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

Toshiyuki Miyama & His New Herd - Tsuchi No Ne (Nippon Densetsu No Naka No Shijou). 1973 Nippon Columbia.

Dusty Groove lists this album as "Tuchi No Oto-Nihon Densetsu No Naka", which I'm certain is incorrect. Even the spine of the CD calls it "Tsuchi No Ne".

CD reissue: 2012 Columbia

Packaging details: 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. Of course I bought the CD as soon as possible. I would suggest you all do the same, as these type of Japanese CDs (indigenous Japan, not worldwide rock) go out of print and stay out of print. It's a bit pricey (I paid about $33), but not only is it great music, but it will also be a good investment if I ever have to sell it.

Notes: This album was featured in our CDRWL last year (maybe a small reason why it came out on CD? I doubt it, but leave me to my delusion). No point in reinventing the wheel here, as I'll just cut and paste what was there over to here... All the credit goes to the AC for this entry.
---Yet another amazing find from the Japanese underground. A great discovery from The Alaskan Connection!

You know, it's not everyday that you hear music described as complex horn rock meets Ian Carr's Nucleus meets Vortex. But, in effect, as the AC notes below, that's exactly what this is. 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.

After some research, I was amazed to actually find this album on RateYourMusic. It was somewhat mislabeled, but unless you can read Japanese, it would be near impossible to know what the title was, so I certainly understand. Here's the entry.

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!

Heaven - Brass Rock 1. 1971 England

Heaven - Brass Rock 1. 1971 CBS

CD reissue: 2008 Esoteric

Release details: 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. Given the extraordinary cover, "Brass Rock I" would make an excellent candidate for a Japanese mini-LP (preferably utilizing the Esoteric reissue as its base). And the same goes for the vinyl reissue market, though originals aren't too terribly expensive, though no doubt becoming more scarce and pricey every year.

Notes: As noted above, 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.

Updated:  September 15, 2015

Galliard - Strange Pleasure. 1969 England

Galliard - Strange Pleasure. 1969 Deram Nova

About a year ago, we featured Galliard's second album. Here is their debut.

CD reissue: 2009 Esoteric

Packaging details: 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. Personally I love those old Deram Nova releases, but I don't own the original of this one unfortunately, only the Esoteric CD. This album would be a good candidate for a reputable LP reissue label as well. Again, watch for those bootlegs!

Notes: 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.

Baba Scholae - 69. 1969 France-England

Baba Scholae - 69. 1969. Archival

CD issue: 2012 Ad Vitam

LP issue: 2013 Ad Vitam (2 LP set)

'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.

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!

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.

Last update: July 29, 2016

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

Stomu Yamash'ta - Freedom is Frightening. 1973 Island (UK)

CD reissues: 2008 Esoteric (UK); 2009 Universal (Japan mini-LP)

Packaging details: 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. A year later, a mini-LP came out in Japan, though I see no reason personally to upgrade given the simplicity of the original cover. There is no LP reissue, though original copies are in abundance, thus reducing the need for one.

Notes: 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.

Baby Grandmothers - s/t. 1967-68 Sweden

Baby Grandmothers - s/t. 2007 Subliminal Sounds

Archival recordings from 1967 and 1968. There's also a 2LP set for vinyl junkies.

Notes: 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.

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

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

CD reissues: 1991 Polydor (Japan); 2011 Esoteric (UK)

Packaging details: Well, as you can see, the number of reissues drops off dramatically here at Earth and Fire's 4th offering. We'll cover on why that may be in the below discussion. Ironically, because of this slight, the original Japanese CD became quite collectable. I didn't know much about this album in 1991, so I never picked it up. By the time I did hear it, the CD was long OOP and expensive. Esoteric finally put the issue to bed with a high quality reissue, with great liner notes and copious bonus tracks (which are critical to appreciating the album). Original LPs, like all of Earth and Fire's albums, are readily available on the cheap. So once again there seems to be no need for an LP reissue.

Notes: So here's the impetus for my sudden interest in all things Earth and Fire. I had been lead to believe back in my original collecting days, that this one wasn't worth bothering with. Not only is that nonsense, but I'm close to claiming this to be the best Earth and Fire! At least a close second to "Song of the Marching Children"., for their part, label the album "Electro, Experimental, Disco". That's ridiculous. On to the review...

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.

