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Topic Closed1000 Prog Albums Over 46 Years: 1966-2011

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AtomicCrimsonRush View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 20 2012 at 23:56
1974 - continued

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Renaissance were another of the 70s prog bands with a female singer that captured the attention of many in the day and continue to gain fans due to the complexity of the music and crystal clear angelic vocals. Curved Air are also in the same league with Sonja Kristina, but the vocals of Annie Haslam are more operatic. Annie has a 5 octave range that really is entrancing. Many cite Annie as before her time heralding in what is now known as operatic Gothic metal with bands such as Nightwish, After Forever and Epica. Annie has that dark edge of Gothic but is certainly capable of incredible beauty with her mesmirising skilful range. The other members of the band are Jon Camp on bass, Michael Dunford on acoustic guitar, Terrence Sullivan on drums, and John Tout on keyboards. The music is very mysterious and ethereal which is perfect or Annie’s angelic reverberations. The album has three songs per side on vinyl and all are excellent quality, with some compositions that are incomparable.

The urgency and tempo of ‘Running Hard’ is augmented by Annie’s voice and a classical piano intro skilfully played by Tout. ‘I think of You’ is a sombre ballad with a beautiful melody that really touches the emotions, and has lovely lyrical poetry. ‘Things I Don't Undertand’ is the Dunford/ McCarty composition of some length and features wonderful uplifting vocals and dreamy melodies.


‘Black Flame’ kicks off side 2 and is the best song on the album with chilling vocals and incredible melody. Beginning with an extended acoustic intro, it is noteable or its infectious chorus. It is a dark ballad but as well as having Gothic nuances and bleak lyrics it is somehow uplifting thanks to Annie’s crystalline voice. The melody is unforgettable and has an esoteric atmosphere, especially the verses.

‘Cold Is Being’ is based on the melody of Albinoni´s Addagio and it sounds majestic and has a haunting atmosphere.

‘Mother Russia’ ends the album with a Russian theme and some gorgeous instrumentation. The symphony orchestra touches are superb; dramatic and tense and then releasing into sheer beauty with the flute passages. Annie is seriously enchanting on this and it certainly is another highlight. The band would also return to this live and can be heard performing an incredible version on the 1976 “Live at Carnegie Hall” album.

There is not a bad song on the album and it features 3 masterpieces in ‘Running Hard’, ‘Black Flame’ and ‘Mother Russia’. Renaissance would release many albums of masterpiece status and this is one of them. 

#223

Kansas
Kansas

Kansas Kansas album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

I've never been a KANSAS fan but out of all their albums this is my favourite. I find three of the last four tracks here pure magic but the first four very average. So after listening to it I'm always thinking "That was great!" when in fact only the last half of it is what I'd call excellent. ‘Can I Tell You’ hits the ground running, vocals come in quickly. The violin is all over this one. Guitar before 2 1/2 minutes then the organ joins the fray.

‘Bringing It Back’ features lots of piano with violin coming in around a minute. ‘Lonely Wind’ opens with violin and piano as reserved vocals arrive in this ballad-like tune. ‘Belexes’ is a rocker, I do like the vocals here. A little drum action 4 minutes in. ‘Journey From Mariabronn’ is led by piano and violin early. Vocals 1 1/2 minutes in. Guitar after 3 1/2 minutes as the drums pound. Violin follows. Great tune.

‘The Pilgrimage’ builds until the vocals kick in. My least favourite of the last four. ‘Apercu’ is led by violin, then we get a calm before a minute as reserved vocals come in. Outstanding sound when it gets fuller. An instrumental interlude after 5 minutes where the guys stretch out. Nice aggressive sound with guitar after 9 minutes. It blends into ‘Death Of Mother Nature Suite’. It settles right down quickly as reserved vocals come in. It kicks back in as contrasts continue. I like the guitar 6 minutes in as he lights it up. 3.5 stars and a great start to their careers.

 

A review by SoutSideoftheSky:

Kansas’ debut album is also their most American sounding album. The cover art work even features an American flag. Still, the primary influences are clearly British. Influences from Yes, Genesis, Deep Purple, ELP and Queen can easily be detected (the sound here is more towards Deep Purple than Queen, in opposition to later albums). But, as I said, this music also has some traditional American sounds in it, which makes Kansas a unique band. This is not just an American band trying to sound like a British Symphonic Prog band. Kansas has their very own sound and approach.

This debut album is a bit more earthy and bluesy than subsequent albums. Personally, I like this album a lot and I actually think it is their best album apart from Point Of Know Return and Leftoverture. The guitars are more blues oriented and the organ is the dominant keyboard instrument rather than synthesisers (though there are some). This, together with the omnipresent violin, gives a very organic and warm sound that almost makes it appropriate to call this red-neck rock, or hill-billy prog maybe? For me who comes from the country-side (though not the American country-side) this somehow speaks to me.

The songs are very good. Lonely Wind and Journey From Mariabronn (that also featured on the excellent live album Two For The Show) are excellent songs, and Belexes, Apercu and the Death Of Mother Nature Suite are also very strong.

This album is still a little bit rough around the edges, it is not perfectly recorded and produced and it is certainly not as polished as Leftoverture and Point Of Know Return. Still, this doesn't distract too much from the album.

A unique album by a unique band. One of Kansas best albums.

Highly recommended!

#224

Refugee
Refugee

Refugee Refugee album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

After Keith Emerson left to form ELP, the remaining members of The Nice formed Refugee together with keyboardist Patrick Moraz (who would later replace Rick Wakeman in Yes). This album is very keyboard dominated, it has drums and bass guitar, but no guitars. Moraz keyboards is in the center throughout (unlike his work on Yes' “Relayer” album where he was pushed in the background by Steve Howe's guitar making it sound more as if he provides sonic textures to the music rather than being a lead instrument of his own).

The main weakness of this group lies in the vocals (as it did for The Nice also). However, there are not a lot of vocals here, large portions of the album are instrumental parts. Moraz' playing is very impressive and the sound is quite unlike anything I ever heard before.

This album is a much better showcase of Moraz' playing than any other album he contributed to, including his work with Mainhorse, Yes, The Moody Blues and also his solo album “Story Of I”.

This is a unique album that requires several listens to be fully appreciated. Essential for fans of Patrick Moraz and an excellent addition to any prog music collection.


A review by Ivan_Melgar_M:

When a musician has to replace an icon of a genre he has to fight with everything, fans, critics who will always compare him with the previous one and sometimes even the band who had friendship with the replaced artist and will take some time to accept the new one. If you add that this new musician is not a very charismatic figure and has to replace idols and almost frontmen like Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman and Mike Pinder, well, the chances of success are remote. But the Swiss born keyboardist Patrick Moraz with his impeccable technique was able to replace the three iconic keyboardists and have artistic success.

In the case of REFUGEE'S self titled album, he had to use the shoes that Keith Emerson had left, and a huge pair, because for most people THE NICE was Emerson and two more guys, but Patrick was able to replace Keith, imprint a new and unique sound, more based in piano than in Moog and with his less egocentric style, allowed Jackson and Davidson to prove they were not just sidekicks, but very capable musicians able to be compared with anybody. Now, the problem is finding favorite songs to comment, because all the album is outstanding, but I will go with the opener and the first epic.

Papillon opens the album with an evident new sound, more Baroque and piano oriented than the usual Emerson's aggressive approach, in the intro you can already find that Brian Davidson has much more confidence, because the combined use of electronic keys with piano by Patrick is less exclusive and allows him to show his excellent timing and speed. I always found that Patrick Moraz is closer to Rick Wakeman than to Emerson, but here he combines Emerson's skills in the organ with his incredible speed in the piano only compared with Wakeman, while in the background Lee Jackson does an outstanding job in the bass, wonderful piece than can be also listened to in the DVD "Yes at QPS" where Patrick makes an excerpt exclusively on the piano.

Grand Canyon is a 16:42 minutes epic, much more elaborate than the first track but also more relaxed than the breathtaking "Papillon". After an almost 4:00 minutes beautiful intro, Moraz, Jackson and Davidson combine heir skills to recreate the intro but going deeper and more dramatic, the bass is simply impeccable, dark, mysterious and 100% pompous. After a sad piano section solo by Moraz, Jackson adds his vocals, which sound somehow as the middle point between Greg Lake and Pete Townshend, while the drums join an "in crescendo" movement that leads to another keyboard, bass and drums instrumental break that takes us to a spacey section which again changes radically in an aggressive passage typical from THE NICE, that sounds as a controlled cacophony. The changes go on until the end of a track, proving how versatile they are.

All the other tracks have something in common, they jump from pristine Symphonic to elaborate Fusion, passing by Psychedelic sections and Hard Rock, just what Prog should be. The former THE NICE members, seem more comfortable and free to play without the pressure of having Keith with them and if I had to use just one word to describe the album, I would say VERSATILE.

It's very sad that Patrick left REFUGEE to join Yes, because they had much more to offer but at least it lead to the amazing "Relayer". No doubt about the rating, 5 stars material beyond any doubt, I don't have the live album by them, but just asked a store for it, being that I left too many years to pass without getting it.

Highly recommended. 

#225

Where Have I Known You Before
Return To Forever

Return To Forever Where Have I Known You Before album cover

A review by Warthur:

Return to Forever sound more confident here than on the transitional “Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy”, the band having adjusted to the shift in their sound and becoming more accomplished in their compositions. Al DiMeola joins on guitar this time around and his guitar contributions whilst comparatively low key are quite individual and help distinguish the band from being yet another Mahavishnu clone.

Stanley Clarke's bass sound is both more prominent and more distinctive this time around, and Chick Corea himself has clearly been tinkering with the synthesisers, incorporating them into the band's sound with a deft touch. With funk influences being even more important than previously. ‘Earth Juice’ shows this side of the band particularly well. Return To Forever once again find a distinctive fusion sound to call their own, distinct from that of their first two albums but not as generic as “Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy”. This establishes the groundwork for the final phase of their career nicely.

 

A review by Sean Trane:

Behind this absolutely ugly "pick-up in a disco" line used as a title, this is the first album with the classic line-up, since previously unknown guitarist Bill Connors gets replaced (I believe he left for a solo career, which to my knowledge never materialized) for young previously unknown Al, DiMeola, who would go on to become one of the greats of jazz guitars. Probably that you'll never be able to assemble such an incredibly virtuoso line-up at every musician spot, with maybe only Lenny's seat still improvable (Bruford or Cobham). So by the summer of 74, WHIKYB had been recorded and it would be another hit with the then-important JF/F crowds, the first one also forgetting the "bird theme" artwork. This album is the first (to my knowledge, anyway) where Chick Corea invests into synthesizers and his choice of synth sounds is sometimes debatable, but this issue will gradually increase some more with the next albums and widen to other JR/F KB players of the era, no doubt pushed by the new synths appearing on the market, although he (Chick) still relies on Fender Rhodes, Yamaha organ and clavinet as well..

Quickly glancing over the album's track list, you'll see that the title track is part of a series of three short Corea-penned piano-only interludes meant to separate more important works; What had been plainly obvious on HOTSG is now even more reinforced, especially in the opening Stanley Clarke- penned Vulcan Worlds: RTF is more of a jazz-funk group than a jazz-rock group. Indeed Clarke's bass playing features a now-famous technique, the slapping, invented/perfected by him and it would drive him to jazz superstardom. The White-penned Shadow Of Lo, is another funky track (more in the Herbie Hancock manner), but don't feature the excessive bass slaps, and while still cruising at 100 MPH, the track modulates more. Lenny White's drumming is close to what Cobham could've played on this very track. Beyond The Seventh Galaxy is obviously a return to the previous outstanding album (no synths used) and is IMHO the best track of the album.

The flipside opens on the collectively-written Earth Juice is more in the Mahavishnu Orchestra style and matches easily as highlight the previous side's closing Beyond track. Most of you have been waiting for the 14-mins+ Song to the Pharoah King, a slow starter with Corea's synth (although here probably some of his better choices) slowly marching on ahead, but returning to his Fender Rhodes for the torrid splendid middle section and an incandescent finale.

While I wouldn't call this album (WHIKYB) essential, certainly not compared to the absolute masterpiece of 7th Galaxy or the crowd-adored Romantic Warrior, but it is still quite an enjoyable RTF and certainly deserves to be discovered soon. As a matter of fact, this writer not being a fan of Romantic Warrior, this might just be the classic line-up's best album. 

#226

The World Became The World
Premiata Forneria Marconi

Premiata Forneria Marconi The World Became The World album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

4.5 stars. This of course is the english version of "L'Isola Di Niente", which happens to be my favourite PFM record. I don't know if it's just me but for some reason this english version sounds better instrumentally, while I prefer the Italian vocals of the original. So I guess it's a bit of a saw off isn't it. Both are essential in my opinion.

"The Mountain" opens with about 2 minutes of choir before it kicks into the main melody. I love when it does that! Nice bass before 3 minutes as vocals arrive. Howe-like guitar follows. We get a calm before a full sound returns after 6 minutes. The intro is reprised after 7 minutes with some nice lazy guitar coming in late.

"Just Look Away" opens with reserved vocals and a pastoral soundscape. Violin a minute in followed by a vocal melody. Nice. The flute and mellotron 3 minutes in sound great. "The World became The World" is classic PFM. When the full sound arrives 1 1/2 minutes in it's so emotional, and there's that gorgeous mellotron as well. "Four Holes In The Ground" builds into an excellent melody with some incredible bass. Vocals and a calm 3 minutes in. Killer bass as it kicks back in before 4 minutes.

"Is My Face On Straight" has this beautiful soundscape after a minute before it changes, it still sounds amazing though. "Have Your Cake And Beat It” has a wild bass intro before it kicks into gear before 2 minutes with some screaming sax. It settles down 3 minutes in as the tempo continues to change. Great sound before 5 minutes.  There are no weak tracks here, this really is a treasure.

 

A review by Finnforest:

(Italian version)

L'isola di niente 

Premiata Forneria Marconi Lisola di niente  album cover

After the highly acclaimed double home run of the 1972 releases, there came “L'isola Di Niente” a couple years later. PFM were, like Yes, at full stride in this time period and this is a good ablum with two great tracks and three average ones. The real gems here are the title track and "La Luna Nuova." The other three songs have some fine moments but are not of the same quality.

The title track begins with dramatic choirs of beautiful voices for about 2 minutes until the band crashes in. A jangly guitar over steamroller bass, cymbal crashes, and vocal. Around 4 ½ minutes is a serene section of acoustic guitar and strings that will slowly evolve back to rock via creeping electric guitar notes. Some of the rock sections sound a bit like what Yes might be doing on “Topographic”, very adventurous and really throwing all the cards on the table. It's a feast! The ending is a lush electric solo over classical guitar.

"Is my face on straight?" features English vocals unfortunately and has its moments but seems dreadfully out of place here. With quite an avant-garde jazz feel like something from McDonald-Giles this is really pretty strange, but such is the spirit of the album I suppose. The instrumentation is fantastic as usual, great bass, guitar, and drumming that would make Bruford and Squire take notice!

"La Luna Nuova" has a royal, renaissance, and folky feel and gives in to every impulse. There is some violin and flute along with the fabulous interplay of the group, again the drumming is exceptional. Some of this song would not sound out of place on Gryphon's “Red Queen” album though other parts rock harder.

"Dolcissima Maria" begins with soft vocals and acoustic guitar, then some delicate lead guitar and strings, but very gentle, almost a lullaby. At about 3 minutes they kick it up a notch with drums and bass, and melodic keyboards. "Via Lumiere" starts with some Tony Levin styled lead bass. After this introduction it moves to a crazy fusion section that is loud and aggressive with edgy violin for push the envelope. One can hear bits and pieces of the “Jet Lag” sound coming into the picture already. For the last 3 minutes it changes back to the Italian symphonic sound with majestic mellotron and guitars but with little spark left of the earlier tracks, it seems they ran out of steam. Neither the fusion chunk nor the symphonic chunk have enough time or ideas to develop into anything truly memorable as they share the same 7 minutes.

My rating for this album is 3 ½ stars. I suppose I could round up and be more in line with consensus but as I re-crunch my system I can't get it above 3 ½, and I guess I expect a bit more from PFM at this stage. Furthermore, as much as I love Italian, comparing it to a period rival like "Relayer" I believe it falls short of that work. Still this album should be considered as highly recommended to Italian fans and recommended for anyone else who thinks crisp symphonic with some leanings toward fusion sounds tantalizing. The 2004 Japanese mini features some incredible pumped sound for 1974.

 

#227

Hall of the Mountain Grill
Hawkwind

Hawkwind Hall of the Mountain Grill album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Another Space Rock classic from the Masters of the Universe, this album is one where each track merges into one another to provide an overall sound experience unlike any other Hawkwind album. The cover alone has become an icon of rock, voted as one of the all time best album covers in many respected album lists. The Hawkwind spaceship has crashlanded on this cover, a prophetic symbolism perhaps of albums to follow that at times miss the mark.

It begins with the awesome 'Psychedelic Warlords' that has that patented chug-a-chug rhythmic pattern that has become a statement of space rock. Del Mik, Brock and Anderson have an amazing sense of timing as they churn one track after another. 'Wind of Change' and 'D-Rider' are interesting diversions in pace. The lyrics are characteristically simple with driving bass and drums forming mechanised hypnotic rhythms.

'Hall of the Mountain Grill' is just plain weird and progressive in its structure abandoning familiar rock trademarks. This track sounds uncannily like the theme to "Picnic at Hanging Rock" where the school girls climb the mountain to their fate mysteriously disappearing off the planet. 'You'd Better Believe It' is definitley one of the best with killer guitar riffing and a wall of sound with fuzz guitars and charging drum salutes throughout. It is a 7 minute prog blitz. 'Lost Johnny' is Lemmy at his best, both vocally and on bass. 'Paradox' finishes the album off well, and then the bonus tracks are excellent especially 'It's So Easy'.

This album is another one of the Hawkwind fan faves and with good reason. It is bettered by previous releases but this was one of the last times everything seemed to work perfectly for Hawkwind.

 

#228

Ciclos
Los Canarios

Los Canarios Ciclos album cover

A review by Finnforest:

Spanish prog epic you need to discover.

The story of this little known progressive rock gem is almost as interesting as the music itself: a true, sprawling four sides of pure symphonic grandeur of the scope and ambition of "Tales from Topographic Oceans" or "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway." The Spanish band started out as the pop/rock group Los Canarios and had several releases which did well, but were of little interest to prog fans. Then around 1973, leader Teddy Bautista split with his bandmates and retained the name, shortening it to just Canarios. He surrounded himself with all new people and decided to create an epic work for the ages. Today, "Ciclos" is little known and rarely discussed, but I think this is likely the most significant Spanish progressive rock title of its time. As Hugues points out, even the fact that such a project could come to fruition given the political/social oppression of Spain in this period makes it very existence incredible. The high-minded plot themes deal with the circle of life and the history of humanity.

"Ciclos" contains only four songs, each covering an entire side of this double album. The music is a free reinterpretation of Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" and a serious attempt to meld together classical music with symphonic progressive rock. I say reinterpretation because this is not purely a rock band covering a piece of classical music. Everything is subject is change here and the four pieces show a wealth of creative writing and arrangements. The band brings in all various styles to play with: symphonic prog, jazz rock, avant-garde, operatics, and melodic pop/rock. The end result ends up being something not far from the Italian prog of the same period: ambitious, bold, a bit naïve, and sometimes a bit over the top. The "everything but the kitchen sink" approach is on display here. It's a complex album and in my view a great success, but it takes time to reveal itself to the listener. Like some other reviews I've read, the album did not appeal to me at first. Had I written a quick review it would not have been complimentary. But the more you play this one, the better it gets, which is why I rarely write quick reviews. Sections of the album are beautiful beyond belief, other sections rock hard, and other sections leave you scratching you head at what you just heard. Not bad at all!

"this album is much more than just a cheesy rock adaptation. The band put a lot of effort to mix elements from jazz, blues, opera, and even the modern avant-garde classical into Vivaldi's original. Listeners are treated to harpsichords competing with blues and jazz-infected electric guitars, moog synths that let loose a flurry of notes from Vivaldi's original composition before jumping into funky seventies fusion, classical guitars that gently play melodic interludes as the drummer bangs away inspired by John Cage's compositions for percussion. These guys simply loved to mix different genres of music together." -Steve Hegede

As some have pointed out, it can be a bit garish and cringeworthy at times-this is a fair criticism. The keyboard sound choices in particular can be a little cheesy and may make the album too dated for some. In a pure sound sense it does not hold up quite as well as the Yes and Genesis titles mentioned above. But, for those who don't insist on refined restraint in their prog adventure, "Ciclos" is a pure roller-coaster ride that may leave you breathless with listening pleasure. It is certainly not the least bit ashamed to wear its heart on its sleeve. Tightly performed and with reasonably deep, punchy sound, the album lays out a convincing and jamming rock base over which it displays incredible window dressings: I most love the oodles of unique instruments, the little baroque elements, the occasional operatic vocals and choirs, and the adventurous avant-garde excursions. The album can seem inspired by Topographic Oceans although Yes were more seasoned, and Oceans final product more "musically mature" than this one. My personal guess is that most people who like classic era Yes, Genesis, or Banco will be very happy to have acquired Canarios. I consider this title nearly essential to a deep prog-rock collection.

The vocals are in English which pains me, but will no doubt make this title more accessible to some proggers who don't like non-English vocals. Try to get the Japanese mini-lp sleeve CD which will give you a beautiful gatefold presentation, great sound, and the reproduced inserts.

 

#229

Apostrophe (')
Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa Apostrophe () album cover

A review by Conor Fynes:

Finally, a Zappa album I can appreciate and enjoy from start to finish! In terms of my journey with this man's music, you might consider it less than ideal. To start things off, I gave “Lumpy Gravy” a listen without any warning what it might end up sounding like. After half an hour of silly noise, I definitely wasn't any closer to liking this man or his music. Secondly was the jazz piece “Hot Rats”, which I found a lot more to like, but still found it hard to enjoy so much improvisation and soloing without as much solid composition. While “Apostrophe” might not have the same influence on a genre or resonance that “Hot Rats” seems to have on a lot of people, the fact is that this is the first time that I am really enjoying Zappa's music.

He has probably had better songwriting sessions in his life, but this is a fine example of progressive rock that doesn't take it too seriously, and I think that's one of the best things about Zappa. The album starts out with lyrics about not eating yellow snow and an Eskimo named Nanook? Obviously not a “Scenes From A Memory” in the caliber of the concept, but it's obvious that this guy is having fun with making his music. I am not only giving my praise on his disposition though. The music itself- while generally keeping in line with blues-rock, still blows me away in sections. A rapidfire instrumental section in 'St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast' really showed me where Dream Theater got their inspiration from.

The album works as a running piece of music; there is no fade-out between tracks. All that you get is a half hour of unrelenting quirkiness, (bad) humour, and good bluesy riffage. While this artist's more recognized works had turned me off initially, all it took was a commercial- leaning album to show me the groundwork of this man's talent, and finally get me into the music of Mr. Zappa.


A review by Sean Trane:

Yet another classic Zappa album featuring his best band (that's the Ponty-Dunbar-Duke-Underwood line- up) and one that boasts some (a few) of his better known numbers, despite being one of his shortest albums ever (not sure it even last the half hour). Actually I was never sure whether this was a solo album or a group effort. But with the three Hot Rats (solo) albums under the belt, and the forthcoming Bongo and Zoot albums, maybe this one is also a solo.

Starting on the delightful Yellow Snow and it's hilarious but almost scatological follow up Nanook Rubs It and the absolutely bonkers St Alfonzo all the way through its short denouement Father O'Blivion, it's a four-movement suite that has forgotten to take up a name, but it takes up most of side A, leaving the connected Cosmik Debris, a destructed blues track, to close it up.

The flipside opens on the short Excentrifugal Forz, but powerful enough to shake us up before the Bruce/Gordon/Zappa-penned title track, a semi-lengthy jam (most likely recorded live) where the bassist's style is immediately recognizable and Gordon's drumming self-explanatory. With the ultra well-known short ditty Uncle Remus and the much-longer almost-improvised Stink Foot for another greasy laughs from the motherhood.

This album might be a bit of n'importe-quoi, (but then again which one of his oeuvre isn't, but this sounds like a fast-assembled compilation of tracks past the first side's suite, the flipside amounting to an unconstructed mess, but a funny one. Not any worse or better than his albums of that era. 

#230

A Meditation Mass
Yatha Sidhra

Yatha Sidhra A Meditation Mass album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

"A Meditation Mass" is really a 40 minute song that is divided into four parts that blend together. Flute is the dominating instrument in this mellow, meditative recording from 1972. This is very trippy with percussion "Part 1" is the only part with vocals or vocal melodies. You can hear the wind blowing as slowly played guitar comes in followed by percussion and flute. Flute gets a little crazy 11 1/2 minutes in then we hear the soft vocals. Vibraphone is played late in this part followed by piano.

"Part 2" is the shortest part with flute, piano and drums leading the way. This part picks up in tempo as bass arrives after 1 1/2 minutes to a Jazzy soundscape. "Part 3" is more aggressive after 3 minutes as the guitar and drums add some excitement to this section. This is Jazzy as well and for many it's the best part of the album. Then this melody stops as drums and flute take turns before we do get a melody before 9 minutes. "Part 4" opens with pecussion then gentle guitar before flute comes in. This is laid back, calming music that is very well done. It's trippin' Krautrock at it's best.


A review by Warthur:

An enjoyable all-instrumental freakout, often drifting towards New Age spaces but just as regularly breaking out in sudden flirtations with jazz fusion. Rolf Fichter seems to be the musical prime mover here given the range of instruments used, but Klaus Fichter also deserves props for some mesmerising drum work at points. The album is interesting as a Krautrock counterpoint to the New Age-leaning album-length works coming out of Virgin Records at the time (like Mike Oldfield's early albums and Clearlight's debut). That said, I can't say it really enraptures me to the extent that it does many others. Krautrock fans will probably want to give this one a try at some point but I think there's plenty of more central works to explore before you get to this one.

#231

Klossa Knapitatet
Samla Mammas Manna

Samla Mammas Manna Klossa Knapitatet album cover

A review by Warthur:

“Klossa Knapitatet” catches Samla in a transitional mode, moving away from the strongly Canterbury-influenced style of their first two albums to an altogether stranger and less accessible mixture of influences. The ghost of their prior Canterbury and Zappa-influenced style does occasionally rear its head - in particular, there are some vocal experiments reminiscent of the “Burnt Weeny Sandwich/Weasels Ripped My Flesh” era of the original Mothers of Invention - but the folk influence is dialed up, a broader pallette of jazz is on offer than Zappa-inspired fusion, and at points the pounding of the rhythm section reaches Zeuhlish levels of intensity.

The mixture is certainly unique and marks a drastic evolution in the band's sound, so RIO fans in general will want to hear this one sooner or later, but at the same time I find that the band struggle to keep their new direction interesting over the course of the album. It's good, but it's not the first Samla album I'd recommend to someone new to the group


A review by Sean Trane:

How could SMM better their work after the astounding Maltid? Well they certainly tried very hard to duplicate the success without making a carbon copy of their previous oeuvre or reproducing exactly the recipe and almost succeeded in bringing us something as tasty as Maltid. But Klossa Kuapitatet (KK for short) is still an excellent album, that was recorded the following year with an unchanged line-up and it was granted another weird freak artwork, again with no obvious relation with the music, even with the track titles translated.

Staying more or less in the same musical realm than with Maltid, KK actually dare go a little further in jazz (or jazz-rock as in the superb and lengthy Liten Dialektik), or in the burlesque (the yodelling of Kaninhal) or even in the dissonant and absurd (Influences) or in the festive folk and circus-like music (Mousemilkingmachine) and sometimes Crimsonoid deviations (Influences again). The Zappa stature is probably less present here than on Maltid though, and while the vocals remains strange, we can also say they're less Focus-like as well. Elsewhere Holmer is giving us some accordion (yuck!!) on the title track, while the closing Ramlosa Kvallar is a fitting closing bit for such a crazy album that the name ended up being used for a future acoustic folk side-project, but here it's definitely more like Crimson playing Moonshine or Providence and after that returning to some brilliant polka music..

With Maltid under their belt, SMM tried a bit too hard to better or match their previous effort, and it is that very "forced bit" that does make the difference, but probably the opposite way they had intended. Still an excellent album, even if it lacks its predecessor's almost flawless aura. 

#232

Banquet
Lucifer's Friend

Lucifers Friend Banquet album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

Thus spoke Lucifer's Friend.

As I said in my review of the band's third album, the Metal purist's interest in Lucifer's Friend is (probably?) limited to the band's two first albums; the Heavy Metal of the self-titled debut and the equally heavy but at the same time very progressive “Where The Groupies Killed The Blues”. But the present album, though no longer describable as Metal, is nothing short of brilliant! The material here is every bit as strong as on those earlier great albums but it is very different in nature. This great Prog Rock album is filled to the brim with electric pianos, synthesizers, strings and, particularly, brass arrangements in addition to the usual Rock instruments! All the instruments are exceptionally well played and the vocals are simply outstanding. The British lead vocalist John Lawton was later recruited to join Uriah Heep, but the funny thing is that several of Lucifer's Friend's albums, including the present one, are much better and far more interesting than anything Uriah Heep ever did (with or without Lawton)!

The fact that this band was based in Germany (though John Lawton was British) could make you believe that this is Krautrock. Nothing could be further from the truth. This has a British Symphonic Prog sound to it.

As implied, Banquet is quite different from Lucifer's Friend's earlier albums. This is less heavy and more jazzy (though not at all in a Jazz-Rock/Fusion way this is still very much a Rock album. The electric guitars are more concerned with solos than riffs here. Lucifer's Friend were never content to stay within one musical style, but always preferred to move on to new territories with each subsequent album. This is one great album, severely underrated and definitely an excellent addition. The only song that might not be too interesting is the short ‘High-Flying Lady Goodbye’.

Very highly recommended!

 

#233

The Cosmic Jokers
The Cosmic Jokers

The Cosmic Jokers The Cosmic Jokers album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

THE COSMIC JOKERS feature some amazing synth work from none other than Klause Schulse, as well as some great guitar from ASH RA TEMPLE's Manual Gottsching. The album has two side long suites beginning with "Galactic Joke" that is divided into three parts a,b and c. Side two is called "Cosmic Joy" and is divided into two parts a and b. "Galactic joke" (part a) features some great atmospheric guitar melodies over the bass, drums and synths, as the sound builds to a climax 3 minutes in. The guitar by the way sounds fantastic! (Part b) features some experimental, ominous space sounds, as a wall of synths crash in and out, then bass and drums come into this spooky soundscape. (Part c) is slow paced and atmospheric. The full sound comes in later with drums, synths and guitar leading the way.

"Galactic Joke" is more melodic and guitar driven than the spacey "Cosmic Joy", which opens with spacey synths and low toned sounds that build. Yes folks we're in another dimension as it couldn't get any spacier. (Part b) features a sound that I thought was a train going over the railroad tracks, but in fact it's the incredible drum work and synths creating this sound. Synths sound like the wind later on, in this mind blowing head trip! The sound becomes quite heavy and loud towards the end. This is really trippy, hypnotic music, and I especially like "Galactic Joke" with the amazing guitar. Highly recommended music that you need to experience.


A review by Warthur:

If we gave stars for ethics, we'd have to give this one 0 out of 5 - but other contributors have already outlined the dodgy history behind this recording. Regardless of whether the artists involved knew that their private jam was going to be turned into an album or not, the fact is that the debut Cosmic Jokers album delivers the absolute cream of the crop from that legendary session, and presents a Krautrock fan's dream lineup in the performance. Not quite fitting the sound of any of the members' "day jobs", it's worth a listen to anyone who's a fan of Ash Ra Tempel or other artists from the Cosmic Couriers stable.

#234

Hergest Ridge
Mike Oldfield

Mike Oldfield Hergest Ridge album cover

A review by Finnforest:

"the problem of the world today is that there's not enough romance."

(Mike's response to an interviewer who remarked that “Hergest Ridge” has been criticized for its romanticism.)

First, I agree with Mike's sentiments. Second, forget about “Tubular Bells”. Mike's sophomore effort “Hergest Ridge” is as good as his first album. Oldfield moved to the English countryside after “Tubular Bells” and the music on “Hergest Ridge” describes the bucolic surroundings of his new home. In his own words: "Lots of open countryside, smooth hills, a general feeling of smoothness and well being and non-hysteria, just a much nicer environment..if you want to get anything out of it, you've got to really listen to it."

I love the fact he is attempting to describe his home to us through music. Places are very important to me. The home we grew up in, our neighborhoods, our haunts during our formative years, and finally the place we make our stand. I think it's an interesting and intimate topic for an artist to cover. And it's obvious Oldfield is in love with his new countryside home. The music he plays has a nostalgic and somewhat surreal feel to it, almost Monet like to me.

The first half of side two is most effective to me in feeling the surroundings that Oldfield is residing in, it then moves into the chaotic and loud "storm" segment. This goes on a tad too long for me personally and after about 5 minutes it again shifts back to calmer waters.

Mike again plays a variety of guitars and other instruments and the moods vary from the serene to the dramatic but “Hergest Ridge” is more personal and less rocking than some of his future work would be. It is a beautiful work of art and recommended to fans of instrumental progressive music. 3.5 stars.

#235

Starless And Bible Black
King Crimson

King Crimson Starless And Bible Black album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

“Starless and Bible Black” is one of the early entries into the huge repertoire of King Crimson before the huge lineup changes and sound transformation. It starts off with 'The great deceiver', with the patented familiar Crimson sound, intricate time signatures and complex drum patterns abound mixed with shades of light and dark instrumental genius. It is incosistent though with some mediocre moments, such as 'Trio' and the title track.The noodling and messing about of 'The Mincer' is experimental and 'We'll let you Know' is challenging.

The shining lights are naturally a complete contrast with the incredible tracks 'Great Deceiver', 'Night Watch' and the wonderful 'Fracture'. It is an important album for the band along with the Crim’s first 3 albums or "Red" which are all quintessential King Crimson classics.


A review by Warthur:

A strong followup to “Lark's Tongues in Aspic” - though I don't think it's quite hits the fifth star, following up an absolute masterpiece with another excellent album is still an achievement to be proud of, and displays a level of consistency which previous lineups of King Crimson had failed to attain. The album takes an interesting approach of mixing studio tracks in with edited highlights from live performances, most of which coming from the legendary Netherlands concert which would be released in its entirety on “The Night Watch”. To be honest, I prefer hearing the relevant songs in that context, especially the side two improvisations, because the live album captures the concert atmosphere which inspired them very well. But either way, it's a good King Crimson album which no fan of the Larks'-to-Red sound will want to pass up.


A review by Mellotron Storm:

They certainly took a different approach to this record, with four of the tracks being improvised or having improvised sections, while half of the tracks were recorded live with the audience edited out. There is a "Larks' Tongues in Aspic" flavour to this album as well. Of their first six studio records I would rate this behind only "In the Court Of the Crimson King" and "Larks' Tongues in Aspic". Yes, I really like this one.

"The Great Deceiver" hits the ground running with violin and guitars, until it completely stops and the lyrics are spoken. Nice solo from Fripp during the last minute of the song. "Lament" opens with reserved vocals, as mellotron and violin come in. The percussion is cool, reminding me of "Larks' Tongues in Aspic". Bruford also gives us some outstanding drumming and a good solo from Fripp 3 minutes in. "We'll Let You Know" is an instrumental, that features different sounds peircing in and out throughout the song. There is some funky bass and drumming later in the song that create a melody.

"The Night Watch" has some faster paced vocals that remind me of GENESIS for some reason, as well as mellotron and violin. Great tune! "Trio" is an improv of bass, mellotron and violin. "The Mincer" features lots of mellotron and some amazing guitar melodies. "Starless and Bible Black" is another improv that works perfectly. This one is quite atmospheric to open and has some screaming guitar, mellotron, percussion and various experimental noises.

"Fracture" opens with guitar, as heavy drums come in. There is a real frenzy 6 minutes in and at 8 minutes the sound is nice and heavy. This song builds beautifully to an explosive climax. This is a must have for fans of progressive music. 4.5 stars. I'm bumping this up to 5 stars after getting the re-mixed and expanded version late in 2011 because it sounds amazing. 

#236

Caution Radiation Area
Area

Area Caution Radiation Area album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

AREA were a band who's lyrics were often political. Certainly the title of this album, and the back cover (which has a picture of two soldiers with guns scaling a wall) are objects of their protests. I was surprised at how dissonant, experimental, avant-garde, intense and dark this album is. It's like they're trying to convey through musical experimentation how abhorant radiation and war is.

"Cometa Rossa" opens with synths as drums and then a full sound arrives. This is outstanding. A calm descends when the vocals arrive before 1 1/2 minutes. Demetrio gets a little theatrical here before it kicks back in after 3 minutes. Nice. Powerful organ to end it. "ZYG(Crescita Zero)" opens with strange experimental sounds. Spoken words come in before we start to get a beat and melody. Lots of dissonance with the piano and guitar. Check out the guitar playing 2 1/2 minutes in. Quite unique and far fom pleasant. Haha. It's jazzy at this point as bass and piano with light drums provide the backdrop to these raw guitar sounds. Piano takes over for the guitar after 3 1/2 minutes. Some dissonant horns follow. You can hear Demetrio in the background making strange vocal sounds. Synths 5 minutes in.

"Brujo" opens with a multitude of sounds that are coming at us from all angles. It stops before a minute as we get some sparse piano and a haunting background. Outbursts of drums and other sounds come and go. It turns jazzy 3 minutes in with uptempo drums and keys leading the way. This goes on and on. Amazing section!  A calm arrives before 6 minutes with some heavy breathing sounds followed by delirious vocals in a haunting soundscape. Brilliant!

"Mirage!" is the longest track at 10 1/2 minutes. This has a dark, spooky, atmospheric beginning. Outbursts of deranged vocals as bass clarinet comes in and other weird sounds. This reminds me of "Heresie" by UNIVERS ZERO. Drums and percussion join in. We get some sort of a melody 4 minutes in although the eerie sounds continue. It all stops 6 minutes in as whispered vocals can be heard and then strange vocal sounds. It's scary again. Dark as hell. Incredible! Dissonant sounds before 8 minutes create confusion. It kicks back in after 9 minutes. Vocal melodies 9 1/2 minutes in. It's creepy to end it. What a trip!

"Lobotomia" opens with ear piercing sounds. It's like a warning or alarm. It lets up but it's still like being showered in acid rain. Disturbing is an understatement. This is an outlandish musical statement by a band that I'm sure caught people's attention back in the day. Again I think the music is perfect for the subject matter.


A review by Warthur:

Caution Radiation Area sees the band taking on a more experimental approach, incorporating avant-garde experiments into the album. However, these experimentations aren't especially well-integrated into the band's music at this stage. The first three tracks are fusion pieces of a style familiar to anyone who's listened to their first album; the second side is where things really get odd. Mirage consists of arrhythmic moanings and clankings reminiscent of the sort of pieces Art Zoyd would later produce, interspersed with outbreaks of straight-ahead fusion along the lines of the first side. Lobotomia, meanwhile, is simply irritating, a series of squawks and wails produced by a synthesiser which is about as discordant and ugly as Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. Worth it for the first side if you're already an Area fan, but be ready to skip the last track.



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - February 03 2012 at 23:49
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1974 - continued


#237

Remember The Future
Nektar

Nektar Remember The Future album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

“Remember the Future” is a sensational Nektar album, hailed as one of the masterpieces along with “A Tab in the Ocean”. The band were at their most creative on this early release with massive epics to revel in and incredible virtuoso performaces throughout. The legions of Nektar fans will swear that this is the album to get hold of along with “Tab” and of course the band always gave reverence to these albums, playing tracks from them on the live stage for decades. The subtle light textures counterbalanced with awesome guitar riffs was like Pink Floyd meets Yes. There is never a dull moment and the epic must stand as one of the all time greats alongside their other masterpiece ‘A Tab in the Ocean’. The vocals are gentle and very well sung by Roye Albrighton also fantastic on lead guitar, and mention must be made of the amazing keyboard skills of Allan Freeman. The bass is performed well by Derek Moore, and the ever reliable percussionist Ron Howden keeps things together. The unseen fifth member of the band was Mick Brockett on the psychedelic lights, mentioned on the album sleeve because he had such an integral role to play at the time with the light show that became Nektar’s trademark on the live stage.

The epic is cut into many parts but it really blends together as a multi movment suite. Some parts are more memorable than others such as the section at 11 ½ minutes with some terrific keyboard over a driving fuzz guitar riff. The time sigs change many times but there is a main motif that keeps returning with a 4/3/3 signature. It fades and a new part fades up with a spacey atmosphere. The drum triplets come in with organ and a frenetic bassline. This provides a background for some psychedelic phased wah-wah lead work from Albrighton. The band really take off and at 15:20 and it becomes quite absorbing with psychedelic swirls and a pulsing bassline.

Part 2 of the epic on side 2 begins gently with clean guitar and keys. The tempo is upbeat and then a harmony of voices comes in, “I can see you, I can hear you.” The section known as ‘Questions and Answers’ begins with the serene voices and dreamy melodies. Albrighton’s voice is more forceful on this song. The song has changed completely here from the beginning. There is a terrific section at 8 minutes where the tempo quickens on ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’ and the layered harmonies are uplifting. The guitar work her is exemplary really adding strength to the melodies. The lyrics are fairly pedestrian; “Walking down lonely roads, what do I see, won’t be long till we come again.” This piece of the epic is edited into a single and features as a bonus track called ‘Lonely Roads’. The melody to follow is memorable especially as it features on the “Live Nektar” DVD. The lead break at 12:40 is one of the best on the album. At 13:50 a new song begins with a cool funkadelic rhythm known as ‘Let It Grow’ and it is a catchy thing worthy of a single and indeed it was a single in edited form, also a bonus track on the CD remaster. It is perhaps the best section on the album.

In conclusion, the album was a great magnum opus for Nektar though not as full of masterful music as “A Tab in the Ocean”. The band are still renowned for excellent music such as this album and the Nektar trilogy “A Tab In The Ocean", "Journey To The Center Of The Eye", and "Recycled". All are essential Nektar albums and are hailed as prog classics.    

#238

Secret Treaties
Blue Oyster Cult

Blue Oyster Cult Secret Treaties album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

A secret cult treatise of astronomy

As probably most people would agree, the early 70's was a truly remarkable period in music history. Almost all my favourite bands released their best albums between 1971 and 1975. We can conclude that those were really amazing years for rock music in general and for progressive rock in particular. Blue Öyster Cult is certainly not among my favourite bands, and neither are they a Prog band. But the progressive climate of those years influenced a lot of Rock music, even on the 'other' side of the Atlantic. Blue Öyster Cult too released their best and probably most progressive influenced album – “Secret Treaties” - in this golden period of the first half of the 70's.

Compared to the weak first two Blue Öyster Cult albums, “Secret Treaties” represented a major step forward for the band. The songs are much more memorable and melodious.

Some people have called Blue Öyster Cult 'the American Black Sabbath'. Personally, I think that any such comparison is completely out of place and altogether misleading. The only reason this comparison came up was probably that the two bands toured together at some point. Musically, however, Blue Öyster Cult is a completely different beast. Often close to straightforward Rock 'n' Roll, Glam Rock and even Proto-Punk (Punk was not yet invented at this point), Blue Öyster Cult was miles away from the doom laden, dark, and much more progressive British Heavy Metal of Black Sabbath.

“Secret Treaties” has mostly good songs but the only song that stands out as great for me is ‘Astronomy. Astronomy’, a Rock classic. The rest of the album is, as I said before, a mix between straightforward Rock 'n' Roll, Glam Rock and Proto-Punk. A couple of Moog solos do not make this into Prog by any means but it adds a nice touch.

This album is the best by Blue Oyster Cult and worth having.


A review by Sean Trane:

Third and most important album from BOC, at least as far as progheads are concerned, because most of the general public will tell you, the upcoming albums will sell a lot more albums. While ST is considered in BOC's B&W trilogy (and before the double live inter- chapter album), this album is sensibly different to its predecessor. First it's sooooo much better in terms of material, but it's also an album where Lanier's KB are making a difference, hence the proghead's approval. Unchanged line-up, label and producer, the album is again with a B&W (along with some red) artwork presenting an early supersonic military airplane. The songwriting is again fairly democratic and producer Pearlman still "interferes" in four tracks, but strangely enough, it is drummer Albert Bouchard that gets five credits

Starting on Bouchard's Career Of Evil and a solid dose of Lanier's organ, the album might just be considered their proggier ones of the 70's, the album is off to a blazing lift off, especially with the superb follow-up Subhuman and then the blazing guitar-laden Dominance & Submision. Only the slightly weaker semi-title track (ME 262 is the Messerschimidt reactor airplane of the artwork), but there are no other tracks that can come close to the album's title.

The flipside's opener Cretins is thankfully short, and despite ending well Harvester Of Eyes isn't that successful either, but the album closes on two all-time BOC classics. Indeed Telepaths (some piano in BOC?) and especially the album-lengthier Astronomy are both linked together and the latter's superb piano intro and mid-tempo melody and superb mid- section. It's a killer.

The remastered reissue comes with a colourized version of the artwork and a bunch of bonus tracks, but I have never heard them. While I would certainly not call ST a prog classic, it's certainly their most preferred with the public preferred, like Argus, Rising, Paranoid are in their respective discography.

#239

Eldorado
Electric Light Orchestra

Electric Light Orchestra Eldorado album cover

A review by Finnforest:

Symphony for a daydreamer

ELO is a post-Beatles group whose founding members sought to pick up where the Beatles left off, and along with bands like the Moodies continue the integration of classical music into their rock and roll. They were somewhat successful making inroads into the progressive community but they were commercially very successful, and in my view their real strength was as a singles band.

"Eldorado" was the first album where Lynne was able to surpass simple overdubbing and use an actual orchestra which was a huge deal for them. The songs are connected and concern a daydreamer's trip to his dream world Eldorado. The tracks are essentially good pop songs which are seriously dressed up by orchestration and sound effects, the results being highly palatable and lush, dreamy and otherwordly. They are not all that complex below the icing however, in fact I'm amazed Bev Bevan didn't fall asleep during some of these sessions...his drum parts are less challenging than Mick Fleetwood...I could play them as they plod along. Not that music needs to be complex to be good, just noting this for those who love intense drumming.

The orchestration never felt all that interesting or unique to me, it's a fairly traditional use of strings. Swelling oohs and ahhs to narrarate the journey to Eldorado, with the feel of a classic film score. Nevertheless tracks like ‘Can’t get it out of my head’ and ‘Laredo Tornado’ are ELO classics and wonderful art rock. As ELO gets tons of airplay, readers already know if they like this band. If you do, there is no risk in buying the lovely escapism that is “Eldorado”.

 

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

“Eldorado” was the first explicitly conceptual album by Electric Light Orchestra and also the first ELO album with high production values. Sadly, it was also their last progressive album, turning after this one to a more commercial approach that gained them much more success in the charts. Indeed, the signs of what was to come were apparent already on their second and third albums.

On the present album, songs like ‘Can't Get It Out Of My Head’ and ‘Boy Blue’ gives a strong indication of the band's commercial future. However, “Eldorado” as a whole is a pleasant listen and it is of some interest to Prog and Art Rock fans. It is certainly well-crafted, arty and conceptual Pop.

Even though the sleeve features a still from the film “The Wizard Of Oz”, the concept of the album has nothing as such to do with the famous film. Rather, it is based on an original story by Jeff Lynne.

Recommended in addition to the previous “On The Third Day” and the self-titled debut (aka “No Answer”).

 

#240

Faust IV
Faust

Faust Faust IV album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

“Faust IV” is iconic, unsettling, uniquely diverse Krautrock. 

That iconic cover covered in parallel lines, like a barcode, appears on many prog websites and magazines. Krautrock is familiar territory for those familiar with the likes of Neu! Grobschnitt, Amon Duul II and Can, but Faust take it to a whole new level. The drone of the opening track doesn't prepare you for the myriad of musical directions this album takes you. It is like a journey and getting there is half the fun.

Not every track is listenable, in fact much of it is downright unsettling with bone jarring low drones and ethereal effects on synthesizer, like a horror movie soundtrack. Then there are accessible gems like the quiet contemplative 'Jennifer' and the punkified 'The Sad Skinhead'. One of the most popular is 'Giggy Smile' which is unearthly music that sounds like a bizarre mantra. The diversity is astounding and compelling, but it is extremely challenging at times, as all good Krautrock seems to be. There are hypnotic motifs, psych rock mantras and what is termed "musique concrete" made up of repetition and minimalism that is essentially the musical expressionism of Faust. The industrial techno rock of modern day owes much to this sound.

Occasionally one may be reminded of the improv of Soft Machine meets early Kraftwerk. The music clip available of the 'Krautrock' track is introduced by Sosna stating that people laughed at the genre once and labelled it in the derogatory term it garnered, however he told the crowd that now they embrace the term as it is undisputedly German and proudly unique.

It is difficult to recommend, such is the high strangeness of the material, in fact some of this would scare unwary music listeners away from Krautrock, however this is the diversity of Kraut and Faust were unashamedly dissimilar to any other band using asymmetrical time signatures and peculiar instrumentation. Dark, compelling music that is inaccessible at times, but important in changing musical directions and defining Krautrock.

