Sunday, January 15, 2017

VIII Strada - Babylon. 2015 Italy

VIII Strada - Babylon. 2015 Fading (CD)

VIII Strada are an Italian prog band trapped in a power metal body. Or are they a power metal band trapped in an Italian prog body? Hmmm. Either way, I've more or less described the album for you. And no, it's not prog metal either. The Italian vocals and sophisticated structures point to their progressive rock heritage. The melodic songwriting with choruses and (slightly) metal tone give them the power metal edge. I'd say they are 65% prog / 35% power metal. Not that genres only matter, but it does give some guidance at least. Oh - yes - the music is quite good actually. There's a mid 70s vibe to their melodies that I find highly appealing. Personally I would wish for more of a "retro prog" feel, but who asked? Nobody. For those who like "fusion" restaurants, and I don't mean jazz.

Mountain Ash - Moments. 1980 Germany

Mountain Ash - Moments. 1980 No Fun

No reissues!

Mountain Ash were an obscure German band who play a very simplistic form of late 70s rock, but with long stretches of instrumental work, thus giving off a whiff of progressive rock, or even fusion, styles. There's an enormous amount of what sounds like an ARP Solina String Ensemble on display as well, which dates the heck out of this one. It's a very pleasant and inoffensive album, with a reasonable amount of quality melodic composition interspersed throughout. But, of course, every time they open their mouth, trouble is around the corner. Apparently the band have ties to Jane - at the very least it was recorded in their studio. And honestly, it's not much different than what they were doing during this era. So you now have - what they call in the corporate world - Guidance.

This would have been a CDRWL blog feature, and would have received a Priority None. Not a bad album at all. I only have a CD-R.

Manfred Wieczorke - Transfer. 1987 Germany

Manfred Wieczorke - Transfer. 1987 In-Akustik (CD)

When I saw this rather obscure CD come across the wire, I was most intrigued. I hadn't realized Manfred Wieczorke had any solo albums, and given that his work with Eloy and Jane in the 70s was exemplary, I was most curious what this would be like, so I snapped it up. Looking at the cover, it was apparent this would be of the electronic music variety. And indeed that is exactly what it is. Of course, anything from 1987 comes with the hazard of thin sounding digital tones. And while there is certainly some of that here, in particular the opener and closer, I think many will be surprised at the quality put forth. There's some nice sequencer work, most notably on 'Qued', but I wouldn't necessarily categorize the album as from the Berlin School. The compositions are well thought out, with plenty of variety, and an eye on melody. Not a classic of the genre by a long shot, but certainly no better or worse than what Klaus Schulze was releasing in the mid to late 80s.

Fragile - Phantom. 2006 Japan

Fragile - Phantom. 2006 VEGA Music (CD)

Fragile are a long running fusion band from Japan, and Phantom is my first encounter with the group, a mere decade after its initial release. Fragile are from the modern school of Japanese fusion, where the technical ability is astounding, and the compositions are strictly a foundation to support that. Rather than the other way around, which would be my preference. It's a tough genre to break new ground, as many before them have tread similar paths with varying results. So it was with much surprise that the opening two tracks caught my attention. Indeed this is inventive fusion, and as expected, the playing is exemplary, in particular the guitarist. However, as the disc continues on, ear fatigue begins to set in. And despite the band's best attempts at lightening the mood with intervals, one begins to look for a bit more depth in the songwriting department. Experience tells me that albums like Phantom are best heard in snippets to best appreciate. It seems an EP length would serve them better. In any case, this one rises near the top for an album such as this. If bands like Prism, Side Steps, and Exhivision get your heart started, then it would appear Fragile should go straight to your buy/want list. At least based on the strength of Phantom.

This is a very obscure CD that I added to Discogs myself a few months back. I remain the sole owner and contributor.

