Iskander - Boheme 2000. 1982 Germany

The CD issue contains significantly more music, much of it superb, including the magnificent full 4 part suite of 'Winterhagen', which now clocks in at over 18 minutes. Iskander's debut is a real under the radar delight, and mixes symphonic rock with psychedelic guitar and a variety of progressive ideas. The album is pretty much forgotten today, but was quite well known within those that were tuned into the "Eurock" circle back in the 1980s. I've had this CD almost since it was released, and it has passed the test of time quite well.

Personal collection

CD: 1989 Iron Curtain (as Boheme 2000)

Winterhawk - Revival. 1982 USA

Chicago based Winterhawk have quite the reputation among those predisposed to enjoying the hard rock genre. Like me. Almost all the tracks clear the 5 minute mark to allow for a few more ideas to creep in per composition. And to also allow more time for the unrelenting guitar solos - each, I might add, with a solid amount of creativity. This latter point alone would most certainly have found its way to the cutting room floor back in 1982. As well, the rawness of the production is a big part of the charm here. Makes you feel like you're in an old abandoned brewery on the South Side. Lead dude Jordan Macarus can play the strings with the best of them - and a strong nod goes to the Nuge (right down to the cow leather lace-up boots!). Every major US city had a Jordan Macarus that never got their due. In those days, you would check out Winterhawk live at the "Agora Ballroom", bring your main squeeze, and boast to the bartender you're a good friend of the band. If your girl stayed through the concert without complaining - and as an extra bonus got tanked on Pabst - she was a keeper.

Personal collection
CD: 1998 Monster

The CD is awesome with liner notes, bonus tracks, and from the master tapes.

Moolah - Woe Ye Demons Possessed. 1974 USA

To put it succinctly, this is America’s Krautrock album. The real deal, circa 1974, not a revisionist history job, or a cheap hipster imitation. Moolah were the duo of Walter Burns and Maurice Roberson, who play a variety of keyboards, percussion, voices/tapes, anything that looked like an instrument, and other found sounds. And, naturally, all blown through the funz-a-poppin’ blender of studio trickery (backwards masking, phasing, filtered, you name it, it’s here). This is the type of album to compel Julian Cope to write volumes to the gods at the top of ziggurats. If I were half the writer Cope was, I would have a blast describing the imaginary movie that this soundtrack inevitably goes with. If someone blindfolded me, and said "Check out this unreleased Annexus Quam album that was to be originally issued on Ohr", I would’ve believed it! For a slice of pure underground subversive America, via Greenwich Village, you absolutely can’t go wrong with Moolah.

Personal collection

LP: 1974 Atman
CD: 2005 EM Records (Japan)

For years, this rarity was mislabeled as being on the relatively common Annuit Coeptis label (most known for US issues of German bands like Ramses and Bullfrog). The reality is the original private LP displays a dollar bill which, of course, leaves the Latin phrase intact. Though it didn't sell well in its day, most of the original pressings were preserved. The only CD is the Japanese pressing from a decade ago. At first I thought it might be a bootleg, but it was confirmed legit, and the label has no history of pirating. It's a straight jewel case reissue with good sound, and no other extras. My guess is permission was granted via e-mail.

Praxis - La Eternidad de lo Efimero. 1987 Mexico

Praxis' sole work is a solid instrumental progressive rock album from Mexico. The primary composer, Ricardo Moreno, is the same keyboardist behind Iconoclasta and the music is remarkably similar - especially the Iconoclasta albums that came after Praxis. One reason for this is that Praxis' guitarist Hector Hernandez joined Iconoclasta not long after. The other is that Praxis had eschewed the local regional Latin American influences - as did Iconoclasta in their later years. The album's faults lie in the muddy Third World sounding 1980s production, and the lack of variety in tone - especially considering the rather cheap sounding synthesizers. But the charms outweigh the negatives here. A finely crafted album, that I'm sure today would sound fantastic, especially if afforded a room full of analog gear.

Personal collection

CD: 1994 Mellow (Italy)

The CD is a straight reissue with good sound and nice historical liner notes. You really have to be a vinyl-only junkie to not want the CD for this title.

Tantra - Misterios e Maravilhas. 1977 Portugal


On the surface, Tantra sounds like an odd cross between Mahavishnu Orchestra and Genesis. There really isn't any other band from Portugal that sounds anything like Tantra, and with revisionist history on our side, the band have a somewhat international flavor. The fusion tracks sound like Argentina's Crucis whereas the vocal numbers recall Carpe Diem of France. The heavy use of the Farfisa Synthorchestra and the distant, sparse, and mysterious vocals add credence to this latter claim. Meanwhile, on the middle tracks, the insane bass and drum rumblings with wild soloing made me think of Los Delerios del Mariscal. As many have said, the production is lousy, and detracts from the overall immense potential for greatness here.

Personal collection

CD: 1998 Musea (France)

Note back cover of the original (scan #2). There are two pressings, and the one with 1877-1977 100 year seal is the true original. The Musea CD is excellent with detailed liner notes and photos. The sound is pretty muddy, but that's the source, and not much you can do about that I'm afraid. I didn't realize, until researching this entry, that another CD came out in Portugal at the same time as the Musea release. The newest version from 2007 comes in a digi-pak with 2 bonus tracks.

Cosmic Debris - s/t. 1980 USA

Cosmic Debris were a band from Oklahoma City that married electronic sequencer based music with rock instrumentation such as guitar and drums. Very much like a mixture of Klaus Schulze's Moondawn with Edgar Froese jamming on top. Or Wolfgang Bock's Cycles album. Side 1 is made up mostly of 'Spectrum' with only a brief introduction of Aaron Coplan's generally overused 'Fanfare'. This is the only side that guitarist Shawn Phillips appears on. And he wails wonderfully in a psychedelic manner throughout. The flip is more atmospheric, though the driving drum set is still in place, with sequencer based Moog, atmospheric sounds, and percussion, recalling perhaps late 70s Jade Warrior in places. Mixed with Heldon. Cool.

There are no reissues, however there was a time when the band was selling homemade CD-R copies, but we don't technically count those. There's some debate on the date and title of this release. The copyright date on the original LP is 1980. However there are two typed inserts (with my copy anyway - and I reprinted them below this review). One is dated 1.1981 and the other 1.1.981, so we'll presume bad editing on the latter... So the evidence is there that the album wasn't released until 1981, though I'm personally a fan of copyright dates. Depends on the discography site and their rules eh? Based on these inserts, it's pretty clear to me, that the 3.7K title that has recently been appended this album is in reality the catalog number, not the album title. This becomes even more evident once you realize their second album While You're Asleep has 4.6K as a catalog number.

----Here are the two inserts included:

Insert #1 (dated 1.1.981) says:

"Cosmic Debris Biographical Information

Cosmic Debris was founded in 1977 as an experimental synthesizer ensemble. From their first performance at the Friends Jazz Festival in July 1977, Cosmic Debris has constantly strived to bring subtlety, elegance and control to live electronic music. Cosmic Debris has expanded beyond strict electronic electronic horizons. In 1979, the ensemble performed in the fusion jazz format. Growing out of that format, Richard Bugg (founder of the Debris) and Joel Young (percussionist with the fusion jazz edition), have gone on to incorporate elements from all musical areas.  "We present the listener with a choice of ever changing perception of reality". The Cosmic Debris can be heard on Non Compos Mentis Records number 3.7k"


--- It should be noted that the above was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors which I attempted to fix (not that I'm an English ace or anything, but jeesh!)

