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QUINTESSENCE

Indo-Prog/Raga Rock • United Kingdom


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Quintessence picture
Quintessence biography
Lead by Australian-born violinist and flutist Rothfield (AKA Raja Ram), keyboardist Phil Jones (Shiva Shankar) and Shambu Babaji on bass, this North-London group had very strong spiritual Indian classical music influences. Their first two albums, In Blissfull Company and their eponymous second album (they had much success riding on the popular sudden passion provoked by the BEATLES) are filled with Indian Sacred Chants and Psalms, but also much more accessible jazz-filled rock tracks full of delightful moments. Their third album Dive Deep was less spiritually oriented and contained more jazz-influenced improvisations with longer intrumental interplay tracks. After the partially live album Self some key members left to form the similar KALA, and QUINTESSENCE released on last album that was simply not quintessential anymore.

At their top , QUINTESSENCE was a magnificient group playing some superb Indian-laced psychadelic rock and are fondly remembered by all etnic fusion music afficianados and old hippies around the world.

: : : Hugues Chantraine, BELGIUM : : :


Discography:
(1969) In Blissful Company
(1970) Quintessence
(1970) Dive Deep
(1971) Self
(1972) Indweller
(1972) Quintessence Live
(1993) Epitaph for Tomorrow
(1995) Self/Indweller
(2004) Oceans of Bliss: An Introduction to Quintessence

Quintessence official website

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Move Into the Light: Complete Island RecordingsMove Into the Light: Complete Island Recordings
Import · Remastered
Imports 2017
Audio CD$12.42
$12.41 (used)
Spirits From Another TimeSpirits From Another Time
Import
Hux Records 2016
Audio CD$12.46
$12.45 (used)
Dive DeepDive Deep
Import
Repertoire 2005
Audio CD$8.49
$4.97 (used)
In Blissful CompanyIn Blissful Company
Import
Repertoire 2004
Audio CD$17.99
Infinite Love: Live at Queen Elizabeth Hall 1971Infinite Love: Live at Queen Elizabeth Hall 1971
Hux Records 2009
Audio CD$19.98
Cosmic Energy: Live at St Pancras 1970Cosmic Energy: Live at St Pancras 1970
Hux Records 2009
Audio CD$10.64
$10.63 (used)
QuintessenceQuintessence
Extra tracks · Import
Repertoire 2004
Audio CD$17.98
$6.39 (used)
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QUINTESSENCE discography


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

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

3.29 | 35 ratings
In Blissful Company
1969
3.19 | 26 ratings
Quintessence
1970
2.84 | 17 ratings
Dive Deep
1971
3.21 | 16 ratings
Self
1972
1.85 | 11 ratings
Indweller
1972

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

4.83 | 13 ratings
Infinite Love: Live at the Queen Elizabeth 1971
2009
4.00 | 2 ratings
Cosmic Energy, Live At St Pancras 1970
2009
3.18 | 2 ratings
Rebirth - Live at Glastonbury 2010
2011

QUINTESSENCE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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

3.73 | 9 ratings
Epitaph For Tomorrow
1993
3.20 | 6 ratings
Self / Indweller
1995
3.27 | 9 ratings
Oceans of Bliss: An Introduction to Quintessence
2004
4.00 | 2 ratings
Spirits From Another Time 1969-1971
2016
4.92 | 3 ratings
Move Into The Light The Complete Island Recordings 1969 - 1971
2017

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

4.50 | 6 ratings
Notting Hill Gate / Move Into The Light
1969
0.00 | 0 ratings
Sweet Jesus
1971

QUINTESSENCE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Move Into The Light The Complete Island Recordings 1969 - 1971 by QUINTESSENCE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2017
4.92 | 3 ratings

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Move Into The Light The Complete Island Recordings 1969 - 1971
Quintessence Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by Einwahn

5 stars Despite the quarter of a century gap, there are analogies between Quintessence and the later English band Kula Shaker. The music of both is distinctively imbued with Indian sounds and religious themes, but the core sound is late 60's psychedelic rock (a 'retro' character for only one of them, of course). Both bands enjoyed meteoric popularity for about three years and then vanished, sadly for good in the case of Quintessence (though Kula Shaker re-formed and I highly recommend their 'K 2.0' of 2016).

