Naked Lunch - s/t. 1969-1970; 1972 USA (archival)

* 1. Love is Everywhere 3:10 (1969)
* 2. Changes 5:41 (1969)
3. Endless Night 4:09 (1969)
* 4. Virgin Woman 5:17 (1969)
* 5. Ozone 5:21 (1969)
6. Your Song / Time Trip 6:29 (1970 - live)
* 7. Encore 4:21 (1970 - live)
8. All I Want To Do 3:11 (1972 - Banda de Jesus)
9. Better Days 3:47 (1972 - Banda de Jesus)
* 10. Lovely Day 5:57 (1972 - Banda de Jesus)
* 11. Livin' is Funky 4:50 (1972 - Banda de Jesus)
12. Ozone 4:48 (1970 - live)

San Francisco based Latin rock / horn rock hybrid that is absolutely sublime. No question the Santana influences here, though the band were in reality peers of Carlos rather than followers. The brass rock component gives us a view into another window that wasn't explored much on vinyl during the era, at least when talking Santana inspired acid rock. This may be the closest we ever get to hear the "Chicago meets Santana" sound, such as found on 2), 5) & 7). This band should have been huge, but as happens so often, the breaks just weren't there. 1) features a superb horn break and the melody reminds me of the group The Ides of March. It's exactly the kind of song that was a hit in its era, but for whatever reason, Naked Lunch didn't get their break. 4) displays a frenetic guitar solo. 8) - 11) are from the successor band Banda de Jesus, named after the band leader's surname, is a bit more upbeat, poppy and lyrically more predictable. Perhaps not an ideal addition, though musically not as far removed as it may first appear. The music actually reminds me more of a band like Malo, and features some lively horn breaks such as on 10). The sound quality is noticeably better, especially when the CD backtracks to the live 12), which sounds worse here than had it naturally followed 7).

Personal collection
CD: 2009 World in Sound (Germany)

The Antiques - Sincerely Antique. 1973 USA

* 1. Chaucha
2. Don't Let Me Down
* 3. Esta Melodia
* 4. Feel It
* 5. Taboo
* 6. Batuka
7. Dias Como Hoy
* 8. Crumbs Off The Table
9. Tu Me Acostumbraste
** 10. Juntos

If it weren't for Ken Golden over at the Laser's Edge, this is one title I probably would never have heard of. We're both fans of 70's Santana influenced Latin rock, and The Antiques fit squarely in that mold. A mix of kick ass instrumentals, bluesy hard rock workouts with Gregg Rolie like vocals, and soulful Latin pop numbers similar to Malo's more commercial efforts. I like all of it, but the first two categories are more to my taste (naturally enough I guess). Not quite as powerful as Chango or Dakila, but better than many in the genre like Broth, Azteca and Malo themselves. Lots of great organ and loud guitar leads here. 1) is a great instrumental opener and shows that The Antiques mean business, with some killer organ and guitar leads. 2) is a good example of one of their more commercial efforts. It's a bit sappy, but I like it in a Malo sort of way. Like driving in a convertible low rider through East LA (believe it or not, I've actually done just that). 3), 4) & 8) represent the third and final style of the album, where the The Antiques play a harder Santana rock style similar to their first 3 albums. 5) sounds like a track lifted from Abraxas, and is a killer. 6) is the same tune that opens Santana III. 7) & 9) are traditional Latin pop songs, that folks from the Old Country are going to be fond of (my wife recognized them as favorites from her Mom's generation). 10) closes the album in an absolute smoking way, similar to Chango really, and makes you wish the whole album would have been like it.

Personal collection
CD: 1994 Funny

The CD is as bare bones as it gets, with a single plain insert featuring only the front cover. Looks like a bootleg, but given all the distribution info, plus the band's own recognition of it, this is completely legit (and sounds like it's from the master tapes). Not an ideal reissue, but better than nothing. The CD states: Manufactured and distributed by Big World Distributors. Miami, FL.

Probe 10 - There is a Universe. 1975 USA

Probe 10 - There is a Universe. 1975 Blue Universe #PR92673 (Pennsylvania)

Reissue details here

Side 1
1. There Is A Universe
2. Invasion Of The Mallaroids:
A.) Invasions
B.) Fields Of Malladroy
C.) A Battle
D.) Dirge
E.) Will There Never Be An End?

