Monday, March 22, 2010
CD reissue: 2002 Long Hair
LP reissue: 2015 Long Hair
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.
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.
Last update: January 1, 2017
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Jonesy - No Alternative. 1972 Dawn
CD reissues: 1997 Si-Wan (Korea); 2001 Victor (Japan mini-LP); 2006 Strange Days/Universal (Japan mini-LP); 2007 Esoteric (as part of the "Masquerade - The Dawn Years Anthology" 2 CD set).
Packaging details: I've had the original of this album for over 20 years, 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. It would appear that the 2 CD set on Esoteric would be the way to go if you didn't own any of the others.
Notes: 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.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Focus - Focus 3. 1972 Polydor. Also released on Sire (USA)
CD reissues / Packaging details: There are dozens, including Japan minis, but I still have the original 1988 IRS pressing. I see no reason to replace it, as it has unique liner notes and a great sound. Maybe if Esoteric reissued it, I would consider an upgrade. Maybe. As for the LP, 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.
Notes: Like the Eloy we posted yesterday, 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.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Eloy - Silent Cries and Mighty Echoes. 1979 Harvest
CD reissues: 1989 Electrola; 1995 Si-Wan (Korea); 2005 Harvest
Packaging details: From what I can discern, the 2005 press on Harvest is the best CD to get. As it's been remastered with bonus tracks. I still have the 1995 Si-Wan press. I've been waiting for this one to come out in Japan, as I think it would make a nice mini-LP.
Notes: 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.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Neu! - s/t. 1972 Brain. Multiple pressings worldwide.
CD reissues: 2001 Grönland (England) / Astralwerks (USA); Multiple pressings followed
LP reissues: 1979 Brain (as Hallogallo); 1980 Brain; 2001 Astralwerks (USA); 2010 Grönland (England)
Packaging details: 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.
Notes: 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.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Madrugada - s/t. 1974 Polydor
CD reissue: 2006 BTF-AMS (mini-LP)
Packaging details: Yours truly did the "adaptation". Basically I translated the translation. On this one, it is credited to my friend Jim H, but it was me who did the work. 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. I did some others for BTF, and I did get the credit, so I can't hide completely. :-)
Notes: One of the last of the major label (Polydor) Italian acts not to be reissued on CD, BTF has finally ended that with both albums being released in beautiful mini-LPs (though the mastering on this debut isn’t exemplary). Madrugada’s first album is a mix of light instrumental and singer songwriter material (Side 1), with more expressive and elaborate progressive rock compositions (with some wonderful Moog runs) filling the remainder. Of course, it’s the latter that holds my interest, though to be fair the melodic songs are excellent for what they are. This is a quintessential Italian sounding album, so if you’re a fan, you’ll want it for sure. Otherwise, this obviously isn’t the place to start.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Room - Pre-Flight. 1970 Deram
CD reissues: 1990 Deram (Japan); 1994 Si-Wan (Korea); 2008 Esoteric.
Packaging details: A very rare LP in original form, the CD market pretty much existed only in Asia until Esoteric's 2008 release. Currently I own the 1994 Si-Wan press, though for certain the Esoteric release would be an upgrade.
Notes: 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.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Web - I Spider. 1970 Polydor
CD reissues: 1990 Edison (Japan); 2008 Esoteric; 2008 Arcangelo (Japan mini-LP)
Packaging details: For years the 1990 CD of this album was one of the rarer CD's in my collection. But that changed in 2008 with the far superior Esoteric release - and I subsequently upgraded as well. This Esoteric version features two live bonus tracks, liner notes and unique photos. A major upgrade from previous issues.
Notes: 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.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
LP reissues: 1972 Dwarf (USA); 1977 Polydor
CD reissues: 1990 Polydor (w/To the Highest Bidder); 2008 Esoteric (UK); 2010 Polydor; 2015 Polydor
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.
True originals are housed in a fine gatefold cover. I've personally owned the FOC version for well over 20 years and it's one of the pillars of my collection. 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 (see images below). 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!
Supersister - She Was Naked / Spiral Staircase. 1970 Blossom
Supersister - Fancy Nancy. 1970 Polydor
Last update: March 18, 2017
Monday, March 8, 2010
Ricordi D'Infanzia - Io Uomo. 1973 Fonit
CD reissues: 1991 Fonit Cetra; 2004 Strange Days/Universal (Japan mini-LP)
Packaging details: The 2004 CD is licensed from Warner-Fonit. Even though I own the Japanese mini-LP, it's probably not something I would've sought out individually as a mini-LP. However, mine came with the Garybaldi box set, and for certain many of those albums are worthy of the exact miniature replica. As an original LP, it is one of the rarest of the major label albums from Italy. I'm not sure I've ever seen one offered in 25 years of collecting.
Notes: 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.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Gnidrolog - Lady Lake. 1972 RCA
CD reissues: 1991 RCA (Japan); 1994 Si-Wan (Korea); 1999 Gnidrolog; 2009 BMG (Japan mini-LP); 2012 Esoteric
LP reissue: 1995 Si-Wan (Korea)
Packaging details: My first copy of this album goes back to the Si-Wan CD. Along the way I picked up the Si-Wan LP as well. I decided to replace both with the 2009 Japanese mini-LP. Though a single sleeve, the cover painting is highly desirable. I've ever owned or see the band's version of the CD, but the Esoteric version from 2012 would probably be the definitive version of the album. Obviously I've updated this post. :-)
Notes: 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.
Friday, March 5, 2010
Ville Emard Blues Band - Ville Emard. 1975 Funkebec
CD reissue: 2004 ProgQuebec
Packaging details: Titled "Complete VEBB au complet 1973 - 1975" and is a 2 CD set with first album "Live à Montréal"
Notes: 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.
Today, I'm featuring only the self-titled second album, even though PQ reissued both albums, plus a 45, on one sprawling 2 CD set. I find it easier to digest taking it one disc at a time. It's a superb job all around, and I'll feature "Live à Montréal" in the future.
The album itself is very diverse, and features anything from good time bar tunes to lengthy psychedelic jams. A fine album, that comes recommended.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Charles Kaczynski - Lumiere de la Nuit. 1979 private
CD reissue: 2006 ProgQuebec
Packaging details: Kaczynski's sole album has always been hard to find, even in Montreal, so the ProgQuebec reissue is a treat for sympho fans everywhere. I did own the original, but it's difficult to find one in excellent to mint condition, and I sold it after getting the CD, with no regrets. Worth noting that there is an English titled version called "Light of Night" that is considerably more rare than the French version (6/23/14: which I now own on LP as well)
Notes: 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.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
International Harvester – Sov Gott Rose-Marie. 1969 Love (Finland)
CD reissue: 2001 Silence
LP reissues: 1984 Silence; 1992 Jigu (Korea)
Packaging details: 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. The CD is excellent and features one lengthy bonus track and wonderful unique liner notes. I've owned both the LP reissues listed above, but honestly they're not special from a packaging standpoint, and I've long sold them into other collections.
Notes: 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, 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".
Monday, March 1, 2010
Ash Ra Tempel - The Private Tapes Vol. 3. 1996 Manikin. Recordings from 1971-1974.
This is the first of the legendary 6 volumes we're featuring 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. I'm just glad I bought them when I did.
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 pre-date the concept he'd use eventually on "Inventions for Electric Guitar".
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", an album we've already featured here.
The final track is a 32 minute freakout jam from 1971 along the lines of the debut album called "Le Bruit des Origines"