Lagger Blues Machine - s/t. 1972 Belgium

Lagger Blues Machine's sole studio album is right in my wheelhouse for European instrumental progressive rock (there are some sporadic voices here and there, but hardly a vocal album). There's a jazzy base to the rhythms, with constant twists and turns, along with plenty of colors provided by the variety of keyboard, sax, and guitar tones. Nothing sits still too long, and all of the sections focus on composition and melody rather than on lengthy, or worse atonal, soloing. This is a must have if you enjoy the Canterbury bands like Soft Machine and Moving Gelatine Plates, along with Frank Zappa's Hot Rats and all its followers (which were usually Continental European). One of Belgium's best albums for certain.

Personal collection
LP: 1972 CBS
CD: 1994 Mellow (as The Complete Works)

My introduction to this album came via the Mellow CD that I bought immediately upon release. I'd actually heard the Tanit Live (1970) posthumous album when it first came out in 1992, and it's a miserable sounding album, so it's nice that Mellow made those as bonus tracks here. The sound of the album proper is a bit muffled. About 10 years ago, I lucked into buying an original LP. It's hardly mint, but we were able to clean the vinyl and it sounds pretty good. I also went forward with the Veals & Geeks LP to see what they did with it. I like the use of rough paper for the cover. But that's where my appreciation ends. The cover art is blown up too big, and it's out of focus.  The vinyl is one of those bricks with very poor sound, and the mastering is worse than the Mellow CD. And there was no history accompanying it. Their CD version apparently has an 8 page booklet detailing the history of the band. Why this wasn't also included in the LP is anyone's guess. Overall, it seems more like a cheap bootleg, then the authentic reissue that it is. One more comment on the sound for those of you who have only heard the reissues: They are all muffled and sound pretty horrid. The original LP (even in the VG condition that I own) is considerably clearer than any of the reissues. Like Soft Machine's Third, it isn't a great sounding album to begin with, but the original vinyl absolutely destroys the Mellow CD, or even worse, the Veals & Geeks LP. The Mellow release continues to be the best CD out there. 2016 update: Veals and Geeks LP has been sold.

Icecross - s/t. 1973 Iceland

I've owned this album in one form or another for 25 years, and it remains one of my all time favorite pure hard rock albums. For 1973, as others have said, this is frighteningly ahead of its time, predating the entire 80s metal movement by a full 7 years. While Side 1 plays it a bit safe with the tepid opening 'Wandering Around' and the excellent, but albeit softer, ballad 'A Sad Man's Story', Side 2 is a blitzkrieg of heavy riffs, powerful vocals, blistering leads, and absolutely insane drumming. When talking Scandinavian hard rock, about the only other album with these type of nimble fingered acid leads is Elonkorjuu, though within a slightly different musical context. This is essential listening for fans of creative hard rock who enjoy hearing the history of the style.

Personal collection
CD: 2013 Rockadrome

I first stumbled onto an original of this album in 1988 for cheap, not knowing quite what it was, but I just knew it had to be worth something. It was, in fact, probably the first major rarity I tried to trade away (it was a little outside my interest area back then). Even at that time, it was going for $300, which was an enormous sum in those days. In the process of working a deal, I received a lot of bad advice. And as it turns out, that's because these guys were greedy bastards and wanted the album for themselves! I had one great offer in particular from a gentleman in Spain that I turned down because of this. I still regret it and I didn't get near what I wanted from the album in the end. Well, you have to learn this game somehow. I put that copy on cassette, and many years later picked up a boot CD which can now be kicked out the door... because.... We now finally have legit reissues of this classic, on both LP and CD. I went for the CD, and it comes with fantastic liner notes, photos, and a great sound. There were no bonus tracks to offer. Rockadrome continues to be the leader of quality reissues in the hard rock realm.

Virus - Revelation. 1971 Germany

Virus' debut is one of those albums that perfectly defines the Krautrock genre as we know it today. It's a mix of psychedelic, hard rock, and that secret ingredient, one that is only whispered about in the dark halls of the murky and mysterious underground. An underground that is hard to describe, but you know you're there when you hear it. And when you hear it, you say "that's Krautrock!". Sure, the title track includes The Rolling Stones' 'Paint it Black', a song that I might add, would itself be a blueprint for all things European psychedelic underground with its Eastern jam cycle motif. If you're looking for loud acid guitar, flute, and jamming organ with tribal drumming, plus stoned vocals - and you haven't heard Virus' "Revelation" - then let me be the first to tell you that you have come to the right place. And the album gets freakier as it goes, so that by the time you get to 'Hungry Looser' (sic - and finally spelled right on the GoD CD), and especially 'Nur noch Zwei Lichtjahre' with its foreboding German narration, then you know you have found ground zero for the entire zeitgeist. This isn't the cosmic Krautrock wing of Ash Ra Tempel or Guru Guru, but if you're looking for the hard rock portion of the Krautrock house, then you found it here. Congratulations on your new baby.

The two tracks appended onto the later CD's, from the 1970 45 single, are also worthy and similar in style.

Personal collection
CD: 2013 Garden of Delights

This album was pretty legendary by the time the first CD appeared on the market, and so I nabbed one as soon as it was released. In addition to that, I also picked up the 1995 version on LP. Then sold it... bought it again years later... sold it again. Ha, OK, so I can be a mess sometimes. I just recently picked up the Garden of Delights CD, which should be the end state on that front. As usual for GoD, it comes with a full history, photos, and two bonus tracks from a single.

