Wigwam - Pop Liisa 03. 1973 Finland (archival)

Wigwam - Pop Liisa 03. 1973. Archival

CD issue: 2016 Svart (w/Taivaanvuohi)

LP issue: 2016 Svart

Wigwam were always something of a "Beatles Effect" type of band, whose diverse membership would compose their music along different lines from each other. But that lack of cohesion also allowed for a blossoming of original ideas. When it worked, such as on Fairyport or Being, the results were divine. In other cases, Wigwam lacked flow and purpose. And they predictably devolved into a commercial rock band in the mid to late 70s.

So it comes as no surprise that when Wigwam had a chance to perform live on the radio in front of a studio audience (November 7, 1973 to be precise), that their set would be random and all over the place. According to the liner notes, John Lennon's 'Imagine' was actually a warmup song, and was not broadcast that evening. Apparently this was a staple of their live act. It's a straight cover song, so we'll consider it a mulligan. On the other hand, Pekka Pohjola's 'Nipistys', from his own debut album, is an instrumental tour de force and easily the highlight of the set. Jim Pembroke's 'Grass for Blades', shows off his singer songwriter skills, though there are plenty of extended instrumentals to capture the imagination. 'Fairyport' is an extended version of the familiar track, but once again quite scattered, with a mix of heavy progressive, blues, rock n roll, etc... Overall, a very fine performance, and a wonderful archival find (as is the whole series). But for me, it was a bit too diverse to be considered excellent.

Personal collection
CD: 2016 Svart w/Taivaanvuohi

Taivaantemppeli - Jazz Liisa 02. 1973 Finland (archival)

This will be our first report on what I (and many others) consider the most significant archival find since Long Hair dug out the SWF Sessions. As the label notes, this is as significant for Finland as the John Peel tapes are for the UK. I've heard 4 albums so far (2 CDs), and have 2 more here (1 CD). There were 8 initially and another batch was just released. I plan on buying them all, unless I hear something that points that it might be out of my interest area (like Unisono - see below). All of these are "live in the studio" (Liisankatu Studios in Helsinki), and were recorded in front of a modest audience, and broadcast on national radio. What a break for all of us that these were maintained for future generations (though some were apparently re-recorded back over unfortunately). Each recording is being released on vinyl separately, with two recordings combined for the CDs. Perhaps unbelievably, the sessions were set at 40 minutes flat, so it ended up being the perfect length for LPs and 2-for-1 CDs!

Our feature today is for Taivaantemppeli, which translates to The Temple of Heaven. I think I could stop right there, and have everyone's curiosity piqued. It appears the band was a loose collective born out of Unisono, and may have not been a touring concern. The broadcast was recorded on November 21, 1973. Taivaantemppeli play in a decidedly edgy rock-jazz format, similar to other northern European bands of the early 70s. This isn't breezy fusion, but rather the rough edge sound that modern listeners crave. The primary composer is Make Lievonen, whose name I recognized for releasing a very obscure fusion album in the late 70s.  He was also the bassist in the Unisono Quartet. But the two main solo protagonists are what makes this album special: Pekka Rechart on electric guitar and Matti Jakola on flute. Rechart in particular lights it up, and possesses a delicious fuzz tone guitar sound, reminding me a bit of Elonkorjuu. Jakola's flute provides the softer edges, but wails at all the right times. Not to be overshadowed, Olli Ahvenlahti's piano and Rhodes work adds just the right amount of atmosphere and backbone. And the hand percussion only fuels the fire. For certain, the compositions are rather straightforward, and much time is given to soloing. But this is an instrumental rock album as played by experienced jazz warriors. The final track 'Lisa' is sublime, mixing both atmospheric flute with a heavier guitar based climax. Much of this recording reminds me of Wolfgang Dauner's Et Cetera, and that's high praise indeed. Overall a can't miss item for fans of early 70s jazz rock.

---Unisono Quartet

I'm not going to feature the first Jazz Liisa album separately. I recognized the name Unisono from a later fusion album. This is a bit different and it is very good for what it is: A straight instrumental jazz album. Piano based, with plenty of sax soloing, and a bit squonky towards the end at that. I do like it, but it's not terribly distinctive, and gets away from my personal interest area. As 40 minutes of bonus material to Taivaantemppeli, it's great to have, but I wouldn't buy the LP if that's what I was collecting. Solid 3 stars/Gnosis 9 here.

