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Steamhammer - Speech CD (album) cover

SPEECH

Steamhammer

Crossover Prog


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
2 stars Steamhammer's last album was a posthumous release if memory serves me well asa the group had disintegrated by then. The general sound is a lot like the preceeding Mountains album , full of guitar riffs/works .

Do not be fooled by the lenght of these three tracks, nothing to do with lenghty prog epics. Actually this album has little to do with prog, IMHO! There is virtuosity present on this album as this is full of guitar histrionics.

Although this album is highly touted by collectors , IMHO, it is best to avoid it unless you are a confirmed fan of Steamhammer.

Report this review (#40220)
Posted Monday, July 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
1 stars Hughes Chantraine is right. "Mountains" was a posthumous album, released shortly after Mick Bradley's death by leukemia. In fact "Speech" is a very poor album, with lenghty although disjointed tracks (sometimes it seems that they recorded independent pieces of music, then gathered all together to see what they get). Although the musicians are good (Martin Pugh really shines on guitar - but his best work would be at Armageddon, with Cennamo, Keith Relf and Bobby Caldwell), the compositions are rather uninspired (Kieran White, who wrote most of the songs at their earlier albums, left the band months before this recording). Steamhammer fans will need this album to complete their collections; casual fans should check any of their albums ("Reflections", "II" or "Mountains"), which all are very good. Garth Watt-Roy, from Fuzzy Duck and The Greatest Show on Earth was the lead singer, but he only guested with the band.
Report this review (#41902)
Posted Sunday, August 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars It 's something different . This could be a Mick Bradley's prelude . Listening to the album, you may, easily realize, that Mick Bradley should be among the 5 best Rock drummers .The song "Penumbra" was the prototype of Armageddon 's "Buzzurd"...In fac,t Armageddon just copied "Penumbra" . That was not a problem of course , because Bradley was dead and Pugh and Cennamo were Armageddon, together with Relf and Caldwell.The fact was that "Speech" came up in 1972 and Armageddon self titled album came up four years later. Too late for this kind of music , Punk was ready to change everything... The destiny was that Cennamo joined Steamhammer and after his first release with the band (Speech) , Mick Bradley died . Cenammo joined Armageddon and after their 1st and only release Keith Relf died...Tough luck.
Report this review (#56552)
Posted Wednesday, November 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
stefro
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Steamhammer's fourth-and-final album proves to be both their most progressive but also their weakest. Virtually instrumental, 'Speech' eschews the group's earthy blues-prog style in favour of three lengthy, drawn-out, metallic tracks that features none of the funky gusto evident on their previous three albums. The lack of vocals is a genuine surprise, as Kieran White's gruff, yearning tones were an important part of the group's make-up, but it's the total lack of inspiration or catchy melodies that is really noticeable. 'Speech' was recorded and released after original drummer Mick Bradley had died, and for the rest of the group the spark had simply gone, which would explain the going-through-the-motions feel that drenches the album. Maybe they should have stuck to their original bluesy sound and not gone for the bold new prog-rock sound, maybe they should have called it a day after the excellent 'Mountains'. Whatever your view there is no doubting that 'Speech' is a poor end for a once-great band who deserved a better swansong than this. 'Speech' is, simply put, strictly for Steamhammer completionists only. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010
Report this review (#292995)
Posted Sunday, August 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars How it is that this indescribably PHENOMENAL quintessential prog-rock album has only been reviewed by 4 other people is absolutely astonishing, especially considering that this site is taylor made for prog-aficianatos. What's even more bewildering is that 3 of these individuals who DID actually take the time to review this album gave it SCATHING REVIEWS!!!....REALLY??...Did you three actually LISTEN to the album?? Perhaps you guys were flat-out hallucinating?? Anyways, this 1972 album is absolutely brilliant and downright massive. There is nothing else like this recording. The opener, "Penumbra" is 22 plus minutes of pure sonic intensity and is infallible from beginning to end. The dynamically fierce guitar playing, the superb and intermittently strident and cacophonous (in a very, very good way) bass playing (implementing a bow), percussion that is just plain other worldly, and spacey effects make for one bohemoth of a composition. It most certainly merits a spot in my top three favourite pieces of music that I've ever experienced. "Telegram" is also a spectacular and totally unique piece of heavy progressive rock that demands maximum blasting. "For Against" is unadulterated drumming divineness and yet another piece of indisputable evidence that Mick Bradley was one of the all time greatest percussionists ever. It is beyond unfortunate that this supreme talent passed away at 24 years old, for god only knows what this amazing man would have continued to accomplish had he lived. "Speech" was consequently the last album Steamhammer created and to say that they finished on a high note is the understatement of the millenium. This masterpiece has no equal.
Report this review (#952512)
Posted Wednesday, May 1, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Steamhammer's fourth record "Speech" was a different thing for me to review. It was released in 1972 and has a cool and artistic cover, presumably taking place somewhere in space. And it was space I got some thoughts about when I heard this form of music. I located it somewhere between blues rock(for example Jimi Hendrix) and Pink Floyd. An interesting mixture I guess.

