Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Klockwerk Orange - Abrakadabra. 1975 Austria

Klockwerk Orange - Abrakadabra. 1975 CBS

Here's one I meant to blog about months ago...

CD reissue: 2013 Digatone

LP reissue: 2013 Digatone (includes CD)

Release details: As long as I've been collecting, Klockwerk's Orange sole album has always been rare and expensive, frequently changing hands for over $800 (& more). As such, I had it on a curiosity list for as long as I've been making such lists. But it wasn't until about 8 years ago I finally received a copy via CD-R, and then quickly entered it into to the CDRWL. Then out of the blue last year, a new label from Austria debuted their reissue catalog with this album! At first I was skeptical and did all sorts of background checks, suspecting a bootleg. But as we know now, that is not the case, and Digatone are fully entrenched as Austria's new bright light for quality legitimate reissues, especially given their recent release of Isaiah, an album we've already featured here on the UMR. Without a doubt, the way to go here is the 2 LP reissue (a wonderful high quality gatefold) that also includes a CD in a simple slip case. The second LP is a formerly unreleased 1975 concert known as "Live at Stadtsaal Innsbruck". If you want the full concert, you'll have to obtain the LP reissue, as the CD only contains 3 of the 5 tracks.

Notes for "Abrakadabra": Extremely rare progressive album with 3 long tracks. Very Teutonic sounding, reminding me of similar era German groups such as Pancake, Madison Dyke and Minotaurus. The unique element at play here is the use of trumpet. So you get a little Tijuana Brass meets ELP. Gotta hear 'Tijuana Taxi' collide with 'Manticore'!

Notes for "Live at Stadtsaal Innsbruck": The first three tracks are new compositions not found on the actual LP, and demonstrates that Klockwerk Orange were rapidly becoming more ambitious as song composers. They also introduce an earlier progressive sound, as would be found on Pink Floyd's "Meddle" perhaps. The highlight track is 'Vlad Zeppesch', surely a tale about Dracula, which contains many twists and turns in an almost Italian progressive rock style. Only downfall is of course the sound quality, which is of high bootleg standard. But it's good enough, and we'll take what we can get. One can only wish they had the time to lay these tracks down in a studio. Or that they reform ala Necronomicon and Alphataurus, and finish the job they started nearly 40 years ago.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Altona - s/t. 1975 Germany

Altona - s/t. 1975 RCA

CD reissue: 2000 Disconforme (Andorra)

Release details: Interesting contemporary single sleeve cover with manikins mocking American bus tourists (stereotyping of course) visiting the Hamburg section/town of... Altona. Not an expensive album, and originals are usually in the $30 to $50 range (much more common to see in Germany as you might expect). There is a promo version that comes with a huge poster, and those can get about 4 times as much. I first bought this album in the early 90s from a record show, but I wasn't as keen on the German jazz fusion sound as I am today. I sold the LP 20 years ago, and hadn't thought much about it until I recently scored the CD. The CD itself comes from a vinyl transfer, and could benefit from a new remaster. The liner notes appear to be translations of German newspaper articles that were added. Overall, the reissue will suffice, though I may pickup an original again if I run into one at a reasonable price.

Notes: Altona play a tight, energetic styled jazz rock, similar to other "Kraut fusion" bands such as Moira, Missus Beastly, and Release Music Orchestra. The vocals are gruff in that bluesy way, more akin to what you would hear in the early 1970s from similar genre bands operating in Germany and England. An excellent addition to the collection, if 70s jazz rock with vocals is your fancy.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Spontaneous Combustion - s/t + Triad. 1972 England

Spontaneous Combustion - s/t. 1972 Harvest. Also released on Capitol in the USA
Spontaneous Combustion - Triad. 1972 Harvest. Also released on Capitol in the USA

CD reissues for each: 1997 See For Miles (both albums on 1 CD); 2008 EMI (Japan mini-LP) (released separately); 2012 Esoteric (released separately)

Release details: These two albums are inextricably linked to each other it appears. The debut features a fine gatefold cover and cool cartoon artwork. Of course the US version had to be altered to look worse (second photo), not to mention the easy-to-get-ringwear type cardboard cover. "Triad" fortunately maintained the original artwork in the US, though once again with cheaper materials. Prices are all over the lot for UK originals.  I've seen them as low as $50 and all the way up to $400 or so. "Triad" appears to be the rarer of the two in original form. There does appear to be ample supply, so be patient if in the market for one. The first CD to hit the shelves was the two for one See For Miles reissue, which I'm sure is excellent per label standard, and all that would be needed. This was followed a decade later by the Japanese mini's. For whatever reason, Spontaneous Combustion fell under my personal radar, and I only discovered these albums within the last 7 years or so. Since then I purchased the Esoteric CDs and they are great as usual, with detailed liner notes, and bonus tracks for each (more on Triad than the debut).

