Albums that need Reissue - The 11s (Mike)

OK here's the next tier. There's lots so I'm not going to review or blurb them and if anyone whose reading knows something here has had a legit CD copy I don't know of, by all means I'd appreciate the correction. Some of these I probably haven't listened to or researched in as much a decade. So here we go...

Ablution - st
Cannonball Adderley - Experience in E/Tensity/Dialogues
Arco Iris - Agitor Lucens V
Association P.C. - Erna Morena
Babia - Oriente o Occidente
Berits Halsband - st
Toto Blanke - Spider's Dance
Toto Blanke/Electric Circus - Live at the Quartier Latin
Blim - Zero (MC)
Wolfgang Bock - Cycles
Brave New World - Impressions on Reading Aldous Huxley
Cai - Mas Alla de Nuestras Mentes Diminutas
Dr. Dopo Jam - Fat Dogs & Danishmen
Dragon - Scented Gardens for the Blind (due out in the near future)
Emergency Exit - Sortie de Secours
Franco Falsini - Cold Nose
Flame Dream - Calatea
Flame Dream - Elements
Flasket Brinner - st
Flying Island - st
Fondation - Sans Etiquette (MC)
Good God - st
The Graced Lightning Side
Group 1850 - Paradise Now
Peter Michael Hamel - The Voice of Silence (this may have been used as bonus material)
Happy Family - Flying Spirit Dance Live (MC)
Ibis - st (Sweden)
L'Infonie - Volume 3333
Kolinda - 1514
Kvartetten Som Sprangde - Kattvals
Dave Liebman - Lookout Farm
Michel Madore - Le Komuso a Cordes
Magdalena - Lanean Sartzen
Michel Magne / Elements - L'Eau
Alain Markusfeld - Le Desert Noire
Bennie Maupin - Slow Traffic to the Right
Memoriance - Et Apres
Metropolis - st
Micah - I'm Only One Man
Barry Miles & Silverlight - st
Mtume - Rebirth Cycle
Organisation - Tone Float
Oriental Wind - Chila-Chila
Oriental Wind - Bazaar
Oriental Wind - Live in Bremen
Het Pandorra Ensemble - III
Panta Rei - st
Parrenin/Fromont/Lefebvre - Chateau dans les Nuages
Dave Pike Set - Album
Dave Pike Set - Salamao
Placebo - 1973
Ram - Where? In Conclusion
A.R. & Machines - Echo
Dieter Reith - Knock Out
Yochk'o Seffer Neffesh Music - Ima
Shakti - BBC In Concert
Sunbirds - st
Third Ear Band - New Forecasts from the Third Ear Almanach (MC)
Tri Atma - Instead of Drugs
Uludag - Mau Mau
Michal Urbaniak's Fusion - Atma
Michal Urbaniak - Fusion III
Stomu Yamashta's East Wind - Freedom is Frightening
Zanov - Moebius
Zypressen - st (MC, 1992)

Jumbo - Vietato ai Minori di 18 Anni? (Mike review)

In 1973 the Italian blues band turned progressive rock juggernaut released their third and final studio album, leaving behind nothing until Mellow decided to add a black eye to their rep with one of the worst demos of all time (from a far later period) and a balanced but perhaps slightly uninspired 1990 live show from when they opened for Magma and IQ, perhaps one of the first examples of a concert where two different audiences shared a venue. But with Vietato ai Minori di 18 Anni? the band left behind what is probably one of the finest testaments of the Italian progressive rock movement from the 70s. With an almost Dylanesque, poetic soul the band took their almost folksy song-oriented sound, already developed into progressive rock by the time of DNA, and made one of the most startlingly consistent yet experimental albums to come out of the scene. Where PFM were blazing pastoral Moodys and Crimsonesque soundscapes and Banco were almost turning classical music into rock opera, Jumbo were almost the perfect example of how you could throw almost everything else into the stew. Over and over again, fragile ranconteur-like songs, sung by a raucous, earthy bard explode into different directions, sometimes expelling the most incredible rock riffs, at others meandering dreamily into dissonant and swelling soundscapes, and sometimes even being bent Dali-style in the studio, as if the whole session was being operated by guest Franco Battiato. All of this is delivered in the rawest of emotions, an expressiveness that arises from gravel, rock, anger, rage, repression, viciousness and yet a basic humanity, a wistfulness like a wise old man retelling a life story. There's absolutely no note wasted on this, even on the experimental, tortured "Gil" one is rapt as the anguish is wrapped in layers of mellotron, spiralling VCS3s from Battiato and eventually an Aktuala-like tabla beat from Lino "Capra" Vaccina. It all reminds you that progressive rock will just never be the same again, as if modern music was just too self-aware or post-modern for there to ever be this combination of sheer naivete and musical brilliance again, as if a similar cornucopia of moods and styles would prematurely decay due to the looming fist of musical culture and reference and knowing mockery so prevalent today. What was once letting it flow is now chutzpah but here you have a jigsaw of original brilliance that actually centers on a rough blues singer strumming on an acoustic guitar, at its heart there's such a depth of soul that in the end it leaves you ragged and most importantly like you've traversed gigantic differences in only 40 minutes. And not only is the music cohesive despite it bringing so many strands together, but woven through are some of the most catchy and immediate riffs and themes ever produced by the style, the equal to the greats of the era without the mistake of overburdening the music with concept, musical egos and excessive sentimentality. At the end one can't help but think of the bard packing up his strings and walking to the bar for a mug already looking ahead to the next stop.

Mike's List of Criminally Out of Print CDs

OK so now the Top 30 unreissued CDs are out of the way, I think it's time to tackle some CDs that I'd like to see again. This won't be as comprehensive, as if I own some really out of print CD already I won't post it here, as that would take some research to figure out what's gone or not. This is a list of discs I'd really like to see again as I missed them or sold them or whatever.

1. Edgar Froese - Epsilon in Malaysian Pale

Edgar's got a serious penchant for adding graffiti to his old art that's extremely frustrating to his fans and to date I haven't seen a single positive review of the redos of albums like Epsilon and Aqua, which apparently have been techno-fied and modernized and well, just about everything a classic fan doesn't want. I thought I'd read this has to do with conflict with Virgin, but nonetheless I can't think of much worse than dressing up old recordings (although perhaps we'd have to put one point in the Froese column for Green Desert). Anyway unlike Aqua, Epsilon's been out of print for ages and is prohibitively rare and not only that but the Virgin CDs were utterly abysmal sounding. In fact I actually owned this once and then got rid of it for that very reason, keeping a copy of the Brain LP but as these things go, I never listen to it and would do so had I had it on a CD or CD-R. But anyway this is one I don't expect to see despite it being the top one on my list. It's one of the best mellotron and electronics albums ever created, like the soundtrack to a prehistoric vista.

2. Hatfield & The North - Hatwise Choice

This is already out of print apparently but the small boutique outlet who distributed it pushed it outside the realm of viability for overseas customers by adding exorbitant postage and insurance charges (that is it would cost about $30 in the end for one disc). I have no idea if it would have any viability via a US reissue but I'd love to see it as it's a ripping collection of a band who was extraordinary live. Of course, what I'd really like to see is the full shows (for instance the bootleg of 3 BBC sessions that nearly everyone has is really one of the finest live comps of all time), but hey we're getting to fractions of fractions. Maybe I'd be the only left buying a 6 CD anthology of live Hatfield albums but then again maybe that would make paying for insurance reasonable.

3. Kaipa - Stockholm Symphonie

Released in very small quantities in Japan this is not only the best document of Swedish prog band Kaipa but includes some of the best Allmans-inspired guitarwork from Roine Stolt, slightly stretching out some of the comps and giving it all an amazing atmosphere. Just writing about this makes me wanna hear it but I bet 90% of the owners have a boot copy of some sort. I say make it a double if there's some more unreleased live material from the band and get it out there again. This is the main argument why they were Sweden's answer to Yes.

4. Can - The Peel Sessions

I expect one day we'll see another round through the Peel Sessions vaults so this is one I'm not terribly worried about, even if it's second only to the magnificent Tago Mago in terms of great Can. Although perhaps someone would have to license it out now such as what we've seen with Soft Machine's Peel Sessions. Would like to see the Gong sessions out again as well and I'm sure there are more I can't think of off hand.

5. Dan Ar Bras - Douar Nevez, Terre Nouvelle

Perhaps the closest the French folk scene ever got to progressive rock and featuring stalwart Magma (and I think Fairport) related musicians in the back up bands, this Hexagone release was always lost in distribution outside of Europe, usually only showing up in catalogs for $25 to $30 when you could find it, in fact it was quite a bit rarer than the Malicorne CDs were. With an LP and rip in hand, it's not terribly crucial, but I like it enough to want an original. His best album by far.

6. Gwerz - Au Dela

The very best work from the short lived French folk band Gwerz, this had a really epic feel I always found that transcended what can be a painfully hard to listen to genre (bombardes aren't to everyone's tastes and certainly not mine). But there's something lyrical, majestic and almost Dylanesque about this at times and I find it mesmerizing. But once I'd heard it it was already too late to find a hard copy. Musea even reissued their first and inferior release so I was hoping this would follow, but alas good Musea releases of any sort seem far and few between these days.

7. Steve Roach / Vidna Obmana - Circles and Artifacts

When doing an ebay sweep a couple years I went one or two items too deep and this was one of them, in fact I have absolutely no idea what I was doing unloading this, I think I wanted to thin up on a massive Steve Roach collection (mostly the first few albums, the guitar releases etc). Anyway I miss it, it was certainly right in line with the drony stuff they were doing around the black box era IIRC. Perhaps too, having it as part of a photo exhibition (nicely done but not really something I ever have time to sit down with) was partly the reason for letting it go, but now it seems to go for about $40 to $50, so I hope one day it gets its own CD release without the frills.