Mikael Ramel - Till Dej. 1972 Sweden

Mikael Ramel's debut starts off almost like a children's album on Swedish Public television, in a silly folk manner with cartoonish voices. After about 6 minutes of that, the music becomes far more interesting in a progressive folk rock direction starting with 'Pengar'. Wonderful flute and guitar throughout the album, and the melodies stick with the listener. The next two following tracks further draw the listener in, until we get to the massive one-two punch of 'Långt in i Naturen' (7:41) and 'Artificiell Prana' (10:52). When in the midst of the large scale percussion and voice piece that suddenly appears on the latter track, you begin to realize you're in another zone completely. And then the subsequent high energy jam that blows out of that, with wah wah "electric speed guitar" blistering your speakers (and your ears), completes the wallop it set out to do. The album then closes as it starts, with a goofy two minute outro. This is the type of album I often refer to as the "wonderful freaky underground". The liner notes mention that Ramel had experimented with various tape recording techniques, which no doubt gives the album those odd dimensions. In some ways, I believe the artist intended to release something straight forward, and ended up with something far more different... and yea, freaky. Love it.

If you're looking for the inspiration of modern sensations' Dungen, then here it is!

Personal Collection
LP: 198? Sonet
CD: 2003 Universal / Sonet / Mellotronen

The original LP comes in a gatefold, and the CD is housed in a wonderful triple FOC digipak, filled with liner notes (in English), photos, bonus tracks, lyrics, and perfect sound. The Ljudspår label had rolled up into the Universal chain, and fortunately this album, along with the second Flasket Brinner that we featured long ago (and Ramel was a member at the time), has been lovingly restored with the assistance of Mellotronen. The 1980s press is very well done, and I thought I had an original for some time, but the blue Sonet label is a giveaway. All the same, this one I'm keeping since it's brand new/mint.

Mammut - s/t. 1971 Germany

Well, it's certainly German, but it doesn't sound "Krautrock" in the sense the term has come to mean. A much more compositionally focused band with copious use of piano, organ, and flute, and an almost American sense of psych-pop songwriting considering the vocal approach. Love the constant pounding drums that keep the toes tapping. Borders the psychedelic and progressive era's nicely. A fine album, that needs many listens to penetrate.

Personal collection
CD: 1993 Ohrwaschl
LP: 2009 Long Hair

As an original, the single sleeve Mammut's album is seriously rare. My introduction to the album came via the Little Wing LP reissue, that I bought upon release, as this was one of my top wants at the time. As is Little Wing's unfortunate custom, they created an entirely different cover, so as to not desecrate the original. Whatever. Their CD reissues were even worse, only using a generic brown and red sleeve. Fortunately they didn't get around to doing this one on CD. On the topic of CDs, imagine my surprise when I learned a few years later (I want say around 1999 or so?) that Ohrwaschl had already reissued this on CD! This became an immediate top want for me. Apparently the story is that someone challenged the legality of it, and they pulled it from the shelves immediately. So it is genuinely rare and only a few got out there. I did finally source one, and dumped the Little Wing album. Of course the CD isn't anything special, like all Ohrwaschl releases. According to this, as late as 2008, the band were looking for a legal CD press (thus further condemning the Ohrwaschl version). So it was Long Hair who finally came to the rescue and reissued this the right way, on both LP and CD, with full liner notes and a relevant bonus track. I bought the LP to get Long Hair's full version, and I'll probably keep the Ohrwaschl CD in addition.

Laurence Vanay - Galaxies. 1974 France

Laurence Vanay is the pseudonym for Jacqueline Thibault, wife of famed French music producer and musician Laurent Thibault. This album is pure genius. Stunning organ, flute, and acoustic/electric guitar are the instrumental ingredients. Even a little Zeuhl bass to knock things around. And here on Galaxies, she provides both wordless, and occasionally sings lyrics, in that soft, seductive female manner - all in beautiful French of course. Near perfect.

I first came across the name of Laurence Vanay (later revealed to be Jacqueline Thibault) via the rare LP European catalogs in the early to mid 1990s. It was almost mythical in stature, somewhat like the Horrific Child we covered recently. It seemed I would never hear it. Then in 2007 I finally obtained a CD-R, and loved it instantly. (The base of my brief notes below were written then, and were also included in the advertisement for the reissues). The album was screaming for a reissue - especially given that it had recently hit the underground internet trading market, and the demand was building quickly. At the time, there was talk of the album being reissued on LP (but not CD) from some new upstart in California  (who knows why no French label had stepped up on these titles). During that period I was also in touch with Ms. Thibault and her biographer Cedric. After the LP deal fizzled, they contacted Lion, and the rest is history as they say. It's been over 2 years since the formal announcement of these reissues, but it was worth the wait. I've been frothing at the mouth over at the CDWRL for some time now about these.

Personal collection
CD: 2013 Lion Productions (USA)
LP: 2014 Lion Productions (USA)

The mini-LP is fantastic, similar in quality to the Japanese packaging. It also comes with a full set historical liners and contains an interview with Ms. Thibault. The CD features 9 bonus tracks, that are excellent in musical quality, and complement the album well. The LP features the original gatefold cover in all its glory, and contains the same liner notes as the CD, though in booklet form. There are no bonus tracks on the LP. Given the quality of the album, owning both formats wasn't an option for me, it was a necessity. Certainly I would love an original too, but these reissues are all that I need. Absolutely fantastic job all around.

It would appear the 2LP version has a full album's worth of outtakes and other material. I have not heard this version to date.

