Cherry Five - s/t. 1975 Italy

Cherry Five are an anomaly for the Italian progressive rock scene, in that they sing in English and have a sound that is squarely from the big names of the scene like Yes, Genesis and Gentle Giant. In this way, they recall Mass Media Stars era Acqua Fragile, though Cherry Five are significantly more heavy and complex. Formed by the main two protagonists of Goblin with participation of drummer Carlo Bordini from Rusticelli & Bordini. So if you can blank your mind of images of Museo Rosenbach and Il Balletto di Bronzo, and pretend Cherry Five are from London, then this is quite a good mid 70s progressive rock album. All the vintage keyboard toys are on display and there's plenty of complex compositions to dive into. A really good album.

Personal collection
LP: 1986 Nexus (Japan)
CD: 1993 King (Japan)
CD: 2010 Belle Antique (Japan)

Pollen - s/t. 1976 Canada

If you're not familiar with Pollen, then consider it a must own album if you're a fan of 70s progressive rock. It's a staple of the diet.

Personal collection
LP: 1976 Kebec Disc
CD: 2010 Belle Antique (Japan)

I've owned the LP (a single sleeve cover) of this since about 1990 or so. Much was made back then of the "pot leaf" back cover, and that it had to be retracted and repressed with the band photo shot. And supposedly it was much rarer. Well, I've owned close to a dozen of these in the past and I think I've had 6 of each. FWIW, I kept the leaf cover for my collection, just in case...

Gäa - Auf der Bahn zum Uranus. 1974 Germany

Musically, Gäa can be described a spacey rock band that sings in German. It's not really cosmic Krautrock, nor is it full blown complex progressive rock. The first track 'Uranus' is by far the best (IMO), but is somewhat misleading considering the rest. In that way I was reminded of My Solid Ground. I see Gäa as the precursor to the late 70s German progressive movement such as Indigo, Minotaurus, Albatros and many others.

Personal collection
CD: 1992 Ohrwaschl
LP: 2011 Garden of Delights

Original LPs have always been off the charts expensive, and with a cover and title like this, it's not surprising that collectors worldwide are clamoring for it. The Ohrwaschl CD is a straight reissue, though housed nicely in a digi-pak. The LP from Garden of Delights features a full biography, as well as a new mastering of the tapes.

Last listen: 2014

Lasting Weep - Le Spectacle de l'Albatros. 1976 Canada (archival)

Following on from yesterday's post, here is the second archival issue of Lasting Weep from the good folks at ProgQuebec. First composed in 1972, Le Spectacle de l'Albatros was set to be an epic piece for what would be their debut album. That never happened of course, but while Maneige was on hiatus, the key members of Lasting Weep assembled a 17 piece ensemble to be performed over the course of 3 nights in the early months of 1976. Fortunately these were recorded and preserved for antiquity.

Musically, Le Spectacle de l'Albatros is a much more ambitious work compared to the hard jazz rock of the "1969-1971" album. There are some loose avant garde moments to endure, but for the most part this is a very fine work as well. If pressed to pick one album, I'd go for the 1969-1971 album, but most of my peers prefer this one.

Personal collection
CD: 2007 ProgQuebec

CD features unique liner notes, photos and concert posters.

Lasting Weep - 1969-1971. Canada (archival)

A fantastic archival release from ProgQuebec. Lasting Weep, like Franck Dervieux's group, was the breeding ground for Quebec's underground scene for the next 10 years or so afterward. Lasting Weep were the precursor to most notably Maneige, but also featured members that went one to play in Conventum, Michel Madore, and L'Orchestre Sympathique.

The lion's share of the material is from 1969, and for the era this is an extraordinary recording, as it mirrors not only what was going on only in England at the time, but it predates a lot of the early 70s Krautrock movement. Flute and guitar driven hard jazz rock and blues is the preferred style here, and a fantastic example of such.

Personal collection
CD: 2007 ProgQuebec

Excellent liner notes, unique photos and poster reprints round out this excellent document.

Cathedral - Stained Glass Stories. 1978 USA

It's interesting for me to see how many folks today poo-poo this album and say it's overrated, hyped, plagiarist, or whatever. Perhaps it was the background that my friends and I came from that made Cathedral's album seem so extraordinary. Nowadays progressive rock fans have access to thousands of albums at their finger tips, and perhaps it does blend in with similar artists - and so maybe that's why they can't understand old-timers like us who would rave about Stained Glass Stories. I personally think it's a great example of the American underground take on progressive rock. They went all out and left absolutely nothing behind. It doesn't matter to me that it wasn't perfect from a composition/playing standpoint. It's a highly ambitious work with great melodies interspersed throughout and therein lies the charm of it all.

I guess I'm glad to have discovered the album before I read it was "one of the greatest progressive rock albums ever." We didn't have any expectations back then. We just loved it.

