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Freedom's Children biography
This band reflects a tiny but fascinating and oft-forgotten scene of South African progressive rock, regularly omitted from prog annals and denied their part in music history. But in their time, FREEDOM'S CHILDREN were no less innovative than ATOMIC ROOSTER, EGG or COLOSSEUM and their 1970 release "Astra" was an extremely important if completely missed record. Luckily it was re-issued in 1990 and again several times. The original band included Julian Laxton's lead guitar (and inventor of his 'black box', a much mythologized sound-producing device), Nic Martens on organ, bassist/lyricist Ramsay MacKay, Brian Davidson's voice, drummer Colin Pratley, Harry Poulos on organ and vocals and Gerard Nel's piano. Many well-known musicians have played in the band over the years including Trevor Rabin, Mick Jade and Ken E. Henson.

Unable to legally work in certain places due to issues surrounding Apartheid, the band found it difficult to break through, especially outside their country but continued making strides in the 1970s. Undoubtedly their most important work and finest effort is "Astra", a spicy and exciting blend of heavy prog with plenty of psych and blues. The disc has been re-released as many as six times in varying degrees of quality, the last in 2004.

FREEDOM"S CHILDREN is one of the best of the hard-edged prog bands and a jewel in the South African prog crown, and is highly recommended to fans of the earlier, more intense heavy art bands.

- Atavachron (David)

Why this artist must be listed in :
Neglected by music history, FREEDOM'S CHILDREN were heavy progressive psych at its dirtiest and most fun, and was an innovative group during the early stages of Progressive Rock.

Battle Hymn of the Broken Hearted Horde, studio album (1968)
Astra, studio album (1970)
Galactic Vibes, studio album (1971)
A New Day, studio album (1990)

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Galactic VibesGalactic Vibes
Shadoks Music 2008
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Shadoks Music 2008
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Battle Hymn of the Broken Hearted HordeBattle Hymn of the Broken Hearted Horde
Shadoks Music 2008
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Astra / Battle Hymn of the Broken Hearted / GalactAstra / Battle Hymn of the Broken Hearted / Galact
Box set · Limited Edition
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Astra by FREEDOM's CHILDREN (2008-08-19)Astra by FREEDOM's CHILDREN (2008-08-19)
Shadoks Music
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FREEDOM'S CHILDREN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.67 | 12 ratings
Battle Hymn of the Broken Hearted Horde
3.27 | 34 ratings
3.33 | 22 ratings
Galactic Vibes

FREEDOM'S CHILDREN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Galactic Vibes by FREEDOM'S CHILDREN album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.33 | 22 ratings

Galactic Vibes
Freedom's Children Heavy Prog

Review by Straight Air

4 stars I wasn't too impressed when I finally heard this album many years after wearing the grooves off 'Astra' with its layered mystical soundscapes, Galactic's 'one-take vibe' makes it less mysterious and more like a Black Sabbath / Led Zeppelin wannabee. I'd read that the master tapes of both 'Astra' and 'Galactic Vibes' were destroyed in a fire so there is no chance of a newer version with fuller drum sound or clearer orchestration. If you're not happy with your cheap seat ticket...

I wasn't at Woodstock but I'm thankful the movie producer left in Michael Shrieve's drum solo and included more than the 'Purple Haze' hit in the Jimi Hendrix finale. The same goes for Freedom's Children's producer. The fact that the live 'Homecoming' is relatively well recorded is astounding and after all these years it's a confirmation that I witnessed something special in '71. Colin Pratley broke his wrist in that concert but if you listen to this earlier recording, when he changes from bare hands back to sticks, he does so without a break. As for Julian Laxton's echoed guitar solo, it's up there with the best,, but be warned, it takes a few good listens before the ears are gargled, especially when its competing with Ramsey Mackay's pulsating bass and Pratley's menacing drums.

The other hard rock tracks benefit from more searing guitar breaks though I'm not too enamored by the riffs, in fact, I can't discern any riff in 'That Did It' though it's a reasonable Zeppelin pastiche. 'Sea Horse' takes a bow to 'Paranoid', while '1999' could have been an 'Astra' outtake with multi-tracked vocals over a hijacked Duul 2 Amon riff.

Both 'Fields and Me' and 'About The Dove and His K/Ring' have a 'Bolero' sounding orchestral arrangement which slows the pace down considerably and probably loses a couple of stars from disappointed hard rock fans. As for the nightmarish 'Crazy World of Pod', I'm reminded of Pink Floyd's 'Sysyphus' and the hammer march in 'The Wall', so bang goes another star. The less said about the long mono version of '1999' the better.