Insert #2 (dated 1.1981) says:

"In their debut album for Non Compos Mentis, Cosmic Debris (Richard Bugg, Shawn Phillips, and Joel Young), have managed to fuse the control available to modern electronic musicians, with the freedom of expression that typifies contemporary music. The result is a true meta-language that express the positive power of emotion and mind. An intelligent sound that aggressively fuses pulsating undercurrents of raw power with an intricate interplay of sonorities."

--- This one needed little editing. But who the heck knows what it means? 


Personal collection

LP: 1980 Non Compos Mentis

Manilla Road - Open the Gates. 1985 USA

Nobody mixed riff based metal with psychedelic hard rock better than Manilla Road. All wrapped up with fantasy Medieval lyrics and artwork to cuddle up with. It's a big sloppy mess, but wonderfully so. Imperfection never sounded so good. At times Shelton sounds like Frank Marino, as he noodles away wildly, seemingly without purpose, with a crazy racket storming behind him. 'The Ninth Wave' is yet another perfect Manilla Road epic metal track - one that basically reiterates their invention of the style. Manilla Road are for those of you who like Hollywood leading men with scars and lots of wrinkles. If you came here looking for crisply executed, slickly produced, and perfectly played metal - then you cannot possibly be more lost.

Personal collection
LP: 1985 Black Dragon (France)
CD: 2001 Dragonheart (Italy)

Originals come in a single sleeve but with 2 LP's, one of those a 45 rpm EP.

Cos - Postaeolian Train Robbery. 1974 Belgium


Cos' debut from 1974 comes after many years of performing and writing, and as such, is a very mature opening move. The group's background, and home base as it were, is definitely from the jazz school, though they had recently broken into rock forms - influenced by the French groups Magma and Zao, and fellow countrymen Arkham. It is Zao where you find the closest comparison, though Cos are not Zeuhl in the slightest, and Canterbury is an easy backup reference, though not entirely accurate either. Truth is, Cos were their own thing, always a trait worth admiring. Pascale Son's (wife of bandleader Daniel Schell) strictly sings in the scat style, where enunciation, intonation, and pitch are key to the composition. The tracks are all well composed, and thoroughly thought out, and played to perfection. And it rocks out especially towards the end of the disc. Not a weak moment to be found, though it does lack the extreme highs a masterpiece calls for (though the UMR has one friend who states this is the greatest album ever, so file that away for reference). All the same, an exquisite work for fans of progressive jazz rock.

The predecessor group to Cos was Classroom, who contribute 4 tracks to the Musea CD. These compositions are clearly more indebted to jazz, but are certainly the same type of band in a non rock setting.


Personal collection

CD: 1990 Musea (France)

A few interesting items of note about this album's release. The original Plus album (first photo) comes in a fine gatefold cover and apparently sold out in 2 weeks, just as the label was going bankrupt (a day late and a dollar short apparently?). Shortly thereafter the better funded IBC came along with a single sleeve second press, and this is the more common one you will see (though hardly any supply in original form). The Musea CD reissue liner notes confirms that the Plus edition from 1974, with the red and yellow stripes, is indeed the original LP issue. Despite this fact, they went ahead with the IBC photo cover. Furthering the confusion, the Musea CD omits 'Karbok', apparently a more commercial effort, because of bandleader Daniel Schell's objection to it. However, as a bonus, the CD adds 4 tracks from Classroom (discussed below in the Notes). The Belle Antique CD uses the original Plus cover, but the Musea CD as the source (incl. Classroom), making that an entirely frustrating release (while no doubt leaving off Musea's excellent liner notes). It appears, finally, that the Wah Wah release gets the original LP correct (but no Classroom tracks), also with the permission of Schell, who now apparently has gotten over his objections to 'Karbok'. Surprisingly I could not find this one track online, so technically I haven't heard the original album in full! I didn't realize that until researching/reviewing this entry - 25 years after first purchasing the CD. Crazy stuff.

Hoelderlin - Rare Birds. 1977 Germany

Rare Birds follows the unique Genesis meets cosmic/space rock hybrid of Clowns and Clouds, with yet another difficult-to-pin-down progressive rock album. The compositions are increasingly more accessible, with a certain soft lens focus coloring their sound. Viola is clearly their defining instrument at this point. Vocals are airy and melodic. The songwriting is excellent, and given the right commercial backing, Hoelderlin would have been household names. From a prog fans standpoint (i.e. me), the album's highlight is the driving instrumental 'Necronomicon'. This is an album that has grown on me tremendously over the near 30 years I've been acquainted with it. Definitely not an "immediate" release, so something to consider if you're encountering the music for the first time.

Personal collection

LP: 1977 Spiegelei
CD: 2007 EMI

The EMI CD is superb, with great sound, excellent liner notes, and two bonus tracks, though the latter isn't necessary from a music perspective.

Locomotive - We Are Everything You See. 1970 England

Locomotive are an interesting band, with their sole album clearly released by Parlophone with big intentions for major acceptance in popular music circles. Many references can be tied to The Moody Blues and The Beatles, but with a contemporary 1970 sound, including horns and a heavy Hammond organ approach. And it just didn't happen for the starstruck band, who dissipated quickly afterward. There's really nothing wrong with the music here, it's definitely an album made up of psych/prog/pop songs geared for the hit parade. There's no artsy pretension or long flights of fancy here. Sure, there's the 3 part 'The Loves of Augustus Abbey' which is about as extreme as Sgt Peppers was, so it's still cuddly fun. In the end, since it's an album made up of structured songs, there's nothing extraordinary here - and nothing terrible either. All very well done, and certainly worth owning, but not enough to be a true cult classic for future generations. That would be reserved for Norman Haines' decidedly more extreme album Den of Iniquity, which came about a year later. And that album didn't sell squat in its day, but is more highly revered now.

Personal collection

CD: 2003 Eclectic

Original LPs are very rare and expensive. The Eclectic CD is fantastic with informative liner notes, and a raft full of bonus tracks.

Dr. Dopo Jam - Fat Dogs & Danishmen. 1974 Denmark

Dr. Dopo Jam's sophomore effort is the tale of two Frank Zappa's. Most of Side 1, and parts of Side 2, are the silly Zappa, and the goofball meter (now an app on iPhone) goes into the red zone. I'm sure 'Ode to Daddy Meatloaf' and 'Surfin' in Sahara' might be funny to someone somewhere, but comes across as ridiculous on these shores. Most of Side 2 is the serious Frank Zappa (well, serious is a relative term of course). We're talking Hot Rats era here. The affected sax sounds replete with complicated music charts and top flight jazz rock jamming. Album peaks on the middle two tracks of the latter side. Overall a very good album, that one suspects could have been so much better. Lost opportunity that.

Personal collection
LP: 1974 Zebra (Germany)

No legit reissues have surfaced, though of course there's at least one pirate out there, if not more slithering about.

Ariel - Perspectives. 1985 USA

From the far south Chicago suburbs, comes the super obscure Ariel, an album that is just now making its sound heard worldwide. Early 80s Rush is the most obvious first influence, but there's more here than meets the ear as it were. All instrumental guitar, keys, and drums are the core components, and the compositions are complex and tight - with a strong fusion influence. No escaping the King Crimson sound from the era either, but also (surprisingly) Doldinger's Passport, minus the sax (imagine the sequencer heavy Moog lines for example). If we were to really deep dive here, I would compare Ariel to fellow Chicagoan's Proteus, mixed with the UK group Red (on Jigsaw). While Side 1 is impressive enough, the final three tracks do nothing short of wow the listener. And they close with their peak composition, always a hallmark of a great album. Ariel does not belie its mid 80s sound (despite the somewhat psych influenced guitar tone), and yet compared with the normal dreck from the era, the band proves the middle 80s were not a total wasteland (heavy metal genre exempted of course). This one deserves the buzz its currently receiving in the underground.

