Navigator - Oceanic Empire. 2002 Denmark-Germany

Navigator - Oceanic Empire. 2002 Groove Unlimited (Netherlands CD)

Oceanic Empire is an essential slice of Berlin Skool Electronik Musik. The Danish/German combo offer up some of the finest sequences / guitar overlays one can find in the genre - competing mightily with legendary contemporaries such as Redshift and Radio Massacre International. 'Secret of the Cave' is about as perfect a realization of the entire genre as any track I've ever heard. If you're the sort who just can't get enough of that mid to late 70's Tangerine Dream sound - and apparently I'm one of these sorts - then do not hesitate to buy this CD when/if given the chance.

Drahk Von Trip - Heart and Consequence. 2005 Sweden

Drahk Von Trip - Heart and Consequence. 2005 Transubstans (CD)

Drahk von Trip are a southern Swedish group who play a unique mix of space rock and aggressive neo psychedelia. A large scale 6 piece band complete with female vocals and plenty of different instrumentation (violin, flute, "vintage synthesizers", multiple percussion contraptions, and some highly unusual wind instruments like the yidaki, a specific type of didgeridoo, as well as the Didjeribone). Some of the guitar work found here is quite inspiring. Though they have elements of many bands from White Willow to Hawkwind to Azalia Snail to Ozric Tentacles to Magma (mainly found in the bass work on 'One of a Kind' and 'Gahn'), Drahk Von Trip do not remind me of any one particular group. 10 lengthy, and somewhat complex, tracks allow for much discovery for each future listen.

Darediablo - Feeding Frenzy. 2003 USA

Darediablo - Feeding Frenzy. 2003 Southern (CD)

Welcome to the Hard Rock Cookin' Show. Today we have Darediablo from New York City. Tell us, Darediablo, what is your secret recipe?

Thanks for having us on the show today, Bob. We look at both the past and present for our recipes. On Feeding Frenzy, from the past we take one part Uriah Heep and one part Captain Beyond. And from the modern chefs, we like one part Kyuss and one part Tortoise. Blend. Drain the vocals out. Serve.


Darediablo are very much a typical Under the Radar band from the 2000's. They never really had much exposure to the progressive rock community, and yet that may have been a better audience for the group in the long run. Today, the band seems long forgotten, only brought to life by archivists like myself. Like many before them, Darediablo arose from the New York City indie scene. They did have quite a bit of exposure 15 years ago, with their music showing up most prominently on ESPN's The Life among others. Their sound has been described (as recounted by the band themselves) as anything from Medeski, Martin & Wood meets MC5, to a combo of Black Sabbath and AC/DC. Since I've only heard Feeding Frenzy, I can't really say if these comparisons are accurate or inaccurate. My own description certainly points to another branch of the progressive hard rock tree. After Twenty Paces, the band seems to have disappeared altogether, and I cannot find any active internet presence. At some point, I need to make an effort to obtain their other 3 albums, as Feeding Frenzy is most certainly a solid organ based instrumental progressive hard rock album. This is the kind of CD that shows up for $2, so no sense in not picking one up if you see it.

Eye - Second Sight. 2013 USA

Eye - Second Sight. 2013 private (CD)

LP issue: 2014 private

Second Sight is an improvement on their already very good debut album. Eye continues to be influenced by early Nektar, and peaks on the awesome proto-prog 'Cultrider'. The title track sounds as if it were lifted from Tangerine Dream's Phaedra sessions, and 'Waiting for the Tide' has the classic early 70s Pink Floyd sound. What's not to like?

Rogue Element - Premonition. 2004 England

Rogue Element - Premonition. 2004 Acoustic Wave (CD)

Not only is the duo of Rogue Element's debut influenced by Tangerine Dream, but very specifically 1976 and 1977 era Tangerine Dream. There's gobs of mellotron (as played by both gentlemen), "Modular System" sequencer action, and electric guitar soloing. If you love everything about Stratosfear, Sorcerer, and Encore, and the multitudes of bootlegs (official or not) from this era, then Rogue Element will fit in perfectly with your listening routine. Make sure the CD is labeled, or you may confuse it with your existing Tangs collection. From my perspective, this is a style that allows for multiple interpretations, so other variations are much welcome.

