Sunday, December 29, 2013

Jimmy, Yoko and Shin - Sei Shonagon. 1978 Japan

Jimmy, Yoko and Shin - Sei Shonagon. 1978 Three Blind Mice

CD reissue: 2013 Think! / Three Blind Mice (mini-LP)

Packaging: A very obscure album that I never even heard of until about 3 years ago. Disc Union's Think!, the same label behind the Genshi Kyodotai reissue, has come to the rescue again. I believe Three Blind Mice is under the Sony brand now and this is a co-release. Absolutely fantastic sound and it really opened up the album for me. The CD comes in the now standard paper/cardboard miniature LP sleeve. Also features the original booklet insert. A fantastic reissue.

American buyers: Like with many of the really obscure Japanese releases, it's always worth a look over at Dusty Groove to see if they're carrying it. That's where I bought mine. It's not cheap, but worth it considering it will likely go OOP very quickly and shoot up in price.

Notes: Even though Jimmy, Yoko and Shin are on the cult underground Japanese jazz label Three Blind Mice, their sole album is square-on progressive rock. There are 3 long tracks that are as much informed by ELP as they are by the Japanese freaky underground of Rock Joint Biwa and George Hirota. The latter groups are more evident in the indigenous vocal led sections. And occasionally they catch a toe-tapping groove with organ and piano jamming on top. To be truthful, there really is no other album like it, and as such it's truly a rare gem. It's a grower for sure.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Flight - Incredible Journey. 1976 USA

Flight - Incredible Journey. 1976 Capitol

CD reissue: 2013 Eastworld (UK)

Packaging: "Incredible Journey" is a relatively common major label single sleeve release. As such, I was very surprised to see this title receive a CD reissue. Eastworld is an old school reissue label, similar to Wounded Bird. Straightforward late 80s styled jewel case reissues, with no bonus tracks or info beyond what was on the original LP - and in this case it includes the lyrics. But it's better than nothing. Definitely an album worth owning! No word on the debut album. Hopefully Eastworld considers that as well.

Notes: Florida based Flight's second album is a super tight and intense fusion like Return to Forever.... mixed with AOR Midwest styled 1970s FM pomp like Styx or Starcastle. Just the most bizarre blend of contrasting styles one can imagine. As if the band were made fun of for being musical wizards, so in order to be cool they put out crowd pleasing rock music. WTH? I like it in any case. One of a kind that's for sure.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Orange Peel - s/t. 1970 Germany

Orange Peel - s/t. 1970 Bellaphon

CD reissue: 2003 CMP

LP reissues: 2003 CMP; 2011 Long Hair

Packaging: Always a very rare album since I've been collecting from the 1980s, Orange Peel's one album was strictly fodder for bootleggers for many years. In fact, my introduction to the band was one of those pirate CDs in the mid 90s. When the CMP versions came out, there was quite a bit of doubt on the legitimacy of them. There wasn't a website, they were related to the dubious Green Tree, and the CDs came out in Digi-Pak's with not a lot of information, similar to the bootlegs of the day. I then inquired with a reliable music industry source in Germany, and sure enough, they are legit! They bought the rights to the Bellaphon catalog and released a few albums in 2003/2004 - and then disappeared (this is a different CMP to the label behind artists such as David Torn and Mark Nauseef). So I own that CD, and it remains the only legit CD released, which is kind of sad for such an important album. A couple of years after that, I lucked into an original LP on ebay for relatively cheap, and I will of course keep that for the duration. And finally, I did decide to go for the Long Hair LP reissue, mainly to hear the two bonus tracks, and to have the historical liner notes. And they did a fine job on both accounts. Now there is one small problem for purists, and I mentioned this on the Virus "Thoughts" review, and that is the colors are way too dark. The original, and the photo above is a good rendition, has some distinct colors to it. Otherwise they did faithfully reproduce the gatefold cover. It's just strange that the artwork is so dull on the reissues.

