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Aunt Mary

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5 stars Norway....who can remember music coming from Norway?? Well i can!!! Aunt mary!!! At the age of 22 i was in the so called "hippie culture" and mind you,i enjoyed it!! Sometime in the late seventies i heard an incredible album at a friends house... as those were the times of "funny tobacco" i were not quite alert of whom i heard. But this music keept roaming in my i asked my friend...what was this wonderfull music we heard!!?? Mind you, it were the times of UK and Us music rules!! So when this friend announced: Thats a Norwegian band called : Aunt mary!! I was...sort of....yeah right!!?? But truth be told..they were Norvegians..and what an album it was/is....i would without it the "Sgt. Pepper" of Aunt mary. prog is that good!! Composed and arranged... and indeed recorded in five months!! Its incredible. Yet true.....this is an absolute GEM (progfreaks take note)never have a Norvegian group made this impact on me!!! This is a ...and i write this in capital LETTERS...... an absolute STUNNER of an album...vocals to kill for...keyboards to die for.... arrangements to be to...well have to hear this.... I promise you (dear reader) that this record will change your (musical) life!!! I dont know what these guys were on....but i cant tell you...straight from my heart.. never have i heard such...well performed..well executed..lovely music album!! Still after all these years!! Im A M A Z E D !!! Sadly i cannot give 6 therefore 5 stars!!!!!!!
Report this review (#28026)
Posted Friday, April 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars A true prog masterpiece with roots both in Norwegian folk music and english rock and prog. Every true 70's prog fan should own a copy. Sadly it is isn't printed in so many copies and its hard to get hold of even here in Norway.
Report this review (#28028)
Posted Wednesday, May 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars There has not been many truly progressive albums made in Norway,at least not in the golden years,but among the few this is without doubt the best. The music is like old Genesis mixed together with Deep Purple.Bjřrn Christiansen`s guitarplaying is very nice and got a great deal of blues in it.The moog plays an important role on this abum and the organ also appears in a fine way.Kjetil Stensvik is a legend in Norway when it comes to drumming and Svein Gundersen surely follow up his fellow musicians. I`m not to fond of the song "Mr.Kaye" but on this album sevral songs are stitch together so i guess it has it´s place. "for all eternity " is my favorite. Great album that can rubb shoulders with more well known artists out there !

Report this review (#28029)
Posted Saturday, July 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars 3,5 stars really!!

Well this one is more like! All I knew about Aunt Mary was the previous album that was little more than honest hard rock. With this one , their third, one understands better their inclusion in the Archives but we could also call this prog'n roll!

What the track listing above does not show is that the first three tracks are meant as a suite lasting some 12 min+ and the last two together clocking in at almost 11 min. While inspired and likely to please fans of 70's rock. What we have here is a solid , raw hard rock with good progressive overtones and some real moments. Thereis some fine interplay between all four musicians and their enthusiasm is communicative.

Enjoyable listening but hardly essential to a specific prog collection. Still much worth a spin, though.

Report this review (#28030)
Posted Wednesday, April 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars Aunt Mary’s third album ‘Janus’ isn’t really any more progressive than the others, but it is an improvement musically over the previous release ‘Loaded’. The band starts off pretty much where they left off with the hard-rocking and simple composition “Path of Your Dream”, which doesn’t really bode well for the album.

But things improve quickly on the next few tracks including the easy-going and almost poppy “Mr. Kaye” with some simple keyboards and a tight bass line. “Nocturnal Voice” follows that with a guitar intro and tempo that could have come from a Santana album. Unfortunately that’s the highlight of the song and it becomes rather repetitive except for some almost creepy falsetto vocals, emanating I believe from pianist Svein Gundersen.

The nice thing about this album is that most of the tracks are longer and more varied than ‘Loaded’, and in the process of fleshing them out the band shows some serious aptitude for complex keyboard arrangements and interesting tempo shifts. “For all Eternity” is one of those tracks, and the Yes influences are plainly evident here. Someone in the band apparently had a copy of ‘Fragile’ in their collection, although unfortunately they had a journeyman blues guitarist playing for them instead of Steve Howe.