A disjointed album was improved by starting with the live track, adding the rockers then the electronic concerto and ending with the orchestral tracks.

 Galactic Vibes by FREEDOM'S CHILDREN album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.33 | 22 ratings

Galactic Vibes
Freedom's Children Heavy Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Freedom's Children were a band from South Africa that formed in the sixties. Initially a part of the psychedelic movement, they became domestically famous for their fuzz-toned guitar covers of songs like "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and other popular guitar hits. Their early concerts were advertised to feature 30-minute freak outs. Being South African led to problems for the band with such a bold name that appeared to challenge authority. Their first album "Astra" had to be released under the band name Fleadom's Children. They began recording music for the second album but feeling stifled in South Africa, they moved to the U.K. before the album was complete. The record company decided to finish it for them and hired guest vocalists to sing the songs and added horns to some of the songs. All this was done without the band's consent.

Being from South Africa delivered more problems for the band in the U.K. Because of their home country's apartheid policies, South Africans found it difficult to get work. Eventually Freedom's Children began making headway, and by 1971 they released their third album, "Galactic Vibes".

Freedom's Children may be regarded as both a progressive band and a heavy rock band. This album features both styles of music, albeit the progressive side is not similar to the giants of prog in the early seventies. It is more accessible and not so experimental or bold.

The first track "Sea Horse" is very loud hard rock. It makes a good start to the album, but as many bands in the day often put their heaviest rocker as track one, it does make you wonder if this is going to be the only one in this style.

Recorded live, "The Homecoming", begins as another heavy guitar rock song. Three minutes in, the song part ends and there is a 1-minute instrumental followed by a 3-minute guitar solo. Then comes a 7-minute drum solo. It might be a very good drum solo for all I can tell. The thing is that so many bands around this time felt it was necessary to include drum solos that I find it tedious to listen to them now. The main complaint I have is that any other "solo", be it guitar, keyboards, flute, saxophone, violin, or whatever, will usually be played to background music. Why is it that drum solos have to be exactly that: drums only? Ginger Baker's "Toad" was good, and I really like Ron Bushy's drum solo in "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" because he makes it rhythmic and musical, not just an assault on every piece of percussive instrument set before him. So this drum solo is perhaps a good one but it's a long one. After the solo the song returns and ends soon. It's rather a good song and so I wish they had recorded a studio version with about 8 minutes of soloing, both guitar and drums, removed.

Side two opens with "That Did It" which is even a heavier rocker than "Sea Horse". It is often included on proto metal and early hard and heavy rock playlists on YouTube. The vocals sound borderline hysteric in some moments. Great heavy rock!

"Fields and Me" begins with, oh no, a drum solo again? No. It quickly switches to an acoustic number with a very pretty melody. An orchestra joins. Beautiful composition. The vocals could be a little more in tune in moments but generally they do a good job of delivering the melody and emotion. Here, however, the production becomes an issue. It's not so clean at the louder moments with the orchestra and sounds like a live recording. Actually the whole album sounds like the master tapes were either dusty or the studio's equipment couldn't handle higher volume well. This is not bad for the heavy rockers as it adds to the distortion and energy. But this more beautiful music suffers somewhat.

"The Crazy World of Pod" is a bizarre psychedelic spacey sound experiment. I often wonder what the point of these ventures were. Should we drop acid first in order to appreciate it better? Thankfully it's only just over two minutes.

The next track "1999" is closer to a pop number. It has a country groove but with a guitar that sounds oddly like early new wave. Again the sound quality is not so good. It's more like a 1978 demo except the chorus which resembles some of the tracks from Episode Six's "Corn Flakes and Crazy Foam" double album of demos and poorly recorded live performances. Icecross recorded a song called "1999" around the same time and it's much more interesting and great a proto metal song, too!

The album closer is "About the Dove and His King". It's another song with vocals and orchestra. It seems that the sound quality is getting worse in places and both the louder and softer parts sound like some four track demo at times. Not a bad effort musically but the sound should be cleaner.

