Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Burnin Red Ivanhoe - M 144. 1969 Denmark

Burnin Red Ivanhoe - M 144. 1969 Sonet (2 LP)

CD reissues: 1997 Sonet (2 CD); 2010 Universal

LP reissues: 1979 Sonet (2 LP); 2016 Shadoks (Germany 2 LP)

Burnin Red Ivanhoe's debut album M 144 is a groundbreaking effort, and the blueprint for many a Scandinavian album for the next few years. A double LP set, where half the album is sung in the native language, is unheard of for Continental Europe at such an early date. The influence of the Mothers of Invention looms large, and as such the album can be wildly inconsistent just as Zappa's own works can be. But at its core, we are introduced to a mixture of jazz, blues, rock, combined with the local folk music tradition. Highlights include the opener, 'Antique Peppermint', 'Tingel-tangelmanden', 'Purple Hearts', and the lengthy finale 'Ksilioy'. Essential historical album for fans of progressive rock, but certainly not among the best the genre can offer.

My first copy was the 2 LP set on Sonet. A slightly later press on the purple/orange label and without the gimmix. I sold the album over 15 years ago. Real originals on the red Sonet label and the moving pieces are quite expensive and sought after. And now in 2016, Shadoks has come through with a deluxe LP reissue like the original with the gimmix intact.

I recently sourced the 1997 double CD (also on parent label Sonet), which features many live and studio bonus tracks. Even a modern rendition (from a reunion effort) of 'Kaj' is included. This particular CD is hard to find as well.

Nova - Vimana. 1976 England / Italy

Nova - Vimana. 1976 Arista (UK)

Select LP issues: 1976 Arista (USA); 1976 Motors (France)

CD reissue: 2005 Arista (Japan mini-LP)

Vimana is the second album from the fusion supergroup Nova. The lineup is a mix of Brand X from the UK and various members from the Italian prog scene, most notably guitarist Corrado Rustici (Cervello) and reeds player Elio D'Anna (Osanna - who includes Corrado's brother Danilo). This being 1976, the music is definitely high powered fusion, with hot technical playing, but also a good grasp at melodic songwriting. Brand X and Return to Forever are the obvious guideposts here. This is a good one for fusion fans.

I'd originally picked up the US LP press in the 1980s (even today this is a $1 bin special), and didn't care for it at all. One does have to possess an appreciation of the mid 70s fusion style, or it's going to come across as noodly gloss (note other reviews you may see, not an atypical viewpoint).

Surprisingly given the marquee names involved, the CD has only been pressed in Japan.  My copy is the mini-LP from 2005, that replicates the original single sleeve LP, though in this case, there's nothing noteworthy about it.

Nektar - Down to Earth. 1974 England

Nektar - Down to Earth. 1974 Bacillus/Bellaphon (Germany)

Select LP issues: 1974 United Artists; 1975 Passport (USA); 1974 Real (Australia); 2012 Sireena (Germany)

Select CD reissues: 1987 Bacillus/Bellaphon (Germany); 2005 Eclectic/Dream Nebula; 2006 WHD (Japan mini-LP); 2013 Purple Pyramid (USA); 2013 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

As with Magic is a Child, I hadn't actually heard Down to Earth until now. Or I probably did in snippets and walked away in disgust. This is exactly the type of album that would not have appealed to me at age 21, or 31, maybe even 41. But at 51, I hear it in a different way. Managing expectations is everything, and it's not unreasonable for someone to approach this expecting to hear the sounds of the album before (Remember the Future) or after (Recycled). In fact, the latter album probably has more to do with the negative impression in modern times, since it was rare for a band to make a "comeback" like that in the 1970s. Just about every progressive rock band found their way to commercialism over time. 1974 was perhaps a bit early to jump the shark as it were, but in retrospect this album was actually ahead of its time, though I'm sure audiences back then were quite baffled by it. So in the end, had the band renamed themselves Ratken for this album, it probably would have been received better.