Personal collection
CD: 2016 Svart w/Unisono Quartet

Kosmose - Kosmic Music From the Black Country. 1973-1978 Belgium (archival)

I've been sitting on this double CD from Kosmose for a few months now (I bought it based on a recommendation from UMR's good friend Achim from Germany). The CD is well over 2 hours of music, and could have been released as 3 separate albums. I knew it would take a focused listen - one with a lot of patience. I had to dedicate a single night to it. As Kosmose member Alain Neffe says "We were using improvisation techniques drawn from avant-garde jazz, but with a rock sound, and an electronic sound, experimental, noise based...". If this rings familiar, then yes indeed, it is very much the philosophy of the original Kosmische Krautrock sound. We're talking 1970 era Tangerine Dream here. Where everything and anything was possible - and it's all extremely psychedelic. At that point even Pink Floyd stopped going in the late 1960s.

Perhaps the oddest aspect of this release is the time and place. The recordings come from 1973 to 1978 (dates unknown mostly, only the 'Eighth' song is specifically placed at 1977), though it sounds a few years earlier than that might imply. And Belgium has no such history of freaked out psychedelic music like this, especially from the French speaking Wallonia section. Of course its neighbors do - France and the mother country of Krautrock naturally enough. Kosmose were also using film techniques to create the entire experience as one might expect from the Zodiac Free Arts Lab in Berlin circa 1969.

Really an extraordinary historical aural document, though not exceptionally great. For those who are predisposed to the earliest incarnation of experimental Krautrock, this archival album comes as an assured recommendation. Everyone else might need a bit of indoctrination first. It is not an easy listen admittedly but does get better as it goes, primarily because the album requires a mindset change - that does/will occur over the 2 hour length. Without the proper background, I would probably be the first to raise my hand and complain. But if curious to tackle further, I would suggest you have taken in (and accepted) albums like Tangerine Dream's Electronic Meditation, Annexus Quam's Osmose, Amon Duul II's Phallus Dei, Xhol Caravan's Motherf*ckers & Co, Can's Tago Mago, and Organisation's Tone Float first, then digest this monster of a set. Conditionally recommended to those who love this sort of avant garde psychedelic reckless abandon. I do.

Personal collection
CD: 2015 Sub Rosa

The packaging is an excellent 2 CD digi-pak set from Sub Rosa. And priced competitively. Comes with a full set of liners (in both French and English), photos, track instrumentation, etc... Incredible value really. The double LP set includes tracks ('Second' through 'Eighth'), but leaves off 'Ninth' through 'Twelfth' from the CD (there is no 'First'). So there's roughly 50 more minutes on the CD version. That's a significant loss too, so bear that in mind vinyl collectors. You may want both!

Last listen: February 5, 2016

Baumann / Koek - s/t. 1978 Germany

Though the natural reaction would be to assume that Peter Baumann was involved here, it turns out that this Baumann was a gentleman named Walter. Along with his friend and cohort, Ata Koek, originally hailing from Turkey. The duo had a fascination with synthesizers and, even though they were from faraway Bavaria, they made the journey to visit the premier synthesizer store in Bonn and purchased a used ARP 2600. After that, they were hooked and added a few more analog toys, recorded an album at home, and mixed it at Conny Plank's studio. Then self-released the album in a run of 1000. I'm guessing these guys had a bit more coin than the usual pauper musicians...

Given the time and place, and the hardware of the era, it is difficult to escape the shadow of Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze. And when you name one of your tracks 'TD-Mem', you're just begging for comparison. But there's more than style-copy here, and given Koek's background, one will pick up some Middle Eastern themes along the way. And honestly who can complain about those fat analog sequencers blaring away? Music like this is timeless, and there seems to be endless doors to open within the big house it occupies. 'Sequencer-Roll' is a throwaway track in a Hooked-on-Classics sort of way, but the rest is great listening for fans of Berlin Electronic music.

