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SIGMUND SNOPEK III

Eclectic Prog • United States


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Sigmund Snopek III biography

SIGMUND SNOPEK III is the multi-instrumentalist from Milwaukee. He started his career in the 60's with the pioneering prog rock band THE BLOOMSBURY PEOPLE (which performed on Atlanta Pop Festival along with 60's pop-rock icons, such is Jimi Hendrix). They were innovative, combining elements of baroque pop, psychedelia, classical music, pop & rock, electronic music and avangarde.

As a solo artist, Snopek had released a plethora of albums over the span of four decades, greatly varying in styles. As a composer, he wrote a number of Western Academic music pieces, varying from operas to symphonies - with a nod to a post-modern style.

From a rock point of view, his career is equally as eclectic - some albums from the 70's were released under his name; some as SNOPEK, the band where he was a mastermind, playing flute, oboe, clarinet, saxophone, horns, as well as
his battery of keyboards and vocal duties.

He collaborated with a variety of well-known rock names, from TOM PAXTON to VIOLET FEMMES.



Snopek's music is eclectic, innovative, melodic, zany, edgy and deep. It's highly recommended for any prog rock enthusiast, or for anyone appreciating intelligent music altogether.

For deeper exploration of Snopek's huge body of work, his website is a good starting point.




Moris Mateljan, 2010.
Sources:

sigmundsnopek.com
rateyourmusic.com
www.expressmilwaukee.com
www.mindawn.com
www.artistdirect.com

Sigmund Snopek III official website

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First Band On The MoonFirst Band On The Moon
2002
Audio CD$71.84
$70.67 (used)
Trinity - Seas Seize SeesTrinity - Seas Seize Sees
Box set · Import
Musea 2000
Audio CD$23.65
$24.95 (used)
Nobody To DreamNobody To Dream
Couth Youth
Vinyl$18.99 (used)
Roy Rogers Meets Albert EinsteinRoy Rogers Meets Albert Einstein
Import
Musea 1982
Audio CD$18.23
$43.42 (used)
Trinity Seas Seize SeesTrinity Seas Seize Sees
Akashic Records
Vinyl$49.99 (used)
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SIGMUND SNOPEK III discography


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SIGMUND SNOPEK III top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
as the Bloomsbury People
1970
3.00 | 3 ratings
Virginia Woolf
1972
3.05 | 2 ratings
Trinity Seas, Seize, Sees
1974
2.00 | 1 ratings
Nobody to Dream
1975
2.00 | 1 ratings
Thinking Out Loud (as Snopek)
1978
2.49 | 3 ratings
First Band On The Moon (as Snopek)
1980
3.00 | 2 ratings
Roy Rogers Meets Albert Einstein
1982
3.00 | 1 ratings
WisconsInsane
1987
0.00 | 0 ratings
Miasma Fragments
2001
0.00 | 0 ratings
Christmas
2002
0.00 | 0 ratings
Jade
2003

SIGMUND SNOPEK III Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

SIGMUND SNOPEK III Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

SIGMUND SNOPEK III Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

SIGMUND SNOPEK III Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Gingerbread Man / Witch Helen (with Bloomsbury People)
1970

SIGMUND SNOPEK III Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 First Band On The Moon (as Snopek) by SNOPEK III, SIGMUND album cover Studio Album, 1980
2.49 | 3 ratings

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First Band On The Moon (as Snopek)
Sigmund Snopek III Eclectic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

3 stars Sigmund Snopek III has been working in the music industry for over thirty years, and most recently has been seen touring with The Violent Femmes. However, he started off working in progressive music, and this is a re-release of his band's 1977 album. Knowing that he has been working on symphonies with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra I wasn't quite sure what to expect of this album, I certainly didn't expect to find an album that twenty five years on from its' release does not sound too dated for the most part and is really enjoyable and fun to listen to.

Easily the band which this album reminded me most of was Saga, but this album was released prior to the Canadian outfit's debut so it is extremely unlikely that they had any bearing on the music. Three of the band share lead vocals, and musically it is based very much around the keyboards of Sigmund, with harmonies and melodies, but there is also room for a little of guitar and the result is very much a band album, not a keyboard fest. There is also room for elements of Talking Heads and even The Moody Blues, and this is an album that anyone into prog/pop with a sense of humour would do well to investigate. I certainly enjoyed it.