And after hearing it intently, I was quite surprised at how progressive it actually is. It's tighter and doesn't possess the long stretches of progressive space rock (or classic Kosmische Krautrock like the debut), so on the surface it seems less complex. 'Nelly the Elephant' is startling in that it sounds more like a horn rock track from 1970. It reminded me of the UK band The Greatest Show on Earth actually (circus themes?). 'Early Morning Clown' wouldn't be out of place on a Jonesy or Fruupp album. And 'That's Life" sounds like an outtake from Yes' Fragile session. In fact, only the relatively dull song 'Little Boy" ended up being a slight disappointment. This is a very good album to my ears, and I suspect will always be misunderstood. I can see I'm of the minority opinion on this one. OK, fair enough.

I believe it's the UK UA original that comes in a nice textured cover, which the Japanese mini-LP's replicate. Apparently the Purple Pyramid release has significant bonus material, but I haven't heard them as of this writing.

Hunka Munka - Dedicato a Giovanna G. 1972 Italy

Hunka Munka - Dedicato a Giovanna G. 1972 Dischi Ricordi

CD reissues: 1988 Crime (Japan); 1998 Si-Wan (Korea); 2003 Ricordi/BMG; 2005 BMG (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissues: 1988 Crime (Japan); 1993 Si-Wan (Korea); 2012 AMS/BTF

This is my first time to hear Hunka Munka, one of the very few Italian prog albums from the heyday that I hadn't absorbed prior. That's mainly because I was warded off from it years ago. And after hearing it, I can certainly understand why. Which is not the same thing as stating this isn't a good album. It is. Other reviews I've read do a fine job of reminding the readers that the Italian scene was heavily influenced by the acoustic romantic singer songwriter tradition that still prevailed well into the 1970s. Understanding that will go a long way to having the tolerance necessary to appreciate what sounds like to modern ears as "whiny vocals". The progressive rock element is brought forth early, and 'Ruote e Sogni' is the highlight piece with nice stretches of Hammond organ, and definitely born from the Italian prog rock tradition. But the album careens off the cliff for the final 10 minutes or so, and is purely Italian pop - and fairly annoying at that (despite the observations made above). And that is the last impression left for many a listener, and so it is understandable why folks would actually state it's a horrible album. It's not. But by all means, if just getting into the Italian prog scene, don't go anywhere near this one. I waited over 30 years myself. That's about right...

Originals are super rare  and apparently sold poorly in its day. Try to get a CD or LP with the gimmix toilet bowl cover.

Hunk Ai - s/t. 1986 Denmark

Hunk Ai - s/t. 1986 Olufsen

No reissues!

Hunk Ai, from Denmark, are a textbook Avant-Prog group. Heavily influenced by Henry Cow, Slapp Happy, Kew.Rhone., and Von Zamla, the music of Hunk Ai is wildly unpredictable, angular, and dissonant. At once harsh and then followed by some surprising melodic sounds. Like most albums in the field, there are great moments to behold, including the driving bass work, fantastic production, and the rare (for the genre) psychedelic guitar solo. On the other hand, there are plenty of free noise sections, tuneless percussion, and the ever present shrieking-and-shrill pseudo-operatic female voice that honestly becomes very annoying after awhile. Some of the vocals recall the French band Noa, though I found them less engaging. I used to have much more tolerance for this kind of stuff, but it hasn't aged well for me. But if you're a fan of said genre, this album is an absolute must listen.

As you can see, I did decide to move this one out recently. Once again via our Purple Peak Records webshop (yea I know, it looks like an advertisement, but we can use the exposure!)

Circus Underwater - s/t. 1984 USA

Circus Underwater - s/t. 1984 Glass Wing

No reissues!

Circus Underwater, from the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC, were a progressive electronic group, heavy on atmosphere and with a good grasp of melody. The acoustics are fantastic, and the Frippian guitar leads are really quite splendid. Perhaps had Circus Underwater considered being a Berlin School electronic group in the Tangerine Dream genre, they may have found success at the time - though their sound wasn't that removed from what Klaus Schulze and other electronic artists of the day were attempting. I've seen dealers sell this as "minimal synth" to great success, but that's an entirely misleading genre tag for this effort. The album is under 28 minutes (Side 2 is about 12 minutes), so it could technically be considered an EP. The Glass Wing label is from Maryland, while the packaging and pressing are from Phoenix. The production and pressing are exceptional. Features a wonderful stenciled front cover.