Notes: Orange Peel's sole album comprises of long tracks filled with improvisational Hammond organ and loud electric guitar solos. Similar to Eiliff and "Inside" era Eloy, though given the 1970 date: 1) Orange Peel were certainly groundbreaking for the burgeoning Krautrock movement and 2) they were more heavily influenced by the blues and American psychedelic than the two aforementioned groups. No doubt the UK bands such as Deep Purple weighed in heavily with Orange Peel as well. An extraordinary example of early Krautrock in the truest sense of the word. Long Hair LP release adds their rare 45 single, which displays their heavy blues rock disposition.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Space Debris - She's a Temple. 2013 Germany

Space Debris - She's a Temple. 2013 Breitklang (2 LP)

CD issue: 2013 Breitklang

Space Debris also have at least four live albums not included above. It would appear that Breitklang is the house label for the band.

Space Debris are a German band that have been releasing albums for over a decade, and if the debut title is an indicator, have been recording for close to two decades. Their albums have never been for sale here in America, or if they had, only from a specialist mail order house and for a short time. Which is surprising really, as I think they'd sell pretty well here - relatively speaking of course. Since I was already ordering from Green Brain in Germany for the Cosmic Circus Music (see UMR site), I decided to throw this one in to save on postage.  Besides it was co-released by Green Brain, and the European write-ups I'd seen gave this one a big thumbs up. As you can probably tell by my album cover display protocol, "She's a Temple" is the only album I own by them - though I do still have a CD-R copy of "Three" which was my introduction to the band. I found both albums to be similar which gives me no reason to believe the remaining albums are any more different than the other. Though I'm sure each album has their peaks and valleys. I would certainly enjoy hearing them all at some point to see for myself.

I would consider Space Debris a Jam Band first and Krautrock band second. Their approach to music is based on the long form improvisational jam centered around the soloists for guitar and organ. On "She's a Temple" there are eight tracks of which only two are less than 8 minutes. Melody and composition are non existent, except if they accidentally stumble into one. The guitarist plays in a fairly heavy style, fortunately just short of the stoner fuzz standard, and certainly not metal. The keyboardist lives for his Hammond organ and 70s era synthesizers and it is he, more than anyone else in the band, that gives Space Debris their Krautrock undertone. While not exactly Orange Peel and Eiliff, one could potentially see those bands playing in a similar style 40 years later. The rhythm section keeps things moving along, and it's clear they have a background in rock rather than jazz. I found myself enjoying the album most when they locked into a solid organ groove. Perhaps it's just not something I hear as much nowadays, compared to the dozens of guitar-centered bands out there. I would say for comparison sakes that Electric Orange, another contemporary German band, is just the flip of Space Debris - that is Krautrock first / Jam Band second. The brooding and hazy atmosphere of the classic German underground is mostly missing here. Perhaps the biggest giveaway was the English spelling of "Temple". Haha - well maybe?

I think by now you can tell if Space Debris are for you or not. Maybe not my favorite type of band, but certainly I found this album enjoyable, and it's staying here for the long run. It was worth importing.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Virus - Thoughts. 1971 Germany

Virus - Thoughts. 1971 Pilz

CD reissues: 1991 Bernhard Mikulski; 1997 Second Battle; 2014? Garden of Delights