And this is where the UMR stops their Earth and Fire pursuit. :-)

Earth and Fire - Atlantis. 1973 Netherlands

Earth and Fire - Atlantis. 1973 Polydor

CD reissues: 1987 Polydor (with Song of the Marching Children); 1991 Polydor (Japan); 2004 Universal (Japan mini-LP); 2009 Esoteric (England); 2010 Universal

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. I own the Dutch original myself, and if you're in the market for one, you'll most likely find copies at a reasonable price. Don't wait forever though - as I've seen plenty of albums that used to go for $20 even five years ago, now go for multiple times that.

--- On the CD front, it's pretty much the same situation as its predecessor, with readily available copies at every turn. Once again I started with the 1987 2-fer-1 and graduated to the Japanese mini-LP - the perfect format for such a beautiful cover. Unlike the last two albums, "Atlantis" is usually bereft of bonus tracks on any CD issue. And, as far as I know, no one has attempted an LP reissue. But as I said on the "Song of the Marching Children" blurb, I'm not sure one is necessary given that originals aren't terribly expensive.

Notes: 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.

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

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

CD reissues: 1987 Polydor (with Atlantis); 1991 Polydor (Japan); 2002 Universal; 2004 Universal (Japan mini-LP); 2009 Esoteric (England); 2010 Universal

LP reissue: 1991 Si-Wan (Korea)

Packaging details: Earth and Fire's second album isn't nearly as convoluted as the debut, as far as the variety of covers. I believe there is a different German press, but otherwise the version you see above is what you're likely to run into if in the market for one. The original features embossed lettering and I've also included the inside of the gatefold, because as you can plainly see, it is quite stunning. "Song of the Marching Children" is one of the very few early 1970s Continental European major label releases that is still easy to find an original of and it's not expensive. Though inexplicably I've seen copies go for over a $100 (some ebay sellers, for whatever reason, tend to get exponentially more money than others). But if you're patient, you shouldn't have to pay more than $30 for an original, sometimes half of that. Last month I upgraded my personal copy and paid a whopping $17 for a mint one on ebay. As such, there really isn't a need for a LP reissue, though Si-Wan has had one on the market for over 20 years and it too is easy to find.

--- As for CDs, they are also very easy to find, and you can spot used ones in the $5 range (the budget Universal/Polydor copies most likely). For jewel box editions, no doubt the Esoteric version will be the best considering liner notes and such. Make sure to hear any of the reissues with bonus tracks, as some of Earth & Fire's singles outdo their album material, and weren't issued on any of their LP's originally. Personally I started with the '87 dual release and upgraded to the 2004 Japanese mini-LP since I love the packaging on this one (not to mention the copious number of bonus tracks).

Notes: 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.

Earth and Fire - s/t. 1970 Netherlands

Earth and Fire - s/t. 1970 Polydor

CD reissues: 1991 Edison (Japan); 1993 Repertoire (Germany); 2002 Rotation; 2004 Universal (Japan mini-LP); 2009 Esoteric (UK)

LP reissues: 1971 Nepentha (UK); 2012 Music on Vinyl

Packaging details: 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. Starting with the 1993 Repertoire release, all the CDs have some bonus tracks. If mini-LPs aren't important to you, then I would suggest either the Rotation or Esoteric CDs to be your main copy. As for LP's, there were a lot of dubious presses out there until the Music on Vinyl edition, but unfortunately they stuck with the Dutch original for the cover.

Notes: 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.

Cargo - s/t. 1972 Netherlands

Cargo - s/t. 1972 Harvest

CD reissues: 1993 Pseudonym; 2012 Pseudonym (2 CD)

LP reissues:1999 Pseudonym; 2012 Pseudonym (2 LP)

Packaging details: 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 (today expect to pay north of $700, in some cases well over $1K). 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. And it is these two 90s issues that I continue to own (originals are still beyond what I wish to pay). 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.

Notes: 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.

Thors Hammer - s/t. 1971 Denmark

Thors Hammer - s/t. 1971 Metronome

CD reissue: 2005 Thors Hammer / Garden of Delights (Germany)

LP reissue: 2010 Thors Hammer / Garden of Delights (Germany)

Packaging details: 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. As with many labels today, they've recently followed up with an LP reissue as well.

Notes: 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.

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

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

CD reissues: 2001 Monster; 2007 Rockadrome

LP reissue: 2010 Rockadrome

Packaging details: For the some 25 years plus that I've been collecting, original LPs of Truth and Janey's debut have been a rare and expensive item. Love the negative image photo cover of a Marshall stack! Monster pretty much cornered the market on rare US hard rock albums, and were first to market with a legit reissue. Rockadrome is Monster version 2.0, and is a repress. Later they capitalized on the resurgence for vinyl. I own the 2007 CD, which is chock full of liner notes and a few bonus tracks. Monster / Rockadrome have always done a first class job on their CDs. I own many of them and I hope to feature more over time.