Medusa - First Step Beyond. 1975 USA (archival)


Low budget, basement launched hard rock meets space rock archival release coming from Chicago. Medusa are a quintet, with dual guitars and a dedicated vocalist. There's not a whole lot in the way of songcraft here, but plenty of good guitar jams, which give off more than a space rock whiff. A few complicated rhythms add a progressive flair. Not hearing the label's own Sabbath/Hawkwind/Amon Duul II references here - though it's not disingenuous to make those comparisons. It does give the listener an idea at least of what to expect. But for deep divers, you'll instantly recognize the sound of the Union Local filled Midwestern beer tavern. Somewhere between Sorcery (Chicago), Pi Corp (Cleveland), and Id (Baltimore) of Where are We Going? fame is where you'll spot the sound of Medusa. All these bands no doubt absorbed the same influences as Medusa, and at the same time. And those influences are likely to be Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, et al... Don't miss this title if you still have a turntable!

Personal collection
LP: 2013 Numero Group

The packaging of the vinyl is nothing short of magnificent. A thick fold-out cover in velveteen, with gold embossed letters. I pulled the second photo from Google Images (thanks goes to the photographer!), as I wanted to illustrate how cool it is - a bit more detail than just a cover scan. It also comes with a nicely textured single sleeve black insert with gold lettering, that includes the lyrics and recording details. Surprisingly there is no detailed history. The Numero Group is a well known label amongst the hipster DJ crowd and they've even received 3 Grammy Award nominations. So it's pretty cool to see them treading in our underground progressive waters. Love to see them release more output like this!

Sahara - For All the Clowns. 1977 Germany


Strangely, Sahara's second effort is an American sounding rock album, but with some very interesting long form progressive numbers. Flute, acoustic guitar, and some meter gymnastics save the more pedestrian tracks found here from overtaking the primary pole position. And because these two best tracks are over 24 minutes, or more than half the album, it's hard not to give this one a high score. File this one next to Hoelderlin's Clowns and Clouds, though I'd still suggest going for that one first.

Personal collection
CD: 1993 Ohrwaschl

Well... just like every progressive rock collector here in the States, my first copy was the domestic Peters version, which is cover #2 above. I'm sure I found it in some buck bin crate and in VG shape. Hey, I needed to stretch the dollars really far back in the 1980s! I ditched the LP when the CD came out in 1993, and that's the current status at Casa UMR. For All the Clowns has pretty much been neglected in the reissue market, which is a pity. Like all of the Ohrwaschl CDs, you get a jewel box with original cover art, and that's it. At least it's legit though. It would be nice for a specialist label to step up on this title. Maybe one day I'll start a CD RE-Reissue Wish List blog (Tom - just STOP the madness!).

Ache - De Homine Urbano. 1970 Denmark

Ache's debut is amongst the earliest of full bore complex progressive rock, predating similar efforts by one to two years. Coming from the fertile late 60s Danish scene, perhaps only Alrune Rod share a similar sound, though said band were certainly more geared towards the psychedelic. Featuring Hammond organ and guitar as the lead instruments, De Homine Urbano goes through a myriad of progressions for both of the side long excursions presented here. The second side works a bit better, as it incorporates more of the band's psychedelic past. One of the few albums from 1970 that hold up well, compositionally speaking, against the more sophisticated works that were to come around by 1973 or so. Another way of saying that Ache is far beyond the usual "proto-prog" group. And while it's been said that the opener was composed with a ballet in mind, it's very difficult for the listener to conjure up images of frail girls in tutu's prancing about. Which draws the conclusion, for me anyway, that it's a terrible piece of work for ballet, but excellent progressive rock listening music.

Personal Collection
CD: 2000 Philips (w/ Green Man)

The original comes in a fine gatefold. That was my introduction to the album in the early 90s. I did sell it when the CD came out - though I'd probably pick it up again if the right opportunity comes along. As for the CDs, I went immediately for the 2-on-1 complete with the sophomore album Green Man, and I maintain that copy to date. It's a fine reissue with perfect sound.  The liner notes appear to come from an interview conducted in 1971 or so. That version went out of print rather quickly, and as such pirates started to emerge on both LP and CD, so watch out for those. Esoteric has recently put the CD back into supply, though they reissued the albums separately. I did eventually pick up their version and it comes with excellent liner notes,and this one does feature good sound. However considering the lack of bonus tracks, I decided to hang on to the 2 for 1 instead and moved the Esoteric version back out.

Twink - Think Pink. 1970 England

Think Pink arrived at that most exciting time in 1970 when psychedelic bands were stretching the boundaries of their sound, tiring of the confining popular music norm, while not willing to immerse themselves into the upcoming progressive rock movement. So what you have here is a highly imaginative album, filled with true psychedelic sounds. The fuzz guitar is divine throughout. Albums like this would normally be found in Sweden or Germany at this time, rather than England, and constitutes one of my favorite styles of music. It's chaotic, but never out of control. And there are actual songs here, adding to the allure.

