The Bridge - Overdrive / Kristian Schultze Set - Recreation. 1972 Germany

Recreation is the reissue title of Overdrive. The music is a fine set of gritty electric piano oriented jazz (...rock) with plenty of fuzzy and dirty sounds including distorted bass and keyboards. Nice use of flute as well, and the album features a plethora of well written melodies. It would appear the album was originally oriented to television and film incidental music, though the tracks are more developed than that premise may imply. A year after this recording, Kristian Schultze joined Passport as their prime keyboardist for the next 4 albums or so.

Personal collection
CD: 2002 Crippled Dick Hot Wax!

The CD reissue offers a new cover... a new band name... and a new album title. I've included the original LP cover, which shows it as The Bridge - Overdrive. Apparently the bonus tracks on the CD came with the name Kristian Schultze Set and so the reissue label went with that, though the name recognition couldn't hurt. The package comes in a nice digi-pak with historical liner notes.

Last listen: April 28, 2018

Cortex - Volume 2. 1977 France

Many, many years ago I heard Cortex's 3rd album Pourquoi? and trashed it off as disco, never bothering to return to the band name again. Now I'm wondering if there wasn't more there, as Volume 2 could just as easily be considered disco. But on close inspection there is so much more happening here, it would be a tragedy for fans of the French fusion sound to ignore. Sure there are the fat beats, especially on the opening track, and the requisite white-boy funk track to follow. But as the album continues, the beats become more subtle, with plenty of jazz fills, while the bass player introduces some Top/Paganotti moves. Horn charts, tortured electric guitar solos and piano/Rhodes leads began to dominate. And when the flute takes over... oh, those melodies will be forever etched. This is a really good one and you can boogie on down with it too. I can go for another helping of this.

Personal collection
CD: 2002 Follow Me Records

The CD is a very nice triple FOC, with liner notes. However, I wish they'd left the original cover in full rather than the hipster vinyl montage.

Stray - s/t. 1970 England

My God! This has some of the most blistering guitar ever put down on vinyl. And he puts it through every effect one could find in 1970. Beyond intense. I rarely use the word underrated, as honestly how many people really rate this stuff? But dammit, if the tag don't fit here. A monster of an album. Derek Bromham plays some wicked lead here, and puts his six stringer through every effect he could get his hands on.

Personal Collection
LP: 1970 Transatlantic
LP: 197? Transatlantic
CD: 2005 Arcangelo (Japan)

Featuring a wonderful die-cut cover, Stray's debut on Transatlantic has become quite collectible over the years. I have two versions of this, one with a purple and white label (generally considered the original) and another a cream colored one with a stencil drawing.

May Blitz - s/t. 1970 England

May Blitz were a prototypical hard rock / progressive band on Philips' Vertigo label. Long tracks, based in the blues, but with plenty of room given for psychedelic soloing is the order of the day. Their debut is considered one of the greats of the early 1970s UK hard rock era. Though I agree it is essential, I do think there are better works to be discovered from the time and place - for example, their second album.

Personal collection
CD: 1992 BGO w/The Second of May

My initial copy of this album was the US press on Paramount that was sold once I obtained the BGO CD.

Jacques Blais - Themes. 1975 Canada

Jacques Blais' solo album is yet one more branch from the creative Contraction, Toubabou and Ville Emard Blues Band tree. Exquisite guitar and creative compositions color this fine work.

Personal collection
CD: 2008 ProgQuebec

Rocky's Filj - Storie di Uomini e Non. 1973 Italy

Rocky's Filj's sole album is a superb progressive rock album, with a strong jazz leaning. Deep grooves and head bobbing melodies are just some of the characteristics of this fine work. File along with Duello Madre and La Seconda Genesi, though Rocky's Filj is a bit closer to the sound of Arti & Mestieri at times.

Interesting to read modern reviews scoff at the dramatic vocals, but honestly that's the style of the genre. Histrionic vocals are to be expected from the early 1970s Italian progressive rock bands. Il Balletto di Bronzo's Ys and Metamorfosi's Inferno are far crazier than anything you'll hear by Rocky's Filj.