Originally appeared in Feedback #69, Aug 02

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 First Band On The Moon (as Snopek) by SNOPEK III, SIGMUND album cover Studio Album, 1980
2.49 | 3 ratings

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First Band On The Moon (as Snopek)
Sigmund Snopek III Eclectic Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

2 stars 'First Band on the Moon' was Sigmund Snopek III's sixth studio album and the third as part of a group after 1970's eponymous Bloomsbury People record and the prior Snopek band album 'Thinking Out Loud'. Like that record, and like just about everything else recorded on or around 1980 this album consists almost completely of New-Wave pop songs full of random and gratuitous other-wordly synthesizers, drum fills, and David Byrne-like faux- bored vocals. For the most part that's about all there is to say about the music, but I suppose a few more words are in order.

Sigmund Snopek had produced a couple of moderately interesting progressive rock albums in the seventies after leaving his post-Beat band the Bloomsbury People in 1972. He also put together a suite of sorts with the ambitious but under-fulfilled 'Nobody to Dream' in 1975, all fleshed out with copious helpings of guest musicians mostly from the Milwaukee and upper Illinois area before trying his hand once again with a proper band lineup, the appropriately named Snopek. That band lasted about six years and this was their second and final release.

For the first time Sigmund tables both his classical and progressive leanings in favor of decidedly commercial fare for Mountain Railroad, a regional label that mostly featured folk acts like Jim Kweskin's Jug Band, Tom Paxton and the weary acoustic ramblings of Gamble Rogers. One can assume this was an attempt by both Snopek and the label to produce something more commercially appealing in the early days of MTV and heavily industry-driven manipulation of musical fads. Unfortunately for both of them the label had poor distribution outlets and little promotional money so the album didn't take off, and I don't believe there were even any singles generated from the effort.

There are only a handful of moderately interesting songs here, including "Highway Ghosts" with its spastic tempo and decent guitar riffs that give off a slight Bad Company vibe; the quirky "Robotico"; and the extended "Crazy Crazy Angel (Part One)" where Snopek can't help but sneak in some mild traces of his progressive background. Otherwise this is standard early eighties fare and nothing to get too excited about.

If you're really interested in Sigmund Snopek's pop music I would suggest checking out the very tight 'WisconsInsane', and for the best of his progressive work try the last Bloomsbury People record 'Virginia Woolf', issued under Snopek's own name. This one is nowhere near as interesting as either of those. Two stars.

peace

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 Roy Rogers Meets Albert Einstein by SNOPEK III, SIGMUND album cover Studio Album, 1982
3.00 | 2 ratings

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Roy Rogers Meets Albert Einstein
Sigmund Snopek III Eclectic Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars Given the largely instrumental nature of this album, the droll title, and the spacious rhythms mixed with combinations of guitars in riffs and soundscapes, an argument could almost be made for 'Roy Rogers Meets Albert Einstein' as a very early prototype for post-rock music. I say almost because there is also a liberal use of synthesizers and electric piano along with sporadic vocals, none of which are typically employed by the more well-known post-rock bands. And at their heart several songs are clearly based on faiely pedestrian rock arrangements, particularly "Dimension Snatch" and "Robotiko" in the first section titled 'Ride in the Dark'.

Still, this is an interesting turn for Sigmund Snopek III following a couple albums under the band name Snopek which were more traditional rock fare with little to suggest Snopek's progressive leanings. The classically inspired title track is both a return to form from his 'Virginia Woolf' and 'Trinity' period, and also a preview of the sort of classical/jazz/New Age sound he would adopt in the latter nineties.

And speaking of jazz the group indulges in some free-form speckled with light Beefheartian noise later in the title track and on the third set 'Song Sing to the Doldrum King', which also features some of the heaviest as well as the most mellow passages on the album. I'm not sure at times where this thing is going but it has the feel of something much more substantive than anything else Snopek recorded in the late seventies or early eighties.

This is the only Snopek album I bought as a download, simply because the CD version is too expensive in my opinion to merit picking it up. I continue looking for this one every time I visit a used record store though in hopes I can score a cheap vinyl or used CD copy.

There's actually surprisingly little information about this album on the web or elsewhere, but I do know Snopek recorded it in the waning days of the Snopek band's existence and used different producers, engineers and musicians than the ones that appear on most of his other albums. Much of the music is played by Snopek himself, not unusual since except for the Snopek band recordings he has a tendency to feature himself heavily on his studio releases.