Personal collection
LP+CD: 2013 Sunbeam

I inexplicably missed this album in my initial discovery phase of the 1980s and early 90s. And continued that blissful ignorance until 2013, with the new fantastic Sunbeam issues. According to the liner notes, the real original is actually the US press on Sire. It's also the only one with a foldout cover. The UK and other European presses followed later, and were issued as a single sleeve. As for CDs, the SPM was first to market, and I'm sure it's not worth bothering with, as most of their product were subpar issues. So that gets us to the new Sunbeam reissues, which I have to imagine will be very tough to beat from here on out. You have two choices here: 1) Buy the CD or 2) For a few dollars more get the gatefold LP with a CD thrown in as a bonus (like the Necronomicon we discussed last year). This is a new concept that I'm highly fond of, being both an LP and CD collector. Now the CD's do not come in the original case, but that's a small matter considering the lavish LP packaging. Not only do you get the gatefold cover, but also a thick booklet filled with a well written history and photos. The CD also has copious and relevant bonus tracks. Through and through an outstanding job, and certainly my keeper copy. If an original walks in the door, great, but I don't feel compelled to add it to my want list.

Nimbus - Obus. 1974 Finland

Nimbus' sole album is quite a revelation, and certainly one of the better Finnish albums from the early 1970s. The vocalist uses a narrative style of singing, all in wonderful Finnish (which apparently puts me at odds with many reviewers on RYM anyway). The music is more typical of the Scandinavian tradition of mixing hard rock with progressive rock - and maintains a somewhat dour atmosphere throughout. From an instrumental perspective, the nimble fingered electric guitar, soaring violin and - in particular - Hammond organ are the dominate protagonists. Nimbus are definitely recommended to fans of Sweden's Trettioåriga Kriget (first album), and Norway's Host, though not quite as kinetic as the former. 

Personal collection
LP: 1974 Satsanga
CD: 2013 Rocket

Like many Finnish albums, I first heard Nimbus while spending a full day in 1993 with some of Helsinki's most knowledgeable collectors. And, in this case, I received the album as a gift in the mail a few months later from one of the fine gentlemen I met that day. I really like the negative image photography (I would not be surprised to hear this album was an influence on Anekdoten's Vemod artwork). It also comes with a multi-page lyric insert. Of course, everything is in Finnish, so I have no hope of translating any of it (see below for translation). The original LP is certainly rare, though a persistent search will net you one if you have some extra coin. Because I've had the LP since 1993, this title has been in some variation of the CDRWL from the very beginning. After nearly 20 years of only existing as a bootleg on CD, Rocket Records once again comes through with a fantastic reissue. They have proven over and over to be the de facto standard for CD reissues of Finnish albums (and now Svart has entered thge fray which is much welcome). This reissue features superb sound, two excellent unreleased live bonus tracks, and a full set of liners. The latter are in Finnish of course, but as we have been so fortunate with other Rocket albums in the past, our friend Kai has provided a full translation which I have included below.

April 26, 2014 update: As if the translated liner notes weren't enough of a task for our friend Kai - he's gone ahead and translated the lyrics for us too. Wow! See below for the translations.

Translated liner notes (immense gratitude to Kai for these!!): The roots of the prog band Nimbus can be traced back to the small city of Salo in the southwest of Finland in 1967. It was there and then that guitarist Harri Suilamo (born 1954) founded his own band with three friends. They included bassist Hannu Vuorisaari (born 1952), rhythm guitarist Juha Jokiranta (born 1954) and drummer Matti Jokiranta (born 1955). At the time all the members were between 12 and 15 years old. Their initial repertoire comprised rock hits of the day, with songs by The Beatles, Cream and Procol Harum among others.

The band began gigging around the turn of the decade. They chose Mafia as their name, and played instrumental versions of global hits.

Mafia hadn’t played live for long, before they experienced their first line-up change. Bassist Hannu Vuorisaari left to serve his military service. At the same time, Juha Jokiranta switched from rhythm guitar to bass. Harri Suilamo, particularly, was pleased with the change, as he had felt a rhythm guitar wasn’t a right instrument for the band.

Having become a live band, Mafia now felt they needed to add a vocalist to their ranks. Suilamo and the Jokiranta cousins found the right singer from a band from Halikko. Pasi Saarelma (born 1955) was recruited into Mafia in November 1971. By this time, the group were gradually but persistently replacing their repertoire of contemporary rock hits with progressive rock songs. They would play both covers and songs by Harri Suilamo. With the evolution of their musical style and incorporation of original material, the group had to step up their practising. Mafia would play together nearly every day and along with honing their songs, do half an hour of pure improvisation.

Mafia received substantial support from Seppo Pietikäinen, a local man involved in many aspects of the music scene. He began to manage the band, sold their gigs and would later sort out details related to recordings.

Mafia also started getting noticed outside their native Salo. In 1972, the group won fame and recognition on several occasions. In the spring, they won the jazz and pop series at the Youth Art Happening, first on a local and then provincial level. Near the end of the year, they did well on the national level at Jyväskylä. This won them the invitation to play on the television programme Mafiasta Maarian kuoroon (“From Mafia to Mary’s Choir”) on December 12th 1972. They performed parts of their composition “After the Origin and Evolution”, which they had played in the competition. Seppo Pietikäinen later called the performance “hot stuff”. According to Pasi Saarelma, Mafia’s performance was “about weird as you could possibly get” and without a head or tail. He thought Mafia had been playing modern art music rather than rock.

THE FIRST RECORDING DEAL

One of Mafia’s most significant performances was at Salo’s Bio Jännä cinema in the early autumn 1972. They opened for the giants of Finnish progressive rock, Wigwam and Tasavallan Presidentti. The latter’s bassist and Love Records’ producer Måsse Groundstroem was impressed by what he heard and suggested that Mafia should cut a record.

Mafia began working with Love Records, and travelled to studio in March 1973. However, the ten-hour recording session only yielded a half-completed version of Suilamo’s composition “Myrskyjen välillä” (“Between Storms”), which was never released.

