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AUTOMATIC FINE TUNING

Heavy Prog • United Kingdom


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Automatic Fine Tuning biography
In 1976, guitarists Paul A. MacDONNELL and Robert CROSS, bass player Trevor DARKS and drummer/vocalist Dave BALL joined their considerable skills and produced one of the great but nearly forgotten heavy progressive projects, AUTOMATIC FINE TUNING. Doing an early form of neo-classical instrumental rock that predates the gothic harmonies and PAGANINI-love of Michael SCHENKER and Yngwie MALMSTEEN, the quartet boldly went where few rock ensembles had and recorded one brilliant album before disbanding.

Not quite metal, far from fusion and barely resembling any known forms of prog, the record is a humble but impressive showcase of how classical technique and discipline could be utilized in a hard rock format, and features MacDONNELL & CROSS's extraordinary dual-guitar lines. The impact this release had on musicians in 1976 is unknown but the foursome's prophetic ideas and execution reveals a unit well ahead of its time. Recommended to anyone with a taste for tech guitar rock in one of its earliest inceptions.


-- Atavachron (David) --

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S/T LP (VINYL ALBUM) UK CHARISMA 1976S/T LP (VINYL ALBUM) UK CHARISMA 1976
CHARISMA
Vinyl$37.57 (used)
Automatic Fine Tuning	 - A.F.T.Automatic Fine Tuning - A.F.T.
Import
Sunrise
Audio CD$19.99
Automatic Fine TuningAutomatic Fine Tuning
Audio CD$19.89
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3.59 | 26 ratings
A.F.T.
1976

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AUTOMATIC FINE TUNING Reviews


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 A.F.T. by AUTOMATIC FINE TUNING album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.59 | 26 ratings

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A.F.T.
Automatic Fine Tuning Heavy Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars Automatic Fine Tuning's career was short, but they managed to left a document of high-octane instrumental guitar Rock.These Englishmen reputedly came from Reading and were led by the duo of Paul MacDonnell and Robert Cross on guitars with Trevor Darks handling the bass and Dave Ball being responsible for the drumming and the scarce vocals.They recorded their only album ''A.F.T.'' for Charisma in 1976, the sessions took place at La Maison Rouge Mobile in Ridge Farm, Surrey.

The sound of the band is all over the place, borrowing the twin guitar lines of WISHBONE ASH and taking them to the next level, throwing complex twists ala KING CRIMSON, some Heavy Rock pounds in the vein of T2, more melodic parts along the lines of CAMEL, extended Fusion instrumental mannerisms and even some sort of Classical orientations, which was the trademark of the band.Even more impressive they did it by producing two 15-min. long instrumentals without falling in cliche soloing or excessive jams.It appears that one of the electric guitars has somewhat taken the role of keyboards in the album, the sharp and furious lead parts are complemented by lovely Classical-styled soloing.Very strange, but this works pretty well for most of the album's length, which has a nice flow and an unmet spark.Extremely accomplished musicians and composers at the very end, the bass work is great and the drumming is even greater, almost flawless.The long tracks are of course the peak of the album, lots of nice leads and rhythms, melodic and almost dramatic-sounding solos and plenty of well-placed breaks.The farewell ''Queen of the night'' is the only track to feature some vocals and apparently moving into a more straightforward Rock vein.Credits should also go to Americans Loyd Grossman and Neal Grossman (the album's producers) for the excellent work on the album as well.

The band propably dissapeared after the release of the album and only Trevor Darks has been spotted a couple of years later as a member of Gilli Smith's Mother Gong combo.

Guitar-fronted, mostly instrumental Prog Rock with fiery soloing, challenging moves and even some fascinating melodies.To be discovered, one of the best 70's outputs within the simplistic formation of guitar/bass/drums...3.5 stars.

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 A.F.T. by AUTOMATIC FINE TUNING album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.59 | 26 ratings

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A.F.T.
Automatic Fine Tuning Heavy Prog

Review by Dr. Judkins

3 stars Make no mistake about it, people. This is pretty much the definition of a guitar-oriented album. If you're the sort of person who dismisses Steve Vai or Al Di Meola and their ilk on the basis that they utilize too much technicality and not enough "soul", then you'll probably not like this album very much. To anyone else, it's a very good and rather impressive piece of early neo-classical rock music.

