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1000 Prog Albums Over 46 Years: 1966-2011

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AtomicCrimsonRush View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AtomicCrimsonRush Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 15 2012 at 19:09
Originally posted by Slartibartfast Slartibartfast wrote:

'77 was a damn fine year. Big smile  Also marks the year where I was starting to seriously becoming a prog addict although it was the summer of '78 that finally did me in, but there were a lot of fine new albums about, eh?

Hey i gotta admit there's some incredible music in this year and it really was the last great year of the 70s for me too. I need to hear more of the late 70s I believe as I have discovered.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AtomicCrimsonRush Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 16 2012 at 02:18
1977 - continued

379

Movin' On
Circus

Circus Movin On album cover 

A review by Sean Trane:

Circus has a reputation for having one of the more uncommon line-ups of the genre - no KB and no electric guitars. Not so for the guitar for there are bits of it although staying discreet, some sounds are done by guitar effects. This absolute masterpiece (I strongly insist on this) gradually builds up to a superb climax progressing from one track to the other. Hauser is a real top-notch percussionist and puts in an impressive performance using all sorts of instruments and makes some of the loveliest vibraphone lines since Greenslade in Colosseum. Bassist Cerletti is the only non-Alemanic Swiss but is certainly an impressive bassist and an accomplished guitar player. Grieder and Frei are simply an amazing duo on wind instruments and together with Cerletti make a superb vocal section. The music is rather unique in some points making you think of VDGG (mostly the saxes but also in one superb section of singing much better than Hammill himself because it’s more melodious), but also Maneige during the classical influenced moments. It is also like King Crimson but IMO not much like Tull, although this album is loaded with orgasmic flutes.

Bandsmen is a nice tune, poppish but intentionally simple, only the unusual line-up is intriguing enough to go on further. Laughter Lane is quite a gem and a solid progression from the opening track but stays in the song format and one knows that much better is to come, but this would be a real gem for any other band. With their third track Loveless Time still in song format, we now move into serious business and we are aware that this will be a real interesting Oeuvre that is to come. Movin' On (get the album title?) with Dawn is entirely instrumental (8 min long) and is one of the better examples ever of what descriptive music is, and ranks up with some of the masterpieces of impressionist classical composers of early 20th century. In between some really gloomy athmospheres at the end of the night to the soothing bird calls and wind breezes to the first rays of the sun, this is simply astounding.

And now comes the "piece de resistance". They could've easily made a suite of this 22 min+ number but they chose to let it express itself as an entity of its own. This pieces starts off with the most genial rhythms sprinkled with sax and flute lines and 6 mins into the number comes in some scatting (no jazz feeling though) with suddenly one of the three vocalists breaking into another scheme making this grandiose. Bass and flutes take over only for Roland Frei to break into this Hamillian-singing worthy of Pawn Hearts. We are now just barely half-way through and are now lying on the floor ready for the final blow, the ultimate nail into our coffin. The music flutters by, twiddles, twirls around you and circles, swirls not giving you an instant to recuperate and now comes the blow. The final verses are shared in the most beautiful call-and-respond manner so well delivered that if it has not shot your intellectual wad by now, you must be frigid or impotent. The number closes off with fabulous music unfortunately (the only slight mistake) sticking too close to my fave number from Crimson, Starless.

Wow! Repeated listening in the last four years still have not calmed me down as I shot my intellectual wad just writing this review not even listening to it. I don't know how this album is almost never cited in a desert island list, because this belongs on everyone's, and their debut is also well worth it. SIMPLY ASTOUNDING.

 

380

Ni Vent... Ni Nouvelle 
Maneige

Maneige Ni Vent... Ni Nouvelle  album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

These guys really blew my socks off! Classically trained and very creative. Shorter songs this time which didn't go over too well with song writer and keyboardist Jerome Langlois, who left prior to the recording of this album because of that. This is so different, the variety of instruments, the xylophone, vibraphone, and on and on, all creating a fresh, energetic album that is truly progressive.

"Le Gai Marvin" features lots of flute as other sounds come and go. This is a short intro tune. "La Fin De L'Histoire" has some atmosphere to it. I really love the way this one sounds. Flute leads the way for the first half then it changes to a more uptempo track. "Les Folleries" is a song that seems to show off almost all of the instrumentalists playing abilities, a mixed bag that is yet very cohesive. So much going on here once it gets going. A collage of intricate sounds. A change after 1 1/2 minutes. Very cool to hear the guitar and sax trade solos as the bass digs deep. Amazing stuff! I could almost mention the drumming on every song, it's pretty amazing. Check it out before 4 minutes. Flute is back. The song continues to change and evolve.

"Les Epinettes" is pastoral to open with piano and acoustic guitar leading the way. Flute comes in and leads.  "Mambo Chant" opens with piano melodies. Bass and guitar join the percussion and synths. Piano is back leading before 2 1/2 minutes. Drums and bass are prominent a minute later. Sax late with percussion and drums.

"Douce-Amere" has these xylophone sounds that sound pretty upbeat and silly. Drums join in with guitar. Vocal melodies 2 minutes in sound great. A change after 3 minutes to a good beat with atmosphere then guitar joins in. Amazing sound! "Le Gros Roux" opens with bass and vibes. Flute and drums take over. The contrasts continue.

"Au Clair De La Prune" is jazzy to open. Lots of sax throughout the first half then it settles as flute leads the way. "11 Juillet" becomes uptempo with some great sax and drumming. "Time Square" is the silly 1 1/2 minute closer. The bonus tracks come from the live record "Composite" and the four songs truly are worthy additions. Love the flute on the last live song, it really reminds me of the flute that SINKADUS is famous for. "Douce Amere" boasts some terrific guitar. And "Etrange Hiver" is a beautiful flute laden song. Looking for something a little different, you can't go wrong with this record. After their self titled debut this is my favourite from them.

381

New Age Of Earth
Ashra

Ashra New Age Of Earth album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

Manual Gottsching left ASH RA TEMPEL after the "Join In" album which was their fifth.  He then put out a solo album called "Inventions For Electric Guitar" which he also called "Ash Ra Tempel VI".  He then switched record labels and continued to go solo,calling his project ASHRA,he being the only member of the band. This is ASHRA's first album called "New Age Of Earth". The obvious difference between ASH RA TEMPEL and ASHRA besides the number of musicians, is that with ASHRA Gottsching has turned to the electronic style of music not unlike TANGERINE DREAM. He certainly began that on his "Inventions For Electric Guitar" album. I do prefer ASH RA TEMPEL and the traditional sound, and use of the guitar which Manual plays so well, but that's just my taste in music.  

"Sunrain" is an upbeat tune with keys, and electronics creating the melody (rain) throughout. Synths come in 1 1/2 minutes in like the sun shining upon the soundscape. "Ocean Of Tenderness" is much more spacey than the first song as synths wash in and out slowly. Some gentle guitar comes in late. "Deep Distance" is a blend of the first two tracks. Spacier than "Sunrain" but not as spacey as "Ocean Of Tenderness". It does give the impression we are in deep space far from all our troubles. "Nightdust" was originally a side long song at almost 22 minutes. Again the title of the song gives us a clue to what Manual was thinking when he composed this song. Spacey winds in the form of synths blow across the lonely soundscape, it's dark. Keys before 12 minutes as the song calms right down 16 1/2 minutes in. Guitar arrives 2 minutes later. Nice. Barely 4 stars.

 

A review by Warthur:

Manuel Göttsching follows up his work in Ash Ra Tempel with his solo project Ashra, which presents a mildly different flavour of electronic Krautrock - there's a greater emphasis on highly orchestrated synthesisers, in a mode also explored by Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze at around the same time, and less freewheeling psychedelia on offer. Manuel's guitar by and large sits back and lets the synthesisers take centre stage, but when it's given spotlight tme Manuel proves himself able to produce an excellent solo or two. A perkier and more upbeat alternative to the deep space explorations former Ash Ra Tempel colleague Schulze was producing at the time, New Age of Earth is a fine start to the Ashra project.

382

Ragnarök
Ragnarök

Ragnarök Ragnarök album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

Add up another halfstar for this gem. I have been aware of this album since the late 70's but never managed to put an ear on it until the mid-90's. It was worth the wait, I must say as from the first note on, I felt transported into this calm reflective soul-searching world. If Mr. Unger points out a few bands that might help you define their sound, I personally am thinking of the best Fleetwood Mac album: Then Play On. This 1970 album is the last with Peter Green and does not sound like the blues-oriented Mac at all but comes closest to Ragnarok and is certainly easier to find than the swedish record, so get an ear on that Mac and see if you want to hunt down the object . I personally can only advise you to do so.

 

Very acoustic by the guitar and the wind instruments, the production is great and crisp sounding. The following albums however do not sound anything like this and they came six or seven years later with different people. Watch out, for there is a mid-70's New Zealand band with the same name and also a late 90's HM outfit also.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm:

I've been drawn to this album cover from the first time I saw it. I didn't know though until I got the album that the dark sky at the top wasn't the night coming but it's actually pollution floating across the sky. RAGNAROK are an all instrumental Swedish Folk band, and this is their debut from 1977. The music here is so tasteful and beautiful, and much like the album cover once you experience it for the first time you will be hooked.  

"Goodbye Copenhagen" is led by acoustic guitar melodies throughout. Beautiful song.  "Walks" opens with keys and bass as gentle guitar joins in. Electric guitar and drums before a minute then we get this CAMEL flavour. Themes are repeated.  "Freshbaked Bread" is led by acoustic guitar and flute throughout.  "Foam Of The Days" is by far the longest track at over 8 minutes. It's pastoral to start with intricate guitar. Flute then keys join in. A fuller sound after 3 1/2 minutes. Nice.  This is simply gorgeous.  

"Reel From Kalmer" is a very short flute piece.  "Factoryfunk" has to be a reference to the factory on the back cover of the album where all the pollution is coming from. Intricate drumming and guitar on this great sounding track.  "Tatanga Mani" opens with acoustic guitar then it starts to build as flute and bass arrive.  "Fiottot" has a good rhythm to it.  "Calm-Breaking Up" opens with piano then this beautiful flute/acoustic guitar melodiy takes over.  "Pools Of Water" opens with laid back keyboards. Drums and a fuller sound after 1 1/2 minutes. Sax a minute after that. Back to the keyboards to end it.  Easily 4 stars and one of the best Prog-Folk albums I have heard.

383

Over
Peter Hammill

Peter Hammill Over album cover

A review by Warthur:

With Van der Graaf Generator in a state of flux following the departure of David Jackson and Hugh Banton, Hammill took some time to lay down a solo album featuring the talents of Guy Evans, Nic Potter and Graham Smith - all of whom would end up forming the core of the reconfigured and reimagined Van der Graaf.

A concept album surrounding his messy divorce, Hammill recounts how he recorded the piece at a sufficient distance from the split itself that he was able to gain some perspective on things - thus the album also includes Crying Wolf, a prog-punk piece of self-criticism reminiscent of Nadir's Big Chance (it's like Rikki Nadir stepped in to tell Hammill to pull himself together and stop lashing out at people) and Autumn, which posits an alternate path where the split never happened and both parties ended up miserable.

The meat of the album, though, consists of Hammill exploring the raw pain that resulted from his wife abruptly leaving him, and doing so in a brutally honest manner. The prog singer- songwriter approach of Chameleon In the Shadow of the Night makes a mild return here, bolstered by Hammill's greater confidence with his guitar, and the piece as a whole is a stark, stripped-down affair closing with a heartwarming crescendo as Hammill acknowledges that things are, bit by bit, getting better once more.

Whilst it's not a dazzling masterwork of symphonic prog complexity, it is an emotionally genuine album in which Hammill shows an unprecedented level of honesty and directness with the audience. Marillion fans with sharp eyes will have noticed its presence (along with Fool's Mate) on the cover of Fugazi, and it was probably this album which inspired many neo-prog artists to address more down-to-earth issues as opposed to the metaphysical and allegorical meanderings of previous prog lyricists. A triumph for Peter Hammill as a songwriter and lyricist, and a truly unique album in his discography, but not one for those who seek complexity above all over considerations or are uncomfortable with raw emotion.

 

384

Body Love: Original Filmmusik
Klaus Schulze

Klaus Schulze Body Love: Original Filmmusik album cover

A review by Warthur:

Robert Fripp might have been irked when artsy porn flick "Emmanuelle" ripped off Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part 2 for part of its soundtrack, but Klaus Schulze seems to have no problem providing music for arthouse sex movies, contributing this soundtrack to Body Love.

In terms of Klaus' own work, it's a refinement of the approach taken on the preceding Moondawn, presenting a more gentle, emotional vision of electronic music than the stark, cold, brittle work on the likes of Cyborg. As far as music to get freaky to goes, it's not exactly Isaac Hayes material, but in terms of Klaus' career it's another great entry to his discography.

385

Trans-Europe Express (Trans-Europa Express)
Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk Trans-Europe Express (Trans-Europa Express) album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

"Trance Europe Express... Trance Europe Express... Trance Europe Express..."

“Trans-Europe Express” is an interesting Kraftwerk album as it centres around two excellent tracks and a whole swag of mediocrity that is cheesy and rather shallow in structure. It is a pity really as the title track is a definitive prog statement with massive techno ambience and entrancing repetitive synth motifs.

The track perfectly captures the feeling of a long monorail or train in full flight, complete with click clacking percussion and haunting diesel horn effects. The other great track on the album is 'Europe Endless' clocking in at 9 and a half minutes, it is a triumph of techno pop.

The other tracks do not measure up to these classics but still have moments. Curiously one of the most memorable is the chilling 'Endless Endless' with its computer phased vocals and echoed repetitions. There is not much to this track, the vocals dominate all, but it stays with you.

Unfortunately there is not much else I can recommend. 'Showroom Dummies’ was never a favourite and I still do not like the structure of this poppy quirky ditty. In any case the album is worth a listen for the aforementioned tracks. The greatness for Kraftwerk was yet to come.


A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

From station to station

After the disaster that was Radio-Activity, which consisted of a couple of simple, catchy Synth Pop tunes amongst a multitude of failed sound experiments, Kraftwerk pulled themselves together to produce a worthy follow up to Autobahn. With Trans-Europe Express they build on the formula of Autobahn, but this time it is not about automobiles and motorways but instead about trains and railways.

The whole of the original second vinyl side of the album forms a suite based on the concept of Trans-Europe Express which was a European railway service network that at its maximum extent, in 1974, comprised 45 trains, connecting 130 different cities (thank you Wikipedia for that information). In the title track that opens this suite, they describe (in extremely minimalistic terms) a train journey from Paris to Vienna and then to Düsseldorf (where this album was recorded) where they meet David Bowie and Iggy Pop! As far as I know, this meeting between the group and Bowie actually took place and the line "from station to station" in the lyrics to Trans-Europe Express is said to refer to the Bowie album of that name. Metal On Metal is Kraftwerk's attempt to mimic the actual sound of a train, and this rhythmic sound experiment is surprisingly listenable and forms a nice passage in the suite. While not quite as satisfying as the Autobahn title track, the Trans-Europe Express suite is one of Kraftwerk's most successful and progressive compositions.

The first half of the album is equally satisfying and the almost ten minute Europe Endless is another highlight of Kraftwerk's career. Even this song is thematically connected with the train concept and describes what can be seen out of the windows of the train while travelling through Europe. If you ever go on a train journey from Paris to Vienna, expect to see both elegance and decadence! It would have been interesting to see if they could have incorporated the whole Europe Endless into the suite on the other side of the album, but they do indeed refer back to the opening track at the very end of the album.

The remaining two tracks of side one are however entirely unconnected to the overall concept of the album. This can perhaps be seen as a small distraction, but these are fine songs in their own right. In Hall Of Mirrors we get to hear more vocals than usual and even the lyrics are more elaborate and reflective than we are used to from Kraftwerk. This is another highlight for me. Showroom Dummies is the album's hit song, but as such it is much better than the more famous The Model.

Trans-Europe Express was to my mind the pinnacle of Kraftwerk's creative but uneven career.

 

386

Reviure 
Atila

Atila Reviure  album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

Last album by this Catalonian quartet, and probably their crowning achievement, Reviure (reviver in Catalan) must be one of the most stunning Iberian albums around. Unlike many of their peers, Atila avoided sounding "Italian" (as Crack did) and were typically theirs (as Coto & Pel), roughly based on a sound between Vanilla Fudge, King Crimson, with an unusually ever-present Moog synth in the foreground. Niebla's guitar is excellent all around and leaves no ground uncovered that Nogue's Moog had left unfilled. Their sinister semi-skeleton artwork sure gave them an edge on many of their peers in the shelves of record stores.

Two tracks aside with plenty of mainly instrumental enthusiastic prog (excellent but not overly pleasant vocals) filled with tricky time sigs and great interplay (JP Gomez's bass work is outstanding, getting the odd touch and oh-so-subtle Zeuhl into a soundscape that Crimson would not disclaim). Like many of their Catalan peers (such as Iceberg, Fusioon or Maquina), Atila made sure that their music was solid in all departments including the drummer Punet (he gets a short drum solo slot in the awesome eponymous track) and unlike what some seem to say, there is still some organ parts, namely in the album's apex, Atila. Four excellent tracks, not a moment of rest and plenty of power.

Although all three Atila albums are vastly different from each other, I believe all three are much worth the investigation, the debut being a bit iffier, unless you're into the type of music found on erotic spoof movie Vampyros Lesbos. One of the best albums from the Iberic peninsula.

 

387

Feels Good to Me
Bill Bruford

Bill Bruford Feels Good to Me album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

Bruford's most highly rated solo album before creating his Earthworks Band is one that I always had problems understanding why it received such highly rated reviews. Not being much of a fan of National Health, UK or Earthworks itself, I am also not quite as keen on later 70's fusion (as opposed to early 70's jazz Rock ala Bitches Brew or Nucleus), you might just get a glimpse of why I will not be that lenient on this album. While BB's backing band holds some of the best names in the Fusion/Canterbury realm, this album appears to be a little light on the songwriting and a bit heavy on the virtuosic side: indeed Dave Stewart and Allan Holdsworth were the usual friends, but to my knowledge, this was his first encounter with jazz singer Annette Peacock (outside her first album, I am NOT a fan) and with his future regular Jeff Berlin, the whole thing seeming rather cold and even aloof.

The album starts strong enough with the instrumental Belzeebub and the lengthy Back To The Beginning (marred by Annette's way too present vocals), but quickly boredom settles as the two-part Seems Like A Lifetime Ago (it sure does, too! ;-) is breaking all- too-beaten paths like the highway between the kitchen sink and the dishwasher. If the first part is boring sung trad cool jazz, the second part is definitely fusional (and probably the rockier track on the album), arousing your attention to drop it as soon as it caught it. We are very close to Brand X's early fusion music, but not having Moroccan Roll's enthusiasm, even if Sample And Hold and the title track try hard to maintain the level. We soon enter a world of well-heard-before fusion somewhere between National Health, Weather Report, Ponty, Brand X Doldinger's Passport (before they went "world") or Spirogyra. Nothing to get too excited about, unless your sweet spot is there.

Don't get me wrong, the record is monstrously well played, impressive of mastery, flawless in execution, perfect in the production dept, but something is missing here (or is there something too much?), but it is best expressed by If You Can't Stand The Heat and its cold-hearted bravado showpiece. The album is closing (unfortunately) on Adios A La Pasada, where Peacock (who had graced us by her absence for much of the album's centre) comes back under a Hackettian guitar to bore us past death just after the mega-boringly slow Springtime In Siberia.

Haven't heard the bonus track of the latest reissue of this album. Hard to give such an album any less than 4 stars, but in all honesty I can only give it a not essential rating.

 

388

Body Love Vol. 2
Klaus Schulze

Klaus Schulze Body Love Vol. 2 album cover

A review by Warthur:

Klaus had some music left over after issuing the first Body Love soundtrack, so he took the remainders, recorded some new material to fill out the running time, and issued another great album in more or less the same style. Nowhere/Now Here might repeat his usual trick of starting out placid and tranquil and building to a busy and energetic climax, but it's a pretty good example of that trick, whilst the two shorter tracks prove that Schulze had at this point become more capable of writing satisfying pieces which last less than 20 minutes. If you enjoyed the first Body Love album, there's really no point not getting this one too.



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - February 16 2012 at 03:12
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1977 - continued

389

Halloween
Pulsar

Pulsar Halloween album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

After their spaced-out debut, Pulsar released their second album Strands Of The Future that sounded drastically different, presenting a very Genesis-based symphonic prog that would actually pave the way (and in a way pre-face) for future neo-prog groups of the 80's and give Ange a run for its money in terms of national sales. With their third album Halloween (recorded in Switzerland), Pulsar reached their artistic peak, even earning a release on an international CBS label.

The album is made from two multi-movement suites sung in English (reminiscent of future Fish ambiances in Marillion), but I must say that the "romantic" (both in the literal and visual sense) artwork always looked suspicious and actually still repel me a bit even nowadays and the storyline seems rather thin and derived from more famous children storytelling. Sound-wise Pulsar still retains the Floyd soundscapes that was their trademark, but the Genesis influence was more notable than on their previous two albums. Although there are lots of delightful moments, Pulsar's sense of writing long epics still leaves some (lots at times) space for improvements: ideas succeed to ideas but are not leading into one another. Those two epics seem a bit too much like a collage of the different shorter tracks (9 in all, ranging from 1 min 30 to 9 min+) without a succession of chords that the greater groups would've managed.

And while Pulsar had everything to gain with the promotion of this album, their CBS label (where they had a three-record deal) suddenly decided for obscure reasons not to promote it, cutting Pulsar's wings, as they were about to soar towards unsuspected heights. But this was 77, the French public being one of the first markets for the advent of punk music with the Mont-De-Marsan in 76 being the first international punk festival. This maybe explaining that, but as much as Pulsar is hailed as a superb prog group, I never thought of them as likely to break the big leagues simply because although musically good, they were never great virtuosi and songwriters. I will round up the rating to the upper unit, but this is more academic than really heartfelt.

 

390

Natural Elements
Shakti With John McLaughlin

Shakti With John McLaughlin Natural Elements album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

Third (and final) tome of a trilogy, Natural Elements is still recorded with the same quartet, but this time in a Switzerland studio in July 77. This third album is the least known (or at least rarer), but finally, we have a Shakti album with an evocative artwork, even if it looks more like a Japanese engravings theme, than Indian. Their last album is their most varied one to date, consisting of much shorter tracks (8 instead of 3 in the s/t), with Mc using a bit of electric guitar and percussionist Zakir Hussein using a wide array of non-Indian instruments.

Right from the first wild runs/bursts of instruments on Mind Ecology, you know Shakti has again progressed compared to previous albums, as the Indian classical music is now only a tool and not a means or a finality: This track is closest to Mahavishnu Orchestra than Shakti (well almost, anyway)!! Face To Face is a great (I'd almost say excellent) raga-lead adventure throughout western lands and their musical realm. With Come On Baby, Dance With Me, you can feel that Carlos Santana did manage to influence Mc (even if credited to Shankar), because the track has a definite Latin feel, dare I say even a tad of Flamenco into it. Daffodil is maybe the most unfocused track on all three albums, as it roams from Beethoven-type to Far-East-style of music. While a very impressive track (this is a mini tour-de-force of songwriting), it sounds simply too cliché and is too obvious in its demonstration willingness.

On the flipside, there are the fairly cringe-inducing track Happiness (violin is painfully high-strung and some poor a capella choirs, amongst other flaws) or the conventional Indian classical track Get Down. But on the other hand, Bridge Of Sigh is a very pleasant track (not coming close to Robin's track, though), hanging on raga beat to keep the Indian element, while the melodies sound anything but Indian, except for its tabla solo. The closing Piece Of Mind, a calm duo between a squealing violin and guitar strumming, is clearly Shakti's Chant Du Cygne (but without the fat lady singing ;o)) and a fitting outro for the band.

For non-purists, clearly Natural Elements is Shakti's most interesting album, the one where Mc's original goal of fusion between Western and Eastern music realms works best, but overall the Indian roots are still present but not quite as overpowering as in the debut album. .

391

Rockpommel's Land 
Grobschnitt

Grobschnitt Rockpommels Land  album cover

A review by Warthur:

Rockpommel's Land is probably the album which, above all their other work, justifies Grobschnitt's presence in Symphonic prog. Turning their backs almost entirely on the space rock (and lapses into contrived comedy) that was a feature of their previous albums, Grobschnitt plunge into a style influenced by Yes and Genesis and tell the magical tale of a special bird that takes a small child to a mysterious fantasy land.

Whilst the music retains enough of Grobschnitt's personality to save the album from being a cloning exercise, at the same time it seems rather uninspired - the album seems designed in a calculating way to check all the boxes on the symphonic prog checklist, right down to the cover art, and consequently comes across as pandering to mainstream prog fans as opposed to being a genuine and honest expression of the band's desired creative direction - and the fact that they would never again make an album in this style only goes to prove the point.

 

392

Garden Shed
England

England Garden Shed album cover 

A review by Warthur:

Take the polished prog delivery of Genesis, from around A Trick of the Tail, add generous amounts of Yes (just listen to the start of Three Piece Suite and tell me that's not a reference to A Venture!), and give the whimsical vocals a tense, nervous delivery that sometimes hints at something a little darker than the fairytale stories of early Genesis and you've got England, and Garden Shed. Had it been released five years earlier or later it would have been much more successful - in the former case as a peer to the bands it is influenced by, and in the latter as part of the neo-prog movement; heck, if it were released today it'd be regarded as a fairly decent retro-prog effort.

That said, the climax of the album - Poisoned Youth - hints that there was more to the band than just paying tribute to the old masters of the prog scene; this concluding epic, based on The Picture of Dorian Gray, finally manages to fuse the Genesis and Yes influences into a coherent whole (on other songs it's more as though there's a Yes bit, followed by a Genesis bit, followed by a Yes bit, and so on), and takes the sound developed into interesting musical territory. Had England survived to make a second album, and had they managed to pursue the new ground they'd broken on Poisoned Youth, they might have had more success. As it is, this is a great album which is interesting in terms of bridging the golden age of prog in the UK and the Marillion-led new wave, but isn't of such consistently high quality that it quite merits a fifth star.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm:

ENGLAND sound like a cross between YES and GENESIS with a dash of GENTLE GIANT. They present melodic and uplifting music that is at times too light for my tastes. There is also mellotron on every track, and if it had been released in 1972 it would be a classic. It came out too late though (1977) and really does sound too much like the bands I mentoned earlier.  

"Midnight Madness" opens with orchestral-like sounds before it kicks in after 1 1/2 minutes sounding very YES-like. Vocals join in. Some nice drum work here and the vocal arrangements are cool before 4 1/2 minutes. It then settles with whispered vocals before building again. "All Alone" features high pitch vocals accompanied with piano,very QUEEN-like. Not a fan of this one.  

"Three Piece Suite" has some excellent sections in it. Again when the vocals come in I'm thinking YES. Very enjoyable and I like the pulsating organ. The guitar becomes the focus after 5 minutes before it picks back up with bass and mellotron after 6 minutes. Love this part. Tempo picks up 8 1/2 minutes in with the vocals being too high pitched for my taste. Mellotron's back late.  

"Paraffinalea" is so catchy once it kicks in.  "Yellow" has a psychedelic feel to it and it's my favourite. It's dreamy with mellotron,acoustic guitar and vocals.  "Poisoned Youth" is a little darker, lots of mood shifts in this one. The drummer is tremendous, and there is some excellent guitar.  It gets pretty heavy before it ends dramatically followed by the wind blowing.  This is one of those albums that could easily be a 3 star or 4 star. It's right on the border as far as I'm concerned.

 

393

I Robot
Alan Parsons Project

Alan Parsons Project I Robot album cover

A review by Ivan_Melgar_M:

ALAN PARSONS PROJECT is one of those bands that is mentioned as a guilty pleasure in most Progressive Rock forums, and the explanation is simple, many progheads don't forgive success, and "Eye in the Sky" was a successful album that combined good Pop music with amazing Prog arrangements and a wonderful production.

But people forget that ALAN PARSONS PROJECT started their career as a Prog band with three solid albums, being "I Robot" not only one of them, but in my opinion the one that combined more elements of different sub-genres with great skills and the first one in which the band really discovered a unique sound after a fantastic but hard to listen debut.

"I Robot" begins with the title track, a song that mixes elements of Electronic and Symphonic Prog incredibly well, the peculiar use of keyboards would be the trademark of the band, but the strength of "I Robot" rests in the capacity of Andrew Powell to combine Orchestra and elaborate chorus to add a touch of drama. If I had to describe the song with one word I would choose "delightful".

"I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You" is a short track that always sounded a bit out of place on this album, not because lack of quality, the whole band with Lenny Zakatek in the vocals sounds great, but the structure is simpler, more suitable for later works like "Eye in the Sky" or "Vulture Culture"; still an excellent song.

"Some other time" starts with a heartbreaking piano and synthesised flute and the dual vocals by Jaki Whitren and Peter Straker enhance the effect. Again the star of the song is Andrew Powell with his outstanding arrangements for Orchestra (especially the characteristic and pompous winds), another excellent song.

"Breakdown" is an odd track that combines both sides of ALAN PARSONS PROJECT; the poppy and well produced sound with the orchestral and Progressive elements, as usual the choice of vocalist is more than adequate, being that Allan Clarke with his acute range makes the perfect contrast with the sober and formal choirs, another delightful song.

After the previous pomp, it was necessary to light a bit the atmosphere and that's what Alan Parsons achieves with the dramatic ballad "Don't Let it End", in which Dave Townsend's voice supported by a church organ make the perfect contrast between the sacred and earthly, and after this long intro, the song develops delicately in a combination of light and elaborate sections that fit one after the other with perfect synchronicity .

"The Voice" is the weaker track on the album, the monotonous bass line and annoying voice of Steve Harley are so weak that not even the addition of sound effects and vocoder can help, and what is worst, the instrumental break sounds so Disco oriented that reminds me of VAN MC'COY..............Well, the album was released in 1977 when Disco was king. Weak choice.

"Nucleus" is a weird combination between experimental sounds and light Jazz, which I enjoy very much and works as an interlude before the effective "Day After Day (The Show Must Go On)", a melancholic ballad with wonderful instrumentation and production, a delicate piece of art.

Before we reach the end, is the choral "Total Eclipse”, where Alan Parsons allows Andrew Powell to display his obsession for the dark and haunting style so vastly used in the dark debut "Tales of Mystery and Imagination", simply scary and ideal to prepare people for the final song.

"Genesis Ch.1 V.32" closes the album with the strongest track of all the album. Mister Parsons hits us with everything he has, don't ask me if the song is mainly electronic or Symphonic, because I can't say....But who cares? It’s one of the best expressions of the band with Andrew Powell adding his orchestra and chorus as only he can do; outstanding.

Not a perfect masterpiece, because of one or two weaker tracks, but I would not be honest if I gave this album less than 4 stars. A great addition for any musical collection.

 

394

Quark, Strangeness And Charm
Hawkwind

Hawkwind Quark, Strangeness And Charm album cover

A review by Warthur:

After the preceding transitional album, Hawkwind had settled in to having Rob Calvert back in the saddle as their lead singer and adapted to the loss of the sludgy bass sound brought to the table by Lemmy, with the result that Quark Strangeness and Charm is significantly more accomplished than its predecessor.

Rob Calvert's lyrics are, of course, as sharp as ever, and as usual tend to revolve around SF concepts, though there are a couple of exceptions. Rob succumbs to the last album's "reefer madness" and indulges in full-on weed worship on Hassan i Sahba, whilst Days of the Underground pays tribute to the psychedelic underground scene from which Hawkwind emerged (and might also be a respectful tip of the hat to the underground punk scene which was making waves at the time - it's notable that the punks embraced Hawkwind even as they rejected other psych-prog groups).

Musically speaking, the production sounds a tad sharper than on the preceding album, Dave Brock's synthesiser work has now fully adapted to the more bass-light sound the band had to adopt in the absence of Lemmy, and Simon House's keyboard interventions continue to prove that he was Hawkwind's unstoppable secret weapon at the time. A fine example of a band evolving its style in the face of tempestuous personnel changes, Quark Strangeness and Charm proves there's more to Hawkwind than Michael Moorcock and Lemmy's angry bass.

 

395

Earthly Paradise
Epidaurus

Epidaurus Earthly Paradise album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

Epidaurus' debut album enjoys a lost-gem minor classic reputation and it is little wonder why, because this album represents a bit of the later 70's German take-over of symphonic rock, once most of the English bands had completely run out of steam. This quintet (two keyboards, no guitar plus a female singer) was taking much of the old recipes, and using what seemed outmoded instruments, but this is one of the ingredients most progheads will like. The album is clearly presented in two phases/styles: the first side presenting a solid symphonic rock that is reminiscent of Genesis or Yes, while the second side clearly ogles in the Symphonic-era of Tangerine Dream. Both sides of the album have different drummers, but share the same relative weakness in the songwriting department.

From the opening notes, you actually fear one of those late-70's ultra-(overly)-symphonic album, but after the first minute is gone, you should be completely reassured that you are indeed in a good tendency: halfway between Genesis and Renaissance (and not just because of Christine Wand's ultra-high vocals, which reminds of Haslam), the only thing that is lacking here is a good guitar, but maybe I am a bit too nit-picky. So the almost-7 mins Actions And Reactions is a very enjoyable ultra-symphonic rock that really buries many other similar albums, and the second track, the almost 8-mins Silas Marner also gets some lovely flute lines, but is a bit less involved. This (short) first side of the vinyl is slightly hampered by the singing of Wand, because her vocals are not to everyone's tastes.

The flipside opens with the perfect linking instrumental 5-mins Wing Of The Dove , which announces a bit of the second part of the album, but is still well entrenched in the Genesis realm with loads of Mellotron and some descending lines lifted from Cinema shows (short and not scandalous), until the song shifts to an upper tempo to end the song more fittingly. If Andas starts with a piano intro, the track clearly veers into electronics for the next minutes before settling in a superb (dare I say grandiose?) Tangerine Dream-like groove (Stratosfear era) that could even shame these last ones had they not invented the musical universe. The 6-mins Andas also brinks along the dissonant (the flute but also the early electronic interlude), but does really dare to. Closing off the album is Mitternachtstraum (middle of night dream) in a splendid full blown TD fashion, finally bringing the slow process of morphing Renaissance into Tangerine Dream. Somehow, these unknowns realized a small tour de force.

Recorded as a private release (with a naïve B&W artwork), this album got a first CD reissue in the early 90's on Pennar Records, than a second one on the superb Garden Of Delight (Pennar's successor) in the mid 00's. Most likely, the GOD release is the better researched one and probably contains bonus tracks. Epidaurus will release a second album in the mid-90's, presenting re-recorded version of tracks that were written for the second album. Generally the album did not get good reviews. In the meantime, this album is good enough to earn its fourth star, while not being really essential. It is however much worthy of your investigations and merits its reputation.

 

396

The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome
Van Der Graaf Generator

Van Der Graaf Generator The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

I adore the music of Van der Graaf and Peter Hammill's voice is one of the best I have heard. I am used to giving 4 star ratings on their albums or even 5 star, but this one I will have to settle with 3 stars.

Why? It is so different and not really up to the standard of other VdGG. One reason, the sax is all but gone and the songs are so safe and short for VdGG standards. I have heard the album countless times but cannot pin down any one excellent song except perhaps the incredible 'Cat's Eye / Yellow Fever' which features Graham's Smith psychotic violin stabs throughout. it is disconcerting and pleasant at the same time. There are no others that could be classed alongside the excellent first few albums and this is a shame as I expect such high standards from these progenitors of prog, perhaps one of the most important 70s bands in the history of prog.

Due to these, perhaps unreasonable, standards, and the fact that the band have set the bar so high, any mediocrity becomes a crime. I am not saying this entire album is mediocre by any means, however it is forgettable and acts as more of a bridge between the old and new VdGG, rather than a standout album. Hammill is still here in his existential glory, the unusual lyrical power is evident, as is a sound that is unlike other bands churning out ordinary material in the era, but I still strongly feel that the album was rushed out to appease a label, and Hammill was running dry on good ideas.

The album appears to be 2 different albums merged into one. There is good reason for this. It is indeed a conglomeration of ideas from various sources and the second half of the album seems to work best. The absence of the sax is notable but this album shines for one reason and one reason only, the incredible violin talents of Smith. I haven't heard much from the famous Incredible String Thing he hails from, however his violin lends an ethereal quality to the tracks and makes for some very compelling listening. He is equally good on the live 'Vital' which buries this album.

Overall, the album has a lot to offer but, as stated, to give this 5 stars stretches the boundaries of credibility. Check it out only after first hearing the first 5 albums of the band or at least the masterpieces, “Pawn Hearts”, “Godbluff” and “H to He, Who Am the Only One”, after that the excellent “The Least We can Do is Wave To each Other” is a good starting point or even “Still Life”. This CD “The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome” is certainly better than the debut album by a long measure, and is at least worth 3 stars for its innovation and energy, but it is not what you might expect when you know these other aforementioned classic albums and the sheer brilliance this band is capable of.

A review by Warthur:

The reconfigured Van Der Graaf - no Generator this time - came about with the exit of Hugh Banton and David Jackson from the band lineup (though Jackson sneakily guests on The Sphinx In The Face here, and would soon rejoin as a full member for the Vital live album). Peter Hammill took this as an opportunity to reconfigure and update the band's sound, incorporating the New Wave influences that he'd toyed with to a certain extent on Nadir's Big Chance and Over, increasing his own use of electric guitar, and bringing in Graham Smith from String- Driven Thing on violin.

The result is a true breath of fresh air, a VdG configuration more than capable of holding its own in the punkish days of 1977 - the seeds of the furiously aggressive Vital album were sown here. Though Hammill would eventually decide to move on as a solo artist, the experiments on this disc would inform his solo work for many of the coming years, and whilst the band's turbulent lineup issues would cause the Van der Graaf name to be mothballed, it's material like this which allowed Hammill to stick to a defiantly experimental course over the New Wave years rather than succumbing to the wave of commercialisation other top-flight prog artists of the era did. Don't come expecting long epics or lots of keyboard and saxophone, but do come expecting tense, nervous energy and wild redefinitions of what prog could be.

Fantastic listening for almost all prog fans, unless you're absolutely not interested in prog bands incorporating punk/New Wave ideas into their musical arsenal.

 

397

Keesojen Lehto (aka Mathematician's Air Display, The Consequences of Indecisions)
Pekka Pohjola

Pekka Pohjola Keesojen Lehto (aka Mathematicians Air Display, The Consequences of Indecisions) album cover

A review by Finnforest:

I can make this quite simple: If you like late 70s Mike Oldfield, you will like this album. A lot. Mike and Sally Oldfield are guests on the record and their impact is not just felt, but overwhelming. This really sounds like an Oldfield release from that time period. Blissful and soaring instrumentals that prove again how disposable vocals are when the music is compelling. The mood of the music varies but is generally quite upbeat. Nothing dark or nasty in the sound. The sound on this CD is just OK, and this release could surely use a bang up remaster. But if you are an Oldfield fan this must be on your shelf.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm:

Pekka sure has some impressive guests to help him on this his third studio album. The most significant would be Mike Oldfield who would leave his stamp for all to see when this album was completed. Sally Oldfield would lend her vocals and Pierre Moerlen the drummer for GONG would also help out. The band MADE IN SWEDEN would also guest on a couple of tracks. I'm a big Mike Oldfield fan and his unique sounding guitar is welcomed as far as I'm concerned,but I must say this album pales when compared to Pekka's first two solo recordings.  This one is too straight forward and simply lacks the magic of the first two. It was recorded in 1976 and released the following year. Oldfield also co-produced it.  

"Oivallettu Matkalyhty" features Pekka and the MADE IN SWEDEN guys. It has a fuller sound after a minute as spacey synths come in. The guitar is prominent then the piano takes over as they trade back and forth. Good song.  "Kadet Suoristavat Veden" opens with Pekka on the harpsichord as string synths then guitar from Oldfield joins in. A change before 3 minutes as Sally starts to sing. I like the guitar after 4 minutes but the song ends quickly thereafter.  

"Matemaatikon Lentonaytos" features the trio of Moerlin,Pohjola and Mr. Oldfield. This is my favourite track on here. Pekka opens with piano as drums and a fuller sound comes in. From 3 1/2 minutes to the end this is quite impressive. There is no mistaking Oldfield's guitar playing here.  "Paataivuttelun Seuraukset" features everyone listed above helping out except for Sally. Piano to start before gentle guitar comes in after 2 minutes. A fuller sound 3 1/2 minutes in and the guitar becomes more prominent. Piano takes over a minute later with drums, guitar and a full sound in tow. Some fuzz guitar 9 minutes in followed by a nice solo after 10 minutes. Deep bass before 13 1/2 minutes as the song settles down.

"Varjojen Varaslahto" is a sad way to end it. Haha.  A real romp in the park this one is. Uptempo with some vocal melodies from Sally. Mandolin and bells too. Not a fan if you didn't already know.  This album sure has it's moments, but as I said before, it's not nearly as good as the two albums that preceed it.

 

398

Rain Dances
Camel

Camel Rain Dances album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

Unevenalbum

Coming after the excellent and very impressive series of albums consisting of the self-titled debut, Mirage, The Snow Goose and Moonmadness, Rain Dances certainly was a departure in several respects. The original line-up was altered for this album and bass player Doug Ferguson was here replaced by Richard Sinclair of Caravan fame. Being a "big" name in his own right, Sinclair brought to Camel influences from his own musical background and inspired Camel to move away somewhat from their Symphonic Prog roots and towards more of a Canterbury Scene sound which means that the music became a bit more "whimsical" with typical Jazz and Pop leanings. Humoristic song titles like One Of These Days I'll Get An Early Night and Metrognome (notice the spelling!) are typical of the Canterbury Scene. Andy Latimer even joked about re-naming the band 'Caramel' (a crossover between 'Camel' and 'Caravan') and maybe that would not have been such a bad idea, after all? Well, Rain Dances still has enough Camel-identity to be appropriately described as a Camel album (I don't know about the next album, though!).

Mel Collins also joined the band on this album adding saxophone which further altered the band's sound, bringing it closer to Jazz and Pop compared to earlier albums. His presence is most clearly felt on One Of These Days I'll Get An Early Night which is the jazziest tune on this album and about as jazzy as Camel ever got. Highways Of The Sun, on the other hand, is about as Pop as Camel ever got. This song would not be out of place on I Can See Your House From Here or The Single Factor, which are Camel's two most Pop-oriented albums. Still, some songs here are not that far away from the sound of the first four albums. The opener First Light, for example, would not have been out of place on Moonmadness and the same applies to Skylines and the very strong (despite its name!) Unevensong. These three are also the best songs on Rain Dances, in my opinion. The latter song has since been frequent in the band's set list up till and including the very last tour they did in 2003. Elke is a soothing flute-based instrumental that would not have been out of place on The Snow Goose. Tell Me and Metrognome is somewhere in between the old and the new, a mix between the Symphonic Prog of earlier albums and the Pop of some later albums.

Overall, Rain Dances is both a backward-looking album and a forward-looking album and it constitutes an appealing mix of what Camel was and what they were turning into. It is still a very good album even if it meant that Camel lost some of its own distinct identity. In my opinion, they would not quite find their way back to their roots again until the Nude album in 1981 (even if the genuine return to form would not arrive until Andy formed Camel Productions in the 90's and produced such brilliant albums as Dust And Dreams and Harbour Of Tears). But this doesn't mean that there are not some really great songs on the albums they did in the late 70's and early 80's, including the present one.

Recommended for sure, but not the optimal place to start

 

399

Criminal Record 
Rick Wakeman

Rick Wakeman Criminal Record  album cover

A review by Ivan_Melgar_M:

When any normal fan was starting to lose his faith in Rick mostly because of the weak and ultra boring White Rock, the keyboard wizard surprised everybody with the wonderful "Criminal Record".

Not as pompous as “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” and “Myths and Legends” but almost as carefully elaborated as “Six Wives of Henry the VIII”, with the advantage of being much more descriptive without need of lyrics (“Six Wives” is a great album, but there's no relation between the music and the concept), “Criminal Record” is a mixture of everything Rick did before, the sordid atmosphere related with judicial affairs is perfectly achieved, and Wakeman plays with the listener going from excessive baroque tracks to softer ballads.

"Statue of Justice" is a powerful song and one of my favorites from this album, starting with a soft and mysterious piano that almost immediately changes with an explosion of violence and complexity hard to achieve, an excellent track where Wakeman proved why he is the best soloist of progressive Rock.

"Crime of Passion" somehow sounds more like a Classic Wakeman song, complex and elaborated, beginning aggressive and haunting as if he was describing the jealousy (main element of a crime of passion) and lets himself go through contrasting sections that describe the steps of this crime, including the violence and later regret, excellent development. Squire and Alan White do an outstanding job in this track.

"Chamber of Horrors" is probably the only weak song; the music doesn't fit into the concept of a Chamber of Horrors, too fast and a terrible section that reminds me more of a comedy, too light for the issue.

"Birdman of Alcatraz" is another extremely beautiful song where Rick plays the piano as the virtuoso he is, and shows the world his amazing skills, with a soft tune he tells the story of Robert Stroud, a violent pimp and murderer who had to be transferred to prison because of his violent behavior including stabbing a guard, but who also found peace observing birds and writing complete encyclopedias and veterinary works. Wakeman works more on the personality of the bird observer than in the criminal.

"The Breathalyzer", the only track with lyrics, is a funny song that provides some humor before the dramatic closer, that has a jazzy sound and is very pleasant, if you are waiting for anything serious it may sound weak, but if you take it as a joke it’s a good track.

“Judas Iscariot” is a perfect closer. Using the incredible Church organ of L'Eglise St. Martin, Vevey, recreates Bach's perfect baroque style with extreme strength that goes in crescendo, combines the dark atmosphere prevalent in the album with an almost angelical sound achieved with the help of the Ars Læta Choir of Lausanne. Between the betrayal and regret there's no moment to rest and not a weak note, simply perfect

I believe nobody else except Rick Wakeman dared to make an album about criminals, traitors and horror with such beauty and perfection.