Personal collection

LP: 1985 Little Misters

Apparently the inserts feature different colors for each other. As you can see this copy is orange. My personal copy is blue, and a friend reports a green insert.

Ozric Tentacles - Erpland. 1990 England

In the mid 1980s there was a burgeoning new music scene coming out of the rural fields of England. They lived the "hippie ideal" of a lifestyle unencumbered by responsibility, and that which included many free music concerts. On the music front, many of the groups were influenced by the relatively obscure UK group Here and Now, who steadfastly held to the notion that music should be free (not to mention the musical similarities between the two bands). To sustain themselves, the various bands in the scene took a page out of the heavy metal handbook, and began to make self-produced cassettes that were traded and sold at the many various concert events. As is often the case with movements such as these, many grew tired of the lifestyle and moved on. And the bands themselves began to consolidate, where the most serious and most talented would take it forward to a more professional level (Amon Duul II anyone?). And just as Metallica represented the Bay Area thrash movement, Ozric Tentacles became the icon for the UK Festival Psych scene.

Personally I had no idea any of this was going on in the 1980s. Even though I had plugged myself into the various mail order catalogs of the day, most notably England's Lotus Records, I must've looked past these items that were for sale. Or not, I'm not entirely sure. "Erpland" was my introduction to the band, and I bought the LP as it had just been newly released in 1990. I quickly snapped up the prior "Pungent Effulgent" as well on LP (Demi Monde). To my ears, Ozric Tentacles is a very easy band to get into. In fact, to this day, when someone wants to hear a few notes from "something in your collection", I'll pull out Ozric. It never fails to satisfy the guest. Sure, I could also pull out Magma's Mekanik, and have everyone screaming from the room. And for the rare person who doesn't go screaming, I begin to worry about the safety of my family. Anyway.... Ozric Tentacles has an instantly likable sound, that also happens to rock hard. Of course it must be stated that Ozric didn't create the wheel. To say they were heavily influenced by Hillage era Gong would be an understatement. But what Ozric did do successfully is to distill certain elements of that sound, perhaps the most popular ones for many a Gong fan, and take it in different and exciting directions.

Some 20 years on from "Erpland", nothing has changed, and Ozric has well over a dozen more studio and live releases. This has been the most common criticism of Ozric Tentacles. That there has been no progression, no experimentation with other sounds, instrumentation and ideas. The term "Ozricitis" was born and now applies to other bands who follow a similar path. But it's not entirely fair either, as each album, when heard on its own, does possess a unique quality. It's just a tight window frame that they operate in, that's all. The key with listening to Ozric Tentacles is to not listen to many of their albums at once. Take one in, absorb it over time, wait a few weeks or months, and then do the same with a different album. It does alter the way you hear the band. The irony in saying all of this is that "Erpland" is Ozric Tentacles' most diverse album. And is probably the ideal place to start.

If I were to recommend one track from this album, and perhaps recommend one track from their entire discography, it would the album's opener 'Eternal Wheel'. It has all the elements of a great Ozric composition - the psychedelic ambiance, the trippy progressions and the ferocious guitar lead climaxes.


Personal collection

LP: 1990 Dovetail
CD: 1990 Dovetail

Sebastian Hardie - Four Moments. 1975 Australia

Sebastian Hardie is one of those groups that draws polarizing opinions from those in the progressive rock community. Truth of the matter is that bandleader, guitarist, and primary composer Mario Millo is a true romantic at heart. Which instinctively rubs the male oriented and testosterone fueled prog rock fan base the wrong way. I am one of these myself, and have zero tolerance for phony baloney dainty antics, as performed by many an arena rocker looking for an easy score. And yet I adore Sebastian Hardie, especially Four Moments, which is as pure an emotional album as you will find. When people talk about lush symphonic progressive, they mean this album. For those who think 'And You and I' is the pinnacle achievement for Yes, then I assure you that Four Moments will be something you will swoon over. As if to prove they can also rock out, be sure to stick it out for the last 4 minutes or so, where they light the album on fire, for a truly sublime closing. Only the most hardened and grizzled out there won't find a soft spot for Four Moments.

Personal collection

LP: 1975 Polydor
CD: 2004 Polydor (Japan)

Australian originals are housed in a wonderful glossy gatefold cover, and is by far the most desirable copy. All the other country releases feature an annoying blue border and are single sleeves (though the French is a FOC I believe). As for CD's, the Japan office has been incredibly busy. Given the number of presses from there, it's quite apparent this album is hugely popular in Japan. I just recently sourced the Musea CD on the cheap, and much to my disappointment, there are no liner notes, or any other bonus either. The Belle Antique release contains one bonus track.

The Greatest Show on Earth - The Going's Easy. 1970 England

Greatest Show on Earth's second album demonstrates a musical maturity towards songwriting, but in retrospect, I like both albums about the same regardless. The blues element is brought forward, whereas the pop oriented horn charts are left behind. One step forward, one step back. 'Magic Woman Touch', the album's great hope for a single sees the band heading towards folk rock territory with mixed results. And closer 'Tell the Story' is probably their worst composition to date. Clear highlight for me is the multi-part jazz rock suite 'Love Magnet' which is GSOE's shining moment of their entire career - and a direction I would have liked to see them pursue further. Alas it was not to be, and their two-album-one-year-run was over.

Personal collection

CD: 2012 Esoteric

Like Horizons, The Going's Easy is housed in a fine gatefold cover. The Esoteric CD is of the usual fine quality and features full liner notes, with 2 bonus tracks, one coming from a nice single. As stated with the Horizon entry, I would avoid the See For Miles reissue, though in this case, you will at least receive the full The Going's Easy album (but not Horizons).

Cleves - s/t. 1971 New Zealand

From the small agricultural community Clevedon in New Zealand, arrives the Brown siblings (in Sydney, Australia) and their band Cleves (trimmed from their initial moniker of Clevedonaires). Sister Gaye provides the bluesy female vocals, making them a natural fit for the Post psychedelic, proto progressive with female vocals list. Musically, electric guitar and Hammond organ dominate, and most of the music is sublime - with an emphasis on melodic songwriting and strong psychedelic oriented jams. While big name bands are within easy reach (Jefferson Airplane et al...), I personally hear that unique European take on the sound, especially Mad Curry (Belgium) and Goliath (England). Only misstep is the album closer 'Waterfall' which is the only track that resembles their rural background. Not an album for those who like to use the word "dated" in their reviews, but for those who actually immerse themselves into the period in which it was released, there are many rewards to be found.

Personal collection

CD: 1998 Vicious Sloth (Australia)

Originals are very scarce and fairly expensive. Discogs doesn't even have it listed, as they must be presuming it is an archival release. But there's been plenty captured from ebay. The only CD is the now rare Vicious Sloth release (it's since been booted in Eastern Europe, so be careful!), which comes with some nice liner notes, a 45 single, and the near 17 minute Music from Michael EP (1970). The LP reissue has just recently surfaced. Bitch is Cleves Ver 2.0, and who only had a couple of singles to their name. It's a double album, with Bitch receiving a full LP, so guessing most of that album is archival. I haven't heard it at this point. As an aside, the original Cleves artwork does a disservice to Gaye Brown. As you can see in scan #2, and if you look for images on the Google, she's a very pretty lady - with a look similar to Katie Holmes or even Susan Dey in her prime.