In May 1973, Mafia changed their name to Nimbus. In August they headed for the two-track Microvox studio in Lahti for a recording session financed by Love Records. With Groundstroem producing, the band recorded two English songs written by Harri Suilamo, “Heretic Fool” and “Ode to Eagle”. These were slated for a single release, but those plans were soon scrapped. Next the songs were going to be included on the compilation Rock & roll juhlaa 4 (“Rock & Roll Celebration 4”), which was released in March 1974. This didn’t happen either, and the songs remained unreleased.

It’s likely that as Love Records had started scoring hits with the less complicated rock of Rauli “Badding” Somerjoki, Hurriganes and Juice Leskinen, among others, a nationally almost unknown Nimbus was put on the back burner. “Ode to Eagle” would finally be released in 1996 on Siboney’s Love Proge compilation.

From November 1973 on, Nimbus could also be heard playing Harri Suilamo’s compositions in the Salo Youth Theatre’s production of the rock play Vapaan maailman laitamilla (“On the outskirts of the free world”). “The play tried to dramatise how difficult it is for a young person to balance between normal life and the so-called youth culture with its pop music, trendy clothes and discos,” a local newspaper described the show. The play’s score was lauded and it brought Nimbus victory in the 1974 national Youth Art Happening in Kouvola.

In late 1973, Nimbus became a quintet with the addition of keyboard-player Pekka Rautio (1955 – 1995). In January 1974, Nimbus gained wider recognition with a 40-minute session recorded for the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, which was aired in the Popstudio radio show. Among the six songs were “Heretic Fool”, “Ode to Eagle” and “Myrskyjen välillä”. Also included were the Greenslade cover “Feathered Friends”, the instrumental “Aamumaa” (“The Morning Land”) and “Pessimistinen dialogi” (“A Pessimistic Dialogue”), which would later be recorded for the group’s debut album. Harri Suilamo considers “Aamumaa” as one of Nimbus’ best songs and has later regretted that it wasn’t included on the album. He thinks the song was dropped because it was too long for the album or didn’t fit in with the rest of the material.

Nimbus’ live repertoire matched their radio set list, consisting mainly of their own compositions. They would still play an occasional cover, including Frank Zappa compositions.

OBUS

After Love Records had lost interest in Nimbus, manager Pietikäinen sent the group’s demo tape to Satsanga. Satsanga Records was Jukka Kuoppamäki’s small record company that was active from 1973 to 1978. Satsanga released mostly records from iskelmä artists, including Kuoppamäki himself. [1] It also put out a few rock records during its short history, including albums by Haikara and Castanja. Their rock albums tended to get little attention, however.

Sending the demo tape paid off, because Jukka Kuoppamäki and his brother Mikko loved what they heard. The brothers went to the Salo fair in June-July 1974 to check Nimbus out. That clinched the record deal. Nimbus were booked to the Microvox studio, where they had recorded their unreleased single the year before. Even as the contract was being finalised, it was clear that Nimbus would be making a Finnish album based around Suilamo’s song suite which took a rather pessimistic view of the future.

One couldn’t just march into a studio in the 1970s. The demand was so high that the studios might be fully booked for months ahead. The latter part of the year was a particularly busy time, as all record labels were racing to produce their artists’ songs for television’s annual Syksyn sävel (“The Autumn Tune”) song contest. The peak years saw hundreds of songs recorded in the few studios Finland had.

Nimbus got to the studio in October 1974. They were given whopping three days to complete their album Obus. [2] That wasn’t much time to make an art rock album. Even singer-songwriter Kari Peitsamo, once called Finland’s fastest recording artist, couldn’t finish his three-chord band albums in that time.

Though Obus was recorded quickly, the process was far from easy for the group. They pulled out all the stops rehearsing their material. Obus contained six compositions, five by Harri Suilamo, one by Pekka Rautio. On a few tracks the group were supported by Rautio’s brother Matti on violin. Mikko Kuoppamäki co-produced the album.

Seppo Pietikäinen also left his mark on the album, for he took its stylish photograph. The picture was shot in Halikko in front of the Vuorentaka Manor, the oldest still inhabited stone mansion in Finland. The album’s graphic design was by Martti Lehtonen. His Nimbus illustration was nearly identical to the group’s concert poster at the time.

The hastily recorded Obus made it to the shops before the year’s end. Some copies included a four-page insert with the song lyrics and photographs. In Salo the album was hailed as a milestone, as it was the first ever album release by a young local band.

Progressive rock fans and music media also approved of the album, but the record-buying masses remained indifferent to it. This was most likely partly due to poor marketing, but also due to the fact that the album was released by a label with little brand value in the rock market.

Later the album has received considerable attention, both domestically and abroad, becoming one of the most sough-after and valuable Finnish progressive-rock records. A good-condition copy with the insert will set you back several hundred euros.

CONFLICTS

Soon after the album’s release Nimbus went through line-up changes. First military service took Juha Jokiranta away from the group for nearly a year. The other members became bitterly divided over the direction the band should take. While Harri Suilamo and Matti Jokiranta wanted to take further steps into a more ambitious direction, Pasi Saarelma and Pekka Rautio favoured a more straightforward and less serious approach. An anecdote demonstrates their division. On the song “Ennustus” (“The Prophecy”) Harri Suilamo had listed “three heavy Ps” that he feared would be defining humanity’s future: “pakko, pelko ja pariton luku” (coercion, fear and odd number). Pekka Rautio mischievously rendered them as “pillu, pilvi ja pitkä tukka” (pussy, pot and long hair).

