Galliard - New Dawn. 1970 England

New Dawn is a strong brass rock entry from England, and compares favorably to other UK like-minded bands such as Brainchild, Heaven, Greatest Show on Earth, and Rock Workshop. Galliard adds folk and even a bit of sitar on Ask for Nothing. Great songwriting, and Galliard could have easily been a household name as a pop sensation.

New Dawn is their second album, and I was just about to add it to the CDRWL when I heard they planned on reissuing it. My favorite track is the instrumental 'Premonition', which sounds like Herb Alpert playing the music of Sugarloaf.

Personal collection
CD: 2009 Esoteric

The Norman Haines Band - Den of Iniquity. 1971 England

Post-Locomotive British rock from the accomplished keys player Norman Haines. Stylistically very diverse, and it takes awhile to get its sea legs. The title track and When I Come Down are the highlights of the first side. With side 2 we get a splendid near 10 minute jam (check out the embedded YouTube below), that truly catches a groove and allows for some excellent guitar soloing over the tranced out organ-led rhythms. Not lost is the longish electronic oriented piece with fuzz organ and electric piano that closes the album. The bonus tracks demonstrate that Haines' songwriting was to improve greatly, even if geared more towards an overt commercial direction with horns (Daffodil and Autumn Mobile were actually released in 1970). I was reminded of Dave Lawson's work with Web I Spider and Samurai in particular. This album takes a couple of spins to comprehend, but it's post British psych at its best. File next to your Nicholas Greenwood Cold Cuts album.

Personal collection
CD: 2011 Esoteric

Frob - s/t. 1976 Germany

High energy jazz rock with fuzz guitar, organ, electric piano, and Moog as the lead instruments. More energetic than Morpheus or Release Music Orchestra for example. A less funky Munju perhaps. Every track smokes, and there's quite a bit of variation in the jams. The guitar work is unreal and I think the raw production helps. Great atmospheric organ too. There are no weak tracks, nor is there anything that particularly stands out. It's remarkably consistent.

Personal collection
CD: 2004 Garden of Delights

Vos Voisins - s/t. 1971 Canada

Vos Voisins is a really good example of the heavy organ styled, blues based, progressive rock. This seemed to be a somewhat popular breed of music in Quebec in the early 1970s, and can also be found in other fine groups like Champignons or Dionysos. Some wonderful fat guitar leads too. High quality French vocals as well. A couple of the tracks are piano lead introspective numbers. Best track is 'Le Monstre de la Main'.

Personal collection
LP: 1971 Polydor
CD: 2011 ProgQuebec

Packaging details: The CD features two bonus tracks, liner notes, photos. Usual great job from ProgQuebec. There are two album covers for this title. The original "wanted poster" rendition had to be pulled, due to Polydor not receiving permission from the Allo Police tabloid to use their logo. So they went with the other brick building cover. I've had both LPs in the past, and honestly I prefer the replacement cover (and that's what I currently own). Both of these covers are presented in the CD booklet.

Toshiaki Yokota and Genshi Kyodotai - Primitive Community. 1971 Japan

Well... here it is. An album only whispered by a few in the know. A Knights Templar secret for the ages. Yesterday, I spoke of Heavyrock's amazing collection. This isn't one he owns. He had to buy a CD-R transfer from a Japanese dealer who was keeping it closely guarded. And it wasn't cheap. And this from someone he buys a lot from! But since the original sells for a few thousand, what are you going to do?

The most prominent member here is Yokota's constant electric guitar companion - Kimio Mizutani. Just the mere mention of Mizutani usually has heads like me scrambling for a listen. There's also a track listing... and it's all originals save one cover - a Beatles instrumental called 'Flying' from their Magical Mystery Tour album. The Beatles, of course, were not known for their instrumentals. A full dissertation on this song can be found here. It's important to note that there are almost no covers, as Yokota had a few pay-the-bills albums like "Exciting Flute" and "Young Young Flute" that are nothing but jazz flute renditions of Bacharach, Simon and Garfunkel, Blood Sweat & Tears, ad nauseum.

So now it's time to pull back the curtain, and display the contents....

I feel like I'm in a Steve Berry novel here...

Toshiaki Yokota and Genshi Kyodotai is at the meeting place of jazz and rock. That exciting time at the turn of the 1970 decade, long before what is commonly referred to as fusion, when the ambition of free jazz met with rock's exciting psychedelic nature. It wasn't important to display Berklee-trained chops, but rather it was about texture, atmosphere and creativity at its most radical. But fortunately it stops short of free jazz's reckless abandon - that point where it's just noise for the sake of noise. There is meaning to every note, instrument and pattern. As well, we get a peek-through-the-bushes look at a Japanese sacrificial ritual as described by the tribal drumming, Hammond organ shards, wordless monk chanting, Yokota's flute and Mizutani's acid fuzz guitar blazing a wah wah trail all to be one with Kami. And that's before we get to the Hare Krishna chorus. An album like this becomes mythical because it is mystical. It's in the same league of sixth dimensioners like Älgarnas Trädgård's Framtiden Är Ett Svävande Skepp, Förankrat I Forntiden, Lula Côrtes e Zé Ramalho's Paêbirú or Pierrot Lunaire's Gudrun. If Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser had heard this band, they would have been signed to the Ohr label on the spot.

This album perfectly fits my idea of a freaky underground album. No, it's not the greatest album of all time. Or even close. But it is the kind that you want to listen to over and over. Because it's fascinating and exhilarating.

Personal collection
CD: 2011 Think

It was only a year ago that this album was a complete unknown - only whispered about in quiet dark corners. An album that costs as much as a down payment on a house. I was fortunate enough to obtain a CD-R copy from my friend Heavyrock, and presented what I believe to be the first ever expose about the album, on the CDRWL. This was followed by more coverage on the internet including Yokota himself - and less than a year later, we have a full blown reissue - in the mini-LP format no less! Think is Disc Union's new jazz oriented label, and they really opened with a whopper! This reissue alone is validation enough for me that the CDRWL was well worth the time to do. The review below is what I wrote last year (with slight variations). Also please see my review of Flute Adventure first. It's worth reading, just to give some slight background on Yokota himself.