8. Ragnar Grippe - Sand

Bought this when it was released in small quantities only to realize, perhaps later that the CD was defective and a whole spot in the middle of the CD had peeled off killing half the CD. So I suppose I could sit with the original packaging and plop a CD-R inside knowing I paid my dues, but you know that really annoying collector thing just gnaws at you. Cuz this is a really cool pingy, weird synth album that's really like no other, it just has a unique one of a kind atmosphere. But I suppose a stopgap will have to do as I was not only surprised it ever got a CD release, but would be even more so to see it get a second one.

9. George Harrison - Wonderwall Music

With Beatlemania in full fling, this early Harrison instrumental album is one I'm not particularly worried about, I've seen it go in and out of print all the time, it's just that it's always been a bit pricy. But I've always found it so charming and surprisingly good for an album that gets little chat. Who knows maybe a search on Amazon right now would turn this up for a good price, it's included here based on my last search which showed a minimum $50 for a copy.

10. Motoi Sakuraba - Shining the Holy Ark

This is a step down from the first 9 on the list but I wanted to make it an even 10 and it gives me a chance to whine about how hard it is to get Sakuraba CDs outside of Japan. In the video game industry the man's a soundtrack titan but just when you think prog rock is a niche, pair it with video game music and it's like a niche in a niche. Sure, Motoi can get a bit too epic and corny at times, just a little syrupy for my taste, but I love it when he's high energy and spitting out incredible organ riffs over mellotrons and synths (and this comes from a guy who barely can stand most ELP and generally gets bored with keyboard trios). And I think it's just amazing that even to this day his video game soundtracks are prog through and through (such as Star Ocean: The Last Hope). Seriously there's nothing like battling evil with a Hammond B3 playing. Anyway I think Shining was his second released CD and it's not the only one I'd like to see, now that his debut Gikyokuonsou is also OOP as is Beyond the Beyond and maybe a dozen I don't even know.

Mike's Top 30 Unreissued Titles (Part 6 of 6)

And last and only slightly least...

26. Association P.C. - Rock Around the Cock

This unfortunately titled and covered masterwork is maybe only marginally the best of the five Association P.C. albums, of which only one seems to be reissued in the still all too slow MPS reissue series, which seems to be dallying with mediocre titles at the expense of masterpieces like this one (although I should cut them some slack as they initially took one of these off the list.) This is a rather perfect example of what the Europeans brought to the American jazz rock movement, a little bit of freakiness, a slightly askew and dissonant electricity to it and a rise and fall like breathing. Like the Chris Hinze albums mentioned earlier in this series, Courbois and co. start mellow and bring most of the work to screaming climaxes of intensity, all with a fuzzy subtlety than enhances the whole. As a sidebar, lets tag on Erna Morena to this title which if it didn't make this top 30 was only a few slots behind.

27. Peter Frohmader - Spheres

The last of his three early cassette releases and unlike Jules Verne Cycle and Orakel/Tiefe, I believe this one was released privately. It's a surprisingly inside release for the experimentalist but Frohmader's one of those guys I'd always wanted to hear do something inside and this spacy masterpiece foregoes the usual dark, macabre atmospheres for something a bit more Berlin school and a bit more new agey. It's gigantic on resonance and even beautiful in spots and is nothing at all like the Cuneiform albums to come which also concentrate a bit more on pure electronics but take it in a much weirder direction. So how about a two CD release, JVC, O/T and Spheres. Am I the only one who wants this?

28. Makam es Kolinda - s/t (aka Szelscend Utan)

Apparently this once was reissued on CD in Japan in micro quantities, or at least I remember seeing the catalog number at a store once, but at a time when I could have nabbed any Japanese reissue I wanted this one went in and out with a bang and when a disc is this rare, to the point where you know nobody who actually owns one, you have to still count it in the unreissued spot. This was the first of at least two collaborations between Hungarian and post-Hexagone label folksters along with the more Cage/Riley-esque Makam ensemble and it's possibly the very best work by either group. Recorded in the early 80s it definitely cants towards the Kolinda direction but excels in that it continues the band's progression from the early albums into more angular and progressive directions to create a lively East European gypsy folk prog that's weird, mystical and unmatched in its field.

29. Carnascialia - st

Like the previously mentioned album, this is another that came out on CD (apparently under the names of the original musicians rather than the Carnascialia band name) and disappeared almost immediately. Along with members of Area, the duo created a bizarre late 70s avant-folk release with the typical Arabian motifs and weirdness that area also sported, lots of unusual modal riffs that flirt with high energy while remaning almost toe tappingly tuneful. Not exactly progressive rock, like most Italian albums this late (such as Venegoni e Co., the first Mauro Pagani etc) its experimentation is more a collision in various world styles that includes just enough rock to make it buzz as well as a Battiato-like penchant for exploration and collage. (ED: Carnascilia has been since reissued)

30. Clivage (Andre Fertier) - Regina Astris

An ancient and psychedelic world fusion with an impressive cover, the debut album of the Fertier-led Clivage, who released three albums, exudes the type of electricity built up from trancey type structures that got their cue from bands like Third Ear Band, Between, Oregon and Aktuala, Clivage approach the same formula from a more restrained base, with hints of classical music and jazz that would become more apparent on later albums, all of which I reviewed a while back here

The Beatles (Mike review)

Yes, I am fully down with the Beatlemania at the moment, I preordered the Stereo box something like a month or so before it finally came in the mail, and I am quite glad seeing some of the waiting times for the next production run. It came in a week or so ago and I'm all the way through Yellow Submarine and can barely wait to get Abbey Road in the player, in fact it would have been today but I left it at home, alas.

So some quick thoughts. I think everything sounds fantastic. While I've been afforded with copies of Dr Ebbets work and various mono versions and this and that I think I heard about the remaster project long enough ago that I was never in a hurry to hear the unofficial stuff and was kind of glad I waited. These all have the clarity and three dimensionality I was always hoping to hear and I'm still virtually stunned that the artists and so on managed to record so many of these classics on 4 and 8 track machines. But I suppose calling the Beatles remarkable is pretty obvious these days, it's not only true but fairly redundant.

I'll admit, I can easily give the first five albums very little attention. I do love songs throughout all five but I think when you take this part of their canon and realize that so much of this stuff really never became icons like so much of the post Rubber Soul material, that they weaken a little with time. Of course the great remastering did indeed pull me through listens of all of them and I'll probably give them another couple for respect, but Rubber Soul is where it starts for me, even if it's clearly the transitional record into Revolver. Things just get better and better. Putting on Magical Mystery Tour on mix with some other things with friends one night last week, late night, was just powerful, it's truly like looking a magnificent work of art from all sides, as if not only the songs, but the effects and production stand out in crystalline clarity. It's really hard not to envision the whole wide world of psychedelia and spirituality bubbling up from this well, not entirely true of course, but perhaps enough to be true. On Mystery and, naturally, Sgt Peppers there's a sense of innocence, wonder and timelessness that age just won't fade, it's just so redolent with the splendor of human creativity. Frankly I felt some pain readjusting Gnosis numbers after listens as albums like Peppers, the White Album and Abbey Road are just objective 15s in every way, they define shifts in the musical paradigm as clearly as anything possibly could. But at least I know I'm on my way with these.

So yes, in the thralls of Beatlemania I am.

Mike's Top 30 Unreissued Titles (Part 5 of 6)

21. Jukka Hauru - Information

Finnish guitarist with a Jimi Hendrix complex, like many guitarists had worldwide in the early 70s and perhaps half of his debut album has the overshadowing influence during some high energy workouts. The other half ranges between more songwriter oriented spots and some zanier moments, all of which manage to create an "in hold" dynamic that makes the guitar freak outs even more powerful when they show up. My more indepth review can be found here.

22. Peter Frohmader - Jules Verne Cycle

The Jules Verne this most reminds me of is 20,000 Leagues under the Sea due to a prevalance of bubbling synths. As I mentioned before with Orakel/Tiefe, this is one of the Auricle cassette releases and a mighty fine one at that, with an amazingly huge sound for the format, layered electronics and some great pulses moving it all forwars. It reminds me that the finest thing about Frohmader during so much of his early work is this great sense of science fictional imagination, one that never manifests as something geeky so much as mysterious, unusual and evocative. Often this one surpasses Orakel/Tiefe for me, depending on mood.

23. Limbus 3 - Cosmic Music Experience

A free music ensemble better known for the Ohr label album Mandalas (by Limbus 4), I've always preferred the earlier work due to its more vast atmosphere and instrumental panorama. Something of a precursor of bands like Aktuala, Between and the like, in this case the same-period albums by Don Cherry might also be a reference although like Mandalas, it doesn't have much in the way of jazz chops. Just a lot of drumming, droning, and varying noises by all sorts of instruments, none of them played particularly splendid, but nonetheless a beautiful chaos does arise from the collaboration. For now only a Germanofon bootleg seems to exist (and it's actually one of the better ones soundwise).

24. Zanov - Green Ray

Debut album by French synthesist who manages to create a Berlin inspired electronic album with some of the thickest analog sounds on record thanks to the ARP 2600, VCS3 and the like. IIRC the Green Ray's one of those theosophy inspired ideas and a Jules Verne book, all named from the solar phenomenon where the sun temporarily gets a green flash around it during sunset or sunrise. This differs from the usual Berliner style by the sequences being fairly slight for the most part and for an unusual dark atmosphere to it. Similar in ways to Wolfgang Bock Cycles when it's not in Moondawn mode.

25. Mars Everywhere - Industrial Sabotage

Review here. Great US mix of space rock and electronic tendencies and their prime effort.