“Stumblin' Stone” moves back into hard rock territory, and that one is followed by a short and odd acoustic number called “All We've Got to do is Dream”.

Organist Bengt Jensen shows some creativity on the instrumental “Candles of Heaven”, which seems to have been intended as a showcase mostly for him. And finally “What a Lovely Day” closes the album with a slowly-building rocker complete with harmonized backing vocals and an ear-pleasing guitar solo.

Like I said, this is better than the band’s previous offering ‘Loaded’, but it still isn’t any more of a progressive album than say, Help Yourself or Home. In the ballpark maybe, but not a home run. Three stars and recommended for heavy prog fans who aren’t too particular about complex arrangements.


Report this review (#173936)
Posted Saturday, June 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is an old norwegian classic that deserves more fans than it ever had - which is the case with all good norwegian prog bands. Norway is a small country with less than 5 million inhabitants, and back in the 70's the norwegian music-audience was more into dance band-music than prog rock. Which is sad, because less local popularity eases off the chances for an international breakthrough. Some norwegian prog bands actually became more popular in German and Switzerland back then. Aunt Mary is not the only good prog band that never became much popular globally, but they're sure one of the best I've heard, and I've heard some rarities during my 17 years in this world.

Path of Your Dream has a simple but tasty two-chords progressive-introriff that really rocks my sock. It breaks down in the verses, and has some odd & catchy lyrics. It's easy to listen too, as it is a simple composition, but might give wrong impression since it's so simple. Mr. Kaye sounds like it could be a Beatles-song, experimental and poppy. Nocturnal Voice is a song with lots of various sides and a lot of changing paces, where drummer Ketil Stensvik shows some creativity, probably inspired by Zeppelin- drummer John Bonham. The song ends surprisingly with the intro of Path of Your Dream played once again. Which could make the song more creative if the riff hadn't been used before. The next song; For All Eternity is my favourite song of the album. It has its moments where you can really heard that this is a talented band, especially in it's up-tempo moments. The only thing that slightly bothers me, is that they should have a better singer. Someone with a voice lik Jon Anderson would fit in nice in Aunt Mary. In the end, For All Eternity is an unforgettable song - it's highly progressive and catchy for those who like prog with shrieking steel-string guitars, fast tempo and Yes-like vocals (though Yes' singer is way better). Hidden Track is just a funky guitar-solo lasting about 30 seconds. Sounds like guitarist Bjřrn Christiansen wrote while beeing stoned. The next track is Stumblin' Stone which I think is a great heavy rock song, with heavy distortion on the guitarists Stratocaster ( I think it is. The song might a little straight forward, and uses half the song to get started, but I think it's just gradually building up the excitement. Good song! All We've Got To Do Is Dream is the song that is closest to a ballad on this album, with beautiful acoustick guitar-licks, and some synth-riffs in the refrain, where the band chores: All we've got to do is dream - dream of life in the sun! It's a beautiful song which gets me in a good mood. Candles of Heaven is another great track, which is based on Bengt Jensen's organ-playing and synth-solo and contains Christiansens perhaps parodical Gong-like lyrics. Nice, hard to describe track, which slides perfectly into the album-closer What A Lovely Day. This song really makes the goosebumps slide down my back. The song last for almost 6 minutes of two sequences, first one is an acoustic part, where Christiansen once again showes how passionated he is a guitarist. The next part of the song is heavy, with one guitar holding a heavy rythm, while the other guitar plays fantastic solo with so much feeling and insight. A perfect album-closer!

Report this review (#207404)
Posted Monday, March 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars This was AUNT MARY's third and final album released in 1973. A nice blend of mellow symphonic passages with that more rocking style that was more prominant on their previous release. Weird album cover I must say, but then again who calls their band AUNT MARY ? Well it was the early seventies I suppose.