An excellent addition for any Prog' Collection and one of the last Wakeman masterpieces.

 

400

Electric Savage
Colosseum II

Colosseum II Electric Savage album cover 

A review by Sean Trane:

Two small changes in Colosseum II's second album: Neil Murray left the group to join National Health (I believe), replaced by unknown John Mole, and most important the group became an almost-instrumental beast, which for their kind of music fit them best. If I say Almost-instrumental, it's because Gary Moore sings on one track, sounding a bit like Steve Winwood, but let's face it, Colosseum II doesn't need a singer!! Coming with a bizarre electronic tribal neon artwork, Electric Savage heads further into RTF and Brand X fusion than ever before. If most of the music is still penned by Gary Moore, there is a tendency towards more democracy as Airey pens two himself, while Hiseman co-writes four.

Opening on Hackett-ian (solo) guitar lines, Put It This Way dives head first into hard fusion filled with power riffs, Brand X-style. All Skin & Bone is a fantastic percussive track that uses the same Hackett-ian guitar and probably the album's highlight. Rivers is the only sung track of the album, and as mentioned above, it sounds like a Steve Winwood solo track. The group also had a more progressive slant and here The Scorch is the prime example of it, where the group moves through a series of rhythm pattern and moods, but mostly doing so in a fury, as would indicate the title. Very classical exit of this track and a brilliant quartet, especially Hiseman.

The flipside starts on the cheesy Lament, but it's not an over-ripe camembert, either, just a slightly pompous facet of their prog moods, a bit like the logical continuation of Scorch. Next up, Desperado returns to the 100 MPH fusion of Brand X that we'd visited in the album opener. The album closes on two Airey compositions, the first is a great crescendoing airy (pun intended) track, where Don & Gary exchange wild leads on a mid-tempo and background synth layers, while its alter ego Intergalactic Strut shines among a thousand galaxies, hinting at RTF's seventh. If I say shine, there is a slight eclipse.

While it was not so obvious on SNF, Moore has more problems being himself on such a blatant jazz rock album, than he does on a blues or hard rock album, and here he's more credible when either crunching riffs away or pulling blues wails from his axe, than really adding a jazzy blue note. When he does try, he seems either taken by Hackett or goes purely classical. Incidentally, I was never a fan of Airey's keyboard style (especially when playing in the Purple galaxy), but for some reasons, in Col II, he was never more credible than here, and if some synth choices of his are questionable, it's got to do more with the era's choice of arms, more than artistic choices. Outside a few loonies (like Mooney), Hiseman's drumming is still miles ahead of many of his English peers (Bruford, Collins & Dunbar excepted) and he mixes himself a tad higher in the group's overall sound, but it's nothing shocking, on the contrary... It even enhances his insane playing. Either this album or the following carbon-copy Wardance will be the perfect intro, but if you're wary of redundancy in your shelves, you'll have to check whether you would need more than one

 

401 – live

Playing The Fool - The Official Live
Gentle Giant

Gentle Giant Playing The Fool - The Official Live album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

This really is an example of how great a live album can be.  Recorded during their "Interview" tour from 1976 the band plays not only a song from that album (the final track) but they play at least one song from the previous 7 albums as well. Before you say What about "Acquiring the Taste"? they include the title track from that album in the middle of the "Excerpts From Octopus". Go figure? Anyway they rearranged it for the acoustic guitar if you didn't catch it right away. In fact a lot of these tracks were rearranged for these concerts, something GENTLE GIANT loved to do. What a talented band they were. And that's also what is so great about this recording, we can hear them play this complex music live. The sound here is perhaps louder and rawer then what we're used to from their studio work but that's pretty much what you'd expect.

I like the picture in the liner notes of what I thought at first was constellations with lines running to all these different dots. What they are though is all the cities they visited on this tour all over the world. Cool to see they came to my province of Ontario and played not only Toronto as you'd expect but Ottawa and London as well.  So many highlights here, in fact there really isn't a bad track but I'd like to touch on my favourites.

"Proclamation" from "The Power And the Glory" opens with piano as vocals come in. I like the instrumental break later followed by those vocal arrangements they're famous for.  More of those vocals on "On Reflection" from the "Free Hand" album. Flute and cello early on this one. I should mention that "Free Hand" has the honour of being the album with the most music on this recording.  There are five songs sampled on the "Excerts From Octopus" song. They really impress on this 15 1/2 minute track.  

"Funny Ways" from the debut is my favourite song on here. Something melancolic about it. I like when it builds late and when it reaches it's peak the crowd roars it's approval.  "The Runaway" from "In A Glass House" opens like the studio track with a sample of breaking glass. This is uptempo and so impressive.  "Experience" is also from that album and is probably my second favourite song on here. It's so complex and intricate, I just love to really listen to it.  The final medley of "Peel The Paint/I Lost My Head" ends the recording in style. The former from "Three Friends" is just a killer track with powerful vocals.  A must for GENTLE GIANT fans out there.

402 – live

Seconds Out
Genesis

Genesis Seconds Out album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

I am always content to sit back and listen to live Genesis but when it comes to their lineup of 1977, it is difficult to beat. Tony Banks shines on RMI electric piano, Hammond T. organ, APR Pro- Soloist, Mellotron 400, Epiphone, and 12 string guitar. This is a virtuoso performance from Banks with flawless organ phrases and huge soloing. Bill Bruford on percussion features on the classic ‘Cinema Show’. Phil Collins takes over on drums for the rest of the show and is terrific here on lead vocals before he turned to the syrupy ballads of the 80s. Steve Hackett is indispensable on lead guitars giving a powerhouse performance with some incredible breaks. Then there is the ever reliable Mike Rutherford who plays electric 12 string guitar, bass guitar, 8 string bass guitar, and bass pedals. Finally Chester Thompson helps out on percussion in places.

The album features some of the all time greatest Genesis treasures. Highlights include ‘The Carpet Crawlers’, ‘Robbery, Assault & Battery’, and the brilliant ‘Firth Of Fifth’ clocking nine minutes. ‘I Know What I Like’ is of course here as well as pieces from ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’. ‘The Musical Box’ is limited to the 3 minute Closing Section but it is great to hear full versions of ‘Cinema Show’, and the massive finale of ‘Dance On A Volcano’ and ‘Los Endos’. I didn't mention that this album is essential also for featuring a full blown prog multi movement suite that is quintessential to the prog era; the astonishing ‘Supper's Ready’ that journeys along for a full 24:32 running length.

This is the best early live album for Genesis proving that Collins can comfortably fit into the enormous shoes of Gabriel. He not only does this but also reinvents the classic Genesis tracks, providing a refreshing sound that carried the band along for decades to come.

 

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

From Genesis to Los Endos

It is always difficult to find some original words of praise for an album that is already massively popular and well respected. However, one controversial view that I hold is that Phil Collins performs these songs, both the newer ones and the older ones that were originally sung by Peter Gabriel, better than anyone else could do, including Peter Gabriel! It is remarkable how well Collins performs vocally. And the rest of the band are spot on too!

Since Genesis at this time had so many great songs to choose from they were able to make this excellent live album at the very peak of their amazing progressive career. If you love the progressive Genesis, you will simply love this album. It doesn't outdo the studio albums, of course, but it is a live masterpiece album!

Highly recommended!

 

403 – live

Encore (Live 1977)
Tangerine Dream

Tangerine Dream Encore (Live 1977) album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

This was recorded during a US tour but has a life of its own since the stuff on here is all original. However the double vinyl had a different cover (sporting a US flag). In concert, TD rarely played released material, preferring to present the public with new material and this flowed so fast and smooth that they had to release some of that material as a live album. Four tracks four vinyl sides with the grandiose Cherokee Lane to start off and Coldwater Canyon as highlights. By now they had firmly established their newer more symphonic style started with Ricochet and Stratosfear.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm:

"Encore" was originally released as a double album consisting of four tracks (one per side) from their spring tour of the USA back in 1977. At the time this was only their second live recording, the first being "Ricochet".  What makes this one so valuable is that the songs are all original, so it's like getting a lost studio album with the classic lineup on it. This was actually the last record that Peter Baumann played on for TANGERINE DREAM before going solo. In the liner notes it says that these improvised tracks were based on themes from "Stratosfear".  

"Cherokee Lane" opens with an introduction of each band member then a roar from the audience. An impressive wall of sound follows. It then settles and organ runs follow with synths. An electronic beat arrives before 4 minutes, then the crowd cheers as a sequencer comes in before 7 minutes. The crowd again roars it's approval as the song winds down during the final minute.  "Monolight" is the longest and my least favourite. Piano to open before we get these loud electronic sounds crashing in and out starting around 3 minutes. A beat comes in lightly then an electronic pulse with other synths. Back to the crashing sounds 7 1/2 minutes in then moog comes in. A change 17 minutes in as the beat stops and the piano returns.  

"Coldwater Canyon" is the only track without mellotron in it. It builds quickly as the guitar joins in. Froese just lights it up here with his Gibson guitar. In the liner notes it says that this is his longest recorded guitar solo. Amazing! "Desert Dream" is dark and haunting with mellotron choirs. This all sounds so eerie. We start to get a beat 5 minutes in. It stops before 9 minutes as that haunting soundscape returns. Relaxed piano after 12 minutes in this mellow section. It's eerie again 15 minutes in. Sequencers come in a minute later to end it.  

I had this playing in the store the other day and this guy comes in and says "Tangerine Dream!", then he listens and says "Rubycon?... no I'm not sure which album that is". I told him he had a good ear for music and that it was a live cd, then we talked music for a while.  This is a must have for TD fans.



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - February 16 2012 at 04:20
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1978

404

Hemispheres
Rush

Rush Hemispheres album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

THE prog masterpiece of 1978; Rush present the most stunning music on the planet

"Hemispheres" is a classic album from Rush that featured one huge epic track on side 1 of the vinyl and 3 fantastic shorter tracks on side 2. The album is primarily celebrated for the awesome instrumental 'La Villa Strangiato', which may be the best instrumental ever. Both this track and 'The Trees' were featured on "Rush: Gold" a compilation I purchased to taste what this band everyone is talking about actually sounds like. Of course, I ended up getting the entire Rush catalogue, but these two tracks intrigued me enough on first listen to warrant grabbing this album eventually, one of the last Rush purchases in fact for me. I was unaware of how extraordinary the other 2 tracks were so this sealed the deal for me; this album is an astonishing masterpiece.

It starts with the 18 minute multi movement suite 'Cygnus X-1 Book II’ the sequel to the track on "A Farewell to Kings". I enjoyed the first part to this, with it's spacey resonance and conceptual framework so I hoped this second part would justify its existence. I was not disappointed. It begins with the crunching chords and odd time sig of Lifeson and Peart. Lee's vocals soon enter the fray and the song sets sail for one of the best epics I have heard. Rush know how to structure an epic, '2112' is a prime example, but this epic has an incredible melody, crystalline vocals and very tight musicianship throughout. The lyrics of 'Prelude' are fantastic; "when our weary world was young, the struggle of the Ancients first began, The gods of love and reason, Sought alone to rule the fate of man."

There is a break at 4:30 to herald the next section 'Apollo: Bringer of Wisdom'. Lee's voice is strong as he belts out the new melody, "I bring truth and understanding, I bring wit and wisdom fair, Precious gifts beyond compare, We can build a world of wonder, I can make you all aware, I will find you food and shelter, Show you fire to keep you warm, Through the endless winter storm, You can live in grace and comfort, In the world that you transform." The track has a strong melody that always gives me the chills. When the chorus builds up to a crescendo another melody begins that is perhaps the best section on the entire epic. Lee has an amazing voice and his high vocals are incomparable as he sings with passion and conviction, "The people were delighted, Coming forth to claim their prize, They ran to build their cities, And converse among the wise, But one day the streets fell silent, Yet they knew not what was wrong, The urge to build these fine things, Seemed not to be so strong, The wise men were consulted, And the Bridge of Death was crossed." The thematic content is all based of course on the Greek god mythology and each god addresses what they can bring to the protagonist who searches for meaning. At 6:50 'Dionysus Bringer of Love' begins, the same melody as previous though more subdued with some beautiful guitar picking. It builds to the riff and Lee returns to the chorus section; "the cities were abandoned, and the forests echoed song, They danced and lived as brothers, They knew love could not be wrong, Food and wine they had aplenty, And they slept beneath the stars...".

'Armageddon The Battle of Heart and Mind' section 4 begins at 9:08; a new time sig change entirely, though the same chords are heard. The awesome lead break is a real feature that is phased out and spacey. On this new ascending and descending riff Lee's vocals are more aggressive with a delay effect, "The universe divided, As the heart and mind collided, With the people left unguided, For so many troubled years, In a cloud of doubts and fears, Their world was torn asunder into hollow Hemispheres." The poetic pentameter works perfectly and there is a powerful effect on the sense as we are treated to one riff after another.

At 12:08 the music settles and there is an ethereal ambience when the keyboard pads begin, and the next section is titled 'Cygnus, Bringer of Balance'. It is reminiscent of the spaceyness of the prequel to this track. The atmosphere is definitely one of melancholy tranquillity but the lyrics are unsettling in this section speaking of "a disembodied spirit, I am dead and yet unborn..." It builds and Lee's voice becomes higher and more forceful on;"Then all at once the chaos ceased, A stillness fell, a sudden peace, The warriors felt my silent cry, And stayed their struggle, mystified." This is followed by some divine passages of guitar and then a very soft, gentle calmness is created with minimalist guitar, effectively massaging the senses after the onslaught of power riffing.

At 16:54 the new section begins, a much more moderate Lee with acoustic guitar and sustained keyboard pads. The lyrics are reflective on the chaos that has gone on before on The Sphere: A Kind Of Dream; "We can walk our road together, If our goals are all the same, We can run alone and free, If we pursue a different aim, Let the truth of love be lighted, Let the love of truth shine clear, Sensibility, armed with sense and liberty, With the heart and mind united in a single Perfect Sphere." The ending is abrupt and tends to leave the track up in the air, though there was no sequel to this. I think this track is a bonafide masterpiece.

'Circumstances' has a great chorus with a strong melody and very high vocals; "all the same we take our chances, Laughed at by time, tricked by circumstances, Plus ca change, Plus c'est la meme chose, The more that things change, The more they stay the same..." The chord progression is heavy and the time sig is unusual at times. This track really kicks hard and the live performances I have heard or seen lift the crowd every time. It is genuinely uplifting music with a simplified straight forward power riff. The lead break seems to blend in rather than become a showcase for Lifeson. Another excellent track due to the memorable melody and killer riffs.

I was never a fan of 'The Trees' on the compilation that was sandwiched between two classic tracks, but it tends to work better on this album as it allows breathing space between the hard rocking content of the other tracks. The trees could be an anthem for Greenpeace or other conservationist groups as it really hammers the message about saving the trees from their point of view, if you don't mind. The lyrics are very strange; "So the maples formed a union, And demanded equal rights, 'The oaks are just too greedy, We will make them give us light', Now there's no more oak oppression, For they passed a noble law, And the trees are all kept equal, By hatchet, axe and saw." It may be an allegory for civil war but more likely this is a message from Rush to look after the planet, a similar stance to the music of Yes in this regard. The track begins slowly with a sad atmosphere and it eventually builds to a dynamic instrumental break, with innovative riffing and time sigs. The melody is once again endearing and grows on you with each listen. This is the weakest track on the album but is not enough to detract it as it still has some great moments on it. The film clip on the “Snakes and Arrows Live” Rush DVD is very good too by the way featuring a humorous look at trees versus man; ironic and wonderful.

The last track is the incredible instrumental 'La Villa Strangiato' that begins with Spanish flavoured acoustic and then a synthesizer booms in and soon it locks into the fabulous 5 chord synth riff that every Rush fan knows. I saw this on the "Live in Rio" DVD and every one in the crowd was roaring the tune out as the band played in perfect sync. The instrumental is a definitive masterpiece with so much to recommend it. The bassline is wonderful that keeps up with the loud guitar of Lifeson. His lead motifs on this are well executed and stay in the memory long after the music is over. Rather than a filler, this instrumental becomes the highlight of the album and this is unusual. The violining that is heard is dreamy and haunting, and then an absolutely soaring lead solo follows, one of Lifeson's best. He rips it out with fret melting elegance, and then an enchanting riff locks in while a two chord synth progression is layered underneath. The time sig then changes with a passage of lead and then bass solos. There are fantastic drum fills in this too with a lot of jazzy cymbal work. The time sig returns to the original though it is fractured as Lifeson blasts out another brilliant lead solo. Then a back breaking chord structure is crunched out, the bassline is divine here, and it settles into a slow paced bluesy metrical pattern. The main lead motif returns and then the intro section is reprised with the same finesses as heard earlier. After 9 and a half minutes it draws to a close. What an amazing piece of music; stunning virtuoso excellence.

How does one conclude after hearing 4 incredible tracks. This is a masterpiece of prog. Perhaps the best prog album of 1978. In a year when punk had already reared its ugly head and dance-oriented disco was soon to take over and systematically kill all things progressive for a season, Rush produced this music, despite what everybody else was doing. They refused to sell out to mainstream commercialism in the late 70s, and in fact their music was more progressive than ever on this release. You have to give them credit for that and you have to identify a masterpiece when you hear it, and this is it.

 

405

Anabelas
Bubu

Bubu Anabelas album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

It is not often an album lives completely up to the hype it receives. This IS a masterpiece.

Bubu's one and only album has become legendary as one of the best things to come out of Argentina besides Evita. I can only review this as I hear it as it is so complex and it is difficult to remember all the subtle nuances of musical complexity. We begin with the epic 'El Cortejo de un Dia Amarillo'. You have to love the side long vinyl. As the manic drums fade in at the start on side A we are taken by surprise by a freakout orgiastic wash of saxophone, violin, relentless bass lines and a myriad of other sounds, wonderfully juxtaposed into some semblance of order but chaotic enough to keep any metronome swinging wildly. The metrical shapes and percussive patterns are astounding as far as drumming goes and is reminiscent of the type of work from Bill Bruford. There are some angular Fripp like guitar passages, so early King Crimson springs immediately to mind with a strange blend of Soft Machine and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Get the picture? Descriptions cannot do it justice as the music takes on a whole new meaning with each listen and must be experienced and interpreted on a personal level. The side long track is masterfully executed and shifts from light to dark textures, occasionally brutal and disturbing to light and upbeat, truly emotional music. The way the music builds to a crescendo towards the end transfixes on each listen, and then there is an improv section with cold wah wah guitar wailing while a sad tortured violin cries. Simply a wonderful instrumental and one of the best I have heard.

Side B is two songs, rather than instrumentals, that are of accomplished musicianship on every level. Even injecting some vocals into the mix does not detract from the music, in fact the vocals are distant and estranged, a part of the musical soundscape. 'Sueños de Maniqui' begins softly with twinkling piano and quiet vocals. It would sound like a normal song except the time signature is all over the place. The strong guitar crashes in and over the relentless piano motif it whines and howls beautifully. Then the track launches in to a freakout jam with blasts of sax and there is even a flute, Jethro Tull style. The guitars are heavier and then suddenly there is an Argentinian break away. The guitar solo is crazy fret melting runs and an out of control violin that fires up demonically. The sound builds higher and higher up the scale and explodes with frenetic high pitched violin over more violin and heart pounding drums. It stops flat maggot dead. The vocals sing again on a slow paced section that lets us catch our breath. After this verse there are staccato stabs of woodwind, flute sax, the lot, then an even more bizarre time sig, till finally the voice sings the last verse. The violin bow now knifes across the strings as a guitar motif is heard repeating and the choral voices return. Once again the song goes wildly out of control, a psychedelica freakout that finally settles down with a finely crafted sax and it fades. This is the best track on the album and it gets better after each listen. Ferociously original and layered with a plethora of instruments transferred into an emotional resonance unlike anything I have heard. This is how I like my prog; complex, hard to pin down and challenging, but totally compelling.

'El Viaje De Anabelas' opens with a choral chant and off kilter violin and sax that compete with each other but seems to be on the same page as far as timing, though this feels dark, and the instruments are speaking to each other. The bass line changes the direction, and there is a great sax solo over an incessant violin. The flute adds a beauty and is providing a melody similar to the sax, then the fast paced section sends the track on another detour. The surprisingly calm vocals chime in, the Argentinian language sounds sad and melancholy, perhaps reflective. The music slows and speeds up at intervals. When the vocals stop for a moment the pace picks up considerably, erratic drumming driving it to a mid section that focuses on violin played with precision. The sax is as good as any I have heard sounding at times like early VDGG. The textures are darker at about 5 minutes into the track, the sombre sax has become angry and the music sounds frustrated as if it wants to burst forth from the speakers like a caged animal. At 7 mins in, the Argentine flavour is prevalent and there is a rock beat driving it with a rock vocal, another new thing to savour on this album. At 9 mins there is a sublime violin solo and then a strange saxophone that is jazz oriented. Another great track to enjoy, no doubt about it.

Therefore we have a masterpiece. All killer, no filler and I wish other bands would take a listen to this and learn how to play music. There are so many musical styles it is impossible to name them all but they are here all on one album; jazz fusion, avante garde, zeuhl, folk, psych prog, Argentinian traditional, AOR, and symphonic, among others. The tension created by the musical fusion of jazz and rock is compelling, never dull, and the mesmirising music becomes an entity that wraps itself around you and refuses to let go. It seems that one instrument wants to go off in a new direction but there is always another instrument striving to reign it back in. This tension continues throughout the whole album and you find yourself wanting more after it all ends. Alas, Bubu are history now with one penultimate album but it is quintessential to prog. So dig deep in the prog goldmine and unearth this buried treasure.

 

406

What If
Dixie Dregs

Dixie Dregs What If album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

As others have noted this record has a lot of variety on it. The constants are the violin, guitar and drums that all stand out so well. The violin play did bring KANSAS to mind at times, even though the music here is quite different from KANSAS' for the most part. Ironically Steve Morse did end up joining KANSAS later on though. I really like the first three songs.

"Take it Off the Top" has such a great groove to it, a real rocker, with the drums and guitar leading the way. "Odyssey" is simply an amazing song! Opening with violin followed by a very uptempo melody of drums, keys and guitar. The violin comes back and so does more great drumming and guitar, on this the most progressive tune on this record. "What If" the title track is a beautiful slow paced song with lots of violin and a nice guitar melody. Not a big fan of "Travel Tunes" especially the toy-sounding keyboards half way through.  

"Ice Cakes" has some great sounding instrumental work on it.  "Little Kids" features Steve playing classical guitar accompanied with violin. It's okay.  "Gina Lola Breakdown" is a get down, hoe down, country song. Not a fan at all. "Night Meets Light" is a very good way to end the album. A beautiful tune with synth guitar and violin. I have to take my hat off to Rod Morgenstein who does an incredible job on this record. I'm not big on that KANSAS or country vibe that pops up at times but there's no denying that these guys are amazing musicians.

407

Of Queues and Cures 
National Health

National Health Of Queues and Cures  album cover

A review by Warthur:

An oasis (one of many, I'd say) in prog's lean years between the fading of the first golden age and the dawn of the neo-prog movement, National Health's second album is the glorious culmination of all the different Canterbury scene strands that fed into that particular supergroup. With intriguing spoken word from Peter Blegvad on Squarer for Maud, an intriguing anti-TV rant in the form of Binoculars, a hilarious "a capella drum solo" and wonderful instrumentals in between, the album shows all the humour, whimsy, and musicianship usually associated with the best of the Canterbury scene. As essential as the band's debut, and as important any Canterbury collection as Hatfield and the North's two albums, or the best releases by Caravan and Soft Machine.

 

A review by Sean Trane:

If the first NH took a long time to materialize, their second album certainly didn't take long to appear, as it came out the same year as the debut. It is also a fairly different beast than its predecessor, even if only the departed brilliant Neil Murray is now replaced with ex-Henry Cow bassist John Greaves. Although it might appear a minor line-up change, it also opens the studio gates to a bunch of other ex-Cows to participate to the album's sessions. And this is where the difference appears: Phil Minton, Georgie Born, Keith Thompson and Peter Blegvad all join mainstay guest Brother Jimmy Hastings. A very pleasant line-up news for this proghead is the departure of Parsons and her irritating vocals. Musically the album is less jazz-rock and more pure prog, as if Steward's omelette days were indeed not fully digested. Yes, you can hear some Egg/ELP-like prog.

Opening with a wandering bass line and birdsongs, the album on the book-ending Bryden 2-Step is soon a wild jazz-rock, much reminiscent of their first album, but an added slightly symphonic touch. The closing section of this track is the same riff repeated tiredlessly until interrupted to its slow death. Collapso is a play on word (calypso) due to the steel drums, but rest assured that outside these drums, you won't find any tacky Caribbean music on this track. It is hard to call this track jazz-rock either, especially midway through, when the group members are giving it their all. Greaves' bass opens the lengthy Squarer For Maud, probably the most Cow-esque NH track, with Born's cello in the background with Hastings' clarinets and Blegvad's short spoken vocals, but the second part returns to a Caravan-type bossa improv, before going in an insane stop & go section to end it. Great stuff. Just as demented is Miller's Dreams Wide Awake, where Stewart's organ goes completely mad in the first part, then in a much quieter Caravan-styled second part, followed by Miller's usual once-per-album wild solo. Binoculars is the only sung song (by John Greaves), features another of Miller"s sizzling solo

This last NH album (besides the Gowan tribute) is another one of these links between the RIO circle and the Canterbury family, but sadly seems to indicate that Canterbury is reaching its end as RIO is only really getting under way. A marginally better album than their debut, it is mostly the disappearance of Parsons’ vocals in the NH soundscape that makes the difference for this proghead. Essential and the last masterpiece of Canterbury music.

 

408

10,000 Anos Depois Entre Venus E Marte 
Jose Cid

Jose Cid 10,000 Anos Depois Entre Venus E Marte  album cover

A review by Warthur:

This classy concept album by Jose Cid is an excellent mostly-instrumental symphonic prog piece with a strong space rock influence in the guitar parts. Like Bo Hansson, another pop keyboardist who turned his hand to producing prog solo albums, Cid does not use the album purely as an ego trip - he knows when his (well-played) keyboards need to be at front and centre, and when he needs to step aside to let another instrumentalist take the lead. In particular, Zé Nabo's excellent guitar contributions - reminiscent of Dave Gilmour's work at points - enhance the album notably. Cid is also adept at using both newer synthesisers and classic prog stalwarts like the Mellotron, and shows great taste in choosing which to use when and blending the new and the old.

It might have sounded a bit retro even in 1978, but 10,000 Anos is a fine album - and whilst it might have been the only solo prog effort by Cid, it's one that I can listen to over and over again.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm:

This really has been a joy to listen to this past week. Beautiful, melodic and often drifting music, with those warm Portuguese vocals that remind me of some of the Italian vocals I like. There should be a warning label about the mellotron though, because those mellotron choirs are intoxicating, and they are all over this album.  

"O Ultimo Dia Terra" opens with a blast of mellotron. It takes a minute to really get going as mellotron, drums and synths start off quietly and build. Vocals are reserved almost ELOY-like, while the mellotron is so heavenly. It's all over this song. Great start.  "O Caos" is an uptempo track with a good rhythm. Vocals with floods of mellotron. A tasteful guitar solo before 2 1/2 minutes. A calm a minute later as spacey synths and vocals lead the way. The full sound returns with a more aggressive guitar solo.  

"Fuga Para O Espaco" opens with piano, light drums and synths. Waves of synths continue as a beautiful lazy guitar solo follows. Nice. Vocals 2 minutes in are very expressive and Italian-like. Another guitar solo 4 1/2 minutes in as vocals follow. Piano continues. The best guitar solo is saved for last as it soars above the drums and piano. Vocal melodies go on and on with the guitar.  "Mellotron O'Planeta Fantastico" opens with a great instrumental section with tempo changes. It calms down with vocals after 2 minutes. Mellotron before 3 minutes as bass and guitar follow. The contrast continues.  

"10,000 Anos Depois Entre Venus E Marte" features beautiful spacey sounds with vocals arriving 3 minutes in.  "Parter Do Zero" features swirling keys as mellotron and drums create a great sound. Synths, bass then vocals come in. Instrumentally this is just gorgeous.  "Memos" opens with drums and piano before the guitar comes in and goes on and on with vocal melodies joining in like on the end of "Fuga Para O Espaco".  

"Vida(Sons Do Quotidiano)" is a bonus track that fits perfectly. Piano with someone speaking and mellotron to open. Gale force mellotron continues as passionate vocals come in as the tempo picks up. The same themes are repeated. The conclusion is so relaxing as it drifts endlessly with mellotron and synths.  Well, if you’re looking for complex and challenging music look elsewhere. If you’re into tasteful, melodic and classy music with lots of mellotron, you need to take this recording for a ride. Easily 4 stars.

409

Modra Rijeka
Indexi

Indexi Modra Rijeka album cover

A review by Warthur:

Indexi were apparently a big deal in the former Yugoslavia, but I don't personally find much that's truly distinctive about Modra Rijeka, their venture into prog concept albums. With a sound ranging from keyboard-dominated prog-psyche to straight-ahead hard rock, the album seems rather directionless and unfocused musically speaking, though I realise that if you understand the lyrics it's a fairly cohesive concept album. Still, the album has a nice meaty organ sound to it, which is a plus, and will doubtless be of interest to anyone interested in Croatian/Yugoslavian rock music. However, it should be remembered that Indexi adopted many different styles over the years, often at the prompting of fashion, and to my ears it seems that their adoption of a progressive approach for this album was a mere affectation rather than something they felt passionately about.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm:

There's no doubt from reading other reviews that I'm missing something by not understanding the lyrics. Apparently it's a concept album and there are two tracks that consist of spoken words only. INDEXI were a very popular pop band in Yugoslavia, so popular that the record company didn't mind that they veered off into prog territory on this release in 1978. To my ears this is Symphonic-Prog with lots of keybords, acoustic guitar and deep bass lines. For some reason I think "Italian" when I hear the vocals.  

"Modra Rijeka" is the intro consisting of spoken words only.  "Blago" is uptempo with chunky bass and drums leading the way. Synths come in as it settles some. Almost spoken vocals 2 minutes in. Organ follows then it kicks back in.  "Brod" is the first song I like although the aggressive vocals take a while to get used to. It opens with water sounds as acoustic guitar and vocals come in. Vocal melodies follow. Drums 1 1/2 minutes in followed by organ then those harsh vocals. It settles before 3 minutes as themes are repeated.  

"More" is the over 11 minute epic. Synths to open as the song builds. It kicks in before 1 1/2 minutes with vocals. Guitar and bass take over before 3 minutes then it settles with intricate acoustic guitar melodies. Solo piano melodies follow. It kicks back in with some bombast after 6 minutes. Organ 7 1/2 minutes. Acoustic guitar, bass and vocals are back 9 1/2 minutes in.  

"Zapis O Zemlji" is another brief spoken word track.  "Slovo O Covjeku" is a song I just can't get into at all. Ballad-like with fragile vocals and piano to open. The vocals do get passionate and the guitar comes and goes. The tempo picks up 2 1/2 minutes in then back to earlier sound 4 minutes in.  "Pustinja" is pretty good. I like the mellower parts of it more than the fuller sounding sections. I don't like the guitar later though.  

"More II" is my favourite song on here. It's almost like an instrumental reprise of "More" but a lot shorter. I'm reminded of a few different bands during this track.  "Modra Rijeka II" is pastoral to open. Reserved vocals a minute in. Strings follow. A full sound 3 minutes in. Chunky bass before 6 minutes.  These guys sure know how to create a melody, I'll give them that. And that's the strength of this album and what I like about it. I wish I could give this 4 stars but there's too many things (almost in every song) that I just don't enjoy.

410

U.K. 
UK

UK U.K.  album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

UK's masterful album is a powerhouse of superb musicianship, not to be missed

"UK" is the debut album of super group UK who only released 2 studio albums but both are solid examples of the last great golden era of prog that ended in 1979. King Crimson stalwarts, drummer, Bruford and Bassist, vocalist, Wetton took up the frontline. They were joined by keyboardist extraordinaire, Roxy Music's Jobson, and the talented versatile genius of Gong guitarist Holdsworth.

It begins with the big single for the group, ‘In the Dead of Night’; "Are you one of mine who can sleep with one eye open wide? Agonizing psychotic solitary hours to decide, Reaching for the light at the slightest noise from the floor, Palms of hands perspire heart goes leaping at a knock from the door, In The Dead of Night." There is a great time sig on this track and an inspired keyboard motif. The lead solo is terrific too. A memorable track and quintessential UK.

‘By the Light of Day’ has the same feel as the previous track except that Jobson shines on sparkling keyboards. Spacey sounds are generated and this is quite a tranquil song overall. Jobson is a keyboard wizard on the bombastic delightful ‘Presto Vivace’ and it reprises both opening tracks wonderfully, creating a type of suite of songs. There is no denying the innovation behind this approach.

‘Thirty Years’ moves in a different direction with lighter textures in the sound, Wetton sings with reflective lyrics. It floats along on a current of gentler waters, and builds slowly to a faster pace with Bruford's unusual percussion rhythms and soaring keyboard solos.

‘Alaska’ has icy cold atmospherics, almost like the cry of a blue whale, as the keyboard dominates. The low drones are ethereal and create a foreboding environment in the soundscape. It develops into a staccato powerful organ stab riff, reminiscent of Emerson or Wakeman.

‘Time to Kill’ is a rather strange track dominated by Wetton's vocals and a peculiar complex instrumental. The violin solo is virtuoso musicianship, very powerful and unlike anything I have heard on violin.

‘Nevermore’ features folky acoustic flourishes and a very peaceful keyboard passage. Wetton sings well and the harmonies are great. The instrumental is master class from all concerned. The swirls of Jobson's keyboards are mesmirising.

Final track is ‘Mental Medication’ featuring a pulsating bassline and massive keyboard solos. Holdsworth's guitar is a force to be reckoned with. Once the band go into full tilt they are unbeatable.

So the album is therefore a masterpiece of prog at its best in 1978. There is not a bad track on the album, and the band try a variety of styles and pull it off with accomplished musical expertise. Believe everything you have read: UK's debut is quintessential prog that deserves full recognition from a super group who's members defined the genre.

 

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

What can I say about this album that has not already been said at least ten times? Not much, really, so I will be brief. Despite long careers in other bands, this album is possibly the finest hour of John Wetton, Eddie Jobson, Bill Bruford and Allan Holdsworth, respectively. UK's self titled debut album is, in my opinion, much better than anything John and Bill did with King Crimson, and also better than anything by Asia, Roxy Music, Tempest etc. or these people's solo efforts. This is the ultimate starting point for someone who wants to discover these four unique individuals' musical careers.

This music is completely loaded with these people's musical identities; the very distinctive voice and bass guitar of Wetton, the equally distinctive and totally unique guitar sound of Holdsworth, the amazing keyboard and violin skills of Jobson, and the intense and complex drumming of Bruford. All is here, often competing for attention, but never allowed to overpower the very good compositions.

The lyrics are also good. None of that dumb "I never meant to be so bad to you." or "Don't cry now that I found you." or "Voice of America Oh, Oh, Oh America" here. The only criticism I want to offer is that, while there are several softer and quieter moments here, there are no real ballads or softer songs like ‘Rendezvous 6:02’ from the next UK album, for example. This would have brought a bit more needed diversity to this album.

Excellent addition to any Prog collection!

 



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - February 17 2012 at 05:17
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1978 - continued

411

SBB (Wołanie O Brzęk Szkła aka Slovenian Girls)
SBB

SBB SBB (Wo&amp;amp;#322;anie O Brz&amp;amp;#281;k Szk&amp;amp;#322;a aka Slovenian Girls) album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

They really could do a movie about this band because their lives and careers were so interesting. They were constantly dealing with the communist governments on one hand and the young people who were so thirsty for freedom and Rock music on the other hand. This album was recorded in Czechoslovakia where they were very popular, playing at times to a few hundred thousand young people. It just amazes me that they had the freedom to play in these European countries both communist and non-communist although they were also hassled and humiliated at border crossings because of this envied freedom they had.  

We get two side long tracks both over 19 minutes in length. I was surprised at all the synths and how spacey this is at times. I much prefer when they play with aggression because they play at a level that blows my mind. So lots of meandering here which is disappointing.  "Wolanie O Brzek Szkta" opens with spacey keyboards with lots of atmosphere. Cymbals before 2 minutes and vocals follow. Drums and bass around 5 minutes. Incredible sound 5 1/2 minutes in. So moving.  The guitar after 6 1/2 minutes is lighting it up for almost 2 minutes. He's back again, this time with some intricate melodies.  A spacey calm 10 minutes in. Drums and harmonica arrive giving this section a bluesy feel. It's slowly building and then kicks in before 15 minutes. Killer drumming and keyboard work right here to the end.  

"Odejscie" opens with spacey winds as bouzouki joins in. Drums 2 1/2 minutes in followed by synths.  It starts to build before 5 1/2 minutes as guitar joins in and the drums get more powerful. A spacey calm 7 minutes in. Reserved vocals after 8 1/2 minutes. It kicks back in around 11 minutes with drums and guitar. It's kind of funky here. It settles again 13 1/2 minutes in before kicking back in 3 minutes later. Some excellent drumming late.  Some great moments and sections on this one, but too much meandering for me to give it 4 stars. 

412

X
Klaus Schulze

Klaus Schulze X album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

This is probably Klause Schulze's most ambitious recording. This, his tenth studio album, would be a double, and he would honour 5 men who he admired greatly by naming the songs after them. Because this was also a movie soundtrack ("Barracuda") he could afford to add an orchestra. He would also add a cello player and a drummer. The drummer was Harald Grosskopf from WALLENSTEIN who also played on his "Moondawn" album. The re-issue that I have is over 2 hours long, which for electronic music is way too long in my opinion. Especially when they added a bonus track which is simply an almost 22 minute live version of the first song on the second disc. They also extended "Georg Trakl" by over 20 minutes on the first disc. So in a perfect world I would be much happier with one disc with my favourite music on it.

The other negative for me is the orchestral music which works at times, but for me it usually is more of a distraction. Lots of great music here though,and I did really enjoy the synths, drums and mellotron a lot. In fact for many people this is their favourite Schulze recording, so take what i say with a grain of salt. It's just my taste and opinion.  As much as "Friedrich Nietzsche" and "Frank Herbert" might sound similar they're two of my three favourite tracks on this double album. The mellotron,drumming and spacey synths are all so amazing. The moog seems more dominant on the latter song but they both are incredible. "Georg Trakl" isn't bad but it's slower moving and seems to drag on for too long with the added 20 minutes.  "Friedmann Bach" features lots of strings as drums come and go. An interesting track.  

On disc two "Ludwig II Von Bayern" just has too much orchestration for my tastes. The bonus track is the live version of it but with a full orchestra,but i don't like it any better.  "Heinrich Von Kleist" is my other top three song, and it's quite spacey and dark with orchestration until about half way through when the spacey sounds stop. It gets experimental then the spacey mood returns. Mellotron 18 minutes in. Drums come in after 23 minutes as the atmosphere seems to get more powerful as it plays out. I like it! Tough for me to rate because I always rate excluding bonus tracks. That would make disc one 4.5 stars and disc two is probably 3.5 stars although "Heinrich Von Kleist" is so good.  I think 4 stars is fair if I skip the bonus material.

413

Weidorje
Weidorje

Weidorje Weidorje album cover

A review by Warthur:

Weidorje, like Zao, are a Zeuhl group made up of refugees from Magma. But whilst Zao opted to explore a musical avenue Magma did not take, Weidorje performed Zeuhl in the classic Magma style as it was at around the time of Udu Wudu. Whilst they might be regressive in intent, preferring to keep the Zeuhl sound where it was at that point rather than following the stylistic shift to Attahk, the band have decent enough compositions and a sufficiently killer rhythm section to do a really good job of emulating the style. Michel Ettori's raw and dirty guitar style is particularly notable. If you like Magma's classic albums at all, you'll find a lot to love in Weidorje.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm:

As has been mentioned Bernard Paganotti and Patrick Gauthier the bass player and keyboardist on MAGMA's "Udu Wudu" album decided to leave MAGMA and start up their own band. They named their band WEIDORJE at the suggestion of Klaus Blasquis who also planned to be part of this project before backing out. By the way Klaus also came up with the cover art. The name WEIDORJE apparently means "Celestial Wheel" and it's from the Bible (Ezekial?). It was also the name of a Paganotti/Blasquis penned track on that "Udu Wudu" record. The music on this album is very much in the same style and sound as the music on "Udu Wudu". Many of these guys have played in HELDON and several would go onto to play in Jean-Philippe Goude's "Drones" album, Paganotti's "Paga" album and Gauthier's "Bebe Godzilla" record.  

"Elohim's Voyage" is a side long suite and I don't know if they took the name "Elohim" from the Hebrew title for God, but that would make sense. The song starts with spooky keys and outbursts of heavy drums and guitar. It starts to pick up 2 1/2 minutes in as vocal sounds come in. There is such a great sound as the bass, drums, guitar and vocal melodies lead the way. The bass is incredible here. We get some sax and more vocal melodies until the song sounds even better after 7 minutes. Some dissonant horns after 9 minutes that go away as drums and guitar continue the brilliance. The sax and vocal melodies return 12 1/2 minutes in. This song is dark and amazing!

"Vilna" opens with keyboard melodies from Gauthier and Goude, and then the song kicks in after 2 minutes. The bass is huge as usual. Vocal melodies 5 minutes in. The song sounds fantastic 8 minutes in. These guys can really create great rhythms. Sax melodies follow.  Another amazing song.  "Booldemug" is an uptempo track with a collage of sounds including drums,guitars and horns. Check out the bass after 2 minutes! Some ripping guitar 4 1/2 minutes in and I'm sure the drummer has lost his mind at this point and is unable to stop pounding the skins.  

The two bonus tracks were recorded live including "Rondeau" with it's tempo changes and pounding drums, as sax and vocal melodies add to the sound. We also get some bells before 7 minutes that remind me of RUSH's "A Farewell To Kings".  "Kolinda" continues with the throbbing bass lines and pounding drums, as sax, guitar and keys fill out the sound. This incredible melody stops as we get a nice little guitar line with only light drums helping out. It gets fairly heavy 8 minutes in before the original melody returns 11 minutes in. Nice.  In my exploration of Zeuhl I haven't heard anything yet that I haven't liked a lot, including this monster. Highly recommended. This is one wicked bass album!

414

Heavy Horses
Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull Heavy Horses album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

Armed with the best set of songs since Aqualung, Ian Anderson and co made this near-masterpiece of an album called Heavy Horses, possibly the best Tull album since Thick As A Brick. Compared to the previous album, Songs From the Wood, Heavy Horses sounds much more mature and "genuine" for lack of a better word. I cannot enough emphasise how much I prefer Heavy Horses over Songs From The Wood, which I found too jolly and whimsical, and even slightly silly in places.

On this album they found a very good balance between acoustic and electric instruments. We find here, of course, the expected guitars, organs, piano, bass, drums and flutes. But this time we also find lots of mandolin, some violin, some orchestral arrangements and other keyboard instruments, helping to make this a perfect mix of Folk, symphonic rock and hard rock. Compared to the follow-up Stormwatch, the balance is in favour of the Folk rather than the other two. Heavy Horses is very original and I would say its one of the best folk rock albums of all time.

This is an excellent addition to any prog collection! Highly recommended!

A review by Sean Trane:

After the very strong SFTW, Tull needed to confirm their return to form from the previous SFTW, and the least we can say is that this album certainly came in handy in proving so. Not that Tull was about the become the once mighty beast it once was with Aqualung and Brick, but HH was a real excellent album that proved they still had something to say and saying eloquently. And the pastoral feeling of their predecessor was still lingering on this album (still full of folklore), although both SFTW and HH cannot be really called folk rock either, especially so that this album was their first recorded in Anderson's London personal studio, filled with modern-day technology.

One of the heart-warming things about this album is the return of longer tracks as outside Minstrel, there were none (bar Pibroch on the previous album) since War Child, included. With the opening Mouse Police (cats in barns), the album starts rather fast, brilliantly with a very fiendish ending. The following Acres Wild (self explanatory Scott celebration) and the almost 8-min No Lullaby (fear of pastoral spirits) are both high-calibre, but fail to send you through the roof from joy. The short sarcastic Moths closes off the first side in style.

The self-explanatory Journeyman and the average Brown Mouse (them again ;-) are proving a little arduous, while the delightful Rover (one of the highlights of the album) provides a little breathing space. The slow-developing but lengthy title track is the other highpoint of the album, followed by the very acoustic Weathercock make the album as strong a finisher as it was a starter. A little sour note is that the middle of the album mat appear a little weaker when listened in the Cd format.

Although not as strong as SFTW, this album suffers a bit from the new studio (IMHO, they still had to get used to the new technology) and slightly less exhilarating songs, the album appears less cohesive and cooperative, but still is a quite fine and definitive Tull statement. While HH may not come that easily to its listeners, but a little perseverance will reward the tenacious proghead.

One of the weirder things about this remastered version of the album is that the credits are completely absent from the booklet; something I hope will be repaired in further pressings. As for the two bonus tracks, both are of the usual quality of all the Tull remasters. Both Hard Times and Broadford Bazaar (especially the beautiful later) are tracks that fit the album as they were never bonus tracks. But again this mighty strong album needed not such a help to remain essential and very representative of mid-70's Tull works.

415

Zalmoxe
Sfinx

Sfinx Zalmoxe album cover

A review by Ivan_Melgar_M:

"Zalmoxe" is opened with the breathtaking blend of Baroque and quasi Gregorian introduction of "Ursitoarele" (Fortune Tellers), but after some seconds this changes radically into a fluid Symphonic - Heavy Prog song with multiple changes and amazing guitar riffs. These guys don't save anything for the end, they give 110% from the start.

"Blana de Urs" (Bear's Fur) starts with a long introductory section that morphs into an organ driven passage that reminds me almost immediately of YES. In this case the drumming and bass are outstanding, complementing perfectly the creative work of Guitar, Keyboard and vocals, just delightful. But that's not all, the song morphs again into some sort of Classic Rock with strong keyboards that seems simple, but it's quite interesting.