Notes: Spontaneous Combustion's debut sounds more like an album from 1969/70, and still has clear psychedelic overtones, especially considering the hazy vocal approach, and melodic disposition. The album is a mixture of styles that includes hard rock, pop, progressive, folk, and ballads. The last two long form tracks demonstrates that Spontaneous Combustion are an experimental bunch at heart, and the album becomes more unpredictable, progressive, and interesting. It's clear this guitar trio are very talented, and could really pack many ideas into a small window when they wanted to. A fine debut, but patchy. "Triad", released later in 1972, picks up where "Spontaneous Combustion" leaves off, and is more in line with that era's music. There is still some psychedelia left in the recipe, but "Triad" is geared more towards hard rock, as well as showcasing their progressive compositional acumen. It would seem that Spontaneous Combustion's Achilles' heel was their inability to focus on what they did best, and their albums can be confusing to listeners. Perhaps that's what they hoped to achieve, but history tells us they failed to gain an audience - and only were later discovered by curious collectors of early 70s UK underground rock. Many consider "Triad" the better of the two albums, and I'm inclined to agree, though they grade out roughly the same regardless. Three years later, the band reformed into the group Time, and it was there the group showed their true colors of being an all-out progressive rock outfit. Though it too never caught an audience (and given its current lack of a legit reissue, as noted on the CDRWL, it still sadly remains unknown).

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fermata - s/t + Pieseň z hôľ. 1975-1977 Slovakia

Fermata - s/t. 1975 Opus
Fermata - Pieseň z hôľ. 1977 Opus

CD reissue: 1997 Bonton (Fermata + Pieseň z hôľ); 2009 Opus (Fermata + Pieseň z hôľ)

Release details: When I started collecting in earnest in the middle 1980s, one of the best points of entry was Eastern Europe. This is because the albums could still be had for a low price, especially fusion albums from Poland, Hungary, and the former Czechoslovakia. I know many bemoan the digitization of music, but if there was ever a region that the CD benefited most, it was the former Eastern Bloc. The final vinyl product usually was a disaster (cheap materials), but as we've come to find out, the recordings themselves were usually of a very high quality, and the master tapes all carefully stored by the State. So I quickly moved the LPs out once the first CD hit the market (3rd image). Unfortunately this CD compilation leaves off the 11 minute track 'Perpetuum III' from the first album. The 1999 CD of "Dunajská Legenda" does include this piece. And that's the way I own the first album as a whole. Not ideal for sure. All of the second album is here though. Apparently the 2009 CD (last image) is a 2 CD set that fixes this issue, but I haven't seen or heard it myself. As indicated prior, the sound quality of the first CD is fantastic - much better than any original vinyl of these titles.

Notes for Fermata: Hard hitting fusion from arguably Slovakia's finest group. Where Fermata creates separation from many of their peers is they never take their eye off of the composition, and actually know how to craft a memorable melody. So it's not just pyrotechnics, though there's plenty of that here too. Some fine psych edged guitar, Rhodes Electric Piano, and fat 70s analog synthesizers to bathe in here. Great debut.

Notes for  Pieseň z hôľ (Song From Ridges): "Pieseň z hôľ" sees Fermata taking the debut and amping it up a bit. A little bit more diverse this go round from a compositional perspective, but difficult to imagine fans of the debut - or of the hard hitting Mahavishnu Orchestra styled progressive fusion - being disappointed here. And 'Priadky' has one of those kind of hard driving bass riffs you're not likely to forget soon. What a groove. Great guitar and keyboard work as expected. Another splendid album from Slovakia's finest.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Zakarrias - s/t. 1971 England

Zakarrias - s/t. 1971 Deram

CD reissues: 1990 Deram (Japan); 2006 Universal (Japan mini-LP); 2010 Cherry Red

Release details: This is one of the real biggies, and originals are truly scarce, with demand extremely high. Originals usually sell for well over $1K and have sold for as much as $3,500 (within the last year). Why anyone would pay that much for a good, not great, album with a single sleeve cover that looks like Howard Stern is anyone's guess. I'm kidding of course. Certainly I understand the collecting mentality, and for those who want every UK Deram release, this album will prove to be an obstacle. I didn't hear Zakarrias myself until about a decade ago, and only via a CD-R someone sent me, as even the first Japanese CD was extinct by that time. The Cherry Red CD is the definitive version to own. From the master tapes, with a much needed history to tell (see notes below). Cherry Red is the parent of Esoteric, and the material is similar to what Esoteric would normally reissue, so not sure why it wasn't to be honest.