Mike's Top 30 Unreissued Titles (Part 4 of 6)

16. Chris Hinze Combination - Sister Slick

One can not start a large list without expecting it to change even during the duration and this 70s Hinze album put an immediate dent in the top 30 with a first listen. Like Mission Suite, this is just titanic, intense, creative and energetic jazz rock in that early 70s idiom where the style hadn't quite crystallized into the quasi-Return to Forever-ish style it would in just a couple years ago, in fact this is actually kind of hard to compare to other jazz rock bands in that it manages to stay much more in the rock circle than many of its contemporaries. Very few new albums manage to bring this much grinning delight to my musical intake, it's the kind of record where it's difficult to do anything else as it just constantly begs for your attention due to the musical chemistry and their absolute mastery of the rise and fall of energy with playing. Honestly this is likely to chart a lot higher than 16 when all is said and done and could easily move up into my top 5. It's crazy to think that the only reissued album from this era is basically soundtrack music when there are monsters like this still in the vault.

17. Emmanuel Booz - Dans Quel Etat J'Erre

Booz is now an actor, in fact I believe he starred in one of the Bourne movies, if I've got the IMDB citation correct, but over his long career he managed to get out four solo albums, starting with an early French version of Alice's Restaurant, likely to be lost on anyone not speaking the language, all the way up to this torturous and delirious progressive rock masterpiece, where finally the level of lyrics and vocals gets the right balance with twisted and incredibly well-played instrumental segments. It's a short one and I've forgotten the list of fairly high profile musicans who helped out with this, but it's also quite sweet, three tracks that you'd think Musea would have knocked off a long time ago, but like Ma Banlieue Flasque and Eider Stellaire this one's long overdue (and I'd throw his third Clochard in there for good measure as well, even if it would fall much lower on a list like this).

18. Michel Madore - La Chambre Nuptiale

Progressive rock fans, including my cohort here, prefer Madore's more overtly progressive rock first album, and while it's certainly a nice one, I think his second, electronic piece is the more overtly original and interesting of the two, with a view to the atmospheric and concept. Very different from the German styles so popular at the time and the French scene it was perhaps part of due to the label (Madore's Canadian), Madore drew more on concepts of musique concret to fashion the music and there's hints of Pierre Henry in this work as well as hints of Wendy Carlos Sonic Seasonings in there, with a combination of huge electronic soundscapes merged with found and recorded sounds. It's huge, heady, and somewhat mystical given that the concepts of marriage are often alchemical metaphors. And the production's a lot better than on the first as well, which doesn't hurt. Where the debut seems to be practically a predestined Prog Quebec release, the question is whether this one fits their agenda or not given it probably plays to a different or at least expanded audience. I'd call dibs on both.

19. Von Zamla - No Make Up

Apparently the live Cuneiform release was created as something of a substitute for No Make Up, with the idea that it was never destined to be a CD release, which would be a crying shame as it's be the best of the third incarnation of the Samla Mammas Manna family, in fact their best release since Familesprickor. To my ears there's just a lot more kinetic energy and tight compositions at work here and I don't think the live release quite rises to the level of the album except for in a couple spots. Perhaps a precursor to the Swiss band Nimal in some ways.

20. Pinguin - Der Grosse Rot Vogel

Superb German progressive rock album and a very different one as it diverts the usual expectations by being more English inspired than the usual German release but then does the same type of diversion by actually singing in their own native language rather than using English, perhaps making it one of the few albums from that country to create this kind of flip flop. I hear quite a bit of Canterbury in it which probably makes its closest cousins bands like Brainstorm or even the Tortilla Flat album I mentioned yesterday. Tom put up a review or blurb on this one recently on this blog or the reissue wish list blog, so there's little need to add to that, accept I think we're both in accord on getting this one out to the public.

Mike's Top 30 Unreissued Titles (Part 3 of 6)

11. Tortilla Flat - Fur ein 3/4 Stundchen

Tom reviewed these on his Reissue Wish List site and I'd have to agree that if they had been previously released, I'd have the SWF Tortilla Flat sessions very high on the list, perhaps in the top 5 even, they were truly that amazing and decimate most of the stuff that's come out on Long Hair. In many ways, actually, they kind of dovetail nicely with Kollektiv's own sessions and place the band in a much jazzier context than a lot of other German bands of the era, more Embryo, Eiliff or Etcetera than Kosmische or Krautrock per se. But I'm not forgetting the one very rare official Tortilla Flat studio album which is also a mighty fine piece of work, carrying over slight Canterbury influences to go with the German jazzrock sound of the time. And I think to some extent this illustrates one of the difficulties of getting some things released, a lack of inertia or kinetic movement, to get musicians who left work like this behind 25 years in the past to have the same enthusiasm over it as collectors who recently discover it. For me this is a hot potato for sure.

12. Peter Frohmader - Orakel/Tiefe

I could be virtually alone in this category but I find that the strongest music in the old Frohamder catalog was a series of three cassettes in the 80s, two of which, including Orakel/Tiefe were released by Auricle, a cassette label that may be holding back on a lot of the best unreissued stuff, in part because I believe they do CD-Rs of some of this material, but also because these probably appeal to very small audiences. But you could kind of cross classify a lot of Frohmader, there's the very early Nekropolis work, some archives that have come out since that cover a rockier period, and then the more composed work that followed on the heels of the Nekropolis material, and then these cassettes which hint but don't sound anything like the far more electronic duo of CDs that came out on Cuneiform a bit later. Undoubtedly these were a major coup for Auricle. These take that deep cyclopean, Cthulhoid early work into strange cavernous and experimental territories that I've always been surprised at when I go back to. Rarely did Frohmader sound this BIG.

13. Oriental Wind / Okay Temiz

I've flipped and flopped on whether I find this or the later Bazaar the best of the Oriental Wind studio albums, but there's something terribly immediate about the debut that's winning over as I write this. Like all of their material, this is all about the fusion of Turkish folk melody with Coltrane Spiritual jazz and here as on many of the later works there's a fine collision between the two styles, although it's essentially jazz when you think of the melodic structure setting up instrumental solos and then vamping back again. But this is a hot one indeed and maybe the best place to start on a reissue series.

14. Polyphony - Without Introduction

Polyphony was shrouded in mystery, I remember hearing about an unreleased two side-long track album that was recorded in 1967, then later it was 69 and later than that some time in the early 70s and by that time I was pretty convinced it had taken on something of the mythical at that point. Because this is a very early and distinctly progressive American album, that instead of having the usual Genesis and Yes influences, dipped back more towards keyboard bands like the Nice and Procol Harum while mixing it all up with the prevailing hippy schematic in the vein of Hair the musical soundtrack. The bootleg CD (or at least one) was a massive disappointment, with skipping errors built into the masters which meant even the improper release was that much more so. I think of this as a really important release for American progressive rock, but the word is this is among the more unlikely to be reissued titles out there, which is a crying shame. (ED: This title was reissued later by Gear Fab and Belle Antique)

15. The Fourth Way - Werwolf

The best of the three albums by post John Handy musician and crew, the sort of singular jazz rock that didn't follow much of the same pattern many of its contemporaries did, with a more sinuous approach to playing that was still slightly reminiscent of the SF jazz scene of the late 60s but having moved on to what was a more distinct and individual style by the time they got to Werwolf. Considered something of a kozmigroov classic, perhaps a stretch given its progressive credentials, it's certainly a fine release no matter where you classify it, with great playing and the oncoming electric fuzz of the era. A CD of this one is long overdue.

Last update: September 7, 2016 

Mike's Top 30 Unreissued Titles (Part 2 of 6)

6. Satin Whale - Desert Places

If you can get $75 for a Germanofon bootleg of this album on e-bay, it's telling you the very important fact that this is a title that is way overdue for legit reissue. The German rock group's debut is their finest work, perhaps done in the style that Tomorrow's Gift, Frumpy and a few others worked with a bit earlier, an early 70s bluesy rock starting to merge in a more melodic direction with the instrumental vocabulary of the time period. Lots of keys, great guitar work, juxtapositions between good songwriting and energetic instrumental outbreaks. If Samtvogel may have been the German album I'd like to see most reissued, I'd say this one would go over a lot better. I wish SPV would get off the kick of reissuing the Agitation Free and Amon Duul II albums for the nth time and get to albums like this that actually need it. So perhaps this would head the list of unreissued albums I'm most impatient for.

7. Friends s/t

John Abercrombie and co taking some time off a number of various American jazz rock expressions and looking across the Atlantic to bands like Soft Machine and Matching Mole for their next inspiration. Take all instruments, fuzz them out to crackling a la Tony Williams Lifetime (or Joe Zawinul and Tim Belbe circa early 70s) and rip maniacally through comps and improvs like noone seems to do anymore. It's perhaps Exhibit A for the fact that the rare difference between prog rock and jazz rock in the early 70s was the amount of effects being used. It might be said the chops and talent level of the musicians travelling the jazz scenes of the early 70s starting with all of Miles Davis bands and their offshoots were about the most musically adept in the world, so it's kind of enlightening to see them take on a distinctly European expression and run with it. I mean hell if we can get Horacee Arnold reissues and Stark Reality on CD, why not this one? A barnburner for sure.

8. Eider Stellaire s/t

Everyone's favorite unreissued Magma clone band and it probably should be noted that Michael Le Bars was actually in the Magma band for what was it a week or a couple months or something. The big rumor is the guy went religious and looks back on his heathen years with some measure of distaste (one has visions of the Magma eagle mandala growing a devil tail and wielding a trident) vowing never to allow his canon to be reissued, thus relegating this debut to permanent bootleg status. Anyway Eider Stellaire sounds like Magma with the Coltrane and jazz influences left as the inspiration's inspiration, streamlining the Zeuhl sound down into something obviously second generation. It's kind of weird in a way because it doesn't go bezerk with energy like Japanese descendants Koenji Hyakkei and Ruins, doesn't go for the French interpretaion a la Eskaton, or bring the Orff or Wagner side more to the front like Weirdorje, nor even pay attention to the Coltrane swing nearly everyone removed from the Magma equation, nor does it even seem to act as a tribute. More like it strips down the vocabularly into syllables and reconstructs the sound as a jazz rock act without recourse to a larger language. What does remain is the heavy bass, urgent forward moving rhythms and the sort of quartet-based writing style. Further albums by the band stripped the sound down more until by 3 they were truly a more typical jazz rock act, but by then the move to a more digital sound stripped the music of any internal coherency and the fact that all three albums are so short is probably tribute to the idea that there's an unfinished feel about all their music. That also means, however, that a CD of the first filled up with the salient points from 2 and 3 would all suffice, provided the master tapes weren't summarily burned in some kind of fundamentalist frenzy. It would be nice to think those rumors are false. But let me say that this album will NEVER be reissued in the way that when you say NEVER that strongly someone always wants to prove you wrong.

