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GLASS TOP COFFIN

Ramases

Prog Folk


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Ramases Glass Top Coffin album cover
3.54 | 15 ratings | 4 reviews | 20% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

Side 1
1. Golden Landing (6:05)
2. Long, Long Time (5:16)
3. Now Mona Lisa (2:59)
4. God Voice (3:18)
5. Mind Island (4:37)
6. Only the Loneliest Feeling (3:01)
Side 2
7. Sweet Reason (5:48)
8. Stepping Stones (4:30)
9. Saler Man (5:06)
10. Children Of The Green Earth (3:31)
11. Glass Top Coffin (4:02)
12. Golden Landing (Part II) (2:23)

Total Time: 50:36

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Ramases and Sel / lead vocals & acoustic guitars
- Jo Romero / acoustic & electric guitars, tablas
- Pete Kingsman / electric & string bass
- Roger Harrison / drums and tuned percussion
- Barry Kirsch / piano, synthesizer
- Colin Thurston / bass (2)
- Kay (Garner), Sue (Glover) & Sunny (Leslie) (The Eddie Lester Chorale) / backing vocals (Sue and Sunny were from the Brotherhood Of Man)
- Bon Bertles (of Nucleus) / saxophone
- Members of the Royal Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras / orchestra
- Rob Young / orchestral arrangements

Releases information

LP Vertigo 6360 115 UK-1975

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Complete DiscographyComplete Discography
Storm Vox Records 2014
Audio CD$27.34
$56.52 (used)
Space HymnsSpace Hymns
Extra tracks · Import
Repertoire 2004
Audio CD$8.90
$19.37 (used)
Glass Top CoffinGlass Top Coffin
Import
Esoteric 2010
Audio CD$10.71
$26.82 (used)
Street Sweep EPStreet Sweep EP
Netweight
Vinyl$16.89 (used)
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RAMASES Glass Top Coffin ratings distribution


3.54
(15 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(20%)
20%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
47%
Good, but non-essential (20%)
20%
Collectors/fans only (13%)
13%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

RAMASES Glass Top Coffin reviews


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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars Martin Raphael aka the reincarnated Pharaoh known as Ramases, seems to have both refined his musical talents and toned down his astral-religious message for this, his second and final album. Well, the message is still pretty out-there, but it’s either more restrained now or the quality of the music just makes it more palatable. Either way, this is a pretty different record than his ‘Space Hymns’ debut, most notably thanks to the absence of the quartet of backing musicians who had gone on to fame and fortune as the band 10cc in the four years since ‘Space Hymns’ released.

But there’s still plenty of name-dropping associated with this record. The late Colin Thurston plays bass here on the eve of his big breaks as studio producer for Iggy Pop (‘Lust for Life’) and David Bowie (‘Heroes’). Sue Glover and Sunny Leslie (Brotherhood of Man) provide backing vocals, and Bob Bertles of the jazz group Nucleus plays saxophone. But most notable is the orchestral accompaniment courtesy of the Royal Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras. So instead of Godley and Creme’s pop sensibilities accentuating Ramases’ bizarre post-hippy madness, there is a bevy of strings lending the songs an air of sophistication. For the most part it works.

Some of Ramases' other musical tendencies are still evident here though, including layered guitar chord changes caked with repetitive, pseudo-spiritual chanted backing vocals on tunes like “God Voice”, “Sweet Reason” and “Stepping Stones” that hearken back to so many late sixties communal hippie bands like Comfortable Chair, Sapphire Thinkers or even the Mamas & the Papas. There’s also a persistent perception that these two are actually serious about their odd metaphysical message, which tends to give songs like “Golden Landing” and the title track an air of naivety.

But overall this is mostly another excellent though obscure seventies space/pop record that just happens to have an added dimension to it because of the very odd man who made most of the music here. Raphael was reportedly very upset with the final packaging with its gatefold opening to a space scene showing a bird that seems to be a cross between a pterodactyl and a mythical phoenix. He wanted the cover (which showed a profile of a man falling into a star cluster) die-cut so it would open to reveal the man being one small part of the larger bird. This would have been similar to his first album cover with its Roger Dean cover that showed a space ship launching but opened to a spectacular three-fold liner that revealed the ship being the steeple of cosmic church.

