Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Unencumbered Music Reviews is Signing Off

Hello everyone. After spending a wonderful weekend in the Colorado mountains, I realized perhaps it was time to become a private collector again, and refocus my free time energy elsewhere, other than these blogs and rating sites.

Thanks to all for their wonderful submissions, and to all the great albums that have been released and reissued in the past. I will continue to support the artists / labels and buy CDs and LPs.

I will leave everything up, and if I reconsider my position at a later date, this blog will reopen for business!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Iskander - Boheme 2000. 1982 Germany

Iskander - Boheme. 1982 Herkules / Iron Curtain

I had this post languishing in the UTR blog, but this album is a better fit here.

CD reissue: 1989 Iron Curtain (as Boheme)

Release details: Original album comes in a single sleeve and is easy to find in Europe. The album was originally pressed with two different labels. But since they share the same catalog number, my guess is that they simply changed their label name (legal dispute?), and thus a new Label Code (LC designation in Germany). I believe the Iron Curtain LP issue was the first to drop the "2000" part of the name. As the notes state below, if there ever was an album you want the CD, this is the one, as it is greatly expanded, and the extra material is generally superb. And given that the CD was pressed over 25 years ago, it's not common, though you can still find one if you look hard enough. Which I do recommend! There is no date on the CD packaging, and RYM has 1986, while Discogs has 1989. The latter is more accurate this time, as the CD itself has a date of January 1989 in the matrix area.

Notes: The CD issue contains significantly more music, much of it superb, including the magnificent full 4 part suite of 'Winterhagen', which now clocks in at over 18 minutes. Iskander's debut is a real under the radar delight, and mixes symphonic rock with psychedelic guitar and a variety of progressive ideas. The album is pretty much forgotten today, but was quite well known within those that were tuned into the "Eurock" circle back in the 1980s. I've had this CD almost since it was released, and it has passed the test of time quite well.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Winterhawk - Revival. 1982 USA

Winterhawk - Revival. 1982 Lambda

CD reissues: 1998 Monster; 2006 Rockadrome

Release details: Classic single sleeve private press, with an impressive cover. Even though it's from the 80s, this is a tough one to score, and can get expensive. My introduction was the Monster CD at the point of release. The CD is awesome with liner notes, bonus tracks, and from the master tapes.

Notes: Chicago based Winterhawk have quite the reputation among those predisposed to enjoying the hard rock genre. Like me. Almost all the tracks clear the 5 minute mark to allow for a few more ideas to creep in per composition. And to also allow more time for the unrelenting guitar solos - each, I might add, with a solid amount of creativity. This latter point alone would most certainly have found its way to the cutting room floor back in 1982. As well, the rawness of the production is a big part of the charm here. Makes you feel like you're in an old abandoned brewery on the South Side. Lead dude Jordan Macarus can play the strings with the best of them - and a strong nod goes to the Nuge (right down to the cow leather lace-up boots!). Every major US city had a Jordan Macarus that never got their due. In those days, you would check out Winterhawk live at the "Agora Ballroom", bring your main squeeze, and boast to the bartender you're a good friend of the band. If your girl stayed through the concert without complaining - and as an extra bonus got tanked on Pabst - she was a keeper.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Moolah - Woe Ye Demons Possessed. 1974 USA

Moolah - Woe Ye Demons Possessed. 1974 Atman

CD reissue: 2005 EM Records (Japan)

Release details: Originals are housed in a single sleeve with attractive artwork. For years, this rarity was mislabeled as being on the relatively common Annuit Coeptis label (most known for US issues of German bands like Ramses and Bullfrog). The reality is the original private LP displays a dollar bill which, of course, leaves the Latin phrase intact. Though it didn't sell well in its day, most of the original pressings were preserved. As such it's still a fairly common album, but never cheap, as most of the supply is controlled by one person. Check on ebay occasionally if in the market for one. That's where (and who) I bought my sealed copy from about 11 years ago, and the price is about the same today. The only CD is the Japanese pressing from a decade ago. At first I thought it might be a bootleg, but it was confirmed legit, and the label has no history of pirating. It's a straight jewel case reissue with good sound, and no other extras. My guess is permission was granted via e-mail. I still see copies of the CD around at very reasonable prices.