9. Volker Kriegel - Lift

At least in the case of MPS we've seen attempts at cracking the label's large catalog come more to fruition of late, a rather beautiful set of mini LPs coming from Germany, a smattering of great titles from Dave Pike Set and Mike Nock Underground sneaking out of Japan and the George Duke reissues getting enough attention even Verve in the US had a go at them. A long time ago Kriegel's Inside: Missing Link was reissued only to fall well out of print and then a few years back Spectrum got a nice 24 bit treatment in one MPS false-start reissue ranges, yet in the latest wave we've not seen further and certainly Kriegel's got another few albums worth of reissue including what's arguably his best title, the jazz rock classic Lift, which is perhaps his most Mahavishnu-inspired released, which means it's just got a little bit more energy than some of his other solos. Of course the draw is all down to Kriegel's playing which is edgy, slightly angular and one of a kind and far more interesting in 74 than Mahavishnu was that year.

10. Oriental Wind - Live in der Balver Hohle

Despite fleeting rumors that Oriental Wind albums have been released on CD in Turkey, I've seen nothing to see that this is true and in fact I think Life Road's the only one I can think of that was or that at least remains possible to pick up at this point. Which is too bad because it's the early catalog that remains of real interest. Drummer Okay Temiz, erstwhile Don Cherry cohort, travelled Europe gathering musicians to play what was basically a hybrid of Coltrane post-hard bop and Turkish traditional music. Even I probably swing on which one of the first five albums was the best of the group at any given moment, but my memory invariably swings to this live album at a place Finnish folk/jazz fusionists Piirpauke also recorded an album at (and who Temiz later joined). Snakey eastern melodies marry to a pre-kozmigroov spiritualist interpretation of jazz, with the specter of two Coltrane bands ever present, the classic quartet of the mid 60s and the earlier quintet with Dolphy in the line up. Similar in ways to Hermeto Pascoal's vision where compositional work in a unique style set up long sections of American-inspired jazz improvisation where any number of musicians would vamp and succeed or fail depending on the energy level (and far often the former). Overall Wind recorded a good night here and if the live album isn't necessarily the band's best album it's certainly the most spontaneous and, dare I say it, pure jazz. So let's hope (in the case of some of these albums) that someone gets the key to the Sonet label and unravels it like MPS.

Mike's Top 30 Unreissued Titles (Part 1 of 6)

I think periodically some of us old timer collectors with fetishes for lists need to sort out various things and it seems one of our old time favorite topics is the albums left unreissued on CD to date, in fact my cohort's got a pretty nice site of his own that covers this topic in a great bit of detail. My list's going to have a great deal of crossover with Tom's, although perhaps the main difference is that mine will verge a little more in the electronic and jazz directions. I'd have probably done something like this eventually, but it's been bumped up due to some ... talk. But anyway I thought I'd list my top 30 by fives. Almost the entire list is what we at Gnosis call "12s" except for this first 5 made up of two 14s and three 13s.

1. Lightwave - Ici et Maintenant

Ici et Maintenant was sort of an underground electronic music show in France and this Lightwave cassette, originally released by Audion's Auricle label was the third of three cassettes before they were signed to Erdenklang for their first original CD, Nachtmusik, and then went on to hop labels for their career. Lightwave have always exhibited a combination of 70s tendencies and musique concret sounds and always managed to pull off a lot of really dark and sequence driven music. Perhaps of all their work, this live, approximately 80-90m cassette music, is the most Berliner/70s sounding of their work, each phase of the music sort of segueing into the next in what always sounded to me like one long suite with some very notable sequencer sections. I'd always found ordering overseas in the 90s to be somewhat treacherous so had friends in Britain mail me this cassette at the time and I think I probably got a flawed copy with some tape warble towards the end of the first side/beginning of the second side, so to say this is my #1 reissue list even with those flaws is probably saying something. I think even those who might think of Lightwave more in the musique concret direction (and in this direction the cassete Cites Analogues is probably closest from these early days) might go for this. I don't know what's holding up any of these cassette releases, the band, the original label or whoever, but they all really deserve to see digital in more than CD-R format.

2. Gunter Schickert - Samtvogel

I always think of Schickert as the third in the trilogy of German guitarists with a thing for the echo pedals including Manuel Gottsching and Achim Reichel and really only Gottsching has managed to get all of his stuff out on CD. With Reichel and Schickert we've just had a smattering of activity, and this debut release (which started as a private release and then got released on Green Brain) is perhaps what I'd call the second best echo guitar album after Manuel's classic Inventions for Electric Guitar. This album's a lot darker though with huge swathes of music that seem a lot more abstract and thus maybe a step aside from the normal connection you'd make with the hippie era. I've always loved that all three of these guys have their own personalities with the style but find it sad that Schickert's most notable groundbreaking effort is still in the vaults. And will the SPV series not be able to include this due to its initial private release? Curious and curiouser. (ED: Since reissued by Important Records)

3. Atila - Reviure

The recent reissue of Intencion with a live version of Reviure really speaks volumes for the absence of the true Reviure on a digital CD and it seems we may never see it, in what I refer to as "major level oblivion." (I think there's some comments about why in the Intencion CD but I'm not near my copy). This is not only a high want for me on the unreissued list but it might be the best Spanish progressive rock album of all time, if not top 5. It's not really part of all the folk/flamenco-influenced rock of the 70s and more like a jammin' space rock masterpiece. And even though the vocals can occasionally make me wince, the music's still too good for them to overwhelm it. In some ways Spain's answer to Gong and Hawkwind, four nearly perfect tracks. Although I must say, given the vinyl quality, that I probably wouldn't suffice with more than going back to the masters, so if they're gone then we probably have the best we're going to get.

4. Ma Banlieue Flasque - st

Word was that Musea had this one in their reissue plans, but then they've always started their reissue lists earlier than everyone else with some albums seeing as much as a decade from the original mention to when they actually show up. From what I understand this is because albums like this do a pittance in the community and thus funds are needed to collect before what is virtually a labor of love is needed to release it. In fact given so many French/Belgian rarities are starting to show up in Japan now, such as the Speed Limits, Art Zoyds and Julvernes, maybe this one will finally follow. It's part of the whole rippin' delirium tradition, roughly in the vein of Zappa, Komintern, early Gong and Etron Fou, with a lot of crazy words mixed in with some thoroughly complex and highly energetic playing. Another one where I don't see what the hold up is at this point. My guess this is the least problematic of the items in this post.

5. Chris Hinze Combination - Mission Suite

The newest entry on my list and I suppose this could sink a bit after the initial excitement, this early 70s jazz rock combo really did a number on this release working those rise and fall dynamics like the pros they were, starting off quietly with loads of wondrous flute and then bringing up the energy like kundalini to peak over and over again. It just goes to show you there's still a crazy number of early 70s jazz rock albums to do, again probably part of the major label hold up. And apparently Hinze has a bunch of em.

Chico Magnetic Band - s/t. 1971 France

There are a couple of items here that make "Chico"'s sole album special. One is the heavy handed use of studio trickery (phasing, radical dynamic shifts, backwards tape, etc…), a common trait found among early 70s French and German albums. Even more important, though, is Chico himself (real name Mahmoud Ayari, and originally from Tunisia). Chico is the vocalist, and it’s his ranting, raving, screeching, drooling, mumbling that makes this album so REAL. The listener witnesses a man on the edge – a true freakout captured on tape for all time.

There are other albums where this can be found, and they’re all favorites of mine: Dawn on Brainticket’s Cottonwood Hill, John L. on Ash Ra Tempel’s Schwingungen, and Catherine Ribeiro on No. 2 (really any of her early 70s works). The psychedelics that are applied both externally (music) and internally (individual) allow the artist to apply his or her most creative mind gymnastics. Sure, it’s pure madness, but it sends a chill down my spine especially when paired with raging wah wah guitar solos and a cacophony of tribal percussion.

It’s funny today to watch bands try to recreate this same sound. When it’s just the music, they do a good, sometimes great job, but when they try the "I’m crazy, here me rant" - they’re faking it. It was a one time of the era event. Everything else is just a simulation, a make-believe-let’s-pretend-we’re-freaked-out-and-nuts. And it sounds artificial. Get the real deal and check out Chico Magnetic Band.

Personal collection
CD: 2008 Nosmoke (Portugal)

So let's talk about this CD shall we? Imagine my surprise when I saw the back liner notes... which were written by.... ME! (what did they use for the liner notes you ask? What you see above - though I've altered them slightly since - yea, I'm the TH - real initials too!). Guess we can safely assume this is a bootleg as well, since I certainly wasn't contacted prior! It's a pretty decent boot actually, with extra tracks taken from 45s and EP's, also from the bootleggers collection no doubt. There's also a full history of the band, up through 2003, probably pulled from the internet as well.

Still no legitimate reissues as I update this (2018).

Last listen: April 13, 2018

Gli Alluminogeni - Scolopendra. 1972 Italy

Review originally published in Gnosis on April 4, 2001. Recently edited for UMR.

