Rictus - Christelle ou la Decouverte du Mal. 1981 France

Rictus' debut is very much a deep underground album from France. Raw and primitive overall but with some cool compressed fuzz guitar sounds and a vintage 60's organ to go along with Fender Rhodes, Moog and even some cheap 1980's era synthesizers. At times the album recalls Nuance's Il est une Legende, especially concerning the ferocious fuzz guitar leads. There's also some dramatic Ange style vocals that are reassuring in this setting. There's almost nothing 1980s about this album, other than the aforementioned keyboards (and even at that, they are rarely deployed).

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Strawberry Rain (Canada)

An extremely rare album, the original LP was pressed in a limited edition of 250 copies for friends and fans, with the surplus ending up in a village record store. I can remember having this one on a curiosity list going back to the mid 1990s. Le Kiosque D'Orphee is a very similar label to FLVM, and was basically an LP pressing plant for those who could provide a master tape. The CD is housed in a nice mini-LP sleeve, complete with liner notes, photos, and bonus tracks. The bonus tracks are from later versions of the band. The leader of Rictus was directly involved with this reissue. 

Moving Gelatine Plates - The World of Genius Hans. 1972 France

Everything I love about the debut is magnified and enhanced on their second and final 70s album. They cut the excess (lengthy solos, including the worthless drum bit) while increasing the complexity, the instrumentation, as well as the melodic content. Regarding the latter, an incredible 450 themes were incorporated into these compositions. The end result is nothing short of astounding. I often read reviews where the opening 14 minute title track is mind blowing, and the remainder trails off. I agree with the assessment of the first track. However the album actually improves from there. The shorter tracks allow even more ideas per second to flow through. In fact, I'd say the two best tracks are the ones they chose for a single ('Funny Doll', 'Cauchemar') which I've included in the images above. MGP can do no wrong it seems. Overall, I find the album highly memorable long after the music has stopped. Considering the complexity, that's an extraordinary accomplishment. Most of these complex instrumental albums, especially in modern times, are cold and clinical. Moving Gelatine Plates proves that does not have to be the case, and should be held up as a role model for future generations.

Most everyone has a favorite album. This is mine. A perfect 100 out of a 100.

Depending on my mood, I could also say the cover is my all-time favorite. It's completely captivating, and appeals to my sense of humor.

Personal collection
LP: 1972 CBS
CD: 1993 Musea

I bought my LP copy in 1999 on ebay from a French dealer, before prices became the equivalent to mortgage payments. If there ever was an album I would run into a towering inferno to save, this would be it. If I was forced to sell my collection, this would be the very last album I'd part with. You'd have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers. As far as the CD, Musea once again blows away any potential competition. They also conclude the Moving (1980) album with the remaining bonus tracks. Both formats are essential purchases. As an aside, I also own the original Moving LP. But I'm a fanatic.

Moving Gelatine Plates - s/t. 1971 France

I suppose it was inevitable that I would eventually blog about my all-time favorite group from the 1970s. I know that's a strange thing to say for a band that only managed two albums in a two year period. However, Moving Gelatine Plates has the perfect recipe for my aural appetite. They feature the rare combination of being both memorably melodic and academically complex. They are affable, fun, and approachable. They were all about music and not about leftist politics (hard to find bands like that in the early 1970s French political landscape). The sounds they chose were thick, fat and wedgy - fuzz bass, loud acid guitar, trumpet, sax and flute. And perhaps best of all: They rocked like a motherf*cker. The opening track 'London Cab' is absolutely perfect, and a great example of MGP's overall sound. The only weakness found on the album is the overlong drum solo on 'Last Song', that I'm sure the band would agree on reflection, is completely unnecessary. There is no doubt that they were influenced by the Canterbury bands of Soft Machine and Caravan. But Moving Gelatine Plates takes the concepts of melody, composition, and rock energy to its logical extreme. They are Canterbury extract, in the same way that "Presents From Nancy" era Supersister was - but MGP was even more fleshed out considering the expanded instrumental lineup. All the good stuff stayed in, while the waste was filtered out. And to think they actually improved on their next album!

