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SALAMANDER

Proto-Prog • United Kingdom


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Salamander biography
SALAMANDER were an Brittish proto-prog band consisting of Alistair BENSON, Dave CHRISS, John COOK and Dave TILEY. The group played rock and pop with an orchestral and psychedelic edge with some similarities to THE MOODY BLUES which might be of interested to prog fans; they recorded their only album in 1971 which is a conceputal record about The Ten Commandments.

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Camera Obscura 2003
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SALAMANDER discography


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3.12 | 25 ratings
Ten Commandments
1971

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SALAMANDER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Ten Commandments by SALAMANDER album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.12 | 25 ratings

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Ten Commandments
Salamander Proto-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

3 stars Now here's a forgotten little obscurity from the vaults of the early 70s British prog and psych pop scene. SALAMANDER was a short- lived outfit that managed to release this one and only album originally on the Young Blood label. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS is a concept album based on, you guessed it, the Biblical teachings that have been a staple of the Christian religion since JC himself walked on water and roamed the planet. This is a strange little beast that is rooted more in the 60s than finding its place in the 70s and makes me wonder if this was some forgotten anachronistic project from 1967 that just happened to find its way onto the market in 1971. The band consisted of Alister Benson (organs, vocals), Dave Chriss (bass), John Cook (drums) and Dave Titley (lead vocals and guitar). There was basically one track that covered each COMMANDMENT and was produced by Miki Dallon who help create a "Moody Blues" effect with orchestral arrangements and production values on many of the tracks.

And indeed "Prélude Incorporing He's My God's" begins very much sounding like it could have been a rejected track from The Moody Blues' 1967 landmark album "Days Of Future Passed." However, the album doesn't totally rely on their classic sound to get their Biblical messages across. The album sounds more of a generic mix between everything late 60s psychedelic pop and rock actually with everything from Jefferson Airplane to The Doors finding small influences on board along with many of the folk and rock sounds of the era.While the tunes are all somewhat catchy, nothing on here excels at being totally memorable either. While the Hammond organ cranks out some serious melodies and the guitar and bass work well with some powerful drum workouts, in the end the whole thing feels rather contrived and lackluster as it seems woefully inadequate to tackle the entire TEN COMMANDMENTS in a mere 35 minutes and 20 seconds. The tracks do stand out from one another and although there is the inevitable "Jesus Christ Superstar" comparison, it doesn't really sound much alike and doesn't even come close to the quality of its various renditions.

After all is said and done this is a decently performed obscurity that will definitely bring a certain era to mind as it very much exudes a very dated sound but it's a rather fun and carefree type of style that made the psychedelic pop music of the era so much fun. The lyrics are fun and the vocals are pleasant. What's really lacking here is outstanding songwriting skills and the ability to create a captivating narrative that doesn't sound cliché. While i would hardly call this one an essential relic from the past, it is quite a pleasant listen and one that shouldn't be totally forgotten. It has nice pleasant melodies, decent performances and some of the orchestrated tracks can be quite catchy albeit in a late 60s cheesy sort of way. I have to give these guys credit for trying to make a major concept album that covers some pretty tall subject matter, but at the end of the day, they just didn't have the chops to pull this off and it's quite understandable why a second album never emerged.

 Ten Commandments by SALAMANDER album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.12 | 25 ratings

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Ten Commandments
Salamander Proto-Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars A kitschy cross between "Jesus Christ Superstar", IRON BUTTERFLY, THE GRASS ROOTS and the MOODY BLUES, SALAMANDER dumps it all at the listener's feet on their sole album. It's as if they knew this was to be a one off and didn't hold back at all.

While absurdity abounds, the degree of which depends on how much of this is ironic or unintentionally hilarious, there is simply too much good playing and arranging here to be ignored, particularly on the opening cut with its references to "Days of Future Passed" and vivid orchestral flourishes, the relatively understated "People", and the dramatic "Kill". The organ of Alister Benson is what would draw most progressive fans in, as he stamps out hair raising lines. The MOODY BLUES' influence extends beyond their landmark orchestral album into their later 60s work in "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery", and it even seems that SALAMANDER was listening to Graeme Edge's work on "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" for "Steal".

As is typical for proto prog, derivation is the name of the game, but SALAMANDER was astute enough to limit their ambitions to thematic pomposity, unlike some also-rans like FANTASY and CRESSIDA who actually thought they could stand on their own two feet. 2.5 stars rounded up because at least this is an enjoyable listen and abides by the 11th commandment "Do no harm".

