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Mort Garson

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Mort Garson The Zodiac - Cosmic Sounds album cover
3.96 | 38 ratings | 6 reviews | 34% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1967

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Aries - The Fire-Fighter (3:17)
2. Taurus - The Voluptuary (3:38)
3. Gemini - The Cool Eye (2:50)
4. Cancer - The Moon Child (3:27)
5. Leo - The Lord Of Lights (2:30)
6. Virgo - The Perpetual Perfectionist (3:05)
7. Libra - The Flower Child (3:28)
8. Scorpio - The Passionate Hero (2:51)
9. Sagittarius - The Versatile Daredevil (2:06)
10. Capricorn - The Uncapricious Climber (3:30)
11. Aquarius - The Lover Of Life (3:45)
12. Pisces - The Peace Piper (3:19)

Total Time 38:25

Line-up / Musicians

- Mort Garson / composer, arranger, conductor
- Cyrus Faryar / narration
- Paul Beaver / Moog, electronic instruments
- Mike Melvoin / keyboards
- Bud Shank / bass flute
- Carol Kaye / bass guitar
- Hal Blaine / drums
- Emil Richards / percussion

Releases information

Composed by Mort Garson, words by Jacques Wilson

Artwork: Abe Gurvin

LP Elektra ‎- EKL-4009 (1967, US) Mono audio
LP Elektra ‎- EKS 74009 (1967, US) Stereo audio
LP Elektra ‎- R1-4009 (2017, US) Mono audio

CD Water - water102 (2002, US)
CD Él ‎- WACMEM333CD (2017, UK)

Note: Since Mort Garson's name is missing from the front cover, The Zodiac has often been misinterpreted as a band name

Thanks to UMUR for the addition
and to NotAProghead for the last updates
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Buy MORT GARSON The Zodiac - Cosmic Sounds Music

MORT GARSON The Zodiac - Cosmic Sounds ratings distribution

(38 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(34%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(32%)
Good, but non-essential (21%)
Collectors/fans only (11%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

MORT GARSON The Zodiac - Cosmic Sounds reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "The Zodiac : Cosmic Sounds" is a collaborative concept album on the theme of the signs of the Zodiac released by Elektra Records in November 1967. The basic idea for the album came from head of Elektra Records Jac Holzman. The idea was fueled by the grand commercial succes of the debut album by The Doors which was also released on Elektra Records.Jac Holzman hired Alex Hassilev (The Limeliters) to produce the album. Alex Hassilev asked Mort Garson, whom he had a production company with, to compose the music for the album and the lyrics were written by Jacques Wilson. Different session musicians were brought in to contribute to the recordings most notably Paul Beaver who played Moog and other electronic instruments and narrator Cyrus Faryar.

According to Alex Hassilev the album was recorded in about four sessions but Cyrus Faryar´s recitation of the poems (the lyrics) and the recording of the moog parts were done at another time and then overdubbed. All parts of the tracks were played/recitated and recorded live though except the moog parts. A rather stressful task for percussionist Emil Richards who according to Hassilev had to run around in the studio to play his many different percussion instruments (according to Richards he owned over 700 diferent ones).

The "The Zodiac : Cosmic Sounds" album is generally considered to be one of the first commercial albums to feature the use of the moog synthesizer. It´s not the first though. But the moog that was used for the recording of the album actually had to be rented as nobody on the US West Coast scene had started to work with the moog yet. Hassilev had heard about the instrument and went to the Audio Engineering Society convention to meet Robert Moog (the inventer of the moog) and to check out the moog. After being very impressed by what he heard, he hired the demonstration model which was the only existing one in that part of the country at the time. The instrument turned out to be quite the challenge though as there were problems with keeping it in tune (the oscillators were unstable and the instrument had to be warmed up before use). So the recording of the moog parts proved difficult.

The music on the album is psychadelic rock with lots of spacy moog sounds, loads of different percussion instruments, West Coast guitar blues rock riffs, Harpsichord and organ. On top of that there´s the recitation of poems by folk singer Cyrus Faryar (whose voice is very similar to the voice of Jim Morrison). There´s no singing on the album only recitation of poems on the theme of the signs of the Zodiac. There´s a mystic aura about the album that some might find cool and others will probably find tacky/kitchy. There are 12 tracks on the album each named after the 12 Zodiac signs and the lyrics (which are rather strange) reflect the theme.

The musicianship on the album is impeccable. It´s easy to hear that these musicians are all experienced session musicians. So don´t expect drug induced sloppy playing. This is psychadelic rock but the musicians behind the project weren´t necessarily into this kind of music. That´s of course a paradox that many will probably complain about and I fully understand the objection but that doesn´t mean I can´t enjoy the music without prejudice.

