Toshiyuki Miyama & His New Herd - Tsuchi No Ne. 1973 Japan

This album was first described to me (see below) as complex horn rock meets Ian Carr's Nucleus meets Vortex (70s French underground band). I would also state it sounds like Dizzy Gillespie meets Art Zoyd with a dash of early 70s Miles Davis. Yes, it's a unique album to say the least. I've only heard one other New Herd album, the Yamataifu album mentioned below, and it was too "out jazz" for me. This album, however, is definitely within the rails, and I found it highly enjoyable.

As usual, the AC provides a full review with insights. What a treasure of information this gentleman is!

"Nippon Columbia: NCB-7023 (Adventure In Sound series), 1973, Japan

Toshiyuki Miyama - Conductor
Yasuhiro Koyama - Composer
Kozaburo Yamaki - Electric Guitar, Composer
Masaaki Itoh - Electric Bass
Isao Yomoda - Drums
Kiyoshi Takano - Piano, Electric Piano
Kazumi Takeda - Trumpet
Shin Kazuhara - Trumpet
Yoshikazu Kishi - Trumpet
Shuji Atsuta - Trumpet
Teruhiko Kataoka - Trombone
Masamichi Uetaka - Trombone
Tokura Seiichi - Trombone
Takehide Uchida - Trombone
Kazumi Oguro - Alto Sax, Soprano Sax
Eiji Toki - Alto Sax
Mamoru Mori - Tenor Sax
Seiji Inoue - Tenor Sax
Shigeru Hirano - Baritone Sax

Side 1:

1 - Youkai Kappa Konnichi Izuko Sumi Ya
- Kappa Torai No Tsuchi
- Mokuhi No Yotabi
- Bourei No Numa
- Okugidenjushiki
- Neneko No Nakibushi
- Senshouiwaiutae Shinkokka

Side 2:

1 - Kurozuka

Band leader Toshiyuki Miyama and his New herd orchestra were a ubiquitous presence in the 70s Japanese music scene, churning out album after album of mainly straight big band jazz, along with some typical pop-covers/exploitation fare. However, during the heady days of the early 70s "New Rock" boom, they did find themselves experimenting on a few interesting LPs. There was the relatively well-known "Yamataifu", a collaboration with famous pianist Masahiko Satoh, as well as the more obscure "Eternity?/Epos", working once again with Satoh along with drummer Masahiko Togashi and a percussion ensemble. They were soon to abandon this adventurous direction (along with most of the many seasoned jazzmen, studio musicians, and bewildered major label executives who had been temporarily sucked into the psychedelic vortex of New Rock Japan), but not before leaving behind one more dark jewel in the rubble. "Tsuchi No Ne - Nippon Densetsu No Naka No Shijou", roughly translates to "Sound of the Earth - The Poetry in Japanese Legends", and like a number of other classics of the era, it attempted to draw on the essence of ancient Japanese folklore and mythology as inspiration for a new and radical kind of music. But "Tsuchi No Ne" is somewhat different from its musical peers, choosing to dwell on the dark, sinister side of these myths and legends. This is quite evident in both the striking cover art and the track titles themselves, referencing ghosts, grotesque monsters (the Kappa, a hideous river-dwelling creature thought to drag unsuspecting victims to a watery grave) and a macabre Noh drama about a vile man-eating ogress. Most importantly, this theme infuses the music, a fascinating mixture of electric big band jazz-rock and what can only be called avant-prog, despite the seeming incongruity of applying that term to an early 70s Japanese jazz album. Two mammoth side-long pieces are on offer here, the first a suite divided into six smaller sections, composed by regular New Herd guitarist Kozaburo Yamaki, the second a monolithic opus penned by film and television soundtrack composer Yasuhiro Koyama. Certain comparisons can be drawn to the more rigorous side of early British jazz-rock (Soft Machine circa 5/6 and the best of Ian Carr's Nucleus) and perhaps also to the most complex horn rock works of the era, due to the heavy brass presence of the big band. But interestingly, what I'm reminded of most is classic French avant-prog/jazz-rock of a slightly later vintage. In particular, I'm thinking of Vortex's shadowy masterpiece "Les Cycles de Thanatos", as well as some of Yochk'o Seffer's great works with Zao and Neffesh Music. The strange, dark tension and compositional complexities are very similar, and quite unmistakable to my ears. However, these comparisons can only go so far. Distinctly Japanese atmospheres are palpable, and Yamaki's wicked fuzz/wah guitar-work will not let you forget what era we are truly in here. This is a special album, in my opinion, and certainly deserving of a much wider audience. Unfortunately, as is often the case with these things, it's by far Miyama's rarest LP, until now only known and cherished by the small group of Japanese collectors aware of its quality. Miyama's back-catalogue has not seen much action in the CD reissue market, so I'm afraid this album might be doomed to spend eternity trapped in its own dusky realm. Here's to hoping that I'm wrong."

And would you believe? He was wrong! And I'm sure he's happy about it too!

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Columbia

Here's an album that you would have no chance of finding originally, unless you could read kanji or knew what the cover looked like. There are these records from Japan that are so obscure and buried, that even hardcore collectors living in Tokyo do not know about. But they're beginning to surface ever so slowly. There were a lot of surprise CD reissues in 2012, but perhaps none blindsided me as much as this one. I suspect original LPs are of this can be found for 50 cents or $2,000 depending on where you're looking.

Last listen: January 25, 2018

Heaven - Brass Rock 1. 1971 England

As noted below, I first ran into Brass Rock 1 at a local record convention sometime in the mid 1980s. With the long tracks and expanded lineup, I figured it would be right up my alley. It was only a few bucks, so I decided to take a chance. And it was indeed up my alley, except it wasn’t what I expected. This wasn’t a typical 1970s progressive rock album. In fact, the only album I had like it back then, were the early Chicago Transit Authority albums. But Heaven were different from CTA as well. The compositions were more complicated, and the horn section was more diverse (Heaven featured a 5 piece horn section verse Chicago’s three). There really aren’t any pop tracks on Heaven, the closest they get to "normal" rock were the more blues influenced numbers. And even those were because of the vocalist, who sounded like he drank an entire fifth of scotch minutes before the recording. Almost without exception, each track features lengthy instrumental bits, with quite a bit of horn interplay, changes of meter, dynamic shifts, the whole nine yards. And, maybe best of all in the horn rock genre, a wild guitarist who does his best to attack the wah wah pedal during the solo sections ala Terry Kath. Heaven could mellow out too, and weren’t afraid to mix an acoustic guitar / flute number to set the mood. Since that time of first stumbling onto the Heaven album, I’ve discovered many more horn rock bands, including the UK variety of a US original sound. Other than maybe Brainchild, Heaven is the most developed and, for my tastes at least, the best England has to offer in the brass rock genre. Heaven is wilder than Brainchild, but they do miss that band’s touch for crafting magical melodies.