Personal collection
CD: 2003 BMG / Ricordi

The CD is taken from vinyl, and at times, way too obvious at that. One of the few classic Italian prog albums not pressed in Japan in any format. It's also an original LP that continues to elude me, and it's definitely a want list item.

Thirsty Moon - s/t. 1972 Germany

On December 18th, 2006, I wrote for the Outer Music Diary:

For me, quite possibly the reissue of the year (along with their second You'll Never Come Back). Long Hair surprised everyone with these reissues I think. Complete with unique liner notes from the band and an independent reviewer, bonus tracks (in this case a 5:42 minute number that's highly relevant to the release) and a high quality production... ...I've had this for many years on LP, and never tire of it. Thirsty Moon play a favored style of Krautrock for me: Jazzy, improvised, heavy, intense, creative. They sound like no one particular group, but elements of similar German acts like Brainstorm, Kollektiv, Embryo, Emergency, Xhol Caravan and Missing Link are apparent. Six piece band with added percussion, two keyboardists (one dedicated to electric piano) and a reeds player. The band gels on a number of fronts, especially in energy and passion - something that is rarely captured in a bottle like this. Conny Plank's engineering is all over this too (phasing, panning, gadgetry galore). And 21.5 minute 'Yellow Sunshine' is a classic for the ages - like Missus Beastly playing in the production of the Cosmic Jokers series of albums. Yes, this is in the Top 75 albums of all time for me. Maybe even Top 50.

3+ years later I would say it makes the Top 50. Brilliant really.

Personal collection
LP: 1972 Brain
CD: 2006 Long Hair

Thirsty Moon's debut features an amazing gatefold cover of a moon spun tornado that holds up the sun and the fiery flames spell out Thirsty Moon. I've owned the LP for well over 20 years, and it would be among the last 20 to leave here if I was ever forced to sell my collection. For many years, this was one of the last of the great Green Brain albums to have not surfaced on CD, so it thrived in the bootleg market. Long Hair finally came along with an awesome reissue complete with their usual liner notes, photos, and one solid bonus track.

Triana - El Patio. 1975 Spain

The flamenco prog rock movement in Spain can be traced to this album, Triana's debut. Long time dictator Franco passed away in 1975, and that event seemed to spawn a host of interesting rock groups interested in rediscovering their historical past, something Franco was loathe to promote, in fear of patriotic regionalism. Triana was so popular in their native Spain, that it wouldn't be too unusual to find a well played cassette in grandma's closet. Dramatic Arabian vocals, fuzz guitar, mellotron, organ, Moog and plenty of great flamenco guitar. Fantastic compositions all the way through. There are two bona-fide 15's here: Track 3 `Recuerdo de Una Noche' followed immediately by `Se de un Lugar'.

Personal collection
LP: 1975 Movieplay
CD: 2003 Fonomusic

The original is a beautiful gatefold LP. For years I thought I had an original, until I looked carefully. My goodness, it was a very obscure 1984 pressing (white label Fonomusic)! The cover feels very much like a 1970s product, and it probably is. My guess is they had extra covers and so they made new pressings to meet demand (Triana were very popular in Spain)*. The first CD was like all of the 1980's Fonomusic CDs - very cheaply done. They made up for this with the 2003 press, which comes in a beautiful triple foldout digi-pak. There's also the bizarre US press on Warner Bros.' "Latin Essentials" series. Really? That's just crazy.

* - A couple of years after writing this post, I did secure a real green label original on Movieplay.

Captain Marryat - s/t. 1974 Scotland

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this album, considering some of the hype surrounding its excessive value in original LP form. I really thought it would be average at best. But not so. It screams the era in which it was released. It's naive, it's honest, it's well played, and it's memorable. Nice melodies, and surprisingly strong vocals. Long sections are set aside for guitar (nice fuzz tone) and organ jams. And they are also very well executed. Very much a UK styled rock / progressive album from 1974.

