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ARIEL

Prog Related • Australia


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Ariel biography
From the cinders of two of Australia's more important rock bands - Sydney's TAMAM SHUD and the legendary SPECTRUM from Melbourne - rose ARIEL, an eclectic art-pop group that was the child of guitarist/singer Mike RUDD [born in New Zealand] and bassist Bill PUTT. Upon the dissolution of Spectrum, songwriting partners RUDD & PUTT formed the new band consisting of Nigel MACARA(drums), John MILLS(keys), and Tim GAZE(voice, guitar) in 1973. They secured support on EMI's progressive label Harvest, producing debut 'A Strange Fantastic Dream' in November '73, probably their most consistent Prog rock album featuring complicated arrangements and spirited performances. Despite the controversial drug-tinged cover, the album reached #12 on the Aussie LP charts in 1974.

Their second, the till recently long-lost 'Jellabad Mutant', was intended to be a thoroughly ambitious prog opera with no spared expense described as "a John Whyndham-ish science fiction concept piece". But after much work and rehearsals, the final tapes were ultimately rejected by EMI with its overflowing vault of turgid and twiddly prog. Mike RUDD reflects:
"It's interesting to speculate what might have happened had we been allowed to proceed with the Mutant with an intact budget {EMI slashed the budget for Rock'n Roll Scars adding to the pressure} and with the time to to reflect and be creative with the raw material you hear in the demos. I regret not going in to bat for it at the time. We had a fabulous opportunity with the best technical assistance any band could have wanted. But I didn't sell the dream, even to myself".

In October 1974, the band recorded their follow-up 'Rock 'n Roll Scars' at Abbey Road Studios with a much-altered line up. Upon returning to Australia from England, RUDD & PUTT recruited Glyn MASON [CHAIN,COPPERWINE] on vocals&guitar, drummer John LEE and guitarist Harvey JAMES. By mid-1975 Mike RUDD had become involved with New Zealanders DRAGON and after more member changes, ARIEL switched labels to CBS and released a third effort 'Goodnight Fiona' in 1976.

By 1977, the remnants of the band had stretched ARIEL's potential as far as they felt possible and released the tongue-in-cheek 'Disco Dilemma' single just before the CBS contract expired. In August '77 a final concert was performed and later released as 'Aloha Ariel' and 'Live:More From Before'.

ARIEL was a bold, sometimes flamboyant group of guys who knew what they wanted and be...
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ARIEL discography


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

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

3.35 | 12 ratings
A Strange Fantastic Dream
1974
2.43 | 5 ratings
Rock & Roll Scars
1975
2.92 | 4 ratings
Goodnight Fiona
1976
3.08 | 4 ratings
The Jellabad Mutant
2002

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

2.09 | 2 ratings
Aloha
1977
2.09 | 2 ratings
Live!! - More From Before
1978

ARIEL Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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

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

ARIEL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Live!! - More From Before by ARIEL album cover Live, 1978
2.09 | 2 ratings

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Live!! - More From Before
Ariel Prog Related

Review by sl75

2 stars Aloha must have been reasonably successful, because some months later the label decided to put out the remainder of the tapes from Ariel's farewell concert. (Eventually the two releases would be combined in a double album release.) Aloha gathered most of the new material, so this album is mostly padded out with oldies - including three selections from Spectrum's commercial alter ego Murtceps (but nothing from Spectrum's repertoire), and four older Ariel tracks, mostly from the 1975-6 period - "Jamaican Farewell" is the only selection from A Strange Fantastic Dream. In other words, there is almost nothing here for fans of the proggier side of Ariel or Spectrum. Even "Jamaican Farewell" is a disappointment - one problem with this final lineup is that neither of Mike Rudd nor Glyn Mason is an outstanding lead guitarist (though Mason is a competent blues player), and neither of them were capable of reproducing Tim Gaze's original guitar part - that task falls to Tony Slavich on keyboards. (Slavich takes up a lot of the slack for the two guitarists on both of the live albums - fortunately he is up to the task.) The new material here is the "Island Fantasia" suite put together for the occasion. If the mention of a 'suite' raises your hopes, forget it - it's three fairly unremarkable and unrelated pop/rock songs scotched together. But I have to give Rudd props for writing a song called "Dark Side of Yeppoon".

