Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography



Prog Folk

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Ptarmigan Ptarmigan album cover
3.39 | 27 ratings | 9 reviews | 11% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

Write a review

from partners
Studio Album, released in 1974

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Rise (0:24)
2. Go Dancing (5:16)
3. The Island: Intro (1:58)
4. The Island: Préambule (0:37)
5. The Island: Main Theme (6:29)
6. Vancouver: Reflections (2:54)
7. Vancouver: The City (2:39)
8. Night of the Gulls: On the Water (0:51)
9. Night of the Gulls: On the Wind (3:10)
10. An Hymn to the Ocean & the Great Northern Lake: Ocean Song (6:17)
11. An Hymn to the Ocean & the Great Northern Lake: Afternoon Rain (0:48)
12. Coquihalla (10:02)
Bonus tracks:
13. Chimborazo (live) (7:04)
14. Chimborazo (studio) (1:38)

Total Time 50:07

Line-up / Musicians

- Glen Dias / lead vocals, alto, tenor & bass recorders, incidental percussion, shaker (13)
- Monte Nordstrom / vocals (lead 10-11,13), 12-string guitar
- Dave Field / acoustic bass
- Richard Mayer / electric bass (3-5)
- Kat Hendrikse / drums
- Peter Wheeler / hand drums
- Paul Horn / percussion

- Jim Shain / guitar & PhoTron (14)
- Barry Dayman / flute & mandolin (14)
- Dave Rowse / saxophone (14)
- Raymond Bruvold / bass (14)
- Michael Bleling / congas (14)

Releases information

Artwork by Glen Dias
Recorded in 1972

LP Columbia #ES90257 Can (1974)
CD Monte Nordstrom (1999) (2 bonus tracks)
CD Lion Productions (2006) (slightly altered tracklisting)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy PTARMIGAN Ptarmigan Music

More places to buy PTARMIGAN music online

PTARMIGAN Ptarmigan ratings distribution

(27 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(11%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(26%)
Good, but non-essential (59%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

PTARMIGAN Ptarmigan reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by loserboy
3 stars PTARMIGAN were a Psychedelic Folk Progressive rock band from Vancouver Canada who released a genuine beautiful album in 1974. PTARMIGAN's debut album resonates with a highly unique charm and character with very few true comparisons. Without a question there is a strong Native North American Indian feeling to this album with flute, hand drums and lots of acoustic guitar. Line up included Monte Nordstrom : vocals, 12 string guitar, Kat Hendrikse : drums, Dave Field : acoustic bass, Richard Mayer : electric bass, Glen Dias : lead vocal, alto, tenor & bass recorder, incidental percussion and Peter Wheeler : hand drums. Overall album is quietly psychedelic with some great songs and a semi-haunting nature to them. Vocals are soft and well done and generally sung in harmony. No rock out here, this is one of those "back to nature" albums and a great one to get lost in.
Review by Sean Trane
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!

As usual James beat me to the review but this time by more than a year. For those not familiar with 70's Canadian prog , most of it comes from Quebec and apart from Toronto (Rush , Saga, FM ) that pretty well sums it up! Really? No! Actually coming from the werstern part of the country are two gems/pearls: Vancouver's The Collectors (two superb psych/prog albums in between Vanilla Fudge and the Moody Blues - I am lobbying for their inclusion in the Archives) and the this album album from Ptarmigan (also from British Columbia) .

This album has got a very undescribable feel of freedom and ethereal beauty all the way through the tracks and no other album comes close to this. Highly original, slightly shamanistic/mystic , very acoustic , hauntingly beautyfull (the perfect album to get in the mood with the partner), this is definitely of of those lost treasure/hidden gem from the 70's that makes life worthy when you discover this some 30 years later. There is also a very indefinite Amerindian feel to this music but not quite the same as you would find in Chilean group Los Jaivas. Loaded with flutes, and long cosmic/mystic chants, this album is to rank with Comus as tops in the Folk-Prog category.

Thank you James (I find your rating quite severe) , thank you ProgArchives, thank you Ptarmigan. Life is beautyfull .