Apollo - s/t. 1970 Finland

As many have said, Apollo is indeed a mixed affair. Heavy psych meets tropical percussion meets psych/bubblegum pop meets orchestrated symphonic. Vocals are anywhere from clean and poppy to growly and bluesy (the original death metal vocalist?). Hard to imagine respected avant guardist/jazz musician Edward Vesala playing 4/4 drums on such ordinary rock cuts. Then again his composition contributions (tracks 5 and 9) are by far the most wiggy/out-there (and instrumental only), thus once again proving the diversity of the group. It's almost like hearing a Various Artists recording from 1970, rather than tunes by a single band.

Personal collection

LP: 2012 Mayfair (Germany)

Originals are presented in a fine gatefold cover, and are very rare and expensive. I was fortunate to be on the receiving end of one in a trade with a friend from Finland back in 1994. The music didn't warrant its value (IMO), and I flipped it quickly to a well-heeled Japanese collector for a boatload of LP's. And I mean a boatload. Many of which I still own today. So it was definitely a good trade for both of us I think. First reissue to market was the CD from the current owners of the Blue Master label. In recent years, we've seen two vinyl reissues, each with the gatefold intact. The Svart reissue includes a 45 single in addition. I recently picked up the Mayfair release primarily because it was dirt cheap, and it allowed me to revisit the album some 21 years later. My opinion has only softened a little, and I'm glad I traded the original away when I did.

Gash - A Young Man's Gash. 1972 Germany


Truly an odd one, and not what you would expect from the Brain label (this early anyway). The album opens with the pedestrian blues/gospel rock number 'Angel and Mother' which offers little to recommend, perhaps recalling Dull Knife when playing in a similar manner. 'Twenty One Days' is a bit better, still in the blues rock camp, but the heavy Hammond organ goes a long way to begin gaining acceptance. 'In the Sea' is actually pretty good, and foreshadows Gash's more than capable progressive tendencies. It's biggest problem is it just simply sits at the end of a not-so-great side of music. But for Side 2, Gash threw out the rule book, and went for the gold medal, just as many of their contemporaries were doing. The 3 part side-long progressive suite is absolutely killer, similar to Nektar in composition, but even more crazed (thinking Message "From Books and Dreams" here). And from there it goes into insane off-the-rails Great Freaky Underground territory, and it's at that point you realize the album is simply great.

Even though it is inconsistent, and starts off rather badly, I'm bumping this up a point. One killer side deserves at a minimum to be called "Excellent".  


I wonder if they have some other tracks like Side 2 sitting in a vault somewhere that are similar? What a fantastic archival release that would be!


Personal collection

LP: 1972 Brain

As you can see, Gash is housed in an extraordinary gatefold cover. There are no legit reissues on CD or LP.  This album is a charter member of my original CD Reissue Wish List going way back to the early 90s. As stated above, I hope there's archival material, as it could be quite special! We'll update this post as soon as a reissue arrives.

Gunter Schickert - Somnabul. 1980-1994 Germany (archival)

Obscure and uneven archival recordings from Gunter Schickert circa 1980 to 1994. On the plus side, it's worth the price of admission just to hear 'Arabische Nächte', which is Schickert at his absolute best, with fast paced sound on sound guitar, and molten psychedelic soloing layered on top. And the Middle Eastern theme gives off a big whiff of early Agitation Free (and would you believe Michael Gunther himself was involved on this project?). Also of note are the 'Dig It' segues which propel the album forward in an exciting way. Other notables are the extended version of 'In der Zeit 1' from Uberfallig, the haunting Voice of Eye styled studio manipulation of 'Sirenen', and the muddled psychedelic title track. On the down side is the brooding electronik 'Töchter der Neere' which isn't Schickert's forte at all. Also 'Monkeys' sounds like a GAM reject, whereas 'Now' is pretty dull to be honest.

Manuel Gottsching is credited with remastering. If only Achim Reichel could have been involved, then we would have had all the pioneering German sound-on-sound electric guitarists in the same room!


Personal collection

CD: 1995 Musique Intemporelle

This is a very rare CD that was issued by Bernd Kistenmacher's Musique Intemporelle label, and was part of the "Rainbow Collection" that also featured an archival Agitation Free album. One of the series' trademarks was the addition of a "multimedia" track at the beginning of the disc (this is what they mean by CD ROM on the cover - it is a factory pressed CD), which comes across as loud static if you don't remember to start with track 2. There are no liner notes to speak of, so the origin of these songs is hard to determine.

The Wolfgang Dauner Group - Rischka's Soul. 1970 Germany




Recorded November 28, 1969, Wolfgang Dauner's Rischka's Soul (aka Dietrich's Soul) comes more from the restless jazz school, than the subversive underground that was just beginning to brew in Germany at this time. Dauner was no doubt a major influence, and perhaps even an inspiration, to those looking to expand the music norms of the day. Krautrock, as we know it today, had its founding during this era, but it didn't come from the mainstream, of which Dauner was a part of. The album was mostly known from its posthumous release on Brain, though it wasn't a contemporary recording. Still, without a doubt, Dauner was a pioneer in mixing psychedelic rock and jazz seamlessly. Much of this album sounds like the ultimate backdrop to a "happenin' club scene" to a 1970 art film, with the participants suitably stoned out of their bloomin' minds and squinting wildly while the Klieg lights were beaming off their freshly scrubbed cheeks. Whether the youngsters were dancing or meditating, Rischkas Soul was providing the soundtrack to their soul searching odyssey of utopian dreams. One of the better time-and-place albums of the day, and a must pick up for fans of 1969 era jazz rock. Just don't expect cutting edge Krautrock here.

Personal collection

LP: 1972 Brain
CD: 2015 Long Hair

Lots to talk about here regarding the release itself, and it's certainly a confused state. The most known press, and the cover most associated with the album, is the original Brain release similar to the second photo. It features a striking day-glo yellow gatefold cover, and this is the version I've owned for many years. I had no idea until somewhat recently that the Brain press was actually a reissue of an earlier recording. The CTR (Creative Team Rischka) release is still unknown and pretty much extinct. These photos all came from Discogs, where apparently one copy was sold. There's been none for sale on ebay, or at least that has been captured. But even this press is confused, as the label and cover do not match. As you can see, the title was originally to be called Dietrich's Soul. But I guess Rischka won the contract and also apparently got the naming rights too! The 1974 release was part of Metronome's "This is" series, and were really just represses of earlier albums (or comps in some cases), and released on the 2001 Brain imprint. These presses are all inferior to the originals (and the covers are dull). The '81 press (black label) is a single sleeve, but uses the desirable yellow cover. And now the Long Hair release finally replicates the Brain "original" in its full glory - and is the first modern reissue. Since I already have that on LP, I went forward with the CD. It does feature very good sound, but is taken from vinyl (they did a great job though). The liner notes are excellent, but frustrating, as is often the case with Long Hair. They don't provide much detail at all regarding the release itself, and this is a story that needs to be told! What we do get is the story of Wolfgang Dauner and some of the participants from that era of his band. I did learn, however, what the story behind the "Sounds" label on the front cover means (it's also on Guru Guru's 4th). It was a "seal of approval" from the magazine of the same name. Interesting. Oh, one other thing about the CD - they inexplicably reversed the sides of the recording so that it starts with Side 2. Why they did this we'll never know. Perhaps the goal here was to ensure the release remains in a confused state.

