Iron Butterfly - Metamorphosis. 1970 USA

Metamorphosis is the album that supports the thesis of Ball. By this time, Iron Butterfly were so utterly confused as to what their self-identity was, they ended up in a stasis of nothingness. Like many bands coming from the US in 1970, Iron Butterfly's album can simply be described as "rock". It's mildly heavy, it's mildly progressive, and it's mildly annoying. 'New Day' represents about the only decent song here, while the rest sort of blows by without notice. 'Butterfly Bleu' is their last gasp at thinking perhaps maybe they were still a groundbreaking unit. And there are glimpses of great within, but of course most of it is just noodling around in the name of high art. They really had no clue at this point what they had started only 2 short years before. And then finally Ingle threw in the towel. Game over. As we learned with the 45 of 'Silly Sally', Iron Butterfly continued on in vain without him. They were moving in the direction of BST styled horn pop, so they were definitely going the wrong way. It was hopeless.

Iron Butterfly were to reform in the mid 70s without Ingle in tow. That unit predictably had little impact and also imploded. For the 40 years since then, Iron Butterfly has reformed (with Ingle this time) and broken back up. There's always going to be a new album, but yet it never somehow surfaces. Now the living members are in their 70s. Somehow I doubt a Spettri like phenomena will happen here (2973 La nemica dei ricordi). 
Woulda, coulda, shoulda. That should be on their tombstone outside the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Almost there, but not quite.

Personal collection
CD: 2009 Victor (Japan)

The Japanese mini-LP above is highly likely sourced from one of the original digital transfers, but with better packaging.

Iron Butterfly - Ball. 1969 USA

Iron Butterfly - Ball. 1969 Atco

Select LP issues: 1969 Atlantic (Japan); 1969 Atco (UK)

Select CD reissues: 1989 Atco; 1999 Collectors' Choice; 2006 Victor (Japan mini-LP); 2015 Real Gone

Iron Butterfly. Sigh. Was there ever a group with more commercial potential, and then just fell off the face of the Earth? Maybe, but this band has to be at least in that conversation. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida wasn't just a good seller, it was a major blockbuster - the album that put album rock on the map. And it was highly influential to boot. One can hear the early Krautrock and UK Vertigo groups taking a page directly from it. They were, in effect, crowned to be America's own Led Zeppelin - a band that opened for them, before ultimately the other way around.

Ball is exactly the type of album that demonstrated why Iron Butterfly weren't meant for the big time. It's just so average. A band caught twixt and between heavy rock, pop rock, and psychedelic with no ambition. All played at 70% of capacity and enthusiasm. There's excellent stuff on here for certain, like 'In the Time of Our Lives', 'Filled With Fear' and 'Belda-Beast', but nothing mind blowing as on In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Doug Ingle was an immense talent. I don't get The Doors comparisons, other than they both had sonorous voices. Ingle was far more rough than Morrison, and had he come along a generation later, would have made for the perfect heavy metal lead singer. His keyboard style was born from the church (his dad's Midwest influence), and he sounds like he's playing a pipe organ sometimes. Ball should have been the album to project Iron Butterfly to the next level of creativity. But they seemed to recoil from the responsibility. 9 songs totaling 33 minutes, some of which are real throwaways. Nothing really memorable. It seems they didn't know their place in history and thus gave it away unceremoniously. And this was the album they did exactly that with. There's another chapter to tell here of course, but that's for my next review.

Personal collection
CD: 2006 Victor (Japan)

The Japanese mini-LP above is highly likely sourced from an earlier CD - probably American. In other words, nothing special. Other than the packaging of course.

Mr. Quimby's Beard - The Definitive Unsolved Mysteries of... 1999 England

By 1999 the festival space rock sound, most famously pushed forward by Ozric Tentacles, Omnia Opera and Mandragora, was starting to get a bit long in the tooth. Many would argue that rot had set in as far back as 1995. Perhaps it was the era these albums came out in, or just the onslaught of too much good music all at once, but all of these type of albums have aged remarkably well for me. I can't seem to get enough of psychedelic guitar, swooshing and sequenced synthesizers, heavy bass and crashing drums. If you're like me, then Mr. Quimby's Beard is another band to add to your collection. They had two albums prior to this, that I recall being a bit inferior. But as the premise lays out, I have to wonder if time will be kind to those as well.