I found this album in a Tucson, Arizona record store in 1994, most likely because it was pressed relatively nearby.

Embryo - Turn Peace. 1989 Germany

Embryo - Turn Peace. 1989 Schneeball

CD issue: 1990 Schneeball

Turn Peace is a serious world fusion work from Embryo, who by now had long shed their Krautrock past (though there are a couple of clear embedded reminders here of just that) and were completely engrossed in the hybrid of hardcore jazz and various cultures' indigenous folk tradition (mainly Middle Eastern, Indian, and African). Not an album to buy/hear if coming to it after absorbing Embryo's 1970s Krautrock classics. But if looking to see the logical conclusion of Embryo's Reise - both literally and figuratively, then this album was the end of the rainbow, as it were.

I first bought the lavish gatefold LP while in Munich (still own that copy!), not long after it was released in 1990. My thinking was that I would never see it back home in the USA. Given the era, not an unreasonable thought. It actually held true for many years. In today's "global economy", with hundreds of distribution channels at the ready, that seems a silly notion. How times have changed. Recently picked up the CD as a supplement, which encouraged the short notes above.

Lied des Teufels - s/t. 1973 Germany

Lied des Teufels - s/t. 1973 Kuckuck

CD reissues: 1994 Ohrwaschl; 1994 Kuckuck (2 CD w/ Hanuman)

LP reissue: 2009 Missing Vinyl (Greece)

Lied des Teufels is the second incarnation of Hanuman, and is an unusual album that blends Deutschrock with Krautrock somewhat seamlessly. Aren't they one in the same, you ask? Well... no. And this album is the best example I've come across that displays both - right next to each other and even blended together. The trippy/cosmic/psychotic Krautrock side of the band shows up most distinctly on 'Nichts', but in most of the other songs as well. The straightforward German rock side is best exemplified on 'Wenn du fragst', but is also present elsewhere. Certainly not an exceptional album for my tastes - coming across as a less angst-ridden Franz K, for example. But worth checking out, and in my case, ownership for the short term at least.

Oneness of Juju - African Rhythms. 1975 USA

Oneness of Juju - African Rhythms. 1975 Black Fire

CD reissues: 1994 Black Fire; 2002 Strut (UK); 2013 Shout (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissues: 1993 Black Fire; 2002 Strut (UK 2 LP)

Saxophonist James "Plunky" Branch was the visionary behind Oneness of Juju. He'd already done the complete subversive anarchist bit, giving up his scholarship at Columbia University, evading 'Nam, relocating to San Francisco, hanging with The Black Panthers, and joining far left wing jazz groups of the early 70s. No doubt, he found himself on a variety of US Gubmint watch lists in the day. Eventually he settled back into his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, and realized conservative southern local audiences weren't going to be too enthralled with his current blend of political and musical radicalism. So he decided to blend the best of all worlds. Maintaining the integrity of the deep funk sound, while paying heed to serious African culture, Oneness of Juju was born (out of the former New York City based free jazz group Juju). Branch is to be commended for sticking to his core principles while also appealing to much wider audiences, bridging and forging new relationships across all cultures. As such, the private release gained more popularity in Europe and Japan than in the US in its own era, though today everyone can appreciate the quality of this forward thinking jazz/funk/African-centric set of compositions.

The CD on Strut (UK) is awesome with full liner notes, great sound, and a couple of excellent bonus tracks.