Notes: To put it succinctly, this is America’s Krautrock album. The real deal, circa 1974, not a revisionist history job, or a cheap hipster imitation. Moolah were the duo of Walter Burns and Maurice Roberson, who play a variety of keyboards, percussion, voices/tapes, anything that looked like an instrument, and other found sounds. And, naturally, all blown through the funz-a-poppin’ blender of studio trickery (backwards masking, phasing, filtered, you name it, it’s here). This is the type of album to compel Julian Cope to write volumes to the gods at the top of ziggurats. If I were half the writer Cope was, I would have a blast describing the imaginary movie that this soundtrack inevitably goes with. If someone blindfolded me, and said "Check out this unreleased Annexus Quam album that was to be originally issued on Ohr", I would’ve believed it! For a slice of pure underground subversive America, via Greenwich Village, you absolutely can’t go wrong with Moolah.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Praxis - La Eternidad de lo Efimero. 1987 Mexico

Praxis - La Eternidad de lo Efimero. 1987 Discos Rosembach

CD reissue: 1994 Mellow (Italy)

Release details: Single sleeve cover and pressed on somewhat cheap vinyl. However, the effort it took to release something like this privately from Mexico is to be admired - especially then. I bought the LP when it came out and quickly sold it off when the CD came about. Somewhere along the line, I let the CD go as well, but recently scored a new one for dirt cheap. And that's the story here. The CD is long OOP and somewhat scarce. But if you do find one, it won't cost much. There's no demand, and that's too bad really. The CD is a straight reissue with good sound and nice historical liner notes. You really have to be a vinyl-only junkie to not want the CD for this title.

Notes: Praxis' sole work is a solid instrumental progressive rock album from Mexico. The primary composer, Ricardo Moreno, is the same keyboardist behind Iconoclasta and the music is remarkably similar - especially the Iconoclasta albums that came after Praxis. One reason for this is that Praxis' guitarist Hector Hernandez joined Iconoclasta not long after. The other is that Praxis had eschewed the local regional Latin American influences - as did Iconoclasta in their later years. The album's faults lie in the muddy Third World sounding 1980s production, and the lack of variety in tone - especially considering the rather cheap sounding synthesizers. But the charms outweigh the negatives here. A finely crafted album, that I'm sure today would sound fantastic, especially if afforded a room full of analog gear.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tantra - Misterios e Maravilhas. 1977 Portugal

Tantra - Misterios e Maravilhas. 1977 EMI

LP reissue: 1983 EMI

CD reissues: 1998 EMI; 1998 Musea (France); 2007 Valentim de Carvalho

Release details: Single sleeve with an eye catching cover. My introduction to Tantra goes back 25 years, when I bought both of their albums new on LP, as some stock had been recently found. What I didn't know at the time, is that Misterios e Maravilhas was actually a later repress. The back cover I show here from Discogs displays the "100 year anniversary" symbol (1877-1977) and is the real original.  Mine didn't have this. I sold it off years ago once I learned that fact (but kept Holocausto which was the original). The Musea CD is excellent with detailed liner notes and photos. The sound is pretty muddy, but that's the source, and not much you can do about that I'm afraid. I didn't realize, until researching this entry, that another CD came out in Portugal at the same time as the Musea release. The newest version from 2007 comes in a digi-pak with 2 bonus tracks.

Notes: On the surface, Tantra sounds like an odd cross between Mahavishnu Orchestra and Genesis. There really isn't any other band from Portugal that sounds anything like Tantra, and with revisionist history on our side, the band have a somewhat international flavor. The fusion tracks sound like Argentina's Crucis whereas the vocal numbers recall Carpe Diem of France. The heavy use of the Farfisa Synthorchestra and the distant, sparse, and mysterious vocals add credence to this latter claim. Meanwhile, on the middle tracks, the insane bass and drum rumblings with wild soloing made me think of Los Delerios del Mariscal. As many have said, the production is lousy, and detracts from the overall immense potential for greatness here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Cosmic Debris - s/t. 1980 USA

Cosmic Debris - s/t. 1980 Non Compos Mentis

No reissues

Release details: Classic US hard cardboard private looking single sleeve. Years ago, since the band were from Oklahoma City, originals tended to show up often here in DFW (3 hours south) and that's how I first encountered the album 25 years ago or so. There are no reissues, however there was a time when the band was selling homemade CD-R copies, but we don't technically count those. There's some debate on the date and title of this release. The copyright date on the original LP is 1980. However there are two typed inserts (with my copy anyway - and I reprinted them below this review). One is dated 1.1981 and the other 1.1.981, so we'll presume bad editing on the latter... So the evidence is there that the album wasn't released until 1981, though I'm personally a fan of copyright dates. Depends on the discography site and their rules eh? Based on these inserts, it's pretty clear to me, that the 3.7K title that has recently been appended this album is in reality the catalog number, not the album title. This becomes even more evident once you realize their second album While You're Asleep has 4.6K as a catalog number.