Historically speaking, while countless artists did mimic the almighty Schulze and TD, Baumann/Koek were one of the pioneers to do just that. Outside of the "inner circle" (Michael Hoenig, Manuel Gottsching, Peter Baumann, etc..) there wasn't as much electronic music in the Berlin style as one might think when first hearing it in 2016. Other artists would soon follow (Wolfgang Bock, Cultural Noise, etc...). And of course in the 2000 era, there was an entire movement that recreated the genre in their own image (Redshift, AirSculpture, et al...). These guys were ahead of that curve.

Don't overlook this one.

Personal collection

LP: 2016 Bureau B

The original album was initially a private press and later they appended "Well Known Records" to the jackets. An ironic label name if you think about it. The Bureau B CD comes in a fine digi-pak with an historical essay in English and German. No bonus tracks, but excellent sound.

Proyecto A - s/t. 1970 + Proyecto B 1974 Spain (archival)

Proyecto A were a band from Barcelona lead by a one Frank Dube, and who could arguably be considered Spain's first progressive rock band, predating Maquina and Pan y Regaliz by at least a year. The music is at the meeting point of late psychedelia and early progressive rock, with a strong dose of horn rock. A surprisingly sophisticated sound for an album coming from Spain during the Franco era (especially as early as 1970). Mucho use of fuzz bass and guitar, along with the aforementioned fine horn section. The album tracks are planet names, and it's a concept album inspired by the recent moon landing as well as Gustav Holst's famous work. Borderline the very good and excellent fence line here, but weighting favorably given the pioneering spirit, just like the album's inspiration itself.

----Proyecto B

In addition to the original album, the CD and LP reissues include a full unreleased second album called Proyecto B which is from 1974 (3rd scan above). The irony of the material presented is that whereas the 1970 debut was a groundbreaking work for Spain, Proyecto B would have to be considered charmingly antiquated for 1974. There's a bit of Hullabaloo and lounge crooning interspersed amongst the late psychedelia aspects. Where fellow travelers The Canaries had progressed to Los Canarios doing a 2LP full blown symphonic work called Cyclos, Proyecto A were well on their way to doing The Hustle (do it... doo do doooo doodoodoo do doooo de doo). Despite what it may seem, I still found the music highly enjoyable and the melodies are quite engaging. And there's still plenty of period fuzzy instrumentation to sink one's teeth into. A superb addition to the original LP, and fascinating archival material. 

Personal collection
LP: 1970 RCA
CD: 2015 Sommor w/Proyecto B

The original LP is housed in a fine gatefold cover. The CD package also features full liner notes (in English, Spanish, and Catalan) and great sound. An essential purchase. 

Circles - More Circles. 1984 Germany

In comparison to their debut, More Circles not only moves Circles much further ahead in time to their current era, but also about one country to the west. There is no doubt the duo was heavily influenced by one Richard Pinhas on a track like 'Several Steps...'. Some of these compositions could have been outtakes from Heldon's Interface or Pinhas' own Chronolyse. While I was amazed at how the debut captured the zeitgeist of the original Krautrock scene, here they seem to have completely embedded themselves into 1979 France. If you're like me, and your idea of a good time is listening to loud fuzz guitar up front with synthesizers providing the backdrop, well then... grab yourself a copy of More Circles. One will also pick up a distinct Tangerine Dream influence circa Phaedra, especially with the echoed "bird calls". In addition to this, there are also some far out avant garde ideas as well ('Mental Dart' in particular). Final track 'Spiral Dance' reminds one of classic Neu! Overall, an uncompromising piece of music.

Personal collection
CD: 2016 Mental Experience (Spain)

Exact same situation as with the debut: The CD reissue is taken from vinyl (masters are gone), but remastered nicely by Alan Freeman (Ultima Thule) and includes his full liner notes as well. An excellent reissue. Also to mention, Alan Freeman reviews each album individually per release, which is a nice touch. 