I'm tempted to life this one up to four stars simply because it is better than 'Trinity' which I did rate as a three star effort. But its not quite as engaging or varied as 'Virginia Woolf', which I also gave three stars so I think three is as much as I can do here. And possibly I should revisit the 'Virginia Woolf' rating as that is clearly the best Sigmund Snopek III has to offer in terms of progressive music as far as I'm concerned. Mildly recommended and if you find a cheap vinyl or CD copy, give me a call.

peace

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 Trinity Seas, Seize, Sees by SNOPEK III, SIGMUND album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.05 | 2 ratings

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Trinity Seas, Seize, Sees
Sigmund Snopek III Eclectic Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars This is one Sigmund Snopek III album that I wanted to like, I really did. There were a lot of good signs when I read about it and finally sprung for a copy of the Musea CD version. The packaging is hefty; two pretty full discs, a fat booklet full of lyrics, bios of the various guest artists, some original artwork and a bit of Snopek's personal and professional history lined out in the back of the edition. And speaking of guest musicians, Snopek has a vast collection of acquaintances, and while most of them are fairly unknown nationally there are a few on here that are worthy of notice. Brian Ritchie of the Violent Femmes, a band Snopek has a long history with, appears on a couple tracks playing acoustic bass and something called a Shakuhachi flute. Xeno (aka Randy Hogan) was the original vocalist in the arena rock band Cheap Trick before being replaced by the much better (and more well- known) Robin Zander. And Jack Grassel plays guitar on the second and third acts of this three-act suite. Grassel has written a bunch of guitar technique books including one in my oldest son's collection, so naturally I was a bit curious.

And the back story is rather interesting as well. Like so 'Nobody to Dream', one of Snopek's other albums, the music here dates back to early in his musical career, the first nineteen songs or so having been written in the early seventies and much of the second act added shortly after. And also like that other album Snopek performed this music (at least the first disc's worth) live in the mid-seventies. The first act was issued on vinyl in 1974, with the rest being recorded in the mid- to late-nineties and released as a two-disc set in 2000.

This is a 'space rock' theme album as Snopek tells the story, one he says was inspired by the emergence of space rock bands like Hawkwind and Amon Duul, although to be hinest most of it sounds a lot more like Gong and other Canterbury acts from the seventies. The songwriting has that same sort of amateurish vibe that so characterize so much of Daevid Allen's work as well, so perhaps there are other influences at work here.

The stereotype of Midwestern American white working men telling tales of alien abduction is certainly a prevalent one in our modern society, but Snopek takes the idea a step further and constructs a tale of an alien (a 'Bubble Freak') raised on Earth before being forced to return to his native planet Seize. Klaatu also comes to mind while listening to this album, not musically but due to the similar penchant for sophomoric space tales in the lyrics. There's more to the story as the alien struggles to escape the 'benevolent' leadership of his homeland in search of true freedom. I get all this from the narrative interspersed throughout the album and from the liner notes, since most of the lyrics are rather abstract, poetic and not obviously related to the story being told.

In all this is a mildly interesting album and certainly an ambitious effort on Snopek's part, especially his effort of piecing together the original seventies tracks with the later material thanks to a host of guest artists. And while the music is undeniably progressive with constant tempo shifts, lengthy instrumentals, conceptual lyrics and mostly complex playing, in the end I'm left feeling like the general idea has been done before (and much better) by Gong, Jeff Wayne and a host of others.

For those who follow Snopek or are at least curious as to what his progressive period sounds like I would recommend this as the best example. But as a blip in the pantheon of prog rock I have to say it is no better than average, and therefore deserving of no more than three stars. 'Virginia Woolfe' which predates this one is somewhat more cohesive and succinct and I would rate it slightly better as a progressive rock album, while 'WisconsInsane' reveals Snopek at his best as a pop artist with prog leanings. Check out either one of those first and if you are still interested then you may find this one worth picking up.

peace

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 Nobody to Dream by SNOPEK III, SIGMUND album cover Studio Album, 1975
2.00 | 1 ratings

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Nobody to Dream
Sigmund Snopek III Eclectic Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