Caravan - Caravan & The New Symphonia. 1974 England

Caravan - Caravan & The New Symphonia. 1974 Deram

Selected LP issues: 1974 Brain (Germany); 1974 Pink Elephant (Netherlands); 1974 Kingdom (France); 1974 London (USA); 1974 Deram (Japan)

Selected CD reissues: 1991 Deram (Japan); 1992 Deram; 2001 Decca; 2001 Deram (Japan mini-LP); 2009 Deram (Japan mini-LP)

This concert catches Caravan during their For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night phase. A fine mix of progressive rock and pop (in that order) are on display, here complete with a full orchestra. The version of If I Could's 'For Richard' is splendid here. As is Waterloo Lily's 'The Love in Your Eye'. These are two of the finest compositions in Caravan's canon (perhaps only bested by 'Nine Feet Underground') and the execution is fiery for both, and the orchestra only enhances the experience. In addition to that, if you obtain any of the reissue CDs with the full concert added as bonus tracks, you will hear For Girls' most progressive track 'A Hunting We Shall Go' with a nice arrangement, and was originally the encore to the show. Contrary to some of the reviews I've read, I don't find this album superfluous at all, and holds up well on its own. Though a live album, this is hardly a straight run-through of studio material.

As you can see this album was pressed in multiple countries and there have been many reissues (and I've only listed a few). Not a hard album to find at all. I currently have 3 versions of this album. On LP, I own the UK Deram original as well as the Brain/Metronome copy (only because I collect the label). My original copy was the US London LP I rescued from a used record store in the 1980s, that I sold many moons ago. On CD, the 2001 Deram copy comes with great liner notes, and the full concert as noted in the review. I recently picked up the Japanese mini-LP from the same year which appears to be mostly the same, including the same English booklet. So the UK CD became expendable.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Uppsala - s/t. 1984 France

Uppsala - s/t. 1984 KI Records

CD reissue: 2001 Musea

Where to even begin here? Uppsala is a square-on bulls-eye for the Zeuhl genre... via a mutant early 1980s New Wave lens. They would hardly be alone with the New Wave bit when one considers Superfreego, Foehn, and Fiction-era Eskaton. But... no, it's not like that either. Band leader Phillippe Cauvin sings in a strange high pitched voice (not in Kobaian, but a crazy scat / French hybrid - or onomatopoeic as the liner notes state), at times even evoking Devo of all groups. There's a strain of complex jazz fusion, as well as early 80s Belew era King Crimson. Highly unique for sure, and if you can tolerate those distinct early/mid 1980s tones, then Uppsala is going to be an instant hit in your household. Even stranger is the 3 bonus tracks on the Musea CD, where the band is playing live in 1995, and continuing on as if not much has changed in 10 years. But now with early 70s styled psychedelic guitar layered on top (recalling Cauvin's own past with Absinthe) - something that would have added at least a half point to the original studio recording. There's nothing else quite like Uppsala. I think it's appeal is wide if considering Zeuhl, early 80s Crimson, and late 70s fusion. Though dedicated fans of all 3 may be scratching their head, trying to understand what the other genres are doing to screw up their style. Yea, this is one to get for sure.

Sand - Golem. 1974 Germany

Sand - Golem. 1974 Delta-Acustic

CD reissues: 1996 United Durtro (as Ultraphonic Seraphim) (UK 2 CDs); 2010 Rotorelief (France)

LP reissue: 2010 Rotorelief (France)

Sand's Golem could have only come from one time and place, and that's early 1970's Germany. Anything else, and it flat out doesn't work. What we have here is a basic folk album drenched in Kosmische dressing. Somewhat like Dom, but not near as inventive, pensive, or intense. This is more like watching a common folk act on stage, but with a good buzz on (and to that point, 'On the Corner' takes away the fuzzy lens, and it's not pretty). For one thing, it was a studio project to begin with, mainly to help demonstrate the new Artificial Head System. Klaus Schulze's fingerprints are all over this from a sound perspective, so if you're not a fan of his, then I suggest you maybe steer clear. But once Current 93's David Tibet and NWW's Steven Stapleton went hogwild on the album (and released it jointly on CD), it became a cult classic sought after by disciples of both groups. And now, some years later, the "overhyped" crowd has showed up and are squawking FOUL. Fair? No, not really. It's an understated and trippy 1970s album, which doesn't always play well in modern times. All the same, it's easy to understand why Sand isn't highly revered in all quarters. Take away the electronics, and the appreciation of the unhinged experimentalism of the era, and there isn't much else to grab onto here. File under the Good, But... category. And yes, 'Sarah' is the gem of the album for sure.

