Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Plastic Cloud - s/t. 1968 Canada

The Plastic Cloud - s/t. 1968 Allied

More from the Personal Collection....

CD reissues: 1990 Laser's Edge (USA); 2006 Lion (USA)

LP reissues: 1999 Void (USA); 2007 Lion (USA)

Packaging: Single sleeve cover with insert as shown above from an old ebay auction that no doubt covered that month's mortgage payment for the seller. Original copies can get way up there, and frequently sell for well over $1K. My original discovery came via a new upstart label called The Laser's Edge way back in 1990. I'd never heard of the group, and I was myself only in about Year 3 of having disposable income for buying albums when I felt like it. So I took a chance, and was rewarded in a big way from a music perspective. The CD comes with a fold out insert and replicates the original liner notes. Many years later I picked up the Void LP reissue - and it's probably superfluous to own this version given it's a straight reissue with the same original insert. But since it's such a favorite album of mine, it's nice to have a vinyl copy - especially since originals are pretty much out of reach. The Lion reissues include - according to their website - "The accompanying twenty-page booklet has all the lyrics, thanks to Don Brewer, the man who wrote them, as well as rare photos and a replica of an original press release that must be seen to be believed". And their edition of the LP is a gatefold. So if I was looking to pick these up for the first time, no doubt I would run to the Lion versions, which hopefully are still available. I'll always keep the Laser's Edge CD - but if I happen upon any other reissue (or God forbid, an original), I most certainly will consider supplementing it.

Notes: Kingston's The Plastic Cloud - to my ears anyway - practically define what late 1960s underground psychedelic music sounds like. Look at the cover - fast forward 45+ years - and tell me they wouldn't fit perfectly into today's hipster culture. They have a strong sense of that era's light ethereal melodies coupled with credible vocal harmonies, and yet they also possess this subversive streak that shows up primarily in their heavy use of a biting "bumblebee" sounding fuzz guitar. Tracks like 'Shadows of Your Mind', 'You Don't Care', 'Face Behind The Sun', and 'Civilization Machine' are massive in their execution, and the jams can get super intense  - especially on the longer tracks (two of which go into the 9 to 10 minute mark). Imagine The Doors going "all in", as they would in their early days, but utilizing fuzz guitar instead of electric organ. And even the "straight" psychedelic tracks are memorable such as 'Art's a Happy Man' and 'Bridge Under the Sky'. If you're a fan of the underground 60s psych movement, it's pretty hard to imagine not freaking over this masterpiece. A genre defining album if there ever was one.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wolfgang Dauner's Et Cetera - Knirsch. 1972 Germany

Wolfgang Dauner's Et Cetera - Knirsch. 1972 MPS / BASF

Next up on the personal collection project. We featured the debut of Et Cetera earlier in the year. I would encourage you to revisit that post as I've updated the contents of the Packaging section greatly.

CD reissue: 2010 HGBS

LP reissues: 1979 Crystal; 1984 Corona Music Jazz

Packaging: "Knirsch" comes in a mighty fine thick and sturdy gatefold, and as with every MPS album, is pressed on excellent vinyl. Like all of the Et Cetera albums, there is much supply, but it's matched by the demand and originals sell consistently for around $125 (though I found copies slightly cheaper on a quick search - so definitely do your homework). I bought my personal original LP copy on ebay about 15 years ago and added it to the CDRWL immediately. Dauner's albums are being reissued slowly, and on different labels, so it was with great delight that a new label HGBS (which stands for original MPS founder Hans Georg Brunner-Schweremerged) reissued "Knirsch" on CD. And so I purchased one as soon as it became available. It comes in a nice digi-pak and sounds fantastic (surely from the masters). Unfortunately there are no historical liner notes or bonus tracks. I know nothing about the '79 reissue, though it would appear Crystal is a "budget label" so probably best to steer clear unless desperate for an LP copy at a cheaper price. I know even less about the Corona Music Jazz release.

Notes: A mixed effort, "Knirsch" combines the higher key heavy fusion of Mahavishnu Orchestra with Dauner's own affliction towards experimental free jazz. On board for this excursion are noted jazz guitarist Larry Coryell, Colosseum's Jon Hiseman (drums), and long time Dauner contributor (and future Exmagma member) Fred Braceful on hand percussion - the all-star cast proves up to the challenge of mixing these diverse styles. Dauner himself provides a nice variety of keyboards from traditional Clavinet, piano, Mini-Moog, and Rhodes onto off-key analog electronik instruments for the most "out there" segments. Some of the experimental bits go on for too long, as was common from this era of jazz rock, but still a very worthy addition for any underground fusion collection. Final piece 'Yin' is the best track and closes the album in fine fashion.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Poliphony - s/t. 1973 England

Poliphony - s/t. 1973 Zella

CD reissue: 2012 Audio Archives

Packaging: Housed in a standard single sleeve, and looking all the studio jam session album that it purports to be. Originals are very scarce and will run anywhere between $200 and $400. My introduction to the album was about a decade ago while visiting Heavyrock's house. And he was kind enough to burn the LP onto CD-R for me for the ride back home. The recent CD reissue on Audio Archives definitely took me by surprise, as I would suspect demand to be very low. It took me a bit of time, but I finally sourced one for the collection recently. It's a fine reissue with very good sound (I suspect a vinyl transcription, but well done), with unique liner notes and clear participation from the band. Audio Archives decided to change the color from the original beige to a pinkish hue - perhaps to its advantage.

Notes: Poliphony is a very nice instrumental jazz psych record. Not too far from some of the Italian film library bands like Fourth Sensation or Psycheground - or even the UK group Hungry Wolf. Some pointed fuzz guitar leads and flute forays add volume. Elsewhere, there's some jazz-tone guitar and plenty of Rhodes, typical of the genre. I think a little more fire in the belly would have lead to a better experience overall, but it's still worth hearing, and perhaps then getting the CD. This Poliphony is not to be confused with the more well known US band Polyphony.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Mandrake Memorial - s/t + Medium + Puzzle. 1968-1969 USA

The Mandrake Memorial - s/t. 1968 Poppy
The Mandrake Memorial - Medium. 1969 Poppy
The Mandrake Memorial - Puzzle. 1969 Poppy

Next up from the personal collection...

