into areas of jazzy blues, a sort of darker bubblegum psych and progressive rock arrangements. And I just don't think the result is a cohesive musical statement.

While Steve Joliffe seems to have a lot of praise heaped on his contributions to this album by the prog crowd, I find his sound within the context of Steamhammer to be somewhat unconvincing. It almost comes off like they didn't want to be compared to Cream and the blues-rock giants of the day, so they quickly changed their identity. And perhaps too much. Add to that the harpsichords and some psych flavors which rear their heads on Side 1, and the album projects an unfocused feel. By the time of "6/8 For Amiran," they are in territory which I don't think juxtaposes well. Adding bluesy harmonica to a repeated, odd-time synchronized riff is innovative, but doesn't make a lot of sonic sense here. Krokodil might be one of the few groups who were able to texturally combine harmonica with progressive arrangements as they moved through their career, but here is doesn't come off as well thought out. Just attempted.

Side 2 really saves the record. The Steamhammer established on the first album is back at the wheel instead of riding shotgun. Steve Joliffe adds some flute which I think works well and is done with a subtle flare. His sax work seems out of place to an extent on Side 1 , but here it begins to merge more impressively. Still, it sort of appears and then disappears. It's not fully integrated into the twin guitar sound. The flute, however, begins to really convince as it weaves its way into the proceedings.

"Fran And Dee Take A Ride" is an absolutely gorgeous closer. Acoustic guitars gently pick through a wonderfully moving set of chords, as Leslie guitar drops delicate notes into the mix with beautiful results.

3.5 stars.

Report this review (#1411256)
Posted Saturday, May 9, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Steamhammer's excellent sophomore effort came out in 1970 - a magical year for progressive rock. That was when most bands created their debuts. Something was being born. Something new was comming. "MK II" marks (a little pun for you there) the time when most blues rock bands started including elements from outside blues to their music. Steamhammer was no exception. And even though it is largely based on blues, a lot more influences are visible. An outstandingly talented flautist Steve Jolliffe (later of Tangerine Dream) joined, giving the group a much more eclectic taste. Martin Pugh's great guitar-playing taste gives you goose bumps. Kieran White's amazing voice once again doesn't disappoint. This work goes from "6/8 For Amiran", an Arabic-inspired music with great singing, guitar, flute and haunring rhythm, through folk-influenced "Sunset Chase" to full-on modern blues "Contemporary Chick Con Song". A unique work and a masterpiece that always seemed to stay in a shade of better known projects. It's a shame that it did. 10/10 without hesitation!
Report this review (#1529903)
Posted Wednesday, February 17, 2016 | Review Permalink

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