Sunlight - Creation of Sunlight. 1968 USA

Excellent sunshine pop psych with harmony vocals, flute,organ, fuzz guitar. Frequently compared to the early Strawberry Alarm Clock albums, and that's a fair comparison - though not near as consistent overall.

Personal collection
CD: 2005 Lion Productions

The CD is a fantastic job with historical liner notes, and a rare single, of which one of the two songs is unique. Watch out for bootlegs of this title as they were numerous prior to Lion's reissue.

Within collector circles, the band has always been known as Creation of Sunlight. However, according to the liner notes of the CD, the band was called Sunlight and Creation of Sunlight is the album title. Despite being on the quirky Windi label, which was based in Utah, the group were from Long Beach, CA. Windi is most famous for releasing the Merkin album.

Mahoujin - Babylonia Suite. 1978 Japan (archival)

Mahoujin was quite a discovery for Made in Japan back in the early 90s. Probably the best of their archival finds (another title from this series that we recently featured is Round House). Mahoujin are quite simply an instrumental progressive rock band performed by a keyboard trio. It runs the gamut of similarly minded trios starting with the obvious - ELP - and moving on to Trace, Egg, Triumvirat and even Le Orme. Plenty of polysynths and mellotron to absorb. The music never really takes off, or gets chaotic. However it is highly melodic, and the pace varies enough to hold the attention span in check. I've owned this CD for 20 years, and it's always a good one for a revisit.

Personal collection
CD: 1991 Made in Japan

RYM lists the group as Mahojin, though the spine of the CD marks it as Mahoujin. Probably another lost in translation situation. As well, the cover scan I've provided comes from RYM, and it's been doctored. The original CD cover is not as colorful - more like a typical medieval European painting which is what the cover emulates.

Dr Tree - s/t. 1976 New Zealand

Dr Tree's sole album is one of the hottest fusion albums of the 1970s. That's a pretty bold statement given the multitude of albums in the genre, but for those that know the album, it remains true. A 6 piece, with dual percussion, fiery guitar, Fender Rhodes, bass and.... trumpet. This latter element adds a unique dimension. And while you may be thinking this will put it in the Miles Davis camp, that wouldn't be right either. This isn't the heavy deep groove of Miles (which would have been fantastic as well), but more like the high energy of prime Return to Forever with trumpet as one of the lead instruments. Obviously plenty of room is also left for the guitarist to shred and the keyboardist to fly. The two percussionist's keep the tunes hopping throughout. Considered by fusion fans as a must own. Just be sure to get the only legit version as discussed above!

As an aside, you may be asking where the period is on Dr(.)? It doesn't appear anywhere on the album, though I do think it is meant to be short for Doctor - rather than just the Dr letters. (see comments for an explanation).

Personal collection
CD: 2007 EMI

If you're looking to obtain this title, be very careful. Most of the versions that are available here in the US are bootlegs, in one case a pirate attempt was released after this legit version. The CD I own is printed by EMI New Zealand and is pretty much a straight reissue, with unique liner notes about the band. Almost assuredly you will need to import this directly from New Zealand. Look on ebay (which is where I got mine), or you can get them from this shop based in NZ.

Rock Workshop - s/t + The Very Last Time. 1970-1971 England

Rock Workshop were yet another early 70s horn rock band, when that sound was all the rage, due to the massive popularity of Blood Sweat & Tears and Chicago. In England you could find other bands in this style like Heaven and Brainchild. Lead by jazz guitarist Ray Russell, Rock Workshop had the pedigree to go far. Musically, the band played both sides of the horn rock spectrum - from blues to jazz. The music never really goes off the rails, rather opting to clearly try to grind out a hit, as Ray Russell grouses about in retrospect in the liner notes. All the same, there are plenty of super tracks found on both albums (including the bonus tracks). Good fuzz bass, acid guitar and advanced horn charts. As readers of my blogs know, I like a good horn rock album - and no doubt Rock Workshop are in the top half of the genre. While I wouldn't call this top tier like the aforementioned Brainchild or Heaven albums, Rock Workshop is a fine example of the UK brass rock style. The bonus tracks on The Very Last Time are awesome, showing the band at their most raw and progressive, and thus the more recommended of the two CDs.

Personal collection
CD (Rock Workshop): 2002 Angel Air
CD (The Very Last Time): 2004 Angel Air

Each CD features copious bonus tracks, band written liner notes, previously unreleased photos. Excellent reissues. These were released on a high profile label like Angel Air, no doubt due to the fact that the leader of Rock Workshop was none other than relatively famous jazz guitarist Ray Russell's band.

Surgery - Übermorgen. 1980 Germany

Yet another unknown German fusion album from the late 70s and early 80s. File along with the "German M" groups like Moira, Mosaik, Munju, Missus Beastly and Morpheus. Some pretty hot psychedelic guitar, especially on the first side. Superb unison melodies with the sax and electric piano. Can get to be a bit breezy on Side 2, though some of it reminded me of Ash Ra's Correlations in the guitar work oddly enough. A Latin jazz vibe pervades. Very good representation of the style.

Personal collection
CD: 2010 Garden of Delights

The CD features 10 bonus tracks, history, and photos.

I Teoremi – s/t. 1972 Italy

I Teoremi was one of the few early 1970s Italian progressive rock albums that I didn't care for initially. I bought the first CD as soon as it came out (Vinyl Magic), and ditched it immediately. But that was my mistake. I Teoremi is more of a guitar based hard rock album, with elements of progressive rock - mostly found in the shifting rhythms and overall atmosphere. In this way, I Teoremi is more like the first two Il Rovescio della Medaglia albums, or perhaps even Osage Tribe. This shift in mindset allowed me to approach the album differently, and with a whole new appreciation for what it is.

Personal Collection
CD: 2011 Belle Antique (Japan)

Originals on Polaris are insanely rare and expensive. The Belle Antique mini-LP perfectly represents the album in miniature. Well I presume so anyway, not that I've actually seen a real original. The CD features a textured gatefold cover with an inner flip over the vinyl entrance area. It's hard to appreciate the beauty of the cover with the scan provided (taken from the CD and a bit better resolution than what I've typically seen).