"Mierea" (The Honey) reminds me of 1970's releases by Argentinean bands such as SERU GIRAM or SUI GENERIS, because of the way they make an elaborate song seem so simple and fluid, almost as a soft ballad, but in this case with surprising fugues of keyboard. Beautiful and interesting. It's sad to listen this great music and not be able to understand the lyrics (Don't know a word of Romanian), but the beauty and naive complexity of their music makes me care very little about this, and Pestera is a great example, when I listen to the 2:00 minutes instrumental break with a sound that seems as a native wind instrument and lush keyboards, I forget about any linguistic problem and can only concentrate on the heartbreaking music.

"Epifania" (Epiphany) is another soft and gentle Ballad that seems to flow gently from start to end without surprises, but nothing so far from truth, when you less expect, a dramatic change or a lush keyboard impromptu makes the listener remember that we are before a Progressive Rock band and that we must expect the unexpected.

"Furtuna cu Trup de Balour" (Dragon Shaped Storm) marks a break point in the album, if the previous songs were soft, gentle and melodic, "Furtuna" is frenetic and even heavy, with one of the most unusual structures I heard. Even when these guys rock, they do it in an original way, special mention to the organ sections that give extra brilliance to an already excellent song.

"Cãlãtorul Prin Nori" (Cloud Traveller) is a strange mix between ethnic sounds, electronic music and a bit of VANGELIS, but as the song advances the Folk component takes the first role with it's nostalgic and warm atmosphere, while "Corneliu Bibi Ionescu" in the bass and "Mihai Cernea" in the drums give a touch of mystery that seem to lead to an explosion of sounds that never comes, keeping the audience in suspense. Brilliant structure.

"Kogaion" with it's extraordinary vocal work between haunting Monastery choirs and QUEEN at it's best (For God's sake even "Dan Andrei Aldea" with his guitar sounds close to Brian May), the track is always in crescendo, until they reach a point in which suddenly stops, a great preparation for the grand finale.

"Epilog" (Epilogue) closes the album with another unusual combination of sounds, styles and moods, that go from vocal and fluid to dark and mysterious, a bit short maybe, but good closer.

The version I received has four more tracks, but those who know me are aware that I never review bonus tracks despite their quality, because in my opinion an album must be listened in the way the author originally released it.

"Zalmoxe" is another reason of why I'm so obsessed with Eastern Europe Prog, their versatility, the new sounds that come from their own native sounds and the dexterity of the musicians, make me love the music from this part of the world more and more. Not a perfect masterpiece, but extremely close to this status, so any rating below 4 stars would be absolutely unfair.

 

416

Wet Dream
Richard Wright

Richard Wright Wet Dream album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

Floating against the current

As many reviewers have pointed out, this album is very Pink Floydian in its sound and feeling. Particularly, it sounds like Dark Side Of The Moon - especially the more mellow, piano dominated parts of that album as well as its sax solos. At the time when this album was released, Pink Floyd - under the leadership of Roger Waters - were going in something of a New-Wave direction, looking towards the 80's. This current culminated with albums like The Wall and The Final Cut. Wright, on the other hand, opted for going in the opposite direction, looking back towards the 60's and adopting an (updated) psychedelic sound.

Wet Dream is a very fitting title of this album since the music is indeed both 'floating' and 'dreamy'. It is also very laid-back and jazzy in about the same way that the music of Supertramp is jazzy. Keyboards, guitars and saxes are the dominant lead instruments. The primary keyboard instrument is the piano. Wright's vocals are perhaps not very strong, but there is nothing wrong with his voice.

Overall, this music is rather inoffensive and too laid-back to be of great interest to me. Still, in my opinion this album is actually better than many Pink Floyd albums, even better than some of the most highly regarded Pink Floyd albums! But, then again, I was never a very big fan of that band.

Good, but non-essential album. Recommended for fans of Pink Floyd.

 

417

Masques
Brand X

Brand X Masques album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

By their fourth album, the inspiration was starting to fail or at least to wane and the first line-up changes arrived, but the new guys were bringing not many new ideas either. Gone are Collins (apparently not a permanent thing) and Lumley although aptly replaced respectively by Bergi (ex-Al DiMeola and Hall & Oates) and Robinson (ex-Quartemass), even if it is obvious the former doesn't match Phil. Another exotic (shall we say Saharian) artwork graces the album's cover, but it's not indicative of the music's direction.

Apart from Collins' temporary absence, (thus handing over the group's direction to Goodsall and Jones), the Corea/RTF influence (courtesy of the departed Lumley) are also gone. We're still in the line of the usual BX compositions, but one gets the feeling that the band meanders in between ideas (ranging from ECM Jazz albums to Weather Report), afraid (or unable) to expand on them other than by excessive virtuosity/dexterity/showmanship (select two out of three and scrap the remaining one) at the expense of the musical interest. Morris Pert gets the lion's share of the composition credits.

The first side I find particularly boring, if not irritatingly boring, Pert not being able to hide Bergi's neutral drumming (the latter will go on to Rainbow, BOC and Meatloaf). The flipside does fare better as Goodsall's closing track. Mayfield Lodge is the better one along with the to-die-for Access To Data.

What I mean by this is that I really must concentrate on listening to this album (to stop my mind from wandering around), something that did not happen with the previous three albums but this will occur more often with each successive album. While Masques is still considered a good classic album. I personally can't wait for the next album and the "return to normal".

 

418

Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)
Captain Beefheart

Captain Beefheart Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) album cover

A review by Warthur:

Captain Beefheart put together a brand new Magic Band and made a fantastic comeback with this album (issued in place of the original Bat Chain Puller, which still gathers dust in the Zappa family vaults...). Getting a new set of younger backing musicians seems to have worked out for the Captain - with sidemen who clearly loved his older material and were more than happy to follow his lead, he is able to bring his musical vision to life with a vividness not seen since Lick My Decals Off Baby.

The new backing group show off their impressive chops on instrumental numbers such as Suction Prints, whilst the Captain himself is having more fun than he's had for years with this material - from the opening number (The Floppy Boot Stomp) in the Captain's unique avant-garde style to the closing spoken word piece Apes-Ma, he sounds happier and more energetic than on any album since Safe as Milk. Particularly worthy of note here are songs such as Tropical Hot Dog Night and Harry Irene, two songs which couple the Captain's vocals to commercial musical styles (calypso and easy listening ballad) with far greater success than the botched experiments in the same vein on the two preceding albums, mainly because the Captain's personality is in full flow on both songs and the band add their own subtle twists to the material.

Going from two one-star wrecks in a row to this is an incredible turnaround for any artist, particularly one who had always struggled to attain commercial success like Beefheart. Thankfully, the Captain gave us three great albums before he retired from music, and this first episode of his final trilogy is quintessential Beefheart. Five stars.

 

419

Cornonstipicum
Mia

Mia Cornonstipicum album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

Please note that the original album held only six tracks and the rest are bonus material from some acoustic guitar concert in 78 from one of their guitarists. Although good in themselves, they have nothing to do with the original album.

MIA's third album is the better rated among the connoisseur prog club and usually draws excellent criticism. IMHO, this is a very correct album in the typical 70's Argentinian mode, sounding somewhat very close to the Italian way of doing Prog (again this is a question of cultural heritage as Argentina is a very Italian Spanish-speaking country). Their music is sometimes very close to classical but has also a distinct flavour (Zaniness?!?!) rather hard to define that sometimes makes you think of Canterbury music (I had thoughts about Hatfield’s Northettes singing, but I must really be mad....) but only on some of those numbers. The third track and the sidelong title track suite are the highlight in here. I would be tempted to give it another star but something is holding me back so 3.5 stars will do.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm:

MIA were a symphonic band from Argentina and this particular record from them is usually pointed out as their best. It certainly is their most progressive album, in fact I would describe it as having abundant mood and tempo shifts throughout, they rarely stay in one place long. No lyrics although there are plenty of vocal melodies (wordless melodies) both male and female.  

"La Coronacion Del Farre" builds to a dramatic sound before it settles with flute. Keys come in and then bass. It kicks in before 4 minutes.  "Imagen III" is led by piano as female vocal melodies join in briefly. Sounds like accordian but it's brief too. Other sounds continue to come and go.  "Crifana Y Tamilstenes" is uptempo with both male and female vocal melodies. Some nice bass too. It settles after 2 1/2 minutes as acoustic guitar and synths take over. It picks back up after 5 minutes with deep bass and keyboards.  

"Las Persianas No" features keys, drums and vocal melodies.  "Piedras De Color" features piano melodies throughout.  "Cornonstipicum" is the excellent side long final track at 17 1/2 minutes. It has some nice drum work early then piano takes over. A lone vocal melody after 2 minutes before it kicks back in with some dissonance. Nice. Guitar 4 minutes followed by organ as the tempo picks up. Good section. it settles 7 1/2 minutes in with gentle guitar and flute. Piano and vocal melodies after 10 1/2 minutes as it continues to be laid back. That is until after 13 minutes when it kicks back in.  This is highly rated by most but I have to agree with Sean Trane in giving this 3.5 stars. It's impressive and very proggy but I just don't like it enough to offer up the fourth star. 

420

Libre Service - Self Service
Maneige

Maneige Libre Service - Self Service album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

Although most of the people (few) that know this band prefer Ni Vent.... I like this one better but both are excellent, this one confirming the directions taken by its predecessor. Actually, it goes a little farther providing some really fantastic beats and rhythms that one forgets easily like Weather Report and its artificial ambiances and over-powering showmanship and demonstrative dexterity. Of course Maneige excels in the last category but it does not come to showing off as most of the bands in those days, and for the ambiances I can assure you that they don't need tape effects or other phoney gadgets.

As with this album, they are veering towards Canterbury style music, putting a bit of humour in the music, but playing with the song titles in French. Troisix, I think refers to the three X’s on Amsterdam flags and reaches funkish border. And the second last number is reggeaeish.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm:

I guess you could call this "Rhythmic Fusion" with all the percusion, drums, xylophones and vibes. Very accessible and polished with shorter tracks, it's a far cry from their first amazing album. So yes this was disappointing for me at first, mostly because my reference point with them is the first album. On the other hand this is so intricate and melodic it's hard not to like it.  

"Troisix" opens with a beat and lots of clapping. Guitar comes in followed later by flute.  "L'Envol Des Singes Latins" opens with percussion and synths before drums and flute take over. There is an island vibe to this tune after 1 1/2 minutes. A catchy track.  "Les Petoncles" is better with the slower beat and vibes. Guitar and bass follow. I like the calm after 3 minutes. Sax comes in then the tempo picks up to end it.  "La Belle Et La Bete" features xylophone and vibes early with drums. Flute 1 minute in. I like it better 2 1/2 minutes in as we get a fuller sound. A gong ends it.  

"Bagdad" has a good rhythm to it once it gets going.  "Noemi" is less than a minute of piano,guitar and flute.  "Celebration" opens with bells as flute joins in. A full sound arrives around 1 1/2 minutes.  "La Noce" opens with sleigh bells then flute and classical guitar. I feel like throwing on some tights and prancing around. Kidding! Thankfully a good piano melody takes over with drums and bass. Guitar comes in at 2 1/2 minutes. Flute leads the way later.  

"Toujours Trop Tard" is mellow with flute. Drums, percussion and guitar take over. Sax 3 minutes in then guitar returns before 4 minutes. I like this one a lot, especially the melancholic mood early.  "Miro Vibro" opens with piano before flute and percussion arrive before 2 minutes. Piano is back leading the way then flute joins in again. Tasteful guitar late.  There is certainly lots to enjoy here if you’re into the lighter side of fusion. Barely 4 stars. I really like the album cover too for some reason.



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - February 20 2012 at 16:15
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AtomicCrimsonRush Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 21 2012 at 06:44
1978 - continued


421

Escenes 
Gotic

Gotic Escenes  album cover

A review by Finnforest:

A fairly obscure, breezy, jazzy treasure

"Escenes" is an album that never ceases to amaze me, revealing more intricate beauty over the years every time I hear it. It is one of the very best melodic instrumental Symphonic albums and it has a bit of a jazzy flavor as well in spots. This is a flute lover’s dream as the flute and keys are the prevailing leads whereas guitars are used mostly as relish but to great effect when present. Drumming is crisp and inventive without ever being showy and the bass playing is solid.

Emotion is every bit as important as technical prowess and Gotic exude emotion in melody even though they have a rather clean, reserved style on the surface. There is SO much care taken to crafting intricate and delicate melody you feel that nothing has been left to chance. This is one of those albums that just make me feel great joy at being alive and I can lock in directly with what the musicians were expressing, meaning they are successful with the prime objective.

I De La Mar begins in a very upbeat moody with energetic flute and strong bass before calming into a dreamy sequence. "Escenes" is mostly an upbeat album but there are moments of calm reflection like here. It picks up again at close and then Imprompt continues with this theme of playful sparring by the musicians and these perfectly timed and very bright cymbal crashes. At about 4 minutes in we get a nice electric guitar solo before the flute and piano take over again. Jocs D'Ocells explores a haunting melancholy but also never lets the bright side get too far away. "Escenes" will show you brief glimpses of the dark side but it never wallows there, it wants to keep your heart joyful. The 10 minute closer Historia is the icing on the cake. It begins with lovely Steve Howe (circa TFTO) style acoustic guitar and soft, mournful flutes playing harmonies over each other. Beautiful. At 3.5 minutes we get some subdued aching electric guitar. Half way through the most effective and stunning part begins, this melody that is uplifting and telling you to have hope that all will be OK. That while the world is imperfect there are reasons to believe that life can be happy and secure again. This passage is pure joy that is right up there with the best moments of Camel or anyone else for that matter. What a finish!

I experience many feelings listening to Escenes. There are passages that make one nostalgic for happy moments in the past, that make one remember old loves or childhood or a magical place. The artwork in the Fono tri-fold digipak is nothing short of stunning and perfectly compliments the music. This is one of those albums on my special shelf and one of the reasons why I love music so much. Quite recommended especially to flute fanatics and 70's Camel fans.

 

422

Battlement
Neuschwanstein

Neuschwanstein Battlement album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

If you like GENESIS, I'm sure you'll like this record. NEUSCHWANSTEIN's vocalist sounds very similar to Peter Gabriel, and the use of flute, acoustic guitar and synths does bring to mind the early period of GENESIS. The picture on the back of the album cover is a beauty, of a Grecian lake in mist.  "Loafer Jack" is an upbeat song, while my favourite tune on here is "Ice With Dwale". It opens with acoustic guitar and flute, with drums and keys following to create a full sound. The guitar is good 3 minutes in.

"Intruders and the Punishment" is uptempo with wonderful mellotron waves coming and going throughout. The keys and drums dominate. "Beyond the Bugle" has more great mellotron,and a really nice full sound 3 minutes in. And check out the bass playing! Nice. "Battlement" features the bass player on vocals, he doesn't sing until 4 minutes in.

"Midsummer Day" was recorded with these other songs, but never released with the original album because they felt it was too commercial sounding. This song is a bonus track on the edition i have. There is some JETHRO TULL like flute melodies on this one. This is a wonderful tune,quite uplifting 6 minutes in. "Zartlicher Abschied" is an instrumental with acoustic guitar, flute, drums and lots of keys.  As much as I enjoyed this record, it really doesn't eclipse too many of my other GENESIS sounding albums that I own. Yes, it's excellent but not essential in my opinion.

 

423

Manna/Mirage
The Muffins

The Muffins Manna/Mirage album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

Formed in Washington DC, The Muffins had started in 73 as a trio with Newhouse (keys winds) as their leader, and were joined by Scott (winds) in late 74 and recorded a few sessions (which will be later released by Cuneiform under the name Chronometer) but it wasn't until 78 that they recorded their first proper album on a small Wayside Record label.

The least we can say is that The Muffins were heavily biased to Canterbury-sounds as their album is a mix of Soft Hatfield Health crossed with Crimsonic RIO, even if the two don't entwine as much as interact. Generally the two styles succeed each other and much of the greatness of this album is the transitions from one to the other. The first side of the album is made of three excellent tracks: Golden Eyes start as a gentle National North but ends quite abruptly, segueing directly into a free improv (not unlike what Keith Tippett has done with Ovary Lodge) of Hobart, before a Ratledgian electric piano pulls the track into Kent territory, with some of the wildest and most energetic moments of Canterbury ever, throwing chills down your spine as Scott and Newhouse just blow their lungs into their respective wind instruments. Fantastic, terrific, but nothing compared with the 16-min Amelia Earhart. Starting out on an incredibly low percussion intro (much like Crimson's LTIA), the track constantly rolls back and forth between Canterbury, even pulling a spacey Gong interlude midway through.

And this is even without having heard the 22-min opus on the flipside. However for some reasons The Muffins cannot equal the perfect transitions and balance that they had achieved on the other wax slab. Overall, I'd say this album has Canterbury outlasting RIO/improv by 3 to 1, but it won't always be the case later.

The band would then meet one of the major influences Fred Frith (of Henry Cow fame) once he moved to New York and they backed him up in his solo album Gravity and in turn would produce their second album. Getting back to this debut album, this is one of the best US albums of the 70's as far as prog is concerned, leaving JR/F out.

 

424

The Man-Machine (Die Mensch-Maschine)
Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk The Man-Machine (Die Mensch-Maschine) album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

“The Man Machine” is Kraftwerk's best Cd and I owned the original vinyl and spun it endlessly in my childhood days. I was encapsulated by the ultra strange starkness and alien-techno shifts into futurism and beyond. I had heard nothing like it and craved more, going as far as getting hold of every Kraftwerk vinyl album I could find. Some thirty years later, and I am still engrossed by the hypnotic rhythms of these Krautrock pioneers of white noise and eclectic electronica.

'The Robots' is an outstanding punchy, cold, alienated track and is easily the highlight of the album. The synthetic robotic vocals work brilliantly against the wall of sound from computerised electronics and percussion. The song has since been revamped but this is the best version, trust me.

'Spacelab' is a space electronic excursion into the stratosphere featuring high level percussion and gorgeous synth pads throughout. The droning 'Metropolis' follows and is full of subsonic electronica with washes of inspired keyboards.

'The Model' is the single and works well, with actual verses sung appropriately in cold sterile tones. The song has since been made into an MTV favourite; a very funny, and decidedly satiric black and white film clip, showing old fashioned footage of models and strange women in high fashion garments from the late 50s. It is a highlight of the album, and is quite a mainstream approach in comparison to the rest of the high strangeness.

Back to the strange and surreal with 'Neon Lights' that feature shimmering keyboards synthesised through effects panels on computers. How do you describe this music? It is the weakest song on the album and yet still has the power of trance if you let it into your brain.

'The Man Machine' is a wonderful album closer and has hypno-trance rhythms that are surprisingly contemporary to today's standards. In fact the whole album is contemporary and these pioneers were way ahead of their time.

This is Kraftwerk's best album in my opinion because it simply mesmerizes from beginning to end, and is a prime example of Krautrock electronica at its best.

 

425

Green
Steve Hillage

Steve Hillage Green album cover

A review by Warthur:

Steve Hillage finally hit on a compelling solo sound for himself on Green. No longer upstaged by Utopia as on L, and no longer competing for attention with the TONTO synthesiser system as on Motivation Radio, Steve developed the sound of this album in close collaboration with Miquette Giraudy. As in their later trance music albums under the name of System 7, Hillage and Giraudy base their sound around the interplay between Giraudy's synthesisers and guitar and synthesiser work on Steve's part, and this time around the result is space rock gold - an intense, trippy atmosphere reminiscent of the best of Steve's work with Gong whilst retaining an identity of its own.

Even Steve's characteristic New Age optimism and goofy lyrics work well on this album, with Unidentified rising above previous Hillage songs in the same "let's clap hands and welcome the space brothers" vein by having a gloriously funky foundation. The album also benefits from having better instrumental sections than the preceding two, and even though The Glorious Om Riff is a reworking of Steve's guitar part from Master Builder on You, it's such a good reimagining of the track that I'm inclined to forgive him. Cynics might say it's too little too late, particularly since Open and For To Next/And Not Or weren't exactly scintillating, but I still think Green is a worthwhile album, and possibly his best solo studio album in his hippy singer- songwriter style. (There's Rainbow Dome Musick coming up, of course, but that's an altogether different beast.)

A review by Mellotron Storm:

Steve Hillage seems to have found his own sound here. I still prefer his debut "Fish Rising" though, but this is my second favourite from him. Nick Mason from PINK FLOYD helped Steve produce it and he also plays some drums. I'm sure having Nick on board was inspirational to Hillage and everyone else playing on this record. THE OZRIC TENTACLES really do come to mind at times. Perhaps this album inspired them too.  

"Sea Nature" has such a good trippy sound to it,even the vocals have a psychedelic flavour to them. Lots of synths and some processed vocals too. The last couple of minutes are quite spacey. Nice.  "Ether Ships" opens sounding like a TANGERINE DREAM track. Guitar comes in playing over top of the pulsating synths. Great sound! I like the drumming 3 1/2 minutes in too.  "Musk Of The Trees" opens with some gorgeous guitar melodies. The vocals have a FLOYD vibe to them, I like them. Blistering guitar before 4 minutes. It's spacey late.  

"Palm Trees(Love Guitar)" opens with a beautiful melody. The guitar reminds me of Page. Then Steve lets his guitar soar. Nice. Vocals 1 1/2 minutes in but this is a guitar led track.  "Unidentified (Flying Being)" is a funky tune. It makes me smile. Some nice guitar before 3 minutes that goes on and on.  "U.F.O. Over Paris" has some good bass and drums that provide the base while the guitar solos over top. It turns spacey as the beat fades out. Cool! It blends into "Leylines To Glassoom" where it is very electronica. Guitar comes in after 2 1/2 minutes.  

"Crystal City" is a fuller sounding song. I like it! Vocals before 2 minutes. It settles after 3 minutes and turns spacey. "Activation Meditation" is a spacey 1 minute tune with pulsating synths.  "The Glorious Om Riff" is the closer. The longest song too at almost 8 minutes. This song is much heavier then any of the other tracks. Great rhythm as guitar comes in. Ripping guitar before 3 minutes.  Top 3 tracks are "Ether Ships","Palm Trees(Love Guitar)" and "The Glorious Om Riff".  I highly recommend "Green" or "Fish Rising" is you want to check out Hillage's solo work.

426

The War Of The Worlds
Jeff Wayne

Jeff Wayne The War Of The Worlds album cover

A review by Ivan_Melgar_M:

There is nothing that progheads hated more in the 70's than Disco. This dance genre was the antithesis of what Progressive Rock means for us, but Jeff Wayne did the unthinkable, a pompous symphonic progressive conceptual album with a touch of Disco Music in the rhythm section which was loved by most progheads.

Probably we were so happy to listen to something so majestic in those years when prog' was getting weaker, that we didn't notice (or if we did, never cared) this almost pagan influence, which as a fact doesn't affect the quality of the Music.

But the main question that we asked after listening to this album was: Who in the hell is this guy Jeff Wayne? The answer was not easily found among the progressive fans, probably any Broadway Musical fan would know about him because his job is mainly the one of a producer and composer with enough contacts to recruit an impressive cast that included actors like Richard Burton as The Narrator, Broadway stars as Julie Covington and Rock musicians like Chris Thompson from Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Justin Hayward from The Moody Blues, the great Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy, the one hit wonder David Essex and many others.

The album is divided in two parts - the first CD is about 'The Coming of the Martians', while the second CD covers 'The Earth Under the Martians', being the first one stronger than the second one.

The first CD opens with the sober and appropriate narration by Richard Burton, which gives credibility to the album and works as an introduction for one of the most pompous and spectacular pieces of music ever released, not a masterpiece but really impressive and shocking, Jeff Wayne captures the spirit of other progressive keyboardists like Rick Wakeman.

In this point is where Jeff mixes the spirit of prog with the percussion of Disco Music, something strange when the drummer is Barry Da Souza who played with Rick Wakeman in some albums. The Disco sound is so clear that this first track was used during the late 70's and 80's by the DJ's in clubs as part of their mixes, of course avoiding narration and the efficient vocals by Justin Hayward.

The next two tracks are more narrative and it's importance lies in the history, but then comes the best-known track of this album, Forever Autumn, a beautiful but simple ballad with the excellent vocals of Justin Hayward, later the Moody Blues would take off the sound effects of this track and include it as a hit single present in some compilations of this band.

The highest point of CD 2 is Brave New World, a track that plays in the border of rock and Broadway Musical, but the interpretations of Phil Lynott and Julie Covington are impeccable, and the music keeps the listener in suspense because it's absolutely breathtaking.

The orchestration and conduction deserve a special mention as well as the production, all simply impeccable. The original LP version had an excellent booklet that included amazing drawings, something that's sadly been lost in the CD re issues. The War of the Worlds is probably the best adaptation of a literature piece and one of the most faithful, except for the second Epilogue (the one about NASA), which IMO is out of place.

Not the best album ever released but almost a masterpiece, every prog' fan should have a copy of it, imagine what other chance will you have to listen the legendary bassist Thin Lizzy with an Ex Manfred Mann member and the vocalist of the Moody Blues sharing credits with Richard Burton.

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

"This was no disciplined march, it was a stampede, without order and without a goal, six million people unarmed and unprovisioned, driving headlong. It was the beginning of the rout of civilization, of the massacre of mankind...."

I bought “The War of the Worlds” as a teen in the 80s as it was definitely on my wish list for years. I remember first putting this vinyl album on and I was hooked from the very first deep toned serious words of Ricard Burton “No one would have believed” to the ominous 3 chord strings that blasted out of the speakers. The vinyl double album was a treasure and I pored over the cover illustration and of course the lavishly illustrated booklet with full colour gloss paintings of martians creating the “the rout of civilisation” as they ploughed their way across Horsell Common in their tripod war machines. The songs on the album are all masterfully executed, the beauty of Justin Hayward on the captivating ‘Forever Autumn’, the mesmirising tale of despair of Phil Lynott and Julie Covington’s ‘The Spirit of Man’ and the desperation of the insane Artillery Man in ‘Brave New World’ voiced wonderfully by David Essex. The quasi-disco beat sections are forgiven as they are shrouded by narration and powerful story telling elements.

The music itself with Chris Spedding’s stirring lead guitar and full orchestration is ingeniuous. Jeff Wayne’s arrangements are nothing short of mind bending, with powerful violin sweeps and science fiction effects used to maximum effect, including the unscrewing of the cylinder, searing heat rays, screams, cylinders falling on a house, and the martian howls. It is unnerving when Burton speaks of the martians emerging from the cylinder, their scales “glistening like wet leather, as the clumsy body heaved and pulsated.” You can hear the disgust in his voice in these moments. He is also able to exude great sorrow and empathy when his beloved Carrie is gone and has an air of exceitement as the Thunder Child vessel valiantly steams forward to meet the martian invaders head on. The song ‘Thunder Child’ is another very powerful composition on the album "Slowly it moved towards shore; then, with a deafening roar and whoosh of spray, it swung about and drove at full speed towards the waiting Martians" and some of the moments on the soundtrack are unforgettable. It is difficult to forget the war cry of the martians as they victoriously unleash their heat rays upon the helpless humans, “Ulla! Ulla!” and then Beth and the Priest fall victim to them. Beth cries out “Dear God help us!” and the Priest shouts “the voice of the devil is heard in our land!”

The lyrics of the songs are compelling and always essential as a driving force of the story. The words to ‘Spirit of Man’ are inspiring; “there must be something worth living for, even something worth dying for, and if one man can stand tall there must be hope for us all”. The way Lynott spars off Covingtons’s optimism with his own laudable pessimism is stunning. The album  seems to get darker and darker as we near the end where the birds are about to tear at the hoods of the martians. The red weed is captured sonically with very doomy keyboard work. As it crawls across the land turning everything red we are able to picture its slow domination of our lush planet with those meandering synthesizers as they ooze variations of the theme. The piece segues into ‘The Spirit of Man’ but all hope seems lost as the story continues and the martians inject the blood of humans in to their own veins. This was certainly a creepy album in places but all the better for it as it leaves a strong impression on the listener.  

Eventually the narrator meets another character that would try and coerce him in to a foolhardy plan. This becomes side 4 of the vinyl. The meeting with the Artillery Man is quite inspiring at first as the madman dreams of a new empire constructed underground so that the martians can no longer “clap eyes on us.” He dreams of a world with hospitals, schools and cricket grounds built right under the martians noses, “right under their feet”. He imagines capturing one of their fighting machines and then “wallop! Our turn to fight, woosh with our heat ray! Beating them at their own game. Man on top again!” Of course it is a forlorn idea and there is no way it can be done. As the narrator muses on this and walks off into the empty streets we hear the bone chilling cry of the martian but it sounds elongated and painful; “Uuu-llaa-aaaaaa!” the narrator resolves to give himself over to the martians as he can no longer live without his beloved Carrie and knowing the earth belonged to the martians. But, the martians are doomed, as H G Well’s story always boasts, destroyed by the tiniest microscopic life on the planet that we have all become immune to; bacteria.

There is a nice twist to the story that is unique to this version of “The War of the Worlds” and it ends the album on a bleak note, but it is a strong ending that keeps the brain waves sizzling long after the album is over. Everytime the albums ends I always want to hear it again and I know all of the songs and most dialogue so well as it has become injecyted ointo my veins in the way the martians used human blood. The album really impacted me during the 80s and I believe it to be an indispensable milestone in conceptual albums.

I must have heard this album hundreds of times on vinyl. I played it morning, noon and night, often allowing it to put me to sleep as I dreamt of martians taking over the planet. I was always into science fiction and this music fuelled my interest. Since then of course, the album became a stage musical and I was privileged to see Justin Hayward reprise his role as Olgivy along with Chris Thompson’s ‘Thunder Child’. It is a masterpiece album without a doubt and one of my fondest childhood memories. Hearing it again on remastered CD enhances the original experience and this is an absolute treasure in any format.  

      

 

427

1978 Gli Dei Se Ne Vanno, Gli Arrabbiati Restano
Area

Area 1978 Gli Dei Se Ne Vanno, Gli Arrabbiati Restano album cover

A review by Finnforest:

Avant Psych-Funk Jazz. Not for the timid!

Area is one of the wildest bands in my collection and I think sometimes they should be in the Avant genre. Fans of Deus Ex Machina and Discus should take note, this is the band that likely inspired them. Formed in 1972 they are one of Italy's most important exports and unlike so many others from there, they are not a "one-shot." They had many albums. This is the last from their classic period before famed vocalist Stratos died of cancer. Ironically it is also the first Area album that didn't feature long time founding guitarist Paolo Tofani, who also released the solo project "Electric Frankenstein" in '75. But I don't think the album suffers much for it, it probably shook the apple cart a bit and gave the others a chance to try different things in the absence of prominent guitar.

I have read Area was influenced by Soft Machine and Nucleus but they certainly took things much farther than those groups in terms of cosmic weirdness. Area is more adventurous and wild than the typical "jazz prog" group like Nucleus or Arti Mestieri. Area can be downright obnoxious, throwing all matter of styles and heavy funk together with the insane vocals of Stratos. While I acknowledge that Stratos is one of the most beloved and respected Italian vocalists he can be a challenge to get used to. But even with the bizarre vocal yelps and barks I still love the music. These guys have the chops to compete with anyone. Track after track of smoking percussion, keys, horns and bass in an experimental jazz soup. But even though they dabbled in dissonance Area will never leave the listener with a cold feeling. Their sound has an organic warmth and an appreciation for melodies even if they take their time coming out of the patchwork sometimes.

"Il Bandito" jumps immediately into the fire with a fast paced and very quirky repetitive melody that sounds like Gentle Giant jazz style, Stratos already doing the bizarre yelps in the first track! "Intorno Con Figure" starts with some nice bass and keys before Demetrio again tries some non-singing vocalizations that could be compared to some of the weird psych mouth sounds from Roger and Syd on Piper. Then the bass and keys literally wrestle each other for control-fabulous! Some smokin drums at the end. "Return from Workuta" starts with some Eastern sounds over synths and features a most poignant vocal performance from Stratos. It becomes obvious listening to this that he likely knew this was his last chance for doing new material becomes he sure seems to putting everything into it. Very touching stuff. "Guardati Dal Mese" is a wicked maelstrom of piano and percussion.

"Hommage A Violette" is a departure injecting a folksy atmosphere and an almost California sound. It's a nice respite from the craziness although Demetrio still throws in plenty of his ululating thing. "Ici on Dance" features great bass and a very catchy little riff. "Acrostico in Memoria di Laio" is a hoot. After starting with some tasteful, tame jazz by Area standards, you think maybe this song is going to be "normal." Nope. Halfway through, Demetrio starts this rant that I really wish I could understand. It sounds hilarious, almost like a phone sex conversation. Someone who speaks Italian will have to enlighten me on what the hell this is about someday. "FFF" features some crazy drum solos and even wilder piano runs. "Vodka Cola" (hmmm, that made me thirsty) is another strange character with everything from lonesome horns to barking weiner dogs to Demetrio's very humorous farewell end serenade. A very solid album with plenty to chew on for the adventurous prog listener, and from what I've heard this is one of Area's tamer albums.

The Japanese mini-lp sleeve reissue features a gatefold reproduction of the interesting photos and drawings within. The back cover band photo is a classic with a tired looking group posing with their mascot weiner-dog. While it is sad that Demetrio was gone so soon after this we are left with 5 classic studio albums from this period. They pushed boundaries with their Socialist ideals and chaotic compositions representing well the true spirit of what "progressive music" entails. Not everyone will like Area, but few who hear them will accuse them of playing it safe. The 60,000 plus audience (some placed the number much higher) that turned out for Demetrio's memorial concert prove that Area were more than just another Italian band, they were important and beloved by the Italian people. I can see why.

 

428

And Then There Were Three... 
Genesis

Genesis And Then There Were Three...  album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

 

Three Gold Stars for the threesome that still have the prog edge!

“And Then There Were Three” is one of the last decent Genesis albums before the onslaught of 80s syrupy ballads and teenybopper sounds that the band generated as nothing more than session musicians. At least here as a threesome the band proved they are still able to create innovative wondrous prog such as the alarmingly proggish ‘Burning Rope’. This is one of the last prog pieces from Genesis before they turned to commercial 80s kitsch-tack. Banks is wonderful on this album and Collins can still create dark atmospheres. To hear a sound such as the one on ‘Burning Rope’ fills me with sadness after hearing their 80s albums. I know I am perhaps wishing for a Genesis like the beast of the 70s when Gabriel was mon capitaine, but at least the band performed like virtuoso musos rather than session hacks. Collins did not have to resort to love ballads either, at least not focus purely on this style as he had so much more to offer. But he was swallowed up on the power ballad bandwagon and I guess once you are on it, it is virtually impossible to get off. The smell of success was burning in the nostrils of all 80s bands especially metal rockers who opted for the love ballad in order to squeeze out a few thousand dollars out of the industry. Innovative music was the victim of all this in favour of straight 4 on the floor time sigs and soaring melodies, soaring guitars and soaring concert tickets. Genesis fell into this hole as we all know but this album is a true surprise containing enough prog to satiate the average progger.

Thankfully on this 1978 album the band are in fine form. I was quite amazed that the album holds onto progressive sounds as I had only heard to this point the 80s trilogy of mediocre albums from “Abacab” to “Invisible Touch”, so wasn't expecting much. ‘Down and Out’ features some quirky time sigs with Collins brilliant on drums. The way the time sig keeps breaking into fractured dissonance is astounding. Banks is a revelation on keyboards. It begins the album brilliantly and signifies that Genesis are still as progressive as ever. ‘Undertow’ is a prime example of how great Genesis can sound. Collins has that melancholy tone but it does not come across as saccharine or slushy. The guitar work is accomplished even though Hackett is definitely missed. Banks has some gorgeous organ phrases that encompass a serene symphonic atmosphere.

Other highlights are the Banks’ keyboard serenity on ‘Many Too Many’ and we hear him shine on ‘Deep in the Motherlode’ and ‘Down and Out’ in particular. In essence this is Banks' album in terms of musicianship and it serves up a strong symphonic soundscape. Collins does some fine vocal work on ‘Down and Out’ and the broken time sig in the middle is a solid progressive touch, reminiscent of ‘Turn Me On Again’ in some ways.

‘The Lady Lies’ is a terrific song with a full blown keyboard solo. The time sigs diverge and there are enough mood shifts to keep the interest of its 6 minute duration. ‘Scenes From A Night's Dream’ is a melodic track with magical lyrics about dreams, giant nymphs, dragons breathing fire, and prescient goblins; nightmares brought on by having food at bedtime. ‘Follow You Follow Me’ is of course the big single on the album and it is certainly one of the better ballads of Collins with an infectious hook and some sing-along chorus lines. Overall the album delivers on many levels and still maintains a progressive edge that is definitely lost as the 70s draw to a close and create a new unimproved 80s Genesis.

 

429

Solo
Kaipa

Kaipa Solo album cover

A review by Warthur:

In 1977 Kaipa were one of the bands who were tackling the tricky dilemma of how to make their music more accessible whilst at the same time not outright sacrificing their progressive spirit. Of course, many bands would eventually just throw in the towel and sell out - naming no names here - but a few managed to find a compromise position which would point the way towards neo-prog.

Kaipa, on Solo, manage to cut down the song lengths without sacrificing progressive experimentation admirably, the secret to their success mainly being a reconfiguration of their sound to make best use of their secret weapon. That weapon, of course, was Roine Stolt - both in his guitar playing, which is more central to the band's sound here than ever before, and in his compositions, which are particularly prominent on this album.

Proving himself more than capable of mastering sounds used by the likes of Andy Latimer, Steve Hackett, and Brian May, as well as having an impressive number of his own tricks up his sleeve, Stolt is truly the star of this album, which retains the overall Kaipa atmosphere of uplifting, melodic Swedish prog but presents it in digestible, bite-sized chunks. If only more top-tier prog bands had adapted to changing fashions as adeptly as Kaipa had, prog might have been much healthier going into the 1980s.

 

430

Arachnoïd
Arachnoid

Arachnoid Arachnoïd album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

During the 70's, France was one of the champions of dark & sombre prog rock, ranging from Magma to Art Zoyd and many more, resulting in Shub Niggurath and Wapassou during the 80's as well. All of these groups stuck fairly closely with modern classical music as one of their main influences, and somehow Arachnoid was not that far away from these groups, even though they weren't nearly as complex as these aforementioned groups. Actually their kind of dark symphonic music seems like a cross of Crimson, Genesis, Ange, Shylock and others French groups of the moment (but to me no Atoll, Carpe Diem or Pulsar), but traces of Genesis, Magma (some Zeuhl moments) and Dün.

 

Arachnoid came from the Parisian suburbs and the group's life lasted a small decade under one form or another, but only managing one album, but it will remain one of the most legendary (and produced by Phil Desombres), not least because of the striking hand spider-like artwork. The group uses a double keyboard (a mixture mellotron, Farfisa, MS 10, Korg Synthesizers, and piano), double guitar attack, and has at least four regular lead singers (Nicolas, Patrick, François, Yves and Marc, plus guests), which allowed for much flexibility, including an odd flute in the only English-sung track of the album.

Right from the eerie Moog intro of La Chamadère, you know that you'll plunge into a deep angst-laden trip into the realms of human reason, of reaching treason. This 14-min epic goes through a ton of ambiances, from the gloomy to the lugubrious, but manages to remain soft enough to fascinate throughout its duration. Indeed the vocals (shared by Popowsky, Woindrich and Meryl) and lyrics (often handled by externs to the core of the group) are some of the more characteristic traits (a bit like Ange's vocals definitely alter the rest of their music) of this rather uncanny and slightly awe-striking album. The piano and spoken intro of Piano Caveau (cellar or vault piano) segues into a non-piano (acoustic anyway) lengthy instrumental energetic passage that will last until the piano finale takes over and ends it in a very classical fashion. The English-sung Screen Side is probably the album's weaker moments, but partly because of "surprising" recording sound levels.

Having never seen the vinyl, I'd be hard pressed to know which track was on which side, but there are some definitive Genesis influences in the intro of Toutes Ces lmages. Indeed everything in this track spells a gloomy Genesis, especially the Banks-like mellotron, but slowly metamorphosing into an early Crimson ambiance, reminiscent of Shylock's second (and superb) album. Easily the album's highlight, its Crimsonian constant schizoid mood being breathtaking at times. The following Guèpe (wasp) is circling around your stunned mind for the intro of this wild track that delves into Zeuhl, not like Magma in the vocal delivery, but more like Eskaton (especially if you know their Fiction album), and crazed-out instrumentation often nearing internment in an asylum. The quiet Adieu Au Pierrot and its crazy linked Final are a fitting outro for the original album, again ogling between Crimson and Shylock, with a pitch of VdGG doom thrown in for added spices. Too bad that the sound levels were again defective at recording time.

The Musea re-issue comes with four bonus tracks, one of which would be a real bonus, if it had been better recorded. Somehow closest to La Guèpe, but without the Zeuhl groove, L'Hiver is indeed well in the line of the album's Zoyd nightmarish feel. The following three live tracks are interesting but eventually confusing in their nomenclatures. Indeed if Le Pierrot starts out as L'Adieu Au Pierrot, it lasts a full six times its studio length and gets added some lyrics, while L'Adieu is much reminiscent of the studio Final. Most likely these two live tracks' value is to show how this double-header could/should've evolved. The final bonus track is an alternate take to Caveau Piano, and represent limited interest.

Arachnoid's sole album is definitely a small masterpiece, but certainly not a chef d'oeuvre, but most Schizoidheads should enjoy this reissue tremendously, despite some fairly amateur twists, it cannot deceive you, provided you give it more than a distracted ear the first few times around, because it's a slow grower.

 

A review by Finnforest:

Very dark and forboding French synth prog that is like music for a seance or for your kids haunted house on Halloween. Complex rich textures that make this a must for lovers of keyboard albums. If you like generally happy or upbeat melodies you will want to pass on this one even though it is critically acclaimed. As always, the folks at Musea have done an outstanding job and there is a thick and tasty booklet with a history of the band and photos in the CD release. There is also a generous slate of bonus tracks to enjoy.

I don't understand the Shylock comparisons although I can hear some of the Ange and Pulsar ones. Good album even though it's a bit of a downer.

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431

Incantations
Mike Oldfield

Mike Oldfield Incantations album cover

A review by Finnforest:

Tales from Tubular Ridges

"Incantations is the composition Mike Oldfield should be remembered for, rather than Tubular Bells." [B. Smith]

I had to steal Easy Livin's hilarious play on words. He's right though, this album is Oldfield's "Tales from Topographic Oceans." An album that splits Oldfield fans, some believing it’s his greatest work as Smith does while others viewing it as a long, somewhat boring mess. Like Tales, Incantations is a double album consisting of just one track on each album side. Thus, the album will please those who love to hear an artist give their ideas a full working and stretch it way out there, just as it will frustrate those who prefer songs, even progressive ones, to engage the listener more directly. Incantations has a free and unbridled spirit to it and the cover shot is perfect. Taken on the beach of a Mediterranean island called Minorca it captures that unbridled restlessness with waves crashing in, also representing well the themes of the natural world. This album has a high degree of my personal idea of the Oldfield sound.

Mike's works from this period have this very magical feeling to the melodies that always bring to mind childhood feelings of innocence, and also the feeling of flying over wonderful landscapes. And I don't mean riding in a plane. I mean the spirit simply moving above the Earth and feeling one's possibilities, whether fantasy, spirituality, or both. These feelings and the childhood memories invoked by the melodies are timeless and likely connected. It was interesting then to read in the booklet bio that Oldfield was learning to fly an aircraft during this same period. Freedom is indeed what Incantations offers the more patient Oldfield fans. Mike reaches broadly here moving from spacey symphonic all the way to meditative world-raga moments to perhaps what new-age could achieve at its best, with some generous helping of his unmistakable and still-fresh guitar sound.

I agree with Smith that Incantations smokes Tubular Bells though I don't believe it quite tops his previous album "Ommadawn." After the masterpiece "Ommadawn" Oldfield tucked himself away for several years, no doubt tinkering away on the material that would become Incantations, but also withdrawing a bit during a time in his life that was difficult. I remember that around the time he emerged to work on this album, a reporter asked him for his opinion of "punk." He claims to have been so out of the music scene that he knew not what the reporter was asking him about, in the time of the Pistols at that. He had recently completed some self-improvement nonsense prior in order to change his outlook on things. What came from a strange time in his personal life is music that is alive, fresh, hopeful.

Every fan has their favorite track of the four, for me generally I prefer the more serene first half of the album. Looping keys almost like water, with waves of tense strings.flutes sounding like spring in a forest, stately trumpets, peaceful meditative female vocals over tablas. It really is a unique listening experience though I admit you have to have the time to turn off your mind and really give yourself to it (as is the case with Tales.) The second half (parts 3 and 4) are generally more upbeat, part 3 featuring some of Mike's more aggressive guitar play that will excite fans. Part 4 stumbles and loses any chance at a fifth star in my book with the tragically over-used vibes, not the first time I've had an album wrecked by vibes or xylophone. Sure a little bit is great and interesting, but this goes on and on. Uplifting repeating themes are the motif of Incantations with Mike indulging every impulse. Many will feast on this and others will snooze. Whether you like Incantations says as much about your prog taste as it does about Mike who is really just taking a natural step here.

I love to ask my better half about prog albums we're listening to in the car because she's pretty indifferent about prog but likes music in general. I know I'm always going to get an unbiased opinion which I enjoy. When I asked her about Incantations she just said "nice, but it all kind of falls into the background." Perhaps, but you can fall along with it and inhabit it if you choose. Oldfield had grown and flourished in creativity by this time, improving on the promising yet messy Tubular Bells. He would make many more good albums but he would never be quite as wide open, as sprawling in grandeur, as Incantations. If you love Ommadawn, think of that album as Mike's "Close to the Edge." Then decide if you want to hear his "Tales." 8/10

 

432

Casino
Al Di Meola

Al Di Meola Casino album cover

A review by dreadpirateroberts:

Is there anything wrong with this one? Not really no. It seems to take a bit of beating in some circles, but the formula is about the same and the songwriting has improved again. Di Meola sounds a little more relaxed here, less keen to prove his speed and daring - though he has not exactly slowed down either.