 

#241

Floating
Eloy

Eloy Floating album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

My obsession with Eloy began here and I believe it is the best album from the band. An instant masterpiece to my ears, I must have heard certain tracks from this over 20 times in the last month. This is psychedelia drenched space rock at its best. The first track I heard from this album is ‘Castle in the Air’ and it was enough to draw to me to the entire discography of the band. Admittedly, not everything that Eloy puts their hand to is gold, but on this album they had the Midas Touch and could do no wrong as far as I am concerned. It is difficult to review an album that I adore so much as this but this may be the most gushing praise ridden review I have written. I get chills everytime I hear it. It is little wonder that prog aficionado Greg Walker reveres this album as his absolute favourite.

It begins with the stellar funkadelic psych of ‘Floating’. A massive crunching Hammond blazes away along a wandering bassline and punctuated percussive beat. Bornemann’s guitar chimes in and we are on our way. The vocals are loud and bombastic in the opening section and then it switches time sig to a very fast tempo before breaking into a pounding drum beat. There is a psychedelic tranquillity that takes over, with cymbal splashes and shimmering organ, until it returns to the main theme. A great opening number to kick things off.

The epic of the album is the 14 and a half minute ‘The Light From Deep Darkness’ that opens with a serene guitar phrase and Frank Bornemann’s inimitable vocals. Suddenly a loud staccato blast of organ and guitar with dollops of drums and bass begins to resound. A time sig locks in dominated by power organ and then a wonderful keyboard solo by Manfred Wieczorke. The bass of Luitjen Jansen is effective pulsating out a rhythm and those drum accents of Fritz Randow are compelling. It sounds like vintage Uriah Heep and Deep Purple in places, only very distinct as only Eloy can be. At about 6 minutes Bornemann flys off into a guitar riff and then it calms considerably with tranquil measured playing and very soft vocals. It builds at about the 10 minute mark until it unleashes into some incredibly psychedelic wah-wah reverb on guitar. If this is not enough, a massive organ sound follows that simply blazes away until this epic is concluded suddenly. This is certainly Eloy at their best and puts many of their material in the 90s to shame. A must for psych prog addicts and prog aficionados.

‘Castle In The Air’ is my favourite Eloy track and this is due to Bornemann;s incredible guitar riffs and the way it locks into some hypnotic rhythms and allows a myriad of keyboard and guitar solos to unleash a barrage of psychedelic space rock paradise. I remember I first heard this on a prog compilation from Prog magazine and I had to grab the cover to check out who were these fantastic musicians. I was delighted to discover it was Eloy as I had heard so much about them but had not been as impressed with “Ocean”. I am delighted to discover their heavier psych side and this track encompasses everything that is great about them. Bornemann is brilliant on guitar and vocals here but I love how the track switches time sigs and feel effortlessly. Bornemann uses scat style mimicking the melodic guitar line and it works. The track includes spoken narration, a trademark of many Eloy albums, and some dynamic trade offs between organ and guitar. The bassline is astonishing on this and in fact all musicianship is virtuoso so I can never tire of this. The riff at 3:20 is wonderful and the percussion is a real drawcard, played masterfully throughout, especially the drum soloing at about 5 minutes in. There is so much passion injected into this composition it makes one rather perplexed as to the type of material that the band churned out in the 90s that was so inferior to this it is like it is from another planet. It is great how this song returns to the main theme at about 6:20, reminding us that we are still on the same song that has diverted considerably over its generous running time. An absolute masterpiece song on every level.

'Plastic Girl' is a long song at 9 minutes in length so I hoped it would deliver and I was not disappointed. The shimmering Hammond sound is present as is a building guitar phrase. Bornemann’s vocals are thin and frail but I can take that as the music is so mesmirising. The organ is loud and proud drowning out everything. There is a lead break that takes over eventually and it soars beautifully creating an inferno of psychedelia. At 5 minutes the sig changes into a flowing rhythm and more dramatic organ washes. At 7 minutes we are back to the motif that began this masterful track, and it is a pleasant reminder of the satisfying melodies. I am in awe at how amazing the musicianship is on this album. It is simply a tirade of jaw dropping prog.

‘Madhouse’ is more of the heavier side of the band especially with the aggressive guitar phrases and high energy cadence. The guitar distortion is agreeable and Bornemann is at his best on vocals; “madhouse of desolation, the day seems bewitching, madhouse, night time nearing, madhouse, lights appearing, the day turning night into day, drifting slowly away with the music”. The lead break is searing over a scratchy rhythmic passage. The heaviness is well above average for the band who are more into a symphonic ambience on most of their albums. Eloy know how to rock and they do it masterfully on this brilliant track. After some more guitar work there is a drop out of the main theme and the drums dominate with a fast paced percussion solo that is off the scale. The twin guitar solo that follows is wonderful and once again this is a treasure to my ears. So for me this album is prog perfection in the peak of the golden years of prog.

There are three excellent live tracks to supplement the original album on the remastered version. The songs include the 5 minute ‘Future City’, 8:11 ‘Castle in the Air’ and 3:31 ‘Flying High’. All are terrific live examples of Eloy. There is a considerable amount of jamming and heavy guitar on ‘Future City’, the version of ‘Castle in the Air’ is dynamic and fuelled by fast guitar riffs similar to the studio version and definitely played brilliantly, and finally ‘Flying High’ includes grinding Hammond, psych guitars and sporadic free form drumming. I like the way it rocks with a fast tempo and although the live songs are raw it is great to hear more of Eloy at the peak of their powers.

Overall, this is one of the greatest albums of 1974 in a strong year for prog. Every track is compelling wonderful virtuoso musicianship and there is never a dull moment. A definitive masterpiece, “Floating” is one of the best albums I have discovered over recent years and my collection would be impoverished without it.



#242

Civil Surface
Egg

Egg Civil Surface album cover

A review by Warthur:

Egg's reunion album, originally issued through Virgin records and recently rereleased under licence by Esoteric Recordings, is a bit of an odd bird. As detailed in the Esoteric version's liner notes, which provide a decent history of the band's career, there was never any question of Mont Campbell, Dave Stewart and Clive Brooks resurrecting Egg full time: this album was simply an attempt to record some unreleased Egg songs for posterity before the members returned to their various full-time projects, with a couple of tasteful Mont Campbell-composed wind quartets to pad things out a little.

Although the title is based on a similar pun to that of their previous album (“The Civil Surface” instead of “The Civil Service”, like “The Polite Force” instead of “The Police Force”), the sound is very different - much more laid-back and relaxed, perhaps reflecting the tone of the recording sessions. Dave Stewart brings along some influences from his day job in Hatfield & the North - there's even a guest appearance from the Northettes, Hatfield's backing singers - and indeed if you didn't know this was an Egg album you might be tempted to guess that this is a collection of long-lost Hatfield demo tapes.

I say demo tapes because there are a few problems with the production. In particular, whilst Clive Brooks' drum work is excellent and a key component of the music, it is mixed far, far too loudly much of the time; Dave Stewart has gone on the record as saying that this was an issue. The problem was especially bad on the Virgin CD reissue, and in fact I didn't like the album when I first encountered it precisely because of that. To my ears, the Esoteric Recordings remaster goes a long way towards correcting the problem, bringing out the true joys of the album for the first time. Many of the songs focus on the interplay between Brooks' drums and Dave Stewart's organ, with Mont Campbell's bass work and other contributions providing a subtle touch. Ex-Uriel bandmate Steve Hillage guests on ‘Wring Out the Ground’ (Loosely Now), Lindsay Cooper and Tim Hodgkinson of Henry Cow lend a hand on many tracks, and all in all there's an impression of various Canterbury scene luminaries having a good time giving Egg a suitable send-off. Part of me wonders what the songs would have sounded like if Egg had recorded them in 1972; would they really have had this dreamy, Hatfield-like air, or would they have had a bit more of the dark intensity of the Polite Force? We'll never know, although anyone lucky enough to have attended an Egg concert back during the band's lifetime probably has some idea.

While Canterbury fans will doubtless want to get their hands on the album, it's neither the best the scene has to offer, nor a complete waste of time (despite the issues with the mix) but is good, and pleasant.  

#243 - live

Roxy & Elsewhere
Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa Roxy &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp; Elsewhere album cover

A review by Warthur:

A substantial improvement over Zappa's two prior live album releases (Fillmore East and Just Another Band from L.A., both recorded with the tepid Flo and Eddie lineup), “Roxy and Elsewhere” captures the legendary mid-1970s version of the Mothers of Invention in fine form. The comedic and theatrical elements to the live show are still present - as witnessed by a skit in which Jeff Simmons tries to convince Napoleon Murphy Brock to smoke his high school diploma - but unlike in earlier live releases the top-notch musicianship isn't scaled back to make room for the comedy.

Compositions such as ‘Don't You Ever Wash That Thing’ feature exceptional solos from many of the band members, and overall the quality of the music is extremely high. Zappa's wit is in full flow too - the scatological and sexual preoccupations which sometimes derailed his lyrics are kept tied down here (literally - as on ‘Penguin In Bondage’), and ‘Cheepnis’ is probably the best pre-Mystery Science Theater 3000 tribute to the joy of watching a really *bad* monster movie (and goes some way to explaining why so many of the MST3K crew were Zappa fans, and why Zappa was an MST3K fan...).

I can't give it full marks because the album does bog down towards the end; the two ‘Elsewhere’ tracks, slowed-down and inferior renditions of 60s-era material (‘Son of Orange County’ and ‘More Trouble Every Day’) are just not as interesting as the rest of material, and ‘The Bebop Tango’ might have been an entertaining skit to watch live, but doesn't really translate well to audio. Still, it must have been a relief back in the 1970s to finally have a Frank Zappa live album of as high a standard as this, and the first two-and-a-bit sides of the album are five-star performances if I've ever heard them.

#244 - live

Barclay James Harvest Live
Barclay James Harvest

Barclay James  Harvest Barclay James Harvest Live album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

This live album is the perfect place to start investigating this band. And for most Prog fans it will be a perfect place to stop too - this is really the only Barclay James Harvest album you will ever need! They did some good songs that are not present here, but here we have basically the very best of Barclay James Harvest, performed live with more energy and instrumental power than you will find on any of their studio albums. ‘Summer Soldier’ and ‘Medicine Man’ are particularly interesting since they are radically different from their studio counterparts, and contain much more instrumental work. Need I add that they are much improved?

The rest of the set are more faithful to the studio versions in structure but most songs feel livelier here and there is a sense of urgency lacking in the studio albums. This is especially apparent on the older tracks like ‘She Said’ and ‘Mockingbird’, which I felt were too "sleepy" on the “Once Again” album.

Barclay James Harvest is not an essential Prog band, but if you want them in your collection, be sure to make it this one!

 

#245 - live

Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends
Emerson Lake & Palmer

Emerson Lake &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp; Palmer Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Welcome to one of the greatest live recordings in rock history!

As soon as you put this prog feast on, you are instantly transported in to the bombastic, virtuoso world of ELP. Hoedown rips through the speakers with a frenetic pace and time signatures are off the scale throughout.

‘Jerusalem’ slows things down a bit to prepare for an absolutely wonderful version of ‘Toccata’, with Hammond stabs and screeching sounds that strike at the heart of mainstream pop. It is alienating but so captivating.

There is nothing mainstream here and the average pop fan would have been frightened off by now. Then a blistering version of bonafide classic ‘Tarkus’ clocking in at just under 17 minutes cruises along effortlessly. This is so huge it requires a second CD to finish it.

Also on CD2 we have one of the greatest ELP tracks. ‘Take A Pebble’ is superb as usual and Lake's vocals are excellent here, the instrumental is decidedly different and blends in to ‘Still... You Turn Me On’ and ‘Lucky Man’ effectively. Emerson has a chance to shine and show his virtuoso musicianship in ‘Piano Improvisations’, all 11 minutes of it feature incredible piano playing and includes Friedrich Gulda's ‘Fugue’ and Joe Sullivan's ‘Little Rock Getaway’. Awesome is the word that comes to mind. ‘Jeremy Bender / The Sheriff (Medley)’ is next and it’s a nice interlude in between 2 masterfully executed classics.

One CD left and it is full with a 35 minute epic, the quintessential ELP track, ‘Karn Evil 9’. Every moment of it sizzles with accomplished musicianship and Lake's vocals are incredible throughout. The live performance is astonishing featuring the infamous knife in the keyboard act with Emerson murdering his Hammond and smashing its battered corpse against the stage. It was an amazing sight to see and the live sound captures it perfectly.

The booklet is informative and features some good photos. 3 CDs packed with the best of the progenitors of prog, ELP is irresistible, and this live concert recording cannot be recommended more highly. It's a masterpiece of rock, a masterpiece of live music, a masterpiece of prog.

#246 – live

Caravan & The New Symphonia 
Caravan

Caravan Caravan &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp; The New Symphonia  album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

The live Caravan is definitely a different beast than the studio Caravan. On the live stage the band tend to have fun with the audience and involve them in their tom foolery. The album really is quite humorous and the band are at the peak of their powers, with virtuoso musicianship and they play all of their best tracks up to this point. In this sense the album works as a type of best of Caravan, and in many cases the live versions here are better than the studio tracks. In any case this is a dynamic performance with energy and full on commitment.

The band are the classic lineup of Caravan, the incomparable prog hero Pye Hastings on vocals and guitar, Richard Coughlan on drums, Jimmy Hastings on flute and alto saxophone, John G. Perry on bass, Morris Pert on percussion, Geoff Richardson on electric viola and David Sinclair, a wizard on keyboards. The band are well backed up by the incredible New Symphonia orchestra. It was one of the first marriages of Canterbury and symphony orchestra. It worked well on this concert as the songs are really made for orchestra. 

It begins with the unusual introduction by Alan Black who states matter of factly Caravan are about to enter. It is amusing how he says, “I’m not gonna preach to the converted because if you weren’t Caravan freaks you wouldn’t be here,” and then he introduces the orchestra The New Symphonia and explains the band are going to perform a featurette of songs from their new album “For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night.” What a time capsule of music are these live performances.

As soon as the band hit the stage they power into ‘Memory Lain, Hugh Headloss’ for 11 minutes and it is an incredible piece of showmanship. Pye Hastings sounds so vibrant in these early days. The band are tight, the riffs are great and the keyboard work of Sinclair is exquisite. The violining of Richardson is incredible and the crowd can be heard at the end of each section cheering wildly.   

Hastings introduces the next song about a dog who has a problem with his urges and so he goes to the doctor and is given “down boy pills”. ‘The Dog, the Dog, He's at It Again’ is the song that follows the intro, which became a favourite from the new album over the years. It has a great lead break and the melody is memorable and has fun lyrics; “my mother said that I should stay out of bed but I know that I like it in there, legs and thighs, hello’s and goodbyes and you’re there”. After this Hastings explains they had planned to do about 30 minutes of more “Plump” material but time is against them, what a tease, as that would have been priceless. It was made clear that the album was to be a live recording so this was all a concert designed for the recording and needed to fit on those pesky short vinyl records that could only have 25 minutes of material at best.

Also from the “Plump” album the band play ‘A Hunting We shall Go’, and the whimsical ‘Hoedown’ with amazing violin soloing. It is a shame they didn’t play ‘C’thlu Thlu’ which is one of the darkest and best things they have done. The band leave the stage for a moment and then the orchestra enters and begins to strike up with a quiet melody. They add colour and drama to this as each instrument chimes in, the brass, the violins, woodwind, all are virtuosos and the sound is full and lush providing incredible music as a background to Caravan’s Canterbury rock.

‘The Love in Your Eye’ clocks about 13 minutes and flys by quite well, with organic musicality and strong beats, very uplifting and pleasant. ‘Virgin on the Ridiculous’ is another highlight with sweeping violins and Pye gently storytelling. The gorgeous harp flourishes and emotional strings on this are superb. Pye introduces “the last evening of the number”, (haha!) And he says it is “the usual Caravan number, but this time orchestrated”. The quintessential Caravan song ‘For Richard’ never fails to get the crowd on their feet. They play a 14 minute version with amazing lead guitar solos and lengthy musicality.

‘A Hunting We Shall Go’, a ‘new’ track, closes the show on an encore with a 10 minute non stop barrage of virtuosity. The band exit the stage to rapturous applause. This is perhaps the best live album for the band and it really showcases all that is great about them; whimsical humour, virtuoso musicianship, infectious melodies and with an orchestra thrown in for good measure. It is an irresistible combination where everything worked perfectly making this a landmark album for the band and a prime example of Canterbury at its best.   



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - June 04 2012 at 00:48
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1975

#247

Wish You Were Here
Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Enduring, masterful, powerful, unforgettable.

“Wish You Were Here” is one of the greatest prog albums of 1975 which seems to be the pinnacle for the golden era of prog, culminating in the artist’s best work. Pink Floyd had released their master work “Dark Side Of The Moon” that stormed the prog world and remains one of the finest albums in the history of rock. How do you follow up on this success? A conceptual album with one of the most endearing songs of the Pink Floyd canon and one of the most celebrated album covers of all time; “Wish You Were Here”.

These albums have left an indelible thumbprint for other artists to try and emulate. “Wish You Were Here” accomplished the monumental task of following up “DSOTM” with an incredible lengthy introduction preparing the listener for what is to come. The tranquility conveyed on ‘Shine On’ is astounding and so aptly performed live with exquisite visual imagery. The track opens with a patient, ambience created by sounds of a peaceful stream, a rowing boat, and the distinct keyboard talents of Wright. The music takes us downstream as we enter Syd Barret's jaded conscious thoughts, echoed by the band members themselves. The track is an ode to the twisted genius of Syd and moves through several sections as a multi movement suite orchestrated to perfection. The echoing guitar represents a four octave motif that Floydians have grown to adore. Its pure beauty is complimented when Gilmour chimes in "Remember when you were young..." The fragmentation of the beat midway through alludes to the fragmented status of the group since Barret's departure. Indeed this is a beatific paean to the troubled artist who has now travelled to "the great gig in the sky".

‘Welcome to the Machine’ begins with the mechanized droning of a factory machine, and seems to be a more blatant stab at autocratic society than anything on "Animals" or "The Wall" where humans are forced to obey only to be grinded out as mincemeat; mindless autonomyns. The theme is simple and runs through most Pink Floyd albums; absence of a band member has led to success but at what price? The music business is likened to a meat processor, similar to the one in "The Wall" movie. Students are grinded out under the pressure of the education system. In ‘Welcome to the Machine’ the music industry processes and manufactures rock artists for their own means, but when they have fulfilled their purpose, the naïve artists are chewed up and spat out to make room for 'the next big thing'. The golden mechanized glove on the cover echoes this thought. The man catches alight as he shakes hands now that his deal with the devil has doomed him to extinction. Pink Floyd kept attempting to rebel against the empty handshake of the music business, still somehow retaining millions of record sales. This is an achievement in itself.

‘Have a Cigar’ continues this cynical examination of the music business; full of clichés and innuendos, the lyrics stab at the way the industry elevates artists to drain every cent out of them only to destroy them at the first sign of individual innovation. The rotting carcass of the music artist is left in a smoldering heap so that the new talent can rise out of the ashes in its place. Pink Floyd likely felt like this after the success of “DSOTM”; suddenly a band that was shunned is sought after by every label. Thankfully Pink Floyd refused to sell out on this album and it still managed to carve a place on the charts for a number of weeks.

Part of the reason for its success is the single ‘Wish You Were Here’ with one of the most played, most recognized acoustic intros ever. The lyrics are as beautiful as the arrangement. Waters calls to the positive side of his dark nature. There are 2 sides to human nature.

The album closes with another segment of ‘Shine On’ bringing the album full circle. The journey is complete making way for "Animals".

“Wish You Were Here” is a wonderful album that tends to grow on the listener. The album cemented Pink Floyd's reputation as masters of the prog genre. No Pink Floyd or prog fan should be without it. It is simply a masterpiece!

 

#248

Godbluff
Van Der Graaf Generator

Van Der Graaf Generator Godbluff album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Progressive rock seems to have peaked in the mid 70s for 1975 boasting some of the most endearing prog classics and “Godbluff” is one of them. Van der Graaf Generator, the pioneers of prog at its most dark and off kilter, made a massive comeback with this release and it is surprisingly as good, if not better than their classic early releases. The first thing one notices is the almost maddening patience the band has as it introduces each of the 4 tracks. But there are always moments of brilliance; with each track the pace ranges from slow to breakneck, and the time signatures change throughout, not only with the instruments but with Hammill's incredible vocal delivery.

'Undercover Man' is an instant classic and celebrated as a concert favourite. It begins with a minimalist approach of a single flute over almost whispered vocals. But it is not long until the saxophone and Hammond kicks in, interwoven with strange percussion patterns. At times the song seems standard but then moves into jazz fusion blended with staccato riffs and killer bass impulses.

'Scorched Earth' is another of the great VDGG tracks. The percussion is notably out of sync as are Hammill's vocals; "Just one crazy moment while the dice are card, he looks into the future and remembers what is past..." The conviction in Hammill's tone is as definitive as ever, and he has not lost momentum as one of the leading prog vocalist legends. There is a great instrumental break with saxophones shining, and weird time signatures where a beat is missing then replaced and then removed again. Then it all moves back to the original tune. Simply fantastic.

'Arrow' is another reason why these progenitors of complex rock are infamous and highly revered as pioneers and visionaries. Hammill's vocals are more tortured and raspy on this track and are a surprising contrast to the smoothness on previous tracks. The track begins with a percussion and saxophone improvisation that reminds one of the early King Crimson years. The track relies highly on saxophone and Hammond but the understatement of the bass is admirable and knits it all together perfectly.

'Sleepwalkers' is the sleeper on the album (no pun intended) and is not so much about somnambulism but about zombies, almost a precursor to the 'Thriller' film clip of Michael Jackson, or George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead". It is an energetic track that even features a bizarre Zombie Calypso, or a tango of sorts, certainly an ear opener and all the more chilling for it's content. We even hear zombie screams, and there are high pitched atmospheric keyboards throughout. An amazing track designed to awaken the dead. The lyrics include a jaded sense of humour as Hammill muses on "the dancing dead", but interjected within there are dark undertones as we are asked to, "make reason of the sensory world, if I only had time, but soon the dream is ended." the instrumental break is hypnotic and jazz influenced, and it increases in momentum exploding into the chaotic climax. One of the highlights of the album.

Overall the 4 Godbluff tracks are classic VDGG and a must for anyone interested in early dark prog and jazz inspired psycho spiritual music. It is as weird as it sounds and it is as brilliant as stated. Wonderful headphone music and an essential purchase without doubt.

 

#249

Si On Avait Besoin D'Une Cinquième Saison
Harmonium

Harmonium Si On Avait Besoin DUne Cinquième Saison album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Harmonium's pinnacle of infamy is found here on “Si On Avait Besoin D'Une Cinqui'me Saison” which is a real work of art with some masterful moments mixed with quirky humour.

The beauty is located in such symphonic treasures as 'Depuis L'Automne' with very strong mellotron tones and acoustic mixed with flute and pulsing bass. The innovation of the music is stunning on such pieces, though the opening track is a bit too weird in places, sounding silly with Focus like excursions into vocal whimsy. The band are legendary in Quebec and France but hail from Canada so they are a diverse group. The musicianship is exemplary; Pierre Daigneault on flute, piccolo, Soprano saxophone, clarinet; Serge Fiori on guitar, flute, zither harp, bass drum; Serge Locat on piano, mellotron, synthesizer; Michel Normandeau on guitar, accordion; Louis Valois on bass guitar, electric piano; and all add vocals along with Judy Richard who features on 'Histoires Sans Paroles'.

There is still no replacing the magic of the musical breaks when the vocals are kept aside. The French lyrics are impenetrable for those who cannot speak it, but the music is able to transport it's beauty throughout. The band have a dominant focus on instrumentals or lengthy musical breaks.

'En Pleine Face' begins side two with admirable quality. The instrumental is laced with flute, beautiful acoustic and piano. The strings sound ambient along with backward swells and spacey violin mellotron sounds. Perhaps this is one of the group's finest compositions.

'Histoires Sans Paroles' is a huge 17 minute epic that has sprawling instrumental breaks. The mellotron has a strong presence and it is refreshing to hear the female vocals of Judy with her 'la da da's' accompanied by gorgeous flute. The track is mostly instrumental as is the majority of side two with intonations now and then to add to the beauty. The symphonic splendour of multi layered musicianship is stunning; piano, acoustic, mellotron, and effects. The squawks of seagulls, crashing waves and babbling brooks has become a cliché in prog but Harmonium were one of the first. Many bands in the modern prog scene use the seagulls and waves effect as it definitely transports one to another place of isolation and beauty. The flute is a joyful bright augmentation to the theme of the changing seasons. This is an album to relax to and let your emotions be consumed by the art of Harmonium.

 

#250

Ommadawn
Mike Oldfield

Mike Oldfield Ommadawn album cover

A review by Finnforest:

A collection of the feelings that make life glorious.

Mike's finest moment? A case could be made for any of Oldfield's first four proper albums to be called his greatest masterpiece (“Tubular Bells”, “Hergest”, “Ommadawn”, “Incantations”.) Each one would have many enthusiastic proponents. I would say it would be one of the latter two but I can't decide which at the moment. What I do feel is that “Ommadawn” is a huge step forward over his first two albums. “Tubular Bells” was promising but in many places it was a bit of a mess. “Hergest” was more cohesive and an improvement. And then came the heavenly “Ommadawn”, one of the highlights of the 1970s progressive symphonic rock arsenal. The album took Mike nine months to record and it truly sounds like the work of a lifetime.

The ‘Ommadawn’ piece is well over 30 minutes in length and runs a gamut of emotions and colors, from delectable acoustic moments to folk flavored dancings to aggressive electric guitar rock. The playing is always tasteful with every theme introduced quite simply and then being given ample time to build and expand until reaching a dramatic conclusion, at which point there will be a release and a retreat back to another calming rebirth. It is broken into two parts with the first being longer and probably the more complete of the two although after you've heard the album many times, the "point" of the second part's eccentricities begin to unfold. There are incredibly beautiful, calming female chanted vocals that create such an otherworldly, celestial feeling. These type of vocals would be used again quite successfully on “Incantations” and become a notable part of the "Oldfield sound."

At the beginning of part two there is a dark and turgid swamp of what sounds very much like synths, but surprisingly the section is created by Oldfield assembling an army of layered electric guitars writhing over each other. He fooled me, I always thought it was keyboards until I read about this album. There is also an amazing use of pipes and a Celtic flavor that gives the album great depth. The album closes with a short folk piece called ‘On Horseback’. I have read many reviewers over the years chastise this little song and I couldn't disagree more. ‘On Horseback’ is a complete and absolute delight that will knock you right back to the innocence of childhood. It is shamelessly sentimental but more importantly absolutely effective at concluding a challenging listening experience with an easygoing treat, think of it as a homemade slice of desert after a perfect meal. It adds much to this carefully crafted album and I think it was genius for Mike to place it there.

If you are new to Mike Oldfield and wondering where to start, look past the hype of “Tubular Bells” and grab this one. You have the purest essence of the 70s Oldfield here with the exception of “Incantations”, but this one is slightly more accessible and condensed down to perfection, whereas “Incantations” is very long and requires more patience. An essential title that will actually make itself a part of your life if you allow it to. If you obtain this album as a young person I assure you it will eventually be a member of your family in a few decades. It is that special. I believe 5-stars ratings are to be withheld for only the MOST RARE of occasions and “Ommadawn” is a case where I'm grudgingly forced to cough one up.

 

#251

The Snow Goose
Camel

Camel The Snow Goose album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Camel explores very unique territory with each release. This is their third album and perhaps their most celebrated when it comes to pure progressive content, though Camel's first 2 and fourth album are better. The entire album is based on one concept; that of the snow goose story and the music reinvents the genre. It is difficult to digest at first as no songs are apparent, rather instrumental works that make up a whole.

As soon as the flute chimes in and those keyboards ring out on ‘Rhayader’, one is instantly transported into the beautiful ambience of one of the best instrumental albums of the symphonic Canterbury period.

Each track is beautifully, masterfully executed by the musical virtuosity of each member. It is best listened to as an entire work, rather than individual pieces, similar to a symphony orchestra. It features such a beauty it is calming and soothing on the senses. Latimer's guitars are upbeat and his flute is cheerful and charming, perfectly balanced by Ward's drumming and the keyboard talents of Barden's. These talents are balanced by orchestral sections giving the work an overall epic majestic quality. The juxtaposition of orchestra and rock instruments works perfectly. At times there are subliminal vocals, no actual words, but more sounds that compliment the tracks.

‘Rhayader Goes To Town’ is definitely a highlight, featuring on many Camel compilations, and includes enormous keyboard motifs that stab in stoccato riffs, and all is augmented by the blazing guitar solos from Latimer. ‘Sanctuary’ is repetitive and focusses on Latimer's drifting guitar solo, that really slows things down. ‘The Snow Goose’ is the band in full flair that includes catchy ambient melodies. A very high pitched saxophone can be heard in the tracks to follow and is a welcome change in pace to all the strings. ‘Rhayader Alone’ is another highlight and is quite a melancholy piece with marvellous soloing from Latimer and an acoustic bass tone from Ferguson.

Of note too is the addition of bonus tracks on the Decca remaster version. Over 24 extra minutes of Camel is irresistible. The bonus additions are great single edit versions of ‘Flight of The Snow Goose’, ‘Rhayader’ and ‘Flight Of The Snow Goose’. There are also two excellent live 1974 versions of ‘Rhayader Goes To Town’ and ‘The Snow Goose/ Freefall’. This last track clocks in at 11 minutes and is one of the highlights as it blends seamlessly from ‘Snow Goose’ to one of my favourite tracks in ‘Freefall’.

Overall, “The Snow Goose” is an inspired work that demands attention. It is not for everybody's tastes due to the content, and it is a peaceful, tranquil instrumental album, however this is one of those albums that tends to grow on the listener over time.

 

#252

Scheherazade and Other Stories
Renaissance

Renaissance Scheherazade and Other Stories album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

"Scheherazade and Other Stories" is Renaissance at the peak of their powers in the 70s golden era of prog.

A male dominated universe of prog was infiltrated by the likes of Annie Haslam's enchanting vocal prowess. What a voice she has on this album, a voice of authority and tranquillity with a huge octave range that has spellbinding power.

'Trip To The Fair' starts things off with a lengthy piano interlude played with grand finesse by John Tout. An orchestrated approach of classical proportions follows with some manic laughter and ethereal vocal harmonies. It builds till at 3:40 there is a musical box chime and Annie begins to tell the story with her inimitable voice. The story concerns a fair where "nobody was there" and the feeling of childhood innocence turning to fear as the realisation is the fair is creepily devoid of people; "A creak as the dodgems came onto the scene, Wheels began turning I started to scream, A carousel swung around, My head spun and hit the ground..." The melody is pretty but the lyrics give it a dark tinge of paranoia and sadness; "I close my eyes to disguise the fear from inside, Trembling within my own mind I find no place to hide, Stars of tomorrow shine through the grey mist that has gone, I wish that this trip to the fair had never begun..." The instrumental break is dominated by glockenspiel or childish toy piano sounds. There are passages that sound like a carousel as the people appear in the fair and "Everyone seemed to be staring at me, Clowns laughed in the penny arcade, What was this game my mind played?" Quite a chilling opening track.

Next is the short 3 minute 'The Vultures Fly High', a fairly standard moderate uptempo tack. The lyrics are dark again but Annie is able to lift it to a soaring level with her lovely vocals. This is more of a throwaway track than a classic but it is sandwiched between two excellent tracks.

Next is a superb track, the 7 minute 'Ocean Gypsy'. It begins very quietly that builds to a chorus with evocative lyrics; "Gold and silver rings and stones, Dances slowly of the moon, No-one else can know, She stands alone, Sleeping dreams will reach for her, She cannot say the words they need, She knows she's alone, And she is free, Ocean gypsy of the moon, The sun has made a thousand nights, For you to hold..." The gentle piano and clarinet are complimented by strings and gentle vocals. A very emotionally charged atmosphere is the result and it is a terrific Renaissance track.

The epic that makes this an excellent album is the 25 minute treasure, 'Song Of Scheherazade'. It is broken into 9 sections but moves along seamlessly as an orchestrated suite. It takes some getting used to with the hyper orchestration and classical singing. Annie holds back for most of this but is still a gem. It is difficult to pinpoint any particular section but the lyrics are as evocative as ever coming in on 'The Sultan'; "And so for many days with the dawn, The sultan had his way, Wives were put to death, His name on their dying breath, Then one day as the evening came, Sultan sends for him a wife, Choose her well charms I wish to see, Bring her, send her in to me, Then came Scheherazade to his side, And her beauty shone, Like a flower grown, Gentle as he'd ever known, Scheherazade bewitched him, With songs of jewelled keys, Princes and of heroes, And eastern fantasies..." The epic is based on the folklore of the tyrant sultan, the young prince and princess as told by Scheherazade, including the Festival preparations leading to the grand Finale. Scheherazade was given a death sentence by the Sultan who had murdered princesses, his wives each night duly to the fact his wife betrayed him. The story of Scherezade is told by the princess to delay her death sentence who relayed the story for 1000 nights; she was never executed as The Sultan decided such a faithful princess should remain his wife.

The music captures the heroism and has a decidedly Arabic flavour to enhance the atmosphere. This epic may take some patience on the listener’s behalf, with severe repetition and painstaking easygoing music, but it still must be recognised as one of the best pieces of Renaissance. This is a flawed album, difficult to get into, but in the right frame of mind this can be a very pleasant listening experience.

 

#253

One Size Fits All 
Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa One Size Fits All  album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm

This is one of my favourite Zappa records. Interestingly enough there is only one instrumental "Sofa No.1", yet the instrumental work on this album is truly incredible. Ruth Underwood on vibes is amazing, while Chester Thompson is his usual brilliant self on drums, and Frank gets a lot of mileage out of his guitar on this one. George Duke sings lead by himself on "Inca Roads" and is part of the lead vocals on two other tracks, while his keyboard work is stunning.

"Inca Roads" features high pitched vocals, but it's the guitar solo from Frank that lasts close to 3 minutes that impresses me to no end. The vibes and Frank's hilarious vocals are also highlights. "Can't Afford No Shoes" makes me laugh just thinking about it. It's an uptempo, funny song, that's a good little rocker with some great guitar to end it. "Sofa No.1" is a fantastic sounding instrumental. The sound is so thick and solid.

"Po-Jama People" opens with some blues flavoured piano and guitar. Vocals arrive a minute in. The vocal melodies are so funny. "Hoy,hoy,hoy". A scathing guitar solo follows as piano joins in. The vocals are back before 6 minutes. "Florentine Pogen" has some heavy sections to it, and in general it has an an amazing sound to it.

"Evelyn,A Modified Dog" is just too funny for words. "San Ber'Dino" is as catchy as hell, and I know I'm repeating myself but the sound is so full, it sounds great as does the guitar again. "Andy" has some fast paced vocals that come and go. Organ before 3 minutes. The drumming is outstanding, as is the scorching guitar and fine piano melodies.

"Sofa No.2" has some different vocal styles on it that work well. The vibes and drums are highlights as well. It would be difficult picking my top ten Zappa records, but this one would be there. This would be a great place to start for someone new to Zappa’s work.


A review by Sean Trane:

Mid-75, Frank's second incarnation of the mother's Of Invention was now in full swing and One Size Fits all is probably one of the more serious mothers album of that period, since it gives a bigger than usual space to instrumental music and avoids the scatological humour of albums surrounding it. A bizarre spacey artwork graces the album's cover with a personal view of the zodiac system on the back cover.

Opening on the excellent Inca Roads is a jazz-rock piece that starts a bit brass-rock, before veering almost fusion and ending in a ridiculous and silly fashion, which cheapens the whole 8-mins+ of previous ingenuity. . . The short Can't Afford No Shoes is easily forgotten and segues into the short-instrumental Sofa N°1 a rather promising foray into dramatic sympho-jazzy prog. The 7-mins+ Po-Jama People is the classic track from OSFA (IMHO, anyway) and it deserves to be, as the track is a showcase for one of Frank's most brilliant guitar solo in studio, gliding over a funky jazz)-rock, with Chester Thompson's superb drumming in full swing.

The flipside opens with a fair and average Florentine Pogen and the following and thankfully-short Modified Dog is best forgotten. San Ber'dino starts like a typical Zappa humoristic bluesy piece, but develops an-almost-interesting instrumental mid-section. Ditto for the quirky Andy, a bizarre burst-ey piece that develops some interesting and unusual moments, some rather impressive, but again the dumb over-powering vocals screw it up. Unfortunately the second Sofa piece is much less a success than its first instalments on the other side of the vinyl.

This, as usual, goes in every possible musical direction and is just too confusing to be considered as highly recommendable. The musicianship is superb as usual, but one wishes that all of the tracks would be of Inca Roads or Po-Jama People, but it is far from the case, even if some tracks (Andy & Ber'dino) could be saved by editing the vocals. Despite some obvious flaws, it would miss my personal Top 10 Zappa albums, but not by much.

#254

Free Hand 
Gentle Giant

Gentle Giant Free Hand  album cover

A review by Warthur:

After the angry politically-themed “Power and the Glory”, Gentle Giant changed tack yet again to bring us the thoughtful and profound “Free Hand”, a meditation on whether there really is such a thing as free will. From the catchy (but still complex) ‘Just the Same’ to the complex vocal layers of ‘On Reflection’ (which interweaves its vocal harmonies with some fine vibes from John Weathers) to the tender and poignant ‘His Last Voyage’ - possibly the most beautiful track the band ever recorded - this is a treasury of brilliant performances from a band who, in their prime, were one of the most consistently excellent groups on the prog scene

#255

Rubycon
Tangerine Dream

Tangerine Dream Rubycon album cover

A review by Warthur:

Continuing the spooky, electronic approach of “Phaedra”, “Rubycon” is structured as a single album-long piece - perhaps at the behest of publisher Virgin Records, who enthused by the runaway success of Mike Oldfield's albums were encouraging their artists to produce similar work. (The first album by Clearlight is an album-long piece for this very reason.) The approach works well here, partly because compared to the mighty composition which is ‘Zeit’ a single album-length piece is a walk in the park, but also because the creativity shown in “Phaedra” is still in evidence here. Whilst it doesn't show much in the way of musical progression over its predecessor, it is still compelling enough to demand attention.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm

"Part 1" opens with haunting sounds off in the distance that get louder after 2 minutes. It sounds like sea gulls 3 1/2 minutes in with mellotron to follow. We start to get a beat or pulse 7 1/2 minutes in as spacey sounds continue. A more aggressive sound arrives after 10 1/2 minutes that reminds me of PINK FLOYD. Percussion sounds before 12 minutes. It starts to calm down after 14 1/2 minutes.

"Part 2" is darker and more haunting. Mellotron 3 minutes in sounds awesome! It sounds like a thousand lost souls crying out. Ok maybe "awesome" was the wrong word. It is such an eerie section. We get a beat before 5 minutes as spacey sounds continue to sweep the soundscape. Organ before 11 minutes followed by waves after 12 minutes. It's spacey again 13 1/2 minutes in to end it on a brighter note. I really like the dark and haunting mood they bring out on this album at times. A solid 4 stars.


A review by Sean Trane:

4.5 stars really. This album is another step in the metamorphosis of the somber electronic music caterpillar into the symphonic butterfly that will unfold its wings with Ricochet and soar high in the sky. What you had heard in Phaedra is now evolving with even more superb ambiances (some references are made to 2001 Space Odyssey and Echoes of Floyd in the quieter moments) but now is more evident that their wider success comes from something else. About six minutes into the first number, comes something unheard of since their second album Alpha Centauri: a rhythm track - alhough there had been hints of that in the predecessor.

Don't get your hopes up too high (or do so whichever way you look at it) but this is an electronic rhythm done by phasers and sequencers (hardly news for a teenager nowadays but back then....) and this attention is constantly drawn by the subtle changes of this rhythm. In the following albums however more and more acoustic instruments (notably drums by Baumann) will make appearances in their Oeuvre but this will also always be respectfull of their electronic art. With this album TD come in the court of not only the artistical giants but also in the court of the successful prog giants. I know of only one album even more breathtaking in this musical direction, and that is A Rainbow In Curved Air (1969!!!) from another master and genious Terry Riley. Both absolute masterpieces even if nowadays, they do age gracefully but they still do not sound dated (to me anyway). 

#256

Voyage Of The Acolyte
Steve Hackett

Steve Hackett Voyage Of The Acolyte album cover

A review by Finnforest:

One Genesis album not credited to Genesis is the first solo effort by Steve Hackett. The album was made after Gabriel had left and the guys were taking some time to try different things before making decisions about Genesis. Hackett took the chance to "be the Captain" for a change and this album has all of the beauty and grandeur of the 70s finest symphonic successes. A balance is achieved between delicate pastoral moments and rocking ones, the arrangements and sound are quite good, and the list of guest stars is impressive: Collins, Rutherford, John Acock, Sally Oldfield, and Percy Jones. Hackett notes that it "was great to work with Phil and Mike in a different way outside the confines of the band."

"Ace of Wands" begins with an uptempo riff and muscular bass that alternates a mellow section of acoustic guitars and synths. Nice progressions lead to some fancy Hackett leads towards the end. "Hands of the Priestess part 1" is pure prog heaven with acoustic and lovely flute over mellotron. The melody is gorgeous and dreamy. Occasionally light chimes and volume controlled electric leads make a welcome appearance.

"A Tower Struck Down" jolts you from the serenity of the previous song with a Crimsonesque harshness to the mood. Sound effects come and go adding drama and unease. It then drifts back to the loveliness of "Hands of the Priestess part 2" briefly before going into "The Hermit." The music is very pretty with cello, acoustic guitar and flute. The vocals are somewhat tentative and thin as Hackett was obviously not too comfortable with his vocal prowess.

"Star of Sirius" begins side 2 with mellotron, acoustic with effect, and a guest vocal by Collins who does a nice job. This track features a catchy pop-ish chorus that gets a bit sing-songey but I find the overall cheese rating of the album to be more than manageable. Let's face it, there's good cheese and bad cheese and this is some of the fine stuff. Some say albums like this are what made Punk necessary and while there is an element of truth to that philosophy, it can never take away the joy that music like this gives to people. Punk and prog can co-exist just fine in the eyes of we fans-it seems like the artists are the ones who have trouble getting along.

"The Lovers" is a short instrumental introduction to the real highlight of the album, the magnificent "Shadow of the Hierophant." This has to be one of symphonic prog's greatest moments. I am captivated by the yearning beauty of the main melody that keeps finding its way back, seemingly more passionate each time. And then there is the angelic beauty of Oldfield's vocal which just makes my heart burst. The louder parts trade off with soft passages of mellotron, acoustic guitar, and flute. There are some pleasant electric leads peeled off now and again. Some have complained the track is a bit sweet and this is true but what can I say? Sometimes a particular piece of songwriting catches you in its spell and other times definitely not. I find it completely charming and spellbinding.

I would highly recommend this album to anyone who loves melodic symphonic prog like Genesis, Novalis, Willowgrass, Rousseau, Yes (think "To Be Over"), Oldfield, or Camel. It may not be a masterpiece but it is an exceptional album. The gatefold mini-lp reissue features good sound and the amazing artwork of Kim Poor whose album cover won an award. Her website describes the cover as follows: "Through bone and fire the sightless priestess foretells the future. Her eyes are denied the usual sight, but she represents events foretold: precognition, premonition and the road of the tarot are her stock in trade. The hands of this gifted seeress, and feminine intuition, allow the drawbridge of consciousness to be lifted for her, immediately becoming an open door. It is a Chinese watercolour in her background which tells of past lives ... the tower about to be struck down ... the balloons of colour that must be snatched and fully grasped in order to move forward, representing the artist herself" [Kim Poor]. It also features two bonus tracks, a live version of "Ace of Wands" and a 17 minute extended version of "Shadow." All in all a high-quality release and one deserving of its reputation as one of the highlights of the mid 1970s prog scene.

 

#257

Boris
Yezda Urfa

Yezda Urfa Boris album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

I don't think i would be out of line in saying that this band was one of the best to ever come out of the U.S.A. All you have to do is read the other enthusiastic reviews to know that you need to hear this band. Incredibly complex, yet melodic at the same time. These guys wrote intelligent lyrics and they certainly had a sense of humour (look at the song titles).

"Boris And His 3 Verses,Including Flow Guides Aren't My Bag" opens with dual vocals, the one vocalist sounds so much like Jon Anderson. The sound builds as drums, guitar and synths come in. Check out the drumming after 2 minutes. A change 3 minutes in as it turns dark. Man these guys can play! This is such a great instrumental section. Nice heavy guitar with lots of synths after 5 1/2 minutes. This passage ends before 7 1/2 minutes. It then becomes mostly acoustic with vocals for a minute. It ends in an uplifting way with vocal melodies then vocals.

"Texas Armadillo" is a short instrumental with banjo! You have to hear the way this thing builds to such a fast pace. Amazing! "Almost 4, 6 Yea" opens with piano before being replaced by a darker, heavier section. The guitar is outstanding. It then becomes very complex. Flute after 2 1/2 minutes. A calm with acoustic guitar before 4 minutes. Vocal melodies a minute later before it turns dark again. The guitar in the next passage reminds me of the guitar on "Houses Of the Holy", this section ends 8 minutes in. Some nice drumming follows to end it.

"To-Ta In The Moya" opens with a full sound that is quickly replaced by a laid back passage, with vocals arriving 1 1/2 minutes in. A terrific sound follows. It sounds like Howe on the guitar 4 minutes in. It's darker a minute later. The song continues to change as a fun section comes in around 6 1/2 minutes. Vocals return before 8 minutes to end it.

"Three Tons Of fresh Thyroid Glands" yummy. I like the way they use the flute in the intro. A change 1 1/2 minutes in as guitar and drums take the lead. Nice. The flute is back! There's that "Houses Of The Holy" sounding guitar again. Vocals before 5 1/2 minutes. The tempo and vocals pick up speed 7 1/2 minutes in. It settles down after 9 minutes with flute and a darker sound. Well I do prefer this to "Sacred Baboon", but if you can get your hands on either of these don't even hesitate.

#258

Maxophone
Maxophone

Maxophone Maxophone album cover

A review by Finnforest:

Safe Italian prog choice for people not sure they if they like Italian prog.

Every so often someone is blown away by Locanda Delle Fate, and asks what else they can get like Locanda. Well Maxophone (from Milano Italy) doesn't sound exactly like Locanda but they are a good choice for people who want safe, pleasant Italian prog that isn't *too* Italian, meaning sans the more gregarious side that some of us hard-core Italian hounds look for. It's pretty hard not to like Maxophone as they do everything well, good playing, nice songs, smooth vocals. But they don't take the risks that some of their peers do. It's hard for me to explain but while this album is most certainly good it just somehow lacks the distinct flavor and character I look for in my Italian albums. I think maybe they have more outside influences than some of the more regional Italian bands. For many this probably makes them better but for me not. In researching the band I found three sentences from another reviewer that perfectly summarizes my view of Maxophone:

"While Maxophone have constructed a very well balanced album, one thing they fail to do is absolutely dazzle me in the way that the best Italian bands can. There are no flat spots but the best moments are interesting as opposed to astounding. Maxophone never quite soar as high as they promise to at times." [those last 3 sentences credited to Conrad Leviston and thanks for saying it better than I.]

You will find everything you seek from the classic period here: piano, flute, sax, organ, vibe, clarinet, acoustic and electric guitar, bass, and good vocals. You will also find a wide range of styles and a band capable of turning from rock to jazzy to classical segments quickly and effortlessly. I think this band was likely influenced from Yes, Genesis, and PFM primarily. This was their one and only album and it is considered by many to be one of the greatest Italian prog albums. I'm at about 3.25 stars for Maxophone. The mini-lp sleeve reissue is nice because of the great cover art.



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - February 02 2012 at 23:11
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 27 2012 at 08:09
...not wanting to appear too picky, but isn't the meaning of the phrase "golden handshake" more or less the opposite of how you've used it? The cover handshake is more symbolic of an empty gesture I'd have thought.
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I think you are correct, sir!
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1975 - continued

 

#259

Les Porches
Maneige

Maneige Les Porches album cover

A review by Warthur:

Turning their hand to an epic style of fusion which drifts heavily towards symphonic prog territory, Maneige here produce a unique and captivating album in which a dizzying interplay of keyboards (from no less than three keyboardists!) buoys up equally virtuoso performances from the rest of the band. Veering towards the sort of territory that would be explored by the ECM stable, as others have pointed out, this is a fascinating and forward-thinking album which still sounds fresh and new to this day, with plenty to offer fusion and symphonic prog fans alike. I defy anyone not to be captivated from the first haunting flute and piano lines on the opening track.


A review by Sean Trane:

Recently reissued on the Cd format by the great ProgQuebec team, this album (and its predecessor) had been all too long ignored and denied a second life by the Harvest label. Oddly enough with the bulk of reserve material still waiting to be released back then, the CD reissue offers no bonus track, but the album alone is much worthy by itself. The last paragraphs are dedicated to the review being re-written after its reissue.

Old review: How to describe this absolutely masterful and orgasmic music? Except for this lone LP where one number is sung, Maneige is an instrumental group that lets you know right from the start that they will take full advantage of this and will not allow you one second of inattention. The group mixes acoustic and electric instrument with such dexterity that they make it look easy and sound simple. NOT SO!!! Although people will classify this group in the fusion section, this is only partly correct as there is some jazz & folk, but there is an uncommon percentage of classical music but nothing stolen from the historical composers.

