Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ozric Tentacles - Erpland. 1990 England

Ozric Tentacles - Erpland. 1990 Dovetail. Also originally released on CD

Moving this from Under the Radar, as I feel UMR is a better fit for these older Ozric albums.

CD reissues: 1998 Snapper; 2003 Snapper; 2010 Snapper

LP reissue: 2009 Vinyl Lovers (Russia)

Release details: Two LP set that comes in a wonderful gatefold cover. There wasn't a good photo out there, so I copied in the last two scans from Discogs. I bought the LP when it first came out and  the CD shortly thereafter, and 25 years later nothing has changed here. The CD remains "in production". In researching the vinyl reissue, it definitely appears legit (part of the Lilith/Mirumir group). However, it appears the album is sourced from the CD, and folks are disappointed with the artwork and track ordering. Worth finding the original they say.

Notes: In the mid 1980s there was a burgeoning new music scene coming out of the rural fields of England. They lived the "hippie ideal" of a lifestyle unencumbered by responsibility, and that which included many free music concerts. On the music front, many of the groups were influenced by the relatively obscure UK group Here and Now, who steadfastly held to the notion that music should be free (not to mention the musical similarities between the two bands). To sustain themselves, the various bands in the scene took a page out of the heavy metal handbook, and began to make self-produced cassettes that were traded and sold at the many various concert events. As is often the case with movements such as these, many grew tired of the lifestyle and moved on. And the bands themselves began to consolidate, where the most serious and most talented would take it forward to a more professional level (Amon Duul II anyone?). And just as Metallica represented the Bay Area thrash movement, Ozric Tentacles became the icon for the UK Festival Psych scene.

Personally I had no idea any of this was going on in the 1980s. Even though I had plugged myself into the various mail order catalogs of the day, most notably England's Lotus Records, I must've looked past these items that were for sale. Or not, I'm not entirely sure. "Erpland" was my introduction to the band, and I bought the LP as it had just been newly released in 1990. I quickly snapped up the prior "Pungent Effulgent" as well on LP (Demi Monde). To my ears, Ozric Tentacles is a very easy band to get into. In fact, to this day, when someone wants to hear a few notes from "something in your collection", I'll pull out Ozric. It never fails to satisfy the guest. Sure, I could also pull out Magma's Mekanik, and have everyone screaming from the room. And for the rare person who doesn't go screaming, I begin to worry about the safety of my family. Anyway.... Ozric Tentacles has an instantly likable sound, that also happens to rock hard. Of course it must be stated that Ozric didn't create the wheel. To say they were heavily influenced by Hillage era Gong would be an understatement. But what Ozric did do successfully is to distill certain elements of that sound, perhaps the most popular ones for many a Gong fan, and take it in different and exciting directions.

Some 20 years on from "Erpland", nothing has changed, and Ozric has well over a dozen more studio and live releases. This has been the most common criticism of Ozric Tentacles. That there has been no progression, no experimentation with other sounds, instrumentation and ideas. The term "Ozricitis" was born and now applies to other bands who follow a similar path. But it's not entirely fair either, as each album, when heard on its own, does possess a unique quality. It's just a tight window frame that they operate in, that's all. The key with listening to Ozric Tentacles is to not listen to many of their albums at once. Take one in, absorb it over time, wait a few weeks or months, and then do the same with a different album. It does alter the way you hear the band. The irony in saying all of this is that "Erpland" is Ozric Tentacles' most diverse album. And is probably the ideal place to start.

If I were to recommend one track from this album, and perhaps recommend one track from their entire discography, it would the album's opener 'Eternal Wheel'. It has all the elements of a great Ozric composition - the psychedelic ambiance, the trippy progressions and the ferocious guitar lead climaxes.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sebastian Hardie - Four Moments. 1975 Australia

Sebastian Hardie - Four Moments. 1975 Polydor. Also released in Japan, USA, and France on Mercury

CD reissues: 1989 Mercury (Japan); 1994 Mercury (Japan); 1999 Musea (France); 2001 Avalon (Japan); 2004 Polydor (Japan mini-LP); 2011 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