Opening 'Casino' is 'Egyptian Danza' with a suitably themed flourish from the keys before the song builds up to familiar territory, where the band summon up a kind of approaching sandstorm or some other calamity beneath the pyramids perhaps? Mid way in there's even some overdubbed hand claps before the song explodes again.

It's a standout first few tracks, from the pounding 'Chasin' the Voodoo' to the languid 'Dark Eyed Tango' (with some of the more considered soloing from Di Meola on the album.) 'Senor Mouse' is a more flowing affair, almost playful at times. It leads into another acoustic showpiece, which is nice enough but doesn't grip me like his previous or future acoustic pieces do. The title track is a longer exploration of similar themes and phrasing from the rest of the album and also doesn't feel as effective as material elsewhere on the album.

Very nearly four stars, but not quite. It's a good record, and I don't regret owning it, but his previous two albums are more enjoyable overall, even with a fantastic first side to 'Casino.'

 

 

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

 

Fantasia album

Many would probably say that Casino is inferior to the great Elegant Gypsy album. However, after many listens over a period of several years I begun realizing that Casino is actually very bit as good, if not better than Elegant Gypsy. There are some truly great moments on Casino and the playing is, of course, excellent to say the least. Mind-boggling is more to the point. I can definitely understand those who think that this type of music is over-technical and more concerned with speed and accuracy than with feeling and melody, but this does not apply to the present work. There is indeed speed and accuracy in Al Di Meola's playing, but he also has both great musical feeling and a very good understanding of melody and composition. Indeed, the compositions are almost as complex as the playing and I think that this is a reason for why it takes some effort to get into. It requires an active listener (like most progressive music). I would even go as far as saying that Casino is my favourite album in the Jazz-Rock/Fusion category, certainly one of them anyway.

Meola's albums are often thought about as guitar albums, but we should not forget the keyboards, basses, drums and Latin percussions which are essential to his style and equally well played and impressive as the guitar playing itself. The whole album is sonically perfect with excellent production. The Fantasia Suite For Two Guitars is an amazing Flamenco-style acoustic guitar four part composition in line with Mediterranean Sundance from Elegant Gypsy but more loaded with themes. I get chills down my spine every time I hear this!

Like Elegant Gypsy, Casino too is an excellent album and a very good place to start investigating Di Meola and the genre of Jazz-Rock/Fusion.

 

 

433

Attahk
Magma

Magma Attahk album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

"Attahk" is a conclusive quality album after a number of excellent albums in the 70s. By the time 1978 rolled around Magma had cemented their reputation as pioneers of the Zeuhl sound. Drummer extraordinaire and visionary Christian Vander is back with a vengeance on this album but he lost the incredible bass guitarist Jannik Top and thus a lot of that deep bass resonance is missing. The album cover is intriguing designed by legendary H R Giger of "Alien" fame.

The spacey Kobaian language is still a component and this album features perhaps some of the more amusing chants I have heard in Magma. At one point I can hear what sounds like "I am the seatbelt, I am the seatbelt, I am the seatbelt, I am the seatbelt ." The screaming sax, ominous piano crash, creepy off kilter spinning jazz spasms fused with peaceful flute are all part of the wonderful Magma experience. Some of the chants sound peculiarly like odd English phrases such as "an Amanda, cinder riff, so we live in dust we are, soon as I sing this song in Victoria, body laid to rest, hai hai hai se soudia suva. Turn the bodies saw you. Our butts are black."

There is a delightful twin sax melody line on side two, which is a vast improvement, and some deliriously weird time sig changes with Vander screeching like a parrot caught in a blender. The chanting grows in intensity towards the end of the album as does the atonal jazz patterns. I have no idea what song I am listening to on this as they all blend together, but it sounds terrific.

"Attahk" is not a Magmasterpiece but I enjoyed returning to this form of Zeuhl. I believe, after this album, the music for the revolutionary band became less cohesive and not up to the incredible standard. That is, until the astonishing brilliant "Emehntehtt-Re" in 2009.

 

434

A Song for All Seasons
Renaissance

Renaissance A Song for All Seasons album cover

A review by Warthur:

Whilst Renaissance fans tend to place the point where the band went into terminal decline somewhere after this one - the consensus seems to be that things had definitely gone stale by Camera Camera, whilst the status of Azure d'Or is a bit more controversial - I tend to see this as the point where things seriously began to sag.

The band had just released four albums ploughing the same furrow - Ashes Are Burning was, admittedly, fantastic, and I wouldn't blame anyone for enjoying the more-of-the-same selections of Turn of the Cards, Scheherazade and Novella if they were well and truly into the band's style. But I suspect many will admit that by Novella things had begun to get mildly repetitive, and it was time for a change. So, Michael Dunford picked up his cobweb-strewn electric guitar and brought it back into the Renaissance sound for the first time since Prologue, and the band settled down to produce an album of catchy, accessible shorter numbers as was the want of many prog bands facing the double whammy of emerging new musical styles on the one hand and changing fashions on the other.

Unfortunately, these changes resulted in an album which, to me at least, sounds incredibly lacklustre. It's no surprise that one of the tracks on here (Back Home Once Again) was used as the theme music for a forgettable drama on British TV; the tracks here are perky, phoney, emotionally vacant and shallow slices of nothingness. They are competently performed but utterly cliched and safe, producing the sort of music which produces no thrills and doesn't move me emotionally like the best of Renaissance's songs used to do; it's soporific, unthreatening stuff which in seeking to become accessible becomes inoffensive to the point of being forgettable. The band's veer into New Wave pop may have been unwelcome, but if they headed on this trajectory for much longer they'd have hit easy listening territory. A shame.

 

435 - live

Solar Music - Live
Grobschnitt

Grobschnitt Solar Music - Live album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

A double live album that has become a milestone in space rock.

"Solar Music - Live" is the live performance of the Grobschnitt's incredible double album "Ballerman", at least it is the last album of that 1976 double album. The band are renowned for their vivacious high theatrics and art rock pyrotechnics with fireworks, sparks, masks and costumes. This stage act fits in perfectly with the astonishing space rock of 'Solar Music'. There's no live album in the universe like this. The band are a zany bunch of geniuses consisting of the lead guitar prowess of Stefan Danielak (Wildschwein) and Gerd-Otto Kühn (Lupo), the keyboard wizardry of Volker Kahrs (Mist), the machine like rhythms of bassist Bernhard Uhlemann (Bär) and the manic percussion of Joachim Ehrig (Eroc). The sound they generate together is incredible, totally original in feel and ultimately satisfying, with huge time changes, dramatic shifts in mood, and a whimsical sense of humour.

The colossal space suite that turned Grobschnitt into prog legends is given a reimagining treatment with extra sections, more weirdness and extended soloing. One can even hear backstage noise and messing about in the silent parts. 'Solar Music' is the magnum opus that the band lived off in live performaces and it remains their quintessential triumph. It is a 55 minute space odyssey with high frequency synths sounding like "Fireball XL5"'s space effects at times. It is one long piece of music and yet broken into segments that blend seamlessly together. It begins with a great melodic guitar and pulsating rhythm, the same as heard on "Ballerman". The tune is so memorable that it always grabs me immediately and I am hooked. The lead guitar just takes off into the stratosphere. It just wraps itself around my cerebral cortex and transports me to Planet X.

Then the psychedelic vocals come in a capella and they sound spiteful and dangerous. The German accent is strong and there is definitely a sense of humour coming through. Grobschnitt have fun in this first section. The sig slows and speeds up at random it seems. The loud blasts of guitar and frenetic drumming are astounding. The spacey effects enter soon and are like Hawkwind, with very powerful sonic vibrations. The echoing flange guitars and galactic synth swirls are an everpresent force swirling and cascading with swooshes and with Alien sounds. The slowed down deep toned robotic mantra of "do you.. hear.. solar.. music?" comes in similar to "Ballerman": but it is more menacing and threatening, slowed to a deep rumble. It somehow reminds me of Kraftwerk's 'Musique Non Stop'.

A hypnotic rhythm locks in with motorik Krautrock rhythms over ethereal synthscapes. This is genuine space rock and it encompasses many moods, and as the piece progresses there is the sound of birds twittering, and a dog barks a few times. The synths begins to really take off like a space ship traveling through the solar system. A pounding buildup of powerful drums and bass begins to roar through the soundscape. It is released into glorious Hammond and a blistering lead break. The lead work of duel guitarists Wildschwein and Lupo is mesmirising. It feels like an improvised break jamming with the rhythms but they are so precise and vibrant they hit every note perfectly and it is captivating to be held under their spell. The tempo changes to a different faster feel, and some brilliant percussion accents are added. The reverb guitar tones are dynamic and very psychedelic with arpeggios and string bends. It really sounds like early Hawkwind.

Spacey chimes blend into the jamming session, with eerie star gazing soundscapes. Solar galactic screaming effects are overpowering. The organic music floats on a cluster of stars and is breath taking, shifting from darkness to light with effervescent mellotron and fiery lead guitar. The manic laughter is rather disconcerting and then we hear "do you heeeeeeeeaaaar solar music? do you heeeeeeeeaaaar solar music?" The synths become penetrating with a synergy of laser effects, and intergalactic resonances with sunburst power. It really is spaced up to the stratosphere. There is an amazing extended wah-wah solo by Lupo. The band are virtuoso and operate within a vacuum of spacey textures jamming off one groove and then they know how to release the tension so appropriately, breaking from hypnotic rhythms of bass and drums to provide uplifting soaring instrumental solos. The extended soloing is hypnotising and it is finally given over to a keyboard solo with Mist having a chance to shine. The tension is released with a bit of hysterical banter "Would you like to sit on your bum on the surface of the sun?" and then there is a roar of volcanic erupting sound that explodes for a moment and then another solo of guitar and keyboards draws thing to a peaceful resolution. The peaceful synth and guitar melody at the end is an excellent way to end after all the chaos and spaciness previously. The keyboard sounds way better that the sound on "Ballerman", which incidentally sounded like a midi file or an 8bit soundtrack to a Nintendo cartridge game. The crowd roar at the end and cry out that they want more of Grobschnitt and who can blame them?

This is an extraordinary concert performance, perhaps one of the alltime greatest live albums along with Deep Purple's "Made In Japan", Hawkwind's "Space Ritual", ELP's "Welcome Back My Friends to the Show that Never Ends", Yes' "Yesssongs" and some of Magma's and King Crimson's live albums. The best parts of the album include 'Solar Music I', 'Food Sicore', 'Mühlheim Special' and 'Solar Music III' that are all mandatory for space rock cadets. It is a milestone in space rock and has a drawing power unlike anything I have heard. Yeah, I definitely do hear Solar Music!

 

436 – live

A Live Record
Camel

Camel A Live Record album cover

A review by Finnforest:

I must join the chorus of accolades for this outstanding live album. The newer CD reissue features great sound and is a big improvement over the older version I once owned.

The first CD is wonderful enough but for me it is the second disc and its extraordinary version of the complete Snow Goose that is the breadwinner. Audience noise is minimal and the playing is superb. The orchestra adds to the experience without ever getting in the way and each member embellishes nicely to the piece. Latimer's guitar sounds perfect here and Andy Ward also does a fantastic job with some nice fills. I just love the leads on "The Snow Goose," full of feeling and fluid motion, a near perfect example of melodic classic progressive. I think it holds up quite nicely all these years later.

This is sublime music for a road trip as I found out today spinning it on a long drive in the country. If you love Camel based on the studio albums alone you really should consider springing for this one. Even for those who don't generally go for 70s live albums, I really doubt you'd be dissapointed.

The booklet features some nice liner notes and documents the dates and places faithfully. It also has some really nice photographs. It's a shame that we don't have Bardens around anymore. 4 stars for a very solid live Camel release.

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

Camel live in Canterbury-land (and too many other places and times)

This first official live album by Camel is often praised, but there are now several very much better and more representative live releases out there from this amazing band. I'm thinking particularly of Never Let Go (double CD) recorded on the tour for Dust And Dreams in the early 90's, and Coming Of Age (DVD and also available as a double CD) filmed and recorded on the tour for Harbour Of Tears in the mid 90's (both of which I rated with the full five stars!), but even Camel's second official live album Pressure Points (which I rated with four stars!) is preferable over A Live Record! The present double live album simply does not compare to those more recent live recordings, in my opinion, for several different reasons which I will now give you. One very obvious "problem" with A Live Record is the fact that it was recorded in the 70's and that the recording techniques were not what they were in the 90's, but this is really only a minor criticism.

A much more serious problem with A Live Record is that it was recorded on several different locations over a period of four years (1974-1977). These were very turbulent years for Camel with changes in both the line-up and the whole musical approach; this makes this live album (or, more correctly, this compilation of live tracks!) rather incoherent and disjointed in my opinion. The best live albums are usually those that feature a single show, giving an idea of how it was experienced by one and the same audience on one and the same night. All three of the other official live releases that I mentioned above feature material from one and the same show respectively, and Never Let Go and Coming Of Age feature complete performances.

The most serious problem I have with A Live Record is, however, that the 1977 line-up, the one featuring Richard Sinclair of Caravan fame and which was responsible for the Rain Dances studio album, is not really that representative of Camel as I know and love them best. It is certainly not my personal favourite type of Camel, anyway. For Rain Dances, the band adopted more of a Canterbury-style similar to Caravan's and the live versions of some older songs here with added jazziness and strong presence of saxophone are really not representative of those classic songs. I don't particularly dislike the saxophone, but it simply does not suit Camel very well at all, in my opinion. At least not in the quantity found on of the many songs here. The strong presence of saxophone gives Camel a slick and jazzy sound that is incompatible with the Symphonic Prog sound I primarily love this band for. The Canterbury/Jazz version of the classic Camel song Never Let Go, for example, is simply awful to these ears! It is not that I am conservative and can't accept a radical overhaul of a classic song (the version of Never Let Go from the live album of the same name is also radically different from the original, but very much better than the present version), it is just that this particular style is not my cup of tea.

However, this only applies to the first of the two CDs (or the first two sides of vinyl). The second CD (or the two last sides of vinyl) of A Live Record is devoted entirely to a full performance of The Snow Goose with the original line-up together with The London Symphony Orchestra. This is without doubt the best part of this live album and actually an improvement over the original studio album version in some respects! This part of the album is what makes it worth having even for non-fans and non-collectors. The present version of Snow Goose has a little bit more energy and punch compared to the studio version of the same.

To sum up, I would say that the first CD is basically two-star material, while The Snow Goose performance is four-star material! This lands us at a three-star rating. The new re-mastered CD version of A Live Record adds many bonus tracks so this is the version to go for. Don't get me wrong though, A Live Record is still an enjoyable collection of live recordings, and it gives an insight into what Camel sounded like during the second half of the 70's. But this period was not among Camel's best eras.

Please do not make this live compilation album your introduction to Camel or even your live introduction to the band. Start instead with the early studio albums (particularly Mirage, the self-titled debut and Moonmadness) and the most recent live albums (Never Let Go and Coming Of Age) and you will get a much better overall picture of this brilliant band.

 

437 – live

Two For The Show 
Kansas

Kansas Two For The Show  album cover

A review by Ivan_Melgar_M:

A couple of years ago I read a terrible review in a commercial magazine about Point of Know Return, the guy who's name doesn't matter said this was a group of ignorant musicians who pretended to be virtuoso players but needed to learn a sixth note, of course I was furious but later I was laughing because obviously the poor guy never listened this live gem or most likely didn't have the capacity to understand it.

The place where you can really find if a musician is really good is on stage, because studio recordings are full of overdubbing and technical tricks that correct mistakes and cover weakness, if you make a mistake there are many chances to repair it, a good engineer can make a mediocre artist sound good, but in front of 15,000 souls is totally different, fans can turn into the most acid critics if the concert reception is not what they came for.

Kansas passed that test with an A+, Two for the Show is one of the best live albums I’ve ever heard, arrangements are perfect, the sound is clear and Kansas members prove they are the talented musicians we heard in earlier albums without any help or correction. Another good point is that they recorded an excellent track list with songs that can be considered among their best, there are no fillers or wrong choices, they did it all well.

The album starts with Song for America, faster than the original but one of the best versions of this classic from their second album, all the members are perfect in their instruments, but Phil Ehart is outstanding, his precise timing and impeccable drumming is absolutely incredible, by far the best track of the album.

Point of Know Return is probably one of the weaker songs from the album, again too fast but this time lacks of the mystery and atmosphere of the original version, still sounds pretty decent but the listener can't feel the fear produced by the unknown that is one of the great achievements of the band. The quota of drama is added by the nostalgic but strong The Wall, a track that always has been one of my favorites and where Robbie Steinhardt has the chance to prove how amazing he's with the violin. The rest of the tracks sound pretty close to the studio versions and that's a merit for any band, so there's no need to comment on each and every one because all are well known songs and extensively commented in their original versions.

I still want to talk about a song that surprised me very much in a positive way and it's the usually weak Dust in the Wind; the acoustic guitar solo version is IMHO superior to the heart-breaking violin original, something strange for a band that bases their sound in the talents of Robbie Steinhardt; but this version sounds even better because it's connected with the piano version of Lonely almost as one whole track, this was the perfect choice because it completes the semi unplugged atmosphere with one of Kansas most underrated tracks.

Sadly Closet Chronicles was deleted when upgrading the vinyl to CD because of the time limits, a real pity because it's one of the best and most underrated tracks. About the rest of the members there's not much to add, because as always Robbie Steinhardt is the base of the band, not only for his incredible violin but also for his correct vocals that compliment Steve Walsh in the most efficient way. Again the duet of Livgren and Walsh work perfectly in the keyboards with the correct synchronization of Dave Hope and Rich Williams in the bass and guitar that add the hard rock strength required for the music of Kansas, something that would not be possible without the perfect performance of Phil Ehart already commented.

A must have for any prog fan that doesn't fall in the common mistake of considering Kansas in the same sack with bands like Styx or Journey who are not in the superb level of the boys from Topeka. I rate this album with four stars because I always prefer the originality of a studio album even when 4 ½ stars would be the perfect rating for an excellent album.

 

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

Mysteries and mayhem

The two studio albums Point Of Know Return and Leftoverture are among my all time favourite albums and I have rated both of them with the highest possible rating. This live masterpiece album was released in the wake of these two studio albums which, of course, was the optimal time for the band to release a live album. However, it is not the tracks from Point Of Know Return and Leftoverture that are the highlights here in my opinion, the studio versions of these songs were impossible to top. No, it is older songs like Song For America, Icarus - Borne On Wings Of Steal, Journey From Mariabronn and Lonely Wind that really stand out here. All of these songs are marked improvements over their original studio versions and the idea of making a live album at this point allowed the band to put these older classics in the same context as some of their best newer material, creating the ultimate Kansas live set. The existence of this live album now allows me to elevate these older songs to the same rating as the material on Point Of Know Return and Leftoverture, even if the studio albums they originally came from (Kansas, Song For America, Masque) were far from masterpieces.

Another highlight is the eternal Dust In The Wind that is here enhanced with an excellent acoustic guitar solo which together with the beautiful Lonely Wind works as a great counterpoint to the often intense and loud material on much of the rest of the album.

To my knowledge, there are three different versions of this album: the original double vinyl, a remastered CD and a recent, re-remastered CD with an extra disc of bonus live material. The first CD release had to drop one of the songs (Closet Chronicles) from the original vinyl to be able to squeeze the album onto a single compact disc, while the recent 2CD version offers the complete program plus an abundance of extra live material. This new version is re-remastered by Jeff Glixman who produced Point Of Know Return and Leftoverture and is the version with the best sound and the most material. However, it might perhaps be too much material? The bonus second disc, while containing some of my favourite songs of all time, is clearly not as good as the first disc and it is rightly considered as a bonus disc. My masterpiece rating is primarily directed at the original program but with the sound quality of the 2008 re-remaster. If you rip both discs onto your computer, you can program it to hear the album this way (which means the first disc plus Closet Chronicles from the second disc).

However, as I said, the bonus disc also has some great material that will please any Kansas fan. But most of these songs are better in their original studio versions and are thus not essential. I could have done without songs like Lonely Street, Bringing It Back and Down The Road which brought down albums like Song For America in the first place. Also the drum solo in The Spider is quite dispensable (as most drum solos are on live albums - as opposed to live videos where they sometimes are highly enjoyable).

While this live album can never replace the studio masterpieces Point Of Know Return and Leftoverture, I think that Two For The Show is the optimal third Kansas purchase and a great place to discover older Kansas classics like the songs I mentioned above. The 2008 re-remaster by Jeff Glixman is the preferred version to have because of improved sound quality and completeness (but stick to the first disc on the first couple of listens in order to avoid being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of material).

This is one of the best live albums of all time! Highly recommended!

 

438 – live

Zappa In New York
Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa Zappa In New York album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

I'm probably one of the few who purchased this album and "Roxy And Elesewhere" at the same time. Many feel these are two of Zappa's best live albums. I felt "Roxy And Elsewhere" was fairly tame when it comes to the vulgarity but it also gave the listener a good sense of what a Zappa concert would have been like.  This album is much longer and to be honest the guys who help out vocally (Bozzio in particular) aren't that good, maybe annoying is the word.  Instrumentally this has some incredible moments but I still prefer the instrumental work on "Roxy And Elesewhere".  Now I do think the second album here is a solid 4 stars but it's the first record that for me is barely 3 stars, if that.  

"Titties And Beer" kicks in without any band introductions or words from Frank. For me this is a turn off with some of the things that are said. Oh well. "Crusin For Burgers" is an instrumental with the focus on the drums and guitar. It's okay.  "I Promise Not To Come In Your Mouth" is orchestral-like and pretty good.  "Punky's Whips" opens with some narration that is funny. When Bozzio comes in vocally it's not good at all. I like the instrumental work after 2 minutes and throughout though.  Jeff Beck is mentioned a couple of times. Yes he's fluid.  

"Honey Don't You Want A Man Like Me?" is good. Vibes and vocals to start. Intricate guitar follows.  "The Illinois Enima Bandt" is my favourite off disc one. Narration to start then it turns bluesy including the guitar that goes on and on. Nice.  The second album opens with "I'm The Slime" and I do prefer the studio version although the guitar is excellent here.  "Pound For Brown" is my favourite track on this recording. An absolutely fantastic instrumental.  "Manx Needs Woman" has some crazy keyboards in this short track.  

"The Black Page Drum Solo/Black Page 1" is a drum solo with bass.  "Big Leg Emma" is a song my dad would have liked. An uptempo fun track.  "Sofa" is a good instrumental.  "Black Page 2" opens with a monologue. Not a fan of the music.  "The Torture Never Stops" is outstanding. I like the guitar, especially later when it becomes more passionate.  "The Purple Lagoon/Aproximate" is my second favourite off this recording. The horns and guitar are great.  3.5 stars, but if you’re a Zappa fan don't even hesitate as by far the majority love this double album.

439 – live

Live - Bursting Out
Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull Live - Bursting Out album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

What can I say about this otherworldly fantastic live album? Not much other than it is one of the best live albums I have ever heard. Live In Japan is certainly put to complete shame by this - this is up there with Yessongs and Seconds Out.

What you get here is one of the best bands of all time, touring in support of a fantastic new album (Heavy Horses) and at a time in their career when they had just released a long series of very good albums, performing a very powerful set consisting of some of their very best material ever. All this is presented in good sound quality and the end result is simply stunning.

The set list is almost exactly as it would be if I had chosen it! And the performances bring something new compared to the originals. I will not comment on the music itself since most people know these songs, and if you don't see the reviews of the studio albums.

I would want to say that this is a perfect introduction to Jethro Tull. It shows all their different sides; Hard Rock, Folk, Jazz, Blues, Classical etc. something you will not get if you start with one of their studio albums. But you will want those as well after you have heard this!

I cannot come up with anything to criticise. This album reminds me why I love this band so much.

A masterpiece and one of the best live albums of all time, possibly the best.

 

440 – live

Vital
Van Der Graaf Generator

Van Der Graaf Generator Vital album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Van Der Graaf's Live show captured is a vital experience

Van der Graaf Generator's “Vital” is a concert performance in their last days and as a record of the incredible raw power this band exuded, it is a vital entry into the catalogue of VDGG albums. The double CD is worth getting for the extra 2 tracks and seems to have better sound quality in its remastered version. The live tracks boast the unique sound of VDGG and features lyrics that are dangerously close to the edge and Peter Hammill's vocals are like no other. He can croon smoothly, almost whisper along a minimalist approach that may feature a mere Hammond Organ, or he can scream as a cacophony of sound erupts. The live sound meanders between serene tranquillity to atomic energy.

CD 1 begins with ‘Ship of Fools’ which is as bizarre a track played live as in the studio. It is easy to see why this band are musical pioneers and boundary pushing visionaries. The energy of the live performance is astonishing. Hammill is turned well up in the mix, perhaps too screechy at times, and the Hammond is let loose along with the soaring sax. ‘Still Life’ follows, perhaps the best track from the aforementioned album, and is played magnificently, very subtle, almost minimalist in places and then the wall of sound erupts. ‘Last Frame’ works well enough with the violin, Hammond and percussion; an oddity of musical virtuosity.

‘Mirror Images’ is an intriguing piece and then we are treated with the piece de resistance - the medley ‘Plague of Lighthouse Keepers/Sleepwalkers’. Both of which are brilliant in the studio from “Pawn Hearts” and “Godbluff”, 2 quintessential VDGG albums make no mistake, but they lose something in the live version. Both only clock in at some 13 minutes and are heavily edited. I did not like the way ‘Lighthouse’ was edited as it's my fave track of VDGG. However it was pleasant to hear this version in many respects. It begins softly and then launches into the maelstrom of sound and verbal music psychosis that is VDGG. The Hammond and sax take us deeper into the abyss and VDGG really let loose with wild staccato riffs and a monstrous finale where everything just explodes into a paroxysm of uncontrolled mayhem. It's a killer track and moves from romanticism with piano elegy only to explode into a doom-laden soundwave with wild saxophones screaming over unfriendly sounds such as Dickie's keyboards and Guy Evan's off-kilter percussion. 'A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers' was the first track I had heard from this amazing band that tells the story of an eyewitness who sees the unspeakable as he feels his body fading in a storm while voyaging on a doomed ship. It is a ballad of gothic grandeur in every sense that constantly surprises with its complex twisting structure.

CD 2 begins brilliantly with ‘Pioneers Over C’; at 17 minutes in length it is another highlight. 2 very rare tracks follow with ‘Sci-Finance’ and ‘Door’, that were not released on an album in the 70s and they are interesting but a little forgettable. I love the version of ‘Urban/Killer/Urban’ that really hits you between the eyes. ‘Nadir's Big Chance’ is from Hammill's solo album and is perhaps the best he has done. The live version is lacking vocally but the intention is as full of conviction as other Hammill performances.

The album is best purchased in the 2 CD remastered format with a terrific booklet about the live show. The CD has some blazing numbers that really jolt you to your senses. It does not all work perfectly and is chaotic in places but it works as an emotional rollercoaster; brooding, with interchanging time signatures, long and contemplative and experimental to the max. You can hardly hear the crowd and there are some uncomfortable silences but it is compelling listening that draws you in deeper as it progresses. It has the feeling of emptiness or something ending, which is exactly what was happening - the band itself. It is not a starting point for someone interested in discovering the band, but it works as a supplement to the studio offerings of one of the best eclectic psychedelic bands of the 70s. A band that continues to perform live and produce great music to this day.



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - February 21 2012 at 07:36
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1979 

441

Visitation 
Pekka Pohjola

Pekka Pohjola Visitation  album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

This is Pekka's fourth album and many feel this is his best effort. I still prefer the first two albums to this one but having said that, this is an excellent album. Lots of horns (sax, trombone, trumpet and tuba) and some strings too. I like the guitar work as well from Seppo Tyni. Hey it's all good. Pekka as usual is on bass and keyboards.  

"Strange Awakening" opens with piano before the drums and some powerful outbursts come and go. Horns after a minute and they sound really good after 2 minutes. The contrast of the sound calming down then kicking in continues. Nice bass and drum work 4 minutes in. Great tune!

"Vapour Trails" features pounding drums as the guitar plays over top. Piano and bass fill out the sound. Horns 3 minutes in in this uptempo track.  "Images Of A Passing Smile" opens with horns and aboe as bass and cymbals play along. Strings come in then we get a fuller sound before 1 1/2 minutes as the guitar and piano stand out. It settles then kicks in again.  

"Dancing In The Dark" is my least favourite. It's a catchy drum/percussion/piano/horn soundscape. Guitar before 1 1/2 minutes then horns lead before the guitar returns. Nice bass late.  "The Sighting" sounds good when it kicks in with horns but it's brief. Aboe arrives before it kicks in once again.  "Try To Remember" has a mellow intro then it turns melancholic. It sounds better after 3 minutes as it brightens some. The horns before 4 1/2 minutes sound great.  I can't give this anything less then 4 stars, but it's a low four stars.

442

Spectral Mornings
Steve Hackett

Steve Hackett Spectral Mornings album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

band new morning

Spectral Mornings was a major step forward for Steve Hackett after two quite disappointing albums. His debut album, Voyage Of An Acolyte, is far from being the masterpiece it is often said to be and the title of his second album, "Please Don't Touch", should be taken as a warning not to touch it (despite a few good moments)! Spectral Mornings fares much better by comparison. In my opinion it was with this third album that Steve Hackett really started to find his own identity as a solo artist. As a guitarist he had, of course, found his own distinctive style several years earlier with Genesis, but it was first with Spectral Mornings that he began to find his identity as a writer, singer and band leader. In that sense Spectral Mornings was the first true Hackett album. However, despite some really excellent moments, this album too fails to be as strong as people say it is and, in my opinion, Steve would make better albums later on. Including his next one, Defector.

The opener here, Every Day, and the closing title track are clearly the best two songs here and they stand out above all the rest. Too bad not everything in between them is as good. Virgin And The Gypsy is good, but nothing that blows me away. It was with this album that Hackett began blending influences from World Music into his brand of Rock. The Red Flower Of Tachai Blooms Everywhere is a Japanese influenced piece played on a Koto, a traditional Japanese instrument. Very nice, but not particularly memorable.

Clocks (The Angel Of Mons) is a very experimental guitar piece with a very strong presence of percussion instruments. Hackett had not been so experimental before, at least not with the confidence he seems to have here. A very good track that became a live favourite.

Lost Time In Cordoba is a very typical Hackett classical guitar piece with some wind instrument also present. Not one of his better, but it seems that every one of his albums needs to have one or two of these (which I love!).

Hackett's previous (and several of his later) albums are inconsistent and disjointed. Having several different vocalists on different tracks, and not being able to fuse the many different styles of music together, into a coherent whole are some of the usual problems. As I have said, Spectral Mornings comes closer to a unified whole than his first two albums, but it is far from perfect. I don't understand why Steve always has to put songs like The Ballad Of The Decomposing Man on his albums, what is the point? Is it supposed to be humour? Also the vocal part of Tigermoth seems out of place and brings this album down a bit.

Steve Hackett would go on to make many further albums in the 80's, 90's and 00's, several of which are even better than this one. On his next album, Defector, Steve would perfect the style he explored with this album and thereby make an album that is a bit more consistent and works better as a whole despite the absence of such major classics as Every Day and Spectral Mornings.

 

443

Blå Vardag 
Atlas

Atlas Blå Vardag  album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

ATLAS were an all instrumental band from Sweden who put out "Bla Vardag" (Blue Tuesday) in the late seventies. They featured two keyboard players while the music itself is fairly light, bright symphonic-prog, and at times quite jazzy. Some mellotron too on this record.  "Elisabiten" is one of those jazzy sounding songs, with guitar, light drums and piano, creating a nice breezy sound. The sound does build to become quite intense. This contrast continues.

"Pa Gata" is the epic on this album.  Organ, cymbals and clavinet open the song and are joined by drums. It all sounds so good. It calms down before 5 minutes. Drums and organ follow. What a wonderful tune. "Bla Vardag" is a very tasteful song that doesn't move very fast. I love the main melody that pervades this song. "Ganglat" is much like the first song, a jazzy, uptempo tune. The guitar comes in adding a different flavour to this cuisine.  

"Den Vita Tranans Vag" has some synths,organ and mellotron, and there are tempo changes. "Bjornsturp" is another favourite of mine. Mellotron and flute sound great as drums pound away. Organ and guitar are added to this melody. The drums and percussion are incredible after 3 minutes. They then soften as mellotron comes back. It goes back to main melody before this wonderful song ends.

"Hemifran" features some great sounding synths, creating a nice melody. The drums and percussion are again fantastic after 3 minutes. "Sebastian" opens with piano. Bass and drums come in to create a steady rhythm. Nice. There is mellotron, and a tasteful guitar solo as well. Good song! A great album that will please Symphonic fans out there.

 

A review by Warthur:

Atlas were a one-album wonder from Sweden whose sole release is a charming blend of accessible symphonic prog in the tradition of Genesis, Kaipa and Bo Hansson with occasional fusion leanings reminiscent of the Canterbury-influenced albums of Camel during Richard Sinclair's tenure in that band (so the better parts of Breathless and Rain Dances) or of some tracks by Hatfield and the North or National Health. The band do go full-fusion at some points, however - in particular, Bjornstorp includes a great drum solo worthy of the greats of the genre, and I'm talking as someone who usually has little patience for drum solos. A wonderful combination of influences into a cohesive sound which, sadly, didn't survive past this one album.

444

Åtabal-Yémal
Témpano

A review by Mellotron Storm:

TEMPANO are one of the first Prog bands to come out of Venezuela, forming in 1977 this their debut was released in 1979. It's mostly instrumental (over half) with lots of keyboards. Tasteful, classy and intricate are words that come to mind. Fairly pastoral overall and quite different from their later albums like "Childhood's End" and "The Agony & The Ecstacy" which besides being more modern sounding focus more on the vocals. I much prefer this debut to those later ones I mentioned.  

"Cascade" opens with lots of synths then the tempo shifts a few times before the drums lead 2 minutes in. Great section here then it picks back up 5 1/2 minutes in.  "Hecho De Horas" opens with keys as reserved vocals join in along with other sounds. Synths after 3 minutes when the vocals stop. I love the guitar that follows. Vocals are back after 4 minutes.  "Las Olas (Virginia Woolf)" opens with fairly spacey synths and a beat. Guitar 1 1/2 minutes in. The synths are back leading a minute later. Bass comes to the fore 3 minutes in. The guitar then leads after 4 minutes. Nice. That intro soundscape is back at 6 minutes to end it.  

"Atabal Yemal" is not the easiest track to digest. Probably because it's not the most melodic I guess. It takes a while to get going really. The guitar is crying out before 2 1/2 minutes as it continues to lead and wail until 4 1/2 minutes in. Bass and spacey synths before 7 minutes. A calm a minute later. Synths lead 9 1/2 minutes in as they pulse quickly. It kicks back in late to end it.  "Anhelos" is a short song with acoustic guitar and reserved vocals leading with background synths.  

"Presencias Y Ausencias" opens with synths and gentle guitar as reserved vocals join in. A calm with keys after 3 minutes then the guitar and a beat join in. Another calm follows. Vocals are back before 6 1/2 minutes then we get another calm a minute after that with faint vocal melodies, synths and guitar. There are three bonus tracks and this is one of the few releases where the bonus tracks do the rest of the recording justice. Great job guys!

445

One of a Kind
Bill Bruford

Bill Bruford One of a Kind album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

Bruford's adventures post UK have for some reasons never enthralled me (even UK is not that exciting to this writer as it sounded way too adult and "professional") , but the least we can say is that his early solo albums never resonated with me. While a real fan of JR/F, I must say that by the late 70's, the genre's cold aloofness, precise (way too much) and prissily playing, ultra-technical but soulless "songwriting" never enthused me. Just to make it clear, while I still find Ponty's classic 70's albums or Brand X's early albums rather enjoyable and still get the occasional nowadays, but Weather Report's post 77 albums.

Anyway, with Bruford's all-star line-up of Holdsworth, Stuart and Berlin, this sounded like the winning combination to make a killer of a record, but to this writer, this is mostly a sleeper of an album as I just can't get into, no matter how loud I played it, and the artwork wasn't helping either. While written before AC DC's track, the opening Hell's Bells pales in comparison. Bear with me for a second here: while there is no match on the musical expertise and virtuoso qualities of the present track, it lacks soul, personality and is anything but captivating. All the same, the two-part title track has little effect on me, also.

One of the most evident flaws being Stewart's choice of keyboards sounds: they are the ones generally en vogue at the time, but compared to previous generations of synths, these here really start sounding "cheap". This coupled with the quartet's aspiration to perfection in terms of virtuosity, renders the whole thing tedious and interesting only to themselves and whoever might be musician enough to want to imitate this virtuosi perfection. On the positive side is the incredible musicianship (yes, the very one I criticize so much) of the four artistes, their ability to play incredibly tight as unit, etc. But I much prefer early Pat Metheny's albums in the genre.

While all four musicians have my utmost respect, and I am a fan of many of their previous works (not so familiar with Jeff Berlin's previous career though), I can't help but thinking that some of the clichés and epithets hurled at this kind of albums have solid grounds and will always stick with such albums. Not any better than Feels Good To Me, this album is not exciting or only passably interesting, but certainly no more. I fully understand some of the other JR/F enthusiasts calling this type of album essential, but it simply won't be my case.

 

446

Western Culture 
Henry Cow

Henry Cow Western Culture  album cover

A review by Warthur:

Henry Cow transmogrified into Art Bears during 1978 - producing the first Art Bears album, predominantly containing Fred Frith and Chris Cutler songs, and this final Henry Cow piece, dedicated to instrumental pieces by Lindsay Cooper and Tim Hodgkinson. These represent, in my view, the absolute best instrumental material the band produced in their post-Canterbury avant-garde period.

It's possible to properly call this material RIO - the RIO festivals having kicked off by this point - but whatever tag you put on it, this is startling industrial chamber rock combining occasional moments of tranquility with clattering, noisy rockouts that sound like rusting factory machinery coming to life for a jam session. And yet, unlike much of the instrumental material on In Praise of Learning, there's an immediateness and openness to these instrumentals which had eluded Henry Cow since their debut album. Cooper and Hodgkinson find a space here where they can indulge their every experimental whim without feeling the need to drive the listener away, making this album just plain more listenable than the two previous albums. A fine ending for a truly innovative band.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm:

This record is really divided into two parts, side one was composed by Tim Hodgkinson and titled "History & Prospects", while side two was composed by Lindsay Cooper and titled "Day By Day". It's kind of cool looking back that Lindsay was a guest bassoon and aboe player on HATFIELD AND THE NORTH's "The Rotters Club" album.  This album, especially the first side with titles like "Industry","The Decay Of Cities" and "On The Raft" paint a bleak picture for the future of "Western Culture". This band were politically pro socialists, even having a hammer and sicle on the album cover. This was the bands final album, and it's cool that they had Yochko Seffer (MAGMA, ZAO) playing sax on some of their live dates in their final year (1978) of existence. The band I was reminded of the most when listening to this record was UNIVERS ZERO. Chamber music played in colour instead of black and white.  

"Industry" is my favourite track on here. It has more of a rock influence I guess you could say. The drums pound as the organ comes and goes. Assorted sounds fill the soundscape, but there is a dark undercurrent to this. 1 1/2 minutes in this is clearly felt as we get an early UNIVERS ZERO flavour with Lindsay's bassoon playing. An outbreak after 6 minutes including some outstanding drumming from Chris Cutler.  "The Decay Of Cities" opens with acoustic guitar from Fred Frith before piano,bassoon,trombone and drums create some wonderful chamber music. The sound kind of explodes 4 minutes in again and again. Violin 5 minutes in with dissonant sounds to end it. Great track.  

"On The Raft" is a brighter,slower paced tune with drums, piano, sax (from Frith) and trumpet (from Cutler) leading the way. This sounds so good.  "Falling Away" speeds up a minute in with some excellent drumming and horns. Guitar 2 1/2 minutes in and a minute after that is really good. The song calms down 4 minutes in before speeding back up 7 minutes in to end it.  "Gretel's Tale" has a melancholic intro. It's the bass and piano show a minute and a half in. Some pleasant horn melodies with dissonant piano over top from guest Irene Schweizer.  

"Look Back" has a sombre mood as strange sounding horns are played. This short song does come alive before it ends.  "1/2 The Sky" has a heavy intro before a pleasant soundscape comes in with dissonant sax playing over top. The song changes before 4 minutes to an uptempo sax and drum led passage. Some great angular guitar to end it.  This is brilliant chamber music that is played about as good as it can be played.

447

The Wall
Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd The Wall album cover 

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

The story of "The Wall" obsession.

Once upon a time there was a song on the radio and a teenager heard it and it changed his life. My quest for "The Wall" began at an impressionable age. I was 17. Every lyric I have become obsessed with, knowing it off by heart. I thought I was weird walking along humming the tunes and having the lyrics swirl in my teenage brain, but of course everyone in 1982 was talking about it due to the movie release. It seemed to go by unnoticed in 1979 in Australia. Before I get to the music, let me indulge.

I remember sitting in the sound lounge at college and a guy walked in and said you have to hear this. He put on ‘In The Flesh’ and we sat there at lunch listening intently and seriously. He said these words I will never forget. ""The Wall" is the best album ever! The film is the best film ever! Pink Floyd are the best band ever!" Not exactly ground breaking words but somehow I could not get them out of my head. Now, you have to understand, I had never heard the album or even Pink Floyd but I was willing to give it a go after hearing a few songs I liked. ‘Another Brick in the Wall part 2’ was on the radio all the time. The music was excellent to my young ears, the consistent rhythm of Dm clanging on the clean guitar, almost reggae, that was the framework for some enigmatic lyrics "We don't need no education, we don't need no full control" I kind of agreed with that. It was rebellious and comforting at the same time. I liked the ominous vocals, the children choir rebelliously shouting the mantra. It all made perfect sense and there was nothing on the radio like this. The lead guitar solo was incredible, I had never heard a lot of great lead guitar being into the glam rock scene and a hopeless Kiss addict, but this was David Gilmour's guitar; soaring, harmonious and virtuoso guitar work that is unforgettable. It intrigued me and I knew I would eventually own it. These days as a teacher I cringe when I hear "No dark sarcasm in the classroom, teachers leave us kids alone", as that's what I do now!

I bought the single on vinyl in 1982, a re release to cash in on the movie, it was great to hear it pumping out the speakers but I knew I needed more. The B Side was ‘One of my Turns’ and it was "cold as a razor blade, tight as a tourniquet, dry as a funeral drum...." the freakout section in the instrumental passage was creepy, so emotional and heavy, I was stunned. "Would you like to watch TV or get between the sheets or contemplate the silent freeway..." It was not a popular song to play in front of my parents that's for sure. I wanted to hear the rest. I had to save up big because it was a double album. But hey, I managed it delivering newspapers door to door.

Finally the day came. I walked into the music store and those white bricks screamed off the shelf. There was an entire section with a screaming face and grim teacher and tons of polystyrene bricks. It was a monument to the album. I pulled out the $20 note and grabbed the album. It felt good in my hands. Heavy like gold. "This is so popular," the young girl said behind the counter. I smiled. "I have been wanting this for ages." "Enjoy it", she said. So I bought this off the shelf brand new on vinyl after hearing so much about it in magazines and friends at college.

I raced home, locked my bedroom door and put it on the record player stereo system. The first crashing chord blasted, and then after a divine lengthy intro of choral voice harmonies, Waters estranged voice chimes out, "So you thought you might like to go to the show........" It was love at first listen. I was stunned at how the songs merged together, I had never encountered this on albums, the way it ran together seamlessly like one huge track, this was the first true prog album in my collection. The beginning of my obsession.

Waters is the backbone of the album and Gilmour's soft vocals and intricate guitar breaks are the skeletal structure for me. I always liked his contribution, the best including the soft sweet, ‘The Thin Ice’, "Mother loves her babe and daddy loves her too...." It just sends a shiver down my spine every time. It is difficult to understand listening to it now as a cohesive work that the band were in turmoil. Rick Wright was eventually ejected from the band by the time the recording sessions ceased. The producer Bob Ezrin actually completed the album in Los Angeles using studio session musicians, can you believe that? Waters wrote, breathed, ate, slept this album; it was his baby and he nurtured it. The script, the concept, the entire screenplay of the burnt out musician was his idea right down to the references to poor old Syd. It is a magnum opus of epic proportions. I know many fans of this album that do not even like Pink Floyd, such is the impact of "The Wall".

The spirit of the album is encapsulated in a series of bonafide highlights that always jump out and bite me on every listen. It was always Gilmour who provided the most glorious tracks including the best track on it; the incredible ‘Comfortably Numb’. The low key verses are portentous and foreboding and then that uplifting chorus with vocal techniques that would be emulated by many prog artists especially Mostly Autumn's Josh, "There is no pain you are receding, a distant ship smoke on the horizon... when I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye, I turned to look and it was gone, I cannot put my finger on it now... " masterful, perfect, unforgettable. The lead guitar solo at the end of this is legendary and I have heard many live versions which are even better with an extended screaming solo section, while a massive chandelier UFO light contraption opens above the audience sending out cascading rays of light upon them. A magic moment.

‘Run Like Hell’ is an infamous concert closer for the band. This single begins with those scratching guitar scrapes and then the echoing trademark rhythm that we hear all through the album begins to chug along. The guitar 4 chord shapes to follow have been emulated by guitarists worldwide, and why not? They are fabulous atmospheric riffs. The lyrics were always edgy and dangerous, "Cos if they find you in the backseat trying to pick her locks, they're gonna send you back to mother in a cardboard box, you'd better run!"

‘Mother’ "do you think they'll drop the bomb... hush now baby baby don't you cry, mother's going to put all of her fears into you". At the time I had no idea what Waters was on about back in 1982 but since then the song has grown on me, I have even sung it as a lullaby to my kids (an abridged version), and it is a perfect song to learn guitar to with easy G C D F chords and a strong rhythm. Gilmour's guitar break is beautiful and sombre perfectly aligned with the melancholy tone... "Mother did it need to be so high" always troubled me.