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 Aloha by ARIEL album cover Live, 1977
2.09 | 2 ratings

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Aloha
Ariel Prog Related

Review by sl75

2 stars Consisting of excerpts of Ariel's final concert - for which they had an "Island Fantasia" theme - this album focuses almost entirely on new material, previously unreleased in studio versions - the only songs that would have been familiar to record buyers would be their two most recent singles "Disco Dilemma" and "It's Only Love", and Spectrum's smash "I'll Be Gone" (which appropriately closed the concert). By now the band had become very democratic, everyone except Bill Putt contributes their share of songwriting and lead vocals, although Mike Rudd is still the dominant force. Tony Slavich is playing somewhat more synthesiser than before, but otherwise this is a continuation of the sound and songwriting approach of the previous album "Goodnight Fiona" - ie slick mainstream pop/rock. There is no hint whatsoever here of the band's prog beginnings. One only for Mike Rudd's most ardent fans.

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 The Jellabad Mutant by ARIEL album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.08 | 4 ratings

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The Jellabad Mutant
Ariel Prog Related

Review by sl75

3 stars This is a collection of demos for an unfinished 'rock opera' Mike Rudd had intended as the follow up to A Strange Fantastic Dream. I presume 'unfinished', since no clear narrative emerges from the collected songs, so I assume more was to come. Being demos, the tracks are recorded very basically, no overdubs other than the vocals, often little more than basic rhythm tracks. However, the tracks show enough promise that a truly excellent progressive album could have been fashioned from them, with more studio time and more time to work on the arrangements. (It's a pity John Mills didn't remain in this lineup of Ariel, because I think his keyboards would have added a lot to this music.) Unfortunately EMI rejected the concept, so these demos are all that remain.

This is pretty much the end of Ariel as a progressive band - the album that followed, Rock & Roll Scars, was a straight hard rock album with little new material, and subsequent Ariel albums followed an increasingly commercial direction.

The CD release is fleshed out by a rare live recording of some of the Jellabad Mutant material from early 1976, by the short-lived three guitar lineup featuring Glyn Mason alongside Rudd and Harvey James. That lineup released just one single, the minor hit "I'll Take You High" and the anti-censorship b-side "I Can't Say What I Mean". Both are also included here as bonus tracks - they point to the more straightforward pop/rock direction Ariel would pursue on the subsequent album Goodnight Fiona.

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 Goodnight Fiona by ARIEL album cover Studio Album, 1976
2.92 | 4 ratings

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Goodnight Fiona
Ariel Prog Related

Review by sl75

3 stars By the time of this album, Ariel had reverted to being a five-piece two guitars and keyboards band - and in so doing had lost the hard rock edge of the previous album. Nor did they return to the proggier approach of the first album. This is straight pop/rock, albeit sophisticated pop/rock, with witty lyrics, well arranged and played by excellent musicians. However, since it displeases both the original prog fans and the later hard rock fans, this album tends to get a bad rap, which I think is unfortunate. Glyn Mason has joined on second guitar, and also shares lead vocals and songwriting duties, being responsible for about half the album. New keyboardist Tony Slavich eschews the layered multi-keyboard approach of his predecessor, sticking to piano and organ, but he's a consistently interesting player, even when approaching an otherwise-straight boogie number like "Cypherland Blues". Rudd's humour remains intact, particularly on the title track which is the best (and funniest) anti-nuclear song I've ever heard.

So it's not prog, but it's not bad on it's own merits, and it's such an improvement on Rock & Roll Scars I think it merits a higher rating than that album. Hence 3 stars

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 Rock & Roll Scars by ARIEL album cover Studio Album, 1975
2.43 | 5 ratings

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Rock & Roll Scars
Ariel Prog Related

Review by sl75

2 stars This was a tragedy. Since the breakup of the original Ariel, Mike Rudd and Bill Putt had been working on a rock opera, The Jellabad Mutant, rehearsing the material with the new lineup of Ariel they had put together. In the meantime, the first album was beginning to get some attention in Britain, and EMI promptly summoned the band to London. They were most displeased when the band that arrived turned out to be a completely different lineup, but nevertheless installed them in Abbey Road to record a new album. However, when presented with the concept of The Jellabad Mutant, they rejected it.