My copy is on the Ultraphonic Seraphim 2 CD set from United Durtro (1996). This CD includes much more unreleased Sand material (a full disc and a half - and as such, is worthy of a separate rating) plus liner notes from the band, Tibet, and Stapleton + photos, etc.... A real first class job and well worth owning. I did once have the original LP in the early 90s, but it was not in very good shape and sold it when the CD arrived. This is an album that must have clean sounding vinyl, or it ruins the experience.

Randy Denison - Collage. 1970 USA

Randy Denison - Collage. 1970 Mega

No reissues!

"Good but tame folk/psych" is actually the perfect review here. Certainly not an unknown masterpiece, but Denison's sole album has its merits. There's some of that lost and hazy cabin folk sound here. It's distant, yet still accessible. The sparse flute helps with the vibe as well. Too much time is allocated to his mundane singing, but if 1970 folk psych (in that order) is your thing, you might want to seek out. Really cool gatefold cover - a true relic of the era.

As you can see, I did sell my copy (this year in fact via our Purple Peak Records shop). Still, I felt it worthy of mention as it is good, but I just can't keep them all!

Popol Vuh - Sei Still, Wisse Ich Bin. 1981 Germany

Popol Vuh - Sei Still, Wisse Ich Bin. 1981 Innovative Communication

CD reissues: 1992 Spalax (France); 2006 SPV; 2012 Belle Antique (Japan mini-LP)

LP reissue: 1985 Racket

As others have stated, this is a departure from the normal uplifting Popol Vuh fare. It's a heavy, serious religious effort, and I would submit perhaps the beginning of what is now known as "Ritual Ambient". RYM describes the genre as thus "Ritual Ambient is a subgenre of Dark Ambient that focuses on dark, deep, disturbing, ritualistic and occult atmosphere. It often features some chanting voices, tribal rhythms and appropriate samples." OK, there are no samples, but otherwise that genre description would work as a review for this album. Popol Vuh was a pioneer in many fields, not surprising to find another one. The latter half of Side 2 is more positive like their mid 70s albums, but the overall effect is dark and mysterious.

My copy is the Spalax CD, which is just a basic jewel box reissue with no data or bonus tracks. I originally owned the Innovative Communications LP that I sold after obtaining the CD 20+ years ago, and as noted by others, is a 45 RPM which is entirely inconvenient. The cover is a single sleeve that has the IC layout aesthetic, and is nothing special.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Eela Craig - s/t. 1971 Austria

Eela Craig - s/t. 1971 Pro Disc

CD reissue: 1997 Garden of Delights (Germany)

LP reissues: 2004 Amber Soundroom (Germany); 2015 Garden of Delights (Germany)

Eela Craig are a band from Austria's third largest city of Linz, and their debut is completely different than the group's later symphonic keyboard heavy works from the mid 70s and beyond. Here, they are absolutely dead center in the middle of the classic 1971 Krautrock sound, where the whirling and droning Hammond organ is king, with chirping flute melodies laid on top, and angry fuzz bursts are on the ready. Somewhere between Out of Focus, Orange Peel, Thirsty Moon, and My Solid Ground is where you'll find the sound of Eela Craig. This album is a certified classic, and very much earns its reputation. And staying power. These are the albums that bring us back again and again.