The music began with an interesting and different track called "Penumbra" which lasted the whole side. Beginning with crying cello(it sounds like that) and voices and then overtaken by excellent guitar play this record welcomes us for this nice song which also consists great vocals and keyboards. The remaining tracks is not as good as this first one. "Telegram" do not make a success because of the song's low volume. But there are very groovy guitar and bass that play solos with perfection and towards the end we can hear some form of medieval march. "For against" has short intro and outro and in the long middle there is a drums solo. The drummer Mickey Bradley did a very good job in this song. Even if it's just drums it's like they were telling us a story. It was too long thought and not as interesting that I will praise it.

Mostly the first song was interesting in my eyes and something to explore more from. This was different music in all ways. It was like a common rock band which had to do a progressive effort in their lives and that was a good idea of course. As not overwhelmed three stars would be a fair rating.

Report this review (#976413)
Posted Wednesday, June 12, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Finally, finally after 45 years is this album is starting to be given its just due. For me it's the most underrated album of all time. I first heard it in about 1987 (I was in kindergarden when it came out) and thought, "wow." Well I am still going "wow."

The reason I feel that Steamhammer didn't get the attention they deserved was that they were actually three bands, they evolved so quickly. This is highly unusual for a rock band and inhibits acquisition of a loyal fan base. Steamhammer started out bluesy, then moved into the "Passing Through"/ "Johnny Carl Morton" phase of spacy, melodic material. Then in their most mature period, they release the burst of intense genius known as Speech. I'm sure fans didn't know what to think. New fans had little place to turn after the drummer Mick Bradley's untimely death soon after the Speech recording. In the ashes guitarist MartinPugh formed supergroup Armageddon with what was left of Steamhammer, basically bassist Louis Cennamo. Singer on Speech Garth Watt-Roy was not a regular band member. Drummer Bobby Caldwell of likeminded Captain Beyond and rock veteran Keith Relf, singer of background vocals on Speech, round out Armageddon. Then Relf dies and Armageddon is history. Double tragedy strikes Pugh and Cennamo!

Speech is so special, the kind of record that comes once in a listener's lifetime. Words here, especially from no great poet like myself scarcely do it justice. Go to youtube and listen to it full album. Yet I think Speech deserves a detailed paean to its greatness; I will attempt it. My favorite track "Penumbra," is 22 minutes of pure glory. My friends ask me how my favorite song needs to be five times as long as their faves. Well as engaging as it is, it could have even been longer. Really it transcends time. The listener is so enraptured, rational attributes like clock time don't enter the picture. The composition starts out with an atmospheric dungeony vibe with a single stringed instrument. I thank the other reviewer for ID'ing the instrument as a bowed bass. Then wild lead guitar work takes over. Pugh is an extremely accomplished and unique guitarist. The guitar solo backed by Bradley's expert drumming is about a minute. This gives way to a dramatic section with a haunting vocal. Next comes truly psychedelic guitar and tom madness. I would imagine any of you acid takers out there would be freaking in a very positive way. Certainly for us non-indulgers, it is the pinnacle of Nik Turner's definition of pyschedelic music: something to emulate or replace the chemical trip.

But "Penumbra" is only getting underway, into what I call the tribal fiesta section. This gotta be the best acid trip in the world, and no-one necessarily has ingested anything! The guitar is caressing, though pretty shreddy, and the drum-work like what you'd find in "Magic Carpet Ride," but ten times better. Things quiet down for a bit, getting atmospheric. Then guitar with a very forceful, tone(don't ask me how these sound are created-- I have minimal guitar experience) launches into another melody. An equally forceful vocal comes on, then echoey, droning instrumentation and a grand finale full of mesmerizing echo and what sounds like sitar, perhaps just the guitar pedal-dunno. All the while those drums just won't let up. You feel like you have been transplanted to Haight Ashbury in its heyday.

The next track, "Telegram," almost half the length of "Penumbra," starts with jazz chords not unlike your classic prog --Yes, Genesis, what have you. But it's far more guitar oriented. Pugh goes into high gear, a gong sounds and some fairyland-like strumming ensues. Hard proggy guitar blasts this away. The second vocal begins. There is a lot of vocal on this track, in contrast to "Penumbra" 's vocal sparseness, but the singing is on equal amplitude with guitars, not either in the foreground or background. Next comes a riff rounded out by a chorus and toms. The riff is then set to spacy sound effects. This is an extremely complex song with many different guitar and vocal sections. The writing dwarfs even prog's assumed greatest.

At about eight minutes, arrives sparser but crescedoing guitar accented by Bradley's trademark drumming. Then there's an outpouring of guitar and drum intensity. Being exposed to stuff like this may explain why I stopped listening to those three minute, formulated 1960s "nuggets" and really any music that has no development.

"For Against," a track of about equal length as "Telegram" opens with a guitar melody built of jazz chords but hard rock in delivery. Bradley gradually assume center-stage with the drum solo to end all drum solos. It is never for a minute boring because Bradley was obviously one of the world drumming greats. (It also is very beneficial to listen through headphones; disclaimer: I'm a drummer) So tragic his loss at only age 24!! He must have been conducting drum clinics to the angels for the last 45 years.