Personal Collection
LP: 1978 Delta
CD: 2010 Belle Antique (Japan)

My first copy to own was the Syn-Phonic LP reissue which was housed in a unique poster cover. I eventually exchanged this for the CD from the same label. I first heard this album in 1988 from a friend / record dealer who had stumbled onto the original. For hardcore progressive rock heads like me, Cathedral was an astounding find. It was exciting to know that there may be dozens of unknown gems yet to be discovered. Those were exhilarating times if you were a record collector. Over the years, I eventually secure an original LP and upgraded my CD to the Japanese mini-LP (basically the same as Syn-Phonic with better packaging).

Interesting side story: Way back in 1990 or so, both Syn-Phonic and Rockadelic were trying to release a second unreleased album called Epilogue. I was friendly with both gentlemen so knew the details behind this as it was happening. All these years later, and it still remains in the vaults as the band couldn't agree on terms. I have a copy on CD-R and it's fantastic. Really a shame that it's not out there for public consumption.

Nine Days Wonder - s/t. 1971 Germany

Was there a more radical album in 1971 than Nine Days Wonder's debut? Nothing stays in one place too long, some themes explored only in mere seconds, moving from idea to idea similar to how some Italian progressive rock albums did two years later in 1973. Electric guitar, sax and flute are the primary drivers, and the rhythm section is very inventive. Imagine fellow Germans Brainstorm circa "Smile Awhile", but rather than taking it through the Canterbury blender, it takes as its blueprint Frank Zappa at his most progressive. The humor component, and the heavier edge, also recalls early Grobschnitt, a band that most certainly was influenced by NDW. I could see a modern group like Polytoxicomane Philharmonie being heavily swayed by this album as well. From here, Nine Days Wonder changed personnel and decided to focus more on their glam rock / David Bowie side of their sound, and the quality dropped dramatically from here IMO.

Personal collection
CD: 1993 Bacillus
LP: 2010 Long Hair

The CD is from the masters tape, but lacks any details such as bonus tracks, history, etc.. Very typical of a major label straight CD reissue from the early 90s. Long Hair's LP reissue is just like the original - in a foam coated gatefold cover. This version does come with a detailed bio sheet. It's an awesome product, and given that the original in this format is off the charts expensive (not to mention usually in awful shape). The album covers shown above are as follows: 1) The original foam cover; 2) The German second press (and the French press is similar but with different lettering; 3) The CD reissue.

Canarios - Ciclos. 1974 Spain

Canarios were a pop band prior to this album, and they could not have changed any more dramatically than on Ciclos. The album features four LP side long overblown symphonic rock numbers, loosely based on Vivaldi's Four Seasons. It's a sincere effort, extremely well thought out and complex. For some, it probably represents a parody of the entire progressive rock genre. I think it's great.

Personal collection
LP: 1980 King (Japan)
CD: 1992 Si-Wan (Korea)
CD: 2010 Sony (Japan)

Haze - Hazecolor-Dia. 1971 Germany

From a musical perspective, Haze are a typical 1971 blues based hard rock band from Germany - not really progressive - but definitely fit the all-encompassing Krautrock tag, especially the era of its origin. The addition of wailing flute and pounding organ help tremendously when considering the otherwise standard g-b-d format. The vocals are all over-the-top exaggerated, loud, and... insane. Depending on my mood, that can add or detract points. The older I get, the more points it adds. Weird, huh?

Personal collection
CD: 1997 Second Battle
LP: 2010 Long Hair

As a rule, I don't typically buy LP reissues and would rather just own the CD (or the original LP of course). But there are exceptions and these are based on a number of considerations. 1) It must have a cool cover - generally a gatefold, or that its heavily textured, or it features some sort of gimmick cover (known in the trade as gimmix). Very rarely will I consider buying a typical single sleeve record, unless it has a stunning painting or something of that nature. And 2) is the cost of the original record. For example, I'm not going to pay $40 for a reissue of an original I can get for $100. Now cost is entirely subjective, and it also boils down to personal budgets and finances. Everyone is going to have a different threshold based on their priorities. I'll gladly pay $600 for a few choice LPs. It's case by case.

And so the case with Haze, for me, is that it's the perfect choice for a reissue LP. The originals are prohibitively expensive, and the music content doesn't justify the high cost. And, as it turns out, it does feature a gimmix cover - a single sleeve but with a see-through plastic film die-cut and rounded corners.

My only gripe about the LP reissue is the lack of liner notes. This is highly unusual for Long Hair who usually do a good job of documenting their releases. But then again, Long Hair never issued this title as a CD.

2016 update: I recently picked up the Second Battle CD, which is a nice digi-pak emulating the see-through cover. There are no liner notes accompanying this release either.

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...