A fun one-off from the classic era of Italian progressive music. There really seems to be no point to this, other than to allow lead vocalist and keyboard extraordinaire Patrizio Alluminio to lend his name to the band and noodle around on his organ, mellotron, piano, electric piano and harmonium. But then there is an unrelenting charm about Scolopendra. The songs are more suited for the late 1960's psychedelic scene than the 1972 Italian progressive rock movement. The keyboards are way out of place here. Patrizio plays with a distinctive jazzy style that hints there might be a talented player trapped in the wrong field of music. Best of all, some of the songs will change completely midstream without any reason at all. Sure the Italians are famous for this, and the abrupt transition usually makes sense in retrospect. Here, it doesn't. Not at all. And it's a beautiful thing to behold. Check the break on 'La Natura e L'Universo'. Pure brilliance. Or incompetence. I'm going with the latter and will condescendingly call it 'quaint'. 'Thrilling' is another example of Gli Alluminiogeni's random songwriting ability.

For drop on the floor belly laughs, one must scan the back cover for the threads these dudes are wearing. Two of the band members cut the shag carpet out of Mom's living room and decided to construct evening wear out of it. And the proof is there for the ages. No, Gli Alluminogeni are not going to win a game of Jeopardy against Museo Rosenbach or Semiramis or even the Partridge Family for that matter. Ah, what the hey, I still like this album. Cannot rationalize my feelings, just there is no other album that sounds quite like it. And a good listen for organ freaks like myself. There are even a few good guitar riffs. Psychedelic organ music from Italy is a rare breed indeed.

Personal collection
CD: 2004 Strange Days

Sabicas - Rock Encounter. 1970 USA/Spain

58 year old Sabicas was a legendary flamenco guitar player from Spain who was living in New York in the 1960s. He somehow was bamboozled by his agent into participating in an instrumental rock album with some of New York’s finest young jazz players at the time (including Joe Beck and Tony Levin). His distinctive flamenco guitar and much respected name was much desired I'm sure.

Maybe it's best we reflect on this situation before going further. Today it's not uncommon for the older generation of musicians to intermingle with the young bucks. I'm sure they remember the resistance they received in their youth and were determined they would be different when they reached gentrification. But in 1970 it simply WAS NOT DONE. To lower one's standards to play simplistic rock music (even if that's not the case, especially here) was an insult to many. And sure enough years later, maybe not surprisingly, Sabicas himself admitted he didn’t like the album.

This is really Joe Beck’s show, and the whole album is so far ahead of its time, it deserves a doctoral study. Though to be fair this was an extension of Beck’s sessions with John Berberian on Middle Eastern Rock - also a landmark work. This extraordinary release predates the Spanish flamenco rock movement (as spearheaded by Triana amongst many others) by at least 5 years, if not more. An essential pioneering world-jazz-rock-fusion work.

Personal Collection
CD: 2006 Long Hair (Germany)

Metallica - Ride the Lightning. 1984 USA

To truly appreciate Metallica, I think it's important to understand the history. When Metallica debuted with Kill 'Em All, they had rewritten the rules of metal as we knew it. There just simply wasn't any band playing that heavy, that fast, and that clear in those days. Sure it was a bit simple minded, and the lyrics were a little on the bonehead side, but still the album had most young males heart racing faster than Secretariat at the Derby. It was an exciting beginning, and Metallica could've stayed with this style and been heralded as a pioneer much in the same way we view Motorhead and Iron Maiden.

Then came Ride the Lightning. Metallica still hadn't ironed out all of their contractual deals with Elektra, and I happened to be in London at the time of its initial release. Their UK deal was with the relatively minor underground label Music For Nations, and I just couldn't wait and bought the album at HMV. And dragged it with me for another 2 weeks. It's a decision I never regretted (and still have my well worn LP copy, that will stay with me until the end).

The album opens with 'Fight Fire With Fire', and that track still gets my adrenaline up. James Hetfield's vocals, as Xavier Russell hilariously noted in Kerrangg at the time, was more like "Fight Vodka with Bourbon". It's been almost 25 years since Ride the Lightning came out, and tens of thousands of metal albums have copied every note of this album, with better production techniques and STILL I'm blown away by this cut. Consider that there was a time when I would hear this song almost every day! This is followed by the title track, an awesomely mid paced super heavy song, that is as melodic as it is pulverizing. And so it goes through the remainder of the album. One big jaw dropping event. Especially for 1984. The band had improved exponentially on an already impressive debut. The song-writing has an almost progressive rock quality to it. And the band made a conscious decision to take an intellectual Iron Maiden approach to the lyrics. So instead of metal armies, banging that head that doesn't bang and other testosterone fueled brainlessness, Metallica opted to sing about the ethics of capital punishment, cryogenics, the anguish of contemplating suicide, the Egyptians perspective of Passover, and musical interpretations of Ernest Hemingway and H.P. Lovecraft. WHAT? How could any one band just rewrite the rules so fast?

In effect, Ride the Lightning was so far ahead of the curve it would take years for anyone to catch up. One can argue that Master of Puppets is a stronger album, as it took the Ride the Lightning concept and improved on it. But it seemed a little more clinical and less of the moment. By ...And Justice For All, Metallica were reaching for even more creative ideas. But it wasn't right. Their heart wasn't what would later be called a progressive metal group. It was a bit too wooden for their own good, though still a fine album. And their playing of 'One' at the Grammy's was a watershed moment for heavy metal overall. From here they lost their way to the hardcore original fans... and for many others they were just about to be introduced to a more radio friendly Metallica. But back to 1984, Ride the Lightning has to be considered one of the most revolutionary albums ever made.

Personal collection
LP: 1984 Music For Nations (UK)
CD: 2010 Vertigo (Japan)

Jean Claude Vannier - L'Enfant Assassin des Mouches. 1972 France

As if we needed further proof that the early 1970s was the apex of creativity for the modern era, we have Jean Claude Vannier’s sole album to offer up as evidence to the court. To the average Parisian walking the street, Vannier is most known as the producer and arranger for that most famous French crooner: Serge Gainsbourg.

However, given an opportunity for a solo album, Vannier put his vast resources to work in an all-encompassing rock extravaganza, mixing psych, jazz, world, carnival, musique concrete, and whatever else the hell he felt like doing. This is no "3 days of booze and pills and let’s get it out type" album. This is the kind of big budget affair all artists wish they had at their disposal. Who needs a mellotron when you have full choirs and orchestras under your direction? (We tend to forget in these modern times that the mellotron was a cheap alternative to funding a cast of thousands). So move over, rover, cause Jean-Claude is takin’ over.

Vannier’s album is one more corner of the French triumvirate of “establishment” types (William Sheller and Alain Goraguer being the others) who felt the need to get hip and basically blow away the kids with their vision of psychedelic music. Daddy-O is here to teach a lesson sonny, so pay attention! There’s been a couple of recent legit CD reissues of this, and none is better than the latest from Finders Keepers, who managed to throw in a cool 1971 Yves-St. Laurent fashion video, complete with psyched out Vannier music. Groovy Baby – Austin Powers never had it so good.

Personal collection
CD: 2005 Finders Keepers (UK)

Friends - s/t. 1973 USA

Underground America comes through once again. With Europe, especially in places like France and Germany, it's relatively easy to spot the pigeon. For every pop album, there was an experimental avant-garde release not far behind. But not the US of A. The land of the quick buck. No, you have to dig deep and far. And in all genres. Because you never know where the next great album lies. Friends. Yea, good luck in finding info with a name like that. But one name jumps out once you've been exposed to this treasure: John Abercrombie. What on Earth? That's TWO discoveries for me recently that features this well known ECM guitarist. The other being Stark Reality.

And since we spoke of Germany earlier, that's exactly where I'd guess this album had come from had I not known any better. Let's first discuss the lineup of instruments: Guitar, sax, bass and drums. Big deal right? We'll start with Abercrombie, since he's the marquee name thrown around. He was clearly in his Mahavishnu John era, and has no problem playing jazz guitar like Jimi Hendrix on steroids. So we already have an edge. Most of the bass work is stand-up, like I'VE NEVER HEARD ANYONE before. Louisiana born Clint Houston is all over his instrument, like a pissed off Jimmy Garrison. Love Supreme my ass - Hate Supreme and get out of my way homeboy. Drummer Jeff Williams puts in the most ordinary performance, and he's still nothing short of excellent. And then there's Marc Cohen. He MUST HAVE KNOWN Tim Belbe. Any jazzer reading this page is going who is Tim Belbe? But the Krautrock heads know - were talking Xhol Caravan here. Wah-wah, fuzz, phased, echo-plexed and just flat out tortured. What Mike Ratledge did to the Lowrey Organ is what Tim Belbe did to the saxophone. And Marc Cohen FREAKS OUT even more than Belbe did - at least on vinyl. Elton Dean might as well be Charlie Parker when we're in this game. So basically we have four long, very freaked out instrumental tracks of jazz rock underground avant insane madness. And it rocks like nobody's business.

This album is just ridiculous. Awesome.

Personal collection
LP: 1973 Oblivion

Eloy - Inside. 1973 Germany

Inside is Eloy’s second album and their first foray into progressive rock. This was one of my very first Continental European albums to own, and would have to consider it a strong influence on my personal preferences, especially upon initial discovery in the mid 1980s.

More overtly complex than most albums from Germany, and not really Krautrock in the traditional sense of the word (i.e. Brain, Ohr, Pilz, Bellaphon labels). Blindfolded, and not knowing any better, I’d say Eloy on Inside anyway, sounds more like an early 70s group from England. While vocal/guitarist Frank Bornemann is the clear leader of the band, the musical focus on Inside is squarely on the shoulders of organist Manfred Wieczorke. He carries most of the solos, as well as many of the melody lines. In fact, the organ virtuosity displayed here is some of the finest to ever be committed to a rock album (and that’s quite a statement!). In some ways, it almost seems they’re hiding Bornemann’s guitar playing. Without question he’s competent, especially during the composed melody runs, but does seem uneasy in the improvisational solo sections. Bornemann’s vocal style heavily resembles Ian Anderson, which I think leads to the frequent Jethro Tull comparisons Eloy gets tagged with (during this stage of their career at least). Also of note is the rhythm section of Fritz Randow and Wolfgang Stöcker, which is strikingly crisp and fiercely driving.

