Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Dragon - Universal Radio. 1974 New Zealand

Dragon - Universal Radio. 1974 Vertigo. Also released in Australia

CD reissue: 2009 Aztec (Australia)

Release details: Single sleeve cover and quite rare as an original. The only (legit) reissue to date comes from the always wonderful Aztec. It's housed in a fine triple fold-out digi-pak with an extensive history, photos, and 3 bonus tracks (though two are from a solo effort by band leader Marc Hunter and is a debatable addition). The release was taken from vinyl indicating the masters are lost (or in poor condition), but still sounds excellent. There are many boots out there, so watch out on that front. The Vertigo original only has the "spaceship" label, so don't hold out for the non-existent swirl variety. Funny enough, Aztec used a mock-up swirl design for the CD itself.

Notes: Dragon's debut came at the twilight of the early Hammond organ fueled progressive rock of the early 1970s with the more sophisticated AOR styled album that was about to dominate the FM landscape in the mid 70s. Universal Radio is definitely more the former, and also possesses a strong Latin fusion/rock component as well as a bit of space rock. Guideposts include fellow countrymen Ragnarok and Living Force, along with bands such as Kestrel (England) and Fruupp (Northern Ireland). Only 3 short years from their debut, Dragon were to become pop stars in neighboring Australia, and you can hear hints of that future sound on the track 'Going Slow' (though with progressive oriented breaks still in place). The album peaks on the splendid multi-layered epic 'Patina'. Bonus track 'Black Magic Woman' demonstrates a lingering Santana influence that was to be shed on their next opus Scented Gardens For the Blind, which is arguably an even better album. As it stands though, hard to imagine fans of early 1970s progressive rock not enjoying Universal Radio. There are a lot of ideas packed into this recording, so the relistenability factor charts high. Strongly recommended.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Radiomobel - Gudang Garam. 1978 Sweden

Radiomobel - Gudang Garam. 1978 Chockskivor

CD reissue: 2005 Transubstans

Release details: Original LPs are stored in a single sleeve and are very obscure. I picked one up in my heavy trading days of the early 1990s, and never considered letting it go. The only reissue to market is the Transubstans CD, that I also picked up on arrival. Transubstans is Record Heaven version 2.0, and this was their first reissue under the new moniker. The CD features superb liner notes, though it's clearly taken from vinyl (though still sounds very good - it's pretty lo-fi to begin with). There are no bonus tracks.

Notes: Not sure how to explain it, but I really like albums such as Gudang Garam (named for an Indonesian cigarette brand). There's a Nordic charm about them as if I'm in a dark wood paneled tavern enjoying an out of world experience (fueled no doubt by a fine Swedish Imperial Stout). Radiomobel represent a combination of symphonic progressive and high flying space rock. The highlight track being 'E-matt' which comes from the latter style and borrows from Kebnekaise's penchant for indigenous melodies. Their symphonic side is best represented by the tracks featuring high pitched female soprano vocals in Swedish, which brings to mind Autumn Breeze (not to mention a host of German symphonic rock bands from this era). On the down side, Gudang Garam is very much an amateur recording, with tinny late 1970s era synthesizers in tow. The CD contains great liner notes that explains Radiomobel means Radio Furniture, which the band used as their first amplifier - and subsequently this same amp blew a fuse, causing quite the explosion at - get ready for this - Mom's house. LOL. I think it's safe to say we're not talking Abbey Road here...

Monday, August 24, 2015

Akira Ishikawa & The Count Buffalos - African Rock. 1971 Japan

Akira Ishikawa & The Count Buffalos - African Rock. 1971 Dan/Tokuma

CD reissue: 2015 Clinck

Release details: Originals are stored in a single sleeve jacket and are pretty much extinct. This album is still just being discovered for the first time by worldwide collectors. In what has to be considered record time, the CDRWL alerted the world of the album in April, and by July we had a 100% legit reissue coming out of Japan! Coincidence? Maybe, though The AC informs us (he is fluent in Japanese) that there were hints of influence from us there. That's enough to keep us going anyway! I bought the CD from an ebay dealer based in Japan, and it isn't cheap (figure $30 including postage). I've seen the album for sale on Amazon.jp and cdjapan.co.jp. I fully expected Dusty Groove to bring this one in, as the music is right in their wheelhouse. But so far, it appears they are unaware of the title. As you can see below, I lived up to my word of being a first day buyer!

Notes: This is not my first run in with Akira Ishikawa & His Count Buffalos, as Shadoks reissued their (next?) album Uganda (1972) on LP and Tiliqua followed up with a CD reissue a couple of years after that (mentioned in the AC's notes as well). I found the album a disappointment, as it was primarily African percussion with a few cool Mizutani freakouts, but honestly it sounded as a late addition, and didn't fit the album as a whole. I'm about 10 minutes in here, and I have to say they reissued the wrong album.

Time to check the archaeology dig notes from the AC to get his impressions: "Akira Ishikawa's travels to Africa and subsequent fixation on fusing African music with modern jazz and rock is well documented, but unfortunately several of his more interesting LPs that came out during this particular period are not. First there was the avant-garde free-jazz freakout "Impression of Africa - 'Uganda'" (unrelated to the later well-known "Uganda" album), a commercially unreleased 1970 live supersession arranged by Masahiko Sato and performed by the combined forces of Akira Ishikawa & Count Buffalos, Toshiyuki Miyama & New Herd, and the Terumasa Hino Quintet. Only a couple of test press copies of this are known to exist (Columbia seemingly deemed it "too extreme" and refused to release it), making it perhaps Japan's rarest and most valuable experimental jazz LP. Interestingly, if you read the liners of the original "Primitive Community" LP, it's actually mentioned there as a "shocking" introduction to the Africa-meets-jazz/rock concept in Japan. But more relevant to the album being reviewed here was "Power Rock With Drums - The Road to Kilimanjaro" (1971, Canyon), credited to Ishikawa, but aside from his drumming actually performed by the Freedom Unity and composed (partially) by Hiromasa Suzuki. This latter name is perhaps the key point here, as although the second side of "Power Rock..." consists of nothing but pop/jazz covers, the first side features two lengthy and more interesting Suzuki pieces fusing African music and progressive jazz-rock. This seems to have laid the groundwork for "African Rock", released later the same year, for although it's credited to and performed by Ishikawa and his Count Buffalos band, all but one of the pieces were actually written by Suzuki once again. 