Opa - Goldenwings. 1976 Uruguay

Opa - Goldenwings. 1976 Milestone

CD reissues: 1996 BMG (Argentina); 2011 BGP (UK)

If you read enough of my reviews (painful as it may be), you'll note I often refer to certain fusion albums as "light, breezy, and tropical". One would have to go to great lengths to find a more apt group that fits this description than Uruguay's Opa. These terms should not be viewed upon as a pejorative however. When done right, as is the case on Goldenwings, the results can be sublime. The melodies are superb here, and I find the songwriting to be considerably above average. This is a borderline 4 star release, and the only thing holding it back is the stubborn reliance on certain late 70s cliches and tonalities. Overall, Goldenwings makes a fine soundtrack to your next Love Boat excursion, whether on a tropical island or watching it on TV...

In addition to a native press, originals can be found in the US and Japan. I added the BMG disc to discogs a few months back and I remain the sole owner and contributor. However, 3 have since added it to their want list.

Trampled Underfoot - s/t. 1998 USA

Trampled Underfoot - s/t. 1998 Pony Canyon (Japan CD)

CD reissue: 2003 Steelheart (Italy)

Trampled Underfoot were an obscure metal band from Charlotte, North Carolina, who were lead by guitar instructor Kyle Harrison. Contrary to what one would think knowing this tidbit, the album is actually a really fine melodic heavy metal album, with some added complexity, along the lines of mid 80s Iron Maiden or Savatage. There's a few "lookee what I can do" moments of shred, but they are placed tastefully, so fortunately this isn't a guitar hero album, which are often boring to anyone but students of the instrument. The songs are well written, the tones are heavy (in an 80s way), and the vocals are fantastic*. An interesting moniker the band chose, but unfortunately there are no links musically to Led Zeppelin's hard rock staple.

One reason the album is so obscure, is the only release it obtained initially was via Pony Canyon in Japan (first scan), which would have guaranteed it to be an expensive import for most fans at the time (and still not in Discogs as I write this). And 1998 was not a good year commercially for this kind of metal anyway. 5 years later, the Italian label Steelheart picked it up for wider distribution. But with the band in mothballs and metal not quite in "nostalgia mode" yet, the audience was predictably light, and into the mists of obscurity Trampled Underfoot went to be discovered at a later date. And it will be, mark my words. I have to say the Japanese cover is more alluring.

* - An interesting footnote here. Based on internet comments from singer Shawn Perlata,he states that he only sang on three of the songs. He goes on to note that the singer on the other vocal tracks was a gentleman named Rod Hendrix. Hendrix himself is not listed anywhere in the credits of the Steelheart CD, and Perlata is the only person photoed and credited with vocals. Bizarre.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Naniwaya Tatsumaru & Warner Beatniks - Keiantaiheiki (Yoshitatsu Kyounobori) Rock Roukyoku Rock. 1971 Japan

Naniwaya Tatsumaru & Warner Beatniks - Keiantaiheiki (Yoshitatsu Kyounobori) Rock Roukyoku Rock. 1971 Reprise

No reissues!

Such a catchy title, eh?

In any case, Tatsumaru is performing what is known as Roukyoku, which is a narrative type of singing accompanied by a 3 stringed lute known as the shamisen, providing an aural incense-burn like setting. For those cultural neanderthals like myself, the only way I can describe his performance here is to imagine an anguished JA Seazer (well, that's self-defining isn't it?)... on his 6th bourbon.

But of course, there's more than traditional Japanese music here. It's the early 70s, so the "Warner Beatniks" is yet another name for guitarist Kimio Mizutani (who must have played on one album a day back then) and his motley crew of studio performers. The psychedelic rock bits are exciting, but all too short, and leaves the listener wanting more. Way more.

An interesting artifact for certain, and definitely one to find if doing the deep dig in Japanese archeological rock studies. Might require a few extra shovels to actually find however... If looking for an original, there's currently one coipy available on Discogs for the low low price of $2,200. I think I'll await a reissue... This would have scored a Priority 0/None,though once again, it's a very interesting listen.

