Kayak - See See the Sun. 1973 Netherlands

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

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

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

Last listen: April 18, 2018

Solution - s/t. 1971 Netherlands

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

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

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

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

Placebo - s/t. 1974 Belgium

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

Personal collection
CD: 2011 P-Vine (Japan)

Placebo - 1973. Belgium

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

Personal collection
CD: 2011 P-Vine (Japan)

Placebo – Ball of Eyes. 1971 Belgium

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

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

Personal collection
CD: 2011 P-Vine (Japan)

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

Svenska Lod AB! – Horselmat. 1971 Sweden

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

Personal collection
CD: 2011 Creole Stream (Japan)

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

Last listen: February 7, 2018

Yellow Sunshine - s/t. 1973 USA

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

Personal collection
CD: 2010 Sony (Japan)

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

Seppo Paroni Paakkunainen – Plastic Maailma. 1971 Finland

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

Personal collection
CD: 2010 Rocket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apoteosi - s/t. 1975 Italy

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

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

Personal collection
CD: 1993 Mellow

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

Patrick Forgas - Cocktail. 1977 France

Patrick Forgas was known, even at the time of this release, as the French Robert Wyatt. The parallels are certainly there: Canterbury styled jazz rock, lead by a drummer, who sings with a high pitched insouciant voice. But perhaps it's the French part that gives Cocktail its unique edge, and you'll also hear artists like Gong, Dashielle Hedayat and even Moving Gelatine Plates creeping in here and there. And, this being 1977 and all, it was hard to avoid those trendy funky grooves, and Forgas succumbed on occasion. Forgas compiles an all-star cast here, and in addition to the multitude of instruments Forgas plays himself, they add keyboards, guitar, bass, violin, saxophone and flute. 'Monks' features a vicious fuzz bass groove, that reminds me of Hedayat's Obsolete. Elsewhere, Forgas writes little vignettes, each could have been the basis for a longer and more enjoyable track had he decided to flesh them out. These serve almost as Library music / incidental music. For Side 2, Forgas does just that - writes a full opus - and gives us the 18+ minute 'My Trip' fulfilling the promise of Side 1.

Following this, Forgas piddled around with substandard releases, until he got serious again in 1998 with his Forgas Band Phenomena, a band that continues today and is one of the leading lights of progressive music. Great to see the old dogs showing the new pups a few things.

Personal collection
CD: 2008 Musea

The original single sleeve cover has always been relatively easy to find. Gratte-Ciel (Skyscraper) was a subsidiary of RCA, who it appears at the time was completely behind the French progressive rock movement. They had other progressive rock specialist labels, such as Arcane/Crypto. The Musea CD adds no less than 13 relevant bonus tracks, making this the de facto release of the album.

Grobschnitt – Die Grobschnitt 0. 1971 Germany (archival)

Die Grobschnitt Story 0 is all about the earliest incarnation of Kapelle Elias Grobschnitt (1971), and as such, much of the material will also be found on the self-titled Grobschnitt album. In fact, the entire first album is presented here, but in slightly different form (no string quartet for example) - though there are not enough differences to make this an essential purchase - on its own that is...

....However there is close to 30 minutes of unique material here, starting with track 6 'About My Town' (8:56), a very fine jazz inflicted progressive rock number with plenty of those great Lupo guitar solos. 'Fallstone' (5:25) follows with Eroc's martial drumming leading the way while Wildschwein shreds away on rhythm guitar and Lupo once again comes in with some fine solos. Disc 2 opens with 'Das D-Lied' (4:03) and 'Das Teelied' (3:15) both splendid little psychedelic blues rock numbers in the Krautrock tradition. 'Die Maschine' (7:49) is perhaps the best of them all, starting out with power chords like early Black Sabbath. But at the point where you would expect Iommi to start riffing, the band goes into jazzy jamming mode and Lupo unleashes some great wah-wah solos. These 5 tracks alone would have made for a great archival album, so having the bonus of the entire first album in raw form is just icing on the cake. The album closes with a live version of 'Das D-Lied' (4:33) and the final track, on the surface at least, looks like a real boon for collectors: A 31 minute live version of 'Die Sinfonie'. However this is the same bonus track as found on the 1998 Repertoire CD, so if you have that already, then nothing new here. All in all, a fantastic historical document from one of Germany's finest progressive rock bands of the 70s.

