Takeshi Inomata & Sound Limited - Innocent Canon. 1971 Japan

Takeshi Inomata & Sound Limited - Innocent Canon. 1971 King

CD reissues: 2007 King; 2012 King

Packaging details: "Innocent Canon" is another one of those hopelessly obscure Japanese underground albums that few know about. Inomata himself is a known jazzer, but like many of his contemporaries, he went out of his mind with psychedelic music between 1970-1972. The first CD press went by before anyone noticed. Now you have a second chance, and I certainly didn't miss it this time. I'd make the same suggestion to you all before this disappears into the mists of time. The artwork throughout features some very weird erotic sketches.

Notes: If the movie "Lost in Translation" had been made in 1971 instead of 2003, then "Innocent Canon" would most certainly have been its soundtrack. Forget the fictional Sausalito with their hipster lounge covers of forgotten Mary Butterworth tunes, and cozy-up with Sound Limited and their groovy late 60s Beat Club smackdown. This is the psychedelic soundtrack of your imagination, but never actually witnessed. One complete acid drenched freakout by a deranged Japanese jazz big band, where the action takes place in a carnival funhouse rather than the video arcade. They even lift the phased-drum-with-narration-bit from no less a luminary than Group 1850's "Agemo's Trip From Mother Earth". Damn, this is awesome.

Micah - I'm Only One Man. 1971 USA

Micah - I'm Only One Man. 1971 Sterling Award.

CD reissue: 2013 Shadoks (Germany)

LP reissue: 2012 Shadoks (Germany)

Packaging details: Absolutely one of the rarest American private pressings. I had never even heard of it until my buddy Heavyrock played his original for me about 7 years ago. So unless you have a nice trust fund going, you'll probably want to fork over for one of the Shadoks reissues. I opted for the CD, which has just recently been released. The LP is a rather simple single sleeve, typical of US pressings of the era. The CD features plenty of historical notes, a recent interview (which you can also find online), and photos to supplement this issue. It's unfortunately a rather short album (< 30 minutes) and there are no bonus tracks. Don't let that deter you though, as it's 29 minutes of excellence with no wasted moments.

Notes: Micah started in Terre Haute, Indiana before relocating to upstate New York. "I'm Only One Man" is head and shoulders above most of these hard rock / psych US private pressings from 1971. Long runs of guitar and organ solos, with a great vibe throughout. I love the way the Hammond is played in a choppy manner, with the wah wah guitar solos layered on top. Incredible bluesy soulful vocals. Just nonstop (I mean nonstop) kickass music, the way you want every single one of these type of obscure private albums to sound, but sadly they rarely do. Only bummer is that Side 2 is only 11 minutes long. For me, Micah's music is the definition of BAD ASS. They exude early 70's coolness. Micah are the perfect realization of Uriah Heep now that I think about it. Or Gregg Rolie era Santana. About as good as it gets for the style.

The Old Man & The Sea - s/t. 1972 Denmark

The Old Man & The Sea - s/t. 1972 Sonet

(moving this entry forward to call out the new stunning Shadoks LP reissue!)

CD reissues: 2003 Dunk; 2011 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissue: 2013 Shadoks (Germany)

Packaging details: For as long as I've been collecting progressive rock (mid 1980s), The Old Man & The Sea's sole album has probably been Scandinavia's most sought after major label record, along with Junipher Green's debut. As such, it was always too expensive for me to buy a copy. Unfortunately, for years on end, this album thrived strictly in the bootleg market - both on LP and CD. Then in 2003, unbeknownst to everyone (including me) there was an authentic CD put out by a small label called Dunk. No one even carried it for sale! And it was just as obscure as the album itself, though not as expensive of course. Finally, in 2011, Marquee's Belle Antique put out a fresh copy completely remastered by former band member Tommy Hansen - who also happens to now be a famous producer. This is an unusual move for Belle Antique, who are usually content to put fancy packaging on already remastered CDs. So the only way to really get a quality CD reissue of The Old Man & The Sea is to fork over for the Japanese mini-LP. As for the packaging, the original gatefold album cover is stunning - thus a perfect vehicle for the mini-LP format. And recently Shadoks has come through with a beautiful LP reissue. The thick gatefold has been replicated perfectly, and includes an insert with a full history and interview. They even received permission from Universal to use the original orange Sonet label!