— First review of this album —
2 stars Pretty much all of Sigmund Snopek's albums seem to have unusual histories and difficult- to-classify sounds and themes. 'Nobody to Dream' is no exception. According to the liner notes this piece was first composed by Snopek back in the late sixties and was first performed by his then-band the Bloomsbury People in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin church in December 1970. This would have been just a few months, Snopek writes in the liner notes, after his band Bloomsbury People appeared at the 2nd Atlanta Pop Festival "in front of 500,000 naked, stoned people." Snopek and Bloomsbury People aren't mentioned on the famous Atlanta Pop posters or any of the many websites dedicated to that legendary concert, falling I suppose somewhere on the billing list below the "Symposium of Awareness" and "giant fireworks". So goes the struggle of the obscure regional musician.

Anyway, this musical score, which blends orchestral and sometimes theatrically-leaning string and piano arrangements with rock rhythms and choral passages was apparently something of a life's work for Snopek, some of the pieces having their roots in early writings from when he was still a teenager. The entire score has been recorded four times, although I can only find information about a 1975 vinyl release and a 1997 recording released on CD that was recorded over the entire year of 1995, mostly by Snopek himself but with a little help from his friends (and isn't that how most music was recorded back then).

The eighteen tracks combine to form a concept album of sorts, ostensibly about reincarnation. Byron Wiemann, a former Bloomsbury People member and guitarist as part of the seventies quartet known simply as Snopek assisted with some of the lyrics that were added in 1972. Speaking of lyrics, some of them are rather naïve, possibly even bordering on cheesy although cheese is certainly considered an acceptable artistic substance in the dairy state of Wisconsin:

I'm not sure if this is supposed to be a classical composition with rock touches here and there, or a progressive rock album that's heavily imbued with classical scores and instrumentation. Either way it doesn't fit well with really anything else that was considered either symphonic or progressive rock around the same period. Then again, the boundaries and rules regarding what was acceptable as far as popular music went were pretty loosely drawn in 1970, so I suppose Snopek had his admirers regardless of how poorly this music resonates with most other forms of rock from that period or since.

For fans of Sigmund Snopek III this is probably an interesting enough bit of music that wouldn't be too out-of-place alongside some of the other stuff he's recorded over the years, especially his more staid serious music from the nineties and early twentieth century. For most prog rock fans though it will mostly be considered odd and possibly even uninteresting. I'll go with two stars here in deference to Snopek fans, but will only recommend to those same people and they probably already own it.

peace

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 Thinking Out Loud (as Snopek) by SNOPEK III, SIGMUND album cover Studio Album, 1978
2.00 | 1 ratings

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Thinking Out Loud (as Snopek)
Sigmund Snopek III Eclectic Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

— First review of this album —
2 stars Apparently Sigmund Snopek III spent most of the late seventies the same way so many other art and progressive rockers did, namely by distancing himself from these suddenly unfashionable musical forms in favor of vapid, trite and otherwise shallow New Wave pop. But given this guy was about as conventional as punkers were subtle, he couldn't quite escape his avant-garde leanings. The result is an album that is just as shallow and subtle as Joe Jackson's 'I'm the Man', but at the same time as sporadically clever as some of Jackson's more memorable cheap pop as well.

By this point Sigmund had left the Bloomsbury People far behind and was pitching his quartet as simply 'Snopek' consisting of himself, Byron Wiesmann and Jim Gorton who had appeared with him on other albums, and drummer Mike Lucas who would show up again on some of Snopek's future solo work. The 1996 CD master would be issued under the name Sigmund Snopek III, but the original was attributed to the band.

The first couple of songs on the album are pretty much throwaway seventies rock in the vein of former Orleans front man John Hall, Greg Kihn and the like with cheesy keyboards, trite lyrics and the occasional slightly interesting guitar riff but not much else. Have I mentioned that the band photo on the inside liner shows Snopek looking a lot like Jack Black posing with the members of Queen? Well it does. Or maybe something like the Cars without Ric Ocasek. And sort of sounds like the Cars too, but without the big guitar sound.

