Galliard - New Dawn. 1970 England

Galliard - New Dawn. 1970 Deram

CD reissue: 2009 Esoteric

Packaging details: The only legit reissue is the usual great job from Esoteric with extensive liner notes and great sound. No bonus tracks though. I've never owned the original, which is a rather simple single sleeve. It also happens to be very rare and expensive. There are no LP reissues to date.

Notes: "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.

The Norman Haines Band - Den of Iniquity. 1971 England

The Norman Haines Band - Den of Iniquity. 1971 EMI Parlophone

CD reissues: 1994 Shoestring; 2011 Esoteric

Packaging details: Classic Esoteric reissue that consists of informative liner notes with participation of Norman Haines himself. Also has 6 quality bonus tracks. The very obscure Shoestring CD is legit as well, while all other CDs of this album are pirates. Original LPs are off the charts rare and expensive and I've certainly never owned one.

Notes: 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.

Il Tempio delle Clessidre - s/t. 2010 Italy

Il Tempio delle Clessidre - s/t. 2010 Black Widow

CD issue: 2010 Black Widow

Il Tempio delle Clessidre's debut is one of the finest retro Italian progressive rock albums I've heard to date. Lead by the beautiful keyboardist Elisa Montaldo, Il Tempio delle Clessidre is the classic five piece Italian band working its way through increasingly complex compositions, but with melody and passion. The crowning touch was the recruiting of Museo Rosenbach's front man Stefano “Lupo” Galifi, who pretty much sounds the same here as on Zarathustra (37 years ago!).

There are no weak tracks on Il Tempio delle Clessidre, though the album starts more measured and stilted, before it slowly morphs into its own creative genius. By the time of 'La Stanza Nascosta', the album has found its footing. And it peaks on the frenetic 'Danza Esoterica di Datura'. From there it maintains its intensity and brilliance. If you miss the spontaneous creativity of the original Italian progressive rock scene of 1973, and can't get enough of the analog sounds of the era, then Il Tempio delle Clessidre is a no-brainer pick up.

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

Frob is a very obscure mid 70s LP and I'd never heard of it until this CD surfaced, which I bought immediately. Usual first class job by Garden of Delights with full liner notes and excellent sound.

Mandragora - Temple Ball. 1994 England

Mandragora - Temple Ball. 1994 Mystic Stones

CD issue: 1994 Mystic Stones

For my money, Mandragora were one of the top UK festival / space rock bands of the 1980s and 90s, perhaps only bested by Ozric Tentacles and Omnia Opera (though really obscure bands like Crow and Blim were just as outstanding, but those are more recent discoveries for me).

Mandragora's trajectory was a bit different, however. On album at least, they started with hard rock, moving ever slow slowly to space rock, then onto ethnic tinged electronic rock, some techno, etc... I like all of their albums, but it was on Temple Ball that the band finally unleashed their ferocious guitar fronted space rock style. Like many of the bands of their era, Mandragora mix in recorded TV and radio bits to add to the ominous atmosphere, before launching into another intense jam.

The monster track here is Talking to God (Part IV), but other great pieces include Zarg, Inside the Crystal Circle, Rainbow Warrior and the title track. The album claims to be recorded live "in the Crystal Feb '94", but I don't think it's an actual concert. If it was, then it's been completely edited like a studio album and there's no audience noise. I prefer it this way myself.

This is definitely the best album on the excellent Mystic Stones label, and sadly, very close to the label's last release.

Vos Voisins - s/t. 1971 Canada

Vos Voisins - s/t (aka Holocauste à Montréal). 1971 Polydor

CD reissue: 2011 ProgQuebec

Packaging details: The PQ 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.

Notes: 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'.

Elektrum - Live at the Opera. 1998 Denmark-England

Elektrum - Live at the Opera. 1998 private (CD)

This is guitarist Claus Bohling's band - post Hurdy Gurdy and Secret Oyster. The music presented here is surprisingly a very modern space rock, as in what Ozric Tentacles might have done in the same era (late 90s), but played by a veteran of the 60s and early 70s. Also hear some Frank Marino, at his most hard rock and melodic. This is a fantastic release and one of the classic under the radar albums from the 90s.