LP reissues: 1982 Pop Import; 1999 Think Progressive; 2013 Long Hair

Packaging: One of the more sought after of the original Pilz albums. Like all on the label, it was adorned with a fine gatefold cover. Definitely one of the more obscure Pop Import reissues. I never knew it came out via that imprint, even though Pop Import albums were readily available to me at the local Dallas import stores throughout the 1980s. In fact, most of the hard rocking Pilz albums didn't get a Pop Import release - only the folk and cosmic albums did. As such, my first encounter with "Thoughts" was in 1991 with the original CD on Bernhard Mikulski, which is in effect the Pop Import of CD releases. Like all on the label, it's a straight reissue with no extras or anything. Perhaps unbelievably, this is still the CD I have in my collection for the album. There really wasn't any incentive to buy the Second Battle version, as all they did was add a digi-pak cover. However, GoD has announced their intention to reissue it again - and we know that they will do a thorough job. Since they released "Revelation" this year, I think 2014 is a reasonable expectation for "Thoughts". And I'm definitely buying. As for reissue LP's beyond the 1982 press, I did once own the Think Progressive - but it was just a straight reissue but it did faithfully duplicate the gatefold. I sold it eventually. And that gets us to the Long Hair LP, which I just picked up. Once again, it faithfully produces the gatefold and, as a major plus, features a full booklet insert filled with unique liner notes and photos, and includes two bonus tracks - both taken from the 1971 "Heavy Christmas" Pilz concept album. And Virus had two of the best cuts from that album, though they total less than 5 minutes together. Nice to have them though. On the downside, the cover image is too dark, and isn't a perfect representation of the original. An odd oversight I think, but it isn't the first time they've done this. And I will discuss that in my next post too. So I own the '91 CD and the '13 LP. At some point, I'd like to have an original LP too. It's a great album worthy of multiple copies.

Notes: For their second album, Virus changed radically, in both band members and music direction. Gone are the psychedelic workouts found on “Revelation” and instead the group focused on a more direct hard rock approach. They also switched to the Pilz label, and were representative of the label’s heavy rock groups, similar to McChurch Soundroom and Dies Irae. However, it can be argued that Virus were far superior to both in terms of instrumental dexterity and a stronger compositional base. In fact “Thoughts” stacks up with the best of the German heavyweights like Bellaphon’s Orange Peel or United Artist’s Twenty Sixty Six and Then. Hammond organ and guitar are the solo instruments of choice, and most of the tracks rock relentlessly hard. The vocals take a bit getting used to, as they are fairly rough and gravelly, but fits the music appropriately. There is a striking similarity to all the songs, that if not paying close attention, can begin to run together. What separates Virus from others, is a strong melodic sense, and a contrasting light touch concerning the rhythms. The organ is sometimes played with an almost jazzy like beat. Tracks like ‘Mankind, Where Do You Go To?’ and ‘My Strand-Eyed Girl’ are good examples of this song style. Rest assured, each track is chock full of blazing guitar and organ solos, while the rhythms section goes berserk trying to match the intensity. In this way, they resemble their peers in the UK like Warhorse or Atomic Rooster. Even a little Canterbury quirkiness can be spotted i.e. Egg. A great album and a must for the collector of early 70s heavy German rock.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Charlies - Buttocks. 1970 Finland

Charlies - Buttocks. 1970 Love

LP reissue: 2013 Shadoks (Germany)

Packaging: Like yesterday's KSS album, the only legit reissue of Charlie's "Buttocks" album is via an LP that came out only this year. Shadoks has stated they will not be doing the CD, so that would seem to indicate someone else will. Maybe Rocket Records, or Love themselves (who miraculously are still around, but through different owners as the original label went bankrupt in 1979). For over 20 years I just had a crappy bootleg LP of this (which I can now get rid of), so I willingly paid the "Shadoks premium" and bought the new reissue, and I was rewarded with copious liner notes and an overall fantastic job, as is their custom. Originals are almost non existent and very expensive - we're talking $1K or more here for one in quality shape. I'm sure I'll never own one, and to be honest the cover... leaves something to be desired. For such a great album, this one deserves a CD as well - and I will most certainly supplement the Shadoks LP with a legit CD if one surfaces.

Notes: Had you told me this was from 1970 England or 1971 Germany, I would have believed you. Fantastic loud acid guitar, amplified sax, soft acoustic guitar and flute, tribal percussion and deep vocals. It's the blues-rock-jazz sound that was so popular during this era, and one of my personal favorite styles. If you like groups from Germany such as Nosferatu, Ardo Dombec, and Alcatraz or the UK bands like Diabolus and Raw Material, then this one is for you. Very energetic release.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Kvartetten Som Sprangde - Kattvals. 1973 Sweden

Kvartetten Som Sprängde - Kattvals. 1973 Gump

CD reissue: none!

