Sunday, July 5, 2015

Lily - V.C.U. (We See You). 1973 Germany

Lily - V.C.U. (We See You). 1973 Bellaphon/Bacillus

CD reissue: 2002 Garden of Delights

LP reissue: 2012 Long Hair

Release details: Single sleeve in a particularly dumb cover (we discuss this below). Good thing they interpreted VCU, otherwise who would know? All the same, originals are scarce and fairly expensive. The only CD is from the always great Garden of Delights, and this was my introduction to the album upon its release. On this reissue, you get a full album's worth of material from what was to be their second album in 1974. And of course all the usual great liner notes, photos, etc... Garden of Delights is the gold standard for CD reissues! Meanwhile the other great German label came through with an LP reissue, minus the bonus cuts though. I haven't personally heard or seen this version myself.

Notes: As the liner notes of the Garden of Delights CD state: "(Lily) had a specific style of their own and were almost uninfluenced by other bands." Amen to that. You'll hear snippets of other Krautrock bands such as Nine Days Wonder, Nosferatu, Out of Focus, Thirsty Moon, and Brainstorm. And yet none are really that similar. Psychedelic guitar and saxophone are the primary instrumental vehicles here, while the rhythm drives forward the compositions at a healthy clip. An excellent album.

The album cover and band moniker, of course, does the band no favors at all. Completely misrepresented as some sort of 3rd rate and unfunny glam rock band, Lily is none of the above. The actual name of the group was Monsun. But some moron at Bellaphon thought that since Tiger B. Smith were selling well with their glam image, so should "Lily". And one and done Monsun goes...

The CD version contains 40 minutes of bonus material (tracks 7 to 10) meant for a second, yet unreleased, album from 1974. These are of lesser sound - and music - quality. It's loose jam material for sax/guitar for the most part, and certainly are worthy as bonus tracks.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fruupp - Modern Masquerades. 1975 Ireland

Fruupp - Modern Masquerades. 1975 Dawn. Also released in Japan on Teichiku

CD reissues: 1989 Teichiku (Japan); 1997 Si-Wan (Korea); 1999 Victor (Japan mini-LP); 2006 Strange Days (Japan mini-LP); 2009 Esoteric

LP reissue: 2005 Get Back (Italy)

Release details: Originals come in a fine single sleeve cover with a fetching painting of a medieval dinner party. I included the back cover primarily because of my notes below. My first copy was the original LP that I found at a local record show in the late 1980s. The first CD to market was actually the original copyright holders in Japan, as it did receive an original release there in 1975 as well. I sold that one away to obtain the mini-LP, which of course looks great and includes the original lyric insert just as my own LP copy has it. The sound isn't great though in some places, a bit distorted almost. I need to compare to the original just to see if it's the source or not (I doubt it). I should also look to obtaining the first UK CD to market which would be the usually reliable Esoteric. I should have held onto the original Japanese CD as an extra in retrospect.

Notes: There are a couple of ways at reviewing Modern Masquerades. The normal way would be to go down the path of saying it's the 4th album by the Northern Irish progressive rock band Fruupp, and they've run out of interesting ideas, Side 2 blows, etc...

Or... Or....

You could look at this as a pioneering album by about one or two years. The back cover of the album gives the game away, for all of you that actually own the LP or CD. And I conveniently added it here to my post.

Anyway.... Back in the 90's I called this style "High-Ball Rock". 20 years later, it turns out I was on the right track, but they (the ever present they) gave it another name. Yacht Rock. OK, I like that even better - same idea, but yea, Yacht Rock indeed. Checkmate on that. Sure, it's still progressive rock. Some Yacht Rock albums actually are.

Me? I like it. It is in this scenario you discover that 'Sheba's Song' is brilliant. You can file this album right next to Kestrel's awesome one album, though it's not quite that good.

Friday, July 3, 2015

various artists - Psychedelic Gems. 1970-1973 Germany

various artists - Psychedelic Gems. 1996 Garden of Delights. archival recordings from 1970 to 1973

Release details: Technically GoD named the label Psychedelic Gems, but for all intents and purposes... In any case, nobody does deep diving in Germany better than Garden of Delights, and this CD is no exception. Lots of great liner notes, and a wonderful compilation, that I've detailed below.

Notes: Psychedelic Gems is the first in a series from Garden of Delights covering the vast amount of 45's and unreleased material from Germany's psychedelic past. These artists, at least on Volume 1, are definitely distinguished from their peers that played in the style now widely known as Krautrock. This set is more like what was coming out in the US and UK during the late 60s psychedelic rock boom, and would have to be considered dated even in their own day.