So, now that we've set the scene, what about the music? Well, thankfully this one is a bulls-eye for what they were attempting. Eight all-original instrumentals (aside from a little "tribal chanting") are featured, and the style can perhaps best be described as a fusion of the better parts of the following year's "Uganda" (think of "Pigmy") with some hints of "Primitive Community", filtered through the psychedelic/progressive jazz-rock stylings that Suzuki would develop over the next two years on his "Rock Joint" albums. The highlight of the album for me is the one-two punch that leads off the second side, "The Earth" featuring some of Mizutani's wildest fuzz soloing ever, followed up by "Love", a darkly mysterious flute and tribal percussion led piece that really nails that "lost in the deep jungle" vibe. An excellent album overall, and hopefully one that will be reissued someday. Confusingly, there was another identically titled "African Rock" LP released in 1972 (this one featuring a close-up of Ishikawa's face on the sleeve), but it consists of nothing but cover tunes and is of much less interest."

If the phrase "Mizutani's wildest fuzz ever" doesn't get your heart started, you may want to consult your doctor. Or your coroner. This album is everything you want in a funk psych jazz rock album - except you almost never do get what you want. It's the perfect blend of sweet grooves, wild psych, and deep funk. Horn charts, flute, tribal drums, and Mizutani psych guitar. What more can you ask for? A really splendid album, that the always deep diving Japanese record companies seem to come through on. It's a matter of patience at this point. But given all the wonderful Japanese reissues we've seen in the last 5 years or so, we can only hope this one will achieve top priority.  I'd be a first day buyer for sure. As for original LP's, well they're predictably expensive - more than I would want to pay for this type of album. I did find a couple of copies out there, if you are so inclined and financially secure.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Acintya - La Cité des Dieux Oubliés. 1978 France

Acintya - La Cité des Dieux Oubliés. 1978 SRC

CD reissue: 2012 Musea

LP reissue: 1989 Musea

Release details: Originals come in a single sleeve cover. Not an expensive album, but hardly common either. Your best bet is to scan European sites if in the market for one, as it was never imported to the States. And I think I will be looking for one in short order, as noted below. My first and only copy is the Musea LP reissue that I picked up not long after release. The Freeman's of Ultima Thule say this about the reissue: "The Musea LP reissue of this 1970's French prog gem would seem to be an LP transcription (or from damaged/stretched tapes) with a slight wow/slurring evident on the sustained keyboard tones. This is not so on the original SRC LP pressing. This flaw probably explains why Musea never reissued it on CD." Shortly after they published this, Musea did indeed come forth with a CD reissue. But according to readers of my CDRWL, the sound quality wasn't improved upon. So I've decided to hold off for now, and stick with the LP. I'll be most curious if the sound quality of the original is that much better.

Notes: Acintya's sole album is square-on instrumental progressive rock, that recalls the symphonic debut album from Carpe Diem mixed with the mysterious Wapassou. String synthesizer along with violin play a major role in Acintya's sound. The production though, is muddy and dull, and takes away all the necessary edges this album needs to be successful. Apparently the original LP on SRC maintains these dynamics, but I only have the Musea LP reissue, so perhaps that's the issue at hand. Therefore I'll seek an original out, as this wouldn't be the first time the reissue was botched to the point of ruin (see Capsicum Red). Because from a composition perspective, the music is quite compelling. None crest the Gnosis 10 / RYM 3.5 mark, but with the right production, half a point could be appended without much thought.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pierrot Lunaire - s/t. 1974 Italy

Pierrot Lunaire - s/t. 1974 It/RCA

CD reissues: 1989 It/RCA; 1994 Si-Wan (Korea); 1997 MP (mini-LP); 2003 It/RCA (mini-LP); 2011 MP; 2014 Sony

LP reissues: 1987 RCA (Japan); 1989 It/RCA; 1994 Si-Wan (Korea); 1999 Akarma; 2011 Akarma

Release details: Stored in a single sleeve. Real originals are very scarce, and this was considered a major collectible before the advent of CDs. Today, you can expect to pay $300/$400 for one, which is a bargain compared to others of its ilk. As for reissues, the album is basically "in production" as they say, and is very easy to find. None are particularly noteworthy, that I'm aware of. It is interesting to see the album was never reissued in Japan beyond the 80s LP. I didn't find the Korean CD on any of the online discographies, but that's the one I picked up back in the 90s. It's probably sourced from the same mastering as the Japanese LP, and comes with Korean liner notes.

Notes: Like most fans of my generation, my first exposure to Pierrot Lunaire was from their avant-garde masterpiece Gudrun. With that backdrop, Pierrot Lunaire's debut is a bit of a shock to the system. The album is a low-key, pastoral, folk influenced progressive rock. Flute, keyboards, vocals, and acoustic guitars are the primary set of sounds. There isn't much here to latch onto, with a low set of dynamics, and yet it's a peaceful 45 minutes of listening. If looking for comparisons, Pierrot Lunaire is more subtle than Saint Just's La Casa del Lago, and less compelling than Errata Corrige, but both are in the same ballpark. Side 2 contains the album's highlights, with the keyboard heavy symphonic piece 'Il re di Raipure' and the hauntingly beautiful 'Arlecchinata' with wordless female vocals. Pierrot Lunaire's debut is very consistent and fortunately there are no low moments to endure. A solid record that comes recommended, though it doesn't predict the brilliance of their sophomore release.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Jean Cohen-Solal - Flutes Libres + Captain Tarthopom. 1971-1973 France


Jean Cohen-Solal - Flutes Libres 1971 Daphy/Sonopresse. Also released in Canada on Barclay
Jean Cohen-Solal - Captain Tarthopom. 1973 Connection/Sonopresse

CD reissue: 2003 Mio (Israel). Both albums on one CD

Release details. Flutes Libres comes in a fine heavy duty gatefold sleeve, whereas Captain Tarthopom is stored in a single jacket. Both were originally released on sub-labels of Sonopresse. The only reissue is from the excellent Israeli label Mio, and contains both albums on one CD. The sound is very good (though I hear distant vinyl noise, so I'm guessing the masters were lost) and also features unique liner notes, and a good 2003 era bonus track. This was my introduction to both albums, and comes highly recommended. Best I can tell, the CD is still widely available. A couple of years ago, I picked up the debut on LP from a European dealer for about $40. The photo above is, in fact, that copy (found it on Popsike by pure luck). The current going rate isn't much more than that, and so this is an excellent pickup for collectors of original LPs. Captain Tarthopom, on the other hand, is about double that price (or more), and I have yet to source one for the collection.

Notes: On the surface, it would appear Flutes Libres would be yet another flute jazz album that was all the rage back then. With Jean Cohen-Solal appearing in his Yankee Doodle outfit, it couldn't be more than a cash-in album of that era's greatest hits. Right? Way wrong. Flutes Libres is a dense work, bordering on the Kosmische with droning organs, and classical level flute played on top. While there are some rocked out rhythms and trendy moves looking East, in general, this is an album that will appeal to those into both experimental rock and serious avant garde music. The album is remarkably consistent, without any notable highs or lows.

