Simon Says - Ceinwen. 1995 Sweden

Simon Says - Ceinwen. 1995 Bishop Garden (CD)

There have been bands trying to copy the classic Genesis sound ever since... well... ever since Genesis stopped putting out progressive rock music themselves. In the late 1970's and early 80's, bands from Germany (Ivory, Neuschwanstein, M.L. Bongers Project, Sirius), The Netherlands (Saga), and Austria (Kyrie Eleison) gave it their best shot (and all did an admirable job I might add). Entering into the early 80's there was even a celebrated movement called the New Wave of British Progressive Rock (now saddled with the derogatory "neo prog" tag), where classic Genesis was clearly the blueprint - most notably found in the sound of well known and respected bands like Marillion and IQ. By the late 80's this particular genre was starting to get a bit long in the tooth - almost cartoon-ish even (witness the Swiss band Deyss on their roll-on-the-floor it's-so-bad-it's-bloody-awful 'At-King' album).

So what am I doing talking about a band who did basically the same thing - as late as 1995? Because it's damn good, that's why. Simon Says are definitely post-Anglagard Genesis copycat, and for that they deserve some credit at the very least. Gone are the cheap synthesizers, brass patches, gated drums, pig squeal guitar leads and thin production. And in its place are acoustic guitars, flute, Hammond organ, fat woody bass, loud acid guitar, Mini Moog solos and best of all, the glorious MELLOTRON blaring its sampled string sounds - 8 seconds at a time just as God had intended. It's in the Bible somewhere. Dammit.

Even if you would want to take a pass at this point, then at the very least go to the final track, with the brain blowing 16 minute 'Kadazan' which basically sounds exactly like Anglagard doing their best Nursery Cryme imitation. Even the most cynical amongst you out there ought to at least give THAT a try before making final judgment.

High Tide - s/t. 1970 England


High Tide - s/t. 1970 Liberty

CD reissues: 1994 Repertoire (Germany); 2006 Eclectic; 2010 Esoteric

LP reissue: 1984 Psycho

Packaging details: I first owned this album via the Repertoire CD. I have since upgraded to the 2006 Eclectic / Esoteric version which contains 4 bonus tracks with unique liner notes and unseen photos. A great reissue.

Notes: 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.

Minimum Vital - La Source (Huit Chants De Lumiere). 1993 France

Minimum Vital - La Source (Huit Chants De Lumiere). 1993 Musea (CD)

Minimum Vital were, and still are, a highly original progressive rock group coming out of France. The basic formula is take a medieval or traditional French folk melody and add jazz plus rock influences over the top. Digital keys, programmed primarily to the brass sounds, along with ferocious guitar soloing, are the trademarks of Minimum Vital's sound.

By the time of La Source, Minimum Vital had begun to incorporate some pop influences as well, with female vocals out front, and the final result may be a surprise to hardcore fans - but it's a winning formula both musically and commercially.

Poobah - Let Me In. 1972 USA


Poobah - Let Me In. 1972 Peppermint

CD reissue: 2010 Ripple

Packaging details: Originals are a typical single sleeve with thick cardboard, that lends itself easily to ringwear. Expect to pay in the median range of about $400 for a nice original. I traded for a bootleg LP of this many years ago and I still have it even though I no longer buy or trade for pirate editions. So I was glad to finally see a legit CD show up on the landscape. And it's a good one with 12 bonus tracks, lyrics, and unseen photos from the high quality Ripple label. And what a cover, eh?

Notes: 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

The Perotic Theatre - Dryve. 1996 Germany

The Perotic Theatre - Dryve. 1996 private (CD)

* 1. Space Cowboy 6:17
2. Dust Ark 3:26
* 3. St. Art 4:14
* 4. Citiest Poison 3:04
5. Tissues 3:58
6. Dust Ark 2:39 (different composer)
** 7. Stone Pillow Poem 7:56
* 8. Nocturn Eyed 4:33
** 9. Dwarf Jam 3:14
** 10. Furrows 5:15