LP reissue: 2013 Subliminal Sounds

Sustain fuzz guitar, thick/wedgy Hammond B3, and Latin percussion. You are correct, Kvartetten Som Sprangde caught the Santana bug, and we're all the better for it. Of course I mean the Caravanserai era, so it's not like KSS had to change their evil ways... baby. Though I've seen some people vehemently disagree with me regarding Santana. Yea? Go have a listen to 'Andesamba' and tell me that's not an outtake from a Lotus era concert. C'mon... Of course they weren't content to just play the style of music of Carlos and company, but also ported that same instrumentation while adding in more traditional Scandinavian folk scales similar to how Kebnekaise employed the exact same technique. There's definitely an undercurrent of the early 70s Nordic jazz culture as well, clearly informed by the Swedish headliners of the day like Bjorn J:Son Lindh and Sabu Martinez. Fans of instrumental progressive jazz rock will not want to miss this one.

Similar to the Resan album we covered earlier this year, Subliminal Sounds has gone forward with an exact LP reissue but not a CD to date. I bought this version because a) I enjoy Reine Fiske's outstanding and thorough liner notes and b) My original vinyl isn't in the best of shape. But if a CD came forth, I would buy it as well and own all 3 copies. I hope they consider doing just that (along with Resan!). A pirate CD exists, so beware of that.

Last update: July 10, 2016 

Friday, December 20, 2013

['ramp] / Ramp - Frozen Radios. 2000 Germany

['ramp] - Frozen Radios. 2000 private (CD)

Frozen Radios begins to demonstrate that ['ramp] have a penchant for the dark ambient sounds of Klaus Schulze's Cyborg or Tangerine Dream's Zeit. On the back cover, they inform us to "File Under: Electronic Industrial Ambient". And that's quite accurate, except the sequencers are still going full bore here, so you're never too far from the friendly confines of the Berlin School. Another highly recommended album for fans of the genre.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gunter Schickert – Kinder in der Wildnis. 1983 Germany



Gunter Schickert – Kinder in der Wildnis. 1983 YHT (UK). Cassette only release.

Other Gunter Schickert features on the UMR

CD reissue: 2013 Bureau B

LP reissue: 2013 Bureau B

Cassette reissue: 1986 Auricle (UK)

CD-R reissue: 2002 Auricle (UK)

Release details: Originally released as a cassette on York House Tapes (first scan), it was followed by a cassette second press on Auricle (second scan), and later a CD-R from the same label (third scan). Finally the album has landed on a durable format courtesy of Bureau B (last scan). I picked up the CD for myself, and it comes with newly written historical notes and two very good and relevant bonus tracks. The sound is fantastic all things considered, much better than the cassette dub I had. An excellent package overall.

Notes: Gunter Schickert's "Kinder in der Wildnis" was itself an archival release compiled between 1981 and 1983 and released on the obscure York House Tapes due to a recommendation from the Freeman Brothers (Ultima Thule / Audion). As such, the music has a variety of styles, but all based on the patented cosmic sound-on-sound guitar style that Schickert had been performing since his "Samtvogel" album. There's a bit more of a rock element here, with nods to the NDW sound that was dominating the German underground at the time. The rockier sound also points to his days with the GAM ensemble he had formed in the mid 70s. As usual, there are all kinds of echoed vocals, from various sources. These augment the non-stop psychedelic guitar patterns, for a truly hypnotic experience. One of Germany's most innovative artists - quite a compliment considering the fertile scene from which he came from.