Notes: After many years of mystery, turns out Zakarrias is an alias for an obscure Austrian singer slumming in London named Bobby Haumer, and most of the material came from a former power trio known as Salt. That band featured Hawkwind's Huw Lloyd-Langton on guitar and future Steamhammer member John Lingwood on drums. After Salt fell apart, Haumer was surprisingly offered a deal with Deram, where he re-purposed the material with a makeshift band including winds player Geoff Leigh (later of Henry Cow) and Peter Robinson (Quatermass) on keyboards. There's way more to the story of course, as told in great detail with the Cherry Red CD, but in effect that's the backdrop. The album wasn't promoted, and as such it barely sold any copies, hence its incredible rarity today. The music is certainly an odd mix of folk, blues, hard rock, and progressive. Haumer's vocals really do possess a Robert Plant tone, and thus the Led Zeppelin references are credible (think LZ III). And knowing these tracks were initially written with a hard rock band in mind, the compositions do make more sense. But given all the acoustic guitars, piano, and flute, the material seems just a bit off from the presentation. And that's the charm I guess. An album I definitely enjoy and recommend, but certainly lower-tier stuff when talking 1971 progressive rock from the UK underground.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Exponent - Upside Down. 1974 Germany

Exponent - Upside Down. 2014 Korusuro. Archival recordings from 1974.

Release details: Single sleeve rough cover with insert containing liner notes in German. Didn't see this announcement in the CDRWL? Well, it's LP only for now, so that's why. This has Garden of Delights name all over it, if they choose to dig in (and given their absence for all of 2014, are they even still around?). I would like to hear more of the story in English - though there's plenty of good stuff on Facebook that is public facing.

Notes: Well... here's the next big thing for archival progressive rock collectors. Imagine Spektakel as played by Eloy. Oh... did I get your attention there? Good, that was the plan. This is more German symphonic than classic Krautrock, and I know many of you are nodding your head, saying "yep - know wha'cha mean, Tom". This is definitely a dream for keyboard fans, and there's oodles of organ, Moog, electric piano, and mellotron to absorb and treasure. While there is guitar, it definitely plays second banana to the awesome banks of keyboards. And, as indicated prior, the album is geared more towards the symphonic progressive genre with plenty of meter breaks and compositional acumen. This is not a atmospheric Krautrock zone out. Side 2 is a bit more of a blues based jam, and also possesses a slightly lesser sound quality, but still no less awesome of a listening experience - perhaps calling out a more classic German sound ala Sixty-Nine here. Yes, there's been a Sixty-Nine sighting (look them up). On the topic of sound quality, it's very good for an archival recording, but hardly Abbey Road Studios standard, so be sure to keep expectations in check. Exponent is begging for a CD issue as well. Top drawer this one goes in.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Poobah - U.S. Rock. 1976 USA

Poobah - U.S. Rock. 1976 Anchor

And this completes the trio of original Poobah albums. We featured Let Me In and Steamroller in years past.

CD reissue: 2014 Ripple

LP reissue: 2014 Ripple

Release details: The easiest to find and least expensive of the 3 original 70s Poobah albums. As one can see, it features a ridiculous cover, and one presumes it's honoring or making fun of the US Bicentennial that was all the rage in 1976. Originals are usually anywhere between $75 and $150 depending on timing and condition. The CD is excellent, as is usual for Ripple. I had to laugh at the photos, which reminded me of my own high school's yearbook! There are an additional 23 minutes of fine live material added as bonus tracks. Still no liner notes though, which is a pity.

Notes: Carrying on from the debut "Let Me In", "U.S. Rock" adds in keyboards, and there’s a distinct move to an AOR / radio friendly sound. In fact, listening to these tracks with modern ears, it’s almost beyond belief that Poobah weren’t one of the big names of the day. Catchy melodies, powerful and technical guitars, and that sound that made every major band in the 1976/1977 a hit on FM radio. But due to a remarkable run of bad luck, they once again were resigned to releasing the album themselves (and one would presume a major label would advise against the hilariously bad cover).

Monday, November 10, 2014

Probe 10 - There is a Universe. 1975 USA

Probe 10 - There is a Universe. 1975 Blue Universe

CD reissue: 2014 Lion Productions (mini-LP)

LP reissue: 2014 Lion Productions

Release details: Where to even start? I first heard about this album from a rarities catalog in the late 1980s, and it wouldn't be until about 2007 or so until I finally heard a copy via CD-R. It was rare in 1988, and it never became an affordable item. Almost all ebay auctions to date have netted between $500 and $800 for an original (some sealed). I featured this album extensively on the CDRWL and I wrote a rather "outside" review of it in 2007, which I then published on this UMR site. Despite what it might read like, I wrote it sober as a judge during my lunch break at work (can't say that about all my reviews :-) ). It was this review that got me in touch with band leader Jim McGee, and that lead to virtual introductions to Vincent at Lion. And from there, those guys did all the heavy lifting that lead to this wonderful reissue. While awaiting the reissue, I was offered an original LP at a very fair price - not cheap by any means - but much lower than going rates and I nailed it quickly. I rarely pay high dollar for albums, but this one is special I feel. As for the reissues, I picked up the CD as fast as possible. Housed in a Japanese styled mini-LP, with a booklet that contains a full history from Jim McGee and fellow band member Buzz Bachman, and the best possible sound. There are also 5 short bonus tracks that are similar in style. Without question, this is the definitive version to own. I presume the LP to be of similar quality, but since I do have the original, I haven't investigated further.