The sound production is very professional, organic, warm and well sounding. A quality sound production considering the album was recorded in 1967. It´s a great deal more polished than most other psychadelic rock albums of that era, which is probably due to the background history of the album (a pre-fabricated product backed up by a label boss and played by session musicians). If you listen without prejudice, "The Zodiac : Cosmic Sounds" is still quite a great psychadelic rock release with a captivating atmosphere and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars What a trip! A one time studio project by professional studio musicians. A concept album about the signs of the zodiac. There is no singing. All the vocals are narrator Cyrus Faryar reading poems about each sign. The music is generally mid-60s West Coast psych rock. Most of the instrumentation is of it's era: guitars, bass, drums, organ, harpsichord, flute, sitar, tabla, etc. The big exception being the Moog synthesizer. This album features some of the earliest use of Moog in a non-academic field. The Monkees had an album with Moog before this, but it was only used on two songs. The Moog here is played by Paul Beaver of the electronic pioneering duo Beaver & Krause.

Although this is technically "psychedelic" music, it is performed by skilled studio musicians. For 1967 this album sounds great. Better sounding than a Beatles or Doors album from the same year. One of the members of the Moody Blues described this as the first psychedelic album. That statement isn't too far off the mark, but the first psych album was the debut of The 13th Floor Elevators a year before. This is actually one of the first 'proto-prog' albums. A good one too.

"Taurus" has a great bass line done on Moog for the whole song. Not only does this album feature some of the earliest use of synth, but very well the first example of synth bass; long before people like Stevie Wonder and Gary Wright were doing bass lines of synthesizer. With the Moog bass is some nice flute playing. A bass guitar doubles with the Moog bass about halfway through. "Cancer" has great guitar and some trippy Moog sounds. "Scorpio" has marching drums. Also a good riff/melody done on guitar and organ.

Overall a really good proto-prog album. Not something you would want to listen to everyday, but a great artifact from the late 1960s. 3 stars.

Review by Progfan97402
5 stars This album deserves to be in Progarchives. It's a 1967 release, but it sounds actually quite progressive for 1967. Certainly the psychedelic elements are there, but that's to be expected. This is one of those one-off projects consisting of a bunch of L.A. session musicians who played on some major hits from the likes of the Byrds, Beach Boys, Mamas and the Papas, and so on. Also involved is Paul Beaver, responsible for including synths on albums from the Monkees, Simon and Garfunkel ("Save the Life of My Child"), The Turtles ("You Showed Me") and so on. Music written by Jacques Wilson and Canadian expatriate Mort Garson (who released his share of electronic Moog albums up to the mid 1970s). Plus you get Jim Morrison-like narration from Cyrus Faryar.

Unsurprisingly you get twelve cuts on the album, each representing the different sign. Lots of nice keyboards like organ, electric harpsichord, and most of all, the Moog synthesizer. Actually the Moog is more low-key than you usually expect from recordings of this era, Beaver seemed to be using it more for ambient settings. Each of the songs features narration, describing the sign in question. I really love the flute Bud Shank uses on some of the cuts, really magical and trippy, especially on "Virgo".

It seemed British prog rockers loved this album. Elektra did release this album in the UK so at least some of the British public caught on. When I first heard both "Aries" and "Taurus", I was thinking those cuts were familiar. Scottish heavy rock band Writing on the Wall covered "Aries" for their 1969 album The Power of the Picts, and East of Eden borrowed "Taurus" for their "In the Stable of the Sphinx" off Mercator Projected (1969). That's where I heard them, also I was familiar with those albums before I bought Cosmic Sounds.

There are those that consider this album a dated relic, but I think the music is fantastic, so I don't let the dated material bother me any.

Also Mort Garson, inspired by this album, decided to do a 12 LP set called Signs of the Zodiac, each LP assigned to a different sign. Those LPs might be compared to Cosmic Sounds for the subject matter, but it's all electronic, and features narrations from three different people, going in to much further detail on the particular sign, than any given three minute cut on the sign on Cosmic Sounds.

I really don't believe in astrology, some do. What I am concerned was the musical quality of Cosmic Sounds, and the album certainly does not disappoint!

Review by Modrigue
4 stars Cosmic at the time

One of the first releases to feature the Moog, and also one of the first concept albums, "Cosmic Sounds" is a collaborative project realized by multiple professional studio musicians and arrangers. Consisting in twelve short pieces representing the signs of the Zodiac, it features all the various psychedelic elements of the late 60's, and an important usage of keyboards, especially the well-known synthesizer, played by Paul Beaver. Each track is built around small musical patterns and narration interludes pronounced by Cyrus Faryar. The words were written by Jacques Wilson, and, most important, the music was composed by Mort Garson, who will later become one of the Moog's audacious explorers.