Notes: A little out of our normal scope for UMR, 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!

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. Update: After some deliberation, I decided to part with the original LP. The sound of the CD is excellent and matches the LP in fine form (back to back check). And the original cover offers nothing unique. Just a typical early 80s simple single sleeve cover with dull colors.

Intra - s/t. 1976-1990 USA

Intra - s/t. 1999 Shroom. Archival recordings from 1976 to 1990.

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.

Hiroki Tamaki & SMT - Time Paradox. 1975 Japan

Hiroki Tamaki & SMT - Time Paradox. 1975 Nippon Columbia

CD reissue: 1998 P-Vine

Packaging details: 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. But fortunately I found one on ebay recently and my friend Jeff "Paperprog" (highly recommended seller for you ebayers out there) very kindly offered me a great deal. So here we are. I plan on keeping the original LP as well.

Notes: 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. 

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

Mo.Do. - La Scimmia Sulla Schiena del Re. 1980 IAF (International Audio Film)

CD reissue: 1993 Mellow

Packaging details: Like the Apoteosi and Rock Scene albums we've blogged about prior, Mo.Do.'s sole album is a private press from the dead years of Italian progressive rock. And, like those other albums, Mo.Do. has been saved from complete obscurity by collector Mauro Moroni and his excellent Mellow label. It remains the only reissue on the market, and is the version I personally own.

Notes: 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.

Emerald Web - Dragon Wings and Wizard Tales. 1979 USA

Emerald Web - Dragon Wings and Wizard Tales. 1979 Stargate

LP reissue: 2012 Sebastian Speaks

Similar to the Resan album we featured recently, here's another album that has found its way to a legitimate LP reissue, but no CD as of yet.

Packaging details: 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"

Notes: 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.

Dun - Eros. 1981 France

Dün - Eros. 1981 private

CD reissues: 2000 Soleil Zeuhl; 2000 Belle Antique (Japan); 2012 Soleil Zeuhl; 2012 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissue: 2012 Soleil Zeuhl

Packaging details: 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.

Notes: 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.

Eskaton - Fiction. 1983 France

Eskaton - Fiction. 1983 private

CD reissue: 2005 Soleil Zeuhl

Packaging details: 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".

Notes: 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.

Eskaton - Ardeur. 1980 France

Eskaton - Ardeur. 1980 private

CD reissue: 2003 Soleil Zeuhl

Packaging details: "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.

Notes: 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.

Eskaton - 4 Visions. 1979 France

Eskaton - 4 Visions. 1981 Eurock (USA). 1979 recording

CD reissues: 1995 APM (Sweden); 2010 Soleil Zeuhl

LP reissue: 2013 Soleil Zeuhl

Packaging details: 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 SZ release features 4 bonus tracks - and different from the APM one. For copyright reasons, SZ 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 (ED: and thet finally did of course - with the blue cover no less!). I don't care what cover they use. I still own the APM CD, and have no intention of switching out at this point.

Notes: 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.

Hermann Szobel - Szobel. 1976 USA

Hermann Szobel - Szobel. 1976 Arista

CD reissue: 2012 Laser's Edge

Packaging details: 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.

Notes: 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 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.

Resan - s/t. 1973 Sweden

Resan - s/t. 1973 Epic

LP reissue: 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.

Packaging details: 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.

Notes: 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'.

Xhol Caravan - Motherf*ckers Live. 1968-69 Germany

Xhol Caravan - Motherf*ckers Live. 2001 United Durtro (UK). Also 2002 Streamline (LP). Archival live recordings from 1968 and 1969.

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.

Xhol - Hau-Ruk. 1971 Germany

Xhol- Hau-Ruk. 1971 Ohr

CD reissue: 2002 Garden of Delights

Packaging details: Hau-Ruk is the 3rd studio album recorded by Xhol, but the second to be released. Considering that the CD, in addition to the usual great liner notes and photos that GoD provides, also contains an excellent 20 minute track from 1974 - this will most likely always be the definitive version. According to these same liner notes, the excellent LP reissue label Tripkick was to release this on vinyl in 2003, but that never happened.

Notes: Here we find Xhol, as my imagination will have it mind you, in some smoky club in Hamburg, preferably on the Reeperbahn in the St. Pauli District. Organ and electric sax rule the roost here and no one gets to leave the club until they start seeing inanimate objects move. Psychedelic jazz blues is where it's at brudda'. The Garden of Delights CD is the way to go here since it introduces to the 20 minute bonus track 'Suden twi Westen'. This track was recorded in 1974 with Hansi Fisher (of Embryo) on flute and future Missus Beastly bassist Norman Domling. It's quite possibly the best piece Xhol ever did (and that's saying something!) and I didn't realize that Xhol were still active this late in the game. Highly recommended.