Toshiaki Yokota and Genshi Kyodotai - Primitive Community. 1971 Japan

Toshiaki Yokota and Genshi Kyodotai - Primitive Community. 1971 Toshiba

CD reissue: 2011 Think (Japan mini-LP)

Packaging notes: 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.

Notes: 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? Don't believe me? Well consider that a below average condition copy of "Flute Adventure" recently went for $1600 - and that's commonplace compared to this.

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.

Sunlight - Creation of Sunlight. 1968 USA

Sunlight - Creation of Sunlight. 1968 Windi

CD reissue: 2005 Lion Productions

LP reissue: 2002 Void

Packaging notes: 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.

Notes: 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.

Gravy Train – (A Ballad of) A Peaceful Man. 1971 England

Gravy Train – (A Ballad of) A Peaceful Man. 1971 Vertigo (also released in Germany and Italy)

CD reissues: 1990 Repertoire (Germany); 2000 Universal (Japan mini-LP); 2002 Repertoire (Germany); 2006 Repertoire (Germany mini-LP)

Packaging details: Gravy Train's second album has pretty much fallen into the "common copy" chasm. It's mainly been reissued by the Repertoire label (a few times) as well as Akarma. It would be nice for a specialist label to take it on and do it right, like Esoteric. As always the Japanese mini-LP (I own this version) is likely to be the same master as the Repertoire. But since it features a wonderful gatefold cover, it's worth getting in the mini-LP format - even though it lacks any extras like liner notes, bonus tracks, concert promos or photos. The 2002 and 2006 Repertoire releases have bonus tracks.

Notes: There are plenty of good reviews of this album out there already that I agree with. Check a few of these from RYM.

Mahoujin - Babylonia Suite. 1978 Japan

Mahoujin - Babylonia Suite. 1991 Made in Japan. CD archival release of a 1978 studio recording.

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.

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/t. 1976 EMI

CD reissue: 2007 EMI

Packaging details: 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.

Notes: 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).

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

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

CD reissues: 2002 and 2004 Angel Air (respectively). There's also Japanese mini-LPs on Air Mail from the same time frame. I personally own the UK jewel case versions.

Packaging notes: 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.

Notes: 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.

Accordo dei Contrari - Kublai. 2011 Italy

Accordo dei Contrari - Kublai. 2011 private (CD)

In some ways, Accordo dei Contrari are the polar opposite of the Sithonia album we spoke about on this blog. The instrumentation, execution, and overall crispness are absolutely top-notch. Thematic development and melodic longevity, well... perhaps not their strong suit. So in that way, I rate them the same, though I can assure you that Accordo dei Contrari are far more palatable on initial impact. I would have to plea before the court as to why Sithonia are excellent, whereas all I have to do here is press "play" and watch the listener's jaw drop at the musical prowess. That's not to say that Accordo dei Contrari are a cold, soulless band. Quite to the contrary (as their name suggests). The psychedelic exotic fusion of 'Arabesque' alone is enough to sell me on this album. As if Agitation Free went on a Mahavishnu Orchestra binge. Say that last sentence again, perhaps slowly. I'm all in. I think this is where the Area comparisons come in. They're meant as flattery, but not sure I see the correlation. Anyway, instrumental progressive rock / fusion - I could listen to this kind of stuff all day.