Release details: Australian originals are housed in a wonderful glossy gatefold cover, and is by far the most desirable copy. All the other country releases feature an annoying blue border and are single sleeves (though the French is a FOC I believe). Like the Opus 5 we spoke about months ago, Four Moments is a great album to start building an original LP collection around. And that's because it's still a relatively common album, especially in Australia. So no need to buy that inferior $5 US Mercury copy unless you're really on a tight budget. I found my personal Oz copy brand new at a record store in the 1980s. Strange anyone would actually import it, since it was released domestically, so I lucked out there. As for CD's, the Japan office has been incredibly busy. Given the number of presses from there, it's quite apparent this album is hugely popular in Japan. I upgraded to the first Japanese mini about a decade ago, and it of course features the original packaging from Australia. This is a great sounding album, and I don't think you can go wrong there on any of these. Haven't run into the Musea version, though I would expect it's the only one with readable liner notes. The Belle Antique release contains one bonus track.

Notes: Sebastian Hardie is one of those groups that draws polarizing opinions from those in the progressive rock community. Truth of the matter is that bandleader, guitarist, and primary composer Mario Millo is a true romantic at heart. Which instinctively rubs the male oriented and testosterone fueled prog rock fan base the wrong way. I am one of these myself, and have zero tolerance for phony baloney dainty antics, as performed by many an arena rocker looking for an easy score. And yet I adore Sebastian Hardie, especially Four Moments, which is as pure an emotional album as you will find. When people talk about lush symphonic progressive, they mean this album. For those who think 'And You and I' is the pinnacle achievement for Yes, then I assure you that Four Moments will be something you will swoon over. As if to prove they can also rock out, be sure to stick it out for the last 4 minutes or so, where they light the album on fire, for a truly sublime closing. Only the most hardened and grizzled out there won't find a soft spot for Four Moments.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Greatest Show on Earth - The Going's Easy. 1970 England

The Greatest Show on Earth - The Going's Easy. 1970 Harvest. Released in many other countries

UMR feature of Horizons

CD reissues: 1994 Repertoire (Germany); 1995 Si-Wan (Korea); 1997 See For Miles (w/ The Going's Easy); 2005 Repertoire (Germany); 2012 Esoteric

LP reissue: 1995 Si-Wan (Korea)

Release details: Like Horizons, The Going's Easy is housed in a fine gatefold cover. The Esoteric CD is of the usual high quality and features great sound, and full liner notes, with 2 bonus tracks, one coming from a nice single. As stated with the Horizon entry, I would avoid the See For Miles reissue, though in this case, you will at least receive the full The Going's Easy album (but not Horizons). First time I've seen a Si-Wan LP mentioned for this LP, but it's featured on Discogs.

Notes: Greatest Show on Earth's second album demonstrates a musical maturity towards songwriting, but in retrospect, I like both albums about the same regardless. The blues element is brought forward, whereas the pop oriented horn charts are left behind. One step forward, one step back. 'Magic Woman Touch', the album's great hope for a single sees the band heading towards folk rock territory with mixed results. And closer 'Tell the Story' is probably their worst composition to date. Clear highlight for me is the multi-part jazz rock suite 'Love Magnet' which is GSOE's shining moment of their entire career - and a direction I would have liked to see them pursue further. Alas it was not to be, and their two-album-one-year-run was over.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cleves - s/t. 1971 New Zealand

Cleves - s/t. 1971 Infinity (Australia)

CD reissue: 1998 Vicious Sloth (Australia)

LP reissue: 2015 Real Groovy (w/ Bitch)

Release details: Originals are very scarce and fairly expensive. Discogs doesn't even have it listed, as they must be presuming it is an archival release. But there's been plenty captured from ebay. The only CD is the now rare Vicious Sloth release (it's since been booted in Eastern Europe, so be careful!), which comes with some nice liner notes, a 45 single, and the near 17 minute Music from Michael EP (1970). The LP reissue has just recently surfaced. Bitch is Cleves Ver 2.0, and who only had a couple of singles to their name. It's a double album, with Bitch receiving a full LP, so guessing most of that album is archival. I haven't heard it at this point. As an aside, the original Cleves artwork does a disservice to Gaye Brown. As you can see in scan #2, and if you look for images on the Google, she's a very pretty lady - with a look similar to Katie Holmes or even Susan Dey in her prime.