CD reissues:
The Mandrake Memorial - s/t. 1996 Collectables
The Mandrake Memorial - Medium. 1996 Collectables
The Mandrake Memorial - Puzzle. 1996 Collectables

LP reissues:
The Mandrake Memorial - Medium. 2009 Wah Wah (Spain)
The Mandrake Memorial - Puzzle. 2009 Wah Wah (Spain)

Packaging: The first album is housed in a standard thick single sleeve, whereas the other two are gatefolds. And, if you're lucky, you might find the circular insert for "Puzzle". I first bought the debut LP almost 25 years ago, appropriately enough, while in Philadelphia. I replaced that, and picked up the others, as soon as the CDs hit the market in the mid/late 90s. Prices tend to be all over the lot for each of the original LPs, but in general, the later the date, the more expensive it gets - which is usually the opposite. The debut sold well (over 100,000 copies according to the CD liner notes), especially within the local Northeast Philly/NYC/Boston market, and thus finding an original isn't too hard. Even though you won't find one for $8 in a store as you could have back then, you can still find nice copies for under $40 (though they can go for much higher - so watch carefully). "Medium" is certainly more scarce though not terribly expensive, but again, prices are volatile, and patience will pay off. "Puzzle" is definitely the hardest one to score. Not only does it feature the fetching Escher cover ("House of Stairs" from 1951), but comes with a cool insert, though the latter will definitely add $ to the final product. Interestingly enough, the CDs may be even rarer and more expensive than the LPs (except for maybe "Puzzle"). That's a rare occurrence these days! These were issued by the local Philadelphia CD label Collectables and were widely distributed in the late 90s. All copies were consumed eventually and now trying to source one is a pricey proposition. All 3 CDs feature full liner notes (the same liner notes for each unfortunately, though "Puzzle" adds in the original liners which are in Dutch and likely come from Escher himself). "Puzzle" comes with both sides of their final 45 single as a bonus, though they inexplicably "colored in" the Escher sketch (who knows why?). All of these are taken from vinyl copies, and only the debut sounds decent. I think they could have done a better job, though it didn't bother me much until I heard them intently with headphones. As for LP reissues, the high quality Spanish label Wah-Wah put the latter two back on the market for vinyl hounds. I'm guessing they decided not to reproduce the debut since originals are still in abundance. I personally haven't run into these reissues. Watch out carefully for pirate editions, as they have proliferated the marketplace.

Notes for s/t: Philadelphia based The Mandrake Memorial began their career as a psychedelic pop group, with the distinction that all the songs here feature distant "lost" vocals and electric harpsichord. There's a certain sameness to their sound throughout. The music is every bit of its era, practically defining 1968 for us. The best tracks, naturally enough for a group existing in the psych world, are those that feature biting fuzz guitar licks such as heard on 'Here I Am', 'Dark Lady', and 'Strange'. Closer 'Sunday Noon' sounds like The Mandrake Memorial covering The Doors. And it's just as great as that might sound.

Notes for Medium: Side 1 sees The Mandrake Memorial taking a step back as they try to define their sound to a finer point. There's more of a downer folk blues sound going on, though its still psych based, and there's phasing and fuzz guitar here, along with the prevailing electric harpsichord. Side 2 definitely takes the straightjacket off, and the band spreads their wings further into longer compositions and creative instrumentals - peaking on the 6 minute instrumental 'Barnaby Plum'. A mixed album, with a much greater discrepancy - both at the top and from the bottom.

Notes for Puzzle: Side 2 of "Medium" was a harbinger of things to come for The Mandrake Memorial. Gone is the trademark electric harpsichord and its place is the guitar trio - with a fully staffed choir and orchestra in tow. The conventional psychedelic songs are undoubtedly The Mandrake Memorial of the first two albums, but the other tracks show the band pushing the boundaries of rock into exciting new directions, oddly reminding me some of Pink Floyd's 'Atom Heart Mother' suite that had yet to appear. Guitarist Craig Anderton's growing interest in electronics is given a test drive on 'Bucket of Air' - a splendid display of proto Kosmiche Krautrock if there ever was one. Overall, it's definitely an experimental record, and one that did not result in commercial success for the band. The subsequent 45 single sees The Mandrake Memorial heading back towards the middle - not sure where else they could have gone honestly - and then decided to hang it up, having accomplished a great deal in only 2 short years.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Robert Connolly - Plateau. 1978 Canada

Robert Connolly - Plateau. 1978 Tube

Next one from the personal collection....

NO reissues!!!

Packaging: Single sleeve cover with a comic book, that's absolutely awesome in its goofiness. And dig that back cover with the mounds of hair and double neck! Like the Pascal Languirand's from Canada, this is an album I bought used well over 20 years ago, and could still buy one for the same price today. One would presume they won't stay cheap forever - so buy the LP while you still can. It really is a good album too (and still quite obscure - few seem to know about it after all these years). No reissues to date, and I've had it in the CDRWL since day 1 of the list. There isn't a year listed anywhere on the LP. However, the comic book is dated 1978, so that's generally the accepted release date for the album.

Notes: I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: Ontario in the 1970's was an extension of the US Midwest - at least from an economic perspective. And so it comes as no surprise that the music shares similarities. We've waxed on a number of times about this most unique of American made rock music. And I'll be honest, I never viewed Connolly with this lens, until a revisit of the LP a couple of years back. Wham-bam, bullseye! Get your Ethos, Dillinger, Starcastle, and October albums out and compare.

Even though Connolly is standing next to a double neck guitar on the back cover, I believe his true passion is keyboards (and he's loaded with all the fun analog stuff like Mellotron, Mini Moog, and Hammond). The concept is pure 1970's space alien fantasy and comes complete with a goofy comic book (and any righteous CD label MUST reproduce this bad boy). For the album, Connolly put together two entirely different groups, each side represented. Side 1 mixes narration, female vocals, acoustic balladry and all out progressive rock that recalls Eloy's "Power and the Passion", but truthfully better. Side 2 is where Connolly hands over the guitar duties as well as brings on a male lead singer - while he focuses entirely on the keys. No question this side is the more traditional progressive rock, though the vocals tend towards the AOR side, typical of the region. Given this new outlook, I'm appreciating Robert Connolly's album more now than ever. It's the time and place.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Deja-Vu - Between the Leaves. 1976 Norway

Deja-Vu - Between the Leaves. 1995 Research Records (Sweden). Also released in 1996 on Record Heaven (Sweden LP). Archival recording from 1976.

More from the personal collection project...

Packaging: Supposedly a test pressing from 1976, I don't think one has ever been for sale. So a classic case of an archival tape, and my first exposure - along with just about everyone else I presume - was the Research Records CD, which I bought immediately upon release in the mid 90s. Today that CD is pretty much extinct and will probably remain a collectable unless it gets reissued again. The CD is an excellent release with liner notes, photos, and great sound. The LP is a picture disc, and is actually a bit more common - though I've never owned one.

Notes: Deja-Vu features two members from the Norwegian hard progressive band Høst, and the music is very similar actually, especially at the time of "Hardt mot Hardt". Perhaps more symphonic given the heavy keyboard presence (Fender Rhodes, Mini-Moog, String Ensemble, Clavinet, Mellotron), but the compositions have that relentless bass guitar induced driving flair - also recalling Trettioariga Kriget or Ruphus' works a couple of years prior to this. Hard to imagine anyone into the symphonic progressive rock sound not appreciating this album at a high level. As you listen to Deja-Vu, it becomes apparent that a modern band like Wobbler has no doubt digested this album as a matter of national pride. And it shows in their own recordings, especially their latest Yes-like offering "Rites at Dawn".

