Saturday, September 10, 2016

Jukka Tolonen Ramblin' Jazz Band - Jazz Liisa 03. 1973 Finland

Jukka Tolonen Ramblin' Jazz Band - Jazz Liisa 03. 1973. Archival

CD issue: 2016 Svart w/ KOM Quartet

LP issue: 2016 Svart

If there's an artist that is neglected in my collection, it would have to be Jukka Tolonen. Even though I possess his first 2 albums, it's been ages since I last heard them, and I can't recall much either. Truth be told, the same could be said about Tasavallan Presidentti, excepting my recent listen to their own Liisa session. In fact, Tolonen's studio concert is very similar to his own groups' foray. Even though 'Ramblin' is a track taken from his debut album, it actually serves better as a metaphor for the band itself, at least as evidenced by this concert. These are two lengthy excursions (the other track coming from Summer Games), where the band seem at ease improvising in front of the studio audience. There are no fiery rave-ups, or complex changes, but rather the band just sort of... rambles along. There's more diverse instrumentation here than with Tasavallan Presidentti, including trumpet, that befits more a jazz session than rock. This is easy listening for veterans of the early 70s jazz rock movement, and is yet again another fantastic find from the good folks at Svart.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Jukka Hauru & Superkings - Pop Liisa 02. 1973 Finland

Jukka Hauru & Superkings - Pop Liisa 02. 1973. Archival

CD issue: 2016 Svart (w/ Tasavallan Presidentti)

LP issue: 2016 Svart

Finnish guitarist Jukka Hauru had two fine albums from the 70s (Information, Episode) before hanging up his music career for the writing pen. Both are still quite obscure due to a lack on any modern reissue. This all instrumental live concert encapsulates perfectly the sound of both, most notably the raw and edgy Information. As I state on that review, it's quite apparent Hauru is influenced mightily by a one Frank Zappa, though for this live concert, the humor bits have been completely rubbed out. Other guideposts include Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report.

In listening to this set, it probably would have been a better fit for the "Jazz Liisa" series. All the same, Hauru has just enough progressive rock sound and composition style to qualify for the genre. And one reason for this is violinist Juhani "Jupu" Poutanen, whose nickname would lead to another obscure band without a proper reissue: Jupu Group. A band that now also has a "Liisa" concert available on LP and CD (review coming soon). Poutanen is one of the "Superkings", a made-up-on-the-spot moniker meant as a joke to counter the quintet being called by the local music press a "supergroup". So melodic and shredding violin and electric guitar define this kinetic set. It really is too bad Hauru called it a day, as he had some fiery chops to display. Keyboards and an agile rhythm section round out the ensemble.

Worth noting that opener 'Mai-Ling' appears to start in mid-jam form, but as it turns out, the first 3 minutes of the tape had been damaged, so they salvaged what they could. Also of note, both 'Twilight Time' and 'Angel' are previously unreleased tracks.

Yet another essential pick up for fans of early 70s Finnish progressive jazz rock.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Baxter - s/t. 1973 USA

Baxter - s/t. 1973 Paramount

No reissues!

How about another old CD Reissue Wish List item? This comes from a recent listen, though the notes more or less stayed the same.

Paramount were one of America's unsung labels. They signed some interesting acts, and I don't think any of them did very well from a revenue perspective. Baxter, hailing from New York's Long Island, were one of their more original bands. Mellotron, Moog synthesizers, Hammond organ, wah wah guitar solos, and some wonderful nutty/unpredictable progressions. And of course, rural singer songwriter pieces in the CSN&Y mold ('Gentle Arms', 'Can't Find the Time'), boogie rock n' roll ('Give it All'), hard rock ('51'), Yes-like progressive ('By the Gates', 'Renaissance Woman'), Polyphony-like progressive (yea, exactly... who knew right?) ('Moonfire II'), and the amalgamation of every style featured here ('Doctor, Doctor', '197 Three'). Wildly inconsistent, but there are some truly inspiring progressions to be found here. Unfortunately no continuity, just like the label itself. But there's just enough good here to recommend as an album worth buying.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Hoenig / Gottsching - Early Water. 1976 Germany

Hoenig / Gottsching - Early Water. 1976. Archival

CD issues: 1995 Musique Intemporal; 1997 Spalax (France)

Early Water sounds exactly what you expect from Michael Hoenig and Manuel Gottsching circa 1976. Somewhat like New Age of Earth meets Departure From the Northern Wasteland, with sequencers raging and Gottsching letting loose on the electric guitar - more so than he did on New Age of Earth. Apparently this recording was made in the studio just before the duo were to embark on a tour of France, which was cancelled at the last minute. Fortunately Gottsching kept the tapes and sent to Hoenig (nearly 20 years later) who was then residing in Los Angeles as a studio producer. So the whole thing sounds magnificent. If all this resonates with you, this CD is a must own. Otherwise, maybe not the best place to start with either artist, as a 48 minute continuous track may be a bit much to open with.

