Planetarium - Infinity. 1971 Italy

Not the first album mentioned when talking classic Italian progressive rock, and yet it was one of the very first chronologically. Mostly an atmospheric, instrumental (with wordless voice), and "quite lovely" album as the Brits would say. It is indeed cinematic in its approach, and very lush. And yes, speaking of lush, Mellotron is all over this for fans of the tape sampler keyboard instrument. Clearly a concept album of enormous proportion going from the beginning (of everything?) to Infinity... all in about 35 minutes (hey! - not bad considering what it could have been... Yes would have done the same in 9 hours over a 12 album deluxe set...). The music has this certain "looking out over the sea" quality that Italian bands seem to inherently possess. I'm reminded of Era di Acquario in their instrumental moments, and on the rare occasion when Planetarium do rock out (in Hammond organ fueled jazzy jam mode), you'll think of Latte e Miele's Passio Secundum Mattheum when in a similar mindset in relation to their own insanely ambitious concept album.

Personal collection
CD: 1990 Vinyl Magic

An extremely rare album, though not as expensive as some of the more known Italian progressive rock classics, only because demand isn't as high. The album is housed in a textured single sleeve cover. Not that I've ever seen one mind you. This is an album I'd never even heard of when the CD hit the market 24 years ago. But I was encouraged to buy one immediately, and glad I did - though like all the old Vinyl Magic CDs, all you get is a straight reissue (but legal). Even though it's never been repressed, I believe you can still find new copies out there for the original retail price. I wouldn't wait forever though. This is one I would expect an LP reissue from BTF, as well as a Japanese mini-LP to emerge. But surprisingly, the old Vinyl Magic CD is all there is.

Skryvania - s/t. 1978 France

Complex as all-get-out symphonic progressive rock from 1970s era French teenagers. Sure, the compositions are beyond their ability; the instrumentation is cheap; the (fortunately) sparse vocals border on the atrocious, and the production isn't much better. Having said all of that, I find music like this irrésistible. The sheer audacity of these kids trying to pull this off is impressive enough. Of course they emulate their heroes Yes, King Crimson, and Genesis more than they should, but here's an album that is perfect for "relistenability". Long tracks that are very involved, twisty, crazy - and without purpose. Great stuff.

Personal collection
CD: 1990 Musea

An extremely rare album, the original run is said to be no more than 200 copies, and given the amount I've seen over the years, I would have to think that's probably true (I think these numbers are often higher than dealers like to let on - but not in this case). Musea was early to market with a CD, that comes with full historical notes (still using their old LP fonts) and bonus tracks, one of which is just as great as the album itself. This was one of Musea's earliest efforts, and already by 1990 they "did the needful" as my Indian friends like to say. I bought one immediately upon release, as the album had a great reputation even back then (and well deserved for the right type of listener).

Neo - s/t. 1980 France

The all-instrumental Neo play a style of hard hitting symphonic fusion, mixed with lighter jazz rock touches. The guitarist absolutely smokes on this record, while the saxophone provides much of the melody lines. Keyboards play a strong role in the overall atmosphere. 'Osibirsk' opens the album in pulverizing fashion. Presuming you can still sit up after that, the album has plenty more rewards, most notably the 10+ minute 'Sortie de Bain'. Neo are yet another example of the fertile French scene during this era, and will appeal to fans of Terpendre, Transit Express, Metabolisme, and Rahmann.

Personal collection
CD: 1997 Musea

Apparently the idea with the Neo album is to change the colors with each release! The colors above are true, as I've owned the last two myself (though the Omega Studio version is more pinkish than the scan above). Originals on Prodisc are pretty scarce. Omega Studio is essentially Prodisc V 2.0, and was a neat little label in the mid 80s who issued on LP a few cool items from Wapassou, WLUD, Serge Bringholf, and this album. It was this version that introduced me to the album sometime in the late 1980s. Musea completed the reissue cycle with a fine CD, with detailed historical notes, and two good bonus tracks. Given the quality of the CD, I felt no need to hold onto the LP reissue. A decision I'd still make today.

Shub Niggurath - s/t. 1985 France

When Shub Niggurath released Les Morts Vont Vite in 1986, hardcore Zeuhl fans everywhere were frothing at the mouth, dirtying their dogeared copies of Lovecraft, while frantically chanting Kobaia and envisioning a world of Magma and Univers Zero dominance. Personally, while I found the album quite good (and still do), I did feel it lacked a bit in the melody, groove, and soul departments. It was all manic depressive - all the time. And they were quite the noisy bunch if truth be told. Well a year before that, unbeknownst to but a few of the Secret Order of the Golden Fleece, there was a privately released cassette. And if you loved Les Morts Vont Vite, then this album will put you in HOG HELL. Not much variation of their classic sound, doom & gloom, and well... still a bit noisy... But, yea, that would make you happy wouldn't it?

The original had only been released as a demo cassette prior to a small tour. The tape is incredibly obscure, and I didn't even know of its existence until doing research for the CDRWL. Soleil Zeuhl's CD reissue is excellent, and would be the only copy anyone would ever need, unless they insist on a vinyl copy.