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Lost Nation - Paradise Lost. 1970 USA

Lost Nation - Paradise Lost. 1970 Rare Earth. Also released in the Netherlands

From the Personal Collection project...

NO reissues!

Packaging: Single sleeve cover with colorful label as shown above. I was first tipped to this record over 20 years ago by a friend who also happens to be one of the biggest Dutch record collectors (where the album was also released). He told me that if I was looking for a great hard psych album from my own country, I should look for this LP since he knew it wasn't very expensive - and it was still an unknown (it kind of still is!). True enough, I bought a new copy without markings for all of about $12 at the time - and this is the copy I still own. For one in the same shape as mine you're looking at paying over $75 today (rare to find one without a cut corner, saw cut, cut-out hole, etc...). If cover cuts don't matter to you (like the photo I have here with the cut corner), then you can score one for under $30 still. Unfortunately this album remains completely ignored in the reissue market (beyond pirate editions of course), and has been in the CDRWL since its inception.

Notes: Detroit's Lost Nation recalls another band from nearby Ann Arbor: SRC. Especially at the time of "Traveler's Tale". There's a distinct late psych vibe here (the dreamy vocals and harmonies are a pure giveaway). The driving guitars and Hammond Organ call out Deep Purple from their late 60s era, and the music definitely carries over into progressive rock territory with their sophisticated development of composition - especially over the longer tracks of which there are a few. It's a pity Lost Nation didn't catch on, as they certainly were one of the stronger groups to emerge from the American confused year of 1970. For my tastes, the best album on the Rare Earth label.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Brainchild - Healing of the Lunatic Owl. 1970 England

Brainchild - Healing of the Lunatic Owl. 1970 A&M (also released in Italy)

More from the personal collection...

CD reissue: 1991 Pony Canyon/A&M (Japan)

Packaging: Originals are stored in a single sleeve, and features that rather goofy - but wonderful - cover as seen above. As for reissues, yep - that's it - the CD from A&M's parent company in Japan. It's direct from the masters, and comes in a standard jewel case with an insert in Japanese, and nothing else. Esoteric has talked in the past of reissuing it, but nothing has come of it to date. It was by pure chance I received the CD in the first place. It was literally a throw-in to a larger deal I made about 20 years ago. I was curious about it, but didn't have much hopes that it was anything special. Not to be too dramatic here, but it damned near changed my life! Needless to say, it remains one of my favorite albums ever. And it so desperately needs a specialist label to do it right. I do hope Esoteric will continue to pursue this one. The CD is so obscure - and ridiculously out of print - that I listed the album on the CDRWL in hopes that it would gain some exposure. From a financial perspective, I should hope one doesn't show up, as my CD is worth a fortune these days. But that's not how I roll, and I want everyone to hear it in its full glory! (and not some cheap bootleg of which there are many out there of course). By now, you've probably discerned that picking up an original LP was of paramount importance to me. That day finally came over two years ago. Of course, it wasn't cheap, but there are just some things where it's worth paying top dollar for - and this was one of those things. They'll be throwing this LP in the grave with me. If you're looking for one as well, expect to pay between $200 and $400, depending on who's giving it attention that week on ebay or anywhere else.

Notes: Brainchild's "Healing of the Lunatic Owl" is perhaps the single best album to have emerged from the late 1960s brass rock movement that had gained immense popularity due to Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Chicago Transit Authority's chart topping hits. Brainchild definitely falls on the Chicago side of this equation from a musical perspective. I've long felt that Chicago is somewhat under-appreciated in today's world for how groundbreaking they truly were - mixing carefully crafted pop songs, with complex horn charts, and insane unhinged psychedelia. The latter two elements eventually fell off the train (so to speak), and all that most anyone remembers today is an old boring pop band for middle aged housewives who spend all day on Facebook. The English septet Brainchild is the embodiment of everything that was good about Chicago - without any of the excess or trivial moments. Brainchild's ability to pen a beautiful pop song is jaw dropping in its execution. The horn charts are complicated, perfectly played, and yet still tuneful. There's an element of psychedelic rock, but it's not the main focus - but rather a powerful ingredient to the overall stew. There's also one other aspect to Brainchild, that most horn rock bands did not pursue back then, and that's an absolute appreciation of progressive rock. The latter element shows up repeatedly in how each composition develops - the constant changing of moods, dynamics, and meters. The title track perhaps is the best example of everything mentioned above: A stunning pop melody, great vocals, psychedelic interludes, and a progressive rock structure. Other superior tracks include 'She's Learning' which features a grungy organ, gravelly vocals, psych guitar, and an ominous brass section; 'A Time and Place', a progressive oriented track clocking in at 9 minutes, which starts with melancholy flute, before launching the Latin percussion, organ, jazz rhythm guitar, and hard hitting trumpet/trombone charts; 'Sadness of a Moment' is the kind of song that Greg Lake could have penned for King Crimson in his prime - complete with soft echoed vocals, acoustic guitar, and flute. Goosebump inducing music right here!; 'To "B"' closes the album, after a brief but beautiful flute opening, as it started with 'Autobiography' - a powerful horn rock song in the Chicago Transit Authority tradition. For me, the best horn rock album ever. Unless the style reemerges in our lifetime, it's hard to imagine anything ever besting it.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Maxophone - s/t. 1975 Italy

Maxophone - s/t. 1975 Produttori Associati; 1975 PAUSA (USA - English version)

Back to documenting the existing collection....

CD reissues: 1992 Crime (Japan); 1993 Nices (Korea); 1997 Mellow; 2005 Arcangelo (Japan mini-LP); 2008 BTF (mini-LP) ; 2011 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

CD reissues (for English version): 1993 Mellow; 2008 BTF (mini-LP)

LP reissues: 1988 Crime (Japan); 1993 Si-Wan (Korea); 2010 BTF

Packaging: The original album is housed in a splendid gatefold cover. True Italian originals are scarce and in demand, like all original progressive rock albums from there. Expect to pay north of $300 for a nice one. Watch out for German originals on the same label. Some dealers like to sneak those in as originals - which they are - but still not quite the same (though I might add - would still make a great addition to the collection - and costs about 33% of the real thing). You can distinguish by the catalog number, and that the label is orange instead of the original black (the original is the first photo). The English version was released in America on the California based PAUSA (Produttori Associati USA) label (second scan). Like most folks here, this was my introduction to the album, and while it wasn't common, finding copies for under $5 in the used bins in the 80s and 90s wasn't unheard of either. Usually with a big fat sawcut in it and major ringwear too. These US pressings can still be found for a reasonable price, but not super cheap as in the past (thus eliminating any need for an LP repress of the English version). Like most Italian albums, hearing the English language version is going to be an inferior experience. And as such, I wasn't overly impressed, but kept it around long enough to replace it with the first CD to hit the market which was the Japanese Crime version. Now I could hear the album as it was originally intended in glorious Italian, and the album jumped a couple of points as a result. I eventually replaced that version with the first Japanese mini-LP that replicates the original down to the last detail (including a rare sticker). The CD is from Vinyl Magic of Italy and pressed in 2000 (though oddly I'm not finding that version in the discographies online). Starting with the '97 Mellow release, all the reissues feature the rare 45 single from 1977 as a bonus (taken from vinyl). Maxophone's album, whether on reissue LP and CD, is easily available today. Maybe one day I'll get the Italian original, but it's not of the highest priority right now.