I had been confused about this release for some time. And it's only recently I realized I had the CD-R version. A reader had clarified the release with me by writing in to Under the Radar: "This album was actually recorded in 1997, but left unfinished by the band. After 2 years of gathering dust Stone Premonitions (the record label they were with at that time) decided to release it. At first as a cassette, followed shortly by a cdr. Both were titled "The Unsolved Mysteries of" and although both had a different track list, each contained unfinished versions of a few of the songs that appeared on the final band release, plus a handful of tunes that band decided not to use on the "Definitive" version. "The Definitive Unsolved Mysteries of...." was completed in 1999 and released by the band, initially as a cdr (July 1999) to help raise funds for the later CD version, which was finally released January 2000."

UMR good friend Spacefreak also added: "Mr. QUIMBY'S BEARD (another band with remote roots to the anarcho-punk scene) as a band started in early 1983. Recording-wise, they were somewhat latecomers to the scene as their recording output started in 1994, with a cassette only release of their first album. Their 2nd was issued by Dave Anderson's Demi-Monde label on CD only format and from then onwards the band only released CDRs (mostly on the Stone Premonitions label home of the great CENSUS OF HALLUCINATIONS). "The Definitive Unsolved Mysteries of..." was indeed release in 2000 and it is nothing more than a remix of their 1999 "The unsolved mysteries of Mr. Quimby's Beard". So that explains the 1999 reference on the reworked version.

I have also the opinion that the rot in that particular scene started in 1994 with the Criminal Justice Bill that penalized open air raves and free festies all over Britain. According to that Act, police could direct people to leave a rave, stop people on their way to one, and seize vehicles and sound equipment. The current provisions applied to gatherings of 20 or more, where amplified music is played at night which "by reason of its loudness and duration and the time at which it is played is likely to cause serious distress to the inhabitants of the locality". Both outdoors or, where people are trespassing, indoors."

A lot of great info here that was buried in the Under the Radar post. As such, I'm going to give this title fresh exposure, and bump it to the current date. My notes above come from a listen not long before the original UTR posting in October 4, 2011.

Personal collection
CD-R: 1999 Stone Premonitions

K. Tanaka & Super Session - British Rock Live in Japan. 1972 Japan

It's 1972 Japan, but in reality, this album is pure Krautrock freakout city. You know the drill by now - think debut albums by Guru Guru, Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, etc... If you enjoy that sort of thing, then you will absolutely swoon for this one. If not - run... run... RUN FAR AWAY from it. I presume you all know by now where I stand on such music.

There are three tracks on the album - totaling close to 60 minutes! Most of the album are interpretations of various artists, and the other is a theoretical cover tune. The album opens with 'Trip To West Coast From Britan' (sic) and purports to honor The Grateful Dead, Deep Purple, Atomic Rooster, Frank Zappa, and Uriah Heep. Well good choices for certain. Not that you'll recognize a single one of them here. Tanaka and his motley crew essentially destroy everything in its sight with a psychedelic rampage. Side 2 is a psychotic variation of Pink Floyd's 'Echoes', a composition that is already greatly enhanced with alternative substances, but this takes the idea to its logical extreme. This is followed by a tribute to Jimi Hendrix, and at this point they're pretty much putting the torch to the studio and igniting it in flames. As the AC astutely observes: "It all seems to be semi-improvised, driven by pummeling rhythms that sort of ebb and flow while the bass, guitar and organ converge and coalesce into one freaky jam after another. Even the most stoned-out-of-their-minds krautrockers would have been shocked by this level of depravity."

Personal collection
CD: 2016 Think!

This was a late era CDRWL discovery by the AC, and proved that he was still finding gold in that mine even as I was winding things down. The new legit CD reissue on Think! (2016) is housed in a mini-LP sleeve that mirrors the original. It appears to be from the master tapes, and if not, it sounds excellent anyway. A must own for fans of the music above. I'd like to think we had something to do with this reissue. There's been evidence in the past of this, but I have no idea on this title.