Personal collection
LP: 1971 CBS
CD: 2008 Esoteric

As shown above, Heaven's sole album features quite an amazing multi-foldout cover. I found a copy at a local record show in the 1980s, and still possess that same double LP. It took many years before a legit CD was released (courtesy of Esoteric), so the album languished in the bootleg market for way too long. The Esoteric CD is fantastic as usual, and offers plenty of history, photos, and the clever idea to design the booklet as multi-foldout poster, just like the original LP. No bonus tracks this time around however.

Galliard - Strange Pleasure. 1969 England

A mixture of typical 1969 horn rock and British styled psychedelic rock, complete with soft affected vocals - along with a clear undercurrent of straight ahead folk-rock mixed with baroque styled classical, that was predominant from the era as well. Honestly I think Galliard are at their best when in brass rock mode (e.g. 'Skillet', 'Pastorale', 'Blood'), and tend to drag a bit when hitting the woods for a bit of folk. There was a distinct compositional improvement on their followup New Dawn, though no doubt the cover art of the debut is more preferable.

Personal collection
CD: 2009 Esoteric

It took many years for both of the Galliard albums to be reissued legitimately. Because of this condition, beware of pirate editions, which proliferated due to this delay. The Esoteric CD is brilliant as usual, with plenty of unique insights and history. It also features two bonus tracks from a rare 45 single.

Baba Scholae - 69. 1969 France-England (archival)

The music found here is an excellent psychedelic / folk rock / proto-progressive album from Jean-Yves Labat's (a.k.a. M Frog) first band (a gentleman most known for his keyboard work with Todd Rundgren's Utopia). Recorded in London with primarily English musicians on board, though Labat himself was French. The first track '1984-Melancolia Street' (8:40), in particular, will send fans of the progressive rock genre into a swoon, with its multiple theme and metric shifts, recalling cutting edge UK outfits such as Cressida and Web ("I Spider" era). Some excellent guitar, sax, bombard (a reed instrument primarily used in Brittany), and flute define this advanced work. Perhaps not mind-blowing on the whole, but given the 1969 date, certainly one to two full years ahead of its time. Fans of the psychedelic infused progressive genre will most definitely want to own this. It's a professional recording preserved for the ages, not some muddy demo that you have to endure to fully appreciate. For something like this to be buried for 43 years is quite extraordinary. Do not miss it!

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Ad Vitam

Contrary to some online discographies, there is no 1969 release. It was strictly a demo shipped to labels for possible release. Perhaps unbelievably, Bearsville was thinking of releasing this one in 1973. One can only imagine this being a common US press. Actually, I wouldn't believe it.

69 is an exquisite archival release from Ad Vitam, a classical-oriented music label owned by Baba Scholae founder Jean-Yves Labat! More info here from our CD Reissue Wish List.

Stomu Yamash'ta - Freedom is Frightening. 1973 Japan-England

Stomu Yamash'ta is one of a handful of Japanese musicians who would hit the shores of England (post Yoko Ono), and in quick order, become one of those East meets West guys. Freedom is Frightening is Yamash'ta's West meets......... West album. Starting with a cosmic organ piece replete with fuzz bass, we might as well be tokin' up with the Berlin Krautrock masters or 1969 Pink Floyd at the very least. But it doesn't take long for Yamash'ta to move his new ensemble over to the flavor of the day - 1973 style: Fusion. And so it goes, we get Brian Auger's Oblivion Express meets Soft Machine playing the sound of Mahavishnu Orchestra. And really, what else can one ask for? I'm certainly buying! Boyle and Hopper would soon after form Isotope to exploit these musical concepts further. But Isotope missed out on the rawness that Yamash'ta provides on Freedom is Frightening. And while you may wish for an Osamu Kitajima Benzaiten type album here, just pretend that Stomu Yamash'ta is a pseudonym for Billy Smith, and you'll get through the mental aspect.

Personal collection
CD: 2008 Esoteric (UK)

While original LPs have always been relatively easy to find, this album surprisingly was absent from the CD market until Esoteric's reissue a few years back. And fortunate for all of us that the first reissue is a high quality one from a respected label. Plenty of liner notes to provide some context around the album. No bonus tracks in this case though.

Baby Grandmothers - s/t. 1967-68 Sweden (archival)

The first two tracks presented here are from an extremely rare 45 single, and can only be considered a truly extraordinary example of what was going on in Northern Europe during this time. Incredible psychedelic guitar from future Kebnekaise guitarist Kenny Hakansson, with otherworldly voices taking you to another universe. This first track is from master tapes and is, by itself, a reason to own this CD (beyond the excellent liner notes from Reine Fiske of course). The second one is from vinyl, but no less interesting musically. A bit slower, but it's a pot boiler! The remainder of the album is made up of live guitar-fronted jams preserved for the ages in variable sound by some foresighted folks. The musical quality is hit and miss, and as with all jam albums, there are peak moments - and ones that get stuck in the ditch for far too long. So 15 minutes of 4.5 star (Gnosis 12) material and 45 minutes of 3 stars (Gnosis 9). But given the historical perspective, and that it's been presented with great care by Subliminal Sounds, this one goes into the "must own" column. If you're looking for the Swedish version of Cream, then you'll find it here.

Personal collection
CD: 2007 Subliminal Sounds

Earth and Fire - To the World of the Future. 1975 Netherlands

Having found Top 40 success with 'Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe Tonight', it would seem Earth & Fire would continue down that path, perhaps full bore. To the World of the Future offers up a stay of execution. In some ways, this is their most ambitious album - both from a progressive standpoint, and a commercial one. On the pop side, the most overt pop track is 'Love of Life', which was not surprisingly their first choice for a single. Personally I think this is a great example of the pre-disco era - superb wah-wah rhythm guitar, charming female vocals, synthesizers galore. The other single from this album is 'Only Time Will Tell', which is a less obvious choice, and actually harkens back to their "Atlantis" days with organ, psych guitar, mellotron and powerful vocals from Jerney. On the other side of this coin is the 3 highly ambitious progressive meets fusion tracks: 'The Last Seagull', 'Voice from Yonder' and 'Circus', which are unlike anything the band did before or after (though I suppose 'Circus' could have fit comfortably on "Song of the Marching Children"). This gets us to the title track which is the perfect blend of everything the band is trying to do here. On the one hand there's the funky pop bits, with a chorus that I swear - I mean really swear - sounds like "ahhhhhhh FREAK OUT!" from, yes, that famed New York City disco band Chic ('Le Freak'). One had to think they may have run into this Earth & Fire album prior. Meanwhile, just when you think it's time to bust a move, out come the mellotrons, psychedelic guitar, symphonic dynamics, and complex meters to remind everyone that Earth & Fire are first and foremost still a progressive rock band.