"Path Of Your Dream" opens with a LED ZEPPELIN riff before it settles with vocals. Not a fan of the vocals here at times. "Mr.Kaye" has a THE BEATLES feel to it. Light and bright. "Nocturnal Voice" features strummed guitar, organ, drums, bass and vocals.This is a pretty good mid- paced and catchy tune. I like when it changes late and the guitar and drums lead the way. The intro of the opening track (LED ZEPPELIN riff) is reprised 5 minutes in. "For All Eternity" has a nice intro with some good organ. It settles with vocals before 1 1/2 minutes. I think of CARAVAN on the chorus. A hidden track comes in that features samples and silliness. It's very short.

"Stumblin' Stone" has a good dark sound to it with organ. Vocals before 4 minutes. I'm reminded of GENTLE GIANT. I like the guitar and drums after 5 minutes. "All We've Got To Do Is Dream" opens with reserved vocals and acoustic guitar. This is contrasted with the fuller sections throughout. "Candles Of Heaven" is led by organ and drums,vocals 2 minutes in. "What A Lovely Day" is my favourite. It opens with acoustic guitar ansd vocals before turning heavy 2 minutes in. Gotta love the electric guitar solo late.beautiful.

I was reminded of a lot of bands while listening to this, it's quite pleasant and well done. 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#228939)
Posted Wednesday, July 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 for sure

Third album of this legendary band from Norway named Janus from 1973 is a big inprovement over previous one Laded. Now we can talk about a heavy prog album, nothing realy eclectic here and less rockier than Loaded for sure. Aunt Mary begun to sound better, more progier, the hard rock elements are just second phase and the progressive rock come first in their vision here. This album remind me a lot of May Blitz or Birth Control, almost same heavy key passages who invade the album, but combined very well with the guitar who now is more diverse and less hard rock. This album s a perfect blend between hard rock and hevy prog, with up tempo pieces, good musicianship , good vocals and solid druming. The instruments sound better then before with a plus on guitar, very fine moments but aswell the keyboards are more influnced by prog arrangements, is a little more complicated rather then a background instrument like on Loaded. Some acustic guitar interplay very well and change the mood of the piece in a good manner.This time Aunt Mary tried and succed to come with a more valueble album, they are more confident in their musical abilities, is better crafted and for sure more diverse. I wonder why when they reach to the perfect balance between hard rock and heavy prog they disbanded, they just become better then before with Janus. Better in any way then predecesors this album was the last one from this famous norwegian band, who has a meteoric career but left their mark in heavy prog movement from this country. Not an essential listning for sure but worth some spins if you like this kinda of prog.3.5 for Janus , pleasent all the way. Forte tracks all, not a weak moment here, specialy I prefer opening track Path of your dream, For all eternity or Candles of Heaven who represents the best what this band has.

Report this review (#246214)
Posted Sunday, October 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Third and the last studio album from Norwegian early progressive band Aunt Mary. Not so heavy, as previous two, but still hard rock based. More symphonic elements added.

I like this music - early hard rock based progressive, with still very acoustic sound, melodic songs and natural energy and beauty. Later too many will try to exploit this formula for making money unhappily.

Sound is well balanced, all musicians -very competent. Just to imagine what their music is, think about early Uriah Heep (without heavy organ passages). Vocals are great as well, and common music atmosphere is real early 70-s.

Very important band in Norwegian progressive rock history. Dated quite well, so it is really pleasant album for every early heavy prog lover.

Report this review (#278513)
Posted Monday, April 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars Aunt Mary's third and final album is an odd beast. The heavy psych I remember from their debut is still there, but they seem to have tried to spice up their sound by borrowing extremely heavily from the most popular prog acts of the time. In particular - as in the songs Path of Your Dream and For All Eternity - the band will from time to time do their absolute best to sound as much like Yes as they possibly can, though other influences do creep in - some quiet acoustic passages a la Trespass-era Genesis here, a few Keith Emerson keyboard lines there.

