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ABSTRACT TRUTH

Indo-Prog/Raga Rock • South Africa


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Abstract Truth biography


Abstract Truth (they shunned the prefix of "the" because they didn't want to sound dogmatic) was the brainchild of one Kenneth Edward Henson (dubbed Ken E Henson by David Marks).

The band Abstract Truth existed only for a very short time, but it was a time of super-creativity. They exploded on to the Durban music scene early in 1969, released 2 studio albums during 1970 (as well as a compilation in the same year!) and, after numerous line-up changes, imploded in 1971.

Henson had been the guitarist in a band called the Leeman Ltd, which had formed in Durban in 1965. In 1966 he and the enigmatic Ramsay MacKay got together with ex-Navarones members Colin Pratley and Nic Martens to create Freedom's Children, arguably South Africa's greatest rock band. Clive Calder, who signed Abstract Truth to EMI in 1970, said recently that Freedom's Children in his opinion "was then and probably still is today (over 30 years later) the only SA rock group that, given the right circumstances in the right geographical location, could have become an internationally successful rock band just by being themselves and doing what they did."

Henson was involved in the early single releases by Freedom's Children, which were unbelievably credited to "Fleadom's Children" because the government of the time considered the word "Freedom" as unacceptable! Henson then left Freedom's Children to join The Bats for a six-week sojourn.

In 1969 Henson and sax-player Sean Bergin were in a jazz group called The Sounds. Henson says, "In February 1969 I was approached by the owner of a local hotel. He had heard that I played the sitar and asked if I could get together an exotic/Eastern-sounding outfit to back a belly dancer in the hotel's disco/pub." The pub was called "Totum" and was situated at the Palm Beach Hotel in Durban's Gillespie Street.

Robbie Pavid, who had played drums for The Mods in 1967, remembers: "[The club owner] wanted a backing band for a belly dance act that would attract customers to his cocktail hour. Ken got hold of Brian Gibson who would play bass, formerly from the British group the 004's, Sean Bergin who would play flute and sax, myself on percussion, who was with the band The Third Eye, and Ken on lead guitar and sitar. I was playing in The Third Eye at the same time as Abstract Truth (whose gig at "Totum" was a 5 to 7 cocktail hour gig) and would then rush off to The Third Eye gig.... ahh, what you can do when you are young!!!!"...
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Get Another PlanGet Another Plan
Anna Nolan Kelly 1996
Audio CD$3.99 (used)
TotumTotum
Import
Shadoks Music 2009
Audio CD$14.90
$12.99 (used)
Silver TreesSilver Trees
Import
Shadoks Music 2009
Audio CD$13.88
$13.87 (used)
We Had a Thing by Abstract Truth (1998-07-28)We Had a Thing by Abstract Truth (1998-07-28)
Wave Music
Audio CD$139.25
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ABSTRACT TRUTH discography


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

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

3.34 | 26 ratings
Totum
1970
3.50 | 34 ratings
Silver Trees
1970

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

ABSTRACT TRUTH Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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

4.00 | 1 ratings
Cool Sounds For Heads
1970
4.25 | 4 ratings
Silver Trees And Totum
2005

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

ABSTRACT TRUTH Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Silver Trees by ABSTRACT TRUTH album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.50 | 34 ratings

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Silver Trees
Abstract Truth Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

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

3 stars Although i'm not positive because of conflicting information regarding the two ABSTRACT TRUTH albums to emerge in 1970, i do believe "Totem" came first and SILVER TREES followed simply by the step up in quality that had developed between the two releases. Nevertheless ABSTRACT TRUTH remains a mysterious musical entity that shows a brief glimpse of the psychedelic scene ceding into the progressive rock world that was taking off at the time. This band came from the port city of Durban, South Africa where it surely caught wind of the blossoming styles of music from their faraway neighbors to the north and added their stamp of identity to them from the constant harbor activities on its shores. Unlike "Totem" which displayed a lot of tracks covering other artists mostly from the 60s, SILVER TREES is a complete set of originals but still very steeped in the 60s vibe with ample touches of folk, it adds more elements of jazz rock to the mix.

The opener "Pollution" is the perfect mix of all of the elements on board as it begins with a typical 60s folk sound but is then joined by a bombastic groovy bass line which hangs around for the majority of the album and one of its best features. It also ushers in the fluttering flute sounds and organ ambience before half way through totally shifting gears and heading into a funky guitar and saxophone solo treat. Definitely my favorite track on the album with quite the catchy hook and danceable attributes with the salsa like percussion afire. Tracks like "All The Same" remind me a bit of Cat Stevens with a ska band at first but then becomes a spaced out psychedelic rock track. Once again the bass is solid and the backbone of the entire sound. "Original Man" has a rather Jethro Tull type of progressive folk progression but unfortunately Kenny Henson lacked the vocal prowess of an Ian Anderson and leaves the track a little lukewarm.