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

Xhol - Motherf*ckers GMBH & Co KG. 1972 Ohr. Recorded in 1970

CD reissues: 1996 Spalax (France); 1999 Zyx

LP reissue: 2008 Wah Wah (Spain)

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!

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. For LP collectors, there's also the high quality Wah Wah reissue, and if convenience is not of concern, this would most certainly have to be considered the best reissue on the market - CD or LP. 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.

Last update: August 12, 2016

Xhol Caravan - Electrip. 1969 Germany

Xhol Caravan - Electrip. 1969 Hansa

CD reissue: 2000 Garden of Delights

LP reissue: 1997 Tripkick

Packaging details: 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. 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.

Notes: On March 23, 2001 for Gnosis I wrote: "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. 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."

Kayak - s/t. 1974 Netherlands

Kayak - s/t. 1974 EMI

Just  a quick entry here to cover off on the next Kayak album from our last entry.

CD reissues: 1995 Pseudonym; 2012 Esoteric (UK)

Packaging notes: Probably the most obscure of the early Kayak releases, as to the best of my knowledge, it was never released in the USA. There is a UK press on Harvest however. 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. I just bought the Esoteric version since the Pseudonym CD was long OOP. (ED: And later picked up an original LP on ebay)

Notes: 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.

Kayak - See See the Sun. 1973 Netherlands

Kayak - See See the Sun. 1973 EMI

We continue on with our Benelux theme, and more recently, those that have a new Esoteric reissue.

CD reissues: 1995 Pseudonym; 2012 Esoteric (UK)

Packaging details: 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. The Pseudonym version has one additional (short) bonus track. The Esoteric reissue contains the usual comprehensive booklet filled with history and photos. I was too late in the game to get the Pseudonym copy, so I now own the Esoteric CD. I've never owned this on vinyl.

Notes: 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 on the CDRWL, 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’.

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

Placebo - s/t. 1974 Harvest (France)

CD reissue: 2011 P-Vine (Japan mini-LP)

Packaging details: For their 3rd and final album, Placebo moved to the Harvest label and switched their attempt at finding some semblance of an audience in France rather than The Netherlands. Because of the sudden move, I think this album is generally regarded as their rarest and most obscure. For some reason, RYM names this album "Placebo 74", but I'm rather certain the album doesn't have a title. From a packaging perspective, I can pretty much say exactly what I did the last 2 days which is: 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. Unlike the prior two Dutch releases, their 3rd album is a rather dull single sleeve. There are unauthorized LP versions floating about, so watch out!

Notes: 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.

Placebo – 1973. 1973 Belgium

Placebo – 1973. 1973 CBS (Netherlands)

CD reissue: 2011 P-Vine (Japan mini-LP)

Packaging details: From a packaging perspective, I can pretty much say exactly what I did yesterday which is: 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. "1973" in particular benefits from the format, given that the original features a cool gatefold cover. There are unauthorized LP versions floating about, so watch out!

Notes: 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...

Placebo – Ball of Eyes. 1971 Belgium

Placebo – Ball of Eyes. 1971 CBS (Netherlands)

CD reissue: 2011 P-Vine (Japan mini-LP)

Since I seem to be in a "rare groove" mode here at UMR, and on UTRCD we're featuring another great Belgian band (Quantum Fantay), I thought this would be a good time to marry the two and feature the 3 Placebo albums.

Packaging details: 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. There are unauthorized LP versions floating about, so watch out!

Notes: 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.

Svenska Lod AB! – Horselmat. 1971 Sweden

Svenska Löd AB! - Hörselmat. 1971 private

CD reissue: 2011 Creole Stream (Japan)

LP reissue: 2011 Buben

Packaging details: 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. We've done some research on Creole Stream and we're considering them legit until someone says something to the contrary. Dusty Groove is the only US mail order house I've seen to carry them.

Notes: Svenska Löd AB! is primarily a jazz funk album with blues overtones, that features none other than Janne Schaffer on guitar. Great production, and some splendid guitar, trumpet, sax and organ work (especially the organ). Opening track is a killer horn rock piece ala primo Chicago. I can see this album being a huge hit with the DJ beatdigger hipster crowd.

Yellow Sunshine - s/t. 1973 USA

Yellow Sunshine - s/t. 1973 Gamble. In Europe, album was released on Philadelphia International.

CD reissue: 2010 Sony (Japan mini-LP)

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

Notes: 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.

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'...