This was another late era CDRWL submission from the AC. His notes below:

"Another of the many "New Rock" era attempts at a cross-cultural fusion between rock and traditional Japanese music, in this case roukyoku, a type of narrative singing usually accompanied by the shamisen. Tatsumaru barks, growls and whines out the running monologue, alternating between sly humor and extreme agitation as the text calls for, accompanied by his tsugaru-shamisen strumming/thrashing and occasional heavy prog/psych outbursts, or more cinematic sounding backdrops of strings, flute, etc. The rock sections come courtesy of the Warner Beatniks, which was just another name for the "usual suspects" studio crew of Yusuke Hoguchi, Kimio Mizutani, etc. It's a fairly interesting experiment, but does have some serious drawbacks. The main problem being that the rock bits tend to kind of jump in and out rather quickly, making for a somewhat disjointed sound, and leaving the listener to sit through lengthy sections of traditional unaccompanied roukyoku narration and shamisen plucking. Which is fine if you're a dedicated fan of the style, but will probably try the patience of the more general prog/psych listener. It's an expensive item these days (more so once it gets into the hands of hyperbolic western record dealers than in its native Japan), so I feel a "buyer beware" is in order here, despite my own general amusement with it. Great sinister cover art, duplicated in even more evil looking red on the back. As a side note, the sleeve states this is the second release in the "Bikkuri Series" ("surprising series"). If memory serves correctly, the first was the thoroughly ridiculous (but entertaining) "Rock Christmas Rock", which as you might have guessed is an album of rocked-out Christmas songs performed by the Warner Beatniks and featuring one of the most hideously eye-scarring record covers in human history."

Tatsuya Takahashi & Tokyo Union Orchestra - The Rock Seasons. 1972 Japan

Tatsuya Takahashi & Tokyo Union Orchestra - The Rock Seasons. 1972 Toshiba-Express

No reissues!

Lead by saxophonist Tatsuya Takahashi, The Rock Seasons is basically instrumental electric big band music. There's a minor fuzz edge here, but in principle, this is rock music for the coat and tie set. The themes are decidedly mid 60s, and one could hear this as being a soundtrack to a frivolous film of that era. Being a former stage band performer myself, music like this can be challenging to play, and the horn charts are often complicated. It's all a bit of good fun though, and truth be told, there isn't a whole a lot of this kind of music on the open market.

Like many Japanese rock albums from the early 70s, The Rock Seasons is about as common as finding government employees working on official holidays.

This was one of the last CDRWL submissions from the AC (early 2015), who has gone missing since. We definitely miss his contributions - not just to that blog, but to my overall knowledge. Come back man!

His comments are: "Late saxophonist and band leader Takahashi appeared on about a million different recordings in his heyday, but seems to be most known outside of Japan for some of his mid 70s work on the Three Blind Mice label. From my perspective however, his most interesting work might be this obscure set recorded with his Tokyo Union big band during the height of Japan's "New Rock" era of major label experimentation. There's some kind of seasonal/elemental theme going on here, but it's not too relevant honestly, as what we're presented with is a fun sequence of instrumental electric big band/jazz rock pieces that are propelled along by melodic sax/flute, tight horn charts, groovy bass lines and even the occasional fuzz/wah guitar lick. Lacks the depth and atmosphere of a contemporaneous work like Toshiyuki Miyama's "Tsuchi no Ne", but is quite an entertaining listen nonetheless."

This would have received a Priority 0, though close to a 3.

WintherStormer - Woodwork. 2007 Norway

WintherStormer - Woodwork. 2007 Bajkal (CD)

Norway's WintherStormer is a name that represents the combination of the two main protagonists' Terje Winther and Eric Stormer, both of whom play a large array of analog and digital keyboards. The duo perform an old fashioned Berlin School styled music with plenty of cosmic alien textures and complex darkened sequencer lines. They're augmented on this album by an additional electric guitarist and drummer, which adds some needed fire and affords the group many more composition options to pursue. Overall, definitely on par with Radio Massacre International during this era and/or the genre's founding brain trust of Tangerine Dream-Klaus Schulze's 1970s rock based efforts. 76 minutes of progressive electronic goodness is packed within.