‘Goodbye Blue Sky’ has a beautiful acoustic feel and ominous chords as the planes fly overhead, see the animation of Gerald Scarfe to gain full appreciation of this. I love the extended breathtaking line that is said without any intakes of breath; "Did did did did you ever wonder why we had to run for shelter when the promise of a brave new world unfurled beneath a clear blue sky". I always sung that with a huge breath at the beginning. I loved the feel of this song and still count it as the best song on side 2.

‘Empty Spaces’ is fabulous but there is a longer better version on the film with a crunching rhythm and lead solo.

‘Don't Leave Me Now’ always resonated with me, I could sense the sheer hopelessness and it still has the same ethereal effect on my senses. A very powerful song that captures the sense of a breakup, losing a girl, "I need you babe to put through the shredder in front of my friends..."

Side 3 began with the incomparable acoustic flourishes and Gilmour's soothing warm vocals 'Hey you "out there in the cold getting lonely getting cold can you feel me... out there beyond the wall". A delicate song excised from the film but always has a dear place in my heart.

‘Is There Anybody Out There!’ maybe overlooked by many but that atmosphere is chilling and the acoustic instrumental is melancholy and lovely, almost uplifting. It is the scariest part in the film too, where Geldof shaves, becomes insanely obsessive creating a war scene with rubbish and broken record pieces, and later is found in the asylum by the war torn child. The picture of a total breakdown and burn out.

‘Nobody Home’ is notable for the cool lyrics, that I like especially "I've got wild staring eyes, and I've got a strong urge to fly, but I've got nowhere to fly to... when I pick up the phone, there'll be nobody home". This is emotional lyrical work at its best. The aftermath of a broken marriage.

‘Waiting for the Worms’ is another would be throwaway but essential to the whole concept of the dictator rock star with delusions of godhood. "Waiting... to cut off the dead wood, ....to clean out the city, ....to fire the ovens... for the blacks and the jews"; the nazi references are quite astonishing and used to pummel my impressionable ears. It finishes with a huge loud instrumental that builds to a crescendo before "Stop!"

‘The Trial’ was the most played song when I was a teen, I loved the weirdness of it, the various sections, the characters, especially the ex wife.... "you should've talked to me more often that you did, but no, you had to go your own way, have you broken any homes up lately, just 5 minutes, worm your honour, him and me alone..." It was a rock opera and I was not prepared at the time for such an incredible finale. On stage of course this section is a highlight. I saw it live with a Tribute band and they nailed this song, receiving a standing ovation.

The last song ‘Outside the Wall’ is the weakest and I have no idea what its saying but I always loved the way it finished abruptly. It is strange too that if you want to put the whole album onto a CD you have to leave this last song off or it will not fit.

Pink Floyd's "The Wall" was the first album I truly immersed myself in as a teenager, the concept, the music, the lyrics, the sleeve art; everything captured my young imagination and it has never left my consciousness. I will never forget the incredible impact of hearing actual dialogue on an album, an actual storyline, I had never even dreamed bands would do this. The album was a monster in its day reaching top position on the US charts and it made it to No. 3 in the UK. The filmclip of the Brick single was on so much I got sick of seeing it. In a sense I have become too used to the music on the album and the impact has lessened but there is no denying that this is an epic achievement.

The live performances of the show have become legendary from both the Gilmour Pink Floyd and Water's version. He always went to greater lengths as it was his child, but the Berlin Wall came down and Pink Floyd celebrated with a full rendition of this album that is still one of the century's best ever concerts, featuring a plethora of guest artists. The movie directed by Alan Parker starring Bob Geldof as Pink, arrived in 1982, further enhancing the experience of the album. I persuaded my friend to drive me to the drive in and we sat there absolutely in awe watching the story unfold; a story that I had memorised in my head. It was a moment of clarity for me. I bought the movie lyrics book that has huge colour photos throughout. The images are powerful in any format. The album transcends mere music; like it or loathe it, "The Wall" is a monumental event. If this review hasn't convinced you, nothing will.


 

448

Heresie
Univers Zero

Univers Zero Heresie album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

If the debut album was a slap in the face, this second album can be assimilated to a kick in the butt coupled with an uppercut in the stomach. UZ's music was never designed for easy thrills and charming melodies to get cosy with a partner, but with this album, the music sinks to the lower instincts of the human mind, uncovering some rather macabre moods. By now, the group is down to a sextet, with Nicaise gone, Trigaux will take on the KB duties, while still working his guitars. Another change is the arrival of Guy Segers on bass, and some thirty years later, he is still around the scene, albeit not always as a musician.

As with the debut, the artwork is just as dark and sinister (do not be fooled by the heavy gothic feel, though), fitting the music marvellously well, but certainly not making it more accessible. The side-long "epic", the 25-min Denis-penned La Faulx is a slow starter and newcomer Segers sings out chants that could easily be written by Vander. Quite a grandiose but doomed and gloomed moment, the track slowly picks up and peaks around the 11 to 13 minute mark, and resumes a calmer (and repetitive) pace not far from Stravinsky's most sombre works.

The second side starts off with a collaboration between Denis and Trigaux, the 15 min+ Jack The Ripper (see my involuntary reference to it in the debut album's review), with the harmonium dictating the slow and lugubrious ambiance, with Denis's percussions providing most of the interest in the early part, before the violin first and the bassoon next bring the track to the next level of intensity. The albums wraps up on the Trigaux-penned En Temps Voulu track which brings many shivers of angst, which pretty well repeats what has been said before.

Hérésie is one of those albums that must be played only when the listener's moods are suitably ready for it. Compared to the rather short 1313, this 50-minute monster is quite a step upwards and forward in their musical search, but can be a bit long at times. Again, not recommended for the faint-hearted.

 

449

Svět Hledačů
Blue Effect (Modrý Efekt; M. Efekt)

Blue Effect (Modrý Efekt; M. Efekt) Sv&amp;#283;t Hleda&amp;#269;&amp;#367; album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

ME's last album Svet Hledacu of the decade is in some ways one of their most "prog", it was to signal the end of the Czech's most brilliant group, even if the following 33 album still has some moments. By this time bassist Freso has left ME, replaced by the returning Semelka, adding a second keyboard player, leaving the bass guitar spot empty. Oddly enough, while the 73 album and most of Svetanie were largely instrumental, Svet Hledacu has extended vocal tracks, with both keyboardist sharing vocal duties, and even odder, they both sound quite alike: it's quite hard to tell which voice belongs to which singer.

From the lengthy opener Za Krokem Zen, one can say that ME had heard of Grobschnitt's Solar Music live concept. Indeed an interesting track, a bit in the musical line of their previous Svetanie album, but nothing spell-binding past the Grobschnitt allusions. Hledám Své Vlastní is a keyboard-led track that hovers between Eloy and Yes. Closing the first side is Rajky probably the most complex of the album and has a definite Yes twist to it, but again vocally this is a cross of Ian Gillan meeting with Jon Anderson.

The flipside starts on the Zmoudření Babím Létem, a great and furious track that even Crimson clone like Anekdoten couldn't possibly match in terms of energy and is possibly my fave on the album with the opening Krokem track. Again the strong Eloy tendency resurfaces on this track. The 12-min scorcher Zázrak Jedné Noci is another excellent mini-epic, especially in its use of heavy/minor scale passages and its alternance between spacey/jazzy stretches and more symphonic lines ala Yes (especially in Hladic's Steve Howe-inspired lap steel guitar solos).

As with Freso leaving ME to refound CM and later Fermata prior to this album, Vesely would leave the group to reform Synkopy, the album comes with a bunch of later non-albums single releases, obviously shorter (due to the format), all sung as well and recorded after Veseny's departure. The six bonus tracks included are not much added value to the original album, sounding like typical AOR of the late 70's with an Italian vocal delivery, with the lengthier Fotka being the best of the lot, but not coming to the waist-height of the lesser original album tracks. Nevertheless, beside these slight drawbacks, Svet Hledacu is very much in the ME trio of "must- discover" lists, even being at moments better than Svetanie, but unfortunately ruined by the unwise choice of bonuses.

 

450

Adonis
Anyone's Daughter

Anyones Daughter Adonis album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

There is a definite Neo-Prog flavour to this album,even if this did come out in 1979. The guitar, vocals and emotion bring that genre to mind. I have to say that this album has been an absolute pleasure to listen to, I really wasn't expecting anything this good. Lots of keyboards as well including synths. piano and mini-moog. The bass and drums really impress as well. Just an outstanding release all around.  

"Adonis" is the side long suite clocking in at over 24 minutes. Yeah this is a ride. Vocals and gentle guitar followed by a fuller sound after a minute. Just gorgeous. The guitar recalls Hackett and we get some organ 3 1/2 minutes in. A darker soundscape after 4 minutes. Thunder followed by rain after 7 minutes. Silence then these ominous synths come in followed by aggressive guitar and drums. Nice. The tempo picks up with mini-moog. Vocals are back before 10 1/2 minutes. Silence after 11 minutes then keys and vocals come in. Beautiful. Some orchestral keys that recall COLLAGE after 12 1/2 minutes. I'm thinking Neo-Prog again after 14 1/2 minutes. Cool section. Some crazy synths before 16 1/2 minutes. Silence 19 minutes in then the piano comes in with vocals a minute later. Check out the guitar solo that starts before 23 minutes to end the suite.  

"Blue House" is the only instrumental on this album. Synths to open as organ floats in the background. It settles before 2 minutes as the synths stop and the guitar starts to lead. It slowly builds.  "Sally" opens with keys as vocals, drums and guitar all join in. Sax 1 1/2 minutes in then it settles down but not for long though. More sax 3 minutes in to the end.  "Anyone's Daughter" opens with synths before guitar and cymbals join in. It kicks in around 1 1/2 minutes then settles some a minute later. Some great sounding bass and organ here. Vocals after 4 minutes. Nice. A change before 5 1/2 minutes as the tempo slows down and the vocals stop. It kicks back in before 6 minutes. The guitar sounds so good. Vocals are back before 8 minutes then the guitar rips it up.  I must admit the two shorter tracks are good but they don't do a lot for me, but man the 24 minute opener and 9 minute closer are incredible. Without a doubt 4 stars.

 

451

Silent Cries And Mighty Echoes
Eloy

Eloy Silent Cries And Mighty Echoes album cover

A review by Warthur:

The Pink Floyd influence on Astral Entrance doesn't really bother me because there was always a strong Floyd influence in Eloy's work; by my reckoning, Silent Cries and Mighty Echoes is a more than worthy followup to Ocean. Frank Bornemann's vocals are my main problem with the album - accent aside, he just isn't a very good singer, so the extensive amounts of narration on some songs prevent this one from hitting five stars by my reckoning. Still, at least he makes up for it with some tasty guitar solos worthy of David Gilmour himself. Recommended to all fans of Eloy's brand of space rock.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm:

ELOY deliver their spaciest album yet in "Silent Cries And Mighty Echoes". For some it sounds too similar to PINK FLOYD and they dismiss it, for others it ranks as one of the best records that ELOY ever made.  "Astral Entrance" opens with synths before those Gilmour-like guitar sounds come in before a minute. This sounds so much like the song "Shine On You Crazy Diamond-Part 1".  

"Master Of Sensation" has a good beat with synths as guitar comes in then vocals. Some nice organ runs follow. Synths are prominent before 2 minutes. Excellent guitar solo 3 1/2 minutes in.  "The Apocalypse" is the epic at almost 15 minutes. It opens with almost spoken vocals with floating synths in the background. Organ and drums come in after 1 1/2 minutes followed by guitar and synths. Great sound! Love the guitar 3 1/2 minutes in. Vocals a minute later. It's very spacey as it settles before 6 minutes. Female vocal melodies join in before the guitar returns. The synths 12 minutes in really remind me of FLOYD. Nice bass 13 1/2 minutes in. The guitar makes some noise to end it.  

"Pilot To Paradise" has a good rhythm to it with lots of synths and organ. Vocals after a minute. Guitar solo before 6 minutes.  "De Labore Solis" has this great spacey soundscape with more excellent bass. Vocals after a minute. Some cool lyrics on this one.  "Mighty Echoes" is mellow to start before it kicks into a fuller sound a minute in. Then it settles into a mid paced tempo. Great guitar after 5 minutes. More meaningful lyrics as well.  There's no question this is one of their best releases. I still prefer the earlier albums "Inside" and "Floating" but this is a must for fans of spacey and atmospheric music.



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - February 24 2012 at 23:49
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1979 - continued

452

Force Majeure
Tangerine Dream

Tangerine Dream Force Majeure album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

4.5 stars really. As Joliffe got the boot (probably from the pressure of the fans), he was replaced by a cellist and this brings another new life into TD. This album is IMHO the last good album (I remember listening to the next two as they were released but never bought them and recently I borrowed them from the library and did not think much of them) but what a great way to finish that fantastic decade. TD and Floyd were the only two rock groups endorsed by the Soviet Regime as both got described as Honest and constantly renewing artist (as opposed to those depraved groups preaching individualism, materialism and freedom). Not that those two groups ever got a cent of royalties of the bootlegs sold in the Soviet block but one was not going to the Goulag to eat goulash for decades for owning one of their albums. Everyone of those eastern-european countries had plenty of underground groups in the 70's recording poor sounding Lps traded under the table, the majority of them could be classified as prog, fair to say that TD and Floyd influenced more than one of them.

 

A review by Warthur:

Recorded in the wake of the disastrous reception of Cyclone - which, to be fair, kind of deserved the critical mauling it received - Force Majeure attains better results than that album. Jettisoning Cyclone's frankly substandard vocalist, the album continues the band's experiments with reintegrating acoustic instruments and rock techniques into their compositions but does so with a bit more taste and care. The acoustic instruments are used to add texture to what are fundamentally still progressive electronic compositions as opposed to prog rock opuses - a clear improvement over the compositions on Cyclone, which weren't sure whether they were one thing or the other. In short, this album is everything its predecessor should have been, and presents another excellent set of Tangerine Dream mood pieces.

453

Breakfast in America
Supertramp

Supertramp Breakfast in America album cover

A review by Finnforest:

A guilty pleasure for me. Pass the bacon, please.

Breakfast is a great album with its pop sensibilities. It does suffer from radio overkill disease to be sure and I acknowledge that many of you feel this is too far from prog to matter. I don't believe these songs we've heard a million times require a track by track description, so I'll just say they have many positive attributes like great musicianship, quality songwriting, wonderful melodies, and focus. Compared to something like Tormato, I think it's safe to say that Supertramp were ahead of their competition in execution at this point in time. As I've said before, there is something to be said for tension in a band. I think the obvious tension between Davies and Hodgson pushed both of them to come up with some good stuff. I'd always heard that "Casual Conversations" and "Child of Vision" were direct lyrical messages between the two and if you read the lyrics it would seem to be true.

I like all of the songs although I do skip the title track and Logical Song just because I've heard them so many times. So 3 stars for this website, although if I were reviewing this album for a straight rock site I would go higher.

 

A review by Sean Trane:

Breakfast, lunch and diner all over the world

After the healthy sales of Moments, Supertramp decided to indeed concentrate on the North American market and was ready to go at lengths to achieve massive success, as the title and the wink at New York City artwork indicates. Still with its classic line-up, this album is loaded with hits, although I think that even the group was surprised at the number of successfull 45 rpm singles they pulled out of this monster album, again mostly Hodgson's, most likely on the strength of his instantly recognizable voice. I'm sure that this Hodgson preference did unsettle the balance and ambiance in the group on the mid-term range, because Davies' tracks are at least as good, but not getting the deserved success, despite the success of Goodbye Stranger, one of the most cynical songs of the group.

The All-For-America intent is blatantly expressed in the excellent and cynic Davies-penned Gone Hollywood album-opener, with its outstanding middle section. Unfortunately, this type of track gets shunned by the monstrous hits like the superb-but-overexposed soul-baring Logical Song and the melody of the title track, the album's first two hits. Inbetween these mega successes Davies's Goodbye Stranger tunes does manage to pull some attention, but it is mostly due to the song's bitterness, a good guitar solo and unfortunately the awful Hodgson-sung chorus.

The flipside is of the same accabit, opening on the interesting (no more) but also mega-selling single Take The Long Way Home, followed by Hodgson's very personal and emotional Lord Is It Mine track. Rick's Nervous Wreck is another fine Davies track that got shunned by Hodgson's mega-selling hits. I've always wondered if Casual conversations shouldn't have been sung by Helliwell though. Closing the album is the fantastic Child Of Vision tune, the only track on BIA that reminds us of the progressive slant of the group, with its awesome contrast between the Hodgson verses and the Davies chorus and the long instrumental finale. In fact, Child Of Vision is simply a stupendous track that would have not been out of place on Crime - its lyrics approach that concept.

If it wasn't for the last track, Child of Vision, I would hate this album (well mostly its commercial aura). Although this vinyl has superb pop music, but this was a major let-down for prog fans, who after Crime and Fool's Overture, expected much more than this collection of pop songs, no matter how beautiful some could be. I still have problems about this album; because of its over-exposure at the time (although I've re-warmed to it in the last decade or so), but most of the tracks are very Supertramp-worthy. Unavoidable in Supertramp's discography, despite its not-always deserving over-exposure, but I wouldn't call BIA essential listening.

 

454

Recuerdos de mi Tierra
Mezquita

Mezquita Recuerdos de mi Tierra album cover

A review by Ivan_Melgar_M:

A few years ago I had the chance to listen to Hijos del Agobio by TRIANA and since that moment I fell in love with this form of Symphonic Prog blended with Flamenco or Andaluz ethnic touches, two styles that despite being so different blend perfectly.

MEZQUITA is a bit different because as it's name clearly implies there have more Moorish influences than other bands, as a fact one of the tracks Ara Buza (Give me a kiss) is named in an Arab language.

People talk about King Crimson and even Wakeman influences, but to be honest I feel some distant ELP reminiscences rather than from any other band. The first track Recuerdos de mi Tierra (Memories of my Land) presents this clearly, after a soft Andaluz intro, the band starts to rock with the energy that only the famous power trio was able to provide, the electric guitar work is simply amazing and combined with the keyboards plus accurate drumming, almost reaches perfection, But that's not all, there are radical changes every few minutes but around the middle it's simply dramatic, they start to play in the purest Flamenco style with acoustic guitars and cante hondo included, only a subtle keyboard reminds us we are before a Progressive rock band, just perfect.

El Bizco de los Patios (The Cross-Eyed of the Patios) is much more frantic than the previous one, even when the Flamenco Moorish atmosphere is more than evident, the Prog and Rock element is predominant, the heavy and sometimes distorted guitars morph into Spanish guitars in a matter of seconds, the keyboards and bass sections are simply spectacular, not a second to breathe.

Desde que Somos Dos (Since we are Two) is even weirder, the Moorish sound is completely fused with the Symphonic performance of keyboards and guitar, their sounds have similarities with the classic early 70's Prog, but is so unique that you can't hardly identify any band in particular; they manage to create something new but with respect for the pioneers of Symphonic and their Flamenco inheritance.

In Ara Buza (Give me a Kiss), MEZQUITA go even further, now not only the guitar and Cante Hondo, but also palmas (hand clapping) are added, but again the bass breaks the ethnic sound with a hard section, but as usual José Raffa and his peculiar vocals don't let us forget they are Spanish. Again full of dramatic changes and for the first time they remind me of KING CRIMSON with MAHAVISHNU touches, because after the clear and melodic passages, they hit us with strong dissonances, just delightful.

Suicidio (Suicide) returns us again to ELP territory, at least during the intro, because I’ve hardly heard any band able to make so many changes in such a little time. This time Roscka adds a Psyche touch with the keyboards that reminds me of early PINK FLOYD, but almost in a second they return to the ultra complex and elaborate music they are used to playing. Strangely around the middle of the track they start to prepare the grand finale with dramatic vocals, Moorish and Flamenco elements all thrown into our faces with the confidence that only the good musicians who know they are good have, just fantastic.

I don't understand why, but they left Obertura en Si Bemol (Overture in B Flat) for the end, when I should expect an overture for the beginning of the album, but after listening it's clear that this song is the cherry over the pie. It is extremely complex and elaborate with incredibly dramatic changes and elements of previous songs, so complex that they wouldn't disappoint an Avant fan but with enough melody to please the most demanding Symphonic listener.

The finale is simply perfect, something that I won't ruin using simple words, and deserves to be listened to without any previous description that could only spoil the effect

My favorite album from this Spanish Symphonic movement is still Hijos del Agobio by TRIANA which I rated with 4 stars, but this album leaves me speechless, and even if the first one mentioned suits my taste a bit more, I can't deny that technically Recuredos de mi Tierra is slightly ahead, so 5 strong stars.

455

Winter Songs
Art Bears

Art Bears Winter Songs album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

Winter Songs is a much more fitting example of Art Bears music than the debut Hope And Fears; indeed only

the basic trio is present and the Henry Cow page is now turned. Apparently written, arranged and recorded (and mixed) in less than two weeks, this might sound like a tour de force, but before saying, please make sure you throw an ear on this album before making a judgment. I'm saying this because I read a review or two claiming Art Bears to be "Gothic Rock". I'm not sure they heard the same album I did. Unless they think of Bauhaus or Killing Joke's incessant sonic assaults on your sanity, I really don't see Dagmar dressed as a gothic witch belting would-be opera vocals, but Art Bears is nowhere close to either end of the Gothic rock spectrum.

Musically there are still HC links, but we've moved away from it and towards the Slapp Happy (desperate Straits), but it's clear that Art Bears goes out of its way to try to annoy your ears in order to open your minds, and for that Dagmar's vocals is perfect too, stretching from the psychotic and completely mad to the semi-cabaret-style (Dietrich-Minelli style) vocals, and never leaving you in the aural comfort zone. Of course CC and FF will do nothing to ease your ill mind and soothe your aching eardrums with their respective drumming and torturing the string of the latter's guitars (Hermit is amazing in this regard) and violin and twiddles the keys. Cutler's drumming is particularly impressive throughout the album, but in The Slave. Dagmar's vocals at the shriekiest are in the following Rats & Monkeys but somehow after the first few listens, your ears grow to accept it as "normal" (even the more "Teutonic" intonations) and the rest of the music will go down easier (or relatively easily), because YOU have progressed. Winter Songs is definitely more song oriented than Henry Cow was as Skeleton Crew or News From Babel will be.

Winter Songs is certainly a more representative Art Bears album than its predecessor and debut Hope & Fears, but personally I find it a bit bare and too raw at times. As said above, AB seems to go out of its way to destabilize their listeners, and as praise-worthy this angle on music is, it sometimes sounds artificial, as is the case here. I'll be careful about the recommendations, because this is not for everyone, but then again, if you're looking up Art Bears, you've passed a while ago the TFK-neo prog stage, so you shouldn't be all that taken aback by this. And compared to its successor, this one is a bit of top 40 easy listening album. So I won't make this essential, although more than one RIO-head would.

 

456

Downwind
Gong

Gong Downwind album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

First Gong album under Pierre Moerlen's name, Downwind is a surprising album in many ways, but at least with the evocative artwork, we know who's the boss. Although seeing the line-up of the group on this album is resembling the one of Expresso II, it has an all-star guest cast of Taylor and Lockwood (again), the returning Malherbe but Stevie Winwood and Mike Oldfield. Actually I suspect some of the tracks on this album were being recorded during the Expresso II recording sessions.

The surprising (for Gong) hard-blues rocking tracks (both written by Moerlen and outsider O'Lochlain) of Aeroplane and What You Know are much more reminiscent of Heavy Tune (of Expresso II), the former and latter having some "acceptable" vocals, with lots of riffy guitars and if there was not Benoit Moerlen playing vibraphone over these tracks, you'd never guess you're listening to a Gong album. Not that these tracks are bad per se, but they're a bringdown, especially in their pedestrian rhythms and forget the usual Gong light-hearted moody music. The very tedious cover of Jin-Go-Lo-Ba (this was an insane bet that I would've never taken), is completely lacking the power of the Santana original, even if the vibes addition is somewhat interesting, but it is not catastrophic either, by all means.

But things get on more familiar grounds with the superb 13-mins+ Far-Eastern-sounding title track, giving excellent interplay where everyone gives their maximum, including Moerlen's splendid drumming, Malherbe on flute & sax and Oldfield playing up a wild guitar solo; the preceding Crosscurrents being much in the same vein, but not as stunning. Yes with these tracks, Gong do bring us back to the good ol' days and there is more. On the flipside, Emotions and the closing Xtasea are also fine jazzy tunes but very atmospheric tracks where Lockwood's violin plays wonders in the slower parts, the latter finally picks up speed and a searing guitar solo add so much-needed drama.

While Downwind is not a pure Gong album (hence the new moniker), It could be grouped with Expresso or Gazeuse on your shelves, as it is not that different both in musical continuity (but we weren't really used to so much vocals and straight rock songs with this combo anymore) and in quality (just half the album is really worthy, IMHO). So if you liked those and still crave for tuned percussions (vibes), then go for this one. I myself have decided to pass up on it, I made a PM'sG compilation for one, and for two, I've had enough of vibraphones with the previous Gong albums.

 

457

Sleep Dirt
Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa Sleep Dirt album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

This album is Hot Rats part 3 (part 4 in my book as the Grand Wazoo should also be in that series), this is again killer jazz-rock with Bozzio, Duke, Chester Thompson and Underwood. One of my fave Zappa albums and easily the best of the later 70’s albums, staying away from Frank’s scatological obsessions of these years. Sleep Dirt (by all means not an innocent title) is an almost instrumental album and is (as you'd expect with the Hot Rats) heavily jazz-rock slanted and one of his proggiest in the more purist form.

Re-Gyptian Strut can only confirm what I said above but everything here is worthy of the Hot Rats series. Indeed, Filthy Habits is probably the most Crimsonian track Zappa's written, with its dark and menacing mood. The flamboyant Flambay and the great title track are the other stand-outs. No less interesting is the awesome 13-mins+ Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution with its wild interplay and awesome instrumental passages.

Apparently this is the instrumental version of the album, and there is a version with vocals on the Läther release that was lying dormant in Frank's vaults and it was finally released post-mortem in the mid-90's. Having heard both, personally I prefer having SD home (especially with the longer Ocean track version) and eventually rent the Läther CDs.

458

Si Todo Hiciera Crack
Crack

Crack Si Todo Hiciera Crack album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

From the northern Spanish Atlantic coast, from the semi-Celtic province of Asturias and from its capital Gijon, this little known band made a sole album in the late 70's that sounded more like what Italian bands were doing a few years before. Actually this is not a rare happening since after the end of Franco's dictatorship, many groups tried to make up for lost time so roughly the Spanish prog scene was split into symphonic and fusion. The former had to deal with the huge success of Flamenco inspired Triana, which inspired a lot of younger groups while those not willing to follow that route obviously indulged into the early and mid-70's Italian groups.

Crack is one of those groups and their only album certainly draws from Italian inspiration, but there are other folksier ambiances that can make you think of Tull (this is reinforced when the flute makes an appearance) and sometimes in more symphonic moments Genesis and Yes. The album title would amount to something like: If Everything Would Go Crack........

What strikes most in Crack is the vocal delivery which comes out like PFM, QVL and Osana, but this feeling is not limited to the singing: the songwriting also is strongly influenced. This is particularly the case for Coward Or Deserter and Good Desires (3rd and 4th tracks), which are IMHO the weaker tracks on the album. The second side of the record holds the two tracks that make the backbone of the album starting of with Marchando (an almost 8 min track divided in two movements) with abundant flutes and mellotrons providing all the possible dramatic effects to your attention - this is where the comparison with Quella Vieccha Locanda fits best. The 10 min title track is the other standout track, but it seems rather tamer than its predecessor borrowing lots from Yes's Going For The One album in terms of sonorities ending in a small piano and flute dominated Epilogue reminding me a bit of Quebec's Maneige.

Overall, one of the better late-70's Spanish albums and a minor gem only waiting for the prospective proghead to make its claim on it. But not original enough to deserve above the 4 star status.

 

459

Canto di primavera
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso

Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso Canto di primavera album cover

A review by Finnforest:

Last gasps

As the 70s drew to an unceremonious close for many rock fans, Banco seemed as stylistically lost as anyone. Coming off an instrumental affair which found them benching one of the greatest singers in prog, and prior to slipping into a decade (or more) of musical horrors like their peers in Yes and Genesis, they had one more decent album in their hip pocket. "Canto di Primavera" is far from the prog nirvana peaks of their early 70s releases and yet it is a nice collection of shorter, more accessible tracks. Some fans consider this on par with their best work and while I can't go quite that far, it is pretty enjoyable.

About half of the album consists of sort of an uptempo jazz-rock that is sophisticated and nimble, reminding me very much of what Joni Mitchell was doing in the late 1970s. Aside from the obvious difference in presence between the two vocalists, there are lots of cool bass sounds and guitar chords that recall Pastorius and Metheny in that era. The other half of the album features some stately and refined art-rock with Italia-pop tendencies, and the melodious canzone feel of the lovely title track. Overall the album is beautifully produced and immaculately played as you'd expect from these legends. The sound has changed considerably with the prog "excesses" gone, replaced by more up-front percussions and breezy brass additions.

"Canto di Primavera" is not the Banco I truly love (the first three) but it's worth hearing and for some listeners this one will really connect.

 

A review by Warthur:

Though concentrating on shorter material, the return of Francesco Di Giacomo on vocals means that Canto di Primavera ends up a much more appealing proposition than the preceding ...di Terra. The band's sound had evolved somewhat from their classic symphonic-inspired style, with heavy doses of traditional jazz and Italian folk music taking a prominent place in the mix. Whilst I wouldn't call it a full-on classic like the band's first three albums, Canto di Primavera is a charming and beautiful disc which will delight fans of the band's warm and emotional brand of RPI. Whilst the band would take an even more mainstream direction in future releases, the album retains enough of their former progressive spirit to be of interest to prog fans.



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - March 04 2012 at 00:39
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1979 - continued

460

Sheik Yerbouti
Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa Sheik Yerbouti album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

This is one of my favourite Zappa albums, mostly because it's filled with comedy and lots of guitar solos. This one just makes me laugh everytime, I know it's one of his more commercial recordings but I can't help myself, haha. Great to hear Adrian Belew as well on vocals and guitar.  As usual Frank is taking shots at people, starting with Peter Frampton's I'm In You album (1977) which really sucked by the way. This song I Have Been In You is mellow, almost 50's sounding to start with thanks in part to the background vocals. 2 minutes in it sounds more like seventies soft rock.  

Flakes changes styles a few times before it's over. I like the Bob Dylan impersonation including the harmonica.  Broken Hearts Are For a****les is uptempo with lots of guitar and it's very funny. I like when the guy shouts 1, 2, 3, 4 purposely in the wrong place. And the word poop chute gets used a lot. I'm So Cute features Bozzio on lead vocals. This has a punk flavour to it when he shouts out the lyrics.  Jones Crusher has Belew on lead vocals this time. Not a fan of this one.  

What Ever Happened To All The Fun In The World is 33 seconds of humour. I like the guy's laugh.  Rat Tomago is an instrumental with some great raw, aggressive guitar throughout. Incredible.  Wait A Minute is a short conversation.  Bobby Brown is just too funny. One of the most hilarious songs I've ever heard.  Rubber Shirt has a fat bass solo that was overdubbed in the studio. It sounds pretty amazing anyway, like he's trying out for the position of bass player in MAGMA, or something like that.  

The Sheik Yerbouti Tango features a terrific scorching guitar solo that goes on and on.  Baby Snakes is an uptempo track with lots of high pitched vocals along with Zappa's singing.  Tryin' To Grow A Chin has Bozzio on vocals again. He's aggressive and theatrical singing on this one. Xylophone to open this fast paced song. I really like the last minute or more of this one.  

City Of Tiny Lights has Belew back on lead vocals. Some ripping guitar after 2 minutes.  Dancin' Fool is a classic that I'm sure everybody knows.  Jewish Princess has some crude lyrics.  Wild Love has lots of xylophone as well as clarinet later.  Yo' Mamma is the over 12 minute closer that is dominated by a very long guitar solo in the middle that is huge. Amazing tune. Amazing guitar.  This would be in my top ten favourite Zappa albums. Cool cover as well.

 

461

Stand By
Heldon

Heldon Stand By album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

Heldon's final abum before Pinhas continued under his own name. This album is their most accessible but still not that easy a listen. I would actually call Stand By their more polished or refined album but still think that Rêve or Interface as their more accomplished on an adventure or artistical point of view. Heldon is generally not classified as Krautrock because of the French nationality, but Heldon and Lard Free could easily be considered as such.

Again we find the usual collaborators Gauthier, Auger & Batard in fine form especially for Auger in the drumming dept. Klaus Blasquiz (of Magma fame) is here as guest for some vocals (if you can call those that - I think a vocal instrument is more suitable a definition) and the usual feel of Tangerine Dream melting into Can with Fripp & Eno is the best way to describe the music present on the album. The side-long Bolero is maybe my fave track from Heldon and it is captivating/hypnotizing you (and I am not sure it is wise to listen loud to this in the car during heavy trafic) to the point of no return.

Strange decision of Pinhas to stop the Heldon name and forego with his solo career. His first two albums are much worth a listen also especially Rizospheres.

 

A review by Warthur:

Far and away the best Heldon album, Stand By takes Interface's intoxicating mixture of proto-Industrial, Krautrock, mid-1970s King Crimson and a little bit of Zeuhl and melds all the influences on that album into a singular and unique sound. Synthesisers and guitars blare forth and it's hard to tell which of the two are more aggressive, particularly on the standout title track, a dizzying rapid-fire tour through everything that made the band great. Simply put, this is Richard Pinhas' masterpiece, a seamless fusion of the most violent outgrowths of hard rock and electronic music into a nightmarish, unstoppable killing machine. Handle with care, because this one is explosive.

 

462

Eskimo
The Residents

The Residents Eskimo album cover

A review by Conor Fynes:

The Residents are a band- er, should I say 'art collective'- that prides itself on being weird, and often downright crazy. Through deceptively simple arrangements, this is a group that virtually defines what the term 'avant-garde' means to me. One of their best known works is 'Eskimo.' Like the majority of the music that The Residents have done, this album is wrought with simplistic arrangements, and a dose of surreal humour to boot. While it may work incredibly well on some albums by this band, 'Eskimo' comes across more as an album that probably sounded better on paper than it actually turned out.

Although the album is divided into six tracks, this album takes the form of a single journey through an arctic soundscape. Most of the play length is backed up by an incessant howl of the wind, the sort of generic wind sound that is also heard on Zappa's 'Don't Eat The Yellow Snow.' For all intents and purposes, this is simply a backdrop for the rest of the action during 'Eskimo.' Musically, The Residents rely on simple, droning instrumental arrangements in parts, but largely allocate their efforts towards vocals. These vocals are almost never melodic, and instead go the route of garbled spoken word, or chanting that seems deliberately reminiscent of Native American tradition. For the sake of atmosphere, 'Eskimo' does ride home on its otherworldly vibe, and the incessant nature of the ambiance seeks to keep a listener in its trance.

'Eskimo' is almost an album that I would label as being good for only a handful of listens. While much avant-garde music- and certainly work by this band- demands multiple returns by the listener, 'Eskimo’'s surreal shock value only degraded as I went back to it. The album sticks to one gimmick and does not tend to leave it. Not to mention that it seems like 'Eskimo' is trying to make fun of the aboriginals who live that life; the garbled pseudo-gibberish that The Residents speak in their chants is certainly interesting at first, but ultimately veers towards the shallow end of the pool. Creepy and odd, but there isn't much to 'figure out' inside the shell. An interesting effort from The Residents as always, but I do not find this album to be nearly as enduring as some of the other things they have done.

 

463

Danger Money 
UK

UK Danger Money  album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

UK deliver a sensational prog album with musical innovation and odd time signatures.

True prog album from super group of the late 70s, featuring Wetton always great on vocals and bass, Jobson on keyboards and electric violin, and Bozzio, accomplished drummer. Bruford and Holdsworth were gone but it is great that the band continued relentlessly producing this excellent album.

This is UK, one of the most revered acts of the Symphonic prog scene, presenting an album full of creativity and full blown prog classics. The violin work on this album is astounding, listen to ‘Caesar Palace Blues’ for a prime example. Jobson is one of the most dynamic violinists, hard to beat this effort.

‘Danger Money’ is the title track with a slow paced off beat signature, it never hits the beat where it is meant to, and it sounds so majestic with those huge keyboard flourishes. The ambient atmosphere is strong, eventually releasing for Wetton's vocals; "3000 miles from home, it was a hell of a lifestyle, I take the job again, danger money."

‘Rendezvous 602’ is a beautiful piece replete with soft keyboards and gentle vocals. This takes a while to get going but has a wonderful keyboard solo and accomplished piano. ‘The Only Thing She Needs’ has wonderful percussion and Emerson like organ staccato hammering. The time sig is off kilter and competes with Wetton's great vocals.

‘Nothing To Lose’ is a moderate rocking track with sustained synthesizer chords. The harmonies remind me of The Sweet, but the time sig changes often enough to give it that unique UK flavour. Jobson shows real flair on this with upbeat organ sounds, and Wetton sings very well throughout. The violin solo is fabulous, almost like a lead guitar in places. A definitive highlight.

‘Carrying No Cross’ ends it with some peculiar guitar playing and wailing singing. It builds to a rocking riff and pounding drums. The time sigs change suddenly without warning and return again to the main sig. it is astounding how tight UK is on this track. The keyboard solo is a furious triggerfingering style with elongated chords and the bass guitar keeps a sporadic rhythm.

It ends the album on a high note, and unfortunately this was the last studio album for the band as they parted their separate ways. They left behind two scintillating studio releases that showed the rest how it is done. Genuine prog from virtuoso musicians who knew the genre.

 

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

An American in UK

The line up of UK that made their excellent self-titled debut album consisted of four people. Only John Wetton and Eddie Jobson stayed for this follow up while Allan Holdsworth and Bill Bruford left. Bruford was replaced with Terry Bozzio on drums but Holdsworth was not replaced, reducing the band to a trio. Bozzio's presence is a bit ironic considering the band's name since he is an American.

The loss of Allan Holdsworth on guitars made it necessary to fill the void with more keyboards and violin. This put the sound of UK a bit closer that of Emerson Lake & Palmer, but Danger Money is in my opinion as strong as the self-titled debut and also up to par with most of the better albums by Emerson Lake & Palmer. The keyboards are very Keith Emerson-like on many parts. While this is quite different from the debut, it is still very much UK partly due to Wetton's very distinctive vocals and bass guitar play and Jobson's violin work. These were some of the things that made UK special.

Wetton once again wrote some great songs for Danger Money and there are hardly any weak moments. The album has only six tracks and all are very good. I would even say that Wetton's career was at its peak when he was in UK. This is even more true of Eddie Jobson. Despite having played with many prominent Prog groups, Jobson's best work was right here with UK in my opinion.

As I said, the two UK albums are quite dissimilar but both are excellent additions to your Prog collection. And since they are different from each other you need both of them!

 

464

Musique Pour L'Odyssée
Art Zoyd

Art Zoyd Musique Pour LOdyssée album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

Art Zoyd's second album picks up where the debut had left things to rest and is seen as their crowning achievement by many specialists. For this album, the group is joined by two members of Univers Zero, Daniel Denis on percussions and Michel Berckman's on oboe and bassoon.

The sidelong title track is an impressive, solemn, very tense piece of music with war-like ambiances, where once again main composer Hourbette is alternating Bartok, Stravinsky with later XXth century modernists (not quite Stockhausen but there are moments where atonality is very close), but the results are again not far away from Univers Zero, which is hardly surprising since both Denis and Berckmans are in the fold. Great dynamics, sombre ambiances, an almost totally acoustic sound (bar the electric bass), Kobaian-like tribal chants are on the main tour programme of this musical Odyssée.

On the other side of the album is Zabotzieff's first composition for the group and it is clearly homage to Magma (referring to the poem Terre on the back of one of their early albums), as in the second movement he grabs his bass guitar and gives one enormous bass guitar thrashing that can only make you think of Magma bass-thumping. Lettre D'Automne is more reflective and seems to be an answer to Stravinsky's Sacre Du Printemps (Spring's Rites).

Certainly as good as its predecessor, this album is yet another outstanding album that every classical music fan must hear, yet Art Zoyd's work is hardly easily accessible, and is only recommended to RIO and Zeuhl fans.

 

465

Exposure
Robert Fripp

Robert Fripp Exposure album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

In the liner notes Fripp mentions that after he folded KING CRIMSON after the "Red" album he figured his days as a musician were over. He was so fed up with everything associated with the music industry, especially the greed. All it took was one phone call from Brian Eno and David Bowie (who were in Berlin working on Bowie's "Heroes" album) asking him if he'd play some guitar on the album they were working on to renew his passion for music. This was 1977 and Fripp would later go on to produce albums for a few of the guest vocalists on this his first solo album including Terre Roche, Daryl Hall and Peter Gabriel. This was recorded in 1978 and released the following year. Peter Hammill, Phil Collins, Brian Eno, Tony Levin and many more help Robert out. Some cool pictures in the liner notes of Fripp and various people around this time period.  

"Preface" is really just a short intro with spoken words and there are some harmonies and samples.  "You Burn Me Up I'm A Cigarette" sounds like a Brian Eno song as it's kind of punky and uptempo. Daryl Hall sings here.  "Breathless" is my favourite. It sounds like classic KING CRIMSON. Heavy duty with guitar, bass and drums.  "Disengage" kicks in hard before a minute then Hammill comes in spitting out the lyrics. Collins is on the drums. The song ends abruptly.  

"North Star" is laid back with Daryl Hall singing. Not a fan.  "Chicago" has a heavy beat with piano as Hammill comes in vocally. I like the guitar soundscapes late.  "NY3" is intricate and heavy with vocals that sound distant. An inventive tune and a good one.  "Mary" is a short mellow song with Terre Roche singing.  "Exposure" has Terre singing once again and she's great on this one. A heavy beat with guitar expressions early as she joins in singing "Exposure" on and off throughout. She gets passionate even to the point of screaming late.  

"Haaden Two" is spacey with Frippertronics and sampled words. It does kick into gear as samples continue.  "Urban Landscape" is all about atmosphere as we get Frippertronics only here.  "I may Not Have Had Enough Of Me But I've Had Enough Of You" kicks in right away and we get dual vocals (Roche & Hammill).  

The next three songs sort of blend together as we get samples and Frippertronics before a re-worked version of Gabriel's "Here Comes The Flood" arrives with Gabriel singing.  "Water Music II" is a spacey soundscape with lots in common with Electronic Prog. Sampled words and sounds end the album much like it began.  A mixed bag no doubt but better than what Robert would put out in "Beat" and "Three Of A Perfect Pair" in the following years with KING CRIMSON. A low 4 stars but definitely worth that rating in my opinion.

 

A review by Sean Trane:

This is the first real solo album from the somber genius. And a fitting resumé of his 70's musical activities and even a preview of things to come in the next few years. As he left Crimson to rest , Robert Fripp then meddled with Eno for two albums (listed here as his first two albums but not so IMHO), then went into production and guesting on many successful albums (he was no stranger to that success either) before actually recording this mixed-bag album. He will then re-form Crimson with some of the musicians he came to meet in this era.

I used the word mixed bag for this album and it is just that. This is very disjointed collection of tunes but that is so representative of the "Fripp"character. A star-studded cast of guests (from his many collabs) make this album very attractive but also rather uneven. Apart from two or three very short non-musical tracks, the doctor visits punk (track 2), his earlier Crimson carreer (track 3 - Red - and 12 I believe), reminds us of his Frippertronics works with Eno, revisits also his production collabs with others (Peter Gabriel - track 9 and 15 - and Peter Hammill - track 4 - on four different tracks - all my personal favorite on this album) and even previews a future King Crimson style on another track. Not everything is succesful but the album as a whole is rather entertaining. The only hole in Fripp's carreer I find is that his work with Bowie is actually completely ignored.

I am not all that convinced this "Pot-Pourri" actually really is all that essential, but on the merits of Fripp's overall achievements, I rounded up this album rating to the upper fourth star.

 

466

Florian
Le Orme

Le Orme Florian album cover

A review by Ivan_Melgar_M:

I always felt something special for Italian prog not only because they developed a clear symphonic style but also by the addition of something special and unique, their national and artistic identity. Le Orme is a band that can change from strong and bombastic ELP or Genesis oriented music to a precious and delicate Renaissance or Classical sound, as if we were not before a rock band but in front of a small Orchestra. It's a hard album to review because of the variety of instruments they use and for my limitations in Italian, but I'll try to do my best.

"Florian" is a Renaissance and classical oriented album extremely beautiful, maybe a bit boring for those who expect something as complex and powerful as "Felona e Sorona", but not less rewarding for the progressive fan that only wants to listen to great music despite the orientation of the band. The first track "Florian" deserves the masterpiece qualification as no other song before, the soft orchestra delights with their precision, the violin and clavicembalo give the exact atmosphere, followed by piano and small orchestra, it is simply perfect.

"Jaffa" is a more Renaissance oriented track where the violin, piano and vocals blend in a perfect way, the Italian phonetic helps very much to achieve the perfect atmosphere. The violin piccicato which starts "Il Mago" (The Magician), gives a perfect idea of how this song will develop, more rhythmic than the previous it creates an atmosphere of a medieval juggler with his mandolin whom tells the story of a magician that can fight against evil with great powers exceeding the ones that Circe (The Odyssey) had.

"Pietro Il Pescatore" (Peter the Fisherman) has a clear relation to Saint Peter "Quando una nuova alba il gallo annuncerà le chiavi perderai" (When one new dawn the rooster announces the keys you will lose) in clear allusion to his denial and the keys of Heaven, a simpler song for violin, piano and vocals, maybe the weaker track of the album.

"Calipso" is another beautiful song with acoustic guitar and piano, also very simple but not always complex is better, the violin solo is so melancholic that it almost brings tears to my eyes. The song is almost an ode to the inspiration represented by Calipso. "Fine di un Viaggo" (End of a Trip") is a happier song despite the nostalgic title, good mixture of violin, piano, mandolin and vocals, not only about a journey that ends but about a new one that starts.