Be sure to get a CD reissue with some of the singles from this era. Most enlightening are the B-Sides to 'Love of Life' and 'Only Time Will Tell' - respectively 'Tuffy the Cat' and 'Fun'. Both tracks are progressively oriented instrumental funk tracks (with loads of mellotron, organ and Fender Rhodes), and are entirely unique for Earth & Fire - and just about anyone really. The 1975 and 1976 singles 'Thanks For the Love' and 'What Difference Does it Make' demonstrate that Earth & Fire no longer hold progressive rock intentions - and have completely sold out to the Euro disco machine. I actually think they're quite good at the style, and I'm sure gave groups like ABBA good competition - but in the end, that's not what Earth & Fire were about, and having lost their way - they ultimately collapsed under their own weight by the early 80s. A tragic, but all too typical tale.

Personal collection
LP: 1975 Polydor
CD: 2011 Esoteric (UK)

Earth and Fire - Atlantis. 1973 Netherlands

Continuing on from Song of the Marching Children, Earth and Fire doubles down on the progressive quotient and throws in yet another high minded concept side long composition. Of course, we all know by now that Earth and Fire is a pop band in progressive dressing, and thus these are individual songs that segue into one another with seemingly no connection beyond the lyrical theme. Side 2 sees the band unmasked for what they really are, with the stunningly simple 'Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe Tonight' - the kind of song that most aspiring Top 40 bands would sell their soul for. This track would propel Earth & Fire to pop stardom, something they were trying to achieve from the beginning, but went about it in an awkward, perhaps academically, self-conscious way. While it may seem I'm looking down my nose at this band, that could not be further from the truth. I love a good melody weaved into a more mysterious compositional style, so in some ways, Earth and Fire are my ideal type of band. Top that with competent musicianship and superb period instrumentation (mellotron, organ, flute, loud psych guitar, sweet feminine vocals), and you have yet another home run from one of the Dutch progressive rock Masters.

Personal collection
LP: 1973 Polydor
CD: 2004 Universal (Japan)

Packaging details: Earth and Fire wisely adopted the style of the inner gatefold of Song of the Marching Children to make arguably their most appealing album cover of the band's entire catalog. The second cover shown above is the dreadful original UK release that I cannot imagine anyone wanting to own in light of the original. There's also a German press, similar to the Dutch original, except it splatters the name of their hit 'Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe Tonight' to ensure they added unnecessary graffiti to a beautiful painting.

Earth and Fire - Song of the Marching Children. 1971 Netherlands

No one would ever accuse Earth and Fire of being a cutting edge group. However, having missed the psych bus by about two years, they did jump on the progressive rock bandwagon in sufficient time to have some historical impact. "Song of the Marching Children" remains one of the most beautiful of the early 70s symphonic pop infused progressive albums. Kaagman's sweet vocals along with Koerts' copious use of mellotron practically define the term lush.

Personal collection
LP: 1971 Polydor
CD: 2004 Universal (Japan)

The original LP features embossed lettering and I've also included the inside of the gatefold, because as you can plainly see, it is quite stunning.

Earth and Fire - s/t. 1970 Netherlands

Earth and Fire were always a pop band at heart, trying to win over current audiences with their brand of "whatever is vogue now". For their 1970 debut, Earth and Fire reached back to the psychedelic-rock-with-female-vocals music of Jefferson Airplane to find success. They do an admirable job of said sound, with a good set of tunes and some excellent acid guitar and heavy organ. Truth is, Earth and Fire's debut came about one or two years too late to have any major impact - though it really is an excellent representation of the style. 'Love Quiver' is the highlight of the 9 originals present, a track that features some glorious fuzz organ work.

Earth and Fire are one of the pillar bands of my Post Psychedelic, Proto Progressive with Female Vocals list.

Personal collection
CD: 2004 Universal (Japan)

As you can plainly see, there were many releases of Earth and Fire's debut. Each label apparently had license to alter the cover to their tastes. The top one is the Dutch original. Next is the UK version on Nepentha, in all its die-cut gatefold Roger Dean glory, and is BY FAR the most desirable (& expensive) original LP copy to own. The third photo is the German release on CBS. 4th is the original Japanese press. And finally we show the Rotation CD that displays only the matches, which is on one of the releases I didn't put up (the Red Bullet LP I believe). 20 years ago, I found the Nepentha LP in a store, but traded it for an album that was my top want at the time - and is arguably worth even more than the Nepentha release today. It was a win-win trade, as I'm certain the gentleman who has my Nepentha LP still treasures it as well. As for reissues, the 1991 press from Japan was the first to market, and I owned that version until the Japanese mini-LP came out. Generally the Japanese stick to the original release when it comes to packaging, but I'm glad they made the exception here and went with the fabulous UK copy.

Cargo - s/t. 1972 Netherlands

I think the key to totally appreciating the sole album by Cargo is to start with the last track, an absolute barnstormer of a song: The 15+ minute ‘Summerfair’. It’s just relentless, like the very best of the Allman Brothers, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush rolled into one. I’m not sure exactly why this track works so much better than others in the genre, though I suspect it has something to do with the soft vocals, hyperactive drumming and blazing wah-wah rhythm guitar. And, of course, the lead guitar leaves me in a sweat every time. By itself, this composition is absolutely perfect. Working backwards, there’s ‘Finding Out’, which starts out in ‘Tobacco Road’ territory before busting out of the gates for yet another intense jam. Then it’s on to track number 2, the fascinating ‘Cross Talking’, which is a neat instrumental concept of wah-wah guitars “talking” back and forth with a cool funky rhythm. And finally, we hit the opener, ‘Sail Away’. The first 4 to 5 minutes are fairly off-putting straight ahead rock and roll, before it too finds its sea legs and gets the album going in the right direction. The bonus tracks demonstrate that the pre-Cargo group September were a simpler and more straightforward rock group.

Cargo is one of my all-time favorite albums. Certainly in my Top 150 ever.

Personal collection
CD: 1993 Pseudonym
LP: 1999 Pseudonym

This was one of the very first albums I learned of stratospheric prices for my (then) newly chosen hobby. Even in the late 1980s this album was a multi-hundred dollar rarity in the catalogs of the day. As such, I never had a chance to hear it until the Pseudonym CD came along a few years later. Pseudonym is a great label, and they do an excellent job with discography details and bonus tracks (no liner notes on this version though). Most of the bonus tracks were from an earlier incarnation when they were known as September. Later in the decade, I dutifully picked up the LP reissue (an exact replica with the Pseudonym logo replacing Harvest), because I had an irrational desire to own it on vinyl ever since I knew of the exorbitant price of the original. Cargo has recently resurfaced on the market again via the Pseudonym imprint. The CD version adds demo versions of the original Cargo album plus many of the same bonus tracks as found on the '93 issue - as well as extensive liner notes this time around. I doubt it's worth upgrading for - though if you don't have it - I must say the album is essential to own! Vinyl hounds will be happy to know that another LP is on the market as well - with some demos added for the second LP of the set.