Notes: Late to the game, Maxophone's album missed the heyday of the Italian progressive rock movement by about two years. To add more doubt, Produttori Associati was a pop label that hadn't shown much interest in progressive rock, having only released the very obscure jazz rock Duello Madre album prior. Despite these setbacks, Maxophone's sole album is a fastball-down-the-middle for the style. Everything is here: Complex compositions, memorable melodies, dizzying meters, large symphonic sound, a myriad of analog keyboards (incl. Hammond organ, piano), biting electric guitar leads, soft acoustic guitar soundscapes, flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, French Horn, tuned percussion, and fantastic vocals in Italian. If you're a fan of the style, then it's hard to imagine Maxophone not satisfying on many levels. As is usually the case, be careful not to judge based on the English language version. Hear it in Italian, as it was originally intended, and then draw your conclusion. The 1977 45 single (added as a bonus to later reissues) is geared more towards orchestrated pop, and it clearly shows Maxophone had walked away from progressive rock by then, as just about everyone else in Italy had during those days.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Mar-Vista - Visions of Sodal Ye. 1976 France

Mar-Vista - Visions of Sodal Ye. 1976 Le Kiosque d'Orphee

Most of the new obscure discoveries we encounter upon come through via the CDRWL, but today we have one that has already been reissued. So no need to add a new Priority 2 for CD, since Strawberry Rain has already provided us with one!

CD reissue: 2014 Strawberry Rain (Canada) as "Visions..."

LP reissue: 2014 Strawberry Rain (Canada)

Packaging: The one and only species captured in the wilds, at least with visual evidence, is the first photograph. A complete unknown at the time, that copy went for roughly $100. I suspect that total will jump given it's now a known quantity. Le Kiosque d'Orphee is not a label so much as it is a custom record pressing plant. So it's like the American labels such as RPC or Rite Records, and everything on the label is likely to be obscure, and in some cases, extinct. The CD comes in a fine digi-pak (second scan), with liner notes that fill in the story of how the album came about. The CD also features two excellent and relevant bonus tracks. Though the CD is entitled "Visions...", and the LP cover above says nothing more than "Visions", the liner notes clearly attribute the title to "Visions of Sodal Ye".

Notes: Mar-Vista are the duo of Jean Skowron and Claude Cuvelier. According to the liner notes their influences were a bit more esoteric than the usual suspects and include Terry Riley, Balinese music, Klaus Schulze, Neu!, Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, "and the glorious Popol Vuh" as they state. Each side of the album is composed by one of the gentlemen. Side 2's 'Sodal Ye' is Cuvelier's contribution. It's a long electronic piece, in the German spatial tradition. It's well done, and fans of the style (including me) will enjoy it. The real revelation here, though, is Skowron's 5 part 'Vision'. He plays a myriad of instruments including electric and acoustic guitar, synthesizers, electric piano, percussion, organ in addition to taking on the vocal duties. Cuvelier I presume adds in his bank of analog keys as well. The music reminds me of other murky progressive folk albums coming from France, with lots of wild fuzz guitar, haunting acoustic passages, bizarre electronics, mournful vocals, and a wealth of other ideas. This side is a real revelation, and I think fans of the progressive, yet very psychedelic, folk rock underground will eat this up! The two bonus tracks are also excellent. 'Synthetik Way' is another lengthy electronic piece recalling Frenchman Claude Perraudin or the Italian Eletriktus. And 'Crash '73' is a full-on progressive jazz rock number that conjures up bands such as 1970 era Soft Machine (this may have come from an earlier incarnation of the group when they were a larger ensemble - though it's unclear).

Sadly we learn from the liner notes that Skowron is no longer with us. However to finish on a positive note, Cuvelier is back and recording a new album.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Kelompok Kampungan - Mencari Tuhan. 1980 Indonesia

Kelompok Kampungan - Mencari Tuhan. 1980 Akurama

CD reissue: 2013 Strawberry Rain (Canada)

LP reissue: 2013 Strawberry Rain (Canada)

Packaging: A very scarce album in original form - LPs in general are not common in Indonesia - and a copy in great condition will run around $200. I suspect now that the album is more well known, the price of originals will go up significantly.  All the auctions I've seen were before the reissue, and most folks didn't know anything about this album. I certainly did not, and the CD was my first exposure to the group. The CD is housed in a fine mini-LP jacket, and comes with full liner notes in English, with some additional photos.

Notes: When I first announced the reissue for this album, my initial response after hearing the samples were: "This is a super rare artifact from Indonesia, a country that continues to unearth albums that few knew existed. As soon as I saw the magic word "Paebiru", I wanted to hear it. After hearing some samples, it's certainly on the folk side of the Cortes and Remalho masterpiece, but I can definitely understand the comparison. And I'm always up for hearing albums that make their own instruments! I think this title will be well received by many."

The story that emerges, both from the historical essay and from a musical perspective, is that Kelompok Kampungan are operating in similar territory to that of the German politrock or Swedish progg movements. While there's not much in the way of rock music here, Kelompok Kampungan focuses on indigenous acoustic stringed instruments and percussion to bring forth their civil unrest. The album opens with a lengthy speech from Indonesia's first president Sukarno (aka Soekarno), no doubt raising the ire of the (then) current Suharto regime. And, as such, the band found it difficult to operate within Indonesia during this era. Obviously the music is lyric heavy, and its message will be lost on most of us - but the voice inflections are interesting, and the music is appropriately progressive in the same manner that any culture's native music can be. So if the idea of a creative and progressive Indonesian protest music sounds appealing, then most assuredly Kelompok Kampungan will fulfill that order.  I quite enjoyed it myself - a departure from my usual listening regimen. Strawberry Rain is to be commended for continuing to reissue such interesting albums from all corners of the world.

As we learn from the liner notes below, I find it ironic that Kelompok Kampungan means "Village People". Those expecting to see non-traditional and well chiseled men in various forms of costume, playing insipid disco music will most assuredly be very disappointed with Kelompok Kampungan...

As with Abbhama, the liner notes for "Mencari Tuhan" are available to the public from Denny Sakrie (and I encourage you all to follow the link for more photos that are not part of the reissue). I will reprint those here, with all credits and thanks to Mr. Sakrie: "Kelompok Kampungan (“Village People”)  emerged as one of the ethnical folk rock fusion group of the mid 70’s through early 80’s.They’re came  from Yogyakarta,Central of Java,Indonesia. This eclectical group who makes bewitching music was formed by Bram Makahekum an alumnus of WS Rendra’s Bengkel Theater,an Indonesia  famous theatrical group in the mid of 70’s.They present  once again the richness and important characteristics of Indonesa ethnical music which develop in the Indonesian archipelago and was enriched by a number of breakthrough from folk,jazz,classical even rock essence.Kelompok Kampungan played their original music stuff with acoustic instruments.At the time ,this was seen as a means of creativity, I called it a new direction for folk meets ethnic music and as a way of attracting the kinds of large audiences enjoyed by rock musicians.