Notes: I'll go ahead and leave my original review up for those that are curious. It is interesting to note that the band does indeed credit Return to Forever (the band) as motivation to record this album, after having seeing them live. Without trying to be stubborn, I really don't hear any Return to Forever in their sound despite reading the contrary from others. Probe 10 are way more psychedelic to my ears, and not near as tight, slick, and professional. And for me, that's a good thing that they aren't those things.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Isaiah - s/t. 1975 Austria

Isaiah - s/t. 1975 CBS

CD reissue: 2014 Digatone (w/LP)

LP reissue: 2014 Digatone

Release details: Originals are very rare and typically sell in the $300-$500 range. For years, this title was mired in the pirate world, until Digatone came to the rescue this year. In short order, Digatone have become the premier indigenous label for Austrian progressive and underground rock. The LP reissue is a 2 vinyl set that also includes a full album's worth of unique material in studio quality. The second LP had previously been reissued as a bootleg under the title of "Forgotten Records" with some slight alterations. In addition to the extra album, there are full liner notes and a CD featuring both albums. Without question, this is the de facto version to own!

Notes: Isaiah's sound is more typical of what was coming from Germany circa 1971-72 with flute, guitar, and excellent vocals in the lead. It's a bit more commercialized which is common for the era. As for the second album, this version of the band is far more bluesy than the album proper, though no less enjoyable. Very interesting group, that fits well with their German contemporaries (like a cross between Birth Control, Nosferatu, and Bullfrog), but I can't think of a similar Austrian band! While there are certainly better albums in the field, I still recommend Isaiah to fans of the genre.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Braen's Machine - Underground. 1971 Italy

Braen's Machine - Underground. 1971 Liuto

CD reissue: 2014 Schema

LP reissue: 2014 Schema (includes CD)

Release details: Almost precisely the same scenario as yesterday's "The Feed-Back" album. Originals are off the charts rare, fetching in the $1K range. So Milan's Schema has come to the rescue again, and reissued the album on CD and LP (with a CD as a bonus). And once again I picked up the LP/CD package for a few dollars more. Don't miss these reissues! And the sound is fantastic (most assuredly from the masters), and the liner notes this time are in English providing much needed detail behind this extraordinary work. And via this reissue we learn none other than Rino de Filippi is responsible for the contents within (along with Alessandro Alessandroni and a full set of studio musicians at the ready). CDRWL regulars will recall De Filippi was behind one of the greatest mysteries on the site until it was cleared up by Italian Prog expert Augusto Croce. It's great to be able to unwind all of these identities some 43 years later!

Notes: "Underground" is simply an amazing find. Take one part instrumental film/library/exploito ala Blue Phantom, The Bigroup, Psycheground, and Fourth Sensation and complete that with atmospheres that rival the earliest Krautrock scene ala early Guru Guru and Can. Absolutely phenomenal fuzz guitar jamming throughout, with loads of studio effects to upset your inner balance and ultimately turn you into a barking mad fellow. And that's what we all are, aren't we? If not, listen to this, and join us will you?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Group - The Feed-Back. 1970 Italy

The Group - The Feed-Back. 1970 RCA

CD reissue: 2014 Schema

LP reissue: 2014 Schema (includes CD)

Release details: This is an album I never heard of until I started doing serious research for the CDRWL about 5 years ago. Originals (like the photo above) will set you back... oh.... say $1,500+. Pocket change right? So for the rest of us, it was with great pleasure to see that the Milan based label Schema has come through with both LP and CD reissues of this extremely rare classic. Since it only costs a few extra dollars, I went for the LP that comes with the CD. Definitely score this one while it's still available.