Roberto Colombo - Botte da Orbi. 1977 Italy

For those that constantly bellyache that most progressive rock is poorly composed, and is really a bunch of amateurs piecing disparate sections of music together, then may I suggest Roberto Colombo's sophomore release? This is a seriously dense work, and is clearly charted and most certainly required a music stand for the participants. Frank Zappa at his most complex must be in the conversation, though one can hear some of the Italian RIO/Jazz/Avant prog bands of the day, for example Picchio dal Pozzo, Orchestra Njervudarov, Agora, and Tullio De Piscopo - the latter even guests on the album. No jamming or grooves here, and the melodies are too brief, but powerful. Awesome production as well. Much of the avant prog genre is too high brow for me, but Botte da Orbi is thoroughly enjoyable, though lacking any notable peaks.

Personal collection

CD: 1999 Mju:zik

Originals are scarce, but not expensive. The CD is stored in a small wallet like cover. I believe the CD label is related to the parent Ultima Spiaggia, and is the only album I've found on the label.

Walrus - s/t. 1970 England

Yet another UK horn rock band from 1970. I always expect Walrus (the album) to be a bit better each listen, especially after taking in the barnburner opener, and yet it falls a bit short of heightened expectation.  Mostly it's the straightforward songwriting, and the band at times comes across as a bunch of rock-n-rollers with a horn section in tow. Still, there's plenty of good progressions, and 'Coloured Rain' demonstrated that Walrus could have gone the jazz rock route as well, to much success. Though they blew it here too with a late drum solo, demonstrating their lack of awareness. Not in the same league as Brainchild, Heaven, or Greatest Show on Earth, but certainly passable and conditionally recommended, especially to die-hard genre fans (of which I'm one).

Personal collection
CD: 2008 Esoteric

Single sleeve cover, and one of the more obscure Deram albums, though not one of the most expensive or sought after. The first CD to market was from Si-Wan. Unusual in that Si-Wan generally licensed their product from the parent companies in Japan, and yet I could find no evidence of a Japanese LP. It's possible one was released, and it's just not been captured, or it's also possible they licensed it but never actually released it (would likely have come out in the mid 1970s). The Japanese mini-LP comes from Deram, and that indicates the same license we're talking about here. I believe it's a separate mastering from the Esoteric copy that came out the same year. In any case, the Esoteric version is great, with excellent liner notes, great sound, and one non-album bonus track taken from a single in the same era. Some of the online discographies append a 1971 date to the album, but it's clearly copyrighted as 1970, and according to Esoteric, it was released in December of that year.

Wapassou - Ludwig. 1979 France

In many ways, this is Wapassou's most artistically accomplished work. The classically influenced 34 minute title track is dense and complex, with Wapassou demonstrating their musical maturity over the course of both sides of the LP. And yet, I found myself missing the haunting atmospheres, and mysterious sounds of the previous 3 albums. Perhaps had they broken this composition into smaller tracks, where they could be dissected individually, it may have worked more smoothly as a whole. As it stands though, the sprawling piece can be impenetrable at times. For fans of the classic Wapassou sound, there is no doubt it is an essential purchase, but it does seem to be a bit too formal I'm afraid.

Personal collection
LP: 1979 Crypto
CD: 1994 Musea

Classical artwork oriented single sleeve cover. My introduction to the album came via the 80s Omega Studio LP reissue. I sold it as soon as the CD came out, and later picked up the original LP at a very attractive price.

WLUD - Carrycroch. 1978 France

Apparently the band's moniker of WLUD was inspired by the French jazz rock ensemble CCPP, and thus they too went forward with their last names. A classic lost in translation scenario, as it comes across as either Thud, Wad, or WTFuh - to my English ears anyway. Had they been christened with a name like Église fou avec Perles, perhaps the band would be more highly sought after today. Who knows, but the music here more than makes up for the shortsighted naming convention. Instrumental progressive rock with an emphasis on melody is the name of the game here. Those looking for conservatory styled compositions will need to look elsewhere, but if enjoyable put-a-smile-on-your-face instrumentals are your bag, then welcome Carrycroch' to your home (oh my, yet another problematic title - one pictures Roseanne Barr at a San Diego Padres game...). No matter, because once the platter (silver or black - choose your weapon) hits the turntable/laser all will be forgotten. If only such music was the norm in 1978. Obvious candidates of Camel and Yes get thrown around, but one could just as easily toss out Carpe Diem, Neo, and Terpendre just to show off to the only person who might know what you're talking about.

Personal collection
CD: 1996 Musea

Pulsar - Pollen. 1975 France

Generally regarded as the weaker of the classic three 1970's Pulsar albums, debut Pollen is still an album very much worth absorbing. The album suffers from a muddy production and a certain immaturity towards songwriting. In its favor, however, is an exorbitant amount of atmosphere. I would classify Pollen as "heavy cloud music" (a new genre is born!), in which there's a pervasive melancholy that requires an intense introspection. Ironically the music is inspirational rather than depressing, and provides a perverse motivation. The track that best represents this motif is 'Apaisement' with the drawn out flute, acoustic guitar, organ, fuzz chords, thudding drums, string synthesizer, and the mumbling vocals in French. A rainy day in Lyon indeed. A wonderfully sad album.

Personal collection
LP: 1975 Kingdom
LP: 1976 Decca (UK)
CD: 1990 Musea/Baillemont

The Greatest Show on Earth - Horizons. 1970 England


The Greatest Show on Earth are another fine entry from the UK brass rock genre of the early 1970s. On Horizons, GSoE provide us with 7 tracks in the four+ minute range, and one extended lengthy title suite. The music is heavily inspired by Blood, Sweat and Tears, but unfortunately the songwriting isn't particularly sharp. However, the extended song lengths allow GSoE to demonstrate their skill at instrumental breaks, and it's here the band excels. In particular the catchy grooves of 'Angelina' and 'Real Cool World' are inspiring, as is the bluesy 'Sunflower Morning' and the creative hard psych of 'I Fought for Love'. Addressing the elephant in the room, the long track has many great moments, but suffers a bit from immature jamming, especially prevalent with the front loaded near 3 minute drum solo and some monotonous percussion and bass rambling later on. Still there's more than enough time for some outstanding breaks and thus the track still grades out high. A very fine album, and only 8 months later the band would release their second and last album - which demonstrated more development within their sound.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Esoteric

The album is housed in a really cool gatefold cover. I love eye covers anyway, and so this is one I need to get on vinyl eventually. The Esoteric CD is of the usual high quality and features great sound, and full liner notes, but no bonus tracks. As is often the case, I would avoid the See For Miles reissue, as it truncates the long 'Horizon' track (though it could have used a bit of trimming in the first place, but still...). Given the neat cover, I wouldn't mind owning the Japanese mini in addition.

Jade Warrior - Released. 1971 England


Jade Warrior's sophomore release continues their unique blend of psychedelic hard rock and world fusion. Of the former style, highlights include the eye opening 'Three Horned Dragon', 'Eyes on You', and 'Minnamoto's Dream'. The latter is one of the album's peak moments and probably is the track that most represents the debut album. The best track for my tastes is the stunningly beautiful jazz / world / rock piece 'Water Curtain Cave' which sounds as if lifted straight from Nucleus' Elastic Rock sessions. 'Yellow Eyes' closes the album in a similar mellow fashion. The 15 minute 'Barazinbar' seamless mixes all these styles into one wonderful psychedelic jam and is clearly the album's centerpiece. Only misstep is the dull rock-n-roll 'Reason to Believe' and is completely out of place here. Otherwise a very fine album, and comes highly recommended.

