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.

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