Originals on Pro Disc are off the charts rare and expensive and I've never been in possession of one. I own both the Garden of Delights CD (Penner technically at this point) and Amber Soundroom LP reissues. The former comes with copious liner notes and 4 bonus tracks. As the label admits, the masters were lost, so the CD was mastered from a new LP copy, and it sounds like it. The Amber Soundroom LP is most assuredly the same mastering as the GoD CD, as they worked together in 2004. The layout is nice, and replicates the original gatefold cover, but no liner notes. There are only two of the CD bonus tracks featured on the LP. Both Discogs and RYM have this all messed up (and I'll go fix the Discogs entry myself soon). 'Irminsul' and 'Yggdrasil' are from 1972 and are on both the reissue LP and CD. The tracks 'Stories' and 'Cheese' are from 1974 (both sides of a 45 single) and only on the CD and 2015 GoD LP. These latter tracks feature a good dose of mellotron.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Blue Effect - Meditace. 1970 Czech Republic

Blue Effect - Meditace. 1970 Supraphon

CD reissues: 1994 Supraphon (as The Story of Blue Effect 1); 1996 Bonton; 2009 Supraphon (as The Blue Effect 1969-1989 9 CD compilation)

To alleviate any confusion from other reviews you may read, Side 1 is the Czech vocal pop session, whereas Side 2 is the Blues rock portion in English. Despite Side 2 having the better rep, arguably the first track on the album is the clear winner (sounding more like Os Mundi's Latin Mass). Just the fact that The Blue Effect were allowed to sing in English is quite the extraordinary accomplishment for a band behind the Iron Curtain in 1970. A fine album given the time and place, but far different than the jazzier efforts to come, and one could easily make the case this is Blue Effect/Modry Efekt's weakest album.

Aquelarre - Brumas. 1974 Argentina

Aquelarre - Brumas. 1974 Talent

CD reissues: 1992 Microfon; 1997 Microfon/Sony; 2008 Acqua; 2009 Microfon/Sony

LP reissue: 1985 Talent

Brumas is the 3rd album from Aquelarre, a band from Argentina that mirrors what was going on in Italy at the time. For those deep divers of Italian progressive rock, they'll know that the basis of some of the albums were singer-songwriter/romantic romps with long stretches of heavy instrumental rock thrown in at either predictable - or better - unpredictable times. And that's precisely what you get here. There are no head turning and flashy breaks here, so it's definitely workman like in its approach. Final track adds a nice jazzy touch to the above formula. A good album, borderline 3.0-3.5 (Gnosis 9-10), but giving the nod as the longer tracks are, as expected, more interesting. Satisfying overall, but not stellar.

Originals are stored in a nice gatefold cover. My copy is the standard jewel box CD from Microfon/Sony released in 1997. Master tapes sound (with some hiss), with reprinted lyrics. Also has two bonus tracks. The first one is similar to the album proper while the latter is a throwaway pop number.

Charisma - Beasts and Fiends. 1970 USA

Charisma - Beasts and Fiends. 1970 Roulette

CD reissue: 2008 Wounded Bird

Charisma were a band from the Hartford, Connecticut area, and were very typical of the confused American year of 1970. I speak of this often, and it basically means that bands were throwing any and everything against the wall hoping it would stick - or in practical terms - obtaining radio airplay. And Charisma falls in line with their mix of blues, hard rock, progressive, psych, and old fashioned rock and roll. It's a mess basically. But some of these albums had gems in the midst of the ordinary, and that's where we come in. Charisma has a strong Hammond organ and overall keyboard presence, and there are a couple of tracks that display this in an instrumental progressive rock format ('Street Theatre', 'Ritual Dance of the Reptiles'). There are other very good proto-prog/bluesy numbers in 'Leopold's Ghost' and 'The Age of Reptiles'. The rest is take it or leave it...

... And then there is the title track. Believe me folks, it is worth the price of the CD just for this piece of mesmerizing insanity. Sounding like a most incongruous meeting between Comus, Uriah Heep, Stark Reality, and Funkadelic - a bizarre kindergarten story made for the Public Broadcasting Service on LSD. Whoa. I wasn't ready for that. Amazing.

The CD on Wounded Bird states a 1970 copyright date, and this is corroborated on Discogs. Typical bare bones CD from Wounded Bird, with lyrics for 4 of the 5 tracks and album credits. Sure would like to know the story behind the title track...

