Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sproton Layer - With Magnetic Fields Disrupted. 1970 USA

Sproton Layer - With Magnetic Fields Disrupted. 1991 New Alliance. Archival recordings from 1970. Also released on LP

CD reissue: 2011 World in Sound (Germany)

LP reissue: 2011 World in Sound (Germany)

Release details: Neat little archival release from New Alliance, a subsidiary of SST, and a long way from anything you would expect from the label. No doubt it obtained a release due to the Mission of Burma ancestry (Roger Miller). In doing research for this title, I discovered it was also released on LP, and perhaps even more surprising, it was reissued by Germany's World in Sound on both formats.

Notes: Back in February/March of 1998, while still a "road warrior" consultant, I had a gig in San Ramon, CA, which included a corporate apartment there. So every Sunday night, like clockwork, my wife would drive me to the airport and I'd make the flight from Denver to Oakland, usually arriving by around 9:00 PM local time. As soon as I sat into the rental car, the first thing I did was turn the radio dial to KFJC, certainly the most interesting radio station one can hear in this country. They played all sorts of experimental/progressive music, and it was usually a learning experience for me. The catch was I had limited time to hear it. Since the station is based in Los Altos Hills (closer to San Jose), their range was somewhat limited. Once I crossed the East Bay foothills, into the area of what is known locally as the Tri-Valley, the signal would be broken and ultimately lost.

One evening, in that 20 minute period, on came this pretty incredible psychedelic album with fuzz guitar and trumpet (?!). Since most of what they played was modern, I was very intrigued by what I was hearing. My only fear is I would lose the signal before knowing. But I caught a break, and needless to say by now, it was Sproton Layer. No other explanation was offered. I said to myself: "Well I got to get me this new group called Sproton Layer!" lol. I started doing research on the internet, and lo and behold Wayside had it in stock, with the explanation that it was an archival release from 1970. That certainly makes sense! But why would Wayside have it? Because the ever creative Roger Miller, was not only in Mission of Burma, but also the avant prog band Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, a band who was on Wayside's own Cuneiform imprint. Amazing how all these things fit together sometimes. I bought it immediately, and now it has come up for a revisit. I'm not sure I've heard this album since 1998!

Anyway, if all the above bores you, suffice to say Sproton Layer will not! The band hailed from Ann Arbor (University of Michigan) and the music is a highly creative post psychedelic album, just prior to the progressive movement taking hold, and the trumpet adds a fresh layer of sound not typically found amongst the fuzz guitar blasts. I often say that 1970 is the American confused year both musically and socially - and Sproton Layer is the perfect representative of that era.

If you've gotten this far into the review and you're reading about a psych band from 1970 with trumpet, what might be you thinking? Yes, that's correct, the "psych monster" C.A. Quintet of Trip Thru Hell fame. And the results are remarkably similar. The only difference is Sproton Layer never released an LP in their day. Because if they did, it would also cost over $1,000 today. With ample availability (I think the first press is still around even), this is an easy recommendation for fans of late psychedelic and early progressive rock. This album is still criminally unknown.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Kin Ping Meh - s/t. 1971 Germany

Kin Ping Meh - s/t. 1971 Polydor

CD reissues: 1989 Second Battle; 1998 Repertoire; 2004 Polydor/Universal; 2007 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissue: 2010 Polydor

Release details: Single sleeve cover and originals are not cheap. For a long time, this was a title easily found on CD, but it has become scarce over time, with the 2004 release being the last one to print (excepting the collector-only Japanese version). The Universal CD comes in a fine digi-pak, with a full history that I'm sure was also provided on the Repertoire CD (same reviewer). Unfortunately, this version leaves off the bonus tracks, though I haven't seen anyone speak that highly of them in any case.

Notes: Since we're cooking on the hard rock / heavy blues psych / progressive rock borderland, it's hard to avoid stepping back into 1971 Germany - where there were dozens of such bands. Kin Ping Meh's debut is a classic of the style, with great guitar riffing, and Hammond organ solos at every turn. The vocals have that wonderful Teutonic slightly-out-tune heavily accented English that seemed to be all the rage back then. The drums are even phased, indicating that perhaps Dieter Dirks walked in to knob twiddle a bit (but it was indeed Conny Plank - so the street cred here is off the charts). The lyrics would make any of today's motivational speakers proud "..don't you know we need each other" (ad infitium) and "Too Many People..le...le.. TRY to PUT ME DOWN". The latter track being the only low point, with a bloozy boozy harmonica driven sound. As if to make up for this letdown, Kin Ping Meh blow the speakers out on the followup track, the exceptional Drugson's Trip. Some mellotron and extended space rock jamming only add to the vibe of yet another great 1971 German release. Unfortunately this was to be the only decent album from Kin Ping Meh, who seemed anxious to find their audience on American radio. With no such luck, despite multiple tries.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Jackal - s/t. 1973 Canada

Jackal - s/t. 1973 Periwinkle

CD reissue: 1994 The Labyrinth (USA/Italy)

Release details: Single sleeve. Consistently an expensive item in auction, and much sought after as an original. The only reissue is the CD from The Labyrinth which was a joint effort between The Laser's Edge and Minotauro, and who managed about 4 releases in the early 90s. Perhaps amazingly, this CD is still available from The Laser's Edge. I would encourage anyone out there that has an interest in this title, to snap it up quick before it disappears altogether. Perhaps to underscore my point, there was a pirate edition put out in 2004, as they must have thought the CD was no longer available even then.