"El Gran Senser" is the perfect closer, a great instrumental where violin and percussion take the lead role at the start, followed by piano and the rest of the small orchestra grows in strength and power until the middle that is soft but with some suspense as to prepare for the explosive ending.

A real unplugged album recorded long before MTV had the idea of doing something similar but without the great quality and imagination, a must have for any progressive or even classical fan, because both will enjoy it the same.

 

467

pH7
Peter Hammill

Peter Hammill pH7 album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

While an acidic pun also, this album's title certainly gives the important information that this was Hammill's seventh solo album. And the first one (maybe second) recorded after the final VdGG break-up (until very recently that is), and the first one to be done completely free of previous influences.

By this time, his friendly musical mutual admiration, made him and Peter Gabriel's path cross many times around that period or shall we say era! Era due not only to our archangel Gabriel, and Robert Fripp but Brian Eno also, from the more glam rock scene of prog (those musically close to Bowie and its androgynous music), but to the other side of the pond, this lead to the Talking Heads and others, but also Hammill himself were all busy "electronifying" prog rock. This would then lead to the 80's music scene that was simply partly the result of the push of the Artistes (with the big A) mentioned just above influenced tremendously with all of its excesses. If I am going through this general overview, it is because this scene was actively challenged by Peter's seventh album.

But the usual Hammill is still present also, listen to Mirror Man to see Hammill 's shot at Bowie melodies (Five Years style), but also a more solemn hymn-like Handicap And Quality, definitely one of the most grandiose-sounding raconteur troubadour rock songs Hammill wrote. Poignant lyrics and majestic Jacques Brel-like vocal delivery (pure compliments, Peter!!!!) make a spine-chilling moment, because this also appeared clearly the case in the following Not For Keith (Ellis, most likely).

On the other side of Peter's universe are the definitely experimental edges where he stretched his voice "to places it was not necessarily supposed to be natural" (sic) and this attitude translated to his music also and stretched to making it sometimes aggressive (and challenging) to the more discerning prog fan. Careering, Porton Down, Old School Tie and Mr. X are typical examples. A few tracks in this album are very subtly pointing towards Eno, or Krautrock too (Imperial Walls for ex.).

Certainly a departure from his old group's music Zone, rather challenging at times and yet another worthy Hammill album with its strengths and weaknesses.

 

468

Stormwatch
Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull Stormwatch album cover

A review by Zombywoof:

I don't know if this is a 'prog' masterpiece, but it's certainly one of my favorites. From the opening Flute/ guitar lick on "North Sea Oil", we are instantly placed into a Tull record, with this fantastic interplay carrying on throughout the song. "Orion" is a darker piece with bleak lyrics and gorgeous verses, followed by the ballad, "Home" and leading into one of Tull's last epics, "Dark Ages", a piece with multiple tempi and crunching guitar work from Martin Barre.

This record was recorded at a time of tragedy for the band (the bass player, John Glasscock, was dying of a heart condition) and it shows throughout the album, particularly on the epic, "Flying Dutchman". With this piece, Ian Anderson tells the sad tale of the man doomed to sail the seas forever, complete with an almost "Man-Erg" - esque (in mood only, the similarities end there) piano intro by John Evans and a well placed and surprisingly fitting folky section that brings a glimmer of hope to the dark piece, before taking the listener back to the verses and an epic ending, "So come all you lovers of the good life, Look around you, can you see? Staring ghostly in the mirror --- it's the Dutchman you will be ... floating slowly out to sea, in a misty misery."

All in all, a very sad, moody, and beautiful record. I suggest buying the remaster for the improved sound and bonus tracks: Tull were always a band to have songs left off the album that were as good, if not better, than some that made it! "Kelpie" springs to mind with one of my personal favorite flute solos in the middle. It's one thing to have the space to stretch out an improv, but it's quite a bit harder to get the "juice" of the improv in a short burst, which is what both Ian and Martin achieve perfectly in this piece. If you love Tull, I suggest you get this one. I never understood why it receives such poor ratings.

 

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

A forgotten masterpiece from the dark ages of progressive Rock

I'm probably in a minority here, but for me Stormwatch is the best Jethro Tull album since the otherworldly Thick As A Brick that was released some seven years earlier and a masterpiece album in its own right. Given how restrictive I am with handing out five star ratings, I feel that I have some explaining to do on this account. Admittedly, I used to rate this with "only" four stars, but after many listens over a long period of time I now must raise this to the highest available rating; this album blows me away!

As most Jethro Tull fans would agree Songs From The Wood was a return to form for the band and that album is usually considered to be the first of a trio of interconnected albums that continued with Heavy Horses and then with the present album. Like many others I think that this is one of the best and most consistent periods in Jethro Tull history, but unlike many I think that Stormwatch was the culmination of this excellent era in the band's long career. I strongly disagree with those who claim that Stormwatch offered just "more of the same" as I think that the material on this album is very different in nature from that of the previous two, even if there are some similarities too. I can understand that in 1979 people were perhaps growing tired of the sound of Jethro Tull due to the sheer amount of albums they had been put out since the late 60's and also due to changing musical trends, but an album should be judged on its own merits and not only in relation to its "surroundings".

One thing that ought to strike any listener immediately is that Stormwatch is a much darker album both in sound and subject matter compared to most other Jethro Tull albums. There are no more whimsical "kitchen prose and garden rhymes" here, but quite serious social and political commentary. Also, the sound of Stormwatch is much more hard edged and Martin Barre is on fire on this album with his guitar sound being quite "metallic" (which I love!). The sound here is very full and rich due to the strong presence of string arrangements in addition to the usual guitar/bass/drums/flute/keyboards/vocal attack. We also get some mandolin on some songs, which I simply love! I think that Jethro Tull achieved the perfect balance here between (Celtic) Folk Rock, Hard Rock (even close to Metal occasionally) and Symphonic Rock with plenty of progressive aspects, features and structures. You might even say that while this album is almost as folky as the previous two, it is also the heaviest and most symphonic of the band's many albums; it's Prog Folk, Heavy Prog and Symphonic Prog all at the same time!

The most important part of any music is for me the quality of the actual material and Stormwatch offers some really strong compositions that are up to par with those on Aqualung and Heavy Horses. North Sea Oil and Orion have strong and memorable melodies that grab a hold of you from the start. Apart from being darker in their lyrical content and quite heavy and hard edged, these two are quite typical high quality Jethro Tull songs. Home, on the other hand, is a very symphonic and somewhat bombastic ballad that is very uncharacteristic of Jethro Tull. It contributes to making this album more varied and diverse than many other Jethro Tull albums. The diversity is indeed one of Stormwatch's strongest features.

Dark Ages is the longest track of the album with its marching rhythm and interesting tempo changes throughout. It takes a couple of listens to understand this number, but it sure grew on me a lot. Warm Sporran is another track that is very uncharacteristic for the band. It is an instrumental with male choirs, marching drums, flute and bagpipes (or something that sounds a bit like bagpipes). It sounds like something that could have been on a Mike Oldfield album! - a great interlude that further adds to the diversity of this album and lets you catch your breath a bit before the rest of the songs.

Something's On The Move is the grittiest of the songs here and is a hard rocker in typical Jethro Tull-style with organ, flute and Hard Rock guitar play, as such it is the least great of the songs on the album, but it is still great! Old Ghosts and Flying Dutchman are both slower and more symphonic songs with strings, piano, flute and strong vocals. The latter have a very folky flute and mandolin instrumental break. These songs also might require several listens before you get them, but that is typical of really great progressive music!

Dun Ringill is another of my favourite songs from this underrated album. It is a short acoustic song with a captivating atmosphere. I first heard it on the Slipstream video which comes as a bonus DVD disc with the A album and I liked it instantly. The album ends with another instrumental in Elegy. Its melody reminds of Home and thus ties the album together perfectly. The style of the piece reminds a bit of the band Focus.

Stormwatch has become a personal favourite of mine and I now think it's one of the very best Tull albums of all time. I should admit right away that I have a special thing for its dark and hard edged sound and also its diversity due in part to the inclusion of a couple of instrumentals. I can understand that someone would prefer the more cheerful and whimsical Songs From The Wood or the more strongly Folk-oriented Heavy Horses, but for me Stormwatch is even more appealing. Though I consider this album very underrated, you should not be led to think that I rate it very highly just to compensate for other's lower ratings - I never do that! In my opinion, this album deserves the highest rating on its own merits and it will grow on you if you give it some further chances. It sure did on me, anyway! It is hard for me to find anything to complain about here!

Very highly recommended!

 

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Jethro Tull turned to a more serious approach with this album, indeed this is Anderson at his most melancholy and brooding at times. There was good reason as the bassist John Glasgock was suffering congenital heart problems and this was his last album before his tragic death. Other members of the band were departing so it was a genuine changing of the guard. The songs were reflecting the troubled economy with the oil crisis being at the forefront of the lyrics.  I prefer this darker Tull than the whimsy of “Too Old to Rock N Roll (Too Young To Die)” or “Songs From the Wood”. However it is reasonable to understand why many reviewers see it as a letdown, whereas others hail it as a masterpiece. I sit somewhere in the middle as the musicianship is well up to standard especially Martin Barre’s driving guitars which are heavier on “Stormwatch”. 

Anderson is terrific on the flute with tracks such as ‘Orion’ and ‘Flying Dutchman’. His vocals are seriously conveyed which is a nice change. The melodies are catchy and grow on you, particularly on the upbeat ‘Kelpie’ bonus track. The bonus tracks are actually all very good, some were released as singles, such as ‘Stitch in Time’ or B sides such as the medieval inspired instrumental ‘King Henry's Madrigal’.

The packaging of the album is effective with snow bears, binoculars and album covers of the Eps and singles. All in all this is a fine album that definitely marks the end of the 70s decade. The golden era was well and truly over and now Jethro Tull were about to encounter the 80s as they verged off into new rocky territory.    

 

469

Cosmic Messenger
Jean-Luc Ponty

Jean-Luc  Ponty Cosmic Messenger album cover 

A review by Sean Trane:

By the late 70's, Ponty's «group» was not even close to its debut line-up, since outside Jean-Luc himself, no one else was still present. But this hardly means that the newer members are not as good (or better) than their predecessor, far from it. But one thing is sure: Ponty's formula is definitely going a little stale by now, with each and every album being systematically a little too close for comfort; Cosmic Messenger is almost incestuously close to Imaginary Voyage and Taste For Passion and you will not be able to tell for sure which album you're on. The problem lies at the very base of the music: this instrumental fusion was also by 78 relatively common, hardly groundbreaking and to be truthful a bit boring.

While the opening title track still sounds exciting, the rest of the first side is rather yawning, unexciting and heard-before while still remaining pleasant and technical. The second side is rather more interesting, but still not worth writing home (or even a dithyrambic review for that matter) about: both Fake Paradise (about angel dust, maybe?) and the excellent Egocentric Molecules are worth a note. While Ethereal Mood is a dreamy atmospheric tune, but failing to evolve much to arouse your interest and ultimately overstaying its welcome.

Yet another late 70's JR/F album. Not the most inspired nor is it the worst either. Just a bit pointless. Désolé Jean-Luc, quand tu en as un, tu les as tous!!!

470

Crossing the Line 
Asia Minor

Asia Minor Crossing the Line  album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

The two main players on this album are from Turkey, but they now reside in France which is where the drummer is from. The drummer Lionel Beltrami was only 18 when this album was released. Nice picture of the trio in the back cover. There is a guest keyboardist as well. This was their debut album released in 1979 and to my ears I hear an eighties vibe at times. In a good way though. I like the accented vocals, the atmosphere and flute on this one. There is some aggressive moments as well.  

‘Preface’ opens with a gong before melancholic flute comes in. Guitar and a full sound arrive after a minute. The flute leads the way with prominant drums. Synths before 2 1/2 minutes and vocals come in. Guitar leads the way 4 minutes in.  ‘Mahzun Gozler’ might be my favourite track on here. It's also the longest at over 8 minutes in length. The tempo keeps shifting and i really like the vocals. Something about this song makes me feel so good. It takes me to a good place. Emotional vocals after 7 1/2 minutes.  

‘Mystic Dance’ is a gentle guitar/flute piece.  ‘Misfortune’ becomes uptempo with flute and drums leading the way. It settles after 1 1/2 minutes and vocals come in. Kicks back in at 3 minutes.  ‘Landscape’ is a little heavier when the drums and raw guitar come in. Vocals and a calm before a minute. Synths join in. Keyboard solo before 2 1/2 minutes but it kicks back in quickly. Nice guitar 3 1/2 minutes in to end it.  ‘Visions’ opens with bass as drums and keys join in. Guitar follows and this sounds really good. It settles 1 1/2 minutes in and vocals come in.  

‘Without Stir’ is a short mellow tune with reserved vocals.  ‘Hayal Dolu Guler Icin’ has a good beat to open. Flute then a calm as vocals and synths come in. The tempo and mood continues to change.  ‘Postface’ opens with barely audible organ that builds then flute joins in.  I like this album a lot. Still it's barely 4 stars.



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - March 04 2012 at 21:26
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The 1980s coming soon...

oh no! 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AtomicCrimsonRush Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: March 13 2012 at 23:36

 

 1980

471

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Permanent Waves
Rush

Rush Permanent Waves album cover 

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

 

“Permanent Waves” is one of the last Rush albums I  purchased due to the fact that with my other Rush Cds I had somehow accumulated all but two tracks from this album, at least live versions and some on compilations. However, I am glad I bit the bullet and got hold of this as it’s an absolute masterpiece and quintessential Rush. It has become one of the top 5 Cds in my Rush collection. The main reason this album works so well as there are no filler tracks. It is a new style of Rush in comparison to previous efforts but it is surprisingly mainstream yet still maintaining the aspects of prog.

The first track, 'The Spirit of Radio' was a massive hit for the band and it is easy to see why. It has some of the most endearing and memorable guitar work from Alex Lifeson. Listen to that phased out lead work in the intro, and the way the time signature instantly changes only to kick into a standard 4/4 riff. Geddy Lee's high soprano vocals have never been better and you have to love the lyrics: "Begin the day with a friendly voice, a companion, unobtrusive, plays that song that's so elusive, and the magic music makes your morning mood." This example of crazy alliteration that evokes a quirky sense of humour has defined the Rush sound. The track works effectively as a radio jingle promoting the medium, no wonder it was a top 20 UK hit in 1980, one of the greatest rock singles ever. It even features a startling reggae breakdown towards the end that shouldn't work but Rush makes it work because they are masters of song structure. After the words "Concert hall" we hear a crowd roaring, which really adds to the overall effect of the track. Lifeson's wah-wah guitar solo is amazing. A short blast of the opening riff and then it ends abruptly.

The next track 'Freewill' is also a terrific prog track with an excellent melody that stays in your head, notably the melodic chorus "you can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice, if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice." Great stuff and a live favourite.

Another notable track and the main reason for my interest in the album was the standout epic 'Natural Science'. It clocks in at a little over 9 minutes and is a type of multimovement suite with variations of light and shade in three sections. I had heard this on the live "Different Stages" but this, the studio version, way outclasses the live version for production value. Wind chimes, tubular bells, atmospherics, jagged guitar riffs and all manner of instruments merge together on this epic to produce one of the finest recordings of the band.

In conclusion, “Permanent Waves” is an essential purchase and a good starting point for those interested in Rush.

 

472

Memento Z Banalnym Tryptykiem
SBB

SBB Memento Z Banalnym Tryptykiem album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

This is one of SBB's highest rated albums and I can certainly understand why. There's a bit of a symphonic flavour to this one with some nice guitar solos thrown in. It's an enjoyable listen but there's something about it that is for lack of a better word "bland". It's not nearly as good or as dynamic as some of their earlier albums in my opinion. It's pleasant. The musicianship is of the highest level as usual it just seems that they don't try to be adventurous, it's all about being comfortable.  I'm going to use the English titles to save time and space (haha).  

"My Land Of Dreams" opens with some brief classical music before the drums come in like a stampede. They settle as the main melody arrives before a minute. Some excellent guitar here and then it settles right down before 3 minutes as vocals come in. It kicks back in around 5 1/2 minutes with some nice bass. Great sound 7 minutes in. 

"The Triangle Of Joy" is laid back with some Spanish sounding guitar. It stops after 4 1/2 minutes as synths start to dominate and electric guitar comes in.  "Strategy Of Pulse" has this good heavy sound and a Fusion flavour to it.  

"Memento With A Banal Tryptych" is the 21 minute closing track. Guitar eventually takes the lead then it settles after 2 minutes with vocals. A change after 7 minutes as vocal melodies and clapping take over. A symphonic flavour 13 minutes in. It settles again with vocals 14 1/2 minutes in, the vocals get passionate at times. It kicks back in before 17 1/2 minutes. The guitar is outstanding! Great finish then it ends with a brief classical interlude like at the start of the album.  An enjoyable listen that the majority seem to be really taken with.

473

Peter Gabriel (3 - "Melt")
Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel (3 -

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Peter Gabriel's third album is very atmospheric and his vocals really shine on this effort. Every track has a peculiar, dark ambience that reaches through and penetrates the subconscious. I have never been able to get the haunting 'Games Without Frontiers' out of my head since the first listen. The song has infamy for many reasons. It was the first breakthrough single for Gabriel worldwide since his days with Genesis. It cemented him as a solo performance with a distinctive style.

It also boasts some of the most potent lyrics of any song on the radio during 1980, and Kate Bush's beautiful enigmatic 'Jeux Sans Frontiers' that begins and ends the track is hypnotic. For years it was debatable what she was actually singing. I have heard many interpretations, some hilarious, worth quoting here. Was she singing 'She's so popular?' or 'She's a frumpy gay' or even 'Share some opium', 'Share soulful three tears' or 'She's not from the Earth.' 'Jeux Sans Frontiers' is actually French for the song title. Kate Bush mispronounces the actual phrase and that's why it sounds like 'She's so popular.'

There is so much to recommend this album. Highlights include, 'And Through The Wire', 'Not One Of Us' and 'Lead A Normal Life' among others. This one of Gabriel's best albums along with the outstanding “Up” and “So”. Treat your ears to it soon.

 

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

When Peter Gabriel left Genesis to pursue a solo career, he wasn't quite ready yet to go about it on his own. This is evident on his first two solo releases that, despite a couple of strong moments on the debut, lacked direction. Apart from the wonderful Family Snapshot, there is nothing here that is quite as good as Solsbury Hill or Here Comes The Flood from the debut, but the strength of this third album lies in its consistency. Gabriel finally seemed to have a picture, an overall vision of where he was going and what he wanted to do and that made the much needed difference. Peter Gabriel 3 (aka "Melt" due to the cover art) thus was the best Peter Gabriel solo album up to that point (and possibly ever). Even his voice seems to be invigorated by the improvement in the song writing department and the production is also much improved over the weak Peter Gabriel 2 album.

Instead of jumping from one style to another, there is a nice flow to this album with each song more naturally following the previous one. This is still not Prog in any sense of the word and only glimpses of Gabriel's old band can be detected here (and this is really more similar to post-Gabriel Genesis than to anything from the time when Gabriel was in the band). In my opinion, Gabriel never managed to do anything that surpasses (post-Gabriel) Genesis.

Interestingly, Gabriel's old band mate Phil Collins guests on drums here. Larry Fast, Tony Levin and Robert Fripp return to provide synthesizers, bass and guitar respectively. Kate Bush contributes background vocals.

If you want to explore Peter Gabriel's solo career, the present album is a good place to start

 

474

Dialog s vesmírem
Progres 2

Progres 2 Dialog s vesmírem album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

I have reviewed their previous album "Maugli (As Barnodaj)" and I must admit it's almost shocking how much better "Dialog S Vesmirem" is compared to it. What happened in those 2 years? This was apparently the first Rock Opera that was performed in Czechoslavakia and to get a taste of that you'd have to get the double live album that has the same title as this one. I'm so impressed with the bass, drumming and guitar work on this album. There's a JRF vibe at times and these guys can flat out play. Lots of synths here too. We do get vocals as well which sound good.

"V Zajeti Pocitacu" opens with an incredible guitar solo then the rest of the band kicks in around a minute. The bass here is huge. "Zeme 2555" opens with vocals and guitar then it kicks in fairly quickly. Catchy stuff and again the bass is very fat and the guitar impresses.  

"Pisen O Jabiku" has a spacey intro then acoustic guitar, vocals and bass standout. This is mellow but beautiful. Keys and synths follow. It picks up before 6 1/2 minutes. Love the bass and guitar here as we get a fantastic instrumental section right to the end. "Odlet" has this very epic intro then it settles in before a minute but it's uptempo. Vocals around 1 1/2 minutes. Chunky bass too. A powerful and dynamic final 2 minutes. Killer stuff.

"Planeta Hieronyma Boche I" is MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA-like to start. How good is this! That changes when the vocals arrive 2 1/2 minutes in although it's still powerful. "Planeta Hieronyma Bosche II" opens with atmosphere and some ground shaking bass. It kicks in with drums after a minute. We get some vocals and vocal melodies. It settles after 3 minutes as the guitar starts to solo and it goes on and on right to the end. Amazing.

"Ticise Mych Oci" opens with sounds that build including chunky bass. It calms down with vocals then kicks back in after 2 1/2 minutes with synths too. Nice. It settles again with vocals. The guitar to end it is incredible. "Hymna Robotu" opens with a drum solo that is so impressive. I'm not usually into them but this is inventive. Bass then vocals come in. This is a masterpiece and one of the best albums I have ever heard from the Czech Republic.

 

475

Familjesprickor (Family Cracks) 
Zamla Mammaz Manna

Zamla Mammaz Manna Familjesprickor (Family Cracks)  album cover

A review by Warthur:

I wasn't keen on earlier Zamla releases, and as far as Samla went I always preferred their Canterbury-influenced material to their more avant-garde stuff. But Family Cracks really is an excellent little album; it's essentially Zamla presenting their own take on the RIOish chamber rock concept as espoused by Art Zoyd, Univers Zero, and (to a lesser extent) on the last Henry Cow album (Western Culture). Zamla play a more light-hearted variant of this style, less horror- based than Art Zoyd, Univers Zero and Present and less hostile than Henry Cow. With snatches of polka infiltrating proceedings, the overall effect is genuinely original and possibly the group's greatest artistic accomplishment.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm:

It's kind of funny that in the liner notes the band explains that the reason this record isn't as optimistic or happy as past albums is that they were breaking up, and that these circumstances have affected the music. Kind of funny because this is energetic, exciting and fun music for the most part. This was a pleasure to listen to, with the complex instrumental work, and band interplay. Lots of variety as well on this one, and quite accessible too. There are no horns on this album, but hey there's accordion!

"Five Single Combats" opens with piano and cymbals, there is so much going on in this uptempo track. The percussion is great, and there are vocal melodies as well. Lots to enjoy on the opening song.  "Ventilation Calculation" is dominated by guitar and drums in the one minute intro. This domination continues. The guitar melodies are a treat in this straight forward song. Piano after 4 minutes.  

"The Forge" is an uptempo song that is sort of similar to the opening track. A collage of sounds greets our ears. Accordion 2 1/2 minutes in. Just a great sounding tune.  "The Thrall" was taken from live performances in France. Vocal sounds, cymbals create lots of atmosphere with no real melody. The song starts to build 2 minutes in with some eerie sounds. This is a freaky song.  

"The Painting Short Story" opens with some excellent guitar that gets even better (more tasteful) later. Outstanding drumming as well as piano arrives before the song really kicks in at the 3 minute mark.  "Pappa (with right of veto)" is one of only two songs with lyrics. It was recorded live in Germany. Aggressive vocals with a good melody. This is the catchiest song on the album. The song calms down 2 minutes in with some crazy vocals before building back up. Vibes and drums to end it.  

"The Farmhand" is a lighter song with piano, drums, guitar and bass before 2 minutes. This one has vocals too. Seems like they are having fun on this cool tune.  "Kernal In Short And Long Castling" opens with some fantastic drum/piano interplay. Guitar arrives before the song settles down and then rises back up beautifully to a full sound. A nice melody after 3 minutes before the original melody returns 5 minutes in to end the song.  This is such a classic that you should really get while you can. The cover that shows a picture ripped in half of a family in a boat, and the title of this album, has to have special meaning concerning the band breaking up.

476

Levitation 
Hawkwind

Hawkwind Levitation  album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

“Levitation” typifies the new direction for Hawkwind who would enter the 80s with spacey rock and a retro sound.

There are still weird effects and catchy hooks and Brock’s accomplished vocals but what makes this new era for Hawkwind stand out is that the musicianship goes up a few notches. Gone are the chug a chug repeated rhythms to make way for complex lead guitar soloing and more accessible riffing.  The keyboards are played brilliantly by Gong’s Tim Blake, and Bainbridge and Lloyd-Langton are excellent throughout. Ginger Baker on drums is definitely a drawcard; the man is an unmitigated legend and he lends his expertise on every track. 

‘Levitation’ is a rocker with infectious chorus and crunching riffs that features on many compilations. ‘Motorway City’ is one of the more popular songs sounding somewhat like Motorhead though I prefer the spacier Hawkwind.

‘Psychosis’ begins with a spaceship effect and some voice overs typical of a space flight, then after some psychedelia the riff starts. Baker's drums pound relentlessly and there is a delightful sound on acoustics. ‘World of Tiers’ continues in this vein until we come to the fantastic next track. 

‘Who's Gonna Win the War’ is an outstanding song that I first heard on a rock box set and I loved it enough to get hold of this album. Brock sounds great and it has a catchy melody with spacey overtones. The bassline is terrific and the guitar solo soars along with the wind effects.

‘Space Chase’ is an amazing composition with space squibbles and very inventive keyboards soloing over blazing guitars. This is Hawkwind at their best and makes this one album that keeps getting better the more it continues. As an instrumental it delivers some of the best musicianship of the extensive Hawkwind catalogue.

‘The 5th Second of Forever’ begins with acoustic vibrations and lets loose with intensity. ‘Dust of Time’ has a wonderful melody and driving guitars. It is one of the best for Hawkwind with a memorable tune and some of Brock’s best work on vocals. The lead guitar break is a real treat and very atmospheric keyboards augment the soundscape. Overall “Levitation” is one of Hawkwind’s best releases and certainly is most consistent in terms of memorable songs and innovative structures and arrangements.

 

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

Finally, Hawkwind put priority on music over drugs, melody over beat, sound over noise. This album has everything most of the earlier Hawkwind albums completely lacked - memorable songs, good musicianship, melodic sensibilities, good production, even some decent lyrics are featured! All this puts Levitation far above all other Hawkwind albums (that I have heard so far, anyway).

Huw Lloyd-Langton's lead guitar work is strong throughout and there are even some discrete acoustic guitars parts present! The acoustic intro/outro of The 5th Second Of Forever is particularly worthy of special mention. The drumming on this album is by none other than Ginger Baker and his contribution is miles away from the repetitive and often unimaginative drumming of the early Hawkwind albums. Tim Blake's keyboards are mainly spacy, but sometimes he manages to be somewhat symphonic too. The bass guitar is also well played but the vocals are perhaps not very impressive, but nothing here is sloppy like it was on those early albums. This was a short lived, but musically successful line up of the band.

The title track, Motorway City, Who's Gonna Win The War, The 5th Second Of Forever and Dust Of Time are the proper songs of the album, the rest being instrumental interludes. Space Chase really lives up to its title and is the best of the instrumentals here, but none of them are bad at all.

This is one of the very few Hawkwind albums that I like, but it is a great one!

 

477

Defector
Steve Hackett

Steve Hackett Defector album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

"Perfector"

Even if I consider myself a major fan of Steve Hackett, I have been relatively critical of his early solo albums, especially Please Don't Touch and Voyage Of An Acolyte. Even though these albums had several Hackett classics, they were, in my opinion, severely inconsistent and uneven. One problem with them was due to utilizing too many different vocalists, some of which were totally wrong for Hackett's music, and also displaying too many different musical styles, only some of which really fitted with the rest of Hackett's music. All these factors gave the impression of an artist not knowing in which direction he wanted to go. On his third album, Spectral Mornings, Hackett finally began to better find his own musical identity and that album certainly constituted an improvement over the first two. However, Spectral Mornings still suffered from some of the same problems and despite some excellent tracks, that album as a whole did not reach excellent status in my book.

Defector is a bit more consistent and in that sense it was Hackett's best album up till that point! Almost everything on Defector is excellent, but perhaps not quite matching the very best couple of tracks from Spectral Mornings. The dark, mystical, Far Eastern-flavoured instrumental The Steppes is great, and has been in Steve's live set many times up till the present day. The Pop/Rock songs Time To get Out and The Show are in many ways forerunners to what Steve would do on his next album, Cured (not at all as bad as some people say!). Leaving and The Toast are vocal-based numbers that reminds me of more recent Hackett material such as Serpentine Song and In Memoriam (from To Watch The Storms and Darktown respectively).

Jacuzzi is a great Jazz-Rock/Fusion type work-out in typical Hackett fashion while Hammer In The Sand is a very beautiful, mellow piano-based composition. Not too common on Hackett albums. Two Vamps As Guests is a very typical Hackett Classical guitar piece that interestingly starts with a reprise of the melody from The Steppes - beautiful but hardly his best piece in this style. However, it does contribute to the very appealing diversity of this album. Like The Steppes, also Slogans, Jacuzzi and Hammer In The Sand from this album have made it into Steve's recent live sets.

The only real low point of the album is the closing number, Sentimental Institution. This 30's/40's style song is a throwaway and occupies the same role on this album as The Ballad Of The Decomposing Man did on Spectral Mornings. The vocals on this one is done by Steve himself (while the other vocals on this album still was by Pete Hicks) and I get the feeling that up till and including this album Steve often needed humour to make him feel comfortable as a singer. On the next album, Cured, Steve would gain a complete new confidence in the vocal department and do all the vocals himself for the first time. Maybe the title of that album refers to being cured from his previous vocal inhibitions? But since this song comes at the end, it doesn't disrupt the flow of the album.

Overall, Defector is a great album that very well represents Steve Hackett's early career; it sums up very well what he had been doing on his previous albums but leaves out most of those albums deficiencies. The primary influences are Jazz, Folk and Classical and perhaps you could say that the sound here is closer to those influences than on many other Hackett albums. The mood is a bit darker and the music a bit more mellow here and Steve's brother John Hackett's wonderful flutes are heavily featured.

Defector is one of Steve's best ever albums and it is an excellent addition to any Prog collection

 

478

Commercial Album
The Residents

The Residents Commercial Album album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Welcome to the world of The Residents - their best album? At least there are 40 tracks to choose from. One minute long each - very compelling music.

I could end the review there as I have just described the album. But there is a lot to offer on this conceptual array of soundwaves. You may question whether they are songs, but if not what the heck are they? When is a song not a song? There is music, there are lyrics but it's unlike anything you will ever hear - perhaps early Devo meets Kraftwerk on acid.

The Residents' 'Commercial Album' is a 1980 experiment, ahead of its time in many ways, where every track was designed to run for a whole minute with a few seconds to spare, to emulate the feel and style of a commercial. Fast moving, no nonsense, quirky music, with little verses, to complement the surreal sounds is the order of the day. The original 4 clips were put together by the Residents known as 'One Minute Movies' and introduced me to their style at an early age. Since then I have been quite fascinated with their music and in particular the one minute tracks. Having watched the Commercial DVD featuring all these songs in a different order for some crazy reason only known to the band themselves, I must confess I am more a fan of the music then the visuals, although the two may be inseparable. The visuals are disturbing and unsettling on the senses and not at all pleasant, whereas the music is innovation and inspiring to the Nth degree. At times the music may resemble a kids toy dinky piano or a glockenspiel, at other times there is a dark wall of sound or low synthesizers with a real atmosphere of doom and gloom. Nothing is as it seems and none of the songs are related to each other, rather you hear a whole swag of snippets of songs. The album sounds like a sampler but these are the entire songs. The result is you just start enjoying the song and it ends abruptly without fanfare or apology. This is not as bad as it sounds because in contrast the songs you don't like are so short that it doesn't really matter.

To say that The Residents are an acquired taste is an understatement, as the music almost parodies itself and does not try to emulate the standard song structure, leaving little room for refrains or choruses, the whole thing is just a concept using some form of music to hang it on as a framework for some twisted thematic concept. Not everything works but as a whole its quite an experience albeit a morose one. The highlights of the album are as follows in no particular order:

Troubled Man - The song grows on you with a nice little melody.

The Nameless Souls - I like the song lyrics "she was just uncaring... she was just indifferent, what else could she do... I was just a stranger.... I was just uneasy what else could I do, we were just the nameless Souls that sit inside, wishing that we were someone on the outside, wishing that we were the ones on the outside, wishing that we weren't the ones who were stuck." Very cute ditty.

Amber - cool melody - Is that Molly singing? "Life is just a situation, life is just a game, ..." then the male voice answers, "Amber was the autumn leaves and Amber was the skin, ...like the sound of running horses early in the day." A nice song really, sounds like a demented Western.

Birds In the Trees  - A song over stuffed with shrilly sfx and a nasty deep vocal performance.

In Between Dreams - a very bass heavy instrumental especially on keyboards that stab down without subtlety.

Act of Being Polite - disturbing song and sonic bass is awesome. "I found her crying in the morning sitting in a chair, she was wrapping something up and wrapping it with care, I did not mean to hurt her when I fell asleep last night, I was just exhausted from the act of being polite." Another tale of unrequited love.

My Second Wife - Who knows what happened to the first.... The instrumental is weird and ethereal, even featuring a crowd cheering.

Loneliness - a real fan favourite as it's a good song about isolation or alienation.

Die In Terror - sounds nasty by the title but really a morbid minimalist attack on a form of music, the lyrics are inaudible, thankfully.

Suburban Bathers - The music is sweeping and sporadic, very child like.

Medicine Man - Intermittent beat and irregular metrical shifts highlight this instrumental.

And I Was Alone - This is an instrumental highlight with excellent music, very eerie.

Tragic Bells - Lots of chimes with song lyrics "Tragic Bells are ringing for me.... don't know when it will end..."

Loss of Innocence - a good attempt at a song.

Ups and Downs - The music is compelling with off kilter strangled singing. I like the zaps at the end. It seems to collapse.

Love Is... - a very unsettling song.

Less Not More - heavily percussive and surreal sound.

Picnic Boy - Nice. Sounds like Lene Lovich is singing. Actually I found out from the credits it IS Lene Lovich singing and she does a comparable job too.

The Simple Song - The sound is Kraftwerk gone beserk. Childish and simple "We are simple, you are simple, like this simple tune... We are simple, you are simple, like this simple tune..."

Perfect Love - Fantastic song with great melody. "There's something I must tell you, there's something I must say, the only really perfect love is one that gets away." The vocals sound indifferent as if he has no interest in singing, but it works well.

Secrets -The song is similar in melody and style to The Simple Song.

Japanese Watercolor - Oriental influences abound creating strange music with Eastern influences. Great instrumental.

End of Home - Very good song with excellent well executed synth.

Fingertips - This one actually sounds like music, with some cool guitar licks, commercial indeed!

Phantom - The best instrumental on the album. A dark, brooding majestic affair.

The Coming of the Crow - An instrumental where the music is creepy with angular jangly guitar and irregular drums.

Dimples and Toes - Very disjointed, erratic, jaunty music without drums and well sung. "She is attractive but very restrained..."

Moisture - A classic track, my favourite with very cool melody and lyrics that are enigmatic. "Someone saw a stranger there with moisture on her lips, and it was also seen upon her arms and on her hips, no one knows exactly who she was or how she died, but when they opened up her purse they found a snail inside."

Give It To Someone Else - The singing on this is great, very nasal like 'It's a Man's World'. And those lyrics "Squirming just a little bit... the sound of slapping skin... " What? Innovative music enhances this. Another definitive highlight, reminds me of Primus.

La La - Upbeat music for a change of pace.

Nice Old Man - Quirky song about a nice old man.

Red Rider - This song has an excellent rhythm driving it and some excellent music. "Cellar doors are open but the stones were out that night, the light reflected from the leaves the sky was still too bright, I saw her passing as the wind was rising in the air, she rode upon a red bicycle and she had red hair". 

When We Were Young - The music is more accessible on this one and quite angelic.

Shut Up Shut Up -The song is very catchy featuring cute little screams and a heavy guitar plucked from hell.

The Residents creed is to experiment with music as an art form rather than an accessible entertaining form, as they are not concerned with appeasing or pleasing the masses. The music is catchy and grows on you like a form of osmosis and you tend to remember each track the more you hear it. I know many of these by heart now but it’s a weird experience at first hearing one small snippet of music after another, because none of it is related but is rather a patchwork, a roll on musical deodorant of sounds and styles that you put on but will never get out of your system. Once you are exposed to these innovative conceptual artists you may never listen to music the same way again. It certainly will create a topic of conversation. Ferociously original, alienated music, difficult to grasp, but unforgettable. 4 stars.

 

A review by Conor Fynes:

There haven't been too many bands who are quite as puzzling as The Residents. Their music usually aims at deconstructing pop music, turning it into something strange, campy, and undeniably terrifying. This attempt to break down the parts of popular music culminates in the 'Commercial Album', one of their most well-known and regarded works. An album composed of dozens of one-minute ditties, The Residents are certainly pulling off a big gimmick with this, but their intelligence as artists enables them to turn a bad joke into a very valid and (at times) disturbing piece of music.

As the title suggests, The Residents here are making a commentary on popular, radio- friendly music, and satirize it to death. What we are left with are a bunch of short songs that barely crack the one minute mark, throwing an idea or two at the listening and then wandering off. A listener is left to draw their own conclusions and interpretations about this choice of album structure. 'Commercial Album's gimmicky structure actually works on a musical level as well. While none of these songs ever feel developed or complete, the short length of the songs means that there is a constant flow of new ideas, and some of these little snippets are very good. They almost all rely on simple melodies, and many of these pieces even use variations of the same theme. At times, this leads to a repetitious and tiring experience, but there is a great variety to the sounds and textures that the band uses. It is difficult to describe, but many of these sound like experimental elevator music, generally peppy and simplistic, but there is almost always a musical line that does not sit right, giving the music a twisted face, despite the catchiness of these ditties.

Paired with these one minute quips are short stories, as told through the lyrics. Like the rest of The Residents' music, the singing is not particularly skilled from a technical perspective, but it evokes feeling and a morbid sense of intrigue. The lyrics are very simple structurally, yet surprisingly dark and twisted. In a verse or two, they tell a short anecdote; some personal favourites include a jingle about a man who falls into depression after his wife leaves him ('Troubled Old Man') and a sad commentary on isolation ('Loneliness'). The lyrics are generally incredibly simple, and there are only a couple of different poetic structures the band uses throughout, but they are effectively eerie.

The music first passed me as being shallow, but it is only deceptively so. Like all of The Residents' work, there is plenty of thought put into what they do here, although some of it may only succeed at puzzling a listener. The seemingly endless string of one minute songs does wear thin if I'm not in a perfect mood for it, but the band's profound commentary and success with creating something truly left-of-centre brings me to love the album, despite the campy approach with which they insist on making music with.

 

479

Colours
Eloy

Eloy Colours album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Gorgeous spacey keyboards and innovation into the 80s.

"Colours" is a very good Eloy album following a plethora of classic releases during the 70s. The album has a retro sound as all 80s albums tend to have especially with the synth sound, but this is still a progressive release from Eloy with some of their best material.

'Horizons' features the high pitched vocals of guests Edna and Sabine over a quirky time sig driven by keyboards and the hypnotic guitar melodies of Hannes Arkona and Bornemann.

'Illuminations' has familiar Eloy vocals from Frank Bornemann and the strong synth sound of Hannes Folberth. The pace is moderate tempo, and some heavier guitars are heard sounding like Nektar. The riffs are catchy, with terrific guitar work throughout, incredible keyboard solos, and I would say this is a highlight on the album.

'Giant' has a Pink Floyd vibe and some innovative guitars. The keyboard phrases are spacey and it tends to hook into a hypno groove with beatific passages and nice vocals from Bornemann. The keyboard solo is wonderful, very soothing and so well played.

'Impressions' has a whimsical feel with beautiful flute sound, keyboards and guitar picking with the vocals taking on a laid back style. This is easy listening prog but very well accomplished musicianship especially that gorgeous flute solo using keyboards.

'Child Migration' is a keyboard domination, and the vocals are well executed. I like the way the crunching heavy guitar riff comes in later with an odd time sig. The release of tension into light passages is an outstanding touch, and it drives along with layers of keyboards. I love the Floydian keys at the end with spacey atmospheres. This is definitely one of my favourite Eloy songs.

'Gallery' has faster keyboard phrases with an 80s sound but Eloy somehow keep it progressive enough to hold interest. It is more straight forward in terms of structure but a nice diversion into rock.

'Silhouette' is the single and has a Pink Floyd style riff with a rock beat. The vocals are phased and effective. This has a solid melody line and scorching lead guitars.

'Sunset' finishes the album with acoustic vibrations and symphonic synths. The mesmirising beauty of the instrumental is as captivating as the album cover artwork. I would dare to suggest this is one of Eloy's triumphant releases and it certainly caps off the 80s that was devoid of innovation like this for the most part. Eloy managed to capture a modern sound without giving into commercialism and creating an album of progressive virtuosic musicianship.

 

480

Duke
Genesis

Genesis Duke album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

Duke was the last ever really good album by Genesis and their last progressive record. In many ways Duke is a crossover between what had been and what was to be; a blend of 70's and the 80's Genesis. Some purists lost interest in Genesis already when Peter Gabriel left the band, but Trick Of The Tale and Wind And Wuthering are both, in my opinion, fantastic albums (indeed, both are all time favourites of mine); yet others gave up on Genesis when Steve Hackett left, but, again, both And Then There Were Three and Duke are, in my view, great albums too! For sure, the signs of the commercial direction the band would take with their next couple of albums were already there on And Then There Were Three (and some would claim Wind And Wuthering), but Behind The Lines/Duchess/Guide Vocal and Duke's Travels/Duke's End are great pieces of Symphonic Prog and together these tracks make up about half of the album.

The rest is mostly high quality Pop/Rock with only a few songs that stand out as weaker than the rest. Turn It On Again became a hit and a live favourite that was played on all (?) Genesis concerts since. I really like this song! Misunderstanding too became something of a hit, but it is a merely decent Pop song. Man Of Our Times and Heathaze are good songs, but not really more than just good. The weakest moments, however, come towards the end with Alone Tonight, Cul-De-Sac and Please Don't Ask, but this is remedied by the strong Duke's Travels/Duke's End that reprises some themes from the album's opening songs.

Duke is a highly recommended addition to your Genesis collection. Genesis last great album.

A review by Warthur:

Hardly the pop sellout it is sometimes painted as, Duke is in fact the last hurrah for Genesis' proggy side. Tony Banks ably incorporates a more modern (for the time) synthesiser sound into the band's music this time - and is one of the few people who are able to avoid early 80s synths sounding dated - and the album consists of three different types of song: adeptly composed art-pop pieces like Turn It On Again or Misunderstanding, nods to the band's pastoral prog past like Heathaze, and a modernised progressive sound displayed on songs such as Duchess and Duke's Travels/Duke's End which could have happily seen the band carry the prog torch through the 1980s and still attain great commercial success if only they had pursued this direction.

The disc also seems to be something of an inadvertent concept album - dividing up the "Albert" suite (Behind the Lines/Duchess/Guide Vocal/Turn It On Again/Duke's Travel's/Duke's End) and spreading it over the album means that overall the album seems to have a hidden storyline about a man whose wife leaves him, goes through a depressing period in his life, musters the courage to meet up with her again (Please Don't Ask), and then realises that he's moved on and is able to finally put her behind him. (The first "Take what's yours and be damned!" in Guide Vocal is sorrowful petulance from the jilted man; the second "Take what's yours and be damned!" at the end of the album is a firm rejection from a man who has decided he doesn't need what his ex was offering any more.)

I wouldn't call it the crowning prog achievement of the Phil era of Genesis - that accolade probably goes to A Trick of the Tail - but it's a competent updating of the Genesis sound which ably balances commercial accessibility with progressive credibility. It's certainly no betrayal of the band's past by any stretch of the imagination. That, friends, would come later.

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

 

Well, this Genesis album is dividing the respective critics who give it 1 to 5 stars and obviously cannot agree as to whether this is a masterpiece or a master-mess. I sit pretty comfortably in the middle. It is not all that bad, but nowhere near a masterpiece.

"Duke" is the first Genesis album that I owned and as such has a place in nostalgic terms for me as a vinyl treasure. The packaging is unforgettable with that iconic figure looking at the window. I absolutely love 4 of the tracks, but, as is the case in the 80s, Genesis were losing their prog power. But having said that, suffice it to say, 'Turn it on Again' definitely was progressive and hit the top 10 charts at that! The unusual meter in the pre chorus, dropping a full phrase and intonation, is outstanding and showed Genesis were still maintaining the inventive edge of the 70s days. Phil Collins is better on this album than subsequent albums when he turned to power ballads. He is wonderful on ‘Behind The Lines’ and the brilliant ‘Duchess’. I always loved that war cry in the chorus "and everyone cried for more", having seen it first on the promo clip on TV.

The others on side one are rather forgettable. It is on side 2 that the genuine prog touch returns on the classic ‘Duke's Travels’, an 8:39 blitz of awesome instrumentation. There are many mediocre moments on the album so I could never rate this any more than 3 stars. However, there is nothing wrong with the aforementioned tracks, and really ‘Turn it on Again’ and ‘Duchess’ are quintessential to the 80s Genesis repertoire.


 

 

481

The Turn Of A Friendly Card
Alan Parsons Project

Alan Parsons Project The Turn Of A Friendly Card album cover

A review by Ivan_Melgar_M:

There's a virtue in Alan Parsons Project, doesn't matter that after his first three records never released another one in the same level, but Alan, Eric and Andrew Powell manage to make almost anything sound excellent.

“The Turn of A Friendly Card" is one of these cases, the music is far from the level of "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" and maybe even a bit below "Pyramids". The sound is very mainstream oriented, but the production is so impeccable that it's always a pleasure to listen to it, unless you have no tolerance for Pop music, because this is what the album is, just pop with an outstanding sound and a couple of proggy moments.

