CMU - Open Spaces + Space Caberet. 1971; 1973 England

Man, where do I start with CMU (Contemporary Music Unit)? Both of these albums are entirely frustrating listens. It's worth noting that other than the husband and wife team of the Odell's (and guitarist Hamlett), these two albums feature two entirely different lineups with different songwriters.

Since I own the See For Miles reissue and they put Space Cabaret first, I'll start with that. All of Side 1 is written by newcomer Richard Joseph. Sad to say, but I don't like any of his songs that much. They are of a pop / folk rock variety, and bear little resemblance to anything else by the band. The short opening title is kind of cool in a bizarre show tune sort of way, but the rest is mediocre songwriting. Side two opens with 'Dreams', and is the only composition written by guitarist Ian Hamlett. A brilliant track, that is highly progressive with a dark undertone. They should have let him write more. Here's where Larraine Odell shows she is a great female singer - in the big leagues with Linda Hoyle. But the real monster of a song is the closer 'Lightshine'. And sure enough, it is the only composition written by Leary Hasson. You may recognize the name Hasson, as he's the grand master of Marsupilami, one of the UMR's all time favorite bands. He joined only for Space Cabaret, and sadly wrote only this one song for them. As I listen to it, the reason I love it so much is it's basically a 10+ minute Marsupilami-styled track. This could have been their 3rd album! Hasson may be one of the best progressive rock songwriters ever. It is absolutely brilliant in every way, from compositional construction to the type of sounds generated (fuzz guitar, crunchy organ). I had goosebumps and hair raising through the whole thing. I'm not sure one modern band has been able to achieve the feelings I'm getting here. And as I write this, it tells me the creative well isn't empty - just no one knows where it is anymore!

Converse to Space Cabaret, Open Spaces starts excellent, with an ideal English styled psych rock track in 'Henry'. 1971 is a little late for the type of psych they're doing here, but it would have been the PERFECT soundtrack to a Swinging' London film like Otley or Blow Up. However, the middle of the album tends to drag, with their interpretation of Pharaoh Sander's 'Japan' being a low point. But, like Space Cabaret, the last two tracks save the day, with the super sweet and exotic 'Mystical Sounds' followed by the weird psych space jazz title track, sounding like Kalacakra and Furekaaben jamming on the MPS label. Apparently the song 'Open Spaces' was commissioned for an interactive sculpture exhibition with a psychedelic light show. Any chance I can go back in time and see this?

Highlights for Space Cabaret: 6. Dream (9:46); 7. Lightshine (10:24)
Highlights for Open Spaces: 1. Henry (4:47); 7. Mystical Sounds (3:17); 8. Open Spaces (11:38)

So what happened to the Odell couple? They went onto to form one of London's most famous early 1980's disco groups in Shakatak (pronounced Shack Attack). There's plenty of vintage YouTube videos of the band out there for you to check out (be sure to find the ones from the 1980s not the modern renditions). Pretty talented bunch but playing the usual vapid music with bad hair. For me, though, it does bring back memories of a time and place and I quite like it. But that's way out of scope for the UMR methinks... If you did check out the videos you may be asking who is that 80's big-haired blond girl? No, that's not Larraine Odell (who doesn't appear to actually have been in the group long, though Roger is indeed the drummer), but rather Jill Saward - of ... ready for this? Fusion Orchestra (another UMR favorite band)!!! Jeesh, who knew?

Personal collection
CD: 1993 See For Miles

The CD release from See For Miles contains both albums. But in order to fit them in, they excluded one 6 minute track from Open Spaces. This version also has unique liner notes.

Gomorrha - I Turned to See Whose Voice it Was. 1972 Germany

For the 3rd album on the legendary Brain label, the very cleverly titled I Turned to See Whose Voice it Was (referencing the Biblical story of Lot's wife no doubt), I can recommend this one easily. Now this is true hard styled Krautrock. The kind of album where fans of complex progressive rock go scratching their heads wondering what the big deal is. It's underground rock, baby. Nothing more than simple blues rock motifs, gruff vocals, pounding drums, organ shards, and the cherry topping is the long stretches of fuzzy guitar solos, all played at "11" of course. And since it's on Brain, naturally Conny Plank was at the controls, so you can expect all sorts of echoing, phasing, and every other studio trick that just plain sounds cool. So while not necessarily memorable, it is the kind of album that sounds great while playing it. And really, isn't that when it matters most? So strap your seat belt on, plug in your air guitar, and get ready to jam. Best track is 'I Try to Change This World' (9:31). According to the liner notes of the Repertoire CD, this was it for the band, and they quit music and went into the workforce. A pity really.

Personal Collection
LP: 1973 Brain
CD: 1997 Repertoire
LP: 2013 Long Hair

Originals come in a fine gatefold cover. Apparently the original press comes in a non-laminate cover with spelling mistakes in the inner gatefold.  The second press (1973) fixes these while laminating the cover. Apparently most of these laminates have peeled through the years. This is the version I own and can validate this finding. The CD on Repertoire is excellent, as were all of their Brain releases, with unique liner notes, photos, etc...  The Long Hair LP adds new liner notes.

Body - The Body Album. 1981 England

I seem rate this album higher than most of my peers, and I'm not entirely sure why. Body are a really good space rock band that is completely incongruous with anything else coming from England in 1981 (other than maybe the first Twelfth Night album). There are very few references to the early 80's UK synth pop scene though a couple of tunes are musically relevant 'Brave New World' being the most obvious whereas 'Lights Out' could have easily been a hit single during that era. Overall I hear elements of You era Gong as well as the obscure Italian group St. Tropez here. The near 15 minute spaced out 'Andromeda' is the song Pink Floyd never made after Ummagumma and is the standout track on the entire album. The bonus tracks are uniformly excellent except for maybe the goofy Falkland Islands political rant - but no matter - it was, after all, an important topic in the mid 1980's!

Personal collection
CD: 1997 Ozit

My introduction to this album came via the SPM/World Wide CD that I purchased upon release (1992 or so). The Ozit release (scan above) comes with 4 bonus tracks, a full history, photos, and is overall a great reissue. Definitely a marked improvement on the bare bones SPM version.

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...