Circles - s/t. 1983 Germany

What drew me to the debut by Circles is it isn't some sort of ordinary 80s electronik album. For one, there are few sequencers and zero Moog solos. And it certainly isn't "minimal synth". No - rather Circles seems to have channeled their inner Can, especially their instrumental years around 1974 and 1975 - that happened to be documented many years after these recordings via The Peel Sessions (and my personal favorite era of the band). Lots of psychedelic guitars, psychotic echoed vocals, flute, sax, trumpet, and even some steady metronomic drums (perhaps almost too rock oriented compared to the ultra disciplined Can). Some of the spacier moments recall Cluster's II album. It's amazing to me how well Circles' debut album captures the early 1970s Krautrock spirit. There's absolutely nothing Eighties about it.

Personal collection
CD: 2016 Mental Experience (Spain)

The CD reissue is taken from vinyl (masters are gone), but remastered nicely by Alan Freeman (Ultima Thule) and includes his full liner notes as well. An excellent reissue.

Cybotron - Sunday Night at the Total Theatre. 1977 Australia

This one's interesting. For years it had been presumed this was a legitimate release made to look like a bootleg. When the internet discographies started out, and the tribal knowledge began to dwindle, this was often (as you see on sites such as RateYourMusic) listed as a bootleg. Well, given that the reissue was licensed from none other than Maxwell himself, it appears the in-the-know crowd was right all along. This is an authorized bootleg. And as some have pointed out, the story that now proliferates about gaining a new found audience via a bootleg probably has some credibility. It's a pity there aren't liner notes to accompany (at least for the LP reissue), to set the record straight as to why they did it this way.

Musically it's closer to Maxwell's Monster Planet than the more dynamic debut from Cybotron. Though part of that is the somewhat lo-fi recording, perhaps another reason why the band chose the "bootleg look". In addition to the two side long space journeys, one half of a rare single from 1978 is included, and is certainly the best sounding of the 3 tracks, though it's not even 4 minutes long.

A good album to own if already a Cybotron fan, or for those who enjoy 70's Berlin School electronic music in the Klaus Schulze tradition. Not top tier by any means, but enjoyable on the whole.

Personal collection
LP: 2013 Dual Planet (USA)

MacArthur - s/t. 1979 USA

Namesake band leader and guitarist Ben MacArthur states in his liner notes to the newly reissued CD on Out-Sider: "In 1977...the Rust Belt was in full decline and jobs were getting scarce. There wasn't much to do, so we picked up guitars and wrote songs and recorded albums, because we loved music. Because we believed we could be something more than even rock stars. We believed out music would survive the ages." OK, now go read my introduction to the USA Midwest / Ontario Progressive Rock (1970's/early 80s) list. I'm telling you folks, this was the phenomenon of the time and place. There were no video games to distract, and no gainful employment to be had. Perfect then, let's create a band!

Further, Ben adds "I went to watch Bill (Heffelfinger, keyboardist, guitarist and engineer of MacArthur) play with a band named Labyrinth at a local fair, and they played 2112 by Rush and I was truly amazed!" And there it is again, a local regional hero providing the guidance, in this case Toronto's Rush.

And really, that's all you need to know about the debut of MacArthur. Rush is definitely the blueprint, but traces of other UK and US prog and hard rock bands are apparent. It's definitely an original work, despite the influences. Overall it's a very primitive, but earnest effort, by quality musicians and composers, looking to make their mark on history. Generally, this was the type of album that would be captured by the "cassette tape culture", that was just about to get rolling in the early 80s. 
So yes, it does require a mind shift and a predilection for such artifacts. And I clearly do, so my rating and review is biased accordingly.

Personal collection
CD: 2016 Out-Sider (Spain)

By pure happenstance, the band was successful in getting 200 LP's pressed by the custom label RPC in New Jersey (hence the band was often wrongly referred to being from there, rather than Saginaw, Michigan). There is a dreadful bootleg that's been out there for years called The Black Forest, that was filled with misinformation. Not only did it insist on the album being recorded in Camden, New Jersey, but they appended the date of 1973 to it. To this day, all the online discographies maintain this bad data, because of a crappy pirate issue. The band was formed in 1977, so unless they have mastered time travel, we'll go with Ben MacArthur's date of 1979...