Accordo dei Contrari - Kinesis. 2007 Italy

Accordo dei Contrari - Kinesis. 2007 AltRock (CD)

Starting with a sound straight out of the early Mahavishnu Orchestra playbook, Accordo dei Contrari waste no time in establishing their heavy instrumental fusion sound. In fact, I was immediately reminded of DFA, another A-list progressive rock group from Italy. All the tracks feature counterpoint in an instrumental setting. They catch a groove, rock hard - change meters, and rock hard again. If I had a complaint, it's that the album as a whole has a certain sameness to it. While I adored the first few tracks, I found my mind wandering as the album continued. Perhaps had I started in the middle, I would feel stronger for the latter tracks. I need to do that actually. Point being, it's this monolithic nature that keeps the album from being a stone classic. A minor complaint, because no doubt this is a fantastic album overall. Recommended to all European instrumental rock fans. Or what we used to call "Euro Rock", still quite possibly my favorite sub-genre of the progressive rock spectrum.

Jettison Slinky - Dank Side of the Morn. 1999 USA

Jettison Slinky - Dank Side of the Morn. 1999 Evander (CD)

Jettison Slinky, a 10 piece ensemble lead by keyboardist Graham Connah, were another interesting band coming from the fruitful 1990s San Francisco Bay Area scene. There's a strong Canterbury melodic sense throughout, and the heavy guitars, keyboards, and dual female vocalists point to an obvious affinity for National Health. It's almost shocking to me that an American band can pull off this most distinctly English style of rock music. One of the ladies on the album is none other than Jewlia Eisenberg, leader of the Klezmer inspired band Charming Hostess, and a darling of the Avant Progressive fan base. Trombone and clarinet add a unique palette. Beyond the Canterbury references, there's also a distinct mid-1960s Brill Building campy/sweetness going on with the melodic jingles recalling perhaps a mix of the Rascal Reporters and Stereolab. And I'm also hearing characteristics of U Totem, where the density of the compositions become a bit hard to penetrate. On the album's closer 'Eternal Dalmation', Jettison Slinky begins to experiment with avant-garde deconstruction which is an unnecessary and disappointing conclusion to an otherwise very satisfying album.

Orchestra Luna - s/t. 1975 USA

Orchestra Luna - s/t. 1975 Epic

CD reissue: 2007 Market Square (UK)

Packaging notes: CD is a nice legit reissue with full liner notes and photos.

Notes: In honor of Modulus' reissue of Randy Roos' "Mistral" album, as mentioned on the CDRWL, which is now scheduled for March 2012 - my friend and Gnosis colleague Eddie Lascu sent me a CD of Randy's first band - Orchestra Luna, which is quite a bit different from the fusion-esque Roos album.

Though a bit out of scope for the usual UMR fare, I think it's an album worth discovering. No sense in myself writing a review, when Eddie has already provided a fantastic and enthusiastic review on Gnosis. Check it out!

Thanks again Eddie for sending over the CD!

Surgery - Übermorgen. 1980 Germany

Surgery - Übermorgen. 1980 Yregrus (Surgery spelled backwards)

CD reissue: 2010 Garden of Delights

Packaging notes. Midwest Mike first turned me onto this album in the early days of the CDRWL. Before that, I had never even  heard of it! The CD features 10 bonus tracks, history, photos. Great reissue as usual from GoD and definitely the version to own.

Notes: 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.

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

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/t. 1973 Brain

CD reissue: 2007 Long Hair

Packaging details: 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 (which is already high). 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. This would be an awesome candidate for a Japanese mini-LP (or even as an LP reissue for that matter). If one did come out in the mini-LP format, I would probably own all 3 versions - the Brain LP, the Long Hair CD and the Japan mini. Watch for bootlegs of this title and be sure to only get the Long Hair version.

---Until the end of 2006, there were three really GREAT Brain Metronome label albums still not on CD: Kollektiv, Thirsty Moon's debut and Satin Whale's "Desert Places". Long Hair has taken care of the first two, and now only the great Satin Whale album remains.

Notes: Kollektiv's sole album (and there are two fantastic live and archival releases from Long Hair also worth seeking out - and I hope to feature eventually) 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...)