The biggest problem is the sound quality. It may be alright for the rockers but especially the orchestral parts are hurting. The CD comes with a detailed history of the band which can be found verbatim on a web site about South African music. The author claims that, hyperbole aside, this may have been the greatest band that the world never got to know. I do think the album has some great moments and in particular I enjoy "Sea Horse" and "That Did It" and also most of "Fields and Me". But for the band to have made a bigger impression, I think they should have presented their music with a cleaner sound and worked a bit more on the vocals which do go off the note occasionally in the slower songs.

The copy I have doesn't include all the additional songs listed in the track list above. Perhaps that version has been cleaned up better?

 Astra by FREEDOM'S CHILDREN album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.27 | 34 ratings

Freedom's Children Heavy Prog

Review by Straight Air

5 stars It took a lot of money to keep up with the flood of albums released after "Sgt Pepper", so you didn't waste money on albums by South African bands. They usually released cover versions of UK hits or UK album tracks not released as singles. Freedom's Children did cover versions as well, but like Trevor Rabin, who struck gold with a cover of Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath" with toned down lyrics, they had to change the blasphemous "The Kid came from Nazareth" to get any radio promotion.

Any musician who was anybody in that 'Republic' had to leave the country to further their ambitions so it was in London at the time of mankind's first moonwalk that "Astra" was conceived. I don't know how it would have sounded at that early stage, but Van Der Graaf Generator, who shared a gig with them, said they liked Freedom's sound. A live version of "The Homecoming", found on their next album "Galactic Vibes", may have been similar to what they heard.

Freedom's Children must have been impressed with VDGG as well, for an organist and a classical pianist were added to the recording, the band thinking that the ''state-of-art 4-track' in Jo'burg could handle it! Needless to say, the whole album has a lost in the mists of time and distant space ambiance, especially as the master tape was destroyed by fire and the albums were pressed on sub-standard vinyl.

Now that I've lost the audiophiles, I can say it's a better recording than Grateful Dead's "Anthem of the Sun" and almost on a par with Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower" and '"Burning of the Midnight Lamp". Add "House Burning Down' and "1983" to the mix and you will have a close approximation of the intensity level of "Astra".

Unlike their first album, which was a stillborn creation somehow resurrected and crucified at the same time by a country-music producer, "Astra" had the benefit of a producer who allowed the band to experiment in the studio and then have the ears to recognize its worthiness. It was his 'golden ears' that helped him become the richest man in music today.

"Astra" is an album that has no light at the end of the tunnel, only "dead eyes side by side at the moon do howl", reflecting the "Heart of Darkness" that pervaded the Southern African subcontinent at that time. The first part of "Gentle Beasts", with its satellite signals pulsing out into space, is technological man longing for other worlds while impoverishing and killing their own, the writing on the wall message ending with a terrifying drum fueled riot, evoking visions of glinting machetes for the oppressors and burning necklaces for the traitors. Better not drop acid while listening to this rock, my friend!

"The Homecoming" and "The Kid Came From Nazareth" are notable for some searing lead guitar and usually get the plaudits after the first few listens.

"Tribal Fence", a track covered by more famous South African artists, is a King Crimson "21st Century" homage with suitably distorted, robotic vocals and stinging guitar, though it is less of a clone than those heard on "Poseidon".

"Medals of Bravery" is in "Green Beret" territory, but with a subversive anti-war message, a climactic intense guitar / organ fanfare and Baroque ending, is as far-left of Barry Sadler's right-wing ditty as Utopia is.

The opening short hymn-like "Aileen" with its sinister sounding Hammond organ and Moody Blues type male choir reaching up to fill the heavens before ending with Shuttle-like explosions, can be compared to "Atom Heart Mother" at a pinch. The hellish choir makes several appearances on the album, especially on the final track "Afterward" but with a more apocalyptic sky to fill. The final track also features the classical pianist with a 'Rachmaninov type elegy to his lost homeland' while Ramsey Mackay, composer and bassist, gets his chance to recite some of his fire and brimstone poetry.

Before arriving at the gates, there is the two part "Slowly Toward The North" with tunes a true Scot would recognize, but Instead of bagpipes, organ, guitar and choir wail forlornly.

Throughout the album, Julian Laxton's guitar is Hendrix-like in its intensity, phased and echoed to the heavens (especially on "Gentle Beasts") while the combination of organ, guitar and choir are so closely entwined that they take some deciphering, especially during the many climactic parts. The bass and drums follow as one, noticeably on the "Green Manalishi" sounding "Gentle Beasts part 2". The echoed wall of sound and rockets-in-space effects from Laxton's 'Black Box' creation were cutting edge at the time and came from a surprising part of the galaxy, but few ears were trained to receive it.