True story: the back cover includes the mention "Must Be Played In The Dark"...

The opener "Aries - The Fire-Fighter" is a psychedelic rock typical of the 60's. One of the best passages of the record, very catchy! Then comes "Taurus - The Voluptuary", a soft pastoral ballad, followed by the strange "Gemini - The Cool Eye", displaying various spacey ambiances but a bit uneven. "Cancer - The Moon Child" opens with a mysterious threatening ambiance, to then release furious guitars (at the time). Although "Leo - The Lord Of Lights" is a nice psyché-rock, my personal favorite track is undoubtedly the stellar "Virgo - The Perpetual Perfectionist" is. A perfect (short) trip into the stars!

The trippy meditative "Libra - The Flower Child" uses Indian instruments, whereas the martial "Scorpio - The Passionate Hero" is more oppressive. On the contrary, the weird circus "Sagittarius - The Versatile Daredevil" sounds a little out of place. No the best sign here... Much more mysterious is the sinister ritual "Capricorn - The Uncapricious Climber". The record finishes with the aerial crystalline "Aquarius - The Lover Of Life" and the peaceful melancholic "Pisces - The Peace Piper".

Despite its short tracks and length, the music manages to offer multiple varied atmospheres. For sure, the disc sounds a bit dated now and contains a few weak moments, but the result is very nice, ahead of its time and spacey for 1967. Accessible and not too experimental, "Cosmic Sounds" is a colorful and trippy journey around the Zodiac.

This album will influence other bands, such as MOODY BLUES for their pioneering "Days of Future Passed", usually considered as one of the first progressive record ever. An innovative and historic proto-prog album, and an essential listen for psychedelic and space rock lovers. Cosmic pop from the sixties!

Review by siLLy puPPy
4 stars The 60s, of course, was a time of extreme experimentation. A time in music, when after decades of fairly streamlined music pumping out of studios worldwide, was suddenly let off its leash and became quite en vogue to create imaginative and even compellingly complex concept albums. Inventive developments such as progressive rock were led by the likes of The Mothers Of Invention, Procol Harum, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd and The Beatle's famous "Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Heart Club" album which catapulted experimental rock into the mainstream, however even within these rich and fertile times, a few albums emerged that remained enigmatic and utterly unique even within the creative outbursts that began around 1967 and has been churning on ever since.

Of these musical anomalies that emerged was the collaborative effort called THE ZODIAC : COSMIC SOUNDS which was a collectively constructed concept album about the, you guessed it, 12 astrological signs that represent the ecliptic paths of the planets, sun and moon. It was a clear sign that record companies were becoming more adventurous in their marketing strategies as this musical eccentricity was released on the Elektra label which formerly was known primarily as a catalog for folk recordings and folk rock hybrids such as Love, Judy Colins, Tom Rush and Tim Buckley amongst many others. However, Elektra owner Jac Holzman struck it big by taking a chance on a fledgling new band called The Doors which showed him that risk could indeed be a very profitable endeavor.

THE ZODIAC : COSMIC SOUNDS was unlike anything else of the time period. This was not an album initiated by any particular artist but rather commissioned by Elektra owner Jac Holzman himself who clearly had his fingers on the pulse of the burgeoning flower power hippie movement that gained significant popularity in the Summer of Love and whether you call it psychsploitation or just brilliant marketing, it's pretty much agreed upon that this one fell outside the parameters of pretty much everything else that came out of the era. At first glance, the album art connoted more of a hippie jam sort of album with its gaudy paisley cover art and the back sleeve that advertised in capital purple letters that this album "MUST BE PLAYED IN THE DARK." Add to that the colorful font and overall cosmic vibe, THE ZODIAC : COSMIC SOUNDS really couldn't have come out in any other time than when it did.

Predictably the album is divided into 12 tracks that cover each astrological sign at the beginning stages of the psychedelic rock years where such occult subject matter was becoming quite mainstream in the tune out / drop out counterculture. Musically this was quite unlike anything of the era as well. A queer mix of psychedelic rock and Moog rich keyboard electronica were tenderly teased out into symphonic semi-classical constructs that only The Moody Blues would also engage in on their landmark "Days Of Future Passed" which emerged a mere month later (some claim this album influenced some of the material on that one.) This was truly a collaborative effort with disparate talents finding themselves working together for the first time.