Kollektiv - s/t. 1973 Germany

Kollektiv's sole album (and there are two fantastic live and archival releases from Long Hair also worth seeking out) is one of those Krautrock gems that few paid attention to until recent times. Generally panned by the underground rock community as "jazz", this is squarely in what is now known as "Kraut fusion" and had it been on the MPS label (which it should have been probably), would be even more sought after by those into "rare groove". Loads of flute, electric sax, scattered rhythms and the all-important fuzz guitar never too far away. The missing link between Xhol Caravan and the late 70's fusion movement in Germany (Mosaik, Cry Freedom, Morpheus, Katamaran, Munju, etc...)

Personal collection
LP: 1973 Brain
CD: 2007 Long Hair

This is an LP I was fortunate enough to find at a record convention back in 1990 and I still own that copy today (and likely I'll be buried with it). It's a beautiful gatefold cover and comes with a gimmix on the inside portion, that was to be used as a game to mix variations on words like Pop, Rock, and Jazz. It's extremely rare to find the LP with an unperforated sheet and those go for 2 to 3 times the price. Of course my copy has been cut (carefully and very nicely done), so at least I can play the game! The Long Hair CD is first class and has liner notes, photos, and 4 long bonus tracks.

Odissea - s/t. 1973 Italy

The other progressive rock band on RiFi, the label most known for bringing Circus 2000 to the world. Odissea is generally considered a second or third tier Italian progressive work, but I disagree. All the elements of classic Italo-prog are at play here, minus some of the more overt instrumental gymnastics of their peers. The song structures and atmosphere all point to the classic 1973 sound. The gruff and husky vocals recall Jumbo, and I find them highly appealing and very much of their era. I'm not prone to use terms like underrated, but I think this is one case that does apply. The implication is that Odissea are a "soft prog rock" band, but this is by no means a lame singer-songwriter album, and there are plenty of heavy progressive rock moments to be found.

Personal collection
LP: 1973 RiFi
CD: 2011 Belle Antique

This was one of the very first albums I bought on CD without owning the LP first - and according to my database I've owned it since 1990. I like the scan from RYM (shown here), because it is indeed true that almost all original copies suffer from lamination "crinkling".

2012 update: Finally obtained an original, one that I very much wanted to own.

Maneige - Ni Vent... Ni Nouvelle. 1977 Canada

Another band that needs no introduction here. Maneige had decidedly turned to a more fusion stance by this, their 3rd album. If pressed to name a favorite, I would probably pick this album, but the first 4 are fantastic, as is any live recording that was recorded during the mid 1970s. And speaking of which, the 4 live tracks here demonstrate that Maneige were far more unrestrained live than in the studio, and these tracks pack a punch.

Personal collection
LP: 1977 Polydor
CD: 2010 Belle Antique (Japan)

I owned the first legit CD reissue of this album on Kozak for years and just upgraded to the Belle Antique version. I've had the original LP forever, and the album cover is one of my all-time favorites. So much so, that it is always on display at our home. As such, I really wanted the Japanese mini-LP, which is an exact copy of the ProgQuebec version, and includes 4 bonus tracks, though unfortunately leaves off the liner notes.

Area – Arbeit Macht Frei. 1973 Italy

Very well known album that needs no introduction. For my tastes, this is my favorite Area album, closely followed by Crac!. I'm not a huge Area fanboy as many of my friends and peers are, as I tend to shiver at Area's more avant garde and free-jazz moments. Thankfully those are kept at a minimum on their debut album, where the tight unison ensemble work allows Stratos to showcase his unconventional vocal style, which I do enjoy when not done to excess.

Personal collection
LP: 1973 Cramps
CD: 2007 Strange Days / Universal (Japan)

The 2011 Japan mini-LP truly replicates the original gatefold and includes the cardboard gun. I have a Cramps original on LP, but like most copies, it does not include the gun.

Round House - Jin Zo-Ni N Gen. 1978 Japan (archival)

There was a time in the late 1970s that Japan's progressive rock scene was completely underground, with little to no formal product output to show for it. This was before the "Our 80's" as Marquee Magazine labeled it a decade later. When I started collecting Japanese progressive rock in the 1980s heyday (for Japan that is), the two premier names in the business were Kenso and Bi Kyo Ran. Round House is clearly cut from the same cloth, where both fusion and King Crimson influences are apparent. A complex instrumental fusion, that never loses focus on melodic composition. The group is a quintet made up with dual guitar leads, and plenty of electric piano.

If there's a complaint, it's that the sound quality wasn't quite ready for prime time. That's not to say it's audience bootleg quality either - but some of the dynamics are clearly lost. I'd say it's at 85% - and heck I know plenty of pure studio albums even today that sound worse than that. There were very few archival releases in 1991, so Made in Japan is to be much lauded for the effort here.

Round House's sole album was compiled from two different 1978 sessions (studio and live).

Personal collection
CD: 1991 Made in Japan

Most of the cover scans on the internet are from the 2003 reissue. The one I have pasted is more like mine, except the Made in Japan Records has been rubbed out (I believe this is from a pirate version). I couldn't find the original and I'm too lazy to scan mine in.

Orion - La Nature Vit, L'Homme Lui Critique… 1979 France

In the early 1970s, Ange were the big name in French rock. Combining the progressive rock of Genesis and Yes with theatrical lyrics in the native tongue proved to be all the rage in France during this time. And naturally enough, it spawned an entire music movement with a side benefit of national pride being displayed. Mona Lisa were probably the style's most known student, but plenty of lesser known groups sprung up during this period as well. The CDRWL is filled with them (Trefle, Oniris, Ada Le Fol and many others). Musea, too, in the early 1990s did their part in educating the world on this most unique and peculiar French style. Bands like Grime, Pentacle and Synopsis were introduced to us, and the pot seemed endless. Orion was but one of these groups - and certainly one of the more inspired bands of the era. Flute, electric and acoustic guitars, a hyper rhythm section, and of course the impassioned vocals define this mature work. There's a touch of Pulsar's space rock sound as well. With the right breaks, Orion could have been huge. But alas, 1979 was too late. I hope that Musea starts up the reissue engine again, and releases the remainder of these great bands as demonstrated in the CDRWL.