Whatever Martin Raphael aka Barrington Frost aka Ramases believed and whatever his agenda might have been, he did have an undeniably good ear for a catchy musical hook and seemed to also have enough connections in the business to engage talented collaboration on both of his records. He also didn’t seem to mind adopting aspects of popular contemporary music into his own, while still retaining an overall space-rock-meets-the-Moonies vibe. This is the kind of record that will quickly grow on you as long as you don’t take it too seriously and aren’t looking for technical sophistication.

The story behind this record, coming four years after his 10cc-backed and very engaging debut, is that Mr. Raphael and his wife (by now renamed Sel) had finally found a way back home to their place in the cosmos and were putting this record out as a farewell message to the world. I’m just jaded enough, and remember the seventies well enough, to think this whole gig could have just been a hoax that took on a life of its own and was never corrected by the label or musicians themselves because it suited their needs. Sort of like the whole Klaatu/Beatles thing. If so this sort of backfired with Ramases since the album sank like a stone on release and the guy was never heard from again.

But anyway, what’s here is pretty decent and I like to play it. This was a very late discovery for me (as in – this year), because I’d never heard of this guy back in the seventies, and probably wouldn’t have liked his music then even if I had heard it. Playing it today evokes a little bit of a nostalgic feeling as the sound here is very firmly rooted in the seventies.

The album opens with “Golden Landing”, a track that shows Selkat’s vocal dynamics have improved considerably since their first record. The stoned monotone is largely gone, and while she doesn’t have great range, the sound works well with the communal harmonized backing singers and gentle string arrangement. Raphael comes in with a sort of Harry Nilsson thing going on, except without Mr. Nilsson’s range. There are actually hints of a mainstream sound in the spacey composition, and these emerge at times on subsequent tracks as well.

Such as with “Long, Long Time” where Raphael unintentionally nails exactly what the late Roy Orbison would have sounded like with orchestral string backing. Also much in the vein of Orbison, this appears to be a love song of sorts from Ramases to Selkat, but in true Ramases fashion the strings morph at the end to a “Space Oddity”-like arrangement that seems meant to represent the two of them flying off into space for home.

Raphael was a guy who had a different view of the world, and who also knew how to turn a phrase when it came to song lyrics. “Now Mona Lisa” is one of the more unusual examples of both these qualities. Musically the song is pretty simple with acoustic guitar, bass and piano in a fairly innocuous arrangement, and with Raphael and Selkat engaged in call-response vocal interplay. But the subject matter is apparently the Mona Lisa painting and the wants, needs, desires and aspirations she may have had in life. This is one of those tunes whose genesis was clearly formed in a haze of smoke, but it has charming qualities that make for fun listening more than thirty years later.

Bob Bertles (Nucleus) shows up on “Mind Island” with gentle saxophone to accent Raphael’s meandering vocals telling of experiences on a ‘mental island’ he finds himself on. This is one of the tracks that doesn’t work so effectively; or may have in the seventies and simply hasn’t aged well. “Only the Loneliest Feeling” falls into the same category only here Selkat is singing and there’s a preview of the kind of disjointed cello bowing that Efrim Menuck would reintroduce with Godspeed You! Black Emperor twenty years later. I wonder if that makes Ramases ‘proto-post-rock’? I’m actually having a bit of trouble mentally processing that.

Orbison’s muse reappears on “Sweet Reason”, and this is another composition that is more of a gentle pop tune than anything else.

If I had to pick one song as the strongest it would probably be “Saler Man”. The interplay of orchestral strings and piano is quite beautiful from a purely musical standpoint, and Raphael finds his own voice for a change instead of sounding like someone else. The lyrics are all over the place and seem to be a synopsis of Ramases’ whole theology and life-view condensed to five minutes. This is actually a fairly evolved composition for 1975, and plays well even today.

Ramases and Selkat seem to be winding down and preparing for their return trip home to space on “Children of The Green Earth” with talk of children of the earth, sun and stars and urging them all to converge on the “star field” where their destiny awaits. Anyone feel like donning black Nikes and heading for a spin behind Hale-Bopp?

I don’t understand the inclusion of the title track. It comes off as what Elvis would have sounded like if he’d put out a new wave record in the mid eighties: simple and thudding bass, plain rock rhythm from the electric guitar and drums, and not much other accompaniment. The transitions are pure mainstream rock, and even though Raphael’s lyrics describe a space reunion of souls, the whole thing comes across as late seventies schlock-rock. The weakest track on the album as far as I’m concerned.