Originals of course are among the rarest of American progressive rock LP's (PPR's cohort Jeff actually owns one!) RPC was a custom record plant normally used to press albums for churches and schools... and the odd demo. It wasn't a traditional label. Even though 200 are pressed, it's likely less than half are still in existence. And with that premise, fortunately we have our first set of reissues from the Guerssen group of Spain, so we all can have a copy now! The reissues are of the usual high quality, with excellent liner notes and presentation.

Hopefully MacArthur II won't be far behind on the reissue front.

Berits Halsband - s/t. 1975 Sweden

I'm bumping to the current date  to celebrate what I consider the most important reissue of 2015, and from our good friends in Greece no less! Oh - and Ken - I forgive you. LOL.

The initial review was published in Gnosis on August 28, 2007. I've since rewritten a portion of it, and that's what you see below.

Berits Halsband were an obscure band from the small coastal town of Hudiksvall, in central Sweden. Their relative isolation allowed the group an artistic freedom that ultimately created one of the greatest progressive jazz rock albums... ever.

In the mid 1970s, Sweden was harboring a handful of jazz bands looking to push the envelope beyond the usual bebop standards or electric noodling. These groups were very much influenced by the North American freaky fusion of Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. Collectives such as Ibis, Ablution, Egba, Kornet, and Archimedes Badkar were bringing that same kind of kinetic creativity up to Scandinavia. And one has to figure those long, dark winters played a role in creating hallucinations even among the most puritan of Lutherans wandering about in their show shoes.

This was the creative environment that Berits Halsband were operating in.  Their artistic contribution to the scene, and most distinctive mark as it were, would be the musical crossover to the indigenous Scandinavian folklore of the local wooden dance hall. Berits Halsband's brand of progressive music wasn't dished up through the Zappa blender (like the popular Samla Mammas Manna for example), but rather more of an introspective art school approach. As with other large scale ensembles, the 8 piece Berits Halsband makes full use of its entire membership in unique ways. To underscore this point, consider the prominent use of trumpet, which is often filtered and heavily effected through a wah wah pedal. Their second lead instrument of choice is the lovely flute, often in unison with the trumpet, or as a peaceful solo alternative. And while Side 1 sounds like the best soundtrack to your dream Stockholm vacation, side 2 takes us closer to home, near the Arctic Circle, for some serious deep funk grooves. And here we find some added ring modulated electric piano combined with amazing fuzz electric guitar soloing. All this layered on top of a trance-like bass and a very busy percussion section. While the musical ingredients are familiar, the end result is entirely Berits Halsband - one of a kind.

In conclusion, Berits Halband's sole album is a strange bedfellow meeting of 1974 electric era Miles Davis, combined with the Swedish ethnic rock of Kebnekaise, and the psychedelic pyrotechnics of Flasket Brinner. Yes... it’s that good.

Personal collection
LP: 1975 Forsaljud
CD: 2015 MusicBazz (Greece)

Originals are quite scarce, and one I chanced on well over a decade ago (2003 to be precise). It was from there that we got the ball rolling on the awareness of how great an album this is! The CD reissue (scan #2) is fantastic. Comes in a very sturdy mini-LP, with superb liner notes, and great sound. I presume the LP reissue is awesome as well. Don't sleep on this one!

Easter Island - s/t. 1979 USA

Easter Island is an album with a mixed reputation among prog aficionados, but from my perspective, Easter Island is practically the definition of my USA Midwest / Ontario Progressive Rock (1970's/early 80s) list. I do think subjugating oneself into the mindset of the era does enhance the experience. Tons of time changes, counterpoint, multiple harmony layers, mellotron, 70's analog production, and sundry razzle-dazzle will keep the most ADD among you tuned in. I've come across the term "commercial" in reference to this album. Hardly. Unless one thinks 'Gates of Delirium', Mirthrandir, Cathedral, or Yezda Urfa are commercial of course...

Personal collection
LP: 1979 Baal
CD: 2016 Belle Antique

Very rare album in original form, though you'll often see pressing numbers that are lower than the reality. I've seen plenty over the years, but it's never been cheap. Apparently those with a "gold tear" are rarer than the silver, but honestly they probably just ran out of paint. My personal copy has the silver tear for the record. Cover #2 is the Void reissue that we sold a copy of in the last PPR list.  Cover #3 is officially known as Now and Then, and was the first CD pressing. There is almost no "Now" on it, just a short synthesizer prelude and postlude. Cover #4 is the new CD reissue on Belle Antique that replicates the original to the exact detail (note gold tear). This version features two live bonus tracks from the late 70s, but they are very rough sounding, and not worth the purchase price alone. It's the exact same master as Now and Then, so no need for me to keep both. 