Personal collection
CD: 1993 Musea

The CD features a great sound, bonus tracks, liner notes, photos. For whatever reason, the band chose to go with a new sleeve. I kind of like the original myself, goofy as it is. The newer one is soooo 1990s clip-art.

Eider Stellaire - s/t. 1981 France

Moving this one to the current date. The below review was originally published on my personal website in 2007, and later here on UMR in 2009. Now we can celebrate the CD reissue, which just arrived this week!

Magma. Zeuhl. I could quit right there, and have served my purpose for many readers. Michel Le Bars ensemble was clearly developed with Christian Vander in mind. But he didn't Xerox the playbook and go off and play pretend. Instead Le Bars took some core formations and then added his own twists and turns, to create one of the best Zeuhl formulas to come along. Ever.

So where are these difference to be found? Vocals for one thing. Or lack thereof. There are no made up Germanic languages or the lingua franca of Eskaton being employed. There are, however, some nice wordless female vocals adding a softer non-threatening Northettes touch to the proceedings. Then there's the guitar. That's right, think about it. Electric guitar on a Zeuhl album. It's a rare species. It does exist, but mainly as an accent instrument. Not so on Eider Stellaire's debut. It's featured often, and adds quite a sizzle especially when paired with some fuzz bass. And, as on any Zeuhl album, if the bass player isn't driving the music forward - and you into oblivion - then quite frankly he's not doing his job. And Patrick Sinergy is up to the task. He may not be Top or Paganotti, but I don't think either of them would be unimpressed either. Electric piano is another staple of the business, and once again, Eider Stellaire succeeds at driving the pace with this perfectly tuned instrument. Add in some delicate flute and melodic sax to provide a little yang, and you have one great instrumental rock album, as only it seems the French can do. And don't bring up the Japanese zeuhl bands to me. Just don't. Oddly enough, the only instrumentalist that doesn't shine is Le Bars himself. On the drumkit, no one is going to forget Vander anytime soon. That's OK - as in sports, the best coaches are rarely the best players. Brilliant.

Personal collection
CD: 2011 Soleil Zeuhl

Originals - especially with the cover as displayed above - are extremely rare. The CD features a great sound, and one excellent, lengthy bonus track. And it's 100% legit - woohoo! For years I had heard this one would NEVER be reissued. I didn't believe them. More importantly, neither did Alain at Soleil Zeuhl.

Hands - s/t. 1977-1978; 1980 USA (archival)

Hands is the album that pretty much started it all for Shroom. I'll never forget when I first heard this CD. I fell off my chair, perhaps literally. The fact that Hands were from Farmers Branch*, TX was surreal for me. Your humble author grew up and went to school all of about 2 minutes from the suburb, in NW Dallas. Anyone who is from the area, will remember the landscape well - with KZEW and KDFW 102 (pre-Q102) leading the way in FM radio. The years of 1977-1981 is where I cut my teeth on rock music - loyally listening to Randy Davis on weeknights, calling (bugging?) him many nights, and this incredible man taking my calls, and sometimes saying "hold on dude - let me put on a longer song and we'll talk". I mean, seriously, I was a 15 year old heavy metal punk with a thirst for knowledge and this radio professional would give ME the time? Wow. And he told me where I could find rare records and the like. That folks, is inspiring - even as I reflect over 30 years later. No rose colored glasses either - straight fact.

And so with my Sanyo all-in-one stereo, I would religiously pop in the cassette, and record KZEW's album of the night- which included everything from mainstreamers like Rush and Pink Floyd to local Dallas area AOR's such as Airborne (heard of them, have you?). Endless radio ads summoned you to wet T-shirt night at some local Dallas dive rock club (Ritz Theater, The Electric Ballroom, The Paladium, Agora Ballroom) with enticing band names, all long forgotten. But for certain, Hands was not among them. Can we go back to 1978? I want a do over.

Anyway, let's talk Hands for a brief moment. Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis, ELP and every other mainstream progressive rock band will instantly come to mind. While never forgetting the longneck Pearl or Lone Star hard rock beer moments either. Guitar, violin, flute, keyboards, bass, drums...I mean really? In Farmers Branch? FB's Finest must've pulled them over a dozen times for going 36 in a 35 on Webb Chapel (locals will get it).

A strikingly great piece of Americana progressive rock, that had NO CHANCE at major label attention. By 1980 The Police, Asia, The Buggles, Loverboy, and Journey ruled the airwaves. That's what the labels wanted to hear. Complex progressive rock was out. The New Wave and what we then called "corporate rock" were in. MTV was here to stay (I know, I'm so old I remember when MTV played music videos).

* So why does the name Farmers Branch mean anything to you? Perhaps you'll recall one of the earliest white rappers claiming he went to some "tough school in the projects". That was Vanilla Ice. And he went to Farmers Branch / Carrollton R.L. Turner High School (didn't even graduate). No street cred in that I'm afraid. Fraud.

**And while on the personal topic, my good friend Dave, who was then starting a band called Storm at Sunrise - asked me my opinion on a guitarist he should choose - someone who could play both hard rock and progressive. I thought of Ernie Myers of Hands immediately - plus he was local to the area. Dave contacted him, and the rest is history.

Personal collection
CD: 1996 Shroom

National Health - Missing Pieces. 1975-1976 England (archival)

East Side Digital of Minneapolis are most famous for reissuing all 3 National Health studio albums in one glorious 2 CD package - as far back as 1990. It's worth the price of admission alone for the absolutely hilarious liner notes from main protagonist Dave Stewart. So when ESD announced they had unearthed a pile of unreleased gems, prior to their first album, with Mont Campbell (Egg), Steve Hillage and Bill Bruford amongst the usual Canterbury suspects - along with more hysterical liner notes - well... we all couldn't get our wallets out fast enough.

Perhaps most amazing is that most of this CD is on par with their brilliant first two albums (and I'll proudly go on record here - I'm a huge Canterbury fan - and I think National Health are the best band of the entire scene - especially Queues and Cures). Some folks even say it's their best album period. While I won't go that far, I will say this is one of the most essential archival albums ever released.

Personal collection
CD: 1996 ESD (USA)

Ramses - La Leyla + Eternity Rise. 1976;1978 Germany

The Sky label was founded by a former Brain label executive, and originally the label was patterned after the successful cult institution, before pretty much dedicating to electronic music by 1979.