Personal collection
CD: 2010 Made in Germany

Made in Germany is the next venture from a former SPV executive. The quality of the physical product is impressive, and is first class all the way. Features include a tri-fold digipak holding 2 CDs and extensive liner notes from Eroc himself.

Cai - Mas Allá de Nuestras Mentes Diminutas. 1978 Spain

Progressive rock and jazz fusion meet Flamenco styled rhythms is what Cai's debut is about. 1978 Spain is filled with similar albums and Cai is an excellent representative of the Rock Andaluz movement. Others have called out comparisons to Iman Califato Independiente, and that's a really good reference for this album. Cai later signed to a major label and released two further albums, more geared towards the fusion aspect of their sound. I have them both and we'll cover at some point.

Personal collection
LP: 1987 Soviso

The 1987 release is an exact replica of the 1978 original gatefold. Though pressed in Spain, it was primarily made for the Japanese market. And that's exactly where my copy came from - a Japanese dealer in the late 1980s. A local friend has the Lacochu original and there are scant differences between them.

The CD, by all accounts (and there are many), is a very poor vinyl transfer and thus I've avoided buying one. Not sure why more care wasn't applied - my vinyl reissue sounds perfect! Even if the masters were lost, most assuredly someone else in Spain has one of these mint LPs from 1987 like myself. The reissue is a 2 CD set released by one of the members of the band and he added his own solo music for disc 2. Because it is legit, I don't have it featured on the CDRWL, but here's my plea for a better CD! Maybe the Japanese dealers can convince them to try for a mini-LP version, similar to what they did in 1987? It would be a great candidate for a mini-LP in any case since the gatefold cover is indeed striking.

Group 1850 – Agemo’s Trip to Mother Earth. 1968 Netherlands

By all rights, the Dutch music ensemble Group 1850 should hold the same mythic stature that Pink Floyd obtained. First of all, Group 1850 represent Continental Europe's first progressive rock band. Their compositions are designed for the tripped-out effect: Organ overlays, relentless throbbing bass, active percussion, spacey / phased voices and, best of all, an acidic guitar tone that uses every bit of studio trickery and tone affectation available at the time.

Clearly a parallel group to Pink Floyd, Agemo's Trip to Mother Earth is taken from the same cloth as Saucerful of Secrets. In retrospect though, Group 1850's work is more creative - which one may expect from a Continental band without any commercial restraints. Sure, there are some pure psychedelic moments to be had - but just hearing the title track (technically titled 'I Put My Hands on Your Shoulder') should put anyone in awe who can hear this from an historical perspective. There just flat out wasn't anything like this in 1968 . The fuzz guitar, the trippy voices, the acid induced phased effects, and the drumming (oh my - the drumming). It's a true masterpiece in the field of psychedelic progressive music.

Personal collection
CD: 1997 Pseudonym
LP: 1999 Pseudonym

Group 1850's debut was groundbreaking in many ways, including the original LP cover: A fantastic gatefold with a 3-D cover complete with glasses! The original Dutch pressing is the only one that was 3-D whereas the original UK press (also on Philips) had a focused picture which has a blue hue to it. Because the original cover appears fuzzy, I chose the UK LP cover (above) for this entry.

My first copy of this album was the rather shoddy SPM release which has little to offer. But 1997's Pseudonym CD is like the LP, and it also comes with a 3-D cover and features a whopping 13 bonus tracks. Group 1850's 45's were just as "out there" as their LP tracks, so these bonus songs are enlightening. Two years later, Pseudonym went forward with an exact LP replica. They did such a good job, I haven't felt it necessary to fork over for an original, even though this is a favorite album. The LP does not have any bonus tracks however.

Franck Dervieux – Dimension M. 1972 Canada

Dervieux's album is the root system for later bands such as Contraction and Ville Emard Blues Band. Keyboard heavy progressive rock, with a looser structure, making it highly appealing on repeated listens. A very important album, and one of Quebec's finest.

Personal collection
LP: 1972 Columbia
CD: 2012 ProgQuebec

The original features a wonderful textured gatefold cover, and comes with a full 4 page insert. The CD features unique liner notes, photos and an English translation of the original insert. It is transferred from vinyl, but they did their best to maintain the integrity of the original sound. This has been a much anticipated reissue, and many are glad to see it's finally surfaced.

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...