Made in Germany - s/t. 1971 Germany

Made in Germany are yet another example of the many great female vocal lead proto progressive albums coming from Europe during the 1971 era. Sometimes panned as a "pop" album that hasn't "aged well", there are truly only scant examples of that to be found here (opening tracks on each side are pure plays for pop stardom). Anyone familiar with the continental European scene of this time, will instantly recognize the Berlin based Made in Germany as a prototypical adventurous band for their time. Listen for organ, flute, acid guitar and the husky female vocals that are all associated with the genre. Joy Unlimited would have to be considered Made in Germany's closest comparison.

Personal collection
CD: 2002 Long Hair

A year after this release, Metronome launched the Brain label, and that's most certainly where Made in Germany would have been placed had they still been around. The CD is a typically great Long Hair reissue, with unique liner notes, photos and many bonus tracks. The bonus tracks do show the band going into an entirely pop direction and are of iffy quality.

Jonesy - No Alternative. 1972 England

Jonesy (named after guitarist and primary songwriter John Jones) were one of the finest of the Dawn label bands, providing a blue collar progressive rock sound - which was in deep contrast to some of the more hoity-toity bands coming from the UK at this time. Their debut No Alternative catches the band at their heaviest, and demonstrates a more bluesy proto-progressive sound. Perhaps a year past its prime, but nonetheless a good example of said style. Every track features mellotron, giving it the requisite dreamy contrast. In this way, early King Crimson becomes an obvious reference.

Personal collection
LP: 1972 Dawn
CD: 2001 Victor (Japan)
CD: 2006 Strange Days (Japan)

I've had the original of this album since the late 1980s, having rescued it from a local Dallas record store. I've always loved the working class British gatefold cover. I didn't buy a supplemental CD copy until the 2006 Japan mini-LP came out. Later I purchased the Dawn Records Japanese box set that included the 3 Jonesy albums on Victor. The Strange Days version has two very cool bonus tracks in Quad that sound magnificent. I could also argue the sound is slightly better than the Victor CD. Since the Victor CD is in the box, I'll keep them both for now.

Focus - Focus 3. 1972 Netherlands

Like the Eloy we posted yesterday, Focus 3 is a relatively well known title that the UMR enthusiastically recommends. Focus were at the peak of their career here with Akkerman's blazing solos, and Van Leer's flute and organ forays. 26 minute long jam 'Anonymous 2' needed to be trimmed down by about half, with the annoying drum solo sucking the life out of the disc by the end.

Personal collection
LP: 1972 Polydor (UK)
LP: 1972 Sire (USA)
CD: 1988 IRS (USA)

I prefer the US die-cut version on Sire rather than the yellowish picture of Van Leer on the flute. It's very rare the US release will trump the original, but I feel this one did.

Eloy - Silent Cries and Mighty Echoes. 1979 Germany

Eloy were one of Germany's most famous symphonic rock groups. They had a few phases, but their most popular was the era Silent Cries and Mighty Echoes was released in, when they were in full blown Pink Floyd mode. What I like about Eloy is their ability to provide space. This leads to the appreciation of the big, fat riffs that cascade throughout. The guitar and keyboard leads are profound, if not necessarily complicated or overly inspired. An easy band to enjoy on initial impact, I highly recommend Eloy to progressive rock fans who are looking for something new beyond the well-known bands. For old hands, as cynical as they may be, Eloy always manage to deliver as well. A very good album.

Personal collection
LP: 1979 Harvest
CD: 1995 Si-Wan (Korea)

Neu! - s/t. 1972 Germany

Ah, good ole Neu! The band that neo-hipsters think invented Krautrock - or defines Krautrock. Featuring ex-Kraftwerk members, and the music is remarkably similar. In fact, Neu! defined the direction Kraftwerk were to go into before Kraftwerk themselves actually did. To be fair, Neu! were a groundbreaking group and were one of the original bands on Brain/Metronome. And as time has passed, certainly the most beloved of the original bands on the label - if not the most popular.

Personal collection
CD: 2001 Astralwerks (USA)

Despite Neu!'s immense popularity with the hipster crowd,, the band's works were only available as a bootleg for many years (ahem, early Kraftwerk is still in that same state). Then in 2001, a British label named Grönland rectified the problem. They were licensed to the popular NYC indie label Astralwerks here in the US. I believe the album is still in print and relatively easy to find.