The original CD came out on Bernd Kistenmacher's Musique Intemporelle label in 1995, and was repressed by Spalax in 1997 housed in a digi-pak. Today, either CD is incredibly scarce and expensive. I would expect another issue at some point, especially since it's never been pressed on LP.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Modry Efekt - Nova Synteza. 1971 Czech Republic

Modry Efekt - Nova Synteza. 1971 Panton

CD reissues: 1997 Bonton; 2009 Supraphon (as 1969-1989 - 9 CD set)

Nova Synteza is Modry Efekt's second album (not counting the co-release with Jazz Q Praha), and quite a departure from the blues rock/Czech pop oriented Meditace. I think the first thing one will pick up on this album is just how BIG it sounds. The Czechoslovak Radio Jazz Orchestra (or its indigenous name Jazzový orchestr Československého rozhlasu) proved to be quite the rockin' bunch, and Modry Efekt does a great job integrating with the difficult charts. For 1971 Czechoslovakia, this album is quite an extraordinary accomplishment. It is here that Radim Hladik begins to demonstrate his immense chops on the electric guitar. There's really no album quite like this one. It's not a rock meets orchestra type release, as many a UK band did back then (Deep Purple, Caravan, etc...). Nor is it a large scale horn rock band like Chicago on steroids. The album is all instrumental, and maintains a healthy tempo throughout. Blue Effect Blues is a bit typical of the medium, until the second half when Hladik feels the need to polish off a few licks. And 'Clinging Ivy' (3rd track) sounds a bit too familiar at times with some of its cliched orchestra type melodies. Otherwise, this is an album not to be missed, both from a modern aesthetic perspective, as well as an historical one.

The original LP stayed in print until at least 1980. My copy is part of the awesome 9 CD set Blue Effect 1969-1989. This will be the first of many posts from this set.

Caedmon - s/t. 1978 Scotland

Caedmon - s/t. 1978 private

CD reissue: 1994 Kissing Spell; 1995 Si-Wan (Korea)

LP reissues: 1997 English Garden; 2012 Acme

Caedmon are a Christian folk rock band from Scotland, with a psychedelic streak that comes many years past others of this sound. Perhaps Mellow Candle, Agincourt, and Spirogyra are good guideposts here, and the music is clearly anachronistic for 1978. Crystal clear female vocals, acoustic guitar, String Synthesizer, cello, and a fuzz tone guitar define this fine work. A very pleasant, breezy, somewhat harmless psychedelic album. Its reputation is well deserved for the style, though it's very much inside the rails, so not one likely to wow anyone but the most dedicated progressive folk rock collector.

The original LP is incredibly rare and sought after (as in 4 digits). The original also includes an additional 45 single. Funny to read the Discogs sales history for the original LP. Median price: $24.55. Yea. Of course, if you drill down on the sales history, you'll see that they are all commented as reissues, and simply placed there incorrectly. Unfortunately, Discogs has a lot of bad data like that which needs cleaning up. 

It appears I first picked up this CD in the mid 90s. And that CD is a co-production of Nices and Si-Wan. The former is a division of manufacturing giant Samsung, and the high quality CD is pressed by them. In effect, though, it's simply a repress of the Kissing Spell release from England, and is credited as such.

Kissing Spell, apparently, have issues with Christianity. They don't have the balls to say it as such, but that's exactly what it is. They hide behind the following phrase: "Kissing Spell is opposed to all forms of mysticism/religion - the sentiments expressed on this record in no way reflect those of K. Spell." Do you really think this would have been appended were the album representing Shinto, Hindu, Norse Mythology, or Islam? You know the answer already. I do tire of this kind of disguised hypocrisy. They even titled the final track simply as 'Give Me....' leaving out Jesus as originally presented. That's just pathetic. If it was 'Give me Thor', you think they would have changed it? Accept the music as it was presented and let others do the judging on their own. Leaves me with a bad taste for the label.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Topper - At Last. 1977 USA