Sigmund can't help himself as the album unfolds though, as we find him inserting weird tempo shifts and clichéd keyboard forays on "Shining in Here" and the slightly Weird Al- sounding "Hamburger Holocaust", which is just as forgettable as the title suggests, as is the mercifully brief "God is a Big Wheel"; and "New York Jumpers" is an upbeat and funky tribute to big city suicide faddists. But by the time "San Francisco Radio" rolls around Snopek can't hold himself back any longer and launches into a lengthy keyboard/electric flute instrumental passage that eventually works its way to a driving finish fat with some pretty decent guitar soloing. Nine minutes that don't belong on a New Wave album at all, and the first sign that maybe Sigmund Snopek isn't taking this recording all that seriously after all.

The original vinyl release ends with "Kali Kala", a decent piano/guitar/flute piece that is kind of directionless but is a less grounded in the late seventies than anything else on the album.

Like I said this record was reissued on CD in 1996, and that version includes several 'bonus' tracks. The original studio tapes had been lost by then so the original tunes were remastered from vinyl and while I suppose a serious audiophile could tell the difference I can't say as I can on my crappy old stereo, and since I picked this up for only a couple dollars it wouldn't matter much anyway.

The liner notes don't explain where these other tracks came from but "Hymn" and "Unknown Performer" sound a lot like Al Stewart circa the early eighties and may have been recorded later, while "6 Pack Heaven" is a pure cheese-fest that was clearly written around the same time as the vinyl tracks. The other two bonus tracks are alternate takes of "Shining in Here" and "Radio Hearts" that (if possible) are even bouncier and crasser than the originals. Clearly meant to do little more than fill up most of the CD space.

This isn't a very good album and I can't imagine even Snopek would claim it is. For his fans I suppose it's a collectable piece, but for anyone else interested in his better work I'd recommend, well, just about anything else. Two stars only because of "San Francisco Radio" and "Kali Kala", but not recommended to anyone in particular.

peace

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 WisconsInsane by SNOPEK III, SIGMUND album cover Studio Album, 1987
3.00 | 1 ratings

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WisconsInsane
Sigmund Snopek III Eclectic Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

— First review of this album —
3 stars By the late eighties Sigmund Snopek III was pretty much an iconic fixture in the Milwaukee music scene with a vast live and recording history to his credit. His progressive and avant- garde experimental days were largely behind him, and his association with the post-punk (and fellow Milwaukee natives) the Violent Femmes was something of a regular gig.

'WisconsInsane' is probably his most well-known album, though that is a relative distinction with him being largely unknown outside the region and his narrow touring circles. The music is mostly pop in nature with smatterings of Zappaesque jazzy interludes and occasional musical bedlam in the vein of Femmes tunes like "American Music" and (I Dig the) "Black Girls". But still, Snopek's talent for charming and accessible tunes make this album a pleasant diversion at least, and a solid example of a regional marquee act at best.

The album opens and closes with "Wisconsin Waltz", the sort typically Polish polka- sounding number that the Femmes and other American post-punk acts like the Dead Milkmen (Pennsylvania), Camper van Beethoven (California) and the Larrys (Kansas) largely built their limited careers around. "Shake the Fruit" is a middle ager's lament on changing times and nostalgia, a horn-driven tune with hip-swirling percussion and little in the way of substance but still catchy.

Too bad "Slip Away" didn't find its way into radio rotation somewhere. This is a smooth pop song with almost imperceptible jazz undertones and a casual verse delivery that comes off so much like an Elvis Costello tune that I have to believe that's exactly what Snopek was going for. The female backing vocals from Robin Pluer and Xeno are totally seductive and bring the thing home beautifully. I love this song and have it on several of my mp3 player playlists. The guy can definitely write a memorable song when he sets his mind to it.

Snopek also managed to work in roles for his parents on the aimless spoken-word interlude "On the Way to Oconto", as well as his son Shaun who cranks out some decent fuzz guitar on Snopek's signature anthem "Thank God This Isn't Cleveland". The Snopek brand is nothing if not a family affair.

Several songs here aren't much more than playful pop tunes with various instrumental embellishments from the vast assemblage of Milwaukee-area guest musicians Snopek employs throughout. "The Rose of Wisconsin" is a shallow but toe-tapping song about a local gal who still manages to turn heads as she saunters by despite her emotional baggage and messed-up head. "Sing for Me" strikes me as a lost-love song to someone in particular, but probably only Sigmund knows who that person is. "Summer Guest" is a lovely piano piece, while "I'm so Tired of Singing About the Sky" is another Costello clone delivered as a twisted sort of Donny & Marie duo with Robin Pluer, another longtime Milwaukee musical landmark. And "Movie Songs" is a name-dropping affair where Snopek blurs the lines between reality and an obvious penchant for old-time classic big-screen films. Steve MacKay plays saxophone all over the album but is particularly effective here.

