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Secret Oyster

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Secret Oyster Vidunderlige Kælling [Aka: Astarte] album cover
3.29 | 44 ratings | 5 reviews | 14% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Intro (2:10)
2. Stjernerne pa gaden (The stars in the street) (5:41)
3. Sirenerne (The sirens) (5:03)
4. Astarte (6:28)
5. Solitude (4:07)
6. Tango-bourgeoise (2:47)
7. Bellevue (3:20)
8. Valse du soir (1:55)
9. Outro (5:06)

Total time: 36:39

Bonus tracks on 2006 CD release:
10. Sleep Music (6:12)
11. Circus Sax (4:42)
12. Intro To Act II (0:50)

Line-up / Musicians

- Claus Bøhling / guitar, sitar
- Kenneth Knudsen / piano, electric piano, Moog & String synths
- Karsten Vogel / alto & soprano saxes, String synth
- Jess Staehr / bass
- Ole Streenberg / drums, percussion, accordion

- Keld Jensen / mandolin (8)
- Palle Mikkelborg / String synth & trumpet (6)
- Kasper Winding / percussion (3,7)

Releases information

Music composed for a ballet written by Flemming Flindt and Knud Poulsen.

Artwork: Jørn Freddie (photo of Danish dancer Vivi Flindt "dressed" as Astarte goddess)

LP CBS ‎- CBS 81044 (1975, Denmark)
LP CBS ‎- 81208 (1976, Denmark) Retitled "Astarte"

CD The Laser's Edge ‎- LE 1045 (2006, US) With 3 bonus tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SECRET OYSTER Vidunderlige Kælling [Aka: Astarte] ratings distribution

(44 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(14%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
Good, but non-essential (32%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (5%)

SECRET OYSTER Vidunderlige Kælling [Aka: Astarte] reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
2 stars 2,5 stars really!!

The double title is because again this album came under different titles. The second part of the title is the unpronounceable name of the BALLET (?!?!) for which the music was created for. Coming with a particularly hideous naked "female" dancer as an artwork, Astarte is the only Secret Oyster album this writer has not picked from the newly remastered SO discography by the excellent Laser's Edge label, so it should give you an idea as how it sits with me. Apparently Astarte and Krakenhaus were recorded simultaneously and there were confusion as to which album they were working on a given night. If Astarte might give this impression, I don't think Krankenhaus actually suffered from this duality or schizophrenia

IMHO, this was a big failure at least certainly so, without seeing the full ballet. Although, the line-up is still the same classic one, they sound like they are trying too hard to sound inspired while not being at all. Many of the tracks are thematic regarding French "joie de vivre", but they sound too shallow, especially with the use/abuse of the Moog. Only one track stands out: Sirens. The rest is lame and tame especially if you know how hard they rock on other albums.

Many progheads will probably disagree with me talking of great reflective and contemplative moods and climates, but those are all lost on me. I think that the musicians sound bored and are not being able to express themselves as the ballet creative reins are too tight for their energy to spill out on wax.

Review by Philo
4 stars Secret Oyster already had Straight To The Krankenhaus in the can when the got commissioned to write the music for the ballet performance Vidunderlige Kælling. Being commissioned to write any piece of music can be challenging at the best of times, but music for a ballet? That is surely a test. The Secret Oyster's two early albums were adventurous wild progressive fusion and at times was wildly untamed. Scoring the music for a ballet would bring the band to a discipline. And Vidunderlige Kælling is a disciplined album, not too say boring or dull, but the musicians have grown together and writing in a more structured manner. Still, much of the tracks are open ended and adventurous making the most of the talents at this Danish bands disposal. The music on the album is vivid and engaging but does take a few listens to appreciate. "Stjernerne", the second song in the set is hewn from the same rock as the darker passages on the as then unreleased Straight To The Krankenhaus. Dark, moody and expressive and it highlights the excellent electric piano and layered synthesizer work of Kenneth Knudsen, often overshadowed by his band mates, guitarist Claus Bøling and horn player Karsten Vogel. "Sirene" is classic looping and hypnotic Secret Oyster while "Astarte" sees the band throwing in some eastern influence with Claus Bøling's sitar giving added depth to the quick paced mood. Unfortunately "Tango- Bourgoise" is just not as exciting or inspiring, but since I have not seen the ballet I can't say for sure if this tune is completely useless! Though it does serve as a quirky moment if nothing else. And for much of the rest of the album Secret Oyster play a typical high level and intensity, Bøling's guitar sound is wide and controlled with a superb tone, no more so than on the funky "Bellevue", think Blow By Blow era Jeff Beck, but the highlight of the album has to be the five minute plus album ender "Outro" with some cool sax playing from Vogel with a neat groove laid down by the rhythm section of bassist Jess Stæhr and drummer Ole Streenberg which allows the rest of the band to solo and fall free all over the space they create on the track. Plus the fact that there is a naked lady on the album cover makes this a very attractive proposition for any fans of the jazz rock fusion thing.
Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Errors and Omissions Team
2 stars Oh, second track, "St..wait a minute...jernerme, no...jernerne Pa Gaden" sounds quite like ambient, well, sound. Right after listening this I found out that it was meant to be a ballet. That explains a lot, but it would be very extraordinary performance at times, as shown in "Sirenerne-Astarte" (I remember Adeptus Astartes from Warhammer 40k, maybe it's connected). And by EO I mean not usual, not great. Problem of this album is its colour. It's gray one, you almost don't know about it. Now transfer this to musical world and you get basic info about this record. Sometimes (again "SA" track for example) sounds more like indo/raga, mostly for its last minutes. "Solitude" ? If you ask me, it's silent piano solo.

I really want to tell more about music here, but there's nothing to tell about. "Tango Bourgoisie" sounds like generic tango song, even with this piano thing at the end of parts).