Pierre Moerlen's Gong - Leave it Open. 1981 USA

Pierre Moerlen's Gong - Leave it Open. 1981 Arista (Germany)

CD reissues: 2006 BMG/Arista (Japan mini-LP); 2011 Esoteric (UK)

Late in the game fusion album from one of the big names of the genre. Given the date, and other intangibles, I just presumed this would be yet another American styled fuzak album that dominated the record bins of the day. So I never bothered to hear it until now, when the Japanese mini-LP just showed up (2016). This is anything but fuzak. Leave it Open is a very fine jazz rock album, like the kind you might hear in France during this era, with some superb gritty guitar leads from Bon Lozaga. Moerlen's tuned percussion is integral to the music, and doesn't sound gimmicky, which it often can. And you can almost never go wrong when Charlie Mariano is present on saxophone. Best of all, the songwriting is stellar, and the 17 minute track is never boring, nor does it sound like a bunch of ideas pasted together. There's a moment at the 12 to 13 minute mark that sent my hair on end. The only track here that sounded like I first expected is 'It's About Time' with its predictable funky business. And even at that, it's fairly well done and better than average. But the rest is excellent throughout. A major surprise for me.

Wind Wraith - The Fortune Teller's Gaze. 2001 USA

Wind Wraith - The Fortune Teller's Gaze. 2001 private (CD)

CD reissue: 2004 Iron Glory (Germany)

Wind Wraith were an obscure metal band from Long Island, who like many, were lost in the shuffle when seemingly 100's of these albums were coming out every week during this era. The couple of reviews I did find were somewhat middling, though it would appear they were hoping for a power metal classic, which I believe were the fans the album was marketed to. To my ears, this sounds like old fashioned mid 80s post-NWOBHM metal, particularly Iron Maiden around the time of Piece of Mind or Powerslave. There is a certain epicness to their songwriting, even if the track lengths are relatively modest. I was quite impressed with the performance, production, and composition style here - and the concept of melody was never lost. A very nice surprise.

Iron Glory were also responsible for many of the Manilla Road albums/reissues. They folded roughly around 2005 or so.

Opus 1 - Opus. 1983 Germany

Opus 1 - Opus. 1983 Peak

CD reissue: 1990 Intercord (as the band Pur)

Opus (aka Pur) were an obscure German band from the early 80s who released this one quite intriguing album. Imagine Marillion doing their updated take-on-Genesis bit, but as a Neue Deutsche Welle band singing in German, rather than as a neo prog outfit. Yea, I know, but try.... There..... Now you get it... right? There's even mellotron on a few tracks. Jeez, these guys were hedging bets all over the place.

Discogs has the original as 1981, and RYM as 1983. The latter is the copyright date on the CD, and the music certainly sounds more like 1983 to me. I do not own any copy beyond a CD-R which was submitted for the CDRWL. I had no idea it was already reissued on CD, because of the name switch. Discogs put that together for me (RYM doesn't list it). I'm not sure it's worth pursuing to be honest, but an interesting album all the same. I'd keep the CD if it showed up. They should have stuck with the original artwork though.

Rittenhouse Square - s/t. 1972 USA

Rittenhouse Square - s/t. 1972 R 2

No reissues!

Rittenhouse Square were a band from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, that were named, best I can discern, from a popular rock nightclub in the area at that time. The name itself comes from Philadelphia, and is one of the first natural parks in the area, dating back to the 1600's.

With that forensic data out of the way, the band Rittenhouse Square were primarily a straight rock and roll band, done up early 70s style. The two notable tracks here are 'King Battle of the Bands', which is an excellent hard rock number... and 'The Plant Song' which features some superb extended jamming, though the song itself is fairly pedestrian.  A nice find for deep divers (like myself), but certainly not exceptional.