Personal collection
LP: 1971 CBS
CD: 1992 Musea

I bought my original LP from a Norwegian dealer in the late 1990s and is one of my treasured originals. They'll be tossing this album in along with the dirt when they bury me. There's only been one CD reissue, but as usual Musea closes the door on all potential competition with a high quality release, complete with detailed liners and photos. As a bonus, they provide half of the Moving album from 1980 (to be completed on the second MGP reissue). I bought this CD immediately upon release in 1992, and it will no doubt remain with me until the end.

Shaa Khan - The World Will End on Friday. 1978 Germany

Before Sky became an almost exclusively electronic label, they experimented a bit with symphonic progressive rock. Shaa Khan, Octopus and Ramses are three of their most known bands in this specialty area of music. Shaa Khan is yet another laid back German progressive rock band. Bands like Novalis, Jane, Eloy, and Grobschnitt were huge influences in their day and Shaa Khan draws directly from this well. Of course, Pink Floyd must be mentioned in this context, simply to note their global influence at the time. The English vocals are awkward, a feeble attempt at performing both a Peter Gabriel and/or David Gilmour style. Nice guitar leads, copious mellotron/Hammond organ use, and the album features 5 long compositions, so an easy recommendation to traditional progressive rock fans. File along with Faithful Breath, Indigo, Pancake, Fly, Minotaurus, Albatros, and a host of others from the late 1970s German scene.

Interesting to note that Conny Plank would have agreed to produce this, had they chosen the German language. As such, it was recommended they record with Dieter Dierks, who was recording The Scorpions' Taken By Force at the same time. Apparently some spirited soccer matches between the bands occurred during the recordings.

Personal collection
CD: 2009 Sireena

One of the more obscure albums on Sky. Like most titles on the label, this one took some time to find its way to CD. It's a nice digi-pak reissue, with liner notes detailing the history of the band.

Tamarisk - Frozen in Time. 1982-1983 England

Tamarisk reminds me of everything I like about the NWOBPR scene. They're tight, melodic, fast, and reasonably complex. The vocalist sounds like every other UK vocalist who spent a wasted youth with his dogeared Genesis albums (I mean that as a compliment). The guitar playing, in particular, is well done. And lots of mellotron on Lost Properties. All in all, very satisfying material.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 private (as Frozen in Time)

The two cassettes are very obscure, and I personally had never even heard of Tamarisk back in the day, even though I was already deep diving the NWOBPR scene in the early 1980s. Moe Curly turned me onto them via a CD-R only a few years back, and thus they became a feature on our CDRWL site. Frozen in Time is a well done private CD reissue of Tamarisk's two albums made by the band. The first 4 tracks are from the Lost Properties EP cassette (1983), whereas tracks 5 to 7 are from their debut EP cassette (1982). There are no bonus tracks.

Zoppo Trump - s/t. 1971-1972; 1976 Germany (archival)

The first two tracks here are when Zoppo Trump still existed as a guitar/keys-bass-drums trio. The music has a certain sophistication, but is also quite informed by the West Coast USA psych sound. At this point, they could be considered a parallel group to Walpurgis. Summary: Good not great. However change was on the horizon. Adding dedicated guitarist Ulrich Beck in 1972, which freed up band leader Ferdi Eberth on the Hammond organ, resulted in a remarkable progression for the band. As represented by tracks 3 to 7, Zoppo Trump sound more like their Krautrock contemporaries who adopted jazz characteristics as additives to their psychedelic Krautrock stew. Comparisons to bands such as Out of Focus, Thirsty Moon and Eiliff would not be an exaggeration here.  This gets us to the two previously released tracks from 1976, that were initially on the "Scena Westphalica"* compilation. Eberth rebuilt the band from the ground up, himself switching back to guitar, while adding three new members on keyboards/sax, bass, and drums. Here the band trades in their psychedelic Krautrock chips for a sound entrenched in more standard forms of jazz rock. Overall, an extraordinary musical document, which clearly demonstrates that Zoppo Trump could very well have released one of the all-time great Krautrock albums had they the proper chance. Only drawback is the less than stellar sound quality throughout (though still very listenable and miles better than bootleg standard).

*According to the liner notes, Garden of Delights states clearly that "Scena Westphalica" was released in 1976. They also opine that, in addition to Zoppo Trump, "the other tracks on the compilation album, by the way, are not of any interest for progressive fans." I have not heard the album myself, but I'm inclined to believe them all the same. I'm going to guess then, that the Electric Mud Orchestra, while no doubt related to the 1971 band (and bass player Udo Preising was the owner of the label Förderturm and a member of Electric Mud - and later was in Zoppo Trump - hence the connection), is in no way musically similar. As of course the Electric Mud album itself is "of interest" to progressive fans.