This album and the debut as well as the recently released live 74-75 are highly indescribable melange of all sort of academic musics. If I must name one band to come close to Maneige, I will tell you a cross between Univers Zero and Gentle Giant for the construction complexities but Maneige is so much more melodic and harmonious to your ears, that GG is rather distant cry from them.

"Why have you not heard of this band before?" you ask. My theory is that they got black listed because of their Quebecois origins at the time when Quebec was overtly menacing of separation from the rest of Canada because of the English compatriots refusing to recognize Quebec as a distinct society. This made Quebec groups unable to play freely in the rest of their country along with Harmonium (a little success), Pollen (just one superb record and disband), Aquarelle (I am not even sure they released something outside Quebec) and even the Franco-Ontarian band Cano, so they had real problems of exposure. This lasts still today except for Harmonium that does get international recognition. Is the best proof of this not that only three albums of this great band are on CD? As they are still relatively unknown, your hunt for the vinyls should not be that difficult or expensive, but man, it is definitely worth it.

New review: The 19-min+ title track suite (written by wind player Bergeron) is grabbing by the throat from the first notes, and never letting it go of its grip through its six movement, with its constantly evolving composition and so many different acoustic instruments taking over the previous one and even a rare sung section, whose lyrics were reprinted in a weird fashion on a loose sheet alongside the inner sleeve. The first side closes on a short symphonic (a quartet really) piece that is not as inspired as the rest of the album. Indeed, La Grosse Torche sounds out of place on the Cd (this was less evident on the vinyl).

The flipside starts with Saxinette and Clarophone's wild adventures and the opening minute could make you think of Genesis' The Lamb on the second disc but this is quickly forgotten as the two instruments share literally everything mixing blood, trading licks, making love to each other. Bergeron's sax and Langlois' clarinet are not just the stars of the show, they eclipse the sun for the duration of the track from shining so hard. Vincent (Jerome's brother) Langlois' electric piano solo draws chills in your back, until a weird animal meows like an elephant and the tracks veers into a wild goose chase ending in a chaotic crowd and dying a slow death! Du très grand art, monsieur!! The closing track Chromo is a much funkier track that will indeed remind what was coming ahead in NV.NN, which would be a much jazzier album.

The amazing thing is that obviously at the autumn of the group's first career (the Jerome Langlois years, if you wish), the group had loads more music that was still waiting for a proper studio recording and release. Most of these tracks can be found throughout the three live albums that have been released since 98. And from these albums, it's easy to see that Maneige's first line-up could have released a third album that would have easily matched their debut and Les Porches. So as Chromo sort of announces the new Maneige, Jerome Langlois will leave the group to concentrate on the long-standing project that he had tried to get off the ground with his previous group Lasting Weep. Le Spectacle de L'Albatros would then see the light of day in early 76 with both Lasting Weep and Maneige playing alongside, but this is another superb ProgQuebec chapter of the marvelous musical adventures of Progresson.


#260

The Rotters' Club
Hatfield And The North

Hatfield And The North The Rotters Club album cover

A review my Mellotron Storm:

This band has quite the pedigree with former members of EGG, CARAVAN, MATCHING MOLE and GONG coming together to make "The Rotter's Club". And this is truly a band effort as the four main guys Richard Sinclair, Phil Miller, Pip Pyle and Dave Stewart all take part in creating the lyrics and compositions. It's cool to see Lindsay Cooper from HENRY COW guesting on aboe and bassoon. Actually the guest list is impressive with Jimmy Hastings adding flute and sax, Mont Campbell on French horn, Tim Hodgkinson on clarinet and the Nothettes (Barbara Gaskill, Amanda Parsons & Ann Rosenthal) on vocals.

This is very much a jazz infected record from beginning to end. The lyrics are very tongue and cheek, and the singing of Mr.Sinclair is quite whimsical. In fact CARAVAN is who comes to mind the most when listening to this album. "Share It" the first song is one of my favourites on this record. It's a catchy tune that's quite charming. A feel good track.

Phil Miller's guitar playing is the focus on "Lounging There Trying". Keys, bass and light drums also help out. The tempo picks up 2 minutes in. "(Big) John Wayne Socks Psychology On The Jaw" is a short tune with keys, aboe and drums. “Chaos At The Greasy Spoon" is another very short piece with drums,horns and lots of fuzz.

"The Yes No Interlude" is another song with some great guitar in it especially 2 minutes in. I like the tone of it in this one. Horns blast and drums pound. It turns jazzy after 5 minutes. This is another standout track for me. "Fitter Stoke Has A Bath" is laid back with vocals. Flute 1 1/2 minutes in. A change after 3 minutes as aboe, piano and vocal melodies take over. Sounds like farfisa 4 1/2 minutes in with deep bass lines. It turns experimental with some atmosphere 5 1/2 minutes in.

"Didn't Matter Anyway" is a breezy tune with vocals and flute. Yeah it's another favourite. "Underdub" is jazzy with keys and deep bass. "Mumps" is the epic at around 20 minutes in length, lots of time changes are featured.Female vocals around 6 minutes on this one with distorted keys a minute later. Great section. A couple of the shorter tracks are then reprised.

Next is "Halfway Between Heaven And Earth" which is jazzy with some nice guitar before a minute. Vocals follow. Sounds like he's singing underwater. "Oh,Len's Nature!" is surprisingly heavy. Some nasty fuzz. "Lying And Gracing" features some outstanding guitar and piano. Fuzzed out bass 2 minutes in. This is such a fun yet complex release. One of the better Canterbury albums.

 

A review by Warthur:

The second Hatfield and the North album is, along with the first, a true cornerstone of the Canterbury sound, an essential album which should be up towards the top of any shopping list for people beginning to explore the genre. With sounds ranging from furious Soft Machine fusion (‘The Yes No Interlude’) to gentle and good-humoured Caravan whimsy (‘Fitter Stoke Has a Bath’), the band infuse everything with their distinctive musical personalities. It's often said that ‘Mumps’, the side-long epic that closes the disc, is Hatfield's best track, and I'm inclined to agree; it's a brilliant song showing every participant at their peak. (In particular, it is far and away the Northettes' best performance as backing singers.) But trying to pick the best Hatfield and the North album is trying to pick your best finger; you might have a favourite, but you wouldn't want to go without any of them.

 

#261

Song For America
Kansas

Kansas Song For America album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

I really think this is KANSAS' best album. All their other albums are very inconsistant, this one is the exception although I don't think much of the first track. I was also surprised at how symphonic the title track is, and it's hard not to say that it's their best composition. Still I can't get past their AOR sound. "Down The Road" is not a good start. Sounds like a southern rock tune to me.

"Song For America" like I said earlier is very symphonic. Drums, violin, organ and piano stand out early. Vocals 3 minutes in. When the vocals stop the synths come in after 5 minutes. It settles with piano then picks back up with violin. Vocals are back after 8 1/2 minutes. Great song. "Lamplight Symphony" settles with reserved vocals quickly. I like the instrumental section after 4 minutes. It settles with violin and piano after 5 1/2 minutes. Vocals are back after 7 minutes. Lots of organ here then guitar.

"Lonely Street" opens with bass and vocals. It gets a lot louder before a minute. This is a blues flavoured tune. I like it. "The Devil Game" is an uptempo track. Some nice guitar 1 1/2 minutes in. "Incomudro-Hymn To The Atman" opens with some drama before settling quickly with violin. Reserved vocals follow. The tempo continues to change. There's a drum solo 7 minutes in. A good ending as it kicks back in after 10 1/2 minutes. 


A review by Sean Trane:

3.5 stars really!!!

Second album and the first appearance of their usual logo on a striking eagle, ready to pounce on unsuspecting listeners. Behind that memorable artwork (maybe influencing Rush's Fly By night), the group returns unchanged with a more determined symphonic approach, compared to their debut album.

SFA is a worthy successor to their first opus, but it strikes that the band is keeping space for shorter tracks, in case they can strike for a hit single, which SFA doesn't have any. But it has three longer or four epics (or mini-epics) including the title track, the 8-mins+ Lamplight symphony (corny title, but we are in the prairies) and the 12-mins Incommudro/Altman thing, which happens to be among my fave things from the band. All three of these tracks hold many Yes-like moments, but the pupils manage to not sound like their main influence, or at least not appear derivative. Plenty of instrumental passages over a generally high-energy rhythm section, the group seems more confident on the louder passages, but it is on the quieter ones that they truly convince.

The three shorter tracks are of a lesser interest, with only Lonely Streets garnering a bit of airplay I guess, because it was the only track I knew when I first laid my ears onto the vinyl in 76. Both Down The Road and the Devil Game sound a bit like fillers to me, but I bet mosts fans would clearly disagree. Plenty of goodies available on this second more symphonic effort, but personally I prefer the debut's freshness.

#262

Crac !
Area

Area Crac ! album cover

A review by Finnforest:

One of "difficult" prog's must-hear titles.

Area are one of the seminal Italian progressive rock bands of the 1970s incorporating jazz-fusion, avant-garde, and occasionally even touches of funkiness or folk into their music. They also employ the experimental Italian vocals of Demetrio Stratos and a hearty dose of the wilder side of Italian rock. They were outspoken political leftists who were a stalwart of the classic RPI scene, as important to Italian prog as PFM or Banco but without the beautiful symphonic grandeur of many of their countrymen. Instead Area pushed the boundaries in different directions, with aggression and a rebellious experimental nature, but also with a sense of humor and joy.

This 3rd album continued the adventure with the classic lineup that included Stratos, Tofani, Tavolazzi, Fariselli, and Capiozzo. “Crac!” is an absolute roller-coaster of energy and is challenging progressive rock not for the faint of heart. Beloved by many avant and fusion fans in addition to stock RPI nuts, the album explodes from the start and never lets up. Hot, jamming drumming and monster bass anchor the show, while piano and guitar leads shred their way through. Sharing the tracks are Stratos bizarre vocals yelps, grunts, and other assorted madman noises.

The playing is as technically formidable as a great jazz group, but Area take things so much farther that many fusion bands. With the various musical influences, the cultural and political narrative, and the obvious Italian vibe they are a must-hear band for RPI aficionados who want the whole picture of the 70s scene. They are not a band I play often as I find them more cerebrally intoxicating than emotionally satisfying, so my comments are brief. But there is no question Area's “Crac!” is excellent progressive rock.

 

#263

Warrior on the Edge of Time
Hawkwind

Hawkwind Warrior on the Edge of Time album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

“We are the warriors at the edge of time, We are Humanity's scythe to sweep this way and that, And cut the Enemy down as weeds.”

“Warrior on the Edge of Time” is hailed as one of the Hawkwind masterpieces containing some of their finest compositions and proggiest musicianship. ‘Assault and Battery’ is quintessential Hawkwind with some terrific lyrics; “Lives of great men all remind us we may make our lives sublime, And departing leave behind us footprints in the sands of time, Of hewn stones the sacred circle where the wizened sages sat, Let us try to remember all the times where they were at.” The extended section on ‘Assault & Battery/ The golden void part II’ is mind blowing. The lyrics conjure a mystical transcendental evocation; “The golden void speaks to me denying my reality, I lose my body, lose my mind, I blow like wind, flow like wine, Down a corridor of flame, will I fly so high again.” The spacey mellotron of Simon House is incredible and he also plays some stirring violin. Dave Brock sounds amazing on vocals, very forceful and hitting notes dead on, and his guitar work is exemplary. Nik Turner is a revelation on Tenor and Soprano saxophone, and also flute, all absolutely perfectly executed on this album. Lemmy’s pulsating bass guitar is a pleasant addition. Simon King’s percussion is as good as ever, with a constant hypnotic rhythm and power blasts at the end of each verse. Allan Powell also doubles up on drums and it is always a delight to hear Mike Moorcock’s sci-fi narrative prose, something to look forward to on classic albums such as this.

The music is ultra-spacey and mesmirising especially on motorik instrumental hooks like the Krautrock influenced ‘Opa-loka’. The spacey effects are integral to the Hawkwind atmospheres and this track is soaked in symphonic spacey textures. The waves crashing on the beach and seagulls are a strong atmospheric embellishment. Folky ‘The Demented Man’ has a huge mellotron sound that roars majestically over an acoustic chord structure. At this point one can become transfixed by the power of the album’s atmospherics.

‘Magnu’ is a lengthy track with a killer riff, similar to ‘Born To Go’ or ‘Masters of the Universe’. Brock’s vocals are towering as he sings of mystical adventures; “Magnu, horse with golden mane, I want your help yet once again,
Walk not the earth but fly through space as lightning flash or thunders race, Swift as the arrow from the bow, come to me so that no one can know.” The instrumental is psychedelic sax and a driving rhythm as Brock chants the mantra “until we diminish by the reign of night”. The music slows down, instruments drop out and Turner’s sax spirals off somewhere as the everpresent alien effects are heard more distinctly. The violin of Simon House is incredible, as good as I have heard from the master, very high pitched and improvised generating an emotional resonance. The percussion is tom toms and very strong beats that lock in consistently. The sound is spellbinding and jams along in the same vein as much of the material on the brilliant “Space Ritual” epic.

After this the multi echoed voice of Nik Turner narrates that we are standing at the edge and it is dark, we are the unkind, we are the soldiers of the edge of time and we are tired of making love, where is desire, it’s cold, so cold, where is our joy, where is our fire. The section reminds one of the amazing recitations on “Space Ritual” which made it such an endearing unique experience. Turner is a delight when he is in this weird mood. The next track ‘Spiral Galaxy 28948’ is a deliriously spacey mellotron soaked rhythmic piece in 6/8. The wall of mellotron turbulence and fuzzy bass, conjures images of interstellar travel and a beautiful flute chimes in with precision and expertise, floating along the oceans of star clusters.  

A Dalek like mechanised voice warns that “we are the wind which will blow the ash away as if never existed, but first we must know the enemies, we are the betrayed!” This estranged poetry leads to ‘Dying seas’ which has a throbbing bassline from Lemmy and some jagged distorted guitar riffs from Brock. The vocals are multi tracked and alienating. The electric violin is incredible slicing back and forth almost like a dark Irish jig but creating very intense serrations, very much like Van der Graaf Generator. The effervescent synth solo washes over with waves of icy glacial augmentations, sparkling over galactic soundscapes.

The next track is ‘Kings of speed’, a rocking Motorhead style track. The lyrics are very cool; “We're gonna take a tasty trip on Frank and Beasley's rocket ship, The biggest attraction, the brightest star, boys you're going fast and far”. The fact that Lemmy was a speed addict, and about to be incarcerated for it, makes this song even more potent; “We guarantee you the sweetest ride, You'll go so far you'll think you've died, Step this way lads it ain't no lie, Try your luck and reach the sky.”

The bonus track is ‘Motorhead’ which of course is Lemmy’s baby literally, and it is always a killer sounding like Motorhead for some reason. It is a portentous song as this is Lemmy’s last Hawkwind album as he would be fired for drug trafficking and begin his own angry response 3 piece band. The lyrics are effective; “Can't get enough and you know it's the righteous stuff, Goes up like prices at Christmas, Motorhead.”

The packaging of the album is great too especially the artwork depicting an archetypal warrior awaiting battle on the precipice of a jagged cliff. The bildungsroman narrative ingrained in the mystical vision depicts a coming of age as the warrior awaits his destiny in the corridors of flame of the Golden Void. The concept of the album is typically unfathomable and open to interpretation, but it is an integral component of Hawkwind’s enigmatic mystique.  

Every track on this album is a sheer delight encompassing one of the most consistent Hawkwind albums of the 70s. The album generates its own specific atmosphere that the band could not capture on subsequent albums until the wonderful “The Chronicle of the Black Sword”. The band were able to inject just the right amount of spaceyness with swathes of mellotron and sonic effects, along with astonishing musicianship with flute, sax and violin. Brock is excellent on vocals and he is joined by one of the strongest lineups for the chameleonic band, that changed lineups considerably over its long tenure. “Warrior on the edge of Time” is a masterpiece because everything worked to create stratospheric soundscapes, and the band were obviously operating on all cylinders at their creative peak.     

#264

J'un Oeil
Sloche

Sloche Jun Oeil album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

4.5 stars. SLOCHE's debut is another album from Quebec like OPUS 5's that must be heard to be believed. A 5 piece band with 2 keyboardists, although one of them plays sax at times. The vocals are fantastic as well and are in French. "C'Pas Fin Du Monde" opens with spacey synths for the first 1 1/2 minutes then this intricate sounding melody takes over with keys, bass, light drums and more. A collage of sounds really. Vocals join in a minute later. Nice. This sounds amazing! A calm 5 1/2 minutes in then some bombastic drums and organ kick in before it settles into a jazzy groove. Nice guitar after 7 1/2 minutes.

"Le Kareme D'Eros" is the longest track at almost 11 minutes. We get piano melodies to open for over 3 1/2 minutes before vocals and a heavy and full sound takes over. They're having fun! Great guitar after 5 minutes as it trades solos with the organ. Incredible section! It settles with synths and piano before 7 minutes then the vocals come back. It turns spacey followed by a heavier sound after 9 minutes. Check it out! Great section.

"J'un Oeil" builds to an incredible sound a minute in. Vocals join in too. Wonderful sound. There is a GENTLE GIANT vibe and then it settles before 3 minutes, we're back to the main melody with vocals a minute later.  "Algebrique" opens with acoustic guitar as synths join in. Drums come in as the tempo picks up. Vocals 2 minutes in. An outburst of guitar and sound comes and goes 3 1/2 minutes in. Sax in this one too. Love the drum patterns here. Great track.

"Potage Aux Herbes Douteuses" opens with a catchy beat, kind of funky actually. Cool sound especially the drumming after 2 1/2 minutes. Vocals a minute later followed by some outstanding floating organ sounds. Guitar and drums after 5 1/2 minutes take over. Vocals are back. It calms right with acoustic guitar to end it. This will appeal to more than just jazz fans out there, a hidden gem if there ever was one.


A review by SeanTrane:

 

This stunning group from mid-Northern Quebec (the Chicoutimi region if I am not mistaken and therefore more likely to hang around Quebec than Montreal) is yet another one of relatively unknown groups that help Quebec's progressive rock revolution in the 70's. Mainly an instrumental jazz-rock group, but when actually using their vocal powers (both in scatting and in actual singing), they actually reached peaks of beauty that makes you regret this quintet did not sing more. To describe Sloche's sound accurately, you would have to imagine a cross of Maneige's middle period with Opus-5's Contre-Courant album, but if you are not familiar with Quebec's scene, this will be tougher to describe, but this fusion of jazz rock, and classical influence is relatively unique and grabs you by your soft side no matter how thick your shell might be. These guys were incredibly tight-playing and were obviously well collaborating with each other as the songwriting is fairly well-shared (a track each except for drummer Chiasson giving space to bassist Hebert a second track) and the sound is still quite up to date some 30 years later.

From the first spacey ringings of the 9-min Pas Fin Du Monde to the last drop of Potage Aux Herbes Douteuses ("Shady" Herbal Soup ;-), every single second is pure heaven with opening track setting an incredible standard with its great scat-vocals (reminding a bit Wishbone Ash during the Argus album) and its middle section almost stopping as if the End Of The World had reached us without a proper warning, but it is a false alert and the tracks picks up in a funkier manner. Closing up the first side is the 11-min Kareme D'Eros and its lengthy piano intro (there are two KB players in the group), where the group shows us that they can be quite impressive in singing (not just scatting) with its text and harmonies being incredibly close to Ripaille's sole album, some Martin Circus or a much better Ange. If you can imagine a cross-over of jazz-rock with Yes, you might just be able to have an idea of how the track is closing.

The second side starts on the superb (but much shorter) title track, which is also sung, while the much funkier Algebrique (Gentle Giant meeting Mahavishnu Orchestra-sounding and penned by guitarist Bérard) is almost reaching discordance, but this track is almost too technical for its own good. Closing track Potage Aux Herbes Douteuses renews with the scatting harmonies as if to bring you back in full circle to the lead-off track. Another strong pleaser, one wishes this second side of the vinyl to be slightly longer to have developed some ideas a bit further.

While Sloche only recorded two albums, these guys excelled in their craft and were a typical example of what La Belle Province had to offer in the second part of the 70's. As equally superb (but vastly different at will also) as Maneige, Conventum or Opus-5, Sloche is one of those groups that must be investigate by every proghead, dead or alive. Astounding and outstanding ;-)

#265

Mainstream
Quiet Sun

Quiet Sun Mainstream album cover

A review by Warthur:

Phil Manzarena invited his old pals from Quiet Sun, his pre-Roxy Music band, to at long last create the album they'd always wanted to. For four guys who hadn't been in the same band for some three years, the group manage to gel remarkably well, and the album avoids sounding like a throwback thanks to the production assistance of Brian Eno.

Manzarena's distinctive guitar sound is what sets this one apart from many Canterbury albums, but the group as a whole all have a contribution to make and craft a startlingly original album. One can only wonder the impact this would have had on prog history had it come out in the group's prime; the amazingly titled ‘Mummy Was An Asteroid, Daddy Was A Small Non-Stick Kitchen Utensil’ ends with a furious burst of aggression and the punkish vocals on the closing ‘Rongwrong’ makes the album at points sound like an arty post-punk piece as well as a lovingly crafted prog gem. Although it was surely a nostalgia exercise for all involved, somehow the album still managed to be years ahead of its time. Amazing.


A review by Sean Trane:

4.5 stars really!!

This sole album is one one of those UFDisc that make the proghead so happy in his ever-ending search for 70's gems. Phil Manzanera reformed Quiet Sun as a way of letting off steam from the Keyboard-dominated Roxy Music. Although the album has divided credits and all Quiet Sun members shine, clearly the star here is Manzanera: his searing fuzzy guitars soars above the rest of the album.

Sol Caliente is a real classy track and augurs most of the rest of the album, excellent Canterbury fusion but with a definite rock edge. Bargain Classics has typical Canterbury keyboard with spacey guitars: a must hear. The Mummy track is the highlight with a flying guitar solo followed by a superb Jarrett KB solo that is leaning towards his more famous jazz namesake. The only down remark is the last track (unfortunately also the longest): it is the only sung track (and not really well either, IMHO) but also is rather tedious and over-long.

Too bad because this last track is the sole reason for not getting that fifth star. To some extent, this is the most accomplished album that Manzanera ever played on, and certainly the one where he shows most of his abilities at guitar histrionics. His 801 venture is not quite up to par with this gem. A real must for for everyone. 

#266

Pamięć
SBB

SBB Pami&amp;amp;#281;&amp;amp;#263; album cover

A review by Warthur:

“Pamiec” is the result of SBB finally getting access to the quality studio recording environments their material deserved, and on top of that showcases an amazing growth in the band's capabilities. The album showcases a sound which seamlessly fuses symphonic prog with a cosmic variety of space rock. Imagine a combination of Saucerful of Secrets-era Pink Floyd's command of blissful atmospheres with Peter Gabriel-led Genesis' sense of drama and technical mastery, topped off with the mystical, majestic air of the finest Yes tracks, and now imagine those qualities being expressed in a wholly original sound that can only be SBB's own: there, you have the glory of “Pamiec”.


A review from Mellotron Storm:

Very interesting release from S.B.B. recorded in 1975. This Polish band offers up a stew of atmospheric jazz and dashes of symphonic music with drums and an array of keyboards (grand piano,fender piano,hammond organ and minimoog) leading the way. There are some vocals in Polish but not a lot. "W Kolysce Dioni Twych (Ojcu)" opens with sparse cymbals, keys and guitar sounds before organ comes floating into this atmospheric intro. Vocals 2 minutes in and they are the focus as not much else is going on. The song finally and thankfully kicks into gear before 3 1/2 minutes as drums and organ lead the way, although vocals continue. Nice beat 5 1/2 minutes in. The tempo picks up 7 minutes in. It settles with vocal melodies before 8 1/2 minutes.

"Z Ktorych Krwi Krew Moja" opens much like the first track with lots of atmosphere as keys, cymbals and guitar calmly play. Vocals after a minute. A fuller and better sound 1 1/2 minutes in. It settles back down quickly though. This contrast continues. Some vocal melodies before 5 minutes as we get some impressive drumming. Great sound 5 1/2 minutes in. The guitar is lighting it up 6 minutes in. Some atmosphere a minute later as it calms right down. Vocals after 7 1/2 minutes as themes are repeated.

"Pamiec W Kamieri Wrasta" opens with spacey winds. Lots of atmosphere follows as floating organ comes in then vocal melodies. A change after 5 minutes as the organ stops and keys take over. We start to get more of a melody 6 minutes in as it gets heavier and darker. It doesn't last long though as it calms right down. Vocals come in and I have to say that this section sounds so much like RADIOHEAD, you'd be surprised. Check it out after 8 minutes. Guitar 9 minutes in and a fuller sound. More atmosphere takes over. A GENESIS flavour 10 1/2 minutes in. Back to the atmosphere as drums and bass lead the way. Guitar 15 minutes in goes on and on as the tempo picks up. Nice. It settles right down 19 minutes in to end it. Amazing side long track!

This record seems to get better as it plays out. I admit I still find parts of this album difficult to really enjoy, mostly some of the early vocal sections. Still worth 4 stars though as the title track is pure genius. 

#267

Fish Rising
Steve Hillage

Steve Hillage Fish Rising album cover

A review by Warthur:

Steve Hillage's first solo album is possibly his strongest from a prog rock perspective. Recorded at a time when Gong were in turmoil (Hillage would soldier on in the band until the end of the year, quitting after the completion of “Shamal”), Hillage's backing band includes several Gong refugees in the form of Moerlen, Malherbe, Blake, Gilli Smyth, and of course Hillage's partner and close musical collaborator Miquette Giraudy. This Gong spin-off is rounded off with a few colleagues from the Canterburian end of Virgin's prog stable of the time - Lindsay Cooper of Henry Cow and Hatfield and the North's Dave Stewart - who, of course, had previously played with Stewart in Uriel, Arzachel and Khan, and the previous year had invited Steve to guest on Egg's one-off reunion album “The Civil Surface”. This impressive ensemble attains a sound which naturally closely resembles Gong of the “You” era, but with enough Canterbury, jazz and ambient touches to make it a distinctive and different proposition.

The lyrics are, as always when Steve pens them, painfully sincere - whilst Hillage shared Daevid Allen's intent of using musical lyrics to expound New Age ideas and philosophies, Allen would wrap them in his distinctive sense of humour, whilst Steve seems extremely serious about them. (Well, except for the songs about being a fish.) If you share these beliefs, that's probably a bonus, but many listeners will probably find the lyrics somewhat laughable. What saves this from being a weakness of the album is the strength of the compositions and the unique bringing together of Gong's music and more complex musical approaches of the sort that Cooper and Stewart were exploring in their respective bands at the time. Furthermore, Hillage himself proves to be something of a musical Nostradamus, sections of some songs (such as ‘Aftaglid’) resembling the sort of ambient/dance music crossover which he and Giraudy would explore under the moniker of System 7 a decade and a half later. I can think of few albums which manage to exemplify their time and, despite that, be so far ahead of their time simultaneously, so “Fish Rising” earns the fifth star.


A review by Sean Trane:

During Hillage's GonG membership, he had already signed a solo deal with Virgin (also GonG's label since Angel's Egg), Steve wrote and rehearsed many of the tracks on the present album (originally thought to be for the second Khan album) previous, during and outside the GonG crowd musical adventures; and the album was recorded from August 74, between GonG tours and recording sessions. So unsurprisingly this first solo effort is filled with GonG members, but also old mate Dave Stewart (from the Khan and Uriel/Arzachel days) and more surprisingly Henry Cow's Lindsey Cooper. Recorded in a few sessions, the album was released with this strange fish artwork in spring-75, just in time to worsen the Planet GonG's implosion and resulting in Steve's unwilling presiding over the group's destiny on management pressures. In many ways, this album is still way too close to a GonG that I find it difficult to call it a full-fledged solo album, despite the obvious songwriting differences.

Indeed, if Fish Rising has many Pot Head Pixies influences, it would be cruel and inaccurate to overlook a much more Canterburian feel, somewhat reminiscent of Hatfield And The North and acknowledge the "pre-Gong-esque" origin of most of the tracks on it. Actually only the closing Aftaglid dates from his GonG days. So while the material might be relatively different from the GonG, it received an unavoidable RGI treatment, despite some conscious effort not to. The opening 17-mins 4-movements Solar Magick Suite has a definite Hatfield twist, no doubt due to Dave Stewart's keyboards, but Hillage's superb aerial guitar wailings steals the show. After a forgettable short but filled with Gong-esque lunacy Fish track, the album plunges in the more cosmic Meditation Of The Snake, which might be a return to You.

Flipping the fry-pan's content over, we discover the other side of the Salmon fish, which has yet to be cooked for the next 9 minutes and in four movements, sounding like a Camembert-filled Teapot with an Angel omelette to top it off. Closing the fishing party hostilities is the 15-mins Aftaglid pieces (this time in 8 stages), a superb cosmic piece of music that reveals itself as my fave. The remastered version of this album comes with two bonus tracks, the first of which is a remixed Pentagrammaspin track that belonged to the original album, but couldn't find the space to nudge in; and was rushed onto a Virgin sampler as a preview piece. In its definitive version, this bonus sounds like an integral part of this delicious album. The second track is definitely more expandable, as it is a work-in-progress of the Aftaglid track, which if not as refined as the definitive version is certainly more powerful.

Despite the album's fair commercial success, Steve and partner Miquette continued in the mother group and acted as its (unwilling) leader, but he would leave at Christmas time 75 after the Shamal album's release to record his first "real" solo (IMHO, of course) album proper, where he would rid himself of many of the Gong mannerisms, even if this writer thinks it was a mistake to do so. Definitely Hillage's best solo work.

#268

Nightingales & Bombers 
Manfred Mann's Earth Band

Manfred Manns Earth Band Nightingales &amp;amp; Bombers  album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

“Nightingales & Bombers” is another album in a long series of very good albums released by Manfred Mann's Earth Band in the 70's. As had become a trademark of the band by this time, the album begins with a cover song heavily re-arranged in the bands own style. This time it is Bruce Springsteen's ‘Spirits In The Night’; a great version, rather 'progified'. Apart from ‘Spirits In The Night’ there is also a second cover this time in ‘Visionary Mountains’, credited to Armatrading/Nestor. I don't know the original version or who performed it, but it is a great song. This song is softer and slower compared to the previous three tracks, offering a short respite from the rather intense moments. ‘Visionary Mountains’ reminds me slightly of the softer tracks off the excellent “The Roaring Silence” and is possibly my favourite track on “Nightingales & Bombers”. Overall however, the material on this album is more similar in style to that of “Solar Fire”, and these two albums are among the band's most experimental (yet melodic) ones.

This album includes some of the band's better and perhaps most progressive material. Songs like ‘Time Is Right’ and ‘Fat Nelly’ are highly melodic and there are many instrumental sections where the guitarist and Mann himself can stretch out. There are admittedly a few passages throughout the album where you get the feeling they don't quite know where they are going, but these moments pass by very quickly. The last track was recorded live and should perhaps best be regarded as a bonus track.

Anyway, I think it is rather forgettable and it doesn't add much to the album as a whole (despite the fact that it features the sampled recording that gave the album its name - a recording from the Second World War, made by an ornithologist intending to capture nightingales and accidentally captured bomber planes too!). Nightingales & Bombers is one of Manfred Mann's Earth Band's better albums.

 

#269

Timewind
Klaus Schulze

Klaus Schulze Timewind album cover

A review by Warthur:

On “Timewind” Klaus Schulze had the opportunity to use sequencers for the first time, resulting in a refreshed sound which is dazzlingly ahead of its time. Some of the sounds and atmospheres on here are reminiscent, to my ears at least, of the more ambient moments of Vangelis' “Blade Runner” soundtrack, and it's certainly the case that it would take years before the bulk of the electronic music world caught up with some of the ideas expressed here. The compositions are in general a bit busier and have more going on than most of his previous albums, and so “Timewind” could make a fine starting point for exploring Klaus' career. Apparently it was his only album available in the US for some time - if that's the case, it's a shame, but at least the US got one of his best.


A review by Mellotron Storm:

On "Timewind" Klause starts to impliment multi layered synths, and as a result his music becomes more ambient and spacey. I was reminded of CLUSTER's first two albums actually which came out in the early seventies, although they achieved their sound in a different way than Klause did. Again we have two side long tracks, what's surprising though is the length of this album at 59 minutes, considering it was on vinyl.

"Bayreuth Return" opens with spacey winds that continue to blow throughout. A pulsating beat comes in around 2 minutes as other sounds are added. I like the synth sounds 12 1/2 minutes in. It's very windy 21 minutes, more synths at 24 minutes. The sound becomes more intense 26 1/2 minutes in, until it ends on a loud and disturbing note.

"Wahnfried 1883" unlike the first track has no beat or rhythm and reminds me of CLUSTER for that reason. Sounds echo as a wind storm blows in. Synths seem to rise out of the storm and build 3 minutes in, then take over. There is something sad about the soundscape here, as spacey winds continue but are more in the background. The sound gets intense late with higher winds as the song ends and our trip is over. I still think I like "Picture Music" more than this one, but this is essential for the electronic music fan.


#270

Glory of the Inner Force
Finch

Finch Glory of the Inner Force album cover

A review by Warthur:

A compelling album which sits mainly in the symphonic prog camp - but with enough jazz leanings to make it palatable to fusion fans too. In fact, the results sound a bit like what might happen if the Mahavishnu Orchestra decided to record a tribute album to King Crimson, Yes or Emerson, Lake and Palmer, with the furious guitar heroics of Jan Van Nimwegen being reminiscent of John McLaughlin, the lightning-fast keyboard wizardry of Cleem Determejer recalling Keith Emerson, and Peter Vink displaying a technically advanced, captivating, and original approach to the bass that is as individual and distinctive as Chris Squire's. Glorious AND forceful!


A review by Sean Trane:

This quartet takes its roots in the Q65 group and released three albums in the middle of the 70's, all three in the typical "Dutch school". It's clear that these guys heard Focus and Solution or even Cargo, even if they were completely instrumental and generally harder-rocking than the afore-mentioned. Nevertheless their symphonic jazz-rock was at best enthralling (with exciting and virtuoso interplay) and at worst very cheesy, especially in the more symphonic bits. Founding member bassist Peter Vink (claiming his name's Emglish translation is Finch) and drummer Klaase provide the strongest of support for guitarist virtuoso Joop van Nimwegen and Paul Vink on keys. Upon the recording of their debut album in 75, Glory Of Inner Force, Determeyer replaced Vink on keyboards. Graced with a superb esoteric artwork and a title to go along with it, Finch's music was clearly influenced by Mahavishnu Orchestra (even the title could fit a MO album), Focus and Yes.

Just three tracks on the debut album, starting very strongly with the bombastic Register Magister, where all four members go on to show the musical skills while remaining at the service of the music. The following Paradoxical Moods, where a haunting mellotron gives much depth to Joop's guitar antics and an awesome organ solo, courtesy of Determeyer. They really thrive on fast, odd time signature jams as well as slow moody sections and jump happily from one to the other without forcing it

On the flipside, Pisces is another fine majestic piece (no pun intended), but marred by the borrowing of a theme, reprised by the bass midway through the track until the end of it.The album closes on the brilliant Bridge To Alice, where the Yes influences seep out and impose itself as the album's highlight, even though it's not helped by being placed last in the track order. Indeed the formula of wall-to-wall solo plastering is exciting at first, but by the end of the album's one must admit that the cup is filled and one more solo would be the drop that overflowed the bucket. This is where the beauty of the vinyl (choose your side first) or the shuffle button become evident.

The Cd reissue comes with two bonus tracks, the two sides of a non-album single from the same year. Both Colossus I and II are short tracks that are somewhat similar to the album's music, although it's plainly audible it's not the same sessions. One wonders why such a risk and expense were taken on (relatively) average instrumental tracks, as the ideas are good, but you don't have to be Nostradamus to see that they were not original enough to create an impact, especially for non-sung music. But both tracks fit well enough on the album to enhance the album's content. If you must have only one Finch album (it sold relatively well, back then), make sure it's this one, as this one is as close to perfection as they ever got.

#271

Banco (1975)
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso

Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso Banco (1975) album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

Like PFM did earlier, BANCO decided to put out an English language version of select songs from their previous albums. In this case from their first and third records plus a previously unreleased track. I'll be the first to say that I prefer a band sing in their own native language, especially if it's Italian, but I'll also admit I'm not a big fan of compilations or greatest hits albums. And while my intention in light of this was to offer up 3 stars for this record, I just found it impossible to do so. Sure the charm and romance of the Italian language is missing but this is just too incredible to give anything less than 4 stars.

"Chorale" has atmosphere galore to open. The dual keyboards of the Nocenzi brothers take over the rest of the song to create an interesting soundscape to say the least. "L'albero Del Pane" hits the ground running as vocals join in. A nice variety of keyboards on this one as well. "Metamorphosis" is just an amazing display of talent. Fantastic track! It's uptempo to start and and so impressive instrumentally. It settles before 2 minutes with some great sounding piano melodies. Drums go wild 4 minutes in and then piano is back leading the way as synths join in. A full sound 8 1/2 minutes in which is just a great section! A calm 11 minutes in. The sound is so majestic 13 minutes in as Fransesco comes in vocally.

"Outside" is uptempo with vocals to open. I like the piano/guitar interlude 2 minutes in. Drums and synths start to dominate and vocals return 4 1/2 minutes in. It settles after 5 minutes. Beautiful. "Leave Me Alone" opens with acoustic guitar and bass as fragile vocals join in. It's celebration time after 1 1/2 minutes then it settles again as contrasts continue.

"Nothing's The Same" has this catchy intro as vocals come in. It's almost spacey 2 1/2 minutes in as it settles. I really like the melancholic synths 3 minutes in and later before 9 minutes. Some Howe-like guitar after 4 minutes when it kicks back in. "Traccia II" opens with piano as synths join in. A fuller sound 1 1/2 minutes in. My favourite three tracks on here are "Metamorphosis", "Leave Me Alone" and "Nothing's The Same".



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - February 02 2012 at 23:51
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 27 2012 at 09:16
Originally posted by Dean Dean wrote:

...not wanting to appear too picky, but isn't the meaning of the phrase "golden handshake" more or less the opposite of how you've used it? The cover handshake is more symbolic of an empty gesture I'd have thought.


Ah I see you are right. What phrase I am looking for there? The handshake that promises much but delivers little. like Have a cigar, we love you while you are a successful band but as soon as you are no longer popular we will stab you in the back.

I like Devos album cover that depicted the music execs opinion of them - scalping them and the band actually used real music execs for the cover shoot I heard!

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 27 2012 at 09:19
Empty handshake perhaps? Not sure
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 27 2012 at 09:29
Originally posted by AtomicCrimsonRush AtomicCrimsonRush wrote:

Originally posted by Dean Dean wrote:

...not wanting to appear too picky, but isn't the meaning of the phrase "golden handshake" more or less the opposite of how you've used it? The cover handshake is more symbolic of an empty gesture I'd have thought.


Ah I see you are right. What phrase I am looking for there? The handshake that promises much but delivers little. like Have a cigar, we love you while you are a successful band but as soon as you are no longer popular we will stab you in the back.
Perhaps golden handcuffs - but that's not fitting with the cover imagery and that's a payment made, not one that's promised but never delivered - an empty gesture, an empty handshake and (again in the cover imagery) the empty "suit". That the robot handshake features a golden hand and a black hand is (I think) simply for graphic contrast, this is simply mirroring the main cover handshake between the two businessmen, one of whom gets "burned" by the deal - which is more in keeping with the anti-music biz cynicism of the lyric. This theme wasn't new to Floyd even then, Cymbaline and Free Four also touch on it.
 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 28 2012 at 08:29

1975 - continued


#272

Triana (El Patio)
Triana

Triana Triana (El Patio) album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

There's no question that TRIANA are one of the greatest prog bands to come out of Spain. They became pretty huge in their own country and I'm sure the use of the flamenco guitar didn't hurt in that achievment. I really like how this band sounds, and I quite enjoy the vocals as well. "Abre La Puetra" is my favourite track on here. It opens with a beautiful guitar/piano/mellotron soundscape before the sound gets fuller with drums and bass. The tempo picks up and what a great sound 2 1/2 minutes in. Sounds like mellotron before 4 minutes then we get an outburst of organ before 5 minutes followed by a calm a minute later. String synths join in then it kicks back in before 8 1/2 minutes. Amazing!

"Luminosa Manana" opens with organ, drums and guitar that come and go. Vocals after a minute as it settles in. Synths join in as well. "Recuerdo De Una Noche" has some cool sounding atmosphere to start out but it kicks in quickly with vocals. Great sound after 2 1/2 minutes. Organ joins in around 3 minutes. Vocals return later.

"Se De Un Luger" opens with some drama. It calms right down with reserved vocals. String synths around a minute. The guitar after 2 1/2 minutes sounds incredible. In fact this whole passage is gorgeous. The tempo continues to change. Excellent track. "Dialogo" is led by bass, guitar and organ early. Vocals before a minute. Big finish on this one.

"En Al Lago" is interesting with the organ playing while the birds chirp. A full sound kicks in eventually. "Todos Es Del Color" opens with what sounds like birds, water and guitar. Vocals before a minute in this short 2 minute closing track. I would highly recommend this album or their next one if you want to check out some of Spain's finest music.


A review by Sean Trane:

It had been years since I had heard bit and pieces of Triana and had always wanted to investigate them since I knew of them. On a recent trip to Barcelona, I got this album and a few more that will also be reviewed. I thought I'd start with one of the best- known "prog" albums from Spain: El Patio. If I say "prog", it is because many consider this heavily Flamenco-induced rock is definitely progressive to my ears, and will undoubtedly appeal to lovers of heavy melodramatics in their rock music and most likely if you are a Genesis fan, this will please you at least for a few songs. Whether you will be able to listen to the whole album in one session is another matter, because if you are only lukewarm to Flamenco, this can get tedious fairly fast. Such is not my case, but past the last four weeks of listening to it, I must say that it will now take a back seat and will probably not spin regularly in the following years on my deck, since I have now absorbed it, but feel that I have sucked all of the juices out.

Beyond the impressive artwork sleeve partly responsible for our mood of the moment we choose to play this album, all of the tracks are heavily dramatized and do sound a bit similar (after a month rotation, I still can't tell exactly on which track I am listening in less than twenty seconds without looking at the counter) and of equal quality - there is not a weaker track on this album. The only slight remark I might have is that around the end of the first track there is a bass-drum break that could've been done without but this last less than a minute, so it is not intrusive. I still have a problem (if you can call THAT a problem) to pick my favourite. As I said earlier, this album is bound to please most progheads, but will the charm operate until the end of the album, since the formula is the same for all seven tracks.

I wonder what this album would've sounded like had it been recorded some years earlier with Mellotrons instead of the ARP Strings synthesisers, but please be assured that the latter one is gorgeously used here, and draws goose bumps almost at every use, but this is hardly the only time you will feel them, since there are many delicious moments. Actually, I would advise you to wear warm clothes for listening to El Patio so you do not suffer from colds after experiencing so many spine chills in a row.

#273

L'Araignée-Mal
Atoll

Atoll LAraignée-Mal album cover

A review by Finnforest:

Impressive sophomore effort.

Atoll's classic album "L' Araignee-Mal" was one of France's best 70s entries, the sound somewhere in the midst of Ange, Pentacle, Arachnoid at times, but also mixing in a good deal of jazz-fusion jamming and a bit of Yes/Genesis influence in places. The results were pretty spectacular. This album is overwhelmingly energetic and rocking with only a few mellow sections. It will please those who want to hear some of the theatrical Ange thing but with more muscle, more bite.

"Le Photographe Exorciste" begins with a breezy happy synth but soon the song turns from dream to absolute nightmare with a section that is positively scary, a complete hellish freakout in the theatrical flare that will no doubt bring some Ange comparisons to people's minds. This band does sound like Ange on occasion but they are more fiery overall on this album. The scary part passes and the mood is more contemplative again with synths and a middle gear pace. Percussion is very accomplished as is the bass playing. Some feisty guitar work at the end with percussion noises that sound like the middle section of Ritual.

"Cazotte No. 1" is an amazing fusion send-up that positively jams, very aggressive and driving. "Le Voleur" calms way down with an opening of delicate violin preceding some dreamy vocals, keys, and bass. This one sounds a bit like their mellower countrymen Pentacle in the beginning but it eventually will get more aggressive. Wild guitar runs and intermittent violin bursts will get increasingly raucous as the song progresses. Next is the epic 4-part title track. Part 1 begins with violin, odd percussions and muffled spoken vocals in the background creating a disconcerting mood. The drums begin to get restless and the violin starts twitching with increasing tension. At 2 ½ minutes the tension breaks and the bass kicks in pushing the drumming to some real acrobatics. After building awhile things break again and we get a smoother section where the lead guitar and vocal join in. Part 1 ends on an up note with upbeat guitar leading straight into part 2's opening keyboards. This section will feature ever building keys, drumming, and gut wrenching vocals. Part 3 is a spacey and jamming vintage keys fest, a showcase that would make Wakeman smile. Part 4's finale starts off quite laid back (for Atoll) with dreamy leads over some lovely keys. The band kicks in eventually and by halfway the sound is pretty much full steam again. The climax is a blaze of furious solo tradeoffs of guitar, keys, and violin just wailing a bit and passing the baton to next guy.

This is a solid 4-star album for me that I can recommend to anyone looking for an adventurous ride. The remastered mini-lp sleeve sounds pretty decent to me although I notice others think the production is not so hot. There is a live bonus track that is a heavy jazzy jam and this has noticeably lower sound quality but still listenable. The booklet has a very thorough band history and unfortunately, lots of the spiders that are the theme here apparently. True I'm not a spider fan but Atoll still has a great album here. It seems pretty unanimous that this is their finest hour so Atoll newbies may wish to begin with this one.

 

#274

Minstrel In The Gallery
Jethro Tull

Jethro Tull Minstrel In The Gallery album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

“Minstrel in the Gallery” is another one of the classic Jethro Tull albums that will divide reviewers as it is quite a bombastic little treasure, and not everyone is into Anderson's egotistic flights into fantasy. It is one of the first albums to  enchant with it's humour and unique presence. On the title track there are inspirational guitars by the great Martin Barre.

‘Cold Wind to Valhalla’ brings the flute into play but this instrument is surprisingly left off most of the other tracks although it is Anderson's signature instrument. The bassline is wonderful on this too by Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond. ‘Black Satin Dancer’ is piano driven, with an excellent lead guitar solo. The flute makes another appearance and there is a full blown orchestra to enjoy.

‘Requiem’ is a trademark acoustic arrangement, Anderson loved to put at least one acoustic treasure on an album. Anderson's vocals are gentle and it is a peaceful atmosphere generated here. ‘One White Duck/0^10 = Nothing At All’ is a real curio that merges from light release prog to tense rock with soaring guitars.

“Baker St. Muse” is the epic of the album beginning with an 'outtake' and then Anderson launches into it headlong as the orchestra draws out a sweet melody. Barre once again has a chance to shine on guitar and he is given full reign as he literally explodes with an unrelenting force.

The bonus tracks are as good as bonus tracks can be, pleasant to hear but forgettable. Thus an excellent album draws to a conclusion and it is definitely one of Tull's best though not to the standard of “TAAB”, “Benefit” or “Aqualung”. 4 shining stars.

 

#275

Chocolate Kings 
Premiata Forneria Marconi

Premiata Forneria Marconi Chocolate Kings  album cover

A review by Conor Fynes:

In the early 70's, Premiata Forneria Marconi quickly made an indelible mark on the Italian prog rock scene with a handful of albums that have since been labelled as classics. “Per Un Amico” and “Storia Di Un Minuto” are huge landmarks for the Italian scene, and they even released some material for their English-speaking audience that wasn't too shabby either. “Chocolate Kings” is another English-language album for PFM, but it holds the greater distinction of being the final album in a string of classics; the band's golden material would get fairly intermittent from here on. While the signs of the band's downward slide are evident here, “Chocolate Kings” is still a great album from PFM, and right to sit next to the band's golden throne, albeit not on it.

For one reason or another, PFM's work would be less and less acclaimed after “Choclate Kings”; their work after this generally ranges from receiving a lukewarm response, to be outright panned by its audiences, with few notable exceptions. Indeed, Premiata can be heard somewhat losing their individual grasp of symphonic prog here, but even so, “Chocolate Kings” has alot to offer. When you look past the intriguing (read: ridiculous) album title, there is a very classic sound here, full of dramatic build ups, atmosphere, and even melodies that hold fairly steady in a listener's mind. There is much more energy than on earlier work, and I might even say that at this point, the band was going for a more technical, conventionally proggy direction. The decision to go for English language lyrics is not something that has ever worked particularly well for the band, but does not necessarily weaken the album.

Premiata Forneria Marconi have had quite a few different sounds even within their classic material, and the addition of vocalist Bernardo Lanzetti gives a new incarnation to the sound of this band. Lanzetti's performance is very memorable here, if only for the fact that he is a dead ringer for Genesis' Peter Gabriel. Even with the band's history as one of the heavyweights for prog and despite the strength of the music, I cannot help but feel that PFM were trying a little too hard to nail down the British sound of Genesis, rather than sticking to their own ideas. Even the pompous instrumental displays here are reminiscent of Genesis. Although bands who try to emulate Genesis or Yes are fairly common by today's standards, hearing one of the classic bands who so many now look up to copycatting a particular sound is a little jarring, to say the least. Suffice to say, this is a great deal of the reason why I cannot consider “Chocolate Kings” to be on the same playing field as some of their earlier stuff. The quality is here, but the identity is not.