Notes: From the small agricultural community Clevedon in New Zealand, arrives the Brown siblings (in Sydney, Australia) and their band Cleves (trimmed from their initial moniker of Clevedonaires). Sister Gaye provides the bluesy female vocals, making them a natural fit for the Post psychedelic, proto progressive with female vocals. Musically, electric guitar and Hammond organ dominate, and most of the music is sublime - with an emphasis on melodic songwriting and strong psychedelic oriented jams. While big name bands are within easy reach (Jefferson Airplane et al...), I personally hear that unique European take on the sound, especially Mad Curry (Belgium) and Goliath (England). Only misstep is the album closer 'Waterfall' which is the only track that resembles their rural background. Not an album for those who like to use the word "dated" in their reviews, but for those who actually immerse themselves into the period in which it was released, there are many rewards to be found.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Apollo - s/t. 1970 Finland

Apollo - s/t. 1970 Blue Master

CD reissue: 2002 Warner Music

LP reissues: 2012 Mayfair (Germany); 2014 Svart

Release details: Originals are presented in a fine gatefold cover, and are very rare and expensive. I was fortunate to be on the receiving end of one in a trade with a friend from Finland back in 1994. The music didn't warrant its value (IMO), and I flipped it quickly to a well-heeled Japanese collector for a boatload of LP's. And I mean a boatload. Many of which I still own today. So it was definitely a good trade for both of us I think. First reissue to market was the CD from the current owners of the Blue Master label. In recent years, we've seen two vinyl reissues, each with the gatefold intact. The Svart reissue includes a 45 single in addition. I recently picked up the Mayfair release primarily because it was dirt cheap, and it allowed me to revisit the album some 21 years later. My opinion has only softened a little, and I'm glad I traded the original away when I did.

Notes: As many have said, Apollo is indeed a mixed affair. Heavy psych meets tropical percussion meets psych/bubblegum pop meets orchestrated symphonic. Vocals are anywhere from clean and poppy to growly and bluesy (the original death metal vocalist?). Hard to imagine respected avant guardist/jazz musician Edward Vesala playing 4/4 drums on such ordinary rock cuts. Then again his composition contributions (tracks 5 and 9) are by far the most wiggy/out-there (and instrumental only), thus once again proving the diversity of the group. It's almost like hearing a Various Artists recording from 1970, rather than tunes by a single band.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Gash - A Young Man's Gash. 1972 Germany

Gash - A Young Man's Gash. 1972 Brain

No Reissues

Release details: As you can see, Gash is housed in an extraordinary gatefold cover. I bought my first copy at a local record show in the 1980s, and picked up an extra along the way, which is what I played for this last revisit. There are no legit reissues on CD or LP.  This album is a charter member of my original CD Reissue Wish List going way back to the early 90s. As stated below, I hope there's archival material, as it could be quite special! We'll update this post as soon as a reissue arrives.

Notes: Truly an odd one, and not what you would expect from the Brain label (this early anyway). The album opens with the pedestrian blues/gospel rock number 'Angel and Mother' which offers little to recommend, perhaps recalling Dull Knife when playing in a similar manner. 'Twenty One Days' is a bit better, still in the blues rock camp, but the heavy Hammond organ goes a long way to begin gaining acceptance. 'In the Sea' is actually pretty good, and foreshadows Gash's more than capable progressive tendencies. It's biggest problem is it just simply sits at the end of a not-so-great side of music. But for Side 2, Gash threw out the rule book, and went for the gold medal, just as many of their contemporaries were doing. The 3 part side-long progressive suite is absolutely killer, similar to Nektar in composition, but even more crazed (thinking Message "From Books and Dreams" here). And from there it goes into insane off-the-rails Great Freaky Underground territory, and it's at that point you realize the album is simply great.

Even though it is inconsistent, and starts off rather badly, I'm bumping this up a point. One killer side deserves at a minimum to be called "Excellent".  

I wonder if they have some other tracks like Side 2 sitting in a vault somewhere that are similar? What a fantastic archival release that would be!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Gunter Schickert - Somnabul. 1980-1994 Germany

Günter Schickert - Somnabul. 1995 Musique Intemporelle. Archival recordings from 1980 to 1994

Other Gunter Schickert features on the UMR

Release details:  Very rare CD that was issued by Bernd Kistenmacher's Musique Intemporelle label, and was part of the "Rainbow Collection" that also featured an archival Agitation Free album. I bought this immediately upon release, and nowadays is pretty tough to source. One of the series' trademarks was the addition of a "multimedia" track at the beginning of the disc (this is what they mean by CD ROM on the cover - it is a factory pressed CD), which comes across as loud static if you don't remember to start with track 2. There are no liner notes to speak of, so the origin of these songs is hard to determine.

