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SECRET OYSTER

Jazz Rock/Fusion • Denmark


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Secret Oyster picture
Secret Oyster biography
Founded in 1972 - Disbanded in 1977 - Regrouped in 2007 - Still active as of 2020

SECRET OYSTER became somewhat of a super group when members of BURNIN'RED IVANHOE, CORONARIAS DANS and HURDY GURDY formed this unit. By the end of BURNIN' RED IVANHOE's career (that spawned seven years), Karsten Vogel started forming a new band taking along with him BRI's drummer Thrige and often jazz-partner bassist Vinding with him. Knowing from the Danish circuit guitarist Claus Bohling, he enticed him into the band that took its name from a track from BRI's second album Secret Oysters Service. The last to join was keyboardist Knudsen, who had never played an electric instrument prior to entering this outfit, but was playing in a piano avant-garde trio. Knudsen would prove particularly helpful as the second songwriter of the group and allowing Vogel to leave the keyboards at will to play wind instruments.

Their sound recalled MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, NUCLEUS, Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi and Sextant albums as well as Miles DAVIS's Bitches Brew. Quite a success and this prompted their record company to release that album internationally but under the title "Furtive Pearl". After a line-up changze that saw the rhythm section get a complete overhaul (Staer for Vinding and Streenberg for Thrige) their second album, Sea Son, is even better but failed to get international public recognition, even if all connoisseur will mostly agree on this album being the band's apex. At one point the line-up of this group was also exactly the same as BURNIN' RED IVANHOE (after it got revived because they also developed rockier material) as well as a third outfit, "Day Of The Phoenix". This did not stop them from writing the music to a ballet "Vidunderlinge Kaelling" released as an album under the name of "Astarte", with very mixed results just a few months before their final album, the much better "Straight From The Krankenhaus" also known as "Orlander".

Aside from their confusion of their album names and general discography, SECRET OYSTER is a great jazz-rock/fusion outfit that deserved a lot more attention for they were almost as good as the groups named above.

All four original albums have received a thorough and outstanding remastering with added bonus tracks on the great label Laser's Edge. Secret Oyster got back together (Bohling, Vogel and Knudsen plus a new bassist and drummer) during the re-issues of their albums, touring the states and Denmark. Also maybe in ...
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SECRET OYSTER discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

SECRET OYSTER top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.08 | 71 ratings
Secret Oyster [Aka: Furtive Pearl]
1973
3.96 | 90 ratings
Sea Son
1974
3.26 | 47 ratings
Vidunderlige Kælling [Aka: Astarte]
1975
4.13 | 96 ratings
Straight to the Krankenhaus
1976
3.00 | 2 ratings
Striptease
2019

SECRET OYSTER Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.29 | 8 ratings
Live in the USA 2007
2008

SECRET OYSTER Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

SECRET OYSTER Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

SECRET OYSTER Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.33 | 3 ratings
Oyster Jungle
1974
3.00 | 4 ratings
Æbler-Æbler
1975
4.50 | 2 ratings
Straight to the Krankenhaus
1976

SECRET OYSTER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Straight to the Krankenhaus by SECRET OYSTER album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.13 | 96 ratings

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Straight to the Krankenhaus
Secret Oyster Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars SECRET OYSTER had been riding high since the release of its second album "Sea Son" which not only made them Denmark's #1 progressive jazz-rock band of all time but also caught the attention beyond the motherland's borders. The band spent a great deal of time touring, so much so that it became more and more difficult to find the time to spend in the recording studio. During the promotion of "Sea Son," the band was approached by the ballet dancer and choreographer Flemming Findt to perform the soundtrack music for the ballet "Vidunderlige Kælling" which accompanied the live performances where the main actress Vivi Flemming performed nude and at times painted gold. The experimental ballet was a huge hit and not only extended SECRET OYSTER's popularity but offered them a cushy financial return which allowed the band to take their music to the next level.

While the band was touring Germany the members found it amusing that they would consistently see signs for KRANKENHAUS which is the German word for hospital and to relieve the boredom and tension of constantly touring together in a small bus, the band members and crew would amuse themselves by yelling in unison STRAIGHT TO THE KRANKENHAUS, a phrase that everyone found so incredibly hilarious that it became the official title of the fourth and last album that SECRET OYSTER released during their five year existence. Likewise when the band was on tour in Stockholm, Sweden the members were equally amused by a painting of a political looking fat cat dude being interviewed on TV while sitting in a Chesterfield chair. This painting was not for sale but the band scored the rights to craft a reproduction which would become the cover art which they deemed a perfect visual to accompany the comical album title.