 

#276

Bundles
The Soft Machine

The Soft Machine Bundles album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

I feel like one of the few out there who loved "Seven" the previous album. We get the same lineup on "Bundles" except for one major addition, the great Allan Holdsworth on guitar. "Bundles" isn't as structured as "Seven" in fact there's a lot of jamming going on which I like, especially when Holdsworth is involved. By the way everyone in this lineup except for Ratledge played with NUCLEUS. In fact the main theme for the opening track is taken from NUCLEUS' "Song For The Bearded Lady" which was a Jenkins composition.

"Hazard Profile Part 1" opens with church bells before the drums of Marshall come in then a full band sound before a minute. Love the repetitive guitar melodies from Holdsworth. It settles a little before 3 minutes as the guitar solos and bass throbs. Marshall is great here. This is the Allan Holdsworth show though. Organ is back 7 1/2 minutes in. "Part 2" opens with laid back piano melodies. Acoustic guitar helps out part way through. "Part 3" builds to a full sound with guitar out in front. This continues in "Part 4". "Part 5" is where the drums take the lead. I like the way the keyboards come and go. Incredible sound here.

"Gone Sailing" is a minutes worth of acoustic guitar. "Bundles" reminds me of CAMEL early, I think it's the guitar. A change a minute in where I'm reminded of MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA. The bass, guitar and drums are excellent here. It's like they're all ready to explode but they don't. Organ before 3 minutes. It blends into "Land Of The Big Snake". Check out the guitar and drumming on this one. The bass and piano really add to the sound as well. It settles 3 minutes in.

"The Man Who Waved At Trains" features intricate drumming and keyboards. Very laid back. Sax and aboe join in. Such a pleasant and relaxing sound. It blends into "Peff" but picks up speed. Same sound though. It blends into "Four Gongs Two Drums" where the intensity is raised once again. A change late as we get a Marshall drum solo. "The Floating World" features guest Ray Warleigh on flutes. They picked the title well because this is floating music with a TANGERINE DREAM vibe even, except for the flute melodies. I can't say enough about this album or this band.


A review by Sean Trane:

(eighth in a series of eleven)

4.5 stars really!!! Wow after an almost two year gap the Machine is back and what a slap this album was. The fact that they had changed labels (now on the superb Harvest) and a new musical direction (their previous one had come to a dead-end) makes this album a must for anyone into fusion music.The great return of the guitar (and what a Guitar) as it had been absent since the very first (prototype) album with Daevid Allen. By now, the music on this album does not have much in common with Third either as everyone of those albums moved a little further in this implacable musical direction. Holdsworth (yet another ex-Nucleus man) really brings two dimensions absent in previous album: energy and a different writing possibility (due to the particularity of the guitar). However it is now clear that the man behind the driving wheel is Karl Jenkins (both on KB and reeds) as he pens to himself the side-long suite on the first side. Side 2 is more eclectic both in terms of writers but also musical contents. We are once again "blessed" with a Marshall drum solo.

If most purists are dismissing the Soft Machine album after Third, this one and Softs should be played to them to understand that the psychedelic caterpillar has now become the flamboyant fusion butterfly.

#277

Maneige
Maneige

Maneige Maneige album cover

A review by Warthur:

Intriguing avant-leaning fusion album with the occasional spooky, dissonant section adding spice to the compositions, which otherwise lean more towards jazz than rock. I don't hear the Canterbury influence most others hear, but then again I don't detect the Zappa, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever or Weather Report influences of most other fusion bands of the era; Maneige's debut therefore establishes them as one of the true originals, coming up with their own unique fusion sound. This sound is delivered mainly by the prominence of flute and piano in the music - the flute, in particular, not having had much attention in fusion up to this point. An exceptionally strong debut for a cornerstone of the Quebequois prog scene.


A review by Sean Trane:

The great ProgQuebec label has finally come through in acquiring the rights from the Harvest/EMI label to re-issue for the first time ever in the CD format Maneige's first two astounding albums. Although the great new label had already released two albums' worth of early live recordings, fact was that the public really wanted to see these albums proper get their due paid respect. Not only does the album restore the original window artwork, but it also some awesome artwork to depict pictorially some of the tracks featured here, most notably the Amerindian and the raft for Le Rafiot, and another I gather for the bonus track Tetdet (etc..) with the mushroom/horn artwork in an effort to marry both. So I will keep my own first review, but will write underneath the re-actualised review.

Early review: Maneige 's debut is an incredible one and the fact that they were not in studio for recording before this album makes it even more awesome. Before recording it , they had played together for some time before and recently have released a live recording of previous stuff called Live 74-75 with the cover depicting the studio tape case. Three very impressive numbers (and one of 29 min) but full of improv sometimes directionless but impeccably played but slightly longish soloing.

Just four mostly instrumental tracks (there is some singing into one track and it sounds good also), of which Jean-Jacques is really the highlight but all of them shine hard and brilliant, solid and fluid. The style is very much, as its successor Les Porches, a sort of fusion but it really holds a great content of classical music, but nothing stolen from the historical composers. If it were not for the sheer power of this music, I could be talking of chamber prog, but this would be hard to see this played in a salon of the haute-bourgeoisie as the intensity of the music would blow away the glass windows even with triple glass. The only slight remark, I can say is that some solos tend to drag on a tad too long in here, something that will disappear with the next album.

Updated review: Although the lengthy Le Rafiot (the raft) takes up the whole first side, I wouldn't call this epic flawless as there are some repetitive moments, but overall it builds impressively from an improvised free-jazz intro into the Rafiot piano motif that will pursue Jérome Langlois' career for so long. The resulting almost classical music Chamber Rock is not only incredibly impressive, but quite entertaining as well even if there are some dissonant improvs and incredible contrast and dynamic movements (the screaming sax, just before the sweetest of flutes) which makes it easy to understand why they repeatedly blew Ekseption off stage at the time. Clearly throughout this disc, Gentle Giant, classic Tull, early Soft Machine and Zappa are at the heart of Maneige's inspirations.

The flipside is made of three shorter tracks, of which Une Année Sans Fin (Never-ending Year) starts off from dissonant onto such a sweet flute/vibe duo underlined by the three man rhythm section (Leonard on bass and Schetagne/Vincent Langlois on percussions). Excellent stuff. The shorter Jean Jacques is again picking up on a piano theme, but soon evolving to a sweeping piano-led full out classical-fusion-jazz. Another beauty!! Galerie III features Jérome's brother Vincent on piano, but to allow his brother more freedom. The track ends pretty much the same way the album had opened with Le Rafiot. According to Langlois, the group hazd some difficulties with studio works as they had to dissect their music in individual parts, so they could get a studio to record the separate musicians. They had been playing so much together these pieces

Coming with this reissue are two bonus tracks, both with Paul Picard (he had a full-time job in the Hamilton philharmonic orch) on percussion (and Vincent not present), the second of which presenting a fairly different version of Jean Jacques (and not worse than the album version), but more interesting is the Langlois piece Tetdetdetet, which is an absolutely perfect addition to the album and will be yet another highlight of the album. Actually the addition of these two bonus tracks will push this debut further out up the rating scale to rise up to Les Porches. AWESOME!!! Stephen and Sean and the rest of the team, un énorme merci, pour ces instants de bonheur!!!! 

#278

Electric Silence
Dzyan

Dzyan Electric Silence album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Dzyan's "Electric Silence" is an enigmatic album with colourful iconic album cover and colourful enigmatic music. There are huge influences of Indian mystical music and massive slabs of jazz throughout the album. If one has no interest in the Eastern Indian nuances and over indulgence in Sitar, they may be in awe of the last two tracks that are simply incredible musicianship on display and Krautrock at its best.

'For Earthly Thinking' is a 9 minute dramatic musical montage of jazz meets space rock. The dissonance of odd time sigs and jazz frenzy at the intro is improvised expertly. The percussion of Giger is an amazing accomplishment and the jangly guitar of Marron is terrific. As the song progresses we get conga drums squealing sax, and Karwatky's synth effects and pulsing improv bass work. The percussion solo is frenetic jazz metrics that fly off the handle; Giger is a master drummer.

'Electric Silence' is another of the gems on the album that resonates well with the listener. Simply brilliant musicality and structure throughout. The guitar harmonics ring out beautifully. The drums are sporadic and the bass changes time sigs with the drums constantly. It is beautiful chaos.

This is an album that is important to Krautrock but is a one off for Dzyan. It definitely is worth checking out even if it is just for one or two treasures.


A review by Sean Trane:

Dzyan's third and last album, still as a trio and recorded in the Dierks studios and released on the legendary Bacillus label. Graced with a grotesque cartoon-like artwork, the album remains very much in the line of the previous two albums, even if they return to shorter track format resembling their debut album.

Opening with the reflective 9-mins Back Where We Came From, Electric Silence starts very strongly with Giger's marimbas and gongs, preceding Marron's slow increasingly-present guitar wails before Giger takes it over again. By the half of the track, the group is now in full flight with Karwatky's bass giving a Nucleus base on which both Giger and Marron can expand and improvise. Indian music is the main influence of A Day In My Life, just as on the previous album Kabisrain. Closing up the first side is The Road Not Taken (a reference to Time Machine artwork cover?), which is downright dissonant and comes close to atonal music if it was not for Marron's guitar wailing like an Indian sitar.

The flipside starts with an Indian-laced Khali (who'd have thought with such a name, right? ;-), where mellotrons are in the background. The same mellotrons pave the 9-min Earthly Thinking's intro over dissonant wooden block percussions first and steel drums second, then ensues a wide improvisation with only Karwatky staying wise and providing a base, then a drum solo ending in total sonic chaos with both Marron and Karwatky also going nuts. Closing with the album's title track (my fave) where the Mahavishnu Orchestra impressions return, reminiscing of the previous' album title track. Compared with their previous works his album does have a more ethnic feel (mostly Indian), but aesthetically- speaking it is just as Dzyann-esque as their previous two.

Just as excellent as their first two albums, Electric Silence closes Dzyan's recording career with an impeccable album and rounding up a very even discography where all three albums are equal in quality. It would be hard for me to choose just one album, meaning that you'd have to discard two choices as good as the one you've taken. So if anything, I'd suggest you start chronologically

#279

Cherry Five
Cherry Five

Cherry Five Cherry Five album cover

A review by Finnforest:

Hard-hitting, Yes-inspired origins of Goblin

The Cherry Five self-titled debut is an interesting album not quite like many of the other Italian progressive bands of the era. Rather than the elegant grandiosity of some the competition Cherry Five is a lean, mean machine with a sound that is breathlessly energetic, rocking, and tight. Curiously, at the time it arrived in the mid-70s the sound was a strangely retro one. Retro in that it sounds amazingly like the first two Yes albums, so much so that if Jon Anderson were singing for this band rather than Tony Tartarini you would think you were hearing extra material from the early Yes sessions of the debut and "Time and a Word."

From the driving beginnings of "Country Grave Yard" you will think of Peter Banks era Yes and if you like the pre-Fragile era, you are in for a real treat. These guys are very tight players with nice vocal harmonies. There really is not a weak spot in that sense, the rhythm section is a blast to listen to and the lead playing is exuberant! There is plenty of mellotron and other vintage keyboards to compliment the excellent lead guitar work of Massimo Morante. Unfortunately the vocals are in English rather than Italian but aside from that they are acceptable. Carlo Bordini will blow your mind on the kit with his impressive fills all over the place, sounding a bit like a crazed Bruford in places. The performances are top notch even if the style is derivative, and the sound on the CD reissue is nice and punchy with good bass that will slam your head against the wall.

The music here is not looking to break any new ground but rather to have a great time and it succeeds there with boundless enthusiasm. A good album to be sure but recommended mostly to Italian fans and early Yes fans. The members would eventually move on from this and assume the name Goblin, leaving the Cherry Five as an interesting novelty.

Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - February 03 2012 at 04:34
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 29 2012 at 05:57

1975 - continued


#280

Cantofabule (Cantafabule)
Phoenix

Phoenix Cantofabule (Cantafabule) album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

How can you not like this band? They are so charming and unique in my opinion. I always think of SBB from Poland when I think of PHOENIX because neither had the freedom to do what they wanted to because of their communist governments. This Romanian band started out in the sixties as a Rock & Roll band but because of government interference they were forced to integrate traditional folk music into their sound, and ironically it was for the better. While they are listed under Folk you’re going to hear more Rock from this amazing band. Like SBB these guys can flat out play. Great vocals and bass playing especially, but the drumming, keyboards and guitar are exceptional too.

"Invocatie" opens with these experimental sounds and noises. It doesn't really kick in until before 2 minutes with vocals. This is dark and fairly heavy. Yes I'm impressed. It changes briefly after 4 minutes as it picks up with celeste. It then settles with spoken words. It kicks back in at 7 minutes. I like how it ends. Good tune!

"Norocul Inorogului" is the most traditional sounding and my least favourite. "Scara Scarabeului" has a 60's flavour to it. Strummed guitar, bass and vocals stand out. "Delfinul, Dulce Dulful Nostru" is a return to form with a darker sound with bass to open. Guitar, drums then vocals join in. It settles some 4 1/2 minutes in with tasteful guitar. It’s heavier 5 minutes in. Nice. Great sound here as it blends into "Ucideria Balaurului". It picks up speed with some great guitar and bass as drums pound. Organ before 3 minutes.

"Stima Casei" features percussion, bass, guitar and flute as vocals join in. Intricate sounds here. "Pasarea Calandrinon" opens with piano. It kicks in before a minute, vocals follow. The guitar 2 1/2 minutes in sounds great. Piano and violin end it. Excellent song. "Filip Si Cerbul" has some killer guitar and the drums, bass and vocals are outstanding as well. I like it!

"Vasiliscul Si Aspida" opens with flute and percussion as vocals join in. The flute is replaced by some ripping guitar and drums. Vocal melodies join in then vocals as the drums pound. Great sound. "Sirena" opens with raw guitar then it settles with vocals, synths and drums to a laid back mood with acoustic guitar. Contrasts continue. "Pasarea Roc...K And Roll" has this experimental intro then drums and guitar take over before 1 1/2 minutes. Vocals follow and I like the guitar solo 3 1/2 minutes in.

"Cintic-Lu A Cucuveaua-Lliei" opens with music box-like sounds before guitar and bass take over. Drums join in the vocals. Amazing sound! Love this track. It's melancholic yet uplifting. "Zoomahia" opens with spacey synths which is very FLOYD-like. It changes after 1 1/2 minutes as drums lead the way. Vocals are distant a minute later. The guitar starts to light it up. It's spacey again late. "Phoenix" is laid back with a dreamy sound and nice bass lines. Vocals join in. It kicks in before 3 minutes to end it. Nice. This is a double album which I'm usually hard on, but this is a solid 4 stars in my opinion.


A review by Ivan_Melgar_M:

 

A few months ago my good friend Szolt Enyedi, keyboardist of the Transylvanian band YESTERDAYS, sent me a full collection of his favorite Romanian artists, among this collection I found Cantofabule (A play of words between Song and fable) by the relatively unknown Romanian band PHOENIX........What a finding!

It's no secret I have developed certain fascination for the Eastern Europe Prog scenario, specially for those albums that contain strong ethnic references, Cantofabule is not the exception, the album is based in a Dimitri Bolintineanu book called Istoria Ieroglifa, a compilation and history of fantastic creatures,

The album starts with Invocatie and it's weird keyboard intro, somehow reminiscent of a Keith Emerson nightmare, but after a couple of minutes, the change is simply radical, while the bass keeps making a strange sound, guitar, keyboards and vocals join to create a haunting but vibrant track, constantly the song enters into in crescendo passages which create a sense of suspense, but with great skills they manage to keep the song under control.

As if this wasn't enough the second part of the song starts Medieval but suddenly returns to the strength of the first half, but now the time and mood changes are simply breathtaking, from a strong and fast narration, to a gentle acoustic passage enhanced by an excellent choral work, fantastic opener, 10:16 minutes of pure Prog

Norocul Inorogului is a Medieval track in Troubadouresque style, the dissonant voices complement each other with great skills, it's really sad I can't understand a word. In the meanwhile a soft harpsichord sound and sweet flute enhance the medieval experience, not a masterpiece as the previous track, but the way they create the atmosphere is just perfect.

Scara Scarabeului begins absolutely different to all the previous, with a vocal introduction that takes us back to the late 60's with the spirit of the Psychedelic perfectly recreated, only two minutes but they prove how versatile a band can be.

Definul, Dulce Dulful Nostru is much more dramatic, the soft keyboard interplays with the bass and percussion to create a dark, almost haunting atmosphere that leads to an interesting vocal passage reminiscent of TRIUMVIRAT in a few moments, but too original and strange to be consider a strong influence. The Moog performance is really interesting, because Gunter Reininger avoids falling into the excesses which are so common when using this instrument, but the best part is the closing section where the band attacks the listener with everything they have, the album keeps getting better.

Now the band turns towards Baroque with the Uciderea Balaurului, but almost instantly PHOENIX starts to Rock in the style of GRAND FUNK RAILROAD, its evident they have a strong attachment to the late 60's but always keeping the ethnic references present, the Psyche keyboard work is breathtaking, another fantastic song.

Stima Casei presents us another medieval recreation where the almost Gregorian (Despite the music) vocals are enhanced by flute and acoustic guitar plus an interesting and very elaborate percussion.

Pasarea Calandrinon begins with a strong and very dramatic piano solo that doesn't prepare us for the elaborate Rock track that comes next, with a certain FOCUS reminiscence but again too subtle to be noticed if you are not worried about making a detailed review, the guitar solo by Mircea Baniciu is typical of the late 60's, giving an interesting mood to the track. The unexpected finale is too complex and surprising to be described.

Now it's a turn for some sort of Symphonic Hard Rock with Filip Si Cerbul, another track that reminds me a lot of GRAND FUNK with some keyboard fugues and excellent vocal work, strong and full of energy.

Vasiliscul Si Aspida is another Medieval track with that folk flavor of Romania, even though it gets much more complex and elaborate after a couple minutes, the mysterious mood created by the interplay between guitar, keyboards and vocals makes them stay in unknown territory. Radical changes and distorted vocals plus frantic guitar and Psychedelic organ sections complete the track.

Sirena is probably the hardest and less Prog oriented track, but still they manage to keep the interest of the listener with the excellent keyboards and works as a preparation for Pasarea Roc..k And Roll, another Hard song, but in this case with weird effects and strong vocals.

Canticlu A Cucuveaualiei is one of the best songs of the album, this track has about everything, a strange keyboard intro with oriental flavor, good vocal work as usual and a hard Rock sound full of radical changes,. excellent material.

Zoomahia explores uncharted territory for PHOENIX, now they get very close to Space rock with a very strong PINK FLOYD influence, mainly from Dark Side of the Moon, the changes are perfectly linked one to the other by the competent work of Ovidiu Lipanin on percussion, a bit strange with lots of jamming and dissonant vocals, a very advanced song for a Folk band from Romania in 1975.

The album ends with Phoenix, a soft and melodic track that fulfills its duty of relaxing the listener after the incredibly bizarre Zoomahia and even when calmed and melodic, so well elaborate that places the cherry on the top of this cake named Cantofabule.

It's interesting how you can listen to Progressive Rock for decades and still be surprised by bands of the early mid 70's you never imagined were doing such an outstanding work.

Just a warning, even when the band is considered in Prog Folk, don't expect to stay inside the boundaries of one genre, because this guys explore a lot of different sounds and influences, which makes the album richer.

No less than 4 stars for a very solid album.

#281

Ghosts
Strawbs

Strawbs Ghosts album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

Do you believe in Ghosts?

Ghosts follows in the footsteps of “Hero And Heroine”, building on that album as a blueprint. As on “Hero And Heroine” we find here the same well balanced mix of folky elements, progressive elements and more straightforward rock elements. However, on closer inspection you can detect a tendency towards emphasising the straight-ahead rock elements and toning down the progressive elements. Indeed, only the two multipart suits, the title-track and ‘The Life Auction’, are truly progressive. And while there were a couple of more straightforward rock songs on “Hero And Heroine” as well, they were so well integrated into that album as a whole. This is not as well achieved on “Ghosts”. The two longer tracks just mentioned are also the only ones that are really up to par with the “Hero And Heroine” material.

Just like “Hero And Heroine”, “Ghosts” begins with a multipart song of around eight minutes in length and continues with a number of shorter songs. The songs do not flow into each other as they did on “Hero And Heroine” which was one of the things that made that album so great.

Also, despite the colours of the cover art for the two albums, “Ghosts” is a bit less dark compared to “Hero And Heroine”. The material is melodic and sometimes even light-hearted here. The lyrics and vocals are still romantic and haunting, though. The beautiful ‘Grace Darling’ is especially moving. There is an interesting story behind that song too, about a woman living in a lighthouse and saved a number of people from drowning after a shipwreck.

While “Hero And Heroine” is a masterpiece, “Ghosts” is only very good but still an excellent companion to that album.


A review by Warthur:

Another strong Strawbs album with some absolutely groundbreaking tracks from the band, including the haunting title epic which sees some of the most frightening and dark musical output the band would ever produce, with Dave Cousins' vocal performance being one of the most evocative of his career. Lemon Pie, which follows it up, rather wrecks the momentum it establishes and seems a bit overlong to me, so I can't give this one a perfect score, but the rest of the album meets the high standards of Hero and Heroine or Grave New World. And even Lemon Pie isn't quite as irritating as Part of the Union from Bursting At the Seams, so I'd say that this album should be amongst the first Strawbs releases you sample.

#282

Blow By Blow
Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck Blow By Blow album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

George Martin, THE BEATLES famed producer, adds some orchestral arrangements that he is famous for to this record, as well as producing it. This record would peak at number 4 on the Billboard charts, and would stay there for 25 weeks, becoming a platinum selling album for Mr.Beck. This album was a bit of a departure for Jeff, turning to a more Jazz/Fusion sound, and dropping the Rockabilly and Blues sound he was previously known for. Although the song "Cause We've Ended as Lovers" does have some blues moments, and is one of my favourites off this record. This song has a pastoral beginning, with lazy guitar melodies. Some great solos later in the song.

The first song "You Know What I Mean" is another favourite of mine, with some great guitar leads and a funky melody. "She's a Woman" is a Paul McCartney tune where Jeff makes his guitar almost talk, and then later he does make it talk! Very intricate guitar melodies on this one. "Constipated Duck" reminds me of the "Superstitious" song by Stevie Wonder, that Beck played on. Again, intricate and complex guitar by Beck.

"Air Blower" has some great drumming on it. This is an uptempo and catchy song. Nice keyboard melody as the song slows down. "Scatterbrain" is really jazzy, with guitar, drums and keys. "Thelonius" is a Stevie Wonder tune that is quite funky. "Freeway Jam" is another favourite of mine as the guitar is amazing. Some scorching solos on this one.

"Diamond Dust" sounds different from the rest. Almost a s pacey feel to it at times with violin and orchestration too. The keys are good and there some real jazzy moments in this one too. If you’re into guitar music you need to hear this one! Jeff has this unique way of creating different tones with his guitar. Excellent release!


#283

Another Green World 
Brian Eno

Brian Eno Another Green World  album cover

A review by Warthur:

Eno's solo masterwork is an ambient rock wonder, abandoning the glam trappings of earlier solo albums entirely in favour of brittle, jagged soundscapes which would eventually come to exert a powerful influence on the artier end of the New Wave. Nowhere is the New Wave connection more apparent than the song ‘St Elmo's Fire’, which features an electrifying solo from Robert Fripp. Brand X show up to provide much of the instrumental backing (Phil Collins having enjoyed working with Eno on ‘Taking Tiger Mountain’ so much he thought he'd bring some friends along next time), and Eno himself is at his enigmatic, ambient best.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm:

This album does really stand head and shoulders above Eno’s other "song" based albums before he started making soundscape music. And really unlike the first two albums this has an abstract and melancholic feel to it even though the songs are all fairly short and accessible.  Fripp really shines at times and Percy Jones is prominent throughout. Phil Collins is well... Phil Collins, very professional, one of the best.

"Sky Saw" sounds so good, especially the mind bending guitar riff that comes and goes. Bass and drums are always out front as well. Vocals after 1 1/2 minutes. Some viola from John Cale 3 minutes in. "Over Fire Island" opens with bass and percussion as keyboards join in. Minimilistic is the word. I like it! "St.Elmo's Fire" has vocals and intricate sounds and is uptempo. Check out the guitar 1 1/2 minutes in.

"In Dark Trees" has a rhythm that reminds me of CAN. "The Big Ship" builds to another great sounding soundscape. Quite moving. "I'll Come Running" is led by piano and drums as vocals join in singing "I'll come running to tie your shoes" over and over. Guitar is incredible before 2 minutes. "Another Green World" is a short soundscape tune.

"Sombre Reptiles" has this beat with synths. Cool sounding track. "Little Fishes" is slow moving and a little spacey. "Golden Hours" has a catchy rhythm as the vocals join in. "Becalmed" opens with spacey winds and piano. An emotional atmosphere arrives before 1 1/2 minutes. "Zawinul/Lava" has these sparse piano lines and other sounds. Very minimilistic.

"Everything Merges With The Night" opens with piano, strummed guitar and bass as vocals join in. Reminds me of early FLOYD. "Spirits Drifting" is a spacey and dreamy track. I absolutely love this album. Interesting that he sort of back peddled in my opinion with his next one "Before And After Science". I can find no fault with this one at all. It suits my tastes perfectly.


#284

La Clef Des Songes
Pentacle

Pentacle La Clef Des Songes album cover

A review by Finnforest:

An absolute classic 70s gem!

Consider this. These days it is nothing for a band to spend months and in some cases years to get out an album. Must be nice. Pentacle recorded this amazing work in 8 days! Reading about the pressure they were under makes their album all the more impressive. The album was produced by Christian Decamps of Ange fame. But it is much smoother than Ange, none of Decamps vocal theatrics. Very low key vocals, tons of mellotron and soaring lead guitar.

Pentacle surpassed all of my expectations with “La Clef Des Songes”. The pleasure center of the prog-fan brain will be rocked! Check out the very high ratings this album has garnered.

This is a well-rounded album with all musicians contributing much. Being a guitar man myself I am pleased with two aspects. First, the guitar itself is great from its sweet acoustic backgrounds to heavily saturated solos. But just as importantly the keyboards assume the role of creating the canvas of atmosphere for the guitars to paint over rather than challenging the guitar for the forefront. I'm not saying the keys are boring, far from it. I love some of the sounds he creates but he's playing to compliment the overall piece rather than to get noticed. Drum/bass play is decent and the vocals are pleasant rather than annoyingly overdramatic as is unfortunately so common. This band understood subtlety and how to leave space open, to give sound the room it needs.

Some mention that Pentacle may recall early Crimson but I want to point out that they are not harsh or abrasive. They are a smooth, spacey, melodic band that is almost instantly accessible and I suspect would also appeal to fans of Pink Floyd. This is not a grower but rather an album you will love by the 3rd spin.

To give a bit more info I'll quote a few lines from the liner notes: "The disc belongs to the canon of delicate and refined progressive rock, showcasing a music which mixes energy, virtuosity and melodic beauty. The elegance of the themes reminds one of the kind of chamber rock elaborated by English groups like Cressida, Gracious, and Czar with an emphasis on the development of a sophisticated and lyrical symphonism" [by Francis Grosse].

The sound is not perfect but it is certainly good enough...remember, these guys didn't have a Pink Floyd budget, they had day jobs.

The Musea folks have outdone themselves on the CD. Super Bit Mapping, gorgeous artwork, many photos, and a long and thorough band history. Plus 3 rare live bonus tracks from the glorious 70s giving you another 22 minutes of music. If only all labels took this kind of care.

An essential recording for fans of 70s space rock or symph, fans of Floyd, and lovers of the French scene. 9/10


#285

Fish Out Of Water
Chris Squire

Chris Squire Fish Out Of Water album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Squire's solo album that has really impacted his career, is "Fish out of Water" and, although Squire obviously was out of his depth on his own finally, and released to produce a solo album, along with fellow band members Anderson, Wakeman, Howe, Moraz and also Bruford, the result is a very refreshing approach to music.

‘Hold Out Your Hand’ begins proceedings and the very accomplished percussion of Bill Bruford is noteable immediately. Squire’s vocals are extraordinary, very high in the register as much as Anderson. Patrick Moraz is always a wizard on keyboards, Andrew Pryce Jackman handles acoustic, organ, and orchestrations. The harmonies are strong and excellent always. The time sigs change constantly and this could easily fit onto a Yes album. It seems that Squire is one of the main components of the Yes sound as is obvious here. ‘You By My Side’ continues the Yes sound seamlessly from the opener, and features mesmirising beauty with Jimmy Hastings’ flute. The orchestra is a symphonic embellishment that works so well with this style of music. 

Mel Collins on saxophone and Hastings on flute opens the wondrous ‘Silently Falling’, a longer song at 11 ½ minutes. The warbling flute is joined by the high falsetto vocals. A crash of sound ushers in the rhythmic figure with a bass pulsation and soaring harmonious musicianship. The flute chimes back in with Barry Rose on pipe organ. There is a freak out of Moraz’s manic keyboards, a hypnotic groove with piano and bass, and Bruford is awesome with percussion accents and jazz explosions. This instrumental section is absolutely mind bending and it stops suddenly as divine horns come in, and Squire’s vocals return, so pleasant to the ear. This is spell binding music weaving a spell on the listener.    


‘Lucky Seven’ is a song with jazz keyboard and Squire’s dominant Rickerbacker bass sound. Again his vocals are exquisite, and the snare sound of Bruford is a welcome augmentation to the feel. The song is a sensational jazz fusion piece with Moraz maintaining a strong rhythm. Squire is an accomplished bass magician and he almost launches into a solo over the soundscape. The alto sax is lovely, played so delicately by Collins and this track is really a showcase for the sax. The rhythm has totally locked in with the odd 7/8 meter and the sax is able to pour into the musicscape supplementing the splendour of the sound.   

‘Safe (Canon Song)’ is a 15 minute epic with very strong bass, high falsetto vocals and orchestrated synths. The melody is bright and chirpy, very much like Yes in every respect, even the vocals sound a lot like Anderson. Squire certainly does not shy away from the Yes epic structure and even throws in some very nice flute and horn sounds. The interlude with thumping bass and whimsical flute and sax is one of the highlights of the album. This one really takes off into some bombastic territory and then is brought back with angular bassline and glorious violin sounds. The orchestral arrangement is stunning and lifts the music to the stratosphere. This continues for a long time and builds to a magnificent crescendo to finish with enchanting piano. Magnificent song.

The solo album for Squire is an incredible achievement, surpassing all expectations, even rivalling other Yes members’ solo efforts as being the best of the bunch. It is even referred to as the "lost" Yes album. Every track on “Fish out of Water” is offering something extraordinary and as brilliant as Yes, and Squire showed he could produce something very special even though he may have felt like a fish out of water.

#286

Neu! '75
Neu!

Neu! Neu! 75 album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Kraut legends Neu! consisting of Klaus Dinger on voice, percussion, guitar, piano, organ, and Michael Rother guitar, piano, synth orchestra, electronics, voice, made an indelible impression with their debut with some stark haunting compositions that are definitive to the Krautrock scene. This is their third album which is at times a very accessible project and at other times lunges deep into the avant territory of the first album. It begins with a surprisingly upbeat motorik electro pop sound on ‘Isi’. The commercial sound is striking when compared to the dark drones and experimentation of the debut. It has a great melody and is reminiscent of early Kraftwerk.

‘Seeland’ is a darker sound with cold stark tones and an ominous guitar and spacey synth lines. The guitars are beautiful drawing in the listener with spacey textures over the hypnotic melody rhythm. The synth pads are laced with ribbons of sizzling electronics. The rain fall, thunder rolls across the heavens and leads to ‘Leb' wohl’.  This one is haunting and has a slow dreamy feel that entrances. The sleepy piano lines are accompanied by echoed vocals, sung as though half asleep, the beach sounds are part of the ambience. But if this one puts the listener to blissful sleep the next track is a rude awakening.  

The album may be seen as an album with a multiple progressive disorder; one half is mesmirising ambience, with the other half, side two of the vinyl, a proto punk bolt of energy.  Side one is Rother’s ambient influenced instrumental dreamscape, side two is Dinger’s aggressive punked up distortion nightmare.

Dinger’s excursion into anger as an energy is helped with two supplementary drummers; brother Thomas, and Hans Lampe. This would be the backbone of the next project for Dinger with these members jumping on board, for the esoterica of La Düsseldorf. ‘Hero’ is the first taste of punk and really sounds extraordinarily like Johnny Rotten’s vocals and the angst driven guitar sonics of the Sex Pistols. Dinger sounds better though and the time sig is a simple 4 on the floor with double percussion. I like the keyboard chimes on this and it is so jarring after all the sleepy music that it has to be one of the shining moments of the album. 

There are tape noises that are put through effects machines to add a sense of weirdness to it all similar to the first 2 Neu! albums. It is followed by motorik hypno trance rhythms on ‘E-musik’ sounding rather like ‘Autobahn’ or other early Kraftwerk in places. The electro sounds augment this feel that is no holds barred Krautrock. The very sweet synthesizer swooshes are similar to early Gary Numan, who must have been influenced here, especially on songs such as ‘Complex’ and the synth punk of Tubeway Army’s ‘Listen to the Sirens’ and ‘Zero Bars’. The beat on ‘E-musik’ is electronica at its most entrancing, and this is an influential track for all these reasons. The one note or chord of E works well allowing jamming instruments to fade in and out. It ends with a haunting wind howling and a deep slowed down bassvoice. Simply stunning Neu! at their best.

The final track is ‘After Eight’ and we return to the proto punk, and listening to this may cause one to wonder did Neu! invent the punk sound that almost single handedly destroyed prog? Ironic, if so, but Neu! were pioneers and took incredible risks and are all the more infamous for this. This last track is reminiscent of Hawkwind’s punk sound more than Sex Pistols or perhaps closer to Iggy and The Stooges. This album is perhaps one of the better albums in terms of accessible music and an entertaining sound throughout. I am no fan of punk but on this album Neu! make it easy to digest due to the inventive structures. Rother and Dinger would reunite after a ten year hiatus to try their hand at another Neu! project but the album is nowhere near the legendary status of their first three classic 70s master works.


 

#287

Kaipa
Kaipa

Kaipa Kaipa album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Kaipa create a beautiful melancholy sound and were blessed with incredibly talented musicians on their debut self titled album. Ingemar Bergman on percussion, and Tomas Eriksson on bass, provide an excellent rhythm. Lead vocalist Hans Lundin is an instrumental genius on Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes electric piano, Grand piano, Yamaha SY1 Synthesizer, Harpsichord, Logan String-machine, and Glockenspiel. To cap this off is the main drawcard for many who come to this album and for good reason. The incomparable Roine Stolt is here on Electric and acoustic guitars. This is years ahead of his famous input with The Flower Kings, and Transatlantic. He became a prog legend in these bands and it is fascinating to hear his early work with Kaipa at the tender age of 19. He also painted the album cover illustration depicting an astral traveller floating over a dreamy landscape.

The album is very relaxing and refreshing, nothing abrasive or heavy unless you can call those Hammond passages heavy such as on ‘Saker har två sidor (Things have two sides)’. The vocals are in Swedish and sound quite lovely overall. A great deal of the album is instrumental, sounding like ELP or Camel, Renaissance. Focus and Yes.

‘Ankaret (The Anchor)’ has a majestic opening and Stolt’s guitars are heavenly. The music is very peaceful and even slightly medieval. The presence of the Hammond is strong and one cannot help but be reminded of Emerson’s style. There are many time changes but the mood is always uplifting and enchanting. At times the tempo quickens to allow Stolt to take off on lead, but the cadence soon softens with mellow synths and basslines.

This album sounds neo-classical at times, with familiar melodies and sweeping majesty. Overall the music tends to wash over the listener and it is an enjoyable journey, a chill out album to relax with, one of Sweden’s finest symphonic albums without a doubt.


A review by Warthur:

A beautiful album of relaxing melodic prog, Kaipa's debut album shows (to my ears) the influences of Renaissance, early Yes, and a little bit of Camel, all brought together in a compelling blend which engages my interest in a way which the group's reunion albums (which I thought pandered rather to the retro-prog movement) failed to. It's particularly impressive to note that Roine Stolt was only 19 when this album was made, though the primary songwriter this time around is keyboardist and singer Hans Lundin.

Lundin and Stolt's performances elevate this album from enjoyable second-tier prog to a genuine landmark of the Swedish prog scene. The seeds sown here can be heard sprouting in Anglagard, Sinkadus, and early Flower Kings, so you could say without too much hyperbole that the groundwork for the 1990s prog revival started here.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm:

I must admit I've been fascinated with this album of late. The fact Roine Stolt is an original member and still a teenager when this was released (1975) is remarkable. I'm also very intrigued with their sound. Only because later on in 2002 when the band reformed their music sounded a lot like a cross between THE FLOWER KINGS and YES while this debut album has GENESIS written all over it. Anyone who knows me will appreciate that while I like YES a lot, it's GENESIS and that more melancholic vibe that I'm drawn to over the "Light" that comes from THE FLOWER KINGS and YES. Well I loved this album from the first time I heard it as these young Swedes offer up a Symphonic delight with a variety of keyboards, chunky bass lines and great guitar leads. The vocals are in Swedish which is also a big plus. I'm going to use the English song titles where I can.

Check out the keyboard intro on "Music Is Light". These guys used something called a "Logan Stringmachine" to great effect, sounding like a combination of strings and mellotron. Guitar follows sounding a lot like Hackett. Amazing sound here. Vocals after 1 1/2 minutes in a spacey atmosphere. Banks-like synths before 4 minutes. Nice. Then the vocals return with floating organ. Huge bass lines 5 1/2 minutes in. Great track!

"Things Have Two Sides" opens with piano as the vocals join in. It's building. I like the vocal melodies too. The organ/bass/drum section is killer then the guitar joins in making it even better. Vocals are back late. "The Anchor" has a light keyboard led intro. The bass becomes prominent then the guitar and synths join in. Guitar comes to the fore after 2 minutes. Vocals 3 minutes in until they stop after 5 minutes and the guitar leads. It's GENESIS-like 6 1/2 minutes in then we get a calm with bass. It does kick back in before it becomes GENESIS-like again 8 minutes in as it settles. Incredible tune!

"Skogspromenad" opens with organ followed by bass and the stringmachine as drums joins in. "Alcting Har Sin Borjan" has a beat with fat bass lines to start. The guitar joins in and it sounds amazing. "See The Dawn" opens with those strings before light keys and a beat take over. A spacey calm before 3 minutes then it kicks in with the guitar leading.Vocals follow and they sound excellent.Nice bass too. "Forlorad I Istanbul" is uptempo with these fast paced intricate sounds.

"Oceans Give Birth To Life" is fairly light but with prominent bass as synth sounds join in. The tempo picks up and we get a great sound 2 minutes in. Vocals after 3 1/2 minutes. Water sounds 5 1/2 minutes in with vocal melodies. Strange vocal expressions a minute later then it picks up with the organ leading. It settles back before 8 1/2 minutes. This is probably closer to 4.5 stars and a must for GENESIS fans out there.


#288

Essere O Non Essere? 
Il Volo

Il Volo Essere O Non Essere?  album cover

A review by Finnforest:

Don't like the classic Italian genre? No problem.

Il Volo's second album "Essere o Non Essere" is not really typical of other albums in the Italian section. While I love the Italian symph genre I know that some of you bristle at the vocals and occasionally dated sounds.

“Essere” is not like that at all. This is a mostly instrumental album first of all, a bit jazzy and plenty rocking. The sound is great on the Japanese CD and the production quite good too. The music should appeal very much to fans of good rock music with lots of lush instrumentation, bright guitars, full bass, and very expressive drumming. While the playing is indeed top notch the band presents a very unified sound and avoid simply trading long-winded solos.

The album reminds me a little of PFM's "Stati" release in that you have gorgeous yet powerful instrumental music that would work perfectly as a soundtrack to the kind of video PFM used. For some reason "Essere" constantly puts images of flight in my mind.

I read that this album sold poorly back in the day and the band split. That's a shame because it would have been fascinating to hear what direction they took after this one. And it proves again that sales and quality music often have very little to do with each other. So always hunt for these little gems regardless of what the hot sellers are.

Both Volo albums are easy to enjoy and I would recommend anyone check them out, fan of Italian prog or not. 


#289

In Praise Of Learning
Henry Cow

Henry Cow In Praise Of Learning album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Here it is in all its Rock in Opposition glory - tread careful dear listeners and question what is music? ‘War’ begins the journey with some absolutely insane time sigs and free form jazz sax over the strong off beat. The tuneless female vocals of Dagmar Krause are perhaps the most challenging aspect and really will take some getting used to for certain listeners. It is unlike anything you will hear but is kind of similar to the experimental side of Bjork. Krause’s emotions are charged sounding like someone spat in her socks. But this is the best song on the album.

It is a short song so we soon roll onto the epic 15 minute sonic noise of ‘Living In The Heart of the Beast’ and nothing prepares the listener for this excursion into avant hyper weirdness. More odd metrical sigs are augmented by distorted fuzzed guitar and then it stops and Chris Cutler’s piano in solitude is heard. Dagmar Krause is the vocalist and she is the queen of dissonance. She even has multi tracks on her vocals at one point. The sound is a beserk Magma sound, and then very atonal anti-jazz woodwind dominates with Lindsay Cooper’s beserk bassoon and Geoff Leigh’s triumphant trumpets. The xylophone of Fred Frith is peculiar but is a trademark Henry Cow effect. Several instruments join together and play their own tune and then are suddenly amalgamated with 4 strong blasts. The percussion of Cutler is incredible with off sync explosions and weird cymbals tishes. Peter Blegvad’s clarinet is changing melodies constantly, John Greaves’ bass keeps an odd rhythm that interplays with the trumpets of Cutler and then a violin takes over played beautifully by Frith. The strange competing of musicians and ferocity of time sig changes is frightening. It is certainly one of the most astonishing pieces of avant-garde music bringing to mind the madness of Frank Zappa meets The Residents at it’s most experimental.  

Henry Cow’s lyrical content is focused on Marxist ideologies and revolutionary idealism. The previous song is actually a call to arms against Marxist capitalism and is intended to spur on the communist party to power. The band were revolutionaries themselves with their peculiar approach to music. This album was part of a long term collaboration with Slapp Happy and is as far removed from the Canterbury influences in their first albums as one could get. It embraces the ‘steaming cess pool of human conformity’ as far as Marxism is concerned, and attempts to recreate music structures and forms. In this case it is a very complex and difficult album to enjoy by many listeners. The left wing politics and communism is a strong point of the lyrics and will turn some off.

The high emphasis on creativity and recreating new musical ideas is a compelling component of the sound. This is continued with ‘Beginning: The Long March’ with a ferocious oboe and sonic rhythm in the intro. A crash down of percussion and piano and other angry instruments heralds the new soundscape which is a disjointed fractured musical outburst of cacophonic dissonance. This continues with sporadic musicality and odd bursts of musical instruments with out any time sig, without any melody or any semblance of harmony. It drones and groans as a serrated violin trys to take over, but low piano crashes in. A metronome knocking is heard and broken guitar splashes. The sax and horn blasts sound like cars speeding on a motorway. Now we are really into unchartered waters as the sound gains in intensity, no sig or melody still but an unnerving disturbia of disharmonious drone.

The discordance of this is now put into striking contrast with the next song, where vocals return on ‘Beautiful as the Moon - Terrible as an Army With Banners’. The sig is splintered still but this has more resonance with a listener who may have been turned away by some of the previous RIO. The bass and drums are in sync yet the metric is decidedly acrimonious, especially with the rather pleasant vocals for a change. It is easy to listen to after a while as the ears are attuned to the oddness of it all. The sig actually begins at last and gains speed with guitar flourishes. The piano begins an out of melody improvisation as the percussion and bass pound. Then another piano tinkers along and all the other instruments fade out. The off tune twin piano solo becomes quite unsettling sounding as though it is falling down a flight of stairs, and then a loud blast of vocals and guitars come in like a train wreck and ends it. Are we having fun yet?

‘Morning Star’ based on the UK’s Communist paper, is a saxophone with percussion hybrid and the non-cohesiveness of the sound is jarring. More very weird sounds on instruments continue but the percussion is extreme improvised jazz on ‘Lovers of Gold’. The members sound as though they are all playing their own tune but it somehow fits in a discordant way. Perhaps reminiscent of King Crimson’s ‘Providence’ or their other improv jam sessions. Krause sings again as the drones become ominous. She has a melodic voice but the music is disjointed. At this point one may be ready for anything with a beat or signature, it is very discomforting.

This album is not for the faint hearted as at times the unmusicality is too much for the ears to bear. It is refreshing to hear after listening to the mediocrity poured out on the radio. The band could be viewed as revolutionary pioneers and would definitely have made many artists and listeners sit up and take notice. I am not sure how many times one could sit through this but it will cause one to ponder on what makes music ‘music’. In fact it can be argued that the album is a protest against conformity of musical structures or virtuosity. Is Henry Cow a genius band of artists or just a bunch of improvising rejects kicked out of the conservatorium? There is no disputing the artists are incredibly talented and deserve attention. In any case this is as original and as unconventional as it gets, perhaps even unsurpassed in terms of the influence on the avant-prog scene.  

 



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - February 03 2012 at 04:42
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#290

Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh Gilgamesh album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

This was just a pleasure to listen to. I had heard and reviewed "Arriving Twice" which was a collection of songs recorded prior (1973- 1975) to this their debut album. It consisted mostly of songs that are on this album. To my ears they have really gelled and seem more confident as a band on this their debut record when compared to the earlier songs on "Arriving Twice". Dave Stewart produced it, and we have the pleasure of having Amanda Parsons from HATFIELD AND THE NORTH singing on two tracks. She would go on to sing on NATIONAL HEALTH's debut. The late Alan Gowen who would later hook up with Dave Stewart in the band NATIONAL HEALTH is truly the star here. He incorporates mellotron, piano, synths and clavinet to these wonderful songs. GILGAMESH offer up a smorgasbord of tasty, intricate sounds to satisfy the listener. One look at the long song titles and one knows that this has to be Canterbury music.

"One End More/Phil's Little Dance-For Phil Miller's trousers/World's Of Zin" has some mellotron in the intro followed by those intricate sounds meshed together that are just a delight. Great interplay!  The guitar 3 minutes in is a highlight. There is a change 4 1/2 minutes in as we get to "World Of Zin" and it's so soothing and relaxing for 6 minutes! The guitar leads the way tastefully as Phil Lee does such a tremendous job holding back, yet in the end letting go with some soaring melodies. The drumming is intricate, and we get some female vocal melodies from Amanda. The piano is sprinkled in. Amazing!

"Lady And Friend" is mellow with keys and bass for 3 minutes except for one startling outburst. It ends with a louder sound with drums joining in. "Notwithstanding" is jazzy with some excellent piano, drums, bass and guitar interplay. I just have to shake my head at how tight these guys are. Mellotron comes in early and can't be missed.

 "Arriving Twice" is a short 1 1/2 minute tune that is light and beautiful. "Island Of Rhodes/Paper Boat-For Doris/As If Your Eyes Were Open" is lighter to begin with but there is so much going on. The second part is similar but louder. Keys, bass and drums lead the way. The final section is where Phil breaks out some aggressive guitar melodies. Nice.

"For Absent Friends" is a short acoustic guitar piece. "We Are All/Someone Else's food/Jamo And Other Boating Disasters-From The Holiday Of The Same Name" features some angular guitar melodies in the first part. Liquid sounding keys and light drums as bass throbs. The guitar starts to get more upfront and passionate, as do the other instruments. The next section is almost funky before the final part 5 1/2 minutes in where Amanda is back singing those lovely melodies.

"Just C" is a short piano piece. The album cover had an actual game on it like "Snakes and Ladders" with numbered spaces, and comments on some of them telling you to go forward or backwards and why. Statements like "Payment after gig in cash! Go forward 2 spaces". Or "Drummer late for gig. Go back 1 space".  "Mobbed by groupies. Go forward 4 spaces". "Guitar player drinks 10 Carlsbergs. Disqualified from game". I could see people playing this back in the day. As for the music, I'm a big fan if you couldn't tell already. 4 solid stars.

#291

Spartacus
Triumvirat

Triumvirat Spartacus album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Triumvirat create some of the best Symphonic Prog of the 70s.

"Spartacus" is a wonderful full on excessive symphonic prog album from masters of German 70s prog, Triumvirat. It begins with a terrific instrumental section and then the voice of Helmut Köllen comes in on the second track sounding clear and distinct, enhancing the music. ‘The School Of Instant Pain’ is absolutely brilliant, even featuring a massive drum solo and the everpresent Hammond stabs very similar to Emerson. It is broken in to a variety of sections: a) Proclamation, b) The gladiator's song, c) Roman entertainment, d) The battle.

Next on ‘The Walls Of Doom’ there is a jaunty little instrumental on keyboard motif, with breaks in the music including wild drums and some very nice basslines. This is an excellent piece of music with some odd time signature changes and very original approach to the medium, not really an ELP clone as they have been accused. There is enough originality on offer to satiate any prog palate.

The next track ‘The Deadly Dream of Freedom’ is balladic and sweetly sung, not my favourite style but it has a lovely melody though more radio friendly than their usual material, not that this is a problem as it kind of breaks up the hyper prog swashbuckling.