The album was produced by Alex Hassilev who worked with Mort Garson and Jacque Wilson who constructed the 12 tracks. Garson would create all the music while Wilson would create the poetic lyrics that were not sung but rather narrated by Modern Folk Quartet vocalist Cyrus Faryar. While Garson would be the sole writer of the musical aspects, the instruments were performed by some of the 60s top session musicians who were quite prolific on the Los Angeles scene. This included bassist Carol Kaye, drummer Hal Blaine, bass flautist Bud Shank, keyboardist Mike Melvoin, electronic wizard and Moog player Paul Beaver alongside Emil Richards handling the exotic percussion and Cyrus Faryar's often flowery poetic prose. The album floats by on gentle mode with slow tempos and instrumentation that weaves their magic into a greater sum of the parts.

While THE ZODIAC : COSMIC SOUNDS may be completely unlike anything of its era, in a way it's the absolutely perfect representation of where the Western culture especially in the US was at in 1967. Don't bother using Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix or The Mamas and the Papas as your reference to the counterculture hippie movement that emerged at the time. This uncanny collaboration captures the zeitgeist of the peace and love era more than any other album i've heard as it marries the musical ingenuity of what came before and contorts the traditional into a contemporary relevancy that captures society's interest in all things cosmic in a rather naive yet charming manner. While some albums that emerged at the time resonate as timeless classics that don't carry the baggage of their time period, THE ZODIAC : COSMIC SOUNDS is the exact opposite and could not be mistaken for having been released in any other era except the late 60s which it represents perfectly.

While some may find this cheesy and tacky, i find that the naive charm of the goofy lyrics along with the innovative symphonically driven psychedelic rock and electronica takes me like a time portal to the very year it was released. So period dependent is this one that i can easily imagination this as a secondary soundtrack to all those wild days in an Austin Powers movie. The music is as Austin would say, "Groovy, baby!" Yeah, the whole thing sounds a little farfetched and full of itself but that's kinda what the era was all about now, wasn't it? While the album didn't exactly match the success of Elektra's superstars The Doors in terms of sales, it did generate enough interest that would allow Garson and Wilson to expand the idea so that a series of 12 albums would be dedicated to each astrological sign. While that might be overkill for all those except the most hardcore lovers of everything 60s, this one compilation that introduces the idea is refreshingly unique and charmingly delivered.

Review by Matti
4 stars To cite Wikipedia, "The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds is a 1967 collaborative concept album on the theme of the signs of the Zodiac. It was issued by Elektra Records in and featured early use of the Moog synthesizer by Paul Beaver, with music written by Mort Garson, words by Jacques Wilson, and narration by Cyrus Faryar. Instrumentation was provided by members of the Wrecking Crew studio collective".

Since Mort Garson's name didn't exist on the album's front cover, many have misinterpreted it to be an album by a group called The Zodiac. I added this album here in January when I reviewed Pisces from Garson's 12-part album cycle Signs of the Zodiac, which was entirely released in 1969. This 1967 album, Garson's debut as a composer, has a notable historic value as an early concept album and as one of the earliest albums to feature Moog synthesizer in a big role. Like in the mentioned album cycle that practically just expanded the same concept into twelve rather similar-sounding, Moog backed albums, instead of any sung vocals you hear narration on all twelve tracks (named after the Zodiac signs, naturally). Only this time there's just one man, and obviously the narration is a central part of this work too, like it or not.

But luckily compared to the relatively wordier album cycle, the music here is more eclectic, rockier and more upfront. In other words it would certainly work well on its own, purely instrumental without the narration that frankly gets annoying. In fact I bet most of us might prefer it that way. Whereas on the Signs albums the Moog is sovereignly reigning the instrumentation, this album is musically more diverse. The rhythm section, flute, keyboards and exotic percussion are equally essential in music. Due to the innovative use of Moog, the music is admittedly pretty cosmic and SciFi-like, but it is also an interesting product of the Psychedelic Rock era. With proper singers and vocal melodies it would probably be a big classic of the genre. Sadly the narration diminishes the musical appeal of this album.

The 2017 CD edition released in association with Cherry Red Records features a retrospective article. A citation: "The Moody Blues claimed that Cosmic Sounds inspired them to create their iconic Days of Future Passed, while countercultural pirate radio DJ John Peel stated that the album was instrumental in ushering in the Age of Aquarius; using it extensively on his influential Perfumed Garden programme." If I'm not mistaken, the excellent session musicians of the Wrecking Crew collective -- who played on several classic albums by e.g. Simon & Garfunkel and Beach Boys -- weren't even named on the original LP release. Bassist Carol Kaye, drummer Hal Blaine and others are also dealt with in the article. Garson died of renal failure in San Francisco in 2008.

(Originally posted in April 20, 2023, to a duplicate album page: I had no idea this album already existed in the Various Artists section, from where it was now edited to the Mort Garson page.)

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