Review by Heptade
3 stars A nice acid-folk album from British Columbia with a pretty big reputation among collectors. Ptarmigan were obviously globe-trotting hippies, and they must have spent some time in South America. There's a strong influence of Andean music on this record, particularly in the recorder playing, as well as touches of English hippie folk bands like Forest, Comus and the ISB, and a west coast U.S. psyche influence. The influences blend well, but the record does have an unfocussed's a bit jammy, and trippy but not really transcendant. The pieces are not really all that memorable, and the intensity level doesn't really change all the way through. The vocals are strong but a bit overdramatic for my liking, and they have a dated Haight- Ashbury feel to them. Having said all that, the record is a very pleasant listen, just more background music to me. There's nothing wrong with it, and it's very well-executed acoustic music. Still, it's an acid/psych folk essential for collectors of the genre.
Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars To put this album in historical context it’s kind of interesting to note that it was recorded at Mushroom Studios in Vancouver around the same time Terry Jacks mastered his one-hit single “Seasons in the Sun” and Bachman Turner Overdrive was “Takin’ Care of Business”, and a couple years before the Wilson sisters made the studio really famous when they recorded the Heart album ‘Dreamboat Annie’ there. But like the Jacks and BTO records this one sat on the shelf for a while, then was eventually released by Columbia of Canada in 1974. Unfortunately neither the band nor the album lasted very long, and until the guitar half of this duo remastered the album and reissued it on his Groovedigger Records label in 1999 the only way to get this was in the form of pirated copies of an eighties German bootleg version.

The remastering was apparently a success, but then again how would one know for sure unless they were one of the very few who holds an original vinyl copy? Anyway there are no noticeable flaws in the quality of this CD reissue, and there are even a couple of bonus tracks at the end.

This is very difficult music to classify, especially since it basically consists of a 12-string acoustic guitar, a recorder, and a couple guys singing. There are a handful of studio musicians who add drums, bass and percussion, but that’s about it. The rhythms here are mostly of a jazz nature with faint Eastern sensibilities, probably due to the production by jazz flautist Paul Horn. While some think the band was influenced by North American native Indian music, I think it’s more likely that Horn had an impact on the band. They had spent time touring with him even before these studio sessions, and Horn had spent some time in the late sixties in India, Kashmir and Egypt absorbing those sounds and releasing some eclectic jazz recordings from that period. The duo had also spent a summer touring Canada with mysterious guitarist the late Lenny Breau, whose Spanish-influenced acoustic picking was an influence on the complex style of Chet Atkins. This is kind of interesting because one of my sons is a guitarist and a huge Atkins fan, and I have heard some of the same type of introspective, noodling picking coming out of his room from time to time.

There’s a mix of styles here, beginning with the opening “Go Dancing” that reminds me quite a bit of pre- Tractor album ‘The Way We Live’. Harmonizing duos, soft but lumbering acoustic guitar, and vaguely spiritual lyrics. This is more folk than progressive, but a very pleasant period piece from the early seventies that’s easy on the ears.

The three-part “The Island” mixes multiple overdubbed recorders with hand drums and strumming guitar rather than picking for the most part. This one is quite dated-sounding and mildly psychedelic, and here the Eastern influence is most obvious in the finger-cymbal percussion and brooding acoustic bass. The vocals are surprising like the In the Labyrinth, a longstanding project from the Swedish Peter Lindahl, a guy who himself has spent considerable time in India and the Middle East absorbing the complex and irregular tempos of those regions. The lyrics are again somewhat spiritual; although mystic might be a better term. Like I said this is a dated sound, but those of us who seek out these old forgotten gems will find it very tasty indeed.

And I don’t know what it is about the city of Vancouver, but it seems like an awful lot of the music that comes from that area is very subdued, quietly meditative, and far removed from traditional rock sounds. The two-part tribute “Vancouver” fits that description, although the second part picks up the pace and seems to explore the seedier side of the town’s inhabitants. Again there are multiple recorder tracks, and an alternating picking/strumming style on guitar that could be compared a little bit to Robbie Basho.

The two-part “Night of the Gulls” is all about the 12-string, with Nordstrom vacillating between picking and almost imperceptible improvisational wandering that was undoubtedly encouraged and influenced by Horn.

Finally the two-part “An Hymn to the Ocean & the Great Northern Lake” is pure Northwestern Canadian airy folk with a hint of psychedelica and again very jazz-influenced tempos and percussion.

“Coquihalla” is the last track from the original album and I guess this lengthy instrumental is a tribute to the British Columbian highway of the same name that winds its way through the Cascade Mountains and was a major hub of activity during the boom of oil exploration in the North during the sixties and beyond. If the music is meant to evoke the serene mood and natural beauty of the country through which that highway runs then I would say the group hit the nail squarely, as one can get lost in this song and lose track of time and space altogether while listening to it. Easily the best composition on the album.