Well, as I'm hearing this for the third time, I wouldn't necessarily call this a "retro prog" album, something that became more in vogue a decade later from when this was released. What makes this album so interesting is the juxtaposition of 90s modern rock song craft with Hammond organ as the lead instrument. The thick edgy analog instrument gives the songs far more life than any thin sounding digital synthesizer would have, and completely changes the mood and texture of the entire album. 1), 5) & 8) are probably the best representations of Dryve, showing off their Porcupine Tree meets Pink Floyd composition style, with early 70s Uriah Heep and Aardvark instrumentation. 2) is, for me, easily the weakest piece on the album, and shows that The Perotic Theatre could have been a wimpy emo bunch - primarily via the breathy androgynous vocal style. Though the Hammond manages to save it from a total disaster. 3) puts us back on track with a jumpy ELP "Tarkus" era styled organ track, with vocals in a more desirable airy style than the previous one. 4) is one dirty, smelly heap of early 70's organ rock. Now this track could have easily come out in 1971 England via the Neon label - or 2008 from a band like Diagonal. Excellent. 6) is a moodier version of 2), and fits the atmosphere of the album better. 7) is the first time we get a hint of the heritage of the band, and this piece of unhinged experimentalism would clearly fit into the glorious world of 1971 era Krautrock, as envisioned by the Ohr and Pilz labels. Echoed narrated vocals, droning / power chord organ shards, and pounding drums. Nosferatu meets "Motherf*cker & Co" era Xhol Caravan. I could listen to this stuff all day. Brilliant! 9) features a cool choppy organ vamp, on which the band pretty much jams on top with wordless male vocals adding atmosphere. Really super stuff here. 10) is the clear winner from a melody standpoint. Wow - this is the kind track that could have been a hit in 1972. While the whole album is very good, the last half of Dryve is stellar. Highly recommended!

FWIW, their debut Prometheused (1995) is completely different, and I was extremely disappointed. This is a band you must tread carefully with.

Deadwood Forest - Mellodramatic. 1999 USA

Deadwood Forest - Mellodramatic. 1999 Shroom (CD)

When Anglagard blew through the progressive rock world in 1992 with their debut album Hostbris, it wouldn't take long for other bands to hop on the train and try something similar. Austin, Texas based Deadwood Forest took it a step further, and recruited Anglagard drummer Mattias Olsson to produce their second album. Anglagard themselves had played once in Houston in 1993, giving the respective groups a common thread. Mellodramatic is one of the more successful attempts at achieving the classic progressive rock sound. Primarily played on analog gear, including gobs of the requisite mellotron. There's also quite a bit of 60s psychedelic songwriting in place, which gives it a unique bent. I personally never tire of the style, so Deadwood Forest has a place in the collection for a long time.

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.

Atman - Personal Forest. 1993 Poland

Atman - Personal Forest. 1993 Fly Music (cassette)

LP issue: 1994 Lollipop Shop (Germany)

CD issue: 1997 Drunken Fish (USA)

Atman were perhaps the original freak folk band from Eastern Europe. Personal Forest is about as psychedelic as any album ever released, and yet it's not entirely clear if that's what the band were striving for. In fact, it takes a bit to get going to be honest. It's not unusual to see folks call this a "world music" or, even worse, a "new age" album. It does start off by giving that vibe, but as the album goes deeper into the middle, or forest as it were, the album becomes incredibly intense, and is truly a trance inducing album. Voices, strange homemade and ancient instruments along with tribal drums take the listener to places formerly not discovered. All of Atman's albums are recommended, but none came close to the brilliance of Personal Forest. And that also includes the post-Atman group The Magic Carpathians.

Originally released as a cassette under the moniker Theatre of Sound Atman.

Krakatoa – We Are the Rowboats. 2003 USA

Krakatoa – We Are the Rowboats. 2003 Cuneiform (CD)

Krakatoa were an interesting band from Philadelphia (later Brooklyn) who combined avant progressive, post rock and psychedelic music to great effect. They took the best elements of each: The quirky complexity of avant prog, while foregoing the dorky pursuit of the cutesy; from post rock they inherit the modern day melodicism, but avoid the staid 4/4 rhythms for a much more complex approach; and the true secret ingredient is the addition of a late 60s psychedelic edge, adding something to the music that many newer bands in the progressive rock field forget to do: ROCK.

Even with the above, on paper anyway, the band sounds marginally interesting if the contents aren't mixed properly. And that's where Krakatoa creates their separation from the competition. Wonderful stuff.

Free System Projekt - Moyland. 2005 Netherlands

Free System Projekt - Moyland. 2005 Quantum (CD)

Free System Projekt is yet another band we're featuring here that comes from the Tangerine Dream retro movement, that is found more predominantly in the UK, but also has a huge following in the Netherlands as well. When Tangerine Dream moved in a different direction following their "Virgin" years after 1983, no one really took the baton and ran with it. Now that doesn't mean electronic music died. Not even close. There were tons of other artists operating in this field, almost all of them solo acts, and none had the massive amount equipment that Tangerine Dream possessed (other than maybe Klaus Schulze of course). And as any fan of classic Tangerine Dream will tell you, it's a style of music that has many possibilities. The key to success is not only a large amount of both old and new keyboard toys, but it also helps to have more than one band mate - for the synergy of ideas that multiple people can create.