Last listen: March 5, 2018

Dies Irae - First. 1971 Germany

Dies Irae starts off poorly with a "mouth harp" (harmonica) blues disaster, before launching into some pretty creative heavy rock. I missed this originally, but I wonder if anyone else has caught a very strong semblance to one of Krautrock's most revered albums: The Scorpions debut Lonesome Crow. It's not near as solid as the Brain label debut album, and does have a couple of more clunkers to sit through, but there's enough here to warrant a couple of listens. And makes me wonder if the Schenker Boys hadn't lent an ear prior to waltzing into the studio for Lonesome Crow.

Personal collection
CD: 1994 Ohrwaschl

Originals come in a fine gatefold, typical of the label. I traded for this album about 25 years ago, but it wasn't really to my taste then. And since I still had too much to acquire, I flipped it quickly for something more to my liking. I recently obtained the 1994 CD, after years of not thinking about the album at all. Like all Ohrwaschl releases, it's a very basic jewel box release with nothing but a copy of the original album. It is from the masters though, so it will suffice until something better comes along. The 2009 version is housed in a digi-pak, whereas the LP reissue replicates the original FOC.

Patrick Gauthier - Bebe Godzilla. 1981 France

Patrick Gauthier's debut solo album offers up a compendium of the French underground of the late 70's and early 80's. A who's who of French luminaries grace this once in a lifetime effort, lead by keyboardist Gauthier, including Richard Pinhas (Heldon), Christian Vander (Magma), and everyone involved with those legendary groups such as the Zeuhl super band Weidorje. It seems the subversive  underground owned the French studios at the time. Too bad they lost control, or at least we think they did. If any band above registers a positive response, then Bébé Godzilla will do similar.

Personal collection
CD: 1994 Seventh

Klockwerk Orange - Abrakadabra + Live at Stadtsaal Innsbruck. 1975 Austria (archival)

Abrakadabra is an extremely obscure progressive album from 1975 with 3 long tracks. Very Teutonic sounding, reminding me of similar era German groups such as Pancake, Madison Dyke and Minotaurus. The unique element at play here is the use of trumpet. So you get a little Tijuana Brass meets ELP. Gotta hear 'Tijuana Taxi' collide with 'Manticore'!

Concerning the archival Live at Stadtsaal Innsbruck - The first three tracks are new compositions not found on the actual LP, and demonstrates that Klockwerk Orange were rapidly becoming more ambitious as song composers. They also introduce an earlier progressive sound, as would be found on Pink Floyd's Meddle perhaps. The highlight track is 'Vlad Zeppesch', surely a tale about Dracula, which contains many twists and turns in an almost Italian progressive rock style. Only downfall is of course the sound quality, which is of high bootleg standard. But it's good enough, and we'll take what we can get. One can only wish they had the time to lay these tracks down in a studio. Or that they reform ala Necronomicon and Alphataurus, and finish the job they started nearly 40 years ago.

Personal collection
LP+CD: 2013 Digatone

As long as I've been collecting, Klockwerk's Orange sole album has always been rare and expensive, frequently changing hands for over $800 (& more). As such, I had it on a curiosity list for as long as I've been making such lists (since the 1980s). But it wasn't until about 8 years ago I finally received a copy via CD-R, and then quickly entered it into to the CDRWL. Then out of the blue last year, a new label from Austria debuted their reissue catalog with this album! At first I was skeptical and did all sorts of background checks, suspecting a bootleg. But as we know now, that is not the case, and Digatone are fully entrenched as Austria's new bright light for quality legitimate reissues, especially given their recent release of Isaiah, an album we've already featured here on the UMR. Without a doubt, the way to go here is the 2 LP reissue (a wonderful high quality gatefold) that also includes a CD in a simple slip case. The second LP is a formerly unreleased 1975 concert known as Live at Stadtsaal Innsbruck. If you want the full concert, you'll have to obtain the LP reissue, as the (Digatone) CD only contains 3 of the 5 tracks. (Both Bas and Achim have correctly smacked me upside the head: Japan's Belle Antique has both albums in full on a 2 CD set - I knew that too. D'oh!)

Altona - s/t. 1975 Germany

Altona play a tight, energetic styled jazz rock, similar to other "Kraut fusion" bands such as Moira, Missus Beastly, and Release Music Orchestra. The vocals are gruff in that bluesy way, more akin to what you would hear in the early 1970s from similar genre bands operating in Germany and England. An excellent addition to the collection, if 70s jazz rock with vocals is your fancy.

Personal collection
CD: 2000 Disconforme (Andorra)

The original LP features an interesting contemporary single sleeve cover with manikins mocking American bus tourists (stereotyping of course) visiting the Hamburg section/town of... Altona. There is a promo version that comes with a huge poster. I first bought this album in the early 90s from a record show, but I wasn't as keen on the German jazz fusion sound as I am today. I sold the LP 20 years ago, and hadn't thought much about it until I recently scored the CD. The CD itself comes from a vinyl transfer, and could benefit from a new remaster. The liner notes appear to be translations of German newspaper articles that were added. Overall, the reissue will suffice, though I may pickup an original again if I run into one at a reasonable price.

Skywhale - The World at Mind's End. 1977 England

Skywhale's sole album is one of the rare non-Canterbury UK fusion albums that sound more in line with what was happening over the Chan...