Saturday, February 18, 2017

El Reloj - s/t. 1975 Argentina

El Reloj - s/t. 1975 RCA

LP reissue: 1980 RCA as Blues del Atardecer

CD reissues: 1995 RCA/BMG as Cronologia I; 1996 Record Runner (Brazil); 2004 BMG; 2009 RCA/Sony

Like many bands from Argentina, El Reloj had a case of the blues. But they were an impetuous bunch, and didn't have the patience necessary to wallow in their sorrows. So they kicked out the jams instead. More hard rock than progressive, though El Reloj did flash signs of the brilliance to come, as you can hear the guitars working through some more complicated patterns. I had been pretty tough on this album in the past, but a fresh listen demonstrates the album has aged well. A timeless sound.

The 4 bonus singles show that El Reloj could capture their unique sound in a tighter frame. Just as good as the album proper.

The aforementioned 4 bonus singles were first introduced on the Cronologia CD (2nd scan), and all other reissues have maintained those (best I can tell anyway). As mentioned, I wasn't too keen on this album initially and sold the LP well over 20 years ago. Glad to have revisited the CD, and worth keeping for certain. As for the covers, the Cronologia introduced arguably the better artwork (essentially blowing up the upper left corner section), and the reissues have used either the original or that new one.

Gold - No Class What So Ever. 1980 USA

Gold - No Class What So Ever. 1980 Alpha

No reissues!

Gold are a southern Florida band and I found this album to be a very appealing piece of instrumental music. I love the guitar work, both in the psychedelic tone, and with his melodic style. No shredding here - this is the emotional style that Santana or even Frank Marino (think 'Poppy') can get when they focus on their instrumental side. The compositions are tight, and they pack a lot of ideas within relatively short time frames. It's sophisticated but not complicated. And while it ostensibly comes from a jazz fusion angle, I'd say it's more in the instrumental progressive rock camp. There is no doubt that this album will improve with multiple listens, as it possesses an uncommon depth. This one really came out of nowhere, and I don't think it's on the collector radar yet.

This is an album that I first heard via my research for the CDRWL. It was provided by this gentleman (a year prior to this posting), who is still at it after all these years. In any case, I'm thrilled to have finally found a vinyl copy, and thus it makes its first appearance here on the UMR. It's a really great album.

BTW, Gold's first album, Night Ride, is best forgotten. I've included my review of that below:

It's hard to imagine this is the same band that released the excellent No Class What So Ever album. Especially the first half of the disc which is really no more than boogie shuffle rock, and is quite hideous in fact. By Track 5, the band started to turn to more intriguing instrumental guitar fronted fusion, and foreshadows the much better sophomore album to come.

You - Wonders From the Genetic Factory. 1984 Germany

You - Wonders From the Genetic Factory. 1984 Rock City

CD reissue: 1996 Cue

Wonders From the Genetic Factory is You's 3rd studio album, and definitely the weakest from the original incarnation. This one has quite a bit of computer drum work and happy melody lines, which can get a bit nauseous after awhile. However, there's a surprising amount of mellotron on here, which is a very unique combination, and thus I moved it up to "keeper" status. Imagine mid 1970's Stratosfear-era Tangerine Dream playing Le Parc. Well, I know, but try. They were to bounce back mightily on their 4th album Laserscape, which is one of the 1980's best Elektronik Musik albums... meiner Meinung nach, of course.

Syd Arthur - Apricity. 2016 England

Syd Arthur - Apricity. 2016 Harvest

CD issues: 2016 Harvest; 2016 Harvest (USA)

Apricity is the 3rd album from Syd Arthur and sees the band shifting away from late 60s/early 70s Canterbury style prog rock, to one of a more modern band. They still retain their "Englishness" as it were, and the vocals still possess that Richard Sinclair soft affectation. But it's applied differently. Syd Arthur has bet the farm on their ability to craft a good song, because they are no longer obfuscating it with instrumental flights of fancy. Which for this author is a bit of a disappointment. 10 tracks in the 4 minute range, without much variation within, is a tall order and there are times the album tends to blend together. Admittedly they do have a knack for penning thoughtful compositions. In some ways they are to the Canterbury scene what Stereolab was to Krautrock. That is, there's no denying it's a modern interpretation, but it does not lack for charm. All the same, I'd like to see the band return to a progressive rock slant, where they mix the best of both worlds.