Notes: A good followup to the Claudio Gabis we featured yesterday. Jackal's sole album is a very fine hard rock album with bluesy guitar, choppy Hammond organ, and gritty soulful vocals. Like a more lethargic Micah, and anytime that fine band is in the reference column, then investigation should follow in hot pursuit. The album has a bit too many slow moments to be a classic, but when they're on, it is a fantastic experience to behold. Listen to tracks like 'At the Station' , 'For You', 'How Time Has Flown', 'Lost in the World', and the superb closing title track.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Claudio Gabis y La Pesada - s/t. 1972 Argentina

Claudio Gabis y La Pesada - s/t. 1972 Microfon

CD reissues: 1997 Microfon; 2004 Microfon/Sony

Release details: Gatefold cover. Like a lot of records from Argentina, supplies of originals are plentiful, but due to the lack of exports in the 1970s, they tend to be expensive today, as you will likely have to import it yourself. The 2004 CD comes in a nice digi-pak, and is easy to find. I sourced one for all of $3.74 on Amazon recently.

Notes: The impact of this album has me reconsidering all of the Argentine heavy blues psych/rock albums from the early 70s, which are fortunately numerous. Blues is something that has aged well for me, and hearing some of the more impassioned hard psych records coming from the Southern Cone, makes me think I have a few more discoveries awaiting me. I owe much gratitude to my French RYM friend Horus_in_Monoxyde, who's brilliant review drew me to the album in the first place. I love his writing style anyway, but this one really caught my attention.  I asked if I could share it here on the UMR, and he graciously agreed. So with that: "Wow ! Fantastic scorching, bluesy heavy psych from Argentina with a heavy-handed, shaky amateurish production full of dirt and greasy charm. The opener "Fiebre de la ruta" ("The fever of the rut" ???) burns along and consumes itself with the intensity of something like Night Sun or Orange Peel, and features some crazy, blood-curdling screamed vocals. And that violin is really something! Even the slower, bluesier numbers like "Mas alla del valle del tiempo" or "Blues del terror azul" are genuinely trippy and drenched in a syrup-thick stew of reverb and psychedelic FX.  This is one of those lucky picks, in that it's exactly the kind of thing I want to hear right now - raw, sloppy, post-Altamont psychedelic hard-rock that sounds like it was recorded in some disused garage smelling of motor oil and cold cigarette smoke."

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Burnin Red Ivanhoe - W.W.W., 1971 Denmark

Burnin Red Ivanhoe - W.W.W. - 1971 Sonet. Also 1971 Stateside (France); 1971 Telefunken (Germany); 1972 Dandelion (UK)

CD reissues: 1992 Repertoire (Germany); 2015 Esoteric (UK)

Release details: Album is housed in a gatefold cover, all in wonderful day-glo yellow with fire engine red lettering. I need to get one myself, and there's plenty of supply, though not necessarily cheap. The first CD from the ever reliable Repertoire has been OOP for many years, and is something I had regretted not picking up sooner, so I had been limping along with a CD-R copy. Esoteric has now resolved this problem with a very fine reissue, complete with full historical notes from noted music writer Malcolm Dome (who, perhaps ironically, introduced me and hundreds of others to Metallica's Kill 'em All when he wrote for metal mag Kerrang! all those years ago). The always UK centric Esoteric informs us in big red letters that the album was originally released in 1972 on Dandelion. Guessing then, that the Danish press from a year earlier, was a reissue...

Notes: W.W.W. (now that's a forward thinking title) has its roots in the early jazz rock tradition, with clear influences coming from the Canterbury scene. I personally appreciate Side 1 more, as it possesses that unique Continental European take on the Canterbury sound, perhaps recalling similar era Supersister or Moving Gelatine Plates. The 6 minute title track is a wonderful atmospheric organ driven avant-garde piece right out of the Krautrock playbook. And the two instrumental pseudo-French titles sound like Supersister and Embryo jamming with Group 1850, which is nothing short of great. Side two is more traditional bluesy jazz rock, with gruff vocals and soprano saxophone in the lead (from future Secret Oyster honker Karsten Vogel), and comes off the highs of the earlier set.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Capricorn College - Orfeo 2000. 1972 Italy

Capricorn College - Orfeo 2000. 1972 Kansas

CD reissue: 1994 Mellow

Release details: Single sleeve cover that will require a second mortgage if in the market for an original. The only reissue is the Mellow CD, which comes with a single tray card, and is taken from vinyl, indicating the masters are long gone. At least it's legit, so it will have to do. Though good luck in finding one these days.

