High Tide - s/t. 1970 England

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

Personal collection
CD: 2006 Eclectic

Poobah - Let Me In. 1972 USA

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

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

Personal collection
CD: 2010 Ripple

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

Ravjunk - Uppsala Stadshotell Brinner. 1977 Sweden

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

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

Personal collection
CD: 2007 Transubstans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Personal collection
CD: 2011 Sony

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

Serge Bringolf Strave - s/t. 1980 France

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

Personal collection
CD: 2011 Soleil Zeuhl

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

Thunderpussy - Documents of Captivity. 1973 USA

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

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

Personal collection
CD: 1996 The Wild Places

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

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

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

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

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

Personal collection
CD: 2001 Unidisc

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

RateYourMusic List: Post psychedelic, proto progressive with female vocals

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

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

Werwolf - Creation. 1984 Germany

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

Personal collection
CD: 2004 Black Rills (Switzerland)

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

Richard Pinhas - L'Ethique. 1982 France

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

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

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

Personal collection
CD: 1992 Cuneiform (USA)

Fred - s/t. 1971-1973 USA (archival)

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.

Personal collection
CD: 2001 World in Sound (Germany)

Brainstorm - Second Smile. 1973 Germany

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.

Personal collection
LP: 1973 Spiegelei
CD: 2000 Garden of Delights

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...