Steve Maxwell von Braund - Monster Planet. 1975 Australia


Monster Planet is arguably Australia's first electronic album. Influenced by the German Cosmic Courier LPs (all of which were imported to Australia), and Braund's own time spent in the English and German underground, Monster Planet mixes both rock (including vocals, sax, bass, and drums) and electronik elements. The latter element proving to be the main characteristic of the album. The synthesizer was limited to strictly a Korg-700, so the possibilities were quite limited - and the album is a bit monotonous in places because of it. There are no sequencers, organ, or mellotron - just static and spacey electronics. Shortly thereafter Braund began to assemble a full arsenal of synthesizers, and thus the Cybotron legacy was born. All the same, the album has its charms, and is a good example of the pioneering 70s electronic music movement.

Personal collection
LP: 1975 Clear Light of Jupiter
CD: 2013 Aztec

The album was pressed in a quantity of about 2000. Braund wasn't too keen on the cover design (nor the von designation), and so he had approximately 500 of the albums reprinted with a more favorable cover (to him at least), and that's the second photo you see (and the liner notes of the CD go into great detail about the issues surrounding the cover). So convincing was the German styled cover design, that when I first read about the album from a catalog in the mid 1980s, it was simply listed as Monster Planet on the Cosmic Couriers label. For many years, dealers told me such an album didn't exist. And finally the puzzle was resolved for me, and eventually I bought the LP about a decade later (original cover). Then a few years ago, it was announced that Aztec would reissue the album on CD, following on their successful reprinting of Cybotron's Implosion. Shortly after that, Aztec went bankrupt, and it appeared the opportunity had been lost. But as announced on the CDRWL, Aztec reemerged, though in a somewhat confused state. Both the Aztec and Dual Planet reissues replicate the original cover (this presumes, then, that Braund has reconciled with it). The CD also features a very telling 14 minute radio interview from back then. I did have to admit wondering why Aztec would reissue such an obscure album, especially after falling into financial trouble. And the answer is provided in the extremely informative liner notes: Label head Gil Matthews plays bass and drums on the album!

Irish Coffee - s/t. 1971 Belgium

Irish Coffee's debut is practically the definition of the Continental European rock sound of the era. Heavy guitar and Hammond organ are the main instruments, while the English vocals are delivered in a forceful gruff style. The music is deceptively complex, and a casual listen will likely result in labeling the album as "hard rock". Perhaps, but in the same way as Nosferatu or Culpeper's Orchard. Tracks like 'Can't Take It', 'When Winter Comes', and 'Hear Me' pack a lot of ideas and meter shifts into their sub 5 minute time frames. The single tracks are indeed more straightforward, and the last recordings come from 1974 where it appears the band hadn't progressed at all.

Personal collection
CD: 2007 Thors Hammer / Garden of Delights (Germany)

My first taste of the album, along with dozens of other people I'm sure, came via the Voodoo CD reissue which I picked up sometime in the 90s. Over the years, this reissue had been tagged a pirate edition, but I was pretty certain it was legit. And sure enough, the band themselves reissued it in a limited edition (Voodoo was an early name for the band). It featured 7 bonus tracks and a small history. Naturally it vanished into various collections over the years, and the bootleggers hit the market hard. Fortunately Garden of Delights came to the rescue (under their non-German Thors Hammer moniker), and this is the de facto reissue. Full historical liner notes, new photos, scans of all their singles (and all 7 extra singles are here as bonus tracks), and great sound. Here we learn of the authenticity of the original CD (but points out one glaring recording error), as well as confirming the original LP release date as July 1971 (I still see 1972 appended on some discographies).

Light Year - Reveal the Fantastic. 1974 USA (archival)

Today we have a real gem. And it's been out there for 4 years now, and I'm just hearing it for the first time!(?) I discovered it the old fashioned way: Research. This is the type of album I'm usually tipped to ahead of time by my loyal friends and researchers. So perhaps today I can return the favor? I hope so. I think all of my readers will adore this one.

An extraordinary find, Light Year were a band from San Francisco circa 1974 that played a cross between heavy fusion and progressive rock, with dominant female vocals. To me it sounds like the Belgian band Cos playing the music of Mahavishnu Orchestra! Yes... I'm serious - Pascale Son fronting John McLaughlin and crew. A 6 piece of guitar, keyboards, bass, drums, vocals, and percussion (much of it tuned). Mixing a Bay Area band with an additional percussionist will call to mind who? Yes, that's right, Santana. And guitarist Randy Sellgren certainly possesses that hyper kinetic electric technique of Mahavishnu John meets Carlos type sound. The music is jazz oriented, but with ferocious rock segments, in the same manner as Santana's "Lotus". And the final track, clocking in at a whopping 20:20, has a distinct space rock element - propelling the album to its greatest height.

And the story doesn't end there. And this is perhaps the most fascinating aspect for me; the liner notes don't mention it. And there's only one reference to it on the label's home page. And (lots of ands on this one...) this is how I discovered it in the first place: I recently bought a second LP copy of Mingo Lewis' "Flight Never Ending" which I have listed in the CDRWL. This copy, however, included a promotional insert, where it says (typing it out literally): "Mingo's band lingo (sic) is a tight, young outfit: Drummer Dave Logemen (22), bassist Eric McCann (17), plus the remains of another San Francisco band called Light Year which includes guitarist Randy Sellgren, synthesizer specialist Michael Kapitan, and keyboardist Kincaid Miller." The latter two are not mentioned in the CD liner notes (Mingo's album came out two years later) - but then again, neither is Mingo Lewis. Holy smokes - who knew??

