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MARSUPILAMI

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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Marsupilami biography
MARSUPILAMI were an English proto-prog outfit who relocated to the Netherlands. The complexity of their music is quite unusual for the times - we're talking 1970 here, when the big guns such as YES, GENESIS and CRIMSON were barely coming out of the woodwork. A mixture of blues, experimental jazz and hints of folk, their music is often dark and foreboding, favouring perilously complex structures. Try to imagine a mixture of KING CRIMSON, JETHRO TULL, the STRAWBS and EAST OF EDEN.

Their two albums feature weird/oblique melodies and harmonies, lots of heavy keyboards, electric guitar and flute (at times purposely off key), with the drummer pounding on his skins as if his life depended on it. This is very early prog and you particularly feel this in the organ work, which has a typical early 70's psych feel. Their second album, which features an additional member on flute and sax as well as the appearance of the Mellotron, is an ambitious concept album about the brutal culture of ancien Rome - quite a sordid affair, really, but well done. It has a slightly better sound than the first album although most progsters generally favour the first.

Fans of EAST OF EDEN or those interested in vintage prog will certainly want to check them out.

: : : Lise (HIBOU), CANADA : : :

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Arena                /  MarsupilamiArena / Marsupilami
Remastered
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MarsupilamiMarsupilami
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Marsupilami (Japanese mini LP sleeve SHM-CD)Marsupilami (Japanese mini LP sleeve SHM-CD)
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Arena (Japanese Mini LP Sleeve SHM-CD)Arena (Japanese Mini LP Sleeve SHM-CD)
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Arena by MARSUPILAMI (2007-08-28)Arena by MARSUPILAMI (2007-08-28)
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Marsupilami by Marsupilami (2005-04-05)Marsupilami by Marsupilami (2005-04-05)
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MARSUPILAMI discography


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

3.82 | 71 ratings
Marsupilami
1970
4.01 | 79 ratings
Arena
1971

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MARSUPILAMI Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Marsupilami by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.82 | 71 ratings

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Marsupilami
Marsupilami Eclectic Prog

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

5 stars The big bang of progressive rock music had only just got begun to break in 1969 when bands like King Crimson, East Of Eden, Soft Machine and Pink Floyd were redefining the context of the rock paradigm by wresting the exemplar blues oriented ingredients out of the standard status quo and expanding its horizons into levels of ever increasing complexity when one of the first adventurous bands, MARSUPILAMI took the newly developing sub-genre of rock and augmented its complexity in virtually every way. This band was born in 1968 when the Hasson brothers, Fred (vocals, harmonica, bongos) and Leary (organ) came up with the idea of naming their band after a famous Belgian comic book character that was created in 1952. The brothers were raised in Taunton in the Somerset region of England only in an Anglo-French household where they were exposed to both sides of the channel at an early age. The comic book character created by André Franquin was a strange hybrid of a monkey and a cat and was yellow with black spots but also a mix of being adorably cute and highly rebellious. Thus, the band MARSUPILAMI not only adopted the name of this character but the generally personality traits as well.

MARSUPILAMI formed after touring Spain in their previous R&B band Levitation but after scoring a coveted gig with the Joe Cocker band, the brothers realized that the other members weren't committed and went their separate ways. After many auditions and new members joining and quickly departing, the brothers cemented their new band by picking off their favorite talents from local band and thus the newly formed lineup included Mike Fouracre (drums) and Richard Hicks (bass guitar) who came from local blues outfit Justin's Timepiece and Dave Laverock (guitar) came from a semi-pro band, the Sabres. Leary's flute playing, art student girlfriend, Jessica Stanley Clarke (now Jecka McVicar, Britain's foremost organic herb grower) joined the cast and one of the world's most sophisticated early prog bands was born. Soon thereafter the members headed to a large unused country house and set up the barn as the 24/7 rehearsal studio where they would tease all their influences into the monstrous musical structures that appeared on their eponymous debut album in full-on progressive splendor.