Sun Dial - Zen For Sale. 2003 England

Sun Dial - Zen For Sale. 2003 Acme (CD)

LP issue: 2003 Headspin (Netherlands) includes 7"

Sun Dial's debut Other Way Out could be considered one of the greatest psych releases from the late 1960s. Except for the small fact it was released in 1990. And then inexplicably the band dismissed the genre entirely for that annoying shoegaze/indie style that was so popular in the early 90s. I'm sure from a commercial/economic standpoint, it was a prudent thing to do. Or it better have been. But bandleader Gary Ramon was always a child of the 60s, and one had to figure eventually he'd return to his favorite style. 1995's Acid Yantra held out hope, but then the group dissipated and it seemed the dream was over. Until 2003 that is. Zen For Sale is finally the album we've all been waiting for from Mr. Ramon and company. It's a fine return to form, and the first 3 tracks are as good as anything on Other Way Out. From there it goes from merely good to great. Sun Dial, it seems, have perfected the late 1960s UK strain of psychedelic music. They tap into the best parts - the fuzz guitar, the phased and accented vocals, the charming and naive melodies - and the absolute essence of pure psychedelia. Excellent.

This album proved hard to source upon release, and was somewhat obscure. I didn't secure a copy until 2010 myself, and I had been looking for some years.

Promenade - Noi al Dir di Noi. 2016 Italy

Promenade - Noi al Dir di Noi. 2016 Fading (CD)

Promenade are a band from Genoa, and Noi al dir di Noi is their debut. The album has been pitched as an Italian prog take on Canterbury, similar to perhaps the first Picchio dal Pozzo. So I had huge hopes this would fall in line with similarly minded new groups like Moogg and Homunculus Res. Uhh... no. The opening move 'Ahtletics' is a barnburner with that wacky RIO strain of circus/cartoon styled music. References to anyone from Samla Mammas Manna to Miriodor to Yugen wouldn't be out of place. And while that wasn't exactly what I was hoping to hear, it turns out to be their best style that they revisited a couple of other places throughout. Otherwise, this is pretty much straightforward indie rock. Seriously. I fear to say that I vigorously disagree with some of the reviews I've read. There is very little classic Italian progressive rock within, if at all. I've given this one a few really detailed listens (when you have a 20 hour flight to Thailand, there isn't much else to do...). It's very rare these days for me to thumbs-down a new release - primarily because all the reviews and tools we have at our disposal to research - but this one passed the filters only to find out it wasn't at all to my taste. File under indie avant-prog. Sell bin. Sorry.

Too bad it has to be sold, as the CD is housed in a wonderful thick tri-fold digi-pak. The album was released on Alt Rock's Fading label, which is geared towards more traditional progressive rock. IMO, this should have been on the parent label.

Zhaoze (The Swamp) - Intoxicatingly Lost / Yesternight, Yes Tonight. 2015 China

Zhaoze - Yesternight, Yes Tonight. 2015 digital file

CD issue: 2016 Trail Records (USA) as Intoxicatingly Lost

I said it before within the review of a Trail Records sampler, and I will say it again: You can be rest assured the next big wave for fans of progressive rock, and for new artists, will come from China. Is it imminent? Probably not, but it’s coming just as other populous nations like Japan, South Korea, and Russia did before them. Zhaoze is more commonly known as The Swamp, and have been releasing albums (in obscurity it appears) since 2001. Intoxicatingly Lost is basically a reissue of their last album Yesternight, Yes Tonight (2015) and filled out with tracks culled from earlier works. This is, as the label designates, their first official "Western" release. Trail Records continues to release some of the most interesting albums from around the world, and are to be commended for such. Musically, Intoxicatingly Lost is really more in the post rock category. Long instrumental pieces that are built on atmospheric passages, taking the late 70s Pink Floyd ethos into Tortoise and Godspeed You Black Emperor! realms – all with indigenous instruments mixed in (primarily the guqin) with the usual rock setup. I also found the rare use of flute as highly effective in this setting. The final title track gives us a glimpse into Zhaoze leaning in the space rock direction, and is the highlight. From a government regime/controversy standpoint, the album is about as subversive as a glass of milk. And the fact the band didn’t ignore their own native sounds, it seems the album will appeal to many worldwide as well as closer to home. At least of those who know of its very existence, that is to say.

