Tuesday, April 29, 2014
CD reissue: 2014 Strawberry Rain (Canada)
LP reissue: 2014 Strawberry Rain (Canada)
Packaging: The one copy that's been found in the wilds, at least as published on the internet, is shown in the picture above. Of course, the reissues look much cleaner without all the writing, cover wear, and stickers, but the artwork is the same. African records are super rare and expensive for a variety of reasons including the climate and often severe weather situations, economic conditions, and political turmoil. I've previously called Strawberry Rain the Canadian Shadoks due to their ability to find rock albums from the most exotic locales around the world. And it appears Africa and Indonesia are their primary sources, especially if you can consider the vast amount of Zambian records they have on tap to reissue. As usual, Strawberry Rain has done a fine job on the reissue, with excellent historical liner notes, photos and good sound. On the latter, I suspect the masters were lost and they needed to no-noise a vinyl copy - but I think they did an excellent job (you can still hear some of the vinyl - which is fine with me). The CD comes in a fine digi-pak, and that's what I own.
Notes: As is common with Sub Saharan African rock bands, the guitars contain heavy use of the fuzzbox, and the organs are from antiquity. The music is straight up harmonic rock, with a funk base - and psychedelic undertones. Well placed flute decorates the recording and adds an exotic edge. "Simmer Down" is similar to an album you might hear from the 1970 era Detroit scene. I find music like this timeless, and very enjoyable.
I've had this album on a want list for about 14 years, ever since I heard this band compared to Watchtower, early Sieges Even, etc... And now I've finally secured a CD for myself.
And that's exactly what this is: Old School Technical Thrash Metal. Extremely dense compositions, including acoustic bits and a jazzy disposition - all within the framework of a traditional thrash metal workout. If you're a fan of bands such as Osiris (NTH), Taramis, Realm, Mekong Delta, Deathrow, and the aforementioned two bands, then be sure to hunt this obscure private press down. The vocals are more subdued than most in this genre, and there's no ball-squeezer shrieking to be found here. Which can be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective... Overall, it tracks closest to "Manic Impressions" era Anacrusis, minus the schizophrenic vocal approach. I can listen to stuff like this all day, but certainly not for everyone - even die-hard metal fans.
Sunday, April 27, 2014
CD issue: 2013 ShroomAngel
Had Houston's Chameleon hailed from two states farther north, they could have easily qualified for my 1970s / early 80s Midwest Progressive Rock list. Their musical approach is smack dab in the middle of the movement, with thoughtful radio friendly numbers juxtaposed against much more complex chart structures, and intricate songwriting. The majority of the album comes from two sessions, one from 1976 and the other 1978. There are also a couple of songs from 1973 and '74 when they were still known as Lorien. The latter track (nearly 10 minutes) opens the CD, and is one of the more overt progressive tracks found on the anthology, with some strong Hammond work in particular. I'm reminded slightly of Polyphony here but with the addition of piano. From there, the material alternates between the 1976 and 1978 recordings, before closing with the sole 1973 representative, which is a folky number and crudely recorded. Despite what might be a natural inclination, the '76 & '78 material is very similar - both are well written and the latter is no more commercial than the former. Synthesizer is now more predominant than the organ, as was the norm of the era. The band knew how to pen a composition, and it really is too bad they weren't able to secure a major label recording contract. By 1981 the band decided to call it a day, without ever releasing a proper album. Don't miss this gem if you like the American style of progressive rock mixed with hard rock and AOR material.
This fine archival release is housed in a nice tri-fold digipak that contains detailed recording info, history, and photos. Excellent sound quality as well. It's great to see Houston's Shroom back in action, and I hope they unearth more archival releases such as this. They were the leaders in the 90s with discoveries like Intra, Arabesque, Aurora, Heyoka, and Hands.
Last update: August 28, 2016
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
CD issue: 2012 Dawn Chorus
LP reissue: 2014 Harvest
When you name your band Syd Arthur, you're just begging to be compared to late 60s Pink Floyd combined with any number of whimsical early 70s UK progressive bands. And in Syd Arthur's case, given the band's home locale of Canterbury (really? you have to be from there, huh?), I think the indigenous reference has Pye Hastings' Caravan all over this. Well, one could do worse than be the missing link between Caravan's first album and If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You. I found the songwriting to be particularly enlightened here (do I hear a melody? Why, I do!), way beyond the usual mimicry that modern bands seem to think they achieve by throwing analog instruments at some skeleton of a composition, and going 4/4 time with slabs of fuzz hoping to gain some sort of 1971 street cred and falling straight on their tattoo of a jester. And Syd Arthur gets that. My, how they do. Not sure how these kids managed to plug themselves into the spirit of the 1970 UK era, but they've done a tremendous job on the cleverly titled On an On (yet perhaps another reference to Caravan's similarly cleverly titled second album). Too much so, if I can interpret the lost look on most hipster's faces. "Uh... dude. Wait... I don't get it, man" while fiddling to get their nose ring just right. Then there's the fact that one of the quartet is primarily featured on violin. Now they've really done it - going all Northern Irish and all that rot. Yea, it's Fruupp at the time of Future Legends. No one thought about that, did they? That's what Ashratom is here to do. Remind everyone of what they're hearing, even if the band themselves aren't sure. And the psychedelic guitar and absolute brilliant vocals (another vestige from a bygone era - no emotive whining here - nope, just pure psych harmony bliss). Hey Syd Arthur? Thanks for bringing psychedelic styled songwriting back into progressive rock. You guys are awesome! Can't wait to hear what's next.