It appears Cohen-Solal was conscious of the seriousness of the debut, and tried to lighten the mood with the somewhat silly opening title track on his second album Captain Tarthopom. This is followed by the sublime 'Ludions', meshing his trademark flute work with the sound of Soft Machine's Third, and is the highlight of both albums. Next track 'Ab hoc et ab hac' indicates more of the same, but then ventures back into more experimental territory, where it never leaves again. While the tracks on Captain Tarthopom are relatively compact compared to the debut, the level of experimentation remains high.

Fans of atmospheric, and perhaps even difficult, avant-garde rock will find much pleasure in both of Cohen-Solal's albums. These are not easy listens, and certainly not the kind of music that result in pleasing a crowd. But for private listening in dark rooms, the rewards are great.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Jordi Sabates - Ocells del Mes Enlla. 1975 Spain

Jordi Sabates - Ocells Del Més Enllà. 1975 Edigsa/Zeleste

CD reissues: 2000 PDI; 2009 Picap

LP reissue: 2003 Guerssen/PDI

Release details: Originals are in a single sleeve cover and not particularly expensive, though it is elusive. The first CD is from PDI, and is straight up with no extras. My first exposure to this album came from this CD that I purchased in 2003, and that remains the status for my collection. I presume the Picap version is similar and should be easy to find. The LP reissue is a gatefold, so there's a bonus there it appears. In essence, this album is readily available and well worth owning, but lacks insight beyond the music itself. I wouldn't mind owning an original  LP at some point, but not a priority by any means.

Notes: "Ocells Del Més Enllà" is a Flamenco fusion style of progressive rock, with namesake Jordi Sabates on keyboards (Rhodes, Moog, organ, and piano) and Toti Soler on acoustic guitar (often playing in the traditional Flamenco way). The 7 piece band is fleshed out with electric guitar, bass, vocals, hand percussion, and drums. Some of the music reminds me of the slower/mellower tracks from the early Mahavishnu Orchestra albums but with a distinctive Spanish flavor (including the familiar hand claps). Wonderful female wordless voices augment this fine recording. Highly recommended.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Asoka - s/t. 1971 Sweden


Asoka - s/t. 1971 Sonet

UMR feature of Taste of Blues

CD reissue: 2005 Mellotronen (includes "Take Off" archival release)

LP reissue: 2005 Mellotronen

LP release of "Take Off": 2005 Mellotronen (archival recordings from 1968 to 1973)

Release details: Originals are stored in a single sleeve cover and are very rare and expensive. My first exposure to the album was via a bootleg CD edition that I picked up from a large collection buy in the late 90s. It wasn't until 2005, that legit reissues finally surfaced. The CD comes in a fine tri-fold digipak with a history of the band, and as a bonus, a full album's worth of archival material. On LP, this archival album was issued separately as "Take Off". The original album was issued on LP as well. 10 years later, and it appears the pirates are back in the Asoka business, as these reissues are becoming more and more difficult to source.

Notes: Asoka were formed from the ashes of Taste of Blues (see link above). Two-fifths of that group reformed into a new band called Take Off (more on that below), and then later merged with the rhythm section of another Malmo outfit called (appropriately enough) Rhythm and Blues, Inc. The Asoka album opens in blistering fashion, with fuzz bass blasting in your face while loud guitars pile on top. 'Ataraxia' continues in similar form, with an excellent organ solo. From here, it's a smorgasbord of early Swedish proto-prog, with the usual strong accent on blues rock overriding a jazzy undercurrent. As is often the case, the tracks sung in Swedish flow more natural than those in English. Highlights, beyond the two opening tracks, include '1975', the violin driven 'If You Feel', the very Swedish 'Tvivlaren', and the Uriah Heep like 'I'm Trying (To Find a Way to Paradise)'. Overall, Asoka is more progressive than say November or Midsommar, and the album prepared local listeners to one day be prepared for the awesome heavy progressive rock outfit Trettioariga Kriget. After a few incarnations, Asoka evolved into the also much recommended Lotus.

Notes for "Take Off": As mentioned above, Take Off was the interim group between Taste of Blues and Asoka. This archival compilation includes tracks from Asoka Mk. 2 and Mk. 3 (both recorded after the LP proper), Taste of Blues, and one extended piece from Take Off. The liner notes and ordering of the tracks are an historian's nightmare, however. The album starts with the best recorded track, the superb 'The Seeker', which clearly demonstrates that Asoka Mk. 3 sounded like Lotus at this point. Lotus, of course, being the next incarnation of Asoka. The liner notes make a reference that the band's twin guitar harmonies are "in the vein of Thin Lizzy 1977". Leading many to think this was recorded in 1977. No - it's just referencing Thin Lizzy circa 1977. The track was likely recorded in 1973 at the very end of Asoka's career. And in similar fashion, 'At El-Yago 9-3', the liner notes state it's an early version of a Lotus track released in 1974 (which is when the first Lotus album came out). Meaning, this was probably recorded in 1973 as well. Then there are three tracks, including two cover tunes, where the only cross reference is the writing credits on the one self-penned number go to the members of Asoka Mk. 2, which places the date around '71 or '72 . Though it's anyone's guess if the two cover tracks are from the same session. These songs are all interesting, very much in the same vein as the original LP. Though the sound quality is noticeably inferior. Tracks 6 and 7 are live recordings from Taste of Blues that (finally) have been appended a date, and these are both from 1968. Again, the sound quality is a bit iffy, but for the time and place, these are a couple of nice psychedelic blues rock nuggets. And the last track has to be considered the gem of the set (along with 'The Seeker'). This is the only known recording from Take Off (1970), and it's a fine period-piece psychedelic jam, sounding more like Flasket Brinner or International Harvester at this point. Would have loved to hear more from this bunch. Overall a worthy set for an archival album, though I'd recommend the CD since the album is included as bonus tracks - which, in essence, is really what they are.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Egg - The Polite Force. 1970 England

Egg - The Polite Force. 1970 Deram. Also released in Germany, Canada, and the USA

CD reissues: 1991 Deram (Japan); 2004 Eclectic; 2005 Deram/Universal (Japan mini-LP); 2008 Esoteric

LP reissues: 1976 Deram (Japan); 2014 Deram/Universal

Release details: Single sleeve laminated cover. Very British and of high quality. Apparently the album wasn't released until 1971, though the copyright date is clearly 1970. I bought my original UK copy from a mail order dealer in the late 1980s, back when the album was relatively affordable. It's definitely shot up in price over the years, as have all UK originals it seems. Despite Egg being a high profile band, CDs were strictly the fodder of pirates  for years, since the only digital version was the obscure and expensive 1991 Japanese press. I never did pick up this version, and missed the first indigenous CD as well. The Japanese mini from 2005 is exactly what you would expect in terms of quality packaging (and the sound is excellent here as well). Sometimes they partnered with Esoteric, but unfortunately in this case they did not, so all the inserts are in Japanese. At some point I wouldn't mind picking up the UK version for the liner notes if nothing else. For LP collectors, finally a reissue version has recently (civil) surfaced.