Quintessence's first album 'In Blissful Company' was released in the same year and on the same Island label as the King Crimson debut, and its producer John Barham was a collaborator on George Harrison's forthcoming 'All Things Must Pass'. Quintessence albums followed in each of the next two years, a self-titled release in 1970, and 'Dive Deep' in 1971, which reached #22 and #43 in the UK albums charts. Their association with Island Records ended unhappily due to failure to arrange a tour to the United States, and the band did not last much longer.

Esoteric Records have now released re-mastered editions of the three Island albums as a double CD. These vintage classics are seriously under-reviewed on Prog Archives, so I'll try to summarize them for anyone considering exploration, terming the albums IBC ('In Blissful Company'), Q ('Quintessence') & DD ('Dive Deep'). Each album contains tracks of diverse types, and you would need to appreciate all of them. First and best, there are absolutely spell-binding sedate and spiritual songs, clearly involving Barham's inventive touch, with superb vocals, flute, guitars and drones. Examples are 'Manco Capac', 'Midnight Mode' (IBC), 'High on Mt Kailash', 'Prisms', 'Twilight Zones' (Q), and 'Dance for the One' (DD). These are must-hear tracks for anyone. Also winners are the wild guitar-burn tracks 'Burning Bush' and 'St Pancras' (Q).

Then we have a couple of track types that are potential negatives for some tastes, and this probably accounts for the underwhelming consensus PA ratings of Quintessence albums. There are straightforward Hare Krishna-style chants, namely 'Chant' (IBC), 'Shiva's Chant' (Q) and 'Sri Ram Chant' (DD). I really like these, but admit they are not standard rock fare. Then there are 60's pop tracks written for an era fixated on chart hits, most notably 'Notting Hill Gate' (IBC) with its B-side 'Move into the Light', 'Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Gauranga' (Q) and 'Dive Deep' (DD). The above represent the musical boundaries of these Quintessence albums, but there is much interesting material occupying the spaces between.

Digressing back to Kula Shaker, I note there have been Forum discussions on whether to include this band in Prog Archives, each time reaching the wrong conclusion. The so-called Indo-Prog/Raga Rock sub-genre on Prog Archives is presently very weak and obscure (and this remark comes even from a Krautrock fan). Even Wikipedia describes Kula Shaker as a 'raga rock' band...

Verdict: recommended to Kula Shaker fans.

 Rebirth - Live at Glastonbury 2010 by QUINTESSENCE album cover Live, 2011
3.18 | 2 ratings

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Rebirth - Live at Glastonbury 2010
Quintessence Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by Einwahn

3 stars My property in the Welsh hills is the long-lapsed inheritance of a local clergyman's son, who went to India in the 1970's and was never heard from since. This poignant glimpse into history shows how, for certain Western hippies, the spiritual draw of Indian culture was real and powerful. And the album under review is a rather charming closure for a pre-eminent rock band of this enigmatic tendency.

So, Quintessence... if you run the Prog Archives ranking for the Indo-Prog/Raga-Rock sub-genre (which I doubt many do), using joint studio & live filters, you may find the #1 album is called 'Infinite Love', a 1971 London concert by this band. If you run the live filter only, that album is almost certain to be top, but then there are only two in the list. Anyway, you get the picture: a few of us think this band were great in their day (I still remember the ethnic drums and scent of joss sticks as I sat cross-legged on the floor at one such concert...).

Quintessence, indeed, were so prominent in the underground rock scene of 1970 that they earned the historic distinction of being the opening band at the first ever Glastonbury Festival, where they performed in front of 1,500 members of the counterculture, sharing the bill with T. Rex, Al Stewart and Stackridge. They returned in 1971 along with David Bowie, Hawkwind, Fairport Convention, Traffic, etc for an audience of 12,000. So when it was suggested that Quintessence re-form for the 40th anniversary Festival, whose attendance would be 177,500, with acts including Muse, Lou Reed, Stevie Wonder, Kylie Minogue, guests from Radiohead and U2 etc, there was of course no problem from the organisers. The only problem was Quintessence, who split very acrimoniously in 1972 and dispersed across the globe.

To cut a long story short, the performers recorded on 'Rebirth - Live at Glastonbury 2010' include two key original band members: Maha Dev, the English rhythm guitarist, and Shiva, the Australian vocalist and principal song-writer. They notably did not include Raja Ram, the Australian flautist and subsequent founder of the Psytrance band Shpongle. For those familiar with Quintessence, the 'Rebirth' concert is revealing about the true core of the original music - what Maha Dev and Shiva recreate is not that far off. In particular, I should say that Shiva confirms his exceptional talent - always a highlight of vintage Quintessence, his vocal performance on 'Rebirth' is incredible for his age. Shiva also surprises with his new prowess as a didgeridoo player. Maha Dev falls over a model of Stonehenge on stage, and makes the corny hippy joke that 'I really enjoyed my trip!' - this is a concert with real, if zany, personality.