At 10:10 the boisterous jazz chord melody resumes and soon thereafter best album ever comes to its close.

Report this review (#1817221)
Posted Sunday, October 29, 2017 | Review Permalink
GruvanDahlman
COLLABORATOR
Heavy Prog Team
4 stars Steamhammer released a total of four albums. The first being a sort of jazzy blues rock one. The next two, "MKII" and "Mountains" were steeped more in the jazz-rock mould, giving it all a much more progressive feel. And then they released "Speech". If you know anything about Steamhammer but haven't heard this one you are in for quite a surprise. My first Steamhammer album was "Mountains" and I was enthralled by it's warm, progressive jazz-rock thing. So, when I bought this one in my early 20's and put it on I was in for a completely different ride alltogether.

First let me tell you, I adore the cover art. It's simply amazing. Dark and brooding and with an imagery rather hard to fathom. But it fits the music perfectly and that is somewhat the whole point with album covers, don't you think?

So, on to the music. The intro to the first track, the 23 minutes long "Penumbra", is the most sinister, foreboding, scary I have ever heard. It puts the norwegian black metal bands to shame. And yet at the same time it is also one of the most intriguing and loveable intros I have ever heard. Listen to it with headphones in a dark room. There's a sunday treat, if there ever was one. When the intro grinds to a halt after 3 minutes and 20 seconds a harsh, cold and brutal guitar riff comes into being and you are served a nice slice of early hard rock that is heavy, fast and furious. It's like you hear a band falling apart in the studio, trying to kill each other with an immense barrage of energy. FIve minutes in to the piece comes a calmer section with vocals. I love this part. I l-o-v-e it! What am I listening to? Am I standing at the entrance of hell? Has doomsday arrived? Are these the final days? And then the riffing comes back. Different but with the same feeling of frustration and energetic charge. After that has passed you find you're self in a different landscape where a bluesy hard rock riff takes the center stage. Everything then heads for a climatic ending with instrumentation and a roar resembling a dying whale. Or something to that effect. I have always loved the first track. An epic? Well, I suppose so. An epic of darkness.

"Telegram", the second track, is a bluesy hard rock affair that rhythmically is askew and slightly off the wall without going totally bonkers. Also a fantastic piece, constructed in a similar fashion to "Penumbra", only half as long and not quite as intimidating. The last track "For against" gives us a somewhat organized noise with off the wall riffing and a drum solo. Not the finest piece on the album but a good one nevertheless. The drum solo tends to drag on for just a bit too long.

All in all I find that this album is, probably, the most progressive of the four Steamhammer made during a three year period. That is not to say it's their best one but it is certainly a very interesting album and extremely enjoyable. Somewhat underappreciated, scorned and misunderstood I think it deserves to be heard more and loved more. A great prog album bearing both compexity and furious energy. I only wish they had stayed together and made another one. God knows what that would have sounded like but I am positive that it would be a wonderful album, as all four albums by the band are.

Report this review (#2039329)
Posted Friday, September 28, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars Steamhammer's 4th and final album is the one fans are most divided on and it's easy to see. Many of the riffs are still somewhat blues based but as you might guess from the track lengths, the song structures are quite different from their previous material. The album looks very promising on paper for prog fans with only 3 tracks that are all over 10 minutes (the first being 22!) but in reality it doesn't quite stack up.

Track 1 is the side-long "Penumbra". It has some great guitar riffs, at times pretty heavy for 1972, as well as very solid performances from all the band members. Unfortunately it seems like they weren't quite ready to make a 20+ min epic; some sections are too drawn out and many of the transitions feel somewhat disjointed. It has it's moments but I would not count it among my favourite prog epics by any means.

The 2nd song, "Telegram (Nature's Mischief)" is almost 12 minutes long and is my favourite from the album. A good mix of heavy riffs and some jamming and great guitar solos. Not as experimental as the first track but it flows much better and is a great heavy prog song overall.

"For Against" is the final track and I was hoping for a similar number to the last one with it's near 11-minute running time. The first couple of minutes are good, some noise and feedback in the intro similar to "Penumbra" before a fast paced drum beat kicks in and a nice bluesy guitar riff joins it. Unfortunately, more than 7 minutes of the 11 are taken up by a drum solo. I've never understood why bands used to include long drum solos on their, a live concert is a different matter but anything over about 20 seconds doesn't belong on a studio album in my opinion. My least favourite song on the album and a dissapointing way to end it.

Overall this is a mostly enjoyable album that fans of heavy prog should check out and if you are a fan of other Steamhammer albums it is certainly worth investigating. However, while I appreciate many moments from the album (especially the guitar riffs) and applaud the band for trying something completely different, the songwriting is not quite there and leaves me with mixed feelings.

3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.

Report this review (#2078117)
Posted Saturday, November 24, 2018 | Review Permalink

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