Notes: Capricorn College's debut is very similar to two other obscure Italian bands: I Santoni and Era di Acquario that we've featured here on the UMR already. While nowhere near the classic Italian progressive sound, they all feature similar ingredients including varied instrumentation and complex compositions. Like those other groups, Capricorn College could not let go of their Italian singer songwriter past, and still seemed to be yearning, or pushed, for a hit. But when the producer wasn't looking, in came a jazzy progressive rock sequence that excels at all levels. While the album is entirely inconsistent, the highs go really high here, and makes it all worthwhile.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Highway - s/t. 1975 USA

Highway - s/t. 1975 private

CD reissue: 1990 private

This one came up via the CD-R revisit project that is normally attributed to the CDRWL blog. When I came across the title, I was all set to add it to that blog when I saw there was a CD reissue, but details were scant. I figured it might be some old bootleg. But I kept digging until I found the band has a website. I wrote the e-mail address listed, and received a quick response. Yes, sure enough the band produced a CD some 25 years ago (or at least that's the copyright date - it's unclear when it was actually released). And best of all, it is a real factory pressed CD, not a homemade CD-R! It's not cheap ($20 + $3 for postage), but certainly worth it if you're into this type of music, as originals are quite pricey. You can order one via this link.

Release details: Originals come in a single sleeve, with a brilliant period cover of the American US and State highway experience (not Interstate). The CD is an exact replica, with some additional photos. No history, but there are 4 excellent live bonus tracks that are not on the album.

Notes: Highway are from Fairmont, in far south central Minnesota, near the Iowa border. The music is guitar fronted hard rock, with traces of radio friendly vocal lines, and the odd progressive meter. Not too far in sound from Iowa's Truth and Janey actually (same time period and region), though Highway aren't quite as testosterone fueled. It's a prototypical mid 70s Midwest American private press from the rural fruited plain known locally as "fly over country". Great melodies, killer guitar, frantic rhythms, and a hope for a better tomorrow.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Nadavati - Le Vent de l'Esprit Souffle où il Veut. 1978 France

Nadavati - Le Vent de l'Esprit Souffle où il Veut. 1978 IPG

CD reissue: 2015 Soleil Mutant

Release details: An obscure, though not terribly expensive, late 70s release. Soleil Mutant is Soleil Zeuhl's label for all albums not related to Zeuhl. And is the clear way to go here. Wonderful sound, full liner notes in French/English, and one very relevant and lengthy (19 minutes!) live bonus track.

Notes: Interesting jazz rock album, that opens incongruously with a Chicago styled horn charts (think album #1 of Chicago VII or the obscure Quebecois band Syncope). There's a definite Mahavishnu Orchestra streak that prevails, especially considering the violin and guitar parts. Some nice flute jazz too. They seem to favor unison runs to overlong solos, and that scores points in my book. Nadavati do not offer anything that hadn't already been done countless times prior during this era, but for what they do, it's quite excellent.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Avalanche - Perseverance Kills Our Game. 1979 Netherlands

Avalanche - Perseverance Kills Our Game. 1979 Starlet

I'm going to move this post forward (originally published June 13, 2009), since we now have a CD reissue! I listened to the CD this past week, and the album still continues to blow me away after all these years. I almost found myself in Oblivion, so to speak.

CD reissue: 2015 Guerssen (Spain)

LP reissue: 2015 Guerssen (Spain)

Release details: Very plain single sleeve cover, similar to many a rare private press American album. Originals have always been rare and expensive, but perhaps not as expensive as others of its ilk (which is surprising to me). My first encounter of this album was via a cassette tape from a well known Dutch dealer back in the early 90s. He sold dubs of rare albums for a reasonable price (after all - it did take time to do + cassettes weren't free either), and this was long before the internet and Youtube. Ah, you kids have it so easy... :-D Anyway, I bought a few rare items from him (again, on cassette), and this was my favorite. I couldn't afford the album back then (not even close). It was fitting, then, that I did buy the original LP from the same gentleman (by this time, more of a personal friend) about 7 years ago or so. All the while hoping and pleading for a CD reissue. The main issue had been the band didn't want to go forward with a reissue because the master tapes were lost. But another old acquaintance of ours, Guerssen, must have said the right words - and with modern technology - has created a wonderful sounding reissue. There are no bonus tracks, but there are great historical notes from Richard Allen as well as some nice photos. A fine package overall. I would expect the vinyl reissue to be similar, but I probably won't investigate since I would never sell the original anyway.

Review:  (Originally published in Gnosis, April 2, 2001, slightly altered here): For hardcore collectors of progressive rock music, the obscure megabuck private pressing almost always ends up being somewhat of a disappointment. The hit ratio of great quality obscurities is quite low. There are many reasons for this including low budgets, amateur musicians, lack of direction and so on. So when a pure gem like Avalanche is found while wading through the chaff, there is some real cause to take notice and celebrate.

On the mostly instrumental "Perseverance Kills Our Game", Avalanche achieves all that makes a low-budget production endearing. First of all, the playing is true to the heart - an intangible that is subtle though very recognizable for those who hear these type of recordings on a regular basis. The musicianship here is superb though hardly symphony orchestra quality. And there is a real intimacy that surrounds the atmosphere - as if you're in the room while they're recording. And perhaps the fact that Avalanche have six full-time members helps keep the album from the one-dimensional nature of most private releases.