But the whole thing comes full circle with “Golden Landing (Part II)” and Ramases and Selkat come gliding down toward home amid a very Moody Blues-like string and synth arrangement that includes celestial backing from a couple former Brotherhood of Man vocalists. A very tasteful and pleasant ending.

Martin Raphael and Selkat never released another album after this, and eventually the two of them drifted apart. Selkat is reported to be still around today although she maintains a low profile and there is almost no information on her whereabouts or activities. She does not appear to be doing anything musical. Raphael committed suicide in the early nineties, having never realized his dreams of either musical renown or trips into space back to his astral home. There is some evidence he had been working as a DJ at the time of his death, but I haven’t found anything to confirm that.

Ramases were one of the more unique and unusual musical acts of the seventies. They were either a fabrication of their own or their label’s making; or a couple of really odd individuals who were engaged in their own tripped-out cosmic journey several years after that had ceased to be fashionable. Either way their albums are neither classics nor essential, but both of them are quite good and full of fascinating bits of history and philosophy and theology and musical experimentation and just plain trivia. ‘Space Hymns’ has been reissued numerous times and is quite easy to find today. “Glass Top Coffin” has never been re-released to my knowledge, although the original vinyl is not too difficult to find. There seem to be an unusually high ratio of promo copies to released versions though, and either type of copy can be pricey. I’ve seen used ones in the $25-$40 USD range, while mint copies run up to several hundred dollars. If you’re interested in the band and aren’t put off by the occasional pop or scratch, find a reasonably-priced old promo copy. I don’t think it’s worth buying a $300-$500 mint edition because you won’t get that many dollar’s worth of enjoyment out of it, but I suppose some obsessive and serious collectors probably have done so anyway.

If there were ever a strong candidate for remastering and re-release on CD it is this album; I’m actually quite surprised Repertoire and PL have both put out CD versions of Ramases’ ‘Space Hymns’ albums (in several countries no less), but this one has yet to see the inside of a jewel case. Considering Raphael’s oddities and state of mind and affairs following this release, I wonder if the original tapes may have been lost to time. Still, there are unplayed mint copies of the vinyl floating around and you’d think someone could make that work on a CD. The production quality (except for the slightly muddled “Mind Island”) is excellent, by the way. Que sera, but I hope this one gets noticed by one of the progressive rock reissue labels someday. And maybe they could take the added step of recreating a mini-gatefold that presents the album’s artwork the way Raphael originally intended. That would be a nice touch.

The first time I heard this record I knew I would end up having it, and would end up writing a review rating it in the three-star range. But I’m a sucker for nostalgia, trivia and oddities of humankind, so despite the couple of weaker tracks here (“Mind Island” and the title track mostly), I’m going to go with four stars, probably more like 3.75. A really interesting album from a fascinating couple of individuals who probably would not have been able to make it in today’s world. Not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing, but I’m glad they left this album behind for future generations to ponder.

peace

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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#172097) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, May 24, 2008

Review by stefro
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Finally available on CD after a long hiatus, the second studio album from Ramases comes to us via the excellent re-issue label Esoteric Recordings. Featuring a much more expansive sound that seems like the product of better recording facilities and a bigger budget, 'Glass Top Coffin' is a slicker, better-produced album than it's predecessor but one that unfortunately fails to learn from 'Space Hymns' mistakes. Originally a jobbing electrician from Sheffield(a northern town in the UK), Ramases was a strange figure obsessed by Egyptian gods and mythology who would eventually commit suicide in the mid 1980's. His first album was a zany, unfocused affair featuring at least one terrific song in the shape of the rocking 'Life Child', but little else of interest bar the superb Roger Dean artwork of a church- cum-space rocket launching into the stratosphere. However, the actual musicianship on 'Space Hymns' was top class thanks to the fact that our man was backed by the four musicians who would, in time, go on to form the successful pop band 10cc. But despite 'Life Child' the rest of the album would prove disappointing, made up as it was of strange little folk songs, slow ballads and weak psychedelia, all of it penned by Ramases and his equally nutty wife but played very professionally by the temporary backing band. Sadly, the 10cc foursome are absent on 'Glass Top Coffin', instead replaced by a syrupy, 1950's-style orchestra that proves both tacky and frustratingly slow. Again, like in 'Space Hymns', there is only one genuinely good song, this time in the form of the funky title-track , and that aside 'Glass Top Coffin' turns out to be nothing more than just another uninspiring slab of out-dated sci-fi themed psychedelic pop. Fans of 'Space Hymns' and all things quirky will probably delight in the fact that 'Glass Top Coffin' has finally been given a proper, remastered released; the rest of us will shrug our shoulders and move on to the next 'lost classic' from the Esoteric archives. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010