The band’s inner conflict finally came to a head with Harri Suilamo leaving the band he had founded. The group replaced him with the singing guitarist Jussi Blomqvist and simplified their music somewhat in hope of getting more gigs. Those gigs didn’t materialise, however. With the departure of the Jokiranta cousins, the last founding members, at the end of 1976, the book closed on Nimbus. The break up inspired several articles and letters to the editor in the local press. Insufficient support by home audience was put forward as one reason for the break up.

Nimbus remained inactive for over thirty years. In 2007, they reformed for a single gig at Salo’s K-40 Rock Show event. They played in the Obus line-up, except for Pekka Rautio, who had died in 1995. His place on the keyboard was filled by Harri Suilamo’s daughter Sanni Suilamo.

After Nimbus, Pekka Rautio and Pasi Saarelma played in the band Motelli. They recorded a single, but for some reason it was never released. [3] From the 1980s on, Pasi Saarelma has worked as a music teacher. He has also had parts in many opera and musical productions. The most successful post-Nimbus musical career belongs to Harri Suilamo, who is now a respected art music composer. Juha Jokiranta became a taxi entrepreneur, while his cousin Matti ended up as a technical designer for Nokia. He has also played drums in the Salo group Piazza Brass.

A CD version of Obus has been on the wish lists around the world for a long time. The album has already been bootlegged by a South Korean label. The Rocket Records CD edition is the first legitimate re-release of this cult album. The CD also includes the songs “Myrskyjen välillä” and “Aamumaa” from the Popstudio performance in January 1974.

The career of Nimbus and its predecessor Mafia is covered in more detail in the book Koit ny rauhottu! (“Try to Calm Down!”) by Mikko Vienonen and Timo Lähteenmäki. The present liner notes [and translation] were based largely on this excellent book on the history pop culture in Salo.

[1] Iskelmä (literally “a hit song”) is the Finnish equivalent for Schlager, generally denoting the more traditional Finnish popular music. Though it originally simply meant any kind of song that was popular, in the early-1970s iskelmä was seen more as its own genre and distinct from the new Anglo-American pop or rock music. Jukka Kuoppamäki was a popular purveyor of typical iskelmä. [2] Apparently, the spelling was designed to rhyme with Nimbus. [3] Motelli’s single “Oscar Wilde” / “Akka akka” was produced by Wigwam’s Pekka Rechardt. It seems that the band were designed as Finland’s first punk band by manager Pietikäinen on a Malcolm McLaren mode. However, as none of the musicians had any clue what punk rock was suppose to sound like, their songs ended more as “theatrical rock inspired by The Tubes”. 


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Here are the lyrics to the album in English, with some initial commentary from Kai."So for the hell of it, here’s my English translation of all the song texts from the CD version of Obus. I’ve followed quite closely the format in the booklet, too close in some cases perhaps. I’ve checked the texts against the record, and the two versions seem to largely agree with each other. As in the booklet, the italicised lines are not sung. The exception is of course “Myrskyjen välillä” which I transcribed off the record. Therefore there is a greater chance that errors in performance or transcription may have garbled the original intent of the lyrics somewhat, but I think you’ll get the gist of it.

Apart from rampant pessimism and weapons-grade Weltschmerz, the lyrics show a tendency towards neologisms and syntactic ambiguity for the “wow, that’s deep, man” effect (I would guess that Jukka Gustavson’s original Finnish texts would be the inspiration). I’ve had to simplify a few things and choose between interpretations at places where English and Finnish don’t really agree. Since the lyrics are largely free verse with few sound devices, I have stuck to straightforward semantic translation. Anyone interested in the rhythm or sound of the words is better off just listening to the recording in any case. However, just remember that accurate meaning has been the primary objective here, not the most idiomatic text."


I'm removing the italics only, as Kai has mixed straight print and italics due to the following: As in the booklet, the italicised lines are not sung.


WHATEVER LEADS TO WHERE EVER

A certain immortal whitebeard’s
(who got to experience the prophecies, the testaments,
the changes, the end, all that by eating just that
brand of yoghurt) tale of future,
pain, hopelessness (three useless things).
A report that sped at twice the speed of light
into the historical present
and reached its destination in 1974.


THE PROPHECY (February 9th 19XY)

Things experienced and read,
childhood memories.


Who understands time?
Do you, Amenophis? The clock hands and its imperishability?
A leaflet on the street handed out 40 days
to each depressed passer-by
(and no one was left without).
The witnesses are afraid of the dog.
They keep the date to themselves.
Better kept secret.

Truly, there is a sense of a great farewell party in the air.
Nature issues a serious warning.
To each individual


imagination are left
the details and channels of chaos.
The place is predestined.
The point that promises the most,

keeping

hands behind the back

fidgeting with mistakes and problems,
with physical-mental mass murders.


Even scientists cry to the best of their abilities,
longing for the trees.
Even computers lapse into pessimism.

Frankly irreversible!
I have watched, wandered, experienced
(three tough things!).


Outside-inside I feel, friend:
I’d like to dig the starting holes with you
and wait for the sanctions, hiding with our thoughts
which we only whisper in fear of getting the boot,
for tomorrow is:
coercion
fear
odd number
(three heavy things).

I hope the prophecy won’t come true.


THE TESTAMENT (September 15th 2YXZ)

The things that the master of the world and I
realised too late.