Last update: September 27, 2015

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Il Tempio delle Clessidre - AlieNatura. 2013 Italy

Il Tempio delle Clessidre - AlieNatura. 2013 Black Widow

CD issues: 2010 Black Widow; 2013 Arcangelo (Japan mini-LP)

Three years later, we have Il Tempio delle Clessidre's second album AlieNatura. Gone is Galifi, who left to help restart Museo Rosenbach (and what a reformation it is!), and in his place is the also talented Francesco Ciapica. It's apparent, to me anyway, that Mr. Ciapica studied Mr. Galifi pretty intently, as the delivery is very similar, though a different tone to be certain. Musically, Il Tempio delle Clessidre continue very much in the same vein as the debut. Since they had to grind through their debut to find their own style, I'd say the followup is far more consistent.  But I also found that it didn't possess the same amount of peak moments either. Not sure if the "reckless abandonment of amateurs" aspect has been dulled somewhat, and Il Tempio delle Clessidre see themselves as being more professional. It's been my experience that bands who take the approach Il Tempio delle Clessidre has, have actually garnered more support, and I tend to be in the minority regarding this phenomena. Make no mistake, composers Fabio Grema and Ms. Montaldo still know how to compose an intense (or melodic) break like the best of the early 70s Italian masters would. I felt this album was a slight step down, but nevertheless still comes highly recommended. Like any great progressive rock album, Il Tempio delle Clessidre's sophomore album will require many listens to digest. Yet another winner from the landmark 2013 year for Italy!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ingranaggi della Valle - In Hoc Signo. 2013 Italy

Ingranaggi della Valle - In Hoc Signo. 2013 Black Widow

CD issue: 2013 Black Widow

And continuing on with the Italian theme, here is perhaps the best new group to land on the scene this year: Ingranaggi della Valle. The band combines musical skill with a nervous energy, to produce one of the more kinetic albums of 2013. They possess a certain nimble dexterity that is missing in many of the plodding bands of our era. The vocals, in Italian of course, are delivered powerfully while the compositions never sit still too long for complacency to settle in. In addition to the usual bank of analog keyboards (Mellotron, Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes, Mini Moog, plus many more), a dedicated vocalist, electric / acoustic guitars, percussion - the quintet features a full time violinist. There is an undercurrent of jazz here, especially concerning the rhythms, though it's far closer to instrumental progressive rock than fusion. Deus Ex Machina (minus the Demetrio Stratos styled vocals), and by extension, DFA (Duty Free Area) are the guideposts here. This is a brilliant debut.

Capsicum Red - Appunti per un'Idea Fissa. 1972 Italy

Capsicum Red - Appunti per un'Idea Fissa. 1972 Bla Bla

CD reissues: 1999 Vinyl Magic; 2011 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissue: 2008 Vinyl Magic

Packaging: For yesterday's entry regarding Alain Eckert Quartet, I stated that if there ever was an album where buying the CD was more preferable than the original, then that was the one. Today, I will say the opposite: If there ever was an album to buy the original LP rather than a reissue, Capsicum Red is the one. Like most people, I discovered this album via the Vinyl Magic CD. It sounds horrible. I'd always been told the original vinyl was a mess, and that the masters were gone. I was fortunate to buy an original this year for a decent price (photo above is that album), and it changed my perspective on the album. Like all originals of this title, the sound has quite a bit of background noise (the original inner sleeve has a rough inside, which causes serious scuffing) - but much of the album rocks hard enough to obfuscate the noise. The CD's of this sound terrible in comparison. As I suspected (privately), the production wasn't the problem (though let's not get carried away, it's not incredible by any stretch). There's really no reason for this - as even a straight needle drop would sound better than what it's in the market. For me, it adds a solid half star (RYM) to my rating. I also do own the Japanese mini-LP for the packaging, but it's sourced/licensed/re-engineered from the Italian CD.