A former ebay auction informs us (which is where the photo above comes from): "1972 self-released six-song 12" EP on their own R-2 (or R-Squared) Records label, with a catalog number of CCSS 1214... The band featured Mitch Easter (later of Let's Active), Peter Holsapple (of The DB's), Chris Stamey (The DB's) and drummer Bobby Locke who also produced the record. The music featured is not at all like the later work of its most famous trio. It's kind of blues rock dueling guitar riffs and progressive rock stylings, mixed with some Beatles harmonies and hand claps in places, and crazy drumming throughout. I believe that Mitch Easter sings on the five songs that he wrote and Peter Holsapple sings on his. I hear that the band were in high school when this record was released. That's some serious skills for a bunch of kids if that's what they were. It's very much a music of its time... Of the sleeve so much has been written about the many versions that it's tricky to place its value with the different editions of the EP that were made. My front cover features the R-2 logo and the back cover has a reverse of this logo. As far as I can tell from research and from a comment by Easter my custom-made version of the sleeve with the R-2 logo is a silk screen that raises the print slightly from the card cover. The ink sits on top of the card rather than printed into it. This may be an extremely rare version of the cover, as Easter quotes elsewhere that only twenty were made, but was it of this version? I could not say. The blue duct tape that covers two sides of the sleeve was also of the bands' invention, with Peter Holsapple acknowledging elsewhere that they made the sleeves slightly larger and with the duct tape in order to ensure that it would not fit on to your record shelves. Some versions of the EP came with an insert featuring a photo of the band but I don't have that here."

This would have been labeled a Priority 0 on the old CDRWL, but I thought it worth mentioning, given its rarity. I only have a CD-R rip myself.

The Way We Live - A Candle For Judith. 1971 England

The Way We Live - A Candle For Judith. 1971 Dandelion

CD reissues: 1988 SPM (Germany); 1992 SPM/World Wide (as Tractor... Including The Way We Live. Germany); 1993 Repertoire (Germany); 2003 Ozit; 2009 Air Mail (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissue: 2008 Ozit

The Way We Live was Version 1.0 of Tractor. A solid mix of prog, hard rock, psych, and folk is what you'll find in these grooves. Some really good ragers in 'King Dick II' and 'Willow', though most of the album could be considered somewhat mellow. Not a particularly riveting album, but not egregious either. Worth your time to hear for certain. They were to improve as Tractor, but the roots are clearly planted on A Candle for Judith.

The CD I own is a real crap job (no info, single card), and I really need to upgrade here. My experience with Ozit and their Tractor reissues is nothing but fantastic, and I'm sure that is the best route to take here. Originals are scarce and very expensive.

Jan Akkerman - Profile. 1972 Netherlands

Jan Akkerman - Profile. 1972 Harvest

Select LP issues: 1972 Sire (USA); 1972 Harvest (UK); 1983 EMI

CD reissues: 1988 EMI (as A Talent's Profile w/ Talent for Sale); 1996 EMI (same as 1988 CD); 2000 BGO (UK); 2009 Wounded Bird (USA)

Profile is a somewhat bizarre solo album from Akkerman, coming at a time when his band Focus was at its commercial peak. One side is mostly sleepy acoustic numbers, though well done and a certain respect should be appropriately afforded. 'Blue Boy' and 'Stick' point to the earlier blues based Talent For Sale, but are livelier and much more kinetic. 'Maybe Just a Dream' sounds like any one of the Focus 'x' instrumentals. And then there's the side long 'Fresh Air'. Which sounds like Brainbox playing 'Anonymous II' from Focus 3, and is quite the exhilarating psychedelic tour de force. Akkerman's guitar is superb here, and perhaps is his finest moment on record.

As for the Talent for Sale album (1968), it's really just a straight up instrumental guitar blues rock work from Jan Akkerman, with a bit of orchestration. Gives absolutely no indication whatsoever what he would later accomplish with Brainbox, and in particular Focus. Other than he's an accomplished guitarist... of course. Wish there was more to add here, but there really isn't.

As noted above, Akkerman was a known quantity in 1972, so this album was originally pressed in many countries, and is still very easy to find. The EMI copy I own is something I first purchased at the time of release, and I only keep it for that reason. CDs are easy to find as well, though the 2-for-1 might be tougher to score in the States.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Ergo Sum - Mexico. 1971 France

Ergo Sum - Mexico. 1971 Theleme

CD reissues: 1992 Musea; 2007 Lion (USA)