Notes: The album opens with the 8+ minute 'A Visit to Newport Hospital', which is a quintessential Canterbury like number. The opening chords will remind one of Black Sabbath, except as played on the organ! From there, the track unwinds into a marvelous jazzy progressive piece, with those trademark fuzz organ solos, and whimsical melodic British vocals. It is, in fact, darn near perfect. If only the whole album was like this! The 4+ minute 'Contrasong' continues in the same manner, perhaps a bit more towards the jazz spectrum. And then.... Egg completely lost their minds. 'Boilk' is 9+ minutes of painful improvisational noise. One begins to question if there are indeed Homo Sapiens in the room at all. I often wonder why bands of immense talent like Egg feel it necessary to demonstrate that they too can play like a 3rd grader on their first music lesson. What a waste of time really. This leads to the side long track appropriately titled 'Long Piece No. 3'. It's an encapsulation of everything Egg was about up until this time. Wonderful progressions, and memorable melodies, offset by tuneless improvisation. Fortunately Egg cut the excess on the latter, and the composition as a whole is thoroughly enjoyable. A fine album, stripped of masterpiece status due to a near 10 minute nasty stain. Tragedy that.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Jerusalem - s/t. 1972 England

Jerusalem - s/t. 1972 Deram. Also released in Germany and Japan

CD reissues: 2005 Deram/Universal (Japan mini-LP); 2009 Rockadrome (USA)

LP reissue: 2011 Lion/Rockadrome (USA)

Release details: Album is stored in a fine gatefold cover and can get quite pricey if you're interested in securing one. Like the Strange Days album, this is an album I completely missed in the 80s and 90s. Though at least I'd heard of Strange Days, but Jerusalem was an entirely new name for me in 2005. When the Japanese CD came out, I figured it was just some rock album outside of my interest area. But no, it read well, so I popped for the deluxe version immediately, which was the first legit reissue on the market after numerous bootlegs. But as we know, the expensive Japanese CDs won't keep the pirates at bay, and it wasn't until the Rockadrome CD hit the shelves, that Jerusalem was finally available to the majority of fans. Apparently this CD comes with 5 bonus tracks (one unreleased and 4 alternate takes), plus a 20 page booklet with liner notes from band member Paul Dean and producer Ian Gillan (yes, the Deep Purple Ian Gillan). At some point, I hope to secure this CD as well, as I'm sure it's the definitive version. The Japanese CD of course looks great, and in this case is a straight master tape transfer, so even the most fussy audiophile will likely be pleased with the sound. As for LP's, Rockadrome partnered with Lion, for the one and only legit reissue in that format. I wouldn't mind owning that as well!

Notes: "Alex, I'll take Obscure Hard Rock Bands from the 70s for $1000". "The clue is.... "1972 England"". "Who is Jerusalem?" YES!  Jerusalem's sole album is so ridiculously square on in the hard rock zone, there can be no other answer. Gritty, no nonsense, twin guitar rockin' madness with gruff and slightly psychotic vocals. Every track is a winner. The compositions aren't brainless either, and especially on Side 2, a fair amount of complexity and extra heaviness enters into the picture. Highlights include the dense 'Midnight Steamer', the heavy fuzz overload of 'Primitive Man', and the Eastern progressive rock laced 'Beyond the Grave'. And when I see the name Jerusalem, and its cover theme portrays The Crusades, I'm in.

----

It's worth noting that the lead singer adopted the Jerusalem name starting in 2009, against the other members' wishes. I have not heard these two latter albums (including one from 2014).

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Strange Days - 9 Parts to the Wind. 1975 England

Strange Days - 9 Parts to the Wind. 1975 Retreat/EMI

CD reissue: 2007 Strange Days/Universal (Japan mini-LP)

Release details: Single sleeve cover, and surprisingly inexpensive if in the market for one. I'm not sure how I missed this album in my initial accumulation of LPs, but it just never came across my desk. I will probably make the effort to pick this one up in the next buying season. The CD that arrived many years later, was my introduction to the album. It's a fine reissue, that is most certainly more rare and expensive than the original LP today. Since Strange Days was originally released on a major label, the Japan market has a full license and total access. Not sure why it's never been reissued by a progressive rock specialist label. This most assuredly has Esoteric's name all over it, and it would be a worthy pursuit. As such, pirate editions are floating about as I write this.

Notes: Strange Days comes from the last throes of UK progressive rock in 1975. Similar to other bands of its ilk, namely Druid, Kestrel, Time, and Fruupp - Strange Days went boldly forward with a combination of complex progressive rock, with a lucid dose of commercial material just in case a high powered record executive might tune in. They didn't, and off to the obscurity grave went Strange Days. But for deep divers of arcane progressive rock, don't miss this gem. The last two tracks in particular demonstrate that Strange Days were a group to be reckoned with, and include many complex progressions. Oddly, the lengthiest tune with the overtly proggy moniker 'The Journey' is mostly a tedious Broadway play styled production, and is the weakest link to an otherwise super album.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Dedalus - s/t. 1973 Italy


Dedalus - s/t. 1973 Trident

CD reissues: 1989 Vinyl Magic; 2002 Arcangelo (Japan mini-LP); 2009 Vinyl Magic

LP reissue: 2012 Vinyl Magic/BTF

Release details: Wonderful gatefold cover with men in stylish overcoats, and each with cheap watch heads (Timex, Seiko). Simple but very effective. Originals will typically set you back anywhere from $250 to $400 depending. My first copy of the album was the initial CD that I bought upon release. It's basic like all of those early Vinyl Magic CDs, and I still own it. I never did secure the Japanese mini, and it's now one of the hardest to find if you're a collector of those. I've been expecting a repress, but we haven't seen it yet. The 2009 press keeps the album in print. As for LP's, I was fortunate to buy two original copies in the 1990s, including a new one from a record store back stock in Cheyenne, Wyoming (!!). I traded the latter back then, but the one I kept is mint as well. And I proudly display it on one of my LP walls in an album frame. It remains one of my all-time faves from a cover perspective.