Definitely for fans of the electric guitar, there's similarly not much here in the way of expansive sound, remaining strictly a four-piece instrumental experience throughout the album, save for the poppier closing track Queen Of The Night. Despite this, those more accustomed to a wider range of tones and timbres, myself included, can find a lot to enjoy here. The interplay between the two guitars is top notch, alternating between a wide range of harmonies, rhythmic juxtapositions, tonal changes and shifts in key and tempo. The bass guitar subtly accentuates this and helps to move the pieces along without letting the music grow stale on one riff or progression for too long.

There's a wide range of emotions explored. At times there are soaring leads and drums pounding heavily, at times things are soft and subtle, nearly lacking the rhythm section entirely, at times there are extensive buildups, and at times there are even slightly avant- style riffs, particularly in later parts of The Great Panjandrum Wheel Pt. Two.

The first three tracks are entirely a neo-classical jam with skilled guitarists flexing over top of a sturdy rhythm section. The fourth and final track, Queen Of The Night, is much different than these, undoubtedly recorded in the hopes of being released as a single to try to garner a little popularity for the band. While it's not entirely progressive and nothing like the other material on the album, it's a very nice little tune, with a catchy but original chorus and some more rock-oriented twin-guitar leads throughout. It does show the versatility of these guitarists, and it's a shame this group never released more albums, as I'm sure their sound could have grown extensively with more studio time and perhaps some better producing and higher budget.

The album is nothing revolutionary in and of itself, but at the time I'm sure it was quite the eye-opener to anyone brave enough to gamble on a copy of it. It's fun and exhibits some talented guitar play. I'd recommend it to anyone who's looking for a nice old diamond-in-the- rough to add to their discoveries.

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 A.F.T. by AUTOMATIC FINE TUNING album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.59 | 26 ratings

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A.F.T.
Automatic Fine Tuning Heavy Prog

Review by Wicket
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Classic Rock + 70's Era Prog + Jams = Awesome

While this entire disc only comprises 4 songs (two of which are about 14-15 mintues long), it feels a lot longer. And while there is no song structures, per se, it just seems to feel constructed, ordered, planned. Many guitar solos featured throughout this disc start mainly to feel like a free-flowing improvisation, but once you get into the two-part "Great Panjandrum Wheel", it's too long complex to feel like improv.

That's sort of the majesty about this disc. It still feels like good ol' fashioned classic rock from the mid 70's, yet it's complex, long and sort of sophisticated enough to plant a firm foot in the realm of prog rock. It's an interesting disc that sort of plays to both tastes, which is perfect for me because I'm a fan of both genres. Prog rock fans can enjoy the long songs and the semi- complex nature of it, classic rock fans can enjoy it because it is a pure translation of that 70's hard rock sound in prog form and jam band fans can love it because, well, it is essentially a 39 minute long jam disc.

Which is fine for me.

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 A.F.T. by AUTOMATIC FINE TUNING album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.59 | 26 ratings

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A.F.T.
Automatic Fine Tuning Heavy Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

2 stars I guess this album is one of those who polarise the opinions on PA and among music lovers in general. It has got five stars and now; my two stars. Please let me explain....

This music reminds me a lot about the musical approach The Shadows had to their music. They too were pretty Paganini influenced. The result was some albums that is worthy of an inclusion of that band in PA. I am not that brave to suggest them though. Wrestling with polar bears, yes. Suggesting the inclusion of The Shadows in PA, no.

Automatic Fine Tuning was a British band who released only this album. I have already mentioned The Shadows. I detect a lot of influences from them on this album. The guitar picking, some of the songs......... what do you think, Sir Hank Marvin ? Automatic Fine Tuning is off course alot heavier and more Paganini worshipping than The Shadows. Their music is very much what we twenty years later (mid '90s) started to label neo-classic music. Yngwie Malmsteen was the big exponent of that music. Automatic Fine Tuning is the forefathers of his music and the neo-classic movement (if there was/is any).