Marcus - s/t. 1976 USA

In the record collecting world, there is rare, unknown, and obscure. No album better demonstrates the latter like Marcus' sole album. I've been at this racket for 35 years, and it's only recently that I even heard of the album. No doubt I passed over this LP hundreds of times at record stores and fairs since the 1980s. With an album cover like that, it just didn't appear to be anything that would be in my interest area. But once I got the scent, and did a bit of research (include right c'here), it was clear this is something I needed to secure for the collection. With a recent and inexpensive CD reissue on Rock Candy, off to Amazon I went, and here we are.

Marcus (the band) is definitely an example of lightning strikes once. Bandleader Marcus Malone was already a known entity, having joined a late era Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels lineup as lead singer. His band was gaining strength as they played in the more known clubs throughout the Midwest, especially in hometown Detroit, and nearby Chicago. Eventually none other than Ike Turner discovered the band, had them signed up to United Artists, and flew them out to Los Angeles to party (and presumably record an album). The label and studio insisted on some lineup changes as well (including Cactus' Tim Bogert on bass), and that's how they ended up with the unusual 3 guitar lineup.

With that setup alone, I wouldn't have expected much to be honest. But the reality is far different. Marcus predicted the oncoming hard rock and heavy metal movements. And he (Malone) had a personal love for progressive rock. All of those ingredients found their way into this recording. For 1976, on a mainstream label like UA, this album was doomed to be a cult classic from the get. Apparently the Europeans caught wind of it a few months after release (long after Turner and the label had lost interest in their new toy), but it was all too a-day-late-and-a-dollar-short.

There are no weak tracks here, though not every song is a winner either. But for fans of mid 70s hard rock, it's a bulls-eye. The finale 'Rise Unto Falcon' is the song that most demonstrates Marcus' prog rock interests, with loads of mellotron to boot. Predictably that was my favorite of the batch, as I never seem to tire of that unique blend of hard rock meets progressive sound.

History tells us that even if Marcus had survived this recording and made another, it wouldn't be anything similar. It would have been highly likely that funk, soul, pop, or disco would have been forced onto the band, and they would have ultimately disintegrated anyway. That tale has been told numerous times. Perhaps it's best Marcus went out on their own terms, with an album (and name) highly revered 40 years after the fact.

Personal collection
CD: 2014 Rock Candy (UK)

Laurence Vanay - Les Soleils de la Vie. 1977 France (archival)

Laurence Vanay - Les Soleils de la  Vie. 1977. Archival

LP issue: 2015 Lion (USA)

CD issue: 2016 Lion (USA)

In 1977, it appeared that Jacqueline Thibault (Laurence Vanay) was finally on the verge of obtaining her big break. After two releases on obscure French and Italian labels, major corporation Decca was much interested in the talented Ms. Thibault, and expressed a desire to release her next album. Once delivered, the label had asked for a remix, but given other issues with the studio that she was a (small) stakeholder owner of, priorities slipped, and the album was remixed in the mid 1980s. By then, it was all too late of course.

Jacqueline Thibault was always a bit different. She grew up a child prodigy, with overly protective parents. As such, her influences were much limited, and she never was immersed into the rock culture of the 1970s that could have shaped her sound for better or worse. However she is brilliant, and very feminine - which is why her early albums are so stunning in contrast to everything else. They are subtle works, but totally divine once you allow the music to marinate. Drive-by listeners scoff at her greatness, because they don't hear the expected razzle dazzle - or a comfortable, overly familiar, sound. So they scream overrated, presuming it's nothing but collector hype to raise the profit level - which only reflects back on their own ignorance of the situation at hand.

This beautiful isolation and innocence that Thibault possesses, continues to be projected throughout Les Soleils de la Vie. Today, she makes music for disadvantaged children in need. I couldn't think of anyone better suited for the task.

The biggest gripe I have about this album is the unfortunate mid 80s remix, which sounds every bit of its era. That plastic, hollow sound that dominated the times is so very evident here. Still the music shines through despite the obvious challenge. I would love to hear what the original sounded like, before Decca insisted on a remix. I would buy it again, if this version does surface.

Contrary to what was generally thought by collectors in the 90s/00s, this is an archival recording never released prior.