LP reissues: 2005 Amber Soundroom (Germany); 2013 Replica

Ergo Sum arrived onto the Parisian scene (though their roots were in Aix-en-Provence) at a time when rock music in France was not much more than an extension of what was happening across the channel in London (exempting, of course, the juggernaut of creativity that was both Magma and Catherine Ribeiro). Recorded and released in 1971, Ergo Sum offer up one of France’s earliest progressive rock experiences, and is easily on par with others from that period like Sandrose, Eden Rose, Alain Markusfeld, Travelling, Ame Son, etc… Before Ange brought national pride back, English was still the lingua franca of French rock music, and Ergo Sum’s Lionel Ledissez (who appropriately enough grew up in Mexico) had truly one of the most unique voices to ever grace a record. Somewhere between Family’s Roger Chapman and a road rage Champs-Elysees taxi driver, his guttural delivery will scare even the most hip modern black metal fan. The music is all delivered at a relaxed pace, with some incredible guitar, flute, piano and violin work. Along with Family, it’s obvious they were fairly informed of what Traffic and East of Eden were doing in those days. The compositions are uniformly strong, and they allow the music to slowly simmer, as albums from that era tend to do. Bonus tracks on the Musea CD are not mere throw-ins either. The superb 'All’s So Cosmic', one of the highlights of the Puissance 13+2 anthology, is included as well as both sides of a musically relevant 45 rpm. In all, Mexico will take many listens to absorb, but the rewards are great for the patient.

Worth noting that the Musea CD reversed the original order, deciding to start with the B side. Original LPs are quite rare,and I wouldn't mind having one myself. I consider this an historically important record. The album has been well served in the reissue market, with quality labels behind the scenes.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

3PM - Better Late Than Never. 1981 USA

3PM - Better Late Than Never. 1981 Ostinato

No reissues!

3PM reminds me quite a bit of another band I recently wrote about: The Fents. 3PM also starts out with some slap bass, and slick funky fusion. But it doesn't take long for the guitars to distort, and the rhythms to get jagged. There are some pretty wicked progressive rock compositions embedded throughout. Just when you think this is going to be a monster, they revert back to some cruise ship styled loungers. It was 1981 after all. Overall a very fine record that fusion fans won't want to miss.

3PM were based in Raleigh, North Carolina. After breaking up, the rhythm section formed the basis of the Steve Morse Band. However, drummer Doug Morgan left prior to their first recording.

Inserts - Out of the Box. 1983 USA

Inserts - Out of the Box. 1983 Nozzle

No reissues!

A very interesting instrumental album from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Inserts are an improvisational guitar based trio, with a clear understanding of the value of a good production. The guitar is distinctly from the Fripp school, including the angry atonal fuzz tone. The bass work has an almost Zeuhl quality about it, though it doesn't rumble along the rhythm like Paganotti or Top would do. These kind of albums didn't typically exist in 1983, but other than the occasional Starless and Bible Black reference, I would say that the Inserts were ahead of their time. You could convince me a band such as Djam Karet may have stumbled onto their album in a used bin somewhere.

The album was pressed in Japan and released on their own label here in America. It's a first class job all the way.

Slychosis - s/t. 2006 USA

Slychosis - s/t. 2006 private (CD)

Perhaps the first progressive rock group to hail from Mississippi, Slychosis demonstrates a studious overview of the bigger name UK and Canadian groups. The band calls out as influences the usual suspects like The Beatles, Yes, Pink Floyd, Genesis, ELP, Alan Parsons Project and Rush. It’s the latter group that holds the original grasp, starting right off with a Neil Peart-like narration and a hard rock meets progressive follow through. Genesis (or Marillion) and Yes are the early album targets. But fortunately it changes drastically from there. Despite a somewhat generic outlook, Slychosis figured out that the mellotron and organ are cool sounding instruments (even if both appear sampled). But, perhaps even more amazing, is the band has truly carved out a unique sound despite the predictable boundaries. Whether it was intentional or not, Slychosis have tapped into some of the more admirable qualities of space rock. Weird interludes, exotic sampled instruments (e.g. sitar), alien voices, etc... Certainly at least one or two Hawkwind albums made an impression. Also, additional points for the copious use of acoustic guitar. And metal-phobes will like the electric guitar tones utilized here (especially some delicious psych-o-delic soloing on ‘Meltdown’). Not a weak track on the album. They managed to avoid throwing in the requisite pop track, their restraint is to be admired. A very good album and a band that can only get better, especially if they focus on their creative instrumental side.