The original members of  Kelompok Kampungan  were Bram Makahekum (lead vocalist,acoustic guitar,songwriter),Edi Haryono (Java percussions  ,Arabian percussions) ,Agus Murtono (violin,Bali percussions,cabassa),Rudra  Setiabudi (Flute,oboe,guitars,Java percussion ),Agus Salim (cello,Java Gamelans),Kelik (acoustic guitar,Java Percussions),Joko Surendro (violins,guitar,Java Gamelan) ,Areng Widodo (bass electric,Java Gamelan),Doddy Precil (Back up vocals,percussions),Sawung Jabo (vocalist,acoustic guitar,percussions) ,Innisisri (Bali drums,Drums Kit,percussions),Bujel (flute,gong).Bram Makahekum was also leader of the band and Agus Murtono was a music director.With only Bram Makahekum remaining in place throughout  the band’s life pan.
Bram Makahekum ,Sawung Jabo,and Edi Haryono all had experience playing music score for Bengkel Theater,a group of  theater led by artist WS Rendra,with Java Gamelan orchestration called Nyai Pilis.Innisisri have experienced with various rock group like The Lheps,Spider,Amudas and many others.Areng Widodo was bass player from a rock band called Golden Wings. And the others came from Akademi Musik Indonesia (Indonesia Music Academy) alumnus.

The embryo of  Kelompok Kampungan  started out in the mid of 1970s that supported Bengkel Theater play ’s performing.Bram Makahekum  was the center of the stage with  the blending of singing and poetry reading.His voices was expressive and distinctive.

In 1977 Bram Makahekum with his friends officially formed Kelompok Kampungan as a musical groups.Kelompok Kampungan for the first time played Bram Makahekum song titled “Mencari Tuhan” (In Search Of God) at Taman Ismail Marzuki Jakarta in the same  year .The audiences like their their musical concept.Kelompok Kampungan were unsurpassed  in their eclecticism,willing to borrow from folk,blues,jazz,classical  and Indonesia ethnical.Unexpectedly peoples likes their simple songs with protest lyrics.But the New Under regime under Soeharto administration banned Kelompok Kampungan music in several concerts .

Sadly,they  can’t do anything with their music.The government also banned their first recording  “Mencari Tuhan” (Akurama Records,1980). Their one and only album featured  9 tracks like  “Bung Karno” (with the excerpts of  Soekarno’s monumental  speech in 1964 ) ,”Ratna”,”Mereka Mencari Tuhan”,”Catatan Perjalanan”,”Hidup Ini Seperti Drama”,”Berkata Indonesia Dari Yogyakarta”,”Wanita”,”Terlepas Dari Frustrasi” dan “Aku Mendengar Suara”.All songs composition was written by Bram Makahekum with the assistance of Sawung Jabo,Edi Haryono and Areng Widodo.

Nowadays, Bram Makahekum (now 60 year old) still involve in music creativity.Sawung Jabo continuing his  music passionate in several bands like Sirkus Barock , Kantata Barock and Genggong,Rudra  Setiabudi has a career as sound engineer in Aqurius Recording studio,Areng Widodo still writing music especially for television music scoring,Agus Murtono was joined in some famous orchestra  in Jakarta and Yogyakarta and Innisisri was passed away in September 30,2009.Before he died,the brilliantly drummer  was being in a several idealism band like Kantata Takwa,Swami,Dalbo and Kahanan.

No doubt,Surely ”Mencari Tuhan” was a masterpiece  from  Kelompok Kampungan.It’s kinda  east meets west music with natural touched.It’s the early years of Indonesia world  music. Enjoy their music !

Denny Sakrie"

Friday, June 27, 2014

Pascal Languirand - Minos + De Harmonia Universalia + Vivre Ici Maintenant. 1978-81 Canada

Pascal Languirand - Minos. 1978 Kebec Disc
Pascal Languirand - De Harmonia Universalia. 1980 Minos. Also 1980 Polydor (France) - as De Harmonia Universalia - Minos
Pascal Languirand - Vivre Ici Maintenant. 1981 Minos

In addition to covering albums that have already been reissued, I've decided to include albums on the UMR that haven't been on CD (or reissue LP) as well. While I already do have these type of albums in the CDRWL, this blog is more focused on the collector aspect, and since I'm running through my personal collection (ever so slowly), I figured I might as well add these here too. Hopefully I'll be able to update the posts at a later date with details of CD or LP reissues as I go.

CD compilation of the first two albums (incomplete): 1993 ASPA (Spain) 

Packaging: The debut features a very nice silver embossed cover of a bull's head (Minos' bull of Greek mythology). De Harmonia Universalia had two LP releases, one on Polydor, and the other on Languirand's own Minos label. The Polydor issue is actually known as "De Harmonia Universalia - Minos", and it finally becomes clear to me that this subtitle has created confusion in the modern marketplace. RYM lists this as a compilation from 1993, indicating it's a reissue of the first two albums. But that's simply not the case*. The last album was only released on the private Minos label, and the cover makes Languirand look ridiculous with his newly appointed gold tinted hair. All the LPs are single sleeves with no extras. Perhaps unbelievably (and maybe sadly as demand is too light for these gems), all 3 albums can still be had for 1980s prices, and you shouldn't have to pay more than $20 for any of them. I bought all 3 well over 20 years ago, and I could replace each of those for the same price I paid way back then. Therefore LP reissues are entirely unnecessary, but cosmic music like this would do well on the CD format, which they all so desperately need.

---*As reader Bas suggests, there is a compilation of the first two albums after all from 1993 (last scan), but different from the photo on RYM (which is assuredly the 1980 French press of De Harmonia Universalia). The compilation contains all but one track of "De Harmonia Universalia", but only two songs (~18 minutes) of "Minos". It appears that one track ('Lunar Bass One') is a bonus not on any of his other works. So unfortunately, these remain completely unreissued as far as I'm concerned.

Notes for Minos: Pascal Languirand is sort of the Richard Pinhas of Quebec. A one man show of dark electronics (primarily Moog) and searing electric guitar. He's a bit more cosmic than Heldon, which calls to mind Klaus Schulze. And he often uses wordless voice that reminds me of Franco Falsini (Sensations' Fix). Side 2 opens with a tripped out folk number in French that I find highly appealing in this setting. The album closes as it starts with a Heldon like psychedelic guitar electronic piece.

Notes for De Harmonia Universalia: The sophomore effort is quite similar to Minos, but a bit less foreboding and more cosmic than its predecessor, with no drop-off in overall quality. Areas where electric guitar once dominated, have now been replaced with the softer tones of the synthesizers. Again, celestial synthesized voices augment the cosmic proceedings. Sequencers also take center stage here. Mid 70s Klaus Schulze emerges as the dominant influence this go round.

