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

Friday, January 23, 2015

R.I.P. Edgar Froese

Today we learned of the passing of Edgar Froese. This is a sudden occurrence and comes as a shock to us all. I don't think there is another artist I could credit more to my personal growth in music than Mr. Froese.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ashra - Blackouts. 1977 Germany

Ashra - Blackouts. 1977 Virgin (France). Pressed and released in many other countries.

This is our 3rd feature on Ash Ra Tempel/Ashra.

CD reissues: 1992 Virgin (UK); 2008 MG.ART; 2008 Arcangelo (Japan mini-LP)

Release details: Typical late 70s European single sleeve look and feel. Like most of the Ashra catalog, I bought my first copy at The Record Gallery in 1985 (the 1978 Virgin (Netherlands) copy). It was a really cool store in a hip part of Dallas near downtown that had tons of European imports (primarily electronic focused) and doubled as an art gallery. I learned about 100's of albums from that store - as well as spending my entire 1985/86 summer-from-college employment paychecks there (or so it seemed). It appears the French copy did get to market first in 1977 and has a slightly different cover (top photo). The second photo is the more common cover and the one you're most likely to run into. Originals can easily be found for the same price I paid in 1985 for a new one (if not less). The French original might go for a little more than $20 and Japanese originals with the obi can be had for around $30 typically. As for CDs, the Virgin copy is a straight up reissue, but sounds great. The CD had become difficult to source - and expensive - until Gottsching himself put the CD out on his own label. Can't imagine much need to own the Japanese version here unless you're strictly a collector of paper sleeve releases.

Notes: On Blackouts, Manuel Gottsching returned to the guitar once more to release his masterwork of the Virgin era. His blend of soulful electric guitar with whooshing synthesizers and sequencers has never been matched to this day. The set of tracks 'Midnight on Mars', 'Don't Trust the Kids', and 'Blackouts' is simply astounding, and Manuel's guitar playing here is hotter than anywhere since the early Ash Ra Tempel days. The title track is absolutely on fire by the end of the piece. 'Shuttle Cock' possesses the sound on sound guitar of "Inventions For Electric Guitar". The original LP states that Gottsching plays "Sequencer, Keyboards, and a lot of guitar" and he thanks Udo Arndt for the "lonely guitar sound". As well as "This record should be heard comfortably". I cannot for the life of me understand the criticism this album gets. I've had this on LP for over 30 years, and there is an amazing vibe here that I never tire of. I've spent many hours closing my eyes and listening intently to it visualizing the imaginary movie it projects. A brilliant masterwork for my tastes.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Ave Rock - s/t. 1974 Argentina

Ave Rock - s/t. 1974 Promusica

CD reissues: 1997 PRW (Brazil); 2013 Fonocal

Release details: Originals are housed in a gatefold and are very scarce to find. As with many Argentine records, the only likely place to find one is in the country itself. Thus making a purchase of one an expensive and risky endeavor unless you are certain it's a reputable dealer that you can trust. Unfortunately very few albums from Argentina were imported to the US and Europe during the 70s. So this isn't something that will turn up by accident in a healthy day of crate digging. Most vinyl from Argentina are of a poor quality to begin with, and you're lucky to find anything better than a VG+ 40 years later. I bought the first CD when it arrived in '97. PRW was one of the three great Brazilian progressive rock specialist labels of the 90s (the other two being Record Runner and Rock Symphony). Best I can tell, the label didn't make it out of the decade. The CD itself is of a good quality, typical of the PRW label, with photos, lyrics, and a nice layout. However the sound is not good at all. It's taken from a noisy LP - and if I had to guess - it probably was a mint copy too. I've never owned the original but I have to suspect, based on personal experience, that it doesn't sound very good. And this tells us the masters are probably long lost. I was expecting this CD to be very rare nowadays, but while researching this entry, found out that Fonocal has reissued it again. Maybe it sounds better? As for LP reissues, I did own one on the Marcoumar label for many years. The packaging was very well done, but of course the sound was no better (sourced from the CD I'm sure). And then I found out it was a pirate edition and ditched it to auction a few years ago. So it remains without a legit LP reissue at this time.