Then it's on to a mental instrumental ‘The Hazy Shades of Dawn’, and its back to prog excess and it is fantastic. This tune is memorable, majestic, grand, Emerson like in places, but has so many twists and turns it is astounding. The tune is a march really with some missing beats in the phrases. I like the descending parts that build with each instrument. The drums of Hans Bathelt are simply virtuoso on this. I am reminded of ELP's Trilogy with this.

The foreboding menace of Hammond organ and drums rising to a crescendo are a true feature of the showstopper, ‘The Burning Sword of Capua’. This is a tremendous instrumental with Jürgen Fritz allowed to blaze away with fire and dynamism on keyboards. It is short but it is brilliant.

The sweet vocals of Helmut that are gentle and flowing return on ‘The Sweetest Sound Of Liberty’. Once again a real breakaway from the more proggy instrumentals preceding it, but a pleasant enough song, reminding me of the way Lake's ballads on ELP albums were always present.

A spacey effect begins the next track, ‘The March To The Eternal City’, which is the first lengthy track at 8:46, on the EMI release, and it is broken into 3 sections: ‘Dusty Road’, is a quaint song with some intriguing lyrics about Spartacus, who "has come to kill". It gains tempo with a herald of drums and clean synth flourishes on Italian Improvisation section. There are some excellent keyboard swells on this, and it is a rather lengthy instrumental but never lost my interest. The song ends with the third section, ‘First Success’, which is kind of a return to the intro melody.

‘Spartacus’ is a good way to end the album, in 3 sections again, ‘The Superior Force of Rome’, with softer vocals and then it breaks out into a frenzy of Hammond, sounding as fast as ‘Tarkus’. Perhaps too fast as it is rather amusing how zany this is. It even has an off kilter chorus, "no one comes near", and then the keyboard freak out continues, with some frenetic honky tonk piano and those ‘Karn Evil 9’ siren sounds. ‘A Broken Dream’ is the second section which is basically very fast piano, a real tour de force of speed triggerfinger playing. ‘The Finale’ sounds like a finale funnily enough, majestic and bombastic but delightfully so.

The original album ended there but it is nice on the reissue to get 2 bonus tracks consisting of ‘The Capital Of Power (live)’, and ‘Showstopper (previously unreleased)’. The live track is an intriguing version of ‘The Capital Of Power’, opening their show, and it is excellent quality wanting me to hear more of this concert. The instrumental is one of their best and is highlights the talents of bassist Helmut in particular. The unreleased track ‘Showstopper’, is a curious oddity, a rather fast paced song focusing on the keyboard finesse of Fritz. Helmut's vocals are psychedelic, sounding very good but incomparable to the rest of the album, very different. The instrumental section sounds similar to other parts of the "Spartacus" album. But this is no throwaway and may cause one to wonder why it was never released.

Overall, I haven't heard a bad album from Triumvirat and this is certainly one of their best, excellent quality prog, along with the incredible “Illusions On A Double Dimple”.

 

#292

Apoteosi
Apoteosi

Apoteosi Apoteosi album cover

A review by Finnforest:

Keyboard rich Italian with female vocals.

Apoteosi is yet another of the Italian bands that made one great album and vanished. The group core was the three Ida siblings whose father apparently got them a record deal and produced them. Massimo Ida, the keyboard player, was just 14 years old when this album was recorded. If you plan to add some Italian prog to your collection this should be a prime candidate. The music is a wonderful blend of melodic symphonic Italian prog with some jazzed up rhythm. Primarily a keyboard album it is filled with marvelous piano and moog but also a decent amount of electric leads. The drummer is tight and impressive with great moments throughout. One thing that makes Apoteosi unique is that we have the angelic voice of Silvana Ida on several tracks rather than the typical deep operatic male vocals one is used to on Italian albums. Her singing is a bit meek and too low in the mix but it is very pleasant. The sound is a bit of a problem on “Apoteosi”, there was obviously little budget and things sound a bit thin. But the music is solid, a little mysterious, and full of heart from people who were likely aware this album would be their only one. They made the most of it in my opinion. Sure you can detect the youth and inexperience in places but you'd be amazed how well they actually do.

"Embrion" is a short and shimmering keyboard introduction for the first half with the band charging in full force for the remainder. I read that the music was a fragmented mess of everyone's ideas and that there was no time to really hash things out so they just used the chaos to their advantage and explored all of them. At times it sounds that way but that's also part of the charm.

"Prima Realta" at nearly 15 minutes is the centerpiece and is wonderful stuff. With lovely piano, acoustic guitar and flute, crisp drums and bass, and heavenly vocals from Ms. Ida this track is vintage Italian as beautiful as PFM. At about 6 minutes we get our first taste of the spacey keyboard effects that admittedly sound a bit dated but are pleasing nonetheless. And to top it all off, a stunning and energetic ending.

Next is "Il Grande Dishumano" which is more energetic finesse and along with "Prima" is another superb track. We get some fuzzed-out psych guitar and a tight rhythm that would make Bruford proud. Next up is "Dimensione" which starts as a short vocal piece to piano and distance delicate electric leads. Drums come in around 2 minutes and things pick up. The title track is the closer and it is a fiery instrumental rocker which by the end makes you wish that Apoteosi had been given a chance to take their time and do a second album. I bet it could have been amazing. Definitely don't judge this book by its rather bland album cover!

This album is highly recommended for lovers of quality 70s symphonic prog. While I acknowledge there are a few flaws with the sound that along should not stop RPI fans from getting to this title eventually. The young people involved wear their hearts on their sleeves and that always helps win me over. Their love for this music they came up with is obvious. I want to close by quoting fellow reviewer Andrea Cortese who summed up what makes this really special: He writes "....this is a hymn to their homeland, a hymn of hope for the awakening from the numbness of that wonderful piece of our beloved country. All this passion and emotional involvement are the propulsive force of this great opus...." 

 

#293

Nowy Horyzont
SBB

SBB Nowy Horyzont album cover

A review by Finnforest:

SBB has had a long, acclaimed career and they are one of the most important progressive groups from Poland. It is clear from the liner notes that they are Mahavishnu devotees, and they also state that they are already beyond this album at the time of its release, that their "spirit is already with their next album." They seem to stake out a sound here somewhere between fusion and space-rock. While the playing is good and some of the ideas nice I feel the album is not very consistent.

"Na Pierwszy Ogien" starts with some wild synth sounds before that band drops, a steady rhythm with trebly nervous leads on top. The guitar sound is a bit thin and the bass a little muddy. The drum fills are a real treat. The final minute is strange, the band stops and the song finishes with delightful solo piano, more impressive to me actually than what we heard before it. "Blysk" blasts off at a fast pace but is otherwise quite similar to the first track with highly treated guitar and synths exploring the landscape. I remain pretty underwhelmed I must say. Again the heavy stuff dies and the last minute of so features a short piano excursion.

"Nowy Horyzont" gets significantly better. A really jamming opening section leads into a very quiet spacey acoustic guitar and keys interlude. Nice. After this it moves to a good instrumental section with a fusion of fiery guitar and key workouts, again the drumming is very tasty. The bassist knows what he's doing too but unfortunately it doesn't always come through in the mix. OK, sensing a pattern here as the closing changes to another piano solo.

"Ballada o Pieciu Glodnych" is a spoken word piece that is a complete momentum killer musically, but perhaps if you understand the language it has value from that aspect. "Wolnoscz Nami" is the side long 20 minute cut. A dramatic drum roll intro ushers an acoustic guitar trying not to drown in some harsh synth blasts, then get very wild, very free form, with synth, piano, guitar, percussion all dabbling away. Wordless vocals come in and the mood is rather uneasy for a bit. The bass and drums come back after the six minute mark and we get a rare section of "normal" sounding symph prog, a bit Yes-ish but only a bit. After a section of near silence, the experimental sections starts around the 12 minute mark and you get some very Floyd-like psych madness before the drums come ripping back in at a fast pace paving the way for some aggressive guitar and synth licks. Out of nowhere drops a strange and heavy riff which slowly winds down to nothing for the 3 minute closing, which is..can you guess? A piano solo. It's a rather nice one that provides one of the more emotional moments of the album, a sad, longing mini tune.

I can see why the band themselves say right in the liner notes that they've already moved on in spirit from this album, this seems like a warm-up in every sense of the phrase.

 

#294

Visions Of The Emerald Beyond 
Mahavishnu Orchestra

Mahavishnu Orchestra Visions Of The Emerald Beyond  album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Masters of their craft.

After the blistering start to Mahavishnu Orchestra with the definitive jazz fusion of "The Inner Mounting Flame" and "Birds of Fire", it was the next step to add in some funk and alternative styles to the jazziness of the music. The band do that on this album yet retain the jamming improv style and manic time sig changes. John McLaughlin, guitarist extraordinaire, is the only sole survivor of the original lineup but he is joined by the stalwart company of Jean-Luc Ponty's electric violin, the percussion of Michael Walden, Ralph Armstrong's bass, and Gayle Moran's keyboards.

'Eternity's Breath' is a standout for the band especially 'Part 2' with Luc-Ponty's exquisite violin serrations. It also has a heavier guitar than the usual Mahavishnu and from the outset the music signifies a completely different approach. The electric guitars on Part 1 are heavier and the effervescent violin is an amazing embellishment.

'Lila's Dance' is a brilliant piece of music in a number of odd meters from 7/4 to 14/8 and even 5/4 at times. It is an amazing rhythm with searing fret melting lead work and astonishing percussion and violin. Simply stunning.

'Can't Stand Your Funk' is a jazz odyssey in funkadelic guitar rhythms and the odd trumpet blast and very ominous keyboards. The bassline is as funky as it gets embellished by nasty brass.

'Pastoral' begins with birds whistling and the electric violin generates a peaceful atmosphere. 'Faith' is a heavier percussion explosion with ascending violins and an angular guitar riff. 'Cosmic Strut' is another funky jazz piece with odd time sigs throughout that change often. The intro is in 9/8, there is a medial section with a guitar soloing in a 7/4 metrical progression, soon after the music is in 13/8, and at times 27/8. There is no doubting the virtuosity of the band with tracks like this.

'If I Could See' is a short piece with the soprano vocals of Gayle Moran and this is followed by 'Be Happy', a frenetic jazz blitzkrieg. McLaughlin cuts loose on lead gutar on a rhythmic percussive figure.he dynamic jamming and tempo is jaw dropping on this track. Jean Luc-Ponty joins on violin slicing back and forth with speed bow work. The duo trade off solos as in a duel. These two are masters of the craft.

'Earth Ship' has a very soft, gentle musicality with flute and bass over percussion brushes. The guitar is distant and the vocals are sleepy. 'Pegasus' follows as a short transition. 'Opus 1' and 'On The Way Home To Earth' begins with a spacey ambience of Tangerine Dream textures and synth sustain. It moves into a jam session of the fuzz guitar and extraordinary percussion by the lead break is McLaughlin at his best.

This album is a magnificent musical work of virtuosity at its highest level. It proves that the second incarnation of Mahavishnu Orchestra is as good as the original lineup and of course this is always going to be hailed as a masterpiece by many listeners. The music will keep many spellbound with its immeasurable creativity and powerful spirit.

#295 

Profondo Rosso O.S.T.
Goblin

Goblin Profondo Rosso O.S.T. album cover

A review by Warthur:

Marking the point where the Italian prog scene collided with the Italian filmmaking market, “Profondo Rosso” is the first Goblin album and one of their better soundtrack works. The moods and musical styles adopted on the album are quite diverse, as befitting its origins as a movie soundtrack, with influences ranging from “Tubular Bells” (as on the opening of the title track, or the guitar section in ‘Mad Puppet’) to funkier material at points reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield's work on “Superfly”. Some where between these extremes the distinctive and original Goblin sound emerges, applying symphonic prog musicianship and compositional approaches to a more cinematic set of influences than those that informed the pastoral prog or fusion-leaning bands of the RPI scene.

Note that “Profondo Rosso” has been reissued in various formats, including a greatly expanded release which includes more incidental music and multiple different takes of the same tracks. If you are a major fan of the Goblin sound and want to hear every little track they made during these sessions, you might want to go for it, but I personally find these editions rather repetitive and tedious to listen to all the way through. My appreciation for this album shot up when I simply programmed the CD to play only the original album tracks in the order they originally appeared on; on the whole, I'd say Goblin did a fine job in condensing the soundtrack for an LP release.

 

#296

Giro Di Valzer Per Domani
Arti e Mestieri

Arti e Mestieri Giro Di Valzer Per Domani album cover

A review by Finnforest:

A showcase for one of the greatest drummers alive.

"Giro" is a very solid album that should please anyone remotely interested in the genre. While I don't own "Tilt" and thus can't compare the two, from what I remember this album is every bit as formidable, perhaps less acclaimed simply because it followed an album much beloved. The album may actually be a bit richer in terms of production and band interplay. The highlight here as noted by many is the simply jaw-dropping percussion performance by the legendary Furio Chirico and I can only add that anyone who is a drummer or appreciates spectacular percussion needs to hear Furio in action. I am also a fan of Beppe Crovella since hearing his work on the later Tower album "Tales from a Book of Yestermorrow."

The tracks are intricate and flawlessly executed jams with great guitar work and enough sax and violin to really add great color. Jazz-rock.net also plays up Chirico's importance in the band: "Personally I would compare him with Billy Cobham, although an octopus also comes into mind. This virtuoso is able to fill the space with such an incredible sound, layer upon layer of polyphonic rhythms, it's quite spectacular. Behind him, an ensemble of bass/guitar/keys/violin/sax/voice are creating track after track of pure enjoyment" [jazz-rock.net].

For me personally the music is at times too busy and this is why I give a higher rating to something like Esagono, who may not have quite the chops of this band but arguably provide more emotionally satisfying music. "Giro" can be a simply exhausting listen that rarely gives the listener a chance for a breather; of course I realize this is a plus for many of you. For jazz fans really into intense, technically savvy jamming I can see why others would give this 4 or even 5 stars.

#297

A Night At The Opera
Queen

Queen A Night At The Opera album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

“Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?”

Queen's “A Night at the Opera” is a definitive album of 1975, a year when prog was absolutely flourishing with many bands producing their best material. Queen produced this album at the height of prog and yet did not include a single prog element except one penultimate song that we have all become accustomed to.

Of course I speak of 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to gush over this song. I believe it is quite simply the greatest rock song in history. It features a rock opera within its complex structure. We can all recite its Wagnerian lyrics with multi layered vocal harmonies; “Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very fright'ning me, (Galileo) Galileo (Galileo) Galileo, Galileo Figaro, Magnifico!... Bismillah! No, we will not let you go (Let him go!)” It is safe to say that the song became ingrained into pop culture as a result of this section alone. The structure is really three sections encompassing three distinct genres of rock.

The piano driven rock ballad begins the track after an intro of harmonies. The ballad speaks of a man who has killed a man, shot him in the head and now he is facing death row. As he is waiting in his cold cell for the bell to chime reflecting on his past life and it doesn't have much time (Iron Maiden, anyone?), about to walk down the corridor of no return to the electric chair, he hears angelic choral voices calling him; a battle between good and evil ensues in the murderer's mind.

The opera section is the most celebrated, most discussed section in Queen history. Using operatic terminology and harmonies the song defies anything done before or since. As the song builds to a crescendo the paroxysm of lightning explodes onto a power riff that is pure metal. The doors are blown apart with dynamite.

Section three is metal complete with the killer riff, lead break and screaming vocals. The murderer has escaped, a violent struggle and he is free. Mercury is stunning in this section as he screams to the world; “So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye, So you think you can love me and leave me to die, Oh, baby, can't do this to me, baby, Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here-ah!” It is a short section really and yet has managed to be the head banging national anthem. “Wayne's World” captured it perfectly as the boys banged heads furiously in their car during this section. It all ends with a bookend, more piano, same melody as beginning; “nothing really matters” and like all good operas finishes on a resounding gong. That's how you create a masterpiece.

That's about it, isn't it? Oh, that's right there are other songs. They pretty much disappear in light of this track but they are worth a small mention. The problem is the ‘Rhapsody’ track is so massive that if you are expecting more like this you are in for a shock as nothing comes close. There are good tracks such as the single, 'You're My Best Friend' with a radio friendly catchy melody that I like a lot. 'I'm in Love With My Car' is fun with quirky lyrics and even quirkier structure. 'Prophet's Song' is very strange with great hooks and an a capella section repeating Mercury's vocalisations over and over, no music just masses of multi layered vocals. Weird and memorable but annoying on subsequent listens. And the live set and album closer, the bombastic patriotically British 'God Save the Queen'. Of course this is infamous for the track where Mercury appears on stage at the end in flowing royal robes and royal crown. He dips his crown to the loving crowd and retains his enthroned position as Queen of rock. Looks good in concert but sounds rather bombastic on CD.

Of course pomp rock was Queen's Curriculum Vitae but there is a lot of very ordinary music on the album. 'Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon' is short but unsatisfying. 'Sweet Lady' is kitschy and corny. 'Seaside thingy' is eccentric mumbo jumbo. 'Love of My Life' is a crowd pleaser where Mercury gets crowds to sing along and that may be great to hold lighters up in the air and sway, but on album it is mediocre at best. So all this considered, here is an album that does not live up to the hype. Yes, it features Queen's and rock history's greatest song, and a killer single, but is that enough to gain masterpiece status? You be the judge! I think 'A Night At The Opera' is a worthwhile album for the shining lights amidst some dire moments.


A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

A night at the Prog opera

As a long time Queen fan, I cannot quite decide if Queen II or A Night At The Opera is the best Queen album, but they are clearly both masterpiece albums for me. Queen is one of my favourite bands of all time and it is fair to say that if it wasn't for Queen I would probably not have become aware of progressive rock. Queen converted me from 90's alternative rock to classic 70's rock and I have never looked back since.

With a great self-titled debut album, a masterpiece second album and a third, very good but not perfect album under their belts, this fourth album was a very important one for the band. A Night At the Opera was to become the band's breakthrough to a wider audience much due to the amazing mega hit Bohemian Rhapsody, possibly the most progressive song to ever become a number one hit.

Like Queen II, A Night At The Opera flows extremely well; many of the songs flow into each other making the whole greater than the sum of its parts. The sum of its parts would already add up to a considerable sum in its own right, but it is the album considered as a whole that really makes it into a masterpiece. All of the band's trademarks are here in full bloom. The hard rock, proto-metal of the early albums is still present, the commercial side of Killer Queen is also present as well as the progressive and experimental side of the band.

The four band members are all excellent musicians and Brian, Freddie and Roger all have very distinctive singing voices that compliment each other perfectly. As usual the three of them does backing vocals and also lead vocals on some songs. Roger sings his I'm In Love With My Car and Brian sings his '39 and Good Company, for example. John, the bass player is 'the quiet one' as far as his personality goes, but he never misses a beat.

Brian's guitar sound and technique is also instantly recognizable and unique. As usual on 70's Queen albums there are no synthesisers. But Brian's unique ability to make his guitars sound like any other instrument makes up for it. He even makes them sound like trumpets on some parts! Together with Steve Howe and Steve Hackett, Brian May is one of my favourite guitar players of all time. In addition to the more traditional instrumental attack of guitar, bass, piano, drums and vocals, we also find electric piano, banjo and harmonica as well as some less common instruments like a Japanese koto! There are also many vocal and instrumental effects, and various bells and gongs, etc.

The styles of music vary from acoustic Folk ballads to hard rock to almost experimental music, but all the time staying true to the distinctive Queen sound. The moods similarly vary from very serious and reflective to almost comedy to more aggressive. It is remarkable how well it all holds together given all the diversity. The Prophet's Song is a truly progressive song with an amazing a cappella section and driving hard rock.

A Night At The Opera is a masterpiece of progressive rock and a true must-have album for all Prog fans.


A review by Conor Fynes:

Music aside, 'A Night At The Opera' was a massive undertaking. At the time, the album was the most expensive in terms of production, and each moment of the album was created under the meticulous eyes of the band, who could take as much as a day to even produce 30 seconds of material. It's safe to say that Queen were out to make a real masterpiece here, and while there is some material on the album that doesn't hit me in a big way, the majority of it makes it up to be true to it's intent. 'A Night At The Opera' is indeed; a splendid work, and arguably the best in Queen's repetoire.

As I've said, many of the songs on the album are great, with but a few small exceptions. The only real stinker here being the epilogue track 'God Save The Queen' (which I usually skip through anyway,) the less potent songs are still decent rockers that aren't out of place on this album.

There's a very prevalent classical influence on the album. From the operatic harmonies of Freddie Mercury in the bombastic climax of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' to the erudite piano introduction to 'Death Of Two Legs,' it really sounds like Queen is making a brand of classical music for the new generation of music. That's certainly not the only style shown on the album however. The most personal and moving track '39' delves straight into the realm of skiffle-folk. On another note, the most progressive song on the album, 'The Prophet Song' takes a much heavier approach, and has even been called by some as being the first 'power metal' song ever done (although I tend to disagree personally.)

The best known song here is easily 'Bohemian Rhapsody' which is the climax of the album. I can't say this for many songs I've listened to, but the performance on 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is well near perfect.

With the great load of effort and talent that was put into this album, it's not hard to say that this is a masterpiece. It's not one of my favourite albums, but the world would not be the same without this gem of music. This is one to cherish.

#298

Four Moments
Sebastian Hardie

Sebastian Hardie Four Moments album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Australian symphonic prog is a rarity and it is with gratitude that a fellow Australian is able to immerse himslef in the beauty of “Four Moments” by Sebastian Hardie. It is astounding how achingly beautiful and uplifting this music is. There is some incredible musicianship on this and it is not without its virtuoso moments especially some of the guitar lead work and organ phrases. The band consist of Mario Millo on vocals, guitar, mandoline, Toivo Pilt on keyboards, mellotron, Alex Plavsic on drums, and Peter Plavsic is bassist.

‘Four Moments: 1 Glories Shall Be Released’ begins this exporation of symphonic beauty. The orchestral keyboards are complimented by a melodic guitar and the percussion and bass rhythm prowess. Ater a long intro of melodic powerful keyboards, Mario Millo’s vocals come in; “now you feel the heat of the sun upon your face, and as you reach out you really can embrace everything is real.” 

‘Dawn of Our Sun’ is a gorgeous piece of music with haunting flute sounds on keyboards, and a very effective phased psychedelic guitar picking rhythm, with cymbal splashes that add a sense of majesty to the sound. Vocals by Millo add to the sense of mystery; “time moves on, our sun will be gone, leaving our sky, and night time will come, deep in our minds, memories live on, lost in a haze, soon we will be gone.” The melancholica of the lyrics are augmented by soaring lead guitar and uplifting mellotron.

‘Rosanna’ is a showpiece of exquisite music with violining guitar, and infectious melodic elegance. It is the biggest track for the band and is a popular live favourite. On the last track we have perhaps the best of Sebastian Hardie. ‘Openings’ is a 13 minute mesmirising journey into beautiful soundscapes. Camel influences abound, especially with the Andy Latimer guitar style. The melody is nice, and it is very relaxing music with tranquil synths and orchestration. The organ is excellent especially when it launches into a solo and shimmers with effervescence alongside pipe organ and piano. The feel of the piece is on the same steady time sig but it builds in intensity and is replete with passages of exquisite crystalline keyboards. The dreamy musicality is superb, and the violin style of guitar over the spacey textures of mellotron is exemplary. I love how the heavy riff locks in toward the end and it changes into a different rock style using the same melody but quicker tempo.

This is an excellent album with swathes of mellotron and guitar lead work, a must have for lovers of Camel, Yes, Eloy, The Moody Blues and symphonic prog. 

 

#299

Novalis
Novalis

Novalis Novalis album cover

A review by Finnforest:

Novalis' second and self-titled effort is seen as their best by many and is rated accordingly. While this one is more animated and rocking to be sure symphonic prog bliss to me is as much about mood as anything, and for this reason I tend to prefer their next album "Sommerabend" to this one. The composition on “Sommerabend” blows this away. As great German prog goes I would also prefer the first Rousseau album to this one for the greater variety in sound and use of the flute, whereas this album relies almost exclusively on the keyboard element to wow you.

"Sonnengeflecht" starts poorly in my opinion with some uninteresting and cheesy synth runs but does recover in the middle with some quiet guitar licks and brief piano before they are again squashed by the loud circus-clown synths and a return to the beginning part. The song feels like an introduction to the much more respectable second song but it should have been shortened to just the middle section.

"Wer Schmetterlinge Lachen Hort" is really just an extraordinary symphonic masterpiece with about everything the romantic prog fan could want: sensitive vocals, acoustic guitars, fluid electric leads, delicate female vocals, crisp drum work and of course masterful keys. The mood and pace are generally quite upbeat. This is the kind of track that takes you straight to symphonic heaven. Every itch is scratched, one of Novalis' finest tracks if you forgive the obnoxious gong at the end, which I do. Unfortunately it is the peak of this album and is not sustained throughout.

"Dronsz" is a cool, trippy assortment of experimental synth sounds set against a simple bass and drum beat. "Impressionen" has a long intro with a single cymbal and regimented bass line over synth before opening up into a bit to full grandeur. Mostly keyboards at work here but there are a few spicy guitar runs as well. "Es farbte sich die Wiese grun" is an effective harder symphonic gem with lots of excellent lead guitar runs. The pace is slow-medium with plenty of moody synth background and a few vocals but the rocking leads provide the money shot here. There is a bonus track on the Japanese reissue of "Impressionen" which was recorded live in Hagen in 1975. The sound quality obviously is not perfect but fans of Novalis will likely be thrilled at the chance to hear the group live in 1975.

The Japanese mini reissue is a gorgeous high-quality glossy gatefold of the wonderful cover art. It comes with a nice booklet of photos, bios, lyric sheet, and of course the live bonus track mentioned. The booklet notes that guitarist Carlo Karges passed away in 2001. 1970s Symphonic fans must sample Novalis and I would advise this: If you prefer upbeat and extravagant synth-dominated music start with this one. If you prefer moodier, spacier stuff start with “Sommerabend” but you should probably hear both as they are quite different in my opinion and represent the peak of Novalis.

#300

No Mystery
Return To Forever

Return To Forever No Mystery album cover

A review by Warthur:

Another strong album from the classic Return to Forever lineup, “No Mystery” is enhanced by the growing guitar skills of Al DiMeola, whose shredding on several tracks makes key contributions to guitar technique which would soon be adopted in a variety of genres. The strongest composition on the album is probably the closing ‘Celebration Suite’, but the greater emphasis on songs composed by the whole band opens the door to a greater sonic diversity than heard on the previous album, with funk and the smoother side of jazz both making their presence felt. The album is, by and large, a satisfying work which gives the impression of a band continuing to develop towards its peak.


A review by Sean Trane:

Another one of RTF classic line-up ventures that got a bit lost, this album is rarely seen on sale and certainly not the most representative of their discography. Sporting a psych-disco artwork, No Mystery is probably RTF's funkiest effort, but let that not deter you; it's still a worthy RTF album that you're bound to like if you dug their other works. With an unchanged line-up over WHIMYB, NM features vocals, something which hadn't happened over the previous two albums.

Yes, the funk thing is almost overpowering although you're not yet on Hancock's Headhunter album either, but this is sometimes close. The opening Dayride and later on Jungle Waterfall are full and complex funk stuff (ie. Sofistifunk) where the jazz elements are almost eradicated (White and Clarke are the main songwriters on this side), this being enhanced by Corea's disputable synth sounds. The race towards new technology was something that seemed primordial to all these jazz rock pioneers (Zawinul, Hancock and later McLaughlin with those ugly Synclavier guitar effects), often causing them to overuse and abuse these novelties and their music can seem quite dated nowadays, precisely because of these "novelties". One of the rare tracks that escape the Funkmania is the lengthier and ADM-penned Flight of The Newborn that returns to a more conservative fusion and the collectively penned Heavy Metal movement that features Corea's classical roots.

The flipside (all tracks written by Corea) starts with the title track makes a return to more standard jazz (a hint of LAAF, with Clarke's bowed bass) but again veering a bit more classical to the end. Actually, the whole side takes on a very different feel with plenty of Corea's Spanish-influenced classical musical, reinforced with ADM's guitar, the whole culminating with the first part of Celebration Suite, but the second part is not far behind: full 14-mins dramatic Hispanic histrionics and hysterics a gogo: great stuff worthy of their HOTSG album

Saved by its second side, NM is a very schizophrenic album, with its fusion and funk facets: most likely Afro-Americans will prefer the opening side, while the euro-American will prefer the flipside. In either case, NM is again a very good (if not excellent) album, but I would not recommend it as an introduction to RTF's works.




Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - February 03 2012 at 04:51
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1975 - continued

#301

Recycled
Nektar

Nektar Recycled album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

“Recycled” may be the most progressive album for Nektar, who were one of the most creative musical forces of the 70s. This album is a dynamic followup to the quintessential “Remember the Future” and “A Tab in the Ocean”.  ‘Recycle’ is a progressive catchy melody with many time changes and brilliant musicianship to kick this classic album off. It ends with a narrative talking about sustainable living and recycling, before it was in vogue to do so. ‘Cybernetic Consumption’ blends into ‘Recycle Countdown’ instrumental merging into ‘Automation Horrorscope’ with a strong melody and vocals of Roye Albrighton also excellent on guitars. He is joined by Allan "Taff" Freeman on keyboards, Derek "Mo" Moore on bass, and Ron Howden on drums. The music is a suite similar to the music on previous releases. ‘Recycling’ is part of the suite and then ‘Flight to Reality’ and ‘Unendless Imaginations’ finishes side one of the orignal vinyl. The music is organic flowing perfectly from one section to the next. The guitar work ranges from lead soloing to slide guitar sweeps. There are harmonies in the vocals that lift up the atmospheres; speaking of the planet in turmoil "forcing natures slow decay" and the answer is “recycled energy becomes the only forms of life", but there is “not much time before we go down, down, down, down, down." It rises to a crescendo and a spacey synth and effects ending with a gong splash and a sprinkling of crystal chimes. Larry Fast was a pioneer of Moog synthesizer and his work here is analogue at its best. The English Chorale conducted by Robert Howes is also a strong augmentation to the powerful soundscape.

Side two starts with ‘Sao Paulo Sunrise’ where side one left off with high pitched chimes and an aeroplane drone. At last a song begins as a rhythm strikes up with psych guitar and vocal harmonies. The time sig changes dramatically leading to ‘Costa del Sol’ with rhythmic Latin flavours and some powerful arrangements of keys and sparkling effects taking the music into ‘Marvellous Moses’. The melody is infectious and Albrighton’s guitar soars wth fast lead work. The vocals are always a drawcard of the sound; “I’ve never met a man like Moses with so much time”. The rhythm is a straight 4/4 for a time with pop nuances but it soon changes into an odd meter, with grandiose Moog synth chords and an instrumental break dominated by keys. The synth swooshes lend a spacey texture and a new sig locks in. ‘It's All Over’ ends the album on a high note as it is certainly one of the highlights. The track is heard many times in a live performance. It begins with a beautiful 12 string acoustic, and then balladeering vocals begin; with phrases such as “your world is so upside down, take the high road and you’ll take the low road, I’m torn apart from your many changes, it’s all over now.” The keys are layered and follow the simple melody with well executed bassline and percussion. It ends with dramatic piano and guitar picking; a melancholy atmosphere.

Overall Nektar’s “Recycled” is yet another blockbuster album for the band. It has a timely concept and a message to grasp I one wants to; Part One critiques the power of destruction at the hand of greedy man as he destroys the environment that he is meant to cherish and protect; Part Two tells of a better future, a sustainable lifestyle and it is an optimistic line of thinking as though it were already happening, which it isn’t. Therefore the album conceptually may be a warning to protect the planet before there is no planet to protect. It meant a lot to Nektar, and the 70s generation, and it is perhaps a message that resonates more these days with the issues of global warning and campaigns to keep the planet green. It was to be the last definitive prog album for Nektar before they became distanced from the adventurous music only to embrace a more commercial sound.


 

#302 

Time Honoured Ghosts
Barclay James Harvest

Barclay James  Harvest Time Honoured Ghosts album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

This is a very typical Barclay James Harvest album, perhaps even the most typical one. It has all the band's trademarks and no real surprises. As often, there is a song about Jesus (Sweet Jesus), there is a song about prostitutes (One Night), as well as a song that builds on another band's work (Titles - this one builds on the work of The Beatles as Poor Man's Moody Blues would later build on the work of The Moody Blues. The entire lyrical content of this song is made up by Beatles' song titles). Not very inspiring at all in my opinion!

If there is anything at all to put this album apart from the others in the vast discography of this band it has to be that this one is even more laid-back than the rest! The two albums that surrounded it (Everyone Is Everybody Else and Octoberon), for example, are both distinctively better.

As always, the best and most progressive song is written by Woolly Wolstenholme. This time it is Beyond The Grave which is a very typical Wolstenholme composition but also one of his better ones. But hardly something to blow the Prog fan away. In My Life, Jonathan, Song For You, Hymn For The Children and Moongirl are all decent songs, but certainly nothing remarkable. The aforementioned trio of Sweet Jesus, Titles and One Night are quite uninspired, lacking in inspiration both lyrically and musically.

The word 'typical' is a very good description of this album. However, being typical is not necessarily a bad thing if you like this band.

 

#303

Nadir's Big Chance
Peter Hammill

Peter Hammill Nadirs Big Chance album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Peter Hammill's 'Nadir's Big Chance' is a blitzkrieg attack from end to end on love, loss and alienation.

The music is compelling and it is lyrically poetic with a tour de force performance from Hammill. It is one of Hammill's heaviest trips and delivers on every level. 'Nadir' begins with the raucous title track with such moving lyrics as "if the guitars don't get you the drums will..." Hammill screams the lyrics, similar to 'Arrow' on “Godbluff”. It is a Sex Pistols meets Van der Graaf Generator excursion into high strangeness. There is a blistering keyboard solo that goes off the scale before we get those drums at the end that segue into 'The Institute of Mental Health, Burning'.

Hammill is more laid back on this with his patented crooning vocals about an Institute that's “burning... burning... burning... burning”. It feels tongue in cheek except Hammill is so full of conviction in his delivery, as he is on all his performances. 'Open Your Eyes' features scintillating sax and some stabs of organ that work well together. There is a sense of ominous tension throughout. The instrumental section features shimmering organ and the staccato sax stabs are relentless, similar to early VDGG.

Another highlight worth mentioning is 'Shingle'. The quiet minimalist acoustic approach work well to create tension and melancholia. The suicide friendly lyrics are more existential than others on the album. "All the elements rage to explain that I should really be on my way, there is something that ensures that I must stay..." Hammill says he can't get you out of my mind and we believe him. The sax chimes in creating a brooding sorrowful sombre tone. The melody is subtle but effective and it is quite a low note that Hammill reaches. The instrumental features an odd time sig guitar with haunting sax echoing over. The ambience is uncanny and it is chilling to hear Hammill sing "I raise my eyes but my head stays bowed" as he seems deep in regret, the sense of alienation and loss is strong.

Another highlight is 'Airport' with Hammill in painful suicidal contemplation, "I stand on the tallest building and stare down at the grey runway... and the tail smoke of the Boeing jet that's taken you so far away". He farewells his love as she flies off and cries out that she may return. Emotional and poignant, but never indignant, Hammill manages to masterfully capture the simple feeling of losing a loved one. The sax once again is well executed, but Hammill's guitar crunches to provide a heavier atmosphere. The time sig changes midway through reminding one of the great VDGG days. He stands on the observation tower crying watching the plane soar up in to the grey sky; "All I can now do is walk away alone without you."

Worthy of note is also 'Birthday Special', another loud menacing track with Hammill's searing conviction. Great bass lines in this track and a crunching guitar with chomps of sax and drums, subtle it aint!; "I've got something to say and it aint the usual sorta sob story that you hear every day". The scratchy vocals return on this and it has a strong rhythm, rocking along easily with some strange chord changes. "Birthday Girl! There's ice in the cauldron, look out now!" Complete with "Parrots in the pantry and Lizards in the loo" this is something special "like Hansel and Gretel never had". Strange song, strange lyrics and strange music merge together to create a freak out boisterous track that will scare the neighbours.

No wonder Johnny Rotten endorsed this album as an inspiration. Overall this is one Hammill album that stands out among the rest. Recommended to all VDGG and Hammill addicts

 

#304

Power And The Passion
Eloy

Eloy Power And The Passion album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

I guess you could call this a transitional album as they start to get away from the harder edge that was on "Inside" and "Floating" to a more spacey soundscape that would define them, beginning with the next album "Dawn". This would be their first concept album as well, a story about a guy named Jamie who time travells back in time (fortunately he brought his bag of weed) and meets a girl (gets her high), gets thrown in jail, meets a wizard, then comes back home (for more weed). Each song is about a different adventure he experiences.

"Introduction" opens with what sounds like church organ and heavy drums as vocal melodies come in. "Journey Into 1358" opens with reserved vocals and floating organ. Guitar and piano come in gently. It picks up a minute in as lots of organ and drums are featured in this uptempo section. "Love Over Six Centuries" is lyrically where Jamie meets Jeanne and gets her stoned. The music features male and female vocals going back and forth as they converse. This is laid back although it kicks in before 3 minutes with some great organ. Love the guitar after 8 minutes too.

"Mutiny" features fragile vocals, piano and background synths early. It's building though after a minute. Organ and drums come in. The guitar 2 1/2 minutes only adds to the fantastic sound here. Nice synth work 4 minutes in. The organ, vocals and guitar are all outstanding 5 minutes in to the end. "Imprisonment" opens with the samples of a prison door opening and closing. Spoken words follow. Synths before 1 1/2 minutes then acoustic guitar.

"Daylight" is a catchy tune. I like the guitar. Nice organ before 2 minutes. "Thoughts Of Home" is a short one minute track with reserved vocals. It's like an intro to "The Zany Magician" which kicks into gear right away with riffs as vocals yell and laugh in the background. "Back Into The Present" has a spacey intro before drums come pounding in. This is uptempo with vocals and some good guitar.

"The Bells Of Notre Dame" features floating organ sounds early. Vocals before 2 minutes.Guitar after 4 minutes plays lazily but then starts to soar beautifully. Still worth 4 stars in my opinion, but not as good as the two before it and the ones to follow.


A review by Warthur:

A heavy, bass-driven sympho-space rock treat, The Power and the Passion is Eloy's first concept album and tells the tale of a mad scientist's son who is projected back in time to the medieval era and falls in love there. Aside from the occasional misstep like The Zany Magician, this is a solid album with Luitjen Janssen's amazing bass lines powering the compositions much as Lemmy's bass did with Hawkwind. The weak point in the chain is Frank Bornemann's sloppy vocals, but aside from that this is a mid-70s space rock treat which did a bang-up job of establishing Eloy as Germany's answer to Hawkwind. 

#305

Emile Jacotey
Ange

Ange Emile Jacotey album cover

A review by Warthur:

Opening with ‘Bêle, Bêle petite chèvre’, a harder and more aggressive track than anything on “Au-dela du Delire” (if you don't count the sinister little marimba and vibraphone breaks), “Emile Jacotey” sees Ange in a typically passionate mood. That said, whilst the anger conveyed in the title track seems genuine (to my non-French speaking ears), the overwrought vocal delivery in the next two songs seems occasionally forced and self-conscious - always a risk when artists opt for a theatrical vocal style, but it's particularly distracting this time around, possibly because the musical backing is a bit simpler and less interesting than that in the album's predecessors.

Things pick up with ‘Jour Apres Jour’, which has more subdued vocals over a warm synth-laden track which reminded me, bizarrely, of Air's more gentle moments. In fact, the synthwork in ‘Ode a Emile’ also reminded me of Air; perhaps if I listened to more French music I could trace the family tree of influences that led from 70s symphonic French prog to 90s/2000s electronica, just as you can sort of trace a path that leads from Gong's spaced-out Canterbury to today's trance music.

The four-part epic kicked off by ‘Ego et Deus’ is, to be frank, nothing to write home about. It seems as though Ange are just going through the motions on the proggier parts of the album, whilst the more chanson-influenced tracks are where their heart really is; it's a shame they couldn't find a way to make the approaches work together in harmony this time around.


A review by Sean Trane:

After my fave Cimetière and the much-acclaimed Délire, Ange went forward another step and fell into the Over-Ambitious ravine and took a dive in the sea of Failed Concepts. Based on an old booger sprawling his souvenirs over the album, the storyline simply fails to raise one hair of interest in my voluminous mop over my head. The main character keeps appearing unannounced throughout the album and usually interrupting the flow of music. Not that the music is that great compared to previous albums anyway, but EJ also features Délire's main flaw: ever-present vocals, although they're not quite as invasive. Actually it's hard to believe it is Christian Descamps that's singing (well almost anyway), because the singing is more subdued and recorded quite differently, mixed lower and the shorter tracks (or at least the absence of longer ones) make this album very different from Délire.

Despite a weak concept and a different manner to deliver them, Christian's lyrics remain strong enough to warrant a careful listen for odd jokes, joyous banter and ribaldry. Throughout the album there isn't much space given for instrumental forays, if you'll except the album-long Les Noces, where the band plays around first a furious keyboard theme then a marital jig that tends to overstay its welcome despite mellotrons washes. The track I like best on this album is the proggiest (imho) Ego Et Deus, but I find that even this track would have a herd time finding a spot on Délire or Cimetière. Aurelia also has its charms as well. t's not that this album is that weak, but it pales in comparison with what came before and some of what would come after it (Mandrins and Guet Apens). 

#306

Landed 
Can

Can Landed  album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

For me this was a big improvment over the prevoius album "Soon Over Babaluma". And I highly recommend CAN fans get this one if they don't already own it, if only to hear the amazing "Vernal Equinox". "Full Moon On The Highway" really has a 60's vibe in my opinion. The guitar is abrasive and that beat is relentless. "Half Past One" is slower paced with almost spoken vocals. Organ a minute in. The krautrock spirit is alive and well in this one. Some intricate guitar as well.

"Hunters And Collectors" is probably the most controvrsial tune on here, but also the one that will stick in your head for days. It's interesting to say the least. Vocals are the focus, and for the first time I don't regret Damo is gone. "Vernal Equinox" is one of CAN's best songs ever. It's aggressive as drums and guitar dominate. Scorching guitar 1 1/2 minutes in. We get a spacey vibe though 3 1/2 minutes in. Guitar is back after 5 minutes ripping it up.

"Red Hot Indians" begins with percussion as sax then vocals join in. More sax 3 1/2 minutes in. Percussion and guitar lead the rest of the way. "Unfinished" has a post-rock flavour to it. Lots of experimental sounds before it settles down 2 minutes in. It gets spacey and louder 5 1/2 minutes in. Guitar and piano rise out of the spacey atmosphere briefly 11 minutes in. This is a trip! CAN's last great album in my opinion and a well deserved 4 stars.


A review by Sean Trane:

As the preceding ones were all on Spoon record, this one boasts a major change as well as being released on Virgin: the sound. This probably explains that as Virgin insisted on better sound engineering and what a difference it makes. Much clearer and more dynamic, the music gained everything from it. Too bad most fans tend to disregard this - solely because of the label change because the music and the studios are the same. THIS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED AS ANOTHER CLASSIC AND A SECOND PEAK AFTER TAGO AND EGE. However the following albums will not be quite this good and the sound will be more commercial (I don't know if the sales will be, though) and Holger Czukay will gradually be less involved with the band but will still produce the albums. 

#307 - live

Live/Hhaï (Köhntark)
Magma

Magma Live/Hhaï (Köhntark) album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Jazz Fusion, Zeuhl, Psych Prog and ambient darkness - how else do you describe this?

I was stunned at how chilling this music is - a cross between celtic chanting druids and gregorian monks in a dark cathedral mixed with jazz rhythms. Actually that does not describe it at all. It is simply indescribable music and definitely not for all tastes, including mine. I found it hard to grasp and a little disturbing on first listen. Then it kind of grows on you like fungus. You tend to blend in with the music and surrealistic approach like osmosis but it is never pleasant as far as I am concerned. It is just too bizarre to comprehend.

Each track is unique and impossible to remember. None of the tracks are designed as real songs. ‘Kohntark’ is the magnum opus like epic, so large it is in two parts. The ominous menace of the music is immediately apparent and ferociously original. The unfriendly atmosphere is captured in this live document, not unlike attending a funeral at times. It lurches forward and an unsettling cadence sets in with repetitive chanting and off kilter, out of sync guitar. At times the music is really like having your head drilled with nails and it goes on and on relentlessly.

The drums lock in after about 8 minutes and it breaks in to a kind of African metrical pattern. The female choral vocals are loud and dominant by Stella Vander, as nutty as anything from Gong. There is a violin by Lockwood that is unbearable at times as it screams across the soundscape Magma create, especially 13 minutes in. It has the capacity to chill the marrow of your bones. The vocalisation is entirely fictionalised garb from an alien world, comparable to albums with the same trademark vocal style such as 'MDK'. The minor chords are heavily utilised in order to disturb the ear with admirable effect.

‘Hhai’ is another highlight that has an excellent hypnotic effect, almost mesmirising and you hardly notice the 9 minutes have passed before the next track begins. ‘Kobah’ is definitely my favourite track on the album as it features beautiful psychedelic chanting and is a reasonable length that does not meander for decades but tells its ambiguous story and gets out. ‘Lihns’ is very strange again with a heavy melody but not a highlight by any means. ‘Mekanik Zain’ features a rather quirky 7/8 rhythm. The ethereal bass and violin are masterfully executed. In fact the entire album is bass heavy.

In conclusion, my first taste of Magma has been rather an intriguing, if difficult to digest journey, albeit a darker journey than I expected. I feel that the overall approach to the music is akin to listening to bands such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sunn O))) or Sigur Ros, in the sense that it takes a few listens to really appreciate the music, and even after many listens you are still unsure of how much you like the band or if indeed you like them at all. I feel that Magma are great in small doses but can be rather draining in large doses. I understand the cult following for such a band, and I admittedly appreciate the originality and influence and importance of Magma.

 

#308 – live

On Your Feet Or On Your Knees

Blue Oyster Cult

 On Your Feet Or On Your Knees by BLUE OYSTER CULT album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

"I'd like to thank my friends here who gave me this little whip, It's really lovely, I'll keep it and cherish it forever..."

"On Your Feet Or On Your Knees" is another of the all time greatest live albums that were churned out in the mid-70s. "Kiss Alive!", "Frampton Comes Alive" and UFO's "Strangers In The Night" were all powerhouse albums showing an awesome live sound, and presenting the respective songs as far superior to the studio releases with lead guitar brilliance from respectively Ace Frehley, Peter Frampton and Michael Schenker. BOC have a much more raw sound and the extended lead guitar solos are stunning; Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser is really given a chance to ignite the atmosphere with electrical charges of guitar energy, surely he is his element on the live stage where he can be allowed to run riot on his Gibson SG lead guitar. Eric Bloom is wonderful on lead vocals, stun guitar, and synthesizer, Allen Lanier keep things cranking on keyboards, and the rhythm section of the Bouchard brothers on bass and drums gives it the drive and power it needs. The band are simply dynamic throughout the concert, and the added sections of lead guitar licks and extended codas, as well as Bloom's banter and the roar of the crowds make this an irresistible slice of proto prog, early metal history.

'The Subhuman' is a great rocking opener to set things in motion. The band sound fresh and enthusiastic, hammering out the classic from "Secret Treaties". This is followed up swiftly with 'Harvester Of Eyes' where the guitars are heavy slabs of lead generating a brilliant sound, with Bloom screaming like a banshee "right in front, to the back of your skull." This is akin to Sabbath or Purple at their best.

'Hot Rails To Hell' from "Tyranny and Mutation" is next with a spine crushing solo, and played at a blistering pace. Next is 'The Red And The Black' that had to be here, and the riffs are furious with scorching lead breaks from Dharma. The astonishing musicianship sets the bar very high but it prepares us for the blockbuster to follow.

'Seven Screaming Diz-Busters' is an 8:49 tour de force of blitzkrieg lead guitar and crunching riffs. Eric Bloom intros it by saying he likes his whip and he will cherish it forever, presumably thrown to him from someone in the crowd. This live version was my first taste of BOC 28 years ago when I heard it on the metal show. This is the version I will always cherish, too awesome for words, with the greatest riffs that lock into your skull, and then there is the towering lead solo. Dharma's guitar screams in pain and the solo is full of fret melting ferocity with vicious string bends. The interlude is Bloom telling the crowd all about how the band apparently were visited by a mysterious man who promised them they would be famous and rock legends as long as they signed a secret deal, in blood! Apparently they did and now the mystery man wants to reclaim the payment, and he is coming back for them. This is as sinister as the band gets as far as atmosphere, and it features some frenetic lead work from Dharma, and shimmering organ phrases from Lanier. The drums are attacked by Albert throughout and the bass is pulsating continually by Joe, the Bouchard brothers. The best BOC for me personally without a doubt as I love the extended lead soloing and overall atmospherics.

'Buck's Boogie' is an amazing instrumental guitar workout, and the Hammond drives it home beautifully. The lead guitar break is blues and rock revved to the max and this is a fast paced jam session to unleash what the band do best. The classic '(Then Came The) Last Days Of May' which is very popular has a nice blues melody and some beautiful lead guitar passages. 'Cities On Flame' is the live staple heard many times, a riff heavy gem from the early album, and is played with passion here. The power riffs are a delight and Bloom really belts this out with a lot of volume.