Personal collection
LP: 2015 Lion Productions (USA)
CD: 2016 Lion Productions (USA)

Providence - And I'll Recite an Old Myth From... 1990 Japan

For years, I used to joke that Providence were the Night Ranger* of Japanese prog. It was always meant to be a lighthearted stab, an innocuous crack aimed at the good-natured prog fan (if such a creature really exists). Of course, humor works best when there's a hint of truth in it... I mean it's not like Night Ranger went on long instrumental flights of fancy. Nor did they employ a mellotron (fake as it may be) as a key sound device. But you know, there are times when they remind me of....

There are four components that will catch your ear when listening to Providence's debut. One is the powerful female vocals of Yõko Kubota, who defiantly sings in Japanese in the same manner as any number of these girls on the TV vocal contest shows would. Second is the bass playing of Yasuyuki Hirose, who puts in a monster performance. And he obtained that perfect woody bass sound like Chris Squire would do in his prime. Third is the synthesizers, sounding every bit of an early to mid 80s power AOR band ('s the final countdown....). And finally is the superb production. Hard to imagine a small private label album from Japan besting many of the major studios and labels of the time. Oh, and Christian Beya of the old 70s French band Atoll joins on guitar, and he's rockin' out! Overall, there are long stretches of high energy progressive rock here to enjoy. But be prepared for some MTV styled power pop too. Maybe Yõko looks cute in leather pants?

* I just noticed Night Ranger are still around! Now that's the ultimate example that begs the question: What's the point? One would presume they're not trying to preserve their artistic legacy. rofl.

Personal collection
LP: 1990 BSP
CD: 1994 Nexus

I bought this on LP not long after it was released in 1990 and still own that copy. It comes in a very nice poster cover, with a booklet. High production all the way, as mentioned in the review proper. This is one of the rare LPs from Japan that wasn't released with an obi, as it appears it was made for export (despite the lyrics being sung in Japanese). Ironically it's also one of the few Japanese albums that was never reissued outside of Japan. Strange. I never felt compelled to own this on CD, but just within the last month, I did secure one on the cheap (1994 Nexus). That was the impetus for this listen. Interesting to note that the CD reissue (with different cover - 3rd scan) misspells the title "...On Old Myth From"

Caravan - For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night. 1973 England

In 1984, at age 19, I happened upon a sealed copy (US London) of In the Land of Grey and Pink. It was 99 cents. I had no idea what it was, but it looked awesome, so I took a chance and that's about all the money I had anyway. Jackpot. That, predictably, had me go on a Caravan seeking mission. With that prelude, For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night (again US London) was quickly secured at a used record store in Lubbock called Lipps*.

This album isn't nearly as immediately likable as Grey/Pink is, and it was always on the margins of whether or not I should keep it. About a decade later it finally penetrated through my thick skull, and today I consider it one of their better albums. The thing about Caravan is that you have to sit through what I call the "Pye Hastings' Ditties". They're not bad songs per se, but more geared toward the whiskey drinking nightclub set, rather than the psychedelic backdrop of their best work. And on For Girls, those ditties are front loaded with 'Headloss' (second half of the much better 'Memory Lain, Hugh'), 'Hoedown', and 'Surprise, Surprise'. One can get disinterested early. Suddenly 'C'Thlu Thlu' pops in with an angular King Crimson like sound (also not a known Caravan quality), and it's very disorienting. But Side 2 is as good as anything Caravan ever released. And it closes with one of their best epics in 'A Hunting We Shall Go', which is classic Caravan, with Dave Sinclair's fuzz organ driven solos, just as God had intended music to be. This is the album that introduced long time member Geoffrey Richardson to the fold. His viola is a very welcome addition to the Caravan sound, and one wonders how much better the early albums would have been had he been on them. Caravan were never to reach these heights again, though the followup Cunning Stunts certainly is worthy of investigation as well.

*Lubbock is in west Texas, and where I attended college. Lipps was one of a handful of good used record stores we had in the area in the 80s. They had taken over an old Piggly Wiggly grocery store, so it was a big place. It closed down while I was still in college ( last week. Noooooo. 1986 I think?)  But here's the interesting part. Our neighbor here in the suburban Fort Worth area, who lives precisely 2 doors down from us, is the older brother of the owner of that store! How crazy is that?