Bandhada - s/t. 1984 Chile

Bandhada - s/t. 1984. Archival

CD issue: 2004 Mylodon

Very much in the Gotic school of Mediterranean influenced jazz rock. Flute is the predominant melody instrument, as if Jeremy Steig played in a late 70’s Spanish progressive rock band. Or one from Quebec. Great songwriting throughout, only drawbacks being the use of early 80’s synthesizers and electric drums. If only this had Moog and Fender Rhodes instead of Yamaha’s, this would be a slam dunk classic**. The two live tracks have a rawer quality in the instrumentation, which is especially nice to hear considering the guitar department.

** - Ah, what the hell... Despite this potential shortcoming - it's still a classic.

After doing some research, I don't believe there is an original LP of this title. It appears this is an archival release. The online discographies still mention the existence of the LP, but I couldn't evidence of that.

Agusa - Katarsis. 2016 Sweden

Agusa - Katarsis. 2016 Kommun 2

CD issue: 2016 Sound Effect (Greece mini-LP)

Agusa's first live album, and third album overall, sees the band do what they do best: Jam. Recorded in Greece, and released on CD in the same country, this was obviously a planned event and Agusa clearly prepared heavily for it - meaning the band is sharp on all fronts. The material is culled from two tracks taken from their debut. Both are stretched considerably here, especially 'Kärlek Från Agusa' which was only a short bonus track on the original. Musically, the band hasn't changed one iota. This is 1972 Sweden brought forth and distilled for the modern age. Folk based melodies, progressive rock structures and changes, with psychedelic sounds (Organ, flute, acid guitar, pulsating bass, and pounding drums). It's a recipe that has patrons lined out the door for more. No point in tweaking that now. Given the improvisational nature of the concert, this album is entirely unique to the studio offerings, and as such, is a worthy investment on its own.

As with all Agusa releases to date, the album was originally released on vinyl from Kommun 2. Which makes sense of course, since the owner of the label is the bass player. As noted above, the CD is from Greece, and comes in a nice over-sized cardboard mini-LP styled cover. It's available in two colors. Mine is blue, and that's my sole copy to date.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Amon Duul II - Phallus Dei. 1969 Germany

Amon Duul II - Phallus Dei. 1969 Liberty

Select LP reissues: 1969 Liberty (UK); 1971 United Artists (France); 1972 Sunset (UK); 1973 Liberty (Japan); 1980 Strand; 2009 Revisited; 2014 Purple Pyramid (USA)

Select CD reissues: 1989 Mantra (France); 1993 Repertoire; 1996 Captain Trip (Japan); 2005 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP); 2006 Revisited; 2009 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

I'll let a four decade plus old newspaper article write my review for me today. Süddeutsche Zeitung said once, which happens to be the largest German national subscription daily newspaper according to Wikipedia: "Amon Düül II is a pop band that needn't shy away from comparisons with Pink Floyd or the Velvet Underground, but they are much better, more influential and more progressive than their English and American counterparts." OK then, my work is done here I think....

German originals, while hardly common, are actually much easier to find than the UK copy (3rd photo). This is the desired copy among collectors, and is by far the most expensive. I've never owned either. My first copy was the UK Sunset version, that also features a unique cover (photo #4). I found this new in a record store in the mid 80s. I sold it when I first got the CD (1993 version). But I realized recently I had to have it back. It's not terribly expensive either. What's great about this version is the back cover (photo #5), which is hilarious. Sunset was known for releasing adult pop music. What on Earth were they thinking when they put Amon Duul II on the label with the not-too-disguised title of Dick God? I always imagined some old codger with a pipe, getting excited at the strip-mall record store "Look Edna, a new album on Sunset! I got to get this!". Imagine the scene back home. ROFL. As for reissues, they are plentiful,and it's just a matter of preference. I prefer the digi-pak and liner notes of the 2006 release, but I thought the sound of the 93 CD was better. So I kept both.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Tusmorke - Fort Bak Lyset. 2016 Norway

Tusmørke - Ført Bak Lyset. 2016 Svart (Finland)

CD issue: 2016 Svart (Finland)