With influences ranging from the classical greats such as Messian to jazz gurus such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner and Pharaoh Sanders with a little contemporary folk via Fairport Convention as well as the most innovative thinkers in rock via Zappa, Soft Machine, MARSUPILAMI carefully crafted through the painstaking alchemical amalgamations coupled with the ceaseless practice sessions and created some of the most daring and out of the box musical structures within the rock paradigm of the era. While having been released in April 1970, the album was recorded all the way back in June 1969 before King Crimson shocked the world with their progressive bomb "In The Court Of The Crimson King," so that means that MARSUPILAMI developed their simultaneous approach of more demanding strains of rock music completely independently ushering in a completely unique sound unlike any of the other artists of the day. In fact the debut album was actually much more daring and unpredictable as any of the better known early prog albums released by King Crimson, East Of Eden, Amon Düül II, The Nice, Pink Floyd or Soft Machine.

MARSUPILAMI was somewhat of a hit on the live circuit as they played at a number of festivals at a rather relentless pace and even opened for Deep Purple in their Mark I phase. They played the famous 1969 Isle Of Wight Festival and even won the Exeter based South West Regional leg of Melody Maker Best Band Competition. They were also gaining quite the reputation as formidable stage presence on the mainland in Europe and after finding the perfect manager in Julian Palmer-Hill, they were approached by MCA for a record contract but opted instead to sign with the independent Transatlantic Records which was looking to diversify into the greater rock world beyond their avant-garde and folk based acts of The Humblebums, John Fahey, John Cage and even Zappa's "Uncle Meat," just to name a few.

This eponymous debut album is the essence of what would become the norm in adventurous prog that coming to fruition the following year thus in effect jump starting the arms race of pomp and awe that meant each band would attempt to outdo the other with ever increasing albums of complexity. Laced with psychedelic trips, instrumental workouts twisted into complex labyrinthine compositional constructs with jazz-tinged chord progressions with long extended passages to allow flute drenched motifs, heavy rock guitar and avant-garde meanderings, the eponymously titled debut from MARSUPILAMI is one of progressive rock's earliest crowning achievements, however due to a rather limited shelf life of band members cohesively sharing the same vision, the band was short lived and their existence has woefully fallen off the radar throughout the ensuing decades. All five tracks were recorded in relatively few takes and basically done completely live displaying the extreme dexterity and commitment to detail that MARUPILAMI so gracefully mastered.

While the musical mojo shifts stylistically at the drop of a hat randomly metamorphosing from heavy organ tinged rock to folky flute based dreamscapes with chanting and then off to full-on jazz-rock fusion splendor, the lyrics constructed a more ominous and apocalyptic vision such as on the all instrumental "Ab Initio Ad Finem" which is a musical interpretation of a sermon from the Old Testament of the Bible which narrates humanity's undoing through a global catastrophe. "Dorian's Deep" begins the album in a 60s psychedelic haze with a droning organ and ethereal chanting but quickly changes gear from a flute and bass driven military march to a bombastic guitar and organ driven progressive rock behemoth as it goes for the jugular with complex time signature outbursts, unexpected stylistic shifts and various moody elements battling it for domination as the rock guitar, bass and drums alternate with the flute dominated folk elements and psychedelic breakdowns. "Born To Be Free" sounds more like a throwback to the 60s with a jazzy flute dominated mellow vibe. Despite being one of the more "normal" tracks steeped more in a 60s psych throwback rather than 70s excess, the track still exhibits unorthodoxies.

"And The Eagle Chased The Dove To Its Ruin" totally goes off the deep end with not only the most gloom ridden lyrics of the album but also in its relentless attack on the senses with a tension driving build up that ratchets up the frenetic flute outbursts and heavy time signature rich deviations fortified by a heavy bass and drum attack with the guitar interacting at full fury. "Ab Initio Ad Finem (The Opera)" offers another slice of impending doom with organs riffing in a J.S Bach funeral march while a caffeinated bongo attack creates an impenetrable percussive wall of sound only to be uplifted by a somewhat contemplative flute that can't decide if it's having a good day or not. When the guitars finally emerge, they soar above it all and tamp down the competition until it finally mellows out into a somewhat funk meets flute vibe. The track continues to transmogrify into completely new unrelated territories and although instrumental indeed conveys a lifetime of emotions in its wake. The closing "Facilis Descencus Averni" opens with a call and response of flute and guitar but quickly settles into a more rockin' set with the oddly shaped angular vocal harmonics indicative of the album and goes to even further ends of changing things up frequently but with the intro melodic reprise grounding it somewhat. This last piece if by far the most adventurous and demanding piece and the perfect way to end this brilliant ahead-of-its- time album.