Tyll - Sexphonie. 1975 Germany

Tyll were one of a handful of Krautrock groups on the Kerston label (Gaa, Epidermis, Proton 1 concert), a label known more for schlager, classical, and church music. Sexphonie is a very disparate album and each track is different from the other. You'll hear fiery fusion workouts, folk rock, world fusion, straight up hard rock, and even some politrock (tongue in cheek apparently) sung in German. Steadfastly using the native language, Tyll will remind the listener of groups such as Drosselbart, Prof. Wolfff, and Franz K. The latter gets a further comparison due to the copious use of heavily affected electric guitar.  On the spacier tracks, label mates Gaa are a fair comparison. And in many places I also hear the unique composition style of Lily's excellent V.C.U. album. Perhaps a bit too scattered to be a classic, but definitely one of Krautrock's more interesting footnotes.

Personal collection
CD: 2016 Mental Experience (Spain)

In 2016, we finally have our first authorized reissue. Mental Experience, Guerssen's Krautrock specialty label, have released the album on CD and LP. It sounds like it's from the master tapes, and features liner notes from Alan Freeman, including an interview with Tyll's founder Teflon Fanfara (what a name!). Excellent all around, though no bonus material was found apparently. Nice to finally be able to ditch my CD-R burn, as I was never able to secure an original LP.

French TV - After a Lengthy Silence. 1987 USA

Fine sophomore album from French TV, a band that continued to grow leaps and bounds from album to album. After a Lengthy Silence is mostly an instrumental progressive rock, heavily influenced by jazz fusion, with a surprising space rock ending. The production is typical of the muddy late 1980s, and holds back the potential of the material. This aspect of the band would also improve as time went on.

Personal collection
LP: 1987 Y Records

The latter cover is the CD issue on Mellow, where they basically "colored it in". 

Devil's Kitchen - s/t. 1968-69 USA (archival)

Very fine discovery of live/studio recordings from legendary San Francisco band of the late 60s. Jamming psychedelic and blues are the main drivers here. Hard to avoid a Quicksilver Messenger Service reference here, though it's definitely the "West Coast" sound.

Personal collection
LP: 2011 Lysergic Sound Distributors

There's been talk of a CD issue (on the band's website) with 30 minutes of bonus tracks, but at this point it doesn't appear that will happen.

While this is a great discovery, I have to admit it falls short in the packaging and documentation aspects. I would expect more from a significant archival release such as this. The album is a regular single sleeve (like you would see in the 1980s), and besides one postcard bill insert, no other data has been provided. I say this not to be discouraging, but rather the opposite: It can only aid and encourage the collector to buy rather than be content with a copy on YouTube. My LP copy is 819/1000.

Present - Triskaidekaphobie. 1980 Belgium

Only a European band whose roots are clearly planted in the Rock in Opposition movement would name their album after the fear of the number 13 - in French of course. Perhaps the listener will have the same fear as they are greeted with rhythms performed in 13/16. Present's debut is a hellish music where the blueprint is clearly Univers Zero, who are a direct parent on the ancestry chart. A blueprint that is dragged through King Crimson's 'Fracture' for the ultimate bad trip. Bad trip as translated in the avant prog language I mean...

Personal collection
CD: 1989 Cuneiform (USA)

Schicke, Führs & Fröhling / SFF - Sunburst. 1977 Germany

SFF's sophomore release represents a mix of three different aspects of the band: Symphonic progressive, fusion, and electronic. The former is shown via 'Troja', a track that is as great as anything on Symphonic Pictures. 'Wizzard' opens the album in fusion fashion, with a catchy synth line, and a mad rhythm section. 'Artificial Energy' recalls Jade Warrior at a similar time. And so it goes. 'Explorer' plagiarizes Yes a bit, and is the only demerit of an otherwise great album. One that is often overlooked by collectors of 70s progressive rock.