Given that time off the road was minimal, SECRET OYSTER recorded its two final albums simultaneously. Both the "Vidunderlige Kælling" and STRAIGHT TO THE KRANKENHAUS overlapped and became quite confusing as to where the band's particular style was supposed to be given that it wasn't revealed which tracks were for which project. The results of this confusion guaranteed that both albums had similar stylistic developments however while "Vidunderlige" focused more on a lighter jazz driven tracks that emphasized the saxophone and keyboard parts, KRANKENHAUS reprised aspects of the band's previous works with heavier guitar and bass drive and a return to the rock aspects that made "Sea Son" stand out. The mix of what came before and what the ballet material led to crafted another unique album that sounds like no other.

While the Mahavishnu Orchestra compositional approach had always been a heavy influence on SECRET OYSTER, on STRAIGHT TO THE KRANKENHAUS it's even more pronounced. While the jamming passages of the first two albums are still present, the nine tracks on this final release focus on tighter compositions that offer more variations not only in tones, timbres, tempos and ratios between jazz and rock but also offered more complex musical motifs that allowed the various instruments to take a turn in soloing around. The album ranges from the feisty opening "Lindance" which immediately showcases a Jan Hammer styled keyboard workout accompanied by a drone but also finds the rest of the band upping their game with more complex drumming gymnastics and tighter transitions from various passages. The title track steers away from the Mahavishnus with a return to the funk-fueled jamming of the past.

The tracks continue to diversify with "My Second Hand Rose" chilling out with a lower energetic delivery and more reminiscent of something not he "Vidunderlige" soundtrack. "Delveaux" takes the same approach but "Stalled Angel" seems to incorporate all of the band's past into a single track with funky, jazz, rock and various musical motifs in rotation including a wild scorching hot keyboard solo. The rotisserie of jazz, rock and symphonic prog workouts continues right up to the most Mahavishnu sounding track of all, the closing "Leda & The Dog" which seems heavily inspired by "Birds Of Fire." The Laser's Edge re-releases also feature two excellent bonus tracks that fit in quite well with the original track listing.

Despite SECRET OYSTER having lost none of its popularity this would be the last stop for this spectacular Danish jazz prog rock band. Originally having been promised by Columbia Records to promote the band in the USA as the next best thing since The Weather Report, the record company backed out and left the band hanging. The uncertainty and changing tastes in the music industry left the band members exhausted from constant years of touring and recording as well as being disillusioned by the sudden collapse of promises and possibilities. The band slowly began to splinter with members leaving and moral diminishing until it was finally decided that the end of the era was over and time to move on. SECRET OYSTER performed its last live show in December 1977 and in its wake left four beautifully crafted albums that have more than stood the text of time. Many consider STRAIGHT TO THE KRANKENHAUS to be the band's finest moment and in terms of technicality and professionalism, it certainly is the peak of the band's four album run. On a personal note i still prefer the wild and unpredictable debut "Furtive Pearl" over the rest but this final chapter of the SECRET OYSTER experience is certainly a very close second.

4.5 rounded down

 Vidunderlige Kælling [Aka: Astarte] by SECRET OYSTER album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.26 | 47 ratings

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Vidunderlige Kælling [Aka: Astarte]
Secret Oyster Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars Having finally found a stable lineup on the second album "Sea Son" as well as a massive touring schedule, SECRET OYSTER had become one of Denmark's hottest progressive jazz-rock bands. While planning for a third album the band was approached by the ballet dancer and choreographer Flemming Findt to perform the soundtrack music for the ballet VIDUNDERLIGE KÆLLING ("Wonderful Bitch") for the Royal Danish Ballet. The subject matter was based on the erotic poetry of Jens August Schade and while it seems like a jazz-rock band that built its reputation on heavy funky grooves and instrumental jamming would be the last type of music suitable for a ballet, the Danes in the 70s were extremely opened minded and experimentation was the golden rule.