Notes: Understanding the poor sound quality plays a major role in one's appreciation of Ave Rock's debut. My opinion has flip-flopped over the years, and I'm now of the mindset that this is a very fine progressive rock album. As with many records from Argentina, the style of music recalls the 1970s Italian scene, which makes sense given their ancestry. Imagine heavy organ rock like Uriah Heep and Deep Purple that is suddenly tipped on its head with all sorts of crazy rhythms, counterpoint, melodic dissonance, and general madness. Bands like Triade, Alphataurus, and L'Uovo di Colombo all come to mind here. And with the good comes the bad, which includes the whiny singer-songwriter bits and the straight up rock and roll segments. But that's the music of the early 70s Italian era - and the music here on Ave Rock's debut. I highly recommend you listen to this with headphones, and focus intently through the grime of the original recording. Casual listening will leave a negative impression.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Love Cry Want - s/t. 1972 USA

Love Cry Want - s/t. 1997 Archival recordings from 1972

LP reissue: 2010 Weird Forest

Release details: I remember seeing the entry of this CD for the first time in a late 90s Wayside printed catalog (the annual green one). I'd never heard about it anywhere - in any magazine or on the internet. But with Larry Young's name on it, and the promise of it being heavy jazz rock, and an attractive low price, how could I go wrong? I remember informing many people about this album back in the 1998-1999 time frame. It's a nicely done CD with great sound, and some liner notes, which I found online and will reprint below. Joe Gallivan is one of the members of this trio, and is his label. I was just revisiting this title the other day, and thought to myself, if I ever started an LP label this would be a great title to reissue on LP. Apparently I wasn't the only one - and I found that Weird Forest had done just that in 2010! I never knew that. As you can see, it is a 2 LP set, and they changed the front cover to something more minimalistic. The inner picture of the White House is significant when you read the liner notes below. I somehow doubt the story myself (it's a bit of "Loch Ness Monster sighting" if you ask me and plays on the Watergate theme) but who cares about the facts? It's a great little tale anyway!

Notes: For those who aren't familiar with this album - it is the singular most dirty and nasty early 70s jazz rock album ever released. Larry Young, who went on to record the magnificent "Lawrence of Newark", was at the peak of his creative powers by this time, coming off a successful stint with Tony Williams' Emergency. The album is steeped in the jazz tradition, so no doubt there's plenty of loose improv parts, but when they catch a groove in the Miles Davis manner, there is nothing better than this. There's fuzz guitar, fuzz organ, fuzz bass, fuzz drums, fuzz percussion, fuzz in the sky, and fuzz on the floor. If you're familiar with the band The Fourth Way and their album "Werwolf", take that as a base, and amp it up 100 times. I've read comparisons of Love Cry Want to Wolfgang Dauner's Et Cetera and Exmagma - and I think that's a very perceptive observation.

liner notes on the CD: "June 1972.

The times were filled with darkness and turmoil. This music, of loving, of crying, of wanting, makes a powerful statement. It is awash with the anguish of the times, yet it heralds the promise of better days to come.

Love Cry Want was a legendary jazz fusion group based in Washington D.C., and led by guitarist, Nicholas. This recording took place during a series of concerts in Washington, held across from the White House in Lafayette Park, and featured the late, great jazz organist Larry Young, who had just recorded the historic “Bitches Brew” LP with Miles Davis and had left the Tony Williams Lifetime and guitarist John McLaughlin to combine forces with Nicholas and drummer, Joe Gallivan.

This second incarnation of Love Cry Want featured the triumvirate of Nicholas, Gallivan, and Young performing some of the most important music in the history of jazz. No record company would release this music, which was ahead of it's time.

Nicholas, who pioneered the development of the first guitar synthesizer (in association with Electronic Music Laboratories) performs on the first prototype guitar 'synth' along with fellow musician, Joe Gallivan, who pioneered the development of the drum synthesizer with inventor, Robert Moog.

June 1972, Lafayette Park.

Richard Nixon was President. There was a nasty war going on in Vietnam, good people were rioting in the streets and cities were aflame. During this series of concerts outside the White House, President Nixon ordered aide, J.R. Haldeman, to pull the plug on the concert fearing that this strange music would “levitate the White House.” This is that music.

Nicholas: prototype guitar synthesizer, ring modulator, wind, rain, thunder, lightning, water, hi-tension wires and wailing dervish 
Joe Gallivan: drums, steel guitar, moog synthesizer, and percussion 
Jimmy Molneiri: drums and percussion 
Larry Young: Hammond organ."

Friday, January 16, 2015

Cressida - s/t + Asylum. 1970-1971 England

Cressida - s/t. 1970 Vertigo. released in many countries
Cressida - Asylum. 1971 Vertigo. also released in Germany and France

Cressida are another group who's two original albums are naturally coupled together.