So what songs do we get? The classic Quintessence mix from far-out spirituality ('Mount Kailash', 'Dance for the One') to unintentionally comic pop ('Cosmic Surfer', and we don't escape 'We're getting it straight in Notting Hill Gate / We all sit around and mediate'), with 'Only Love' and 'Ganga Mai' in between. This selection appears to be not much more than a quarter of the weekend's recordings, due to technical issues. It is a pity because the tracks on offer are of very worthwhile musical quality - had everything survived, I can imagine giving this concert four stars.

Due to the unplanned shortage of concert material, the album ended up divided into 'Part One: Glastonbury 2010 Performance' and 'Part Two: Sattvic Meditation Suite'. There is a proportion of 'filler' masterminded by their distinguished producer, John Barham, who was responsible for their early studio albums. Barham was an intimate musical associate and producer of George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, so his contributions to 'Rebirth' are interesting in their own right. They comprise three short creations involving flute, birdsong and eastern drones. In addition there are three spiritual pieces recorded by Shiva in the USA: 'Shiva's Chant', a type of track familiar to Quintessence fans and it's nice; 'Sunrise', a sung poem in tribute to the band's late manager Stanley Barr; and 'When Thy Song Flows Through Me', written by the guru Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952), founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship in California.

If you want to investigate the real Quintessence, obviously go for 'Infinite Love', or their earlier studio albums. To appreciate 'Rebirth' you really need to understand all the background. But for existing fans (or spiritual devotees), 'Rebirth' is better than you might expect.

Verdict: I really enjoyed my trip...

 Oceans of Bliss: An Introduction to Quintessence by QUINTESSENCE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2004
3.27 | 9 ratings

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Oceans of Bliss: An Introduction to Quintessence
Quintessence Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This band operated in England but most of their members had an Ethnic background. Indian philosophy and music culture can be heard in their music. I'm not usually very keen on Eastern music but here East and West are united nicely. Quintessence may be of interest to listeners of early jazz-rock or instrumentally oriented Psychedelia, even if you don't actually expect to enjoy Indian influences.

This 68-minute compilation includes selections (some of them as live versions) from their first three albums, 1969-1971, which I believe is their best era. Probably a good introduction to the band. For me this is enough anyway. Some tracks I enjoyed to some degree, some I didn't.

 Infinite Love: Live at the Queen Elizabeth 1971 by QUINTESSENCE album cover Live, 2009
4.83 | 13 ratings

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Infinite Love: Live at the Queen Elizabeth 1971
Quintessence Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by philippe
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Free acid folkish rock combo, back in the 1970s, Quintessence played a key role in the development of long musical excursion mixing raga-ish ornamentation and pop folk-inflected psychedelic improvisations. After a bunch of original and highly inspired mantric folkish-rock studio releases, the band culminates their whole career with this ritualistic and epic live improv recorded in 1971. This blissed out live session first introduces us into the spacious sound mandala with a highly intense, mid-epiphanic-nervous ballad then carries on a crystalline, gentle pastoral pop chanting hymn (Wonders of the universe). The rest of the album features Eastern buzzing and ravishing drone raga, expansive soundscapes (dominated by the dancing dreamy-like flute and the free folk rockin ensemble), amazing almost liturgical acoustic section. Incredibly elaborated sound signature and recognizable sonic sound travel which features essential convoluted freakout moments always within a classy stylish vein and an efficient sense of melodicism. The album is constantly luminous or charming despite that we can regret the brief presence of a few enthusiastic pop naiveties (which anyway don't affect the quality of the album). With their unique combination of improvised textures and sound alike syncrestism, Quintessence contributed to create what I would like to call ragadelic prog music. A tribute to the esoteric beauty. Warmly recommended to all prog lovers.
 In Blissful Company by QUINTESSENCE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.29 | 35 ratings

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In Blissful Company
Quintessence Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Both this album and Quintessence's output as a whole has become rather dated over the years. Clearly riding the wave of enthusiasm for all things Indian that was inspired by the Beatles, the band's fortunes dried up at around the time that particular fashion did. Still, the group seem to have explored both Indian music and Indian spiritual beliefs to a significantly greater depth than many of their peers; a good many hippies of the era took a rather superficial approach to "Eastern" religions, and in the end of a lot of the cultural appropriation at the time comes across as simply another type of orientalism, a fetishisation of all that's "alien" and "exotic" about other cultures that ultimately comes across as faintly patronising.