But it's the shameless Yes mimicry that really stands out, and that's a shame, because it overshadows some of the more original aspects of the album, such as the sinister Nocturnal Voice. On balance, I have to give this only two stars. It's a competently performed album that shows promise, but the fact is that there's a thin line between paying homage to your musical influences and just trying to hitch a free ride on their success, and Janus crosses it at a couple of points with gusto - and more than that (and this is the greater sin) it doesn't do so in an interesting way.

Report this review (#507687)
Posted Tuesday, August 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars The third and final album from Norway's Aunt Mary, 1973's `Janus' sees the band incorporating gentle symphonic prog touches to their usual hard-rocking style, and along with a dose of psychedelic pop, some E.L.P/Yes-like influences and occasional jamming, this is good honest 70's rock with extended instrumental sections, strong musicianship and tasteful vocal arrangements. Despite never to be confused with being a classic, there's still plenty of interest here, and undemanding prog fans should enjoy this album and band.

The band open and close the album with a run of different tracks stitched together, attempting to create some longer progressive pieces, but I'm not entirely convinced how well this works. The individual pieces are all fine on their own, but trying to sell them off as actual `suites' of music is pushing things a little! However, the opening 12 minute trio offers three great poppy numbers. Despite `Path of Your Dream' starting the album with drum rolls, frantic hard guitar riffs and shimmering Hammond organ, it soon diverts into a jaunty sing-along acoustic Moody Blues-like chorus, the band telling the tale of "A fairy-like gnome with the magic hand, from the clouds is watching this land...'. `Mr Kaye' aims for a Beatles psychedelic acid-pop sound, a playful shorter interlude with drowsy Lennon-esque vocals and a cute double-tracked guitar solo in the middle. It then kicks right into `Nocturnal Voice', a confident and more serious mid-tempo rocker with light country guitar fills and a nicely executed electric jam in the middle, all wrapped around a winning melody. The piece is only let down by a bafflingly screeching vocal in the chorus that sounds completely out of place!

The almost 7 minute `For All Eternity' is an energetic rocker that borrows many elements from the Yes template - sweet Jon Anderson-like harmonies, galloping Hammond runs and thick chugging bass are all accounted for. But the band add some nice mellow country-rock flavours, a loopy instrumental run in the middle full of deranged whirling Moogs and some addictive jazzy licks too. Especially listen out for these little blasts of guitar aggression and distortion in the opening minute, very tasty! `Stumblin' Stone' starts as a lush thoughtful instrumental rocker, driven by constantly upfront bass, gentle Hammond washes, bringing an early 70's laid-back Pink Floyd quality overall. It then abruptly morphs into a snarling dirty groover, with a frantic wailing bluesy electric guitar outro. `All We've Got To Do Is Dream' is a pleasant and heartfelt acoustic folk interlude. `Candles of Heaven' aims for an Emerson, Lake and Palmer/Triumvirat level of bombast, with Hammond organ flourishes, chunky but fluid bass and rumbling drums, and even the lead vocal sounds uncannily like Greg Lake. It follows the E.L.P template exactly, but most impressive is the ballistic instrumental run in the final minute that has the band playing as if their lives depended on it! The band then wraps on a lovely spiritual number with a powerful epic guitar solo and Rick Wright-styled Hammond that lifts you to the heavens. "Oh Lord, what a lovely day you give us all...' the band sigh, and it's hard not to be swept along with the positivity and warmth.

At first I was very disappointed when I first bought this CD at a local record fair. I thought I was buying an album by either the U.K or Italian bands both called Janus, not realising this was instead the title of the album by a band called Aunt Mary - I thought it was the other way around! But after a few listens, Janus (the album, not the band, are we clear on that like I wasn't?!) reveals itself to be a charming, well played and melodic easy listenening prog-lite rocker. It's a bit of a shame that in several sections, the band merely recreates the sound of other popular prog bands, when they clearly had the musical talent to forge their own identity, but everything still sounds good. So hardly essential, but certainly a nice addition to any prog collection from a fine band.

Three stars.