Taal - Mister Green. 2000 France

Taal - Mister Green. 2000 Musea (CD)

On their debut album, Taal carefully skate the fine line between progressive rock and musical genre hopping. There is a difference. The former integrates influences into the full composition, whereas the latter throws a bunch of mud on the wall on the hopes something will stick. The first three tracks demonstrate that Taal are a force to be reckoned with, taking the 1970s French progressive masters into the modern age regarding instrumentation (heavier guitars, better production techniques) as well as filtering the best moments of the past. But once 'Ragtime' begins, Taal takes everything to the next level. Suddenly there's no comprehensive whole, and various factions are at war with each other as to what the album's music is to be. Something akin to ordering a Supreme pizza, where there's tons of ingredients, but someone in the kitchen lost focus on the crust, sauce, and cheese. (I always think in terms of food. In fact, what's in the fridge right now?...). In any case, there's still plenty of tracks to enjoy on their own, primarily 'Aspartamus', but the craziness detracts from what could have been a focused piece of art.

Yang - A Complex Nature. 2004 France

Yang - A Complex Nature. 2004 Cuneiform (USA CD)

Amazing how many new sounds the guitar-guitar-bass-drums instrumental quartet can come up with. Former Shylock and Philharmonie guitarist Frederic L'Epee goes for the throat on this, Yang's debut album. Seems to me this is what we were expecting from Djam Karet during this era – let it loose and bang that head that doesn't bang. What separates this from other albums of its ilk is the inventive use of the rhythm guitar. Nice melodic structure as well. Good album that delivers what it promises.

Iskander - Boheme 2000. 1982 Germany

Iskander - Boheme. 1982 Herkules / Iron Curtain

CD reissue: 1989 Iron Curtain (as Boheme)

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.

Winterhawk - Revival. 1982 USA

Winterhawk - Revival. 1982 Lambda

CD reissues: 1998 Monster; 2006 Rockadrome

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.

The CD is awesome with liner notes, bonus tracks, and from the master tapes. Surprisingly, no LP reissues have surfaced to date.

Sinkadus - Aurum Nostrum. 1997 Sweden

Sinkadus - Aurum Nostrum. 1997 Cyclops (UK CD)

Sinkadus. The other 90's Swedish band that consolidated all that was good from the analog early 70s progressive rock scene and created an album from that premise. You can always tell when a reviewer comes from the 90s "scene", on how much they despise the album because it sounds like the almighty  Anglagard. As if the world was filled with such tiresome bands. And yet, had they heard this album without any reference to Anglagard - and in fact many young folks today may do just that by accident - then they would have been justifiably impressed. Despite the fact that there were precisely 933 Genesis imitators by this time, the thought of one other band treading down the same path as Anglagard was simply unacceptable. All real silly in retrospect, and it says more about the reviewers than anything else. The members of Anglagard are the first to admit they didn't create anything new under the sun - just filtered what they liked best from 1973/74 Europe, and went about their business. And it was well received by most everyone - perhaps to the point of religion. And, as such, Sinkadus suffered the unfair accusation of plagiarism (Wobbler were later to be subjected to similar abuse). Don't bother with any of that, and enjoy the album as it is presented. Heavy guitar, Hammond organ, flute, mellotron, woody bass, and Swedish vocals is what you'll hear. All multi-tiered, constantly changing, and melodic. If you're a fan of intricate analog progressive rock circa 1973, hard to imagine not walking away impressed with this one. Unless you have an Anglagard complex. Many do.

Bas adds: "Aurum Nostrum is a great album... I guess. The thing is: I've got the excellent Live at Progfest album, which comes with a bonus disc with some sort of demo version (version 1 as they call it) of Aurum Nostrum. Great music, but I've no idea how it compares to the final version. I'd love to hear that version, but I'm sure it's way OOP and I don't fancy paying over the odds for it, only to find out it's not very different. I guess I could have a listen on youtube to get an idea, though.

Strange how Änglagård got all the plaudits and Sinkadus were labelled copycats. Even if they were, I don't mind: that would mean more Änglagård!"

Moolah - Woe Ye Demons Possessed. 1974 USA

Moolah - Woe Ye Demons Possessed. 1974 Atman

CD reissue: 2005 EM Records (Japan)

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.

