Wigwam - Being. 1974 Finland

A long time friend, musician, and album collector once told me that Wigwam's Being is his single favorite progressive rock album of all time. That took me aback, as the album didn't really even register with me much on first listen some 20+ years ago. But on subsequent careful listens, you can certainly understand one's passion for it. It is a highly stylized, complex and dense work that requires an enormous amount of focus and attention. This same friend is also a co-leader of a contemporary progressive rock band, who have released a couple of albums that are much respected, and it's very clear to me that Being has been a huge influence on his songwriting. I won't mention who this band is. I'll let you all try to figure it out :-)

There's much debate amongst Wigwam fans on which is their finest hour. I tend to fall into the Fairyport camp, preferring the more loosely structured proto-progressive sound, but Being is certainly a close second.

Personal collection
CD: 2010 Esoteric (UK)

The CD reprints all the original lyrics and liners, along with a short essay written by founding member Jim Pembroke.

Randy Roos - Mistral. 1978 USA

Boston based Berklee graduate guitarist Randy Roos was originally in a band called Orchestra Luna, an album that used to turn up quite a bit in my crate digging days. This album is quite a bit different from that, and is a guitar fronted instrumental jazz fusion - a style that was quite popular back in those days, especially from Masters level grad students like Roos. It's the rougher edge that Roos brings forth that I find appealing, and thus scores an extra point from me. Roos is clearly a master of his instrument of choice, and overall Mistral will occasionally call out Al Di Meola circa Elegant Gypsy or Casino. I was also reminded of the German group Syncrisis, in the more fiery moments. Essential for fans of guitar fronted fusion.

The label describes the music as: "Masterfully playing a variety of fretted and fretless guitars, Roos demonstrates why its time for this overlooked gem to be revisited. Mistral is pure high energy fusion that will appeal to fans of Jeff Beck and Return To Forever."

Personal collection
LP: 1978 Spoonfed
CD: 2012 Modulus

The LP is pressed on clear vinyl. The CD comes in a high quality mini-LP sleeve similar to the Japanese, though it appears the Modulus label was a one-time experiment that didn't translate to profits. There are no bonus tracks, but a fantastic essay was provided by a well known music journalist.

This is an album that was introduced to us by Midwest Mike on the CDRWL. Because of his enthusiasm and faith in the music, he was a moving force in getting this title reissued (with an assist from the CDRWL of course... lol)

Last listen: July 17, 2018

Het Pandorra Ensemble - III. 1978 Netherlands

Taking Side 2 of King Crimson's Starless and Bible Black as a blueprint, Het Pandorra Ensemble went about releasing one of the more bizarre progressive rock albums of the era. There's quite a bit of ambient atmospherics, augmented by louder rock sections with compressed fuzz tone Frippian guitar. But unlike the decidedly atonal Crimson, Pandorra follow the European model of melodic, almost jazzy, progressive rock. This is a one of a kind album, with no regards to any kind of pre-conceived audience. The album cover is not indicative at all of the music within (though the back cover is far more interesting). See also Zog, their followup group, who also play an entirely unique music, yet still different from Pandorra Ensemble. These guys were on their own planet. Despite the title, III is their debut. Strange lads.

What's even more amazing, is the bonus tracks are even better! Same style of improvised melodic dissonance (how's that for an oxymoron), but perhaps a bit more focused than the album proper. Rare is the case where the bonus tracks exceed the original product.

Personal collection
LP: 1978 Disaster Electronics
CD: 2012 Modulus (USA)

The CD is a beautifully packaged gatefold mini-LP, with incredible sound, tons of bonus material, a history, photos, etc... A stunning package - as gorgeous as any Japanese mini-LP. It's worth noting that the original is a single sleeve, so this is an improvement in that category as well.

My own history of this album goes back to the early 90s. I had befriended a well known Dutch dealer circa 1992 or so. He recorded for me on cassette many obscure Dutch albums, including this one, all of which became favorites quickly. In 1996 I made a blockbuster trade with another well known European dealer, that landed me a pile of albums. Every one of them I still own and cherish. Het Pandorra Ensemble was one of those albums. The cover itself is very misleading, giving off a whiff of punk or glam rock. But it's nothing of the sort, of course. The rather artsy sketch on the back cover is more indicative of the contents within.

Prof. Wolfff - s/t. 1972 Germany

Prof. Wolfff were one of the very few German bands in the early 1970s that actually sang in German. While the lyrical content may have you thinking this is a Deutschrock album, the music is pure Hammond/guitar driven Krautrock. Musically they remind me of a cross between Gomorrha and Haze. Night Sun, McChurch Soundroom and Virus are other guideposts. A very fine release, and collectors of the scene should not miss it.

Personal collection
CD: 1998 Second Battle
LP: 2011 Second Battle

Prof. Wolfff is a band I'd read about in catalogs, but never actually had a chance to hear until I bought the Second Battle CD in 1998, immediately after it was released. As we mentioned back in the Haze thread, there are a handful of "rules" I follow if I'm going to buy an LP reissue. Prof. Wolfff is a perfect choice for this. Originals are off the charts expensive, the music is very good but not exceptional, and it features a cool gatefold cover with fantastic artwork. Not to mention that Second Battle always does a fine packaging job. The CD is no slouch either, that comes in a tri-fold digipak. For the CD, the insert is a poster foldout filled with concert clippings and an overview of the band (in German). For the LP, they provided a large booklet with newspaper reviews and photos. The German history has been left off. Both reissues replicate the original, which had the lyrics printed inside the gatefold.