Personal Collection
LP: 1973 Deram
LP: 1973 Brain (Germany)
CD: 2001 Deram (Japan)

Be sure to find any of the Deram based reissues (starting in 2001), as they feature 5 bonus tracks. The first 4 are alternate recordings of the album proper, and are interesting but not essential. The grand prize here is 'Derek's Long Thing'. After Richard Sinclair and Steve Miller departed following Waterloo Lily, there was a lineup that included Derek Austin on organ and Stuart Evans on bass. This is the only known surviving work from that period. Hastings stated that Austin wasn't a good fit for Caravan, because he was "too much Hammond organ". Whatever. This track is awesome, and one wonders what would have been produced had they stayed on board (Richardson was part of the same package). I only have the Brain copy because I collect the label. The Japanese CD is exactly the same as the UK version (including the booklet in English), except it has the original packaging of the LP in miniature.

Invisible - s/t. 1974 Argentina

Like a lot of bands from 1970s Argentina, Invisible was somewhat lost on me (so to speak). I didn't get the allure and hastily dumped their catalog in the 90s. This revisit proves once again that the understanding of the region's music scene from which they derived is important. Band leader Spinetta was already a veteran of the blues rock scene (Almendra primarily) that dominated the minds of the time. And with that he brought a loose structure of ideas, incorporating hard rock, psych, jazz undertones, and progressive structures to the blues foundation. As with the Franklin (Spain) archival album I recently reported on, there's this inherent early 70s Italian quality about this album. I hear a lot of Garybaldi's Nuda for example, so the ghost of Hendrix definitely has a presence here as well. The bonus 7" (which was included in the original LP and on the CDs) offers a glimpse into the world of early Yes. These type of albums are fun to listen to, not overly challenging, yet unpredictable all the same. For traditional prog fans, this one will go by without notice. But if you dig bands like Aquelarre, Claudio Gabis y Le Pesada, Pescado Rabiosa, El Reloj, et al, then this one comes as an easy recommendation. Glad I received a second chance.

Personal collection
CD: 1996 Microfon / Sony

Happy the Man - Crafty Hands. 1978 USA

In 1978, every American band on a major label were looking for their next - or first - radio hit. Not Happy the Man. In fact, Crafty Hands is even less commercial than the debut. Of course the conclusion to such antics was predictable, and they were booted off the roster over a "3 martini lunch" as the band recalls. At least they went off in style.

Though the album is arguably more progressive oriented, that doesn't necessarily translate to better in my book. But the debut is a high bar to hurdle, and I'm afraid they ran right into it. There are once again 3 types of music to be found here. One is a majestic, classically oriented symphonic sound, with occasional Asian scales interspersed. Like a cross between The Enid and mid 70s era Jade Warrior. You'll hear this sound on the opening two tracks, the closer, and 'Open Book'. Then there's the twisted, technically oriented prog rock like found on the debut, and these are represented by 'Ibby It Is', 'Steaming Pipes', and 'I Forgot to Push It'. Which leaves the odd track out. It's the only one with vocals this time, and an unusual sound for Happy the Man. 'Wind Up Doll Day Wind' takes a page of out of the Trick of the Tail playbook, and infuses it with a modern energy and instrumentation. By God if Happy the Man didn't predict the neo prog movement by 4 years or so. Not something I'd ever associated HTM with before, but a close listen revealed something new.

In the end, a very good album. Borderline 3.5 to 4 stars. Going with the latter, figuring one good craft beer will take it a half star further anyways.

Personal Collection
LP: 1978 Arista
CD: 2005 Strange Days / Arista (Japan)

Paradox - Collision Course. 2000 Germany

About 100 years ago - sometime in the early 90s - I had a chance to source Paradox's album Heresy on LP on the cheap. But I was "growing out of metal" and let it lay. So a century later or so, by pure chance, I ended up with the followup Collision. Released in that oh-so-not-thrash-metal year of 2000. And this mature (old? disposition?) corporate guy, has grown completely back into metal. I was never like the other children, that's for sure.