Ført Bak Lyset is the 3rd studio album from Tusmørke. The band continues to move away from their obvious Jethro Tull beginnings, to something far more native. As if to respond to the critics, the album opens up with a musical quote from none other than Edvard Grieg himself. English is a thing of the past, and Tusmørke are now defiantly singing in Norwegian 100%. The Viking styled choruses from the second album are still here in abundance, but they've fortunately returned back to their debut when considering the progressive quotient. Flute continues to be the main instrumental driver, and the compositions have added a bit of complexity. There's an underlying hard rock muscle throughout. It takes awhile for the ears to adjust to this one, but Ført Bak Lyset is a step in the right direction as far I'm concerned. This album just basks in its Norwegianess (word of the day). If bands from the 70s like Host and Hades excite you, then you'll be pleased with this one.

Moogg - Italian Luxury Style. 2016 Italy

Moogg - Italian Luxury Style. 2016 Mellow (CD)

With a name like Italian Luxury Style, one could be forgiven in thinking that Moogg has abandoned progressive rock for the Shibuyu-kei style, similar to Pizzicato Five and Fantastic Plastic Machine. Well, noooo, but it's not entirely unfair to tag some of this as kitschy. There is a cool jet-set late 60s vibe, mixed with a slick 70s jazz funk tone throughout. All mixed in with their patented Italian take on the Canterbury sound. This is one of those albums that sounds very familiar, and yet is entirely unique, which is quite an accomplishment actually. Multiple listens reveals something new every time, and there's a subtle complexity that lurks underneath what seems like gloss - similar to some of the best 70s fusion artists. Melody is Moogg's strength, and they are anxious to exploit. Another strong outing from Moogg, perhaps a step down from the awesome debut, but it's clear the band is stretching out a bit here and taking chances.

For some odd reason, this album was only available as a download for the longest time. A disturbing trend. Provide us physical assets please!

Eye - Vision and Ageless Light. 2016 USA

Eye - Vision and Ageless Light. 2016 Laser's Edge

CD issue: 2016 Laser's Edge (mini-LP)

Vision and Ageless Light is the 3rd studio album from Columbus, Ohio's Eye. The band clearly are moving into the "professional" category and leaving their amateur status behind. And in this case, that's a huge plus, even if I enjoy all their albums roughly the same. Eye seems to now be embracing their Nektar leanings, while digging deeper into a new found love for early non-sequencer Tangerine Dream. As with the latter group, mellotron is omnipresent, and it's clear the glorious sounds of the aging tapes are fascinating to the band as much as the audience. Eye is also beginning to drive harder in the Hawkwind space rock column, but with a UK festival styled edge, similar to the best groups like Omnia Opera. All of this combined with more focus paid to composition, and less on improvisation and jam. I could swear I heard a musical quote from Osanna's Palepoli as well, but don't hold me to it. This is a group that is mixing common ingredients but have a come up with an entirely new recipe. If the band continues in this manner, it's hard to imagine the next release being anything less than a masterpiece. I really like the direction Eye is heading in.

The CD comes in a fine single sleeve mini-LP format. Glad to see this packaging format taking off for new albums as well.

Ingranaggi della Valle - Warm Spaced Blue. 2016 Italy

Ingranaggi della Valle - Warm Spaced Blue. 2016 Black Widow

CD issue: 2016 Black Widow

Warm Spaced Blue is an odd sophomore release from Ingranaggi della Valle. Their debut was a kinetic progressive rock album, with powerful Italian vocals, jagged rhythms, and fiery instrumental chops. Very much in league with the Italian school of symphonic fusion like Deus Ex Machina or DFA. On Warm Spaced Blue, they've embraced more modern progressive tendencies, some angular dissonance, representing King Crimson, Anekdoten, and even the Avant Prog contingency of Thinking Plague. In effect they've gone from being an Italian prog rock band to a prog rock band from Italy, if that makes sense. Similar to Not a Good Sign perhaps. As such, the album has been praised in international progressive rock circles, as it's a popular sound amongst the faithful. Personally, I was a bit disappointed, as it seemed Ingranaggi della Valle were poised to take the baton from the much missed DFA, who are unlikely to ever reform. All of this to say, Warm Spaced Blue is hardly an abject failure. To be honest, I'm a bit tired of this sort of cold and clinical modern progressive style. And yet Ingranaggi della Valle somehow brings it to life, adding just the right amount of romantic touches to what could have been just another academic exercise. Having Warm in the title, whether intentional or not, provides an ingenious hint. The compositions are dense, as these kind of albums tend to be, and requires multiple listens to absorb. Even with that, I'm not sure I have - absorbed that is. Which is fine - makes future listens all that much more intriguing.  I'll give it 4 stars on faith.