Notes: Obscure and uneven archival recordings from Gunter Schickert circa 1980 to 1994. On the plus side, it's worth the price of admission just to hear 'Arabische Nächte', which is Schickert at his absolute best, with fast paced sound on sound guitar, and molten psychedelic soloing layered on top. And the Middle Eastern theme gives off a big whiff of early Agitation Free (and would you believe Michael Gunther himself was involved on this project?). Also of note are the 'Dig It' segues which propel the album forward in an exciting way. Other notables are the extended version of 'In der Zeit 1' from Uberfallig, the haunting Voice of Eye styled studio manipulation of 'Sirenen', and the muddled psychedelic title track. On the down side is the brooding electronik 'Töchter der Neere' which isn't Schickert's forte at all. Also 'Monkeys' sounds like a GAM reject, whereas 'Now' is pretty dull to be honest.

Manuel Gottsching is credited with remastering. If only Achim Reichel could have been involved, then we would have had all the pioneering German sound-on-sound electric guitarists in the same room!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Wolfgang Dauner Group - Rischka's Soul. 1970 Germany

The Wolfgang Dauner Group - Rischka's Soul. 1970 CTR / Dietrich Privat-Production

Other Wolfgang Dauner features on the UMR

LP reissues: 1972 Brain/Metronome; 1974 Brain (as This is Wolfgang Dauner); 1981 Brain; 2015 Long Hair

CD reissue: 2015 Long Hair

Release details: Lots to talk about here, and certainly a confusing release. The most known press, and the cover most associated with the album, is the original Brain release similar to the second photo. It features a striking day-glo yellow gatefold cover, and this is the version I've owned for many years. I had no idea until somewhat recently that the Brain press was actually a reissue of an earlier recording. The CTR (Creative Team Rischka) release is still unknown and pretty much extinct. These photos all came from Discogs, where apparently one copy was sold. There's been none for sale on ebay, or at least that has been captured. But even this press is confused, as the label and cover do not match. As you can see, the title was originally to be called Dietrich's Soul. But I guess Rischka won the contract and also apparently got the naming rights too! The 1974 release was part of Metronome's "This is" series, and were really just represses of earlier albums (or comps in some cases), and released on the 2001 Brain imprint. These presses are all inferior to the originals (and the covers are dull). The '81 press (black label) is a single sleeve, but uses the desirable yellow cover. And now the Long Hair release finally replicates the Brain "original" in its full glory - and is the first modern reissue. Since I already have that on LP, I went forward with the CD. It does feature very good sound, but is taken from vinyl (they did a great job though). The liner notes are excellent, but frustrating, as is often the case with Long Hair. They don't provide much detail at all regarding the release itself, and this is a story that needs to be told! What we do get is the story of Wolfgang Dauner and some of the participants from that era of his band. I did learn, however, what the story behind the "Sounds" label on the front cover means (it's also on Guru Guru's 4th). It was a "seal of approval" from the magazine of the same name. Interesting. Oh, one other thing about the CD - they inexplicably reversed the sides of the recording so that it starts with Side 2. Why they did this we'll never know. Perhaps the goal here was to ensure the release remains in a confused state.

Notes: Recorded November 28, 1969, Wolfgang Dauner's Rischka's Soul (aka Dietrich's Soul) comes more from the restless jazz school, than the subversive underground that was just beginning to brew in Germany at this time. Dauner was no doubt a major influence, and perhaps even an inspiration, to those looking to expand the music norms of the day. Krautrock, as we know it today, had its founding during this era, but it didn't come from the mainstream, of which Dauner was a part of. The album was mostly known from its posthumous release on Brain, though it wasn't a contemporary recording. Still, without a doubt, Dauner was a pioneer in mixing psychedelic rock and jazz seamlessly. Much of this album sounds like the ultimate backdrop to a "happenin' club scene" to a 1970 art film, with the participants suitably stoned out of their bloomin' minds and squinting wildly while the Klieg lights were beaming off their freshly scrubbed cheeks. Whether the youngsters were dancing or meditating, Rischkas Soul was providing the soundtrack to their soul searching odyssey of utopian dreams. One of the better time-and-place albums of the day, and a must pick up for fans of 1969 era jazz rock. Just don't expect cutting edge Krautrock here.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Roberto Colombo - Botte da Orbi. 1977 Italy