MARSUPILAMI's debut is without doubt the most complex progressive rock albums of the tender year of 1970 and having been created an entire year prior in 1969 ranks as one of progressive rock's most innovative and expressive constructs in its birth pangs. The skill and dexterity that the musicians exhibit is simply impeccable as they effortlessly meander in unison all across the bizarrely constructed soundscapes. Perhaps only dampened by the rather mopey vocal style of Fred Hasson for some as it certainly is an acquired taste and it goes without saying that this is one of those tough nuts to crack musical experiences as it takes a multitude of listening sessions to fully comprehend and then a few more to really let sink in. While emerging as the most angular and demanding listens of the year it was released, there are plenty of dark but beautiful melodic hooks that create a certain level of instant accessibility however they are indeed relentless in their abandonment just as things become familiar as well.

Psychedelic Krautrock tinged sections? Yep, the very first track "Dorian Deep" begins with a firm tie to the 60s with a nice lysergic mind-expanding intro that slowly gels into a creeping organ and spooky vocal 'aaah's' that coalesce into a bass, drum, organ and vocal melodic development which is revisited throughout. As the album continues it pretty much displays a various mix of freak folk flute action preceding the Comus masterpiece "First Utterance," symphonic pastoral interludes that Genesis would latch onto the same year, pugnacious organ rock aspects that Deep Purple were only beginning to develop and even full fledged progressive rock high energy deliveries that wouldn't be fully unleashed at this level again until Il Balletto Di Bronzo's groundbreaking "Ys." Add to that the extreme jazz-fusion sensibilities of syncopation without any melodic sacrificial lambs and you have a recipe for something totally brilliant and light years ahead of its time.

While it seems most reviewers feel reluctant to give this the full masterpiece creds, i personally have no problem pulling the trigger for a 5 star piece of heaven such as this. Virtually everything 70s prog had already coalesced at this early stage and although never to be repeated except by the band themselves with their second and last offering "Arena," MARSUPILAMI are a testament to how quickly the progressive rock big bang of 1969 evolved in a very startling short period of time with all subsequent acts merely latching on to certain aspects of what was unleashed here. This album truly makes me wonder how many other more successful bands were listening to this and latched onto some of the ideas presented. There is just so much on here that it's mind blowing. This is truly a Code Red, Phase 5, top notch prog album that registers a 10 on the prog-o-meter. Simply stunning and beyond belief. A personal favorite.

 Arena by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.01 | 79 ratings

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Arena
Marsupilami Eclectic Prog

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

5 stars Poor English group Marsupilami - forever destined to be confused for being an Italian band! But one thing they sure had in common with the vintage Italian acts on their second and final album `Arena' in 1971 (after a superb organ-heavy proto-prog flavoured self-titled debut the year before) was an energetic, unpredictable heavy sound jam-packed with filthy keyboard danger, thrashing drums, mangled guitar intensity and a deranged and coarse singer full of charisma! A concept album about the gladiator arena of the ancient Roman Empire, the LP was produced by Pete Bardens of Camel fame, but those expecting a similar lush symphonic ride similar to that will be rudely kicked in the plums right from the start of the disc!

Mostly performed in the studio live to best capture the lively spontaneous energy of the group, the album instantly rages to life from its opening seconds with possibly one of the greatest ever introductions on a Seventies prog album - just listen to vocalist Fred Hasson's unhinged and demented feral outburst - "We've come here today to rip the veil from your eyes, unhinge your heads and pull out your BLOODY MINDS!!" - Love it or hate it, `Prelude to the Arena' will instantly grab your attention! It goes on to bombard the listener with wailing guitar soloing, snaking thick bass punctuations and a breakneck pummelling of drums, with quieter breaks of careful organ, flute ruminations and nimble fingered jazzy electric piano runs. `Peace of Rome' holds lurking darker organ and flute-driven symphonic unease behind pained crooned vocals and fiery tearing electric guitar rumbles.