This third SECRET OYSTER album actually has been released under two titles. Originally as "Astarte" which is the track in the ballet where Vivi Findt performed totally nude while painted entirely gold, the album has been sensibly released ever since as the name of the ballet itself. In fact that's Vivi on the album cover as well as being the wife of Flemming. In fact the entire event featured all the actors in the buff at least once during the show. The Danes were an open-minded society indeed. Despite the seemingly incongruent nature of the band's musical style and what one would consider appropriate for the musical soundtrack for a ballet, SECRET OYSTER did an exemplary job in adapting their jazz-rock fusion to the dancing style of the actors. The result of this unlikely collaboration was a great success and SECRET OYSTER was compensated handsomely which is something they and most progressive bands of the day couldn't boast about too often.

The music has been described as a fusion of Mahavishnu Orchestra, Nucleus and the "Bitches Brew" era of Miles Davis along with some ethnic influences such as raga rock, Argentinean tango and of course SECRET OYSTER's own repertoire of solid instrumental progressive jazz-rock. Like the albums that preceded, VIDUNDERLIGE KÆLLIG is an all instrumental affair with a softer approach that toned down the rock and focused more on the jazz and atmospheres not unlike what the Weather Report was cranking out at the time. On the first two albums, the guitar was more pronounced but on this one it's more laid back with saxophonist Karsten Vogel and keyboardist Kennth Knudsen taking the lead. The album has also been praised for its superb production but given the music's role for being used in tandem with a live theatrical setting it's no wonder no expenses were spared.

While much of the music is clearly the work of SECRET OYSTER only tailored to fit the focus of the ballet, some tracks like "Solitude" for example are completely outside of anything the band had done. This track sounds more like a Beethoven ballad than anything remotely jazz-rock given that it's basically a piano sonata. The "Tango-Bourgoisie" is another stylistic shift sounding more like a military percussion band backing Astor Piazzolla. "Bellevue" sounds more like the world of SECRET OYSTER with a funky bass groove and jamming potential but "Valse Du Soir" takes them out of their comfort zone once again to provide a nice romantic waltz. The original album only featured nine tracks but the reissues on at the Laser's Edge label feature an additional three tracks that wouldn't fit on vinyl i presume.

Definitely the odd duck out of the four albums that SECRET OYSTER released during its five year existence in the 1970s but also the band's biggest payoff. As with any music that was designed to complement a visual art experience, i have to find the music to stand on its own outside of the context of the visuals that it was meant to accompany. There's no doubt that SECRET OYSTER readjusted its skills to get the job done but when all is said and done, many of the tracks on board were clearly meant to amplify the mood of whatever the dancers were performing at the moment. While none of the music is bad per se, as an album of just music it does seem a bit scattered and therefore my least favorite of the four albums released. Still though, a worthy edition that cannot be ignored for true fans.

3.5 rounded down

 Sea Son by SECRET OYSTER album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.96 | 90 ratings

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Sea Son
Secret Oyster Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars SECRET OYSTER emerged from one of Denmark's premiere jazz-fusion outfits called Burnin' Red Ivanhoe and found almost unanimous admiration from fans and critiques alike for its self-titled debut that has become known as "Furtive Peal." The band was signed to CBS Records right from the start and benefited from a well known record label promoting its efforts but the pressure was on to create a followup that would take things to the next level. The challenges of success only became more difficult after bassist Mats Vinding realized he didn't have time for what was supposed to be a part-time project that became too big for him to commit to. He jumped ship and was replaced by Jess Staehr who had played with Burnin' Red Ivanhoe.

Likewise original drummer Bo Thrige Andersen who originally played with Burnin' Red Ivanhoe was overwhelmed by a drug addiction and was let go due to the fact he wasn't able to live up to the standards that were required to take SECRET OYSTER to the next level. The choice of Ole Streenberg from the band Coronarias Dans was a gamble considering he was more versed in the world of jazz than rock but in the end proved to be the perfect choice and with these changes SECRET OYSTER would remain stable for their next albums until their untimely demise in 1977. While the trials and tribulations of band stability proved to be exhausting, the benefits of a major label promoting them proved to be quite beneficial.

For its second album SEA SON, the band was given free reign of unlimited studio time and an impressive lineup of session musicians who added extra instrumentation such as a string section on the opening track "Oysterjungle." The album also was given a stellar production which made SECRET OYSTER a true professional sounding band that enjoyed a healthy regional popularity and had even dipped into much of Denmark's European neighbors as well as a tour in the UK opening for Captain Beefheart. The result was that SEA SON was fine tuned into a jazz-fusion powerhouse with an emphasis on long bass-driven grooves with strange time signatures which allowed the various instruments to solo around. The drumming in particular offered a much heavier dose of percussive workouts and the album overall has a heavier sound as far as grooves, tempos and energetic delivery are concerned.