Side one is primarily a folk rock affair with wonderful acoustic guitar, piano, bass, drums and sparse (one track), but well done vocals. The real highlights, though, have to be the gorgeous flutes (various types) and the soaring and spiritual electric guitar work. For pure haunting folk, 'Cola-tik' is the embodiment of melancholy whereas the progressive folk rock number 'Maiden Voyage' displays the band's talent with extended compositions.

While the opening side is excellent, there is no foreshadowing of the brilliance to be found on the flip side. It moves beyond folk rock to a more complex prog rock sound and climaxing at the end of the album with a psychedelic space rock sequence not found since the glory days of Krautrock and bands like Ash Ra Tempel. 'Transcendence' starts this side with serene piano and is augmented by bombarde and flute. Then a powerful electric guitar enters to play the same beautiful melody. The tone gets noticeably louder until there's a dramatic break. Here, Avalanche display a ferocity that is a complete contrast to the delicate and mellow nature displayed so far. A soft, two-minute acoustic ballad is inserted to calm the nerves before the massively powerful 'Oblivion enters. This 11-minute plus opus is the high water mark for folk rock. As on 'Transcendence', the composition opens softly with a stunning acoustic guitar melody which is then offset by some dire sounding flutes followed by harmonium. It's just unbelievably pretty yet somehow very sad. Just when you're ready to cry, the electric rhythm guitar begins a simple, jazzy pattern. The bass and drums follow shortly thereafter creating a head-moving groove. Entering unannounced is a twin guitar attack which begins to pulverize your senses. The sound is heavy and acidic like that of Manuel Göttsching, and the playing has the same soul the Ash Ra guitarist has. The solo contains a number of original melodies within that add to the special quality. And this goes on for close to seven minutes to solidify one of the most intense and beautiful guitar solos in rock history. The album ends at the peak of the solo; one almost wishes for another 15 minutes to be found from the same tape. What a trip through the emotions!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Reggie Lucas - Survival Themes. 1976 USA

Reggie Lucas - Survival Themes. 1976 East Wind (Japan)

CD reissues: 2002 East Wind (Japan mini-LP); 2015 East Wind (Japan)

LP reissue: 1978 Inner City

Release details: Unusual in that the original version is from Japan, and wasn't licensed to Lewis' native USA until two years later. Inner City must have had a bout of madness to even bother issuing this title - at least from a financial perspective. As such, original LP copies are obscure, though can be found easily as I write this. Both CD reissues are from the original parent label. I didn't know about the 2002 mini-LP until I saw it in Discogs. I'm guessing it was quite rare until the new pressing came along this year. And it's in a standard jewel case, which is not the norm anymore for Japan. Because of this, the price is very reasonable and I suggest you pounce on this title soon before it too becomes rare.

Notes: Well... now. I think we have something here, don't we? I never heard of Reggie Lucas prior, but seeing he's the guitarist in the great Philly based disco/funk ensemble MSFB, that already brings a smile to my face (not to mention a session guitarist for a slew of big names including Miles Davis). I hadn't run into his Inner City LP after all these years of crate digging, though I probably just passed right over it without giving it a second thought. Don't make that same mistake now, folks. I went ahead and forked over for the Japanese CD sound unheard based on a reliable tip from Gnosis Mike, and it proved to be money. Slewfoot is a foot stompin' Funkadelic like psych rock groover, with plenty of Lucas' wonderful guitar along with horn accompaniment and Clavinet. Tender Years is the only "period" piece here, a sunny and tropical romantic 70s cruise ship dinner number that gets all parties at the table in the right mood. And probably was the "bait song" that ultimately maddened those looking for similar type sound. Lucas must have been bored out of his mind by now, as he moved right along with a fusion psych piece in Barefoot Song, that features plenty of melodic interplay amongst the psych guitar madness. And this leads us to the side long title track, that is at once experimental, as well as off the rails insane. Hand percussion and heavily phased guitar define this most wacky composition from this most unlikely source. The final 8 minutes actually reminds me of the eerily and similarly titled Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush live piece Electric Reflections of War. Given that both pieces were released at the same time in the US (though Lucas' album was originally released in Japan in 1976, hence the CD release from there...) makes it that much more intriguing. It's just the kind of payoff track I look for to ultimately be enshrined into the Great Freaky Underground of albums. This album has zero commercial potential and makes you wonder what on Earth was Lucas thinking. Well he wasn't... Thinking that is... Just awesome.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ash Ra Tempel - Starring Rosi. 1973 Germany

Ash Ra Tempel - Starring Rosi. 1973 Kosmische Music. Also released in France, Netherlands, and Italy (latter on PDU)

CD reissues: 1991 Spalax (France); 2000 King (Japan); 2010 Belle Antique (Japan mini); 2011 MG.ART

LP reissues: 1981 Pop Import

Next in our segment of Ash Ra Tempel releases

Release details: Single sleeve cover featuring Gottsching's doll faced girlfriend Rosi Mueller. Plenty of supply of this title for originals, but they still aren't cheap. All other variations can be found for far less money with a bit of searching. My story is similar to many of the Ash Ra Tempel albums, and I was able to buy a new Pop Import copy in the mid 80s. Sometime in the 90s I purchased (or traded for) an original LP. I eventually ended up with the Japanese mini LP for my digital copy. They all pretty much sound alike, including Gottsching's own MG.ART releases (of the ones I've heard), so you might as well get the nicest package. The King release is something I didn't know about until seeing it in Discogs this morning.