'Me 262' is an 8 minute riffer that is even better than the version on "Secret Treaties"; it really rocks hard. It is followed by 'Before The Kiss (A Redcap)' that is a nice moderate track before they unleash a blues deluge of guitar energy on the 9 minute 'Maserati GT (I Ain't Got You)'. This features Dharma on extended lead solo and it is absolutely delightful to hear him break out into huge guitar improvisations as the band lock into a bluesy groove, similar to Ten Years After's Alvin Lee in some respects.

The band are reintroduced for an encore and they launch into 'Born To Be Wild', the Steppenwolf classic. This is way better and heavier than the original and it is great to hear BOC play a cover. Of course the song has grinding organ like the original, but I love Bloom's heavy vocal treatment. There is freakout of organ and guitar in the extended solo. Dharma has a killer time of it blazing out awesome chord progressions and searing variations on the riffs. They turn a relatively simple rocker into a complex sonic guitar workout.

In my opinion, having heard 5 studio albums, and some others live, this is as good as it gets for BOC. It is a live triumph capturing the early 70s vibe, and some of the best lead guitar you are likely to hear. Every song is a tour de force that slaughters the originals for sheer unadulterated in your face rock. This is the way to experience BOC, and it is proto metal as well as having moments of invigorating prog musicianship. It comes highly recommended as a 70s live treasure; a veritable masterpiece for Blue Oyster Cult.



#309 – live

USA
King Crimson

King Crimson USA album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

“USA” is an archive live document of the early King Crimson live set and as such has become quite legendary. Far superior to the quality of “Earthbound”, the only other live document of the Crims, it still lacks the quality of subsequent releases. The first time I heard most of this was on the box set compilation “21st Century Guide: Volume One (1969-1974)” and I liked what I heard so sought this out. The lineup is one of the best for the ever changing band; Bill Bruford on percussion, David Cross on violin, keyboards, Robert Fripp on guitar, mellotron, John Wetton on bass, vocals and Eddie Jobson plays violin on ‘Larks' Tongues in Aspic’.

There are a huge plethora of live albums thanks to the band releasing a back log of live CDs. However “USA” is certainly chock full of great classics beginning with ‘Larks' Tongues in Aspic part II’ which has become as mandatory as a certain song that ends this album. ‘Lament’ follows as a transition to the next classic, ‘Exiles’. ‘Asbury Park’ is a rather pedestrian version, not too different than others I have heard. ‘Easy money’ is always welcome and we end with a staggering manic version of quintessential Crimson with ‘21st century schizoid man’. The version is as good as I have heard at 7:32 in length.

Overall this live album is a taster of the great live sound. There is precious little improvisation which is a key feature of the band in the live arena. The extra tracks for Cd are lengthy, ‘Fracture’ and ‘Starless’, and certainly worth a listen. Overall I recommend this album but there are greater live albums such as “The Great Deceiver” and the incredible “Epitath volumes 1 to 4”.


A review by Sean Trane:

3.5 stars really!!!! but with the added bonus tracks, upped to 4... Undefined State of Amnesia

For over twenty years, this was the only live testimony of the second KC era (and it was a posthumous release), and although much better than Earthbound, the sound was hardly great on this album too. Finally for the 30th anniversary (and along with the Japanese mini-Lp), this album got its first official Cd release (some 25 years after its release) and I could not resist because it is the only Crimson album to have received bonus tracks and this alone made a solid better value.

Although there was a nowhere-else available track, the Asbury Park improv, I had not kept the vinyl since I was not pleased with the muddy sound. Then came out The Nightwatch double-set, which had a very good sound and I had almost forgotten this album, when I had a great opportunity and did not hesitate much since it was re-mastered. However, even remastered (and well improved over the vinyl), the sound is still not excellent (there is only so much you can do to average recordings), but at least, I got them three bonus tracks.

Knowing that the sound is still not up to par with The Nightwatch, this is really a toss-up as to which you should own first, but this one has Asbury Park, Starless (with Cross on violin) but the other has the eponymous, Talking Drum and three other improvs. Since I could not make-out a clear winner I now have both. This one has got Starless as a finale now and this is certainly a great asset.

With this remastered edition, this album has now gained a full place next to their historical studio albums and it now proudly sits next to Red and before The Nightwatch.

 

A review by Warthur:

Purists might sniff at the overdubs provided by Eddie Jobson - who was never even in any of the King Crimson lineups of the 1970s - to some tracks on this live album, but it's still an exciting document of the Larks'-to-Red-era version of the band. More or less all the tracks come from Larks' Tongues In Aspic or Starless and Bible Black, with an early version of Starless at the end if you have the expanded remaster. Of the major live releases of this iteration of the band, it obviously isn't as expansive as The Great Deceiver; nor does the show here seem to be quite as energetic or interesting as the one captured on The Night Watch, which features more improvisations than this one and has a more frenzied rendition of 21st Century Schizoid Man (this time around the band just do a fairly close cover of the original rather than zooming off on their own unique tangent as in Night Watch).

Still, if you already have those two and like them, it comes heartily recommended - there's a teensy bit of overlap between this set and the shows collected on The Great Deceiver, but not so much as to render the album irrelevant. And when it came out in the mid-1970s it must have been a godsend for Crimson fans to finally have a decent-quality live album as opposed to the miserable Earthbound.



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - August 20 2012 at 02:22
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1976

#310

Moonmadness
Camel

Camel Moonmadness album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Camel explore very unique territory with each release. This is their fourth album and definitely one of their best featuring some of their most eclectic symphonic prog tracks such as ‘Song Within a Song’ and ‘Lunar Sea’. The album features in the top 40 best prog albums in the Mojo magazine prog special.

Each track is beautifully, masterfully executed with incredible musical virtuoso playing from each member. Latimer's guitars are perfectly balanced by Ward's drumming and the keyboard talents of Barden's. The keyboardist also trys his vocal talents on ‘Spirit of The Water’ which is phased out psychedelic beauty. The instrumental sections of each track are the highlights, not taking anything away from the vocal talents of the band who all take turns on this release.

‘Song Within a Song’ is what it purports to be, a song hidden within another song and it does feature many metrical time changes as is akin to the music of Camel. ‘Air Born’ is a beautiful sonata style piece that virtually ebbs and flows on the air. This is a similar style to “The Snow Goose”, the previous album that was purely instrumental.

The best track on the album is ‘Lunar Sea’, a 9 minute extravaganza, that works as a multi movement suite, in the great classical tradition, but this is symphonic rock. It has become a staple of the Camel live concert and features as a bonus live track, equally as well executed. In fact the bonus features on the Decca remastered CD are a definite drawcard. There are 5 in total - the single version of ‘Another Night’, a demo of ‘Spirit Of The Water’, and live 1976 versions of ‘Song Within A Song’, ‘Lunar Sea’ and ‘Preparation / Dunkirk’. The bonus material clocks in at over 30 minutes! This caps off a great CD release. The best of Camel is right here, make no mistake.


A review by Finnforest:

Camel's finest hour?

Personally, Camel's first album is my favorite of their classic period which I consider the first four releases with bassist Doug Ferguson. The debut album has so much enthusiasm and fun jamming. But I have to admit that "Moonmadness" is probably their masterpiece, the most well-rounded, full-sounding, and consistent album of those years. They entered the studio in January 1976 and the album was on the street just two months later which is a testament to how efficient they must have been at that moment. Moonmadness seems the most mature of these albums and corrects the shortcomings of the fan favorite "Snow Goose" by eliminating the more docile spaces between the great moments in an album that was already low-key enough. Liner notes indicate that new producer Rhett Davies sought to give Camel a more spacious sound on this album and it's a difference you can really notice when you listen. Lush, melodic, and with improved writing, Camel's fourth turned out to be an album that would live up to the fantastic cover art and grand intentions.

The stage is set instantly with properly noble introduction titled "Aristillus" which likely gave fans in 1976 plenty to be excited about as they began to explore the lunar concepts. But it is on "Song Within a Song" that you realize this is going to be special. Few bands do the pastoral this fine: lush keyboards, beautiful flutes, restrained guitar and drums, mellow vocals. This is one of those very difficult albums for me to describe because the adjectives just begin to repeat. Beautiful, gorgeous, et al.

"Chord Change" sees an uptick in the energy level with Latimer and Ferguson playing off each other very nicely. It chills out a bit as Latimer lets flow one of his most fantastic solos ever with Bardens using restrained organ behind him. After Bardens takes his own solo the pace picks back up until the end. A brief respite with the great piano and rippling voice on "Spirit of the Water." The roll they were on just kept rolling with "Another Night" which was chosen as the single being an upbeat rocker with suitable vocals.

"Air Born" may be the single most beautiful melancholic prog track ever written with the flute and synth perfectly setting up Latimer who executes both acoustically and electrically. The vocals here are sufficiently dreamy to fit well with the mood. The closer is the instrumental "Lunar Sea" that puts this album over the top. The soaring atmospheres created by Bardens and Latimer absolutely bath the listener in the smooth rocking lunar vibe that the album is selling, wide-open, propulsive by Camel standards, and fun! The hero on this piece is Andy Ward who's understated but tight percussion holds everything in perfect orbit.

How fitting that this review is being posted tonight, about an hour before I will be stepping outside to view a full lunar eclipse on a clear, freezing cold night. No, I didn't plan that, this album just happened to be on the top of the pile tonight. An essential title for a wide range of progressive rock fans who adore melody and accessibility. There is nothing abrasive here, this is plain and simple musical comfort food.

 

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

Another night

By many considered the band's best album, Moonmadness is indeed a fantastic album. It is, however, not my personal Camel favourite - that award has to go to Mirage. Compared to that album, the present one has less energy and it mostly lacks the harder edge and intensity of Mirage; Moonmadness is a little bit slower in tempo and mellower in its mood. But there is no doubt that Latimer and Bardens came up with some fantastic songs for this album some of which are classics of the genre. Spirit Of The Water is a truly beautiful and moving song.

The keyboards, guitars, drums and bass are simply great and the occasional flutes add to the overal sound. There is not a weak moment on this album, but it doesn't blow me away quite like how Mirage does. But Moonmadness is a near-masterpiece, for sure.

A classic and an excellent addition to any Prog collection

 

A review by Warthur:

The final album of the original Camel lineup sees vocals making a return, but the band's newly acquired expertise in playing mellow, melodic, calming prog is still in effect, creating an intriguing blend between the song-based approach of Mirage and the tranquil nature of The Snow Goose. Standout songs include the dramatic Another Night and the majestic Song Within a Song. All the band members take a turn providing vocals (though in Andy Ward's case this involves making nonsense noises for the background of the opening track), but the album is particularly notable for the development of Andy Latimer's singing style. At points, his vocals kind of remind me of Richard Sinclair, making the imminent entry of Sinclair into the Camel lineup make a strange sort of sense.

#311

A Trick Of The Tail
Genesis

Genesis A Trick Of The Tail album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

The genie had escaped from the bottle and Genesis were free again.

Perhaps the overly creative Peter Gabriel was actually stifling the creativity of Genesis by overpowering them with his own creative juices. After Peter Gabriel left, many feel that the magic was extracted from the band, in a sense the cork had been popped and the genie had escaped from the bottle. Gabriel went on to do other great things and left the band dangling by a thread with the reluctant Phil Collins to take up where Gabriel left off. "We came close to calling it a day when Pete left," Rutherford mentioned in an interview, "It wasn't that we lost our nerve. We were always confident we could write the music, because Tony and I had done most of 'The Lamb.' It was just a question of whether the public would accept us." There was a lot of misconception that the band could not continue sans Gabriel. After the enormously popular "The Lamb Lies Down In Broadway" the band had to come up with something extraordinary as there was such an expectation with this new lineup. Could Genesis pull it off without the enigmatic Gabriel? The answer is a bonafide yes. This is perhaps one of the best Post Gabriel Genesis albums of all time. The musicianship is absolutely brilliant when you have the likes of Hackett, guitar extraordinaire with, Banks, masterful on keyboards and mellotron, Rutherford, bass rhythm professional, and of course, percussionist Collins on lead vocals.

It begins with the progalicious off kilter rhythms of ‘Dance on a Volcano’ with Banks, Rutherford, Hackett and Collins in full flight, a force to be reckoned with. The intricate time signatures are astonishing, a mixture of jazz fusion and complex melodies. The drums are off beat, not quite in time with the signature, but the odd metrical pattern is consistently off the beat and it works so well. The lyrics are quite amusing nonsense, and the time sig is chaotic in a passage of proggy delight, "On your left and on your right, Crosses are green and crosses are blue, Your friends didn't make it through. Out of the night and out of the dark, Into the fire and into the fight, Well that's the way the heroes go, Ho! Ho! Ho!" There is a chilling self prophecy towards the end with the estranged vocals "Let the dance begin", and we all know the "We Can't Dance" album and how that shaped their music for the worst, becoming commercial and radio friendly. In any case this opening track is brilliant Genesis and a killer to present the new lineup. Hackett's guitar riffs are infectious and unforgettable on this track. This is the best track on the album, a tour de force of proggy rhythms and virtuoso musicianship.

‘Entangled’ has an excellent Hackett 12 string intro and the soft vocals of Collins accompanying. The track is essentially a folk ballad, the type that would grace every Genesis album from here on with Collins at the helm. The lyrics are all about a patient who dreams disturbing things, there is no slipperman or fox here, just a simple melodic balladic form, "Madrigal music is playing, Voices can faintly be heard, "Please leave this patient undisturbed." Sentenced to drift far away now, Nothing is quite what it seems, Sometimes entangled in your own dreams." . The harmonies are quite nice, and even pastoral at times, especially some of those swells on the keyboards that add an ethereal quality. The end synth break is a highlight, showcasing Banks inimitable flair.

‘Squonk’ has a solid steady rhythm with very familiar lyrical style, the nursery rhyme or is that cryme style, "All the King's horses and all the King's men, Could never put a smile on that face." The lyrics are very fairy tale in style, "He's a sly one, he's a shy one, Wouldn't you be too. Scared to be left all on his own. Hasn't a, hasn't a friend to play with, the Ugly Duckling, The pressure on, the bubble will burst before our eyes." The story is all about the furry little squonk and it makes references to all sort of chidren's literature such as 'Snow White'; "Mirror mirror on the wall, His heart was broken long before he ever came to you..." So Genesis were still maintaining the thematic content of past albums that was centred on fairy tales and nonsense rhymes which is nice to see. The lyrics that refers to the 'Trick of the tail' is here too, "Now listen here, listen to me, don't you run away now, I am a friend, I'd really like to play with you. Making noises my little furry friend would make, I'll trick him, then I'll kick him into my sack. You better watch out... You better watch out." A great song that is quite popular among Genesis freaks.

‘Mad Man Moon’ begins with a dreamy flute sound and very soft piano. Collins gently sings in a melancholy way while the mellotron plays underneath, "Was it summer when the river ran dry, Or was it just another dam. When the evil of a snowflake in June, Could still be a source of relief. O how I love you, I once cried long ago, But I was the one who decided to go. To search beyond the final crest, Though I'd heard it said just birds could dwell so high."This is a very pastoral song which changes feel at 2:45 with a piano interlude, played to perfection by Banks. This is a quiet sleeper track.

‘Robbery, Assault and Battery’ has some of the more character driven lyrics we have become used to from Gabriel, but this time Collins plays the very English characters, "Slipping between them he ought to have seen then, The eyes and their owner so near. With torch shining bright he strode on in the night, Till he came to the room with the safe." Collins uses a tough cockney accent on the next sections, "Hello son, I hope you're having fun." "You've got it wrong Sir, I'm only the cleaner." With that he fired, the other saying as he died, "You've done me wrong," it's the same old song forever." The chorus is memorable, melodic and easy to sing along to in a live performance,"Robbery, assault and battery, The felon and his felony..." There are some compelling time sig changes and Banks is allowed to shine with his scintillating keyboard lead breaks. The section at 3:20 is great sounding like the type of style on "Foxtrot". The cathedral grinding pipe organ sound at 4:30 is majestic and powerful.

The last three tracks are featured many times in live performances as a trilogy and indeed on compilations. I had heard them many times but on this album they made a perfect ending to the album. ‘Ripples’ begins immediately with trademark 12 string Hackett brilliance. The melody is very strong and memorable, one of the best of Collins quieter moments with the band. There is an uplifting chorus that soars, "Sail away, away, Ripples never come back. They've gone to the other side. Look into the pool, Ripples never come back, Dive to the bottom and go to the top, To see where they have gone. Oh, they've gone to the other side..." I like the instrumental break with violin style guitar and very well executed piano flourishes and an extended passage of synth. A fan favourite and performed live it is a gem.

‘A Trick of the Tail’ is a bit of a transition between two treasures. The lyrics are a real feature telling the bizarre tale of a beast. "And wept as they led him away to a cage, Beast that can talk, read the sign. The creatures they pushed and they prodded his frame, And questioned his story again. But soon they grew bored of their prey, Beast that can talk? More like a freak or publicity stunt..." The melody is whimsical matching the Beowulf style lyrics. I always liked this as it is so different than anything else on the album, and a lot of fun, not taking itself seriously. I can understand why many feel this to be a low point on the album but it resonates with me, especially the infectious chorus, "They've got no horns and they've got no tail, They don't even know of our existence. Am I wrong to believe in a city of gold, That lies in the deep distance, he cried and wept." The quest for the beast is humorous but it is intriguing, and streets ahead of any of those love ballads that were soon to permeate the Genesis catalogue in the dreadful 80s.

‘Los Endos’ is a true classic that has ended many Genesis concerts, full of incredible instrumentation and shades of light and dark textures. The drums, the tom toms are frenetic and driving, the guitar is riffing eloquent, and the bass is a key rhythm powerhouse. It settles into the familiar 6 chord keyboard pads that all Genesis fans know. Banks is absolutely stunning on this instrumental. At 4 minutes in there is a choral section and gradually building keyboard motif, until there is a type of reprise of album tracks, you can determine the various melodies. Collins even subliminally has a few lines of singing, "There's an angel standing in the sun, Free to get back home." . Then it fades into the distance. This was the perfect way to end an excellent album, with the band demonstrating their uncompromising musical genius.

Overall, "A Trick of the Tail" is a wonderful beginning to the new lineup sans Gabriel, proving the band can do incredible things even without their frontman, flutist. The songs will grow on you after a while and some have become part of Genesis folklore now, especially the last three tracks and the opening track. This progressive excellence was not to last unfortunately. There were three more solid albums with prog elements until 1981 when the band sold out to mainstream commercial radio snapping their prog apron strings once and for all and effectively destroying the trademark sound to become marketable to a mainstream target audience; adoring females. The music on this album is well accomplished and many guitarists love to emulate the work of Hackett on this and keyboardists can revel in the talents of Banks. This is a very pleasurable album with much to recommend it; one of the best from 1976. 

#312

Still Life
Van Der Graaf Generator

Van Der Graaf Generator Still Life album cover

A review by  AtomicCrimsonRush:

This album is truly a wonderful foray into the dark netherwold of Van der Graaf Generator. Ear splitting vocals and ambient keyboards are the order of the day and Hammill is a master of the insightful existential lyric. This is him at his existential best. Listen to the caterwauling of ‘La Rossa’ and ‘Still Life’ to hear his heartbeat and feel the tension and angst of a life dedicated to music.

‘My Room (Waiting for Wonderland)’ is an 8 minute journey into the darker consciousness of the man. This is not an easy album to digest, in fact no VDGG should be, but of the big 5 classics this is the most difficult and takes several listens to appreciate. This album is a diverse detour for the band. It does not rely heavily on heavy guitar or keys and is a lot more melancholy than any VDGG. Hammill is turned way up in the mix and the instrumentals accompany his instrument/voice on each track. It is gentle and quiet but very brooding and moody. Stunning vocals throughout and Jaxon, Banton and Evans are quintessential to the evolution of the group. Perhaps this is the best line up, no arguments there I suspect. But it is surprisingly restrained and may turn some off as there is not a shred of heavy rock unlike previous albums.

The bonus track though rocks out and is a freak out of sound - incredible. ‘Gog’! What is this? Where does it come from as no album features this in studio format. It is a wonderful raw vibrant performance from the band.

'Still Life' must be commended for sheer ingenuity and audacity. A jaded album for sure, slightly twisted in places, too quiet for comfort, uneasy listening, but a very good release from VDGG.


A review by Sean Trane:

As there were remaining tracks from the previous writing/recording sessions, Still Life arrived fairly quickly on the market, and what a splendid album it was! Godbluff's twin album is actually superior (and ultimately more rewarding) to it and it shows with the stunning artwork sleeve.

Opening Pilgrims (and its slowly solemn descending crescendo) is a sure winning salvo only topped by the lengthy La Rossa (their Italian affinities showing), while the very personal My Room (Hugh Banton on bass and Jackson's superb ambient sax, with Evans' restrained drumming) is a real contender for the best Graaf track >> not far from House With No Door. The title track is another spine-chiller, with Hammill's doomy and desperate vocals crying out in the middle of the night, before the quartet is picking up momentum and Hammill's mood changing to anger. Then comes the lengthy and awesome Childlike Faith In Childhood's End (inspiration taken from a book that was particularly well appreciated from all band members) closing off the album in a grandiose way.

While two of the five songs were written (and recorded) during the Godbluff sessions, the remaining three tracks are certainly of the same calibre if not even better, but certainly the proof that Graaf still had major things to say in the realm of prog rock. As I said before, I prefer Still Life to Godbluff for it has no weak track, but sincerely, choosing between the two is something I would rather not do.

A review by Warthur:

Hugh Banton provides one of his finest organ performances on this Van der Graaf Generator album, which picks up where Godbluff left off to continue its weird and wonderful explorations of bizarre conceptual spaces. Kicking off with Pilgrims, a strident and purposeful counterpoint to The Least We Can Do's more nervous and uncertain Refugees, the album takes us through explorations of immortality, classic Arthur C. Clarke novels, wild love and lonely meditation in a murky musical haze dominated by Banton's organ and David Jackson's ever-present sax. Standout track has to be the title piece, which combines one of Peter Hammill's most fervent vocal performances with some of his most philosophically intriguing lyrics. At the same time, though, tracks such as La Rossa and My Room drag on a little too long for my liking, suggesting that the band could have pushed this up to a five-star piece had they spent a little bit longer cooking up new material for it.

#313

Leftoverture
Kansas

Kansas Leftoverture album cover

A review by  AtomicCrimsonRush:

Kansas's "Leftoverture" is literally a magnum opus of songs linked to a thematic concept.

'Point of Know Return' and 'Leftoverture' are both real progressive conceptual works and as good as Kansas gets. On "Leftoverture" the band consist of Kerry Livgren on guitar, keyboards, Robby Steinhardt on lead vocals, violin, viola, Steve Walsh on lead vocals, keyboards, vibes, Dave Hope on bass, Phil Ehart on drums, and Rich Williams on acoustic and electric guitars. This lineup is one of the most celebrated in Kansas' long tenure. The music on the album is virtuoso and features some of the best known Kansas compositions with incredibly inventive structures and adventurous time sigs, wrapped up in a concept.

The album cover is striking and one that I treasure in my vinyl collection. The image of an old sage with a scroll pondering over his work is perhaps as striking as Gryphons "Red Queen to Bishop Three" cover. The medieval concept of a Nostradamus like figure or Leaonardo Da Vinci is a perfect conceptual image for Kansas to indulge in.

'Carry on Wayward Son' begins proceeding with a bonafide classic and featured on many rock compilations as well as every Kansas compilation and live show. It is the quintessential Kansas with killer riffs and fantastic melodies building to an unforgettable chorus. The music is wonderful, especially the half time feel with heavy guitars. The band harmonise well and and this is the best Kansas song without a doubt, making them milions deservedly.

'The Wall' has a nice steady beat and sounds very AOR. Kansas will return to a stronger AOR sound in years to follow. 'What's on my mind' has a good guitar intro and then soft rock verses building to heavier guitar on chorus. Not prog but a nice melody.

'Miracles out of nowhere' has a chiming vibraphone intro and very nice Hammond layered with an odd time sig and then acoustic and gentle vocals. Love the feel of this and much more proggy than last 2 songs. The half time section is medieval and has an odd 7/8 meter with very progressive keyboard instrumentation. The sig changes again to an unusual meter, as violins begin and a wall of sound opens up. A new time shift as the tempo quickens and a scorching lead break is heard makes this one of the definitive higlights. An underrated classic for Kansas.

Side two of the vinyl is definitely the proggiest Kansas with a huge suite of songs to create an opus and indeed the first part is titled 'Opus insert'. The lyrics are performed strongly by Steinhardt; "There's a reason for all that rhymes, it's the fact and the way of the times, It's moving emotion, it's high and it's low, no matter where you go, There is something for all who look, there's a story in every book, All of the pages, between all the lines, so much that you can find, But there's too many empty lives my friend". The music changes meter throughout and has some majestic keys and a very bombastic style. It is followed by 'Questions of my childhood'.

This is a shorter song with similar time shifts and inspring lyrics; "When the sun is in the mid sky, he wears a golden crown, And he soaks the world with sunshine as he makes another round, It's been a faster year than yesterday, all the things that I had planned, And when I think I might be gaining, I'm in the sunshine once again." The sound is uplifting with washes of melodic keys, and a strong beat that gets faster during the keyboard solo that fades.

'Cheyenne anthem' is a ballad about the sadness of the cruel treatment against the Cheyenne Indians, and features beautiful instrumentation, keys, violins, medieval guitar, and loud percussion. It builds in speed in the middle as a frenetic keyboard solo comes in and vibraphone. The Gentle Giant sigs are odd and the thumping rhythm in the medial section is almost like a circus polka theme, but it is a cynical melody in contrast to the content. It has powerful lyrics about the death of the Cheyenne people robbed of their land and finishes with; "Soon these days shall pass away, For our freedom we must pay, All our words and deeds are carried on the wind, In the ground our bodies lay, here we lay". The poignant content is matched by sombre melodies and a melancholy children's choir. It finishes with one last majestic soundscape.

'Magnum opus' is the longest track at 8 ½ minutes. It begins with pounding drums of war, and then Livgren's howling keyboards and a steady rhythm. The track takes off into a lengthy instrumental section with inventive sigs, musicians taking turns to shine on guitar, keyboards and all brought together by the rhythm machine of bass and drums sounding like Focus or ELP. There is an ominous melody and it all sounds so massive with a wall of sound that keeps up a compelling melody with vibes, marimba and violins. It slows into the main theme towards the end, swathes of keys, soaring guitars and a finale that ends suddenly on a high note. Incredible masterpiece of prog and typifies Kansas at their very best.

In conclusion this is definitely one of the best Kansas albums and features their most beloved tracks. The exceptional single 'Carry on Wayward Son', the quasi-mystical 'Miracles out of nowhere' and all of side two make this an essential album and one of the best in 1976.

#314

Romantic Warrior
Return To Forever

 Return To Forever Romantic Warrior album cover

A review from SouthSideoftheSky:

I'm not at all an expert on Jazz-Rock/Fusion and I haven't (yet) heard very much that I like from this genre. But I immediately liked Romantic Warrior. The keyboards, the guitars, the drums and the basses are all played with enormous skill and urgency. The music is very complex yet somehow melodic and accessible. There is feeling in the playing and it is not just technical for the sake of it.

The problem I usually have with Jazz-Rock/Fusion music is that it leans too close to Jazz and contains too little Rock influences. Romantic Warrior is true Fusion in the sense that it is not just regular Jazz played with rock instruments. Still, there are many passages here that are close to Jazz. But there is just enough Rock to keep it interesting throughout for me.

The best tracks are the first and the last one. ‘The Medieval Overture’ sounds a bit like an alarm bell at the beginning and I have indeed been using it as such for a couple of weeks now! So I wake up every morning to the sound of Romantic Warrior. There is no hurry to push the snooze button!

“Romantic Warrior” is a great album title and it has a great cover art too, and the music! Probably the best Jazz-Rock/Fusion album of all time and also one of the best all instrumental albums of any category. A great introduction for the Prog fan to Jazz-Rock/Fusion, I think.

Recommended!


A review by Ivan_Melgar_M:

 

Not being an expert in Jazz, I always have a hard time trying to review albums from Jazz Fusion bands, but when you have the chance to listen to genius of the size of Chick Korea, Al DiMeola, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White, it's worth the effort, so I took "Romantic Warrior" from the shelf where I keep the albums I hardly ever listen to and decided to give it a try. After so many years without listening to this excellent album, I had almost forgotten how it sounded so it was almost a discovery and a very pleasant one, they are far better than I remembered.

"Medieval Overture" is simply perfect, even when it flows coherently from start to end (something not so common in Jazz where free performance is usual), the radical changes from Jazz to some sort of Spacey King Crimson sound are simply impressive. If I had some doubts about their Prog attributes, all were dissipated by this track, Chick Corea is without doubt a master of any genre and he is the one that IMO adds the Prog elements with his display with the keyboards. The song ends with the interplay of all the bands that reminds me of Medieval battles, a great opener.

"Sorceress" starts with a very short oneiric keyboard intro soon followed by bass and drums in perfect synchronicity, even though it's evidently a Jazz song, the dreamy atmosphere reminds me during all the track, except in the sections where Al DiMeola goes nuts with his extraordinaire solos remembering that the rock element is also present.

"The Romantic Warrior" starts again with a dreamy keyboard intro and DiMeola helps to achieve the atmosphere with his acoustic guitar, but suddenly Stanley Clarke takes the lead guiding the rest of the band with his bass well backed up by Lenny White on the drums.The song remains almost inalterable for several minutes allowing all the musicians to show their skills in their respective instruments but always directed by Clarke who keeps the precise timing. Around the middle of the track, DiMeola adds a Flamenco touch, it's hard to say which musician is better because they alternate carefully showing us how skilled they are but without loosing coherence, maybe too slow and predictable for my taste but still the performances are brilliant.

"Majestic Dance" reminds me of Jean Luc Ponty's masterpiece "Aurora", even when in this case the keyboards provide a Medieval touch, after the first minute you can expect anything, they go from Medieval Clavichord sections to a full jazzy explosion; the collision of sounds and styles is simply breathtaking. Then they take their Rocker costumes and hit us with everything they have, my favorite song from the album.

"The Magician" is another high point, probably the closest they get to Prog, the ethereal moods and atmospheres created by Corea remind me clearly of Wakeman but of course less pompous, again the radical changes keep surprising the listener, and the final section is captivating.

The mini epic "Duel of the Jester and the Tyrant" is supposed to be the central point and culmination of the whole concept of the album and fulfills its mission, soft dreamy passages interrupted by sudden explosions of power and energy and an extremely beautiful subjacent melody, a highlight and the perfect closer, 11 minutes of all that "RETURN TO FOREVER" can provide.

As everybody here knows Fusion is not my favorite sub-genre, but this is an album that doesn't deserve to be forgotten for so much time, left in a box while less impressive albums are almost always in my Cd player, so I will keep it closer than ever before and play it from time to time. The rating is not hard for me, not 5 stars material (I leave that for some Ponty albums and Visions of Emerald Beyond by Mahavishnu) because I could manage to live without listening to it for years and I'm sure many Progheads can without any trouble, so essential it is not (At least not for everybody), but rating with less than 4 stars would be disrespectful. So that's my rating, a great addition for any Progressive Rock collection.

#315

Viva Boma
Cos

Cos Viva Boma album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

With this second album, Cos still has half of Belgium laughing because of the artwork depicting Flemish grandmas. Although Loos was gone by this time, he is replaced by Marc Hollander (future Aksak Maboul) and Lonneux (ex-Recreation) takes the drum stool, but Dartsch still participates to the album. Then feeling is even more Canterbury-esque and the progression from the debut album is awesome. Marc Moulin (from the then-defunct Placebo) is the producer of the album and also contributes some killer Fender Rhodes on two tracks.

Opening electronic pulses will startle you if you were familiar with other Cos works, but this is a very brief moment, but another surprise awaits you on the following title track with its African percussions. Further Still (Nog Verder ) is a splendid slow Fender Rhodes-based track soon picking pace to end-up like a Weather Report-like funk. Boehme just funks along with sometimes-weird KB sounds startling you. The first side closes with the lengthy Flamboya, with Pascale Son making sweet love to Moulin's moog and Hollander's Rhodes, and soon the fuzzy keys send you flying across the channel to the Kent County. Clearly the first side's highlight, this track holds some of the best Wyatt-like scatting I have heard outside himself.

Son's opening Arabic influenced-vocals are a startling wake-up-and-pay-attention call especially when Schell pulls in one of those mystical Santana-like guitar solo just after it. The lenghty Idiot Leon is the cornerstone of the album with its fuzzy organ (David Sinclair-like) and weird quacking noises and a blistering Schell solo and wind instruments interventions. Closer Ixelles is a slow ode to the city where I was born some 13 years sooner and is probably my fave from the vinyl, but I can only be partial.

The four bonus tracks are excellent and great interest, especially a very different (and better) Nog Verder than the album version with its obvious Stella Vander-like vocals and Zeuhl-esque keyboards. A real touch of class!! But the other three were tracks that did not make the cut when the album was released. I can imagine how some choices can be painful.

The only regret I have is that Son's lyrics (actually Schell's) are not printed on the Musea first issue. As this album got re-released from Musea in early 2006, one can hope that this will be amended. Nevermind the details, we are again looking at a splendid album that typifies the 70's Belgian scene much better than the mediocre Machiavel. Owning this album is one of the requisite to being a happy proghead and only the ones who do not know this cannot understand.


A review by Mellotron Storm:

Thank God for liner notes. I couldn't figure out what certain instruments were that they were playing,especially when the list of instruments didn't show anything that sounded like a fuzz organ for example. Well there is a detailed story about this recording session thankfully that reveals that newcomer Marc Hollander's farfisa organ's sounds were treated by fuzz and wah-wah devices and ended up in a Dynacord echo chamber that could reproduce them at a normal, slow or accellerated speed. Alain used the same effects on his Rickerbacker bass. Band leader Daniel Schell modified the sounds of his guitars through an EMS synthesiser which allowed him to double the melody. He also used several other effects like saturation, a wah-wah filter etc. Both Marc and Daniel were fans of MAGMA, ZAO and HENRY COW which really comes through on this recording as the Zeuhl/Jazz flavour is quite strong.

Female singer Pascale Son is incredible. She has a child-like sound to her vocals that remind me of a cross between the innocence of THINKING PLAGUE's singer and fragility of the PAATOS' singer. The word "Boma" in the album's title can mean grandmother in a Belgium dialect or refer to an African town along the river Congo. That is why the front cover has the hippos in the river Congo, and on the back we have a picture of the band and girlfriends with others, along with the grandmother, front and center. Very humorous. You can tell these guys like to have fun from the other pictures in the liner notes.

Things get started with "Perhaps Next Record" which is funny given that this short song sounds like it came off of a Krautrock record and sounds nothing like they usually do. Electronics, sitar?, perhaps the next record will sound like this. Funny. "Viva Boma" has lots of drums and percussion. The vocal melodies are fantastic as the piano comes in. Cool song. "Nog Verder" is a slow moving, mellow song with reserved vocals, light drums and keys. The tempo picks up after 2 minutes as the organ comes in. Zeuhl-like vocal melodies 3 1/2 minutes in as it turns jazzy.

"Boehme" is a tribute to a hermetist philosopher appreciated by Daniel. It is supported by a complex harmonic progression dedicated to his harmony teacher. This one is heavier with organ, drums and keys. Vocals before 2 minutes. Fuzz organ before 3 minutes to end song. "Flamboya" features delicate vocals and a heavy, slow paced organ? 2 minutes in. Nice. Guitar, bass and cool vocal melodies. A nice lazy guitar or organ solo late. It's processed so it's hard to tell.

"In Lulu" has such an amazing sound to it. The guitar is wonderful. "L'Idiot Leon" is probably my favourite track. There are some great sounding passages throughout this song. The tempo and moods change throughout. There is a harmonization that includes the aboe, flute and bass clarinet. "Ixelles" features a low sounding cello throughout as long instrumental passages alternate with Pascale's beautiful vocal sections.  A must have.

#316

In the Region Of The Summer Stars
The Enid

The Enid In the Region Of The Summer Stars album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

Majestic orchestrations and sweeping crescendos become an emotional soundtrack.

My first listen to The Enid began with this album and I was quite surprised at the musicianship and the structure of the songs. There is a full on orchestral feel to these tracks and essentially you may be mistaken for an actual movie soundtrack such is the orchestration and mood swings of the music.

'Fool' begins with a staccato hammering piano chord and then some gentle piano follows, though it has a threatening edge, an ominous looming shape, as if something is creeping up from behind. This is soon joined by the effects of water and a perhaps a porpoise. The trumpets resound adding a majesty and there is a low droning. Welcome to the world of The Enid. It is unlike any symphonic I have heard in a long time and this may take some getting used to. The instrumentation is designed to evoke specific moods.

When 'The Tower of Babel' chimes in there is a foreign sound, perhaps Eastern and even a galloping guitar motif, reminding me of someone galloping on horseback through a steaming desert. The Egyptian style music helps to enhance this imaginary scene. There is a lot of musicianship here and this band is obviously virtuoso when it comes to structure and control of instruments that fade in and out at appropriate times. When it is inspired like this track, it is complex and magical. I would rate this as a highlight of the album.

The inventive music continues on 'The Reaper' that begins with a church pipe organ and a violin style pad. A melodic clean guitar picks a nice tune. It is very much like the music found in a melancholy moment in a romance movie. The chiming bell is an ethereal sound, tolling in death, as a crazed bass drum echoes thunderously and a crescendo of strings rises up. An intriguing track with many mood swings and emotional resonances. The overall feel of mystery and intrigue is essential to the music.

'The Loved Ones' begins with minimalist gentle piano and soft strings. Romantic, sweeping and emotive piano and strings follow and draw in a listener if they are prepared to immerse themselves. It is like the style of composer Rachmaninov.

'The Demon King' begins with a flight of eerie piano and a chilling heavy motif. The guitars are great on this and the heavier treatment is welcome after the lulling previous song. This has some shimmering Hammond and wah wah guitar to create the sense of impending dread. Perhaps reminded me more of Therion in a sense though there is no metal. There are some cheeky melodies adding a humorous edge but this is darker than previous material on the album. A definitive highlight.

'Pre-Dawn' and 'Sunrise' begins with a lone pastoral trumpet presenting the theme of dawn approaching is heard. This is joined by gentle music that is sleepy and dreamlike. The flute shrills and runs are well executed, as are the sweeping violins.

'The Last Day' features an estranged Bolero rhythm similar to Ravel in a sense. The tune is recognisable to those familiar with classical music. It begins slowly and softly building to the crescendo of trumpets and drums that crash fortissimo. It segues into 'The Flood' where there are musical shapes of allegro and adagio, light and shade throughout, and it builds to a rousing finale where a synthesizer and guitar are accompanied by flute, trickling harp and waves crashing on a beach. The balletic Bolero style of these pieces are music of mounting intensity, an orchestrated crescendo, a wonderful piece of music.

'Under the Summer Stars' begins with a zither twanging and a flute, joined by an off beat drum rhythm and swells of guitar. A very different piece to previous tracks. The guitar dominates with violining and picking expertise. The flute is a mystical sound, the mellotron is strong and the melody is infectious when it locks in. It is a bit like Pink Floyd and has a spacey guitar to give it the serrated edge of dark prog. Another highlight that draws this album to a close.

'Adieu' blends seamlessly from the previous track and is a farewell piece. The piano is played with nimble fingered dexterous flourishes. A synthesiser echoes the tune and a harp brings a majestic touch. And so it ends on a quiet lulling note, like the denouement of a movie.

Final words are to steer clear if you are not a classical music fan as this is genuine classical music with very little rock. The Enid had not introduced singing at this early stage but it was the beginning of great things to come. It is a nice piece of music on the whole but I can see how this will not appeal to everyone, but The Enid deserve commendation for musicianship and innovation on this album.

#317

Wind And Wuthering
Genesis

Genesis Wind And Wuthering album cover

A review by  AtomicCrimsonRush:

Genesis find themselves in unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers in that quiet earth.

"Wind and Wuthering" ended 1976 on a high note for prog and indeed for Genesis who had already found success with their masterful “A Trick of the Tail”. Just in time for Christmas, their latest album features some of their best material sans Gabriel. Each member of the band is in fine form and 'Wind and Wuthering' is firmly entrenched as one of the favourites for the band members themselves. Tony Banks stated that it is among his two favourite Genesis albums, and Steve Hackett is also "very fond" of it and rightfully so as it features some of his most accomplished guitar work. Every song soars along on symphonic layers of keyboards and Phil Collins is excellent on vocals and drums. Mike Rutherford's bass is a wonderful embellishment and the rhythms are complex and outstanding. Here are the tracks, each one tells a story, and each have a soft spot in the hearts of Genesis fans wordwide.

'Eleventh Earl Of Mar' kicks off proceedings with a title that is dedicated to a metaphoric description of an old Scottish uprising. The song focuses on the true tale of John Erskine 22nd or 11th Earl of Mar, who is one of the most incompetent characters of the 15 Jacobite Rising. It is dominated by Tony Banks keyboard wizardry as is most of the album. The music is incredible and as good as the band gets, every member is in full flight but in particular Banks is having a field day overshadowing even Hackett who is usually in the limelight. Hackett is terrific on this album but it is really the last time he would record with the full band unfortunately, embarking on a solo career that was very successful and continues to be so. The lyrics are typical of Genesis, double entendres, quaint pop culture references, and quirky British humour abound; “The sun had been up for a couple of hours, Covered the ground with a layer of gold. Spirits were high and the raining had stopped, The larder was low, But boy that wasn't all. Eleventh Earl of Mar, Couldn't get them very far. Daddy! Oh Daddy, You Promised.” Collins is in fine voice, confident and dominating, though he overuses the cymbal splashes on this track. The mellotron is an everpresent force and Rutherford shines on bass. The track features an abundance of synth riffs that remind one of the glorious 80s synth explosion. The melody is deconstructed with time breaks, signature shifts and solo performances. The middle section is tremendous with sweet melodic tones and Collins’ gentle approach. This is certainly one of the highlights of the album and very much like 'The Battle of Epping Forest' in many ways, in both theme and structure.

'One for the Vine' continues the excellent soundscapes with one of the greatest Genesis tracks with a mellotron drone and blasts of wild percussion competing with Hackett's sweeping riffs. The opening riff is sensational and well recognised by Genesis fans. The lyrics are inspired and as good as anything I have heard in the earlier releases; “Fifty thousand men were sent to do the will of one. His claim was phrased quite simply, though he never voiced it loud, I am he, the chosen one.” The protagonist is called to serve as the chosen one, and immediately the majestic music echoes the sentiments of the one who will lead. It is regal and uplifting with some dark tones representing the conflict he feels within as he is forced to make the difficult choice. “In his name they could slaughter, for his name they could die. Though many there were believed in him, still more were sure he lied, But they'll fight the battle on.” The leader knows that many will die under his leadership but nevertheless must lead in order to instigate freedom. This may also represent the holy wars as told in The Bible, following the same themes as in other Genesis albums especially “From Genesis to Revelation”. It switches time sigs dramatically after the serenity of the symphonic musicianship. The tempo quickens and a wonderful synthesizer kicks into gear. A layered wall of sound pulsates along a dynamic percussive beat. Collins returns on vocals as the new time shift locks in. It is a complex track with many diversions. It is perhaps the best track on the album with a lot of progressive touches and an innovative structure, telling a potent story of maturity. The main protagonist is experiencing the changes of adolescence to adulthood as a reluctant leader forced into going in directions without choice that lead him to an eventual demise. Religious overtones abound, and there are multiple interpretations. The protagonist is on the verge of crossing the line between divine inspiration and delusion. He has many people around him who believe in him to the point that leads him to an ultimate decision to take up leadership with both reigns firmly in hand. It takes quite a deal of soul searching before he finally decides to fulfil his purpose instead of doing things his own way. As he takes on the responsibility to leading he crosses into adulthood. “This is he, God's chosen one, Who's come to save us from, All our oppressors. We shall be kings on this world.”

'Your Own Special Way' is certainly a poppier approach but has some very nice melodies and a catchy hook in the chorus. Collins is harmonised a few times on layered vocals and I particularly like the uplifting tones. The keys are terrific, but I wonder where Hackett is hiding on this.

'Wot Gorilla' is an instrumental that may feel like filler material but it is very well executed with some delightful atmospherics including a strange gliterring chime lending an ethereal feel. "Wot Gorilla?" may be a reference to touring drummer Chester Thompson, who had been mentioned in ‘Florentine Pogen’, which is a track on Frank Zappa's “One Size Fits All” album in 1975.

'All In A Mouse's Night’ is an intriguing piece where a mouse speaks to a loving couple, Cinderella style. The lyrics are charming with a few dark nuances thrown in. The loving couple begins with talking to each other and the mouse chips in, which may or may not be imaginary; “I can't see you but I know you're there. Got to get beside you cos it's really cold out here. Come up close to me you'll soon be warm. Hold me tightly like we're sheltering from a storm.” The mouse then has some amusing dialogue to itself and we may surmise that it is on the head of the lovers who are experiencing detachment from reality; “Think I might go out for a stroll, Into the night, and out of this hole. Maybe find me a meal. Walking along this new shag pile, Presents a problem all the while. Nearly the door.” The song continues with its quirky jaunty rhythms telling the tale of the mouse's adventures; “Suddenly he bumps into wood, the door is closed. A voice from the bed, he'll be exposed. Which way to run, must make for the hole, The light's been turned on, he's blind as a mole in coal.” Perhaps the mouse is a metaphorical representation of sexual suppression that the lovers are feeling. In fact a cat comes into the story and chases the mouse to its final fate; “But now the cat comes in for the kill, His paw is raised, soon blood will spill, yes it will.” The cat has a cynical line of dialogue that further cements the sexual tension in the lives of the lovers. They are experiencing conflict that is represented by the cat and the mouse scenario; “Hard luck mouse, this is the end of your road.” In any case it is a fun song harkening back to the classic Genesis material on “Foxtrot” or “Selling England By The Pound”.

Other interpretations are that the mouse represents mental health and the protagonist loses it completely when the cat is devoured by the ten foot mouse. Also this could be a dig at the Looney Tunes cartoon where Sylvester is taunted by a 'ten foot mouthsh' and it is actually a baby kangaroo but Junior thinks it's a real mouse and forces his father to fight it to no avail. A darker interpretation is that the loving couple discovered a mouse costume stored in an old casket in the basement. The male donned the costume in order to scare his female lover but it backfires as she has become a cat in costume also and “it only took one blow”, she finishes in the superior position of the relationship. Or did she kill her lover accidentally thinking he was a lunatic trying to kill her. Or did the man in mouse costume see a cat on his way upstairs and whack the cat dead. The song is nevertheless about the chase, submission and sexual tension, disguised in a cute tale, and is one of the great tracks on the album.

'Blood on the Rooftops' begins with a medieval style acoustic flourish, a piece de resistance for Hackett.The lyrics are very strong; “Let's skip the news boy (I'll make some tea), The Arabs and the Jews boy (too much for me), They get me confused boy (puts me off to sleep), And the thing I hate - Oh Lord! Is staying up late, to watch some debate, on some nation's fate.” The television is becoming a hypnotic device desensitizing the protagonist who is becoming lost in the fantasy of it all. A dramatis personae of his alter ego is the fantasy of escapist TV, and he indulges because his life is so empty. “Hypnotised by Batman, Tarzan, still surprised! You've won the West in time to be our guest, Name your prize! Drop of wine, a glass of beer dear what's the time? The grime on the Tyne is mine all mine all mine, Five past nine.” The lyrics are reminiscent of the Gabriel era and indeed Collins sounds similar in this vocal style. The references to pop culture are as strong as Genesis gets and are as blatant, but there are darker meaning beyond the surface particularly in the chorus that speaks of violence and despair, war and destruction, blood and decay; “Blood on the rooftops, Venice in the Spring, Streets of San Francisco - a word from Peking, The trouble was started by a young Errol Flynn, Better in my day Oh Lord! For when we got bored, we'd have a world war, happy but poor.” The viewer watches TV shows like “Batman”, “Tarzan”, How the West Was Won”, “The Streets of San Francisco”, Errol Flynn swashbuckler movies and Quiz Shows, merged with the horror of the news, but all in one night’s viewing, and it all plays out like entertainment. Instead of having any shock effect on the viewer who accepts it and is desensitised. There are touches of references to “Nursery Cryme” in the lyrics; “When old Mother Goose stops they're out for 23, Then the rain at Lords stopped play.” The reference reminds one of the nursery rhyme lyrics and front cover of the classic album, and the words are referring to a cricket match where the batter manages 23 runs before being stumped.

The album concludes with two masterful instrumental compositions that run together seamlessly and these are capped off with ‘Afterglow’, a fond song for the band. The instrumentals, 'Unquiet Slumbers For The Sleepers' and 'In That Quiet Earth', are decent enough to be taken in one sitting as one piece and certainly are a showcase for Banks' killer keyboard finesse. They are pleasant ear ticklers with enough keyboard to satiate any mellotron addict.

The titles of these instrumentals are taken directly from Emily Bronte's “Wuthering Heights” novel; "I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers in that quiet earth".

To conclude this may be the last great Genesis studio album and it capped off an excellent year for the band that had also presented “A Trick of the Tail” equally as good. It would be the last time Hackett would produce Genesis studio material but it was not the end for the band despite the massive upheaval of personnel.