Dom (1972). Not related to the group who released Edge of Time. This band released one 45 single (Newcomer label) that is straightforward instrumental psych rock, with some excellent guitar with plenty of effects added for good measure.

Pax Vobis (1972). First track is very much like the Doors. The other 3 are instrumental, and similar, minus the Morrison styled vocals. Superb organ (older vintage) work here. Two tracks are unreleased prior (the other two were on Soundfire - what a great name for a label!). I quite liked this group myself, and consider them the highlight of the compilation.

The Ooze (1970). Continues in a similar manner, though with much more of an Iron Butterfly and Vanilla Fudge influence. Great organ and fuzz guitar leads. Both tracks from a 45 on the CCA label.

The Devils (1973). All three tracks were unreleased prior. First track has a bit of an electronic edge recalling Friend Sound at their most coherent. After that it's hardly more than surf rock, and a sound that is outdated by at least 7 years at this point (though the electronics fortunately do reappear on Darkness). Definitely the low point of the compilation.

Blues Ltd. (1971). 45 single on Progressa. Not surprising, this bunch go for more of a blues psych sound. Hearing some Procol Harum on this, and the added sax even gives off a whiff of Xhol Caravan, especially considering the progressive nature of the recoding - the first (and only) indication of a Krautrock sound found on here.

Scramp (1972). Like Dom, this one was a 45 on Newcomer. And like Dom, it's way past its shelf life, sounding like a US punk psych band from 1968. Which is to say - it's pretty good actually!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Night Sun - Mournin'. 1971 Germany

Night Sun - Mournin'. 1971 Zebra

CD reissues: 1997 Second Battle; 2001 Second Battle

LP reissues: 1972 Polydor (there's also a Canadian pressing); 2010 Second Battle

Release details: Single sleeve. The Zebra copy is the original, and you'll often see the Polydor version touted as one, but it is technically a second press, though not much less expensive. That was my introduction to the album as I found the German Polydor copy at Bananas in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1996. It did have a pin hole though. I traded it away the next year when the first legit CD hit the market (Second Battle). These CDs are rare in their own right now. The CD features great sound and a fine digi-pak cover, though no other extras except Second Battle catalog items. As you can see, Second Battle has followed in recent years with an LP reissue.

Notes: The album that answers the all important question: What would have Deep Purple sounded like if they were on the Brain label?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Jiro Inagaki and His Soul Media - Dosojin. 1972 Japan

Jiro Inagaki and His Soul Media - Dosojin. 1972 Nippon Columbia

CD reissue: 2015 Nippon Columbia (Japan mini-LP)

Release details: Extremely rare as an original. In fact, I didn't find one even for a price check, so I'm sure an original is a small fortune. Fortunately for the rest of us, Columbia has come through with a fine CD, housed in a sturdy and beautiful mini LP reproduction, with great sound. This was released through their Deep Jazz Reality series, even though this particular album isn't jazz based at all.

Notes: We featured this title on the CDRWL a few years ago, and so it is with great pleasure to be able to bring it here to the UMR, now that we have a CD in hand. Dosojin is a collection of traditional Japanese folk songs, but in many cases distorted beyond recognition, and at times, very psychedelic. The AC sums it up nicely: "The songs, arranged by composer Yasuhiro Koyama (who also penned one side of Toshiyuki Miyama's "Tsuchi No Ne", another of Columbia's "Adventure In Sound" albums (and also now reissued)), are all actually variations and elaborations on traditional Japanese "minyou", old folk songs known to people all across Japan for countless generations. The whole album flows very nicely, running seamlessly from solemn folky songs to fuzz-guitar and piano led progressive pieces and back again, always maintaining a deeply Japanese atmosphere."

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sepi Kuu - Rannan Usvassa. 1980 Finland

Sepi Kuu - Rannan Usvassa. 1980 Help

CD reissue: 2015 Rocket

LP reissue: 2015 Shadoks (Germany)

Release details: Single sleeve album and very scarce in original form. For as long as I've been collecting LPs, there really aren't that many albums that I personally discovered, but this is one of them. Or at least popularized it for the overall collector community. I was introduced to this album by a knowledgeable record store in Helsinki when I visited there back in 1993. I knew it was a special album the minute I heard it, and bought a few of them on the spot (and one was given to me as a gift). At that time, the album was a complete unknown, and I enticed well known dealers from around the world with it - and all reported back their satisfaction with the music. And as such, it had been on my CD reissue wish list for 22 years. Rocket finally came to the rescue, with their usual great job. Unfortunately the master tapes were lost, so it's not as pristine sounding as we would hope, but this is far better than not having a CD at all. There are liner notes (less than usual), and once again we've been treated to a full translation from our friend Kai (see below). As you can see in the notes below, Shadoks received permission from Rocket to reissue the album on LP. It's not out as I write this, but should be available shortly. Of course I would never sell my personal original copy. I wish I'd kept at least one more. I traded all the others back in the 90s.