Notes for Vivre Ici Maintenant: The trio of classic Languirand albums is completed by "Vivre Ici Maintenant" and again, perhaps surprisingly, there is no noticeable decline in the quality. Here, Languirand takes us a bit further to the East while adding some acoustic percussive elements. The sequencers and cosmic electronics are still ever present. And Languirand even adds a bit of Ashra styled echoed electric guitar to the stew, making this one perhaps a tad better than the previous album.

Apparently Languirand carried on with three more releases starting in 1991 with the last one wrapping up in 2002. I haven't found much compelling evidence that these are worth seeking out, but I'll keep an open mind all the same.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tomsix - Soundbones. 1974-1979 USA

Tomsix - Soundbones. 1995 Behemoth. Archival recordings from 1974 to 1979

When I created the Midwest Progressive Rock list for RYM, one of my secret hopes was that I would receive recommendations for something similar. I knew I would get suggestions of albums that were on the fringe - or worse just anything that was from the Midwest (and I did of course). But if someone could offer a complete bullseye for the style - a band or album I'd never heard of - well, then, my list would be a complete success. The very first suggestion came in from Tony Coulter, and it was Tomsix. An absolute diamond in the rough if there ever was one. An album that's been out almost 20 years and still a complete unknown. I received a great many suggestions afterward - primarily from Tony and our good friend Mark MoeCurly - but Cleveland based Tomsix was the winner of the litter for certain.

Not surprisingly, the earlier you go in the timeline, the more progressive the music becomes. The 1974-75 period is when the band was known as Tarsier (which is arguably a much cooler name than Tomsix, which incidentally was named for the Tomsick trio of brothers that run the band). This era of material is heavily influenced by Yes (a common occurrence in Midwest America) with a smattering of Gentle Giant - and there's gobs of mellotron for fellow fans of the instrument. Starting in 1976, the band switched names to Missing Persons (no relation to Mr. & Ms. Bozzio we presume), and directed their sound even more to the counterpoint rhythms and harmonies commonly found in Gentle Giant. The music is tight, slightly commercial, but still very complex. The absolute definition of the Midwest American progressive sound. Though the liner notes aren't clear about this, it appears the band then went with Tomsix starting in 1978. Not surprisingly, this era of the band finds them at their most commercial, with even a slight funk/disco sound creeping in. I would say at this point, the band sounds most like Supertramp, but more progressive than that may imply. Tomsix never did properly record an album (such a shame too, as the quality of the sound on this compilation is very good). The material is not presented strictly from a chronological perspective, though the progressive tracks are front loaded (demonstrating to me at least, that's where the heart of the band lies). This CD, perhaps remarkably, can still be found at CD Baby as a factory pressed disc. Don't wait too long, as I'm sure this is a title that once it's gone - it will stay gone.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Parzival - Legend + Barock. 1971, 1973 Germany

Parzival - Legend. 1971 Telefunken
Parzival - Barock. 1973 Telefunken

OK, finally starting to settle into my personal collection project, which I had set out for this summer, but have already managed to get way behind. I'll be choosing albums randomly, so there will be no rhyme or reason to what I'm doing (has there ever been?). As well, I'll be color coding which ones I own in green (and formerly owned in red). I'll update past entries with the same nomenclature as time allows.

CD reissue for Legend: 1998 EastWest/Telefunken
CD reissue for Barock: 1998 EastWest/Telefunken

LP reissue for both: 1975 Nova (2 LP set)
LP reissue for Legend: 2011 Sireena

Packaging: My introduction to these fine albums came via the 2 LP Nova set, that I purchased over 20 years ago. For those looking to enter the "originals" market, this will be the most economically feasible option with LPs usually coming in between $25 and $50. This was for all intents and purposes the only version to be imported into the States. I sold my copy in 1998/99 when the two CD versions first appeared on the shelves. These are both excellent reproductions with unique photos, liner notes (in German), great sound from the master tapes, and a few short bonus tracks (more of historical interest than musical). These CDs today are pretty rare in their own right, and as such watch out for bootlegs that are currently proliferating the market. As far as originals go, the LP of Legend is stored in a magnificent gatefold cover. It's something I had on my personal want list for years, and I finally paid good money for a copy from a trustworthy Austrian dealer about 3 years ago. These weren't imported to the US, but if in the market for one, be sure to hang out in the German online auction houses, where you can expect to pay anywhere from about $125 to well over $200. While not an uncommon record in Europe, demand is high. Same story with Barock, though it's only a single sleeve and copies sell routinely for between $75 and $125. If originals aren't important to you, then most assuredly the Sireena LP reissue of Legend will more than suffice, and are still available for a regular price. I haven't possessed one myself, but Sireena does a great job with all their reissues.

Notes: Legend is unique amongst German folk rock albums, in that it's more in line with the English progressive folk rock movement. As such, these albums have long been held in high esteem from worldwide collectors who prefer the UK progressive style and lyrics in English. Only on occasion do Parzival play it straight, and long stretches of instrumental fancy are on display. With flute, violin, acoustic guitar, cello, viola, driving electric bass and drums, and piano, the instrumental palette is rich and the music is at times complex. The one anomaly is Groove Inside, which for me is the highlight of their canon. Imagine an instrumental kosmische Comus caught in a deep groove trance for 16 minutes. It's an amazing piece, and if the album in total was entirely like this, no doubt Parzival could have found themselves on the Ohr label.

For years, I'd thought of Barock as a much more inferior and straightforward folk rock album than its predecessor. On a careful listen, it's obvious that this album too possesses many delightfully odd moments, and some truly excellent progressions. In particular tracks like Black Train, Scarlet Horses, Thought, and Paradise all feature more than enough twists and turns to keep a progressive rock fan happy. The shorter tracks act more as incidental interludes.

On a personal note, of the two band leaders, a one Lothar Siems, is most assuredly a distant cousin of mine. See, my mother's maiden name is Siems, and the family history was for hundreds of years in and around the Bremerhaven area of far northern Germany. Given that Parzival are from Bremen, only a short way south confirms that. Besides, he actually looks like some of my cousins... :-)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Simon Jones - Melanie & Me. 1975 Australia

Simon Jones - Melanie & Me. 1975 private

CD reissue: 2014 Strawberry Rain (Canada)

LP reissue: 2014 Strawberry Rain (Canada)

Packaging: This is another one of those super rare 100-only press folk related items that have dominated the record collecting scene for some time now. Expect to pay multi hundreds for an original (first photo), if one dare shows itself. Fortunately Strawberry Rain has come to the rescue for the rest of us and reissued the title in both LP and CD formats. I own the latter, and it comes in a fine digi-pak with original photos and liner notes (i.e. what was on the original LP - no new insights are offered). As always, great care is applied to the sound. An excellent reissue.