Ramses, along with Shaa Khan, were probably their most overtly progressive rock unit. Eloy seems to be the most obvious influence, with a strong English lyrical content, analog keyboards (mellotron, organ, synthesizers), loud acid guitar, fat bass, heady concepts and extended track lengths. The decidedly slower pace was very much in vogue in Germany during this era (Novalis, Minotaurus, Albatros, Indigo, and dozens of others) clearly demonstrating a love for classic Pink Floyd in their commercial prime.

Eternity Rise is a very slight drop off from the debut. There are a couple of more overt attempts at commercial success here, and that's really the only misstep. Otherwise, the sound is pretty much the same as the debut.

Ramses were a solid, though not a spectacular, German symphonic progressive rock group.

Personal collection
CD: 1993 Sky

Both albums on one CD. Pros: From the original label (masters) and both albums in their entirety. Cons: No extras, liner notes, new photos, no nuthin'.

Luciano Basso - Voci. 1976 Italy

1976 is pretty much the last hurrah for this kind of "big" symphonic progressive rock coming from Italy. Madrugada, Corte dei Miracoli, Celeste, PFM and Banco DMS all threw in their lot for one last try - before either folding or succumbing to more trendy fusion or pop styles.

Basso's debut is a very fine example of this sound. Eschewing the heightened frenzy of the classic early 70's sound, Basso takes on a more mature and measured disposition, and the album is very pleasant. The keyboards are all the classic vintage 70's toys (Mellotron, Hammond, electric piano) along with quite a bit of expertly played acoustic piano parts. A strong violin/cello presence adds a unique dimension, while guitar and a sprightly rhythm section round out the sound. Hard to go wrong with this one for progressive rock fans. And while it doesn't extend much beyond the genre's norm, for something perhaps truly extraordinary, it nonetheless fulfills the daily bread portion of one's progressive musical diet.

Personal collection
LP: 1976 Ariston
CD: 1994 Vinyl Magic

Grupo N.H.U. - s/t. 1978 Spain

In 2001, I wrote the following for Gnosis: 1978 was Spain's boom year in terms of progressive rock music, and Grupo N.H.U. met the challenge head on. One of the finest from the Spanish progressive scene, Grupo N.H.U. contains everything that made the Spanish scene so special. Strong compositions marked by many changes. Fat keyboards, loud acid guitar, and a complex, exciting rhythm section make up the centerpiece of the group. An excellent vocalist and a strong fusion edge a la Mahavishu Orchestra rounds out one of the true bona-fide classics of the Spanish scene. An absolute must hear.

Gosh, do I have anything to add? Perhaps a bit more psychedelic space rock oriented than I implied above. You know, it's not really a typical Spanish release, in the sense that it lacks indigenous qualities - qualities which were still in abundance in late 1970's Spain. Final smokin' fusion track reminds me of primo Crucis (Argentina). N.H.U. stands for Noche Hermosa Una (A Beautiful Night).

Personal collection
LP: 1978 Novola Zafiro
CD: 2000 RCA / Zafiro / BMG

Spektakel - s/t. 1974 Germany (archival)

I still remember when Ken first put this CD out - myself and my running pack all bought it immediately and unconditionally. I can only imagine his initial enthusiasm at discovering such buried treasure as this. It had to be transcendental. A few years earlier, he had released the full canon of SFF's works (Schicke, Führs & Fröhling) - already a monumental achievement, especially for an American label. But now this? Sounding like demo versions of Cathedral's famed Stained Glass Stories or the also-to-be-discovered-later Deju Vu - Between the Leaves album from Norway, Spektakel is the mellotron soaked fantasy of every progressive rock collector's dreams. Is it a little loose in places? Well, sure. It wasn't ready for prime-time. But when you consider how strong the material is despite the lack of original editing, holy cow - this is about as good as it gets. An absolute must own archival release.

Personal collection
CD: 1996 Laser's Edge (USA)

Epidaurus - Earthly Paradise. 1977 Germany

If there's ever an album that is misunderstood, it's this one. Naysayers are a fact of life in the progressive rock world, and boy do they line up to skewer this baby. They hyperventilate in their glee to scream "overrated!", "overhyped!", "over-everything-I-hate-about-progressive-rock-collectors-even-though-I-am-one!". Favorite target of course is vocalist Christiane Wand. She sings soprano, which sounds a bit disorienting at first, but actually adds a certain amateur charm. Her total impact? About 4 minutes of the disc - all on Side 1. Yep - that's about it. 4 minutes. And her wordless voice is quite enticing, further adding to her value. You'd think by reading many reviews she was all over this thing like Diamanda Galas.

So even if her rather strange voice is not according to your taste, there is close to 30 minutes (it's a short album anyway) of high quality instrumental dual keyboard-driven progressive rock. The album is loaded to the gills with mellotron, Moog, organ, flute, Taurus pedals, active rhythms, the works (no guitars though). It has a very fat sound that I find highly appealing. In fact in some ways, Side 2 could work well as an excellent example of Berlin School sequencer based electronic rock (think Schulze's Moondawn, Wolfgang Bock's Cycles, or You's Electric Day) - especially the track 'Mitternachtstraum'.

Don't let the wet-blanket crowd get you down. This one is truly a gem.

Personal collection
CD: 1991 Penner
LP: 2010 Garden of Delights

This is release number #1 for the famed Garden of Delights label (then known as Penner), and is considerably weaker from an archival perspective (sound is great!) than later reissues. There's a very brief bio, all in German, and one fuzzy photo - and that's it! They were to improve dramatically as a label from here though. I bought the CD shortly after it was released and was the first time I'd ever even heard of the band! I've also owned the Resurrection LP reissue which is definitely a high quality job, but ultimately decided to sell it as the overall package isn't that much of interest. No regrets. Years later I did pick up the Garden of Delights LP version, and this time they've expanded the biography greatly. Worth owning both I think. Original LPs are quite rare and expensive.