 Ten Commandments by SALAMANDER album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.12 | 25 ratings

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Ten Commandments
Salamander Proto-Prog

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Salamander is a forgotten british proto prog band who release a single album in 1971 named Ten commandements. Obviosly the story behind this album is about those ten commandments and God. At first listen might be not impressed by this band, the full brass orientation with some keys added make Salamander to be not really an exciting band. After somelistens I was not necesarly overblown by them , but nevertheless a good album, who desearves a better view. In places they remind me of Moody Blues, specialy the key passages , but less symphonic and more towards proto prog. The brass elements are sometimes like later Chicago albums, but not bad at all. To many this album is less convincing like other releases from that period, of course, musicaly speaking they are far from Genesis, Yes or other monsters from early '70's , but Salamander manage to creat something good and most of the time enjoyble. The voice of Dave Titley is very strong for this kind of music and fits like a glove here. Salamander for some reasons never gain any big attention with this single album, the music is not bad, maybe is to mellow and to cheesy sometimes, but an ok album to me. Orchestrations are very well written and gives a special feeling when you listen for ex the opening track Prélude Incorporing He's My God's - among the best pieces from here if not the best. 3 stars for those ten commandments, nothing special, but far from being a bad album. My CD is relased on Progressive Line and shows once again that no matter how many re released versions are from one album, some of the bands are doomed to go into oblivion.
 Ten Commandments by SALAMANDER album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.12 | 25 ratings

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Ten Commandments
Salamander Proto-Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

2 stars I feel sorry for those who are willing to fork out over £ 110/$ 200 for some well worn vinyl of this album. I know very well that my taste in music is not shared by everyone. ...........Thankfully !!

The music is lightweigth with some very nasty references to HERP ALBERT and the muzak and elevator- music scene. The West End and Broadway musical scene also springs to mind. The musical HAIR is very much a references. The music has no edge and not much to do with classical music too. Thankfully it is not labelled as Symphonic Prog in PA. I agree with the Proto Prog label. Some references to the Mexican music scene is also evident here. Some classical orchestration makes the music dramatic. A good Hammond organ sometimes give references to THE DOORS. The Hammond organ is the only saving grace here. But most of the music is plastic fantastic fake and plainly vulgar. None of the melodies here are any good. Just irritating anonyme. The good Hammond organs saves the day. That is the only good thing to be said about this near-turkey.

2 stars.

 Ten Commandments by SALAMANDER album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.12 | 25 ratings

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Ten Commandments
Salamander Proto-Prog

Review by ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer

3 stars What can you say about a society that says that God is dead and Elvis is alive? (Irv Kupcinet)

Christianity and rock'n'roll make very strange bedfellows indeed but be aware it's the former who has done most of the serenading and flirting. Of those mainstream artists who have dallied with a spiritual agenda (Beatles, Cat Stevens, Dylan etc) it's only those large enough to take the commensurate 'hit' from the invariably disastrous musical results that have survived. Marketing gurus appear to be on the horns of a dilemma when it comes to selling rock with a Christian orientation, and Salamander were on a hiding to nothing as a new and untried act attempting to get a foothold OUTSIDE of the pearly gates.

'Prelude Incorp. He Is My God' - This is a very impressive and memorable opener which starts appropriately enough with a devotional chapel organ before leading into the main theme arranged for full orchestra and overlaid with an exotic 'quivering' guitar lead. John Cook is a very fine and inventive drummer who enhances the developmental aspects with some tasteful fills and subtle ride cymbal work throughout. (Way to go John boy) The pace briefly quickens thereafter into a somewhat (heavily medicated) 'Crazy World of Arthur Brown' groove featuring Benson's wide array of mouth watering Hammond textures. This is followed by a haunting strings backdrop to Dave Titley's plaintive and tender guitar.

The sung passage not surprisingly, has an oratorical feel underlined by some very impressive backing vocal counterpoint. Although the piece is not overly complex by the standards of the prog rock it prefaced, it is brilliantly constructed and paced by arranger Bob Leaper. The only fly in this anointment is the latter's occasional lapse into those cheesy 'James Last' mannerisms that also rear their ugly head on similar work by the Moody Blues at around this time. Those of you old enough to remember the theme tune for the TV documentary series 'World in Action' will get a whiff of that in places here.

'Images' - Nice Leslie speaker 'siren' effects and more than a trace of 'Hush' by Deep Purple in the rhythm employed but not overtly derivative as the tune is truly memorable and original. Titley displays what a wide range of vocal timbres he has command of with a rasping blues inflection (or is it someone else singing and the reviewer is too dumb to refer to the sleeve notes?) One of those nice 'false ending' devices is exploited towards the end to good effect.

'People' - Although the production is horribly dated, that has never been an obstacle to a strong melody and sympathetic harmonic support eg the Beatles Yesterday would still be a damn fine song even if rendered by a flat footed Bolivian nostril flute marching band. (think I'm drinking too much coffee) This is beautiful (Full stop)

'God's Day' - Things take a downward turn here with a paean to the Sabbath that sounds just a bit too cheerful for its own good. The melody is decent and well sung but is spoiled by some 'Trumpton Fire Brigade' Brass Band horn writing.