Notes: Famous film-scorer Ennio Morricone's jazz / rock / avant garde band. This 1970 album is very wiggy for the time and place, way beyond what one normally associates with "incidental film music". And marquee name Morricone adds trumpet here. Morricone himself was 42 when this album was released and already quite a known artist, hence the major label interest in what otherwise would be an entirely unwanted avant garde annoyance to the business. Given his formal classical musical training, the overall package reminds me of those establishment French persona's such as William Sheller (Popera Cosmic), Alain Gorageur, and Jean-Claude Vannier. You'd be hard pressed to find a more creative rock outing than "The Feed-Back", even if you've heard it all on the Futura and Ohr labels from the same era. It barely cracks the 28 minute mark, but otherwise an essential album that is likely to appeal to the remains of your addled left brain.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fireballet - Night on Bald Mountain + Two, Too. 1975-76 USA

Fireballet - Night on Bald Mountain. 1975 Passport
Fireballet - Two, Too. 1976 Passport

CD reissues for Night on Bald Mountain: 2014 Inner Knot; 2014 Arcangelo (Japan mini-LP)
CD reissues for Two, Too: 2014 Inner Knot; 2014 Arcangelo (Japan mini-LP)

Release details: Both albums are single covers and are common records in the US, often still found in the few used record stores that exist. With the smallest of searching you should be able to net one for under $10 - and less than $5 with a little more hustle. So one would presume LP reissues will never be needed. But on CD - now that has proven to be a challenge. Until finally this year, as announced on the CDRWL, we finally have legit CDs to buy and own, after years of watching pirate editions fly by. It's even more curious when you realize that band member Jim Cuomo is still heavily involved with the music industry. We first heard about the Japanese reissues, and while I haven't seen these, they each feature one extra bonus track not found on the US issues. The CDs are stored in a digipak, and each are adorned with embossed covers, which is a nice addition. As you can see, the second album has been redesigned (3rd scan), tastefully extracted and repurposed from the "Night..." cover. And who can blame them given the ridiculous original cover (second photo)? I'm sure it seemed funny at the time (to someone?), but it hasn't aged well. For purists, the Japanese CD, as is their protocol for mini-LPs, reissued the CD with the original cover. Each CD includes the lyrics and recording detail, but no history or other archival media, which is kind of a bummer. It would have been nice for them to spin their tale of woe (perhaps with some added humor) for us all. The sound is very good to my ears anyway. Good CD reissues, but perhaps they could have done a bit more. Don't want to complain though - it's way better than nothing - and certainly a step up from what you would get from Wounded Bird for example.

Notes for Night on Bald Mountain: Though from New Jersey, Fireballet sound like most of the progressive rock bands coming from Midwest America during the mid 70s (as I've painstakingly documented before). Yes is the major influence here, as it was for countless bands across the fruited plain. In this way, Fireballet were to the USA what Druid were to England. It's 1975, and it's time to release the followup to "Relayer", because there will be one right? Right?? The long classical interpretation will of course recall ELP, another band that used to get props (though not so much in recent times). King Crimson gets plenty of cameo's as well throughout.  I'm a sucker for groups from my country going all-in progressive, even if not a single one of them ever made much headway in the Billboard charts (other than Kansas). But based on the number of copies still out there for sale in the wilds, it does appear they sold quite a many copy anyway. Maybe not one of America's best, but certainly a fine straight-down-the-middle progressive rock effort. Can't go wrong here for fans of the style. As for the bonus tracks on the Inner Knot CD, the opening one is 'Robot Salesman' from 1977, and has a fully orchestrated pop sound. Had this been their decided direction on the new album, it's highly likely not to be well received - especially now, but even back then I think. The other track is their 11+ minute live cover version (from 1974) of King Crimson's 'Pictures of a City' (pre-Night on Bald Mountain album). It's a muffled recording, so hardly essential, but a nice curio piece (perfect as a bonus track). The Arcangelo CD extra bonus track is called 'Say Anything', which I know nothing about and obviously haven't heard.

Notes for Two, Too: Perhaps predictable in retrospect, Fireballet scrubbed all the edges off their first album for an even more accessible second effort. Yet, it's really as progressive as the debut, minus the overt displays of grandeur. Tighter... more professional. As stated about "Night on Bald Mountain", Fireballet have the sound of Midwest America down pat (despite their Jersey roots) - one that combines progressive rock with FM radio sensibilities. Interestingly enough, Fireballet's "commercial take on Yes" approach sounds like early Starcastle here - so once again we have parallel groups gathering similar data inputs, and spitting out a similar conclusion. For me, perhaps because I was a child within the generation, this type of music grows in stature with me as the years go by. The ridiculous original cover no doubt shaved one full star from this album for many folks right out of the gate. The band was smart enough to apply more appropriate art for the CD. Give this one a fresh pair of ears - you may be surprised. There's only one bonus track on the Inner Knot release 'In My Craft and Sullen Art / Mars' which is a (short) interpretation of the Holst classic. It's a live recording, from the same 1974 concert as the 'Pictures of a City' interpretation as found on the debut CD reissue. The Arcangelo CD adds 'Tears', a track I'm not familiar with.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Klan - Mrowisko. 1971 Poland

Klan - Mrowisko. 1971 Polskie Nagrania Muza

CD reissues: 1991 Digiton; 2005 Polskie Nagrania Muza; 2008 Metal Mind; 2014 Polskie Nagrania Muza