The schizophrenic thirteen minute `The Arena' presents dramatic narration alongside piercing twisted female cries, madly darting huffing flute, devilish stop-start organ blasts and dreamy piano passages before sauntering into some very exotic themes and drifting reflective passages that still manage to hold a serrated harshness. Some blasting up-tempo spots almost come close to Genesis and the shimmering reaching guitar strains briefly remind of Yes' Steve Howe.

After an echoing narration, mud-like Black Sabbath guitar snarls and droning treated vocals, `Time Shadows' tears into lengthy improvised passages, where jazzy piano sprints ripple with tension behind wisps of flute, harmonica and saxophone and warm humming dominating Hammond organ, and there's some cleverly executed reprises of earlier themes. After opening with aggressive panning organ stabs over rumbling drums and stormy brimstone-heavy electric guitar mangling, closer `Spring' is probably the nearest the album comes to a Camel-like moment with a recurring charming and breezier rejoicing melodic theme with pleasing flute, harmonica, piano and violin, the bass constantly pulsing with hypnotic unease.

Some will find the borderline flat vocals in parts to be a bit of a deal-breaker, but `Arena' contains all the symphonic grandiosity you could want from a Seventies prog album without the fancy production polish and politeness, and the welcome tougher edge and raging sense of danger is refreshing and highly distinctive. While it's far from a complete obscurity, `Arena', so close to being a minor masterpiece and not sounding like any other album or band before it, definitely hasn't received the attention it truly deserves over the years, and this gutsy symphonic rough gem deserves a complete reappraisal and rediscovery now.

Four and a half stars.

 Arena by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.01 | 79 ratings

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Arena
Marsupilami Eclectic Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars MARSUPILAMI were one of the early Prog bands to come out of the UK and are often compared to EAST OF EDEN not because they sound anything alike but because they both played very complex and adventerous music, especially for 1970. By the way they named themselves after a cartoon character created by a Belgian artist. This is their second and final album released in March of 1971, they broke up after this one because of poor album sales. They became quite popular in The Netherlands though after their debut prompting the band to actually relocate there before making this concept album, in fact in the original liner notes for "Arena" there are some very complimentery words from two fellows associated with The Paradiso in Amsterdam who praise the band for not only their music but for their warmth and friendship as they really adopted these Brits as their own.

They added a new member for this release in Mandy Riedelbanch who plays sax, flute and percussion bringing this up to a seven piece band. Also they have two guests helping out in Bob West who helped with the lyrics for this concept about the "Arena" where so much violence and death occurred in the name of entertainment etc. back in Rome, Italy many centuries ago. Also Pete Bardons(CAMEL) produced this and helped with percussion, it should be noted that this was 2 years before CAMEL released their debut album. We get mellotron on this one as well with plenty of it on the first three tracks.

"Prelude To Ruin" opens in an intense and eerie manner before the music kicks in with vocals in tow. Aggressive drumming and guitar lead the way early on before it settles right down with reserved vocals. Gotta love the mellotron after 2 1/2 minutes before it kicks back in. Best part of this song for me is the last 1 1/2 minutes where it's almost jazzy with piano and prominant bass. So good. "Peace Of Rome" builds with flute, drums, vocal melodies and more. Vocals come in and eventually organ as the music continues to shift. A calm before 3 minutes then it builds. I like the keyboards, percussion and flute here then the vocals return along with some intensity. Nice guitar solo too. The bass is throbbing as we are treated to an excellent instrumantal section. Vocals are back before 4 1/2 minutes. Man this sounds so good 5 minutes in after the vocals stop briefly. It's almost haunting late for a short time. "The Arena" opens with strange sounding vocals and some mean sounding organ runs. The flute that joins the organ is wicked. What I love about this band more than anything is their instrumental work and thankfully we get plenty of that the rest of the way. This is the longest song at just under 13 minutes. Great sound with the percussion, guitar and organ before female vocal melodies join in. They seem to jam here which is fine by me. Vocals and flute are back 4 minutes in. A beautiful section takes over before 6 1/2 minutes with soft spoken female vocals, piano and flute. It kicks back in a minute later with vocals. We get another killer instrumental section starting 9 minutes in. Reserved male vocals with a mellow sound follow but this song continues to have many time changes. A very entertaining track to say the least.