Notes: At its core, Simon Jones' soundtrack to the art film "Melanie and Me" is a fairly straightforward folk rock album. Dual acoustic guitars, male/female vocals, and drums form the basis for most of the material. There's some electric guitar and even some amplified fuzz to open and close the album, that most assuredly will give it street cred with the psych crowd. There are a couple of tracks that are a bit different from the norm, and does make one raise their head in wonderment: 1) 'Nine to Five' features electric organ and piano, and definitely sounds like a track from the American underground of the late 60s. Perhaps best is the jam starting at the 3 minute mark that certainly reminds one of The Doors at their peak. And 2) 'Welcome' is one of those introspective folk numbers complete with melancholic recorder, a sound that presents an imagery of the English countryside.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Blind Owl - s/t. 1973 Canada

Blind Owl - s/t. 1973 private

CD reissue: 2013 Strawberry Rain

LP reissue: 2013 Strawberry Rain

This one's a bit outside of my range, but I know many of you are into rare private folk, so I thought I'd post it anyway, since the label was kind enough to send the CD over my way.

Packaging: Originals apparently were pressed in a small batch of 100. I haven't actually seen the album for sale, but guessing if one did surface, it would go for an enormous sum. The single sleeve cover simply features the lyrics front and back. The CD reissue comes in a nice digi-pak and 2 bonus tracks. Not much in the way of history is afforded though.

Notes: Toronto area based Blind Owl play a quiet, introspective, and melancholic folk music with harmony vocals. The latter definitely recalls Crosby, Stills & Nash. Other than piano and a small bit of percussion and harmonica, this is pretty much acoustic guitars and vocals throughout. Low budget recording adds to the vibe. Nice little obscurity reissued in fine (& legal) form, as is always the case, from Strawberry Rain.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Abbhama - Alam Raya. 1979 Indonesia

Abbhama - Alam Raya. 1979 Tala & Co. (Cassette)

CD reissue: 2014 Strawberry Rain (Canada)

Packaging: Like yesterday's Leong Lau entry, Abbhama is an album I'd never even heard of until about 5 years ago. Like most (all?) Indonesian albums from the 70's, the only existing format is a cassette. The Strawberry Rain CD has just been released and is obviously the best way to own the album (and certainly my only copy). Comes with full liner notes, and utilizes the same digipak cover as the Lau album - this time they have added the lyrics (all in Indonesian). In general Strawberry Rain reissues albums in LP format as well, and I suspect this will be no different. But it's not released as of this writing. BTW, the historical notes do clarify the album was released in 1979, thus correcting the standard 1978 date appended on all current websites. The second photo is the CD cover, and is a bit different than the scans on the internet. As you can see from the photo of the original cassette, the cover we were used to seeing was the middle part of the cassette cover fold.

Notes: I know very little about Indonesian prog rock pre-Discus, other than the outstanding Guruh Gipsy, but Abbhama seems to me the prototype of what to expect. At its core, Abbhama are a pop group with female vocals (oops they're male - they fooled me!) (Ed:  These notes are from when I first heard the album 5 years ago)  - darn near close to a lounge act. Then suddenly, when you least expect it, an obvious progressive rock segment will follow, perhaps something you might hear on a classic Yes or Genesis album. And while Abbhama wear their influences on their collective sleeves, it's all good fun. 

In addition to the Yes influence mentioned, the liner notes also point out Supertramp, which is very perceptive I think. Speaking of the liner notes, they are available online, so I'll publish them here with credits to Mr. Denny Sakrie:

"Abbhama were underrated progressive rock short-lived band from Jakarta Indonesia. If you asked what’s the meaning of Abbhama? The rest of the band  didn’t know the meaning yet. "I don’t know the meaning of Abbhama exactly. The word came suddenly when we prepared to recording our material at Tala & Co studio” said Iwan Madjid, leader of the band. But some says the band name was coined by Iwan Dharsono  the owner of Tala & Co 24 Tracks Studio. And still with no meaning.

Abbhama founded in 1977 by the music  students at Lembaga Pendidikan Kesenian Jakarta (Jakarta Art College).They’re Iwan Madjid (lead vocalist,piano,mellotron,flute ),Darwin B.Rachman (bass,keyboard),Cok Bagus (gitar),Hendro (oboe),Robin Simangunsong (drums),Oni (mini Moog synthesizers,keyboard),Dharma (flute) and Ivan (viola). Mostly the  songs in Abbhama’s one and only album called Alam Raya was written by Iwan Madjid with the lyrics by provided  the lyricist Tubagus Benny. Before Abbhama was formed, Iwan Madjid, a classically trained player  and Tubagus Benny a lyricist with some theater experience  had played together ini Operette Cikini with the  experience to create some rock opera adapted  from Mahabarata epic like “Ramayana” and “Mahabarata” in the mid 70s. When Abbhama formed, the music scene in Indonesia is a change in the trend of music that is the emergence of record albums-style progressive rock such as “Barong’s Band” – Barong’s Band (Nirwana Record, 1976), Titik Api – Harry Roesli (Aktuil Musicollection.1976), Guruh Gipsy – Guruh Gipsy  (Dela Rohita,1977), Giant On The Move – Giant Step (SM Recording, 1976), Putri Mohon Diri – Contrapunk (Pramaqua, 1977) and the film’s soundtrack album Badai Pasti Berlalu (1977) which brought Erros Djarot of Barongs Band, Chrisye of Guruh Gipsy  and Yockie Surjoprajogo from God Bless. Abbhama often appeared in several small performances on campus and arts venues such as the TIM Jakarta around their campus LPKJ in Cikini Raya Street Jakarta. The rest of  band members  love the classics repertoire such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Claude Debussy works.And of course, they were inspired by the works of progressive rock bands in 70s era like King Crimson, Yes, Genesis and Emerson,Lake and Palmer (ELP). Abbhama first appearance in front of an audience in as an opening act for  a Keenan Nasution concert called  Negeriku Cintaku held at Taman Ismail Marzuki, Jakarta November 1978. Keenan Nasution was one of  Guruh Gipsy’s mastermind. With the support of chamber music line up, Abbhama  played one long compositions by Vangelis, entitled Heaven and Hell Part 1 and 2  from Greek lectronic composer  Vangelis .Abbhama  did not played  the songs of their work for fear of the audience won’t recognised their own songs.  In 1979 Tala & Co was released Abbhama debut album titled “Alam Raya” (The Universe). Abbhama music core was based  on a format of eccentric pop songs and complex instrumentals with some pseudo classical flavor. Iwan Madjid has  a god enchantment .He does a very proficient work with the piano and mellotron including flute. And the most impressive fact is the angelic  voice of Iwan Madjid,, something like Jon Anderson (Yes) meets Roger Hodgson (Supertramp). Abbhama  have combined aspects of many musical forms to create a great work.The arrangements are very solid  and  enriched with  folk,classical and rock emphasis. Here listen for  an extremely beautiful folkie acoustic  tune guided by the flute,oboe  and  later viola in a surface of song called  Indonesia. There such a chamber music with easy poppy touches.  Dharma (flute),Hendro (oboe) and Ivan (viola) were presents a dazzling musical harmonization. Abbhama even experimented deliver the kind of order the sound of chamber music through the flute and oboe sounds in instrumental composition called Terlena. In some other songs featuring acoustic guitar and flute harmonization which overshadowed mellotron sound which is reminiscent of the heyday of prog rock music in the late 60s to 70s. One year after releasing their debut album,Abbhama disbanded.Iwan Madjid with bassist Darwin B Rachman  then formed a new band  Wow  with muliti instrumentalist Fariz RM in 1983. In  November 2007 Rolling Stone Indonesia was chosen Alam Raya Abbhama in 100 Greatest Indonesia Albums All Time. Alam Raya was at number 70. If you’re a fan of progressive rock music, then you must listening this rare album from Indonesia. Enjoy this reissue album.