The title track is the true psychedelic progressive treat of the album not only for an extended length of over eight minutes but for its dreamy and spaced out organ runs and early jazz-rock sounds that remind me of the earliest days of Caravan. "In A Space" sounds more like a John Coltrane tribute than anything else on the album but includes a sort of wah-wah guitar sound that adds some psychedelic touches. "Moving Away" includes harpsichord and is basically a simple psychedelic folk track. "Two" includes the same elements as well but a way more forgettable listening experience. "Blue Wednesday" has a Beatle-esque guitar lick that reminds me of "She's So Heavy" and is a catchy pop song and is another favorite of the album despite its blatant influence. "It's Alright With Me" picks up steam and ends the album with a heavier jazz-rocker but really should have been extended to build up to some sort of crescendo.

While SILVER TREES is very much an improvement over "Totem," it still sounds half-baked and needing more time to gestate its essence before a public release. While nothing is unpleasant in the least, neither is it memorable enough to compete with the flood of creativity exploding in Europe and the US at the time. The production is actually quite good for the day and the instruments deliver a warm and inviting mix of psychedelia for sure but in the end, the tracks are too poppy and tame to win over the true lysergic seeking crowds and a little too fuzzed out to be true pop hits of the day. While the jazzy touches are nice neither do they develop into something that grabs you or slaps you in the face and make you take notice. A decent album and perhaps worthy as an obscurity from an area of the world not usually associated with psych and prog but hardly one that i would call essential either.

 Totum by ABSTRACT TRUTH album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.34 | 26 ratings

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Totum
Abstract Truth Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

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

3 stars Offering a rare glimpse of the South African psychedelic scene as the odometer was turning from the 60s to the 70s, ABSTRACT TRUTH released their first of two albums with a healthy dose of covers in a psychedelic folk mood. The band emerged in the port city of Durban but had somehow caught drift of the psych and folk scenes drifting on the winds. TOTEM was primarily an expression of covers but a competent take on the world's scene diffused into their slowcore and contemplative folky take on things. While this debut is very much a nice little music sampler of everything jazz, blues, folk and mellow rock of the era, there's still an idiosyncratic approach to the tracks on board as the band makes them their own and the album actually feels like a cohesive whole of originals if only we didn't know better.

While the main influences seem to be everything from Donovan and Fairport Convention to Traffic, there is also a heavy leaning toward the escapist drugged out sounds of Pink Floyd's mellowest moments as well as a surprising trippy excursions into the jazz world as heard on the Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" segment of the tail end of a ten minute twofer track. The main instruments are the guitar, bass and tribal percussion with wind tradeoffs from both the flute and sax. The atmosphere is light and breezy as the mid-tempo tracks bring the future offerings of Comus to mind without the creepy subject matter nor the twisted progressive behemoth compositions.

While the tracks basically constitute a cover album that include jazz standards such as "Summertime" and "Comin' Home Baby" along with 60s psych pop takes on Donovan tracks suchs as "Jersey Thursday" and "Fat Angel," it does contain one original tune "Total Totum (Acid Raga)" which churns out the stoned hippie effect complete with George Harrison inspired sitar improvisations which bring the guru seeking dope-inspired 60s to mind where every musician suddenly found "god" and needed to express their oneness with the divine in musical prose that proffered salvation through a jam session that suggested the need for stoned out participations to be the ticket to ride. While not a necessary prerequisite to imbibe the bounties of the intoxicating universe to enjoy this, it certainly helps to understand where the band was coming from in its approach to tackling their musical visions.

While TOTEM is a perfectly enjoyable listen it does seem to ruminate a bit too much over the efforts of others and not really effective in making a musical statement of its own. Even with the final "Acid Raga" track which finishes the effort as the band's sole original statement it doesn't quite hit the mark in proffering the promised pastures of originality that we could hope to hear in the fertile crossroads of the year 1970. While everything is competently performed with hints of English folk, Krautish psychedelic overtones and overt tributes to past masters, this one just seems to fall short in terms of consistency but nothing on here is unpleasant in the least. ABSTRACT TRUTH would find much more fertile pastures with their second album of the same year "Silver Trees."

 Silver Trees by ABSTRACT TRUTH album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.50 | 34 ratings

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Silver Trees
Abstract Truth Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by PROGNATURE BEAST

4 stars Very good progressive rock from South Africa, tinged with Psychedelic and Jazz leanings similar in style with the sound of mid-Traffic or even Manfred Mann's Chapter Three. It's a period piece for sure but, considering the year (1970) and the place (South Africa) you can only admire the effort of the musicians participated. Check out also their first album of the same year Totum, but this one is more mature I think. Totum, had covers played with gusto, but this one contains only original compostions all of them full of moods and worth to mention. I particularly like the longest one " Silver Trees " also " Pollution " and " In A Space ". " Blue Wednesday Speaks " adds a more traditional South African style to the composition with very good results. It's a shame they couldn't go on. A nice addition to your Prog-rock collection.
 Silver Trees by ABSTRACT TRUTH album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.50 | 34 ratings

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Silver Trees
Abstract Truth Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by GruvanDahlman
Prog Reviewer

3 stars South African prog is not all that familiar to me. As in any country or continent there are bound to be acts playing something relating to the term progressive rock and Abstract Truth certainly is one of those.