Topper - At Last. 1977 Scot

As stated in many places, I truly enjoy the underground rock scene of the great American Midwest and Topper are no different. This time hailing from Kansas City, we have a band that was typically over ambitious, and wonderfully amateurish. The Moog soloing in particular is inspired. There are a lot of ideas on their one album, and it's clear they had a few Uriah Heep, Nektar, Yes, and Led Zeppelin albums in their closet. Basically a mix of hard rock, progressive, and a little bit of FM/AOR too. And they get a little too close to plagiarism in a couple of places ('Smile for the Clown' rips straight from 'Stairway to Heaven' incredibly. Guys, surely you were aware everyone knew this song already. Right?).

Another longtime album from the CDRWL. Apparently the band did reissue it, but based on conversations with them, it sounds like it's a CD-R hand-pressed by the group. That doesn't count for me, but others may not care about such a distinction. I bought the LP recently while we await a CD.

Mythos - Concrete City. 1979 Germany

Mythos - Concrete City. 1979 Venus

CD reissues: 1997 Spalax (France); 1999 Zyx

Mythos, under the direction of Stephan Kaske, were always an odd bird. Never fitting convention, they went on to release a number of albums that do not fit any preconceived notion. Concrete City was the latter of two "normal rock band" albums from Mythos. Kaske couldn't sing to save his life, but yet he continued on cluelessly here, always offsetting that weakness with his brilliant flute and synthesizer play, and having the smarts to employ an excellent guitarist. I can assure you, Concrete City sounds nothing like anything you've heard prior - yet it is familiar all the same. There's symphonic progressive, electronic, NDW, AOR, and hard rock all within the confines here. I find this album more enjoyable now than ever. Not one to win any awards, but well worth your time to give an ohr.

The Zyx CD is clearly taken from vinyl and offers up nothing more than album credits. Not a stellar reissue, though audiophile freaks may appreciate the lack of compression and digital remastering attempts.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Charlie Mariano with the Chris Hinze Organization - s/t. 1973 USA/Netherlands

Charlie Mariano with the Chris Hinze Organization - s/t. 1973 Freedom/Intercord  (Germany)

LP reissues: 1974 Freedom/Trio (Japan); 1976 Freedom (Germany)

CD reissue: 1995 Black Lion (Germany) as Blue Stone

Straight up jazz session with American WWII veteran saxophonist Mariano joining forces with the Chris Hinze Combination from the Netherlands. This CD is a reissue of Charlie Mariano With The Chris Hinze Combination with the 18+ minute "bonus" title track improvisation thrown in the middle. Mariano himself was just taking baby steps into the European underground (see Osmosis for some American subversiveness) with jazz flutist Hinze's outfit. He was later to embark into an enlightening journey with Krautrock legends Embryo, and participate on some of their finest works shortly thereafter. 'Traditional South Indian (Carnatic) Kirtanam' is exactly the type of music he performed later with the underground Embryo. A real Hepcat, man.

For a long time I didn't realize my CD of Blue Stone was the same album as this, and I couldn't understand why I never could find it on the online discographies. I ended up adding it myself to Discogs very recently, and have suggested to RYM to link them together. Freedom is the primary and original label, and is owned by Black Lion.

Merkin - Music from the Merkin Manor. 1973 USA

Merkin - Music from the Merkin Manor. 1973 Windi

CD reissue: 1997 Gear Fab

LP reissues: 1999 Akarma (Italy); 2013 Out-Sider (Spain)

Where to even start? Merkin are... weird. Not-on-purpose-weird either. They're from Orem, Utah for starters - right in the heart of Mormon country. Their album was released in 1973, which is a good 5 years past its sell date. This kind of flower pop psych was long out of fashion and I have a feeling the band would have no idea that was the case. Merkin sound like the Free Design if they were a real psych band with a killer fuzz-tone guitar right out of the Haight-Ashbury 60s scene. Make no mistake, Merkin are a bunch of squares like Free Design, which is where the allure lies actually. For years I questioned the quality of this album, and thought it might be part of the collector hype machine. Perhaps it still is, as the compositions here are wildly uneven. But when they hit the zone, it's downright divine. 'Ruby' is an all-time classic, one of my faves of the 60s (oh wait...). 'Todaze' and 'Watching You' are also awesome, mixing it up where you least expect it. They have this whimsical sunshine pop charm about them - mixed with an angry psych tone, that projects their inner conflict no doubt. The Osmonds they are not.