The album featured six tracks on the original vinyl along with three bonus tracks on the modern CD releases from the Laser's Edge and Long Hair labels. While afforded all the bells and whistles of a bigger budget and label support, from the musical side of the equation SEA SON is a lot more conservative than the loose wire "Furtive Pearl" which offered creative outbursts of energy in uncompromising ways. SEA SON on the other hand pretty much sticks to jamming sessions based on funkified bass grooves in the vein of fusion era Herbie Hancock only with more of a Mahavishnu Orchestra instrumentation that includes crazy Moog solos, jittery guitar riffs and solos as well as heavy bass and percussion although SECRET OYSTER wasn't quite up to Mr McLaughlin and company's compositional fortitude. Despite the straight forward jamming around a basic groove, the accoutrements of supplemental instrumentation do craft amazing contrapuntal effects.

All in all, SEA SON is an excellent slice of 70s jazz-fusion with tight instrumental interplay that may sound a bit stilted as it tends to be stuck in a one-trick-pony groove but offers enough supplemental effects to keep my interest for its entirety. Unfortunately what's missing on this sophomore album is the spontaneity and playfulness that the band unapologetically engaged in on the debut album. Whether one prefers SECRET OYSTER's debut over the rest of the canon or the other way around depends on if you are into a more polished delivery without too many surprises or something that takes you where you weren't expecting. Personally i prefer the more liberating experience of the debut but even though i find that to be superior it doesn't mean for a second that i don't find SEA SON to be a compelling set of arrangements that offers a more rock oriented approach in comparison to "Furtive Pearl."

 Secret Oyster [Aka: Furtive Pearl] by SECRET OYSTER album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.08 | 71 ratings

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Secret Oyster [Aka: Furtive Pearl]
Secret Oyster Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars Riding on the red hot heels of one of Denmark's early examples of jazz-rock fusion in the form of Burnin Red Ivanhoe which had a seven year run, the origins of SECRET OYSTER resulted from that band's disintegration through disputes in musical direction. Saxophonist and organist Karsten Vogel had aspirations of creating a more explorative styled jazz-fusion band and commenced to hand pick the new members who could master the art of a continuous rhythmic drive in jazz mode while adding their own creative stamps in virtuoso fueled improv jam sessions. After the star search was complete, Vogel settled on former Coronarias Dans keyboardist Kenneth Knudsen, guitarist Claus Bøhling of the short-lived heavy psych band Hurdy Gurdy, bassist Mads Vinding and Bo Thrige Andersen who tagged along from Burnin Red Ivanhoe but also played with the psychedelic jazz-rock Blue Sun.

After the lineup was complete, SECRET OYSTER proved to be a veritable powerhouse of talent that has gone down in history as Denmark's most accomplished jazz-rock-fusion act with quite the accomplished career that started in 1972 Copenhagen and lasted for five years before the changing tides swept many of these progressive bands out to sea including this almighty band that more than stands the test of time with its heavy rock fueled energetic drive hybridized with the intricacies of stellar jazz workouts and a well-packed magic paintbox that allowed the creative juices to flow like Amazonian waterfalls. The band's name SECRET OYSTER paid homage to Vogel's previous band Burnin Red Ivanhoe by mining the idea from the track "Secret Oyster Service" from the band's second album.

Long out of print, SECRET OYSTER's four album canon was finally reissued on the Laser's Edge label in 2007 for the first time on CD and this debut featured two bonus tracks. The original debut album that was released in 1973 had two completely different album covers and titles depending which side of the Atlantic you happened to reside. On the European continent the album was released eponymously with the cover art depicting some undisclosed quaint Danish city setting while in the USA the album was penned FURTIVE PEARL with a rather unremarkably drab beige cover with a canceled postage stamp on what was supposed to resemble a postcard from Denmark with selling points about the nature of the music contained inside. As far as the music itself, the track listing was identical but over time there has been a truce between the two versions with the European artwork sitting in tandem with the more flattering album title FURTIVE PEARL.

