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Bram Stoker - Heavy Rock Spectacular [Aka: Schizo-Poltergeist] CD (album) cover


Bram Stoker


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3.83 | 58 ratings

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4 stars I first became aware of Bram Stoker around 2000 through a website called Tommy's Forest of Progressive Rock, which later simply became Vintage Prog, which is still online, but hasn't been updated since 2008. That website was awfully useful before the arrival of Prog Archives, along with several other (mostly now defunct) websites like Unger's Wonderful World of Progressive Rock, Frazz Recommends (which focused on Italian prog, Frazz being named after Semiramis' Dedicato a Frazz), The Giant Progweed, and Ground & Sky.

Bram Stoker was long thought of as a mystery band. Many even speculated that employees of Woolworth's were involved in the making of the album (the album was released on Windmill, which was ran by the UK branch of the Woolworth's chain store). That's just plain silly, what would Woolworth's employees know anything about prog rock, even back in 1972 when it was at its peak? As it turns out they were a band lead by keyboardist Tony Bronsdon with Peter Ballum on guitar, John Bavin on bass and drums, and Rob Haines on drums. I own the original Windmill LP and it's clear what an awful label it was. Wooldworth's treated the album like an exploitation album, hence the artwork and title. Plus zero mention of who was in the band. Even more hilarious is Paul Henry (I assumed the band's manager) notice to Windmill Records, which it hilariously starts off, "Dear Sir, As you are in the business of making groups famous". Really? Not a single artist on Windmill got famous! I realize there were Frank Sinatra and various easy listening compilations put out by the label, but they were obviously long famous, thanks to help from reputable labels, many already having decades of fame. It's a safe bet that a good portion of the Windmill discography are now UK charity shop staples. Except for this one.

It's because Bram Stoker was actually very good, wonderful guitar and organ-driven early prog. In fact it still has psychedelic elements as if this was dated 1970, not 1972 (the original LP clearly gives a 1972 copyright on the label). Comparisons to The Nice, Atomic Rooster, and even a bit of ELP are totally valid. "Born to be Free" shows a bit of a bluesy side of the band, but it's Bronsdon's organ playing that gives it it's prog edge. "Fast Decay" includes quotes from classical music so comparisons to The Nice and Act One-era Beggars Opera are validated. "Blitz" has a rather eerie vibe to it, while "Idiot" is more or less like "Born to Be Free". "Poltergeist" is another eerie number, I'm sure the lyrics have a supernatural theme to it. I only wished the LP came with printed lyrics, but given this is Windmill we're talking about, you have to settle with very basic packaging. It's very much a safe bet that this is easily the best thing on the Windmill label. This album comes highly recommended to those who enjoy early guitar and organ-driven prog.

Progfan97402 | 4/5 |


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