Side 2

3. Intergalactic Crossfire
4. Solar Winds
5. To Improvise A Dream
6. Galaxy Five

Wow. Where did this come from? (turns out to be the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania). After some research, I think Probe 10 were (are?) an alien cult who dabbled in time travel. Let's start with the date. Is someone trying to tell me this is from 1975? NO FRIGGIN WAY! Yet on the album they thank Return to Forever, giving credibility to the date, not to mention my theory given the name Return to Forever - think about it ("Damn, Furious is DEEP man, DEEP" - credit Boyz in the Hood). Let me put it this way, so that I'm entirely clear here: Listening to this album will NOT make you think of Return to Forever. Hey, I like RTF as much as the next guy. But don't be thinking incredible chops with a perfect production. No, you better be thinking a low budget garage psych production circa 1968/1969. But this isn't 3 chord basement rock, but rather a highly complex and creative masterpiece. I'd heard about this album for years, from psych collectors PRAISING its virtues. Now that's hardly unusual of course. But Probe 10 possess two qualities that psych collectors absolutely abhor: It's "Progressive rock" and it has trumpet! Horns on a psych album is like banjo and harmonica on a Genesis album. And no psych collector is going on and on about Return to Forever let me assure you of that.

So what the hell is going on here? If you look at the cover, it's pretty obvious they have a clear idea of what American Science Fiction is all about - circa 1936. Dude, closely look at that cover! They can go back in time and they can go forward. As of yet, I really haven't addressed the music, and it's truly something to behold. Trumpet is a dominating instrument here - almost in a Herb Alpert and Tijuana Brass meets Maynard Ferguson sort of way (and we KNOW psych collectors love that! not). I'm reminded of that other anachronistic wonder Oz Knozz, though this dabbling in horn rock only existed on a couple of choice cuts - not all the way through! I guess CA Quintet always got a pass, and apparently so does Probe 10. Let's get serious and talk about the electric guitar - which is COMPLETELY COMPRESSED AND FUZZED TO THE MAXIMUM. Are you kidding me? If you've heard the Plastic Cloud album, or just about any album coming out of psychedelic France, then you know what to expect. and just for good measure they decided to give the same treatment to bass. I'm talking to YOU, Hugh Hopper (rest in peace). The female vocals have that pure innocence vibe, as if they're fresh recruits for the Holy Shree Baba Yaba Krishna Probe Ten Guru. It's the same sweet soul sound one hears on the multitude of Christian (coincidence?) prog rock albums, especially of the German variety (Eden, Credemus, Werwolf, Rebekka, etc...). Or maybe those perfumed gardens of the English countryside, where we find Ithaca, Agincourt, and Stone Angel. And don't forget the jazzy flute over the chaotic drums. 1975? SHUT UP!

Early on, there's a drum piece trying to mask a radio signal, which is obviously trying to reach their home planet. And when the radio broadcast from their home planet starts buzzing back through, you realize this isn't the Twilight Zone anymore, but something VERY REAL. It should scare you. I'm scared. This isn't on CBS, NBC, Fox or ABC. It EXISTS. Any careful scientific study should reveal that "There is a Universe" was recorded in 1975 by people from 1968. They then released the album and went back to 1969 excited to see how much their album would sell 6 years later. It didn't. Had they released it in 2035, then it's audience may be found. Of course they already know that. Do you?


# James McGee: Electric Bass, Electric Guitar, Flute, Twelve String Guitar, Remix, Producer, Arrangements
# Jeff Saussier: Trumpet, Coronet
# Bill Jones: Electric Guitar
# Barry L. Bachman: Percussives
# Tom Nicholson: Rhodes Piano
# Brian Gerhab: Flute
# Diane DuBois: Flute, Cover Design
# Samuel Creyer: Flute, Alto Flute
# Mason Profit: Recorders
# Linda Kistler: Violins
# Susan Rudelitch: Vocal
# David Robert Scheirer: Vocal, Babbling Brook, Remix, Producer
# Stirling E. Woodin: Engineer, Remix

"Probe 10 was a group of high school students in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania. Two schools in particular that I am sure of are Emmaus and Parkland. When the album was released back in 1975, my best friend at the time (Steve Kroninger – now an artist in NYC) was attending Lehigh County Vo-Tech as an art student with either Jim McGee or a friend of Jim’s (Kim). Anyway, it was and still is a great album. This one certainly has passed the test of time. I don’t think any of the people on this album went on to do much more professionally in the music industry. That is a great injustice."