Personal collection
CD: 2005 Air Mail (Japan)

Originals are stored in a very cool 6 part multi-fold out cover and is extremely sought after. Despite Jade Warrior being a relative household name, UK originals on Vertigo can often times soar over $1,000. The second scan is the much more common and inexpensive US release, that comes in a standard gatefold, and is instantly recognizable for the different cover (which is actually 1/3 of the poster) and the "Mercury stripes" in the upper right hand corner. This version was my introduction to the album many years ago. The German press is a single sleeve with a 6 part poster included. It appears the Venezuela press is a straight single sleeve. As for CD's, the always basic Line was first to market before giving way to the Background and Repertoire labels. I picked up the Japanese mini, which of course replicates the original in every way, and I believe uses a similar master to the Repertoire release. The sound is fantastic on this reissue. Mine comes in a mini-LP box set with the first 3 Vertigo Jade Warriors. A treasured set for certain. Oh, starting with the Background press, all feature one bonus track that is basically a duplicate of one of the album's songs, and is not necessary.

Dragon - Universal Radio. 1974 New Zealand

Dragon's debut came at the twilight of the early Hammond organ fueled progressive rock of the early 1970s with the more sophisticated AOR styled album that was about to dominate the FM landscape in the mid 70s. Universal Radio is definitely more the former, and also possesses a strong Latin fusion/rock component as well as a bit of space rock. Guideposts include fellow countrymen Ragnarok and Living Force, along with bands such as Kestrel (England) and Fruupp (Northern Ireland). Only 3 short years from their debut, Dragon were to become pop stars in neighboring Australia, and you can hear hints of that future sound on the track 'Going Slow' (though with progressive oriented breaks still in place). The album peaks on the splendid multi-layered epic 'Patina'. Bonus track 'Black Magic Woman' demonstrates a lingering Santana influence that was to be shed on their next opus Scented Gardens For the Blind, which is arguably an even better album. As it stands though, hard to imagine fans of early 1970s progressive rock not enjoying Universal Radio. There are a lot of ideas packed into this recording, so the relistenability factor charts high. Strongly recommended.

Personal collection
CD: 2009 Aztec (Australia)

Originals feature a single sleeve cover and are quite rare as an original. The only (legit) reissue to date comes from the always wonderful Aztec. It's housed in a fine triple fold-out digi-pak with an extensive history, photos, and 3 bonus tracks (though two are from a solo effort by band leader Marc Hunter and is a debatable addition). The release was taken from vinyl indicating the masters are lost (or in poor condition), but still sounds excellent. There are many boots out there, so watch out on that front. The Vertigo original only has the "spaceship" label, so don't hold out for the non-existent swirl variety. Funny enough, Aztec used a mock-up swirl design for the CD itself.

Radiomobel - Gudang Garam. 1978 Sweden

Not sure how to explain it, but I really like albums such as Gudang Garam (named for an Indonesian cigarette brand). There's a Nordic charm about them as if I'm in a dark wood paneled tavern enjoying an out of world experience (fueled no doubt by a fine Swedish Imperial Stout). Radiomobel represent a combination of symphonic progressive and high flying space rock. The highlight track being 'E-matt' which comes from the latter style and borrows from Kebnekaise's penchant for indigenous melodies. Their symphonic side is best represented by the tracks featuring high pitched female soprano vocals in Swedish, which brings to mind Autumn Breeze (not to mention a host of German symphonic rock bands from this era). On the down side, Gudang Garam is very much an amateur recording, with tinny late 1970s era synthesizers in tow. The CD contains great liner notes that explains Radiomobel means Radio Furniture, which the band used as their first amplifier - and subsequently this same amp blew a fuse, causing quite the explosion at - get ready for this - Mom's house. LOL. I think it's safe to say we're not talking Abbey Road here...

Personal collection
LP: 1978 Chockskivor
CD: 2005 Transubstans

Original LPs are stored in a single sleeve and are very obscure. I picked one up in my heavy trading days of the early 1990s, and never considered letting it go. The only reissue to market is the Transubstans CD, that I also picked up on arrival. Transubstans is Record Heaven version 2.0, and this was their first reissue under the new moniker. The CD features superb liner notes, though it's clearly taken from vinyl (though still sounds very good - it's pretty lo-fi to begin with). There are no bonus tracks.

Akira Ishikawa & The Count Buffalos - African Rock. 1971 Japan

This is not my first run in with Akira Ishikawa & His Count Buffalos, as Shadoks reissued their (next?) album Uganda (1972) on LP and Tiliqua followed up with a CD reissue a couple of years after that (mentioned in the AC's notes as well). I found the album a disappointment, as it was primarily African percussion with a few cool Mizutani freakouts, but honestly it sounded as a late addition, and didn't fit the album as a whole. I'm about 10 minutes in here, and I have to say they reissued the wrong album.

Time to check the archaeology dig notes from the AC to get his impressions: "Akira Ishikawa's travels to Africa and subsequent fixation on fusing African music with modern jazz and rock is well documented, but unfortunately several of his more interesting LPs that came out during this particular period are not. First there was the avant-garde free-jazz freakout "Impression of Africa - 'Uganda'" (unrelated to the later well-known "Uganda" album), a commercially unreleased 1970 live supersession arranged by Masahiko Sato and performed by the combined forces of Akira Ishikawa & Count Buffalos, Toshiyuki Miyama & New Herd, and the Terumasa Hino Quintet. Only a couple of test press copies of this are known to exist (Columbia seemingly deemed it "too extreme" and refused to release it), making it perhaps Japan's rarest and most valuable experimental jazz LP. Interestingly, if you read the liners of the original "Primitive Community" LP, it's actually mentioned there as a "shocking" introduction to the Africa-meets-jazz/rock concept in Japan. But more relevant to the album being reviewed here was "Power Rock With Drums - The Road to Kilimanjaro" (1971, Canyon), credited to Ishikawa, but aside from his drumming actually performed by the Freedom Unity and composed (partially) by Hiromasa Suzuki. This latter name is perhaps the key point here, as although the second side of "Power Rock..." consists of nothing but pop/jazz covers, the first side features two lengthy and more interesting Suzuki pieces fusing African music and progressive jazz-rock. This seems to have laid the groundwork for "African Rock", released later the same year, for although it's credited to and performed by Ishikawa and his Count Buffalos band, all but one of the pieces were actually written by Suzuki once again. 

So, now that we've set the scene, what about the music? Well, thankfully this one is a bulls-eye for what they were attempting. Eight all-original instrumentals (aside from a little "tribal chanting") are featured, and the style can perhaps best be described as a fusion of the better parts of the following year's "Uganda" (think of "Pigmy") with some hints of "Primitive Community", filtered through the psychedelic/progressive jazz-rock stylings that Suzuki would develop over the next two years on his "Rock Joint" albums. The highlight of the album for me is the one-two punch that leads off the second side, "The Earth" featuring some of Mizutani's wildest fuzz soloing ever, followed up by "Love", a darkly mysterious flute and tribal percussion led piece that really nails that "lost in the deep jungle" vibe. An excellent album overall, and hopefully one that will be reissued someday. Confusingly, there was another identically titled "African Rock" LP released in 1972 (this one featuring a close-up of Ishikawa's face on the sleeve), but it consists of nothing but cover tunes and is of much less interest."