Somewhat sounding like the Danish version of the Mahavishnu Orchestra only more focused on an instrumental jamming style steeped with psychedelic and hard rock energy, SECRET OYSTER expanded on the members' strengths that they developed in their respective prior bands and in the process crafted one of my all time favorite heavy psych tinged jazz-rock albums of all the 70s. While the jazz provides that bass fueled swinging rhythm section with the incessant drive of hard rock driven by Bøhling's feisty guitar heft, the band also were masters of drifting off into heady psychedelic soundscapes that focused on cyclical repetitive grooves which allowed all the tricks and trinkets up the sleeves of the keyboardist to erupt into seriously trippy excursions that remind the listener that the 60s were not too overly far away at this point. The dexterity of these juxtapositions is what makes FURTIVE PEARL an absolute gem of musical prowess where the balancing act between technical guitar infused jazz-rock is pacified by psychedelic groove sessions that switch back and forth with admirable precision.

Not leaving the world of Burnin Red Ivanhoe too far behind, the three tracks "Dampexpressen", "Free & Water" and "Vive La Quelle" follow that band's style only taken to the next level with piano and organ dominated drifting jazz-rock that finds a few saxophone squawks adding some color but brought to a more energetic frenzy by Bøhling's decorative guitar solos that offer textures much like a skilled the decorative art of Steve Hillage crafting a more surreal counterpoint to the martial rhythms . "Public Oyster" and "Mis (S) Fortune" display the strong Canterbury connections with Soft Machine sounding organ runs and that special warm British sound effect in the form of chirping guitars and those unique chord progressions.

While the psychedelic touches punctuate the album throughout, by far the most experimental track overall is the avant-garde jazz closer "QVA-X" which features a series of saxophone squawks, droning effects and freeform piano, percussion and features a Krautrock kosmische effect which shows the strong influence of neighboring Germany from this same era. Add the decorative Canterbury flavors which culminate in oddball oscillations, talking saxophone lines and one of the most successful mashups of jazz, rock and psychedelia and it sounds more like something out of the Sun Ra playbook than what the rest of the album offers. For those with the CD version, the bonus tracks are worthy editions with a live version of "Dampexpression" and the military march meets psychedelia track "Orlav/er."

SECRET OYSTER would develop a more focused sound on the sophomore release "Sea Son" but on this debut crafted its most explorative and experimental journey that makes this one an unexpected treat for those who love an album that branches out in different directions. While this album is certainly less focused than those that follow, it's exactly that unabashed pioneering boldness to seek out myriad directions of expressionism that make this one absolutely perfect in my book! I can't count the number of "normal" jazz-fusion albums of the 70s but these wild roller coaster rides that are as decorative as the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland are fewer in number. This one was a grower that kept begging me for a return visit but after a while i became hooked and mesmerized by SECRET OYSTER's seductive charm. For my tastes, album #1 is their true magnum opus but what followed was brilliant as well.

 Sea Son by SECRET OYSTER album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.96 | 90 ratings

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Sea Son
Secret Oyster Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Argonaught

5 stars Out of thousands of PA members so far only 48 have gotten around to rating the Secret Oyster's Sea Son, and there has been only one grassroots review. Well, here comes another one for your kind consideration.

It turns out I have had some Secret Oyster music for years, if not decades. It was quietly sitting "somewhere", along with a few hundred other wonderful pearls of the 1970 like Brigati, Skylark, Bob Crewe et al.

The secret of this particular Oyster clearly lies in the stellar musicianship and fine taste of its members, Karsten Vogel's saxes being the most memorable. I have been reading reviews that suggest Sea Son is somehow exploring the same vein as Mahavishnu Orchestra .. well, it's not, thankfully :). The Sea Son is vigorous and ebullient alright, but there is not a millisecond of cacophony on it. The balance between the full shredding capabilities of the band members and the sensibilities of a happy fusion album for normal listeners is correctly established and maintained for the whole duration of the album.

If you feel you absolutely have to compare the Sea Son to any non-Danish fusion album of the period, you may want to give a nod to early Weather Report or Return to Forever instead. But, as I always say, it would be best if listened to the Sea Son for yourself .. I think you can preview the whole album on YouTube, so you know what you are buying before you reach for your wallet or PayPal password.

To re-state: if I had to reduce my collection to 100 albums only (the hypothetical "desert island challenge", I guess that's what it's called?), I am certain the Sea Son would make the cut.