The big names in the Tangerine Dream renaissance are the British bands: Radio Massacre International, Redshift, AirSculpture, Under the Dome, Arc and many more. And the main representative in Holland is Free System Projekt. And truth be told, FSP are probably the most sycophantic to the original T Dream sound (especially the Baumann trio years). But it's still highly original music within the confines of the style. It's as if someone uncovered numerous more Tangerine Dream recordings from 1974-1977. You can't wrong with a Free System Projekt album, at least of the ones I've heard, and that's most of them. Moyland is but only one great example. If you love complicated sequences, with mellotron overlays and wild synth soloing - the Free System Projekt is for you.

The only problem with being a fan of this movement, if you live in the United States, is the availability of CDs. Other than RMI (who are now signed to Cuneiform and their back catalog is sold through their own Wayside Music channel), all of these albums are only available from Europe, mainly England, Netherlands and Germany. And it can get very expensive quickly once you consider postage. FSP will sometimes be offered on ebay by a couple of US dealers, so I suggest you look there first.

Machine and the Synergetic Nuts - Leap Second Neutral. 2005 Japan

Machine and the Synergetic Nuts - Leap Second Neutral. 2005 Cuneiform (USA CD)

One of the three great Japanese progressive bands of the 2000's including Pochakaite Malko and Naikaku. Influenced by the Canterbury scene of the late 1970s (National Health, The Muffins), heavy 90s Japanese instrumental progressive rock like Happy Family and Bondage Fruit along with a distinct taste for modern jazz like St. Germain. Complex, energetic and highly melodic. Band lists Soft Machine, Weather Report and Frank Zappa as influences.

Aquaserge - Ce Très Cher Serge, Spécial Origines. 2010 France

Aquaserge - Ce Très Cher Serge, Spécial Origines. 2010 private

CD issues: 2010 Manimal; 2011 Gazul / Musea

Aquaserge reminds me of a time when the French reigned supreme in the creativity department. Think back to the early 1980s, when France was bursting at the seams with interesting bands like Dun, Catastrophe, Eskaton, Asia Minor, Abus Dangereux, Rahmann, Nuance, Art Zoyd, Synopsis, and many more. Aquaserge combines Canterbury, space rock, and general wackiness to create a fun filled progressive extravaganza. To me, these qualities all add up to primo Gong, though Aquaserge are more complex, more jamming, and less silly overall. Makoto Kawabata of Acid Mother's Temple provides some splendid acid guitar, and it's in this kind of setting that he shines most brightly.

Phil Thornton with Mandragora - While the Green Man Sleeps. 1993 England

Phil Thornton with Mandragora - While the Green Man Sleeps. 1993 Mystic Stones

CD issue: 1993 Mystic Stones

Phil Thornton is the main man behind Mandragora and they were one of the great UK festival psych bands. And while this goes under the Phil Thornton name, most of Mandragora is on it, and it sounds like a Mandragora album to be honest. Or perhaps a more electronica version of the band, something the group eventually moved to anyway on their 1998 opus Pollen. This particular release reminds me a bit of Ship of Fools actually, given the relaxed nature and flow of the music. Hard to find nowadays, but well worth the effort if you're so inclined.

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




Hiromasa Suzuki - Rock Joint Biwa (Kumikyoku Fulukotofumi). 1972 RCA Victor 4-Channel "QuadraDisc" (R4J-7015)

CD reissue: 2011 Sony

Packaging details: 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 below), and not long after, here comes a CD reissue. From Sony no less! The CD is a straight reissue, but features great sound.

Notes: 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 Rob'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."


Wow.

Viima - Ajatuksia Maailman Laidalta. 2006 Finland

Viima - Ajatuksia Maailman Laidalta. 2006 private (CD)

It’s getting to the point that everything that’s from Finland is great. They are to the current decade what the French were to the 1980s. And thank goodness for that. Wasn’t sure what to expect here. Was told it was Finnish folk prog, and about the only band I associate with that is the obscure and rare Scapa Flow. It’s not really like that however. Even though it’s sung in beautiful Finnish, the album has more of a UK feel than one from continental Europe. The female vocals are one distinguishing factor. What’s interesting to me are the guitar breaks, which are rooted in hard rock – a clear departure from the acoustic folk psych of the base material. I quite liked this one.