If the phrase "Mizutani's wildest fuzz ever" doesn't get your heart started, you may want to consult your doctor. Or your coroner. This album is everything you want in a funk psych jazz rock album - except you almost never do get what you want. It's the perfect blend of sweet grooves, wild psych, and deep funk. Horn charts, flute, tribal drums, and Mizutani psych guitar. What more can you ask for? A really splendid album, that the always deep diving Japanese record companies seem to come through on. It's a matter of patience at this point. But given all the wonderful Japanese reissues we've seen in the last 5 years or so, we can only hope this one will achieve top priority.  I'd be a first day buyer for sure. As for original LP's, well they're predictably expensive - more than I would want to pay for this type of album. I did find a couple of copies out there, if you are so inclined and financially secure.

Personal collection
CD: 2015 Clinck

Originals are stored in a single sleeve jacket and are pretty much extinct. This album is still just being discovered for the first time by worldwide collectors. In what has to be considered record time, the CDRWL alerted the world of the album in April, and by July we had a 100% legit reissue coming out of Japan! Coincidence? Maybe, though The AC informs us (he is fluent in Japanese) that there were hints of influence from us there. That's enough to keep us going anyway! As you can see above, I lived up to my word of being a first day buyer!

Acintya - La Cité des Dieux Oubliés. 1978 France

Acintya's sole album is square-on instrumental progressive rock, that recalls the symphonic debut album from Carpe Diem mixed with the mysterious Wapassou. String synthesizer along with violin play a major role in Acintya's sound. The production though, is muddy and dull, and takes away all the necessary edges this album needs to be successful. Apparently the original LP on SRC maintains these dynamics, but I only have the Musea LP reissue, so perhaps that's the issue at hand. Therefore I'll seek an original out, as this wouldn't be the first time the reissue was botched to the point of ruin (see Capsicum Red). Because from a composition perspective, the music is quite compelling. None crest the Gnosis 10 / RYM 3.5 mark, but with the right production, half a point could be appended without much thought.

Personal collection
LP: 1989 Musea

Originals come in a single sleeve cover. Not an expensive album, but hardly common either. Your best bet is to scan European sites if in the market for one, as it was never imported to the States. And I think I will be looking for one in short order, as noted below. My first and only copy is the Musea LP reissue that I picked up not long after release. The Freeman's of Ultima Thule say this about the reissue: "The Musea LP reissue of this 1970's French prog gem would seem to be an LP transcription (or from damaged/stretched tapes) with a slight wow/slurring evident on the sustained keyboard tones. This is not so on the original SRC LP pressing. This flaw probably explains why Musea never reissued it on CD." Shortly after they published this, Musea did indeed come forth with a CD reissue. But according to readers of my CDRWL, the sound quality wasn't improved upon. So I've decided to hold off for now, and stick with the LP. I'll be most curious if the sound quality of the original is that much better.

Pierrot Lunaire - s/t. 1974 Italy

Like most fans of my generation, my first exposure to Pierrot Lunaire was from their avant-garde masterpiece Gudrun. With that backdrop, Pierrot Lunaire's debut is a bit of a shock to the system. The album is a low-key, pastoral, folk influenced progressive rock. Flute, keyboards, vocals, and acoustic guitars are the primary set of sounds. There isn't much here to latch onto, with a low set of dynamics, and yet it's a peaceful 45 minutes of listening. If looking for comparisons, Pierrot Lunaire is more subtle than Saint Just's La Casa del Lago, and less compelling than Errata Corrige, but both are in the same ballpark. Side 2 contains the album's highlights, with the keyboard heavy symphonic piece 'Il re di Raipure' and the hauntingly beautiful 'Arlecchinata' with wordless female vocals. Pierrot Lunaire's debut is very consistent and fortunately there are no low moments to endure. A solid record that comes recommended, though it doesn't predict the brilliance of their sophomore release.

Personal collection
CD: 1994 Si-Wan (Korea)

Jean Cohen-Solal - Flutes Libres + Captain Tarthopom. 1971-1973 France


On the surface, it would appear Flutes Libres would be yet another flute jazz album that was all the rage back then. With Jean Cohen-Solal appearing in his Yankee Doodle outfit, it couldn't be more than a cash-in album of that era's greatest hits. Right? Way wrong. Flutes Libres is a dense work, bordering on the Kosmische with droning organs, and classical level flute played on top. While there are some rocked out rhythms and trendy moves looking East, in general, this is an album that will appeal to those into both experimental rock and serious avant garde music. The album is remarkably consistent, without any notable highs or lows.

It appears Cohen-Solal was conscious of the seriousness of the debut, and tried to lighten the mood with the somewhat silly opening title track on his second album Captain Tarthopom. This is followed by the sublime 'Ludions', meshing his trademark flute work with the sound of Soft Machine's Third, and is the highlight of both albums. Next track 'Ab hoc et ab hac' indicates more of the same, but then ventures back into more experimental territory, where it never leaves again. While the tracks on Captain Tarthopom are relatively compact compared to the debut, the level of experimentation remains high.

Fans of atmospheric, and perhaps even difficult, avant-garde rock will find much pleasure in both of Cohen-Solal's albums. These are not easy listens, and certainly not the kind of music that result in pleasing a crowd. But for private listening in dark rooms, the rewards are great.

Personal collection
LP: 1971 Daphy/Sonopresse (Flutes Libre)
CD: 2003 Mio (Israel) Both albums on one CD

Flutes Libres comes in a fine heavy duty gatefold sleeve, whereas Captain Tarthopom is stored in a single jacket. Both were originally released on sub-labels of Sonopresse. The only reissue is from the excellent Israeli label Mio, and contains both albums on one CD. The sound is very good (though I hear distant vinyl noise, so I'm guessing the masters were lost) and also features unique liner notes, and a good 2003 era bonus track. This was my introduction to both albums, and comes highly recommended. A couple of years ago, I picked up the debut on LP from a European dealer. The photo above is, in fact, that copy (found it on Popsike by pure luck).

Jordi Sabates - Ocells del Mes Enlla. 1975 Spain

Ocells Del Més Enllà is a Flamenco fusion style of progressive rock, with namesake Jordi Sabates on keyboards (Rhodes, Moog, organ, and piano) and Toti Soler on acoustic guitar (often playing in the traditional Flamenco way). The 7 piece band is fleshed out with electric guitar, bass, vocals, hand percussion, and drums. Some of the music reminds me of the slower/mellower tracks from the early Mahavishnu Orchestra albums but with a distinctive Spanish flavor (including the familiar hand claps). Wonderful female wordless voices augment this fine recording. Highly recommended.

Personal collection
CD: 2000 PDI

Originals are stored in a single sleeve cover and not particularly expensive, though it is elusive. The first CD is from PDI, and is straight up with no extras. I presume the Picap version is similar and should be easy to find. The LP reissue is a gatefold, so there's a bonus it appears.

Asoka - s/t. 1971 Sweden


Asoka were formed from the ashes of Taste of Blues (see link above). Two-fifths of that group reformed into a new band called Take Off (more on that below), and then later merged with the rhythm section of another Malmo outfit called (appropriately enough) Rhythm and Blues, Inc. The Asoka album opens in blistering fashion, with fuzz bass blasting in your face while loud guitars pile on top. 'Ataraxia' continues in similar form, with an excellent organ solo. From here, it's a smorgasbord of early Swedish proto-prog, with the usual strong accent on blues rock overriding a jazzy undercurrent. As is often the case, the tracks sung in Swedish flow more natural than those in English. Highlights, beyond the two opening tracks, include '1975', the violin driven 'If You Feel', the very Swedish 'Tvivlaren', and the Uriah Heep like 'I'm Trying (To Find a Way to Paradise)'. Overall, Asoka is more progressive than say November or Midsommar, and the album prepared local listeners to one day be prepared for the awesome heavy progressive rock outfit Trettioariga Kriget. After a few incarnations, Asoka evolved into the also much recommended Lotus.