Jakarta  February 5,2014.

Denny Sakrie
Rock Critics and Rolling Stone Indonesia contributor.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Leong Lau - Dragon Man. 1976 Australia

Leong Lau - Dragon Man. 1976 Sunscape

CD reissue: 2014 Strawberry Rain (Canada)

LP reissue: 2014 Strawberry Rain (Canada)

Packaging: A very rare album in original form - a recent copy sold for close to $1,500 - Leong Lau's debut is an album I never even heard of until 2010. After one listen, it became the CDRWL's best discovery of that year! And two years later, Strawberry Rain announced their intention of reissuing the album on both LP and CD. The LP came out earlier this year, and the CD is literally right off the press! The original comes in a single sleeve with a small poster insert including lyrics and recording info. The LP reissue is exact including the poster, though I suspect the cover is thicker and more durable than the original, but I can't validate that. The CD comes in a digi-pak where the top folds out replicating the poster insert. Nice idea! The CD also adds a rare 45 from 1977 as a bonus. The sound on both formats is excellent and they come highly recommended.

Notes: Here are my original CDRWL scribblings: Cover is a bit misleading, showing head honcho Lau holding up a saxophone, which would indicate a honk fest. In contrast, this is a deep psychedelic funk album, with lots of wah wah guitar, phased/echoed sax, flute, heavy bass & drums with plenty of ranting from Lau, channeling his best Frankie Dymon imitation. Picking up a strong Hendrix influence as well. Considered by many to be one of the most expensive albums from Australia, and it's easy to see why. Super album.

The ebay auction I referenced at the top included a more full history, which I'll paste here (credits and thanks go to the author): "Born in Malaysia of Chinese ancestry, Leong Lau studied Chinese Opera and played flute with the Chinese Community Orchestra.  He joined the Sydney Dance Company in 1969 as a dancer and was trained in ballet, modern and improvisational dance.  After five years, he entered the Sydney Conservatorium of Music where he trained in professional music performance and composition, and then played concert flute with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Leong Lau has remained somewhat of an anomaly in the record collecting scene. “Dragon Man” is a fantastic LP loaded with wah-wah guitar, fuzz solos, flute solos & wild vocals.  An artist with a sound that's as wild as his look on the cover – a definite individual from the Australian underground of the 1970’s – serving up some incredibly offbeat vocals alongside a range of his own  instrumentation on guitar, alto, tenor, and flute!  The album has some nice heavy bass at times, which creates a raw funky edge that's a real surprise – not straight funk, but kind of a psych-funk groove that really fits with the rawer bluesy energy that Leong Lau is trying to convey in his music.  A very compelling fusion of sounds from many different corners – with titles that include the long jammer “Deep In The Jungle”, the funky flute workout “Dragon Man”, and the tracks “Soul Baby”, “The Atlas Revolution”, and “Rhythm Pounding”"

Worth noting that Lau's second album "That Rongeng Sound", while no less rare, is quite a disappointment when compared to the monster "Dragon Man" album.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Snowball - Defroster. 1978 Germany

Snowball - Defroster. 1978 Atlantic

CD reissue: 2009 Sireena

Packaging: The LP is housed in a typical nondescript late 70's single sleeve import. Still a common album on vinyl (especially in Germany), though finding copies in the US are much more scarce as it wasn't imported heavily. The Sireena CD comes in a fine digi-pak with great sound, lyrics, photos, and newspaper clippings. The CD is definitely the way to go here. Copies are still available new from online vendors at a very reasonable price.

Notes: Snowball were a supergroup of sorts. Formed out of the Curt Cress Clan, which featured Passport veterans Cress and Kristian Schultze, along with former Embryo (and other German fusion/rock bands) bassist Dave King. These three from CCC were joined by none other than Nektar vocalist/guitarist Roye Albrighton to try their hand at the more commercial late 70s jazz funk sound that permeated the era. Opening in dubious fashion with the woofer Hold On, the album suddenly becomes a surprisingly enjoyable, but still somewhat typical, late 70s funky fusion album. There are plenty of good melodies coupled with a few decent breaks, and well-done vocals from Albrighton that separate this one from the common KrautFunkFusion rat pack. Excellent unison playing from all involved. While a good album, one can find better examples from Germany in this style such as Embryo's "Bad Heads and Bad Cats", Missus Beastly's "Dr. Aftershave and the Mixed Pickles", and the Real Ax Band's sole album.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Chillum - s/t. 1971 England

Chillum - s/t. 1971 Mushroom

CD reissues: 1998 See For Miles (as Chillum...Plus); 2010 Sunbeam; 2010 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissue: 2010 Sunbeam

Fell way behind again as I needed to take care of some family business in Denver and Fort Collins this past week. I have a few entries to wrap up on the CDRWL as well as the UTR. And then we'll be back to digging into my collection for this blog. Luckily, I already had this one baked and ready to go from a listen two weeks ago.

Packaging: Originals have always been scarce, and each single sleeve album (with a flapback design) is individually spray painted with a stencil framework. Typically these range anywhere from $150 to $350 if you're in the market for one. My first copy was a cheap 80s bootleg LP, before upgrading to the See For Miles CD (second photo). This version contains fine liner notes and extra bonus tracks. A few years ago, I decided to purge it, and that was probably not the best decision. Fortunately Sunbeam placed the album back into circulation, and I was able to snag one recently for a bargain price. This issue comes with a fresh new set of historical liners, unique photos, and another group of bonus tracks - some overlap with the SFM, and others are unique to this release. The LP reissue comes as a gatefold, and I will presume based on other Sunbeam issues, that they have included the history within the fold out cover.

Notes: Chillum is basically the third Second Hand album - and is in reality - a series of loose instrumental jams while auditioning for a new guitarist. Urged on by a French industry friend, the band was encouraged to release the tapes as a mysterious underground group. And thus the legend of Chillum began. So while conservatory compositional awards are out of the question, the album does work well within a 1971 English underground context. The epoch's instrumentation, production styles, and attitude are in abundance here. Good period piece that delivers exactly what it promises.