Wapassou – Messe en re Mineur. 1976 France

Wapassou – Messe en re Mineur. 1976 Crypto

Other Wapassou featured albums on the UMR

CD reissues: 1994 Musea; 2009 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissue: 198? Omega Studio

Release details: Single sleeve cover and relatively common in Europe. I started with the Omega LP but sold it after getting the CD. I picked up the original in recent years, and it wasn't expensive. The liner notes of the Musea CD are only in French. On the plus side, the CD has the photos and great sound (but no bonus tracks).

Notes: Wapassou clearly establish their patented sound here, progressing on from their debut album, which we've already featured. All the same, I still love the amateurish charm of the first one. That said, Messe en re Mineur is an atmospheric gem, with loads of echoed violin and gorgeous wordless female voice.

Last update: September 22, 2015

Odissea - s/t. 1973 Italy

Odissea - s/t. 1973 RiFi

CD reissues: 1989 Vinyl Magic; 1991 King (Japan); 2011 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

Packaging details: Prior to owning the Japanese mini, I was in possession of the Vinyl Magic CD, which has been on the market since 1989, and remarkably was the only readily available CD out there before this version. 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". I've never had an original, but I do plan on purchasing one eventually (12/11/12 update: And now I do own an original!).

Notes: 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.

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

Maneige - Ni Vent... Ni Nouvelle. 1977 Polydor

CD reissues: 1994 Kozak; 2006 ProgQuebec; 2010 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

Packaging details: 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. Originals aren't terribly expensive, even now, so if you're a vinyl collector - be sure to grab one.

Notes: 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.

Wallenstein – Blitzkrieg. 1971 Germany

Wallenstein – Blitzkrieg. 1971 Pilz

CD reissues: 1990 Berhard Mikulski; 1993 Spalax (France); 1999 Zyx; 2011 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissues: 1975 Clear Light of Jupiter (Australia - released as "Lunatics"); 1981 Pop Import; 1999 Think Progressive

We covered Wallenstein earlier with their 3rd album "Cosmic Century", where I would also recommend the Japanese mini-LP. Blitzkrieg is definitely my favorite by them, which shows the band in more high energy form, but otherwise my review there will suffice here (for now).

Originals come in a fine gatefold, and worth seeking out.

Area – Arbeit Macht Frei. 1973 Italy

Area – Arbeit Macht Frei. 1973 Cramps

CD reissues: 1989 Cramps; 1998 EMI; 2002 Akarma; 2007 Strange Days/Universal (Japan mini-LP); 2009 Cramps; 2011 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP).

LP reissues: 2000 Get Back; 2011 Akarma

Packaging details: 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. Otherwise, this album is easily obtainable and various CD issues go back to 1989 on the Cramps label itself. I had that version until I upgraded to the mini-LP. Unfortunately, there are no specialist label reissues with liner notes, bonus tracks, etc... so this is your best bet.

Notes: 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.

Round House - Jin Zo-Ni N Gen. 1978 Japan

Round House - Jin Zo-Ni N Gen. 1991 Made in Japan. 1978 archived recordings

Round House's sole album was compiled from two different 1978 sessions (studio and live). The album was later reissued in 2003 by Poseidon. I bought the MiJ version not long after it came out in 1992.

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.

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.

Windopane - See? 1994 USA

Windopane - See? 1994 Or

CD issue: 1994 Or

In the early 90's there were a few bands from both the Midwest United States and in the UK which featured guitar centric psychedelic groups that revolved around long improvised and frenetic jams. From the UK you had Bevis Frond, Outskirts of Infinity, Ear Candy, Mynd Muzik and the Incredible Expanding Mindfuck. From Ohio and Indiana there was Many Bright Things, Simones, Tombstone Valentine, and... Windopane. The twist here is that Windopane were lead by a husband and wife team of dual guitarists, with an accompanying booklet that implies a heart wrenching story of a child given up to adoption by the female lead when she was only 16. A fairly active drummer rounds out the trio.

There really isn't anything extraordinary about this album, or the compositions within. But if you like a good old fashioned instrumental wah wah guitar extravaganza without ever going to excess, then this is one you should look for in the dollar bin of your local brick and mortar - or favorite auction house.