 Sea Son by SECRET OYSTER album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.96 | 90 ratings

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Sea Son
Secret Oyster Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars ''Furtive Pearl'' was a great success in Denmark and around the fellow Scandinavian countries, while its reputation even knocked the doors of UK, USA and Germany.Despite the growing popularity of the group, Mads Vinding and Bo Thrige Andersen left the band and were replaced by drummer Ole Streenberg and former Burnin Red Ivanhoe bassist Jess Staehr.Actually the reformation between all these Burnin Red Ivanhoe members gave birth again to the group.Back in our story, the new core of Secret Oyster entered the Rosenberg Studios in Copenhagen and recorded the second album ''Sea son'' between the 4th and the 7th July of 74'.The album was released at the fall of the year on CBS.

Unfortunately ''Sea son'' does not exactly meets the standards of Secret Oyster's monumental debut.But it is not a bad album at all.Slightly psychedelic Prog/Jazz Rock with clever use of electric piano and moog synthesizer along with a strong dose of melodic sax lines, while Bohling's impressive guitar work really shines through, characterized by either soft or more furious solos with a Fusion edge.The sound is rich with a discreet spaceness in the synth-drenched moves and the energy is always at the higher level.Good interplays between sax and keyboards, inventive breaks and PASSPORT-like trippy solos are also basic elements of the new album.The work of Staehr on bass is outstanding at moments, overshadowing the rest of the group.Some funky vibes are also evident during the listening in an attempt by the group to combine its more intricate stylings with more comfortable and calm textures.More careful listenings reveal the presence of dual keyboards and piano lines in a fair amount of passages, making the sound of Secret Oyster quite unique.

To my ears Secret Oyster sound with each album as an updated version of Burnin Red Ivanhoe.Psych-tinged Jazz/Fusion/Progressive Rock with light spacey lines due to the use of synthesizers, another solid album by the Danish formation.Warmly recommended.

 Vidunderlige Kælling [Aka: Astarte] by SECRET OYSTER album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.26 | 47 ratings

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Vidunderlige Kælling [Aka: Astarte]
Secret Oyster Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by HolyMoly
Special Collaborator Retired Admin

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.

 Straight to the Krankenhaus by SECRET OYSTER album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.13 | 96 ratings

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Straight to the Krankenhaus
Secret Oyster Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by BORA

3 stars Perseverence doesn't always pay.

Admittedly, Jazz-Rock is one of my fave genres and as such, I had to check this band out - of course. Alas, my expectations were somewhat ill-placed here. This final studio album is definitely better than previous efforts, but it still falls short of being impressive. Let me explain.

Undoubtedly, there is some excellent musicianship present here and one can tell that these cats are trying to do their best. Sadly, I have to conclude that their best is still not good enough to please.

Whilst echoes of Brand X, Gary Boyle spring to mind, don't let that deceive you. This work falls far short of the complexities associated with those peers. Indeed, one is left for wanting. In other words, so near, yet so far.

The issue is - as is often the case - the actual compositions, or more like the lack of such. No amount of spirited effort on the instruments succeeds without a decent framework, something that's in very short supply here.

This is far from jamming-type improvisations (that I would have perhaps enjoyed more), but more like trying to be lyrical. The end result is rather weak, hollow pieces lacking body. In other words, meandering aimlessly and boring to the point of irritation. Talk about falling between two chairs, neither here, nor there.

With some more attention this work could have been made much better, but as it is I find it quite disappointing, a let down. Compared with their other releases I am compelled to nominate 3 stars. As for my personal enjoyment as a Jazz-Rock fan, I couldn't go above 2.5.

 Straight to the Krankenhaus by SECRET OYSTER album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.13 | 96 ratings

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Straight to the Krankenhaus
Secret Oyster Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by HolyMoly
Special Collaborator Retired Admin

5 stars It's not jazz, it's instrumental melodic prog with lead sax

^ Just wanted to get that out of the way first. "Jazz Rock" and "Fusion" as terms conjure images in my mind that are almost entirely inconsistent with the meat of this album, so let this heading serve as an ad-hoc quasi genre for the purposes of this review.