Notes: Starring Rosi is Ash Ra Tempel's 5th album, and a departure from the intensity of the previous 3 studio albums, as well as the drugged out live Seven Up outing. Gottsching recruited Dieter Dierks (Scorpions, a million others) not only for his usual superb production ability, but also for bass guitar duty. As well, Kosmische Kourier / Wallenstein standby drummer Harald Grosskopf makes his presence felt (and would later join Manuel in his Ashra trio format of the late 70s and early 80s). As stated in the premise, the album's contents are completely different from the emotional workouts of their previous studio offerings. The mood is light and carefree. And it appears as if Manuel and Rosi are just having a fun date here (she does glow radiantly on the album cover, one must admit). The guitar style shown on the latter half of "Join Inn"'s Freak N' Roll makes its presence on Interplay of Forces and Laughter Loving. Schizo recalls the intensity of the earlier albums, but is sadly all too short. Through it all we have Rosi's lovely spoken voice (in English verse the German of "Join Inn") and a bit of ill-advised singing from Manuel (something he fortunately gave up quickly). Overall a very pleasant and unique album. If the proper expectations are set, you will likely be rewarded here.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Ash Ra Tempel - Seven Up. 1973 Germany

Ash Ra Tempel - Seven Up. 1973 Die Kosmischen Kuriere

CD reissues: 1991 Spalax (France); 2010 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP); 2011 MG.ART

LP reissues: 1974 Die Kosmischen Kuriere; 1974 PDU (Italy); 1975 Barclay (France); 1981 Pop Import

This is the next segment in our Ash Ra Tempel retrospective.

Release details: Originals are housed in a cool gatefold design (first cover) and comes with a small detailed insert. Die Kosmischen Kuriere was the original name for what became known as Kosmische Musik - and this is the debut album for the imprint. The second scan is the "alternate" cover, for purposes of promotion (exploitation?) of LSD guru Leary, and is a single sleeve. All other presses use this design. Except I believe the Barclay press is a single sleeve, but utilizes the original cover art. My first copy came in the middle 80s like most of the ART albums, as the Pop Import copy could still be purchased new back then. In the late 90s I traded for an original. Since I've never been a big fan of this album, I didn't pick up a CD until the Japanese mini came out, which of course replicates the original to the finest detail.

Notes: During this period, Ash Ra Tempel were contributors to a kind of cosmic circus, touring around with others of a similar mindset concerning philosophical thought, lifestyles, and music. Seven Up, is the recorded document of this time while in Switzerland. The fame the album has achieved is due in part to two elements: (1) The involvement of drug culture icon Timothy Leary, and (2) the dropping of acid into the band members' 7-Up. While that might sound radical up front, Seven Up is quite tame compared to the first two masterpieces. The first side long montage is a medley of electronics and drugged reworks of pop hits from the 50's and 60's. Unique? Yes. Satisfying? Perhaps not. Side two is a rework of the spacey 'Suche and Liebe' from Schwingungen. This version, called 'Time' and which contains a slightly different opening, is quite good - but not overly moving - and you get the impression the band's ready for bed after partaking in too much alternative nutrition. A much better version of Seven Up can be found in the outtakes and studio reworks found on Gilles Zeitschiff's Sternenmadchen album.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Neighb'rhood Childr'n - s/t. 1968 USA

Neighb'rhood Childr'n - s/t. 1968 Acta

CD reissues: 1997 Sundazed (released as Long Years in Space); 2007 Airmail (Japan mini-LP); 2011 Sundazed

LP reissues: 1997 Sundazed (2LP released as Long Years in Space); 2011 Sundazed

Release details: Classic American psych era single sleeve cover with a wonderful photo of the rolling hills of San Francisco and the Victorian housing with the classic bay windows. Originals tend to be all over the lot, but expect to pay between $200 and $300 for a nice one. A sealed copy recently went for $180, so it does pay to do your homework. There's a lot of supply of this title, but demand is also high. Acta was Dot Records psychedelic era imprint and only lasted about 2 years. A friend of mine here in Dallas first introduced me to this title in the late 80s via his original LP, though the only copy I've ever owned is the first Sundazed reissue which I picked up not long after release. Speaking of which, the reissue situation is a bit confused. The first CD reissue is the 1997 Sundazed version which is known as Long Years in Space (second scan). And you really have to pay attention here, because it's not "album as released" + bonus tracks, but rather the original is all jumbled up and one of those tracks were mixed in with the "bonus" tracks. Overall it's an excellent document, with great liner notes, and fascinating renditions of cover songs and other originals. The Japanese CD is a reissue of Long Years in Space, rather than just the album proper, though they retained the original artwork (and no title). The 2011 reissues are baffling, in that they are a straight reissue of just the album proper, rather than the full blown production of the past. I suspect it was done to keep the pirates at bay, though the Long Years in Space reissues seem to be readily available. I can't see much reason to get these latter reissues (CD or LP).