Notes: Capsicum Red are yet another Italian beat/pop group who attempted a jump on the Italian progressive rock bandwagon. In the same league as J.E.T., but no one killer cut like "Fede, Speranza, Carita". Still a fine effort if you can look past the production.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Alain Eckert Quartet - s/t. 1981 France

Alain Eckert Quartet - s/t. 1981 L'Amanite

CD reissue: 2013 Soleil Zeuhl

Packaging: The original vinyl is housed in a typical early 80s austere single sleeve cover. I've owned this LP for years, and have no intention of selling it. But if there was ever an album to get the reissue CD of rather than the original LP, it's this one. Not only do you get the usual Soleil Zeuhl high quality production with great sound, liner notes, and photos - but you also get two critical bonus tracks that are not to be missed. Read below. This album was on our CDRWL as a Priority 3 for many years. Had I known about the bonus material, most assuredly it would have been Priority 1.

Notes: When I think of terms like "avant progressive", the music of the Alain Eckert Quartet is exactly what I expect. Like an earlier version of Forgas Band Phenomena, or a more playful and less serious Univers Zero. Compositionally strong, with a penchant for jazz, though a bit academic, without a strong sense of a groove. A good one for the brain, but perhaps lacking a bit in excitement.

The 31 minutes of live material as only found on the Soleil Zeuhl CD absolutely DESTROY the studio material. Here The Alain Eckert Quartet is ON FIRE, in the same zone as you might find Magma on their "Live" album - with killer Zeuhl bass, wild fuzz guitar soloing, insane drumming, and staccato piano. Stunning really.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Les Goths - Reve de Silence. 1968 France

Les Goths - Reve de Silence. 2011 Shadoks (Germany). Archival recordings from 1968

Packaging: This fine archival package was released on both vinyl and CD by Shadoks. Features full liner notes regarding the history, and plenty of photos. I currently own only the CD.

Notes: Here we have an insane psychedelic blues archival album from France, not a country normally known for such things - at least not in the late 60s. There's not a whole lot in the way of song craft here, but who cares really when you have this kind of insane fuzz guitar coupled with the frenetic drumming. Not to mention the spaced out vocals in English, French, and Mitterrand's personal burden: Franglais. Had Chico Magnetic Band released their album in 1968 rather than 1971, then this would have been a reasonable facsimile of such a fantasy. Quite an incredible find from the good folks at Shadoks. Highly recommended.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Polyphony - Without Introduction. 1972 USA

Polyphony - Without Introduction. 1972 Eleventh Hour

CD reissues: 2011 Gear Fab; 2011 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissues: 2014 Out-Sider/Guerssen (Spain)

Polyphony are a complex and intense American progressive rock band from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Without Introduction brings forth an enormous amount of energy. Loud guitar, shredding organ, two hyperactive percussionists, and hazy psychedelic vocals is what you'll find here. ELP's Tarkus suite seems to be the main influence here, with a bit more of that American rough and tough edge, not to mentioned the heavy guitar presence. 'Juggernaut' is the pick of the litter, but the entire 37 minutes is well spent. I've always found it a bit surprising this album isn't more revered, as I find it among America's finest progressive rock albums from the early 1970s along with Metaphysical Animation and Ram's Where In Conclusion.

For years this album had more boots than a shoe store. I ultimately plunked down some serious coin for an original LP, which is certainly worth it when you consider the artwork of the cover. Plus it sounds great! The Gear Fab CD finally gave the album a legitimate release. It's obviously taken from vinyl (masters are long gone) that inexplicably skips the first 10 second or so, and the overall package is typical of Gear Fab: Single tray card with liners... and that's it. But at least those notes cleared up the date issue, stating it was from 1972 rather than the assumed 1971. My guess is they were printed up before they received Glenn Howard's liners. Mike Diana's story corroborates the 1972 date. But it's legit and we'll take what we can. So I own this CD and the aforementioned original.

Oct 2016 update: I've also since picked up the Belle Antique CD version, to give me 3 copies of the album. The good news is that even though Belle Antique licensed it from Gear Fab, they did remaster the contents, and fixed the screw-ups that Gear Fab produced. And with the beautiful cover reproduced precisely, I would recommend this as the CD route to go.