The CD bonus tracks are a bit rougher mix than the remastered CD, and include saxophone, mandolin and what sounds like some electric guitar. These are rather forgettable but may be of interest to fans of the band or those interested in obscure bonus tracks that often get included on reissues such as this. The overall arrangement of these tracks is more like an almost-scat freeform jazz, and doesn’t really fit with the rest of the tracks.

Overall this is quite an interesting album to listen to for the first few times as one doesn’t really know what to expect of these guys, and their history and the liner notes don’t shed much light. But the reissue makes this more accessible than it would have been a few years ago, and for prog folk fans this one is worth checking out. Four stars and well recommended.


Review by kenethlevine
3 stars Vancouver, and, by extension, the beautiful province of British Columbia (BC), Canada, has been discovered and re-discovered many times in its history, both before its entry into Canada in 1871 and after. I made a personal acquaintance in 1980 as a tourist, but its resurgence after the Expo 86 world fair boosted the economy such that it actually became possible to find work and a laid back lifestyle to go with it, and there I lived from 1988-1996. Hence this semi-precious jewel from the prehistoric days is of particular interest to me.

PTARMIGAN's sole recorded output is loosely dedicated to BC at a time when it was the province of the few chosen ones, but the inspiration for the dreamy vocal and woodwind passages and the hypnotically strummed guitars is readily apparent. The sense of isolation from the rest of the continent is profound in the introspection of the lyrics and every spare note wrenched from these idealistic musicians. Granted there was little space for this type of exploration in 1972 unless you were in Quebec, but I suspect Ptarmigan would have been a one-off anyway, as this disc comes off as a bit of a cathartic project for the benefit of its participants, while still being anywhere from slightly to mightily entertaining.

A ptarmigan is actually a common northern Canadian bird in the grouse family that was overexposed in the little television interludes from the Canadian Wildlife Service in the 1970s. Clearly the same fate did not await the group, but I do recall hearing some of their album after the fact, although the where and when remain shrouded in the haze of youth. Ultimately the album succeeds best in song format, in their tributes to Vancouver Island and the city of Vancouver, in which they take on a persona truly their own. The vocals are highly emotive yet oddly trance-like. "Go Dancing" is a bit too west coast for my tastes, like JEFFERSON AIRPLANE meets the YOUNGBLOODS, but you may enjoy that. Native American sounding flutes and spoken parts conjure better known artists who appeared decades later like JERRY ALFRED AND THE MEDICINE BEAT, But when the group goes for the more improvisational sounds akin to early TULL or nigh krautrock on "A Hymn to the Ocean..." and the interminable closer "Coquihalla" that they reveal their inability to break out of a fairly narrow emotional and musical range, even when the alterations should be drastic.

Ptarmigan's sole and short flight (these types of birds don't fly too well anyway) is nothing to pump your wings over, but if you have a penchant for the laid back and meditative style with little more than flutes, acoustic guitars, vocals and percussion, then you could do worse than flush one of these from its hiding place.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is an obscure, very hard to find gem from a short-lived band from British Columbia. The Folk foundations with the classic multi-part male harmonies and acoustic (lute-sounding) guitars are brought into Renaissance world by multiple hand percussives and recorders (as well as the lute sound of Monte Nordstrom's guitars). What earns this its "prog" inclusion is its European and Indian classical music influences and California psychedelia sound (and lyrics) as well as its use of electric bass--all possibly due to the influence of the album's producer, world jazz pioneer, Paul Horn. This album is truly a wonderful musical excursion with some quite complex, shifting and evolving song structures performed quite tightly. Though each song or suite of songs can be listened to in isolation, I prefer to hear the album in one continuous play. Despite the continuous high consistency throughout, there are highlights, most due to either the beautiful two- and three-part male vocal harmonies and the interesting and diverse styles of guitar playing, but also from the floating, hypnotic psychedelic feel of the California hippy and Native American influences.

1. "Rise" (0:24) 2. "Go Dancing" (5:16) one of those extraordinarily beautiful, haunting songs that once heard can never be unheard. The vocal melodies and harmonies as well as the interplay of 12-string guitars and recorders and percussives are astounding. (10/10)

3. "The Island" (9:01) (19.5/20) "Intro" (1:58) dobro-like guitar with recorder "Préambule" (0:37) beautiful "White Rabbit"-like motif "Main Theme" (6:29) what an amazingly beautiful and powerful lead vocal from Glen Dias while Monte Nordstrom proves all his worth on the guitar tracks.