Notes: Dedalus' debut, despite being the first album released from one of Italy's premiere independent progressive rock labels, is actually a pure jazz rock play. The rhythm section is fast, energetic, and super tight. The soloists - namely saxophone, guitar, and cello - are loose and improvised. Odd combination that at times is highly successful, and at others quite tedious. Very much an album worth owning, but not top tier in my estimation.

Friday, August 7, 2015

To Be - s/t. 1977 Germany

To Be - s/t. 1977 Brain

No reissues

Release details: Single sleeve cover. One of the more sought after "orange" Brain releases, but you can usually find one for $40 or under if you look hard enough. The name of the band makes it nigh impossible to search for, and there are no reissues to date, so it remains a Priority 3 on our CDWRL blog. I bought mine years ago, and fortunately held onto it (though the cover is not near as nice as the above photo) after being initially disappointed (see notes below).

Notes: When I first heard this album, I hated it. Of course, I fully expected it to be a Krautrock album filled with heavy organ and acid guitar solos. It's on Brain for crying out loud! Yea, well, that was back in 1988 when I found it at a local record show. So YouTube boy, don't get all high and mighty on me that I should have known better.

Many years later, I caught the "Kraut Fusion" bug (PC Police note - that's what they call it in Germany). And To Be is a bulls eye for that style. Latin tinged fusion, in particular, was all the rage in late 70s Germany. So what we have here is an instrumental mid 70s Santana mixed with Return to Forever. Some fine guitar solos, extra percussion, and complex unison runs are what you'll hear. All packaged up nicely to go with your Pina Colada. I like it.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Guru Guru - Dance of the Flames. 1974 Germany

Guru Guru - Dance of the Flames. 1974 Atlantic. Also released in the UK.

Other Guru Guru albums on UMR

CD reissue: 2006 Revisited/SPV

Release details: Single sleeve cover and relatively easy to find. The challenge is finding one in mint condition. I bought my first copy in the late 80s and it looked a lot like the cover from the auction above, with copious amounts of shelf wear. It's only been in the last few years I finally secured a mint one at a reasonable price. The only reissue to market is the Revisited CD, that came along later in the game, as this was one of my Priority 1's for many years. The CD is excellent, and is housed in a thick tri-fold digipak cover. The liner notes include a full history of Guru Guru and a separate one for the album itself. Nice photos and an excellent 7+ minute live track round it out. It does sound to my ears that this was mastered from vinyl however. Have to guess the masters are lost or in poor condition.

Notes: This is the odd album out in the Guru Guru canon. Former Eiliff guitarist Houshang Nejadepour took over the reins from Ax Genrich, and it's obvious he took over the musical direction of Guru Guru at this point too. And they needed it, after releasing the halfway stupid (and halfway great) self-titled 4th, and the ridiculous Don't Call Us We Call You albums. Heavily influenced by the McLaughlin/Santana opus Love Devotion and Surrender, Nejadepour gives us an intense guitar centric blast of emotional instrumental rock. Neumeier gets a rare chance to shows his formative jazz percussion chops while special mention should go to jazz bassist Hans Hartmann (AR & Machines, ID Company) who turns in a monster performance. Still, you can just hear Mani in the studio "oh please, please, let me do one goofy thing, pleeeassssssse." And so he gets his fun on the first track with a Donald Duck impersonation and bad vocals throughout (though the music is excellent). "Very nice Mani... now go back to your drum kit and shut up". 'The Girl From Hirschhorn' is a truly remarkable track, an extremely intense emotional and melodic workout, and the song that states this album was going to be a great departure from whatever came before it. 'The Day of Timestop', and 'God's Endless Love for Men' could have been lifted from Mahavishnu Orchestra's "The Inner Mounting Flame" sessions. 'Rallulli' sounds more like acoustic Embryo than Guru Guru.

After one album of spiritual enlightenment, Mani obviously wanted no part of that, and the group went back to being the goofball vehicle it had become, and never again was Guru Guru to release anything of that much interest IMO. Houshang was gone. Neumeier himself, however, did immerse in interesting projects, even today with the UFO styled Neumeier – Genrich - Schmidt and Gurumaniax projects. But Guru Guru as a band never again reached the heights of Dance of the Flames. Whatever happened to Nejadepour? What a talent!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Trikolon - Cluster. 1969 Germany

Trikolon - Cluster. 1969 Ruampool Acoustic

CD reissue: 2003 Garden of Delights

LP reissue: 2004 Amber Soundroom

Release details. Single sleeve privately released album, at a time when no one did such a thing. With a small pressing of only 150 copies, this album is through the roof in terms of price. I only found one original documented on Popsike (above photo). And I can barely recall ever seeing another copy. Of course, the Garden of Delights CD is the way to go here (which I dutifully picked up upon release), with a complete history, photos, good sound (from a mint vinyl copy provided by the band), and a 22 minute bonus track.  The Amber Soundroom LP will likely be from the same mastering, but misses the bonus song which is significant.

Notes: That Trikolon's sole album exists at all is the result of a sheer force of will. This live concert was privately released in a tiny run of 150 copies, so that an original album today is nothing short of a small fortune. This kind of musical entrepreneurship just wasn't done in 1969 Germany.

I bring this up, because it would be easy to criticize the album in retrospect. Rocked out versions of classical music are yawn-inducing today, but I would imagine it was quite enlightening to the audience that had gathered for this show. And keyboardist Hendrik Schaper puts on quite the performance for those who did attend on this fortuitous night.

Opening track, Brian Auger's 'In Search of the Sun' (from Streetnoise), is extended beyond recognition here. This track features the only vocals on the album, and it surprisingly sounds like Eric Burdon and The Animals. Schaper actually declares the lyrics rather than singing them, just like Burdon would. On 'Trumpet for Example' the ever talented Schaper blows a few notes on his horn, and then gets back to banging on the organ until silly. ''Hendrik's Easy Groove' is indeed a piano recital, and while I'm sure it was quite fun for the audience this one night, it proves to be quite a dull listen for everyone else. Perhaps his mother would have been proud however. Too bad it wasn't "Hendrix's Easy Groove" with an accompanying 11 minute wah wah guitar solo, while the stringed instrument is burning an inferno in front. Ah well. From here on out, it's Rockin' the Classics, where Schaper goes ballistic on his poor organ of older vintage, beating the living crap out of it. 22 minute bonus track 'Fuge' continues in a similar manner, where all of the trikolon get in on the frenetic action.