Madrugada - s/t. 1974 Italy

Madrugada's debut album is a diverse mix of styles. On Side 1 the album opens with a light instrumental, which is then followed by some rather straightforward singer songwriter material - and quite off-putting and dull at that. Side 2 is far more expressive with elaborate jazzy progressive rock compositions, including some wonderful Moog runs. Of course, it’s the latter half that holds my interest. This is a quintessential Italian sounding album, so if you’re a fan of all that might encompass, you’ll want to hear it for sure. Otherwise, this obviously isn’t the perfect place to start.

Personal collection

Yours truly did the "adaptation" on the 2006 AMS CD (mini-LP format). Basically I translated the translation. On this one, it is credited to my friend Jim Hresko, but it was me who did the work this time - and the label basically f'ed up, and they apologized to me. Whatever. I did my best, but it was very difficult material to work with, so not sure I'm too upset about not getting the credit. Speaking of f'ed up, the mastering is very poor - and the LP used was not the best quality. May 2018 edit: I decided to sell it.

Last listen: May 30, 2018

Room - Pre-Flight. 1970 England

Room are yet another band from the 1970 era with female vocals, and a jazzy/bluesy/psych sound that was all the rage at the time (Affinity, Goliath, Catapilla, Frumpy, etc...). And I love everyone one of them. Room is no different, though they added a little mini-orchestra to spruce things up. Great stuff.

Personal collection
CD: 1994 Si-Wan (Korea)

Web - I Spider. 1970 England

Web at this stage had moved on from their bluesy slightly jazzy psych period, into the more trendy progressive rock that was infiltrating all UK bands at the time. Despite being on Polydor, it sounds like an album that would've been more at home on a label like Dawn or Neon. Highly melodic, perhaps melancholic, rock music with guitar, organ and sax. And maybe best of all are the mournful vocals of Dave Lawson. Arguably even better than "I Spider" is the next stage of the band, known as Samurai - an album we will most certainly cover eventually.

Personal collection
CD: 2008 Esoteric

Supersister - Present From Nancy. 1970 Netherlands

Present From Nancy is a top 50 album for yours truly. At this point they were a bunch of teenagers who studied Soft Machine Volume 2 and somehow managed to improve on it. Perhaps it's the single minded focus that youth can possess, while employing a yet-to-be-disillusioned imagination. Whatever the case, Supersister distilled the best parts out of Soft Machine and Caravan, and left an artifact for the ages. Stips' keyboard playing is top notch, employing the fuzz organ as much as possible, while the remainder of the band puts the tight and complicated rhythms together behind him. Add some beautiful and melodic flute, and the soft affected vocal style that the Dutch seem to have mastered as much as the English, and you have an album that is irresistible.

Personal collection
LP: 1970 Polydor
CD: 1990 Polydor w/To the Highest Bidder

True originals are housed in a fine gatefold cover. The US press features a unique cover and is relatively scarce (second photo). The 1977 press is a single sleeve and is very common. As for CD's, I bought the low budget 2-for-1 CD back in 1990. The Esoteric CD contains full historical liner notes, and 4 bonus tracks, taken from 2 distinct 45's from 1970. The first of which contains 'She Was Naked', which is just as awesome as anything on Present From Nancy. 'Spiral Staircase' is just OK, and a bit goofy honestly. The second single includes 'Fancy Nancy' which is an awful track really. 'Gonna Take Easy' has promise but is pretty silly too. Not a good single overall. Perfect for bonus tracks however. I hate to say it, but the 2 for 1 sounds much better to my ears! So I moved out the Esoteric version.

Ricordi D'Infanzia - Io Uomo. 1973 Italy

While not the ideal place to start for any fan new to the Italian progressive rock scene, Ricordi D'Infanzia is a fine example of the middle-tier of the style. It's more song-oriented than the top tier hyper imaginative albums that one can overdose on quick. But if a dedicated fan, this is one you'll want to own eventually. Great vocals with fine organ, piano, and guitar work.