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Chalibaude - Les Noces du Papillon. 1976 France

Chalibaude - Les Noces du Papillon. 1976 Cezame

No reissues!

Interesting, and very good, folk rock album from Nantes, an area that traditionally belongs to Brittany, but administratively falls outside of it. Likewise, Chalibaude's music is heavily influenced by Celtic culture, but is sung in French. The liner notes inside the gatefold go so far as to translate the French words into Breton for the local buying populace. Musically, Chalibaude is similar to a combination of Malicorne, Gwendal, and Avaric. A fine progressive folk rock album, that is remarkably consistent without any major highs or lows. 

This is an album I never got around to featuring separately in the CDRWL, though I've owned it since 2003. So here is its much belated debut.

Osiris - s/t. 1982 Bahrain

Osiris - s/t. 1982 private

CD reissues: 1997 Musea (France); 2007 MALS (Russia)

LP reissue: 2015 Pharaway Sounds (Spain)

Osiris are arguably the Arab worlds' most prominent progressive rock band. They are from the tiny kingdom of Bahrain, once a British Protectorate, and as such you have an English speaking nation with an underlying western background. It is out of this environment that Osiris emerged. And yes, it's true, the band are heavily influenced by the UK progressive rock scene of the 1970s. Most notably Camel, but any number of mainstream bands will come to your lips as you hear this debut. Even a bit of what would later be known as Neo Prog is presented here. Sadly there are no indigenous elements to their sound, so it's not like you'll hear Yes meets Agitation Free's Malesch for example (perhaps we can dream for this one day?). It's best (and fair) to approach Osiris as an anonymous progressive band from the US or England. And on that front, they come up aces. The compositions, while not incredibly dense, are complex in the right places - and they never forget that melody drives the song. If only there were more examples from the region...

I did once own the original private press of the album, so it does exist. I traded the LP in the late 90s, after obtaining the Musea CD, for something else I needed (Nattura from Iceland - and still own!).

The Musea CD is excellent with great sound and full liner notes. And it's in these liner notes that we are made aware of...

The last track 'Look Before You Leap'  is actually a bonus track and was recorded in 1989. Musically it is far more poppy than the album proper and shouldn't be considered in the overall evaluation.

As well, note that track 7 is called 'Paradox in A Major', presumably referencing the scale, not some confusion in college curriculum. 

Bauhaus - Stairway to Escher. 1974 Italy

Bauhaus - Stairway to Escher. 1974. Archival

CD issue: 2003 Akarma

LP issue: 2013 Akarma

Comparisons to Perigeo are about right, and that’s definitely where the Italian band Bauhaus built its campfire from. But whereas Perigeo seems to get stuck in slickly polished fusion hell, Bauhaus have a much more raw sound and energy about them that is completely endearing. What I particularly enjoy is the nimble guitar playing, but with a raw biting fuzz tone. The ensemble playing is highly melodic (sax, electric piano, guitar), another great quality. Fantastic rhythm section as well. Sometimes the group will go in no mans land, as the jam will hit a dead-end road and they'll just grind their way through it. Since it wasn’t really meant for release to begin with, hard to fault the final product too much. Other reference points are fellow Italians Napoli Centrale and the German outfit Out of Focus on Four Letter Monday Afternoon. All clearly looked to Soft Machine and Nucleus as inspiration here. If any of these bands set off your iPhone Fusion Want app, then by all means investigate Stairway to Escher.

Akarma's track record on reissues is clearly checkered, but this archival release is nothing but first class. Fully authorized with band participation and fantastic liner notes - all housed in a wonderful hard bound digi-pak. Great sound of a live concert recorded in Rome, May 1974.

Subject Esq. - s/t. 1972 Germany

Subject Esq. - s/t. 1972 Epic

CD reissues: 1992 Ohrwaschl; 2003 Ohrwaschl

LP reissue: 2003 Ohrwaschl/Green Tree

Like fellow countrymen Nosferatu, Subject Esq. are informed more by current British rock trends, than what was happening in the German underground. So if bands like Raw Material or Indian Summer are to your liking, then Subject Esq. will most certainly satisfy. I think it's a very good example of the sound, with high energy, creativity, and plenty of great period instrumentation. They would later change their name to Sahara and embark on a similar sound, while adding more complexity to the compositions.