Roberto Colombo - Botte da Orbi. 1977 Ultima Spiaggia

CD reissue: 1999 Mju:zik

Release details: Originals are scarce, but not expensive. My first (and only) exposure to the album comes via the CD, which is stored in a small wallet like cover. Like the LP, the CD is pretty scarce these days, but can be found for a reasonable price - especially in Europe. I believe the CD label is related to the parent Ultima Spiaggia, and is the only album I've found on the label.

Notes: For those that constantly bellyache that most progressive rock is poorly composed, and is really a bunch of amateurs piecing disparate sections of music together, then may I suggest Roberto Colombo's sophomore release? This is a seriously dense work, and is clearly charted and most certainly required a music stand for the participants. Frank Zappa at his most complex must be in the conversation, though one can hear some of the Italian RIO/Jazz/Avant prog bands of the day, for example Picchio dal Pozzo, Orchestra Njervudarov, Agora, and Tullio De Piscopo - the latter even guests on the album. No jamming or grooves here, and the melodies are too brief, but powerful. Awesome production as well. Much of the avant prog genre is too high brow for me, but Botte da Orbi is thoroughly enjoyable, though lacking any notable peaks.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Walrus - s/t. 1970 England

Walrus - s/t. 1970 Deram. Also released in Germany

CD reissues: 1995 Si-Wan (Korea); 2008 Esoteric; 2008 Deram (Japan mini-LP)

Release details: Single sleeve cover, and one of the more obscure Deram albums, though not one of the most expensive or sought after. The first CD to market was from Si-Wan. Unusual in that Si-Wan generally licensed their product from the parent companies in Japan, and yet I could find no evidence of a Japanese LP. It's possible one was released, and it's just not been captured, or it's also possible they licensed it but never actually released it (would likely have come out in the mid 1970s). The Japanese mini-LP comes from Deram, and that indicates the same license we're talking about here. I believe it's a separate mastering from the Esoteric copy that came out the same year. In any case, the Esoteric version is great, with excellent liner notes, great sound, and one non-album bonus track taken from a single in the same era. Some of the online discographies append a 1971 date to the album, but it's clearly copyrighted as 1970, and according to Esoteric, it was released in December of that year.

Notes: Yet another UK horn rock band from 1970. I always expect Walrus (the album) to be a bit better each listen, especially after taking in the barnburner opener, and yet it falls a bit short of heightened expectation.  Mostly it's the straightforward songwriting, and the band at times comes across as a bunch of rock-n-rollers with a horn section in tow. Still, there's plenty of good progressions, and 'Coloured Rain' demonstrated that Walrus could have gone the jazz rock route as well, to much success. Though they blew it here too with a late drum solo, demonstrating their lack of awareness. Not in the same league as Brainchild, Heaven, or Greatest Show on Earth, but certainly passable and conditionally recommended, especially to die-hard genre fans (of which I'm one).

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Wapassou - Ludwig. 1979 France

Wapassou - Ludwig. 1979 Crypto

Other Wapassou featured albums on the UMR

CD reissues: 1994 Musea; 2009 Belle Antique (Japan mini)

LP reissue: 198? Omega Studios

Release details: Single sleeve cover and, like the other Crypto albums, originals are relatively easy to find in Europe. None of the online discographies will cop to it, but Ludwig was also issued by Omega Studios in the mid 1980s. And that was my introduction to the album. I sold it as soon as the CD came out, and recently picked up the original at a very attractive price. The basic cover doesn't warrant the cost of the Japanese mini IMO.