So imagine Soft Machine circa "III" playing the music of The Nice, and you'd have an idea where Trikolon land. Historically a phenomenon, though modern audiences may get bored. A good one for the collection, though it won't get played often.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sunbirds - Zagara. 1973 Germany

Sunbirds - Zagara. 1973 Finger/Polydor

UMR feature of Sunbirds' debut

CD reissue: 2015 Garden of Delights

Release details: Single sleeve cover and quite scarce, similar to the debut. Unlike Sunbirds' debut, however, I was never able to secure one for the collection. Not sure I need to now, as GoD has come through with a fine CD reissue, with all their usual trimmings (historical essay, photos). The sound seems sourced from LP, though it's not stated as such. To my ears, the sound is excellent all the same. There is a 2 minute bonus track, but it is nothing more than a tuned percussion accompaniment.

Notes: Zagara is a more traditional jazz outing than Sunbirds' awesome debut. However, there are still some great moments to behold. Both Fire Dance and Ocean Song bring back the strobe light Kraut jazz rock groovliciousness, where our fantasy girl in white thigh high go-go boots returns for one more dance. African Sun and My Dear Groovin are also at a high level of melody, atmosphere, and grooves. The other tracks are more or less straight-up flute jazz, though all are thoroughly enjoyable if the genre is favorable to you. Along with the flute - piano, jazz guitar, and a cracking rhythm section provide the necessary ingredients. So perhaps not the ultimate essential album that the debut most certainly is, but a mighty fine followup for this studio-only project. Recommended.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Embryo - Live. 1977 Germany

Embryo - Live. 1977 April

Other Embryo albums on UMR

CD reissue: 2015 Garden of Delights

LP reissue: 1999 April

Release details: Single sleeve cover from the April kollektiv created by Embryo, Missus Beastly and others. The album isn't particularly rare or expensive, and the quality isn't of the highest either. I bought this album in the late 80s at the same time as most other Embryo albums, as I was first getting into them. But my taste for jazz rock then wasn't what it is today, and I sold it off a few years later. The strange thing is, while all the other Embryo albums have been on CD since the 1990s, Live just received its very first press here in 2015 from the ever reliable Garden of Delights. Great reissue with full liner notes, photos, and a 16 minute bonus track. And the sound is as good as it will ever be. I think the most surprising tidbit out of these liners, for me at least, is the 1999 LP repress. Supposedly 1000 more (legit) copies spilled into the open market from a record dealer in Frankfurt. But I don't recall ever seeing Live available back then for new purchase? Must have been a Germany-only thing. Discogs corroborates this evidence.

Notes: Really fine set from Embryo, recorded in a town near Munich sometime in February, 1976. Very much a product of their jazz rock phase, Live will appeal to fans of We Keep On, Surfin', Bad Heads and Bad Cats, Apo-Calypso, and their contributions to the Umsonst and Draussen festivals. It's a bit more laid back than their intense Krautrock workouts of the early 70s, while pointing toward the earnest world fusion music that was to follow (Bambule in particular). Roman Bunka once again lights it up with his Eastern tinged psychedelic guitar, whereas Charlie Mariano burns on the saxophone and nagasuram, and Dieter Miekautsch gives us a splendid performance on the Fender Rhodes. Uve Mullrich and Christian Burchard lay down the energetic backbone. Maria Archer provides her usual sultry blues based female vocals on selected tracks, while Bunka brings his unique voice to the fore on occasion. Only 3 tracks will be recognized from their studio albums: Roadsong and After the Rain from Bad Heads (in truncated form), along with an extended version of You Can Turn Me On from Surfin'. The CD adds the 16 minute Just Arrived, from a concert a few weeks later. As you might imagine, given the length, Embryo stretch out a bit more here. A fine album, that improves with age.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Phantom - Phantom's Divine Comedy Part 1. 1974 USA

Phantom - Phantom's Divine Comedy Part 1. 1974 Capitol

CD reissue: 1993 One Way

Release details: Relatively scarce US major label album. Single sleeve that lends itself easily to ring wear. As you can see, the label itself lists the band as Phantom, which to me solves that debate at least. The only legit CD is the bare bones One Way, which I obtained in the 90s and is the only version I've ever owned. It's long gone, and rarer than the LP at this point. Naturally, there are pirates all over this one. So watch out if in the market for one.

Notes: Phantom were in reality a Detroit area band slumming around with the name Walpurgis. Vocalist Tom Carson had an uncanny resemblance in both voice, and even appearance, to Jim Morrison, and thus Capitol thought it might be a good idea to exploit the myth that Morrison was still alive. It's hard to imagine a corporate entity such as Capitol getting in on such sophomoric antics, but it does appear that's exactly what happened. Naturally the whole idea fell on its face, and Phantom disappeared as they came, through the ether.

The sad thing about this ruse, is it was entirely unnecessary. Phantom, in fact, were really quite adept on their own accord. In effect, Phantom are a hard rock band, with psychedelic and progressive characteristics. So the Doors comparisons begins and ends with Carson's voice. The rest is somewhat unique for an American major label band from 1974. The opening track 'Tales from a Wizard', 'Spider's Will Dance', and the last 16 minutes of the album are the highlights. It's just this kind of mystical hard rock that is now being recreated by a new inspired youth. So while Capitol were trying to exploit history, Phantom were actually predicting the future. Wonderful irony.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Legend - s/t + Death in the Nursery + Frontline. 1981-1982 Jersey (UK/Channel Islands)



Legend - s/t. 1981 Workshop
Legend - Death in the Nursery. 1982 Workshop
Legend - Frontline. 1982 Workshop

CD reissues: 2002 Monster ("Anthology" - includes all 3 albums plus a 1983 demo); 2009 Rockadrome

LP reissue for Legend: 2011 Svart (Finland)
LP reissue for Death in the Nursery: 2012 Svart (Finland)

Release details: All 3 albums are privately released single sleeve issues on the band's own Workshop label. Originals are scarce, but not terribly expensive ($50-$150). The LP reissues are adorned in gatefold covers, which is a nice bonus. I picked up one of these reissues only because I was able to source one dirt cheap. My introduction to Legend's music came via the awesome 2 CD set from Monster, which includes all of the band's work from 1981 to 1983. Features fine liner notes with historical newspaper clippings and photos. The 2009 repress demonstrates continued demand for the title. The CD is the way to go here I think.

Notes: Legend are a band from Jersey, which sits in the Channel Islands. For all intents and purposes they are part of the United Kingdom, but technically are separate. And if you look at a map, you'll see that Jersey is just off the coast of France. It's all intertwined with the Norman invasion of England, and thus has a mixed history and culture.

Understanding this isolation is critical to understanding Legend as a band and their place in metal history. Because they were like none other, and yet all very familiar as well.