They released another album a year later, which I recall as not being up to snuff. Don't remember much about it, but I sold it way back when in any case.

The second cover scan is the CD issue.

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.

Algaravia - Breve e Interminável. 1996 Brazil

Algaravia - Breve e Interminável. 1996 PRW (CD)

There was a time in the 1990's when PRW was one of progressive rock's leading lights in terms of discovering new acts. And Algaravia was one of their true gems. Some 15 years later, the band is sadly and completely forgotten.

Algaravia, who open with a track named 'Crimsoniana', leave little doubt to who their heroes are. A dual guitar quintet, with minimal keyboards and an extra percussionist (giving it a slight Santana flair), Algaravia no doubt worship at the Red and Starless & Bible Black altar. But just like fellow South American's Exsimio (Chile) demonstrated a few years later, Algaravia took a portion of the King Crimson sound and moved it further and into new areas of development. Some classic 90's Djam Karet can be heard here too (especially in the fuzz tone guitar explosions). I think it's a splendid album - and a total tragedy the band stopped here.

Kundalini - Asylum for Astral Travellers. 1996 Sweden

Kundalini - Asylum for Astral Travellers. 1996 Mellow (Italy CD)

Mauro at Mellow has released a great number of amazing albums over the years, and many sadly fell way under the radar. This album may well be his most hidden gem.

In the 1970's, there was a splendid little Swedish instrumental group called Lotus, who put out two wonderful albums, and then drifted into obscurity (both fortunately reissued on CD on the Duck Your Music label).

Kundalini is the second generation of the Lotus blueprint, but with a distinct Middle Eastern and Southeastern Asian focus. Band leader Arne Jonasson plays a remarkable amount of stringed and wind instruments here. At once he plays the electric guitar in the fiery space rock tradition of Ozric Tentacles or Omnia Opera, while at others he seems comfortable strumming the traditional world string instruments of bouzouki (Greece), saz (Turkey / Iran), cümbüş (Turkey), nyckelharpa (Sweden) as well as wind instruments such as the mey (Turkey), zurna (Turkey), näverlur (Sweden), and recorder (mainly European). This is all backed by a crisp and energetic bass and drum team. And despite the wide variation of world sounds, the melodies are memorable and the albums rocks like a motherf ... well, you know. Kundalini also dabbles in the odd jazz instrumental, especially towards the end of the disc. Great album this one and it's too bad this was the end for Kundalini. A must pickup for fans of exotic space rock and fusion.

Eider Stellaire - s/t. 1981 France

Eider Stellaire - s/t. 1981 K1

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!

CD reissue: 2011 Soleil Zeuhl

Packaging details: 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. Nothing but respect for Alain and his label from me. This album is an absolute masterpiece!

Notes: 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.

Mongol - Doppler 444. 1997 Japan

Mongol - Doppler 444. 1997 Belle Antique (CD)

CD reissue: 2013 Musea; 2013 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

Regular readers of my blogs will know by now, high energy fusion / progressive rock is always welcome in my changer. And boy, does this fit the bill! Like a less raw Kenso, with perhaps a little too much 90's digitalitis going on - though nonetheless these guys just let 'er rip. And with plenty of meter changes for the hardcore progressive rock fan. So on the first 5 tracks, Mongol reminds me quite a bit of the great second album by Space Circus (Fantastic Arrival), but with a 90's production. So if that sounds good, this will serve you well enough.

And then....

WHOOOAAA! Hold the presses!

And then......... there's this 18 minute closer.

Would you believe me if I told you that 'Greatful Paradise' is the most intense Zeuhl styled song since the 'De Futura' track from Magma's Udu Wudu? Probably not. But the fact is I lost 5 pounds listening to it. See, there's that Paganotti styled fuzz bass counterpointed by alien keyboard sounds and shredding guitar. And then there's this possessed drummer not named Vander but.... OK, you get the idea. Want another Weidorje album? You like Zeuhl fusion? You need this.