Thors Hammer - s/t. 1971 Denmark

On Thors Hammer's one album, the band plays a hard driving jazz progressive rock, typical of the UK 1971 movement ala bands like Raw Material, Diabolus, Hannibal, Aquila, etc.. Perhaps an even more accurate portrayal would the German group Nosferatu. An excellent album throughout.

Personal collection
CD: 2005 Thors Hammer / Garden of Delights
LP: 2010 Thors Hammer / Garden of Delights

I thought of Thors Hammer the other day, right after publishing The Old Man & The Sea album. Both have similar tales, and are extremely rare in original LP form. And like The Old Man & The Sea, Thors Hammer's sole album flourished in the bootleg market for years. Finally Garden of Delights of Germany came to the rescue with a CD, complete with a full history and great sound (no bonus tracks this time though). They love this album so much, they launched an entire new label for all of their non-German releases to, you got it, Thors Hammer.

Truth and Janey - No Rest for the Wicked. 1976 USA

Truth and Janey are the quintessential Midwest USA hard rock group. But like any band from the 1970s, they add progressive trimmings, and some of the compositions throw in a few more ideas than a typical bonehead rock group. In some ways, Truth and Janey could be looked upon as the American equivalent of the Aussie band Buffalo, that we featured extensively earlier in the year - especially at the time of Only Want You For Your Body. The band Truth started in Cedar Rapids, and eventually added founding member and guitarist Billy Lee Janey to the marquee when it was discovered another Truth had claim to the name. The album was recorded in Ames (where Iowa State University is located), and was initially gobbled up only by the local faithful in Eastern Iowa. Not until the mid to late 1980s when record collecting had gone world wide, did the album gain its fame. If you're looking for a perfect example of a private press hard rock group from Middle America, I'm not sure there's a better example than Truth and Janey. And Billy Lee Janey is one heck of a guitarist!

Personal collection
CD: 2007 Rockadrome

The CD has a chock full of liner notes and a few bonus tracks.

Serge Bringolf Strave - Vision. 1981 France

Strave's debut was like a Zeuhl Big Band playing jazz rock. Vision sees Strave moving closer to the Zeuhl center, where the chants are more prominent and the horn charts are tighter. Where the rhythms are more active, and the overall feel is kinetic. It's a second generation Univeria Zekt and definitely the peak for Serge Bringolf.

Personal Collection
CD: 2012 Soleil Zeuhl

It was fortuitous for me to have purchased the LP new from Musea circa 1990 or so, when they still had dead stock for sale. The Soleil Zeuhl CD is excellent as usual, with complete historical liner notes (in French and English). Great sound, though no bonus tracks. The CD suffices for me, and I decided to sell the LP.

Intra - s/t. 1976-1990 USA (archival)

Over a year ago, we featured a fantastic archival find from Pittsburgh by a band called Arabesque. Prior to that, Shroom hit gold with Intra. After years of silence, Shroom has reappeared, so hopefully they have more archival discoveries like this!

This is yet another classic progressive rock album from the Midwest USA - this time Cleveland. The UK group Yes once again plays a major role in the overall sound, though snippets of other progressive rock groups enter here and there. A bit more complex, and less radio friendly than some of their peers. Hence they never found anyone to release their material in the first place! Definitely a product of the region it comes from.

The below matrix represents the recording dates:

Tracks 1-5. 1976
6-7. 1984
8-9. 1990
9-11. 1980 live

Perhaps most remarkable is the consistency of the music quality across the 15 year duration.

Personal collection
CD: 1999 Shroom

Hiroki Tamaki & SMT - Time Paradox. 1975 Japan

Certainly one of the more bizarre albums out there, Hiroki Tamaki & SMT provide plenty of sophisticated variation for the discerning progressive rock fan. Starting out in hoedown / Ennio Morricone "Spaghetti Western" fashion, the album seamlessly moves east to India, back to the west via a brass rock piece, symphonic rock, indigenous (Japanese) atmospheric music, and finally we get to the title track. It's the grand payoff, as the album culminates on a high note. A brilliant progressive horn rock composition, with loads of ideas, funky wah-wah guitar, violin shredding, gothic chanting, and heavy rocking bits. As mentioned, violin is the dominant sound throughout, and we are left to presume that Tamaki is indeed the main protagonist on said instrument (for the record - he is the violinist). But for a Westerner like me, it's pure guesswork as both the LP and CD are entirely in Kanji.

Personal collection
LP: 1975 Nippon Columbia
CD: 1998 P-Vine

This is an album I traded for at a swap meet in the early 90s from a well known Japanese dealer. I had no idea what it was, but he recommended it, so why not? I wasn't paying attention when the CD came out (probably not too many people were honestly), and then when I went to look for one a few years ago, the P-Vine version was long gone and sold out. Eventually I sourced one on ebay.

Mo.Do. - La Scimmia Sulla Schiena del Re. 1980 Italy

Late era Italian progressive rock album created by a band compiled by a former member of Dalton. Other than perhaps the instrumentation (e.g. ARP String Synthesizer) and production qualities, Mo.Do. seems like a classic album from 1974 Italy. A perfectly blended mix of complex progressive rock and singer songwriter music, complete with flute. Overall, similar to maybe Formula 3 or Citta Frontale. The period from 1978 to 1986 was a boneyard for Italian progressive symphonic rock, and Mo.Do. may, in fact, be the sole representative from 1980 of this much loved style. We of course realize there's plenty of other Italian albums from this period like Picchio dal Pozzo's second, Confusional Quartet, Pepe Maina's sophomore release, etc... but none of these are symphonic rock.

Personal collection
CD: 1993 Mellow

Emerald Web - Dragon Wings and Wizard Tales. 1979 USA

The Florida based duo of Kat Epple and Bob Stohl debuted with Dragon Wings and Wizard Tales which is a nice mix of sequencer based electronic music, fluttering flute, airy female voice and acoustic/electric guitar. Excellent atmospheres and even a few heavy rocked out moments towards the end that are well placed to add some much needed spice. A quite varied album, that needs a few listens to appreciate.

The duo went on to record a few more albums, though supposedly in the new age genre. I remember seeing these 80's albums back then and avoided like the plague, but I haven't heard them to be fair.  Tragically, Bob Stohl died in a drowning accident in 1989.