My second favorite track is "Call Me in Wisconsin (Before the War)" which strikes me as something close to a musical biography about Snopek's family, sort of a Joe Jackson- meets-Harry Nilsson doing Leonard Cohen covers thing. This one is meant to sound like a timeless tune, and Snopek expertly pulls it off.

I like this album. It's pretty much pop, as I've pointed out several times already. But that's okay; Snopek established his progressive rock and avant-garde credentials years before this one was recorded, and given the state of the music scene in the late eighties this is at least a record that is filled with sincere, non-commercially oriented songs that are simply meant to entertain and provoke thought. 'WisconsInsane' succeeds on both counts in my opinion. Easily three stars for an album I would recommend to anyone who just wants to feel good while enjoying the offerings of a bunch of musicians who love their work and put an honest day's effort into practicing their craft.

peace

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 Virginia Woolf by SNOPEK III, SIGMUND album cover Studio Album, 1972
3.00 | 3 ratings

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Virginia Woolf
Sigmund Snopek III Eclectic Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars There's a lot going on with this album, the second for the Bloomsbury People but issued as a Sigmund Snopek III solo release. Listening to it some forty years post-release it is surprising how fresh and relevant the sounds are even today, although to be fair the lyrics and progressive experimentation are on closer examination quite deeply rooted in the early seventies.

Snopek had already become something of a wandering journeyman musician by the time these tracks were recorded, and he would go on to a lengthy and varied career as a solo artist, prolific studio musician and collaborator with everyone from obscure local groups like Stuffy and his Frozen Parachute Band and Major Arcana to more well-known acts like Tom Paxton, Bad Boy and most notably the Violent Femmes (who also hailed from Milwaukee).

But here Snopek presents a brilliant and sadly forgotten collection of tunes that reveal both a solid grounding in classical and jazz music, and apparently also a pretty substantial and varied record collection of his own.

Despite the title this is not really a concept album. There is one track dedicated to the tragic figure Virginia Woolf that sort of recounts her life story, but the main thrust of the song appears to be more of an exercise in free-form jazz and convulsive tempo shifting. All but the last minute is instrumental and the unusual requiem ends with the somber vocals "Virginia walked into the sea because she wanted nothing to be, Virginia is nothing and so are we". The sentiment is a bit odd given the rest of the album's lyrics are for the most part upbeat, though certainly restrained and reflective.

I'm not sure anyone but Snopek truly understands what this album is all about, but there are indications it is a celebration of life in some ways, possibly a series of reflections made during days in the city (presumably Milwaukee). The album opens with a disjointed three- part homage to "El Ciudad" in fact, mostly centered on Snopek's piano and various vocal passages that range from freak-folk to avant-garde to the sort of light psych-pop featured on the Bloomsbury People's first release. From here Snopek wanders into the song pair "Orange" and "Blue", the colors in this case apparently representing the Sun and Moon (or sky) as well as moods of the narrator (vocalist James Gorton) as he recounts moods and feelings while reflecting on the passing of the day and what Snopek refers to in the liner notes as "a magical realation (sic) of two colors in conflict and in oneness". Musically these two songs are a blend of classical instrumentation (twin violins, piano) in pseudo classical arrangements but interspersed with spastic tempo shifts and culminating in an orgy of saxophone, wailing electric guitar, stilted keyboards and all manner of percussion including xylophone and what sounds like timpani drums, before fading away as quickly as they started. "Orange" and "Blue" represent the sort of ad-hoc art rock so many Midwestern kids with not much more than a public school band or orchestra musical education were cranking out all over the place in the seventies. Plus more than a little Zappa and possibly King Crimson influence.

I'm not sure what "Elizabeth" is all about. It does not appear to be a love song although the delivery is smooth and urbane, particularly the vocals. This one sounds more like the post- Beat stuff the Bloomsbury People filled most of their first album with and is probably the most conventional-sounding song on the album along with the vocal-heavy "Song of a Nation" that reminds me a whole lot of the post-punk band Cerberus Shoal.