Notes: In many ways, this is Wapassou's most artistically accomplished work. The classically influenced 34 minute title track is dense and complex, with Wapassou demonstrating their musical maturity over the course of both sides of the LP. And yet, I found myself missing the haunting atmospheres, and mysterious sounds of the previous 3 albums. Perhaps had they broken this composition into smaller tracks, where they could be dissected individually, it may have worked more smoothly as a whole. As it stands though, the sprawling piece can be impenetrable at times. For fans of the classic Wapassou sound, there is no doubt it is an essential purchase, but it does seem to be a bit too formal I'm afraid.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

WLUD - Carrycroch + Second. 1978-1979 France

WLUD - Carrycroch'. 1978 Omega Studio
WLUD - Second. 1979 Music'al

CD reissue for Carrycroch': 1995 Musea
CD reissue for Second: 1997 Musea

LP reissue for Carrycroch': 198? Omega Studio
LP reissue for Second: 198? Omega Studio

Release details: Carrycroch' is a single sleeve whereas Second is housed in a gatefold. These two were still "in print" when I first purchased them in the late 1980s. And now I know why, as I didn't realize there were second presses of each until researching this entry. The 3rd photo is the label design for these reissues, and was likely pressed in the 1985/86 time frame along with others from Omega Studio like Neo and Wapassou. I replaced both as soon as the CDs came out. And since I now realize I had reissues in the first place, that validates my decision (for me). I wouldn't mind having real originals at some point.  Like many French albums, they are more obscure than expensive. The CD's are outstanding of course, with great sound and a full biography for each album. Second features 5 bonus tracks, including 2 different 45 singles. You can still find the CD new at some retailers.

Notes for Carrycroch': Apparently the band's moniker of WLUD was inspired by the French jazz rock ensemble CCPP, and thus they too went forward with their last names. A classic lost in translation scenario, as it comes across as either Thud, Wad, or WTFuh - to my English ears anyway. Had they been christened with a name like Église fou avec Perles, perhaps the band would be more highly sought after today. Who knows, but the music here more than makes up for the shortsighted naming convention. Instrumental progressive rock with an emphasis on melody is the name of the game here. Those looking for conservatory styled compositions will need to look elsewhere, but if enjoyable put-a-smile-on-your-face instrumentals are your bag, then welcome Carrycroch' to your home (oh my, yet another problematic title - one pictures Roseanne Barr at a San Diego Padres game...). No matter, because once the platter (silver or black - choose your weapon) hits the turntable/laser all will be forgotten. If only such music was the norm in 1978. Obvious candidates of Camel and Yes get thrown around, but one could just as easily toss out Carpe Diem, Neo, and Terpendre just to show off to the only person who might know what you're talking about.

Notes for Second: Wad/Thud continue on with their second album, creatively titled... yea. And we pretty much hear the same style as the debut - 6 creative instrumental melodic progressive tracks that are pleasant, though not earthshaking. This is Instrumental Prog Rock 101, and you get an easy "A" just for showing up to class. Not everything has to be Master's class hard to be good. Sit back, enjoy your favorite beverage, and immerse yourself into the music of WLUD.

Bonus tracks on the Musea CD add (French) vocals and demonstrate the band was up to no good at the end of their career, desperately trying to find a larger audience. And it didn't work obviously. Besides who wants to hear a band called Thud?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Pulsar - Pollen. 1975 France

Pulsar - Pollen. 1975 Kingdom. Also 1976 Decca (UK)

Other Pulsar reviews on the UMR

CD reissues: 1990 Musea/Baillemont; 1996 Belle Antique (Japan); 2012 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissues: 1978 CBS; 1979 London (Japan)

Release details: Single sleeve cover and a relatively common record, especially in Europe. I started with the Kingdom LP in the 1980's, and have picked up the others along the way. Musea's release is all one would need from a CD perspective, and comes with their usual great biography. Best I can tell, the CD is still repressed on occasion to meet demand.

Notes: Generally regarded as the weaker of the classic three 1970's Pulsar albums, debut Pollen is still an album very much worth absorbing. The album suffers from a muddy production and a certain immaturity towards songwriting. In its favor, however, is an exorbitant amount of atmosphere. I would classify Pollen as "heavy cloud music" (a new genre is born!), in which there's a pervasive melancholy that requires an intense introspection. Ironically the music is inspirational rather than depressing, and provides a perverse motivation. The track that best represents this motif is 'Apaisement' with the drawn out flute, acoustic guitar, organ, fuzz chords, thudding drums, string synthesizer, and the mumbling vocals in French. A rainy day in Lyon indeed. A wonderfully sad album.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Greatest Show on Earth - Horizons. 1970 England