Quintessence do not come across as superficial culture-tourists on this album; on Chant, for example, the Hare Krishna mantra is delivered with reverence and without embellishment or tampering. On the one hand, this does show an appropriate level of respect for the culture whose trappings the band adopted. On the other hand, it leaves the album a strange, patchwork affair - I mean, it's like a Christian rock band slapping a five-minute Gregorian chant in the middle of an album, it ruins the flow completely. At one point there will be a sincerely presented Krishna chant, whilst at other points there are flute-laden psych songs which come across a bit like early Jethro Tull cast-offs and the occasional sub-Donovan hippy-folk outing (Notting Hill Gate, the major single from the album, is an absolutely asinine song about how hip the neighbourhood the band lived in was at the time), and then at other points you'll get a psych rendition of some traditional Indian music. The album doesn't flow at all well - the different moods don't blend into each other so much and the transitions are just jarring - and the individual songs are pleasant but never much more than pleasant. Maybe Quintessence really were as sincere as they made themselves out to be, but whilst the sincerity is here the musicality isn't.

 Infinite Love: Live at the Queen Elizabeth 1971 by QUINTESSENCE album cover Live, 2009
4.83 | 13 ratings

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Infinite Love: Live at the Queen Elizabeth 1971
Quintessence Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by tbstars1

5 stars I am delighted to support Oliverstoned's assessment of this totally magnificent - and wholly unexpected - release. I have previously reviewed each of the band's five studio-based outputs - including the truly awful Indweller - and consistently bemoaned the fact that no vinyl offering could ever hope to capture the true essence of Quintessence because this was a band which just had to be experienced "live"; moreover, there was no chance, after all this time, of being able to do other than imagine how magical their concerts were. How happily wrong I was! Here we are, forty years down the track, with two live concerts (recorded at QEH on the same day) plus another half a concert, if you add in the surviving excerpts from the previous year's St Pancras concert, as captured on the sister CD, "Cosmic Energy: Live at St Pancras 1970". What total joy!

Whoever mastered this double disc at Hux records deserves a medal - it has truly been a labour of love. The sound quality is absolutely crystal clear. The accompanying booklet is hugely informative - (two of the concerts at which I saw Q are missing from the itinerary at the back, but who can expect total accuracy after all this time?) - and this is altogether just about as good as it could ever hope to get.

I am not going to launch into a review of the individual tracks, because there is no need: people either loved Quintessence or thought they were pretentious piss-takers who were peddling their own brand of pseudo-devotional clap-trap. Guess what? I loved them. I can still recall their concerts as if it were yesterday. And the magic is all here again, on disc, in 2010.

I note that the commentator in the booklet sides slightly with concert number 2 as the preferred one. In the race to the stars, it's a severe case of splitting hairs, but, in my book, the inclusion of (a truly stunning version of) Wonders of the Universe elevates the first concert to an altogether higher plane and, in my opinion, it is duly the better of the two, with the band on absolutely top form. Music and lights from the spheres, indeed.

If I were to seek total perfection, I would recommend extracting the "Giants" suite off the St Pancras CD, and relocating it to its proper home in the QEH concert running order ie after Meditations (concert 1, track 4). This will leave no room for the concert 1 encore (the Dive Deep suite), but no matter - Dive Deep was never one of my favourite songs, and its omission will leave you with about 72 minutes of sheer, uninterrupted bliss, as the band fully lives up to its reputation, at the time, as being, arguably, the best "live" band in the world. They were. And now, thanks to these companion CDs, they are again.