Notes: A well documented psych album, and I'm in the majority with those who say that Neighb'rhood Childr'n are a prime example of the entire American late 60s era. Originally from the southern Oregon town of Medford, the band migrated to San Francisco like many others to be a participant of the scene. While never hitting the big time, they were certainly one of its finest exports. The music is tight and compact with memorable melodies, bumble fee fuzz, older stock organ, and male/female vocals. The songwriting is extraordinary, and Neighb'rhood Childr'n could have easily been one of the big names of the entire genre (and beyond). Essential for fans of late 60s American psych.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Panko - Weil Es So Schön Perlt. 1971 Germany

Panko - Weil Es So Schön Perlt. 1983 Getto Produktion. Cassette only archival release of 1971 recordings.

CD reissue: 2014 Garden of Delights

Release details: Most assuredly one of the most intriguing discoveries of the last 10 years. A cassette from the early 80s featuring vintage Krautrock from 1971. No one was into this kind of musik in 1983! Except maybe the members of LS Bearforce... Pretty much everyone learned of this cassette via the Mutant Sounds blog, including Garden of Delights themselves (as noted in the comments of the post). And I suspect I know where Eric got his physical copy of the tape, but it's pure speculation on my part (hint - think famous lists). After hearing it, we also put it in the CDRWL immediately, and stated what a perfect reissue opportunity for Garden of Delights. And lo and behold, here we are. The CD is chock full of biographical data - and for the first time that I can recall - even a download blog post was mentioned and they added Eric's usual great review. The CDRWL was sadly left off... always unloved and forgotten (awwww sniff sniff). No matter to me, because this is really what I wanted - the CD. There are two bonus tracks on here that are perhaps better than the tape! On the downside, the sound really couldn't be improved upon. The source is the source, and this is as good as it will ever get. No one takes their time to do it right more so than GoD. A pity Panko never went into the studio. And a note to GoD: While we all appreciate the preservation and integrity of the sleeve design, the bright tangerine (small) lettering against the day blue background is near impossible to read! Once under a bright light, I felt my eyes relax. :-D  As for sourcing the CD here in the States, patience has proven that it will eventually come over here. I have no such patience, and imported mine straight from Germany. My advice to fellow Yanks is to build up an order of about 4 to 6 items with your favorite European seller, and the postage costs become less of an issue. Otherwise, one CD/LP is too much money to ship.

Notes: Out of nowhere comes this obscure Krautrock tape, that reminds me most of the Erna Schmidt archival release. Also the first album of Thirsty Moon, especially their 'Yellow Sunshine' opus. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention Xhol Caravan as well, especially when considering their archival live material. Guitar, sax, flute, fuzz bass, German narration, and echoed voices. The whole album screams 1971 Germany, and no doubt would have found themselves on the Ohr label had they held it together long enough (another similarity with Erna Schmidt). The last track Elektonisches is a bit annoying in its attempt for pure improv experimentalism. The CD adds two 11+ minute bonus tracks that are perhaps even better than the album proper, and showcase Panko's fascination with Middle Eastern music. Similar to Agitation Free and Embryo in that way. Unfortunately, the sound quality is a bit rough, and the source couldn't be improved upon. Even so, overall, Panko's sole album is a superb historical document.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Phantasia - s/t. 1972 USA

Phantasia - s/t. 1972 Damon Recording Studios

CD reissue: 2002 World in Sound (Germany)

LP reissues: 2003 World in Sound (Germany); 2013 World in Sound (Germany)

Release details: The one original I could find online is the first photo. A mere $4K scored that one. Seems almost a bargain by contrast to others of its ilk. For the rest of us, the World in Sound reissues not only allow you to own the album, but greatly enhance the experience. There are very detailed liner notes, a much more attractive cover, very good sound, and the vinyl editions come in a gatefold. All the reissues include as bonus tracks the one sided EP (Walkenhorst-De Pugh. 1972 Damon). The vinyl renditions have this as an additional 10 inch record. The CD is sold out here in the States, but I did secure a new copy from Germany recently, so it appears a small amount of stock remains. There are a few dates usually attributed to this album, but because of those detailed liner notes, 1972 appears to be the correct date.

Notes: Kansas City's Phantasia is truly one of America's great oddball albums. Privately released to an audience of zero, it would take many years for anyone to even hear the album much less reissue it (by a German label no less). Other than the overtly psychedelic rock opening Transparent Face and closing Give Life Another Try, one could be forgiven for describing Phantasia as a long extended version of King Crimson's 'I Talk to the Wind'. Basically atmospheric and acoustically driven psychedelic folk, with hazy vocals and melancholic verses. One track is called 'I Talk to the Moon', so there you have it. If that's all there was, I would still give it a high mark as it's well executed, but then there's that one payoff track that takes it to the next level. The 9+ minute Genena sounds like Simon & Garfunkel meets Avalanche's 'Oblivion'.