Corsair - One Eyed Horse. 2015 USA

Corsair - One Eyed Horse. 2015 Shadow Kingdom (CD)

Corsair's blueprint comes from that exciting time when the late 70s hard rock movement first transitioned into heavy metal. It was a period where muscle and might met thoughtful compositions and progressive ambitions. And most importantly, melody was front and center, not an afterthought or an inconvenience. Where Corsair really shines is in their ability to write awe-inspiring breaks, followed by twin guitar melodies and further followed up with psychedelic solos. On this latter front, the band moves away from the 70's, and more into modern times, somewhat similar to the more sophisticated stoner bands emulating the late 60s, and who actually know how to play their instruments - for example a group like Colour Haze. The vocals are almost too soft affected for the music, bordering the indie style, but just enough grit to earn its 70s badge. In the end, the influences are wide ranging, and provides a different path than the usual metal revivalists. I'm not really sure of any other band that has the sound of Corsair - past or present. When looking at similar bands from the late 70s like Alkana, Legend, Granmax, Manilla Road, and Thin Lizzy, not a one of them really sound like Corsair. They have found a small niche inside a crowded field. Not sure what the market is, but I'm sure it should be larger than it is. This is the kind of music I wish I was hearing on the radio when still a teenager.

Flight - s/t. 1975 USA

Flight - s/t. 1975 Capitol

No reissues!

Flight were a Florida based progressive rock/fusion band with mellotron, Moog, guitar, trumpet, and quite a bit of kinetic energy. This is one of the most confused releases from a most confused time in American history (think Gerald Ford and hyper inflation). The album opens up as if Starcastle had decided to sound like Yezda Urfa instead of you-know-who. But then there's trumpet. Trumpet? OK, then. This leads to 'Make a Miracle' which is more like Earth, Wind, and Fire. "Baa-bay, I need you...baa-bay" It's actually quite accomplished for the style. Then how about some fusion runs similar to Mingo Lewis' Flight Never Ending? And so it goes, yo-yo-ing back and forth from insane prog to complicated fusion to radio soul hits. What a cool and dopey album, really. Too sophisticated for chart topping; too mainstream to be an underground cult classic. Can't imagine what the hell Capitol were thinking here. The more I review albums on the Capitol label, the more I wonder just how drugged up were those guys in the 70s? Flight were to get even more bizarrely contrasting on their followup album. Awesome.

Originals are easy to find, though obtaining one without marks and in mintish condition can be a challenge. I finally managed that, and it still cost me all of $7. For some reason Eastworld decided to only reissue their second Incredible Journay, and thus this self titled remains without any reissue.

Opossum - Bear's Banquet. 1974 Germany

Opossum - Bear's Banquet. 1974. Archival

CD issue: 2003 Garden of Delights

Opossum is the predecessor group to Morpheus. And after hearing this archival release, one can tell that Opossum is much looser in their embryonic stages to the more rigid Morpheus. Despite lacking cohesion and strong melody composition, the rough styling here can be quite appealing. Maybe like a less avant-garde Exmagma perhaps. I also hear some Xhol especially considering their own archival releases. Or even Missus Beastly with Eddy Marron. It's at that borderline area of jazz and Krautrock. 'The Sun and Moon Have Come Together' is actually a cover of the title track from the relatively obscure American jazz rock outfit The Fourth Way (what an odd choice...). Interesting to note for an album cover that prominently displays a flute, it’s surprising how little the instrument is used. And that's because the gentleman displayed is also their second drummer and percussionist.