Monster album? No. But one that is so incredibly alluring. One of those Gnosis 10 / 3.5 star albums that is better than the grade implies.

The heavy cardboard single sleeve LP reissue from Akarma is taken directly from the Gear Fab CD, and is credited/licensed as such. So this is definitely one of their legit reissues. Unfortunately the CD itself was taken from vinyl rather than the master tapes (likely lost). And there is no additional history provided. On the plus side, the 3 bonus tracks from the CD are maintained, and the first 2 are very good.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Spaces - Border Station. 1981 USA

Spaces - Border Station. 1981 Red Giant

No reissues!

If you saw this cover in a store, you'd swear it was a typical late 1970s disco album - or perhaps even a slick fusion album. But Spaces are neither (though the opening track may have you thinking it might be). Yea it's fusion, sure. And, yes, there is a funk component. But primarily this is one hard hitting jazz rock album in the mid 1970s style, with plenty of fiery guitar, rumbling rhythms, and period keyboards (Rhodes, Mini-Moog, Clavinet, etc...). Well worth obtaining. Spaces appear to be from Provo, Utah - and the album was released in Salt Lake City.

Gift - Blue Apple. 1974 Germany

Gift - Blue Apple. 1974 Nova

CD reissues: 1994 OHB (as A German Legend w/ the first album) (Switzerland); 1998 Telefunken

Gift is a good example of why I'm somewhat reticent of the all-encompassing Krautrock tag. It means many things to many people. I first heard this album via the bootleg Germanofon CD near on 20 years ago, and didn't think much of the music at all. Well it certainly wasn't the Krautrock I was looking for! And I hardly was a kid back then - what? 31-32 maybe? I recently obtained the Telefunken (EastWest) CD and now I hear the album for what it is: Organ driven German hard rock, another genre I'm quite fond of. What you'll find here is a mix of Night Sun, Gomorrha, Epitaph, Birth Control, Dies Irae, and Fly to The Rainbow era Scorpions (listen to the two part 'Reflections' for the latter reference). The album starts off rather straightforward, though the title track features an abundance of flute-tape mellotron, not exactly a staple of the hard rock medium. Starting with 'Don't Waste Your Time', things become obviously more progressive... and more interesting for this listener anyway. There's even some heavy Italian prog references towards the end, especially the closer. Yea, I blew the call on this one. No doubt my rating on the debut is off too, but that's for another day...

The Telefunken CD has a nice sound with a small history of the band and lyrics. Surprisingly there have been no legitimate LP reissues to date, especially considering the scarcity of the original. There are, however, a lot of pirate editions floating about.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Crysys - Hard as Rock. 1981 USA

Crysys - Hard as Rock. 1981 Long St. Records

LP reissue: 1983 Metalworks/Jem

CD reissue: none

Crysys were a band from Portland, Oregon who released this one fine hard rock / metal album and then disappeared without a trace. Though released in 1981, they were clearly following along the same path as others of that American late 70s restless breed like Riot, Granmax, The Rods, Bad Axe, and Alkana. Judas Priest were certainly an influence, perhaps even early Van Halen. There's some sophistication in the arrangements, and all the tracks rock hard with plenty of metal riffing, and remain interesting throughout the length. It's from the era where the blues still played a major role in everything hard rock, and there's traces of that here within the songcraft. The psychedelic cover and hair metal styled moniker doesn't do the band any favors with an expected audience that never appeared, despite two LP pressings and covers. For late hard rock / early metal fans, this is an historical gem not to be missed. Excellent.

This album is a new discovery for me, when I stumbled upon the Metalworks LP for cheap in Dec, 2015 (which I sold in our Purple Peak Records sale this spring). Of course, I soon found out that was a second pressing, and seeing that the original wasn't that much more expensive, I had to secure one, which I've now done. There is no legit CD as I write this, though a pirate does exist. So straight to the CDRWL it went!

The original is on Long St. Records and features the cool psychedelic cover as mentioned in my notes above (1st scan). The Metalworks issue (1983) usurped a photo from the back cover of the original and blew it up for their front cover (3rd scan). I can understand that, given the audience it was trying to lure in. Though perhaps a fantasy warrior cover may have been more appropriate.

As an aside, Metalworks was a sublabel of importer/label Jem Records, who were clearly trying to tap into the burgeoning heavy metal market. As far as I can tell, this is the only full length album to be released, before abandoning the project. They certainly had the right idea, and one has to look at their execution as an example of poor business judgement. Time has proved they made a costly mistake, and Jem ultimately ended up bankrupt in 1988 (for various reasons).

