Pancake - No Illusions. 1979 Germany

No Illusions is Pancake's third album, and an improvement compared to its two predecessors. Again, guitarist Walter Negele was forced to rebuild the band almost from scratch. Here, Pancake presents a typical German symphonic progressive album with female vocals which veers towards the sound of bands like Octopus circa Boat of Thoughts or Streetmark's Eileen. While the first two albums tended to meander, No Illusions demonstrates a mature band, with tighter arrangements, and a more forceful approach.

Personal collection
LP: 1979 Blubber Lips
CD: 2012 Garden of Delights

Unlike the first two Pancake's, I didn't purchase the LP until a few years ago on ebay - a copy I still own. Kind of a bizarre cover (single sleeve), that crosses the harsh realities of the late 70s with the psychedelic dolls of the original Ohr LP covers. As for the CD, Garden of Delights had this listed for reissue as far back as when they first released the Roxy Elephant album (2003). Then it dropped off their "coming soon" list, and was re-added back a couple of years after that. And finally here is the CD! An excellent job as usual, with full liner notes and photos. As well, this version contains 6 bonus tracks. The first 3 are a set of demos from 1980 that was to be their 4th album. The other grouping is a live reunion from 2002.

Pancake - Out of the Ashes. 1977 Germany

On Out of the Ashes, original guitarist and main songwriter Walter Negele basically had to build the band from the ground up from the prior release. For this lineup he added a keyboardist along with a talented singer, to provide a more symphonic sound than prior. As with Roxy Elephant, same period Jane would have to be looked upon as an influence, since they too had switched to a more spacey sound reflecting their new interest in all things Pink Floyd. This type of sound was hugely popular in Germany at this time, as not only major indigenous bands such as Eloy and Grobschnitt had migrated in this direction, but a host of more unknown groups like Indigo, Fly, and Shaa Khan had also tried their hand had emulating Animals era Floyd. Overall, Out of Ashes demonstrates a more confident Pancake, and is a slight improvement on the debut. But they were to accomplish even more on their final album No Illusions.

Personal collection
CD: 2008 Garden of Delights

The Garden of Delights CD provides a full history of the album, with copious photos, plus one bonus track.

Pancake - Roxy Elephant. 1975 Germany

Pancake's debut is a good representative of the German rock sound of the mid 1970s. So it's not really Krautrock per se, nor Deutschrock, but it definitely has a progressive mindset, with plenty of good ideas. There are no keyboards, and the songs are driven by dual guitars. From a composition perspective, mid 70s Jane and Birth Control would probably be a good guidepost here, but other obscure references would include Poseidon, Madison Dyke, and Prosper. Obviously, Pancake is not where you start your German progressive collection, but for deep divers like myself, this is worth owning. They were to improve from here.

Personal collection
CD: 2003 Garden of Delights

My first copy was the Blubber Lips LP. I didn't realize the Blubber Lips version was a reissue! In any case, this album became a victim of my "great LP purge" of 1995-1996. No regrets really (as is the case with 95% of what I sold via catalog back then), but I have since gone back and picked up the excellent Garden of Delights CD, with complete liner notes, photos, etc... I wish they'd included the two Nyrvana Pancake singles as bonus, rather that putting them on one of GoD's Psychedelic Gems' series of albums. I haven't heard these singles myself, but will check them out on YouTube when I get a chance. One fun fact: Back in the early 90s, when we had a weekly radio show here in DFW, I asked the host how he would describe the album cover. He dutifully started to do so, until he heard myself and others in the studio start busting out laughing. Yea, I know, sophomoric humor right out of Porky's or American Pie. Who said the UMR was highbrow anyway?

Silberbart - 4 Times Sound Razing. 1971 Germany

An appropriately named album, as Silberbart on their sole album provide the listener with four very long freaked out blues psych tracks similar to 'Bo Diddley' era Guru Guru. This isn't an album you hear much about, other than from early 70s hard rock collectors, but it's more towards the psychotic Krautrock sound than the usual straightforward 4/4 blues rock (vocal style notwithstanding). When compared to groups like Hairy Chapter, Haze, Light of Darkness, Dies Irae, Second Life and dozens more, Silberbart is the clear winner.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Long Hair
LP: 2012 Long Hair

I picked up an original of this LP back in my mad "wheeling and dealing" days of the mid 1990s. I was a bit perturbed by the bb hole, and moved it out rather quickly. I should have kept it anyway (though I'm sure I got something great in return for it). As far as reissues, the album was strictly fodder for bootleggers for the entire CD era. Until late last year, when Long Hair finally broke through with a legit issue with Universal's consent. So I finally was able to ditch my own bootleg copy. It's not a great sounding record, as the liner notes of the CD point out that the recordings were made in less than ideal circumstances. But the original doesn't sound any better, this I can assure you.  I bought the reissue LP as well because I always loved that psychedelic gnome cover!