Progressive rock in it's infancy is often pleasant. Sometimes complex and brilliant, sometimes only brilliant and on occasion simply pleasant. This album balances between brilliant and pleasant, with emphasis on the latter. Now, that is not bad at all. It is actually quite good. Really.

When I listen to "Silver trees" I get the same feeling as I do when I hear Tamam Shud. It is sort of fragile and shaky at times. That could be labelled charming and it could be labelled annoying. I find it, after all, quite charming. The music of Abstract Truth and Tamam Shud is connected in some ways. It holds specific trademarksof it's origins, in this case a flavor of african music in the track "Pollution", and that is, I think, great.

The music can be described as organ-laden progressive on the softer side. There are no real outbursts of heavy rock or anything like that. Instead it is melodious, very pleasant and very enjoyable. The album holds only a few real standouts of which "Silver trees" is the best and most epic, due to it's length. The remaining songs are all good but it all blends together a bit I feel.

The instrumentation is good, the vocals great and the overall feel is one of warmth and sincerity. This is progressive rock when it is in it's infancy and produced in a country and continent not primarily associated with that sort of music. I think that the album is sadly overlooked, actually. It is not the greatest of prog albums and certainly not the boldest or most complex of the lot. It is however a well constructed album, drawing influence from the '60's west coast and the comings of musical progression and lands in the same territory as Gracious!, Skin Alley and the likes.

Conclusion: Three solid stars and a plea to all of you to give it a spin.

 Silver Trees by ABSTRACT TRUTH album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.50 | 34 ratings

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Silver Trees
Abstract Truth Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars A marked step above the preceding Totum, Silver Trees finds Abstract Truth in a more determinedly progressive mode, with a unique and curiously sparse sound loaded with fertile possibilities which, alas, would remain unexplored after this due to the group's untimely and unfortunate dissolution. Weaving together the softer side of early prog as represented by the likes of Jade Warrior or Traffic with a wider than average scope of world music influences, the album stands out for its reliance on flute, with no less than three of the four band members bringing the instrument to bear at points during the album's running time.

Unfortunately, the album relies a little too much on extended, repetitive motifs which aren't quite developed enough to save them from being irritating. If they'd persisted with this style they may have been able to accomplish something truly memorable with it, but as it stands this album has to stand as a more humble high water mark than the band perhaps deserved.

 Totum by ABSTRACT TRUTH album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.34 | 26 ratings

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Totum
Abstract Truth Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Psychedelic folk-rock with some raga influences filtered via George Harrison, that's the name of the game on Abstract Nova's debut album. A rock band singing broadsides against racial segregation like Oxford Town was no rarity in the 1960s, though it was a dangerous game to play in South Africa. One can only imagine that Abstract Nova survived through obscurity, since the album seems to have fallen through the cracks somewhat, perhaps due to the sometimes unremarkable cover versions. However, when the band get into a groove and go off on a flight of fancy, special things happen, so it's worth a listen if you like a fat dose of 1960s in your early 1970s folk-rock.
 Silver Trees by ABSTRACT TRUTH album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.50 | 34 ratings

BUY
Silver Trees
Abstract Truth Indo-Prog/Raga Rock

Review by Straight Air

5 stars I remember seeing Abstract Truth at a concert in 1971 and the only song I recognized was a cover of "Feelin' Good", similar to Traffic's version on "Last Exit". I was impressed but somehow never laid my money down, maybe because there weren't any albums in the record racks. I finally came across this album in '78 in a record library. I didn't play it often as it was in poor condition. Now that I have the silver disc, still with those same distortions and crackling transferred, I've managed to catch up with the amount of plays that 'Traffic's "John Barleycorn" has received and that is a lot.

"Pollution" starts the album with a possible hit single but unlike Rare Bird's "Sympathy", not many heard it. Despite the depressing lyrics, the final part features a joyful South African Township Jazz section with requisite saxophone and ringing guitar.

"All the same" and "Original Man" have similar messages pertaining to the state of inequality in South Africa. Both songs have similar Rare Bird type tunes with organ and flute, only the ringing guitar sound preventing them from being completely European in origin.

"Silver Trees" is the Truth's highest spark of brilliance, a musical trek through an African wilderness with images of the shimmering trees in the unrelenting heat of the sun, then the peaceful sound of dragonflies and birds under a shaded stream. This scenario was to be explored by Jade Warrior in '71 and again in '74 with '"Floating World".

"In A Space" doesn't lose the momentum set by the previous song and is almost a part 2.

"Moving Away (at the speed of light)" with harpsichord and flute is as spaced as Traffic's "40,000 Headmen" while 'Two" is similar to Harry Nilsson's "One". Keeping up with the similarity theme is "Blue Wednesday Speaks", almost a carbon copy of the yet to be released "Light Up and Leave Me Alone" while the final track 'It's Alright with Me" is, you guessed it, similar to Dave Mason's "Feelin' Alright?" except they knew the truth of their feelings.

Thanks to Philippe Blache for the artist addition. and to Snobb & Easy Money for the last updates

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