Four Levels of Existence - s/t. 1976 Greece

Four Levels of Existence - s/t. 1976 Venus

LP reissues: 1995 Wipe Out!; 2002 Ikaros

CD reissues: 2005 Lion (USA)

The Four Levels of Existence are at once ahead of their time... and behind. On a cursory listen, one can hear a ferocious modern styled hard rocking album along the lines of Icecross or fellow countrymen Socrates Drank the Conium. But a more careful study reveals that of a late 60s garage band, somewhat like the primitive grass roots American bands that emerged during that tumultuous era. The songwriting is not one of the levels of existence apparently. Most of the tracks begin to blur together, as they feature the same loud dynamic. Non stop fuzz guitar, slightly higher pitched vocals and standard drum fills define this highly collectible work. It sticks out primarily due to the time and place. Not essential, but a good one for late psych / hard rock genre fans.

Originals are hyper rare and expensive. Even the LP reissues are going for decent money now, though I don't recall getting that much for mine which I sold off less than a decade ago. The CD version comes with excellent liner notes penned by the band.

Food Brain - Social Gathering. 1970 Japan

Food Brain - Social Gathering. 1970 Polydor

LP reissues: 1970 Polydor (Germany); 1999 P-Vine

CD reissues: 1989 Polydor; 1998 P-Vine (mini-LP); 2003 Hagakure/Polydor (mini-LP); 2007 Universal

Food Brain's sole album starts off wonderfully. In fact, all of Side 1 is an aggregate of the heavy psych UK scene of the same era. There are few albums from this time period that are as concise and consistent as Food Brain are here. But then comes 'The Hole in a Sausage' and everything comes to a screeching halt. And when I say screeching that is also a description. Free improvisation has its place, but one would hope for a bit of direction or spiritual guidance within. There's none of that. This is 15 minutes of pure noise making hell. No melody, no structure, no jams, no anything but what are random sounds from the various instruments in the studio. When you consider the blessed side 1, and you have Shinki Chen on guitar and Hiro Yanagida on organ within your midst, this can only go down as one of the biggest wastes of time in the annals of rock music. I think the reviewers sort of gloss over this, but it represents 40% of the album, and I don't think it can be overlooked so easy. Still, this is one of those 3 star albums that results in being a keeper, because the rest is very good.

Originals come in a fine gatefold as do the CDs in the mini-LP format.

Tetragon - Stretch. 1971 Germany

Tetragon - Stretch. 1971. Archival

CD issue: 2009 Garden of Delights

LP issue: 2011 Garden of Delights

Stretch was to be the second album from Tetragon, and the third when considering Trikolon. This bunch never were what I would consider a classic Krautrock band. Definitely more of an English vibe. Colosseum is certainly one guidepost. But even more so, from the beginning with Trikolon, keyboardist Hendrik Schaper was heavily influenced by a one Brian Auger. The two cover tracks are the same ones Auger had recorded recently ('Listen Here' and 'Dragon Song'). But where Tetragon earn their namesake shape is the performance and the orientation. This is Brian Auger for the instrumental prog rock set. And while the music certainly is jammy in nature, it is remarkable how composition acumen is continually portrayed. 5 long instrumental tracks is a recipe for boredom, and yet Tetragon are anything but. Since this album was completely in the can and ready to be released, you are getting far more than the usual archival release here. It's as if a new treasure had been found in the caves. Not one to miss.

Gotic - Gegants i Serpentines. 1978 Spain

Gotic - Gegants i Serpentines. 1978. Archival

CD issue: 2016 private

Gotic’s second album, never released in its day and forever bootlegged it seemed, has finally seen the light of day courtesy of the band themselves. Well worth the wait, as Gegants I Serpentines is a worthy successor to the fantastic Escenes. Perhaps a bit more typical in the fusion department, as was protocol for the day. But there are also a couple of tracks that amp up the progressive quotient, with a bit more variety and meter shifts within each track. No worry though, the happy and magical melodies of the debut are carried forth here, while flute, keyboards, and guitar are still front and center. In fact, the guitar is more fuzzed out than prior. Highly recommended.

There are a couple of releases for this album (legit that is, not counting bootlegs), the first as a CD-R, and the second as a fully pressed CD (which I own). The latter has the catalog number of CDR-001 (oh brother!). Be sure to inquire first, as obviously the factory pressed CD is the better asset for the long term. The tri-fold digi-pak is fantastic, no matter which version you buy.