Personal collection
LP: 2012 Sebastian Speaks

As you can see from the images above (original is first), the cover has been slightly altered. The back cover as well has been changed around (the original is white, the reissue black, and many other alterations with the content and layout). There are no bonus tracks, but it sounds great. There are no inserts or essay's, making this a straight reissue. This reissue is authorized by Kat Epple, the surviving member of the duo. I found this comment from her on the web, that I think is interesting: "The label “Sebastian Speaks” is the one who contacted me about “Dragon Wings and Wizard Tales” re-release..... Man…….it has been a long time since I listened to this album! Some cool OLD synth sounds on this one, for sure! - Kat" This album has yet to be pressed on CD.

Dun - Eros. 1981 France

For my tastes, Dün's Eros is most certainly a Top 75 album ever. Maybe even Top 50. There are tons of reviews out there already that will provide you all the detail you could possibly want about this album. I think it's a bit miscategorized as a Zeuhl album, which seems to be the main source of the detracting vote. While those elements are present (primarily represented in the bass work), I think the album is truly unique. Instrumental Frank Zappa, and the Canterbury scene also get call-outs, but again these are faint references rather than direct influences. It's complex, very complex in fact - but also very melodic. And it rocks hard in places, so it's not an academic snoozer. About the only album I can think of even close to Eros is Picchio dal Pozzo's 1976 debut. Not that they sound alike, but rather they both attack music composition in an entirely unique way. Music like this is wonderful to my ears, as each listening session provides a different result. Truly a brilliant work of art.

Personal collection
LP: 1981 private
CD: 2000 Soleil Zeuhl
LP: 2012 Soleil Zeuhl

For many, including myself, Dün's sole title was a highly requested candidate for a CD reissue. I was fortunate enough to buy the original LP in the early 1990s, and had long wanted a companion CD to go along with it. Musea had announced their intention to reissue the album as far back as 1991, but they apparently had trouble locating all the members. After many years of waiting, it was Soleil Zeuhl who finally stepped in and managed to release it (in a regular jewel case), with the addition of 4 bonus tracks. This release helped cement Soleil Zeuhl as a world class player in the reissue market - a badge of honor that they still carry. Over time, the original CD eventually sold out, and there was new demand for a repress. As well, Soleil Zeuhl was looking for the right album to test the LP market with - since vinyl seems all the rage again. So in 2012, Dün was reissued on CD, mini-LP (from Belle Antique in Japan), and a vinyl reissue. Typically I do not buy LP reissues of albums I already own as an original, but I made an exception here for a few reasons: It's an all-time favorite album; the cover is cool; and I wanted to support Soleil Zeuhl in their drive to perhaps reissue other albums on LP (most notably Eskaton 4 Visions that we spoke of recently). While purists scoffed, I was pleased that Soleil Zeuhl altered the look of the reissue ever so slightly, which gives the release a uniqueness about it. Some examples include: The lettering is gray instead of blue; the top "frame" line has been removed; a different photograph on the back cover; and the band name and title are now on the spine. The LP also comes with an insert, a download card (to retrieve the detailed CD booklet and bonus tracks), and is pressed on white vinyl. A great package overall.

Eskaton - Fiction. 1983 France

Quite simply a brilliant fusion of dark 1970's Magma inspired Zeuhl and early 1980's bright New Wave sounds. Our two angelic gals are joined by main songwriter Marc Rozenberg on vocals here, adding a bizarre male narration to the proceedings. Perhaps even better is the heavy use of that wonderful compressed French fuzz guitar sound, an instrument largely missing from Zeuhl music in general. Unless, of course, you've heard that incredible brilliant debut by Eider Stellaire. And there you have the storyline for Fiction: Early Eskaton meets Eider Stellaire. I will tell you this - there is no other album like Eskaton's Fiction. Not one. Nada. If the early 80's were filled with albums like Fiction, it could have well been my favorite era of music. Alas, it was not meant to be. Folks, you really need to listen to me while I shout from the mountaintops here: Eskaton were the embodiment of pure genius. Do not miss anything the band released. Buy them all. Listen to them repeatedly. You cannot go wrong here. If everyone thinks you're nuts, then you know you've found gold.

Personal collection
LP: 1983 private
CD: 2005 Soleil Zeuhl

Another typically great Soliel Zeuhl CD reissue, with excellent sound, photos and lyrics. As bonus tracks, the reissue includes 'Le Musicien', which is a rare track from a compilation called Preludes (1985). As well, the reissue contains 4 tracks from the unreleased 1985 album Icare.

Eskaton - Ardeur. 1980 France

It appears Eskaton was carefully toning down the rougher edges of the debut, and offering a slicker, more contemporary release. As such, veteran Zeuhl listeners will recall other early 80's ventures such as Superfreego and even Foehn in these grooves. Not surprisingly, the most aggressive tracks are the rewrites of two 4 Visions gems: 'Attente' and 'Eskaton'. And 'Dagon' represents Eskaton at their most creative and experimental - a direction that sadly the band never really pursued again. Overall, Ardeur features more synthesizer, Fender Rhodes, and violin with less "thrash" bass guitar, than its predecessor. The angelic voices of the two female leads still shine brightly here. I'm in the minority here, but I feel Ardeur to be the weakest of the Eskaton releases. Weakest being defined as a Gnosis 12 (RYM 4.5 stars) - perhaps underlining what a monster band Eskaton truly was.

The 'Musique Post-Atomique' single is stylistically more similar to the 4 Visions album.

Personal collection
CD: 2003 Soleil Zeuhl

Ardeur was Eskaton's first album to market, but their second recording after the almighty 4 Visions, which was released on cassette a year after this album. It was also my introduction to the band, as I picked up the original LP via Musea's mail order channel in the late 1980s. A very popular request item for a reissue, the CD finally surfaced in 2003 from the excellent Soleil Zeuhl label. The CD features photos, lyrics (with English translations) and adds the rare 'Musique Post-Atomique' single from 1979. I sold the LP when the CD came out. Maybe not the worst decision, but I could have held onto it longer I think.

Eskaton - 4 Visions. 1979 France

For my tastes, the absolute pinnacle of the Zeuhl style of music. While no doubt greatly influenced by the almighty Magma, Eskaton are really an entirely different branch off this massive tree. Those who call it a Magma clone are clearly scratching at the surface. For one, they sing in French rather than the made-up Germanic Kobian language. Secondly all the vocals are sung by two females, often in harmony or counterpoint. Thirdly, the band plays in hyper-drive throughout. Magma are experts at building up climaxes. Eskaton are experts at releasing climaxes... for the entire album! And finally, like all Zeuhl bassists, Andre Bernardi is a beast - but his style isn't the pound your senses into oblivion like Top or Paganotti, but rather one that shreds like a thrash metal act. Get your air bass guitar out when listening, you're going to need it. While all 4 compositions are brilliant, the middle two 'Attente' and 'Ecoute' possess truly sublime melodic moments that will raise the hair on the back of your neck. 4 Visions is one 40+ minute peak experience, and truly in my all-time Top 10. I would give this a 16 on Gnosis if they'd let me.