Manfred Hubler / Siegfried Schwab - Vampiros Lesbos: Sexadelic Dance Party. 1970 Germany

Manfred Hubler / Siegfried Schwab - Vampiros Lesbos: Sexadelic Dance Party. 1970. Archival

CD issues: 1995 Crippled Dick Hot Wax!; 1996 Motel (USA); 2006 Crippled Dick Hot Wax!

LP issues: 1995 Crippled Dick Hot Wax!;  2006 Crippled Dick Hot Wax! (2 LP)

Can you believe I found this in a garage sale right here in DFW near one of the local suburbs where we reside? From a middle aged lady about my age. Sitting right next to Willie Nelson too. You never know what you'll find in people's closets....

Vampiros Lesbos is pretty much what you would expect from an album such as this: Psychedelic tinged jazz rock instrumentals. Nothing cutting edge, but good rhythms and wonderful early 70s analog tones. Schwab would go on to Embryo not long after, giving him future street cred. A fun set of music, and a good way to shock your neighbors next time you have them over for a glass of wine and cheese (literally and figuratively I suppose).

I did see the movie once, didn't even get through it. Pretty dull stuff, though I'm sure it was much more exciting in 1970.

The copy I found is the Motel CD. Comes with fine liner notes including from Jess Franco himself. Nice sound too. Very much recommended. The 2006 CD adds 3 tracks, and the LP adds 5 from the original release (making it a 2 LP set).

Syrius - Most,Mult, Lesz. 1970-1972 Hungary

Syrius - Most,Mult, Lesz. 1970-1972. Archival

CD issue: 1994 Gong

As you can see, I did decide to move this CD out recently (can't keep them all!). But I thought the post would be informative for those who have an interest in the band and title.

This CD is a nice archival release of Hungarian jazz rock / proto-prog from the early 70s.

Tracks 1 to 5 are from their historic (I imagine it to be anyway) journey to Australia in 1971, where their first album was recorded as well. Jackie Orszaczky would later immigrate there and release another fine album (actually better). These songs are mostly covers save 'Who is the Clown', but all the same are excellent jazz rock renditions of familiar tunes. And easily represent the best material and production here.

Track 6 is a sprawling 35 minute jazz rock suite recorded in 1970 in Budapest, and is completely unrelated to the album of the same name released in 1976. While the composition is fairly solid, the length is not justified, the performance lacks fire, and the recording is of decent bootleg quality.

The final title track was recorded in 1972 in Budapest, and once again is a fine composition, though lacking any notable qualities.

Definitely a worthy endeavor, though not an easy recommendation, despite the enormous challenges the band must have endured back then.

The CD on the Gong label features liner notes (in Hungarian), and the details of the recordings (which I supplied above).

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Tasavallan Presidentti - Pop Liisa 01. 1973 Finland

Tasavallan Presidentti - Pop Liisa 01. 1973. Archival

CD issue: 2016 Svart w/Jukka Hauru & Superkings

LP issue: 2016 Svart

Tasavallan Presidentti are one of the "big 2" when talking Finnish progressive rock in the early 70s, at least from a commercially successful standpoint in their own native land. Like Wigwam, the band are known as diverse - but uniformly excellent - songwriters. Unlike Wigwam, they acted more as a cohesive unit when composing, and thus their albums were more consistent on the whole. But in Finland itsellf, Tasavallan Presidentti were most known for their live concerts, which were driven strongly by an improvisational desire. Lead by superstar guitarist Jukka Tolonen, the band moved in and out of lengthy jams with ease. Up until now, there hasn't been any aural evidence of this side of the band. Once again, these fantastic archival finds from Svart have opened up a new window for all of us to peek inside. For this session, recorded September 12th, 1973, Tasavallan Presidentti offer up two lengthy jams. The first 'Lennosta Kii', clocking in at 19+ minutes, is not easily recognizable. It's actually a composition from equally legendary jazz man Eero Koivistoinen, taken from his rare debut LP recorded in 1968. For those who have their doctoral studies in Tasavallan Presidentti's music, you then will recognize this main melody as 'Caught from the Air' from Milky Way Moses, though with Finnish vocals and significantly rearranged. As far as jams go, 'Lennosta Kii' is more than satisfactory, though perhaps not exceptional. The second and last jam is 'Dance' (14:28), taken from Lambertland, and extended considerably here. This performance is much more engaging, and there's a point past the half way mark where the band is firing on all cylinders and they catch a trance induced groove that is highly infectious. This takes the album one more notch on the rating scale. Overall the session seems like a completely new album, and not simply live readouts of previously recorded material. An absolute can't  miss purchase if you at all have any interest in 70s Finnish progressive rock.