Personal collection
CD: 2009 Shadoks

This album was about as mythical as they come in collecting circles. For years, it was only whispered about and many decried its very existence. But then a couple of copies popped on ebay in early 2009, each securing well over $4,000 each and many collectors (including me) became curious what all the fuss was. Shortly thereafter, the excellent Shadoks label, a reissue company whose primary focus is that of the most obscure albums, came through with both an LP and CD reissue. The turnaround on this one - going from impossible-to-find-mega-rarity to CD reissue is about as fast it will ever happen. But it's a win-win for all progressive rock fans. It's wonderful to have an artifact such as this on CD - and done the right way with the band's involvement. As is custom with a great reissue, the CD features unique liner notes and photos.

Rumple Stiltzken Comune - Wrong From The Beginning. 1977 Switzerland

About the only progressive rock band I know from the Italian section of Switzerland. Despite their background, Rumple Stiltzken Comune sounds most like an English band. Especially echoes of Van der Graaf Generator and Gabriel era Genesis can be heard. While the vocals can get a little clumsy at times, the music more than makes up for it. It's quite complex, and not an easy listen. It's fully involved as they say. 4 very long and convoluted compositions. If you like your music dense and difficult, while employing the classic 70s analog rock instrumentation, then Rumple Stiltzken Comune is one for you to seek out. I quite enjoy the album myself.

Personal collection
CD: 2000 Black Rills

Dragonwyck - Chapter 2. 1973 USA (archival)

Dragonwyck, at their peak in the early 70s, were once considered Cleveland’s rising rock stars, having earned a weekly spot at one well known local club for two years straight. Their 1970 debut, in reality only a demo recording in hopes of landing a label deal, and pressed only in a quantity of 85, was a hard psych affair similar to the 1967 Doors sound. Three years on, with many more shows under the belt and a whole new keyboard play-kit including organ and mellotron, demonstrated the band’s professional progression and a move towards more complex compositions. Still, in keeping with their three years behind the times M.O., Dragonwyck had only progressed to the Moody Blues circa 1970. That is, a psych influenced progressive sound, with plenty of vocal harmonies and large scale orchestrations (as emulated by the new expansive keyboard setup). The guitar, however, is more aggressive than anything the Blues ever did. Included were re-recordings of two tracks from the debut, still sounding oddly like the Doors and out of place with the newer material. Despite a fully produced recording, the album was never formally released (excepting bootlegs) until 2006. After the “Chapter 2” recordings, the band began to move towards more commercial songwriting, which is reflected on the two 1974 bonus tracks contained on the World in Sound reissue CD. Interestingly enough, their sound at this point represented what most “Midwest Progressive” bands were to sound like – Starcastle, Ethos and Albatross for example. In the end, a very much recommended purchase for psych and prog heads, with the caveat that the album was dated even in its own time.

Personal collection
CD: 2006 World in Sound (Germany)

CD comes in a nice triple FOC digi-pak with liner notes and photos.

Il Balletto di Bronzo – Sirio 2222. 1970 Italy

You won't find many people out there that tout Sirio 2222 as Il Balletto di Bronzo's best album. And I'm certainly no different. See Il Balletto di Bronzo, once upon a time, released one of those once-in-a-lifetime masterpieces called Ys. Of course we'll feature it at some point, but for the one person who may be reading this and does not know about Ys, just buy it. But my random number generator picked Sirio 2222, so we'll be consistent and plug along.

As in everyday life, there are contrarians everywhere, and so it should not come as any surprise there are a few that state Sirio 2222 is much better than the overrated Ys. Fine. "Ya gonna think what ya gonna think so no point on a changin' yo mind."

Now, having said all of that, Sirio 2222 is a swell album of Italian psych, with elements of progressive rock beginning to seep in. 1970 is very early for an Italian band, and the famous Italian progressive movement was about a year away. Sirio 2222 offers some fine guitar work, good melodies, and a few places of imagination. But it doesn't give any indication of where they were headed next.

Personal collection
CD: 2007 BMG (Japan)

When I first started collecting Italian progressive rock originals in the 1980s, Il Balletto di Bronzo's debut was one of the most sought after and expensive. Fortunately an LP reissue surfaced quickly and that was my first copy. It also demystified the allure for me (and for many others I suspect). I ended up buying the Japanese mini-LP at a bargain price, and sold the reissue LP shortly thereafter.