 Astra by FREEDOM'S CHILDREN album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.27 | 34 ratings

Freedom's Children Heavy Prog

Review by stefro
Prog Reviewer

2 stars After the superior Demon Fuzz probably the pick of the very few South African purveyors of progressive/psychedelic music from the genre's glorious heyday, Freedom's Children did, despite their relative obscurity, make a bit of a splash when they emerged with this debut album in 1970, somehow snaring themselves a profile-raising albeit brief tour of Europe immediately after recording their debut. Entitled 'Astra', said debut is a rough-and-ready affair, featuring a grainy sound quality, lots of fuzzy guitars and some suitably impenetrable sci-fi themed lyrics, though unfortunately it's pretty short on memorable melodies. The group themselves enjoyed fairly legendary status in their homeland, though their sound owes precious little to their African heritage(all six members are white) and there's not a lot to distinguish them from any number of British-or-American groups of the era. Truth be told, 'Astra' is a pretty mundane creation - basically what we have here is a psychedelic rock album with tinges of folk melodies, shimmering organ tones and scuzzy vocals kicked through with a slightly evil bent - though repeated listens do show a more refined touch than initial listens may have you believe. No single tracks stands out, and conversely no single track proves a stinker, though the mystical 'Gentle Beasts Parts 1 & 2' does exude a nice line in complex, almost jazz- tinged avant-garde noodling. If space-rock is indeed your thing you may well feel the need to investigate, especially considering the exotic nature of the album's creation, though don't expect any great shakes. A straight down-the-line, perfunctory slab of psychedelic rock then, but one that at least features a bit of novelty value for your buck if nothing else. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012
 Galactic Vibes by FREEDOM'S CHILDREN album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.33 | 22 ratings

Galactic Vibes
Freedom's Children Heavy Prog

Review by Discographia

4 stars FREEDOM'S CHILDREN with this galactic Vibes proposes here a progressive rock much more directed years the end of 60 and less twisted than the previous album. The music rings even very pop sometimes, forgetting the originality very pronounced by the group. The music is beautiful the harmonies pleasant has the ear, the instruments has wind give an aerien and psychedelic aspect.

The album is sometimes in search(research) for purity of strengths, the production when has it suffocated(suppressed) enough rest and discrete, damage for a group so original.

This album deserves of the interet because it is necessary difficille to find a direct influence and thus has this strength of independance.

 Galactic Vibes by FREEDOM'S CHILDREN album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.33 | 22 ratings

Galactic Vibes
Freedom's Children Heavy Prog

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Freedom's Children is one of a tiny number of groups from South Africa known to have recorded and performed progressive rock music, their history going as far back as 1966. There are folk proggies Hawk and a few artists as Robert Calvert and Manfred Mann, but documented art rock from the nation is sadly lacking due to political issues. It was also difficult for bands to play outside the country, which makes this final LP that much more a treasure. FC really knew how to record with limited means, though, and a presumably tight budget. Oh, this is prog alright, it just tends to be spat it in your face, coming more from the schools of Sabbath, Creedence and Zeppelin with only hints of the Nice and Tull. But these guys had visions of art and hard rockin power come together at a time when it was usually one or the other. And they could play like mutherf*ckers. 'Sea Horse' is a standout rocker, Julian Laxton's cutting wah-wahed ax, Brian Davidson howling up a storm with drummer Colin Pratley and Barry Irwin (Ramsay MacKay only appears on the live 'Homecoming') on heavy bottom. Evidently they had lost their keyboardists and on this night only Laxton plays synthesizer. Pratley takes a mammoth and very jazz drum solo in 16-minute stomper 'The Homecomming'. A taste of Zep in 'That Did It' and a good one too, perfectly dirty, raggedly beautiful and bruised in all the right places, just like those English rockers on a good night. Acid folk of 'Fields and Me' is more than it seems, with a swelling 25 piece string section as it becomes a trip through an Arabian desert at sundown. A remarkable piece. Brief 'The Crazy World of Pod' interrupts the moment with electronic warbles, hokey country-psych bit '1999' doesn't quite work, and 'About the Dove and His King' shines with more Eastern mystique and makes ample use of the strings.

Good music from a band denied its part in progressive rock history till recently, and a rare treat from the truly sparse South African prog scene.

Thanks to Atavachron for the artist addition.

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