I think about
what He promised in the elections before the chaos.
What His country thought when it caused
the era of three heavy things.
Of the ebb tide
that is seeping completely out of the leaking sea,
its first drops already green with red poison.

A new colour,
for everything was very secret.


How complacent everyone was
about tomorrow!
Promises of better things,
but the testaments felt so useless,
those that no one was going to read
without the insights, the improvements
which many already craved for yesterday.
HELP, I need help, I can’t make it alone.
I start imagining all sorts of things.
I start going crazy.


THE CHANGE (April 12th XZYX, X>2)

Descriptions of a new state of being,
of brainlessness,
of lifeless matter,
of the non-existent reason’s limitless possibilities
in hindsight.

It’s nearly time to depart.
Questions occupying the mind.


Will the world become infinite?
Will space become the Void?
Where the oscillators’ artistic figurines
hover around me.
With copper horns on my head, I sit on one of them
and experience everything as green.
Grass I can no longer remember.
The subconscious stimulus is too weak.
NO!
Cosmic smogs have simply paralysed
my ability to receive.
My plastic skin does not feel the cold.
A hand I can at least remember: a hand
that silently pleaded for help and waited. A platinum hand!
Thoughts of revolutions still occupy my mind.
What do they matter now when I’m alone?
What do carrots matter?
What does overpopulation matter?
There is room!
What does love matter?


EPILOGUE (November 11th 1974)

How terrifyingly lucky!
Some strange INVENTOR is whispering in my ear
of the chance to salvation.
I suppose I finally better start listening.


Miraculously I’ve made it back to earth,
to this year.
Gyro Gearloose with his time machine rescued me
from beyond the deeper than deep sleep.
Brought me back from the frontiers of lunacy land,
from a journey to eternal despair:
a journey you too may end up on
through brute forces, ambitions, pride
or other hallucinations.

Which include more things
than anyone thinks.


And your only redemption will be through humanity,
with luck.


A PESSIMISTIC DIALOGUE

It is the age of rust, of heavy earth.
Where does the child’s cry come from?
Far away is the verdant age.
Are you aware of the present and its too
deviant ideals?
How could I release myself from behind the bars of today’s prison
and among the subjects of clean nature,
to circulate wisdom,
to take in knowledge?

I was born in the wrong era,
to envy the stone age.

I pity the five-year old.
Will he get to live to the end of his book?
How could I journey beyond the painless frontier?
Taking everything with me,
my friends,
who can only be saved by the dreams of an optimist?
Don’t be born again.
Make no wishes for the future.
Shit is already raining out of the mouths of the verbose.
I’m afraid.

Let us flee beyond the mountains,
to find the roots of the brook!
We shall forget the past:
in any case, by thinking
we cannot help.
How could I fall asleep on the moss, in the shadow of the rock
Without feeling that I have achieved serenity.
Don’t answer.
Never think back.


THE LONELY SAILOR

Has shut out
himself.
Has stepped into loneliness
alone.
Like Heyerdahl
the only difference is
he doesn’t search but runs away.

Let’s get him away
before he disappears!

Let’s be together, show him the gate,
the earth’s smell
despite and because of that
we can give him peace.
When peace is needed.
Joy when joyfulness is needed.
Love when love is needed.
Always.
I don’t know, he says.
We don’t know either.
We say, but that doesn’t prevent
Prevent anything.


BETWEEN THE STORMS

Winds, birds of bad weather, waves
have ceased.
The sky’s dark, cruel clouds
have disappeared,
making room for a new strange dawn,
another silence.

Dawn and all its sounds,
echoes of chirps announce their gratitude,
that fear has fled faraway,
under the trees,
to the great roots, cliffs.

In the mirror of dew drops,
reality forms an image
of a smiling, calm stream.
The outlines of a rocky shore
accentuate this deep sleep
with their straightness.

And peace reigns over the creation.
The lifeless, the living, nature
are in harmony as long as there is
a weak wind, light clouds,
the aspen leaves are silent.

Guided by instinct,
the frightened bird of prey
looks for shelter.
It is the time to wait for the storm.
Nature’s lifelessly savage forces
gain control.
It is the time for another kind of fear.

The sky portends a new storm.
Nearness of the grey cloud offers no safety.
Ripples on the surface of the sea,
rays, winds, broken streams by the shore.

Gomorrha - s/t + Trauma. 1970-1971 Germany


Gomorrah (1970): Interesting to hear this album after absorbing the English language Trauma for a number of years. On the plus side, it's always great to hear a band sing in their native language - at least it is for me. But the big difference here is that the debut is clearly a product of the psychedelic 60s, whereas Trauma is more geared toward the 70s Krautrock / hard rock underground. The vocal harmonies and psychedelic fuzz solos are the blueprint for any great psych album coming from the US in 1968/69. Even the long cosmic track is toned down a bit here, at least in comparison to the molten 1971 Trauma version. Definitely an album you'll want to get as a bonus to the Trauma album, which most of the CD's possess. On its own, it's not worth tracking down, especially if you already know what the followup brings.

Trauma: In many ways, Gomorrha's Trauma is like the My Solid Ground album. At its core, Gomorrha are a straightforward psychedelic hard rock band. Perhaps a very good psychedelic hard rock band, but nothing more than that. But there's the one centerpiece track that calls a much greater attention to it. And it's monumental in scope. With My Solid Ground it's the 13 minute+ 'Dirty Yellow Mist'. And with Gomorrha it's the 13 minute+ title track, which is a magnificent psychedelic Krautrock piece just oozing with underground atmosphere. The loud acid guitar leads and droning organ chords go a long way to sending the message down that, yes indeed, you are in 1971 Germany.
 