Last listen: March 26, 2018

Pulsar - Halloween. 1977 France

Pulsar is one of France's essential progressive rock groups. They were well known in their era, and enjoyed popularity up until the punk rock movement took over. Halloween is perhaps their most powerful work, with haunting melodies that contain some of the most brilliant strings and flute mellotron one can ever hear. There's also searing guitar work, dreamy vocals, militaristic drums, all of which add to the pervading melancholic feel. This is the type of music that sticks with you for days and days after only one listen. Side 1 is absolutely perfect, and for me, is one of the highlights of my entire collection. Side 2 is a bit more typical spacey prog rock (especially 'Dawn Over Darkness'), which doesn't possess the pure magic of the flip. All the same, this is still a near-masterpiece, and it's tempting to give it top marks for the one side alone. A very rich, deep, and compelling album.

Personal collection
LP: 1977 CBS
LP: 1987 Musea
CD: 2008 Arcangelo (Japan)

The LPs come in a fine gatefold. The CD is a mini-LP but is Musea's disc and features their booklet as well.

Heldon - Electronique Guerilla. 1974 France

All the Heldon albums are special, and the first is no exception. It's more raw and primitive, and that's part of its charm. Moog synths with searing electric guitar work define the album. An anarchic left wing vibe gives it a radical student atmosphere, befitting Professor Pinhas' role.

I found some unpublished notes that I wrote in 2006 about Heldon's early albums: A proper discussion of French electronic music cannot be had without at least a passing mention of Heldon. Lead by the mercurial Richard Pinhas, a professor of Philosophy at Le Sorbonne, and master of electronics and guitar. The early albums, generally accepted as the first 3, exude the feeling of the underground - a true rebellion to all things that are commonly accepted. Subversive. One can only wonder what role Pinhas would’ve had in the French Revolution, but I get the impression he would’ve made the history books. And, in some ways, he has made the history books, even if the subject in question are more for connoisseurs than the general public.

Personal collection
LP: 1975 Urus
CD: 2005 Captain Trip (Japan)

The first copy I owned was the Cobra LP (2nd scan), but ultimately I found the Urus original.

Bacamarte - Depois do Fim. 1983 Brazil

Considered by many, including myself, as the best 1980s era progressive rock album for all of South America. The scene was rich in the 1970s, but had pretty much died by the 80s, with a handful of exceptions. Bacamarte definitely sounds like a band from the 70s, and it's been said the album was recorded in 1978. Speedy guitar runs, complex meters, soaring female vocals and melodic passages all define this mature work. Highly recommended. It must be said though, that the band doesn't really sound Brazilian as there's a total absence of indigenous sounds. In this way, Bacamarte are more like the current South American progressive scene as found in both Brazil and Chile.

Personal collection
CD: 1995 Rarity

My first exposure to this album was the original LP on Som-Arte, which I sold upon obtaining the CD in the mid 90s.

Atlantis Philharmonic - s/t. 1974 USA

Atlantis Philharmonic is a duo formed in the Cleveland area. Despite the small lineup, it sounds like a much larger ensemble with a full array of keyboards (primarily organ), guitar, bass, drums, and quite a bit of percussion. The album contains a mix of instrumental and vocal work, and even veers towards the commercial in a couple of places. In this way, Atlantis Philharmonic is clearly a product of the Midwest progressive rock scene. It's heritage is obvious on repeated listens. A long time favorite of mine.

Personal collection
LP: 1974 Dharma
CD: 1990 Laser's Edge

Nosferatu - s/t. 1970 Germany

It is interesting to read modern reviews of Nosferatu, with comments like "all been done before" and "they borrowed different elements of albums prior". It once again demonstrates that we have a lot of young-uns out there downloading 50 albums a day and not digesting the music properly when listening. Or taking the time to understand the history. Had this album come out in 1973, then OK, maybe. But for 1970, Nosferatu were actually ahead of the curve. It's a distinctly British form of rock, with amplified sax/flute/guitar/organ and rough vocals. Listen to bands like Aquila, Hannibal, Indian Summer and Raw Material to see what I mean. It's a sound based in blues not jazz, the latter being more of an influence on Teutonic bands of the era.