Tangle Edge - Improvised Drop Outs. 1983 Norway

Tangle Edge - Improvised Drop Outs. 1983 Mushroom (cassette)

Cassette reissue: 1990 Auricle (UK)

CD reissue: 2010 private  (2 CD)

LP reissue: 2010 private (3 LP)

Improvised Drop Outs is well named, as that's exactly what it is. Basically these are relatively short song skeletons, with free form psychedelic improvisations thrown on top. If you're familiar with Tangle Edge at all, the style is instantly recognizable even at this early stage. It can all be a bit much. As the AC joked on the CDRWL: "seems like nine and a half hours", but it does have a trance like effect if you leave it in the background. It's incidental film and TV music for an opium den. For my ears, this is way more preferable than the modern noise makers such as Acid Mother's Temple.

The CD is titled Dropouts and is self-released by the band. It's a 2 CD set in a small flip pack. It's lacking any extras, like bonus tracks, liner notes or photos, but it's still nice to have this on CD - and much better than those old cassettes!

Ibliss - Supernova. 1972 Germany

Ibliss are a superb ethnic jazz rock band with psychedelic flute, percussion and guitar. Music can best be described as moody / atmospheric mixed with heavy jamming. A bit like classic Embryo, as found on Rocksession, but more loose and free.

Personal collection
CD: 2009 Garden of Delights

Way back in the 1980s, I found a brand new copy of this LP in a record store for about $5. I couldn't wait to bring it home with a cover like that! But I didn't like it. I wasn't quite ready then for what we now call "Kraut Fusion". And I traded it to a dealer friend shortly thereafter (he gave me a fair price for the era). I regret it now, but I was still new to record collecting. But the good news is that we finally received a wonderful CD reissue from Garden of Delights. And so I now own this copy and maybe one day I'll splurge for another original LP. The CD features great sound, liner notes and photos. No bonus tracks for this one though (which is rare for GoD). Which means, of course, there aren't any extra tracks to be found I'm sure.

Axe – Live & Studio. 1970 England (archival)

Axe were a bit more psychedelic influenced than most UK bands from this era, though they do remind me somewhat of the Julian's Treatment album. The female siren squeal vocals recall Circus 2000, and in fact, Axe's recording here seems like the missing album between the two Circus 2000 gems. Some really splendid guitar (with acoustic accompaniment) can be found here.

Kissing Spell found all sorts of oddities like this in the early 1990s. Mostly in the hard rock and folk genres, but with an occasional foray into progressive rock. Their booklets were light on details, but still better than nothing.

Personal collection
CD: 1991 Kissing Spell

Acqua Fragile – s/t. 1973 Italy

Given that Acqua Fragile sing in English, their sound is more typical of the UK progressive rock movement (elements of Genesis, Yes, and Gentle Giant are obvious). Despite that, I still find both Acqua Fragile albums appealing - and Lanzetti has a unique voice that served PFM well for many years afterward. So perhaps not a good representative of what we have come to know as classic Italian prog, but taken on its own accord, it holds up well, similar to Cherry Five in that way.

Personal Collection
LP: 1973 Numero Uno
CD: 2004 BMG (Japan)

The original LP comes in a cool four sectioned poster cover as does the Japanese LP reissue from 1980.

Sunbirds - s/t. 1971 Germany

Sunbirds are perhaps the ultimate soundtrack for your next autobahn excursion. We're talking open top BMW convertible, hot megababe sitting next to you, hairspray, loads of mascara and thigh high white go-go boots - with 4 inch heels. Oh really, you have no idea what I'm talking about? Go over to your cable TV and find some independent channel that has some feature at 3:00 in the morning with a name like Weird Ass Euro Theater. Catch a flick like The Girl on a Motorcycle and you're there.... BABY! Must be a European production, even a soft core flick will suffice. Put on the Sunbirds, kick back, relax and drift into your inner vertigo. Extra points if you have shag carpet and wood paneled walls....

Musically the Sunbirds' albums can best be qualified as "flute groovers". That is to say, they are seasoned in the jazz idiom, but also wanted to venture into the psychedelic sounds of the day. Chris Hinze, Lloyd McNeill, and Bjorn J:Son Lindh did this too. But the Sunbirds also had that Krautrock thing going on, and you know they were hip to Wolfgang Dauner, Association P.C. and the whole gang at MPS Records. Plenty of wild fuzz guitar and electric piano. Especially on the first album, the Sunbirds could have easily fit on the Brain label, and may have had they come around a year or two later. File next to your T. Yokota and the Beat Generation record. Of course you have that...

Personal collection
LP: 1971 BASF
CD: 2011 Garden of Delights

Can - The Peel Sessions. 1973-1975 Germany (archival)

For me, the single best Can album, even though it's an archival live compilation. Encompassing the years from 1973 - 1975, we catch Can at their most inventive, entirely within an instrumental mindset. Only the near 19 minute opener features the familiar Damo ranting, and even then, the majority of the track features an overt instrumental jamming motif. Otherwise it's psychedelic guitar, organ, bass and drum jams - wild, woolly and unpredictable - exactly what you would want to hear from a Krautrock legend. Well, OK true, Karoli puts in a few words on Geheim, but it's easy to overlook. A phenomenal anthology of work. A must own CD.

Personal collection
CD: 1995 Strange Fruit

Worth noting that there are 2LP reissues floating about on the "Strange Fruit" label, but it appears they are pirate editions. So be careful out there! Stick with the CD and never look back.

Scarecrew - Magical Mind. 1975 Germany

Scarecrew - Magical Mind. 2006 Ricochet Dream (1975 archival recording)

Sounding like a lost recording by the Cosmic Jokers clan, Scarecrew offer up another glimpse into the creative mind process of some of Krautrock’s visionaries. With Steve Shroyder (Tangerine Dream) on keyboards, and John L (Ash Ra Tempel) providing his usual anguished cosmic prayer calls, this is certain to satisfy fans of Ash Ra Tempel’s “Schwingungen”. The enchanting female vocals instantly recall Gilles Zeitschiff’s “Sternenmadchen” album or some of the echoed phrases by the Galactic Supermarket. Scarecrew were a 6 piece group and features no less than five guest appearances. The recording, while not ready for the Cosmic Courier label, is certainly well preserved. By 1975, this scene was pretty much dead and buried. But as this reel demonstrates, it appears they just went back into the underground, where it seems so natural. CD is on the Ricochet Dream label (in a limited edition of 300), based here in the US.