Personal collection
CD: 2004 Strange Days / Universal (Japan)

Gnidrolog - Lady Lake. 1972 England

I had longed questioned the quality of this album, as it seemed to be highly-touted amongst collectors worldwide, many times at the expense of the debut In Spite of Harry's Toenail. I had always figured it was to increase the value of the album, rather than an honest assessment of the music itself. And while I still prefer the herky-jerkiness of the debut, I've come to the realization that Lady Lake is indeed a fine work. It's not as immediately apparent for someone who is as meter focused as I tend to be, but yet there's a maturity and depth that I missed in my overanxious youth. In fact, the album ties in well with other top level UK albums like Raw Material and Spring - other works that took awhile for me to appreciate. Now I can't get enough of this peculiar breed of UK rock from the early 1970s. The addition of a woodwinds player also helps considerably.

Personal collection
LP: 1972 RCA
CD: 2009 BMG (Japan)

Jan 2018 update: Obtained the original LP. And a beautiful copy it is!

Ville Emard Blues Band - Ville Emard. 1975 Canada

Fresh on the heels of the Kaczynski album, here's another ProgQuebec reissue. Ville Emard Blues Band was a very large ensemble that was yet another band built around the foundation of Contraction / Franck Dervieux.

The album itself is very diverse, and features anything from good time bar tunes to lengthy psychedelic jams. A fine album, that comes recommended.

Personal collection
CD: 2004 ProgQuebec w/Live à Montréal

CD is titled Complete VEBB au complet 1973-1975 

Charles Kaczynski - Lumiere de la Nuit. 1979 Canada

Charles Kaczynski is a one man orchestra, who released this one beautiful, rich symphonic album with violin as the lead instrument. Another classic ProgQuebec reissue.

Personal collection
LP: 1979 private (as Light of Night)
CD: 2006 ProgQuebec

The LP I own is English titled version, though there's no difference in the music since it's instrumental. I believe this title to be more obscure than the French original.

International Harvester – Sov Gott Rose-Marie. 1969 Sweden

On the Heldon Electronique Guerilla post, I spoke of the anarchic subversiveness to which that particular album portrays. When compared with International Harvester, Heldon comes across as a conservative Reaganite, preaching the values of capitalism. While left wing politics were typical in late 60s, early 70s European progressive rock, especially from France, Germany, Italy, and Sweden, International Harvester has to be one of the most overt of all of them. Typically playing in clubs sponsored by the Communist Youth League, International Harvester were laying their own brand of radical free rock. On the album you'll hear screaming chants of "Ho Chi Minh" which pretty much sums things up from a philosophical standpoint. But this is no polit-rock album (known as Progg in Sweden), of which I'm not usually a fan, but rather one of the first examples of primarily instrumental avant garde rock that one could buy on the market, along with early Can and Amon Duul (I and II). An important evolutionary work. International Harvest evolved from Parsson Sound, a group we all learned about in the late 1990s due to Subliminal Sounds' great archival release. The group evolved into Harvester and Träd, Gräs och Stenar, and some members found their way onto to perhaps the greatest avant garde rock album of all time: Älgarnas Trädgård's Framtiden Är Ett Svävande Skepp, Förankrat I Forntiden.

Personal collection
CD: 2001 Silence

Pretty rare as an original, and not even released in their native Sweden, no doubt due to its subversive political views. Years later, Silence bought the rights from Love and reissued it  on LP. Had International Harvester come out one year later, most assuredly it would have been released on Silence, a label known for radical free thinking music groups.

Ash Ra Tempel - The Private Tapes Vol. 3. 1971, 1973-1974 (archival)

The tracks on this CD:

There are three Gottsching solo guitar tracks from 1973. These were all in preparation for the Starring Rosi album and predate the concept he'd use eventually on Inventions for Electric Guitar.

There's one lengthy 27 minute track from 1974 with Lutz Ulbrich from Agitation Free and later a member of the Ashra trio with drummer Harald Grosskopf. It's a long spacey track focused on keyboards, but with some fine guitar work as well. Relates closest to Le Berceau Du Cristal, another archival release from Manuel Gottsching.

The final track is a 32 minute freakout jam from 1971 along the lines of the debut album ('Le Bruit des Origines').

Personal collection
CD: 1996 Manikin

This is one of the legendary 6 volumes that Manikin unleashed on the public in 1996. They came out in the late spring while I was backpacking through Spain in 1996. When I arrived home, I was told about it. The retail price was $100, and I was a bit short on cash from my trip. I went ahead and got them anyway, at the encouragement of some friends, who all knew I was a big fan of the band. Thank goodness, as this set is known to go for ten times the price I paid. Manikin reissued a 2 CD compilation, but for some reason these 6 CDs remain without another reissue.

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...