"Time Shadows" opens with spoken vocals that echo bringing to mind Krautrock. Freaky stuff before a melancholic organ and sound takes over. I like the flute and organ here. The harmonica before 2 minutes is brief then the vocals come in. It's still laid back. The tempo picks up before 3 1/2 minutes. This is really good as the vocals and flute standout. Piano joins in. A jazzy vibe around 5 minutes caused mostly by the bass playing then the sax joins in. Nice. This instrumental section continues for some time then the vocals return after 7 minutes as the sound changes. It's laid back here but the intensity rises late with the organ and sax dominating. "Spring" ends the album in style. It's pastoral to start before becoming experimental quickly. It settles back before 2 minutes and it sounds amazing with the beat, piano and flute. Gorgeous stuff right here. Bass and harmonica to the fore a minute later. Vocals join in along with bowed guitar which sounds very cool. The drumming starts to impress as well. The guitar starts to solo after 5 minutes after the vocals have stopped. It's the flute's turn and we get two of them. So cool ! Vocal melodies come in late as it then calm right down to a whisper 8 minutes in. When it kicks back in to that familiar melody I have to say i'm not worthy.

I can't believe it took a couple of spins for me to start to realize that I had something special here. A solid 4 stars.

 Marsupilami by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.82 | 71 ratings

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Marsupilami
Marsupilami Eclectic Prog

Review by VOTOMS

4 stars Strange. Unique. A rare piece of progressive rock from UK. You will find everything you want here, constant rhytmic change, but not exageratted, a great organ, some psychedelic influences, and more. I could express my appreciation for this album calling it "almost a masterpiece". And I do not know what privates me to call it a masterpiece.

Dorian Deep is the first track, a great ecletic prog. Some flute solos here and there. The guitar and bass riffage are good and the organ is the special sauce. Born To Be Free is my favorite song here. And The Eagle Chased The Dove To Its Ruin it's the third track, it's good, but nothing too special. But the experimental prog B Side could reward any bad move into the album. A 70s prog rock definition.

 Arena by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.01 | 79 ratings

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Arena
Marsupilami Eclectic Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars After their debut album's release, Marsi toured and expanded by adding Mandy Riedelbanch on multiple wind instruments and found themselves relocating in Amsterdam, where they were playing a series of concert in the Paradiso theatre with the then-state of the art MC2 Lightshow. This is when they started to write and rehearse for their second album, with the assistance of an external lyricist Bob West. The album, recorded in London, was produced by future Camel founder Peter Bardens, and indeed you can hear some of Mirage's source of inspiration in Arena, including Latimer's flute, much reminiscent of Jessica Stanley. "Graced" with one of the ugliest ever prog artwork, Arena was an improvement on their debut, partly because the extra musician allowed the group to have much more possibilities, sonically and songwriting-wise.

So the aptly titled opening track Prelude does musically exactly that: it resumes the first album's progress and the band is ready to pick up things where they'd left it at. So with the following Peace Of Rome (we're in a concept, but I was never bothered to follow it too much without smirking at the pretentiousness, the worst offender being Triumvirate) is a very ambitious piece, exploring its themes over circus/arena crowd noises, and a touch of mellotron (that was missing in the debut album) and plenty of interplay time. The mammoth title track starts rather eerily, but in a second movement, it picks a mid-eastern them over tabla and drums, but in the next one, the ambitious and daring vocal passage turns close to ridicule, but saved from it by further impressive progressions until a sharp and raw end. At one point, you can hear Laverock's bowed guitar give an acetate cello sound.