The album starts harmlessly enough with the very good, though nondescript, 'Bad Girl'. Even here, though, one of Legend's many great characteristics is demonstrated: The vocals of Mike Lezala. He has a pleasant and soothing high pitched voice, absolutely perfect for the scratchy metal guitar sound provided underneath. He's no screamer, and can actually carry a tune. Starting with 'Taste of Life', the music becomes increasingly complex. Perhaps not in a technical way, but each song unfolds in unexpected fashion. Legend is superb in how they craft a memorable break via a crushing riff. So the familiar names of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest are brought to the fore - but in a way that is neither. Their sound isn't particularly heavy, almost hard rock, though there's just enough distortion to easily consider it metal. The guitar soloing is more psychedelic influenced, which I consider a major plus. The rhythms are also considerably more sophisticated than the usual 4/4 thumping beats one would hear in those early days of heavy metal.

In a perfect world, Legend would have been a great companion band to Iron Maiden on their rapid trajectory through the sales charts. Legend were miles ahead of bands like Saxon, Def Leppard, and Motorhead at this point in their career, especially in terms of creative songwriting. Only Iron Maiden and Diamond Head could compete this early on in the NWOBHM sweepstakes.

Despite the small press private release, Legend were not unknown amongst the 1981 metal intelligentsia, and received very good press from the UK metals mags of the day. Why they weren't signed up immediately is one of the great music industry tragedies, and one has to think their geographic location was the primary factor. I remember Legend being mentioned often, but always in the margins of an article. I never actually had a chance to hear them until Monster released the superb "Anthology" CD in 2002.


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Legend's second album attempts to streamline their sound a bit, and tighten up the ship. And fortunately... they failed. Legend is one of those bands that just can't seem to help themselves when it comes to creative songwriting. One gets the impression that if you told Steve Harris (Iron Maiden) to write more poppy material, he'd come back with similar compositions as found on 'Death in the Nursery'. While no one would dare label Legend "Prog Metal", they are in fact more unpredictable than any established band in that field of music. Side 1 is a tad weaker than the debut, though almost all the material is still excellent, with 'Time Bomb' being their token "ordinary" metal track, similar to 'Bad Girls' from the debut. Side 2, however, opens up Pandora's Box, and the tunes begin to stray all over the place without rhyme or reason. Awesome.

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Still marching forward without a label deal, Legend gives it a 3rd go with Frontline, this time going with the EP format. 'Stormers of Heaven' was the track that received the accolades from the metal press of the era, and it would seem to be the best choice for a single. For Legend, however, it's a bit ordinary. The other tracks, of course, are unpredictable with fantastic breaks/riffs, and cool psychedelic solos. It is the sound of Legend, one that most of the world unfortunately was deprived of for so long. If only a single enlightened label had come along...

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Legend reformed in 2003, and we'll cover off on those albums in Under the Radar at another time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Jimmy Castor Bunch - It's Just Begun + Phase Two. 1972 USA


The Jimmy Castor Bunch - It's Just Begun. 1972 RCA
The Jimmy Castor Bunch - Phase Two. 1972 RCA

CD reissues: 1999 Camden/BMG (Europe); 2014 Robinsongs/Cherry Red (UK). Both albums on one CD

Release details: Garden variety mainstream US release. According to Discogs, It's Just Begun would appear to still be in production with new LP pressings every so often. I just recently picked up the Robinsongs CD, and it's a great reissue with complete liner notes and both albums in full.

Notes for It's Just Begun: I'll never forget the first time I heard the title track. It was only a few years ago, and my wife had our cable TV on the "soul channel". Yes, that's right, the cable TV music channel (Urge I think - dreadful in every other way I'm afraid). And I looked over at the TV and said "What the hell?". I just sat there mesmerized (luckily not on YouTube or no doubt it would be viral now). I've heard - what - a million songs now? How have I never heard this? We are talking a grinding bass like Jannick Top of Magma, with some fuzzy guitars thrown on top for good measure. And, as you might guess, that's not the only monster track here. Psyche and LTD are freaking amazing - especially the latter, sounding like Funkadelic dropped in on a Santana concert - with Miles Davis performing on trumpet. Of course, it's not all like this, because if it were, it would be a 5 star monsterpiece. But we go way up here. Way up.

Notes for Phase Two: Many Americans will remember a comedy/drama show in the 1970s called "Good Times". It was set in the deplorable Cabrini-Green housing projects in central Chicago, and depicted a hard working family struggling to make ends meet - in the most difficult situations imaginable. But there was always time for a laugh amongst the serious drama. It was lighthearted, but very serious too. The show was excellent, and both critics and fans enjoyed it. Over time, though, folks apparently lost interest in the "hard hitting" drama aspect. And so the shows' popularity particularly soared when eldest son "J.J." would enthusiastically yelp "DY-NO-MITE". And as you might imagine, the show deteriorated rapidly into a caricature, where it just became plain silly. And all the seriousness was gone. And that, my friends, is Jimmy Castor Bunch's "Phase Two".

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Outer Limits - The Scene of Pale Blue. 1987 Japan

Outer Limits - The Scene of Pale Blue. 1987 Made in Japan

CD reissues: 1988 Made in Japan; 1999 Made in Japan; 1999 Musea (France)

Release details: Single sleeve cover housed in a fine cover with a cool painting from a renowned Faerie artist. The first CD followed shortly thereafter. A decade later, fresh demand brought about dual releases in Europe and Asia. I bought the LP not long after it was released, and picked up the Musea CD sometime in the 2000s as a supplement. The CD has two bonus tracks, and you need to be careful when evaluating the album proper, as they not appended to the end in the traditional manner. See my notes below. Though I still own both copies, I have decided to part with the LP, which I'll be selling this Fall.

Notes: The CD starts off in that typical brash, digital 1980s way the Japanese are famous for. I was beginning to question why I liked this album at all, as many of those 1980s Japanese prog bands have fallen into the sell bin over the years. Ah, but 'Marionette's Lament' is from a single, and not the LP proper.

Once we get to 'Mixer', we are off and running with The Scene of Pale Blue. And on this LP, verse their earlier stunted works, Outer Limits provides us with plenty of long exploratory instrumental parts. And a willingness to break out the old equipment, like the mellotron for example, which was still unusual in those days. Some of the heavy angular guitar / counterpoint parts recall mid-70s King Crimson. Lead violin and old school rhythm guitar flesh out the sound nicely. Unfortunately the band brought back the silly low singing voice on 'Anti Podean' and those sections have to be considered a lowlight. A fine album from the late 80s Japanese symphonic progressive scene.

Oh, and the CD also includes the fine 8+ minute fusion-oriented bonus track 'Pteridophyte' taken from the 1990 Made in Japan compilation called Out of Works. I would consider this track essential listening.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Manilla Road - Mark of the Beast. 1981-1982 USA

Manilla Road - Mark of the Beast. 2002 Monster. Also released as a 2LP set. Archival recordings from 1981-1982.