This left the band scrambling to find material for the album. Apart from his work on the incomplete opera, Rudd had only three new songs ready, so the album had to be padded out with new recordings of old Spectrum and Murtceps, and also of a couple of old Ariel b-sides. The new band brought much more of a hard rock edge to this material than the earlier bands, especially with Harvey James on lead guitar, and some prefer these recordings to the originals for that reason. I find them much less satisfying, particularly given the lack of keyboards. The new material is in a straight hard rock vein. It's of no real interest to a prog fan. Definitely collectors/fans only.

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 A Strange Fantastic Dream by ARIEL album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.35 | 12 ratings

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A Strange Fantastic Dream
Ariel Prog Related

Review by sl75

4 stars Officially the first Ariel release, this is really a continuation of Spectrum in both personnel - the only musician missing from the last line-up of Spectrum is Ray Arnott - and musical direction. Arnott's place at the drum stool is taken by former Tamam Shud drummer Nigel Macara, and he also brought along that band's lead guitarist, Tim Gaze. The addition of Gaze makes the biggest difference - he is unquestionably a much larger presence as lead guitarist than Mike Rudd was, and along with John Mills adoption of a full battery of keyboards, the new band has a much fuller sound and much more musical flexibility. The new band continues the direction of both Spectrum and Murtceps, finally achieving the integration of the respective commercial and progressive elements that eluded them on the joint album Testimonial. "Garden of the Frenzied Cortinas" and "Chicken Shit" are the most elaborate compositions, showing that if the band had decided to follow a more full-blown prog path they could have been world-beaters. These two are the exceptions - in general the band opt for more straight-forward song structures, but still with layers of keyboards from Mills and excellent guitar interplay. Rudd's trademark sick humour is apparent in tracks like "No Encores", "Confessions of a Psychopathic Cowpoke", "Chicken Shit", and even the love song "And If It Wasn't For You".

An excellent album that stands up well next to the Crossover Prog of the time. Unfortunately, this lineup fell apart soon after the album was released, and the subsequent incarnations of Ariel became less interesting to prog fans

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 A Strange Fantastic Dream by ARIEL album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.35 | 12 ratings

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A Strange Fantastic Dream
Ariel Prog Related

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars This long-forgotten Australian art band arrived with the all the promise the early 1970s had to offer. Mike Rudd's flamboyant vocals, founding partner Bill Putt's easy right hand on bass, keyboardist John Mills and lead guitar of Tim Gaze adding their subtle colors made Ariel's debut one of the brighter and less grimly serious offerings of 1974. A cross-pollenation of Rudd&Putt's Spectrum and Sydney group Tamam Shud, their A Strange Fantastic Dream provided some fun and humor alongside complex songs and soulful performances. Recalled is Supertramp, Babe Ruth, classic Split Enz, period Yes, and Aussie mates Fraternity and though the LP is more sportive party than stoic prog, the skills of the five-piece were unmistakable.

'Jamaican Farewell' starts the ball rolling in the right direction, an easy going swinger led by Mike Rudd's infectious riff continued for mid-tempo 'No Encore' with Rudd's throaty whine, the prog emerging fully here-- John Mills' synth washes, the building rhythms and altered chords of Putt&Rudd's fine compositions. Eight minute 'Garden of the Frenzied Cortinas' is even more convincing, a house of many rooms and a lost artrock treasure featuring a very gooey extended vamp between Mills' keys and Tim Gaze's bluesy lead guitar, climaxing finally with big pageantry and Rudd's plaintive wail. And 'Chicken Sh*t' belies its title and is one of the best cuts here, leaving no doubt these guys were serious if waggish about their music.

There is also material on A Strange Fantastic Dream that is more blues-rock than art, and during the band's final incarnation in 1977 they released the ridiculous single 'Disco Dilemma' as a tongue-in-cheek response to the dance phenomenon. But overall, this one is Ariel at its prime, full of great ideas and good spirits, and should be considered by anyone with a soft spot for the lighter side of the artrock movement.

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