The 2013 reissues contain significant bonus material apparently.

Acqua Fragile - Mass-Media Stars. 1974 Italy

Acqua Fragile - Mass-Media Stars. 1974 Dischi Ricordi; 1974 Import Records (USA)

CD reissues: 1991 Contempo; 2007 BMG (Japan mini-LP); 2011 Sony; 2011 Esoteric (UK)

LP reissue: 1979 King (Japan)

Release details: Earlier this month I featured Esoteric's reissue of Acqua Fragile's debut. To be honest, I had intended to get this title instead, but wasn't paying attention and grabbed the first one. I already had that one in the four poster Japanese mini-LP, so I was content and was looking to get the Esoteric album in the future as a supplement. Well I certainly did that- just way ahead of schedule! Anyway, here we are with their second album Mass Media Stars.

---MMS is one of the earliest Italian progressive rock albums I ever bought, and was included in a pile of albums I bought in a small record store in the DFW area in the mid 1980s. It was the US Import copy of course, and not terribly rare, but I was just starting to collect European progressive rock and so I picked it up cheap (I picked up everything cheap back then - I barely had any money!). That same day I also bought a couple other Italian albums: Arti+Mestieri's "Tilt" on Cramps - and the big find, yet at the time I had no idea what it was - Il Balletto di Bronzo's "Ys" (the original with the libretto booklet - an album that will most certainly be buried with me). So unfortunately for Acqua Fragile, their album wasn't the one that wowed me that day when I returned home to the stereo. Eventually I sold the LP copy, and recently realized I never bought the CD! Well good timing on Esoteric's part! As I'm rather certain this is the best CD version of the album. (update: And I've now secured an Italian original LP as well!)

Notes: As I said in the CDRWL, let's hope that Esoteric continues with Italian progressive rock albums, and doesn't stop with only the English language ones (which are very few in any case). While BTF / AMS of Italy have done a good job on many titles - there are plenty more that could use a better reissue.

Last update: February 22, 2015

Saqqara Dogs - Thirst. 1987 USA

Saqqara Dogs - Thirst. 1987 Pathfinder

CD issue: 1987 Pathfinder

I've had this album practically since it came out. One of those albums you would discover through Option magazine where they couldn't figure what the hell it was and they'd compare it to a band it had nothing in common with. But this listen pointed me to the possible source: David Torn. "Cloud About Mercury" was one of those revelations for anyone that scanned every single record in the 1980s mall record store hoping for just ONE new album that looked interesting. Saqqara Dogs takes Torn's loud guitar ethic and throws a little Middle Eastern mysticism into the mix. And you're not too far from Black Sun Ensemble either - another Option treasure find. This has aged beautifully.

Hecenia – La Couleur du Feu. 1994 France

Hecenia – La Couleur du Feu. 1994 Musea (CD)

This is Hecenia's second album, and a dramatic jump up from their debut. The main reason for this is the wise decision to turn off the drum machine and add a real drummer. And he propels the music forward in an exciting way, never staying in place too long to wear out its welcome. In some ways I was reminded of the obscure group Ocarinah (featured in the CDRWL) in the way the album keeps changing from theme to theme. Perhaps best of all, is that La Couleur du Feu has some of the most beautiful piano compositions in modern progressive rock. It's nice to hear the piano as a solo instrument rather than strictly as accompaniment. What a talented band they were, and it's a pity they stopped when they did. Today, very few people remember Hecenia, and yet they were one of the rising stars in the early 1990s.