Special thanks to Tigger2 on ebay for all this great info!

Session - Unikuva. 1974 Finland

1. Unikuva 7:19
* 2. Sunny Blue 4:12
* 3. Jäätelöprinsessa 3:37
* 4. Tahdon olla kanssasi 2:43
* 5. Torstin tanssi 3:06
* 6. Persialaisella torilla 6:34
* 7. Syksy 4:32
* 8. Serenadi huomiselle 2:57

My original review from the CDRWL said: A strong progressive rock album with loud guitar solos, organ, electric piano, horns and most significant, a fiercely driving bass. In fact the bass playing reminds me quite a bit of Trettioariga Kriget's first album. The occasional happy chorus lines call to mind Haikara circa Geafar mixed with a quaint late 60s psychedelic style. Lots of cool vocals in Finnish. And there's more than a nod to Wigwam from their Fairyport days. For a major label effort, this has to be considered one of the most obscure. I spent time with some big time Finnish collectors about 16 years ago and pretty much heard every progressive album from the country (I can say that with some authority now that so much time has passed). The Scapa Flow and Sepi Kuu titles from the original list are but a mite two examples of that experience. Except no one mentioned this title and I have to wonder if they even knew of it. A seriously obscure album.

One of the typical criticism's leveled at hardcore collectors (like me) is our apparent disregard for the quality of music all for the sake of the rarity itself. I can only speak for myself, but it's something I'm very conscious of when listening to rarities. The CDRWL is filled to the brim with albums that very few have heard, and in many cases I don't think they're very good. And I say so. The old cliche "the albums are rare for a reason" usually does apply. But it doesn't ALWAYS apply, and that's important to understand. Session is one of those albums that makes the search worth it. It really is good, and it remains unclear why it is so rare. I had thought for some time that maybe EMI didn't actually release it, or that they only distributed it. But the liner notes below clearly contradict that notion.

Now part 2 of the same theme: We tend to exaggerate how great something like this is, because it's a new discovery. Imagine yourself as a longtime gold miner. When you first start out, the gold is right there for the taking. It's pure and it's easy to find. But as you keep digging, it gets harder and harder to find anything of merit. But when you do find a decent sized nugget, it's exciting and you want to tell others of what you found deep in the mine. Unfortunately many do not share your enthusiasm - for a variety of reasons (including jealousy, argumentative dispositions, difficult personalities) - but the primary reason (and a very valid one) is that it's not near as great a nugget as the ones you found 20 years ago. That's usually true. So it's all about setting expectations. I cannot stress how important that is when presenting an obscurity like this. Session is an excellent album. What I would call a total classic 12 on Gnosis (or 4.5 stars on Rateyourmusic). But it's not a Hall of Fame 13, 14 or 15 (or perfect 5 stars). And I'm probably going to rate it higher than most people, but to understand that, you must read on.

Unikuva is one of those albums that doesn't squarely fit in the progressive rock camp. This isn't a band that was influenced by Yes, Genesis, ELP, etc... It's more a rock oriented effort in an era when interesting instrumental breaks were crowd pleasers, and solos on organ and guitar were expected. So much of the European progressive rock from the 1970s is just this - 70s rock music with a few more ideas than the AM radio bubblegummers. This is true whether we're talking Kalevala, Junipher Greene, Ache, November, or hundreds of others from Scandinavia or elsewhere in Europe.

I think the hardest song to get into is the title track 1). It's definitely one of the most dated of all the songs, with a heritage that sounds more like 1969 than 1974. The organ and bass lines absolutely jam, but the vocal and brass sections are awkward, and very poppy. Technically one could argue this is the most progressive track on the album, especially some of the darker VDGG sax moves that are intertwined throughout. Starting with 2), Session begin to show their more poppy ambitions. I just happen to think they are great songwriters, with melodies that are memorable. And of course, the superb organ and guitar solos with tight sax charts don't hurt either. And this is a good a place as any to talk about the bass player. He is a MONSTER! I know there are many out there who struggle with anything but English vocals, but I cannot imagine this without the Finnish language. It fits so perfectly well and adds a unique dimension. 4) is a kickass rock instrumental, and not commercial at all. 5) is completely the opposite. Even more dated than 1), this track reminds me of Strawberry Alarm Clock circa "Wake Up... It's Tomorrow". And I absolutely adore the pop psych of SAC, so bear that in mind. 6) starts by showing off bassist Hannu Kaikko, and that's a good thing believe me. After which, the group launches into a rather intense, but fun, progressive rock instrumental. 7) may be the best representative of the album as a whole. This would be my pick for one sample on MySpace. 8) is another one of their commercial songs that has a great melody - and I can't help but give it a one star highlight.