High Tide - s/t. 1970 England

High Tide are well known UK heavy instrumental rock group with powerful guitar and violin leads. The Eclectic / Esoteric CD is a must own just to hear the near 16 minute 'The Great Universal Protection Racket', which was recorded with the same sessions as the others on the album and was a last minute cut due to time constraints. And it's as strong as the other material, maybe even a little better.

Personal collection
CD: 2006 Eclectic

Poobah - Let Me In. 1972 USA

Poobah are perhaps the best example of the hard working, musically competent – but unsigned – 1970s Midwest rock group. Hailing from Youngstown, OH, Poobah possessed a rare talent in guitarist Jim Gustafson, who could jam with the best of them. They managed 3 self-released albums spanning from 1972 through to 1979 (though they recorded even more in the interim periods). Let Me In is a raw, but very powerful, hard rock album and can easily be seen as the blueprint for which most Midwest rock albums sound like. The sketch of a drunk puking across the bathroom is the perfect metaphor for the “life of an Ohioan rock n roller”.

Favorite track: 'Bowleen'
Favorite bonus track from the Ripple CD: 'Make a Man Outta You'

Personal collection
CD: 2010 Ripple

The CD is a good one with 12 bonus tracks, lyrics, and previously unseen photos from the high quality Ripple label. And what a cover, eh?

Ravjunk - Uppsala Stadshotell Brinner. 1977 Sweden

Rävjunk were one of the pioneers of Sweden's nascent punk scene, though their sole album only featured scant evidence of this style. After the first 3 short vocal oriented punk influenced tracks, most (excepting one out of place swampy blues number) of the remainder is long form guitar based jamming, along the lines of early Guru Guru, Can, or an instrumental Stooges. The Krautrock influence becomes even more pronounced on the bonus material that closes out Disc 1 (20 minute track) and all of Disc 2. The liner notes confirm this is no accident, and describe how the band was torn between becoming the Swedish Sex Pistols or a terminally non-commercial instrumental underground act. The former was the direction they took afterwards, but the latter appears to have won out as the band was pretty much done by 1980.

If you are a fan of their psychedelic side (like me), then the CD is a must own. The original album could have easily been a triple LP, based on the strength of the material here.

Personal collection
CD: 2007 Transubstans

The Transubstans release is a 2 CD digipak set, with close to 90 minutes of bonus studio and live material, also from 1977. Liner notes, photos, etc... A great reissue and the definitive edition.

Hiromasa Suzuki - Rock Joint Biwa (Kumikyoku Fulukotofumi). 1972 Japan

I maintain that Japan is hiding the most buried treasure when talking underground rock from the 1970s. I'm still hearing about dozens of albums that almost no one has any data on. Whether or not they are truly what is purported remains to be seen and heard. I recall a similar experience when going on a deep sea expedition (in the early 1990s) through the Yugoslavian 70s scene, only to find a true few that really matched what was advertised.

Similar to T. Yokota's Primitive Community album, we are at the meeting place of rock and jazz. Except the all-instrumental Furukotofumi has a completely different sound than Yokota's bunch. Definitely not a mystical experience as Primitive Community is, yet there are some fascinating Japanese indigenous moments to behold - primarily used as interludes between songs. I'd say the scales are more tipped towards the jazz side here, but make no mistake, this clearly is psychedelic rock influenced throughout. Some fantastic electric guitar work, including at least one blazing acid solo (and mixed with a biwa no less) amongst other excellent amped up shredders. A definite early fusion vibe permeates as well, no doubt informed by the UK groups like Nucleus or Soft Machine. Rhodes, piano, violin and organ also get their turn in the solo spotlight. Even a little Bacharach-ian lounger, with some wonderful horn and string charts, soap opera organ and a nice toned down guitar rip. The highlight is the pounding drum, biwa and psychedelic wah wah guitar piece followed by the groovy horn charts, sax solo - and get this - all phased out ala Dieter Dirks in the Kosmische Kourier studio. There's a lot here to digest.

The below is my friend The AC's research. Fascinating stuff.

"Shiro Miyake (biwa)
Akira Ishikawa (wadaiko)
Hirasama Suzuki Trio
Kiyoshi Sugimoto (guitar)
Suzuki Takehisa (trumpet)
Takeru Muraoka (tenor sax)
Tadataka Nakazawa - (trumpet)
Tamaki Quartet

As you can see from the back cover, this "Fulukotofumi" name came from a mis-romanization on the LP itself. There is no "l" sound in Japanese, it's always a hard/trilled "r". They sound the same to the Japanese ear, so they often make that mistake when translating things. Whoever got the LP and submitted it to Pokora obviously could only read that bit of text on the jacket, so Pokora printed it like that in one of his books and the incorrect name spread around. The actual name as I printed it above means "Suite: Furukotofumi". The Furukotofumi is also known as the Kojiki, or the "record of ancient matters". It's the oldest known book in Japan (from around 600 or 700 AD) and is full of creation myths, poems and songs, etc. This album has the concept of fusing the spirit of Japanese mythology (primarily through the use of biwa as lead instrument) with jazz and "new rock" (as they liked to call it in Japan back then), so that's why the Kojiki is used as source material. It was released as one of those Victor 4-channel discs that were popular in Japan for a brief period, and was actually supposed to be the first of a series of these concept albums. Unfortunately, only one more was released. It came out in 1973 and is called "Rock Joint Sitar - Kumikyoku Silk Road". As you might guess, this one has the concept of fusing new music with ancient Indian and central Asian sounds, with sitar replacing the biwa. It features many of the same musicians as the first LP."


Personal collection
CD: 2011 Sony

A super rare album, that my buddy Heavyrock turned up in 2010. We made quite a splash about it in the CDRWL (which is now in the verbiage above), and not long after, here comes a CD reissue. From Sony no less!

Serge Bringolf Strave - s/t. 1980 France

Drummer and bandleader Bringolf put together the 10 piece Strave outfit that sounds somewhat like a big band version of Magma. Trombone, trumpet, sax, violin, vibraphone, bass, and flute represent the instruments utilized along with wordless voice. No keyboards or guitar, which is unusual for a group with any kind of rock context, such as this (even though the scales are clearly tipped towards a jazz sound). Their debut was originally released as a double LP, and features 4 very long tracks - all of which fit nicely onto this one CD. A unique band in the Zeuhl world.