I have yet to hear the second session on the CD from Jukka Hauru, though a quick scan through the notes promises great rewards. Given that I already enjoy his two studio LPs, I'm buying the premise. Probably will have something to share next week on it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

St. Albert's Dream (various artists). 1969-1972 USA

St. Albert's Dream (various artists). Archival

LP issue: 2013 Lysergic Sound Distributors

This is a fantastic compilation of obscure 45's, and unreleased archival material. No duff tracks, everything in the pocket as it were. This to me anyway, is the perfect type of compilation. All non album tracks, superb music, and all very hard to find. Unfortunately like the Devil's Kitchen on the same label, no historical data was provided, which would have enhanced the overall product that much more. Of course, I'm grateful for the music period, so we'll just have to do the rest on our own.

As Tymeshifter indicates, this comp is of the "heavy psych" variety, which is a personal favorite genre of mine as well. Special thanks goes to local Fort Worth associate John Perez (Brainticket label, Solitude Aeturnus, Liquid Sound Company) for turning me onto this record.

Greylock Mansion were from Tucson, Arizona (home base of the LSD label) and released two 45s in 1970 on Dynamic Records. This track is one of the highlights of the compilation.

Butter (not Butler as designated here) - no idea? Says unreleased master tape from Roger Jones (1972).

Jerimiah are reputed to be related to Brother L Congregation, and were from Victoria, Texas (southwest of Houston, and southeast of San Antonio, near the Gulf Coast). This track came out on the Kumquat label as a 45 single (1969).

Weasel comes from a 45 on Westpark Records, a division of Soundville out of Houston, Texas. So we'll presume they were from there (1969).

Wheatridge - no idea again. Says "uncredited acetate" (1970).

Oracle were another band from Tucson, though I can find no evidence of where this track comes from (1972).

Brand X (hmm sounds familiar... but no) were from Indianapolis and released this track on a 45 on Steel Breeze Records (1970). This is another highlight of the comp.

Mechanical Switch were from the small south Texas town of El Campo between Victoria and Houston. This track is on a 45 on Bag One Way Records (Feb 1969 according to one source).

Murphy's Law - can't find anything on this one either. The track is a Uriah Heep cover from their 1971 Look at Yourself album (and sounds a lot like a demo version of Uriah Heep actually with trumpet added). Date listed is 1972.

Sleepy Hollow were from Phoenix, Arizona and released this track on a 45 from ECI Records (1969).

Frozen Sun were yet another band from Tucson. This track was on a 45 from the Capt. Zoomar label (1969).

Streetdancer - Rising. 1977 USA

Streetdancer - Rising. 1977 Dharma

No reissues!

This has been a long time feature over at the CDRWL. Moving here to UMR now with freshly penned notes. And the first two photos represent some of the sealed LP copies we are currently selling over on Discogs and on Purple Peak Records!

From the Chicago area, Streetdancer are one of the more energetic of the jazz fusion bands to come from the USA. Their debut borders on free jazz, is entirely dominated by saxophone, and is a difficult listen. However on this, their sophomore effort, the music is completely different. Adding a guitarist and a violinist, Streetdancer jumped in with both feet in crafting their version of the early Mahavishnu Orchestra sound. And it smokes pretty much from the beginning to the end. This is the kind of rough-hewn fusion I personally love with distorted guitar, soaring violin, and an active rhythm section. It gets a little loose in places, not surprising given their free jazz background, but for the most part it's a tight, kinetic barnburner. No fusion head should be without it.

Nektar - Magic is a Child. 1977 England

Nektar - Magic is a Child. 1977 Bacillus (Germany); Polydor (USA; Canada)

CD reissues:  1990 Bacillus/Bellaphon (Germany); 2005 Dream Nubula/Eclectic;  2006 WHD (Japan mini-LP); 2014 Cleopatra/Purple Pyramid (USA 2 CD)

LP reissue: 2014 Cleopatra/Purple Pyramid (USA)

Well, believe it or not, I'd never heard this record until now. And probably never would have, were it not a throw-in to another LP deal I just purchased. Good thing. Had I heard this 30, or even 20 years ago, I would have dismissed it out of hand. But with my ears today (oh these ears, I tell ya...), I hear exactly what Nektar was going for... and honestly they did a great job at it!