Personal collection
CD: 2010 Rocket Records

Translated liner notes (a HUGE THANKS to Kai from Finland for these).

"Session came together in Kouvola in 1971, out of the ashes of the group Horizon, which had existed for a couple of years. Session initially looked up to The Band and the Allman Brothers Band for inspiration. They took part in the third ever Finnish Rock Championship contest in December 1972 and came third. Session's line-up was Jorma Seppälä (vocals, guitar), Timo Heikkilä (guitar), Hannu Kaikko (bass) and Juha Tykkälä (drums).

Love Records offered the group a recording contract. They released their debut single "Sanni Blue" / "Pääsky" ["the swallow"] in the summer of 1973. Both songs were composed and written by Hannu Kaikko. They also recorded a version of Albert W. Ketelbey's "In a Persian Marker", which appeared on a 1974 Love Records compilation Rock & Roll juhlaa 5. Session began to get gigs and often opened for Wigwam and Hurriganes, among others.

At this stage, Jorma Seppälä left and keyboard-player Osmo Seppälä entered. Juha Tykkälä started singing from behind his drums.

Record companies were hesitant about singing the new line-up. They started recording an album at their own expense at the [famous two-/four-track basement studio] Microvox studio in Lahti. The finished album was their debut Unikuva. EMI finally agreed to release it.

For the album, Session were augmented by saxophonists Ari Pukkila and Mane Hyytiä, and vocalist Leena Wiehn, who appears on the title track.

Unikuva comprises eight songs. The versions "Persialaisella torilla" and "Sanni Blue" (note the changed spelling) are new recordings. EMI released "Torstin tanssi" ["Torsti's dance"] and "Jäätelöprinsessa" ["the ice-cream princess"] as a single in 1974. Hannu Kaikko wrote arranged all songs and wrote all of them, except "Persialaisella torilla". The lyrics were by Juha Tykkälä and Kaikko.

Finnish progressive rock was still commercially viable in 1974, but Unikuva received little attention from the media or the public.

Session's line-up changed rapidly after the album's release. In short time, the group featured guitarists Juha Björninen and Harri Louhensuo, drummer Ari Ahlren and vocalist-guitarist Esa Pajunen. Heikkilä was the only original member in the final line-up. The end came in 1976, when it became commercially untenable to go on.

Session's music began to appear on compilation albums in the 1990s. The 1990 vinyl compilation by Impulse, Kymijokibeats 1965-1981, contains "Tahdon olla kanssasi" ["I wanna be with you"] from Unikuva. The compilation's 1991 sequel contains the Love Record version of "Sanni Blue". "Pääsky" appears on Siboney's 4 CD compilation Anna mulle Lovee from 1994, "Persialaisella torilla" on 1996's Love Proge and "Sanni Blue" on Love Proge 2 in 1998.

The rarity of Unikuva has made it one of the most collectible Finnish records. Copies in good condition have commanded the price of several hundred Euro. This is the first time any of the album tracks have appeared on CD. The CD was mastered from the original master tapes and co-produced by Rocket Records and EMI Finland Ab."

Scapa Flow - Uuteen Aikaan. 1980 Finland

* 1. Valmiina Heräämään 4:28
2. Salaisuuksien Satiiniverhot 6:17
* 3. Mikä Aamu 6:01
4. Uuteen Aikaan 4:21
5. Tuuleen Kaiverretut Portaat 4:44
* 6. Koi 2:19
* 7. Askel Ylöspäin 6:06

On the surface, Scapa Flow are a folk rock band. But then when you consider the flute, acid guitar leads and organ, it begins to take on a psychedelic folk sound, similar to maybe Carol of Harvest. But that's not quite right either. As you hear the sweet female vocals, one begins to think of the Christian progressive rock movement of Germany in the early 80s - bands like Eden and Credemus. But this isn't a message album, nor Christian - and it's slightly darker in tone. I also tend to think of the airy progressive rock of Sweden's Autumn Breeze, but Scapa Flow are folkier. And there's really no other band from Finland to compare to either. So Scapa Flow, even though they are well within the confines of familiar borders, are somewhat unique. That's a plus.