Purson - Desire's Magic Theatre. 2016 England

Purson - Desire's Magic Theatre. 2016 Spinefarm/Universal

CD issue: 2016 Spinefarm/Universal

Purson’s second album, like spiritual sisters’ Blood Ceremony, finds the band going further back in time from their prior album. So if The Circle and the Blue Door was their recreating of 1971, then Desire’s Magic Theatre is their homage to 1969. This is a rather straightforward psych album, where the progressive rock influences are becoming more rubbed out. That’s not to say the album is without thought or merit – far from it – in fact had it come out in 1969, it would be hailed as a period semi-masterpiece. Rosalie Cunningham is obviously gaining confidence, and this is her band, no more questions asked. Their sound still fits squarely into my Post psychedelic, proto progressive with female vocals list – though this time they border outright Jefferson Airplane/Savage Rose-like psychedelia at times. ‘Electric Landlady’ is not only a funny title, but it is indeed Hendrixian. And while I do like the album, I would hope for some more creativity the next go ‘round. This one plays it too safe, and the songs aren’t memorable enough to sustain interest over repeated listens. Purson certainly have the potential for better.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Galactic Supermarket - s/t. 1974 Germany

Galactic Supermarket - s/t. 1974 Kosmische Musik

LP reissues: 1975 Cosmic Music (France); 1976 PDU (Italy); 1997 Spalax (France)

CD reissues: 1994 Spalax (France); 1995 Nexus (Japan); 2000 Nexus (Japan)

As good a place as any to jump in on the happenin' Berlin Kosmische Kourier Musik scene. A non-stop peak experience with roaring guitars, swirling synthesizers, pulsating bass, frantic drums, and echoed female vocals. Moment-in-time live jamming that perfectly captures the ethos of a bygone era. Mandatory.

I first bought the original LP back in 1988 from a long gone mail order dealer, and the first CD (digi-pak) when it first hit the shelves. And never looked back.

Tabletom - Mezclalina. 1980 Spain

Tabletom - Mezclalina. 1980 RCA

No reissues!

Such a strange little album, perhaps mirroring the surrealistic cover. On the surface, Tabletom seem to opt for a light, Spanish flavored, jazz rock sound. Flute is the initial featured instrument of choice. Then comes these crunchy power chord guitars, and irregular flamenco style rhythms. Violin and sax also make appearances. The vocalist reminds me of some of the more gravelly Italian guys as found on Jumbo or Odissea. It takes a bit to get into, but this one has a lot to recommend. The last 9 minute track is a barnburner. I had thrown the Mezquita name out in the past, but that's a bit misleading, as Tabletom aren't quite as Andalusian influenced as that may imply. They had a few albums after this debut, but I understand they are of less interest, but don't know for certain. Great Dali-esque cover.

Von Zamla - No Make Up. 1983 Sweden

Von Zamla - No Make Up. 1983 JA&RO (Germany)

LP reissue: 1984 Krax

Second album from international version of the zany S/Zamla Mammas Manna bunch with ties to Albert Marcoeur’s group. Featuring an expanded lineup of six, including Univers Zero reeds man Michel Berckmans, No Make Up! is undeniably an avant progressive tour de force. The album opens, interestingly enough, with ‘Forge Etude’, a rework from Zamla’s (then) final album Familjesprickor. A rarely mentioned fact, possibly due its obscurity, is the relationship of Von Zamla with the German fusion band Munju during this period. Both recorded for the German based JA&RO label (aka Exil). And not only do they share a full time member, bassist Wolfgang Saloman, but Berckmans also played extensively on Munju’s Le Perfectionniste album. This collaboration is reflected on the third track ‘Für Munju / Indojazz’, one of the livelier pieces on No Make Up!. Throughout the album, it’s once again Lars Hollmer’s familiar accordion, that drives most of the Nordic European style folk melodies. The ensemble work is tight, in typical chamber music fashion, with the aggressive rock edge provided by guitarist Eino Haapala, the same role he played for the Zamla clan prior. It’s fair to say that most of the groups in the Rock in Opposition camp find it hard to avoid some crazy improvisation, sort of their bitch-slap to the establishment. Here Von Zamla only utilize one piece for that, the unbelievably irritating (and mercifully short) ‘Voice Improvisation’. Fortunately the remainder of the tracks remain composed, energetic and satisfying. No Make Up! was slotted to be reissued on CD in 1998, but for reasons unknown, did not happen.  Highly recommended to fans of the original RIO movement, the collective avant progressive sound, and those who have recently arrived through the Nordic front door via the Northside label.