As is well documented, Trauma is the English language recording of their self-titled debut. But that was a full year before, and the band had honed their skills just that much further since then. The variation in sound is significantly different, and you'll want to own both for comparison. And it's easy to do so, as most of the CD reissues feature both recordings on one disc. Make no mistake, Trauma is a huge improvement on the debut, at least for cosmic Krautrock fans.

For those keeping score, here's the matrix between the re-recording 1971 Trauma and the 1970 Gomorrha album:

A1: Journey =  A4: Reise
A2: Trauma = B3: Trauma
A3: Yesterday = A6: Gestern
B1: Lola = A1: Lola
B2: Dead Land = A2: Totes Land
B3: Summer = B2: Sommer
B4: Rainbowlight = A5: Regenbogenschein
B5: Dance of Circles = B1: Kreiseltanz
B6: Firehands = A3: Flammenhände


And to think, they actually improved from here on I Turned to See Whose Voice it Was!


Personal collection
CD: 2013 Long Hair

As originals both are pretty rare. My introduction to Trauma was via the 1992 Second Battle CD, which featured as a bonus the 'Trauma' track from the 1970 album. I sold it in the late 90s and hadn't really thought about it until recently. Fortunately Long Hair has come through with a fresh batch of reissues. Since the liner notes are the same, I went forward with the CD rather than the LP, primarily because the CD has both albums in full. Overall, it's an excellent presentation, and it sounds great. I wouldn't mind having an original of Trauma but I'm not going to drain the bank account for one.

Quarteto 1111 - Onde, Quando, Como, Porquê Cantamos Pessoas Vivas. 1975 Portugal

This opus from the Portuguese group Quarteto 1111 would have fit perfectly in the middle of the 1973 Italian progressive rock movement. Mellotron galore with dramatic vocals that would make a band like Celeste, Premiata Forneria Marconi, or Quella Vecchia Locanda proud. In fact, this album has more mellotron than any other album I can think of (really)! And the melodies are sublime, a rare certain sound that is hard to write about, but no one creates music like this anymore, that's for sure. Wonderful synthesizer and electric guitar soloing as well. Unfortunately a very short album that doesn't quite hit the 30 minute mark. I love stuff like this.

Personal collection
CD: 2008 iPlay
LP: 2009 Guerssen (Spain)

I first heard of this rarity via Japan's Marquee magazine in the late 1980s. This LP really is obscure, and I never had a chance to even hear it until 2006 (despite an intense search for over 15 years) when a friend sent me a CD-R.  As for reissues, the iPlay digi-pak is very nice and has unique liner notes (but in Portuguese). I also went forward with the Guerssen LP, knowing I'll probably never possess an original. This reissue is excellent, and replicates the flap back cover perfectly. It also comes with a full set of liners, this time in English.

Et Cetera - s/t. 1971 Germany

Wolfgang Dauner was one of the true pioneers of the late 60s German jazz scene. And so he was a natural to experiment with rock’s energy and sounds, and combine them with his vision of free jazz. The opening track features a driving staccato synthesized organ sound (somewhat akin to Supersister or Soft Machine) mixed with some freer jazz structures that can be a bit much in places. The next three tracks are Dauner at his best, mixing an array of ethnic/world music (mainly Eastern) with some psychedelic rock and modal jazz. The album closes with a free jazz piece, which gets away from my personal tastes. So the opener and closer keep this from being a classic for me – but one that I still hold in high esteem. 

The CD reissue adds an additional three bonus cuts, and the LP appends one more with 'An Open Can' (12:35). These 4 tracks collectively were recorded at the same time as the album proper, and so are musically similar. That is to say they are at the crossroads of psychedelic rock and reckless jazz - though I'd submit these bonus tracks are tilted more in favor of the former, which is a good thing in my book.

Personal collection
CD: 2008 Long Hair
LP: 2011 Long Hair

The original features a wonderful silver plated gatefold cover. They are indeed scarce, and when you do find one, the cover is usually faded and shows plenty of wear. The Brain issue came from their Rock On Brain series, and as was usual for the series, featured a new album cover and title (Lady Blue). Long Hair was the first and only to market with a CD, and it's superb with excellent liner notes, great sound, and a full 3 bonus tracks. Perhaps even better is the double LP reissue, replicating the original cover though made to be less susceptible to wear. This issue includes the same three bonus cuts as the CD, plus one more lengthy - and excellent - track.

Lard Free - I'm Around Midnight. 1975 France

Whereas the debut tended towards noisy electronics and free jazz, Lard Free on the followup I'm Around About Midnight brings in no less a luminary than Richard Pinhas, and subsequently turns out a Heldon styled nightmare (and that's a very good thing). Pinhas' tortured bluesy guitar and down tuned Moog are in abundance, and the whole album sounds like a long lost Heldon album from around the time of Agneta Nilsson. Perhaps with a touch of Artman's future project Urban Sax on display. A splendid album of electronik musik. Highly recommended.

Personal collection
LP: 1975 Vamp
CD: 2008 Captain Trip (Japan)

My introduction to the album was immediately after the Spalax CD came out, and as usual for the imprint, it's a straight reissue with no extras. A couple of years after that, I picked up the original gatefold LP since I love the late 1940's era Pigalle District artwork. Again, because of the cover, I went forward with the Captain Trip mini and sold off the Spalax. I found the sound on the latter CD to be excellent as well.

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