Side long opener ‘Land of No Body’ contains Manfred’s jaw dropping organ performance (both the atmospheric sections and in the ripping solos). Following this, the title track demonstrates the group’s complex compositional side. ‘Future City’ is Eloy at their most creative, with the musical emulation of a wind-up toy gone mad. ‘Up and Down’ is more in line with what other Germanic groups were doing at the time, recalling the haunting work of Paternoster or the more inward looking songs by Twenty Sixty Six and Then, My Solid Ground or Murphy Blend. Interesting to note that Wieczorke took on the vocal duties here, and his heavy German accent gives it a completely different feel than Bornemann’s more refined English. Without a doubt, this is a Hall of Fame album, and one of the finest German symphonic rock albums ever made.

Personal collection
LP: 1973 Electrola
CD: 1985 Electrola

We've recently discovered that the true original press is a uni-pak, with the inside of the gatefold as the entry point for the LP. This is the version I own, having picked up my copy in the mid 1980's at the Record Exchange in Houston. There is also a slightly later press that is a traditional gatefold.

Chango - s/t. 1975 USA

Originally published in Gnosis on August 15, 2002. I did a bit of upgrading to the review, but the foundation is still intact as it were.

Imagine yourself walking the barrios in Queens, New York circa 1975. Bums, pushers, hookers, street musicians, and the smell of tortas vendors. You see a small club, it has a name like Enrique's Hell Hole. You venture in cautiously. Torches are lit high, as you tiptoe over the junkies, and tactfully avoid the needles scattered about the floor. You watch as on stage there are six seriously fried dudes. Each cranking out some of the most intense music to have ever been performed on these Atlantic Yankee shores. Two percussionists and a drummer drive the speedy pulse, whilst organ, bass, and guitar all roar, slash, and sing. This is all Chango's first album and for anyone who likes the early Santana vibe, then you are in for a treat, because Chango tread a new path right at the point where Santana went fusion. This is the ultimate culmination of all the best Carlos could muster. A high water mark for heavy Latin groove rock. The album has it all: The screaming Santana guitar sustain fuzz chops; The swirling Hammond organ; The speed-freak-machismo lead singer that all the messed up chicks were somehow swooning for. And, of course, those dance-able rhythms that even this uptight white guy might make note of. The lyrics are exactly what you want from this kind of album: Sex, life-in-the-ghetto, grade-school mysticism - and well....... sex.

Right off the bat, you are pulverized with 'Fire Over Water' followed by the eight minute 'Walk on Hell'. Really, do I need to describe these tracks? Put the environment, instrumentation, song titles, and influences together and you've got an aural vision. Many of the songs are catchy too - you'll be humming them for days. 'Caminando', 'Solid Karma', and especially 'Mira Pa Ca' just have killer melodies. But where Chango excels most is with the instrumentals like the pounding 'Bollo' and 'Bembe', plus the beautiful 'Sacapa'. But the best is possibly saved for last. The nine minute title track combines relentless energy, tuneful melodies, and fiery instrumental playing. It's all very awe-inspiring. Careful though, as you may find yourself in a big heap afterward.

How this album missed the big time is somewhat of a mystery to me. Being that it was released in 1975, perhaps it was too late for the early Santana sound. I'm also guessing that ABC records, not known for their music marketing muscle, had no idea how to promote it. There are very few albums that contain this kind of energy and instrumental virtuosity. And then combines that with a strong melodic sense. A true masterpiece and one of underground America's most proud moments.

Personal collection
LP: 1975 ABC
LP: 2000 Akarma (Italy)
CD: 2000 Akarma (Italy)

The original comes in a fine gatefold, that unfortunately lends itself easily to ringwear (typical of US presses). The only reissues are the dubious Akarma's CD and LP,  that have been declared as unofficial by band leader Pepe Gomez. All the same, I do own these reissues (both formats), and the packaging is well done, as is typical of the label. But it would be nice for a specialist label to do it right, from the master tapes, with liner notes and participation of the band. I do hope that happens at some point!

The Early Years of Alio Die (Mike review)

Alio Die - Sit Terra Tibi Levis/Introspective
Alio Die - Under an Holy Ritual
Alio Die - The Flight of Real Image (EP)
Alio Die / Ora - The Door of Possibilities
Alio Die - Suspended Feathers
Alio Die / Yannick Dauby - Descendre Cinq Lacs Au Travers D'Une Voilé
Alio Die - Password for Entheogenic Experience
Alio Die - The Hidden Spring

I've been in a more musical mood of late after a good year or two where it was relegated to a minor interest, mostly to refresh myself and forget the negativities of the music scene, but now that I'm researching and catching up, one of the things you realize is that when it comes to ambient music, a few years off means you've missed about a dozen albums. When it comes to the music of Alio Die I realized I was maybe 16 albums behind dating back to about 2005. So I looked at my Gnosis ratings and reviews and realized that, as with Steve Roach and Robert Rich, my ratings were starting to taper off around this point, which could mean a number of things, that I was tired of reviewing this music (as an Expose writer I found myself becoming "the ambient guy" around this point) or that the music just wasn't as good or that I was just overdosing on the whole thing. So part of my catching up has been to try and get new perspectives on where I was at, by taking each artist and going through them one by one.

So this post covers the early years of Alio Die save a few rarer pieces: a) Only the Alio Die side of the Sit Terra Tibi Levis album is covered per the CD, b) Fragment 5, c) For Krono and d) From the Depth. For all I know these show up as bonus material elsewhere.

For those new to Alio Die, it's the pseudonym of Italian electronic musician Stefano Musso who creates a very unearthly, energetically charged ambient music created via electronics and acoustic instruments of all sorts processed into new sounds. There's an edge to his sound reminscent of the old Ariel Kalma/Richard Tinti set Osmose that's hard to place as if the textures immanentize into something organic, with a life of their own. Like Steve Roach, Vidna Obmana and Robert Rich's early music, Alio Die's own first few cassette and CD releases have an almost Eno-like ambient simplicity to them that contains the influences of earlier musicians yet also like these musicians an originality of their own is developed early on and it's a progression you can see develop over time.

The Sit Terra Tibi Levis/Introspective CD is basically a compilation of the Alio Die half of the former title and the entire second title with a compilation track added. It was out of print until a couple of years ago but as been reprinted as a digipack with a much nicer presentation. Unlike most later Alio Die, both titles have much shorter tracks and are certainly reminiscent of early Vidna Obama in the way they're all soft, impressionist ambient pieces that are still relatively immature and not sure where to go. However even this early, the music sings with a latent energy that makes them fairly attractive works even if it took a third release for Alio Die's signature early style to come to the surface.

Under an Holy Ritual made a rather huge impact early on, not only released on Alio Die's home label Hic Sunt Leones, but getting a reissue on America's Projekt label which had a much wider market. It's been since reissued on LP and further CD releases which likely makes it a fairly brisk selling and in demand ambient title. Like the previous CD the titles are shorter, but the soft Eno-ish and introspective (well-titled) word gives way to a sound buzzing with an almost occult intensity. It's as if what was inverted is now extroverted, almost like reverb started to kick in and the sound is rife with an electricity that occasionally spills over into noises and hallucinations generally not found in ambient music, occasionally shocking in their intensity. But for all its popularity among ambient listeners it still strikes me as fairly nascent in development with both the engineering and imagination improving on later releases.

The Flight of Real Image was an early EP that has wound its way through the Alio Die catalog. At approximately 2o minutes, it's 3 tracks have found their was to albums such as The Hidden Spring and Leaves Net, both unadulterated and revisited and also now has an extended full CD release with a number of additional collaborations filling in between the three original pieces. As such it becomes difficult to remember this EP in its original format, but it falls somewhere between the first CD's insularity and the second's more overt and electric sound. Like all Alio Die's shorter releases there's a power and timelessness about the Flight of Real Image that renders it easier to remember on a subconscious level.

Alio Die's first full-length collaboration, The Door of Possibilities, was almost a split album in a way, with tracks taken solo by each musician and only one 22 minute piece as an actual collaboration. The Door of Possibilities was an improvement on all accounts, even while the earlier recording technology hadn't quite opened up the sound yet. At this point what is largely a textural music is getting more detailed and the development to a sound where electronics, acoustic intruments and vocals all become part of one sound swirl is manifesting even more intently. Parts of this even rise above the usual ambient volume, adding edge and upsetting the equilibrium, with screams in the later moments of the album rising above the waves to really arrest the attention. However it's perhaps this album where the true strength of Alio Die music really starts to come to the fore, the way the music tends to be almost simultaneous with the environment, almost involuntarily bringing the listener into a meditative state, although this happens only in snatches. It's perhaps a tribute to the collaboration itself that it becomes difficult at times to tell the two collaboratives apart as this is essentially one vision.

Suspended Feathers may be the first "true" Alio Die album in that all of the pieces manifesting themselves in developmental time truly come to the fore. Like in Door of Possibilities what were largely short songs now share time with longer form pieces, in fact if it weren't for the length this could almost be a 70s albums with its four shorter tracks and one longer piece. There is some Vidna Obmana collaboration on this one, fitting given the two players' early styles are so close at first while diverging in unusual ways, however, the overall agenda is Alio Die's. The title is perfectly evocative with a softly falling ambient sound that rarely cuts above the sound pool and the meditative focus is so strong that one's activities and consciousness flow in and out of the musical environment. I liken it to the affect of maintaining one's activity while listening, only to realize that for the last 10 minutes you'd been pulled in to a timeless state where only one static Om-like mantra has been droning. While this hadn't quite been perfected yet here, by this point it was largely developed and the effects are quite amazing. It's fortunate this album has had a reissue, given the original Amplexus/Aqua label release sold out long ago.