The Greatest Show on Earth - Horizons. 1970 Harvest. Released in many countries

UMR review of The Going's Easy

CD reissues: 1994 Repertoire (Germany); 1997 See For Miles (w/ The Going's Easy); 2001 EMI (Japan mini-LP); 2006 Repertoire (Germany); 2012 Esoteric

Release details: Really cool gatefold cover. I love eye covers anyway, and so this is one I need to get eventually. UK originals are a bit pricey, but compared to others of its era, it's relatively affordable. Other country pressings will be less, including the always nice German ones. As for CDs, both the Repertoire and Esoteric versions are readily available, and likely to be on sale. The Esoteric CD is of the usual high quality and features great sound, and full liner notes, but no bonus tracks. As is often the case, I would avoid the See For Miles reissue, as it truncates the long 'Horizon' track (though it could have used a bit of trimming in the first place, but still...). Given the neat cover, I wouldn't mind owning the Japanese mini in addition. Surprisingly there are no LP reissues.

Notes: The Greatest Show on Earth are another fine entry from the UK brass rock genre of the early 1970s. On Horizons, GSoE provide us with 7 tracks in the four+ minute range, and one extended lengthy title suite. The music is heavily inspired by Blood, Sweat and Tears, but unfortunately the songwriting isn't particularly sharp. However, the extended song lengths allow GSoE to demonstrate their skill at instrumental breaks, and it's here the band excels. In particular the catchy grooves of 'Angelina' and 'Real Cool World' are inspiring, as is the bluesy 'Sunflower Morning' and the creative hard psych of 'I Fought for Love'. Addressing the elephant in the room, the long track has many great moments, but suffers a bit from immature jamming, especially prevalent with the front loaded near 3 minute drum solo and some monotonous percussion and bass rambling later on. Still there's more than enough time for some outstanding breaks and thus the track still grades out high. A very fine album, and only 8 months later the band would release their second and last album - which demonstrated more development within their sound.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Jade Warrior - Released. 1971 England

Jade Warrior - Released. 1971 Vertigo. Also released in Germany, Venezuela, and the USA

CD reissues: 1988 Line (Germany); 2000 Background; 2005 Repertoire (Germany); 2005 Air Mail (Japan mini-LP); 2014 Repertoire (Germany)

Release details: Originals are stored in a very cool 6 part multi-fold out cover and is extremely sought after. Despite Jade Warrior being a relative household name, UK originals on Vertigo can often times soar over $1,000. The second scan is the much more common and inexpensive US release, that comes in a standard gatefold, and is instantly recognizable for the different cover (which is actually 1/3 of the poster) and the "Mercury stripes" in the upper right hand corner. This version was my introduction to the album many years ago. The German press is a single sleeve with a 6 part poster included. It appears the Venezuela press is a straight single sleeve. Surprisingly, no one has (legally) reissued the LP. If they did, they most certainly need to replicate the original. As for CD's, the always basic Line was first to market before giving way to the Background and Repertoire labels. The CD is in print and easy to find. I picked up the Japanese mini, which of course replicates the original in every way, and I believe uses a similar master to the Repertoire release. The sound is fantastic on this reissue. Mine comes in a mini-LP box set with the first 3 Vertigo Jade Warriors. A treasured set for certain. Oh, starting with the Background press, all feature one bonus track that is basically a duplicate of one of the album's songs, and is not necessary.

Notes: Jade Warrior's sophomore release continues their unique blend of psychedelic hard rock and world fusion. Of the former style, highlights include the eye opening 'Three Horned Dragon', 'Eyes on You', and 'Minnamoto's Dream'. The latter is one of the album's peak moments and probably is the track that most represents the debut album. The best track for my tastes is the stunningly beautiful jazz / world / rock piece 'Water Curtain Cave' which sounds as if lifted straight from Nucleus' Elastic Rock sessions. 'Yellow Eyes' closes the album in a similar mellow fashion. The 15 minute 'Barazinbar' seamless mixes all these styles into one wonderful psychedelic jam and is clearly the album's centerpiece. Only misstep is the dull rock-n-roll 'Reason to Believe' and is completely out of place here. Otherwise a very fine album, and comes highly recommended.

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 and 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).