Personal collection
CD: 1995 APM (Sweden)
LP: 2013 Soleil Zeuhl

I first heard this album back in 1992 when a friend dubbed his cassette for me. I was absolutely floored by the music. It had been one of the greatest things I'd ever heard to that point (and still is frankly). But the cassette was extinct, and I wasn't about to kill myself looking for a cheap cassette anyway. The dub would have to do. So when the Swedish label APM was the first label to get this one out on CD, I bought one faster than the speed of light. Everything about the CD was better: The sound, the cover - it was just a magnificent reissue. In the 1990's APM was at the top of the best reissue (and contemporary) labels in the world. But sadly they went out of business in 1997. And, not surprisingly, 4 Visions sold out and became highly desirable again. Enter Soleil Zeuhl, one of today's greatest reissue labels. They had been successful in reissuing the other two Eskaton albums, and demand was building for a new print of 4 Visions, so they put a new one out on the market. The APM version had one bonus track, and the Soleil Zeuhl release features 4 bonus tracks - and different from the APM one. For copyright reasons, Soleil Zeuhl used different artwork, which has proven to be somewhat controversial. Many fans wanted the "blue" APM cover. As such, this has given Soleil Zeuhl pause to reissue this one on LP, which is too bad - since the album has never been on LP. I would buy one immediately if it does get reissued.

2013 update: And they finally did get the LP out - with the blue cover no less! And yes, you can see I bought it.

Hermann Szobel - Szobel. 1976 USA

An album that is complex as all get out by 18 year old prodigy pianist. Szobel has a distinct avant progressive flavor to it, though I suspect there's no intention of going for that sound per se. Instrumental Frank Zappa is an obvious influence here, with some tight wind charts, and I'm betting that Hermann Szobel may have heard a Henry Cow album or two.

So I first wrote the above sketch in 2006. I've since been told that Szobel was largely ignorant of contemporary music, which seems to be consistent with his very eccentric personality. Even today, no one knows exactly where he is. He's pretty much disappeared into the ether.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Laser's Edge

The Flatiron building is still my favorite skyscraper, and quite an engineering marvel for 1902. So any album cover that features it, I'm likely to appreciate. The album itself was a CDRWL feature until this summer. The new Laser's Edge CD is fantastic, with great sound, unseen photos, and excellent historical liner notes. Szobel is certainly one of Arista's most obscure releases. Arista started as a "progressive" label, much like Virgin did, but by 1978 they were already hopelessly signing commercial slop.

Resan - s/t. 1973 Sweden

A very unusual album indeed, this Resan is. Formed from the ashes of the hard rocking band Life, Resan start out in a similar terrain to the The Beatles White Album, though sung/spoken in Swedish mind you. Fortunately from here they begin drifting off onto a folky flute number ala Träd, Gräs och Stenar ('Vakuum'). And then the real party starts, with the remainder containing long, energetic, acid guitar driven numbers, some freaky percussion bits, spaced out flute, dreamy cosmic pieces and an overall general sense of the psychedelic. Would've been a perfect fit for the Silence label. I could see where this album wouldn't be well received by many, given its eclectic nature, but I found most of it interesting at least. The apex of the album is the 8+ minute '05:00'.

Personal collection
LP: 2012 Subliminal Sounds

Well here's a first for the UMR: An LP only reissue being featured. We've featured albums with both a CD and LP reissue, where the latter may have been the impetus of the posting, but never one that was only an LP reissue. It's becoming clear that, at least in the short interim, the market is moving towards LPs and away from CDs. I personally do not think this is a permanent state, and have stated such in many forums and here on my blogs. For me personally, it's not so much a problem. I still collect vinyl (originals and reissues), and possess a stereo setup that plays records on a regular basis. I also have enough space to store it all. But a proven "solid state" medium like CDs will no doubt be making a comeback in our future - and I also don't think CDs will have the near-death experience that LPs faced throughout the 1990s. Even now, the majority of reissues are on CD, and in some cases a supplemental LP.

One of the problems in the 1980s and early 1990s with LP reissues, was the shoddy quality of the packaging (and sound). Nowadays, LP reissues are done with great care. And the always-reliable Subliminal Sounds' version of Resan is no exception. I like the roughness of the cover, and both sides of the inner sleeve feature an informative essay from noted guitarist (and fellow collector) Reine Fiske. I'm still calling for a CD reissue on the CDRWL, and perhaps Subliminal Sounds will step up for that as well, but I'm fine with the LP as it stands. I've never owned the original, which some consider to be the rarest major label album from Sweden.

Xhol Caravan - Motherf*ckers Live. 1968-69 Germany (archival)

Xhol Caravan's debut Electrip is generally considered the first true Krautrock album, at least as the term is commonly understood. So one can only imagine the glee that Steve Stapleton must've felt when he was able to put his hands on these tapes from 1968! This is a truly extraordinary historical document, and shows that Xhol Caravan had long since ditched their soul roots as found on Get on High from 1967. The 57 minute 'Freedom Opera' suite is not easy listening, and there are frequent bouts of noise and free jazz to endure, but also plenty of reckless psychedelic abandon as only the Germans knew how to do. Psychotic ramblings, wailing sax, flute, fuzz guitar and organ are the ingredients for this once-in-a-lifetime recording. The WDR Radio session from a year later shows the band is progressing rapidly, incorporating more melody into the proceedings. For the most part, this one stays in the rails, and is like an extended version of the best parts of Electrip. This double CD is essential for fans.

Personal collection
CD: 2001 United Durtro

Xhol - Motherf*ckers GMBH & Co KG. 1972 Germany

One year after Electrip, the band changed their name to simply Xhol to avoid confusion with the more famous British band. Their followup, Motherf*ckers GMBH & Co. KG, demonstrates the band's total defiance towards anything resembling standard convention. The album was shelved and not released until 1972 (by the legendary underground Ohr label), hence the "2 Years Old" written across the cover. Immediately the listener will note that Xhol had clearly moved away from their fusion roots to a more challenging avant-garde electronic approach. The highlight for me is the haunting 16 1/2 minute combined compositions of 'Orgel Solo' & 'Side 1 First Day', which could've just as easily been on Tangerine Dream's groundbreaking Electronic Meditation album. In fact, much of this album has the feel of the true Krautrock underground, one that successfully mixes avant-garde electronic structures with the psychedelic rock sounds and energy of the era. The primary instruments here are flute and organ, with plenty of hand percussion thrown in. Overall, it's a psychedelic feast! The odd tune out is the 13 minute insane version of 'Love Potion 25', not exactly what one would call a cover tune of the old classic!