Last update: October 14, 2016

Thursday, December 12, 2013

After All - s/t. 1969 USA

After All - s/t. 1969 Athena

CD reissues: 2000 Gear Fab; 2011 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissues: 2000 Gear Fab; 2013 Out-Sider (Spain)

Packaging: An original will set you back anywhere from $200 to $400 depending on condition and market dynamics. This is an album that I somehow missed entirely until a couple of months ago, so I just picked up the Gear Fab CD, which is pretty scarce nowadays (though still available new if you look hard enough). The CD is typical barebones Gear Fab fodder, with a single tray card. But at least they utilize that one slip with unique liner notes. And it's legit, and sounds great. I don't think the single sleeve cover warrants the extra expenditure for the Japanese mini in this case. With that in mind, I doubt I'll pursue an LP in either original or reissue form.

Notes: Put me in the contingent that claims After All's sole album to be unheralded. I also have to agree with those that say this sounds more like what was coming out of England during this time, rather than the capital of Florida. A superb example of psychedelic rock within a jazzy framework. Fantastic Hammond and guitar leads. Side 1 is particularly excellent, and the opener 'Intangible She' has to rank amongst the best tracks I've heard in the genre. Side 2 drops off a bit, but there's some fine songwriting throughout.

Ampledeed - A is for Ampledeed. 2013 USA

Ampledeed - A is for Ampledeed. 2013 private (CD)

Ampledeed is a new group from the Los Angeles area, who clearly have an affinity for the classic early 70s Canterbury scene - unwittingly it may appear. The genre itself has always been a favorite of the UTR, due to its highly appealing combination of melody and complexity. Other characteristics include fuzzy psychedelic tones and a jazzy rhythmic base. And the well studied Ampledeed succeed on all 4 accounts. Of course, much of the "analog" keyboard tones are derived from samples, but that's a small thing. It's the sound itself that counts, right? What's interesting to me is that the band themselves do not indicate that they know Caravan, Soft Machine, National Health, but rather the usual suspects of Pink Floyd, Yes, and King Crimson. So perhaps they came to the same conclusion of Dave Stewart and company, rather than as a direct influence. Even better as far as I'm concerned. I found myself, predictably I realize, enjoying the instrumental work as some of the vocal oriented songs can drag a bit. Really curious where the band goes from here.

No vinyl issues exist.

Last update: December 29, 2016

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Major Surgery - The First Cut. 1977 England

Major Surgery - The First Cut. 1977 Next

CD reissue: 2013 Proper

Packaging: In look, sound, and feel, Major Surgery's album appears older than 1977. It seems like a 1971 release. This was an AC discovery from early last year, and I subsequently bought the LP not long after, not expecting a CD reissue anytime soon. So indeed the CD came as a real surprise. Proper is a label with many titles, but this is the first time they've intersected with the UMR. The reissue is excellent. Comes in a fine digi-pak, with a separate booklet containing archival photos. A short bio and one bonus track round out this fine package. I currently own both this CD and the original LP.

Notes: From my point of view, there is a big difference between fusion and jazz rock. Fusion, as typified by bands like Return to Forever or Weather Report, is instrumental rock music played by jazz guys. It would almost seem the perfect marriage of the two genres: Virtuoso players tackling the meatier rock angst and sounds. But like any genre, there are some albums with depth and others that are pretty transparent. Jazz rock, on the other hand, is usually a jazz album with rock instrumentation sprinkled throughout. Fusion was more of a mid to late 1970s thing. Jazz rock was more typical at the turn of the 1970 decade, when the creativity of rock was capturing the imagination of jazzers tiring of the same ole, same ole. Major Surgery is a great example of jazz rock, and very much a sound out of vogue for 1977.

