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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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ArenaArena
Import · Remastered
Esoteric 2007
Audio CD$11.01
$10.87 (used)
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Import
Esoteric 2009
Audio CD$9.49
$27.48 (used)
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Vinyl$35.00 (used)
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Breathless 2005
Audio CD$15.18
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ACME
Vinyl$25.00
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3.68 | 50 ratings
Marsupilami
1970
3.91 | 56 ratings
Arena
1971

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MARSUPILAMI Reviews


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 Arena by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.91 | 56 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.

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 Marsupilami by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.68 | 50 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.

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 Arena by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.91 | 56 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.

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 Marsupilami by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.68 | 50 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.

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 Marsupilami by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.68 | 50 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.

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 Marsupilami by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.68 | 50 ratings

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Marsupilami
Marsupilami Eclectic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

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.

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 Arena by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.91 | 56 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.

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 Arena by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.91 | 56 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!

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 Marsupilami by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.68 | 50 ratings

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Marsupilami
Marsupilami Eclectic Prog

Review by Agemo

4 stars Marsupilami is one of those bands from the early era of progressive rock that made great music. They were a British band but moved to The Netherlands to make their music. I don't know if they were influenced at all by the Dutch progressive bands of the late sixties, early seventies. But with the good Dutch progressive tradition, they also have a flute player. The music is at times heavy, with strong guitar solos. It is mainly organ / guitar based with some accents by flute and even harmonica (which is rather unusual in progressive music). The music is complex but can also be bluesy (like Born To be Free). At times it is a bit pretentious (as can be shown in the titles of the tracks). The musicianship is great and there are some interesting instrumental bits in the tracks. My favourite is Ab Initio Ad Finem (The Opera) with its spacey start, the melodic centre and the doomy ending. This is an amazing album.

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 Marsupilami by MARSUPILAMI album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.68 | 50 ratings

BUY
Marsupilami
Marsupilami Eclectic Prog

Review by erik neuteboom
Prog Reviewer

3 stars As a huge fan from the early British Progressive Rock Movement I got excited after reading the positive reviews on this site. So I ordered their two albums and especially this eponymous debut album is a treat. The sound is typical early Seventies: very alternating (a progressive blend of classic, folk, blues and psychedelia) and dynamic featuring long compositions that are build around great Hammond organ play, powerful flute work and fiery electric guitar. The vocals are good and the instrumentation delivers also bongos, xylophone and mouth organ. To me the music of Marsupilami has echoes from JULIAN'S TREATMENT, BEGGAR'S OPERA (first album), IRON BUTTERLY, THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN and some early PINK FLOYD but their music has sufficient musical ideas to nail them as a derivative! I'm delighted about this discovery, VERY COMPELLING AND EXCITING EARLY PROG!


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