And for this album by Paradox? Well... quite the band name, eh? Just askin'.

Musically speaking, Paradox pretty much come up with a riff - and then another riff. And followed that with a.... c'mon guess?.... riff. For each song. Yea, the muddled timid Hetfield soundalike vocals kinda blow, but it's a small price to pay. Because thrash is all about riffs. And they are here. All over the place.

Personal collection
CD: 2000 AFM

Wolf People - Ruins. 2016 England

It must be the thing to do. What's that you ask? Oh, well if you're a band that had enjoyed recreating the UK styled 1971 proto-prog experience, then you have now moved on to the psychedelic era. Blood Ceremony, Purson, and Syd Arthur all had previously done something similar earlier in the year. The former two went back in time, whereas the latter went forward, but all within the confines of what we constitute as "psychedelia". And for my tastes at least, all 3 of them took a step back in the quality department too.

Not so for Wolf People. Quite simply this is the best post 1968 UK psychedelic album I've heard, even besting Sun Dial's Other Way Out. Of course, no real album from 1968 would sound like this. Ruins represents the ideal of the 1968 Carnaby Street landscape. When listening to this album, you want to see girls in paisley mini dresses, white go-go boots, and stylish hats. And a lot of mascara.

Ruins opens with two blistering tracks in 'Ninth Night' and 'Rhine Sagas'. Only to lead into the album's pièce de résistance 'Night Witch'. I've never heard a song like this before. From a composition perspective, it sounds like one of the more classy NWOBHM bands (think Legend)... as played by Outskirts of Infinity. The song is melodic and memorable, and that which includes two of the most incendiary fuzz guitar breaks we've heard since Many Bright Things covered the Butterfield Blues Band's 'East West'. 'Kingfisher' is the closest Wolf People gets to their prog rock roots, though strangely it may be the album's weakest cut. Starting with 'Thistles' you realize the album will continue its staggering psychedelic quality. All the songs are well-written, not just exercises in guitar fuzz overload and effects. Along with 'Night Witch', the other bonafide monster track here is 'Not Me Sir' which has a slight Middle Eastern tonality. Overall, there's not a weak moment to be found throughout.

If the radio was a still a thing, then Ruins would be what I want to hear on it. Of course we know we wouldn't, but as mentioned prior, Ruins represents the ideal.

Personal collection
CD: 2016 Jagjaguwar (USA)

Gift - s/t. 1972 Germany

"No doubt my rating on the debut is off too, but that's for another day..." was how I ended my review of Gift's second album Blue Apple, penned near the end of 2015. And that day has arrived, and the prophecy has been fulfilled. No surprise there.

Gift's debut is significantly different, though. They had yet to add an organist, and there are no progressive touches here. This is just straightforward, kick-yer-ass non-stop hard rock. The riffs are heavy by 1972 German standards, and the songwriting is solid throughout. There's an occasional flute to soften the mood, and provide some dynamics to this otherwise loud and rockin' album. Gift opens up with 'Drugs'. Well, that's table stakes ain't it? 'You'll Never Be Accepted' and 'Groupie' follows. An aural documentary of the times apparently. Of course the opener is anti-drugs, so it sort of blows my story, but one should admire the group standing up to, and against, the attitudes of the day.

Overall, I'd say Gift are less bluesy than Armaggedon, and more consistent than Dull Knife. I'd file the album next to Dies Irae and Haze if looking for direct comparisons.

Personal collection
CD: 1998 EastWest/Telefunken

Ange - Guet-Apens. 1978 France

Recently I had revisited Ange's debut Caricatures, and by pure chance, I'm now revisiting Guet-Apens, the other bookend of their progressive rock phase. While many of their peers had moved on to vapid pop music, Ange kept up the good fight with one last go at a progressive rock epic. And honestly, this is probably their most fully realized album from an instrumental perspective. Of course Ange had been, and always will be, a theatrical bunch. And that's no different here, as Decamps literally spits his words out at times. Let's put it this way, I wouldn't want to be the "microphone cleaning guy". On the other hand, Guet-Apens is Ange's mellotron album, fully front loaded with strings and choirs all throughout. I have one former colleague who insisted that Guet-Apens is Ange's finest work by a long mile. I won't go that far, as I feel it's not as representative of their sound like Au-Dela du Delire is, but his observations weren't unwarranted either. If your previous experience with Ange is that they're "way too much French", but enjoyed the musical aspect, then Guet-Apens is where you should turn next. Unfortunately after this album, the band finally did give in, and turned to pop slop for the next 20 years. After which, they rediscovered their progressive past, but it was never going to be the same. Guet-Apens is the end of an era for Ange.