Personal collection
LP: 1972 Ohr
CD: 1996 Spalax (France)

Unlike the other two studio Xhol (Caravan) albums, Motherf*ckers GMBH & Co KG has only been nominally served by the CD market. Spalax, while certainly a fine and legitimate label, did little to enhance their reissues beyond a straight copy of the music. Zyx is even more basic, not even replicating Spalax's digi-pak.  I do hope that Garden of Delights, who have managed to release just about everything the band did including hours of archival tapes, will eventually reissue this one on CD as well.

Xhol Caravan - Electrip. 1969 Germany

Before Tangerine Dream, before Embryo, before Kraftwerk, before even the Ohr label, Xhol Caravan released what may be the first album to rightly own the name Krautrock. The band started as a straightforward soul group, Soul Caravan, and bastardized the name for the new direction the group was heading. Early innovators of the creative German sound, and borrowing heavily from that country's love of jazz, Xhol Caravan would always be a historical footnote. Sadly the band disbanded before it could be granted legendary status.

In 1969, on the little known Hansa label, Electrip was released to an unsuspecting public. Sporting wild artwork of a psychedelic nude woman, the buyer had to know this was going to be a special affair. And indeed it is. Starting with a toilet flush, the album blasts away with 'Electric Fun Fair'. Featuring primarily electric sax, electric flute, and organ as the solo instruments, the music is a mixture of free jazz, psychedelic, Zappaesque humor, and progressive jazz rock. 'Pop Games' and 'All Green' continue along this path with the same optimistic melodies and insouciant demeanor. Perfect music for driving the MG convertible around the Autobahn, hardtop down, blond babe with heavy mascara and white go-go boots actually admiring your hip music selection. The latter track would be the prototype for similar groups such as Missus Beastly, joyful yet experimental jazz rock. Side 2 is a slightly different breed of cat. On the 17 minute 'Raise Up High', the instrumental sections are very similar to the previous side, but here they added some wild English vocals to the mix giving the song a rough hard rock feel to it. As well, this track displays a more experimental and improvisational angle with some free blow moments. Overall, a classic in the field of Krautrock fusion and the catalyst of an entire movement.

Personal collection
LP: 1997 Tripkick
CD: 2000 Garden of Delights

The original LP cover is striking in its use of color. Unfortunately it's also a very rare and expensive album that I've never been in position to own. As such, the LP reissue on Tripkick became a must own item for me and it's usually featured on display in my media room. This was actually the first legitimate reissue of the album. The Garden of Delights CD is the de facto aural reissue and features their usual great liner notes, unseen photos, and a rare 45 single when they were previously known as Soul Caravan.

Kayak - s/t. 1974 Netherlands

The second album expands both sides of Kayak's sound. There's more of a distinct demarcation between their commercial pop aspirations and their arty progressive side. The poppier songs are tighter with stronger melodies, whereas the progressive compositions stretch the instrumental sections with plenty of complex bits. Arguably this is the better album, though I'm partial to See See the Sun as it has a better flow and a couple of knockout tracks.

Personal collection
LP: 1974 EMI
CD: 2012 Esoteric (UK)

Probably the most obscure of the early Kayak releases, as to the best of my knowledge, it was never released in the USA. I do like the cover, which is Hipgnosis-like, though I don't think they did this one. As for the CD's we have the reverse case of See See the Sun - whereas on that album Pseudonym had two bonus tracks verse Esoteric's one, this time it's Esoteric 2 to Pseudonym 1.

Kayak - See See the Sun. 1973 Netherlands

Kayak were about 3 years ahead of their time, whereby mixing pop music and progressive rock seamlessly. Their sound – as brought forth by others of course - would ultimately dominate American FM radio throughout the late 1970s, yet Kayak were nothing more than an aficionados pick for best band you’d never heard of. What’s most interesting, to me anyway, is that Kayak were the blueprint for the Midwest Progressive Rock sound that I frequently speak about here on UMR, and yet Kayak were not a band from St. Louis or Chicago – but rather from the distant Netherlands, a country more known for the quirky sounds of Focus or Golden Earring. While there is no doubting Kayak’s fondness for current era Yes, Kayak also pay homage to a number of popular bands including no less luminaries such as The Beatles. Alan Parsons’ contribution to this album can only be seen as an influence on the young engineer’s future career. Organ, mellotron, shifting signatures, and long tracks assure its progressive credibility, but in the end Kayak were pioneers of a later sound – one that wasn’t necessarily embraced by all, but for certain was popular in the arenas of the day. One track worth calling out is the stunning beauty of ‘Lovely Luna’.

Personal collection
LP: 1973 Harvest (UK)
CD: 2012 Esoteric (UK)

The debut by Kayak was released in various countries via the EMI or Harvest imprints. The top cover is the original and all reissues have continued to use it (fortunately). The second cover shown here is the original USA release.

Last listen: April 18, 2018

Solution - s/t. 1971 Netherlands

Strong debut from Solution, a fuzz-laden organ and sax/flute driven band from The Netherlands. The primarily instrumental music is highly melodic, a common and much welcome trait amongst Dutch progressive rock groups. On this album, Solution reminds me of fellow countrymen Pantheon and Burnin' Red Ivanhoe (Denmark) with props to the overlord of this kind of sound - Hot Rats era Frank Zappa. In fact, 'Circus Circumstances' sounds like Samla Mammas Manna playing the music of prime Zappa.  'Koan' and 'Trane Steps' are the best tracks here, but no weak moments are to be found. Great album.

Here are my notes for Divergence (1972) as well, an album I just could never get into: What a dubious opening for Solution's second album Divergence - the first 6 minutes of 'Second Line' mounting to nothing more than a crooner's piano ballad that is painful to endure. But the last two minutes of said track offer hope for those of us who adored their debut album. The following title track will remind most folks of Focus, and that's because it was included as part of the 'Eruption' track as found on Moving Waves, though the organ and sax breaks found here are entirely their own. 'Concentration' veers dangerously close to being a proto Kenny G, when the music suddenly takes a dark turn to the skanky bar on the corner. And after the drunks have left, the band gets down to business and proves their instrumental worthiness. The album closes as it starts, and is the death knell. I can only shake my head, as the immense brilliance of the debut is pretty much lost here.

Personal Collection
LP: 1971 Catfish
CD: 2012 Esoteric (UK)

Originals are housed in a single sleeve cover. I love the little kid on the tricycle with his life-vest "solution" riding along the canal, which is absolutely priceless. The snapshot of a quiet sunny 1971 neighborhood in Holland (Spaarnwoude apparently) is also great. My first copy was the 1996 2-on-1 CD, and after viewing the cover, I knew I must own an LP (the 1972 UK Decca copy). Eventually I purchased the original Catfish version to go along with the UK LP. Since I'm not a big fan of Divergence, and the EMI CD is absolutely void of details, I recently upgraded to the Esoteric version, which has its usual fantastic liner notes and photos (and this one sounds great, which isn't always the case with Esoteric). No bonus tracks though. Update: OK, the 2 for 1 CD is now hitting the sell bin, as well as the Decca LP.