There are no weak tracks here, and the highlighted ones are only slightly better. One can only wish for more material and extended versions, but it doesn't appear they exist anywhere. 1) is probably the best representative of Scapa Flow's entire sound. If you need Cliff Notes, this would be my pick. 3) & 7) are the most complex and involved of Uuteen Aikaan's seven songs. 6) is my personal favorite from a melody perspective, and I'd love to hear them flesh this out over 7 or 8 minutes.

Personal collection
LP: 1980 Kompass
CD: 2010 Rocket Records

Translated liner notes (a HUGE thanks to Kai in Finland for these):

"Uuteen aikaan ["into a new age"] from 1980 is one of the most requested Finnish progressive rock CD re-releases. The album received next to no attention on its original release, as did its creator, the group Scapa Flow.

Scapa Flow was formed in Helsinki in 1976. The group traveled down folky and progressive paths, with influences from, among others, Frank Zappa, Jethro Tull and Camel. Live they played mostly their own English-language songs and a couple of Bach covers.

Like other Finnish progressive rock bands in the late 1970s, Scapa Flow were having a hard time with New Wave at the peak of its popularity. However, Chriss Schwindt [one of the original founders of the now bankrupt Love Records] maintained a very liberal release policy with his Kompass Records and he signed Scapa Flow.

Scapa Flow's only album Uuteen aikaan was recorded in spring 1980 and released later that year. Recording line-up comprised Timo Seppänen (guitar), Asko Ahonen (bass), Ismo Järvinen (saxophone, flute), Eero Kolehmainen (keyboards), Leevi Leppänen (drums) and Pia-Maria Noponen (vocals, flute and keyboards). The last three joined the group just before the release. Leppänen replaced earlier drummer Olavi Kyllönen and Kolehmainen Kari Jaksola.

Uuteen aikaan was produced by Lasse Rönkä ja recorded at the Birdland studio in Helsinki. The original English lyrics were translated into Finnish with the help of Seppo Parkkinen and Esko Salervo.

The Back Beat magazine on the group before the album's release: "Scapa Flow's music is carefully composed and thought-out, though solos allow room for some improvisation. Vocals are rather prominent and the group are determined to make their harmonies work. Four of the members sing, so Scapa Flow seem to have a quite versatile range of musical expression."

The Soundi magazine's Hannu Tervaharju reviewed the album. He thought that the lyrics were so fragile and sensitive that they made the love poetry of Tommy Taberman [one of the most popular and syrupy poets at the time] look like letters to a porn magazine [he obviously hadn't paid attention to the title track, then]. Tervaharju wished that Scapa Flow's would make their next album equally beautiful but a little tougher.

The group never got the chance to make a second album, because the record-buying public barely noticed their first. Scapa Flow ended as quietly as they had begun.

After Scapa Flow, Leevi Leppänen has played with the Pekka Pohjola Group, among others, and taught at the Pop-Jazz Conservatory and the Sibelius Academy. Asko Ahonen and Timo Seppänen joined the group Taxi, which released only one single. During the 1980s, Pia-Maria Noponen played with, among others, Limousine, Threshold [semi-progressive electronic rock band who made the album Paradise Now in 1981] and Tavaramarkkinat. She moved to Spain in mid-1980s and died in 1996.

Uuteen aikaan has become a wanted collector's item over the years. A copy in good condition may command a couple of hundred Euro, and copies are far and few between. The CD release is from the original master tapes."

Fantasia - s/t. 1975 Finland

1. Pilvien takaa 4:27
* 2. Unikuva 3:36
** 3. Huutokauppa 2:51
** 4. Suihkuliidolla 3:45
5. Hautausmaani rannoilla 3:06
* 6. Tulen pisara 5:49
* 7. Aggressio 2:39
* 8. Härmä jazz 1:27
* 9. Depressio 6:50

Right away, the first thing I noticed is how much better the CD sounds than the original LP (I had the opposite experience recently with Aquarelle's debut from Belle Antique). This version is bringing out the instrumentation as it was meant to be. Guitar and violin are the primary lead soloists, with some tasteful Moog, Rhodes, sax and flute as accompaniment. I want to quote my CDRWL site, as after hearing this album a few times in a row, this still encapsulates my thoughts: "They possess the instrumental dexterity of Finnforest combined with the songwriting talents of the Swedish band Atlas (who arrived later, but I feel there are similarities here). Contains 9 short tracks, each packed with many ideas. Fantasia is not an album that lends itself to easy comparisons, yet it's all vaguely familiar. Definitely Scandinavian from a compositional and melodic perspective." Of course, one cannot ignore Camel or King Crimson here, as no doubt these more familiar bands were an influence on Fantasia, as were the big stars from their homeland: Wigwam.