(Just a quick note - anyone purchasing the Polygram Norway CD reissue should be aware that the track-listing on the back is not the same as what is on the disc. The CD itself has 9 tracks, and oddly credits a false start/some studio muckaround as it's own track running 41 seconds in the middle of the disc. A minor complaint, but initially confusing! Ignore it, just enjoy the album!)

Report this review (#1162604)
Posted Friday, April 18, 2014 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Janus' - Aunt Mary (71/100)

If anyone has seen fit to keep the memory of Norway's Aunt Mary alive, it has been the progressive rock crowd, always eager to pay respects to the names that the bigwig magazines might have missed at the time. With that preface, it is notable that Aunt Mary only graduated into the world of full-fledged prog with their third LP, Janus. The hard rock of their first two albums is met with a strong grasp of heavy psych, art pop and symphonic prog. Looking back at the album now, Janus doesn't really excel in any particular way. Rather, Aunt Mary culminated their career with an enjoyably varied and consistent piece of work.

Although 1972's Loaded was replete with proggy undertones, there was a great deal of new territory for Aunt Mary to explore on Janus. While some bands may have used the template of another band's sound to forge their own, Aunt Mary didn't settle for a single style. Sure, there's a certain closeness on "For All Eternity" to Yes Album-era Yes- "Mr. Kaye" might have even passed for one of the deep cuts off a psychedelic Beatles album. Hell, I'd even go one further and say there's a certain Bowie glam to "Nocturnal Voice". From organ-heavy symphonic rock to pop and heavy psych, Aunt Mary weren't trying to evolve or identify with a particular sound so much as taking a sample of each. Had Aunt Mary stuck around for a fourth album, I sure we'd have seen them make a more confirmed decision. The jack-of-all-trades approach undeniably comes at the cost of the album (and band) leaving a rather indistinct impression. Had Aunt Mary made a purebred symphonic prog, or a pop, or a glam rock album, they would have had an easier time selling Janus.

At the same time, there is something to be said for the kind of variety Aunt Mary tackled here. While the fact that they were willing to explore so many options means little by itself, the confidence Aunt Mary approached each style with is striking. With the stylistic difference, for instance, between the symphonic "Path of Your Dream" and quaint pop of "Mr. Kaye" is easily recognizable, the album flows so well together that it's easy to overlook the fact that that Aunt Mary are really shifting gears to begin with. Even beyond the eclectic angle, Janus has a near-immaculate sense of flow; even the goofy "Untitled" snippet that closes off the first side feels in place. Considering I would usually think of a band that jumped between styles like this as non-committal and undecided, it's all to Aunt Mary's credit that the album works together so well.

Janus is a remarkably consistent album, though calling it that limits the possibility of truly excellent, as well as weak material. The bluesy "Stumblin' Stone" or proggy "Candles of Heaven" would probably be my picks if the jury was ever out on choosing 'highlights' off of Janus, but there isn't a song here passionate enough, complex enough or otherwise ambitious enough to have nominated Aunt Mary for the big leagues. The band's performance kinda strikes me the same way. I like the Keith Emerson-y synth runs Bengt Jensen delivers on the album's proggier pieces, but even then it's never wild or nuanced enough to distinguish the band from so oh-so-many of their contemporaries. If in doubt, you can always tell how tight or technical a prog rock band is from the drumming; in this case, Kjetil Stensvik holds a steady beat for Aunt Mary, but personal flourishes are minimal. Their vocals fare a little better; three of the four members lend their voices in arts, although none really serve to replace the considerable charisma of former vocalist Jan Groth.

Janus is a strong, consistent and enjoyable album, and even so it feels like a disappointing place for Aunt Mary to have ended their career. Janus is demonstration of a young band playing with fresh styles, quickly gaining confidence with a considerably expanded range of styles. Had there been a fourth album from these guys, I'm near-certain it would have been even better than Janus. Whatever the case, Aunt Mary closed their career on their best note, and however short their journey together may have been, it resulted in at least one standout record.

Report this review (#1370433)
Posted Thursday, February 19, 2015 | Review Permalink

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