CD reissue: 2011 Rockadrome

Release details: Fantastic archival set from Monster, and the CD includes all the lyrics and a history of the album penned by one of the label owners.  Rockadrome is Monster V 2.0, and the reprint demonstrates the album still has demand, especially as Manilla Road's popularity has skyrocketed in recent times.

Notes: So the story goes that this album was originally intended to be the second Manilla Road release after Invasion, but was scrapped, and Metal ended up being the final product. The title was to be "Dreams of Eschaton". I'm not buying it for one second. There's way too much variation of style and sound quality here to be a coherent album. Not to mention the 66 minute length (double LP? C'mon...). But this is the story Mark Shelton himself tells, but we know how it goes with bands and their memories...

What I will believe, though, is that these are demo recordings from the 1981/1982 time frame, and that would fit the label owner's story of him receiving it at that time as a teenager. It's important to remember that Manilla Road were a hard rock band at their beginning, with psychedelic guitar and progressive lyrical themes. And mostly that's what you get here, along with some of their early chugging metal style that was present on Metal.

It's mostly a solid psychedelic hard rock release, with a couple of down moments like 'Court of Avalon' and 'Venusian Sea' both of which seem go nowhere beyond hearing Shelton sing for way past the song's shelf life. So 13 minutes of just-OK music is hardly a bad batting average. On the flip side....

'Avatar' has to be heard to be believed. To me, this is the perfect 5 star / Gnosis 15 track. What a glorious mess of a song. It is all over the place. It's psychedelic, it's hard rock, it's metal, and it's progressive. All at the same time. I absolutely adore this time in music when there were obvious influences - yes - but not properly placed at all. There were no rules, just whatever they felt like doing, whenever they felt like doing it. You could hear this track forever and not hear it the same twice. I want a triple album of music like this! And then follows 'Dream Sequence' which is an organ dirge with echoed voices, sounding right off a 1970 German Ohr Krautrock album. And no keyboards are credited! Guys, are you sure you did this?

Anyway, so much material here, and plenty more inconsistencies that make it so weird and wonderful. In other words: Must own album!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Caldera - Dreamer. 1979 USA

Caldera - Dreamer. 1979 Capitol

CD reissues: 1990 Capitol (Japan); 2015 Capitol/Universal (Japan)

Release details: Single sleeve cover and a relatively common record here in the States. The CD, on the other hand, was quite the challenge to find. Fortunately Universal of Japan has given us a recent repress. Unlike most modern Japanese reissues, this one is a straight jewel box reissue with no extras, but can be found at a reasonable price. I recommend everyone to grab this while you can, as I don't suspect we may see it again.

Notes: Most bands don't end a career with their most dynamic and progressive album especially in 1979. Caldera had dabbled with commercialism on their previous two works (both still very good IMO), but this one is primarily a fiery instrumental fusion along the lines of 1972-74 era Santana, with some nods to Return to Forever. They threw caution to the wind and just went for it. If only most bands had a similar attitude back then. Arguably - and probably - their best album.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Biglietto per L'Inferno - s/t. 1974 Italy

Biglietto per L'Inferno - s/t. 1974 Trident

CD reissues (selected): 1989 Vinyl Magic; 2006 Trident (mini-LP); 2009 AMS (mini-LP); 2009 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissue: 2010 AMS

Release details: This is a big one for collectors of vintage Italian progressive rock. The original is housed is a simple single sleeve, and isn't very noteworthy otherwise. If in the market for one, you need to tread carefully, as there does exist a very convincing boot from the 1980s. If you follow Augusto's rules, you'll be fine though. As far as I know, the only legitimate LP reissue is the recent one from AMS. As for CD's, they are numerous and constantly put back in print, so I'm only showing a representative handful here. They're all variations of the same source and all owned/licensed by the folks behind BTF.  Unfortunately none of them sound very good. I've not been fortunate enough to own an original, but a local friend has one, and I've asked he bring it over next time so we could do a fresh comparison. I bought the first CD as soon as it hit the market (the album's reputation was enormous even back then). Eventually I upgraded to the "Trident" version which features a fine gatefold mini-LP. I can hear an attempt was made to fix the sound, but... yea, it's never going to sound great I'm afraid. In some ways, that's part of its charm and... well, read below.

Notes: So how does one describe the brilliance of Biglietto per L'Inferno? It's not one of those obvious single listen masterpiece albums that's for sure. Let's put it this way: If Banco del Mutuo Succorso is the marquee at the Teatro alla Scala, and Celeste is found playing in a small Umbrian village church, then Biglietto per L'Inferno resides behind the Porta Alchemica. This album is pure arcana. Perhaps the ultimate example is 'Confessione', which turns into complete madness by the end, with more twists and turns in one minute than most albums conjure up for their entire length. Every track has this veil of mystery and exploration that goes beyond normal understanding. Venture deep into the forest and see for yourself...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Message - From Books and Dreams. 1973 Germany

Message - From Books and Dreams. 1973 Bacillus/Bellaphon. Originals also exist from Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand.

CD reissues: 1993 Bacillus; 2003 CityStudio Media Production/CMP

LP reissues: 1976 Bacillus; 1981 Bacillus;  2010 Second Battle

Release details: Originals come in a very striking gatefold cover, and I was able to secure one from a catalog dealer in the late 1980s that I've maintained to this day. It appears the 1981 press is a single sleeve. As for CD's, I supplemented the LP with the first version to come out in the early 90s. And 20+ years later, nothing has changed here regarding this album. It's a straight-up old school jewel box reissue with great sound from the master tapes. And nothing else. It appears the CMP version (essentially a reissue of the Bacillus CD) is readily available.

Notes: Perhaps I'm the only one who thinks this, but to me Message's second album, From Books and Dreams, absolutely obliterates anything else they've ever done, including the debut. This album is relentless in its intensity. It just pounds on your senses for 40 plus minutes, and yea, maybe you will want to get some sleep after this (careful with the dreams though...). Pure exhaustion. You'll see many references to Nektar regarding this album, and while I can see the superficial connection (among them a direct personal link between the two, and the whole expatriate in Germany from England thing), there are two elements that really distinguish Message: Little to no keyboards, and a strong saxophone presence. Message are definitely more hard rocking as well. I love early Nektar too, but Message are on a different plane here. There are really only three tracks here, the first side operates as a full suite, though they broke them into 3 separate titles. Not a weak moment can be found. Exemplary psychedelic guitar, amplified vocals, and a rhythm section that won't quit. I've owned this album on LP since the late 1980s and it continues to improve with each listen.