Notes: Musically speaking, The Old Man & The Sea fits squarely in the Scandinavian / Northern European sophisticated heavy rock bag. Heavy organ and guitar lead the instrumental solo sections, while rough English vocals add a bluesy feel to the proceedings. It's definitely influenced by the "Vertigo" UK sound, but of course deep divers will likely recognize other Scandinavian acts such as Norway's Ruphus (first album) or Host, Finland's Kalevala, and Sweden's November. Excellent album.

Missus Beastly - Dr. Aftershave and the Mixed Pickles. 1976 Germany

Missus Beastly - Dr. Aftershave and the Mixed Pickles. 1976 April

CD reissue: 2011 Garden of Delights

Dr. Aftershave and The Mixed-Pickles sees Missus Beastly moving onto the more-in-fashion funky sounds of the era, while still building on the jazz rock of the 1974 album. Anyone who is familiar with Embryo's Bad Heads and Bad Cats will immediately recognize the sounds here (and they share many members between the groups). Worth noting this is the first album on the April label, later renamed Schneeball for legal reasons.

The original LP comes in a folder cover, without borders. And recently I've supplemented that LP with the much anticipated Garden of Delights CD. It features two excellent bonus tracks (taken from the Umsonst und Draussen festivals - also featured in this blog), great sound, thick booklet with history, and photos. Superb reissue as always. Worth noting this was the first album on the April label, later renamed Schneeball for legal reasons.

Missus Beastly - SWF Session 1974. Germany

Missus Beastly - SWF Session 1974. 2012 Long Hair (LP and CD). Archival recording

Hmm! So we have an interesting one here. The question is: Are you willing to buy an alternate version of the 1974 Missus Beastly album? If the answer is yes, then definitely get this. If not, read on. I'm disappointed in Long Hair for not mentioning the similarities between the two. And the lackluster liner notes make no explanation as to why some of the tracks have different names than on their vinyl counterpart. It's worth noting that these recordings (two different sessions) were recorded near the dates of the studio release, so the similarities with the actual album are certainly understandable from the band's perspective.

The album begins with 'Fly Away', which is track 6 on the Nova album. It's a great example of why the original album is so brilliant in my eyes (the album itself is a 5 star/Gnosis 14 Masterpiece as far as I'm concerned - see yesterday's entry for more detail).

But now the problems start. The second track would appear to be unique, if titles are what we go on here: 'Simsalabim'. But the melody is instantly recognizable and, sure enough, it's the 'Paranoidl' track from the LP.

Now things really get weird. Track 3 is 'Talle', which turns out to be '20th Century Break' on the original, and happens to be one of my favorite tracks of all-time. No mention, as I stated earlier, as to why the difference in track titles. To make matters worse, 'Talle' from the LP is the ONLY track not on the SWF Session. Good grief - what a mess.

'Free Clinic' is a unique track, though there is a longer improvised live version on the GoD reissue (as a bonus track).

'Geisha' is a pretty faithful representative of the LP version. 'Space in the Place' is the first truly new piece (I think) represented here. But at just two minutes, there's not much to grab onto.

'Song For Ann' is a beautiful Dieter Miekautsch piano piece - except it too was released on the (get ready) Missing Link album from 1972 (Missing Link... Missus Beastly. Ay-yi-yi. Keeping up with me here?). It's slightly different than the LP version, but not by much.

'Dauerwurst', like 'Simsalabim', is not new. It's a renamed version of 'Vacuum Cleaner Dance' from the Nova LP. It's driving me nuts why none of this has been mentioned before!