Notes: Cosmic Debris were a band from Oklahoma City that married electronic sequencer based music with rock instrumentation such as guitar and drums. Very much like a mixture of Klaus Schulze's Moondawn with Edgar Froese jamming on top. Or Wolfgang Bock's Cycles album. Side 1 is made up mostly of 'Spectrum' with only a brief introduction of Aaron Coplan's generally overused 'Fanfare'. This is the only side that guitarist Shawn Phillips appears on. And he wails wonderfully in a psychedelic manner throughout. The flip is more atmospheric, though the driving drum set is still in place, with sequencer based Moog, atmospheric sounds, and percussion, recalling perhaps late 70s Jade Warrior in places. Mixed with Heldon. Cool.


As mentioned in the Release section, here are the two inserts included:

Insert #1 (dated 1.1.981) says:

"Cosmic Debris Biographical Information

Cosmic Debris was founded in 1977 as an experimental synthesizer ensemble. From their first performance at the Friends Jazz Festival in July 1977, Cosmic Debris has constantly strived to bring subtlety, elegance and control to live electronic music. Cosmic Debris has expanded beyond strict electronic electronic horizons. In 1979, the ensemble performed in the fusion jazz format. Growing out of that format, Richard Bugg (founder of the Debris) and Joel Young (percussionist with the fusion jazz edition), have gone on to incorporate elements from all musical areas.  "We present the listener with a choice of ever changing perception of reality". The Cosmic Debris can be heard on Non Compos Mentis Records number 3.7k"

--- It should be noted that the above was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors which I attempted to fix (not that I'm an English ace or anything, but jeesh!)

Insert #2 (dated 1.1981) says:

"In their debut album for Non Compos Mentis, Cosmic Debris (Richard Bugg, Shawn Phillips, and Joel Young), have managed to fuse the control available to modern electronic musicians, with the freedom of expression that typifies contemporary music. The result is a true meta-language that express the positive power of emotion and mind. An intelligent sound that aggressively fuses pulsating undercurrents of raw power with an intricate interplay of sonorities."

--- This one needed little editing. But who the heck knows what it means? 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Manilla Road - Open the Gates. 1985 USA

Manilla Road - Open the Gates. 1985 Black Dragon (France)

Other Manilla Road features on the UMR

CD reissues: 1992 Black Dragon (France); 2001 Dragonheart (Italy); 2012 Shadow Kingdom; 2015 Golden Core (Germany)

LP reissues:  2012 High Roller (Germany)

Release details: Originals come in a single sleeve but with 2 LP's, one of those a 45 RPM EP. The photo above only shows one vinyl, but it captured the essence of the release best IMO. I was already a fan of the band when this album came out, so I bought it new and still have that copy. This LP was still relatively common throughout the 90s, but has become increasingly collectible in modern times. Manilla Road's fan base has always been strong in Europe, and thus almost all the releases come from there. The High Roller reissues can be owned in a variety of colored vinyls, and are stored in a traditional gatefold. Whereas the LP was more common 15 years ago, finding the CD was a bear only until very recent (coinciding with Manilla Road being more popular now than ever). The first CD to market, from the parent, was also the first to integrate the EP into the regular track order, something that all reissues have done since. It took me forever to track down the digi-pak Dragonheart release, which comes with full lyrics, and is otherwise a straight reissue. If in the market for one, today you'll have little issue finding it, whether it's the only domestic release (Shadow Kingdom) or the current label for Manilla Road: Golden Core. The latter features an additional bonus track.