2(+), quiet music with little bit of rock at the end

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Vidunderlige Kælling is the 3rd full-length studio album by Danish jazz/ fusion act Secret Oyster. "Vidunderlige Kælling" translates into "Wonderful Bitch". The album was made specifically and on request for a ballet of the same name starring one of the greatest Danish female ballet dancers at the time Vivi Flindt ( it´s Vivi posing naked on the cover of the album). The ballet was created by her husband Flemming Flindt who was at the time artistic director of the Royal Danish Ballet. It was Flemming Flindt who contacted Secret Oyster to see if the band were interested in composing music for the ballet, which they certainly were. Sax player Karsten Vogel explains in the CD booklet, that not only was it a great artistic challenge but also an offer they couldn´t refuse, simply because they were offered a good paycheck, which was something they weren´t used to. The ballet went on to become a big success ( probably in part because Vivi Flindt and several of the other dancers were naked in their scenes. Denmark was already back then a very liberal country when it came to nudity, but still!), but Karsten Vogel says that the experience didn´t live up to the band´s expectations. The original album contained 9 tracks while the 2005 Laser´s Edge re-issue features 3 bonus tracks. All tracks were written for and used in the ballet except the bonus track Circus Sax. The scene in the ballet where that song was supposed to be used was cut. The music was recorded so the band were not present during the ballet performances.

The music on Vidunderlige Kælling was composed simultaniously with the tracks that would make up the 4th full-length studio album by Secret Oyster called Straight To The Krankenhaus (1977), but it´s obvious when listening to Vidunderlige Kælling, that the music they wrote for the ballet was meant for a more structured setting than the band´s usually more jamming approach. There are also more classical influences in the music than usual. The quiet and melancholic Solitude and the tango Tango-bourgeoise are also quite different from the band´s usual style. The majority of the music still sound unmistakably like Secret Oyster though just a bit less jamming. This means jazz/ fusion of the highest caliber. Weather Report is the most obvious reference, but Secret Oyster have a guitarist in the lineup which gives them a different sound from that band. But there are other similarities. The music is fully instrumental and while there are guitar soloing in the bands music and a strong rythm section it´s sax player Karsten Vogel and keyboard player Kenneth Knudsen that are mostly in focus. The latter one really shines on this album.

The production is excellent and warm. Perfect for the music.

Vidunderlige Kælling is a great album by Secret Oyster and it fully showcases the incredible talent and compositional range within the band. A 3.5 - 4 star rating is deserved.

Review by HolyMoly
4 stars Danish jazzy prog band Secret Oyster released this, their third album, in 1975. Although it functions primarily as a piece of music commissioned to accompany a dance piece, it stands on its own as an excellent album as well. It shows the band expanding its stylistic reach, moving beyond the energetic but somewhat predictable jazz rock shown on their first two albums, into an area more concerned with melodies than riffs.

"Intro" is an instrumental theme stated with electric piano/synth arpeggios, played at a lively tempo but with a drifting airiness about the piece. After two minutes, it fades out and gives way to "Stjernerne pa Gaden", a dark atmospheric piece underpinned by synthesizers and featuring some really expressive lead Moog work as well as thick strands of lead guitar. This track sounds a lot like the long drone intro to Pink Floyd's "Shine on You Crazy Diamond", and it nearly matches that piece in its quiet intensity. Finishing the first side is a pair of segued-together masterpieces, "Sirenerne" and "Astarte", making up 12 minutes of the finest music this band ever produced. "Sirenerne" begins with an arpeggiated 5/4 theme played on electric guitar and doubled on electric piano (arpeggiated themes are a favored compositional device with these guys), with Karsten Vogel blowing some delicate sax on top. The piece then lurches into a new theme, full-band this time, and oh-so-funky. Vogel and guitarist Claus Boling play some unison leads in between the funky beats, before the whole band returns triumphantly to the original arpeggio theme, with Boling taking an emotional, all-too-brief guitar solo, and the song ends in a synthesized whoooossshhhhh.... and in comes "Astarte". This functions as an Eastern drone piece, with an ostinato descending guitar figure repeating throughout, with a bass drone, as Vogel wails on soprano over the top, joined in spots with more lovely Moog playing, and a generous amount of sitar flying in and out of the mix. This drifting mantra will carry you above the clouds.

The second side is much more erratic. "Solitude" opens the side with a very slow, sad, piano ballad - the kind of understated beauty only hinted at on their first two albums. It may have some keyboard overdubs, but essentially it's completely solo - in the dance production, this number was probably used during a sad and lonely bit. Then things get a little bizarre for the next three tracks, which barely sound like Secret Oyster at all. "Tango Bourgeoisie" is an insistent march, with an almost comical synth/piano theme played over the martial rhythm. Not bad, but definitely an oddity in their recorded output. "Bellevue" brings us a little closer to safety, a funky instrumental (I swear there's even a "human beat box" segment in there, though I'm sure the band would deny this) similar to "Sirenerne" but not as compelling. "Valse du Soir" gives us another atypical piece, this time just a brief, slow waltz with an accordion playing the lead. The action in this part of the dance production probably included people sitting in a French cafe wearing berets. Finally, "Outro" brings us a fleshed out version of the "Intro" that opened the album, and this time its optimistic theme is given more room to breathe, and thus ends the album on a high note.

Despite a couple of weirdo tracks which don't really do much for the album (they're mainly specific to the dance production, and not Secret Oyster tracks per se), this is still my second favorite album by them (after Straight to the Krankenhaus, see my review of that one). The high points of the album (all of side one, "Solitude", and the "Outro") are among the best pieces they ever did. Recommended to fans of instrumental 70s prog (particularly Camel fans, as they have a similar vibe at times) and people who like their jazz rock melodic and a bit different.

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