Automatic Fine Tuning has some good songs. The problem is their saturation of guitars where a Hammond organ would had been a far better solution. I get the feeling that the whole Automatic Fine Tuning concept is to replace the Moog and Hammonds with guitars. A good idea. But in this case; it does not work. The songs would had been good with the use of keys. They are not good with guitars and vocals. There is not much vocals here so the guitars must take the blame here. The guitar playing is not that impressive either.

What we are left with is some good ideas, pretty badly executed. This is not for me, I am afraid.

2 stars

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 A.F.T. by AUTOMATIC FINE TUNING album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.59 | 26 ratings

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A.F.T.
Automatic Fine Tuning Heavy Prog

Review by The Whistler
Prog Reviewer

3 stars NEENER-NEENER-NEE! 3.5

Sometimes, one wonders why one writes reviews. In the case of Automatic Fine Tuning's essentially eponymous (and sole) album, I feel as though this was a challenge from my reviewer brethren. After all, how could I, the Whistler, NOT Ian Anderson, someone NOT known for his brevity, possibly write a whole review about this album? It's short; it's not even forty minutes long. It's very samey; these guys really milk the ole "heavy pork" style. And, it all sounds the same...

Well, I've got a good start. After all, I just burned up a paragraph talking about myself. But, on to the music. Automatic Fine Tuning was basically four dudes who utterly ripped off Iron Maiden a few years before that band's invention, so that takes guts. I know it all sounds the same, but if you like that whole "undying riff-fest" thing, then do I have a treasure from the vault for you...

Starting off on an un-ambitious foot, the band kicks into gear with "The Great Panjandrum Wheel, Part One." It's largely what it sounds like...if the name conjures up about fifteen minutes of instrumental classical/medieval riffage. Don't get me wrong though, these lads know their stuff. The rhythm section is very professional, but your attention will doubtlessly be won by the twin guitar attacks. It's the guitars that lead the track, constantly changing the speed and the riffing so that you never get bored.

Call me crazy, but my favorite bit of noise on this thing is "Gladioli." It's slightly shorter than "Panjandrum," about ten minutes shorter in fact. But the speedy lil' Mozart inspired (?) riffage is just so darn CUTE that I can't help but commend it. Humor is something that the classical/medieval metal genre is often lacking, purposeful humor at least, but "Gladioli" delivers.

But when that old familiar riff starts up again, you know that you're in for "The Great Panjandrum Wheel, Part 2." Is it more of the same? You betcha, right down to the time. Is it just as good? Uh-huh. In fact, it's better, quite a bit better, because it's even more varied, with guitar tones poppin' outta all angles, and the bass and drummer get to make use of the faster tempos to show off a bit more.

After the rushing climax of "Panjandrum 2," it's odd that we turn in a totally different direction to finish this puppy off. "Queen of the Night" is a much more bluesy number, with the guitar tone sounding almost like a harmonica this time around. And it has LYRICS! SUNG lyrics no less. Fancy that. Unfortunately, they turn out to be a cross between fairly pedestrian Gothic imagery, and some more pedestrian...barroom imagery? Family these guys are not.

And that's about it. The riffs are good, if never terribly memorable. No, this is not music for humming along. It doesn't create any particular feelings, or cast any specific mood. It doesn't show off shocking skill of guitar, bass and drums. It's just...an art metal groove, seemingly designed for the pretentious headbanger in all of us.

So where does that leave us? With a very interesting band. It's easy to see why these boys never hit it big time; they might be Iron Maiden dreams with High Tide technology, but they lack the latter's atmospheric impact and the former's songwriting. Still, I imagine that's why the band collapsed: one foot in the seventies and one in the eighties realms of metal does not a stable lineup make (and don't forget a quick glance to the sixties! There's a definite psycho influence to this affair).

But, any fan of guitar based heavy rock is going to find this thing interesting. The twin guitarists, Paul MacDonnell and Robert Cross, are both quite skilled six stingers, and the variety of pedals and devices they use ensure that their instruments are able to ape harmonicas and church organs very nicely (for the best example, pay close attention to "Panjandrum 2;" I swear to God that thing sounds like a violin at one point!).