This album is absolutely essential.

Personal collection
CD: 2010 Green Tree (Germany)

The CD comes in a nice digipak and features newly written liner notes (from 3 of the members), lyrics, and photos. The sound is excellent. The LP is a gatefold, though I haven't possessed one myself. I know that Green Tree has a somewhat checkered past, but this one is clearly legit, and a superb archival album. Buy this one before it gets away. Special thanks is given to Doug Larson, who I presume had something to do with this release.

L'Orchestre Sympathique - En Concert a la Grande Passe. 1979 Canada

L'Orchestre Sympathique's jazz rock sound (recorded live, but perfect sound) is defined by flute and tuned percussion, and thus draws comparisons to Pierre Moerlen's Gong and fellow Quebecois legends Maneige very easily. And those references are certainly on the mark. One band that isn't mentioned often, but I pick up in the more intense spots, is that of Dun's Eros. There's no hints of Zeuhl here, and it certainly isn't a dead-on reference, but there are a few similarities especially on 'Houmalaya'. As with any live jazz oriented album, there are a couple of loose improvisation spots that get stuck in the mud, but in general those moments are fortunately held at bay. About 15 years after this album, the Argentine band Las Orejas y La Lengua would release a similar type effort. Highly recommended.

Personal collection
CD: 2005 ProgQuebec

Original LP is a single sleeve cover. The album was included in their concert pricing  - a novel idea that helped fund the project. It's only been in the last couple of years that I was first introduced to the album. The CD features liner notes and wonderful sound like all of ProgQuebec's product.

Madder Lake - Stillpoint. 1973 Australia

Madder Lake's debut is a varied work, that references many of the influences of its day. Anything from the Oz standard of boogie/shuffle ('On My Way to Heaven') to catchy folk rock pop ('Goodbye Lollipop') onto Santana influenced jazz rock - it all can heard on Stillpoint. Perhaps the best track is the opening 8 1/2  minute 'Salmon Song' (wait a minute, was Steve Hillage...? Naw...), a primarily instrumental jazz rock piece that features some fantastic guitar and organ leads. Other highlights include 'Helper', which sounds like it could have fit in the middle of Blue Oyster Cult's Tyranny and Mutation album; the first half of 'Listen to the Morning Sunshine' is typical boogie, but the second half is all psychedelic goodness; and the two progressive oriented closers 'Song for Little Ernest' and '12-lb Toothbrush'. Ironically the latter track had a pop vocal motif that they filtered out for a hit single (as presented on the Aztec CD as a bonus track) - and became somewhat of a caricature sound for the band. They apparently never recovered their reputation locally because of it ("a millstone around their neck" as the liner notes put it). From my perspective, this is by far their better of two albums, and I could never reconcile with their sophomore effort Butterfly Farm despite a splendid cover.

Personal collection
LP: 1973 Mushroom
CD: 2008 Aztec

Originals come in a nice rough paper, non-laminated gatefold. Of historical interest, this was the first album on the Mushroom label, and was more or less created by the manager of Madder Lake. And of personal historical interest, this was the first album I ever bought on ebay in the late 90s. Such an odd choice, but it remains the fact. The fantastic Aztec reissue comes with 8 bonus tracks. I've spoken at length already about how great these Aztec reissues are, so I'll stop here.

Mackenzie Theory - Out of the Blue. 1973 Australia

I think the best way to describe Mackenzie Theory's debut is that of a laid back Mahavishnu Orchestra. Which sounds like an oxymoron, but when you hear Out of the Blue it will make sense. Electric guitar and electric viola are the main protagonists here, and both put in a splendid performance. Not only do they possess the necessary chops, but also achieve the most wonderful psychedelic tones. The music is clearly composed, and offers far more than the usual three note backdrop while throwing endless boring jams on top. The tight ensemble work is really where the Mahavishnu Orchestra comparison comes in, especially at the time of Inner Mounting Flame. Another element that Mackenzie Theory excels at is pacing - that is to say, their ability to slow a song down and suddenly propel it back to a blistering speed. It adds a level of unexpected excitement, and it's just these kind of surprises that make Out of the Blue a truly progressive jazz rock album. And don't miss the live version of  'New Song' as presented on the Aztec CD, as it will leave your speakers smoldering for a few hours afterward. This is a must own album for early instrumental fusion fans.

Personal collection
CD: 2009 Aztec

Originals on Mushroom come in a fine gatefold. My first exposure to the album goes back to the first CD pressed over 20 years ago. The original label was still around at that point (ultimately being rolled up into the Festival brand and is now defunct), and this was sold as a "budget CD". So it's a straight transfer, right off the masters, but has little else to offer. As is often the case for me, I waited too long to replace it with the Aztec reissue, and then when the company was announced to have gone kaput, I knew I missed my chance. But the company resurfaced and their version of the CD, like all of Aztec's reissues, is magnificent. Comes in their usual tri-fold digipak complete with copious/insightful liner notes, photos, a much improved sound, and one smoking hot bonus live track. I'd like to eventually pick up the original at some point, but it's not a top priority.

Sensations' Fix - Portable Madness. 1974 Italy

And here we have... the single greatest space rock album of all time! No small claim that. Not an irreverent throw out to grab one's...