The flipside starts on effects-laden narration as intro of the other epic of this album, Time Shadows. This tracks spends a considerable time in its first movement a piano/organ duo (overdubbing from Leary, certainly), before gradually intervening are Jessica's flute, Mandy's sax and Laverock's now jazzy guitar. After an insufferably long passage dishing out whatever lyrics the track had to offer, the group unleashes on a bass and closing lyric lines, before echoing keys and sax bring the track into a very Graaf-esque ending. Indeed you'd swear this is Jaxon , Banton, and Hammill closing this track. . I'm not sure whether the closing Spring track is supposed to be part of the concept, for it doesn't get one of those pompous description like the first four tracks, but it's also a collectively-written track, that starts as a complete mayhem to slowly settle down in a dervish-like trance , with Fred's meandering scat vocals soaring over the rest of the band's great semi-raga, until the guitar and flute slowly deconstruct the group's unity (there is a superb double flute interlude that last until the organ breaks it up, announcing the piano and now double scat vocals. Fantasrtic stuff and definitely the group's best moment and it is quite accessible too. Much more than some of the more "baroque" passages that "doesn't click all the way".

Unlike the debut album, Arena did receive a Cd issue, but this was in the early 90's with the German label Line A (and apparently there was also a Japanese remaster according to a fellow reviewer), and it was long out of print, so all kudos goes to Esoteric Records to have re-unearthed this small forgotten gem. One of the rare deceptions I have is that it seems that the new member Riedelbanch is only really present (or at least noticeable) on the album's flipside, which is a crying shame, because I think she made quite a difference. Arena is definitely an improvement on their debut album, but it is a bit like Gnidrolog?. Get both albums as they're equally good, even if this one will get more nods.

 Marsupilami by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.82 | 71 ratings

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Marsupilami
Marsupilami Eclectic Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars One of those early 70's group that should've emerged but didn't , like Audience, Comus, Gnidrolog and a few more, this south-west England sextet, built around the Hasson brothers Fred (vocals) and Leary (keyboards) and the latter's girlfriend Jessica Clarke (flute and vocals), released two superb albums that have gone way too long without being noticed. The group toured in 68 & 69 heavily in the UK and Continental Europe (from Denmark to Switzerland), even opening the first Isle of Wight Festival that year and played in the first Glastonbury fest the following year. They finally secured a record deal with the folk-specialist Transatlantic label (Pentangle amongst others) and recorded their self-titled album in June 69 (ITCOTCK is still months away), but for some reason, it was only released on April 70. Would've things changed heavily if the album had been released before KC's debut? We'll never know, but Marsipulami's sombre and slightly spooky flute- laden music, often evoking mythology, certainly was groundbreaking stuff and should've caught many more "underground public" ears, but the offer was plentiful in those times and the places in the sunshine a bit scarce.

Back in 69, the sextet's sound was definitely anchored in the 70's, even if the guitars still had a fuzz thing, and groups like Purple or The Nice were not as "modern", but the songwriting was maybe a little too close from one song to another, or the band wasn't able to arrange that the tracks had each its own proper atmosphere, precisely like ITCOFTCK or Nursery Cryme. Indeed, from the opening Dorian Deep, the atmosphere is often sombre and brooding, heavy and borderline angry (Hasson's sometimes off-key and perfectible vocals induce this), organ-driven, with the fuzz guitar and the flute (sounding more like Latimer than anderson) adding more drama, Fouracre's drumming being very strong, this leaves Hicks' bass playing often the anchoring role, but does it brilliantly. The A-side is made of three semi-lengthy tracks, building the group's overall sound, but the flipside's two epics are what the group is all about

By the time of the second-last track Ad Initio (an instrumental), despite their own little intro, we're sort of lost as to where we are as all the tracks have the same ring to them, but here there is also a bunch of classical music themes revisited, the whole thing going down in a chaos of eternal damnation and hell promised, but alas Leary's organ is resurrected through the apocalyptic end and provides a suitable outro. The last track has a more brilliant passage where a cello appears and gives directly another colour to the last minutes of Descencus Aveni., which in its opening stages was reminiscent of early Wishbone Ash despite Jessica's flute, and if it disappears for a while, it comes back as soon as the singing returns (WA's debut was released in early 70, but remember this album is early 69)

This is the very first Cd reissue for this album (the second did have one on Line A in the early 90's) and it's a crying shame, but at least Esoteric Records took care of this omission, and remastered the album, but apparently no extra material was available, which is no problem, since the album is self-supporting on its own. Yes, we've got certainly a major debut album, but it isn't flawless, particularly in terms of singing and in variety or spectrum, but let us not nitpick because Esoteric unearthed a real gem, here.