And what they were going for was FM radio airplay. For whatever reason, the radio guys didn't feel there were any hits here. But I disagree, as 7 out of the 9 songs here could have easily caught on with the 1977 crowd. So yes, Nektar are a long way from their (recent) progressive rock past - and even further from their Krautrock roots. But this is still some fine sophisticated AOR, or what we used to call "pomp". A precursor to the neo-prog (later interpretation of said movement) sound honestly.

Good album if bands like Styx, later Starcastle, City Boy, and others of its ilk appeal to you.

I just noticed for the first time that the Cleopatra CD is a 2 CD set that includes a concert at Hofstra University in 1977. This would be different than the two Live in New York concerts since those were from 1974. Anyway, I haven't the slightest if it's worthy of pursuit or not, but it is interesting to me all the same. I picked up the Japanese mini a couple of weeks after getting the LP.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Saga - s/t. 1974 Sweden

Saga - s/t. 1974 Sonet

CD reissue: none

LP reissue: 2013 Sonet/Universal

Saga are a guitar based rock band founded by ex-November members. Great fuzzed-out bluesy guitar ferociously played over jazz, hard rock, folk, and progressive styled tunes. Similar in sound to many of the 1970s Swedish groups, though this is quite a bit more expressive in places, taking it to a higher level. In fact, for the style, perhaps the highest level! How many bands from the modern era (especially from Scandinavia) have we heard trying to capture this very sound? Hear the real deal first, before sampling the imitators. The last two tracks are nothing short of phenomenal.

This title had been a long time feature over on my CD Reissue Wish List blog. Very strange this album has yet to find its way to CD (legit that is - plenty of pirates out there). The Mellotronen label is very friendly with the band, and the major labels in Sweden. The album did receive a legit LP reissue in 2013 for Record Store Day (and they should have just done the CD while they were at it). The bootleg CD I own (no label - Sonet nominally credited) sounds OK (not great I assure you), with no info, a backwards booklet, and the usual crap job you would expect. Fortunately I also own the original LP which stays with me to the end of time, but it sure would be nice to see a high quality CD reissue at some point as well.

Metamorfosis - Papallones i Elefants. 1982 Spain

Metamorfosis - Papallones i Elefants. 1982 Apolo

No reissues!

Despite the surreal cover art, Metamorfosis do not belong to the Spanish progressive rock revival of the late 1970s. Rather, this is a homage to Chick Corea's Return to Forever, or perhaps even fellow countrymen Iceberg. Minus the insane chops that is. No matter, as the melodic content is high, and the compositions are well written. Had this been a private American album from 1982, fusion enthusiasts would be hollering about it everywhere. And so, yes, recommended indeed.

Never been officially reissued on CD or LP but there are at least two pirate editions out there.

Top Drawer - Solid Oak. 1969 USA

Top Drawer - Solid Oak. 1969 Wish Bon

No reissues!

Top Drawer play a straightforward blues rock, but with strong psychedelic and hard rock underpinnings. The latter is best exemplified by the guitar leads which are stronger than most from this era, especially in the Midwest private press arena - in fact, it's a sound you're most likely to encounter in the region circa 1972 or later. So Top Drawer were definitely ahead of the pack in that regard. The organ is present only as dressing to the overall salad. The songwriting is quite good throughout, with only the 'Baker's Boogie' track being somewhat a waste of time, though I'm sure it was popular in the local clubs of the day. I can see from other reviews that folks are frothing about 'Song of a Sinner', but personally I hear it very much in league with the other tracks here, perhaps drawn out a bit more with its bluesy vibe, though arguably it's still the album's best composition  - along with the hard driving closer 'Lies'. Nothing on the album is extraordinary, but a very solid release throughout, and much better than I had anticipated. A little bit of an early Dragonwyck vibe here too (from nearby Cleveland), minus the obvious Morrison-isms.

Top Drawer were not from Kentucky as is widely cited in catalogs and on the internet, but rather from Mansfield in north central Ohio.

Looks to be an album that has escaped a quality CD or LP reissue. Oh, there are many reissues, but they are either dubious or outright pirate. Would be a good title for a psych / hard rock reissue specialist. I don't currently own a copy beyond a CD-R.