'Julia' is a lively rendition of the Nova album opener. Different enough to be exciting, and perhaps what this SWF could have been about. But no.

And we get to the last two tracks - which are finally unique. 'Serenade to a Soul Sister' is no doubt an embryonic version of 'Vloflutho' which shows up as a bonus track on GoD's CD of the '74 album.

Had I not heard most of this material before, this would be a solid 5 star/14 Gnosis rating. But.... 3.5 / Gnosis 10 it must be.

Missus Beastly - s/t. 1974 Germany

Missus Beastly - s/t. 1974 Nova

CD reissue: 2005 Garden of Delights

LP reissue: 2013 Garden of Delights

The evolution to a Masterpiece status (Gnosis 14; RYM 5 star) is a strange phenomenon. Like many albums at first glance, Missus Beastly's second album struck me simply as better than average (3.5 stars as it were). That was over 15 years ago when I first heard it. As the years went by, something about the album kept drawing me to it. Not all masterpiece albums take this long of course, but this is one of those albums that gets into your skin and just won't let go. It's now to the point where the measuring stick for all things jazz rock must go up against it. Cosmic Dreams At Play says of this album "uninspired slick fusion", which could not be further from the truth. The rhythm section here is amazing, jet propelled, sporadic, and energetic. The piano playing is divine, frequently compared to McCoy Tyner's best work. The dual sax/flute combination drives the melody and solo lines and they're always in control. And the tunes are memorable long after the music has stopped as perhaps best exemplified by '20th Century Break'. A brilliant album.

And now we finally can hear the masters tape version on CD, thanks to Garden of Delights. Comes with 4 bonus tracks, which demonstrates a much rawer and looser Missus Beastly, but still very engaging.

Personally I find the LP cover absolutely hideous, and downright offensive. According to the CD liner notes, the band had no artistic control of this situation, and it appears to be the poor judgment of the label themselves. The cover doesn't represent the style of music at all. The CD is definitely the way to go here, with full liner notes, photos, and additional bonus tracks.

Many Bright Things - Many Bright Friends. 2005 USA

Many Bright Things - Many Bright Friends. 2005 Gates of Dawn 

CD issue: 2005 Wild Places

For my tastes, Many Bright Things' best work is Many Bright Friends, which features [i]the best[/i] cover version of Paul Butterfield Blues Band's 1966 classic 'East West'. All modern bands should revisit this Indo-blues classic on how to lay down a groove and then improvise on top. Guest Nick Salomon (Bevis Frond) lays the studio to waste, only to be immediately followed by Al Simones' incendiary and violent solo, that concludes one of the greatest one-two punches I've ever had the pleasure to hear. The other tracks on the album unfortunately don't stack up, but the 21 minute 'East West' more than makes up for any shortcomings.

Missus Beastly - s/t. 1970 Germany

Missus Beastly - s/t. 1970 CPM

CD reissue: 2002 Garden of Delights

LP reissues: 1971 OPP (as Nara Asst Incense); 2000 Tripkick; 2012 Garden of Delights

Missus Beastly's debut is squarely in the psychedelic blues rock camp, and is significantly different than their later (and brilliant IMO) jazz rock albums. Highlights here are the gloomy organ, Mississippi Delta blues guitar, and downer vocals. Definitely strives for a down and out American alley sound. And succeeds for the most part. 

Missus Beastly's debut album is one of the earliest examples of a studio album being pirated and resold (Nara Asst Incense). While this has sadly become common practice in the CD era, it was very rare in the early 70s when the industry was more tightly controlled. I mention it here only as an historical curiosity, rather than as a recommendation to look for it. Needless to say, the CD and LP versions from Garden of Delights is where you'll want to focus your buying power. The GoD LP duplicates the brilliant gatefold cover, and provides full liner notes. This is the version I own. Originals on CPM are extremely rare and expensive. The OPP version, as expected given its legal status, is much easier to find.

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'...