"Soothsayer's Dance" was either recorded at a different time than the previous songs, or with different recording equipment. The mix is somewhat flatter and less dynamic, not quite mono but certainly limited to four or possibly eight tracks. Like "Elizabeth" the tone is restrained aside for the most part, at least until Snopek veers sharply off-course in the final minute with a stilted keyboard progression smoothed only by the ever-present strings and a brief piano flourish that transitions the album to its title track.

Snopek reveals a host of avant-garde influences and probably some psychological issues with the ranging "Lifencave Book Two", a sixteen-minute vocal diatribe of sung, spoken and sometimes shouted lyrics that don't make a whole lot of sense for the most part but manage to fill the considerable void left by an almost total lack of instrumentation other than piano and a bit of flute and strings throughout most of its length. Toward the end Snopek indulges in some keyboard meandering that adds a bit of a psych dimension to the music, but in the end this is a strange composition that has little in common with the rest of the album.

The most commonly available version of the album today is a 2000 CD remaster that includes a much more sonically dynamic version of "Orange" and "Blue" combined into a single work. This version was recorded in 1987, long after the original album had been removed distribution. It includes an appearance by Violent Femmes bassist Brian Ritchie whose name is misspelled but who provides not only thudding bass lines but probably some inspiration for the arrangement which is much more pronounced than the original material.

This isn't the best Sigmund Snopek III album; indeed, 'WisconsInsane' probably deserves that label. But it is one his more memorable works and gives a good glimpse into the sort of pop/avant/prog blend he would perfect later in his career. A solid three stars and a solid recommendation for anyone who can manage to lay their hands on a copy.

peace

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 as the Bloomsbury People by SNOPEK III, SIGMUND album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.00 | 1 ratings

BUY
as the Bloomsbury People
Sigmund Snopek III Eclectic Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

— First review of this album —
3 stars Sigmund Snopek III's recording career began as part of the short-lived Bloomsbury People, a group from Milwaukee, Wisconsin with some talent for short, catchy pop tunes wrapped in late sixties psych vocal harmonies and rather eclectic, experimental instrumentation as well as occasional iconic musical references. While the band technically released two studio albums this is the only one issued under the name 'Bloomsbury People' with the other coming out as a Sigmund Snopek solo effort.

Two things stand out on this record. First, the psych sensibilities in these songs were already dated and waning in popularity by the time the album released in 1970, although it is interesting that despite this the group managed to secure a major label contract with MGM. And second, these guys could write some pretty memorable pop tunes that on the surface don't sound like pop at all, thanks mostly to Snopek's alternately frenzied and poignant keyboards, bits of fuzz guitar and some clever riffs.

The album kicks off with "Birdsong" and "Witch Helen", two mildly Haight-Ashbury sounding pop-psych numbers with driving rhythms, frantic organ forays and multi-part harmonized vocals (think Quicksilver Messenger Service without the country twang and a little of the Blue Things without Val Stoecklein's laconic vocals). But the songs here run something of a gamut, ranging from the haunting piano and vocal melody "Demian" to the funky, rhythmic "So It Seems" to the post-Beatles sounding "Witch Helen". "Golden Lion" smacks a bit of Donovan while "The Resurrection" combines a church-choir vocal intro with a bit of doo- wap with a bit of the sort of disjointed saxophone the Violent Femmes would later feature on several of their albums (Snopek appeared on three of those records and played as a live 'Horns' member for many Femmes tours).

Only at the end with the closing "Suite Classical #II" does the group begin to show some serious progressive rock leanings. This is neither classical music nor a suite, but it does have pretensions of both with a lengthy composition that shifts between driving percussive sections, languid vocal pieces and snippets of delicate piano. I can't quite figure out what the point of the whole thing is supposed to be, but clearly Snopek and company are exploring the outer fringes of their capabilities in a way that would continue to manifest itself on most of the Snopek albums that would follow.

On the surface this is a rather forgettable album, mildly interesting but nothing earth- shaking in terms of innovation or discernable direction. But given the eclectic body of work Sigmund Snopek III would create in the ensuing years I think this is a great introduction to a talent that has rarely been given his due outside his native Wisconsin. For anyone even remotely interested in his music I would recommend this as a great starting point, followed by his seminal solo album 'WisconsInsane'. Three solid stars, almost but not quite four, and a hearty recommendation.

peace

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