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


Thunderpussy - Documents of Captivity. 1973 MRT

CD reissue: 1996 The Wild Places

Packaging details: I had the crappy Breeder bootleg LP for years until Michael Piper released this on CD. I couldn't get rid of that turkey fast enough. The CD is awesome with 4 live bonus tracks and historical liner notes. I would imagine it's quite rare in its own right these days. Original LPs have always cost a fortune.

Notes: 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.

John L. and Adamah - Lonesome In Overdrive. 1996 Germany

John L. and Adamah - Lonesome In Overdrive. 1996 Green Tree (CD)

A magnificent album that hardly anyone knows about, and it features an original iconic Krautrock freak!

Review originally published in Gnosis on July 18, 2006. Updated for UMR

About a couple of times a year, something will arrive that re-lights my collecting fire. Not long ago, it was Del Jones Positive Vibes. Prior to that it had been Berits Halsband that reawakened me. If you saw this CD in the store, you’d pass right over it. The artwork and lettering look like a new age album on the Narada label. It’s dedicated to Greenpeace and half the songs are about whales. It’s subtitled Malinuuga Music, which according to the liner notes is the indigenous rhythm of Europe, unrelated to African and Native American percussion. Yea, well whoopdee doo.

Well boys and girls, the reality is this: Had I sent you a tape and stated "Adamah: Unreleased Ohr album from 1972", you would have had ZERO problem believing me. This is the most authentic slice of Krautrock I’ve heard post 1980. In spirit, sound and intensity. Adamah is not some new age wuss who misses his mommy, but rather a nine piece group that features all sorts of analog synthesizers, flute, clarinet, violin, steel guitar, electric guitar, sitar, various homemade stringed instruments, female vocals and no less than 3 full time percussionists. The production sounds as if Dieter Dirks did a number on it, with loads of phasing and other studio trickery. There is wah-wah, fuzz and all sorts of wild moments found throughout. There’s even the female narration in German ala Ash Ra Tempel's "Join Inn". And there’s not even a HINT this is done for a retro market or that it’s the 1990s. This is truly organic, time has completely stood still. And if you are paying close attention, yes, this is THE John L. of Ash Ra Tempel's "Schwingungen" fame. Here he’s dressed in full-blown traditional Jewish attire, complete with flat brimmed hat, long beard and side curls. And he’s holding one of those aforementioned homemade electric stringed instruments with the Star of David on it. And he sounds pretty much the same as he did on the ART album, with chanting, yelling, semi-singing. Most of the album is instrumental, so his vocals are once again a curious, but fascinating, addition. With a 24 year separation between albums, and both masterpieces, John L. has proven he's one of the true creative freaks of our era.

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


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

CD reissue: 2001 Unidisc

Packaging details: 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). Originals aren't that rare or expensive, but aren't exactly common either.

Notes: 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.

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?

The Smell of Incense - Of Ullages and Dottles. 2007 Norway

The Smell of Incense - Of Ullages and Dottles. 2007 September Gurls (Germany)

CD issue: 2007 September Gurls (Germany)

The Smell of Incense are a Norwegian psychedelic folk rock band, who incorporate both modern and older 1970's influences in their sound. They released two wonderful albums in the 1990s and seemed to have disappeared into the ether. So this 2007 release was quite a surprise when released, and I think it's still flying under the radar, as most of the ratings sites out there show far less activity for "Of Ullages and Dottles" than their earlier albums. I will say their newest album eschews some of the more modern electronica aspects for a more purified psych folk rock sound - so dyed-in-the-wool late 60s fans will most likely find this the best of the 3 albums.

Love the album cover!

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.

Ship of Fools - Out There Somewhere. 1994 England

Ship of Fools - Out There Somewhere. 1994 Dreamtime

CD issue: 1994 Dreamtime

Out There Somewhere is the second and last album from Ship of Fools. They were one of the last of the UK Festival bands to emerge before the scene began to die down. Their formula was a bit different than the others, and perhaps they were more a reflection of their era - the early 1990s. While not an electronica group per se, Ship of Fools incorporated many of the key elements of the scene. Primarily Ship of Fools were about atmosphere & melody over pyrotechnics. They would typically use synthesizers along with sampled instruments and voices to build the mood. After which a heavy guitar riff may appear, giving off a hint of something more dramatic than is actually happening. This is the mastery of dynamics, a skill many bands of their era, and even more so today, could learn from. There are rarely any tricky meters, or flashy guitar solos, and yet there are many heart pumping moments to be found.  They quit at a good time I think, as they'd said what they needed to, without becoming mind-numbingly repetitive.