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 - La Eternidad de lo Efimero. 1987 Discos Rosembach

CD reissue: 1994 Mellow (Italy)

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.

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

Tantra - Misterios e Maravilhas. 1977 EMI

LP reissue: 1983 EMI

CD reissues: 1998 EMI; 1998 Musea (France); 2007 Valentim de Carvalho

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.

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 - s/t. 1980 Non Compos Mentis

No reissues!

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? 

Manilla Road - Open the Gates. 1985 USA

Manilla Road - Open the Gates. 1985 Black Dragon (France)

CD reissues: 1992 Black Dragon (France); 2001 Dragonheart (Italy); 2012 Shadow Kingdom; 2015 Golden Core (Germany)

LP reissues:  2012 High Roller (Germany)

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.

Originals come in a single sleeve but with 2 LP's, one of those a 45 RPM EP. The photo above only shows one vinyl, but it captured the essence of the release best IMO. The High Roller reissues can be owned in a variety of colored vinyls, and are stored in a traditional gatefold. Whereas the LP was more common 15 years ago, finding the CD was a bear only until very recent (coinciding with Manilla Road being more popular now than ever). The first CD to market, from the parent, was also the first to integrate the EP into the regular track order, something that all reissues have done since. The digi-pak Dragonheart release comes with full lyrics, but is otherwise a straight reissue. The Golden Core CD features 3 additional bonus tracks that I haven't heard.

Cos - Postaeolian Train Robbery. 1974 Belgium

Cos - Postaeolian Train Robbery. 1974 Plus

LP reissues: 1975 IBC/International Bestseller Company; 2014 Wah Wah (Spain)

CD reissues: 1990 Musea (France); 2010 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

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.

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

Hoelderlin - Rare Birds. 1977 Spiegelei

CD reissues: 1994 WMMS/Music is Intelligence; 2007 EMI

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.

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 - We Are Everything You See. 1970 Parlophone/EMI

LP reissue: 1988 Zap!

CD reissues: 1995 Shoestring; 1995 Si-Wan (Korea); 2003 Eclectic; 2010 Esoteric

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.

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 - Fat Dogs & Danishmen. 1974 Zebra (Germany)

No reissues

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.

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

Ariel - Perspectives. 1985 Little Misters

No reissues

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.

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

Ozric Tentacles - Erpland. 1990 Dovetail LP. Also 1990 Dovetail CD

Moving this from Under the Radar, as I feel UMR is a better fit for these older Ozric albums.

CD reissues: 1998 Snapper; 2003 Snapper; 2010 Snapper

LP reissue: 2009 Vinyl Lovers (Russia)

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.

Sebastian Hardie - Four Moments. 1975 Australia

Sebastian Hardie - Four Moments. 1975 Polydor. Also released in Japan, USA, and France on Mercury

CD reissues: 1989 Mercury (Japan); 1994 Mercury (Japan); 1999 Musea (France); 2001 Avalon (Japan); 2004 Polydor (Japan mini-LP); 2011 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

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.

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.

Last update: July 15, 2016

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

The Greatest Show on Earth - The Going's Easy. 1970 Harvest. Released in many other countries

UMR feature of Horizons

CD reissues: 1994 Repertoire (Germany); 1995 Si-Wan (Korea); 1997 See For Miles (w/ The Going's Easy); 2005 Repertoire (Germany); 2012 Esoteric

LP reissue: 1995 Si-Wan (Korea)

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.

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). First time I've seen a Si-Wan LP mentioned for this LP, but it's featured on Discogs.

The Coalition - Naked Movies. 2004 USA

The Coalition - Naked Movies. 2004 Midlantic (CD)

CD reissue: 2012 Hudson City

Larry Coryell jams with Joe Farrell, as played by The Lumerians with a dash of St. Germain, while trying to emulate Medeski, Martin & Wood. The kind of modern fusion that was all the rage in the early 2000's, and now goes for a penny if you look in the right place. And will be highly collectible in 20 years - when my copy goes for sale. So get those 1 cent copies while you can. The Coalition consists of band members culled from New York City's late night TV scene (Conan O'Brien, Saturday Night Live), so they are highly trained and seasoned. This is with their hair down and presuming no one was looking. With the tapes rolling. Lucky us.