The AC sums up: "Jazz-rock rarity from this largely unknown unit, led by saxophonist Don Weller. He and drummer Tony Marsh would go on to become fairly well-known figures in the UK jazz scene, but of perhaps greater interest to prog fans is that the guitar here is handled by Jimmy Roche, who once played with the great East of Eden. His playing here is in a sort of jumpy, Larry Coryell-esque style that I find highly appealing. This stuff is definitely coming from the jazzier end of the jazz-rock spectrum, and being sax-fronted and lacking any sort of keyboard presence..."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Gringo - s/t. 1971 England


Gringo - s/t. 1971 MCA. Released in multiple countries including on Decca in the US.

CD reissues: 2000 Audio Archives; 2013 Gonzo

Gringo on their sole album present a very intriguing mix of UK styled proto progressive with female vocals, and American harmonized pop-psych. With the progressive opener 'Cry the Beloved Country', Gringo can easily be placed with contemporaries like Room or Goliath for example. But Gringo also look back in time to fellow countrymen The Animals and their edgy psychedelic work. And then there's the pop psych angle, and the female lead harmony work recall The Mamas & The Papas, as well as The Association at times. Gringo is worth seeking out for serious progressive rock archivists. 

I love the Art Deco styled painting that adorns the cover. The AA CD was always hard to find, and there seemed to be (at the time) authenticity questions surrounding it. Soon after, an outright bootleg appeared on the scene. So it is much welcome to see the new Gonzo release, which features unique liner notes written from each member of the band + many photos. Also features 2 short bonus tracks.

Last update: August 31, 2016

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cosmic Circus Music - Wiesbaden 1973. Germany

Cosmic Circus Music - s/t. 1972 private. Cassette only release.

CD reissue: 2013 Garden of Delights. Released as "Wiesbaden 1973". (And, as it turns out, different than the above cassette)

Packaging: It's hard to discern if the cassette was ever available for purchase. I had been lead to believe you could obtain it via mailorder back in the 70s. The GoD liner notes mention the cassette, but mainly as the private property of the one who recorded it (see the bottom of this section for more explanation). Apparently the tape is filled with 90 minutes of music, and they had to shorten it for the CD to 82 minutes. (As as aside, I learned that they now have CDs that can go as long as 90 minutes, but not many of the players can replay that much back. I'm not familiar enough with the technology to understand that aspect). As well, we learned the concert was longer than 90 minutes, and some of the missing time was between "Side 1" and "Side 2" when they had to flip the cassette over. Ah, the good old days...  Anyway, the CD is fantastic, filled with informative liner notes and photos. And most certainly the best sound possible, though it will never be perfect. It wasn't meant for release in the first place.

---UMR's friend Achim from Germany further clarifies the situation above: "I just picked up the Cosmic Circus CD. As I understand from the German booklet notes, there are (or were) two tapes. Or, that is the most logical explanation of the text. One was recorded at "some festival" in 1972 (featuring a 45 minute version of Sternenmaskerade) was supposed to be released as tape by Andromeda Press (and mentioned in the article by German magazine Sounds). This got never officially released, but apparently some copies exist, maybe privately distributed by the band members. Another one was recorded in July 1973 by Muck Krieger and was not meant to be released back then. This was rediscovered some time ago, now shortened to 80 minutes and released  by Gardens of Delights." Then it must have been the "Andromeda Press" album that I believe I first heard. Which explains the difference between the 1972 and 1973 dates. And would seem to indicate they are different albums! I will leave everything here in any case. I don't think I have the energy to update RYM and Gnosis :-)

American buyers: Even though this CD was released over 9 months ago, it has yet to hit the shores of North America. I finally gave up waiting and imported a copy from Germany myself.  German retailer Green Brain has them relatively cheap via ebay, even with the higher postage costs. I recommend them highly.

Notes: The music is fantastic. That unique cosmic Krautrock blend that recalls luminaries such as Agitation Free, The Cosmic Jokers, Dom, and Yatha Sidhra. Cosmic Circus Music is essentially a jam band, but is absolutely dripping with atmosphere that was typical of early 70s Germany. If you're a fan of this style, then you won't want to miss this CD.