Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography


Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

CMU picture
CMU biography
Founded in Cambridge, UK in 1971 - Disbanded in 1973

CMU, also known as CONTEMPORARY MUSIC UNIT were an UK band active in the early 1970's. They were fusing various aspects of art-rock, jazz-rock and folk with a nod to the psychedelic rock.

A unique (at the time) characteristic of the band was a combination of female and male vocals, making an interesting blend. The male vocalist was James Gordon (who was also participating with percussion in the band),the female vocalist being Larraine Odell (later of RED EXPRESS, still active in various jazz projects nowadays). Other members were keyboardist Terry Mortimer (who also played some violin), Ian Hamlett (guitar, flute), Ed Lee (bass) and Larraine's husband Roger Odell (on drums).

The band released their debut 'Open Spaces' for Transatlantic in 1971. The record is an unpretentious mixture of psychedelia and blues, with some bizarre sonic patches here and there.

They changed their line-up drastically for the following album: instead of Mortimer, Gordon and Lee, the band hired Richard Joseph on acoustic guitar (and vocals), Steve Cook on bass and Leary Hasson on keyboards (Hasson came from MARSUPILAMI, which was also on Transatlantic label).

Reinforced with new members, and a moderate shift in their sound (the presence of Mellotron and spacey synthesizers), the band released their second (and last) album titled 'Space Cabaret' in 1973. This effort was much more elaborate, complex and original.

By the 1975, the band was no more. Both Transatlantic vinyl were re-released on CD's.

CMU are often compared to Arthur Brown and AFFINITY; but fans of CURVED AIR might also enjoy the music of CMU. Both albums are worth checking, especially the second.

Moris Mateljan, 2010.


CMU forum topics / tours, shows & news

CMU forum topics Create a topic now
CMU tours, shows & news
No topics found for : "cmu"
Post an entries now

CMU Videos (YouTube and more)

Showing only random 3 | Search and add more videos to CMU

Buy CMU Music

More places to buy CMU music online

CMU discography

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

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

3.03 | 19 ratings
Open Spaces
3.26 | 23 ratings
Space Cabaret

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

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

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

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

CMU Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Space Cabaret by CMU album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.26 | 23 ratings

Space Cabaret
CMU Eclectic Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars Two year after their debut album CMU comes back with a very different line-up, where Loraine's main vocal partner has changed - Rick Joseph instead of James Gordon - and has become the main songwriter. Among the changes is Leary Hasson who will bring an impressive array of keyboards. An absolutely ugly cosmonaut artwork disgraces the album, reminiscent of Roger Dean's not always successful early artworks.

Opening on the atrocious (but thankfully short) title track, CMU offers the much better Archway 272, with mellotrons and a Sinclair-like fuzzed-out organ as well as a Rhodes, all courtesy of newcomer Leary Hasson. This track ends with a pulled saturated mike jack, but immediately goes into Song From The 4th Era that could be from Peter Hammill's Fool's Mate album. The meditative 7-mins Distant Thought retains the slight Hammill vocal influence, but the music is more in the Yes realm (all things considered). Closing up the first side is Doctor, another Joseph tune where only the bass seems alive with his acoustic guitar, until the 2/3 of the song, where Rhodes intervene as well, turning it nicely around for us progheads.

As a contrast to the five Joseph-penned tracks of the first side, there is only two longer ones on the flipside: the almost 10-mins Hamlett-penned Dreams and the 10-mins+ Hasson-written Lightshine. The former starts as a smooth gliding track, punctuated with Neil Young-like guitar interventions (Thinking of his Nowhere album), before the guitar goes funky and the Rhodes arrive for a verse, then the track plunges into a psyched dreamland for the following verse, the guitar sounding Hendrix-ey, this morphing into a slow ascending riff under the patronage of a fuzzed-out organ of Hasson and more changes coming up. Lightshine is a piano-written track, but after the intro comes a Moog interlude ala Emerson's Lucky Man. The track later grows into a raga where both singers trade verses than spreads its wings over vast Caravan-like soundscapes; Hasson's fuzzed out organ helping so.

As you could read in my reviews of CMU, there isn't much original or innovative and their influences are a bit too clear, but on the whole despite its ugly sleeve, Space Cabaret is an enjoyable but unessential piece of early prog rock. I'd say that this album is slightly better than Open Spaces, but this is marginal enough to say that it would a difficult choice to choose only one?. But ultimately this one gets the edge.

 Open Spaces by CMU album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.03 | 19 ratings

Open Spaces
CMU Eclectic Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars A weird eclectic group that ended up recording two albums on a folk specialist label Transatlantic, CMU is not a folk rock group as often described. Their line-up was never really stable during the group's existence, but at the time of their debut album, they were a sextet featuring male and female vocals (something very common in folk and folk rock circles), but also multi-instrumentalists like guitar/flute or keyboards/guitars/violin.

Opening on the quirky and mad Henry track, CMU offers a cool eclectic music that borders pop music, but remains "rock" enough to interest most progheads, with plenty of tempo changes and fun twists. Voodoo Man is a blues with an early-Doors vibe. As you'll guess by reading the title of the following track, we have another blues-rock track, this time more pedestrian and acoustic and overstaying a bit its welcome, even if it has a controlled chaos passage and ending. Chantecleer is probably the most experimental track of the album with its electronics twiddlings and it is probably the main reason for this group's presence on this site.

Opening the flipside is a slow uninteresting Japan track, where the group tries to sound Asian, but only succeeds to India's level. The Zappa-esque vocals of Clown are much catchier, but I am reminded of 10CC or later70's Queen. The hippy-like Mystical Sounds features flutes. The epic title track Open Space is the other cornerstone of the album, opening on a dronal violin and very slow drums, creating an intense and anxious climate as the violin cranks up slowly the power and speed. I can't help but think of String Driven Thing's Machine That Cried at this point. Unfortunately the crescendo dips into a black hole, from which the band will take a couple of minutes to escape, but once it does, it has morphed into a slight mid-eastern influenced jazz feel that slowly increases intensity only to plunge again a the black hole and remain there.

PS: the See For Miles 2on1 CD released in 93 is unfortunately missing one of this album's key track, Chantecleer, for time reasons, so if you're really interested in the group, try out the brand-new Esoteric single-album reissue. Not quite essential and even less groundbreaking, but definitely worth throwing an ear on it to check out the light gentle madness that shook these guys

Thanks to clarke2001 for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.