Notes: Nobody mixed riff based metal with psychedelic hard rock better than Manilla Road. All wrapped up with fantasy Medieval lyrics and artwork to cuddle up with. It's a big sloppy mess, but wonderfully so. Imperfection never sounded so good. At times Shelton sounds like Frank Marino, as he noodles away wildly, seemingly without purpose, with a crazy racket storming behind him. 'The Ninth Wave' is yet another perfect Manilla Road epic metal track - one that basically reiterates their invention of the style. Manilla Road are for those of you who like Hollywood leading men with scars and lots of wrinkles. If you came here looking for crisply executed, slickly produced, and perfectly played metal - then you cannot possibly be more lost.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Cos - Postaeolian Train Robbery. 1974 Belgium

Cos - Postaeolian Train Robbery. 1974 Plus

LP reissues: 1975 IBC/International Bestseller Company; 2014 Wah Wah (Spain)

CD reissues: 1990 Musea (France); 2010 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

Release details: A few interesting items of note about this album. The original Plus album (first photo) comes in a fine gatefold cover and apparently sold out in 2 weeks, just as the label was going bankrupt (a day late and a dollar short apparently?). Shortly thereafter the better funded IBC came along with a single sleeve second press, and this is the more common one you will see (though hardly any supply in original form). The Musea CD reissue liner notes confirms that the Plus edition from 1974, with the red and yellow stripes, is indeed the original LP issue. Despite this fact, they went ahead with the IBC photo cover. Furthering the confusion, the Musea CD omits 'Karbok', apparently a more commercial effort, because of bandleader Daniel Schell's objection to it. However, as a bonus, the CD adds 4 tracks from Classroom (discussed below in the Notes). The Belle Antique CD uses the original Plus cover, but the Musea CD as the source (incl. Classroom), making that an entirely frustrating release (while no doubt leaving off Musea's excellent liner notes). It appears, finally, that the Wah Wah release gets the original LP correct (but no Classroom tracks), also with the permission of Schell, who now apparently has gotten over his objections to 'Karbok'. Surprisingly I could not find this one track online, so technically I haven't heard the original album in full! I didn't realize that until researching/reviewing this entry - 25 years after first purchasing the CD. Crazy stuff.

Notes: Cos' debut from 1974 comes after many years of performing and writing, and as such, is a very mature opening move. The group's background, and home base as it were, is definitely from the jazz school, though they had recently broken into rock forms - influenced by the French groups Magma and Zao, and fellow countrymen Arkham. It is Zao where you find the closest comparison, though Cos are not Zeuhl in the slightest, and Canterbury is an easy backup reference, though not entirely accurate either. Truth is, Cos were their own thing, always a trait worth admiring. Pascale Son's (wife of bandleader Daniel Schell) strictly sings in the scat style, where enunciation, intonation, and pitch are key to the composition. The tracks are all well composed, and thoroughly thought out, and played to perfection. And it rocks out especially towards the end of the disc. Not a weak moment to be found, though it does lack the extreme highs a masterpiece calls for (though the UMR has one friend who states this is the greatest album ever, so file that away for reference). All the same, an exquisite work for fans of progressive jazz rock.

The predecessor group to Cos was Classroom, who contribute 4 tracks to the Musea CD. These compositions are clearly more indebted to jazz, but are certainly the same type of band in a non rock setting.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Hoelderlin - Rare Birds. 1977 Germany

Hoelderlin - Rare Birds. 1977 Speigelei

Other Hoelderlin album features on UMR

CD reissues: 1994 WMMS/Music is Intelligence; 2007 EMI

Release details: Single sleeve, and yet another fetching cover from the always imaginative Hoelderlin. As with all the band's albums, save the debut, supply of the original LPs are ample and prices reasonable, especially in Germany. I bought my first copy at a used book store in the mid 1980s, before I had any idea what I was doing. The EMI CD is superb, with great sound, excellent liner notes, and two bonus tracks, though the latter isn't necessary from a music perspective.

Notes: Rare Birds follows the unique Genesis meets cosmic/space rock hybrid of Clowns and Clouds, with yet another difficult-to-pin-down progressive rock album. The compositions are increasingly more accessible, with a certain soft lens focus coloring their sound. Viola is clearly their defining instrument at this point. Vocals are airy and melodic. The songwriting is excellent, and given the right commercial backing, Hoelderlin would have been household names. From a prog fans standpoint (i.e. me), the album's highlight is the driving instrumental 'Necronomicon'. This is an album that has grown on me tremendously over the near 30 years I've been acquainted with it. Definitely not an "immediate" release, so something to consider if you're encountering the music for the first time.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Locomotive - We Are Everything You See. 1970 England

Locomotive - We Are Everything You See. 1970 Parlophone/EMI

LP reissue: 1988 Zap!