The Eleventh House - Level One. 1975 USA

I personally feel that Level One is a half step up from the debut. All the edgy instrumental work has stayed in, but with stronger songwriting this go round. Coryell's fiery guitar work remains intact, and there's a few melodies to latch onto. A very good fusion album.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Wounded Bird

We've mentioned this before, but Arista initially started as an American response to Virgin, and they signed many interesting progressive bands in their first couple of years of existence. And Larry Coryell saw the label as a good place to sign up his Eleventh House group, after a one year stint with Vanguard. But because of this label shift, Level On" had been absent from the CD market. While the debut is common on CD, Level One had remained without a CD reissue until last year, when Wounded Bird finally came to the rescue. Wounded Bird is never the ideal choice to reissue a CD, but at least they are legit and straight from the masters. No fuss, no muss. And I gladly bought one as soon as it was released. As for the cover, I think we can lay claim that Coryell is the original Leisure Suit Larry!

The Eleventh House - Introducing The Eleventh House With Larry Coryell. 1974 USA

No doubt that guitarist Larry Coryell, seeing the success of peers such as John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, and Joe Zawinul, stated something along the lines of "Hey, I can do that!". And so he compiled his own all-star lineup including legendary players such as Randy Brecker (trumpet) and Alphonse Mouzon (drums). And off to the studio they went, to demonstrate the immense amount of chops they possess. The songwriting on the debut is a bit of an afterthought - rather its sole purpose seems to be a springboard for complex instrumental sections and showboating solos. Still it's always great to hear musicians, as talented as these guys obviously are, to plug in and rock their brains out. All the mid 70s musical trappings are baked in here - so you'll get your fill of rock, jazz, funk, and tropical. You can't miss on this one if fusion is your bag.

Personal collection
CD: 1990 Vanguard

Like most albums on Vanguard, the cover art is quite interesting. The CD is a straight reissue, with no extras of any sort. It's too bad the album has been commoditized in this fashion. It's highly unlikely, at this point, that any specialist label would take it on.

William Sheller - Lux Aeterna. 1972 France

William Sheller (nee Hand), will never be mistaken for a subversive underground rocker. He comes from a well-to-do past and was formally trained in music at various academies. And while he had a passing interest in rock music, like everyone else due to the mid 60s fun of The Beatles, it was never his true passion. Lux Aeterna was composed to celebrate the marriage of dear friends (you can just picture the gallant ball already). This is true symphonic progressive rock. Sheller didn't need cheap imitations like mellotron to produce what he had envisioned. He had a whole orchestra and choir at his disposal! Of course there is a significant rock element present, which is how it hit the underground collecting channels. The lush, but dark, nature of the compositions coupled with psychedelic guitar and drums is a very powerful musical statement. The album gets heavier and darker as it goes, and thus the acid guitar solos really pack a punch in this setting. A truly exquisite work, and proves that Sheller - had he wanted to - could have been a brilliant progressive rock "star". But that would have been far too restraining for the young Sheller, and he has since gone on to release dozens of albums in a variety of styles. Lux Aeterna is the perfect complement to the Jean-Claude Vannier L’enfant Assassin des Mouches album.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Omni (Australia)

My first copy of this album was the second LP press featuring the dapper Sheller on the cover. The top cover is the original, which is also (fortunately) used on both of the CDs. The 1980s press was one of the rarest CDs in my collection for many years. It was pressed in France by Columbia and distributed, I think exclusively, by Marquee in Japan. It came with a full back plate obi, with a biography of Sheller, written entirely in kanji. I traded for one out of Japan sometime in the 90s, and I don't think I ever saw a copy again. The CD was so obscure that when Omni came along with their CD reissue, they stated it was the first legitimate press on the market. There were pirate editions floating about, so I can understand why they said that. But the 1980s press is absolutely legit - but no one knew about it!

All this to say that the Omni CD is by far the best way to go if you're looking to own this. It too has proven to be a bit difficult to obtain here in the US. Not only does the CD feature the entire Lux Aeterna in its best sound yet, but you also get the very rare 1969 Erotissimo EP and no less than 8 other rare singles recorded from 1967 to 1970. One of these singles was a huge hit in France called 'My Year is a Day', a Sheller penned song for an American student group (sons of diplomats living in Paris) called Les Irresistables. The financial windfall from that single helped to fund Lux Aeterna. We learn all of this from the fantastic liner notes of the CD. A great job all around. It would be great if Omni reached a little further into the vaults and released the Popera Cosmic album, which Sheller produced. It too will need bonus tracks, since I recall it being under 30 minutes long.

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...