The album starts with the pompous introduction of "May Be a Price to Pay" that reminds me of many Cecil B DeMille movies, but the effect is short. Soon the band turns towards more easy music, and still you can find some echoes of the past and a couple of interesting changes but the vocals by Elmer Gantry (A living legend from Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera) sound too poppy for my taste.

Andrew Powell does a great job with the violins but this is one of the cases in which I find the arrangements a bit weaker than usual. Good track but far from the best they can offer.

"Games People Play" is a good song that I could never fully like, I don't know if it's the horrendous drumming or the Disco atmosphere but simply I can't get it no matter how much I try.

Does it smell of Pink Floyd cloning or is it my idea?.No, I am right, it's "Time", a very good track that I enjoy a lot, but with a clear Pink Floyd smell, well, Alan worked with them so it's normal to have some influence. Usually I don't like ballads but in this case I always keep the interest.

"I Don't Wanna Go Home" starts surprising, almost as if it was another band, but again the band returns to their usual sound, simpler than usual and too radio friendly, I just press the skip button.

Now, "The Gold Bug" is an outstanding track, much better when listened to in it's natural context as an interlude before the Epic that gives the name to the album and not in an instrumental compilation like the one I reviewed a few hours ago.

"The Turn of A Friendly Card" is la piece de resistance" a 16:22 minutes epic divided in 5 parts.

"The Turn of A Friendly Card Part One" starts with a catchy chorus, very melancholic and elaborate, ideal for Chris Rainbow's voice, but the soft orchestration by Andrew Powell is the one that deserves more attention, nice, well done but soft enough not to mess with the main melody.

"Snake Eyes" is a song that starts very rhythmic with well marked tempo and good vocal work. The song seems to be very repetitive and in fact it is, but the band keeps adding new instruments to the main chorus making it change and avoiding boredom, not the best part of the epic, but good enough.

"The Ace of Swords" is simply delightful a great instrumental with Andrew Powell as the star with his radical and perfect arrangements, this is how an Alan Parsons Project album must sound, one of the highest points of the album.

"Nothing to Lose" is a beautiful ballad linked directly to the previous track, Eric Woolfson's voice is a plus, this guy is IMO the best vocalist of the many that Alan Parsons has used, the chorus is simple but nice, don't expect more than a simple ballad, but with Alan Parsons Project, it's really worth a listen. At the end some radical changes, first some sort of reggae and then harder than any previous song, really good material.

"The Turn of A Friendly Card Part Two" is even better than Part One, it's true they return to the main chorus but it's more orchestral and with many changes that were not present in the first part. Also the fact that it closes the album gives a melancholic atmosphere that is very pleasant. The coda by Powell and his Orchestra must be one of the best works the band has ever done, simply impressive.

The great question is how to rate it being fair and respecting the guidelines at the same time?

It's not Prog, so 4 stars should be out of the table, but the music is so good and the album so well done, that I will sacrifice guidelines for honesty, rating "The Turn of A Friendly Card" with less than 4 stars is a sacrilege against good music despite the genre.

A non Prog album that every Prog fan should own.

 

482

Ezekiel
Itoiz

Itoiz Ezekiel album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

While their debut was quite an impressive achievement for a young group, Itoiz decided to up the ante by producing a concept album, the subject (written by group outsider Joseba Alklade) of which will most likely evade almost everyone but the Basque since, they sing in the own native tongue, but forget (unlike their fellow Basque groups) to supply the translation in either French or/and Spanish. While the artwork evokes an exile, the music is certainly much more advanced delving more deeply into jazz and folk than the symphonic influences of the debut. The line is fairly different and actually extended to violin and sax players while it is plainly obvious that JC Perez remains at the driving wheel. As mentioned above, the musical feel is rather different than the symphonic debut and the excursions into the jazz-rock realm are probably the most enthralling while the folk passages are sometimes a bit cheesy, but overall the music excels and even sometimes shines brighter than the sun.

Right from the starting blocks, Itoiz is grabbing you by the hand and forcing you to jog on along the musical trip leading you into what certainly sounds like saga, not a deep-frozen Viking one, one from nation that went out to fish on new world fish banks one thousand years before Columbus discovered it. Unfortunately it is frustrating of not being able to grasp the storyline, especially given to the music factor of this disc, it has a lot of chances to be fascinating.

Listen to the dramatic Ikasgaia and its constantly evolving climates, using shamelessly every single joyful mood and transport it musically, with a superb bass escaping leading and directing the music. That flute would not even exist if the bassist's jazzy-funky-folky groove was not carrying everything with it. And the superb female scatting voice is only one of the highlights leading into the superb acoustic guitar of Amatea and its bizarre medieval twist just contrasting to Erantzuna troubadour-declaiming lyrics. I wish I spoke Basque, just to be able to profit to the fullest to this masterpiece of folk-inspired music, and it is not the finale that will deny it.

And that's just the second part; the first being just as worthy but the vinyl found its way on my turntable that way. I could tell you about that first side just as lyrically as I did for its flipside (are you still with me?), but rather than flogging your already-conquered curiosities, I'd rather save my words for more discoveries of the genre. But this one is really worth it. Those almost-Celtic ambiances with a slight more southern flavour is likely to enchant all kinds of west Europeans, from the Land Of The Midnight Sun to the Canary Islands.

Itoiz's next album (the only one I have not heard), recorded two years later is reputed to be relatively similar, although slightly softer rock), but the following ones are completely un-prog (almost regressive) sounding like a second or third rate U2, even if politically, they seem more engaged by then. In the meantime, I prefer this album over their debut if you enjoy a bit of wider-scoped prog music. Your life WILL be better once this disc will be yours.

 

483

Q.E.2 
Mike Oldfield

Mike Oldfield Q.E.2  album cover 

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

Q.E.2 is one of Mike Oldfield's best albums. It is more consistent than most of his other albums. One reason for this is that it is wholly instrumental (apart from chanting and some choirs) and sticks to one direction throughout. Many Oldfield albums are schizophrenic in that one half of them contained something more progressive and the other half consisted of pure Pop songs. There are no straightforward Pop songs on Q.E.2 like Sally and I Got Rhythm from Platinum, Family Man from Five Miles Out or those horrible disco-like tunes on Crisis.

There are also no annoying and silly features here like the spoken introduction of the instruments played like on Tubular Bells, or those awful growling vocals also on Tubular Bells. Q.E.2 is also not overlong and too repetitive like some parts of Incantations and the whole of Hergest Ridge(!) Q.E.2 therefore shows a more mature Mike Oldfield.

It is also the case that the music on Q.E.2 is more loaded with great melodies, unexpected changes and many different instruments. The tempo is faster than usual with Oldfield and there are even some passages that rock quite hard in a special Oldfield way. Overall there is something of a rock feeling over this album. Mike's electric guitar sound is great here and the keyboards and various acoustic instruments are used to great effect. The folky feeling and influences present on many of his albums are still very much here. The melodies are good and since the tracks are shorter and never overlong I never get bored listening to this album.

My favourite Oldfield.

 

A review by Finnforest:

Mike's first foray of the 1980s was a great one and showed few if any signs of some of the unfortunate albums that were coming down the road. It has a feel not unlike some of his classic 70s work but with better sound quality and the addition of Maggie Reilly's sublime vocals.

The music on QE2 is exactly what you'd expect from the best Oldfield albums: incredibly proficient and tasty electric guitar leads, top notch percussions of many styles, great synth flavors, and occasional use of good vocals. The songs are very uplifting, full of spirit and pizzazz, and really without a dull moment to be found. Good melody is everywhere and of the catchy variety that will stick with you. Oldfield is a master of never losing melody even though his playing and arrangement are often of decent complexity. Some have complained about the shortness of the tracks here but I like the change of pace-while I also like Mike's long pieces I see nothing wrong him changing things up here and using a more succinct approach. This is a great album, one of Mike's very best and essential to Oldfield fans. Highly recommended to any symphonic fan. Don't let the horrible album cover fool you!

 

484 - live

Live Seventy Nine
Hawkwind

Hawkwind Live Seventy Nine album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Hawkwind’s second live album is a pale shadow of the epic “Space Ritual” due to its lack of depth and material overall but there is nothing wrong with this album, that really cements the band’s reputation as live treasures. This one features some of their greatest works such as the fantastic energetic opener, ‘Shot Down in the Night’ that became a single for the group.

It is followed by equally great ‘Motorway City’ and the live favourite ‘Spirit of the Age’ from their recent at the time “Quark, Strangeness and Charm”, though this could have been replaced by the brilliant ‘Orgone Accumulator’ that only seems to appear on “Space Ritual” in live format for some unearthly reason.

‘Brainstorm’ is always welcome and this version rocks hard for about 9 minutes. Brock sounds dynamic and it is the band at their heaviest. The lead break is perhaps better than on “Space Ritual” focusing more on rock than psychedelic overtones. There is an improvised section with some pounding drums, electronica and experimental guitar sonics making this a sheer delight. 

‘Lighthouse’ is a nice diversion from all the heaviness and only appears on this album as it was a composition by Tim Blake. The band are in excellent form here with Dave Brock sounding raw but vibrant on vocals and guitars, with some synth thrown in. He speaks to the crowd occasionally such as before the ridiculously short ‘Silver Machine’ Requiem that cuts off badly. Harvey Bainbridge’s bass and Huw Lloyd-Langton’s guitars are always great to listen to. Tim Blake is on keyboards, and Simon King is terrific on drums.

‘Master of the Universe’ is a faster version that goes by too fast for my tastes but it is still fantastic to hear. The only low point is that ‘Silver Machine’ seems tacked on rather than included as the indispensable classic that it is.

Overall this is a solid live release and kicked off the 80s in fine form for Hawkwind. As with many Hawkwind albums this one appears in different formats with different track listings; the vinyl being different than the CD, but in this case it does not seem to detract from the overall enjoyment of the concert.



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - March 14 2012 at 03:53
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485

Moving Pictures
Rush

Rush Moving Pictures album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Rush has created some of the best classics of heavy prog; here is a prime example.

"Moving Pictures" album by Canada's darlings, the power trio Rush, finds itself on number 15 in the top 100 albums on the progarchives, and for good reason. Every track, every instrumental, every vocal is pure Rush gold, making this a definitive masterpiece in the treasury of prog classics. The album was released at the beginning of the 80s where prog was on the decline after a glorious decade had culminated in the best prog albums such as Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon", Genesis' "Selling England by the Pound" and Yes' "Relayer". Rush created a triumphant progressive master work with some of their most popular songs; all killer and no filler. It receives quadruple-platinum status and, along with "2112", ended up in the bizarre collection of "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die".

It begins with an incredible opening track, the number 1 US chartbuster 'Tom Sawyer' that all Rush fans adore, and it is great when Rush open their concerts with this and the crowd are able to sing along; "A modern day warrior, Mean, mean stride, Today's Tom Sawyer, Mean, mean pride." The guitars crank out a mean, mean riff after this and there is a persistent synth drone that works well in the musical framework. The heavy dissonance or discord of time sigs and vocals is impressive, played in 7/8 for the most part. The chorus is one of the best especially lyrically, it is perhaps one of the more memorable Rush moments; "What you say about his company, Is what you say about society, Catch the mist, catch the myth, Catch the mystery, catch the drift, The world is, the world is, Love and life are deep, Maybe as his skies are wide." The ensuing lead break is incredible full of fret melting shredding, huge drum fills and power synth motifs. The Rickenbacker bass guitar is also wondrous that compliments the bright crisp guitar splashes. When the band were at their best they were totally irresistible.

'Red Barchetta' is longer at 6 minutes, and is another solid track. A mid tempo that is captivating locks in and quieter verses are sung until the chorus with new time sig locks in with captivating lyrics; "Jump to the ground, As the Turbo slows to cross the borderline, Run like the wind As excitement shivers up and down my spine, Down in his barn, My uncle preserved for me an old machine, For fifty odd years To keep it as new has been his dearest dream..." The instrumental break features echo on guitar chord crashes. The lead solo is subdued but effective.

Rush have some amazing instrumentals and one of them is 'YYZ', which gives each member a chance to really shine. The title is taken from the morse code used at Toronto Pearson International Airport. The main riff is memorable and heard in many concert performances. It has a progressive feel with unusual time sig and layered instrumentation. The riff is killer and well known in prog circles. On the "Live in Rio" DVD the audience know it so well they actually sing notes along to it. Lifeson is great on this as is Peart with his drumming metrical patterns that keep a consistent rhythm. Lee's bass is wonderful also playing fractured mini bass solos. The band really take off on this complete with glass shattering effects and all manner of solos form each member. It settles at 3 minutes in with a half time feel and an ambience is created before the main riff returns again. There is fire and ice; the explosive fire of Peart's flaming drums , the chilling ice of Lifeson's pickaxe, making this a bonafide classic on this album.

'Limelight' hit number 4 on the US mainstream charts. It has a prog time sig that is unusual and captivating. The structure of the track is spellbinding with beautiful verse sections, tension and release, shades of light and dark textures and one of the most spine chilling melodies that hooks into your system. I have never forgotten this and often the melody comes back to me without even wanting it to. The lyrics are dynamic and unforgettable once it grips your conscious; "Living in the limelight, The universal dream, For those who wish to seem, Those who wish to be, Must put aside the alienation, Get on with the fascination, The real relation, The underlying theme ..." The theme is simple, fame and fortune is not all it is cracked up to be and there is a need to keep a wall between the performer and the audience and this comes across beautifully with sparkling vocals and emotional riffing elegance. It is based on the real life dissatisfaction Peart felt about the intrusion into his private life. The lead solo is sensational with huge upsweeping picking and glorious string bends. This is my all time favourite Rush track and it sends chills through me every time; I don't know exactly why but there is a powerful element that refuses to let go when I hear it. I love the verse; "All the world's indeed a stage, And we are merely players, Performers and portrayers, Each another's audience, Outside the gilded cage." It seems to reference the live 1976 album "All The World's A Stage", and prophecy the release of their next album, that year "Exit Stage Left" which features 4 tracks from this album. The melodies are so full of life and vibrant energy, it truly uplifts my spirit every time. So ends side 1 of the vinyl, surely one of the greatest side 1's in rock history.

Side 1 begins with 'The Camera Eye' an 11 minute mini epic, the last for Rush, with a ton of synth at the opening section. There is a lengthy instrumental section and then at 3:40 Lee's high falsetto vocals chime in; "Grim faced and forbidding, Their faces closed tight, An angular mass of New Yorkers, Pacing in rhythm, Race the oncoming night, They chase through the streets of Manhattan, Head first humanity, Pause at a light, Then flow through the streets of the city...." The riffs on this are killer and at 6:06 the time sig slows and the track changes into some very proggy passages of music. The time sig is very intricate in the section at 7:50. The main motif returns after this showcasing Lifeson's inimitable style. The track is unusual on the album for its length and plethora of time changes, but this is what makes it such an endearing addition.

'Witch Hunt (Part III of Fear)' follows; another section of the 'Fear' tracks and a great addition at that. It begins with an off kilter ethereal sound made with synthesizers and bells. This builds slowly to pitch, and sounds rather creepy in a sense, but the melody drowns out the Gothic gloom. The guitar crunches in and Lee tells the story of the hunt; "The night is black, Without a moon, The air is thick and still, The vigilantes gather on, The lonely torch lit hill..." The dark lyrics are accompanied by a dark riff and very strong synthesizers, effective and enchanting. This track is highly unusual as the whole atmosphere is intensely grim and has startling dark textures. Also Hugh Syme features on keyboards, the artist responsible for a plethora of Rush album covers. The theme reflects the Salem hunts where paranoia set in about a nonexistent threat, the uprising of so called witches, the Spectral evidence that was manufactured to accuse those who were different than others; a theme that has still an impact for modern society.

'Vital Signs' is the closing track with a riff created by a sequencer made by Lee's OB-X synthesizer and well executed guitar flourishes. This is a slow paced track with a mediocre instrumental break but the vocal performance really drives this along with such enigmatic lyrics as; "A tired mind become a shape-shifter, Everybody need a soft filter, Everybody need reverse polarity, Everybody got mixed feelings, About the function and the form, Everybody got to elevate from the norm..." This is the weaker track on the album but still not a bad track after a few listens. The sequencer adds a nuance of 80s techno pop but there is still a proggy feel to this, especially the stylish bassline.

So overall this album is a dynamic flawed masterpiece. Side 2 does not measure up to the first side there is no doubt, but the mini epic more than makes up for this. Three tracks on this have become unsurpassed Rush classics, 'Tom Sawyer', 'YYZ' and 'Limelight'. The other tracks are still great but this album as a whole is a very pleasant listening experience. I have no hesitation but to count this as yet another masterpiece for my favourite heavy prog band. Rush never returned to masterpiece status after this. "Moving Pictures" was the last time the magic was captured and it ushered in a new approach in progressive rock music that works on every level. The album is the biggest seller for Rush and hit number 3 on US mainstream charts at the time of release, and it still makes an impact as one of the most influential, innovative albums of prog rock history.

 

486

Eros
Dün

Dün Eros album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Dun's “Eros” is a classic Zeuhl instrumental album that appears on prog lists all the time as one of the best so eventually I knew I would take the plunge.

I was not disappointed. I thought “Eros” might be good, but I didn't know it was this masterful. In fact I was astounded at the ferocious unassailable approach of no holds barred prog these guys adopt. They are unbelievable virtuosos of the craft and it takes some getting used to the way the music shifts into different directions. The time sigs keep metronomes busy and I am in awe of how complex the metrical patterns are.

‘L'epice’ begins with a drum roll and then a strange melody heralds the arrival of this incredible band. Portentous music ensues with guitar vibrations and blasts of keyboards that provide a very watertight ominous sound; it stops and starts and shudders and the flute is outrageous played with finesse. The guitar solo consists of crazy, fret melting riffs and dynamic shifts in time sigs. It settles into a peaceful acoustic section; the chord changes are off kilter and way out of bounds. Elaborate glockenspiel and flute trade off in a weird timeless passage where there does not seem to be any structure, yet it hold together by peculiar bass lines and cymbal crashes. It moves into a serious of different directions that are outside the realm of description. It is chaotic music that grabs hold and refuses to let go. Simply brilliant prog.

‘Arrakis’ starts with pounding piano bass and a soft melodic flute motif that sounds almost medieval. Keyboard pads follow and the two sections are a constant on this track, but it threatens to spiral out of control yet the next section is a lead guitar solo of very accomplished musicianship. Then it explodes into a fast paced pattern with heavy drums and bass and an awesome flute solo. The track has completely changed into an unrecognizable section. It builds faster and faster and makes the heart beat quicker as we are treated to a dynamic guitar, drum, flute and keyboard juxtaposition of sound. It is inspiring and progressive to the core. A wood block, glockenspiel section finishes the piece and a powerful commanding drum solo adds icing to the cake. Fantastic beyond belief.

‘Bitonio’ is a delicious slice of prog with interchanging time sigs that go all over the place and there is a tinkling percussive beat and huge blasts of keyboards and flute. And that is just the beginning of it. A kind of melody follows though it is impossible to grasp it completely as the melodies twist and turn in a myriad of directions. It settles into a lulling piano solo that is quite beautiful. This is shattered by a bizarre droning bass synth riff. Everything goes quiet for a moment and there is a jazz fusion improvised section. A fuzzed guitar kicks in with flute and no time signature at all at one point. The flute is ever present keeping it all together, but then it breaks out into a fast choppy jazz fest. How they played this live I have no idea, but this is as intricate as it gets. The hyper complex music becomes sporadic to the Nth degree and even has a strange Magma-like vocal, “uh uh uh uh”, at one stage. A wonderful track in every respect.

The title track is a Tangerine Dream soundalike of glacial landscapes of sound with mellotrons and tribal drums. The flute and percussive xylophone breaks the ambience. The light tones are a feature of this album and this track is no exception. This is the epic of the album and as brilliant as the previous tracks if not the best on the album. At 7:50 it takes a new approach with spacey synth and choral chants. The guitars try their best to keep up with the crashing drums and piano. The flute becomes wild and out of control at times. There is a massive passage of staccato stabs of every instrument that just pound like there is no tomorrow launching into the stratosphere. I am running out of superlatives so let's rap this up.

Dun's “Eros” is a world class masterpiece. I would rate this album as high as deserving a place in the top 10 prog albums of all time. You have to admire the inventiveness and sheer originality of this Zeuhl album. Based on Frank Herbert's “Dune” and better than the novel, it is a showcase of musical virtuosity. I love the way it does not hold back and treats your ears to a new music that you may never experience again at the level of this genius. The ears take a while to get adjusted to this complex prog, but it is a delightful excursion into intense musical genius with a pastiche of beauty juxtaposed with splashes of pitch dark fractured pandemonium.

 

487

Alturas de Macchu Picchu
Los Jaivas

Los Jaivas Alturas de Macchu Picchu album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

I had always been wary of South American prog because of the clichés of latino music (carribana - salsa - calipso - mambo etc..) and the fact is that this latino stuff irks me after a few minutes (I think they all sound alike and are extremely commercial but I also admit being almost profane because of my general ignorance of those musics). Back in 81, I had however completed my end-of-secondary-school escapade in S. America starting out in Venezuela and finishing in Chile - the original goal was to go to Tierra Del Fuego but we smoked too much what had to be smoked and chewed what had to be chewed , so we did not keep pace and never managed the last two thousand Kms. Certainly we paid no attention to the music other than the Andean Indian Folklore that we dearly loved and the cassettes in our 4WD. We had no idea that such a band was releasing an album that very year we were there (although they were fleeing the Pinochet regime and were recording from France, I gather) that represent one of the aspects of prog I was waiting for: Folk-prog from the Andes.

This album starts out great with Andean pipes and other flutes and soon we jump in the "pièce de résistance" Poderosa Muerte which is stupendous. However the wariness I had was confirmed on the third and fifth or sixth number as the Latino rhythm and music take over in what I will classify under Mariachi music for lack of better knowledge (I know Mexico is far away from Macchu Picchu, but as I said above, I fully admit to not knowing the intricacies of those styles). The other numbers are much more in the line of the great second number. I only have one tiny critic on those two songs, that on one of them they obviously ripped off Hackett with a Latimer sound. The final small numbers echoes off the debut of the album.

This was my first album from that continent (Rael and Cinema Show being clones of you- know-who don't count, and I quickly got rid of them) and this album pleased me enough to want to pursue my research. I discovered afterwards that my library has a few albums including this one! Should we call this Mariachi Prog?

 

488

Mystical Adventures
Jean-Luc Ponty

Jean-Luc  Ponty Mystical Adventures album cover 

A review by Ivan_Melgar_M:

Mystical Adventures is one of Ponty’s first albums I bought but hardly played it more than five or six times in 15 years, yesterday I had to make short business travel of about 4 hours driving, so charged this release in the CD cartridge and great surprise, it is amazing, this is the only album I played since then, and has become almost an obsession.

Jean-Luc Ponty's career is very interesting, his first four releases after he left Mahavishnu were really excellent, but the next two (A taste for Passion and Civilized Evil) were not in the same level, so for any reasonable Prog fan that knows a bit of history (most bands reach their peak and after that everything is downhill) it was pretty obvious that his career was declining.

But Mystical Adventures is a very pleasant surprise, almost a re-birth, if any person had doubts about his music being Prog' and believed he was a Jazz player, this album surely should make him change his mind, even more is not just a Fusion album (What is enough to be considered Progressive), but with a very clear Symphonic edge, strong keyboards almost as important as his classic violin, amazing changes, one epic suite and a multi part long song. What more can a Proghead ask?

The lineup couldn't be better; he works again with two keyboardists himself and the very efficient Chris Rhyme who does an excellent job. For the second time he works with Randy "The Emperor" Jackson instead of Ralphie Armstrong, and to be honest the guy is an amazing bass player (I will never understand how after working with giants as Ponty, Cobham and Aretha Franklin he ended up being a session musician for N'Sync, Madonna, Destiny's Child and even worst as an American Idol judge).

Paulinho Da Costa (Ex Miles Davis and Dizzie Gillespie) jazzy percussion is also impeccable and a great support for Ponty's new drummer, the young Rayford Griffin, who's partnership with Jean-Luc lasted for six tears, later played with monsters as Stanley Clarke before having an accident that left him with a very serious spine injury that made him evaluate his life and start a career as soloist.

Jamie Glaser doesn't have the versatility of Daryl Stuermer with the guitar but he's very strong with Jazz style, after a couple of years after Mystical Adventures he left Jean-Luc Ponty because as he said, his music was getting too Rock oriented.

The album starts with Mystical Adventures Suite, a fantastic 20 minutes with five movements epic, I used to think Aurora was his closest experience to Symphonic Prog', but I was wrong, the whole structure, sound, changes and movements have an evident influence of his Classical violin training and his work with John McLaughlin. Ponty reaches the perfect balance between Jazz and Symphonic.

I don't pretend to describe the five movements (or parts) of this epic because it's a whole and complete work that must be listened as an entire song, but part III is simply incredible, it's the longest of the five, and clearly the central piece of the epic.

Starts absolutely jazzy with a violin solo, but the rest of the band make their entrance one by one, Jamie Glaser's hard rock guitar semi-solo efficiently supported by Ponty on the organ is simply breathtaking, even Rayford Griffin, Paulinho Da Costa and Randy Jackson (all mainly jazz musicians) seem to get absolutely involved in the Symphonic atmosphere, until Ponty starts again with violin leaving clear that he's mainly a Fusion musician, a perfect lesson of how a real songwriter with an efficient band can jump from one genre to another as easy as we change clothes. Amazing part of an amazing epic.

"Rhythms of Hope" is a totally different track where Paulinho Da Costa proves what a complete musician he is with any percussion instrument. This song is a typical Ponty track, 100% progressive Fusion with incredible work of the rhythm section, flows gently from start to end.

"As" is a very unusual song, sounds almost as a Paganini Capriccio with Jazz interruptions and vocoder (One of the few times Jean-Luc Ponty uses human voice), the mixture works perfectly and again flows gently all along despite the dramatic changes.

The second multi part track is "Final Truth", more in the usual sound of Ponty and quite similar to his work in Aurora, the Piano sections in Part I are simply delightful.

Part II is more mysterious and atmospheric, a new chance for Jean-Luc to have fun with his violin with the confidence that the rest of the band especially Chris Rhyme will support him always. Too short in my opinion but it's better to leave the audience wishing for more than bored because of unnecessary length.

"Jig" closes the album and as any Fusion musician he wants to end it with the style he feels more comfortable, Jazz but again with a subtle Symphonic touch provided by Chris Rhyme playing short sections in a way that reminds me of Wakeman.

I know the few people who read it may find this review contradictory with the one I made about Aurora, but only a stubborn ignorant wouldn't accept his mistake, this album is at least in the same level of his first four Prog masterpieces (Before he was in Mahavishnu as mainly a Jazz musician) and closer than ever to Symphonic Progressive, so I will run to modify my Aurora review and rate this album with 5 very solid stars.

 

489

Between Flesh and Divine 
Asia Minor

Asia Minor Between Flesh and Divine  album cover

A review by Warthur:

Showing great development over their previous album, Asia Minor's Between Flesh and Divine takes a lot of inspiration from classic Camel (from the period between Mirage and Moonmadness) and updates the sound and tightens up the song structure to deliver the prog majesty in accessible, bite-sized chunks. In other words, it's Asia Minor trying the same trick Camel did with Rain Dances of making their music more accessible - except Asia Minor accomplish the job with a great deal more panache than Camel did, retaining enough complex symphonic prog features to appeal to fans of the golden age of prog. A wonderful missing link between the symphonic bands of the golden age and the upcoming neo-prog wave.

 

A review by MS:

4. 5 stars.  Well I very much enjoyed their debut but this is even better. This is darker and more melancholic and they've added mellotron to the mix, although string-synths are more plentiful. To quote the liner notes: "Despite the rather moderate reception given to it's first album the group remained convinced of the originality and quality of it's music and decided to record a new album without making so much as a single concession to commercial interests. The idea was that a second album would help the group assert itself and increase it's credibility with concert organizers once it had two albums to it's name".  If anything this second record is even less commercial sounding than the first. I so admire their convictions especially since this was back in 1981 when this second album was released.  

"Nightwind" opens with bass and percussion as drums and a full sound follows. Flute after a minute. A calm before 2 minutes as vocals arrive, lots of flute too. It kicks back in at 4 minutes then settles again. Uplifting before 5 1/2 minutes with mellotron and some nice guitar.  "Northern Lights" might be my favourite track on here. A mellow and melancholic intro is replaced by an uptempo section led by the guitar after 2 minutes. Keyboards take over for the guitar. It settles before 4 1/2 minutes and vocals join in. Great sound here, so uplifting. The emotional guitar soars 7 minutes in as mellotron washes in over and over.  

"Boundless" is a laid back track with vocals. Lots of synths here. This singer has an accent but his voice is amazing. Tasteful guitar after 2 minutes.  "Dedicace" is led by flute and drums early. Bass then strummed guitar after 2 minutes. Organ follows then vocals. Fantastic sound 5 1/2 minutes in.  

"Lost In A Dream Yell" is in the running for my favourite song with "Northern Lights". It opens with thunder and rain. Keys and vocals join in. A calm after 2 1/2 minutes as rain continues to fall with gentle guitar. Brilliant! This is so sad and emotional. Flute comes in as the rain stops and marching drums join in. This simply goes on and on, but it works. I can't explain how moving this is.  

"Dreadful Memories" opens with dominant drums, bass and guitar before organ then mellotron joins in. The mellotron is at it's best right here.  This is more mature than the debut and a minor classic in my opinion.

490

4 Visions
Eskaton

Eskaton 4 Visions album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

Eskaton is probably regarded as the best Zeuhl band after Magma, and it's hard to deny that they are indeed among the better ones in the style, but if you are to include Art Zoyd, Univers Zero and Present into the ball game, this position is likely to be challenged. The group was named after an old Germanic legend of god's cyclical creation of humankind, and their first album, only ever released in cassette in the 70's, was reputed to be really rare. Until the mid-90's when the mis-titled Ad Perpetuam Memoriam label (now long defunct) released a Cd version of this album, which has become almost as rare since. Apparently (I have no confirmation of this, but APM had not found the master tapes, so their reissue was taken from a cassette. Graced with a superb artwork and lyrics sheet, Four Visions has yet to receive another legit release (a boot version is out there).

If musically Eskaton is undoubtedly Zeuhl, and their themes are not exactly about the joy of sunbathing (more like bathing in the Sun), the tome of their music is not nearly as oppressive as in Magma's albums. Starting with the eponymous track, the group plunges into a mass world of crazy bass thumps, topped by some of the most bizarre lyrics (just Imagine Gong's Camembert gone French), Eskaton brings a much wider spectrum of mood than Magma's terribly fixed, sombre mythology.

Don't get me wrong, Eskaton has its own mythology, but it's more accessible, partly because it is sung in French (instead of the seldom-used Kobaian) but the music is more moody as well and this group tends to some real solos from the front instruments, namely Blésing's blazing and fiery guitar. Attente is another 10-minutes epic, which will ravish Zeuhlheads. Both the lengthy Ecoute and the shorter Pitié are again small tour de force where the Fender Rhodes layers help hide and conceal the powers of Eskaton unleashing mayhem with Bernardi's bass sounding like cannonball blasts whizzing by your head. Both Paule and Amara's voices manage to pull their own advantages over a raging background as well as in the quieter moments.

Clearly one of the evident flaws of 4 Visions is the lack of real good production, but there is absolutely nothing shameful on the album proper. This is however not the case with the bonus track (from a first session) where it sounds like a really dirty vinyl playing with the stylus needle filled with dust and hair, even stopping at once. And the real sad part is that Le Cri is yet another beautiful moment and the real audible problems occur in a solemn and quieter moment. Whether APM could've done it better in restoring the track is up to the listener, but overall, the album proper is indeed well transcript-ed enough to digital for most Zeuhleads to achieve a least a few Aural orgasms.

 

491

Discipline
King Crimson

King Crimson Discipline album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

I repeat myself when under stress.... I repeat myself when under stress...

King Crimson transformed themselves reinventing the very medium they were cocooned within. The lyrics and music became less surreal though no less captivating. On this release some of their most well known pieces were to emerge, becoming live favourites.

‘Elephant Talk’ begins this so well with the polyrhythmic patterns of Robert Fripp and the estranged singing of Belew. Bruford's drumming is a key feature as always and Levin plays a mean bass.

‘Frame By Frame’ is certainly an excellent song with some innovative musicianship. ‘Indiscipline’ is a stunning progressive masterpiece, which captures the feeling of being obsessed over nothing more than anything you will hear. The spoken lyrics have a power of their own but it is those time sig shifts when the band begin to crunch out that hypnotic riff which makes this a classic.

‘Thela Hun Ginjeet’ is also mesmirising with a repeated mantra and motif that hooks into your system. ‘The Sheltering Sky’ is a longer piece at 8:22, that showcases the prowess of Levin and Bruford.

It ends with ‘Discipline’ and a bonus track for those who are interested. The unusual guitar playing and bizarre vocal styles became trademark King Crimson of the 80s and are ground breaking, proving that King Crimson were alive and well in this new incarnation.

 

A review by Warthur:

The resurrected King Crimson showcased on Discipline focuses on the New Wave art rock direction of Fripp's solo efforts (such as Exposure), with influences creeping in from the session work he'd done during the Crimson interregnum - Tony Levin joins after encountering Fripp during the recording of Peter Gabriel's third solo album, from which a tense, neurotic energy is borrowed, whilst Adrian Belew drifts in following Fripp's collaborations with Talking Heads, and like the Heads the 80s Crimson is fascinated with the possibilities of rhythmic experimentation.

The harsh metal-prog workouts of the mid-1970s Crimson is present and correct, with Fripp and Bruford being the crucial links to the past; the heavy portions of Indiscipline in particular are a direct link between the current band's work and the group's laudable history. What is particularly striking about the album is the way it manages to dispense of synthesisers and keyboards more or less entirely, instead relying on Fripp and Belew's guitar playing weaving intricate, interlocked rhythms and solos, creating a structure as complex and flawless as the Celtic knot on the album cover. Fans of Fripp's guitar work and prog fans open to the idea that 1970s heroes updating their sound for the 1980s can have genuinely progressive and interesting results will find an absolute treasure trove here.

 

492

Planets
Eloy

Eloy Planets album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

On the verge...

While many Prog bands from the 70's seemed to be in a downward spiral in the early 80's, Eloy were instead on the verge of their peak. The previous Colours had been an improvement over Silent Cries And Mighty Echoes and the present album is, in turn, a definitive improvement over Colours. Planets was the first of two thematically connected albums that apparently were originally intended to form a double album. However, the band was persuaded by the record company to make two separate albums instead, and that was probably for the better in the end. The other of these two connected albums, Time To Turn, was released the year after this one and is in my opinion Eloy's best album bar none. But already here you can notice how the band had matured over the years and I would say that Planets was their best effort up till that point. They progressively became better songwriters, they were advancing their melodic sensibilities and developing a stronger musical identity of their own and Frank Bornemann's German accent was gradually being tamed and moderated.

Both Planets and Time To Turn are rather keyboard dominated albums with strong compositions and Symphonic Prog leanings as opposed to just Psychedelic ones, but Planets is perhaps even more keyboard dominated with the guitars often being relegated to the background. This makes the album stand out from previous Eloy albums and I think they achieved a better balance between guitars and keyboards on Time To Turn. The tunes are generally very enjoyable and the album flows very well from start to finish. It is not very easy to pick out favourite tracks as the album works best as an organic whole.

Recommended.

 

A review by Warthur:

An interesting shift in Eloy's sound sees the band toning down the role of vocals in their music - an aspect which had never been particularly stellar - as well as modifying their musical approach, tempering their space rock stylings with some nods to the more accessible end of the symphonic prog spectrum (in particular, some of the keyboard work on this album reminds me of Tony Banks' style). This mixture which would prove to have an inspirational effect on the growing neo-prog movement, as well as refreshing the band's sound at a point when yet another rehash of Ocean or Silent Cries and Mighty Echoes would have felt disappointing. Along with its companion piece Time to Turn, a pretty good Eloy album.

493

Computer World (Computerwelt)
Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk Computer World (Computerwelt) album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Program your home computer to beam yourself into the future...

Kraftwerk are one of the first prog bands I got into along with Pink Floyd and as such I am sentimental about their music having heard it as a small child. It floored me then and it continues to floor me today. The music is so cold and clammy and techno futurist it is easy to see why they influenced me so much as a sci fi and prog enthusiast. This album features some of their best material and is almost flawless.

The title track is a real treasure with some of the quirkiest lyrics “Interpol and Deutsch bank, FBI and Scotland Yard... Computer World”. I love the techno riffs and computerised vocals. Stirring stuff and we return to this at the end of side one (vinyl). 'Pocket Calculator' never grabbed me and 'Numbers' was a throwaway in my opinion that taught me how to count in various languages if nothing else, although the band treasure it as a live favourite.

Side 2 is absolutely brilliant and features all my favourite tracks. 'Computer Love' has an infectious melody, so much so that Coldplay stole it and it became a huge hit for them recently. Other highlights are 'It's More Fun To Compute' with a Doctor Who sound effect and lengthy instrumental section that is progressive and incredibly mechanised, sounding at times like a printer shunting back n forth fighting with a computer game. The mechanisation of the music is well ahead of techno and ambient rock. 'Home Computer' is a wonderful track that informs you that he has programmed his computer to "beam myself into the future". That's about the size of it really, and the rest is hyper computer effects and techno percussion to the max.

Overall this has to be one of the definitive Kraftwerk electro prog albums and deserves 5 stars as a result.

 

A review by Warthur:

Kraftwerk were no longer alone in the synth-pop field, but with this album they showed that of all those experimenting in this area only they were able to laugh at themselves. Playing up their robotic image to the extreme and full of early-1980s home computer noises, the album is simultaneously a quaint memento from a time when home computers were often seen as rich nerds' toys and at the same time a clear-sighted assessment of the potential of the computer age. With sonic experiments verging on the industrial - featuring beeps and boops which would eventually be adopted by the likes of Ministry and Nine Inch Nails in their more electronic moments - it marks the close of Kraftwerk's most creatively successful period.

494

Nude
Camel

Camel Nude album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

I have never seen a camel that was not nude!

Nude is a surprisingly strong album given that it was released between the two much less good albums I Can See Your House From Here and The Single Factor. Indeed, Nude was (at the time of its release) the best Camel album since Moonmadness and it is also, in my opinion, the best album from what I have elsewhere called Camel's in-between-years; that is, the years between the release of Moonmadness in 1976 and the release of Dust And Dreams in the early 90's.

I think there are primarily two different factors that contribute to the musical success of this album in relation to the weaker ones that surrounded it. The first is that it was a return to a more Symphonic Prog-sound after three albums with strong influences from Canterbury Scene, Jazz and Pop music. The other factor is that Nude is a conceptual and story-based album like the earlier Snow Goose and the later Stationary Traveller, Dust And Dreams and Harbour Of Tears albums. These are some of Camel's very best albums and maybe making a concept album is what really brings out the best in the band? Camel were always experts of building great music around an emotional storyline without ever letting the story take over the music. The story is never too apparent in the music here, which is as it should be. It is an otherwise all too common mistake which I often find a bit cheesy in other artists' attempts at story-based albums and Rock Operas.

The sound of Nude is a nice and appealing mix of Symphonic Prog, Pop and New-Age/World music. Like Harbour Of Tears later would incorporate influences from Irish Folk music in line with its story, Nude incorporates some influences from Japanese music in line with its story (which revolves around a Japanese soldier who gets left behind on an Island for many years). Andy Latimer plays a Japanese Koto on some songs to great effect, for example. There are also lots of different flutes that sound simply wonderful and exotic. New-Age/World Music passages like that of Landscapes/Changing Places contrasts wonderfully with the rockier and more up tempo passages like Docks/Beached and Captured. I was not instantly hooked by this, but after many listens over several years I can now safely say that this album is quite excellent!

Unlike The Snow Goose, Nude is not entirely instrumental but large parts of it is. The album opens with a vocal number called City Life that is basically a high quality Pop song, not that different in style from what you find on I Can See Your House From Here or The Single Factor, but better. Other vocal numbers like Drafted and Lies are perhaps better incorporated into the album as a whole but the best parts of Nude are, I would say, the instrumental sections. On the live releases Coming of Age and Pressure Points, some of the best bits from Nude are performed live with more energy, and power then they are presented here on this studio album. I used to think that this album was too subdued and lacking an edge, and also that some of the most restrained passages was just transportation to get to the great bits. But Nude has grown on me a lot since I first heard it and now I appreciate even the more soothing moments. Indeed, these create an appealing diversity to the whole. It takes several listens to "unlock" the beauty of Nude.

Excellent addition to any Camel collection!

 

495

Worlds Apart
Saga

Saga Worlds Apart album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

A streamlined Saga

Worlds Apart was Saga's breakthrough album and listening to it now, I can certainly understand why. The songs are catchy and accessible, the production - even if not really my cup of tea - is clearly improved over that of previous albums and the band sounds more confident here than before. Even if the self-titled debut from 1978 already featured all the aspects of the distinctive Saga sound, it wasn't until the present album that the band really "found themselves". They happened to find themselves in a place a little bit further away from progressive rock, however. I used to have somewhat mixed feelings about this development: On the one hand, Saga were about to close the door on the genre of music that I like the most, but on the other hand they were improving in most other respects. At the end of the day, I have to say that this is a great album even if it was in some ways a step in the wrong direction. I clearly see it's qualities, and I enjoy all of the songs. Indeed, the first six or seven tracks are all time Saga classics and the album as a whole is of course an all time Rock classic despite the relative weakness of the last two tracks.

I think it is fair to say that Worlds Apart was a kind of transitional album for Saga. While being the last album of their early progressive period, it was also, at the same time, the first album in their more "commercial" period. The fantasy-tinged sleeve pictures of the first three albums have here been replaced with an altogether more candid image and the corresponding changes were made in the production and songwriting. This is in many ways a more streamlined Saga. But they did still manage to hold on to Prog here with many short but effective instrumental breaks and powerful guitar and keyboard solos. Worlds Apart was also the last album to feature "chapters" (until 1999 when they picked it up again).

Highly recommended!

 

496

This Heat

Deceit 

This Heat Deceit album cover 

A review by Sean Trane:

Second album from this incredible trio, which does a mix of RIO and "musique concrète" (almost industrial) and is obviously one of the tougher groups present to get into. If you can believe it, this album is easy, but only compared to the rest of their discography. The group actually use the song format on this album: there are obvious rhythms, and even semblance of melodies, although my guess is that as a "normal proghead" (one that listens to average prog in the sense of symphonic), if you were to try out this album, you'd probably call the loony bin to reserve a spot for this writer. But I wouldn't call this pop music either, but somehow, we are not that far away from Killing Joke and other more "obtuse" (in a good way) and experimental bands of the early 80's.

Clearly taking off where Faust had left it (especially with Tapes), TH is using tapes for a good part of their music, though nowadays many just sample sounds, but as opposed to their previous recording, vocals are very present in this album and again one thinks of KJ, but as you'll easily guess, TH is a much more aesthetic band. Hayward's drumming is still the centre of the sound, and may be the best instrumentalist of the group. Bullen (who was never a musician before this band) is making good progress, while both he and Hayward play some guitar and this clearly adds a dimension as evident on the Independence track, which is the highlight of this disc. Probably one of the better albums out of England that year, it certainly sounds its era, but compared to the new wave groups that were flooding the airwaves, TH buries them all.

Should you really want to investigate This Heat, this album is the place to start, but as I stopped with this album, I wouldn't know with further albums are in the same direction. This only thing I can tell you is that this is far from their previous recordings (this includes their debut, but the Repeat album made of recordings prior to their first album). In either case, this album is the one I prefer from this group.

 

497

Eider Stellaire I
Eider Stellaire

Eider Stellaire Eider Stellaire I album cover

A review by Conor Fynes:

Eider Stellaire were a virtually unknown act back in their day, and for all intents and purposes, they still are. However obscure they may be to virtually anyone outside of the avant-garde and Zeuhl music circles that the band's brooding jazz fusion would largely cater to, Eider Stellaire's debut album is considered a classic of prog music. Influenced by the jazzier explorations of Zeuhl deities Magma, this instrumental fusion act makes an interesting blend of the familiar and strange with this album. It is an apocalyptic gem of cosmic jamming.

Although considered to be part of the Zeuhl scene in progressive rock, Eider Stellaire's musical foundation is in jazz fusion. This band has as much in common with 70's era Miles Davis as they do with anything Christian Vander has touched. Call it what you want, Eider Stellaire focuses their debut into a swirling mass of loose explorations, apocalyptic jazz freakouts, and sci-fi flavoured themes. Although this nearly verges on what I might label as 'jam' music, Eider Stellaire's style is hard to pin a description on. They are a dynamic jazz group that emits an unsettling atmosphere similar to the feeling that Robert Fripp's (of King Crimson) guitar work creates; free to doodle around, yet bound by a sense of foreboding and apocalypse. Taking the cosmic vibe of the album into account, it's like 'Eider Stellaire I' is a soundtrack to a ghost lost in space, floating in orbit around the wreckage of a lifeless space station.

Percussionist Michel LeBards captures my interest the most here, forging the backbone of the band's performance with unrelenting jazz fills and constantly evolving rhythms. There are vocals here, but they can still count as being part of the instrumental body due to the fact that they are not forming lyrics, but instead simply there as sound to back up the rest of it. A solid trademark of this band's work is the heavy bass presence, which often takes lead of the band when the electric guitar isn't buzzing strong. Eider Stellaire are a very capable group of musicians, and the music they make reflects this in the sense that it is constantly changing. Despite being a jam album, there is a creative chemistry in the music that fuels these compositions. Zeuhl and progressive fusion are not my thing usually, but I am glad I have found this obscure classic.