'Honour Thy Father and Thy Mother' - Simple and brief instrumental modest in its scope that carries an echo of Leo Sayer's When I Need You (hardly an unqualified endorsement to be sure, but so much of what we remember we profess to dismiss, without acknowledging its durability)

'Kill' - Reference points might include the organ sound and feel of Bob Dylan and the Band plus the arrangements of Van Dyke Parks heard on the more credible work by Brian Wilson. Unfortunately a good song is rather undermined by the adolescent 'gravitas' of a spoken narrative that drags us down into the twee realms of a school production of 'Joseph and the less than Amazing Monochrome Dreamcoat'.

'Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery' - If Giles, Giles & Fripp had been god fearing souls with a better grasp of pop song-craft, they may have delivered something like this. Beautiful flute weaves its way throughout a finely woven tapestry of harmonized strands of melody. Brilliantly sung and enhanced by some restrained strings and subtle hand drum percussion. The best hippy camp fire song ever written to put out the flames of passion.

'Steal' - Bit of a no brainer in the moral lexicon really? but an exquisite Hammond sound and a nagging riff that lives long in the memory afterwards. This may be the best song on the album as the electric band and the orchestral instruments are perfectly balanced with the latter injecting a thrilling little strings glissando at periodic intervals. Great tune and topped off with Benson's Vincent Crane impersonation on an economical solo which is interrupted by a startlingly ethereal strings dissonance. Very spooky.

'False Witness' - These guys were obviously big fans of 'The Crazy World of Arthur Brown' and early 'Deep Purple' as this has that sort of vibe but it fails to really go anywhere after a promising start. Ultimately it serves as a vehicle for an excellent short guitar solo from Titley, who otherwise contents himself with brushing up on a very convincing Dave Davies of the Kinks impersonation.

'Possessions' - Flecks of 'Cream' are visible on a decent tune but the specter of our old unvanquished foe 'James Last' hovers like a white bearded bird of prey over the arrangement.

Much of the music on this album is excellent and there are very few points in its duration where you ever get the impression of being preached at. So full marks to the lads for that.

Perhaps it's the implied 'carnality' of rock that proscribes the limitations of its exploitation by other agendas? Even though I personally am a devout atheist, just remember that our ability to enjoy a song on a purely aesthetic level is not conditional on our understanding or interpretation of the lyrics eg I don't speak Italian but would not consider the Italian Progressive Rock movement any less worthy of my consideration on that basis. In short, I can be moved by the messenger but not necessarily understand or agree with the message.

If Argent were right and God did give rock and roll to you, he would at the very least, have insisted on a receipt. So perhaps the devil does not have all the best tunes after all, but rest assured that those not in his CD rack are only out on loan.

 Ten Commandments by SALAMANDER album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.12 | 25 ratings

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Ten Commandments
Salamander Proto-Prog

Review by Joel Berntson

5 stars OMG! I havent heard anything this good since i discovered Genesis. very tuching in a wierd way... I just cant stop singing along... They are very like Eloy in thier sound, but melodic like Genesis and kaipa. one excellent masterpiece of album! try it if you like genesis or english symphnic rock from the 70sss
 Ten Commandments by SALAMANDER album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.12 | 25 ratings

BUY
Ten Commandments
Salamander Proto-Prog

Review by funkydelard

5 stars A fine album underpinned by the imprpessive drumming talents of John Cook. Mr Cook took drumming in the early 70's to new heights. His innovative use of the hihat in connection with muted rimshots has been much imitated and has provided the template for most successful drummers in the 90's. Moreover he was a style and fashion guru and his wit remains undiminished.
 Ten Commandments by SALAMANDER album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.12 | 25 ratings

BUY
Ten Commandments
Salamander Proto-Prog

Review by lor68
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Sorry for the low score, but this album is mediocre. Listen anyway to the strains of "Prelude", at the beginning, and you understand that they resemble the style of The MOODY BLUES very much, but with "poor" results. SALAMANDER made his pathetic attempt to create such a progressive style with orchestrations and by means of a rock quartet with an orchestra (as MOODY BLUES's Day's of "Future Passed" or DEEP PURPLE's "Concerto For Group and Orchestra" had already made...). Besides you find some organ-drive tunes supported by the guitar, but without memorable moments!

Not recommended!!

 Ten Commandments by SALAMANDER album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.12 | 25 ratings

BUY
Ten Commandments
Salamander Proto-Prog

Review by loserboy
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Early four piece British act who created a grand symphonic concept album based on the topic of god and the "Ten Commandments". Centred around the organ laden swirls of Alister Benson who at times very much remind me of DEEP PURPLE's Jon Lord. Conceptually on this album each of the ten songs focuses on one commandment. SALAMANDER combine orchestra with rock not unlike in many ways the MOODY BLUES achieved on their early albums. Lead vocalist Dave Titley sounds very similar in style to Dave Lambert of the STRAWBS and the vocal harmonies work to perfection. Instrumentally SALAMANDER are tight and crisp with guitar, bass, drums and organ augmented with orchestration throughout.
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