CD reissues: 1995 Shoestring; 1995 Si-Wan (Korea); 2003 Eclectic; 2010 Esoteric

Release details: Single sleeve. Very rare and expensive as an original. I didn't even know about the 80's LP reissue until researching this entry, and it features the framed cover (second photo). Similarly, the original CD issue on Shoestring was difficult to source, and I wasn't aware that Si-Wan had partnered on this one as well. Finally, Esoteric came along (with their original name Eclectic) in 2003, and that's when I snagged it. They later repressed the CD and it's readily available today. The CD is fantastic with perfect sound, informative liner notes, and a raft full of bonus tracks.

Notes:  Locomotive are an interesting band, with their sole album clearly released by Parlophone with big intentions for major acceptance in popular music circles. Many references can be tied to The Moody Blues and The Beatles, but with a contemporary 1970 sound, including horns and a heavy Hammond organ approach. And it just didn't happen for the starstruck band, who dissipated quickly afterward. There's really nothing wrong with the music here, it's definitely an album made up of psych/prog/pop songs geared for the hit parade. There's no artsy pretension or long flights of fancy here. Sure, there's the 3 part 'The Loves of Augustus Abbey' which is about as extreme as Sgt Peppers was, so it's still cuddly fun. In the end, since it's an album made up of structured songs, there's nothing extraordinary here - and nothing terrible either. All very well done, and certainly worth owning, but not enough to be a true cult classic for future generations. That would be reserved for Norman Haines' decidedly more extreme album Den of Iniquity, which came about a year later. And that album didn't sell squat in its day, but is more highly revered now.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Dr. Dopo Jam - Fat Dogs & Danishmen. 1974 Denmark

Dr. Dopo Jam - Fat Dogs & Danishmen. 1974 Zebra (Germany)

No reissues

Release details: Laminated single sleeve cover, and released only in Germany. Not as expensive as most albums on Reichel's Zebra, so a good one to add to your original vinyl collection if so inclined. I obtained mine from a record show in the early 90s. No legit reissues have surfaced, though of course there's at least one pirate out there, if not more slithering about.

Notes: Dr. Dopo Jam's sophomore effort is the tale of two Frank Zappa's. Most of Side 1, and parts of Side 2, are the silly Zappa, and the goofball meter (now an app on iPhone) goes into the red zone. I'm sure 'Ode to Daddy Meatloaf' and 'Surfin' in Sahara' might be funny to someone somewhere, but comes across as ridiculous on these shores. Most of Side 2 is the serious Frank Zappa (well, serious is a relative term of course). We're talking Hot Rats era here. The affected sax sounds replete with complicated music charts and top flight jazz rock jamming. Album peaks on the middle two tracks of the latter side. Overall a very good album, that one suspects could have been so much better. Lost opportunity that.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ariel - Perspectives. 1985 USA

Ariel - Perspectives. 1985 Little Misters

No reissues

Release details: Very obscure album that is just now being discovered. Album is housed in a typical American single sleeve thick white cover that lends itself easily to ring wear. Comes with an insert that contains no data. Interesting to note that mine is on blue paper, and the photo above is orange. Not sure how many colors were utilized. This album would benefit greatly from a CD reissue, and I just added to the CDRWL today as well. The sound is good but can be improved upon.

Notes: From the far south Chicago suburbs, comes the super obscure Ariel, an album that is just now making its sound heard worldwide. Early 80s Rush is the most obvious first influence, but there's more here than meets the ear as it were. All instrumental guitar, keys, and drums are the core components, and the compositions are complex and tight - with a strong fusion influence. No escaping the King Crimson sound from the era either, but also (surprisingly) Doldinger's Passport, minus the sax (imagine the sequencer heavy Moog lines for example). If we were to really deep dive here, I would compare Ariel to fellow Chicagoan's Proteus, mixed with the UK group Red (on Jigsaw). While Side 1 is impressive enough, the final three tracks do nothing short of wow the listener. And they close with their peak composition, always a hallmark of a great album. Ariel does not belie its mid 80s sound (despite the somewhat psych influenced guitar tone), and yet compared with the normal dreck from the era, the band proves the middle 80s were not a total wasteland (heavy metal genre exempted of course). This one deserves the buzz its currently receiving in the underground.

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 list. 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?