For years, I'd read that this album was from 1971, but I don't think the original has a date on it. The Second Battle reissues clearly mark the copyright as 1972. So my guess is the album came out in early 1972. Had it come a few months later, I would imagine it would have found itself on Metronome's newly minted Brain label.

Pete & Royce - Suffering of Tomorrow + Days of Destruction. 1980-1981 Greece

Pete & Royce combine the sounds of mid period Pink Floyd with a hazy early 1970s songwriter aesthetic. The kind of album, had it instead been a private American release, would have sent shock waves throughout the collector community. The Greek music scene of the early 80s is one that has proven to be fascinating, and like Spain only a couple of years before them, combines the angst of having been politically oppressed while showing a peaceful optimism for the future. "Days of Destruction" is more compact and radio friendly, though still very much a product of the underground. I think it was wise for them to release both albums together, as the market for their second album is likely to be limited - at least on a worldwide scale.

This is a great start for MusicBazz, and I very much look forward to future releases by them and their more modern Cosmic Eye label.

MusicBazz describes the music as thus: "Pete & Royce are considered as one of the top and totally unique psych/progressive rock bands coming from Greece. Wired around Panagiotis "Pete" Tsiros, during the late '70s through to the early '80s, Pete & Royce offered to the European prog underground scene an astounding blend of trippy moods and moves: flashy melodies, hard guitar biting-fuzz, night crawling rhythms, mystifying electronic shifts and strange lyrics like oracles from an unknown book of Apocalypsis (very compatibly, two key members of another top progressive Greek group named Apocalypsis were also involved importantly in the recordings of Pete & Royce, the keyboardist Vasilis Dertilis and the vocalist Giannis Palamidas). Both albums of Pete & Royce are internationally sought after for their dreamy Pink-Floydian atmosphere, the brilliant vocals and guitars of Tsiros himself, the topnotch fiery interplay of all the participating musicians (especially of the key member, keyboardist and co-composer, Vasilis Ghinos) and the rarer but equally mind-blowing cosmic funk moments."

Personal collection
CD: 2012 MusicBazz

The CD is officially titled Suffering of Tomorrow + Days of Destruction and features both albums in a really nice tin foil mini-LP package with embossed lettering. Plenty of original written content and unique photos rounds out this first class work.

Algarnas Tradgard - Framtiden Är Ett Svävande Skepp, Förankrat I Forntiden. 1972 Sweden

Many times, as die-hard music fans, we boast about our top 10. It becomes somewhat of a joke, as we all know that most people have 50 albums in that space of 10! I think, though, I can honestly say that Älgarnas Trädgård's original opus is truly a top ten album for me.

For me, Älgarnas Trädgård is the reason I collect music. It's so transcendent. It takes me places in my mind that I didn't know existed. I've never been a drug user (just beer and wine for me thanks), but I would imagine the experience must be similar. This album could have been released in 2972. There's absolutely nothing like it in the world. As psychedelic an album as has ever been made. No sonic overload of fuzz like today's bands. But something way more surreal. Another world, another culture. As the album cover indicates. Sometimes I think those "Ancient Aliens" guys (History Channel) might have a point. Here's the soundtrack that they left behind.

Paul Major's review from 1988 (Sound Effects catalog) is too good to not share. Check this out: "Intense otherwordly acidtrip classic! Where you wanted 'Saucerful of Secrets' to take you... ...Primordial rhythms creep out overlaid with trance dual fuzz guitars, chants, atmospheres, barking dogs, and eerie voices - in one weird cover of old men sitting in another world! ... Holding this in your hand is like touching a lost fragment of some ancient pre-human civilization!

Personal Collection
LP: 1972 Silence
LP: 2015 Subliminal Sounds
CD: 2011 Belle Antique (Japan)

I first heard of this album in the mid 1980s, when I first started collecting underground 70s music and gathering mail order catalogs. The description alone had me salivating. It would be around 1988 or so, when I finally secured a copy. The original label, Silence Records of Sweden, was still quite active in the late 80's (and believe it or not they're still around!). They had actually repressed Älgarnas Trädgård's album in the early 80s. The way to tell is the label is bright yellow (rather than pale), and it does not come with the original insert. Discogs says it came out in 1989, but I know that's wrong since I bought it in 1988. Over time, I secured the 1972 original. Or so I thought. The guy I bought it from just sent me the original insert with the album. No cover! But he swore that's how it was originally released. I never believed him. I gave that version to my friend Jeff and he still has it for reference. Eventually I found the real original with the cover and original inner sleeve. Of course I bought the CD in 1995 the day it came out, and the 2 bonus tracks proved to be wonderful additions. Later I picked up the Japanese version that has an additional bonus track. As most of you know, the Japanese mini-LPs are quite reliable on the small details of what the original looked like (except the label oddly enough, which they entirely avoid - never quite understood that). I had to know what the original looked like! Was it truly the brown inner sleeve or did it have the amazing cover? Sure enough, it's what I suspected: Cover with inner sleeve. Now I know. And with a cover like that - a Japanese mini-LP is a must for collectors. The 3rd bonus track, while nice, is not enough to make a difference. So if you already own the Silence CD, and don't care about the collecting aspect, just hold onto it. I decided to move out the Silence CD myself, as there wasn't much reason to hold onto it.

The 2015 reissue is a 2 LP set that includes one LP of entirely unreleased material!

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...