Personal collection
LP: 1977 Brain
CD: 1993 Laser's Edge (USA) w/ Symphonic Pictures and Ticket to Everywhere

One of the rare times I photoed one of my own LP's for this blog (I'm just too lazy otherwise). Inside tip for PPR customers: You will see these photos again soon... :-) This is one of 3 extra LP copies I possess (don't ask why, not sure how that happened really). There are no vinyl reissues, so if you are an LP only collector, the original is the only choice. Fortunately there's plenty of supply out there.

Yezda Urfa - Boris. 1975 USA

From the Chicago area, Yezda Urfa represents the logical conclusion to where progressive rock was ultimately heading in its era. The trajectory in popular music from 1967 to 1975 was astounding by any measure. And yet it was just about that same time when the major corporations in music were looking to reign it all in. If you are looking for insanely complex, all-over-the-place, constantly shifting rock music, then Yezda Urfa is your nirvana. Not even in 1973 Italy do you find such insanity, and that was an organized scene where it seemed each band were trying to outdo each other. But, as it turns out, it was in northwest Indiana where the results came in, and Yezda Urfa ended up with the prize. Which is not the same thing as saying they were the best. No, they weren't in my estimation. But they sure were great!

As stated, there were few bands in the world that were more progressive rock oriented than Yezda Urfa. No matter, they still tried hard to achieve a major label signing. Fortunately they kept all their rejection letters to share with us, so we can all have a laugh today. You do have to feel bad for the A&R person at the record company who received the tape for Boris. He or she may have loved every minute of it, but there was NO WAY this band was getting signed up! My favorite comes from London Records: "After listening to your material we have reservations as to its commercial potential...". YA THINK?

The bonus track 'The Basis of Dubenglazy While Dirk Does the Dance', from the Syn-Phonic CD, is just as good as anything from the album proper!

History has a way of vindicating superior art such as this.

Personal collection

CD: 2004 Syn-Phonic
CD: 2010 Belle Antique (Japan)

The original LP is one of the rarest progressive rock albums on the planet, since it was only issued for promo purposes, and very few have ever surfaced. After waiting 15 years for the "artwork", Syn-Phonic finally managed to get this one out to the masses. I picked up the Japan mini as well, just for the heck of it, but it's sourced straight from Syn-Phonic's copy.

Epitaph - s/t. 1971 Germany

Epitaph were a German heavy rock band, typical of the 1971 genre, with a UK vocalist in tow which is always a plus (if persisting with the English language that is). 'Moving to the Country' starts the album off somewhat inauspiciously with that sort of breezy rural rock which dragged down their more famous later album Outside the Law. 'Visions' switches gears radically. Basically a symphonic ballad with a tremendous amount of mellotron. After this, Epitaph go for the "long form" track with extensive stretches of guitar jamming, which is certainly their forte. 'Little Maggie' gives us a "head fake" that it's going to be another rural affair, before tossing the composition aside so they can get down to the business of jamming. Arguably the album ends at its apex with 'Early Morning'. An excellent debut by an otherwise mediocre band that deteriorated as they went on. Though the followups Stop, Look, Listen and Outside the Law are quite good as well.

Personal collection
LP: 1971 Polydor
CD: 2005 Polydor/Universal

The Polydor/Universal CD comes in a fine digi-pak and features 5 bonus tracks that are quite good in their own right and make an excellent supplement to the album proper.

Missus Beastly - Space Guerilla. 1978 Germany

Missus Beastly's final album sees the legendary band going out in style. The constant line-up changes had taken their toll on the group, and though they continued on with different line-ups as late as 1982, the band finally collapsed with the advent of punk and heavy metal.