Originals are on the Midlantic label, which is no longer around. Band and label websites are kaput. Album was reissued on Hudson City, which appears to be keyboardist's Scott Healy's own label. Not sure there was a need for a reissue, but if looking for a new copy, it is easy to find on either label.

Cleves - s/t. 1971 New Zealand

Cleves - s/t. 1971 Infinity (Australia)

CD reissue: 1998 Vicious Sloth (Australia)

LP reissue: 2015 Real Groovy (w/ Bitch)

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.

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

Apollo - s/t. 1970 Blue Master

CD reissue: 2002 Warner Music

LP reissues: 2012 Mayfair (Germany); 2014 Svart

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.

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

Gash - A Young Man's Gash. 1972 Brain

No Reissues

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!

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

Günter Schickert - Somnabul. 1995 Musique Intemporelle. Archival recordings from 1980 to 1994

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!

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

The Wolfgang Dauner Group - Rischka's Soul. 1970 CTR / Dietrich Privat-Production

LP reissues: 1972 Brain/Metronome; 1974 Brain (as This is Wolfgang Dauner); 1981 Brain; 2015 Long Hair

CD reissue: 2015 Long Hair

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.

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

Roberto Colombo - Botte da Orbi. 1977 Ultima Spiaggia

CD reissue: 1999 Mju:zik

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.

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

Walrus - s/t. 1970 Deram. Also released in Germany

CD reissues: 1995 Si-Wan (Korea); 2008 Esoteric; 2008 Deram (Japan mini-LP)

Release details: 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.

Notes: 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).

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 + Second. 1978-1979 France

WLUD - Carrycroch'. 1978 Omega Studio
WLUD - Second. 1979 Music'al

CD reissue for Carrycroch': 1995 Musea
CD reissue for Second: 1997 Musea

LP reissue for Carrycroch': 198? Omega Studio
LP reissue for Second: 198? Omega Studio

Release details: Carrycroch' is a single sleeve whereas Second is housed in a gatefold. These two were still "in print" when I first purchased them in the late 1980s. And now I know why, as I didn't realize there were second presses of each until researching this entry. The 3rd photo is the label design for these reissues, and was likely pressed in the 1985/86 time frame along with others from Omega Studio like Neo and Wapassou. I replaced both as soon as the CDs came out. And since I now realize I had reissues in the first place, that validates my decision (for me). I wouldn't mind having real originals at some point.  Like many French albums, they are more obscure than expensive. The CD's are outstanding of course, with great sound and a full biography for each album. Second features 5 bonus tracks, including 2 different 45 singles. You can still find the CD new at some retailers.

Notes for Carrycroch': 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.

Notes for Second: Wad/Thud continue on with their second album, creatively titled... yea. And we pretty much hear the same style as the debut - 6 creative instrumental melodic progressive tracks that are pleasant, though not earthshaking. This is Instrumental Prog Rock 101, and you get an easy "A" just for showing up to class. Not everything has to be Master's class hard to be good. Sit back, enjoy your favorite beverage, and immerse yourself into the music of WLUD.

Bonus tracks on the Musea CD add (French) vocals and demonstrate the band was up to no good at the end of their career, desperately trying to find a larger audience. And it didn't work obviously. Besides who wants to hear a band called Thud?

Pulsar - Pollen. 1975 France

Pulsar - Pollen. 1975 Kingdom. Also 1976 Decca (UK)

Other Pulsar reviews on the UMR

CD reissues: 1990 Musea/Baillemont; 1996 Belle Antique (Japan); 2012 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissues: 1978 CBS; 1979 London (Japan)

Release details: Single sleeve cover and a relatively common record, especially in Europe. I started with the Kingdom LP in the 1980's, and have picked up the others along the way. Musea's release is all one would need from a CD perspective, and comes with their usual great biography. Best I can tell, the CD is still repressed on occasion to meet demand.

Notes: 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.

The Word of Life - Dust. 1995 Sweden

The Word of Life return with their sophomore, and ultimately last effort, Dust which is somewhat different from the predecessor. There'...