CD reissues for Cressida: 1992 Repertoire (Germany); 1999 Kitty (Japan mini-LP); 2007 Universal (Japan mini-LP); 2010 Repertoire (Germany); 2014 Repertoire (Germany)

CD reissues for Asylum: 1990 Repertoire (Germany); 1990 Phonogram (Japan); 2001 Universal (Japan mini-LP); 2010 Repertoire (Germany); 2014 Repertoire (Germany)

CD reissues for both: 2004 Gott; 2009 BGO; 2012 Esoteric (as The Vertigo Years Anthology 1969-1971). All 2 CD sets

LP reissue for Cressida: 2014 Repertoire (Germany)

LP reissues for Asylum: 2005 Si-Wan (Korea); 2014 Repertoire (Germany)

Release details: There are few more collectable items on the venerated Vertigo label than the two Cressida albums. UK gatefold originals are frequent top bid items on ebay. Obviously you will save tons of money if you spot a non UK version. Though the first album is very rare as an original, Asylum is off the charts. The latter was an archival release even in its day, and suffered from no promotion and little sales. There is certainly some supply for both, but demand is very high for these titles as originals. You'll need a loan to get either. The first CDs were the always reliable Repertoire. Over time they fell out of print, and some iffy issues started to surface. There were of course the expensive Japanese mini's for collectors like myself, but not ideal for general consumption. Gott Discs (3rd photo) put the issue to bed with the first of the 2 CD sets that would reissue the band in full and tell their story. It would appear the Esoteric version would be the best to own as there are demo and live tracks in addition to the full two albums. I picked up the BGO set (4th photo) since I was able to source one recently for less than the price of a Diet Coke, and it's a superb reissue. This allows me to showcase the Japanese mini's without opening. My first copy of Asylum was the cheapest of bootleg LPs (bought along with Spring circa 1988, that I have detailed earlier), and because of the poor transfer, it had turned me off of the album altogether at the time. Remember - never buy boots for that reason alone (not to mention the ethics of it all). LP reissues have been somewhat of an afterthought with Cressida. I haven't seen the new Repertoire issues, and I'm not familiar with their LP product in general. Si-Wan's were always well done from a packaging standpoint, but perhaps a bit cheap considering the vinyl quality. They only did Asylum that I'm aware of (and honestly I don't even remember that - but saw on one of the discography sites).

Notes: The main thing to consider when listening to the debut by Cressida, is that they were all about the song. In essence, it's short form sophisticated pop music. But given the era's wonderful analog instrumentation, and the underlying culture of psychedelia, the band were able to pack a lot of ideas into the confined structure. All the while displaying some incredible tonality (the guitar sound is divine). Certainly a band like The Moody Blues played a role in their development. As did early King Crimson. One could compare Cressida to Czar, and not be too far off the mark. Asylum, naturally enough, took things to the next level. I think for folks looking for more traditional progressive rock that would be in their listening comfort zone, Asylum is the more naturally likeable album. Here, Cressida seem to be consciously aware that they are a progressive rock band and have provided longer and more dense compositions. The good news is they never lost sight of the song.  And blessed with a dynamic singer, Cressida by all rights should have been one of the big names from the English scene. It wasn't meant to be, and for many years were only known to the LP collector world. But they have been discovered again, and have now rightly been considered one of the great bands of their era.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Secret Oyster - s/t. 1973 Denmark

Secret Oyster - s/t. 1973 CBS. Also 1973 Peters International (USA) (as "Furtive Pearl")

CD reissue: 2007 Laser's Edge (USA)

Release details: Originals come in a single sleeve and feature a rendition of an historical postcard of the fishing port of Nibe, in Jutland where the band recorded the album. Originals are fairly scarce, though not terribly expensive, and is really the only collectable album by Secret Oyster. "Furtive Pearl" is the US release, and maintains the 100% American standard that the cover must be worse than the original. Even still, for a PI album, it's not as easy to find as many others on the imprint. Naturally this was my introduction to the album, having found a copy at a record swap in the mid 80s. Secret Oyster became almost legendary in "reissue circles" (does such a circle exist? you ask...) as the progressive rock act that was most neglected. In fact, when label owner Ken polled a chat board in 2006/7 on which band he was going to reissue that had "multiple albums", I guessed immediately Secret Oyster. As expected, it's an excellent reissue with liner notes from band leader Karsten Vogel, and includes two excellent live tracks.

Notes: Secret Oyster were one of the more well known European fusion groups back in the day, as their albums sold quite well back home, as well as benefiting from good distribution around the world, especially in the US. In fact they were one of the first European fusion groups I’d heard, having stumbled upon "Furtive Pearl" (the US release on Peters International) as far back as the mid 1980's. Founded by members from Burnin' Red Ivanhoe, Secret Oyster subsequently added psychedelic guitarist Claus Bohling from Hurdy Gurdy and jazz pianist Kenneth Knudsen from Coronarias Dans to form one very hot quintet. Their 4 albums, released between 1973 to 1976, are all remarkably similar, but never repetitive or lacking inspiration. The debut mixed in more avant-garde jazz styled noodling, and this is where the Coronarias Dans influence comes in. But the album also features some of their more unhinged rock moments, as Bohling really lets loose on the electric guitar (witness his literally stinging solos on 'Fire & Water' and 'Public Oyster'). The only minor gripe I have with the band, is that Karsten Vogel's primary wind of choice was the soprano saxophone, a variety of the instrument I don't personally enjoy as much as the tenor or alto. All the same, a superb debut by a band clearly on the rise.