Richard Pinhas - L'Ethique. 1982 France


Richard Pinhas - L'Ethique. 1982 Pulse (UK)

CD reissues: 1992 Cuneiform (USA); 1992 Spalax

Packaging details: Original LPs could be found in the better stocked record shops throughout the 1980s. As with all Heldon/Pinhas releases, they were jointly released on CD by Cuneiform and Spalax. This CD features one bonus track and it's a real goodie. I swapped out for the CD immediately upon release, and no regrets there.

Notes: 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.

Redshift - s/t. 1996 England

Redshift - s/t. 1996 Champagne Lake (CD)

CD reissue: 2006 Distant Sun

Redshift, in my mind anyway, are the premier Berlin School revivalists from the UK. They started as a quartet led by accomplished synthesist Mark Shreeve, and their blueprint is Baumann era Tangerine Dream. Nobody does it better, and it seems Redshift picked up where Tangerine Dream left off after "Stratosfear". Their debut perhaps apes their mentors more than later efforts, but is by no means unoriginal. 'Redshift' is sometimes jokingly, or reverentially, referred to as 'Rubycon Part 3', as the sounds created from the Moog and the mellotron are identical to Tangerine Dream's greatest work. The music, however, is entirely Redshift's, proving that there are many doors still open within this house. 'Spin' is the highlight of the album and demonstrates Redshift's trademark variation of the classic Berlin School of music. 'Shine' is a short but effective sequencer driven piece while 'Blueshift' represents the longest track, though one third is a boring outro that could have been trimmed. Many consider this piece to be the highlight, and while good, isn't up to the standards of the first two tracks. Redshift were to improve dramatically for their sophomore album "Ether" - for me one of the greatest electronic albums of all time. And one we'll for certain feature at a later time.

One note is that the reissue has 5 tracks instead of 4, but apparently it's just the 'heartbeat' section of 'Blueshift' and doesn't represent additional material.

Fred - s/t. 1971-1973 USA


Fred - s/t. 2001 World in Sound. 1971-1973 archival recordings.

For an archival release, this one has an amazing sound, with a sophistication you rarely hear from this period - in the USA that is. The songwriting is first class, as is the harmony work. In fact, some of this reminds me of the absolute best of Crosby, Stills and Nash. These guys were clearly schooled in music academia. They were from Bucknell University in central Pennsylvania, and perhaps not surprisingly, violin is a major part of their repertoire. The violin is definitely from the Appalachian school of folk music, and not a classical riff in sight. When present, it reminds me of those PBS specials on the history of 1800's America. Some vicious fuzz guitar leads are really awe-inspiring in this setting. Interestingly enough, the band has two more archival releases, and they're both in the Mahavishnu Orchestra jazz rock arena. So these guys definitely had chops to go with their songwriting skills. There is no other album like this that I know of anyway. It's post-psych, pre-progressive with a touch of Appalachia rural. I could see this one continuing to grow as the sound is a bit unfamiliar still.

Brainstorm - Second Smile. 1973 Germany


Brainstorm - Second Smile. 1973 Spiegelei

CD reissue: 2000 Garden of Delights

Packaging details: Another album I was fortunate enough to find an original LP of in the DFW area in the 1980s. Because it was a single sleeve, and a relatively boring cover, I let it go when this wonderful CD came out. Mistake? Yea, maybe. Not a big one, but maybe I should have held onto it.  For the memories anyway. If I see it again, and the price isn't exorbitant, I'll probably buy it again (6/23/14: And I did just that - and a better copy than I had prior!). The CD is, of course, a typically great Garden of Delights reissue with liner notes, photos and short bonus track.

Notes: Having already demonstrated a brilliance on their debut album "Smile Awhile", Brainstorm returned with a superb sophomore effort, only slightly off the pace of their debut. The Canterbury influences are still very much intact, with melodic flute, sax, acoustic guitar and wordless voice offset by jamming fuzz guitar and keyboards. A playful album, but with heavy chops to offset any potential thought that this is somehow "lightweight". The only misstep is the closer 'Marilyn Monroe' (8:40), which mixes in some 50's rock n' roll with a dopey narration bit. Just long enough to keep this from a Hall of Fame rating.

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'...