Personal collection
CD: 2009 Garden of Delights

San Michael's - Nattåg. 1972 Sweden (archival)

Honestly I wasn't too impressed with the sole LP from San Michael's (also reissued in 2009 by Transubstans). But this archival recording of their second album from 1972 shows considerable improvement. Here the arrangements are more sophisticated, the instruments (especially the Hammond organ, electric guitar, bass, flute, and horn section) are allowed more latitude, and the album is definitely geared towards the burgeoning progressive rock movement, rather than the bubblegum orientation of their California label album. Of course, it should come as no surprise to us, since San Michael's is the root system for none other than Kaipa - who themselves later spawned The Flower Kings (which begat Kaipa's own reunion, and is still active as I write this). And while San Michael's clearly hadn't shed its pop orientation, most of these short tracks are still quite complex in their own right.

The reason the album wasn't released in its day was due to the bankruptcy of the California label, and the unwillingness of any other label (major or minor) to sign them. They were about 2 years ahead of their time for Swedish audiences, but no doubt a band as majestic as Trettioariga Kriget would have lent an ear to this group while touring throughout the land.

Personal collection
CD: 2009 Transubstans

Victor Peraino's Kingdom Come - No Man's Land + Were Next. 1975; 1981 USA

Despite being originally associated with Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come as their flamboyant keyboardist, Victor Peraino is a denizen of Detroit, and his sole LP length album is clearly a product of the 1970's US Midwest. That is to say, a mix of radio friendly AOR music, and all out progressive rock compositions. The difference between the relatively simple 'Demon of Love' (2:30) and the ultra complex 'Empires of Steel' (8:25) back-to-back is jarring to say the least. At once Peraino puts together a radio friendly anthem and then follows with a mellotron fueled hyper-complex progressive piece with fluttering flute and psychedelic guitar solos, right out of Osanna's "Palepoli" songbook. This is followed by the trippy 'Tru' (2:15), an Eastern mystic mellotron piece that no doubt could have been found on a Timothy Leary inspired Kosmische Kourier album. And I suppose it's no surprise that Leary was considered a guru by Peraino himself. Perhaps 'Lady of the Morning' (6:10) is a concise example of the entire USA Midwest progressive movement. The songcraft and choruses are all radio friendly, but the instrumentation (some amazing mellotron, guitar, flute sequences here folks) and progressions point to a more arty pretension. This album could have only come out in the mid 1970's and from a place like Michigan. Really. Nowhere else. It's critical to understand the background of an album like this to truly appreciate it.

Despite many website's efforts to the contrary, as one can plainly see, the EP was released with the grammatically incorrect Were Next title. Or it's just a misspelling, as the first track is called 'Where Next' (many get this wrong too). But as we listen to the lyrics, the song continues with these gems: 'We're next in line'. OK, so Victor Peraino wasn't an English major. Those that were English majors are doing other things now too...

'Demon of Love' is as awful as the album version, but reduced to 1:11, so it's palpable. 'Fire' (2:53) is... well you know the Arthur Brown classic - so it's a cash-in for the related Peraino. Deal with it. 'Athena' (2:06) is an embarrassing Devo styled number (hello Akron!), with a cool progressive rock break. Were Next (sic) serves well only as the bonus tracks on the Black Widow CD.

Personal collection
CD: 2010 Black Widow (Italy)

One of the more mythical of the US privately released progressive rock albums, originals of Victor Peraino's Kingdom Come will set you back well over a $1,000 - probably a multiple of that. For many years, all that existed was a hastily done cheap vinyl transfer CD bootleg out of Japan from 1994. I owned that CD for years and, despite its legal status, was also one of the rarer CDs in my collection. I gladly sold it once the official CD finally surfaced from the great Italian label Black Widow. The Black Widow version is excellent, with superb sound, liner notes from Peraino along with photos, original album covers, etc... They did alter the original cover art (top) by adding psychedelic colors, which isn't a bad idea really. If you want the original art, the Japanese mini-LP restores it exactly. As well, both of these CDs include the 1981 EP Were Next (as did the boot actually), which would only be worth getting as bonus tracks anyway.

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...