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Send comments to stefro (BETA) | Report this review (#293763) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, August 08, 2010

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
4 stars Apparently the Vertigo label sold sufficiently enough of Space Hymns for them to allow the weird Ramases to record a second and much more ambitious album with a consequent budget. Indeed Glass top Coffin is loaded with expensive and extensive strings arrangements, courtesy of both the London Symphonic Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, but also the Eddie Letter Chorale. Gone are the four future 10CC members (gone to found Hotlegs first), and most of the pop charm of the SH. Well the label was cautious enough not to spend anymore cash in creating such an ambitious six-folded artwork of the debut, but they still designed a cosmic gatefold sleeve with an even more amazing innerfold. BTW, if SH had been on the legendary "Swirl" label, GTC was released on the even better suited for the "Spaceship" Vertigo logo in 75 (four years after SH, but not much is known about their activities), but unfortunately never managed to be detected by the chart's radars.

Opening on the bookending Golden Landing with heavy strings, we are first lead to believe that The Moody Blues created a Nights Of The Past Future album, but this doesn't last past the track. Te following long time starts out as a slow acoustic piece gradually softly crescendoing with a cello and violin first, then once cruising speed reached, the strings come in for some cool enhancements. There are a few lesser tracks like syrupy Now Mona Lisa, then later Sweet Reason (Lisa is back) and still later the soppy and waterfall-soaked folky Stepping Stone.

Other tracks are rather cool like the religious-like chants of God Voice (again sonically the Moody Blues are not far away) or the spacewinds-filled Mind Island, where Nucleus' Bertles adds a soft sax parts. The Island's winds segue into cosmic blasts and cello drones, to lead Selket's plaintive voice in the ultra-slow Loneliest Feeling. Later in the album's course, Saler Man is an outstanding piece of symphonic prog that puts to shame Moodies or many others that dabbled with Orchestras. The awesome Children Of The Green Earth has some borderline-Spanish guitar and lush orchestrations than enhance the song, rather cheeseing it up. GTC's title track is quite a departure though, definitely the (almost hard-) rockiest song on GTC, it's almost shocking compared to the finesse of most tracks, but I guess it is the climax of the opera, before the calm second Golden Landing piece, filled with cheesy strings.

Not as immediate as their debut album, GTC is still quite worthy and is more in the space- rock realm than in the folk-rock genre of SH. In some ways GTC is proggier and could maybe be considered as a space opera. Like the previous Space Hymns, the album sank without a trace and the couple disappeared for good from the music scene (Ramases committed suicide later in that decade), but both album gathered big cult-following in Germany, enough to receive a few Hymns reissues and now finally the much-awaited for (and more mature) GTC on Esoteric records. And if you listen well enough, you won't be deceived.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#296227) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, August 26, 2010

Review by Matti
COLLABORATOR Neo-Prog Team
4 stars This is my 500th review (unless my one and only rating without review messes the number). I haven't heard Space Hymns which is much more famous - thanks partly to the Roger Dean art work and the future 10cc playing on it. This one was a sad commercial failure and made Ramases (Martin Raphael) to withdraw himself from music business. Co-produced with keyboard player Barry Kirsch, it's a very charming, naiive, soft-folkish album and I'm surprised to see only three reviews of it!

The slow, majestic opener 'Golden Landing' has a female choir and orchestra. 'Long, Long Time' is a very atmospheric song, 'Now Mona Lisa' a solid folk song featuring both Ramases and Sel(ket) as vocalists. I had this kind of an association with this serene and fairly romantic album: dreamy folk hippies accompanied by Barclay James Harvest plus a light orchestra of Emmanuelle soundtracks. May not be very much progressive rock, but beautiful nevertheless. The title track with more biting rhythm breaks the mood a bit, as the ethearal 'Children of the Green Earth' has even the charming cliche of whispered backing vocals. I think this work captures well the fragile spirit of the artist, who committed suicide in 1978.

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Send comments to Matti (BETA) | Report this review (#812032) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, August 29, 2012

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