 Marsupilami by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.82 | 71 ratings

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Marsupilami
Marsupilami Eclectic Prog

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars The product of two brothers, Leary and Fred Hasson (organ and vocals respectively), Marsupilami - a name taken from the work of Belgian cartoonist Andre Franquin - formed in 1968 and was one of Transatlantic Records first acts to be signed. A fascinating missing link in the Prog chain, Marsupilami's debut is a hoot-- a wonderful and slightly insane record that revealed a wholly unique kind of underground rock. Oh it's prog, baby, but at the time the six-piece was conflicted as to what exactly they were offering and evidently felt their work should be placed with Jazz or classical. Of course they were neither, just an incredibly inventive rock band and looking back, had a small but measurable effect on what became the Prog era with a sound that may have even influenced the likes of Dave Stewart and Keith Emerson. In 1969 they were on a heavy schedule appearing with Deep Purple, Joe Cocker Band, Quintessence, Mighty Baby, and were the first group to play at the Isle of Wight Festival. By mid-'69 they'd turned down an offer from MCA and recorded this album near King's Road in London at an old dairy turned studio, released in April 1970 on Transatlantic.

Each cut was done in one or two takes, capturing an immediacy most prog artists save Egg or Soft Machine would reject in favor of precision and formality. No such sacrifice of living energy here, the material an impressive amalgam of cerebral complexity and organic depth, structure with some room to bend but not break. We're met with a wind-swept valley for the monastic 'Dorian Deep', Dave Laverock's classic fuzz guitar leading with Leary Hasson's organ and Jessica Stanley-Clarke's twitter on flute, somewhere between Santana's early jams and Arzachel's wraith-rock. Canterbury School jazz for 'Born to be Free', and majestic 'And the Eagle Chased the Dove to its Ruin' drips with the rhythmic energy of classic psychedelia. The funereal creaking of 'Ab Initio Ad Finem' evolves into a serious rock movement and interprets an Old Testament-style sermon on cataclysmic events, an instrumental clocking in at a healthy 10&1/2 minutes with the hot timekeeping of Mike Fouracre & Richard Hicks, Hasson letting go on his Hammond. And they close with 'Facilis Descencus Averni' where their Baroque leanings come out in full.

Earthy, powerful and intriguing, Marsupilami was one of the first true progressive rock bands. Complete in its ambition, total in its capabilities, absolute in its theater, an ensemble that burned just a bit brighter than most in the English post-underground scene and a must for any serious Prog completist.

 Marsupilami by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.82 | 71 ratings

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Marsupilami
Marsupilami Eclectic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Outstanding sextet formed in 1968 and among the first bands to be signed by Transatlantic records.They moved to The Netherlands to record their first eponymous LP.''Marsupilami'' is a fantastic example of early-70's really progressive rock music,based mainly on magnificent organ orgasms and attacking guitars with heavy doses of flute and harmonica passages.However,their music cannot be labeled as hard rock by any means.They have actually a diverse sound with blues,jazz and psych overtones mixed with superb instrumental interplays and a dark,intense atmosphere.A great LP,personally listed in my top-5 prog albums of 1970,strongly recommended to fans of early dark prog yn the vein of GNIDROLOG or VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR.
 Arena by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.01 | 79 ratings

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Arena
Marsupilami Eclectic Prog

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Into the Arena!!

An amazing and complex album that was in line or even ahead of where the competition was at the time it was made in 1970. As you likely know this is a concept album about the Roman culture that was produced by Camel's Peter Bardens who also plays some percussion. Musically and lyrically it is heavy, dark (mostly), and quite adventurous. More than anything though this is a near perfect example of early English progressive rock (though recorded in the Netherlands.)