LP reissues: 1987 Polskie Nagrania Muza

Release details: One of only a handful of gatefold albums coming from the Eastern Bloc. It's still super thin (based on what I've read), but this kind of luxury item was typically frowned upon by the State. A nice original will go for about $50 and $75 - though usually they're in beat-to-hell condition. My introduction was the '87 reissue that I bought right around release time, originally coming out near the end of the regime, though now housed in a single sleeve. I quickly ditched this cheaply made reissue vinyl for the first CD to hit the market (1991 Digiton). The Digiton release is fine, and certainly suffices as the only copy anyone would ever need - especially considering it includes the sought after 1970 EP as bonus tracks. I had no intention of buying this album again, but I recently had a chance to source the lavish double CD on the fine Polish label Metal Mind for an attractive price. It comes with a full booklet with lyrics and extensive liner notes (mostly in Polish though). The extra CD only contains the 11+ minute EP and seems a bit wasteful (ironic isn't it?) considering both albums combined total only 50 minutes. I didn't really need to upgrade in this case. Interesting to note that the old state label "Muza" is still alive an kicking. Glad they were able to transition to Capitalism successfully it appears. I haven't seen or heard their two CD versions of the album. (Also be sure to read the comments where UMR friend Bas offers up even more CD info regarding this landmark album).

Notes: Klan, like Czechoslovakia's Flamengo, were one of the pioneers of the exploratory progressive movement beginning to emerge in the Eastern Bloc, before the authorities declared this kind of music too subversive for a healthy State. I hear music like this with a bit of sadness, always wondering what could have been for those countries left to suffer behind the Iron Curtain while the rest of Europe was being "turned on". Klan's effort is a mix of psychedelic, radical progressive, horn rock, jazz, orchestral rock, and emotional vocal pop. Fuzz bass, crazy drumming, impassioned vocals, flute, and some killer swirling organ define this amazingly mature work for the time and place. An album that should be held up as a national treasure, recorded at a time of despair and little hope.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Blackbirds - Touch of Music. 1971 Germany

Blackbirds - Touch of Music. 1971 OPP

CD reissue: 2005 Long Hair

LP reissue: 2006 Long Hair

Release details: Originals are as seen in the photo above. Copies aren't as expensive as you might think, and $75 seems to be about a median value. Long Hair is the only label to step up on the reissue front, and they did a fine job on the CD, adding full liners, great sound, photos, and two bonus tracks from a rare 1970 single. I suspect the reissue LP to be similar (except it only features one bonus track).

Notes: Blackbirds' second album is a bit more UK and Dutch oriented than the usual 1971 German organ bang fest. Now nobody likes a German organ bang fest as much as moi (especially when the organ is a Hammond), but there's always room for a band like the Blackbirds' more classically oriented styled progressive rock. And it's quite the keyboard extravaganza too. References to Trace, Rare Bird, and The Nice are necessary. And the dour atmosphere of the vocals recall bands such as Procol Harum and Still Life. Touches of violin, flute, and recorder adds much needed color to the canvas. The CD version includes the rare 1970 single, where Blackbirds prove they were quite a force in the ways of psychedelic music as well with a searing acid guitar sound and gruff vocals. Very good album.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Steve Linnegar's Snakeshed - Classic Epics. 1982 South Africa

Steve Linnegar's Snakeshed - Classic Epics. 1982 Snake

CD reissue: 2014 Guerssen (Spain)

LP reissue: 2014 Guerssen (Spain)

Release details: Originals come in a gatefold sleeve. Albums coming from South Africa are hard enough to find, but privately pressed ones are even that much more difficult. The non desirable date of 1982 is the only thing holding the price down on this one, and originals are usually in the $200-$300 range. I was first sent a cassette of this album in the late 90s, and I've had it in the CDRWL since its inception. And as first reported on that site, via Linnegar's sister Diane, we learned of these Guerssen reissues. The album sounds great (from the master tapes) - much better than my old cassette which came from the crappy bootleg LP I'm sure. The album features a detailed review from Acid Archives contributor Aaron Milenski, as well as the full set of lyrics, newspaper clippings, and photos. The LP reissue, it appears, replicates the original in every way. Don't miss these reissues if there's any interest at all in this album.