After listening to this for the 298th (give or take a few dozen) time the other day, I figured the time was right to write a formal review that tries to convey my feelings for this, one of my all- time favorite albums. Long before it became available on CD, I had a muddy sounding cassette copy of this album that I got from a friend of a friend, and I was absolutely addicted to this tape. To my ears, it was a tastefully played collection of concise, tightly melodic instrumental pieces that still allowed some breathing space for the excellent soloists. I'm always impressed with bands that really have a way with melody, because as an amateur musician myself, I have an awful hard time coming up with an original melody. Something that carries you on an emotional arc, has a beginning and an end, and doesn't quite sound like anything you've heard before. Secret Oyster had specialized in high-energy instrumental jazzy rock (oops, there's that word again) for several years before this, their 4th and final album, and the maturity of their craft by this point had reached a peak.

Beginning as it does with a thundering synthesized number, the brief "Lindance", you may at this point be having your doubts. As it happens, it's merely a "dramatic overture" to the pieces ahead. Next of which is the briskly paced (also brief) title track, which feels a little like a continuation of the first track, but introduces a catchy, almost playful new theme on the electric piano, as well as little 8-bar bursts of invention by electric guitarist Claus Bøling.

After this one-two punch of light entertainment, the album really kicks into gear with "My Second Hand Rose", the first spot that alto sax player, bandleader, and primary composer Karsten Vogel really gets to shine. Vogel's approach to his instrument is like that of a singer to his voice. Throughout the song and most of the album, he is basically singing lead with his sax, and it so happens that he is an incredible vocalist - bending notes ever so subtly, vibrato in just the right amount, pouring years of technical mastery into a simple melody line, giving it extra layers of meaning and nuance. And then later in the track, Bøling gets another solo, 24 bars of utter perfection. And despite all this musicality going on, the piece still sounds as fun and spontaneous as a Saturday Night Live band after-hours jam. Brilliant.

And the album only gets better from there. "High Luminant Silver Patterns" (penned by keyboardist Kenneth Knudsen) lays down a furious space groove as Bøling once again sets the world on fire. "Delveaux" is an extended meditation piece, sans percussion, highlighting some nice Moog work in the first half, and Vogel's plaintive sax melody in the second half. "Stalled Angel" (also by Knudsen) introduces some funk into the mix. "Rubber Star" (Knudsen again) is... deserving of its own paragraph, but this is already getting long. Another meditative piece, with gentle guitar arpeggios holding down the rhythm, as bass, electric piano, and sax take turns gently pushing the melody through its sad yet hopeful emotional arc, providing counterpoint for each other along the way. One of my favorite songs.

Closing things out are yet two more highlights: Vogel's exciting "Traffic and Elephants", a quick groove framing a slowly ascending bass line, providing Vogel with lots of space to tell us a story on the sax. The music gets louder and more frantic as it goes, culminating in an ecstatic finale. The final track, Bøling's "Leda and the Dog", almost feels anticlimactic in this context, but closer listening reveals this to be one of the more emotionally involving pieces on the album. Understated but incredibly vital, with a strange yet effective song structure.

Nine songs, and barely a moment wasted. These songs all have a clear forward direction (not always a given with fusion), fantastic nontrivial melodies, great solos, all played by players who have mastered their instruments so well they have no need to show off. About as good as it gets.

 Secret Oyster [Aka: Furtive Pearl] by SECRET OYSTER album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.08 | 71 ratings

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Secret Oyster [Aka: Furtive Pearl]
Secret Oyster Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Furtive Pearl" is the debut full-length studio album by Danish jazz-rock act Secret Oyster. The album was released through CBS Records in November 1973. Secret Oyster was formed by former members of the acts Burnin'Red Ivanhoe, Coronarias Dans and Hurdy Gurdy, so we're taking seasoned and quite prolific Danish musicians.

The band play a jamming type of instrumental jazz-rock on this album albeit with strong and memorable themes which provide some hooks to hold on to. The themes are querky and with the driving rocking type drumming on the album I'm reminded a lot of late sixties Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. The high level of musicianship on display on "Furtive Pearl" is also equal to the high level musicianship of that band. The prominent instruments on the album are guitar, organ/electric piano and alto/soprano saxes. The latter mentioned are played by Karsten Vogel who is known for his work with Burnin'Red Ivanhoe. As mentioned the drums keep a steady driving beat throughout most of the album but there are some variation to be found in "Vive La Quelle?", which features a drum solo. The bass playing is also quite prominent and nicely organic.

There's no questioning the fact that "Furtive Pearl" is a high quality jazz-rock album, but personally I could have done without the most noodling jamming solo parts as I definitely enjoy the music most when those delightfully querky themes are played, but that's most likely an aquired taste and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is still warranted.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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