Placebo - s/t. 1974 Belgium

This is my personal favorite of the three Placebo albums. Here the grooves go deeper, and the solos are more intense. Best of all the compositions are, to a greater degree, more unique.

Personal collection
CD: 2011 P-Vine (Japan)

Placebo - 1973. Belgium

The 1973 album continues in the same vein as Ball of Eyes, though it's definitely more funky and head boppin' than the debut. And the real ear grabber is the superb Moog soloing by Marc Moulin. Strangely, the album finishes in a completely different direction. The next to last track is more towards straight jazz and the closer has more in common with Electronik Musik, than anything one would associate with Placebo. I thought the sophomore effort surpassed the debut, and from what I could tell, many considered it their best. However, my vote goes to the 3rd and last album. To be continued...

Personal collection
CD: 2011 P-Vine (Japan)

Placebo – Ball of Eyes. 1971 Belgium

Marc Moulin's three Placebo albums are the "Holy Grail" for the rare groove crowd, a sector of music fans who love that unique 70s style of cool. The beat and the mood of the sound are key.

For an album from the 1971 jazz scene, Ball of Eyes is remarkably focused, without any experimentation or free jazz moments which were still in vogue during that time. Not edgy like same era Miles Davis, Wolfgang Dauner or even other rare Euro groovers like the Sunbirds. In fact when I first heard it, I was certain it was from 1975 or later. The horn charts are all very well done and they do catch that certain 70s spy groove. It's all a bit too laid back for me to consider it a 5 star masterpiece, but its wide appeal is undeniable.

Personal collection
CD: 2011 P-Vine (Japan)

Original LPs are off the charts expensive, and I personally wasn't aware of Placebo until the last 6 years or so. After obtaining CD-R copies and pleading for a reissue on the CDRWL, we were all rewarded last year with fully authorized Japanese mini-LPs from P-Vine. Ball of Eyes in particular benefits from the format, given that the original features a cool gatefold cover.

Svenska Lod AB! – Horselmat. 1971 Sweden

Svenska Löd AB!'s sole album is a very rare album, and originals are off the charts in price. But what of the music? Hörselmat is an instrumental jazz album with blues, rock, and funk undertones. An album that features none other than Janne Schaffer on electric guitar. Very much of its era. Despite its rarity, the album features an excellent production along with some splendid guitar, trumpet, sax, and organ work (especially the organ).

Personal collection
CD: 2011 Creole Stream (Japan)

One of the rarest albums from Sweden, if not the rarest. Pressed in a micro quantity of 200 copies. Privately released album in an era when that kind of thing was unheard of, except in England perhaps.

Last listen: February 7, 2018

Yellow Sunshine - s/t. 1973 USA

Yellow Sunshine are a bit outside of my normal listening fare, but there's enough crossover here to appeal to most of you I think. Yellow Sunshine were a Philadelphia based group that recorded one of the very best of the Afro psych albums. A strong hard rock edge pervades, which is something that usually missing in most of these soul-oriented works. In the big leagues of the scene with Funkadelic and Mandrill. Band evolved into MFSB, a very fine mid 1970s funk/disco group, that recorded the fantastic 'K-Jee' track, by far the best thing on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

Personal collection
CD: 2010 Sony (Japan)

Gamble Records comes from a one Kenny Gamble and his label was a part of Epic Records. The original has an embossed letter cover, as does the CD (mini-LP version that I own). I've seen other LP versions with a smooth cover, but I'm not sure how legitimate these are.

Seppo Paroni Paakkunainen – Plastic Maailma. 1971 Finland

Paakkunainen's debut features a typical all-over-the-map kitchen sink mentality. Eastern ragas, groovy hippy rock with cute female Finnish vocals, blues rock with tough male vocals (from Apollo lead singer), moody atmospheric jazz, soft religious revival music, heavy organ proto prog, Nosferatu-like guitar/flute rockers etc... Paakkunainen is the winds player and he provides some nice sax and flute leads. More focus would have lead to an even stronger album, as the production and playing are top notch.

Personal collection
CD: 2010 Rocket

A very rare album in original form, my first copy was a CD-R provided by a friend long ago. The Rocket CD solves the availability problem, and is fantastic, like all of their releases. All the liner notes are in Finnish, so we'd need a translation to fully benefit. While we were very fortunate to get those translations for Fantasia, Scapa Flow and Session, I didn't push my luck on this (lesser) title.

El Reloj - s/t (II). 1976 Argentina

Intense and complex dual guitar-led progressive rock from Argentina. In some ways it represents the logical next step on from classic Wishbone Ash, Man and the Dutch group Cargo. Perhaps only Automatic Fine Tuning attempted a similar mix of highly complex music with twin hard rock guitars solely taking the lead. There is a small amount of keyboards, but they aren't the focus. And the histrionic vocals are typical of the delivery in Argentina and Italy in the 1970s.

Come to think of it - complex progressive hard rock, non-stop intensity and screaming vocals - perhaps we now know the true inspiration for Mars Volta (makes more sense than Led Zeppelin). Well... maybe?

A rather surprising sophomore entry from El Reloj, whose debut is much more straight ahead hard rock with blues touches. I personally think this is a great album - a near masterpiece.

Personal collection
LP: 1976 RCA
CD: 1996 Record Runner (Brazil)

Both CD versions include both sides of a rare 1975 single. The original gatefold LP is awesome - love the weird dude in a weirder place. The LP was my first copy, and I also own the Record Runner CD which is very well done, as are all their reissues.

Apoteosi - s/t. 1975 Italy

Apoteosi is a family affair, three-fifth's of the group lead by the Ida family based in Calabria (the toe in Italy's boot). And the label was run by the father, who had signed up many local folk artists. What we have here is the Italian progressive rock version of the Free Design. And the keyboardist is no older than 14, running on another 1970s tradition of: Youth. Semiramis featured a 16 year old mastermind as did MIA of Argentina with their 15 year old whiz-kid. Hey, Mozart was 5 when he got started, so why not right?

Apoteosi is classic turn-on-a-dime Italian progressive rock in the Semiramis / Jumbo tradition with Jenny Sorrenti / Saint Just like vocals. Hard to dislike this one if a fan of the genre. Finishes with a space rock number straight from the Sensations' Fix playbook. Finding this private press must have been nirvana for collectors worldwide back in the day. Thank goodness for the Mellow CD, so the rest of us could hear it too! Brilliant really.

Personal collection
CD: 1993 Mellow

An extremely rare album, where original copies have sold for over $2000. Like many, I had never even heard of this album until Mauro released it in 1993.

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...