Flute and Clavinet are but two instruments that define this mature work by these veterans of Germany's jazz rock circuit. A mixture of high energy fusion and spaced out cosmic jazz with long flights of organ jamming define the lengthy title track, arguably the album's finest moment. Some beautiful piano can be found on 'Guitar for Sale'. 'Rahsaan Roland Kirk' is a 3 minute echoed flute solo, which is quite cool. 'Fuzzy, Don't Go to the Disco' brings in the expected funk bits, typical of the era, but features some fine shredding violin. 'Hoffmannstropfen' seems to be headed in a similar direction, before taking a distinct turn towards their classic 1974 Nova album, which is always a welcome sound. 'For Flü' demonstrates Missus Beastly at their most technical and progressive, with some superb flute and piano playing. 'King Garlic' continues with the piano driven sound, this time in a highly melodic composition, and a great way to close the album. For my tastes, Space Guerilla is second only to the monstrous 1974 self-titled album in their discography. I do hope a tape surfaces of one of their mid to late 70s performances. For example, 'Porta Erotica' that has been added as a bonus track to the Garden of Delights CD, from one of the famous Umsonst und Draussen festivals that we covered years ago.

Personal collection
LP: 1978 Schneeball
CD: 2015 Garden of Delights

As expected the Garden of Delights CD comes with full historical liners in English, and two relevant bonus tracks. Apparently the tapes were lost, so the CD was taken from clean vinyl. Honestly, I may not have known that if they hadn't said it. The original LP comes in a fine gatefold, and there are least two label designs.

Exponent - Upside Down. 1974 Germany (archival)

Originally published November 18, 2014. I'm bumping to the current date to celebrate the new Garden of Delights CD reissue, which is exactly what we predicted would happen.

Well... here's the next big thing for archival progressive rock collectors. Imagine Spektakel as played by Eloy. Oh... did I get your attention there? Good, that was the plan. This is more German symphonic than classic Krautrock, and I know many of you are nodding your head, saying "yep - know wha'cha mean, Tom". This is definitely a dream for keyboard fans, and there's oodles of organ, Moog, electric piano, and mellotron to absorb and treasure. While there is guitar, it definitely plays second banana to the awesome banks of keyboards. And, as indicated prior, the album is geared more towards the symphonic progressive genre with plenty of meter breaks and compositional acumen. This is not a atmospheric Krautrock zone out. Side 2 is a bit more of a blues based jam, and also possesses a slightly lesser sound quality, but still no less awesome of a listening experience - perhaps calling out a more classic German sound ala Sixty-Nine here. Yes, there's been a Sixty-Nine sighting (look them up). On the topic of sound quality, it's very good for an archival recording, but hardly Abbey Road Studios standard, so be sure to keep expectations in check. Top drawer this one goes in.

Personal collection
LP: 2014 Korusuro
CD: 2015 Garden of Delights

This has Garden of Delights name all over it, if they choose to dig in. I would like to hear more of their story in English. Update: And it has indeed come to pass, we have the CD reissue! It includes one additional 6 minute live track as a bonus, with the usual full liner notes that tells the whole history.

Genfuoco - Dentro l'invisibile. 1979 Italy

From Siena, Genfuoco's sole album is an oddity in that it was released in 1979, at a time when Italian progressive rock was completely dead and buried. Perhaps even more strange, is that it sounds like the album was recorded in 1972. The album has this hazy psychedelic edge to it, especially considering the fuzz tone guitar, as well a distant folky vibe. Keyboards are spacey and atmospheric.

Genfuoco were, in fact, part of the Focolare Movement, an international Christian organization founded in northern Italy back in 1943. They sponsored gatherings known as Genfests (and still do apparently). There were other bands from this time with names like Gen Rosso and Gen Verde, that were purportedly more pure folk sounding (thanks to Italianprog.com for the latter data).

Despite this background, I was completely unaware this was a Christian album, and I've owned this album since the Mellow CD came out in 1992 (a very rare LP in its original state, since it was only sold at Christian bookstores and fairs). The point here is the album isn't heavy on "the message", or I should say it doesn't seem that way to me, since all the lyrics are in Italian and I don't know the language. It's also not a typical uplifting praise-be-to-the-heavens music, but rather a far more mystical sound is brought forth. And there's a nice balance between the instrumental and vocals sections. I found the songwriting to be way above standard here, and perhaps the "1972 aura" really gives this one an edge.

If you're beginning your journey into the fabulous world of 70s Italian progressive rock, don't go here yet. But once you have a taste for the fine wine, you'll find Genfuoco is a bottle that has aged well.

Personal collection
CD: 1992 Mellow

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

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