Notes: One of the most tripped out albums from an era not known for it. Contained within are intense droning/narrative Finnish vocals, acoustic guitars, and flute along with searing fuzz/echo/phased guitars, synthesizers, and hand percussion. The overall vibe recalls the more serious tracks as found on Krautrock classics such as Walter Wegmuller's Tarot or Sergius Golowin's Lord Krishna Von Goloka. Comes completely out of left field, and is pretty much one of a kind, especially considering the time and place.

English translation of the Rocket liner notes. Once again, a huge thanks to Progressive Ears member Kai for these: "The Finnish music industry was going through a huge transition in the late 1970s. Record sales dropped dramatically with the onset of recession. This bankrupted many small Finnish record companies or forced them to stop releasing records.

Fewer records were sold, but consumption of recorded music changed, too. Of Finnish rock music styles, especially new wave punk and, briefly, rockabilly enjoyed chart success. At the same time, styles like progressive rock found their market niche shrinking more and more. Mainstream iskelmä music had been dominated by nostalgic dance music since the mid 1970s, but now it began to seek hits from more obvious pop numbers, such as Finnish covers of disco songs.

Amidst all this change, the music industry entrepreneur Jorma Heliander (1946 – 2013) set up his Tophits-Finnhits record label in 1978. The label only lasted until 1981, but it released a lot of dance music, cover versions of contemporary hits and rockabilly.

In 1980, Heliander set up another label, Heliander Production, in parallel with Tophits-Finnhits. The label operated for two years, releasing about twenty albums and a host of singles. Its greatest commercial success was the comedy album Iltaravit (The Evening Horse Races) which starred, among others, popular actor Heikki Kinnunen.

The most individual and undoubtedly least commercial album Heliander Production ever released was Sepi Kuu's Rannan usvassa (In the Mist of the Shore). Released in 1980 on vinyl only, Rannan usvassa had been recorded earlier that year in a bus converted into a recording studio. Juha Heininen was the recording engineer.

In the musical climate of 1980, the psychedelic folk rock of Rannan usvassa went almost totally against the grain. Some contemporary listeners may have been reminded of Pekka Streng's albums Magneettimiehen kuolema and Kesämaa from ten years earlier. They may have also found it dated at the time. Today it sounds arguably like an album ahead of its time. Its groundbreaking experimentalism and unconventionality have inspired and encouraged many experimental music makers in the 21st century.

Rannan usvassa is truly a solo album by Sepi Kuu (alias Teppo Lehto). He not only sang and played all the instruments but also composed and arranged all the songs and painted the cover. The lyrics were provided by artist and poet Mikko Tola (1954 – 1989).

Rannan usvassa garnered little attention on release. It never had a sequel either. Over time this record shop nightmare has become a much sought-after collector's item, with copies changing hands for as much as 600 Euros on international Internet auctions.

You are holding the first official re-release of Rannan usvassa. Shadoks Music will re-release the album on vinyl concurrently with this Rocket Records release. Unfortunately, these releases could not be made from the album master tape. It was destroyed in a fire at Jorma Heliander's house a few years ago. What you hear has been sourced and expertly mastered by Thomas Hartlage from a good-condition vinyl of Rannan usvassa."

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Cytrus - Kurza Twarz. 1980-1985 Poland

Cytrus - Kurza Twarz. 2006 Metal Mind. Archival recordings from 1980 to 1985

Release details: CD only release with full liner notes in Polish, but laid out so one can easily discern the salient facts. Many photos as well. Wonderful sound too.

Notes: If you ever wondered what it would sound like if mid 1970s Kansas mixed with early 1980s Solaris - and who wouldn't wonder about that? - then you now have your answer. With perhaps some additional guitar rave-ups similar to late 70s Fermata. It's obscure prog blender night! Seriously though, this archival release from Poland's Cytrus is absolute dynamite. Recorded from various radio studio sessions over a period from 1980 to 1985, the band goes on to prove they are an instrumental tour de force. At least for the first 11 tracks presented here (1980-82, 84). The final 4 tracks (1983; 85) apply vocals to a bit more conventional songwriting, though they never stray too far away from a creative break... or three. Cytrus' wunderkind is Marian Narkowicz, the inventive gentleman who provides both the violin and the flute.

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.