 

A review by Sean Trane:

This album is, along with Eskaton's 4 Visions, the most eagerly sought-after Zeuhl disc around the planet be it Kobaia or Earth. However contrarily to Eskaton, Eider Stellaire has no wish to reissue their three albums, so most likely unless there are bootleggers around, ES will remain out of most proghead's ears for quite a while. I must edit this review, because both Eskaton and Eider Stellaire's respective debut album have received a legit Soleil Zeuhl label recent reissue in the CD Format. So I set out on a hunt and finally caught a vinyl of this first album, issued in 81 on a private label and to see what the fuss was all about, as I had for 4 Visions. Maybe I'll pierce a bit of the speculation bubble around this, but what you get is nothing extraordinary: just good Zeuhl music with an extra little edge to give it something a tad different, but then again isn't this just about the same as all Zeuhl groups? Take Magma's music as a base or blueprint and work your own version. But in the end, it still sounds like typical Zeuhl, which there is nothing wrong with in the first place. Just so you know, the first album had the cosmic artwork for most of its copies, but some were originally put on the market with the artwork of the second album for logistic reasons (shortage), so if you find another artwork than the one here, it's still correct.

ES is a sextet fronted by two women on vocals, one also playing the odd flute, but for the rest, it's the standard prog quartet with a guest blowing some sax in one tune. On the opening side, the 8-mins+ Onde is a terrific mainly instrumental showcase for everyone, but especially for Delachat's searing guitar. After a piano solo for intro, Arctis is certainly THE typical Zeuhl track of the album with Singery's throbbing bass as the main feature, although there is an out-of-place (or ill-advised) flute intervention, but aside that flaw, the track is outstanding and manages to hold your breath, sustain the suspense, holding the high tension until the final bass throb explosion.

The flipside opens on the aerial Légende where Delachat's saturated guitar is again holding the forefront, but Hirne's keyboards are holding the 100 MPH cruise-speed alive. Tetra is a slightly slower track taking a funkier twist, but it slows down to allow the sax's quiet solo to happen. The final Nihil track is probably the hardest and trashiest track of them all, showing a nihilistic attitude, despite having some very delicate moments, most notably on the chant-like choirs. The CD reissue features a bonus track, which is an alternate (and extended) take of the closing Nihil track, but even wilder in nature.

Well, just like for Eskaton's debut album, you might be tempted to pay fortunes for the vinyls and in both case, I can't really tell you that it would be worth it. I had borrowed both of them from a friend and while I wish I had both wax slices, I was just not prepared to dish out big amounts, even for above average Zeuhl albums. Because after all it does remain Zeuhl and sonically it brings almost nothing new to the Kobaian debate. Fortunately thanks to the excellent Alain from the no-less excellent Soleil Zeuhl label, you won't have to fork out big bucks to get a hold of these albums, since they now exist on the Cd format, but don't wait too long, because these are limited reissues, and no doubt they will be one day out-of-print! Run for the Cd reissue.

 

498 – live

Exit... Stage Left
Rush

Rush Exit... Stage Left album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Time for a Rush live album after a swag of studio releases as was customary for the band. It begins with the familiar roar and then Rush launch into the lead riff that everyone knows of ‘Spirit of Radio’ and we are on our way with yet another live Rush album. This one did not thrill me as much as "All the World's a Stage" but the power trio of Lee, Lifeson and Peart is still dynamic and brimming over with heavy crunching instrumental breaks and powerhouse vocals.

‘Red Barchetta’ and ‘YYZ’ are familiar territory and as accomplished as ever; I always love hearing live versions of these especially the instrumentals. Rush were astute to include songs that had not been recorded live before for release and so we get unusual choices such as ‘Beneath, Between and Behind’, ‘Jacobs Ladder’ and a drum solo known as ‘Broon's Bane’ that segues instantly into stalwart favourite ‘The Trees’.

The 12 minute version of ‘Xanadu’ is a knockout and a showstopper certainly, perhaps the best live version of this classic. The crowd can be heard singing this lovingly and there is a fabulous lead break on this complex riffing progalicious track. Three perennial favourites follow in ‘Freewill’, ‘Tom Sawyer’ and the brilliant workout ‘La Villa Strangiato’.

The set list on this album is terrific featuring quintessential Rush and some nice surprises. I recommend this to any Rush fan without hesitation. The concert exists in DVD form and this is the best way to experience this concert but the audio is fabulous so enjoy this live gem.

 

A review by Conor Fynes:

This is one of the few live albums that is worthy of five stars. Not to say that it's completely replaceable for the recorded material (which should be purchased as well) but as far as live albums go, this is one of the best I've ever listened to. This album also has Rush's greatest performance on any release to date, which is their live rendition of 'La Villa Strangiato' which closes off the concert. There's a vivace about the live performance that was lacking in the recorded 'Hemispheres' version, but comes full force when played in front of an audience. In particular, the Lifeson solo is one of the greatest guitar solos I've ever heard.

As far as song choice goes, there’s a great selection of their Progressive-era material. The only two songs I'm not in love with are 'Closer To The Heart' and 'Beneath, Between and Behind' which are skillful in their own right. Rush is careful to include some of their most popular prog-era work, including the epic 'Xanadu,' the technical rocker 'YYZ' and even some of their more well known songs, such as 'Tom Sawyer' and 'The Spirit Of Radio.'

Having a live audience really seems to make Rush pull out all the stops in their craft. Having been fortunate enough to see Rush live in person, I can testify that this live album captures the magic of what it's really like to go see the band on stage.

A great release, and one of the best live albums out there.

 

A review by Ivan_Melgar_M:

If somebody asked me how to describe a power trio, I would answer that is a group of three lunatics making the job of five or six normal musicians. That's why I believe being part of a band like Rush is a hard task, especially when they have to be on stage. In a studio album is not so hard even for a single man to play all the instruments, but when you see Geddy Lee playing bass, keyboards and singing almost simultaneously, there's when you know his real value, and believe me he deserves a lot of credit.

Every time I have the chance to listen "Exit...Stage, Left", I can't understand how in hell they manage to sound even more powerful than in studio recordings, it seems almost as if Lee, Peart and Lifeson are able to canalize the audience energy and multiply themselves to do an outstanding performance.

This album proves that Rush is not a common Art Rock band but is much more, blending symphonic, metal and even classical progressive with extreme skill. Even though it is not my favorite style, I must recognize they are a solid band that bases their success in a combination of skills, energy and hard work.

"Spirit of Radio" opens the album with a fast intro where the three members show what they are capable of, and Geddy's voice completes the scene, the percussion by master Neil Peart is simply amazing, a track that doesn't leave a second to breathe, simply frantic.

If you believe "Spirit of Radio" is strong, you have to listen to this version of "Red Barchetta" with an impeccable bass carrying the weight of the song, Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson have the chance to do their job with the confidence that everything sounds alright, the drumming is simply outstanding, again a breathtaking track.

"YYZ" is a more rhythmic track and somehow reminds me of ELP and King Crimson, especially for the complex introduction. Who ever said Alex Lifeson is not in the level of the other two members, must listen to this track and eat his words, he's absolutely perfect. This already makes a good track, but if you add Neil's drum solo, then we are before something special; this guy must have three hands!!! The keyboards at the end of the track create a perfect atmosphere, one of the album's higher points.

"Closer to the Heart" has always been one of my favorite Rush songs, it has everything, starting soft with great vocals by Geddy and chorus by the audience and the effect is spectacular. The bells by Neil Peart announce a future explosion and the track suddenly changes into a more violent and aggressive one even when it keeps the soft mood of the start intact. Wonderful track.

"Beneath, Between and Behind" is one of the weakest tracks or maybe it's played in a bad opportunity, at this point of the concert it sounds like more of the same. A change is needed, and the change comes in the next track "Jacob's Ladder" which starts with a beautiful and calmed guitar solo while a low voice announces the name of the song. Darker and more mysterious than all the previous tracks, it prepares the audience for another explosion that never fully develops, a sensual electric guitar section by Alex that merges with Geddy's keyboard which takes the lead, and makes this song an unforgettable track that changes the mood of the concert into less Rock & Roll and more progressive; 8:15 minutes of pure Progressive Rock.

When you listen to the incredibly beautiful acoustic guitar you know it's time for "Broons Bane". Alex in the pure style of Steve Howe works an introduction for the fantastic "The Trees" that slowly melts with Geddy singing in an unusual (for him) lower tone which later changes to a higher level. I must repeat what I said before, the concert is more progressive as the minutes pass, abrupt changes, solid drumming, imaginative lyrics, outstanding bass; everything is in its place.

The introduction of "Xanadu" reminds me of Yes especially Close to the Edge, of course the keyboards are not baroque as Wakeman's but the atmosphere is somehow similar even when it is more spacey. Again a burst of energy announced by Neil's percussion is here and when you believe they will never explode, Alex shows the way, but it's somehow controlled. A 12 minute epic that is also very progressive oriented with constant changes in speed and mood, a very atmospheric track. At the end again that Close to the Edge inspiration is clear.

"Freewill" sounds boring at this point, not for the song itself but again because the moment is not correct. In the first half of the concert it would have been ok but here it is again more of the same.

There's no Rush concert without "Tom Sawyer" with the mysterious keyboards of this tune a trademark and a tradition, IMHO not the best of their songs, but it's like Yes and Roundabout or ELP and Lucky Man, not their best stuff but there's no real concert without them.

The album ends with "La Villa Strangiato" a very atmospheric start that goes in crescendo until a point when they reach a controlled aggressiveness, based in guitar work; the perfect closer for a great album.

I used to believe "Exit...Left Stage" was their best live album until "Rush in Rio" was released, but still it is an essential recording by the Canadian trio that has a place in every decent musical collection.

I was tempted to give 5 stars but I'll probably reserve that rating for Rush in Rio or one, maybe two of the spectacular studio albums.

499 – live

Retrospektïẁ I-II
Magma

Magma Retrospektï&amp;#7809; I-II album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

This double live album takes us back to June 1980 in Paris, France where MAGMA were performing a reunion concert. They played three nights. Two thirds of the "Theusz Hamtaahk" trilogy have been included, in fact the first self-titled movement had never (at that time) been on any of their recordings until this one. The second album consists of the third part of the trilogy "MDK" the self titled track from that famous record. This song is different from the original in that there are synths in place of horns and we also get some great violin from Lockwood.  

"Theusz Hamtaahk" opens with fast paced vocals and an outburst of drums. When they settle the crowd roars it's approval. Faint vocals start to build and it kicks in before 3 1/2 minutes. It settles again as female vocals come in. Nice. The tempo continues to shift. Keyboards after 6 minutes start an excellent instrumental section until about 10 minutes in. Amazing sound and rhythm here. Love the bass from Paganotti. I should mention that Gauthier and Widemann are both playing keyboards on this double album. Blasquiz and Stella are helped by four other vocalists including Christian Vander of course. Check out the nasty, growly bass 17 minutes in! Things get a little crazy after 22 minutes followed by some equally crazy vocals. Spoken words 26 1/2 minutes in as we get some atmosphere until it kicks back in before 31 minutes. Applause after 32 1/2 minutes is interrupted by waves of synths, some screams and all around freaky stuff.  

"Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh" opens with keyboards as female vocal melodies sing over top. Bass and drums take over as the crowd cheers. Spoken words join in. Male vocals come and go along with the female ones. Prominent guitar after 7 minutes. The drumming is incredible before 11 minutes. Piano follows. It settles 13 1/2 minutes in. Christian comes in vocally as it kicks back in. Check out the filthy bass solo after 22 1/2 minutes! The song kicks in after 26 1/2 minutes with piano and drums as bass continues to dig deep. Violin joins in as Lockwood ends up taking over. What a display he puts on! He ends it around 33 minutes. Amazing!

Female vocals come in as bass, keyboards and drums lead the way. Intense. Drums and guitar before 34 1/2 minutes impress. That repetitive rhythm continues until about 36 minutes in when it changes. Guitar lights it up briefly after 37 minutes. A must for MAGMA fans out there.

 

A review by Warthur:

Another excellent live Magma album, this time presenting Theusz Hamtaahk and Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh in versions performed at a reunion concert in 1980. The style of the performance is very much in the mode of the classic Magma sound of the mid-1970s - the funk experiments of Attahk are not in evidence here - and the sound quality is decent, though as far as live performances of Theusz Hamtaahk go I don't think this one quite beats the BBC 1974 performance. Still, this is a great little introduction to Magma, and if you don't already own Theusz Hamtaahk on one or another of its renditions it's as good a pick as any.



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - March 16 2012 at 03:58
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1982

500

Signals
Rush

Rush Signals album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

 

“Signals” is the Rush album that was sandwiched in between two incredible Rush albums and as a followup to the masterpiece “Moving Pictures”, perhaps Rush’s finest hour, this was a tough album to appreciate. The album tends to be a transition to the synthesized 80s domination. The power trio were always a compelling listen during the 70s, with lengthy progressive classics, and lyrical beauty, but in the 80s the sound changed. Gone are the epics and weirdness to make way for the new 80s sound. Rush produced something very special and really cemented their reputation as one of the greatest bands in rock history, proving they could use a current sound and still produce high quality songs. Rush use synthesizers in droves on this but still remain progressive which is a feat in itself. They remain true to the odd time sig changes that have made them so endearing over the years.

The first track ‘Subdivisions’ has a crystal clear sound, strong synths and the time sig definitely is unusual. The melody is pleasant to the ears, and tends to grow on you over time. I must admit when I first heard this album I was not all that impressed as I prefer the heavier side of Rush and this felt very safe. However, over the years I have really been enamoured with the new sound of Rush on “Signals”.

'The Analog Kid’ is another synth soaked track with a quick cadence and complex structure. Geddy Lee is wonderful on vocals effortlessly ploughing through the octaves on every track. He was at the peak of his skills at this stage.

The guitar work of Alex Lifeson is always jangly and at the same modulation as the synths. There are no brilliant riffs to speak of rather he holds back and simply carries the songs along on strong melodic rhythms. The sound on songs such as ‘Chemistry’ is rather radio friendly but it is still one of the better albums in the 80s as far as prog is concerned, as the 80s were the most difficult era for prog. Rush survived on albums such as “Signals” due to the consistent quality. Every song has a strong melody, Lifeson’s continuous guitar embellishments and the powerful percussive work of Neil Peart, particularly impressive on ‘Digital Man’ with its half time feel and time changes. This track also includes one of Lifeson’s best lead breaks.

Surprisingly of all the prog 80s albums of 1982, Rush were still able to produce an album rated the most highly on many prog album lists. It is little wonder with treasures such as the incredible ‘The Weapon’. The lyrics here are powerful on the topic of a soldier’s thoughts in nuclear war time, or it could be a terrorist planning a crime; “The knowledge that they fear is a weapon to be used against them, he’s not afraid of the judgement, he’s a little bit afraid of dying, and the thing that he fears is the weapon to be held against him.” The instrumental break is a darker sound, layers of synth and phased guitar lead break, with sporadic drumming accents.

‘New World Man’ is a fan favourite with catchy hooks and some strong melodies that are memorable. The track appeared on many live sets over the years. This is followed by a lesser known song, exclusive to this album alone I believe, ‘Losing It’. One of the interesting components of the music is the use of a violin by guest maestro Ben Mink. The slow pace of the song is alarming after all the rock and I will admit it is not a high point of the album. However the violin trading off with Lifeson’s pitchy harmonics is a treat.

The album concludes with ‘Countdown’ featuring radio controller voice overs “T Minus 20 seconds and counting”, and supersonic space shuttle effects. Given the disaster of Challenger and Columbia’s conclusion, the song has taken on an added potency. Geddy Lee’s voice is crystalline echoing over the steady beat with compelling lyrics; “Circling choppers slash the night, With roving searchlight beams, This magic day when super-science, Mingles with the bright stuff of dreams.” Later as the song builds to the actual lift off the lyrics are rather portentous, taking on a darker aspect in context of the fateful Challenger launch; “The air is charged, A humid, motionless mass, The crowds and the cameras, The cars full of spectators pass, Excitement so thick you could cut it with a knife, Technology, high, on the leading edge of life, The earth beneath us starts to tremble, With the spreading of a low black cloud, A thunderous roar shakes the air, Like the whole world exploding, Scorching blast of golden fire, As it slowly leaves the ground, Tears away with a mighty force, The air is shattered by the awesome sound, Like a pillar of cloud, The smoke lingers high in the air, In fascination, With the eyes of the world, We stare.” The whole song now brings to mind the disaster of Challenger exploding and the people staring up in disbelief at the white billows of smoke; an image that has been ingrained on the world. When the radio controller counts down to the engines starting up, and the shuttle lifts off, it brings a lump to my throat and of course this was written before the Challenger exploded 73 seconds into flight, which occurred January 28, 1986. For me this last song is an underrated Rush classic rarely heard and criminally never included on the plethora of best of Rush compilations. This song, along with ‘New World Man’, ‘The Weapon’, ‘The Analog Kid’, ‘Subdivisions’, and ‘Digital Man’ are excellent additions to the Rush catalogue and make this an album that is very worthwhile.

So in conclusion while this may not be the greatest Rush album by a long stretch there is still a lot to savour on “Signals”. It took a while for me to appreciate the importance of the album in context of the mediocre music churning out of the 80s but the album stands up as a testimony to the incredible skills of the band who demonstrated they could be a dominant force in the 80s, building on the legacy left behind in the 70s.      

    

 

501

Peter Gabriel (4 - "Security" or "Mask")
Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel (4 -

A review by Warthur:

Peter Gabriel had already revealed an increasing fascination with traditional African music in his previous solo album - particularly in the closing track Biko - but it was on his fourth solo album (the last one to go without a title) that he chose to incorporate aspects of world music into his sound on a wholesale basis. Working in parallel with others experimenting in this direction such as Talking Heads or the 80s King Crimson (which Tony Levin takes some time out from to lend his talents to Gabriel once again), Gabriel creates an intoxicating feast of interweaving rhythms and danceable beats with sufficient art rock sensibilities that it makes sense in the context of the rest of his solo career. It's possibly his most original and accomplished song-based album.

 

A review by Sean Trane:

Also known as "Mask" or "Security" (since the first four album did not have names or numbers), this is probably the "proggiest " album , maybe not in terms of musicianship, but it is certainly the most dramatic songwriting The Gabe had done since leaving his former band. Actually, this album gives me very mixed feeling as it is also the most "new wave" sounding of his album.

Rythm Of The Heat and San Jacinto are probably the most stunning song on this album and are excellent dramatic and enthralling tunes, taking their time to evolve and pass through a few moods. The last two tracks on the side reveal less appeal to me as the sounds are simply too new wave-ish for me. Actually a much superior version of Touch will appear later.

The Stunning starter on side 2, Shock The Monkey, is really a shocker and not just for monkeys but all humans too. It came with a shocking videoclip, but it is also the blueprint for later huge successes such as Sledgehammer and Big Time (Success) in the following mega selling SO album. Lay Your Hands On Me is another excellent track, exactly the archetype Gabe track you have come to expect by now. Walklflower is a rather neat piano dominated track that fits well in the album and the last track is unremarkable.

This album is maybe my fave from The Gabe, but it does announce the future mega success of SO.

 

 

502

Time To Turn
Eloy

Eloy Time To Turn album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

 

"Immensely rich"

People seem to be divided over which of the two thematically connected albums, Planets and Time To Turn, is the best one. For me there is no doubt, Time To Turn is my favourite Eloy album and, in my opinion, the peak of the band's career. Planets and Time To Turn were originally intended to form one double album, but the record company managed to persuade the band into making two separate single albums instead. This was probably a wise decision even if I admit that it would have been interesting to hear what might have turned out had they made it a double album. Just hearing the two albums back to back as they now are, however, reveals that they don't have quite the same sound. When comparing the two like this, one notices that Planets has a somewhat weaker sound and that Time To Turn has more punch. Though both albums are rather keyboard dominated, Planets was perhaps even more so and the guitars make a welcome return here and the perfect balance between guitars and keyboards is achieved.

The songs on Time To Turn are among the strongest and most memorable that the band has ever produced. Frank Bornemann sounds more confident in the vocal department than ever and his German accent, though still here, is a much less evident problem here than on many other Eloy albums. The compositions blend elements from Symphonic Prog and Eloy's previous more Psychedelic, spacey style to great effect. The album opens on a high note with Through A Somber Galaxy which is one of my favourite Eloy numbers. There is a sense of urgency and direction here often lacking in the music of Eloy; the song doesn't waste time, but immediately reveals its nature and moves through its various passages in a solid pace.

Behind The Wall Of Imagination is a bit slower in its pace, but no less solid. There is a very appealing variation in the keyboard sounds. The palette of sounds used is impressive. The keyboards on End Of An Odyssey, for example, remind me a lot of those on Camel's Moonmadness. There is such a good flow to this album that it is hard to differentiate the evaluations of the individual songs. The album works best as an organic unity where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The title track was released as a single at the time and has recently been re-recorded for the very good Visionary album under the new title The Challenge (Time To Turn, part 2) and even this new version has recently been released as a single. The closing number stands out as it is an acoustic song in the style of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here - a great way to end the album.

Eloy's best album, highly recommended!

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

 Eloy's "Time To Turn", the sequel to "Planets", is a literal turning point for the band as they continue to blaze away in the 80s. The space rock is augmented by Hannes Arkona's guitars, and keyboards, along with Hannes Folberth's keyboards, Klaus-Peter Matziol's bass, Fritz Randow's drums and some female guest vocalists. As usual all proceedings are overseen by guitarist visionary Frank Bornemann who I also thought led the band admirably on vocals.

The album begins with a powerhouse rocker 'Through A Somber Galaxy' that is a definitive highlight for the group. It has some dynamic synth work and awesome heavy guitar riffs with a blistering lead solo. After listening to more recent Eloy albums such as 2009's "Visionary" and 1994's "The Tides Return Forever", to me this album really stands out as being a masterful accomplishment. Of course the band were younger and more inventive back then, but it is such a delight to hear Eloy launching into one treasure after another. The tunes are always uplifting and the spaceyness of the synths are mesmirising throughout. The bassline punctuates the rhythm and drives the track beautifully. A brilliant start to this album.

'Behind The Walls Of Imagination' is another great track with a strong rhythmic feel, on keyboard and guitar. Clavinet accents are effective but the synth keyboards dominate and saturate the soundscape with pleasurable stellar nuances. Two solid gems to begin the album make this proghead very pleased indeed, and I am already in love with this album.

'Time To Turn' is intriguing for me after hearing part 2 from "Visionary" first. The same melody was obviously implemented as I recognised instantly the melodic phrases, especially in the chorus. The addition of guest vocalists Amy, Anna and Sabine is a master touch as they sound incredible. This is a poppy song, rather than prog, but is endearing with the vocal work and synth soaked musicianship.

'Magic Mirrors' opens with more clavinet and a pulsating bassline. The keyboards are mixed to the front and overpowering. I like it though as a diversion from complex structures, but it has to be said the keyboard work is very straight forward rather than complex virtuoso.

'End Of An Odyssey' clocks 9 and a half minutes so I hoped for a masterpiece composition. It begins with a welcome synth solo with spacey drones and high pitched resonances, as though Wakeman turned up in the studio and began to play on his way to a curry vindaloo. So far I am delighted and looked forward to some inventive structures. The music builds with drums and high hat cymbal work and this continues for about 5 minutes. Then on cue Bornemann's vocals chime in and he sounds great on lines such as "if you perceive the truth within yourself". The Pink Floyd style symphonic element is present throughout but there is also a funky Alan Parson's Project feel. The captivating song ends with a battle of clavinet and keyboard sounds and overall this is another definitive highlight of the album.

'The Flash' begins with ambience in the form of synth pulsations and a heartbeat of bass. Bornemann again injects some great vocals. The music develops to a quicker cadence with wavering synth. I love the music at 2:20 that is a bit like the synth heard in 80s rock such as Ultravox, Yazoo or Human League, and I am a fan of that sound. It is actually like the New Romantic music which was a delight for me. Eloy are more complex on this track in terms of structure and what a treasure it is to hear after the simplistic styles preceding. I love this song so much and it really cemented and confirmed a high rating as far as I am concerned.

'Say, Is It Really True' is a song with a difference, very diverse as it features the acoustic guitar, similar to tracks on other Eloy albums but mysteriously missing on this album until now. It is quiet and peaceful after the deluge of synth previous. The lyrics are nice; "Say is it really true that the flame of hope has grown, that the spirit has changed, that the few no longer stand alone." I like the seagull screech effects too. It is a melancholy song that ends the album with a fade out. I highly recommend this album unreservedly to Eloy fans and symphonic or space rock addicts. I was pleasantly surprised at the consistent quality and the amount of highlights. There are no filler tracks and it is an uplifting experience to hear Eloy so inspired and playing at their musical best. As an 80s album, this must rate as one of the best when prog was experiencing a lull in inventiveness. Eloy at least delivered a worthwhile sound and this never disappoints from track to track. 

503

In Blau
Anyone's Daughter

Anyones Daughter In Blau album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

This is the fourth studio album from ANYONE'S DAUGHTER released in 1982. If there was one word to describe this album when compared to the previous three it would be "maturity". This is a serious work. They seemed like they were having so much fun on the first two records while the third (a concept album) had way too much German narration and is my least favourite of the four.

"Sonnenzeichen-Feverzeichen" opens with atmosphere as the organ floats in then reserved vocals. It starts to build. So good. A full sound after 2 minutes. A guitar solo follows then it settles back. More great guitar 4 1/2 minutes in to the end. "Fur Ein Kleines Macdchan" has intricate and strummed guitar throughout. Reserved vocals before 1 1/2 minutes and synths after 2 minutes.

"Nichts Fur Mich" opens with drums, guitar and vocals. This is catchy. It picks up before 2 minutes. Excellent sound. Organ after 3 minutes followed by a guitar solo. It turns spacey after 4 1/2 minutes. "Nach Diesem Tag" is a mid-paced tune with laid back vocals. Tasteful guitar before 2 1/2 minutes to the end.

"La La" opens with vocal melodies which are joined by piano and drums as it turns uptempo quickly. It settles some with vocal melodies 1 1/2 minutes in then kicks back in again. Cool song. "Sonne" has this intricate guitar with vocals. It's fuller 3 1/2 minutes in. "Tanz Und Tod" is the over 15 minute closer. It also has intricate acoustic guitar melodies to start as soft vocals join in. Drums and piano follow then the tempo picks up. A guitar solo 4 1/2 minutes in. A calm with piano only a minute later. Spoken vocals before 9 1/2 minutes, then vocal melodies take over. Guitar and drums 11 minutes in. Great sound here. Uptempo pulsating keyboards end it.

A very good album with lots to enjoy. It doesn't hit me on an emotional level like the first two albums but this is worth 4 stars.

 

504

Fact And Fiction 
Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night Fact And Fiction  album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

TWELFTH NIGHT were one of the first neo-prog bands to come upon the scene in the early eighties. They were there even before MARILLION. I feel TWELFTH NIGHT deserves a special place in prog history for their music, especially this album "Fact And Fiction".  Singer Geoff Mann reminds me so much of Peter Hammill, not in the vocal tones but in the passion and theatrics. Lyrically Mann was also brilliant like Mr. Hammill. Intelligent, meaningful and often going straight to a person’s conscience or heart. These songs had special meaning, even if the music at times sounded "new wave" or "punkish". This was neo-progressive music that wasn't slick or smooth. This had attitude, this got in your face. And Geoff Mann led the way in making sure that you didn't feel too comfortable. He wanted you to look at yourself, to make you feel guilty if you didn't treat your fellow man with respect, dignity and love. He felt so strongly about this that he eventually quit the music business and became a pastor.  

"We Are Sane" opens with synths, high pitched vocals, and samples. The song doesn't really start until 2 minutes in. Then it's interrupted again by samples and synths. This contrast continues. Lots of humour in this one. The actual song is so infectious. We get some robotic vocals 7 1/2 minutes in. The guitar 9 1/2 minutes in is outstanding. Such a fun, progressive tune.  

"Human Beings" is such a classic tune once it gets going 2 minutes in. Some nice bass in this one, and I like the piano and calm when he sings "human being, human being". The guitar before 5 minutes is a treat. It's so uplifting when he sings slowly 6 minutes in.  "This City" opens with synths and the sounds of children playing before Mann comes in singing solemnly. His vocals get very passionate.  "World Without End" is a short instrumental featuring waves of synths. Gorgeous.  

"Fact And Fiction" is a catchy vocal tune with an eighties flavour. It has a spacey ending.  "The Poet Sniffs A Flower" is a hilarious title for this instrumental. A nice atmosphere to this one. Synths, acoustic guitar and drums stand out. The tempo picks up 2 minutes in as the sound changes. Guitar a minute later.  "Creep Show" is a dark song that is fairly slow paced. Some nice bass in this one. It's really all about the lyrics and the way Geoff delivers them. Check out the guitar, drums and vocals after 10 minutes followed by a wonderful guitar solo. Amazing song.  

"Love Song" works so well in contrast to what we just heard in "Creep Show". This might be the most beautiful yet convicting song (for me) that I've ever heard. I'd love to just quote the whole song, yet it's Mann's vocals that make this even more meaningful. Even the guitar is emotional before 4 minutes. He sings that "Jealousy is just a parasite, hatred a disease".  "Love is an open door".  "Respect for human dignity". It ends with "And if it seems that your hoping heart has led you into pain,  take a tip from the carpenter,  forgive and love again".  Thankyou Geoff Mann. R.I.P. brother.

 

505

Five Miles Out
Mike Oldfield

Mike Oldfield Five Miles Out album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

The album cover is way better than the music here unfortunately.  Oldfield who is a pilot wrote most of the songs here from experiences that he has had while flying. It was released in 1982. I must admit I disliked this recording from the first time I heard it and repeated listens have only confirmed my initial evaluation.  

"Taurus II" is the almost 25 minute opener. It does have it's moments. This is a toe tapper early on then female vocal melodies come in after 1 1/2 minutes. It will continue to change throughout.  I have to smile when the guitar comes in before 4 minutes because I've always liked Oldfield's style and the tone of his guitar. Uillean Pipes before 6 1/2 minutes then it settles 8 minutes in followed by female vocals. I don't like the female vocal melodies before 17 minutes because they remind me of ABBA.  Guitar is back before 19 minutes. A heavier beat after 20 minutes then the song ends with solo piano.  

"Family Man" is cringe worthy.  Yikes! An 80's pop tune with female vocals.  "Orabidoo" is pastoral to start before kicking in somewhat before 2 1/2 minutes. Processed vocals on this one too. Piano before 7 1/2 minutes followed by synths. It sounds better 10 minutes in but it doesn't last long.  It ends with acoustic guitar and reserved female vocals.  "Mount Teidi" has a beat while the guitar joins in. it's fuller later. Yawn.  

"Five Miles Out" has a beat with processed male vocals. Female vocals join in. Some guest strings on this one as well and a catchy beat.  No this is not good at all in my opinion.

506

The Broadsword And The Beast
Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull The Broadsword And The Beast album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

 

Jethro Tull is one of the few bands that made excellent music both in the 70's, 80's and in the 90's and some would say in the 60's too. This album is their best one from the 80's. And it is really good! The songs all have strong melodies and great instrumentation and vocals. The synthesisers sound a bit thin and minimalist, almost like Kraftwerk! But the bass, drums and guitars don't have the typical 80's sound that killed so much music around this time. Indeed, these instruments have a powerful and full sound. The genuine and "warm" sound of the vocals, flute and acoustic instruments contrasts perfectly with the electronic keyboards and electric instruments giving it a full sound. Almost like a futuristic form of Folk music! And it rocks hard at times too, but it is not metal music.

Cheerio has become a closing number on the bands concerts and for that it fits perfectly. The CD version has several bonus tracks that are great as well. Jack A Lynn is one of these and when I saw Jethro Tull live on their acoustic tour a few years ago they performed this song. Quite a surprise I would say, but the audience loved it!

Broadsword And The Beast is one of the best albums by a classic prog band released in the early 80's. Highly recommended!

 

507

Eye In The Sky
Alan Parsons Project

Alan Parsons Project Eye In The Sky album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

 

Electric eye

Many people seem to think that the Alan Parsons Project debuted with their best album and then continued to make worse and worse music with each subsequent album. I would rather say that their recording career went a bit up and down and down and up, etc. with Turn Of A Friendly Card having been a return to form after the lacklustre Eve and Pyramid albums. The present album continues a positive trend and is one of the better albums of the Project. The opening instrumental leads directly into Eye In The Sky, which is a minor Pop Prog classic in a way. (It is funny that Judas Priest opened their album Screaming For Vengeance - that was released in the same year - also with an instrumental (Hellion) that led directly into a song about an "eye in the sky" (Electric Eye). Strange coincidence! Both are strong ways to open an album, I think. (No comparisons above this though!)).

Children Of The Moon and Gemini are both much more interesting than most songs from albums like Eve and Pyramid. Other good songs here are Old And Wise, that closes the album, and Psychobabble. If you know what Alan Parsons Project sound like, you will know pretty much what this album sounds like since this is a very typical Alan Parsons Project album in many ways. However, this one is a bit stronger and more consistent than many other of their albums. Vocals duties are still divided between several different people. This usually leaves an album incoherent and disjointed. Here it does not have that damaging effect to the album as a whole. I think this might be because these singers are not radically different from each other.

The seven and a half minute, Silence And I has a surprising and very Symphonic and progressive section in the middle that leads into a good guitar solo finale, before the original melody of the song returns. One of the few real progressive moments on this album.

The overall quality of the songs here is very good. However, there are also a couple quite awful songs as usual on Alan Parsons Project albums. This time it is the Boogie Rock 'N' Roll of You're Gonna Get Your Fingers Burned and the even worse Step By Step.

Overall, a very good Alan Parsons Project album with some very good stuff and some lesser stuff. But the worst bits are better hidden here than on most of their other albums.



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - June 04 2012 at 02:21
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1983

 

508

Depois Do Fim
Bacamarte

Bacamarte Depois Do Fim album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

 

Bacamarte's "Dupois Do Fim" may be the best album to come out of Brazil.

 

The first astonishing thing about this album is it was released in 1983, which is where prog experienced a complete drop in popularity and many artists had to sell out to commercialism to keep afloat when prog was a dirty word. It was recorded in 1977, a good year for prog so this may have been part of the reason it stands the test of time as being one of the greatest early 80s prog albums.

The music on the album is Symphonic prog, a genre that my heart is always closest to so you may expect that the music would feature the standard symphonic conventions: a mixture of elements from different genres, intricate time signatures, reflective intelligent lyrics, a non commercial approach, lush keyboards that sound like symphonic strings, and extended songs that focus on musical virtuosity.

It does all this and so much more in the first track 'UFO' which may be the abbreviation for Unimpeded Ferociously Original! It begins with Spanish flavoured acoustic picking and then a dynamic speed picking style sets in. The melody begins with piano and cymbal splashes. The whimsical flute is superb and magical. I love them already and we have only just begun.

Bacamarte are clearly influenced by classical music, in the structure of the pieces and the emphasis on music over words, there are 4 instrumentals on offer. When the vocals come they enhance the music especially in the case of the female vocalist, Jane Duboc. One of the highlights is 'Smog Alado' with killer flute as good as Jethro Tull, and beautiful infectious synthesizer motifs, and I love those Portuguese female vocals. This track sounds as complex as prog can get and a lot like PFM in sound. Duboc also shines on 'Pássaro De Luz' and it is a beautiful song with heavy acoustic flourishes.

The band are all virtuoso including Mario Neto (guitar/vocals), Sergio Villarim (keyboards), Delto Simas (bass), Marco Veríssimo (drums), Marcus Moura (flute/accordeon), Mr. Paul (percussion) and Jane Duboc (vocals). They really excel on the proggy 'Caño', a 2 minute burst of vibrant energy with stop start staccato riffs and that jazzy drumming over sustained keyboards; a wonderful instrumental.

'Último Entardecer' is the longest track clocking in at 9:29 and it is masterful. The influence of the Baroque and Classical periods are evident, even touches of classical extremes of Mussorgsky are heard. Duboc's haunting voice permeates over lush sustained pads that have an uplifting feel. In fact this is one of the most uplifting positive albums I have heard in a long time. It is like sunlight bursting through darkness after being bombarded by a lot of depressing music over the years. The joyous music lifts the spirit and grabs the emotions. I have no idea what the lyrics mean but it does not matter as the music transcends meaning; you can take from it whatever you want.

The piano solo in 'Último Entardecer' is accompanied by wonderful bass and a frenetic guitar pattern similar to the two Steve's; Howe and Hackett. At 6 minutes in there is a gorgeous acoustic tremelo style guitar that really takes hold of the atmosphere. Then a loud crashing cymbal and guitar breaks the ambience. The complex structure takes on a new level when the time sig changes and Duboc's powerful voice chimes in like Annie Haslam or Tarja. This is a definitive masterpiece track by any standards.

'Controvérsia' is another 2 minute burst of music and has a brilliant bassline and jazz fusion style. Almost Math Rock it is so technical and even features polyrhythms and improvised nuances. Another awesome instrumental, Bacamarte do more in two minutes than other bands do in ten.

Onto the title track, 'Depois Do Fim', which begins with cathedral keyboards and the sweet, warm voice of Duboc who I have already fallen in love with. It sends chills when she reaches those high notes, interpreter please. She must be singing about the beauty of life and the power of love, as it sounds so emotional. The keyboards are a presence on this song and almost bring me to tears. I am so impressed with this and then it takes a swandive into intricate territory with speed licks and crazy frenetic drumming. It settles again and a visceral flute takes us on a magical journey to some mystic land. The symphonic keyboards are mesmirising.

'Mirante Das Estrelas' ends the album in style. Compelling synth lines and fractured time sigs with a blistering acoustic performance. The speed is staggering and it has a driving drum beat and very innovative bass that takes on a life of its own. It is an exuberant, dynamic performance.

What more can be said about this masterpiece? It is simply a landmark album in prog, and the cornerstone for Brazilian prog. I want more but there is only one other album and only featuring Neto and Molinari, nothing compared to this album. Duboc did not continue with prog bands and the whole project is a distant memory, long gone. One of the tragedies of prog is the band as heard on this album disbanded, but this is their legacy; long may she reign.

 

509

Script For A Jester's Tear
Marillion

Marillion Script For A Jesters Tear album cover

A review by Ivan_Melgar_M:

 

The Dawn of a New Era

"Script for a Jester's Tear" is for many the masterpiece of MARILLION (The most iconic band of the sub-genre) and for almost everybody the album that defined Neo Prog. The album is opened with the title song and the band gives one of their most memorable performances. The introduction is sung almost "a capella" with Fish's peculiar Scottish accent and emotional range, only a soft piano makes company to his unique style, but then the change comes, a sudden burst of energy and power, the keyboards of course have that particular sound of the 80's, in the meanwhile, Fish takes us on a trip through different moods from the peaceful calm of the start to the anguish and pain we can feel as the song advances, all performed with a quality that few vocalists achieve in one of the most clear operatic styles.

From the beginning we can notice that Neo Prog brings something different, the guitar passes from being a dark instrument but is left behind with the keyboards in traditional Symphonic to be a main character in this new genre, and Steve Rothery is a great ambassador of the style. From start to end, almost nine minutes of great Prog Rock.

"He Knows You Know" starts with the guitar in crescendo and soft vocals announcing another sonic explosion, which in this case is not as powerful as the opening track, only from this point I can listen to the clear GENESIS references and Fish's style boosts the effect. The best section of this track is the middle instrumental break where Mark Kelly, Pete Trewavas and Steve Rothery get involved in a keyboard, bass and guitar duel, with the appropriate drumming by Mik Pointer, simply fantastic.

"The Web" is a track that defined another facet of Neo Prog, starting dramatic with an almost Symphonic structure and a Gabriel like vocal with that style that only Fish is capable of creating, but as it advances and gains in energy, it moves more towards a hard Rock territory, first as a power ballad and then rocking as professionals. It is not the most progressive track despite the radical changes, but pure energy and power, the final guitar solo summarizes the blend of two genres.

"Garden Party" is a classic in every sense, with a strong GENESIS influence, lush keyboards, unconventional rhythm, radical changes and to crown the song, excellent and deep lyrics; everything you can ask from Prog can be found here.

"Chelsea Monday" is another display of social poetry by Fish, enhanced with the dramatic and obscure music, this song shows us you don't need a vocalist that sounds like nothing matters as in most Indie, because Fish's dramatic voice can transmit whatever he wants, without giving the listener the urge to blow his brains or run for a Prozac pill.

A great album is defined by how well the songs are balanced, and MARILLION achieves complete success in this field, "Forgotten Sons" is another dramatic track, but in contrast with the previous, it's almost frantic without falling in excesses, the guitar interplay with the whole band is impeccable and the subtle keyboards combine perfectly, another high point. Again the powerful lyrics combining with the radio broadcast and the almost military march in the middle fit perfectly but the organ and mellotron (or a digital version) keeping the suspense, enhance everything. Another masterpiece.

We should only give the maximum rating to an album if it's essential, well, if the defining album of a genre is not essential, I don't know the meaning of the word, but "Script for a Jester's Tear" is much more. It is a masterpiece that I should have bought ten years before I did. So five stars it is, and without any doubt.

 

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

 

Marillion and Fish are as iconic as the 80s decade itself.

The debut for Marillion is a milestone album that virtually started the Neo Prog genre single handedly and also kept alive the prog scene during the difficult 80s. Prog took a nosedive after the glorious 70s and bands like Rush and Marillion were the saviours of the genre.

Fish was the mastermind of the band and his enigma shines through on the debut. Fish's dramatis personae, composure and self assuredness holds the album together, and he is well supported by the incredible keyboard wizardry of Mark Kelly, percussion by Mick Pointer, the indispensable Steve Rothery on guitars and maestro bassist Pete Trewavas, who would later continue to dazzle as Transatlantic's bassist.

The tracks have become bonafide classics, namely the title track, ‘The Web’, ‘Garden Party’ and ‘Chelsea Monday’. The epic ‘Grendel’ raises her ugly head, on the bonus CD version and is well worth a listen, and ‘Market Square Heroes’ is included among other singles and alternative takes, so it is definitely worth getting hold of the bonus double CD version.

Trewavas is excellent on bass and the guitar work throughout is absolutely exceptional. The songs have infectious hooks and the voice of Fish is mesmirising, a storyteller style with high octave resonating timbre. The songs are lengthy with a great deal of instrumentation to revel in. Although the debut album is definitely not my favourite from Marillion, this album is still excellent Neo and is important for grounding the foundation for other Neo style bands to come such as Pallas, Pendragon, Arena, Saga or IQ. This album acts as a blueprint for how to reinvent music. "Misplaced Childhood" would bury this for sheer quality but "Script for a Jester's Tear" is highly revered as one of the greatest albums of the 80s.

 

510

Tales From The Lush Attic
IQ

IQ Tales From The Lush Attic album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

This is a very significant record, coming out the same year as "Script For A Jesters Tear" by MARILLION. Prog was not dead! I really like Martin Orford's keyboard playing on this album and also the fact he uses mellotron on four of the five tracks (he didn't use it on the short instrumental). The star for me though is Peter Nicholls. I have liked his voice from the first time I heard it. This record sounds a little rough at times but as I said in the intro this is truly an important album.

The record begins with the almost 20 minute epic "The Last Human Gateway" which I feel is the best track on the album. It's very laid back to open and then we hear for the first time Peter's vocals. Suddenly everything is alright in the world. Synths come in followed by drums as the song gets fuller and more passionate. Great sound 5 1/2 minutes in. Orford is all over this. It settles 8 minutes in as mellotron flows. Beautiful acoustic guitar 9 1/2 minutes in, then vocals join in. It kicks in with synths a minute later. Electric guitar 11 1/2 minutes in as synths continue to swirl. The tempo continues to change. Some ripping guitar around 17 minutes. Love when the vocals return, so moving. Mellotron is back too. Yes everything is right in the world.  

"Through The Corridors" really hits the road running. This is a short guitar led tune. It's ok.  "Awake And Nervous" begins with pulsating synths as drums join in. Great sound. Mellotron before 1 1/2 minutes then vocals. Nice. This moves me. Great track! Then we have the short, piano laden instrumental.  

Next up is the closer "The Enemy Smacks". This is a dark song about heroin addiction. This song has a bit of an edge, featuring some organ and guitar and of course keyboards aplenty. There is also a real nice extended guitar solo, and the vocals don't disappoint. I like the calm before 10 1/2 minutes with floating organ and spacey winds.

The bonus track "Just Changing Hands" features Mike playing a surprisingly heavy guitar solo, and some more great guitar work later on as well.  Martin shows that yes he can play the keyboards (haha).  I really feel that this record and "Script for a Jesters Tear" are must have's for their significance in prog history. The three long songs on this album are incredible.

511

Amenophis
Amenophis

Amenophis Amenophis album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

It always brings me joy to discover great prog from the eighties, I guess because it doesn't happen very often. AMENOPHIS are from Germany and they released two albums in their careers. The band I was reminded of when listening to this album was GENESIS, and that would mainly be because of the guitarist. This guy can really play some amazing melodies, especially with the acoustic guitar. Actually the last five bonus songs are all fairly short instrumentals, primarily made up of some tasteful, beautiful and intricate acoustic guitar melodies. Nice. His brother is the drummer, while the bass player's talented sister (an artist) actually designed the surreal cover art. This record though is guitar driven all the way.  

"Suntower" is so well done, the keyboards and the relaxed guitar solos. This is all so melodic, but the song ends quite aggressively with keys and guitar leading the way.  "The Flower" is my favourite song. We hear vocals for the first time in this beautiful and delicate song. Guitar comes in at 2 minutes and it's fantastic! This is a GENESIS moment for me as the tempo changes continue in this song. Some great energetic guitar solos after 6 minutes.  

"Venus" has a spacey intro as vocals come in. Guitar and drums play on as some in your face bass arrives 5 minutes in with keyboards following.  "The Last Requiem" is my second favourite. For the record, I'd swear there was flute on these last two songs. Anyway the guitar in the intro is really good, and the drums and bass lead the way until a scorching guitar solo comes in. It's almost 4 minutes in before we hear vocals.  A couple of years ago Greg Walker sent me his "work in progress" list of what he feels are the all time greatest prog records (one per band) ever recorded.  It's a 3 page list and this record is included, now I know why. 4 bright stars.

512

Heads Or Tales
Saga