I can already anticipate the question most of you will have.

Who is Simon & Garfunkel?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Gebarvaterli - Im Tal der Emmen. 1978 Germany

Gebärväterli - Im Tal der Emmen. 1978 Brutkasten

CD reissue: 2014 Bibi Tontrager

Release details: Like most albums on the small press Brutkasten label, originals are very scarce and can be expensive depending on who is selling. This is one of those titles that seemed hopeless in seeing a CD reissue, but as we announced on the CDRWL on New Years Day, we now have one direct from the band. And a fine reissue it is, housed attractively in a digi-pak, with great sound and two long and relevant live bonus tracks. There are no liner notes, but even if there were, I'm rather certain they would be in German, as this is clearly an indigenous band with no attempt whatsoever to expand beyond (note the song titles alone). On that topic, it remains unclear that any US dealer will bring this one in, so I ordered my copy direct from Germany.

Notes: Despite the artist and title sounding like some sort of alpine cheese, Gebärväterli is anything but cheesy. Technically the music fits in the large Kraut fusion school of the late 1970s, but this album won't remind you of Kraan, Embryo, Missus Beastly, etc... In fact, there are parts here that recall the great Tortilla Flat (especially in the rhythms and flute solo sections). And when the trombone gets featured, I'm reminded of Nanu Urwerk, another square-peg-in-a-round hole German fusion band. While it's not perfect throughout (sometimes it's pure jazz - fine - but not ideal for me anyway), this is one of the best new-for-me obscurities that I heard for the first time 6 years ago. The two live bonus tracks total over 25 minutes, and are very similar to the album itself. Naturally given the live setting (one from 1977, the other 1981), and the jazzy disposition of the band,  these tracks are stretched out with more room given for solo improvisation. But the melodic core of the song is never lost.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mystic Siva - s/t. 1971 USA

Mystic Siva - s/t. 1971 V.O. Recording

CD reissues: 2001 World in Sound (Germany); 2014 World in Sound (Germany)

LP reissues: 2001 World in Sound (Germany); 2014 World in Sound (Germany)

Release details: This is one those biggies, that consistently fetch multi-thousands in auction. It is very easy to understand why - the album is practically the definition of the private press psych hard rock sound that the music collector world craves. Originals are extremely scarce, and this is about as true a representation of the entire genre as can be. Pirates were quick into the water with this title, and that was my first exposure to the group back in the late 80s (muddy, crappy sound). Because of this, my appreciation of the album had been held back for years. I eventually received a decent sounding CD-R, and by that time the first World in Sound CD had fallen out of print, and the pirates were back. Fortunately World in Sound returned last year with a fine remaster of their original 2001 press, and so I snapped it up. The 2014 version, World in Sound assures us, is the best ever sound yet. The CD is indeed great and features some excellent liner notes as well. Of course, keep expectations in check regarding the sound. Best possible sound? Probably. But they can't perform magic - the originals are what they are, and it's that lo-fi sound that is a big part of the allure to begin with. Oddly, this new remaster is hard to source here in the States, so I ended up importing it from Germany, which is why it took me so long to obtain it.

Notes: There are certain types of underground rock that are highly desirable, more for their mood and atmosphere, verse actual songwriting and talent. The “lost teenager angst” sound is one of the most sought after in this category, as it provides an historic panorama of a certain time and place. Michigan’s Mystic Siva is the Holy Grail for such a sound. Musically, it’s a typical album for the time, not mature enough to be signed by a major label, and the production values are pure garage. Normal 1970 mix of psych, proto metal, some funk and some punk. But the realism of this album just oozes from the grooves, a miasma of doom and gloom. Yep, the girlfriend just left and that dead end union job at the auto plant is starting to look like a very real place for a very real long time. Throw in some high school mysticism, and you have a world class recording from the vaults of America’s "fly over country”. It is rare to capture that mood, that hopelessness, that despair. Mystic Siva did all of this and more.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Ashra - Correlations. 1979 Germany

Ashra - Correlations. 1979 Virgin (UK). Pressed and released in many other countries

This is our 4th feature on Ash Ra Tempel/Ashra

CD reissues: 1990 Virgin; 2002 Spalax (France); 2008 MG.ART; 2008 Arcangelo (Japan mini); 2012 Belle Antique (Japan mini)

LP reissue: 2004 Spalax (France)

Release details: Single sleeve cover that features a very evocative photo. Originals are relatively common and easy to find. The consensus is that the UK version is the original, but it's just semantics at this point. I bought mine at the same time as the Blackouts LP and my personal story is contained there. CDs are also common, though for a short while from the mid 90s to the early 00s, sourcing the original German copy had proven difficult. Once the Spalax version hit the market, that problem remained solved. I would submit that the Japanese mini's and the Spalax LP have to be considered superfluous by any definition. This album's long recording sessions were also released in a 3 CD format, but that's for a different post.