Notes: What's most telling about Linnegar's album is just how out of sync the album was with its release date of 1982. The psychedelic guitar, optimistic vocals, folky acoustic guitar and violin overlays, and overall songwriting point to an album that could have been released in 1974 England. "Classic Epics" is a crafty mix of folk, psychedelic, progressive, and AOR. Best track is the lengthy 14 minute psychedelic space rocker 'Desert'. A wonderfully out of touch album, perhaps due to its remote location on the (then) shunned South African subcontinent. The new reissues on Guerssen really open this album up from prior bootleg copies, and even from the typically dirty South African originals. Be sure to hear this album as it was intended before passing quick judgment.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Opus III & Friends - s/t. 1970 Sweden

Opus III & Friends - s/t. 1970 Sonet

LP reissue: 2013 Sonet/Universal

Release details: Very rare album that is stored in a basic single sleeve cover, that will set you back about $150 to $200 for an original. It's more scarce than expensive. This has been part of my CDRWL for over 4 years now, ever since The AC fed me a copy. So you can imagine my surprise when I found 2 sealed copies of the LP in a local record store recently (!?!?!). I go record hunting locally about.. ohhh.. once a year maybe? And I look for common $5 stuff that I don't feel like mail ordering because of postage costs. But Opus III? I had no idea it had been reissued in any form. The LP reissue is straight up - not even one hint of an extra, liner notes - or anything for that matter. But it is absolutely from the masters (sounds great), comes in a limited release of a 1000, and even uses the original Sonet orange and purple trumpet label. 100% legit release for the skeptical out there (and none are more so than I). However, it stays in the CDRWL as there is still no CD.

Notes: What strikes me most about Opus III & Friends is how much it reminds me of an American album circa 1970 as found on labels like Paramount, Rare Earth, and ABC. It actually sounds like a horn rock album - without the horns if that makes sense. But the compositions have that similar flavor about them. It's clearly a post psychedelic release and many elements of that genre are present, most fortuitously on a couple of the guitar solos spread throughout the 8 tracks here. The instrumental tracks go for a quiet introspective electric guitar trio sound. Which is a logical conclusion when you realize the band is headed up by no less a luminary than the legendary guitarist Jan Schaffer. And the "Friends" part of the moniker includes none other than Bjorn J-Son Lindh on piano and flute. This is definitely not the subversive underground Sweden of Parsson Sound, International Harvester, Algarnas Tradgard, and Flasket Brinner. Not much is unfortunately. A good album though, and well worth picking up if you see it.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Dakila - s/t. 1972 USA/Philippines

Dakila - s/t. 1972 Epic

NO reissues!

Release details: Single sleeve major label cover that lends itself easily to ring and shelf wear, like the cover above (and my personal copy is this way too - I bought it in a local store well over 20 years ago for about a $1 and never bothered to upgrade). It's a relatively common record, and one can secure a nice copy for around $30 with little effort (and less with more patience and hustle). No legit CDs have surfaced, which is a real tragedy, and thus is a standard feature on my CDRWL.

Notes: Despite looking like the bad guys from a vintage Hawaii Five-O episode, Dakila were a band from the Filipino immigrant community residing in the Mission District of San Francisco (a generation later, another Filipino group would emerge from the SF Bay Area, and that would be the excellent thrash metal band Death Angel). But this was 1972, and given the Latino influenced culture of the area, Dakila put no less a luminary than Santana on a pedestal and made a similar go for their fortune. The music contains copious amounts of passionate sustain guitar, chunky Hammond organ, fuzz bass, active Latin percussion, and soulful vocals. The latter sung in Tagalog, Spanish, and English. Dakila definitely have that Lowrider Soul culture in their veins as well, and Carlos' brother's band Malo is also very much in play here. Personally, I cannot possibly hear enough bands in this style, and many are favorites, especially Chango. Other reference points would be Macondo, Pantha, The Antiques, Naked Lunch, Azteca, and Broth. Absolutely killer stuff.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fusion Orchestra - Skeleton in Armour. 1973 England

Fusion Orchestra - Skeleton in Armour. 1973 EMI. Released in Germany and Canada as well

CD reissues: 1993 EMI (Japan); 1994 Si-Wan (Korea); 2009 EMI (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissue: 1994 Si-Wan (Korea)

Release details: UK originals come in a wonderful textured gatefold (first photo). Look to pay anywhere between 1 and 2 balloons* for a nice one. As with a few of my albums, I actually found a new original LP copy at a local record store here in Dallas in the mid 1980s. I almost didn't buy it because of the unrepresentative name of the band. But as fortune would have it, I gave up a dinner that night, and now still proudly own that copy. As for reissues, they have been the sole proprietorship of the Asian market. Not sure why this album hasn't been treated to a UK specialist label like Esoteric with full liner notes, but these Asian reissues will suffice until then. The Japanese mini-LP is a perfect reproduction of the original in miniature.

Notes: Fusion Orchestra aren't a jazz, nor chamber, rock band. Rather they represent, to me at least, the swan song for the Post Psychedelic, Proto Progressive with Female Vocals sound, as I've documented via the link provided. Fusion Orchestra are a spirited bunch, and the music borders hard rock, with blazing heavy psych guitar at every turn (with some great solos). There's also a jazz undercurrent, and Jill Saward's voice (and she plays a mean flute too) is husky in that blues sort of way that was popular at the turn of the decade. This is one of the most kinetic albums of the genre, with multiple fast paced meter shifts and a wealth of ideas, and no fan of any of the genres mentioned above will walk away disappointed here. Jill Saward was just a cute teenager when she joined the band in the early 70s. Later she went onto be the professional blond bombshell leading the slick, and very popular, 80s jazz funk band Shakatak.