"Prelude to the Arena" (subtitled "the undertones of violence in a drifting generation") starts quite violently with Sabbath style dramatic chords and the theatrical exclamations of Fred Hasson, whose vocals are adequate for this material but sit just on the edge of being annoying at times. This leads to alternating calm and rock sections with organ, guitar, flute. Bass and some furious drumming are pretty stellar throughout the jamming. Quite a nice opener. "Peace of Rome" ("they manufactured death to keep the peace") starts with a back and forth between vocalizations and flute. Then there is a section of sung spoken narrations about the Roman concepts with lovely flutes and another fluent rock section with organ. "The Arena" ("the fighting, the killing, the mother of fornication") begins with more dramatic narration over Hammond blasts and then some extended organ over subdued drumming, bass, and female background vocals. The flutes come in and the sound is quite eerie and a bit exotic. In the middle there is a great section of piano, flute and whispered female vocal, the calm before the chaos to follow. Starting at 9:20 is a section that sounds quite Camel-ish, one wonders if Barden's picked up some subconscious influence here although most of Marsupilami is much more brash than Camel. The latter half of this song features some truly fine prog rock moments, great guitar work, mellotron, vocals, and overall memorable textures.

Side 2 begins with "Time Shadows" ("lay low the past, the future brings hope"). This one starts very weird with echoed vocal and organ, then acoustic and flute join and then harmonica and vocal. Soon a brisk bass and jazzy drum beat grabs the weirdness and pulls it along, then some piano joins in. If this sounds like a mess, well it kind of is a musical car wreck and yet is quite fulfilling. About half way through we get the saxophone and electric guitar trading licks with an urgent flute and rhythm section behind. The last minute gets pretty crazy with the sax and guitar laying down some very heavy rock. "Spring" is a great closer and another good hippie rock moment. After yet another insanely dramatic beginning the track suddenly jumps into the most delightfully melodic passage of flute, piano, and gentle Camel like rhythm. That stops and we move into a vocal weirdness section with cathartic wailing to edgy strings and keys. Then a short e guitar solo-the lead guitar work is good enough though by no means jaw dropping. But with everything else going on around it doesn't need to be. The sound here again is VERY busy and ambitious, and somewhat difficult. This will be just too bizarre for some to enjoy, but others will feast on the eccentricity of the album. After several minutes of strangeness it slips back to the Camel-like melody to provide a pleasing and memorable ending.

"Arena" is an album that puzzled me at first but I'm glad I stuck with it, I now find it to be a challenging and always entertaining listen. To give a bit more info on the overall sound I quote just a short section from the GEPR: "There is also a strong folk feel in the vocal melodies and some of the music. The organ work gives a bit of a early '70s psych feel. Arena is a concept album but the songs on both albums run in the 7-9 minute range. Perhaps not essential but generally pretty nice if you like melodic prog with folk touches and a bit of an early feel. I especially like the heavy keyboards and busy drumming. Their overall sound is somewhat typical of the period - full of late sixties influences - but unique enough to be worthwhile. They occasionally sound like In Search of Space era Hawkwind but with more emphasis on vocals and keyboards. The instrumental proficiency and variety will keep the average prog-head interested." [part in quotes from GEPR]

It's certainly true that parts of this sound dated but that isn't necessarily the same thing as "not aging well." If you don't mind theatrics I'd say this has aged quite well, the strange complexities of the composition and arrangements make it as interesting to me as some of today's ultra complex prog. The Japanese remaster is not a gatefold unfortunately but it does offer some decent sound quality considering how old this is. 4 solid stars for a great early prog album and recommended to anyone intrigued by what they're read.

 Arena by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.01 | 79 ratings

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Arena
Marsupilami Eclectic Prog

Review by barp

4 stars A fine piece of early seventies prog. Plenty of styles fused into an original and imaginative mix. The music is mainly keyboard driven, but the vocal and brass arrangements brought to mind Colosseum's early albums. This probably does deserve the term 'undiscovered gem' - it's hard to understand why Marsupilami didn't achieve a higher profile when the album was released...perhaps like stable- mates Stray, they suffered from Transatlantic's uncertainty as to how to promote bands whose music fell outside the norm for the label? Well worth investigating for anyone who enjoys the early years of prog!
Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to NotAProghead for the last updates

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