1), 5) and 6) are the only vocal tracks, and as you can see, two of them are the only ones I didn't star. But the good news is these are still fine progressive rock tracks, with plenty of changes, but not quite up to the same standard as the instrumental ones. 2) recalls the great Secret Oyster, primarily due to the soprano sax holding the melody line, coupled with some delicious wah wah guitar soloing. I feel 3) represents the highlight of the entire album. The deep throbbing bass line, with the melancholic guitar melody, is so very Scandinavian in its approach. Perhaps Fjärilar I Magen era Ragnarök is a good reference here. The guitar solo over the wah wah rhythm is exhilarating. It's not even 3 minutes long, but it seems as if they packed 7 minutes of material in there. 4) starts pleasant enough, with some fine synthesizer overlays over the funky rhythm, definitely playing off the ominous atmosphere. And then there's this wicked Italian progressive rock style meter break, which is really surprising in this context. The track closes masterfully with a wonderful violin solo. Another brilliant track. 5) is about the only song on here that could be called a "throwaway", and even at that, it's pretty good. 6) starts off with that dark narrative singing that is popular in Finland (just listen to Nimbus Obus sometime). This is followed by an outstanding Rhodes break which leads to some more excellent guitar soloing. Closes somewhat similar to the opening. A fine work, and proves Fantasia could work a vocal tune into their repertoire without ruining the song. 7) & 8) are two short instrumentals, that are both highly melodic and rock hard. Would love to here both of these stretched out a few minutes more each. 9) is just that - an extended instrumental showing that Fantasia is not just content to sit on a groove and solo endlessly, but rather they pack many ideas and textures into one song. And they are all related musically, not a pile of disparate ideas that go nowhere. Splendid album!

Personal collection
LP: 1975 Hi-Hat
CD: 2010 Rocket Records

Originals come in a fine single sleeve, and has always been sought after and expensive (at least since I've been collecting). I traded for my personal LP copy in the mid 1990s. It took many years, but the first CD as finally arrived! Rocket Records has become the de facto leader in Finnish progressive rock obscurities. They focus on other genres, but fortunately they cover what the UMR loves - and they seem to have no regard for popularity. And, best of all, they do a GREAT JOB at mastering. I was blown away by how much better Fantasia sounds than the original LP (which I will continue to own regardless). Only bummer is the lack of bonus tracks. Liner notes in English translated below.

Translation of the booklet kindly provided by Kai from Finland. Thanks a million for this Kai!

"Fantasia's roots lie with the St. Marcus Blues Band, which was formed in Pietarsaari in 1967. As their music became more experimental, the group changed their name to Fantasia in 1973. Bassist Markku Lönngren took the name from Amazing Blondel's 1971 album Fantasia Lindum. Early Fantasia described their music as a mixture of hard rock and progressive rock. To prove their commitment, the band members told that they had invested FIM 40 000 into musical equipment and were practicing almost every night.

Early Fantasia comprised Hannu Lindblom (vocals, guitar), Jukka Halttunen (guitar), Markku Lönngren (bass), Paavo Osola (keyboards) and Karl-Erik Rönngård (drums). However, musical differences caused rifts, and in 1973 only Lindblom and Rönngård were left. Fantasia became a quartet with the addition of Harri Piha (bass) and Roul Helantie (keyboards, guitar, violin).

The new Fantasia took part in the Finnish Rock Championship contest, which was held at Kulttuuritalo in Helsinki in December 1974. The decision to take part had not been unanimous. It was only reached after some members threatened to leave the group if Fantasia skipped the contest.

It was a good move in retrospect, for the jury liked Fantasia's style and the group won the contest. Their poor gig situation improved considerably as a result. In 1975 they were signed by Hi-Hat, a new record company set up by Finnlevy. [Finnlevy was one of the few large record companies dominating Finnish record industry at the time. Hi-Hat was their attempt to capture a piece of the young, progressive music market, which had been largely Love Records' domain.]