As mentioned above, Take Off was the interim group between Taste of Blues and Asoka. This archival compilation includes tracks from Asoka Mk. 2 and Mk. 3 (both recorded after the LP proper), Taste of Blues, and one extended piece from Take Off. The liner notes and ordering of the tracks are an historian's nightmare, however. The album starts with the best recorded track, the superb 'The Seeker', which clearly demonstrates that Asoka Mk. 3 sounded like Lotus at this point. Lotus, of course, being the next incarnation of Asoka. The liner notes make a reference that the band's twin guitar harmonies are "in the vein of Thin Lizzy 1977". Leading many to think this was recorded in 1977. No - it's just referencing Thin Lizzy circa 1977. The track was likely recorded in 1973 at the very end of Asoka's career. And in similar fashion, 'At El-Yago 9-3', the liner notes state it's an early version of a Lotus track released in 1974 (which is when the first Lotus album came out). Meaning, this was probably recorded in 1973 as well. Then there are three tracks, including two cover tunes, where the only cross reference is the writing credits on the one self-penned number go to the members of Asoka Mk. 2, which places the date around '71 or '72 . Though it's anyone's guess if the two cover tracks are from the same session. These songs are all interesting, very much in the same vein as the original LP. Though the sound quality is noticeably inferior. Tracks 6 and 7 are live recordings from Taste of Blues that (finally) have been appended a date, and these are both from 1968. Again, the sound quality is a bit iffy, but for the time and place, these are a couple of nice psychedelic blues rock nuggets. And the last track has to be considered the gem of the set (along with 'The Seeker'). This is the only known recording from Take Off (1970), and it's a fine period-piece psychedelic jam, sounding more like Flasket Brinner or International Harvester at this point. Would have loved to hear more from this bunch. Overall a worthy set for an archival album, though I'd recommend the CD since the album is included as bonus tracks - which, in essence, is really what they are.

Personal collection
CD: 2005 Mellotronen

Originals are stored in a single sleeve cover and are very rare and expensive. My first exposure to the album was via a bootleg CD edition that I picked up from a large collection buy in the late 90s. It wasn't until 2005, that legit reissues finally surfaced. The CD comes in a fine tri-fold digipak with a history of the band, and as a bonus, a full album's worth of archival material. On LP, this archival album was issued separately as Take Off.

Egg - The Polite Force. 1970 England

The album opens with the 8+ minute 'A Visit to Newport Hospital', which is a quintessential Canterbury like number. The opening chords will remind one of Black Sabbath, except as played on the organ! From there, the track unwinds into a marvelous jazzy progressive piece, with those trademark fuzz organ solos, and whimsical melodic British vocals. It is, in fact, darn near perfect. If only the whole album was like this! The 4+ minute 'Contrasong' continues in the same manner, perhaps a bit more towards the jazz spectrum. And then.... Egg completely lost their minds. 'Boilk' is 9+ minutes of painful improvisational noise. One begins to question if there are indeed Homo Sapiens in the room at all. I often wonder why bands of immense talent like Egg feel it necessary to demonstrate that they too can play like a 3rd grader on their first music lesson. What a waste of time really. This leads to the side long track appropriately titled 'Long Piece No. 3'. It's an encapsulation of everything Egg was about up until this time. Wonderful progressions, and memorable melodies, offset by tuneless improvisation. Fortunately Egg cut the excess on the latter, and the composition as a whole is thoroughly enjoyable. A fine album, stripped of masterpiece status due to a near 10 minute nasty stain. Tragedy that.

Personal collection
LP: 1970 Deram
CD: 2005 Deram/Universal (Japan)

Apparently the album wasn't released until 1971, though the copyright date is clearly 1970. Despite Egg being a high profile band, CDs were strictly the fodder of pirates  for years, since the only digital version was the obscure and expensive 1991 Japanese press. The Japanese mini from 2005 is exactly what you would expect in terms of quality packaging, and I'm guessing they used the same masters as provided back in 1976.

Jerusalem - s/t. 1972 England

"Alex, I'll take Obscure Hard Rock Bands from the 70s for $1000". "The clue is.... "1972 England"". "Who is Jerusalem?" YES!  Jerusalem's sole album is so ridiculously square on in the hard rock zone, there can be no other answer. Gritty, no nonsense, twin guitar rockin' madness with gruff and slightly psychotic vocals. Every track is a winner. The compositions aren't brainless either, and especially on Side 2, a fair amount of complexity and extra heaviness enters into the picture. Highlights include the dense 'Midnight Steamer', the heavy fuzz overload of 'Primitive Man', and the Eastern progressive rock laced 'Beyond the Grave'. And when I see the name Jerusalem, and its cover theme portrays The Crusades, I'm in.

It's worth noting that the lead singer adopted the Jerusalem name starting in 2009, against the other members' wishes. I have not heard these two latter albums (including one from 2014).

Personal collection
CD: 2005 Deram/Universal (Japan)

Originals are stored in a fine gatefold cover and can get quite pricey if you're interested in securing one. Like the Strange Days album, this is an album I completely missed in the 80s and 90s. Though at least I'd heard of Strange Days, but Jerusalem was an entirely new name for me in 2005. When the Japanese CD came out, I figured it was just some rock album outside of my interest area. But no, it read well, so I popped for the deluxe version immediately, which was the first legit reissue on the market after numerous bootlegs. But as we know, the expensive Japanese CDs won't keep the pirates at bay, and it wasn't until the Rockadrome CD hit the shelves, that Jerusalem was finally available to the majority of fans. Apparently this CD comes with 5 bonus tracks (one unreleased and 4 alternate takes), plus a 20 page booklet with liner notes from band member Paul Dean and producer Ian Gillan (yes, the Deep Purple Ian Gillan). At some point, I hope to secure this CD as well, as I'm sure it's the definitive version. The Japanese CD of course looks great, and in this case is a straight master tape transfer, so even the most fussy audiophile will likely be pleased with the sound.

Strange Days - 9 Parts to the Wind. 1975 England

Strange Days comes from the last throes of UK progressive rock in 1975. Similar to other bands of its ilk, namely Druid, Kestrel, Time, and Fruupp - Strange Days went boldly forward with a combination of complex progressive rock, with a lucid dose of commercial material just in case a high powered record executive might tune in. They didn't, and off to the obscurity grave went Strange Days. But for deep divers of arcane progressive rock, don't miss this gem. The last two tracks in particular demonstrate that Strange Days were a group to be reckoned with, and include many complex progressions. Oddly, the lengthiest tune with the overtly proggy moniker 'The Journey' is mostly a tedious Broadway play styled production, and is the weakest link to an otherwise super album.

Personal collection
LP: 1975 Retreat/EMI
CD: 2007 Strange Days / Universal

I was sort of late to the party on this album. I'm not sure how I missed this album in my initial accumulation of LPs, but it just never came across my desk. The CD that arrived many years later, was my introduction to the album.

Purple Peak Records First Day Sale is this Sunday!

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