#318

Principe di un Giorno
Celeste

Celeste Principe di un Giorno album cover

A review by Finnforest:

Pastoral prog legend

Definitely a top contender for someone's future poll of the "most beautiful albums of prog." This album is a legend of "pastoral" prog titles. I don't know one person who has heard this album and not liked it, it is just universally delightful regardless of what genre you call your favorite. You've all seen Heaven depicted in the movies or in books. You can imagine the setting: the camera pans across a gorgeous meadow on a perfect sunny day, wildflowers of every color blowing in a warm breeze, songbirds about, and a huge oak tree with a massive trunk in one corner of the screen. There is a white glow or haze to the film indicating the supernatural. And there is no doubt some beautiful music in the soundtrack. Well, this album could be that music. Just a silly way of trying to communicate the "vibe" of this album instead of just telling you each track is going to sooth your psyche with gorgeous melody made of soft acoustic guitars, flutes, trons, bass, and vocals.

The arrangements are impeccable. It is a uniformly mellow album without any rock and roll but that's OK. This album is not in your collection to rock you-it will become one of your prized "chill" spins. The flip side however is that it does lack excitement factor and over time has proven an album that fails to engage me very much on an emotional level. I have other "pretty" albums that move me much more than Celeste. For that reason I've had to back off my original 4-star rating to 3. It's a good album but not one for my 4 star shelf. While I've seen some reviews say the music came too late in the Italian heyday to matter (1976), the fact is that this album was written right in the peak year of '73 and recorded in '74. So don't let that charge stop you from checking out this widely acclaimed favorite.


A review by Sean Trane:

4.5 stars really!!!!

Of all the Italian symphonic prog groups, Celeste is maybe the one that relies most on ambiances, the most delicate and certainly ranks in my top five along with QVL and PDP (even if the last ones are definitely more jazzy) and is all too often overlooked by many. This multi instrumentalists quartet recorded two album in the mid-70's with their debut being the better-known. The very white (and bland) cover (even if the inside gatefold illustration is more evocative) contrast heavily with the superb calm classically influenced music on the disc. The mood is very much romantic, pastoral and mellotron-ladden. I find that Celeste does not sound like your typical Italian prog group, but in many ways, Principe Di Un Giorno is probably the album that comes closest to Harmonium's Si On Avait Besoin D'une Cinquième Saison.

Indeed, this album came out roughly a year after Harmonium, and most likely was heard by the Italian group, but if the influence is obvious, there is nothing shocking and one can't call this a carbon copy or derivative. And in some ways, Celeste's debut album betters the ambiances, and adds a little more to Harmonium soundscapes. Whether this is a more Latin feel or more classical music leanings is rather hard to determine, but this album is just as enjoyable as Harmonium's and there is a bit of Gensis in it in the form of Seven Stones. For me to give you a preferred track is very hard, because Celeste is more even in their songwriting (and taking less chances as well), but they also do not reach the absolute peaks that their Quebec counterparts do. But in Celeste's defense, they do not have tracks that can almost ruin the album (such as Dixie on Fifth season). Flutes, sax, spinet, xylophone, chimes, violin are among the instruments sprinkled throughout this delicious slice of wax.

An absolute gorgeous piece of music that would deserve top ratings if it had come before a certain Quebecois album, but nevertheless is highly recommended.

#319

2112
Rush

Rush 2112 album cover


A review by  AtomicCrimsonRush:

32 years later and this album still has the power to captivate thanks to an almost obsessive conceptual framework on the theme of discovery and enlightenment. Hard prog rockers Rush released in 1976 perhaps their most famous album, “2112”.

A strong narrative text is evident in the title track that rocks with moments of high complexity merged with the simplistic standard song format. “2112” begins with narration and a brilliant instrumental workout in 'Overture'. Rush were a musical virtuoso band, primarily due to the guitar riffing of Alex Lifeson, but also featured incredible vocal gymnastics with a high falsetto range in the form of Geddy Lee. When he powers into 'The Temples of the Syrinx' he nails it to the wall; such is the incredible high vocal range Lee is unable to repeat this in later years live, as is evident on the brilliant “Different Stages” triple CD.

The track merges seamlessly with the rest of this epic as the quieter 'Discovery' begins. The concept concerns the weird tale of a boy who consults an oracle to find the answers and has a dream that holds the key (a theme that would occur over and over in concept albums - the tales of discovery by consulting a supernatural force - even Kiss did it on “The Elder”). I don't pretend to understand all the conceptual content, however, I prefer to sit back and let all the musical arrangements wash over, and Rush were masters of the epic performance.

The other tracks on side 2 include 'A Passage to Bangkok' a straight rocker, and the raucous 'Something for Nothing'. This was a brave album for Rush after presenting their own brand of heavy prog such as “Caress of Steel” and “Fly By Night”, but it works because the tracks are memorable and superbly executed. The Drums of Neil Peart are a definite highlight and keep the relentless rhythms flowing in perfect sync. This album is highly influential to the likes of Dream Theater's “6 Degrees of Inner Turbulence”, that feature a series of songs wrapped in the cocoon of one long album side track, and each song section has the power to stand alone.

Overall this is an excellent album, but the piece de resistance would come on the incredible followup album, “Farewell to Kings”.


A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

A passage to Prog

Having started out as a highly derivative Blues Rock/Hard Rock band strongly influenced by Led Zeppelin, Rush had gradually incorporated progressive elements and structures into their music over the course of two further albums (Fly By Night and Caress Of Steel). But it was with the present, their fourth album, that Rush took the major step toward progressive Rock. For the first time in their career, the whole first side of the vinyl album was occupied by an epic, multi-part composition and it was also the first album to feature keyboards (although, very sparsely) in addition to guitar, vocals and drums.

In my opinion, the 20 minute plus title track still stands today as one of the band's finest compositions. Especially, the two first parts of it: Overture and The Temples Of Syrinx. The band is simply on fire here, with Neil Peart's drumming being some of the best I've ever heard and Geddy Lee's vocals being more intense than ever before (or after) and Alex Lifeson's guitars more to the point. The six-part song tells a story of an authoritarian society where music is banned.

The second side of the album is less powerful in comparison and has more to do with earlier albums. Still, we have here five fine Rock tunes with A Passage To Bangkok standing out as the best of the lot. Tears features the famous Mellotron.

Overall, a great album and the first great Rush album

A review by Warthur:

By the time Rush came to record 2112, Caress of Steel had been a commercial and critical flop and the band fully expected it to be their last album. Kicking off with a side-long prog metal epic despite their advice of their label, the band suddenly and unexpectedly turned out to be quite good at this prog thing after all. The title track from this one blows away the false starts of Fly By Night and Caress of Steel with stellar performances from all concerned, tighter compositional structures in which there's always something interesting happening, and a plot which is unashamed of its nerdiness and which is still exciting to hear after a dozen listens. (Oh, come on, tell me you don't get a shiver down your spine when you hear the distorted voice declaring the Elder Race's conquest of the solar system at the end of the song.) So what if the plot might be a thinly-veiled Objectivist allegory (or, more likely, a swipe at the music press for not accepting Rush's musical vision) when it's so good to listen to?

The second side of the album provides a tight set of shorter songs which proves that the band had also got the knack of producing these as well. As goofy as the thinly-veiled weed worship of A Passage to Bangkok is, it's still one of the catchiest songs they've ever done, with its thunderous guitar solo by Lifeson being a particular highlight of the album, Lessons is enjoyably upbeat and manages a nice blend of acoustic and electric guitar lines, and Something for Nothing is a great barnstormer to close the album.

The album isn't quite perfect - The Twilight Zone lacks the boundless energy the rest of the songs have, and doesn't quite hit the spooky atmosphere it aims for (though it comes close), and Tears is a lacklustre, melancholic ballad which even the generously applied heaps of Mellotron can't save from being bland middle-of-the-road slop. But even with these roadbumps on the second side, the album is still an enduring classic and the first sign that Rush might be able to stick it out for the long term. Finally mastering the progressive metal style they'd been tinkering with for two albums, the band took their place at the spearhead of the nascent subgenre, and with 2112 they more than earned it.

#320

Stadaconé
Sloche

Sloche Stadaconé album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

Not as good as their amazing debut in my opinion. I think the biggest disappointment for me is the lack of vocals that really added a special flavour to the debut. All things said though the playing here is flawless. "Stadacone" opens with a light and bouncy rhythm before it changes a minute in when the guitar arrives. An excellent soundscape 3 minutes in as bass, keys and drums lead the way. Synths come and go. Some rare vocals after 7 minutes with organ then it kicks back in. The song continues to change and I like the organ 9 minutes in.

"Le Cosmophile" opens with synths and organ as heavy drums come and go. A change after 1 1/2 minutes as the tempo picks up. It gets a little funky here. Some excellent vocals after 3 minutes. Sax before 4 minutes and organ follows. "Il Fault Sauver Barbara" opens with a catchy rhythm before synths come in. It's back again (the rhythm) until it settles before 2 1/2 minutes then some powerful organ kicks in briefly. Settles again then kicks back in. Well you get the picture. I do like the atmosphere when it settles each time.

"Ad Hoc" is different with the guitar sounding processed at first then becoming normal and leading the way before a minute. Nice bass lines here with atmospheric synths, but it's the guitar that is the focus. "La Balqune De Varenkurtel Au Zythogala" is a pleasant sounding song with synths, keys, drums and bass standing out.

"Isacaaron (Ou Le Demon Des Choses Sexuelles)" begins with drums before keys, sax and organ come in. A calm before 1 1/2 minutes then it starts to build. Piano and drums 3 1/2 minutes in lead the way. The sound changes 7 minutes in and I like it. Then we get lots of changes the rest of the way. The debut was more fun, humorous and free although we get glimpses of these here too. Great album!


A review by Sean Trane:

4.5 stars really!!! With a slightly changed line-up (drummer being replaced and an extra percussionist also), Sloche made an incredible confirmation with their second album, the stunning Amerindian-laced artwork covered Stadaconé. Still headed by the double keyboard attack and having plenty of back-up by their guitarist and the rest of the band, Stadaconé is relatively close to their debut although more towards Mahavishnu and GG, than the debut. One of the odd thing about this album is that it is dedicated to Pierre Boucard who helped write the two epics and that the album was recorded in two distinct sessions produced by Ouellet for one and Desbien (who had done such a great job on their debut).

Opening 10-min+ title track is already warning us that this album will be slightly more disjointed, but nothing to be alarmed: the spirit of J'un Oeuil is still there. The music is definitely funkier, sometimes even reaching the level of Hancock's sextant or Headhunter (well, maybe not Headhunter ;-). Second is the only sung track (another slight change from the debut) of the album Cosmophile which brings us right back into their debut album, while one of the KB players plays a rare sax solo, too bad the song ends in a fade-out. Sauver Barbara is an organ-drenched syncopated funky jazz-rock that can help raise your mother-in-law from the dead (provided she is not too deeply buried of course, her name is Barbara and you cannot find her stash of dough ;-) while the second side opens on the Ad Hoc highlight and takes you towards a heavenly trip. Yet another short track (outside the two monster epics book-ending the album all other tracks are below the 5 min 30 mark) La Baloune is full of great ambiances with Murray again on woodwinds. Isacaaron is the splendid closing GG-esque track that is giving its all-out effort for the album's personality compared to its debut.

Most classical proghead fans will prefer their debut album, while the fusionhead will enjoy this album, but no matter what both albums are immensely successful and it is a complete shame Sloche will never be able to record a third album. Personally I prefer the debut to this album, mostly on the strength of much more present vocals, which despite their mostly instrumental nature was one of their strength.

#321

Unorthodox Behaviour
Brand X

Brand X Unorthodox Behaviour album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

I had read somewhere that Phil Collins was a fan of early MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA so it may have been a dream of his to do a jazz/fusion album. The timing had to be right considering he was already in a full time band with GENESIS. Obviously it all worked out as BRAND X came to fruition and they recorded this, their debut album just before Phil went into the studio with GENESIS to record "Trick Of The Tail".

"Nuclear Burn" opens with Phil and his intricate drum patterns as keys and bass support. The guitar comes ripping in at 1 1/2 minutes. Great sound 2 minutes in, love the synths. The tempo starts to pick up. Collins is simply outstanding here. Check out the bass and drumming with background synths before 4 minutes. Incredible! The guitar is back as we get a big finish.

"Euthanasia Waltz" opens with acoustic guitar and drums as liquid keys and bass arrive a minute in. Guitar is back 2 1/2 minutes in and what follows is fairly laid back but intricate. "Born Ugly" is more uptempo and kind of funky. Lots of piano too. The calm 4 minutes in is cool as some nice guitar comes out of that. That is my favourite part of the song. Drums and keys after 6 minutes are impressive. Guitar is back before 8 minutes to end it.

"Smacks Of Euphoric Hysteria" is led again by Collins as liquid keys come in. Synths before 2 minutes then the guitar lights it up. "Unorthodox Behaviour" is restrained for the most part as it opens with Phil sounding like a clock ticking on the drums. Bass and guitar play lightly and keys arrive before 2 minutes. Vibes before 4 1/2 minutes. It starts to come to life 6 minutes in. It ends as it began.

"Running On Three" is uptempo with some fabulous drumming and bass work. The guitar before 3 minutes really sets this song on fire. Bass 4 minutes in to end it. "Touch Wood" opens with intricate guitar as piano comes in. It starts to liven up before 3 minutes with a melody. If you think Collins is just an above average drummer then you need to hear this album. He really steals the show here with an incredible performance. Great album all around.


A review by Sean Trane:

4.5 stars really!!!

While Genesis was in a delicate phase, looking for a new frontman and its guitarist was releasing his first solo album (Acolyte), Phil was patiently waiting in the wings and became involved in this project, composed of absolute then-unknown, if it wasn't for maybe Goodsall, whom had a stint with Atomic Rooster. Phil Collins' participation in Brand X will actually play a role in Genesis, since his dabblings into JR/F will guide his choice into hiring both Chester Thompson (Zappa, Weather report) and a tad latter Daryl Struemer (Jean Luc Ponty's group). Obviously when listening to Phil drum works on BX and comparing it with Genesis material, it's quite clear that Phil listened and impregnated himself of Billy Cobham's Spectrum album.

Out of the mists of a post-modern world in Nuclear Burn, rises a guitar that has obviously been influenced by Carlos McLaughlin and the rest of the formation slowly rises from the ashes to become an instant success. Outstanding stuff. The first few seconds of Euthanasia Waltz are again reminiscent of Caravanserai, but Goodsall's acoustic strumming saves it and allow Lumley's Rhodes and Jones' ultra bass to shine. The following track's name the ultra-funky Born Ugly cannot possibly be talking about itself because it is one of the best electric piano-led funk-fusion pieces, courtesy of Lumley's Rhodes, but Goodsall's guitar does more than its share. It could've been an RTF track on their No Mystery album, Lumley's piano style certainly aiming at Corea's, while Jones's usual Jaco-esque game is replaced by a Stanley Clarke slapping play.

Out of the deep vinyl groove, comes Euphoric Hysteria, which hesitates between Mahavishnu and Santana, before deciding neither with Lumley's disputable synth sound. The title track is slowly emerging a clock-like rhythm and a rounded bass and the two spend their time twisting about your eardrums and diddle with your sanity, slowly deconstructing its propos. Not exactly a winner, but it shows another facet of the group for albums to come. Running Of Three returns to the influence of Carlos McL and if it wasn't needlessly "flamboyant", you could imagine yourself on my jazz-rock reference Caravanserai. The short and soft Touch Wood is a calm ending to a fiery album: a fitting outro.

A classic fusion album of the times but the real interest is that, as opposed to contemporary groups such as Return To Forever, Spirogyra, Weather Report or even JL Ponty, this had a definitely English twist to it and it was a welcome change (just like the post-Allen Gong jazz-rock albums are) but this is not really Canterbury-style either although some people have done that amalgam. IMHO, however, the better times for this sort of music had already passed along with the 1st generation groups such as Mahavishnu, Miles Davis, Nucleus, Soft Machine, Mwandishi, etc.... But this one is definitely a gem.

#322

L'Heptade
Harmonium

Harmonium LHeptade album cover

A review by Warthur:

Passing from symphonic-influenced prog folk into folk-influenced symphonic prog, Harmonium's epic concept album “L'Heptade” is a gorgeous little album from the tail-end of the golden age of prog. Always sentimental, the music at some point threatens to cross the line into sheer schmaltz, but is saved from this by the band's exceptional command of mood.

The album stands out for having some of the most delicately beautiful vocal performances in symphonic prog, lead singer Serge Fiori being backed up by a range of singers (of whom Estelle Ste-Croix stands out as offering a particularly astonishing performance). Not quite as revolutionary as their previous album, but still a great piece which can't fail to win the hearts of anyone who likes a little folk in their prog.


A review by Sean Trane:

Somewhat very different of the previous two in the sound but another full blown epic sometimes longish but unlike previously very sombre and depressing but with the same sense of harmonies and melodies. This however does not affect the musicianship and the artistic value of this great oeuvre. Just do not expect a Sixth Season, this is far away from that album but in some way the subject is still the same: alienation. No wonder after this one they called it quits.

Neil Chotem's orchestrations on the first disc are certainly beautiful but rather uneventful and therefore rather languish and does not survive well intense repeated listening. Most of the better stuff is on the first disc and Comme Un Fou and L'Exil are superb. The second disc bears the same problem as Lamb On Broadway: the inspiration was waning by Side 3 and you get the feeling that there are fillers.

This ambitious project was simply seen as the crowning achievement for Harmonium and Normandeau who was the second writer in the group left as the album was nearing completion not able to agree on the direction of the music. Be careful when you buy this one and the live album to follow for there are some really poor bootleg copies, Serge Fiori is actually working on the remastering of these two albums.



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - February 04 2012 at 00:08
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1976 - continued

#323

Picchio Dal Pozzo 
Picchio Dal Pozzo

Picchio Dal Pozzo Picchio Dal Pozzo  album cover

A review by Finnforest:

 

Italian Canterbury?

Picchio dal Pozzo is a very interesting and popular title among jazz fans with a penchant for the avant garde, psych, and Italian flavors. The band from Genova were looking to make sophisticated music with some humor and succeeded amazingly well, drawing comparisons to Robert Wyatt, Hatfield, and Soft Machine but with injections of very strange psychedelic flavors and Italian influence. You can hear the same sort of experimental tendencies that brought forward diverse and crazy works from Pierrot Lunaire, Area, Opus Avantra, and Stormy Six but in the jazz field. The traditional meets the bizarre as these talented players and special guests like Ciro Perrino and Leonardo Lagorio of Celeste deliver an album that should satisfy the most adventurous music fan.

Progweed and Gnosis reviewer Greg Northrup calls the band "a refreshing treat to those somewhat burned out on the classic Italian progressive sound, but still willing to mine the depths of the country's scene in search of one last undiscovered gem. Picchio dal Pozzo come from a completely different wing of influences than the typical vaguely orchestral, pastoral, flowery melodicism of many of the country's bands, looking towards jazz, RIO, Frank Zappa, Gong, and especially, Robert Wyatt and the Soft Machine as major influences. Funnily enough, the result is just as beautiful, as angular melodies coexist with fuzzed out guitar, churning horns and soothing, seemingly free form song structures. The tempo is always slow, as sax, piano and otherworldly vocals just float above the mix, creating an exquisite, emotional atmosphere, with just a dash of dissonance, angularity and off-beat sensibility to keep things interesting." [G. Northrup]

Beginning with the intricate, layered guitar picking of "Merta" followed by percussion and strange wordless vocals, it is apparent that this is not your father's jazz album. Soon the keyboards are filling in the space with a phased effect. A rather stock jazz beat begins "Cocomelastico" but the horns play notes in an odd leap-frog manner, like in two parallel scales. There's probably a formal term for it that I'm not aware of but it is pretty cool. More odd, absurdist vocals are sprinkled in on top of the relaxing rhythm. "Seppia" is a 10 minute juggernaut that grabs everyone who hears it. No drums early on, just a melding of keys and horns in a gorgeous tapestry. The drums finally come in with a repetitive guitar riff, rather terse sound, while all around it the lunatics are running the asylum with strange howls, moans, and general singing from the straightjacket choir. Somehow it works, assuming you love strange music. Suddenly everything cuts to what sounds like clarinet and xylophone playing some odd quiet melodies alone. Then a guitar loop ushers in these strange spoken children's voices and for a moment I swear I'm listening to Pierrot Lunaire's "Gudrun." The piece ends with simple light and breezy melody followed by the guitar/flute interlude "Bofonchia."

Side two begins with "Napier." It opens with a brilliant dissonance of flute followed by strange sax and keyboard murkiness. Enter some piano and more upbeat percussions and things are getting very busy, but the arrangements are well done so the piece remains tasteful. There are a few average vocals but it is mostly heavenly instrumental space jazz. It gets quieter near the end with delicate cymbals and the lightness of e-piano. Nice track. "La Floricoltura" tones down the weirdness (a little bit) and alternates nice instrumental workouts with enthusiastic vocal harmonies. By the end it again slides into madness with a trainwreck of playing. "La Bolla" is more laid back, with gentle horns over rolling piano notes, percussion, and acoustic guitar. A few electric leads pop into the background. As the guitar licks heat up there are some gentle "la la la" vocals laid on top. Finally, we get to "Off' which drops the weirdness again in favor of pastoral piano landscapes with delightful flute on top. Mellow wordless vocals, guitar, and bass come in and all is peaceful with no drumming all the way through.

PdP is a great album and recommended title for Italian, Canterbury, and psych-space-jazz fans. The Vinyl Magic CD-067 reissue sounds pretty good but has only a two-page booklet with credits and a brief bio.

 

324

Tales of Mystery and Imagination - Edgar Allan Poe
Alan Parsons Project

Alan Parsons Project Tales of Mystery and Imagination - Edgar Allan Poe album cover

A review by Ivan_Melgar_M:

"Tales of Mystery and Imagination - Edgar Alan Poe" was not the first Alan Parsons Project album I had the chance to listen to but surely the one that gave me more gratification. For many years I owned Pyramid, which with the passing of time was becoming more simple and less progressive, and I also listened to others like the weak "Eye in the Sky" or "EVE" so my interest in the band was decreasing at an exponential degree.

In 1991 I had to make a visit to United States and bought this CD only because there was a special sale, if you bought "Tubular Bells" for $9.99 for an extra cent they offered "Tales of Mystery and Imagination".

From the first listen I found this release was something different to what I had ever heard, a very dark and mysterious album with excellent 100% progressive tracks. Something much more serious than anything Alan Parsons Project did later. Alan Parsons is a capable engineer, great musician and a talented composer but it would be unfair to forget that Andrew Powell an incredible conducter is responsible for the perfect orchestral arrangements that play such an important part in almost every APP album.

The first track "A Dream Within a Dream" starts with a narration by Orson Welles of an Edgar Allan Poe passage that sets the mood not only for this song but also for all the album; as always his perfect English and educated voice gives extra credibility to whatever he reads. The song, as the track says is oneiric, beginning with a synthesizer solo that builds in crescendo until drums and bass join it in an explosion of power that again starts to fade in order to end the song; a beautiful and haunting opening.

"The Raven" is enhanced by the orchestra and the English Chorale brilliantly conducted by Andrew Powel, the vocals are soft and almost hidden behind the instruments and choir. This track has the particularity that Alan Parsons sings some sections using an EMI vocoder, with the company of the correct Leonard Whiting.

Without losing the dark atmosphere, "The Tell-Tale Heart" starts faster than all the previous, the breathtaking vocals by the legendary Arthur Brown create the perfect sense of guilt and anguish for the story of a man who is tormented by his obsession with the beat of the heart from a person he killed, correctly complemented by the instruments and music, it's a perfect song for a perfect story.

The next track is "The Cask of Amontillado" giving us an example of the style Alan Parsons Project developed with the passing of years, soft vocals by John Miles and Terry Sylvester followed by impressive orchestral sections full of brass instruments and professional choirs. Sadly in later albums he mixed this apotheosis with weaker and pop oriented tunes.

"The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether" is a very strange song, starting dark and obscure and getting confusing as the minutes pass because they mix to many different chords and tunes creating some kind of pleasant chaos. Excellent track that mixes different styles and sounds in a very inventive way, and that's what progressive rock means, challenge the listener even when it's confusing.

"La piece de resistance" is "The Fall of the House of the Usher" a 20 minutes instrumental epic divided in five parts:

I.- "Prelude": Seven minutes introduction for orchestra and bass that situates the listener in the middle of the scene, the darkness and mystery create an atmosphere of suspense perfect for the doomed house.

II.- "Arrival": A haunting track that starts with a frightening baroque organ, immediately followed by a fast keyboard and band, the setting is ready for a Christopher Lee or Boris Karloff movie, simply spectacular.

III.- "Intermezzo": A collection of more haunting sounds which take the suspense to its higher point.

IV.- "Pavane": is a softer tune mainly played with harp, works as a relief for the supposedly strong ending of the epic.

V.- "Fall": The orchestra creates a musical cacophony that is the resemblance of the fall of an old house, not a strong end as anybody should expect for an excellent epic, technically it’s very accurate but musically could have been developed much more.

The album is closed with "To One for the Paradise" sung by Terry Sylvester, Erick Woolfson and Alan Parsons who create complex vocal sections with the background by The Westminster City School Boys Choir and Jane Powell, mostly for guitars; a semi acoustic song that softens the dark atmosphere of the whole album, extremely beautiful.

It's important to mention Erick Woolfson, assistant producer and impeccable keyboardist, often known as Alan Parsons right hand, without him the album wouldn't have been the same.

Absolutely essential release. If you only have this album by Alan Parsons Project, don't worry as it's by far the best and most imaginative, but if you can get I Robot and Pyramid, go for them, as they are also very good albums.

Without hesitation I will rate it with 5 stars; it doesn't deserve any less.

 

325

Dawn
Eloy

Eloy Dawn album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

"Dawn" is an appropriate title to this album, as this was also the start of a new era for ELOY. After their last record "The Power And The Passion" the band broke up, so Frank Bornemann had to hire all new band members. ELOY has so many wonderful album covers, but this is my favourite. The overall feel of this record to me is very spacey and melodic.

"Between the Times" is a great song with an amazing beat that flows into "The Sun-Song" a spacey and atmospheric tune. Another highlight is "The Dance In Doubt And Fear" opening with a cool rhythm of drums and guitar that are joined by synths. This song has a great melody and there is the added waves of mellotron that help make this a relaxing and dreamy tune. "Lost!? (introduction)" has the same melody although it does change a little. Some terrific drum work on this one, and more mellotron. "Lost?? (the decision)" opens with organ and synths, and the spacey, floating synths dominate this song. As many have mentioned, Frank's vocals aren't for everyone. They have grown on me, from being a distraction to being ok.

The next tune "The Midnight-Flight/The Victory of Mental Force" is uptempo for the most part, in contrast to the following song "Gliding Into Light and Knowledge" a slower spacey piece. Both are really good songs, although the final tune "Le Reveil du Soleil/The Dawn" may be the best on this record. A great melody that finally has some guitar more upfront, and again some fantastic drumming and more wonderful spacey synths. This is an easy record to recommend, especially to those who like psychedelic music.

 

A review by Warthur:

As well as being an excellent refinement and consolidation of the sympho-space rock style debuted on The Power and the Passion, Eloy's Dawn also features the band taking that bold step that so many others had before - to wit, incorporating an orchestra into their sound. Whilst many other bands who attempted this in the past mishandled it, the orchestra either stealing the spotlight or not really contributing anything, Eloy is one of the few groups who hit the balance perfectly, the orchestral flourishes adding texture and a certain sense of the majestic to the music without displacing Eloy, who remain at the centre of proceedings. At this point, Eloy were growing more and more with each album, and Dawn in a fine stopover on the way to the Ocean.

#326

Beyond Expression
Finch

Finch Beyond Expression album cover

A review by Warthur:

Finch's second album, Beyond Expression, is a wonderful counterpart to Glory of the Inner Force, and continues that album's approach of producing symphonic prog from heavy, Mahavishnu Orchestra influenced instrumental performances. Once again, the band produce a highly technically accomplished album with a level of complexity a cut above what many competitors in the symphonic field were producing at the time. Once again, the sound can best be described as being reminiscent of what might happen if John McLaughlin barged his way into the Emerson, Lake and Palmer lineup and became their lead songwriter. In short, it's another four-star winner from Finch, and if you liked their first album you should definitely consider checking this one out.

A review by Sean Trane:

3.5 stars really!!!

Finch's second album certainly picked up where its predecessor had left things at, but it might just be that they overeached themselves too. Indeed the group attacked their second album with the idea to go one further than previously, so they only did three tracks for Beyond Expression. Musically the album is tad rockier and a tad less jazzy, so you'll see more Yes-excess rather than Mahavishnu with an unchanged line-up and a cosmic "inner tripes" artwork, the group amounts the typical prog excesses they had just managed to avoid in their previous album. Don't get me wrong, unless you're playing these two albums back to back, this shouldn't be noticeable.

So, just three tracks (that's one better than the previous four) and the 20-minutes Passion Condensed (I'd hate to see the size of their passion extended ;o)p))))), the group is definitely keeping Yes in their vision, but in a pompous/bombastic way, ELP is almost in their line of fire, without sounding at all like them. Pure prog galore and yummy yumyum for the fans of such excesses.

The flipside is again more of the same, and Scars On The Ego (interesting title) it's now clear that Focus and Mahavishnu are not the focus of attention (unintended pun, but unavoidable too) of the quartet. This track starts slowly and tends to remain mid-tempo, even if Joop's guitar raises the sonic level to 11 in its second half. Van Nimwegen's influences are clearly Jan Akkerman, John McLaughlin and Steve Howe, his style is harder and sometimes this album has got me thinking of Colosseum II's debut album (without vocals), so I guess saying Gary Moore is also a possibility. The closing Beyond The Bizarre is the album highlight with plenty of drama and tempo changes

While the album sold still at respectable levels, its clear that BE was simply too close to GOIF, yet not as good either, but this is only noticeable if you compare the two actively. Still definitely worth throwing an ear on it, but remind yourself to pick it back up: it's messy for others and who knows?.. you might still need it again sometime soon. .

 

327

Parallel World
Far East Family Band

Far East Family Band Parallel World album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

There are two albums from this band that are absolutely must haves for anyone who is into Krautrock or Psychedelic/Spacerock music. There's this one called "Parallel World", and the other is the only album they put out under their original incarnation called FAR OUT. I prefer the latter for it's killer guitar, while this one is more trippy with plenty of electronics and influence from producer Klause Schulze.

 

"Metempsychosis" opens with the sound of the wind blowing as drums come in and a catchy beat with them. Spacey sounds arrive before 3 minutes. "Entering" is a 16 minute track dominated by spacey sounds. We get some mellotron in this one, and the first 5 minutes are mellow and drifting. Some vocal sounds before we finally get a beat 6 minutes in led by drums and bass. The dreamy sounds continue though, and we get some synths shooting around 10 minutes in. The drumming sounds great after 11 minutes. The song explodes 14 minutes in as cosmic debris is falling everywhere.

 

"Kokoro" is a slow moving song with Japanese vocals, mellotron and spacey sounds. The guitar 3 1/2 minutes in is a highlight as it simply soars as a full sound arrives. Nice. The melancholic melody is back 5 minutes in before the guitar and a powerful soundscape closes out the song in an amazing way. The final track "Parallel World" clocks in at over 30 minutes. This song is a trip filled with spacey sounds, some spoken words, bass, synths, mellotron and drums leading the way. Maybe you have to be into Krautrock and Psychedelic music to appreciate how incredible this song is. It's a ride, just like the picture on the front cover of the album.

Easily 4 stars, and I'm sure to many this is a 5 star record.

 

A review by Warthur:

This bold and innovative album substantially improves on Far East Family Band's earlier style, presenting a space rock melange unlike nothing previously heard. With parts that sound like Tangerine Dream, other sections which call early Pink Floyd to mind, still more which resemble You-era Gong, and some which sound decades ahead of their time, the band produce an exceptional album which features some fantastic guitar work on the part of Fumio Miya[&*!#]a and Hirohito Fukushima, as well as the talents of no less than two dedicated keyboardists (Masanori Takahashi and Akira Ito), backed up by Fumio here and there when the synths need a little extra power. An excellent achievement.

328

Roller
Goblin

Goblin Roller album cover

A review by Finnforest:

As I was reading up on Goblin preparing to write this review, it is ironic that the first thing I find is this comment from the italianprog.com site: "Goblin represent a rare case of a band that's much more popular among foreign collectors than in Italy, where their name has always been strictly associated to the Dario Argento horror films' soundtracks they've played on, rather than as a real prog band." While that last part is a rather harsh statement it hits home with me because Roller doesn't scratch my Italian itch. This may be a good album in some respects but it sounds rather nondescript and like it could have originated from anywhere. My biggest complaint is that for all of the jamming that is here, from the aimless moments to the spirited ones, the album simply fails to leave any lasting imprint on me emotionally. That in essence is my biggest problem with Roller. It sounds good on paper, it just doesn't inspire me, it never leaves me longing for the next spin.

Things start on a high note. The music of "Roller" is pretty good stuff that should please most instrumental prog fans. Impeccably played, vivacious, nicely constructed. The first thing that jumped out at me is the nice big fat bass on the title cut, it just slides and hits that groove that I love being a big fan of actively played bass. The meat of the song features a nice tri-mingle of the lead bass, keys, and electric lead in a pleasant melody. There are lots of water sound effects in the aptly titled "Aquaman" which starts quietly with acoustic guitar and synth. There are lots of nice keyboards on this album, synths, organ, and piano. Halfway through Morante lets rip with a wailing electric guitar solo with keyboard-strings behind. Percussion is played with great care in the background as the acoustic and water sounds return.

"Snip-Snap" is a funky little romp but really pretty silly. "Il Risveglio del Serpente" starts with panned cymbal and effects, then lovely piano comes in with acoustic guitar and the track sticks mostly with the solo piano. "Goblin" is another high energy workout like "Roller" and is the other highlight of the album. Great lead guitar fireworks with fat, funky bass and tight drumming. Good synth parts develop in the quieter moments and are allowed some space from the guitars. The ending gets more intense again with even a little drum solo just before the final close. "Dr. Frankenstein" has a diabolical beginning with eerie sounding guitar leads over spooky synths, followed by the snappy bass and drums. The track goes to highlight the good rhythm playing with some wild keyboard work to the foreground but like four of the six tracks it is nothing special.

"Roller" does not fully satisfy either as an Italian prog album or as instrumental rock album. It sounds pretty flat compared to the robust regional flairs of its competition from the time, which is why I can relate to the comment from italianprog.com that I led with. From instrumental rock I want more building, emotional playing, whereas in my opinion, Goblin seems to be a collection of parts pasted together that result in a curiosity rather than any well thought-out epics. I think I even prefer the Cherry Five to this album for its undeniable fire-in-the-belly. I am not saying Roller is bad by any means, there are some pretty nice moments in the title track and in Goblin, as well as nice piano in Serpent which garner 3 stars for sure. I'm just saying it doesn't float my boat beyond that point for reasons noted so decide for yourself-lots of folks think this is the cat's meow! The booklet contains a brief history of the band but not much else. Sound is pretty good on the CD MDF 307 reissue.

 

 

329

Gazeuse
Gong

Gong Gazeuse album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

This is GONG? I'm sure a lot of people have said that about this album over the last 30 years. Pierre Moerlen is the leader at this point as many of the originals have gone, including former leader Daevid Allen as well as Steve Hillage. Pierre has brought in Allan Holdsworth on guitar, and Francois Moze (ex- MAGMA) on bass and piano.  Moerlen and Holdsworth compose all the songs except for the final track which was created by Moze. This would be the first all-instrumental album by GONG as well as their first jazz/fusion release. The psychedelic music is gone.

"Expresso" is jazzy right from the get go. Some tasteful guitar after a minute with light drums, vibes and bass. Great sound with the guitar leading the way for some time. Sax takes over for guitar after 3 minutes. Nice drum work 4 minutes in. Very good tune. "Night Illusion" opens with some heavy guitar from Holdsworth as drums pound it out. A calm comes in quickly with vibes, bass and light drums as guitar is tastefully played. This contrast continues. Another excellent song.

"Percolations:Part 1&2" opens with sparse piano, vibes and a spacey mood. Gongs are hit occasionally. The tempo picks up with drums after 2 minutes, but it's brief. As the title suggests the song just sort of percolates slowly. Drums are back after 4 minutes as vibes go wild. The drums gradually take right over until we have a full blown drum solo. It isn't the type of drum solo that makes me roll my eyes either, this is amazing folks!

"Shadows Of" has Holdsworth back in the spotlight, although Moerlen is active on the drums. Flute, bass and vibes are all outstanding on this track. Guitar comes in as the tempo picks up 3 minutes in. Man this guy can play the guitar! He just lights it up until 5 minutes in when we get a full band sound. A calm follows then flute, light drums and percussion take over. Some bass joins in and then guitar to end it. Fantastic track!

"Esnuria" opens with a catchy beat before some heavy guitar starts to lead the way. Vibes and sax come in. Just a collage of terrific sounds at this point. "Mireilie" is pastoral without much going on really. Liquid sounding keys from Moze with intricate acoustic guitar make this a truly beautiful way to end the album. A must for fans of jazz/fusion.

A review by Sean Trane:

3.5 stars really!!!!

Before starting the review, this album was apparently released in the US under the name of Expresso, which will explain why the following album will bear the name Expresso II. After the still very GonG-ian Shamal, where the spirit of Daevid was not completely erased yet, as can be seen by constant traits of humour in the instrumental music, Gazeuse is a rather different object, retaining a certain form of rock in their jazz-rock, that they are very much comparable of Canterbury bands like Hatfield, Gilgamesh or National Health. Even though Hillage is gone and replaced by Alan Holdsworth (ex-Nucleus and Soft Machine), the group is now in majority French in its personnel, Howlett being replaced by ex-Magma Francis Moze (also playing keyboards).

Gong is now a full-blown jazz-rock outfit, a very percussive one at that with no less than four members playing percussion instruments as disparate as marimbas, congas, drums, glockenspiels, maracas and temple blocks (even leaving a lengthy percussion passage at the end of Night Illusion; thus leaving only Holdsworth (guitars & violin), Malherbe (winds) and Moze (pianos) front the septet with solo instruments. With a stupendous and colourful (dare I even say joyous) artwork, it is a little amazing to notice that the album is so serious: Shamal and Gazeuse should've traded artworks to fit better the musical content. Moze's Kobaian-speaking bass adds a little je-ne-sais-quoi to the music that makes this album quite enjoyable. Holdsworth's heavy guitars often take the group to a Canterburian trail (the future National Health and UK guitarist is clearly blossoming in Gazeuse), and his composition Shadow Of is one of the album's highlights. While Gazeuse has no links whatsoever to the Daevid-ian Gong, it is certainly no less an album, just as worthy but differently, and likely to appeal to a different kind of proghead.

 

330

Pollen
Pollen

Pollen Pollen album cover

A review by Finnforest:

Really good Canadian prog.......

Pollen were one of those bands that few people ever heard of outside of prog circles, and yet they were very talented. The band were together for several years in the 70s touring with better-known acts and no doubt upstaging them on occasion. Hailing from Quebec, they released only one album in their glory days but man is it something. Despite a somewhat corny album cover, the music contained on their album is sophisticated, beautiful symphonic prog that will delight fans of Ange, Yes, Harmonium, and Genesis. While the vocals are in French and therefore not understandable to me, I read that they cover such diverse topics as urbanization, Catholicism, life from other planets, and our own existences after death. But topics aside, the real story is the well played, lush, prog rock that shines with analog keyboards, great guitar work, and varied percussion. Flutes and vibes also add nice touches to the good melodies. Arrangements are complex and interesting and the mood of the music is fairly upbeat. Their band logo is adorned with the leaf of the marijuana plant perhaps giving the listener the band's "secret handshake" on maximizing the Pollen listening experience in their view. Geefed up or not this is a good one, folks.

"Vieux corps de vie d'ange" begins with a Gentle Giant sounding section but thankfully they quickly make their own sound evident. Pollen may have bits and pieces that sound like their heroes but they certainly don't dwell on them. This song wastes little time with foreplay, you are instantly knocked out by fantastic keyboard riffs, great drumming and guitar, and Rivest's emotional vocals. "L'etoile" begins with acoustic guitar picking and volume controlled electric leads and keyboards. The keys get more intense as the drums enter and the whole track is quite satisfying. "L'indien" is quieter starting with acoustic and softer vocal and sounding like Harmonium. A lovely, folksy tune. In the second half there are some keyboards adding a little background and some vocal harmony at the end.

"Tout'l temps" is an upbeat rocker with a distinctive repeating keyboard run that seems a bit cheesy but the track will appeal to vintage keyboard fans. "Vivre la mort" sounds like Ange to me with a very showy and extroverted theatrical approach, the band having fun with an upbeat "bouncy" song. Halfway through the drums stop and the tone shifts to a spacey keyboard/guitar solo section that is marvelous. A minute later the drums return and the song builds into a propulsive ending with keys and guitars trading licks. Good stuff. "La femme ailee" begins with beautiful classical guitar soon joined by keyboards that remind me of Pentacle. It's a wistful, eyes to the night sky feeling. Around 3 minutes there is a pause and we hear some wind blowing. The group fades back in again with acoustic and vocal first and then the whole band sweeps back in, in a very majestic almost Styx-like symph-rock sound circa Grand Illusion. Then that section stops and we get a solo organ section before the band returns with a rhythmic riffing part. The final two minutes are simply an exercise in brilliant symphonic climax that will please any fan of the genre, with exciting passages and very thoughtful, crisp playing.

I am giving this great re-issue 4.25 stars and recommending it to all prog fans. The booklet contains nice pictures and history along with lyrics in French. You won't be disappointed if you are a fan of the groups I mention above. It's a real shame they didn't remain together for more albums but this release is "the only recorded material available of our incredible adventure" per vocalist Tom Rivest.

 

331

Maledetti
Area

Area Maledetti album cover 

A review by Sean Trane:

Fourth Studio album, Maledetti is an improvement over the absolutely obtuse CRA album and its improvised atonal music, yet it takes as much from that album and "Crac!" whose bright jazz rock was illuminating the peninsula. So using the median between the two conduct line Maledetti is a concept album about "what if" and was packed in an impressive medical gatefold.

Besides the wacky opening short Evarorazione, an eccentric Stratos vocal affair, the album starts well enough on the ultra-funky and mega-technical Diforisma Urbano, sounding a bit like Jeff Beck's Wired album, Stratos intervening as if his voice was just another synth (some of the most effective scat I've heard, since you might actually miss them) in this red-hot fusion of molten rocks. Gerontacrazia is one of the weirder tracks on this album at least in its first half, hovering between the dissonant and absolutely mad, then suddenly veering again fusion, (Beck and Hammer seems to be again the influence), but Stratos' vocals ensure that you couldn't mistake them for another band.

Scum is very close to free-jazz, often teetering with the dissonant demented line >> this track is probably the closest to their Radiation album, along with the closing and aptly named Caos (second part), which retuirns to Area's maddening free-improv side.Beside a useless but thankfully short Massacro Di Brandeburgo, Giro Rondo reaches another red hot fusion, but it took its time to get there via some excellent and cradual progressions and implacable chord succession. There is an unwelcomed bonus track in the form of a live interview which turns chaotic, as Stratos pushes his provications.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm:

After the accessible "Crac!" album, AREA head back into the avant-garde territory of "Caution Radiation Area" with this release. This is not for the faint of heart, but more for those who are adventurous and are looking for a challenge. The subject matter is as usual political and social in nature, but since the lyrics are in Italian I'll just talk about the music.

"Evaporazione" is a short intro track where we can hear someone whistling and talking. No music. "Diforisma Urbano" is just a joy to listen to with all those intricate sounds coming and going. Very jazzy. It's hard to even highlight one instrument because they all sound amazing. Then vocals and piano arrive 3 1/2 minutes in. Back again the instrumental work that continues to be incredible.

"Gerontocrazia" opens with vocals and percussion.The sax makes some noise, but there really isn't much going on. Then the tempo picks up 3 minutes in as we get some cello then a middle-eastern flavour. This sounds much better. The bass before 4 1/2 minutes is chunky as the soundscape changes to a jazzy motif. Great sound. Vocals return before 6 1/2 minutes as it ends with that middle-eastern vibe.

"Scum" is my favourite, it opens with piano as drums join in. Nice bass lines follow. The piano work is fantastic, a little dissonant you might say. The drumming is outstanding. Love this track! Organ 4 1/2 minutes in. A calm before 5 minutes as spoken words come in to the end. "Il Mascacro..." features a string quartet. A short classical piece that is very impressive. "Giro,Giro,Tondo" opens with some strange vocal sounds from Demetrio for 1 1/2 minutes. Then a jazzy, uptempo section takes over. Vocals come in a minute later. The tempo picks up 3 1/2 minutes in. Just a terrific sound as piano, bass and drums astound. It ends in an almost spacey manner.

"Caos(Parte Seconde)" is the 9 minute closer. It begins with very bizzare vocal sounds. This is actually very entertaining and funny. Sax is in the background. This is weird even for Demetrio. Avant-garde instrumental sounds follow. Yes, this is experimental folks. Vocal melodies 4 1/2 minutes in. Demetrio sounds likes he's lost it 6 minutes in. Haha. A dissonant horn melody ends it. Very much recommended to avant jazz fans.

332

Los Delirios Del Mariscal
Crucis

Crucis Los Delirios Del Mariscal album cover 

A review by Sean Trane:

I hesitate to give it another half star (this would only be honorary anyway) but what a difference compared with their debut. Delerios is definitely more successful, more progressive more grandiose than Crucis. Only four tracks and two aside and every succeding number more impressive than its preceding tracks, this finishes in a really interesting finale giving you the envy to get up and turn over the disc and start again with side 1 - (unfortunately playing the Cd on the label side is always a little deceiving). The first two tracks are really good and sometimes reminds me of Focus and Finch but to me Purple and Rooster are still very present from their debut album. Track three, Pollo Frito (fried chicken) starts like a track from one of my fave albums of all time Caravanserai (Santana's masterpiece) and one can hear this influence throughout this track and Abismo. Then comes probably my favourite Argentinian number (along with Bubu's Cortejo por Un Dia Amarillo), Abismo Terrenal (Earth Abysm) which leaves me rather speechless but not enough as to not review the album.

With Crucis, I now close my first delving in South American 70's and early 80's prog (Mia, Bacamarte, Espiritu, Bubu) but I would say that the better group I found is definitely the Chilean group Los Jaivas: they are not always all that prog - they are first and above all a folk group - but when they decided to be lyrical, grandiose, majestic, progressive, they are simply awesome. They also epitomize best South American spirit with that Andean Indian folk-laced- progressive music.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm:

 

You have to love the way these guys play, and on this their second album they give us longer songs with much more instrumental music. I thought the drummer was amazing on their debut, but he really does top that performance on this recording. Lots of long guitar solos as well on this one. More keys but less organ. Jazzier too.

"No Me Separen De Mi" is the only track with vocals. Keys then drums lead off as synths then mellow vocals follow (reminding me of an Italian band that slips my mind). Some solid drumming 3 minutes in and a fuller sound comes and goes. "Los Delirios Del Mariscal" opens with barely audible percussion as synths follow. This is such a beautiful piece of music. It builds slowly as drums come in followed by bass, then guitar arrives before 3 minutes. The drums sound incredible. Check out the guitar 6 minutes in. This has to be my favourite song on the album.

"Pollo Frito" opens with a nice drum solo as other instruments join in quickly. The tempo and mood changes often. Some good guitar after 2 minutes. Jazzy 3 1/2 minutes in before guitar comes ripping back in.Keys lead the way before guitar dominates again. Back and forth they go. "Abismo Terrenal" opens with light drums before some excellent guitar joins in. The sound becomes fuller. Great melodic sound at this point. Turns jazzy after 2 minutes. Some fast paced guitar 4 1/2 minutes in is so fluid. The guitar really steals the show 6 minutes in for over 3 minutes, then we get a bass solo. Nice. That solo continues (1 1/2 minutes) until almost 10 1/2 minutes in when it's the drummers turn to show his chops. And that he does for a minute then the main melody returns.  As I said in my review of their debut, I do prefer it to this one. The more I listen to them both the more that becomes clear to me. Both are excellent though and great examples of some of the best prog that Argentina has to offer.

333

Come in un'ultima cena
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso

Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso Come in unultima cena album cover

A review by Finnforest:

No letdown here

Banco's first three albums are heralded by prog fans for good reason, they contain some of the finest progressive music out there. This title gets far less attention which is a shame as the usual letdown in quality some bands have after their acclaimed period is not present here. This is a solid RPI title by any definition. This album is in some ways their most accomplished to date, featuring incredible arrangements and wonderful composition. Yes the long epics have been replaced by shorter pieces but they are very engaging. Blending classical and jazz influenced jamming into their usual complex dramatic stew, at first the album can be a bit overwhelming and less accessible. It may not grab you as immediately as the earlier albums, but give it time and it will. Those passionate vocals, the dual keys which merge organ and fantastic piano, and the dynamic guitar playing. It's all there in great abundance.

The songs range from the jamming "Il Ragno" to the gorgeous "Il Cose Buono," which features stunningly beautiful flute and classical guitar playing. They even retain some of the mischievous avant sound in "Slogan" though admittedly it is less wild than "Darwin." "La Notte e Piena" treats us to the sweet violin of Angelo Branduardi against light piano and flute, very delicate and emotional. The closing track returns to some of the album's earlier themes tying it up with cohesion. But I was astounded at how well-rounded and satisfying this album was so late in the classic RPI era, when many bands had packed it in already or were releasing lesser works. I only wish I had the Japan mini of this title, as the Virgin issue leaves something to be desired in both sound and packaging. 4 ½ stars. Great album.