Fantasia's eponymous album came out in late 1975, as the new company's seventh LP release. The album was produced by [Wigwam drummer] Ronnie Österberg and Mikael Wiik. It was recorded at Finnlevy's studio in Helsinki. Additional musicians were Mikael Wiik, who played the guitar solo on "Depressio", and saxophonist Pekka Pöyry [of Tasavallan Presidentti, among others].

University of Turku's student magazine described the album: "Influenced by Wigwam, but with an honest and idiomatic approach. Fantasia want to create impressions, raise social awareness and make people listen and develop their relationship to music."

Wigwam comparisons were unavoidable. Waldemar Wallenius [one of the founding fathers of Finnish independent rock journalism] wrote in the Soundi magazine: "Some nitwit may fault the album for being too monotonous, but I for one enjoy its cohesion and harmoniousness. Some other blockhead probably spots clear Wigwam or even Tabula Rasa influences, which again I don't mind, because the album sounds pure and pleasing - and not too derivative of anyone. Yet another lamebrain might take offense on the lyrics, which may feel a bit pretentious. But the lyrics are mercifully few and they don't call much attention to themselves. And while not fantastic, they are not too bad."

Fantasia sold about 2000 copies, which fell well short of what the record company had expected from this rising new group. Hi-Hat may have been open-minded and ambitious in signing new artists, but the company was less patient about the artists' commercial success. Hence Fantasia and most of the other early signings never got to make a second album. After 1976 Hi-Hat's activity was heavily curtailed and the company soon shrunk into Finnlevy's sub-label that had to heavily rationalize its release policy.

With the album's failure and the public's ebbing interest in progressive rock, Fantasia's line-up began to change. First to leave was bassist Harri Piha. Roul Helantie took over bass duties, while keyboard player Paavo Osala re-joined the band.

In 1976 Fantasia toured the Soviet Union, with concerts in Leningrad, Moscow and Riga. Afterwards their line-up went into flux, while their music allegedly became more danceable. After various stylistic and line-up changes, Fantasia was buried at the turn of the decade and the St. Marcus Blues Band resurrected. The group is still touring and recording music today, but that is a different story."

Time - s/t. 1975 England

Time were formed by ex-Spontaneous Combustion members, and is considerably more complex than their former group. Flash, that wonderful post-Yes band that Peter Banks formed, is the most obvious influence. Especially in the vocal department. And the guitars have that certain raw chord sound with runny clean solos that Banks seemed to favor. But in reality Time is even more complex than that. On the instrumental sections (which are plentiful), they are like a distilled Yes circa Relayer without all the hoity-toity bits (and yea, I admit to liking all that extra Yes fluff too). But if you're in a hurry, and don't have time for a sit down meal, then Time is some really good fast food. Non-chain, healthy, and thoughtful - but quick counter service with no waiting. While not quite as off-the-rails-nutty, the closest comparison to Time I can make is Yezda Urfa's Boris, another 1975 wonder. Which tells me some musicians were sitting around the world, after digesting Tales From Topographic Oceans and Relayer, saying "I like Twinkies, but more the cream filling than the sponge part".

Perhaps a bit useless to have my star system in place here. I pretty much love every track on the album. Side 1 is definitely stronger, perhaps because the sound is fresher to my ears, and I've grown accustomed by Side 2. 'Shady Lady' and 'Turn Around' pretty much sums up all you need to know if you're really in a drive-through hurry. Counterpoint is one of Time's favorite tools to utilize and you will hear it often. I happen to love counterpoint, so that may explain why I score Time higher than others. I also like a good woody bass sound and Time also plants that wherever they can. Plenty of keyboards and tuned percussion also in the mix. And vocals are also played off of each other, ala Gentle Giant (another obvious influence at play here). Highly recommended.

Personal collection
LP: 1975 Buk

I cannot for the life of me understand how this album has been ignored in the reissue market to date (not counting bootlegs of course). Both Spontaneous Combustion albums have been reissued (3 times each actually). Esoteric keeps stating it's "in clearance", whatever the heck that means. To be honest, they don't seem excited to reissue it (no market maybe?). I think Time remains the single best 1970s era progressive rock album from England yet to be reissued. But what do I know right? Well I wouldn't sell my original LP in any case. This one is too good.

Last listen: July 2, 2018

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...