I added this CD to Discogs awhile back, and I'm still the only owner. LOL. There are 6 who claim CD ownership on RYM. So yes, I guess it's very obscure. The band is still active, and I hope to get a band page up for them on UTR.

Xing Sa - Creation de L'Univers. 2010 France

Xing Sa - Creation de L'Univers. 2010 Soleil Zeuhl (CD)

Xing Sa is a new kollektiuw made up of members from the Zeuhl band Setna. This "brand name" as it were seems to have as its focus the music of Magma circa 1975 to 1977. That is to say, the post operatic Kohntarkosz sound, one that was heavily influenced by jazz fusion, as you'll find on albums from Live to Udu Wudu. Much of the music is driven by the patented thick and woody Zeuhl bass, and is overall heavy and energetic. There's also a strong atmospheric component that is blended throughout, recalling the spiritual quest Vander himself went through in this era, especially his continued fascination with John Coltrane (primarily in concept, not specific sound). Weidorje would be another good reference here. A very fine work, and let's hope this isn't a one-off activity - as was the case with Weidorje actually - as I personally found the music here better than the parent group Setna, who are also very good in their own right. Another fine release from the Soleil Zeuhl specialist label.

Wolfgang Dauner Quintet - The Oimels. 1969 Germany

Wolfgang Dauner Quintet - The Oimels. 1969 MPS

CD reissues: 1998 MPS (Japan); 2006 MPS (Japan mini-LP); 2007 Long Hair

LP reissue: 2003 Speakers Corner/MPS

The Oimels is square on Strobe-light Mascara-caked Babe-a-liciousness. Dauner was no baby boomer, and this album represents the pure escapism of his generation whose collective childhood was nothing but a total living hell. And while Dauner is most known for his serious avant-garde jazz work, why not take a stab at creating the perfect soundtrack for a night at Lucky Lou's circa 1969? You know you're in a special place when track titles like 'Take Off Your Clothes to Feel the Setting Sun' and 'Come On In On In' sound like a good idea. And a swingin' version of 'Greensleeves' to sway your hips Hullabaloo-style with. YEA BABY!

The CD on MPS (Japan mini-LP) is a bit distorted unfortunately, even though it was licensed directly from the parent in Germany. I would be most curious to hear the original LP or even the Long Hair CD for comparison.

Paride e gli Stereo 4 - Naufrago in Città. 1971 Italy

Paride e gli Stereo 4 - Naufrago in Città. 1971 Picci

CD reissue: 2002 Akarma (with La Seconda Genesi - Tutto Deve Finire)

LP reissue: 2014 Akarma

Almost 7 years to the day I promised I'd get around to this album alone, and separated from La Seconda Genesi. No time like the present, eh?

An interesting album from 1971 that supposedly was recorded before La Seconda Genesi's classic. One of the rarest albums on the planet (as is Seconda Genesi), but it's not really progressive rock, so definitely prepare yourself for the proper expectation. The music is all instrumental, and is primarily acoustic guitar with flute, and some organ accents. Very pleasant, and at times, recalls Era di Acquario's more serene moments. A fine album.

Originals are in the 4 figure range, so best to stick with the reissue here. The Akarma CD (third scan) comes in a thick tri-fold "Karma-Pak" with liner notes in Italian. The CD is a vinyl transfer. Though it does appear to be with band involvement in this case.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Anglagard - Hybris. 1992 Sweden

Änglagård - Hybris. 1992 Colours (Norway)

CD issues: 1992 Mellotronen; 2000 Mellotronen; 2003 Exergy; 2009 private; 2013 Arcangelo (Japan mini-LP)

The single foremost album that took 90s prog music kicking and screaming back into the 70s. Progressive rock was just beginning to make its comeback in the late 80s and early 90s, when Anglagard showed up and promptly flattened everyone on their ass. Most bands back then were more enamored with Marillion than Trettioariga Kriget (who?). Anglagard once and for all proved that the albatross moniker of "progressive rock" was a style of an era, not a philosophy that must be maintained with a certain high standard of modern creativity. Today, the term retro-progressive is used for bands like Anglagard, but that's a modern appellation. We were just grateful that "prog" was back at all, and in its original form. For that alone, Hybris will always be highly revered by rabid fans like moi. Of course the naysayers came out in droves at the time - just as they do now - stating mostly the obvious: It's not new. No, it isn't new. It is, however, an amazing distillation of a familiar sound - without any of the baggage of the 70s to get in the way. This was created by fans of the genre - for fans of the genre. Thank you Anglagard for paving that path that has continued to be well traveled today.