Musso's short one-piece collaboration with Yannick Dauby, also part of the Amplexus umbrella of labels, seems to follow Suspended Feathers as if it should have been there, it's a near masterpiece of meditative breathing, spiralling up from silence with an astounding spiritual grace. I've always had a hard time even describing this album given its 21 minutes seems to go in a shot, it's definitely not really music for conscious listening, oozing its way through the cracks in one's attention and often causing me to for the start button. Like all great ambient music it has a medicinal quality that's stress relieving and gentle, but also like floating over a gigantic, unknowable abyss.

But it's really on Password for Entheogenic Experience that Musso puts all the development together into one 65 minute masterpiece of total perfection. Like all good floating ambient music this is basically the rise and fall of am Om drone, a piece that is basically one meditative tone but manages to exist over slow time as a slowly shifting wave of timbres that fluidly shows the man's prowess in manipulating sound and electronics into one vision. At times it's like one meditative voice while at others it sounds like a collection of tones and sounds trying to create unity. Vocal choirs float in and out of electronics and the sounds of acoustic instruments are so totally sublimated to the mantra that it's difficult to talk about the pieces when the whole is so perfect. It more than anything reminds me of the vision of the early Carlos Castaneda novels where huge shifts in entheogenic-influenced perspective causes major shifts in one's perspective. It's a perfect swell and fall and well suited for the repeat button. The word shamanic is horribly abused where electronic music is concerned, but this is a vision that corresponds as close as possible to such a mind altering milieu.

The Hidden Spring seems almost like an afterthought, an album that consists largely of a mosaic that ties together pieces from anthology albums and other Alio Die mini excursions into a whole that less reflects a music in development than the experience of the guiding hand at this point and demonstrates rather perfectly a musician coming into an assured maturity, if not at his peak than certainly at his first peak. It almost seems like a best of album and even pieces I know from other albums (such as the track from Promises of Silence) seem different in this new light. So it almost seems like a perfect place to stop, even though this seems like the end of the beginning, where further collaborations would less show further development than a divergence of means to an end.

Overall there's really no poor effort in this group, even the early albums, nascent as they are, show great promise perhaps more so for Alio Die than they did for his many contemporaries at the same point in their development. To create that yin/yang where the conscious elements seem so simple while the unconscious and subconscious elements seem rife with movement takes a talented hand, one that perhaps sees a unity in a world dispersed into a number of elements. Because no matter what is used, once it's been through the studio of Stefano Musso it becomes a world of creation with all the infinite subtleties, textures, grain and whorl, the microsopic as part of the macroverse. In fact over many of his albums, you're likely to be treated to a dizzying array of true organic plants, seeds and husks, arranged within the physical clear jewel boxes, all of which in this context seem like mosaic works, not only a greater art form as a whole, but one made of lesser art forms reflecting the guiding hand of universal evolution or particularly the question over what hand is on that tiller moving it forward.

Campo di Marte - s/t. 1973 Italy

Campo di Marte (named for a piazza in their native Florence) are representative of the top-tier of one-shot Italian progressive rock wonders of the early 1970s, and weighs in strongly against Museo Rosenbach, De De Lind, Alusa Fallax, Raccomandata Ricevuta Ritorno, and countless others. Among the usual instrumentation of guitar, keyboards (mellotron, organ, piano), bass, and drums, Campo di Marte adds flute and French Horn, the latter being particularly original for the scene. Strong dynamic shifts occur frequently, with pleasant flute and acoustic guitar sections often times contrasting psychedelic guitar runs atop the bombastic organ. Vocals are kept to a minimum, and are usually filtered to add to the overall alienation of the music. The melodies are memorable, and the band has a good sense of the groove during the jam sessions, pointing to a stronger than usual jazz background. This latter quality is not always a given when talking classic Italian progressive rock. Like most bands in the genre, Attention Deficiency Disorder apparently runs rampant throughout the crew – especially when it comes to keeping time. Campo di Marte's one showing to the world is an extraordinary tour-de-force, and represents one of the finest Italy has to offer. And that’s saying something given the competition.

Personal collection
LP: 1973 United Artists
CD: 2006 AMS/BTF

With BTF’s mini-LP reissue, the story becomes clearer: The original United Artists release not only had the wrong titles, but in complete reverse order from what was intended. The label wanted the "heavy stuff up front" to grab the listener. So could it be that record executives had worse ADD than the musicians? At the last minute, bandleader Enrico Rosa was forced to do a quick name change, and simply titled each 'I Tempo' through 'VII Tempo'. So the reissue not only provides the best sounding version to date (though it appears the master tapes are lost - and the CD is clearly from vinyl), but also reorders and retitles the songs appropriately, making for a smoother listen. The album now flows accordingly: 'Prologo' parts 1 to 3, 'Riflessione' parts 4 to 5 and 'Epilogo' parts 1 and 2 ('Tempo' 5 to 7 and 1 to 4 respectively).

Last listen: May 24, 2018

Alusa Fallax - Intorno alla Mia Cattiva Educazione. 1974 Italy

Originally published in Gnosis on October 6, 2006

Opening with lively flute, drums and hand percussion, followed by staccato piano, fuzzy electric guitar and the unmistakable sounds of the Moog, it’s clear Alusa Fallax are yet another serious contender in the Italian prog sweepstakes. One of the more obscure albums in an already obscure scene, pressed in limited quantities on the Fonit label, Intorno alla Mia Cattiva Educazione (translating more or less to Getting Around To My Poor Education) is many a fan’s dark horse pick for “name the best Italian prog band nobody’s heard of”. Augusto Cirla possesses that wonderfully unique Italian gruff voice, also shared by Alvaro Fella (Jumbo) and Roberto Zola (Odissea) – which has that slow burn growth similar to a great hot sauce. With 13 tracks, an approximate 50/50 split of instrumental and vocal, the listener can expect the usual challenging listen, with a gazillion tempo breaks, that most Italian progressive rock albums are known for. In fact, Alusa Fallax takes a bit longer to adjust to, given the slightly more mellow texture, avant-garde leanings of the middle section and rough vocal component. The wait makes it all that much more powerful when it finally clicks, that moment when it eventually all makes sense. Some of the transitions from vocal to instrumental are sublime, the driving rhythm rising out of the melancholic and dramatic melody sections. No question this is in Italy’s Top 20, quite an accomplishment given that it’s from possibly the most fertile scene ever. Masterpiece.

Personal collection
LP: 1984 Nexus (Japan)
CD: 2005 BTF

Lula Côrtes e Zé Ramalho - Paêbirú. 1975 Brazil

Originally published in Gnosis February 10, 2001. Recently edited for UMR. Shadoks used parts of my review from Gnosis to promote the album, which is fine with me (though perhaps it would have been nice had they asked permission, which I would have granted. Or at least give me credit for it).

There was a time when Lula Côrtes e Zé Ramalho was a completely unknown name. Original copies supposedly disappeared in a great fire, producing an album that has to be considered one of the rarest of them all. While there are many bands who released albums in very small quantities and are now much sought after, many were only intended to be demos or for fans of the group. I bring this up because the Cortes album was very clearly made for a larger audience and serves as a metaphoric victim. This is not just another low budget obscurity, but a highly produced and brilliant effort. It wasn't until the Shadoks CD and LP reissues (in 2003) that most folks had a chance to hear this great rarity.

I had always imagined that Brazil in the early 1970s would produce a kind of uninhibited tribal psychedelic rock band that would rival the experimental wonders in Germany like Guru Guru or Amon Duul II. So after hearing plenty of rock and psych music from Brazil, I had given up on my dream until a cassette tape of the double LP Lula Côrtes e Zé Ramalho literally showed up on my doorstep. Now I wonder how many others existed in Brazil but without a proper recording perhaps?

As for the music, imagine a direct cross of Swedish cosmic psychedelic pioneers Algarnas Tradgard and the progressive folk of Los Jaivas from Chile. Take the traditional instruments of the Mayans, Incans, and early Spanish settlers, and combine with unearthly chanting and singing, then mesh with jazzy elements like flute and sax. Now add a dash of classical with piano and zither. Shake three times and add a huge scoop of completely freaked out, free-from-boundaries electric fuzz guitar, organ, and psychedelic jamming. The result is the musical realization of a mescaline dance party. One has absolutely no idea what the music will do next, but rest assured it will be well-played, intense, imaginative, and emotional. How exciting it must've been to do music like this; each composition could be improvised in a number of ways every night. The combinations are endless. Music of this nature, like the original album itself, is completely extinct.

Personal collection
LP: 2003 Shadoks (Germany)
CD: 2003 Shadoks (Germany)

One of the rarest albums on the planet as an original. My first copy was a cassette from a friend, which inspired the review above. Shadoks put the album back into circulation, and I promptly bought both the double LP and the CD. The reissues themselves are straight up, with no additional information or bonus tracks. The packaging of the LP, of course, is lavish as is typical of Shadoks.

Semiramis - Dedicato a Frazz. 1973 Italy

Originally published in Gnosis on February 24, 2001. Updated for UMR.

So it's an established fact that in Italy during the period between 1971-1974, a music movement existed where bands would challenge each other to see who could be the most imaginative, who could create the album for the ages. They were all painters and sculptors just as in Renaissance Italy. Dedicato A Frazz is Michaelangelo's 'David'.

At one point in time, utter genius struck five young men and the masterpiece has been laid down for future generations to discover.

Organ, synthesizer, vibes, electric/acoustic guitar, bass, drums, and a vocalist. And with that Semiramis was able to create an album unlike any other before or since. Combining elements of Italian folk, circus, hard rock, Baroque church music, jazz, classical, and a good dose of insanity, Dedicato A Frazz pounds every sense, challenges every synapse in a flurry of ideas. After literally hundreds of listens, I still hear a different album each time. There is no weak link, no attempt at copying others works, no tries at banal commercialism. Just uninhibited reckless abandon of the imagination combined with musical expertise and each member is a master of his instrument. Most tracks have a few hundred ideas and change moods faster than a bipolar woman left in the cold. Acoustic moments are quickly offset by heavy electric ones. Quiet moments of solitude are blasted away by militaristic might. It's never enough to have one striking contrast. No, Semiramis pile it on from every angle. Synths go awry, voices scream, guitars go a hundred miles a second, drums jettison you across the room. How could a group compose so many ideas? There are literally 15 albums on this!