French TV - 9: This Is What We Do. 2006 USA

French TV - 9: This Is What We Do. 2006 Pretentious Dinosaur (CD)

Another new album from French TV. Another great album from French TV. There are few bands that can match French TV's consistent high quality over a long period of time. For 20+ years, French TV has produced and continues to produce complex, challenging progressive rock. Even more amazing, they actually get better with each release. Now they didn't set the bar real high in their early years, but they never put out a bad record either. But they seem to be getting better almost exponentially. I’m in awe of a band who can release nine albums in a 23 year time span, and never sound stale, retro or trendy. They never mail it in. And they are what one would want from a band that carries the heady term of progressive around. French TV are a mix of Avant Prog, Canterbury, big name UK symphonic, French and Scandinavian styles, even some of the more obscure over the top US progressives like Cathedral and Mirthrandir (and yes, they would have had access to these bands since their inception). But mostly they sound like French TV. In fact, as I hear This is What We do, I recall another elder statesman of creative rock music: Patrick Forgas and his Forgas Band Phenomena. Commercial success was never part of the blueprint for these gentleman. The material they compose is both complex and mature, yet still maintains the edge of youth. We have so few role models in rock music that carried the creative banner for decades, so we must look to jazz and icons like Miles Davis to see this kind of pushing forward as the years go by.

This is among my favorite releases by French TV. I've never listened to all of their albums back to back, but it would probably be interesting to note the ascension.

Cosmic Invention – Help Your Satori Mind. 1997 Japan

Cosmic Invention – Help Your Satori Mind. 1997 The Now Sound (USA CD)

Cosmic Invention were a supergroup made up of Japan's finest astral travelers such as Ghost, White Heaven, Subvert Blaze and Overhang Party. Despite the heritage, Cosmic Invention were remarkably restrained - thus recalling the 1970's Kosmische Kourier sound more so than the mostly nauseous 90's guitar fuzz overload the above mentioned names are likely to invoke (other than maybe Ghost). And this is a good thing for the UTR. Cosmic Invention seemed to have mastered the best of Can, Emtidi and the Galactic Supermarket, while the title track is a definite nod to the 1970's hard progressive rock of the Flower Travellin' Band.

This one received good reviews and a bit of indie press back when it came out (and when I purchased it). Today the album is largely forgotten. That's too bad.

Hands - s/t. 1977-1980 USA

Hands - s/t. 1996 Shroom. Archival recordings from 1977, 1978 and 1980

We first spoke of Shroom in the Arabesque post a few months ago. For a period in the late 1990's, they proved to be the premier CD reissue archival label for America's unreleased progressive rock gems. I've never been intimately involved with the label, but do know pretty well a couple of guys from the original days, including one that is now an active, and fellow, RYM participant.

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 Webbs 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.

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)

1975-76 recordings, with one 26 second silly audience bit from 1979.

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

Ramses - La Leyla. 1976 Sky; 1976 Annuit Coeptis (USA)
Ramses - Eternity Rise. 1978 Sky

CD reissue for both: 1993 Sky

Packaging details: 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'.

Notes: 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.

Luciano Basso - Voci. 1976 Italy

Luciano Basso - Voci. 1976 Ariston

CD reissues: 1994 Vinyl Magic; 2007 BTF (mini-LP); 2009 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissue: 2008 BTF

Packaging details: Currently I own the original Vinyl Magic CD as well as a true original LP - that is one with a textured cover, which is actually quite scarce (many of the originals were smooth covers, which were pressed slightly later). I haven't personally seen the Japanese mini, but it is likely to mimic the textured version.

Notes: 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.

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

Grupo N.H.U. - s/t. 1978 Novola Zafiro

CD reissue: 2000 RCA (Zafiro/BMG)

Packaging details: At least the CD is 100% legit, from the master tapes and the original label. Otherwise, it's a bit of a disappointment (no liner notes, bonus tracks, etc..). Typical of reissues from Spain unfortunately. And like many Spanish albums, the original LP is worth owning for the quality and the cover - and I certainly kept mine.

Notes: 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).

Spektakel - s/t. 1974 Germany

Spektakel - s/t. 1996 Laser's Edge. Archival recordings from 1974.

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" (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.

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.

The Word of Life - Dust. 1995 Sweden

The Word of Life return with their sophomore, and ultimately last effort, Dust which is somewhat different from the predecessor. There'...