Personal collection
LP: 1978 Philips
CD: 2013 Mercury (Japan)

The original features a 2 page insert as well as a lyric inner sleeve.  I first purchased this LP in the early 90s, and didn't supplement with a CD until 3 years ago, when I bought the 7 CD box set (that wasn't  cheap...). The mini replicates the LP release to perfection. In addition, the CD was newly remastered in Japan and is not just a reprint of a former French or Japanese mastering.

Tantra - Holocausto. 1978 Portugal

In my review for Mistérios e Maravilhas, I had mentioned Tantra had an international flavor to it. And that continues here on Holocausto. Once again, you'll hear bands like Carpe Diem and Crucis, not likely direct references, but rather they share similar influences and approach to composition. There are sections of 'Último Raio do Astro Rei' that recall the Spanish group Ñu, especially in the frantic vocal approach. One can also hear the 70s Italian masters peek through on various occasions as well. The music on Holocausto is very much in line with the late 70s Iberian peninsula musical landscape, arguably the area's greatest moment in the sun when talking progressive rock. Easy recommendation for European progressive rock fans, though not the best place to start if just getting your feet wet. As once again, the production leaves much to be desired.

Personal collection
LP: 1978 EMI
CD: 2016 Belle Antique (Japan)

Originals come in a fine gatefold. The Belle Antique release appears to have been independently remastered, and not taken straight from Musea as is their usual protocol. I never did hear the Musea disc, as by the time I went looking for the CD (I already owned the LP, going back to the early 90s), it was long sold out. In any case, this mastering is clearly taken from vinyl, as you can hear the muffled pressing noise.

Cant - Tides. 1996 Germany

Had they only named their band by the phonetic spelling of Kant instead. Cant is actually a good word (meaning “hypocritical and sanctimonious talk, typically of a moral, religious, or political nature”), but unfortunately its common usage is very light. Rather to American eyes, Cant is Can’t. Like most modern industrialized nations, we have become way too soft in the middle – and transformed into a nation of whiners. I can’t because it’s too hard. I can’t because it’s too far. I can’t because it’s too expensive. I can’t because I’m too tired. I can’t read this anymore because I’m hungry. Waaaaaaaaaaaaa. Or even if misspelled, one could think of the philosopher Immanuel Kant. Oh well. Let’s try to overlook the name. But I can’t… 

Anyway, on top of a confusing name, the band followed in the footsteps of other off-the-wall German prog metal bands during the middle 90s. Payne’s Gray is completely off the rails, and Superior’s debut is more on the inside track, but between these two oddballs is Cant. And talk about inauspicious openings, ‘Love in Your Heart’ might as well have been on a Michael Bolton album for goodness sake. WTH? Like Payne’s Gray, the metal aspect of their sound doesn’t show up until song 2. Each track gets more progressive than the last. By the middle of the album, we are deeply immersed into long epics with multiple themes and meter shifts. How did that happen? Did I miss a step? Is this two albums on the same CD? Even more funny, is the album’s most progressive track, the almost 16 minute ‘Shades of Blue‘ isn’t even listed on the back tray. It skips from song 4 to song 6. How off center can one get and still be straight down the middle?

Tides is an incredibly obscure album. One other person claims ownership on Discogs with me. It’s never been for sale, except for a copy with a different cover (what??). Nobody is looking for it (has anyone even heard of it?). On RYM there are 2 ratings including me. So 3 of us in the world claim ownership of this. Ponderings that need conclusions. File next to your Secrecy albums, a hidden metaphor if there ever was one. Anyway, if you be one of 'dem prog metal guys, 'den I suggest you find 'dis one. Just don't tell me you can't find it.

Personal collection
CD: 1996 CSD

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...