 

334

El Jardín de los Presentes
Invisible

Invisible El Jardín de los Presentes album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

4.5 stars. INVISIBLE are from Argentina and they released 3 albums in the seventies before calling it quits. Luis Spinetta was the leader and an incredible talent. He played lead guitar and sang on the first two albums, but on this the final record they brought in this virtuoso to play lead guitar while Luis sang while still adding some guitar. Their first album blew me away and I gave it 4.5 stars, the second was more laid back and just didn't grab me like the debut so I gave it 3 stars. I really put off listening to this one assuming it would be like the last one but how wrong I was. Sure this is laid back for the most part but it's beyond beautiful, just a gorgeous record that deserves 4.5 stars as well. What a talented band! I was reminded of the the Italian greats at times with the amazing vocals and incredible instrumental work.

"El Anillo Del Captain Beto" sounds so incredibly good and the Spanish vocals are so moving. The drums beat lightly while the bass throbs and the guitar gently plays. A gorgeous track. "Los Libros De La Buena Memoria" opens with sounds that echo as reserved vocals come in. Some accordion before 3 minutes. A mellow tune.  

"Alarma Entre Los Angeles" is an instrumental with drums and guitar leading the way early. This one's more dynamic but then it settles in tastefully. Some intricate guitar here as it solos throughout beautifully. "Que Ves El Cielo" is a good track that's laid back with vocals. "Ruido De Magia" is another gorgeous sounding tune with vocals. Tasteful guitar as the bass throbs. The tempo picks up briefly then it turns dreamy. So moving 4 minutes in.

"Doscientos Anos" is pastoral with the focus on the vocals. I like the vocal melodies before 3 1/2 minutes. "Nino Condenado" has a good intro, I like the bass and drums. Vocals before 2 minutes. It kicks in after 2 1/2 minutes. Nice. This is the most powerful passage on the album and it returns around 5 1/2 minutes in. What a song! Check out the guitar late. "Las Golondrinas De Plaza De Mayo" has this nice laid back rhythm with vocals. An uplifting track.  A must in my opinion for fans of beautiful, melodic music.

335

The Third Reich 'N Roll
The Residents

The Residents The Third Reich N Roll album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

The Residents - The Third Reich 'N Roll is a strange beast with some insane sections in true Residents style.

‘Swastikas on Parade’ (recorded 1974) fills side one and it is deconstructions of 60s classics the way you have never heard them and may never want to again. It begins with ‘Let's Twist Again’ German style, and segues into a chaotic version of ‘Land of a Thousand Dances’ and Hanky Panky’. Immediately we are deluged with ‘A Horse with No Name’ played simultaneously as ‘Double Shot Of My Baby's Love’. ‘The Letter’ features manic vocals that are hilarious and just a little disconcerting. The perplexing choice of ‘Psychotic Reaction’ while machine gun blasts are heard is a mystery and ‘Little Girl’ has a great dark riff to wrap your ears around. ‘Papa's Got a Brand New Bag’ is a strange one with a German female soprano. ‘Talk Talk (The Music Machine)’ has spacey effects and a low guitar fuzz, with echoed guttural voices and weird keyboard and brass. ‘Telstar/Wipe Out’ has great pounding drums and blowfly synth, and I recognised the ‘Telstar’ tune from the Tornadoes and it was a great piece of nostalgia.

‘Hitler Was A Vegetarian’ (recorded 1975) is side two with more merged non stop 60s nostalgia. ‘Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)’, ‘96 Tears’, and ‘It's My Party’ are destroyed in no time. ‘Light My Fire’ is a very dark version, followed by ‘Ballad of the Green Berets’, ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy’ and ‘Rock Around the Clock/Pushing Too Hard’ which is acid rock at its most demented. ‘Good Lovin'’, ‘Gloria’ and ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ are hardly recognizable but I instantly heard the infamous riff of ‘Sunshine of Your Love’. ‘Hey Jude/Sympathy for the Devil’ make a dark theme with one of the more disturbing melodies given the Residents treatment.

I have been compelled to listen to The Residents from the 70s so returning to it years later is a wonderful experience, but this one may turn many off as it is challenging and too weird in places. Definitely worth a listen but I prefer “The Commercial Album” which are original tunes with the ferocious Residents sound.



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - February 05 2012 at 06:09
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336

Black Market
Weather Report

Weather Report Black Market album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

I guess you could call this a transitional album as they would start to make more accessible music from here on out. There would be a lot more of that found on the next one "Heavy Weather". Jaco was introduced on this album although he's only on two tracks, one of which he composed. Alphonso Johnson is still the bass player at this point although he would leave after this one to join Billy Cobham and his new musical adventure with George Duke. Chester Thompson of Zappa fame drums on the last five tracks, although he helps out on the title track too. I have to say that there are points on this album that I'm almost dizzy listening to the collage of sounds, it's pure bliss. The fact that there is some world class percussion on every song helps too. This though is mostly about Shorter and Zawinul who composed 5 of the 7 tracks.

"Black Market" opens with the sounds of a market as it builds to a pleasant melody. So much going on after 1 1/2 minutes. Amazing! Love the percussion. The sax and bass are more prominent after 2 1/2 minutes. As the song draws to a close it settles down more and more. "Cannon Ball" is dedicated to Zawinul's friend and alto sax player Julian "Cannonball" Adderley who had just passed away months before this recording. This is where we hear Jaco for the first time on this album. This is very relaxing and enjoyable although the keys are jarring at times early on. Sax after 2 1/2 minutes as the sound gets fuller. Nice drumming after 3 minutes and then it settles to a calm after 4 minutes.

"Gibralter" opens with the sounds of water and a ship. Sax takes over beautifully. An explosion of sound before 1 1/2 minutes. The drumming sounds incredible, so crisp as the bass throbs. The sax is back before 4 minutes. Zawinul is really fantastic on this song as well as he comes and goes. Check it out 6 minutes in, so much going on! Shorter is letting it rip after 7 minutes. What a song!

"Elegant People" features percussion that is simply a pleasure to listen to. The sax and keys after 1 1/2 minutes amaze. "Three Clowns" with the synths and atmosphere brings to mind the previous album "Mysterious Traveller". Then a slow sax melody comes in with piano before 2 minutes. "Barbary Coast" is Jaco's composition. It opens with the sound of a train going by. Then it's Jaco's prominent bass lines that steal the show. This one is funky and you gotta love it. Sax and keys are also featured.

"Herandnu" is my favourite track on here and is a Johnson composition. He sure left the band on a high! This sounds so good! Drums, sax, keys and bass create a fantastic sound early. A change before 1 1/2 minutes with what sounds like fuzz bass then the tempo picks up. These guys blow me away on this song. A must have in my opinion for you jazz fans out there. It's not just the playing it's those arrangements as well that are so impressive.

337

Olias Of Sunhillow
Anderson, Jon

Jon Anderson Olias of Sunhillow album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush: 

A progressive exploration of the innerverse or universe or mindverse... Anderson's visionary breakaway from Yes.

"Olias of Sunhillow" is the visionary brainchild of Jon Anderson after a hiatus away from Yes. It is as progressive as anything from the early Yes years, but of course does not measure up to the classic band albums. Having said that, this is certainly an impressive solo effort, streets ahead of those difficult years of Yes' "Union" to "Talk". Anderson pours out his heart and soul with every track but as accomplished and virtuosic the music is, the lyrical content is full blown New Age and this may turn some listeners away. The transcendentalism, Shamanism and New Age themes explored on Yes albums are given the full treatment here and it comes across as heavy handed and impenetrable. Anderson's voice may not be for everyone but I like the way he croons on high falsetto and at least on this album his voice is not strained. The tension and release of dark and light shades in the texture of the music makes for some compelling listening.

There is a conceptual framework on which each song hangs, the story though is as opaque or hard to understand as the lyrics themselves, true to any Yes album of the 70s. I just like the way Anderson keeps it progressive and doesn't sell out like so many other solo artists from prog bands. The concept concerns an organic interplanetary craft known as the Moorglade which is an exploration of the innerverse or universe or mindverse, whatever you want to call it, of the spheres of mystical revelation. The lyrics search for meaning of existence and the listener searches for meaning of the lyrics. It is all very dense and cluttered with symbolism and it will confound, perhaps even infuriate. The music is the most important thing and it ranges from incredibly simple and fluent, to intricate and fractured. There are true moments of beauty, very Yes like or Wakemanesque keyboards.

After the opening tracks the style settles into an odd ambience that can be dreamy or somnambulistically dull depending on your mood. The extreme slow pace of 'Song Of Search', an instrumental that works as a transition point, is followed by the quirky synth-soaked 'To The Runner'. The transmogrification of styles is astounding but it works as points of interest as the story unfolds. A lot of the music is repetitive, mesmirising and transient, and yet these moments are counterbalanced by sporadic transfusions of polyrhythmic keyboards and percussion.

Overall, it is an album that will surprise many listeners familiar to Yes, moreover as a solo album the Yes men were not known for this type of musicianship, but Anderson has created something very special. Not everyone will be into the New Aginess or high pitched music, but it still delivers as a progressive excursion into unchartered musicscapes. It is known as a cult album among proggers and for good reason; an excellent slice of prog nevertheless and an astonishing concept album.

 

338

Stratosfear
Tangerine Dream

Tangerine Dream Stratosfear album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush: 

I was totally disappointed with “Phaedra”, so got this with trepidation. I was actually delighted with this album. It is streets ahead of “Phaedra” for sheer enjoyable quality.

Tangerine Dream's techno ambience and their influence on experimental music is definitive and of course they were one of the first to produce music like this. Tangerine Dream are certainly progenitors of electronic music and glacial landscape music like no other band. Whereas I was unmoved by most of “Phaedra”, “Stratosfear” is an encapsulating delight. The title track has a very nice rhythm and jaunty metrical patterns throughout that are compelling to the ear. All the tracks have a strange ambience and blend into one journey.

‘3 AM at the Border of the Marsh From Okefenokee’, try remembering that title, is an intriguing piece that moves in a variety of directions and never really settles on one time signature. It features bizarre animal soundwaves that transport us to a deserted neverwhere, perhaps in the middle of some ancient forest or alien desert.

‘Invisible Limits’ is very long but has awesome effects and wonderful guitar licks and keyboard motifs. It is quite ethereal and not one to play at midnight. The music is still difficult to absorb at times, but this is a nice change in TD's style and is a lot more accessible then other albums that were very much in the experimental phase.

A relaxing journey onto some cosmic glacial planet.

 

A review by Warthur:

Recorded shortly after Edgar Froese produced his solo album Macula Transfer, Stratosfear sees Tangerine Dream take that album's intriguing mix of synthesised cool and warm kraut- psych guitar and applied it to a full band setting, with percussion and flute joining the mix and showing more prominence than they had on a Tangerine Dream album for some time - particularly on closing track Invisible Limits. The preceding, more synth-dominated tracks have a cold, stark, spooky quality to them in keeping with what's expected from this eerie era of Tangerine Dream. As the last album from this particular lineup, it's a more than excellent swan song.

339

Aguirre, The Wrath of God
Popol Vuh

Popol Vuh Aguirre, The Wrath of God album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

This would be the first of many soundtracks that Florian would do for Werner Herzog. The movie itself is apparently very good by the way. Andy Thompson from "Planet Mellotron" insists that there is no mellotron on this album, what sounds like mellotron is actually choir organ, something that AMON DUUL II also used. I have a different track listing than the list on many albums. Florian really contrasts well the light and dark aspects of music here, as well as taking us on some experimental adventures.

"Aguirre I" features these heavenly trancendental soundscapes that seem to take us into the presence of God. Beautiful. "Flote" is a short one minute track of pan pipe playing from guest Robert Eliscu. "Morgengruss II" is the only track that Florian didn't compose as Daniel Ficheischer did this one. We get the sounds of the spinett from Florian and the guitar from Daniel creating wonder. Lots of light and beauty on this one.

"Aguirre II" opens with thoses choir-like sounds that come in waves. This continues until the guitar takes over before 3 minutes. Great sound 5 minutes in. "Agnus Dei" sounds amazing when it kicks in around 30 seconds. I like the guitar 2 minutes in as well. Excellent track. "Vergegenwaertigung" is the almost 17 minute experimental closing track. This is where it gets dark with no real melody, just sounds. This is minimilistic to say the least as sounds seem to float in and out of the darkness. I really like this album a lot. You don't ususally find the stark contrasts of musical styles that are found on this recording, especially from POPOL VUH.

 

A review by Warthur:

A solid soundtrack album from Popol Vuh, though I do think that as an album it doesn't hang together as well as those they composed as an album. With a mixture of music from the film and off-cuts from around the same era, it's perfectly pleasant, and the title track is fantastic with its combination of transcendent Mellotron chords and distorted piping. But at the same time, I think the music here works better in its original context in the film than as something to listen to separately from Werner Herzog's gorgeous rainforest imagery. Still, it's a good purchase for any Popol Vuh fan.

340

Fantasy of Horses
Rainbow Theatre

Rainbow Theatre Fantasy of Horses album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

Wow!! I never start my review with wow. But apparently this group remains to be discovered by a lot of people, and that includes me. Talk about unearthing a gem here. Out of nowhere comes from the underworld this strange band that knows what drama is. As a matter of fact, some of their music can even be called operatic having not only a string section but also a moody wind section as well: jazzy feel on those very Spanish Conquistador dramatic themes. Yes, the music is often grandiose (sometimes bordering on the cheesy) and being somehow what Days Of Future Past should've been. Does this sound intriguing? Ya betcha!! These guys are drawing musical circles around you and they are twiddling with your unstabled brains with their incredible musical meanders and those orgasmic Mellotrons washes. For their second album, leader Browning opted for another horn section, and inside the quartet baritone singer Hoban stepped in to take the keyboards.

I am generally not an opera fan (and certainly do not like the "high culture" snobbery always present at those events), but here I will not only make an exception, we are in for a real rock opera, much more than the great Townsend threw at us into his trips and anguishes (go back to sleep, Rick!!). This music is really classical music fused with rock and might just be on the best example of fusion ever (even if I repeat the word cheesy). But the rock parts are hovering between early Crimson with a great (and much more than that) rhythm section, jazzy Spanish horn section drawing of Rodriguez-type of Aranjuez Concerto. Just flabbergasting if you let yourself taken by the waves of the music.

The four tracks (two short and two epics) are gut-wrenching, fascinating, orgasmic, grandiose hair-raising (hear the Farewell of Dancer, the first epic) and yet flow so easily together to form one gigantic track. So much that the heavily rhythmic jazz rock of City Night Life simply does not shock, but actually perfectly and lovingly out-of-place, just like it was meant to be. Too bad for an excellent drum solo that lasted a minute too long, though. The title track starts on a slow operatic style but the crescendo is breathtakingly implacably progressive. Stupendous flutes with the whole orchestra pushing the oboe and other winds (the trombone gets some superb underlines), the whole thing resonates a bit like those unique and crazy Finns of Haikara (their first album really) due to the same Crimson influences but also Magma's works on choral works and interplay with rock. Stupendous, incredibly flawlessly played and written, this is nearing perfection although on the duration, not throughout the whole album, but close enough to be a masterpiece.

Just some 35 minutes-long, this album is easily the best thing to have come from down under, crushing any other pretenders by far, even (especially ;-) Sebastian Hardie. A second reissue saw the light of day in 06 (along with the never re-issued debut The Armada) with a 13-min+ bonus Browning-penned instrumental track Eagle Odyssey, which is not of the same era, recorded purposely for this album's bonus and entirely symphonic (no group or rock instruments). However it fits the album so well, that you don't even notice any difference and most listeners discovering the album now, will most likely integrate it in the album's oeuvre as if it had been there from the start. Sibelius and Strauss come to mind, when listening to this piece.

I'm not exactly sure how I should take the fact that this group was never being exposed (not even sure there are that many collectors who know of the group) and that they are finally getting exposition some 30 years later. This was obviously not a cheap record to make back then, so it is hard to understand how this group was never promoted properly. I just can't believe there are still some incredible albums that are finally getting a bit of attention some 30 years later (but this is also what keeps this old geezer up to his progressive obsessions ;-). Because music like this is only waiting for progheads to love it. One of my shocks this year!!!

 

A review by Finnforest:

Sebastian who?

If the term Aussie Prog makes you think of Sebastian Hardie first then you haven't heard Rainbow Theatre. But please do not make the mistake of judging this album too soon with a low rating as I might have in my past. "Fantasy of Horses" is the definition of a grower, an album that could seem unfocused (frenetic as another writer put it) at first but whose epic beauty comes after many plays have permeated the "instant gratification layer" of your brain, that unfortunate flaw most of us have whether we admit it or not. We often want to be blown away by music right away and if the first 5 plays don't accomplish that there is disappointment. Good music doesn't always work that way. One's first 5 spins of this album could certainly seem bewildering, perplexing, or confusing-feelings that will slowly thereafter morph into a wide proggy grin. Each new play of "Fantasy of Horses" is a revelation and that staying power is what makes an album worthy of a high rating. Without a doubt this was one of the most interesting and exciting discoveries to hit my mailbox in the past year.

Overview: The Rainbow Theater were a large collective of Melbourne musicians assembled in 1973 by composer and multi-instrumentalist Julian Browning. While they are described as a "classically influenced jazz rock" by the time of this recording they list influences like Stravinsky, Wagner, King Crimson, and Mahavishnu Orchestra. The "Fantasy of Horses" album delivers what sounds like one long, calculated track with the ambition of "Atom Heart Mother," "Lizard," or "The Gates of Delirium." But Rainbow has their own sound, blending symphonic progressive with burning jazz rock, delicate melody, orchestral grandeur, and operatic singing. Their first album "Armada" was issued in 1975 and was followed by local gigs which created a small but enthusiastic following. It was hardly enough to sustain such a large group of band members and several began to leave. Undaunted, Browning would bring in a new brass section, woodwinds, strings, and engineer Gil Matthews to develop and expand the vision-the results of which were the band's most memorable achievement. Naturally after the recording of the music the label balked at the costs of pressing the album and Browning himself had to put up the cash. The album would be pirated by enthusiasts for decades before the release of the splendid remastered CD- more on that later. The new album was an amazingly successful one, yet the shifting musical interest of the times along with the huge costs associated with touring such a huge group of musicians left the project unsustainable and the band broke up in early 1977. After the split Browning studied composition and conducting and indeed did perform his works over the years.

The themes for the album really did originate from horses. Browning had been reading about the plight of "wild brumbies" running free in the high plains of South Wales. The inspiration of such natural beauty at odds with the dangers these animals faced by encroaching human interest made ample fare for the lyrics and moods of the new album, and the emotions became metaphorical for the artist's project if not for mankind itself. Browning would recall; "alright, you've done something different with the first album so now it's time to come up with a unique approach, to find a new realm in which to create this piece. I was looking for a different inspiration. I still think there's nothing else that I've heard since that's quite like that album" [J. Browning].

My own feeling is that an album like this is exactly the kind of thing more progressive music fans should be listening to, precisely because of Browning's adventurous spirit. With the homogenous, commercial mainstream "prog" albums that come out over the course of the year we need to sometimes step back and find these kinds of albums that seemed to transcend the commercial bubble in search of something more meaningful. This is one of those releases that prove again that commercial success is not a requisite for artistic triumph.

The music of "Fantasy" is grounded by a superb rhythm section playing with a fusion slant that is frequently diluted by a cloak of mellotron or organ. Browning handles both keyboards and the occasional excellent flourish of guitar work. The basic foundation is then blasted into the stratosphere by the orchestral loveliness of 14 musicians working together. Brass, strings, and woodwinds provide the beauty and the constant drama needed to engage the listener and engage you they will!

The two long tracks "Dancer" and "Fantasy of Horses" are simply mind-bending musical adventure that rarely let up as they weave through multiple sections. In the middle of both pieces will come the occasional calm interlude that allows one to catch his/her breath. In these moments may come gentle piano melody or woodwind solo. Another fascinating aspect is the male operatic vocals of Keith Hoban which are both formal and dramatic, beautifully woven into the music. While a primarily instrumental album these vocal sections add so much grandeur and another distinct avenue for the ideas being expressed. The ending section of "Dancer" (the story of a young girl's desire to be a ballerina) must be one of prog's most beautiful moments: cascading soft trumpet and flute calling back and forth as the bass and mellotron drifts downwards, hit bottom and go back up to descend again, drum bursts all around but always delicate, the sensation is one of falling, floating down.

Like "Dancer," the 7-part title track finale is remarkable in its ability to convey the storytelling instrumentally even if you set aside the vocals. Each part sounds carefully honed to impart the narrative and I was both moved and fascinated by the balance of emotion and technique, it was such an important reminder to me that the best music needn't bash one over the head with volume and note-mongering to connect with the listener. I only wish I could have seen this "prog opera" in a small playhouse in Melbourne back in the day. Browning mentioned the possibility of new material from the group in an interview. I only hope he will assemble the group for a one-off performance of this album for a DVD release, keeping the rock element firmly in tact, so that fans can witness this title as it was meant to be.

Press: "The fact is that this album is one of the best achieved and better constructed Progressive Operas ever released, especially when it comes to the 2 longer tracks in the album. The acoustic piano, sometimes close to the works of classical composers such as Stravinsky and Wagner, is perfectly combined with a thoughtful wind and metal section, with a rare sense of beauty and perfect interplay. The string arrangements are thrown in the mix to form an even tighter body of work. The multi- movement "Dancer" then introduces and adds the classical and symphonic virtues to that jazzy feel, enthralling the listener in a maze of combined styles in a not only refreshing but also surprising effect. This approach is then further explored to perfection in the 16+ minute opus "Fantasy of Horses," which just lets the listener in a pavlovian state.yearning for more. Also the duality between the ethereal Oboe, eerie Piano, and church Organ and the arousing "full band" parts is exquisitely done. The purest mindblowing 70's sympho prog is entwined with Magma inventive operatic intrusions and careful detailing, occasional Wutemberg pseudo-medieval bridges, Ezra Winston symphonic sensibility, Elizabethan pinches, Jazz Rock attacks, early King Crimson melodic approaches (remember Epitaph and Talk to the Wind) and jazzier sections (reminding Larks tongue. for instance) and a very personal sense of musical perfection" [Nuno/Alex Gitlin's Music Site].

"There are few albums that we can truly point to as being wholly original, but Rainbow Theatre's second album would have to qualify. An operating 8 piece rock unit (keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, sax, trombone and flute) accompanied by a string sextet, "Fantasy of Horses" makes full use of the large palette of instrumentation available, not to mention that Keith Hoban's vocals are sung in operatic style. Overall it's a spirited affair, not an academic high-brow run through, so rockers have much to sink their teeth into. In fact, the drumming is astounding, and propels the album to great heights of intensity. The four tracks presented here, including two lengthy multi-part affairs, chock full of mellotron and high invention, are a progressive rock lovers dream. At least for those who keep an open mind" [Gnosis2000's Tom Hayes].

Conclusion: A sure thing for any adventurous progger, "Fantasy" is an album that has proudly elbowed its way onto "the special shelf" as an essential title. The 2006 Aztec Records reissue is a high quality tri-fold digipak design with a good Bio in the booklet. Also of great interest is a bonus track that actually matters! The 13-minute "Eagle Odyssey" is not some crusty old demo but a recently recorded classical piece that fits very well with the content of the original album. The mood and ambience of the track enhances and adds value to the rather short original album making for a fuller listening experience. Furthermore the CD is remastered by engineer Gil Matthews from the original master tapes, finally providing this classic with the respectable sound is deserves. "Fantasy of Horses" would certainly make my list of the best prog releases of 1976 and would have to be considered a favorite for greatest Australian prog album.

A final point of interest to me was the choices Browning was making between composing the string arrangements and being the Mellotron player in the band. How would one decide which choice was most appropriate in a given section? He touches on the differences in this quote as well as commenting on the Mellotron versus modern keyboards: "Having written for string sections in orchestras many times I know they have much more expansive, diverse and epic qualities than the Mellotron was supposed to emulate. However, I believe the Mellotron has a warm, romantic and ethereal quality which makes it quite unique and stand in its own right. The closest orchestral string writing I can think of is Maurice Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe where Ravel mutes the strings and they trill together with bowing close to the fingerboard. Sounds like a Mellotron! The Mellotron's unique quivering sound is partly produced by the slight unevenness as the tapes move. If a modern electronic keyboard can imitate this, fine, if not... Long live the Mellotron!" [Browning to Arlequins' Alberto Nucci & Jessica Attene].

I believe those last four words are fitting ones for which to end the review. Thanks to Hugues for championing this title in his review that caught my eye.

 

341

Coses Nostres
Iceberg

Iceberg Coses Nostres album cover

A review by Sean Trane:

3.5 stars really!!!

Under this Mafiosi title comes one of the better jazz rock fusion albums from Spain (at least among the few I know), the second one from this mid to late-70's Catalan band. Gone is their frontman sax and singer Angel Riba and they are down to your standard prog quartet, but this hardly seem to stop them, quite the opposite, becoming entirely instrumental.

For the most part this album seems to be lost between Maha's Inner Mounting Flame and Santana's Caravanserai with some KB coming more from Weather Report and RTF or even Jan Hammer, but this is more due to the instruments chosen than the actual playing, although some guitars are a cross of De Lucia and Di Miola on one side and McLaughlin on the other. I think this sets you with a good idea of the sound of the album, if you want more get the album, you.....proghead! ;-)

The first side is really awesome in musical execution with some particularly astounding moments where you'd swear Nova (as well as its prelude) should be on Inner Mounting Flame or on Cobham's Spectrum, simply because the playing and writing are of the same quality. Acustica, as its names suggest, is much calmer and tamer (but valid only for the guitar since there are synths halfway through) although the incredibly high quality is maintained and the subtle flamenco and Catalan influences appear towards the very end. The remark that a reviewer has made about the sound quality is unfortunately correct, although the first side of the record is relatively spared.

Kitflus brings us back to the Mahavishnu world and the second track and only congas are missing to take us into the Sahara Caravans of Santana. Flamenca Electrica is an aptly named track but is only taking the usual formula and adding some Andalusian feeling to it. Unfortunately, this is where the bad vinyl transfer to Cd gets irritating about the synth layers (and it gets worse in the following tracks). I assume this last comment because I cannot possibly conceived this was recorded so on the master tape and therefore think that they worked from vinyl. The last track is... you guessed it in 11/8 (which does not mean it was recorded on August 11, you wisearses).

Since this record only exists in CD form under this version, I knock off almost one star because of the inexcusable sound problems, which unfortunately does ruin the enjoyment of an otherwise superb record. Sounds a bit severe? Check it out for yourselves if you do not believe me!!! As soon as I find the vinyl or a re-issue, I will jump on it.

 

342

Et Cetera
Et Cetera

Et Cetera Et Cetera album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

Both the instrumental work and vocal arrangements bring GENTLE GIANT to mind in a huge way. The big difference of course is the French female vocals (there are male vocals too). As impressive as this band plays and sings they do not reach GG's level in either case in my opinion. Good album, but for me it's not worth 4 stars. Funny but right from the first listen I could not get into this. Well it has grown on me but it has stopped.

"La Musique Tourne" sounds great instrumentally, you'd swear it was a GENTLE GIANT tune. Not a big fan when she starts to sing as it calms down though. The contrasts continue. "Eclaircie" opens with some good guitar and bass as piano and drums join in followed by keys. Male and female vocals before 1 1/2 minutes sounding like GG. It settles a minute later. Synths 3 1/2 minutes in. "Entre Chien Et Loup" opens with classical guitar followed by flute then those GG-like dual vocals. I like how intricate this is instrumentally. Vibes in this one too.

"Apostrophe" is laid back and a bit folksy with that acoustic guitar and flute. It picks up a minute in with synths. Nice electric guitar before 3 minutes. Piano 4 1/2 minutes in. Excellent track. "Newton Avait Raison" opens with some synths, guitar and drums. The focus becomes on the vocals though eventually, although synths are prominent. Not a fan of this one.

"L'Age Dort" is darker with some cello. Male vocals after a minute then flute comes in. Female vocals before 2 minutes. Themes are repeated. "Tandem" opens with piano as dual vocals come in. The tempo picks up before a minute. Organ before 3 minutes with guitar to follow as piano continues. It turns spacey late.

 

A review by Sean Trane:

Of course, there are a lot of Gentle Giant influences here and they are not trying to hide them. My colleague reviewers say that this is a clone, and yes, it is probably one, and a damn good one at that (even the 70's had their fair share of them). But most clone bands actually don't reach the height and perfection of their model. This album would rank as a GG album along with Interview in quality and for the tone of Octopus. The multi-vocals, harmonies and complex playing are the pinnacle of what came out from Quebec in those years (from 74 to 79, there was an incredibly vital prog scene in that province where the rest of Canada seemed more inclined on hard rock) but as much as this is beautiful, this also lacks personality and a little soul. Very much worth a spin, though.

343

For You the Old Women
Mirthrandir

Mirthrandir For You the Old Women album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

This album has to be a four star rating. I mean the musicianship is jaw dropping, especially on the first track. The complex arrangements and playing are very impressive. Yet why can't I get into this one? The vocals don't do anything for me but they are not bad at all. The lyrics are of a religious theme, yet they are sort of veiled. Bottom line is that this should be worth 4 stars but I'm giving it 3.5 stars.

"For You The Old Women" is GENTLE GIANT-like in it's complexity. A whirlwind of sounds really, that start and stop at will. Some trumpet in this one. I get a chance to breathe as a calm arrives 3 minutes in. This is pastoral with Hackett-like guitar and flute. Reserved vocals 4 1/2 minutes in. A fuller sound arrives 6 minutes in with passionate vocals and tasteful guitar. "Conversation With Personality Giver" features a lot of synths, and it hits the ground running. I like the guitar before it settles down 1 1/2 minutes in with piano. It kicks back in around 2 minutes with some good intricate guitar. Vocals 3 minutes in.

"Light Of The Candle" is heavier with vocals.Lots of organ in this one. It settles down some 3 minutes in.  "Number Six" is an instrumental that opens with some solemn flute as trumpet comes in. Full sound a minute in. Nice drumming. I like the organ after 2 1/2 minutes. Trumpet is back 4 minutes in. Good song. "For Four" is the almost 15 minute closing track. I really like the first 3 minutes as piano, flute, organ and bass really impress. More deep bass after 3 1/2 minutes. Check out the drum and sinister organ section after 5 minutes. A calm 7 minutes in continues for 5 minutes. More impressive drumming arrives with the full sound. I like the piano when it settles down 13 1/2 minutes in, but not the lyrics that he starts to sing. Something is missing here for me, I've never warmed up to it. I think most will love this record though.

344

Shamal
Gong

Gong Shamal album cover

A review by Finnforest:

Gong dries out but still excels

Gong is a band I always associate with flying teapots, psychedelics, and general craziness to the th(c)ird degree. With the interim Shamal line-up lacking the members primarily responsible for the madness, this album is a complete departure from such antics. The sound is a drier jazz-fusion one that makes the album cover wonderfully appropriate. Yet it is not without life or joy, in fact, this is some pretty spicy and inspired stuff that I will turn to often. The fine production by Floyd's Nick Mason gives Shamal a sheen that makes it acceptable even to today's picky ears.

Shamal consists of 5-9 minute tracks of sometimes scorching fusion, the product of amazingly proficient playing combined with discipline and spirit. I'm mystified by those who find the record lifeless or without direction, I think it works very well--both in terms of overall feel and individual composition. Atop the base fusion sound are wonderful dressings of flute and saxophone, violin, and exotic percussions. These sounds send the songs off to occasional Eastern motifs or Mike Oldfield styled meditations.

Highlights are everywhere, from the delightfully sentimental and plain-hearted vocal that begins "Wingful of Eyes" to the gorgeous flute works of "Bambooji." The 9-minute closing title track reminds me a bit of Nucleus with the horn work woven into the fantastic bass/drums of Howlett and Moerlen--some of these drum fills will drop your jaw. Guest female vocals in a rhythmic, laid back style provide yet another texture to interest those who are not necessarily just jazz aficionados, giving the work a more rounded appeal that many jazz-rock albums possess.

Internal conflicts or not, Shamal is an album that feels remarkably satisfying to me as a casual jazz-rock fan. It provides exciting playing and enough variations to please a wide swath of progressive rock fans. I can't imagine Gong fans being disappointed here unless they insist of the humor/weirdness aspect of the earlier recordings. A bit below 4 stars but rounded up with enthusiasm.

 

A review by Sean Trane:

With Daevid kindly invited to step out, or his gracious bow-out over with, Gong suddenly realized that they were indeed Gong, but apparently the madness was missing, especially so that Steve Hillage, his wife and Tim Blake, the You trio, were also gone. So what's left on Gong??? Outside Didier Bloomdido Malherbe, and to a lesser extent Pierre Moerlen and Mike Howlett, we've got a brand new group compared to RGI's second tome. And musically it shows mega tons, as the unit is developing a sold jazz-rock with moods ranging from atmospheric to mad to reflective, ethnic, furious etc. On keyboards appear Patrick Lemoine from Ribeiro's Alpes, while Bauer's many tuned percussions give another twist to the new line-up. Fantastic desert photo gracing the gatefold.

Out of the six tracks, three are sung, somewhat as capable as Howlett was able to, but obviously vocals and conceptual lyrics are no concern of the new band. Their jazz-rock is highly haunting, with a tad of orientalism thrown in, and Gong can be seen as a full blown Canterbury-an group, sounding like Hatfield, National Health and a few more including Hillage, even if THE big semi-absent here. Opening on Wingful Of Eyes, where the Hillages make a quick come back, Shamal makes an awesome reassurance to fans that if Daevid is gone, Gong remains a first class group although in a very different field of excellence. While WOE and its follow-up Chandra are both sung funky jazz-rock, they are not necessarily representative of the rest of the album. A Bambooji shows us, where Extreme Oriental influence of Bloomdido lead us in a very complex tune, where Hillage finds his way through for a short but powerful solo.

The flipside returns to a solid jazz-rock where Howlett's bass plays up Moerlen's awesome drums and Bauer's tuned percussion instruments in a 100 MPH groove, while Malherbe soars with his sax, but gets a discreet help from guest (appearing on 4 of 6 tracks) violinist Pinchevski, but soon digress in an insanely complex prog tirade with crazy time sigs, and then grotesque carnival music, before reverting to the insane time sigs. Cat In Clarck's Shoes is a real tour-de-force, but one of many highlights of Shamal. Mandrake shows a slower pace and a more reflective where Didier's flute and Mireille's xylo glide on their cloud over a smooth lava rhythm section. The closing title track is yet another superb track, although the sax and violin solos (interrupted by chorus lines) are a tiny bit predictable.

Difficult to rate such an album in comparison to Gong's previous oeuvres, but Shamal is easily Gong's best album under the Moerlen- era (named as such because he will be the only constant member in the next few albums, before renaming the group to his name in order to accommodate older members' access to the name), with every new album coming after, although remaining solidly virtuoso and excellently executed, but also every time a bit less inspired. But this one is a must for the Moerlen-era.

 

345

The Strands of the Future 
Pulsar

Pulsar The Strands of the Future  album cover

A review by Finnforest:

Classic mellow, melodic space symphonic

Space rock is one of those terms we throw around that can mean different things to different people. Some of the bands that fall under this wide definition can sound pretty different so I'll try to describe this album for you. Gorgeous, dreamy, near perfect for the narcotic space crowd. Think about one of the classic spacey tracks everyone knows "Shine On You Crazy Diamond." Take the pace, mood, and beautiful floating atmosphere of that song but remove the Floydian vocals. Then add some flute ala Camel and a healthy dose of French-ness courtesy of Carpe Diem, with just a bit of Genesis regal presence in the guitar parts. Crunch these together and you might develop a picture of what Strands sound like. Few vocals, some pleasant lead guitar, but mostly a deep sea of calming keyboards/spacey electronics that is consistently on the laid back side.

The band may be called "the French Pink Floyd" by some but truth be told they never got close to that level of success of course. They were having their own problems with distribution and promotion but did achieve good success in France and good reviews for this album. The highlight of the album is the 22 minute title track which arrives on a cloud of mellotron. Boatloads of electronic wizardry ensue. Soon the band rises and lays down a fairly dramatic riff while the keys soar into heaven. That's the first 4 minutes. The next section will introduce some acoustic guitar and very chilled vocals. There will be a pause in the music for strange pysch effects and voices to freak out the tripping set. Some of the most beautiful passages occur in the second part of the song when the keys and guitar blend together melodies that range from sunny to ominous cloudy. They even manage to funk it up just a tad around 15 minutes in before the epic ends.

"Flight" is a short and delicious piece of flute and acoustic guitar. The remaining two tracks will cover similar ground giving the space fan a consistently high quality 44 minutes. From the liner notes:"a sound which is characterized by its great sophistication, complexity, technical and melodic perfection and great strength and symphonic beauty. With this album Pulsar acquired a reputation as one of the major French rock groups."

One potential problem with the album is the somewhat dicey sound quality, but you'll need to check it out anyway if you are a fan of this sort of music. Not quite in essential territory but a good piece of 1970s France all the same. The Musea issue features the typical nice band bio with color photos of the band members and a nice display of what I assume was the inner gatefold art-a very bizarre scene.

 

346

Octoberon
Barclay James Harvest

Barclay James  Harvest Octoberon album cover

A review by SouthSideoftheSky:

Barclay James Harvest made something of a habit out of putting at least one real stinker on each album. This time it is Believe in Me, but Polk Street Rag is closely behind it. The rest, however, is pretty good this time around! The first three tracks might not seem very impressive on a first listen, but (like some older Barclay James Harvest songs) they have a tendency to grow on you. Rock 'n' Roll Star is similar in style to Child Of The Universe, and even if not quite as good as that song, it is still a decent song. Suicide? too is a good song.

The lyrics stand out this time as being the best I've heard from Barclay James Harvest - no songs here with 'Jesus' in the lyrics (like Sweet Jesus from the previous album and Hymn from the follow up); also no songs with references to other bands (like Titles from the previous album and Poor Man's Moody Blues from the follow up). But, of course, they just couldn't avoid writing another song about prostitutes, but you can't have everything can you?

From the lyrical point of view, May Day stands out as the best of all Barclay James Harvest songs in my opinion. I usually don't put a lot of focus on the lyrics in my reviews, but some of Barclay James Harvest's lyrics (on other albums) really put me off, they don't so much on this album.

Musically, Octoberon is more interesting than Time Honoured Ghosts or Gone To Earth. For example, they use an orchestra on one track, a choir on another. Certainly, one of the best from the Polydor years and one of my favourite from Barclay James Harvest overall.

 

A review by Mellotron Storm:

This was my first taste of BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST, and while it has always been an enjoyable listen it's just too light and commercial sounding for my tastes. I'm not sure what they were thinking with the album cover either. There is some mellotron on 3 tracks but like the music it's not in my face enough. "The World Goes On" opens with strummed guitar and reserved vocals as these orchestral sounds come in. Drums and a fuller sound before 2 minutes and these contrasts continue.

"May Day" has a guitar melody throughout that I like. It settles when the vocals arrive but the tempo will continue to shift back and forth occasionally. Good song although I don't like the multi-vocals late. "RA" begins and ends with orchestral-like sounds. Drums come in and build before it calms right down with organ, soft vocals and light drums. Some brief guitar after 3 1/2 minutes. "Rock N Roll Star" is mid-paced and catchy with vocals, drums and organ standing out. A tasteful guitar solo after 3 1/2 minutes.

"Polk Street Rag" features some surprisingly raw guitar throughout. This one's also catchy. "Believe In Me" is another light tune and this one has backing vocals. Too poppy. "Suicide?" is led eventually by strummed guitar and laid back vocals. This is ballad-like until it gets fuller with orchestral sounds. Samples end it. I have to say that this isn't a bad album. 



Edited by AtomicCrimsonRush - February 05 2012 at 07:17
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1976 - continued

 

347

Interview
Gentle Giant

Gentle Giant Interview album cover

A review by Warthur:

Interview might have a somewhat self-referential concept - the trials and tribulations of the music industry, how very (not) original! - but it's another strong album from Gentle Giant, though I wouldn't put it on the level of its predecessor - there's no tracks on here as moving as His Last Voyage, for example. Still, it's an interesting showcase for the heavier side of the band and on Design they experiment with a few world music sounds, suggesting an intriguing new experimental direction which, in the end, they didn't take. It's a shame really - had they stuck to their guns and not lost their nerve, continuing in the direction outlined on this album, they might have weathered the changes in fashion admirably, but as it is their subsequent studio albums are much more widely-acclaimed than Interview and all that preceded it.

 

A review by Sean Trane:

One of the few reasons why GG never really achieved the success that other UK bands did (outside questionable management decision especially regarding the touring) is that they have a tendency to shoot themselves in the foot by irritating/provoking the industry. We had seen this with their relatively tasteless acquisition of their second album on top of having difficult albums on the market. Their eighth album is actually their third concept album after Three Friends and TP&TG, but this one is yet another attack on the music industry by depicting fake interviews by having to answer stupid/horrendously daft questions. This was not really a smart thing to do after the good sales of Free Hand and the absurdly cancelled British tour. To even irate further the press and industry, the "conceptual attack " is not even mean, funny or especially sarcastic but simply slightly sardonic and caustic with the interview bits barely audible, probably irritating the press even more and they chose not to even talk about it!

A lot of GG purists consider this album as the first non-classic album, but this is completely unjust, as almost every endearing qualities of the previous albums is here except maybe a real lack of power in the music, as if Green could not have found his usual guitar amp during the recording sessions and used a practice amp with two blown bulbs. The Title track is a perfect example of this, however delightful the songwriting is, something is lacking. One of the surprises is Give It Back that develops into a superb "white" reggae (around that time 10CC had also done the delightful Dreadlock Holiday) that may anger purists but I assure you that it is worthy of a Classic GG album their great percussive sound being perfectly suited for such music genre.

Another Show and Empty City being the other faves of mine in this album, the overall feel of the album is leaning a bit towards pop (but GG always had this tendency as Caravan did also), but if I talked of 10CC before it is no coincidence as one could say that a majority of the tracks here, would sound close to a classic album of theirs although they would be on speed when they recorded it.

Although still loaded with crazy rhythms and contrapuntal shifts, there is however a subtle shift in direction towards more straightforward songwriting but not anymore than say Three Friends, but believe me this album is still very worthy of them. I happen to like it better than Free Hand. However the following album is an all-together different story, quite mediocre (by GG standards) with just one track that would fit on this album.

 

348

Symphonic Pictures
Schicke Fuhrs & Frohling

Schicke Fuhrs &amp;amp; Frohling Symphonic Pictures album cover

A review by Mellotron Storm:

This album is very influential to say the least. If you've heard ANGLAGARD's music then listen to this record and I'm sure you will agree that SFF had to be a big influence on their sound. You have two of the band members playing mellotron, moog and clavinet. Frohling plays a self-built double neck Les Paul guitar/Rickenbaker bass combination. Frank Zappa was so enthusiastic about this bands sound that he was willing to produce their first album, but had to drop out to record his own album that was to be recorded at the same time this was to be done. The band ended up with the very capable Dieter Dierks producing their debut album. If you like symphonic music with lots of mellotron you'll love this album.

"Too" has over a minute intro of which all I can hear is the mighty mellotron. Just an amazing symphonic passage follows. The best part of the song though starts before 4 minutes. It reminds me of GENESIS and includes guitar and mellotron to incredible results. Great track! "Solution" features mellotron, acoustic guitar and xylophone. A very pleasant song.

"Dialog" opens with some intricate drumming as different sounds come and go including mellotron. A melody arrives before 2 1/2 minutes, guitar and loads of mellotron follow. This is amazingly good. The intricate and complex melodies with mellotron again remind me of ANGLAGARD. "Sundrops" features more intricate sounds and check out the melody 2 minutes in. "Pictures" is a side long suite that is the most obvious reminder of what ANGLAGARD would eventually record. Haunting sounds a minute in as the song starts to build to a melody of drums and mellotron. Oh my! Pulsating keys follow. Piano 11 minutes in as the song has settled right down. Waves of mellotron arrive with some piano then coming in. It's building to a full sound 14 minutes in. Amazing!  The mellotron here really brings to mind the great ANEKDOTEN. "Symphonic Pictures" has to be one of the best releases of 1976, and it's really a must have for prog lovers everywhere. I am so impressed with this record.

349

Üdü Ẁüdü
Magma

Magma Üdü &amp;amp;#7808;üdü album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

"Udu Wudu" follows on from a slew of excellent Magma albums and has some more accessible tracks and one outstanding track. There is still the quasi-human Kobaian language that Magma addicts have all come to know and love. However, gone is the uniqueness of the sound and side one is rather mediocre in comparison to the wild inventiveness of previous Magma albums. There are still some excellent passages of jazzy Zeuhl such as 'Troller Tanz' with it's whimsical melody, and Vander's high pitched screeching and the choral voices typical to Magma. 'Zombies' is also a standout track with stunning dissonant jazz overtones and chaotic percussion.

Side two features the best track, a side long 18 minute epic, 'De Futura'. The use of high pitched synthesizer on this creates a new Magma sound. There is a uniquely futuristic atmosphere with the added synth tones and it is a welcome change to the album. Vander is a man possessed on percussion and trumpets, sax, flute, and bass compete and battle it out for much of the epic. At one point the instruments drop out and Jannik Top's fuzzy bass solo takes over. It is one of the high points of the album and played aggressively perfectly augmenting the dark atmospheres. The hypnotic groove works well with the percussion and outer limits spacey effects.

In conclusion, the one epic track elevates this to a worthwhile listen, but it is not to the level of previous Magma, and less consistent in terms of innovation and musical excellence. Unless you are a bonafide Magma fan, it would be best to begin with one of the other earlier albums as this is not to the usual consistent high quality standard.

 

A review by Warthur:

Heralding a change in Magma's sound - brought about, in part, by bassist Jannick Top's greater involvement in songwriting (the album includes his bass-driven epic De Futura). Üdü Ẁüdü sees Magma moving away from the "Klingon opera" of Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh and Kohntarkosz. At points there are hints of the band's early fusion direction, but what is more prominent is a shift towards a sound not unreminiscent of the chamber prog of fellow continental eccentrics Univers Zero. Expanding the definition of what Zeuhl could sound like, this album is a fine refinement and reinvention of the Magma myth. Congratulations, Vander and Top - now, Üdü that Ẁüdü that you do so well!

 

350

World Record
Van Der Graaf Generator

Van Der Graaf Generator World Record album cover

A review by AtomicCrimsonRush:

“World Record” is another of the Van der Graaf Generator albums in the Godbluff era and not to the standard of that classic. Perhaps it is being unfair to expect exceptional quality on an album during VDGG's difficult years, but they are capable of brilliance and 'World Record' simply never measures up, the bar is lowered considerably. Certainly 'Wondering' is the set piece that makes this a worthy purchase, a single that is more accessible than the average VDGG track. Hammill's vocal style is as full of conviction as ever with existentialist lyrical power, but the music is sub standard.

It begins with the flute driven 'When She Comes' with some inspirational lyrics and a great saxophone motif. The time sig is quirky and fun, but it did not hold my interest as I am so used to with other VDGG tracks.

'Masks' features oboe that is well played and some organ chord stabs are effective. It is a slow track until the guitar riff changes and the melody is reminiscent of other VDGG I have heard. There is nothing new here but this is still a better track than others on this album.

'A Place to Survive' begins with a rhythmic drum beat and a very interesting melody from organ and sax. This is another one of the better tracks with some rasping Hammill vocals and a great instrumental break with scorching blasts of sax and grinding organ.

The epic 'Meurglys III' is indulgent and disappointing, and nowhere near the standard of VDGG epics such as 'Plague of Lighthouse Keepers' which is now my favourite, don't miss this one. 'Meurglys III' goes on and on and on and loses its power midway through. Like the back end of a hospital gown, something is missing, and it feels more repetitive filler than a great multi-movement suite. There are moments but as a whole it doesn't hang together. In particular the instrumental section at the end is great VDGG but it is too little too late. The album is satisfactory as far as that goes but there is little on offer here that can be recommended over classic albums such as 'Pawn Hearts', 'H to He...', 'The least we can do...' and 'Godbluff'.

However, here it is, take it or leave it, and if you are a completist you will no doubt need to get this, but it is not a good starting point by any means. I can recommend just about any other VDGG over this. It is a shame that the band were lowered down to this level after such a promising start. They are better than good but I am sorry, although I am addicted to these progenitors of prog, I just could not get into 'World Record'.

 

A review by Warthur:

A transitional album for Van der Graaf Generator, this one, with Hammill's electric guitar playing more of a presence than on any previous album (the album's longest track, Meurglys III, is even named after his guitar!) and his personal issues seep through into the lyrics to an occasionally uncomfortable extent. Recorded extremely soon after Still Life - to the point where the band don't really seem to have had time to nail down the tracks to the extent they usually would - the album was of course completed in the midst of the events that Hammill would later explore overtly on his solo album Over, and the lyrics to songs like Masks suggest a certain amount of personal turmoil.

This would be the last VdGG album until Present to feature the classic lineup, Banton and Jackson leaving after its completion, and I have to say that it's probably a good thing the band got that shakeup when it did - although it's still an album I have a lot of time for, I have to confess that those who are no