The CD also includes two live tracks totaling 28 minutes. The sound is of good bootleg quality, and the tracks are more jamming in nature, hardly surprising given the era. A nice addition and much welcomed, but not essential on its own.

Ohrwaschl has completely wrapped up the rights on Subject Esq., and my CD is housed in a standard jewel case (also issued later in a digi-pak). The CD features fine sound, and the aforementioned bonus tracks. There are liner notes on the backplate, but they are in German.

Troya - Eruption. 1976 Germany

Troya - Eruption. 1976 Förderturm

CD reissues: 1993 Lost Pipedreams; 2001 Garden of Delights

LP reissue: 2002 Very Good Records

When I first bought this CD on Lost Pipedreams - not long after it was released - I hated it, and sold it immediately. Years later, I had a chance to hear it again, and my opinion softened considerably. And now I have the Garden of Delights CD in my possession, and think the album is quite good actually. What changed? Well me of course... and thousands more albums have been heard with these ears (and brain presumably, don't hold me to it though). Helps form the time and place aspect of the music. So yes it's true what they say - hardly a progressive rock masterpiece. And for certain a lo-fi recording, and with the master tapes forever lost, no chance of improving upon that fact either. All of which doesn't make for a bad album really. Musically, it's quite interesting, very much a product of its time. Melodic, semi-progressive tracks, with excellent period analog instrumentation (Hammond Organ mainly with some nice fuzz tone guitar among other usual suspects). The performance is good, and honestly it reminds me more of what you would find in "basement America" than what is typically associated with high quality German progressive rock.

As the above states, I have a long history with the album. The GoD CD is awesome with full liner notes and photos. And the best sound possible (having heard the Lost Pipedreams CD, I can vouch for this). Originals are off-the-charts expensive, and given that only 200 were pressed (and I believe it given how few I've ever seen), it's a case of no supply. Stick with the CD here. 

Alas - s/t. 1976 Argentina

Alas - s/t. 1976 EMI. Also released in Chile and Portugal

CD reissues: 1993 EMI; 1996 PRW (Brazil); 2007 EMI

Coming from Argentina, Alas displays their Italian heritage quite vividly. In many places, one can hear that distinct early 70s Italian prog interpretation of ELP (Triade, Metamorfosi, The Trip, etc...). In addition there's also a predominance of mid 70s jazz fusion dispersed about, so there are many long stretches of gratuitous soloing. And finally, there's a bit of avant-garde experimentalism sprinkled indiscriminately, including drum solos. I do think it's a worthy addition to any progressive rock collection, though I don't appear to be as high on it as my peers.

There are gatefold and single sleeve versions of the LP. My current copy is the PRW release, which was licensed from EMI Argentina. The first side is clearly taken from vinyl, whereas the second seems from master tapes. So unless the 2007 EMI release has found the masters, the sound will be suspect. Most original vinyl I've heard isn't much better either. Too bad really.

All the CD's do include a rare 45 single from 1975, and demonstrates Alas in more compact form.

Now - Now What? 1990 USA

Now - Now What? 1990 Syn-Phonic

CD reissue: none

Now's sophomore effort shows the group leaving the hippie university town of Boulder, Colorado, and resettling in the San Francisco Bay Area. Musically, Now What? is more subdued than its riveting predecessor, demonstrating a mix of neo prog, rural psych, and symphonic progressive. The last two tracks, though, recall the debut's psychedelic eclecticism and quirkiness, and represent the highlights here. Reminds me of another Bay Area band, Episode. Not an album likely to set one's world on fire, but still a decent way to pass 40 minutes or so.

To the best of my knowledge the LP is still available at the source. Can't imagine much demand for a CD at this point. I doubt I would buy one if that were the case, and just stick with the LP for the time being.