(*old New York City colloquial meaning $100...)

And, would you believe, Fusion Orchestra has reformed and released an excellent followup album. And that album is today's feature on Under the Radar.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Steve Maxwell von Braund - Monster Planet. 1975 Australia

Steve Maxwell von Braund - Monster Planet. 1975 Clear Light of Jupiter

CD reissue: 2013 Aztec

LP reissue: 2013 Dual Planet

Release details: The album was pressed in a quantity of about 2000. Braund wasn't too keen on the cover design (nor the von designation), and so he had approximately 500 of the albums reprinted with a more favorable cover (to him at least), and that's the second photo you see (and the liner notes of the CD go into great detail about the issues surrounding the cover). Originals have always been scarce, and the album generally sells between $100 and $150. So convincing was the German styled cover design, that when I first read about the album from a catalog in the mid 1980s, it was simply listed as Monster Planet on the Cosmic Couriers label. For many years, dealers told me such an album didn't exist. And finally the puzzle was resolved for me, and eventually I bought the LP about a decade later (original cover). Then a few years ago, it was announced that Aztec would reissue the album on CD, following on their successful reprinting of Cybotron's "Implosion". Shortly after that, Aztec went bankrupt, and it appeared the opportunity had been lost. But as announced on the CDRWL, Aztec reemerged, though in a somewhat confused state. Fortunately Greg Walker has been successful in bringing in the Aztec CDs, but who knows for how long. If you are interested at all in these albums, now would be the time to get them while there's still some availability.  Both the Aztec and Dual Planet reissues replicate the original cover (this presumes, then, that Braund has reconciled with it). The CD also features a very telling 14 minute radio interview from back then. I did have to admit wondering why Aztec would reissue such an obscure album, especially after falling into financial trouble. And the answer is provided in the extremely informative liner notes: Label head Gil Matthews plays bass and drums on the album!

Notes: "Monster Planet" is arguably Australia's first electronic album. Influenced by the German Cosmic Courier LPs (all of which were imported to Australia), and Braund's own time spent in the English and German underground, "Monster Planet" mixes both rock (including vocals, sax, bass, and drums) and electronik elements. The latter element proving to be the main characteristic of the album. The synthesizer was limited to strictly a Korg-700, so the possibilities were quite limited - and the album is a bit monotonous in places because of it. There are no sequencers, organ, or mellotron - just static and spacey electronics. Shortly thereafter Braund began to assemble a full arsenal of synthesizers, and thus the Cybotron legacy was born. All the same, the album has its charms, and is a good example of the pioneering 70s electronic music movement.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Irish Coffee - s/t. 1971 Belgium

Irish Coffee - s/t. 1971 Triangle

CD reissues: 1992 Voodoo (Austria); 2007 Thors Hammer (Germany)

LP reissue: 2010 Guerssen (Spain)

Release details: Originals, of the few that have actually managed to be up for auction, regularly fetch north of $1,000. My first taste of the album, along with dozens of other people I'm sure, came via the Voodoo CD reissue which I picked up sometime in the 90s. Over the years, this reissue had been tagged a pirate edition, but I was pretty certain it was legit. And sure enough, the band themselves reissued it in a limited edition (Voodoo was an early name for the band). It featured 7 bonus tracks and a small history. Naturally it vanished into various collections over the years, and the bootleggers hit the market hard (there are a few not worth mentioning). Fortunately Garden of Delights came to the rescue (under their non-German Thors Hammer moniker), and this is the de facto reissue. Full historical liner notes, new photos, scans of all their singles (and all 7 extra singles are here as bonus tracks), and great sound. Here we learn of the authenticity of the original CD (but points out one glaring recording error), as well as confirming the original LP release date as July 1971 (I still see 1972 appended on some discographies). Later on, the high quality Guerssen label put the vinyl back on the shelves.

Notes: Irish Coffee's debut is practically the definition of the Continental European rock sound of the era. Heavy guitar and Hammond organ are the main instruments, while the English vocals are delivered in a forceful gruff style. The music is deceptively complex, and a casual listen will likely result in labeling the album as "hard rock". Perhaps, but in the same way as Nosferatu or Culpeper's Orchard. Tracks like 'Can't Take It', 'When Winter Comes', and 'Hear Me' pack a lot of ideas and meter shifts into their sub 5 minute time frames. The single tracks are indeed more straightforward, and the last recordings come from 1974 where it appears the band hadn't progressed at all.