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OMEGA RED STAR: FROM HUNGARY

Omega

Psychedelic/Space Rock


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3 stars Rock Around The Bloc ! Communist Hippies?

Hungary's Omega was the first pop band from an eastern bloc country to perform and record in the west. Heavily influenced by the Beatles, Rolling Stones and other British psychedelia the band was brought to England by the manager of The Spencer Davis Group, John Martin, in May 1968 to record an album in the English language on the Decca Record label. The album was recorded over a three day period and coincided with two short tours in and around London with favourable reactions from the local media as well as Eric Clapton and George Harrison before they were whisked back to Hungary due to sensitive political reasons, namely the Prague Spring uprising against Soviet rule in Czeckoslovakia in August 1968. Although unfinished ( clocking in at only 37 minutes ), Decca nevertheless decided to release the album altering the band's name from simply Omega to Omega Red Star for commercial impact.

Politics aside,this psychedelic album is perhaps even more psychedelic than the psychedelia which inspired it ! Think of the Flower People Spinal Tap incarnation and one has a good idea what to expect here on tracks like Red Rose and Tomorrow. Having previously released several singles in their native Hungary which included cover versions of songs by Herman's Hermits, The Hollies, The Beatles and Rolling Stones in addition to original Hungarian material, Omega were already established as one of the leading pop bands in their native country who were also by this time individually accomplished musicians. The music here might come as a suprise to those familiar with the later more progressive sound they established in the seventies but there are also many interesting aspects to this early pop music from this then communist country. Not only did the music introplate traditional gypsy folk stylings ( I once Knew A Girl, Hungarian Folk Song ) but also utilized instrumentation not normally heard in pop music including the trumpet, flute, recorder and a traditional stringed instrument called a citero which is a smaller version of the zither to great effect. Incorporating jazz and classical elements the music, mostly about love and peace was also very poetic at times ( Dead Are The Flowers, If I Were The Wind ) with all the lyrics being penned by phantom member Anna Adamis, a young law student at the time. The album is also somewhat keyboard heavy as keyboardist/voocalist Gabor Presser was the band's main composer and orchestrator with the lyrics being worked in afterwards. There are also not as many guitar pyrotechnics being heard here than in contemporary western pop muisc at the time with the guitar being used mostly as an accompanying instrument. Most of the album was recorded later in 1968 in the Hungarian language upon the group's return to Hungary under the name Trombitas Fredi es a rettenetes emberek and the songs are considerably more effective in their mother tongue.

Although an original ( and extremely scarce ! ) Decca vinyl pressing was used for this short review, Omega Red Star From Hungary was remastered in 2007 and is currently available on the Hungarian Universal label. Perhaps no more of just a passing interest to the progrock fan Omega Red Star From Hungary is nonetheless a testament to the the longevity of a band from a once opressed country who have been around as long as The Rolling Stones. Three stars for historical signifigance.

Report this review (#184240)
Posted Wednesday, October 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Very early Hungarian supergroup Omega's release - released in UK under the name " Omega Red Star". One of the very first Eastern European bands release in Western Europe, with English lyrics.

Unhappily I never saw Omega playing life till now! Somewhere in early 90-s I saw Gabor Pressner, their composer and multi-instrumentalist, who became a serious music composer at that time, when he bring his modern ballet to Vilnius Opera. And these early beat, psychedelic and rock roots were all very feel-able in his music.

There on this release Omega's fan can enjoy they roots - beat-based early psychedelia, some hard rock, strongly mixed with Hungarian folklore. It's still far not that music with bring fame to this band. But melodic and folksy moments with strong vocals are really enjoyable there.

Late 00's CD re-release has quite good clear sound and nice mixing.

Report this review (#307080)
Posted Thursday, October 28, 2010 | Review Permalink

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