Notes: In 1979, Manuel Göttsching once again changed directions. Reuniting with former colleagues Lutz Ulbricht (guitar and synthesizers) and Harald Grosskopf (drums and synthesizers), Ashra presented their version of the power trio. Correlations was the first release of two by the lineup. Once again the mood is light, with bouncy almost funky rhythms, heavy use of sequencers, and of course, Manuel's spirited but rambling guitar. An album that has aged incredibly well for me, though I had reservations initially.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Errata Corrige - Siegfried, il Drago e Altre Storie. 1976 Italy

Errata Corrige - Siegfried, il Drago e Altre Storie. 1976 EC

CD reissues: 1989 Vinyl Magic; 2002 Vinyl Magic

Release details: Basic single sleeve cover. Very scarce as an original, and can get expensive depending on condition and who's selling it. Private presses from Italy were still unheard of in 1976, and this is one of the first along with Apoteosi. The first CD to market was, as usual, Vinyl Magic, and I bought one not long after release and it continues to be my sole copy. As is often the case with VM, the packaging is basic but the quality of the sound is high. The 2002 version is distinguished by the changing of the cover color from blue to pink and a bar code on the back. Because of this repress, the CD can still be found new for regular import prices. No LP reissues to date, which is a bit of a surprise I think. (Ask and he shall receive.... see comments!)

Notes: For those coming at Errata Corrige with the expectation that this will be another Italian wild ride along the likes of Museo Rosenbach and Semiramis, they will most certainly be sorely disappointed. But patience and a strong appreciation of excellent songwriting, will ultimately convert the most discerning of listeners. Acoustic guitar, flute, and wonderful vocals in Italian define this fine work. There is definitely a rock component (including electric guitars and synthesizers), as well as a clear jazz school influence that pervades. Some of the melodies will raise the hair on your arms. To me, this is one of those feel of Italy albums, and once you're hooked on that drug, there's no going back. And Errata Corrige will provide that fix we all need.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Moving Gelatine Plates - s/t. 1970-1979 France

Moving Gelatine Plates - s/t. 2014 Monster Melodies. Archival LP release of recordings from 1970-1979.

Release details: What you see in the photo is what you can expect to receive on this fine archival release from one of Paris' more famous record stores (and one I've personally been to): Monster Melodies. It's an expensive package, but for diehard fans like me, it would have to be considered an essential purchase (if you still have a turntable that is). So what do you get for your money? The cover is a thick glossy gatefold, and the inside is filled with vintage newspaper articles (all in French). The back of the cover has detailed liner notes of the recordings in English. The vinyl is heavy duty, and pressed in appropriate Genius Hans Pink (perhaps Sherwin-Williams should offer this?). The inserts include an informative band family tree from 1966 to the present, with biographical information (again all in French) on the other side on thick textured paper. As well, a band logo post card with an archival photo is included. As you can see, there is also a single disc that contains their original first recordings. Overall a superb document.

Notes: I had secretly hoped that Moving Gelatine Plates would have archival material sitting in the vaults somewhere. And now we have proof that such a thing exists. Side 1 features recordings from a concert in 1972. 'The World of Genius Hans', 'Astromonster', and 'London Cab' are presented here with fascinating alternate versions of the originals - not surprising given the jazzy disposition of the band in general. This particular concert is after the 1971 studio recording of Genius Hans and features new drummer Alain Clarel. Naturally enough 'London Cab' is the most different of the three, since it's from the debut album. Side 2 contains material from two different settings in 1978 and 1979, when they were officially known as Moving. The first track is called 'Galantine', which is wordplay for 'Gelatine', and it is indeed an excellent rendition of the debut album composition. The shorter 'Syntheme' follows, and is one of the better tracks from their 1981 album. Though in rawer form, which is more pleasant to my ears anyway. Both of these tracks were from a 1978 concert. The 13+ minute 'Like a Flower' is a 1979 home recording of an older track going back to 1970, but never recorded in studio form until the reformation "Removing" album (2006). All 6 tracks are of "bootleg standard" quality. There is quite a bit of loss in these tapes - but the music is definitely recognizable, and at times, revelatory. And certainly enjoyable.

In addition to the album proper, there is a 1970 single that is known to be their first ever recordings. And it is an entirely frustrating experience. The first side is 'London Cab' - an excellent 6+ minute rendition and perhaps the highlight of the entire album. And it's in 33 RPM, which I figured they did on purpose knowing us folks with real turntables have to physically alter the mechanics (no easy switch, that is to say) to obtain 45 RPM. But alas, side 2's 'X25' is indeed just that: 45 RPM. And at only 2 minutes, it takes longer to move things around than it does to hear it. Honestly, I wouldn't bother as it's not much different than the original anyway. To complicate matters, the liner notes have these tracks confused with each other. I assure you, the longer track is 'London Cab' (though not labeled on the disc itself).

Personally, I think all 8 of these tracks would have been better served as CD (or LP) bonus material to the original albums, but Monster Melodies is to be commended for giving the buyer good value for their money considering the entire package.

You can read more about this release (in French) here