It's hard to pick one song, but 'Distro una Porta di Carta' has to be the clincher. Starting unobtrusively with a nice Moog sequence and guitar melody, the vocals are impassioned but not extraordinarily so. Then the music stops. A little acoustic strumming, voices, and a more violent return to the opening movement. But it's faster this go 'round. Then an insane break - guitars, drums, and bass in step but at a very odd meter, keyboards rotating overhead. Then another wild break with layered keys and the previous guitar trio performing metronomic acrobatics. From here the guitar solos on top with chromatic scales at a blistering rate. Then the organ plays an odd sequence with heavy guitars following along. All this leads to the climax: Swishing acoustic guitar going speaker to speaker and swirling organ that leads to a dramatic and melancholic ending. That's one track. Imagine seven like this. For the dedicated listener the rewards are endless.

One of the greatest albums ever and the pure embodiment of everything that made the Italian prog movement so special.

Personal collection
LP: 1973 Trident
CD: 2002 Arcangelo (Japan)

My first copy was the straightforward Vinyl Magic CD that I picked up upon release - as Semiramis was one of the big names in Italian progressive rock even back then. And shortly thereafter, I picked up one of those 1980s counterfeit LPs (knowingly), which are frighteningly similar to the original. Be sure to take a look at on how to differentiate between the two. Around the 2000 time frame, I was able to secure my first original LP. And even had two more come through here over the years (including a new copy which I kept for myself!).

Brave New World - Impressions on Reading Aldous Huxley. 1972 Germany

There are certain albums that are distinctly European. They are about mood and texture, rather than complexity, technique and structure. Brave New World's Impressions On Reading Aldous Huxley is one such album that defines this type of European existentialism.

Tackling Huxley's Brave New World in musical form would require a rule breaking mindset. An ironic satire focused squarely on the Utopian work of H.G Wells, Huxley created a "science fiction futuristic" novel that is probably more realistic today than it was when published 75 years ago. And so appropriately enough, the Irish German combo that named themselves after the novel is, in effect, a bizarre journey into another world. But not a world that is unrecognizable, not one that requires leaps of faith in terms of technology. But one that is extracted from an existing philosophy and epistemology that we possess already.

The philosophical background is important in understanding this strangely compelling record. Because the music just happens. Like a slowly evolving soundtrack, with a strong knowledge of jazz and psychedelic rock. Flute and amplified lead guitar are at the forefront of the instrument parade, but there's many other instruments to provide a full palette of sounds and senses. Acoustic guitar, saxophone, exotic percussion, narration, cello, tribal drums, choirs, metronomes, organ, synthesizers, and on and on...

There really is no other album that sounds like Impressions On Reading Aldous Huxley. It's not intense or gloomy Krautrock. They're not jazzers experimenting with rock like Wolfgang Dauner, Sunbirds or Roland Kovac. From Germany, maybe Dom's Edge of Time provides a guidepost, but only in the overall zeitgeist, rather than in the actual execution. Perhaps we look to the French and albums such as Laurence Vanay's splendid Galaxies or even the later, but more underdeveloped, album by Flamen Dialis is the closest the radar will recognize. Unique albums like this - that are captivating, memorable, inventive, and still manage to exist within the rock aesthetic - these are exactly the kind of albums that I consider the greatest ever. The pure definition of a progressive rock record. Even the gatefold cover on Vertigo (released in Germany only) is world class.

Personal collection
LP: 1972 Vertigo

Yes - Fragile (Mike review)

I've been pulling out a lot of old classics of late and while I'm stretching the definition of classic by labelling Yes's fourth album with it, in the annals of rock history it probably could be considered one. Anyone who grew up listening to rock radio might remember the yearly song battles where they'd pair classics up tournament style only for nearly every year for the final two songs to be Yes - Roundabout vs Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven, with Roundabout losing perrenially to the Zep 4 mainstay. Fragile also contains what is a prog rock canon piece, the timeless Heart of the Sunrise, which is so strong it almost drags the rest of the album along with it, it's a demonstration in itself that perfect symphonic rock also has a cosmic or ethereal element to it. Also quite wonderful but far less known, the side 1 closer South Side of the Sky which probably ranks with Siberian Khatru and the two long pieces on side 2 of Relayer as Yes's secondary great canon, those songs perhaps not the peak material that they'd always play live or which would make Classic Yes, but enough to make you partially forget that Yes were probably, taken as a career, more responsible for bad music than good music. Also making Classic Yes, undoubtedly due to Chris Squire's insistence, the tedious bass feature The Fish, which was one of five short pieces all contributed by the musicians and probably the main reason why Fragile doesn't quite hold together as an album despite how strong some of the collective material is. Wakeman and Howe's pieces are basically tedious classical guff that make me run for the skip button, while Anderson's We Have Heaven is, surprisingly, the best of the five, a clever vocal montage that ends about when it should. And Bruford's Five Percent of Nothing is such a short skiffle that it's barely worth noting. In fact it's almost worth just reprogramming this to play Roundabout (assuming you aren't tired of it, to me this is a track like Don't Fear the Reaper or Carry on Wayward Son that are practically timeless in my book) South Side of the Sky, Heart of the Sunrise and, if you have the newest remaster, the America bonus track. Perhaps in a way this album perfectly demonstrates both the highs and lows of the central progressive rock movement, before they'd go on to put it all together with the near-perfect Close to the Edge and nearly permanently burn themselves out.

Mythos - s/t. 1971 Germany

I recently spoke in reverent tones about Germany's Ohr label in the Annexus Quam Osmose review. We continue our Captain Trip Japanese mini-LP tour with Mythos' debut, yet another classic from the Ohr creative freak factory. The cover's cartoon art is quite telling: We have some sort of winged eyeball ruler sitting on a treestump (or is a rockpile?) with legs crossed, wearing a nifty pair of what looks like PF Flyers. What he's thinking about or what's he's doing there is anybody's guess, but there's a better than good chance his brain flew away after digesting the contents of the album. The back cover may be even better: Four eyeballs wearing viking helmets stand ready to do battle with knives and... carrots ... and ... ice cream cones. Honestly they look like Marvin the Martian hit a tab of acid after taking in Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. All in day-glo yellow and pink. You don't even need to hear a note and already know it's a classic.

We begin with the 3 minute 'Mythoett', where band leader Stefan Kaske shows off his somewhat Tull-ian flute demonstration. A classically motivated piece, the bass and drums drive the piece forward for a pleasant, if not overly creative opener. Acoustic strumming with an Eastern motif introduces the appropriately named 'Oriental Journey'. Kaske's voice enters and is heavily processed. In later albums, his voice was not processed. Let's just say - be grateful it's affected. Sitar is added as well, giving it the right amount of exoticism. After a couple of minutes, we hit our first "Ohr moment", as spacey flute and bass guitar are put through the mixer in a completely zoned out cosmic way. Cymbals bash, and hand percussion thumps. It's Krautrockian. It's Ohrrockian. It's the work of the Cosmic Joker meister himself: Dieter Dierks. Scorpions be damned. To this point, however, the album is relatively "normal". Then comes 'Hero's Death', and it's time to get all freaky. And downright heavy metal, with a diabolus in musica guitar riff. Disembodied voice enters in while Kaske goes Edgar Froese on us. Which means play the guitar as loud as hell and we'll worry about notes later. You will drown in the strings mellotron against flute mid-section. The heavy metal returns. Fierce, driving and floating. The album cover art is starting to make sense. Bum-bum-bum-bum-badum badum goes the bass. Bum-bum-bum-bum-badum-badum. Epic.

And we're only now getting to the side long track: 'Encyclopedia Terrae'. We're not in Kansas anymore Dorothy, but in the land of the mutated Marvin the Martian. The planet Ohrian. The death march snare drum. The matching bass. The harmonious guitar. Loud, acid guitar thank you. Not Number 9! Bring me K-9! Then Mythos sounds the air-raid alarm. It's serious and it's for real. Synthesizers emulate war sounds while snare drums snap in the background. Bombs are everywhere - no place is safe. The viking eyeballs are winning! In the aftermath we hear church bells and chirping birds as we walk amongst the ruins - synthesizer and bass mournfully play along to the beat. Where better to insert a mellotron blast?

Echoed electric guitar strums as Kaske narrates in heavily accented English: A long time ago there was a man who didn't want to live in this world of killing and fighting anymore. Fully convinced that mankind would improve and become more peaceful during its evolution, and being a man of genius, he built a machine which would enable him to sleep as in death. A hundred years later the machine was supposed to wake him at which time he hoped to find a better world, one that would be worth living in. One hundred years passed.... The machine woke the man, but although nearly everything had changed, mankind hadn't. So the man turned his machine and kept returning to it until the 32nd time, when he awoke to find that there was no more life on Earth. (music stops except one sparsely played synth) There was no bird in the sky, no fish in the sea, no tree and no flower. Man had killed all the plants, all the animals (guitar strums again) and at last even himself leaving the Earth a dead bowl in the universe. Seeing this, the man sat down on the bleak ground and tears ran down his cheeks. His lungs inhaled the deadly air and darkness closed in about him as he followed all the others to a place of no fighting and no killing, no grief, no envy and no sorrow. Would you like to know the name of this place? It's called Eternity and the only gate you must path (sic) through to enter it is the one which separates life and death.


Personal collection
LP: 1971 Ohr
CD: 2008 Captain Trip

Skywhale - The World at Mind's End. 1977 England

Skywhale's sole album is one of the rare non-Canterbury UK fusion albums that sound more in line with what was happening over the Chan...