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Various Artists (Label Samplers) Charisma Keyboards album cover
4.00 | 4 ratings | 3 reviews | 0% 5 stars

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Boxset/Compilation, released in 1974

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. America 2nd amendment - The Nice (10:27)
2. As your mind flies by - Rare Bird (10:00)
3. Flight to the ford - Bo Hansson (3:48)
4. White hammer - Van Der Graaf Generator (8:15)
5. The fountain of Salmacis - Genesis (7:54)
6. Mountains - Robert John Godfrey (6:56)

Total Time: 47:20

Line-up / Musicians

Per artists shown in track listing

Releases information

Charisma CLASS 5 (LP), ZCCAS 5 (cassette)
Note - The catalogue number Class 5 was used again for a 1977 Brand X album

Thanks to easy livin for the addition
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VARIOUS ARTISTS (LABEL SAMPLERS) Charisma Keyboards ratings distribution

(4 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(0%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(100%)
Good, but non-essential (0%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

VARIOUS ARTISTS (LABEL SAMPLERS) Charisma Keyboards reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Charismatic

"Charisma Keyboards" is an eclectic, perhaps indulgent collection of six tracks by artists signed to the Charisma Label. The tracks were recorded between 1970 and 1974 with all but one being by established acts.

It is mere speculation, but it may be that one of the prime objectives of this release was to promote the then new album by Robert John Godfrey entitled "The fall of Hyperion". Godfrey did of course go on to find a degree of fame as founder of the Enid ("..Hyperion" can be found on this site under that band's entry, although it was in fact released in his name as a solo act). Prior to that time, he had worked with Barclay James Harvest, whom he helped to create the BJH Orchestra, and has since been recognised as an uncredited "joint author" of six of their songs including "Mocking Bird". I am however digressing, but it is interesting that Godfrey's song dates from 1974, the year this compilation was released, while the other five tracks are from 1970 to 1972.

Godfrey's contribution here, "Mountains" reflects the compilation as a whole in terms of content. While the track does indeed feature keyboards, piano mostly in this case, Chris Lewis's vocals also feature strongly on this rather understated piece.

I am getting ahead of myself though, as "Mountains" is the last track on this album. The opening number is Keith Emerson's controversial adaption of "America" from "West side" story" from his time with The Nice. Listening to it now, it is still easy to understand why it was the cause of such debate, but the keyboard excesses of Emerson still sound wonderful today.

The following track, "As your mind flies by" by Rare Bird has to rank as one of the great lost prog classics of all time. The version here runs to over 10 minutes, and features swirling Hammond organ, choral vocals, keyboards and guitar interplay, and a supreme melody.

Closing side one is Bo Hansson's "Flight to the ford", one of his more accessible instrumentals but actually dominated equally by guitar and keyboards. Van Der Graaf Generator's "White Hammer" represents their "Least we can do" album for this compilation. A decent enough piece, but for me the weakest selection of the six here. "The fountain of Salmacis" is a highly appropriate track from Genesis "Nursery Cryme" album, the wonderful mellotron surges bringing back great memories of that fine album.

It was unusual, even in 1974, to find a compilation which was truly devoted to prog. That the compilers selected just six lengthy tracks, many of which are not what might be described as immediately accessible (normally a pre-requisite for compilations) is to their eternal credit. "Charisma Keyboards" is an essential collection.

Review by Tony Fisher
4 stars This was the album that introduced me to the wonderful world of Genesis during my first year at university, so I remember it with considerable affection. Sadly, my copy disappeared during a house move a few years ago.

All the tracks are from Charisma signed artists and chosen for their keyboard content. The wonderful Fountain of Salamacis does not disappoint in any way but most will know it well, so enough said. America is slightly self indulgent but is basically the version found on Elegy and very good too. Flight to the Ford is a major highlight, being the finest section of Bo Hansson's epic Lord of the Rings. The little known Robert John Godfrey track is interesting but does not quite compare with his later achievements with The Enid. White Hammer shows off some fine organ work from Hugh Banton but suffers from the same problem as most as most VDGG tracks - too long and not consistently composed.

The undoubted star is, however, the amazing track by Rare Bird. This introduced me to them and I have acquired a number of their albums. Not one but two excellent keyboard players (Graham Field and Dave Kaffinetti) swop solos, building in intensity relentlessly. This version is different from any other I have heard, being longer and much better.

Worth buying for that alone, but there is plenty more of merit. 4 tracks reach the criteria for 5* but the VDGG track and the RJ Godfrey track drag it down to a solid 4*. Buy it - if you can find it!!

Review by Dean
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Retired Admin and Amateur Layabout
4 stars A Label Sampler album does what is says on the tin - it is a foretaste of albums released by that label sold cheaply to encourage you to buy the full-length albums, and this one promotes Keyboards as the prime directive. And boy, did it do it well.

I purchased this LP when it came out and looking back 30+ years all of the tracks presented now seem so familiar, yet at the time they were a revelation. Of the six featured artists, I already had two of them for a few years before this sampler was released: VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR and THE NICE - 'White Hammer' will always be one of my favourite VDGG songs, heavy, doom- ridden and dark (though not a particular highlight from 'The Least We Can Do.'). And Keith EMERSON's demented version of 'America' from 'Elergy' was pitched perfectly to this young playground-anarchists heart.

I rushed out and bought two more albums on the strength of hearing the tracks on this LP ('Nursery Cryme' by GENESIS and 'Lord of the Rings' by Bo HANSSON). The GENESIS track 'The Fountain of Salmacis' was my first introduction to Peter GABRIEL's voice and to the wondrous interplay between keyboards and understated guitar that instantly sealed their exalted place in my music collection. Bo HANSSON's 'Flight To The Ford' is a pleasant enough instrumental that happily rips along but now does not quite deliver the foreboding sense of peril and drama that the passsage of the book required, still, I was reading the LOTR at the time and enjoyed the music for what it was.

Back in 1974 the two remaining tracks, from RARE BIRD and Robert John GODFREY, left me cold simply because I didn't care for the vocals that much. Now it is a different story. RARE BIRD's 'As Your Mind Flies By' musically isn't too far removed from GENESIS and the instrumentation is spot on, but it just failed to jell with me until I rediscovered them a couple of years ago and now I kick myself for not latching on to them earlier. Don't make my mistake - you may not be able to find this sampler, but you can give Rare Bird a listen from their other albums (including a pretty good best of collection).

Robert John GODFREY is a different kettle of fish all together. To be fair, the singing on 'Mountains' by Christopher LEWIS is an acquired taste and not one I was ready for. It was only a year later that I discovered The ENID, and returned to this sampler the give RJG a second chance, this time succeeding in hearing past the vocal to the excellent music. But by then it was too late and 'The Fall Of Hyperion' from which this track was lifted was as hard to come by as Hen's Teeth.

By today's standards, this is not a collection of the finest keyboard driven tunes that Charisma had to offer, but when it was released it was an outstanding collection for the money. Obviously this is not an album that will see the light of day on CD, nor does it contain any rare finds that make it a collectors item on vinyl. Yet as a reflection of the importance of The Famous Charisma Label in promoting Keyboard driven Prog Rock it is priceless. On that strength alone this is a 4-star album.

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