Originals come in a beautiful gatefold with all sorts of goodies (booklets, stickers, notes). The Colours label was perhaps the last great progressive rock LP-only label before CDs took complete control, and before the vinyl renaissance of the 2010's. Though Discogs and RYM list the CD as the primary release, I'm pretty certain the LP came out first. By 1992, I was buying CDs first without much consideration of owning "both formats". I just didn't have enough scratch to do that back then. So I bought the LP since it would have been the only choice (again, as memory serves - I don't have proof to alter the entries). Basically, I lucked out. This was one of the first new albums (perhaps the first?) where I had to have both, and I bought the CD as soon as it was available (though, as mentioned before, I doubt I would have bought the LP in reverse). In addition, like a complete collector geek, I had to buy the Anglagard box set of Japanese mini-LP's.  For the real hardcore, Arcangelo offers up a 3 CD mini-LP set (2015) for this album only (demos, radio documentary, etc...). That seems a bit much for me, but hey if it walks in the door, I'd probably keep it!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Il Paese dei Balocchi - s/t. 1972 Italy

Il Paese dei Balocchi - s/t. 1972 CGD

LP reissues: 1982 Seven Seas (Japan); 2007 Vinyl Magic

CD reissues: 1988 Crime (Japan); 1993 Mellow; 1993 CGD (Japan); 2004 Strange Days (Japan mini-LP); 2007 Vinyl Magic (mini-LP); 2009 Strange Days (Japan)

I think this is the kind of Italian progressive album that is taken for granted. Usually filed under terms like "second tier", and though not an unfair statement when compared to the likes of PFM, Banco, Osanna, Semiramis, Il Balletto di Bronzo, ad infinitum, one should still call this "first tier". A beautiful piece of rock music. I think the orchestrations / singer songwriter romantic stuff is what doesn't sit well for first time visitors / scan-through listeners. After a bombastic opening, the album gives the listener a bit of a head fake. That said, all of the mellow parts are so well done and there are no whiny bits to endure, which usually detracts from other albums in the genre. Overall, it's looser and more sparse than most coming from Italy during this time. One of the few albums with a killer pipe organ solo. I do believe this is a classic! Yes, I do.

Originals come in a wonderful gatefold sleeve. One of the few 70s Italian progressive rock albums where originals are still relatively affordable, and well worth the money IMO. Easy to find on CD as well.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Blast Furnace - s/t. 1971 Denmark

Blast Furnace - s/t. 1971 Polydor

CD reissue: 2002 Long Hair (Germany)

LP reissue: 2005 Long Hair (Germany)

When I first purchased the Long Hair CD of Blast Furnace, not long after its initial release, I wasn't too impressed and sold it off rather quickly. I had a chance recently to source one inexpensively, so I decided to revisit again. This time I hear the album much better than prior. Of course any appreciation of an album such as this is to immerse oneself into the culture from which it came. In this case, 1971 Denmark. Blast Furnace's reputation, at least among well-heeled collectors, is that of a heavy psych rock masterpiece. It's not that, but what you do get is a well composed and performed set of hard rock, psychedelic, and just plain old rock tunes with guitar, organ, and flute leading the way. Highlights include the opening two tracks, the proggy 'Toytown' and the superb single cut 'Long Distance'. There's nothing here that is offensively bad, though there are interludes and short pieces that are superfluous at best. File along with other bands of its ilk like Midnight Sun, Alrunes Rod, Hurdy Gurdy, and Day of Phoenix. Most of the band found themselves in latter incarnations of Culpeper's Orchard, another good reference point. This album won't change your world, but definitely a good fit for any hard/psych rock collection.

Original LPs are very rare and expensive. Probably best to stick with the reissues in this case. Apparently Casper (the friendly ghost?) owned this once....