I couldn't recommend this double CD more highly. It's (quite literally) wonderful. As Oliverstoned says, a total masterpiecel

 Quintessence by QUINTESSENCE album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.19 | 26 ratings

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Quintessence
Quintessence Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

3 stars A superior follow-up to their debut 'In Blissful Company', this self-titled effort sees Notting Hill's Quintessence expand upon their exotic raga-rock sound with layers of guitars, drums, sitars and a slighly more progressive lilt. Some may find the quasi-religious mumblings a tad unbearable, and some of band-leader Raja Ram's rather indulgent noodlings do sometimes hinder the otherwise fluid acid rock, but it's all part-and-parcel of this quirky group's appeal. Imagine Hawkwind on valium and with acoustic guitars and tabla's instead of electric instruments and you get the picture, except Quintessence sport a slightly more refined musical style. Both of the group's first two albums are well worth checking out, especially for fans of Jade Warrior, Clark Hutchinson's 'A=Mh2' and ethnic krautrockers Yatha Sidhra, and despite the fairly laughable hippie-dippie lyrics, the sounds of offer here are genuinely progressive in their execution and the instrumentation richly-textured in it's attempt to re-produce the exotic sounds of India and beyond. STEFAN TURNER, LONDON, 2010
 Self by QUINTESSENCE album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.21 | 16 ratings

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Self
Quintessence Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by Thierry

3 stars Lead by the Australian violinist and flutist Ron Rothfield (a.k.a. 'Raja Ram'), the keyboardist Phil Jones ('Shiva Shankar') and Shambu Babaji on guitar and bass, this North-London band had, as you have guessed, very strong spiritual Indian music influences. Their first two albums, "In Blissful Company" and their eponymous second album had much success riding on the new passion provoked by the Beatles for Indian music. They are filled with Indian sacred chants and psalms, but also great jazz-filled rock tracks. At the top of their career, Quintessence was famous for playing superb Indian-laced psychedelic rock blend with ethnic fusion under gorgeous covers. Some young prog heads will find them obsolete or not prog at all.. By the lyrics (peace, love?), I think the message is eternal and we really need it now. As for the music, this is a mix of different culture and thus it corresponds to the very first definition of prog that is a melting pot. "Self", released in 1972, is their third studio effort. All fans of Iron Butterfly, Sweet Smoke, East of Eden will enjoy this remastered edition and its two bonus tracks.
 Infinite Love: Live at the Queen Elizabeth 1971 by QUINTESSENCE album cover Live, 2009
4.83 | 13 ratings

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Infinite Love: Live at the Queen Elizabeth 1971
Quintessence Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by oliverstoned
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Absolute masterpiece. Sorry, but i had to begin this review by these strong words.

This freshly unreleased 1971 double live album is an unexpected gem (and the word is weak) which expand a lot Quintessence's discography, along with the other « Cosmic Energy: Live at St Pancras 1970 » CD also by Hux records which is almost in the same vein in term of performance, but not for sound quality.

The performance on "Infinite Love: Live at the Queen Elizabeth 1971" is stellar, that's why at the time some music reviewers claimed that Quintessence was « the best live band in the world ». Indeed, the band combines virtuosity and mystic fervour like nobody. Flute and guitar parts are awesome, the psychedelic jams evoke the best Grateful dead. Quintessence is really the following of the american psychedelic scene, with a unique indo progressive touch. The track list gather pieces from all albums including the masterpiece eponym track « Dive deep » with two versions including one clocking at 24 minutes.

This is rare enough to be precised : not only this concert has been very well recorded in 1971 -as explained into the very informative booklet- thanks to amplifier settings in order to make the flute and vocals clearly audible, but the CD transfer is a success too : for one time the sound is neutral and musical with great presence, no over-compression which makes this CD a delight to listen to, even on ambitious audio systems, which is rarely the case with « rock » records. Thanks a lot to Hux records for this great mastering job. This is the kind of CD releases which may save the CD industry ! The only drawback for picky audiophiles who don't like to put their fingers on their precious discs is the very unconvenient double CD jewel case which is a pain to use : it's very hard to remove the CD from the box without damaging it, which is very frustating with such a quality record. Besides this detail, this « Infinite love » is easily the release of the year in vintage progressive rock.

 In Blissful Company by QUINTESSENCE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.29 | 35 ratings

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In Blissful Company
Quintessence Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by oliverstoned
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars 4 stars

Quintessence first album presents an under-rated band which appears to be quite precursor in the Indo folk progressive genre for this 1969 year. There's a strong analogy with another progressive band: Sweet smoke. For the jazz and Indian influences, the predominance of flute, the same happy hippy spiritual mood and the excellent guitar work. Quintessence music is never complex but can be well progressive anyway, like on "Midnight mode", the gem here: excellent flute, a mind-blowing psychedelic space guitar solo and an impressive pure traditional (Indian) end. A must! A nice introduction to this great band. The Repertoire CD release has a good sound and is very nice looking in its Digipack form.

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

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