Naturally, their sound is going to make one draw a lot of associations: everyone from Brian May to Martin Barre to Tony Hill to Steve Hackett to Robert Fripp to...I dunno, Django Reinhardt and Keith Emerson and your uncle Leo. Even if it's not very memorable, it is by no means unpleasant, and anyone who is a fan of loud, structured jamming with a proggy bent will find something to love. In fact, it IS a pity that the band did not survive. Another album perhaps, and their nascent songwriting genius might have been unlocked, or at least we could have gotten a live album out. Considering the period, and what kind of a band this must have been, a live document would have been invaluable.

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 A.F.T. by AUTOMATIC FINE TUNING album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.59 | 26 ratings

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A.F.T.
Automatic Fine Tuning Heavy Prog

Review by ljubaspriest

3 stars Found this LP in a record store,4 bucks,couple of weeks ago.Read about A.F.T. on this site,never heard of them before,I was also atracted by Charisma label,one of the best in prog circles.Music have pretty raw fell,like it was recorded live in studio in just one take,basicaly one 40 plus minutes jam.Unlike other reviewers,I don't see much metal here,save for the gothic feel due to classical lines,which they are base of this unusual record.Smokin' guitars are highlihted by fiery drumming,but record lacks clearer bass lines,they're just somehow lost in the mix.Still,very enjoyable piece of mid 70's fusion,kinda reminds me of High Tide.3 1/2 stars.

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 A.F.T. by AUTOMATIC FINE TUNING album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.59 | 26 ratings

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A.F.T.
Automatic Fine Tuning Heavy Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Criminaly underrated band and album in my opinion, delivering some of the most stunning heavy prog albums of the decade. The album was released in summer of 1976 and was not a comercial succes, not by far, because the band tried and succeded to gather all the neo-classical and barock arrangements with heavy prog elements in one single unit - Automatic Fine Tuning - the response from the media and public was minor, so they disbanded soon after and they gone almost unnoticed by many prog conoseurs and heavy prog lovers - the mid to late '70's prog was no longer something to talk about . The album was way ahead of his time delivering some superb guitar chops made by Paul A. MacDonnell and Robert Cross very very intristing for that time, very strong harmonics and smooth arrangements on 6 and 12 strings, aswell as the guitar duel between them leaves no comments, excellent. The rytmic section was provided by Dave Ball on drums who also done the vocal parts on Queen of the night and Trevor Darks on bass. The album sounds close to what Yngwie Malmsteen or Joey Taffola done, but they've done it ten years after AFT, that means AFT influenced some musicians from later decades. Great barock hevy prog album with smooth harmonics, great musicianship. AFT has 4 pieces , one of them is divided in two - The Great Panjandrum Wheel part 1&2, more than 30minutes of real feast for all listners, the cherry on the cake here, the rest are aslo very strong. This album sounds so original that even after 30 years is still present and is a real pleasure to listen to, one of my fav albums ever. Recommended to everyone intrested in discovering heavy prog of the highest calibre with a vintage sound. This band was a big discovery for me and has a special place in my collection, very funy and intristing art cover too. 5 stars for sure for this treasure of the '70's

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 A.F.T. by AUTOMATIC FINE TUNING album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.59 | 26 ratings

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A.F.T.
Automatic Fine Tuning Heavy Prog

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Absolutely brilliant one-time project from this mostly instrumental foursome released by Charisma in 1976, the dual guitar lines of Paul A. MacDonnell & Robert Cross, bass and drums of Trevor Darks and Dave Ball weaved together neo-classical metallics in a way no one had yet attempted - save Brian May - and predates Michael Schenker's Bachian fugues, Uli Roth's Paganini chops and Yngwie's chiming compressed harmonics by several years. 'The Great Panjandrum Wheel' parts 1 and 2 encompasses nearly a half hour and makes up the bulk of the album, a hugely ambitious undertaking for a quartet of headbangers in '76, and is jam packed with slippery, painfully well-conceived harmonies, laserbeam tech guitar bravado, heady time signatures, and reliable, unobtrusive rhythm from Darks and Ball. 'Gladioli' has more contrapuntals and playful constructs and the record continues to cook, smoldering along with rarely a slow or unsure moment, always surprising, and would quite easily hold its own against the lot of Baroque-style hard rock. A must for almost any faithful Progmetalhead or Prog Metal historian, hearing AFT is like discovering someone did Psychedelic rock before Syd Barrett was walking.

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