Rictus - Christelle ou la Decouverte du Mal. 1981 France

Rictus - Christelle ou la Decouverte du Mal. 1981 Le Kiosque D'Orphee

CD reissue: 2012 Strawberry Rain (Canada)

LP reissue: 2012 Strawberry Rain (Canada)

Packaging details: 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. My buddy Heavyrock first played the original LP for me over at his place (about 5 years ago), and the AC followed up with a CD-R. Prior to that, I had never seen a copy, though 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. To the rescue comes Strawberry Rain, who just released this album in both LP and CD forms. I bought the CD immediately, and it comes 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. Overall, a fantastic job from an up and coming reissue label that I'm calling the Canadian Shadoks.

Notes:  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). 

Moving Gelatine Plates - Removing. 2006 France

Moving Gelatine Plates - Removing. 2006 Musea (CD)

As far as this author is concerned, the first two albums from the French group Moving Gelatine Plates are as superb as any albums ever recorded. It is, in fact, their raison d'être. As such, I'm separating this newer album from their two classic 1970s works.

It was with great anxiety, trepidation and anticipation that I approached their brand new recording, some 34 years later (not counting 1980’s Moving project). Most reunion albums are disasters, perhaps pointing out that the band in question may have not ever understood why their previous works are held in high esteem. Occasionally a band will reform, like fellow countrymen Magma, and pick up right where they left off and wow audiences as they did in the past. With the original logo intact, and montage cover art, there were some propitious signs to hold out hope. When I heard the loud, aggressive and massively fuzzy bass to start the title track, I was certain that MGP did truly understand their place in history. But my excitement was quickly quelled with the brassy-patch digital keyboard that followed, suggesting this was going to be another modern instrumental rock album that has as much in common with smooth jazz as it does with old school prog (the obscure French 90s band Alambic comes to mind here). And, more or less, that’s about right. “Removing” is much more rock based than the jazzy Canterbury inspired group of yore. The drumming is very straight forward and there’s none of the quirky charm from before. As a plus, the fuzz bass continues throughout, the guitar playing is generally excellent and the violin is a very welcome addition. With one exception, “Removing” is split between two styles: 1) Harder rocking tracks and 2) Light rock-jazz instrumentals with soprano sax in the lead.  Both styles feature some sparse, unobtrusive vocals. Songs such as ‘Like a Flower’, ‘Comme Avant’, ‘Nico’ and closer ‘Theo’ represent the former while ‘Enigme’, ‘Bellidor’ and ‘Waiting For the Rain’ are of the latter. The one track that moves the ball forward in a positive way is ‘Breakdown’, which represents both something new (for MGP), challenging and satisfying, with a slight nod to past glories. So a mixed bag, that neither completely disappoints or rewards. It’s a relevant release and, for reunion albums, comes in maybe a notch below Trettioariga Kriget’s “Elden Av Ar”. It does take awhile for a group to gel and regain that old magic (even for a band like Magma this was the case), so hopefully they’ll hold it together a bit longer and create some brilliance as they once had done. (sigh... it does not appear that transpired).

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


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

CD reissue: 1993 Musea

Packaging details: Pretty much the same story to tell as the debut regarding the availability of the original LP. Only that MGP's second LP is even more scarce, since it didn't sell as well initially. I bought my 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 I said about the debut, "The World of Genius Hans" is another album that I think would be successful in the LP reissue market. 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.The band reformed in 2006 for one more album, that I will cover in parallel for today's UTR post.

Notes: 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.

Moving Gelatine Plates - s/t. 1971 France

Moving Gelatine Plates - s/t. 1971 CBS

CD reissue: 1992 Musea

Packaging details: The original LP has always been tough to score, despite it selling relatively well in their native France. Moving Gelatine Plates' debut album wasn't part of the normal import distribution channels, and thus didn't find its way to America back in the day. I bought one 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. Surprisingly there hasn't been a legit LP reissue to surface, especially given the scarcity of product in the market. 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.

Notes: 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!

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

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

CD reissue: 2009 Sireena

Packaging details: One of the more obscure albums on Sky, though it never was particularly expensive or collectable as an original. Like most titles on the label, this one took some time to find its way to CD. Via Sireena's Sky Records reissue campaign, both this and their followup album (which we're not featuring) were given the proper digital treatment. It's a nice digi-pak reissue, with liner notes detailing the history of the band. I personally only own the CD.

Notes: 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.

Tamarisk - Frozen in Time. 1982-1983 England



Tamarisk - s/t. 1982 private cassette
Tamarisk - Lost Properties. 1983 private cassette

CD reissue: 2012 private (as Frozen in Time). Compiles both cassettes onto one CD.

Packaging details: 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.

Notes: 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.

Zoppo Trump - s/t. 1971-1976 Germany

Zoppo Trump - s/t. 2009 Garden of Delights. Archival recordings from 1971, 1972, and 1976.

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.

Eye - Center of the Sun. 2011 USA

Eye - Center of the Sun. 2011 Kemado 

CD reissue: 2015 private

When you name your band Eye and your first album is entitled Center of the Sun, then you are more than likely to draw comparisons to early Nektar. And indeed that is just what this Columbus based band seems to be aiming for: Journey to the Center of 1971 Nektar. Early Pink Floyd would also have to be mentioned, only in that Nektar themselves were indebted to those that set their controls for the heart of the sun. A sufficiently muddy production - complete with fuzz bass, distorted guitar, mellotron, and disembodied voices - will likely enthrall anyone who thought 1972 was way too glossy of a year. And honestly, what can one complain about? It's not exactly like the world is filled with Nektar copy bands. Sit back and enjoy a new interpretation, if "new" is a term one is allowed to utilize here. No CD for this album (OK, so the band did release it on CD in 2015). One needs to leave the fuzzball on the needle to truly appreciate.

San Michael's - Nattåg. 1972 Sweden

San Michael's - Nattåg. 2009 Transubstans; 2009 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP). Archival recording from 1972.

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.

Victor Peraino's Kingdom Come - No Man's Land. 1975 USA



Victor Peraino's Kingdom Come - No Man's Land. 1975 private
Victor Peraino's Kingdom Come - Were Next. 1981 private. EP

CD reissues: 2010 Black Widow (Italy); 2010 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

Packaging details: 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. Of course at that point my CD wasn't worth much. Nor should have it been. 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. And I guess that would be the only reason to own the more expensive version. For me, the Black Widow CD is ideal. 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.

Notes: 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.

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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.

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'...