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Secret Oyster - Secret Oyster [Aka: Furtive Pearl] CD (album) cover

SECRET OYSTER [AKA: FURTIVE PEARL]

Secret Oyster

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.09 | 76 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
Special Collaborator
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
5 stars Riding on the red hot heels of one of Denmark's early examples of jazz-rock fusion in the form of Burnin Red Ivanhoe which had a seven year run, the origins of SECRET OYSTER resulted from that band's disintegration through disputes in musical direction. Saxophonist and organist Karsten Vogel had aspirations of creating a more explorative styled jazz-fusion band and commenced to hand pick the new members who could master the art of a continuous rhythmic drive in jazz mode while adding their own creative stamps in virtuoso fueled improv jam sessions. After the star search was complete, Vogel settled on former Coronarias Dans keyboardist Kenneth Knudsen, guitarist Claus B°hling of the short-lived heavy psych band Hurdy Gurdy, bassist Mads Vinding and Bo Thrige Andersen who tagged along from Burnin Red Ivanhoe but also played with the psychedelic jazz-rock Blue Sun.

After the lineup was complete, SECRET OYSTER proved to be a veritable powerhouse of talent that has gone down in history as Denmark's most accomplished jazz-rock-fusion act with quite the accomplished career that started in 1972 Copenhagen and lasted for five years before the changing tides swept many of these progressive bands out to sea including this almighty band that more than stands the test of time with its heavy rock fueled energetic drive hybridized with the intricacies of stellar jazz workouts and a well-packed magic paintbox that allowed the creative juices to flow like Amazonian waterfalls. The band's name SECRET OYSTER paid homage to Vogel's previous band Burnin Red Ivanhoe by mining the idea from the track "Secret Oyster Service" from the band's second album.

Long out of print, SECRET OYSTER's four album canon was finally reissued on the Laser's Edge label in 2007 for the first time on CD and this debut featured two bonus tracks. The original debut album that was released in 1973 had two completely different album covers and titles depending which side of the Atlantic you happened to reside. On the European continent the album was released eponymously with the cover art depicting some undisclosed quaint Danish city setting while in the USA the album was penned FURTIVE PEARL with a rather unremarkably drab beige cover with a canceled postage stamp on what was supposed to resemble a postcard from Denmark with selling points about the nature of the music contained inside. As far as the music itself, the track listing was identical but over time there has been a truce between the two versions with the European artwork sitting in tandem with the more flattering album title FURTIVE PEARL.

Somewhat sounding like the Danish version of the Mahavishnu Orchestra only more focused on an instrumental jamming style steeped with psychedelic and hard rock energy, SECRET OYSTER expanded on the members' strengths that they developed in their respective prior bands and in the process crafted one of my all time favorite heavy psych tinged jazz-rock albums of all the 70s. While the jazz provides that bass fueled swinging rhythm section with the incessant drive of hard rock driven by B°hling's feisty guitar heft, the band also were masters of drifting off into heady psychedelic soundscapes that focused on cyclical repetitive grooves which allowed all the tricks and trinkets up the sleeves of the keyboardist to erupt into seriously trippy excursions that remind the listener that the 60s were not too overly far away at this point. The dexterity of these juxtapositions is what makes FURTIVE PEARL an absolute gem of musical prowess where the balancing act between technical guitar infused jazz-rock is pacified by psychedelic groove sessions that switch back and forth with admirable precision.

Not leaving the world of Burnin Red Ivanhoe too far behind, the three tracks "Dampexpressen", "Free & Water" and "Vive La Quelle" follow that band's style only taken to the next level with piano and organ dominated drifting jazz-rock that finds a few saxophone squawks adding some color but brought to a more energetic frenzy by B°hling's decorative guitar solos that offer textures much like a skilled the decorative art of Steve Hillage crafting a more surreal counterpoint to the martial rhythms . "Public Oyster" and "Mis (S) Fortune" display the strong Canterbury connections with Soft Machine sounding organ runs and that special warm British sound effect in the form of chirping guitars and those unique chord progressions.

While the psychedelic touches punctuate the album throughout, by far the most experimental track overall is the avant-garde jazz closer "QVA-X" which features a series of saxophone squawks, droning effects and freeform piano, percussion and features a Krautrock kosmische effect which shows the strong influence of neighboring Germany from this same era. Add the decorative Canterbury flavors which culminate in oddball oscillations, talking saxophone lines and one of the most successful mashups of jazz, rock and psychedelia and it sounds more like something out of the Sun Ra playbook than what the rest of the album offers. For those with the CD version, the bonus tracks are worthy editions with a live version of "Dampexpression" and the military march meets psychedelia track "Orlav/er."

SECRET OYSTER would develop a more focused sound on the sophomore release "Sea Son" but on this debut crafted its most explorative and experimental journey that makes this one an unexpected treat for those who love an album that branches out in different directions. While this album is certainly less focused than those that follow, it's exactly that unabashed pioneering boldness to seek out myriad directions of expressionism that make this one absolutely perfect in my book! I can't count the number of "normal" jazz-fusion albums of the 70s but these wild roller coaster rides that are as decorative as the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland are fewer in number. This one was a grower that kept begging me for a return visit but after a while i became hooked and mesmerized by SECRET OYSTER's seductive charm. For my tastes, album #1 is their true magnum opus but what followed was brilliant as well.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

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