RYM erroneously has a listing for a Repertoire release, which would be legit, except best I can tell it's a reissue of this album: The Gods - To Samuel A Son

Friday, August 19, 2016

Sintesis - s/t. 1976 Argentina

Sintesis - s/t. 1976 Profeta

CD reissue: 2016 BlueArt

Sintesis were an obscure instrumental band who released this one fine album back in 1976, and this is my first exposure to the work, perhaps unbelievably considering its greatness. Sintesis' music is at that exciting point between jazz rock and progressive. In particular the guitar playing is kinetic, and provides the jumpy leads over the irregular rhythms. At times, an edgy fuzz tone psychedelic guitar adds an incendiary element. Soft lines of flute and violin smooth the edges, and provide the beautiful melodic phrases. This is an album that seems to be on the precipice of jumping off to immortality, only to be reeled back by more traditional jazz rock offerings, often times lead by the saxophone. In particular 'Algunas Maneras De Expresarme' is sublime, as are the opening two tracks and the closer. The CD on BlueArt (see more below) adds an excellent bonus track. When looking at comparisons, one hears the early 70s Italian jazz rockers such as La Seconda Genesi or Duello Madre. Combine this with local stars such as Crucis, jazz rock era Arco Iris, and the equally obscure El Trio. A super find, when it seemed all others of its ilk had already been dug up and safely placed in museums.

The new CD on BlueArt (2016) is awesome, with excellent sound (appears to be from the masters), and full liner notes (in Spanish though), plus the aforementioned bonus track. BlueArt specializes mainly in jazz and Tango, so this is my first exposure to them, even though they've been around for over 15 years. The CD has yet to be entered into Discogs, which I may end up doing myself (and just did...). To the best of our knowledge, this is the first legitimate reissue. It appears the excellent PRW of Brazil had intended on reissuing it nearly 20 years ago, going so far as to apply a catalog number, but we (the collective we) cannot find evidence of it actually being released. If anyone can prove this to the contrary, I would be much obliged. 

Various artists - Enchantement. 1987 France

Various artists - Enchantement. 1987 Musea

CD reissue: 1989 Musea / Baillemont

Note that the CD reissue is much improved from the original LP here: Two are replacements of different material (Edhels, Boffo), and two are new (Anoxie, Halloween). The latter two total over 16 minutes, so not an insignificant addition. And the Halloween track is arguably the best thing on here. I used to own the LP, but traded it out for the CD not long after release, and considering the excellent Edhels LP track is a bonus on the Still Dream CD, that made the decision easy. The CD booklet is as informative as ever about each band participating.

Overall, this album is quite representative of the late 80s French progressive scene, which is not the same thing as saying it's superb. There's a certain New Wave charm to some of the tracks (Elohim, Pulsar, Ange), and there's the made-up-on-the-spot group Atmosphere, who nonetheless provide one of the album's highlights (just don't go looking for the mythical non-existent LP).

And from the original LP - Minimum Vital, Raison de Plus, and Sombre Reptile were among the highlights. Sadly the latter two never achieved the same level of expertise with their somewhat futile CD efforts later on. Minimum Vital, of course, have continued to be one of the bright lights of French progressive rock for almost 30 years now.

For me, it's all a bit of nostalgia, as I knew the guys from Musea, and was just starting my own extensive journey into the netherworld of obscure progressive rock way back in 1987.

The Tony Williams Lifetime - Ego. 1971 USA

The Tony Williams Lifetime - Ego. 1971 Polydor

CD reissues:  1999 Verve; 2005 Polydor/Strange Days (Japan mini-LP)

The negative opinions are pretty strong on this one. I can appreciate the expectation that one would have for such a talent as Tony Williams in the highly creative year of 1971. And this definitely doesn't come through as a landmark winner of the year. But is it an abject failure? No, not in my opinion anyway. There's 3 throwaway percussion songs, and they are all the shortest, so that helps. The remainder is a fine jazz rock effort, and it closes well with the final 3 compositions. Anything with Larry Young on organ is worth an ear, and he does a fine job here. Overall the tone is pretty loose and raw, which are pluses. Williams' vocals are not a highlight for sure, but we've all certainly heard worse.

Digi-pak CD on Verve is really quite excellent, and features a nice layout, fine liner notes, and great sound. The LP was released in multiple countries initially, so an LP reissue would seem superfluous, as originals are easy to find, though not necessarily cheap.