6. "Vancouver" (4:30) (9.75/10) "Reflections" (2:54) solo guitar with reverbed solo male vocal of the power and presence of JESSE COLIN YOUNG or JAMES MORRISON. Ends with flute before: "The City" (2:39) guitar, bass and percussives burst forth, pushing Glen's lead vocals into the back. Two tracks of recorders take over the lead as rhythm section swirls and whirls in support, never letting up, never waning in powerful encirclement.

8. "Night of the Gulls" (11:01) a beautiful study in spaciousness and ocean-like emotion. (18.5/20) "Night of the Gulls: On the Water" (0:51) wooden flute over creaky dock sounds. "Night of the Gulls: On the Wind" (3:10) solo guitar of a classical styling. "An Hymn to the Ocean & The Great Northern Lake: Ocean Song" (6:17) 12-string guitar strumming JOHN McLAUGHLIN-style while bass, percussives and voice of Monte Nordstrom sings, then flute takes over. Flute and vocal sections alternate as tempest and tension rise and fall several times. "An Hymn to the Ocean & The Great Northern Lake: Afternoon Rain" (0:48) tension-filled arpeggio slow-picked by the guitar while a breathy low flute lays down the end of this epic.

12. "Coquihalla (10:02) opens with interesting 12-string guitar riffs soon accompanied by full rock band rhythm section as well as a second guitar and soprano recorder. Turns very jazzy in a kind of Coltrane-kind of way in the second minute. As a matter of fact, the bass, second guitar, drum kit and bowed double bass support feel very rooted in jazz musician approaches and instrumentation.

At 3:20 a kind of classical acoustic guitar section begins over which Amerindian flute plays. DEMETRIO STRATOS-like vocal improvisations join in, taking over for the flute, before unleashing another jazzy classical guitar solo section. Fans of LEO KOTTKE, TOM RUSH, JOHN FAHEY, or even STEVE TIBBETTS will love this. (18.5/20)

Total Time: 50:07

Five stars; a beautiful, intricate masterpiece of progressive rock music with a psychedelic world folk bent to it.

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja
2 stars Happy Canada Day everyone! To celebrate, I've decided to review a long lost Canadian gem: the British Columbian one-shot "Ptarmigan".

There's no doubt that the west coast lives by the beat of a different drum from the rest of North America; the Vancouver SkyTrain, for example has signs that direct passengers to the "way out", as opposed to the "exit". So there's some important cultural context to be considered in how this album came about. "Ptarmigan" is a roots-heavy mix of folk, jazz and psychedelic styles. The album is very loosely structured, with a lot of sparse jamming, and the mood evoked is akin to a damp, overcast afternoon in a mountainous northern rainforest, overlooking a vast fjord. If you ever google streetview the town of Prince Rupert, that's a pretty good visual analog for the sounds you'll hear, though "Ptarmigan" is very primordial in its spirit, hinting more heavily at scenes of nature.

The performances, both vocal and instrumental, are fine. There's nothing overtly offensive on the record, though some of the vocal harmonies can brim with eastern influences and may sound odd to certain ears. My main problem with the album is that the pace is a bit slow for me, even given the inspiration. The first side mostly falls flat but the ending piece, "Coquihala", an extended jazzy escapade with some of the more active percussion on the album, is quite good.

"Ptarmigan" straddles the range between 2 and 3 stars, having some fine moments but nothing spectacular. In all, I give this remote Canadian landscape 2 stars, not because it's of poor quality, but because I feel that the appeal would be limited to a particular sort of listener. A fine recommendation for those looking for some meditative listening.

Latest members reviews

3 stars Folk music from Canada, but not like most other bands I have heard. Their sound is a bit weird, to start with. Simon & Garfunkel gone on a tour to the planet Jupiter is what springs to mind. The sound is also pretty dark and spaced out. Space Folk Rock ? That is probably the best label. The ... (read more)

Report this review (#305252) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Monday, October 18, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars It's not hard for me to say this album is far from the best of the Prog Folk genre. But it is something extremely hypnotizing into the songs and an almost psych style which sustains the tracks of this one-album band. There's some kind of catharsis implict along the tracks of Ptarmigan's songs wh ... (read more)

Report this review (#302253) | Posted by progadicto | Tuesday, October 5, 2010 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of PTARMIGAN "Ptarmigan"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.