Personal collection
CD: 2011 Soleil Zeuhl

The original is a double LP. I owned it for a few years and sold it through one of my lists in the late 1990s. I may have regretted that, but this CD fills that void and then some. Most assuredly I would have sold the LP after getting this CD. And it's fantastic with great sound, liner notes, photos, etc...

Thunderpussy - Documents of Captivity. 1973 USA

So here we are again, in the great American Midwest, this time from the southern Illinois town of Carbondale. 1973 is a bit early in the game for the classic regional sound, but some of the earmarks of the scene are already in place.

With 3 part thematic tracks (or poems as the liner notes state), and titles all beginning with 'Document of...' (e.g. 'Enigma', 'Validation', 'Extrinsic Value', etc...) and each featuring a creative instrumental mid-section, one has to wonder how such a heady band ended up with the Thunderpussy moniker. I could see a band having this name as a blues rock cover band playing for drunks and dopeheads - but I would think a name change may have been appropriate by the time they laid down the recordings. In essence Thunderpussy are a guitar trio, with many acoustic sections including flute, and sometimes utilize harmony similar to maybe CSN. As the album wears on, it becomes heavier and more ambitious, to the point where it could be considered the great grandfather of epic progressive metal. I wonder if fellow Midwesterners Manilla Road (and Mark Shelton is a knowledgeable music fan) might have stumbled onto one of these LPs in the 1970s. Or perhaps other groups were performing in the area that were similar to Thunderpussy back in the day, but there's no aural documents remaining. This album is distinctly American, underground, creative and flat out freakin' cool.

Personal collection
CD: 1996 The Wild Places

The CD is awesome with 4 live bonus tracks and historical liner notes.

Dillinger - Don't Lie to the Band. 1976 Canada

Here we go again with another Ashratom Midwest progressive rock classic. As stated in a couple of other places, I consider Ontario as part of this scene, as there are many similarities across economic and cultural lines. And once again we are at the crossing path of unabashed FM radio hits and off-the-hinges radical complex progressive rock.

This one front loads all the bad tracks, so that your typical downloader will have already given up on it before the main course is offered (serves them right anyway). In fact, the first 10 minutes are pretty dreadful to be honest. It opens strong enough with a hard rockin' cover of Spooky Tooth's 'Two Time Love' from The Mirror' album. This is followed by a funky version of The Beatles great composition 'Taxman'. Downright blasphemous if you ask me. And finally we get the awful 'It's Not All Mine', a hideous ballad that represents everything that was wrong with FM radio in 1976. Well... isn't this exciting? I'm thinking sell bin at this point.

Enter nine and a half minute 'Munchkin Men' which introduces us to 35 minutes of great music. It's a completely different album. This track is the highlight and demonstrates to us the band is willing to pull out all the stops, recalling every great Midwestern album from Albatross to Yezda Urfa. Fat Hammond organ solos, shredding guitar, emotional vocals, wild flute, acoustic guitar, a thousand meter changes. It's a heart stopper to be sure. The next 4 tracks continue in this manner, three of which pass the 6 minute mark, and are all clinics in mixing the commercially accessible with an academic approach - and mixed with serious chops. It's what all of us underground heads, if we are entirely honest, wished Journey, Styx or REO Speedwagon to have done in the late 70s. And look, you can forget all the words above and just know this one kicks ass.

Personal collection
CD: 2001 Unidisc

The CD is a straight reissue, no chaser. The original LP came in a silver/gray cover, and the CD basically colored it in (as shown above).

RateYourMusic List: Post psychedelic, proto progressive with female vocals

One of the things I like about Rate Your Music, is the ability to put together lists, and add short comments. It's a good way to group various thoughts and ideas. I have a few of these in mind going forward.

Here's my first list. Let me know what you think?

Werwolf - Creation. 1984 Germany

Werwolf are somewhat typical of the early 1980's German symphonic rock scene. Not particularly complex, with emphasis on melody and atmosphere, and some fine guitar work. There's a Christian undertone to the lyrics and they're predictably sung by an airy sounding female. Their music fits squarely with others of its ilk like Eden, Credemus, Rousseau, Rebekka, Amenophis, even Epidaurus. Very pleasant.

Personal collection
CD: 2004 Black Rills (Switzerland)

A very obscure album in original form, I learned of this album like most folks via The Laser's Edge reissue, which I bought immediately upon release (1992). Black Rills later reissued it (since it was long OOP) with 3 bonus tracks. The bonus tracks are also found on Garden of Delights' Psychedelic Gems 3 compilation, which I own as well.  Ultimately I kept just the Black Rills version, which is similar in sound to The Laser's Edge release, with a little enhancement.

Richard Pinhas - L'Ethique. 1982 France

Unlike the 1970's era Heldon albums, all of which I can unconditionally recommend, the same cannot be said for Pinhas' solo works from the same period. Rhizosphere is a static electronic album, Iceland is as chilling as its name, whereas East West shows Pinhas trying his hand at more commercial material. But two albums stand out: Chronolyse (1978) which is perhaps the best of the lot and the album of today's post L'Ethique.

L'Ethique was an excellent way for Pinhas to close shop (and he didn't truly resurrect for at least another 10 years). It's a concise summary of his musical career to that point. The 4 part title track, spread evenly throughout the disc, demonstrates what I think he was trying to do on East West, except with far better results (and it helps immensely that he buries some of his patented tortured guitar into the mix). The two part 'The Wailing Wall' follows down this trek, but is even more powerful, especially the smoking guitar and sequencer runs of Part 1. 'Melodic Simple Transition' represents his pure electronic side. But best of all, is the return of his King Crimson inspired heavy rock jams, as found on the last two Heldon albums and 'Chronolyse'. These are represented by 'Dedicated to K.C.', 'Belfast' and the bonus track 'Southbound' (taken from the Perspective compilation).

This album was my introduction to Pinhas' solo works, and I bought the LP not long after it was released. One of those albums that opened musical doors for me.

Personal collection
CD: 1992 Cuneiform (USA)

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...