Personal collection
CD: 2010 Long Hair
LP: 2010 Long Hair

San Francisco's Shiver - s/t. 1972 USA (archival)

Hard to fathom now, but San Francisco was once a blue collar town filled with longshoreman, canning slugs, underpaid brewery and chocolate factory workers. Even the beats like Jack Kerouac championed it. Despite this, there were a surprising few bands that represented that downtrodden underbelly of SF Society, and today are all but forgotten as the mega-millionaire software moguls, leftist academics and clueless hipster culture freaks have overrun the place and celebrate what they don’t understand. Enter Shiver, one of the most insane power trios to ever play anywhere, anytime. Recorded in that uncertain time between hippy-dippy psychedelia and the gritty days of post OPEC oil embargoes, Shiver gives us a peek into a time/place that is largely forgotten. We’ll make this review real simple: If you like long instrumental jams, with loads of effects applied to the guitar, and a relentless rhythm section, then you need this. Yesterday. The songs themselves are mere blues rock skeletons (with male Joplin-like vocal grittiness), in reality nothing more than excuses to launch into the next crazy jam. ‘Tough as Nails’, ‘Fixer’, ‘Bone Shaker’, ‘Interstellar Vision’ and the 14+ minute ‘Alpha Man’ are all about rocking you into oblivion. Rockadelic originally unearthed these archived recordings a few years back, and now Shadoks has taken the role of the CD issuer. Certainly in the top echelon of amazing finds from the good investigators of Rockadelic, an LP specialist label that has found more rare treasure than anyone else. Soundboard recording is in amazing shape, and isn’t too far removed from a major label live release of the era. Shadoks’ CD adds 4 more tracks, in lesser sound, and quite frankly, lesser quality, as they call out Shiver’s more basic blues rock roots to no purpose. Quit at the original Rockadelic release and you have a full album that is essential for those that dig cosmic blues jams. More rough and ready than the spaced out Krauts of Ash Ra Tempel and Guru Guru, but we’re in the same ballpark here. Actually as I reflect on my own review, the German band Silberbart would be a good comparison here.

Personal collection
CD: 2001 Shadoks

Tomorrow's Gift - s/t. 1970 Germany

Tomorrow's Gift's debut is a great example of the hard driving, proto progressive sound that flourished throughout western Europe in the early 1970s. Most of these bands featured husky female vocals in the Grace Slick or Janis Joplin manner and for instrumentation the leads were flute, guitar (usually played in a loud acid style), Hammond organ and sax. It's one of my personal favorite sub-genres of music. Some other examples of bands that play in this style are: Affinity, Fusion Orchestra, Delivery, Goliath (UK), Sandrose, Mad Curry, Julian's Treatment / Julian Jay Savarin, Circus 2000, Analogy and many more.

My only complaint is the overlong 4 minute drum solo that closes Side 2 (of 4 sides). But otherwise a corker.

Personal collection
CD: 1991 Second Battle
LP: 2012 Second Battle

Ibio - Cuevas de Altamira. 1978 Spain

Ibio, like many Spanish bands of the late 1970s, incorporated regional influences into their unique brand of progressive rock. And while the majority of these bands resided in Castile (Madrid), Catalonia (Barcelona), or in Andalusia (Sevilla, Cordoba, and Grenada) - Ibio represented the Asturias region. Much of this can be attributed to the new freedoms of expression after years of Franco repression, when regional pride was discouraged.

Cuevas de Altamira is a fine album with wonderful guitar leads and nice keyboards (including mellotron, which wasn't very common in Spain). As I read current reviews, some folks trash the affected traditional singing (sparsely used but powerful when present), which underscores to me once again that few take the time to understand the time and place of a recording. Personally, I miss the regional influences in modern Spanish progressive rock.

Personal collection
LP: 1978 Movieplay

The original is a beautiful gatefold LP, and it's an album I frequently display in my music room.

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...