Iron Butterfly were to reform in the mid 70s without Ingle in tow. That unit predictably had little impact and also imploded. For the 40 years since then, Iron Butterfly has reformed (with Ingle this time) and broken back up. There's always going to be a new album, but yet it never somehow surfaces. Now the living members are in their 70s. Somehow I doubt a Spettri like phenomena will happen here (2973 La nemica dei ricordi). Woulda, coulda, shoulda. That should be on their tombstone outside the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Almost there, but not quite.
CD: 2009 Victor (Japan)
The Japanese mini-LP above is highly likely sourced from one of the original digital transfers, but with better packaging.
Select LP issues: 1969 Atlantic (Japan); 1969 Atco (UK)
Select CD reissues: 1989 Atco; 1999 Collectors' Choice; 2006 Victor (Japan mini-LP); 2015 Real Gone
Iron Butterfly. Sigh. Was there ever a group with more commercial potential, and then just fell off the face of the Earth? Maybe, but this band has to be at least in that conversation. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida wasn't just a good seller, it was a major blockbuster - the album that put album rock on the map. And it was highly influential to boot. One can hear the early Krautrock and UK Vertigo groups taking a page directly from it. They were, in effect, crowned to be America's own Led Zeppelin - a band that opened for them, before ultimately the other way around.
Ball is exactly the type of album that demonstrated why Iron Butterfly weren't meant for the big time. It's just so average. A band caught twixt and between heavy rock, pop rock, and psychedelic with no ambition. All played at 70% of capacity and enthusiasm. There's excellent stuff on here for certain, like 'In the Time of Our Lives', 'Filled With Fear' and 'Belda-Beast', but nothing mind blowing as on In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Doug Ingle was an immense talent. I don't get The Doors comparisons, other than they both had sonorous voices. Ingle was far more rough than Morrison, and had he come along a generation later, would have made for the perfect heavy metal lead singer. His keyboard style was born from the church (his dad's Midwest influence), and he sounds like he's playing a pipe organ sometimes. Ball should have been the album to project Iron Butterfly to the next level of creativity. But they seemed to recoil from the responsibility. 9 songs totaling 33 minutes, some of which are real throwaways. Nothing really memorable. It seems they didn't know their place in history and thus gave it away unceremoniously. And this was the album they did exactly that with. There's another chapter to tell here of course, but that's for my next review.
CD: 2006 Victor (Japan)
The Japanese mini-LP above is highly likely sourced from an earlier CD - probably American. In other words, nothing special. Other than the packaging of course.
I had been confused about this release for some time. And it's only recently I realized I had the CD-R version. A reader had clarified the release with me by writing in to Under the Radar: "This album was actually recorded in 1997, but left unfinished by the band. After 2 years of gathering dust Stone Premonitions (the record label they were with at that time) decided to release it. At first as a cassette, followed shortly by a cdr. Both were titled "The Unsolved Mysteries of" and although both had a different track list, each contained unfinished versions of a few of the songs that appeared on the final band release, plus a handful of tunes that band decided not to use on the "Definitive" version. "The Definitive Unsolved Mysteries of...." was completed in 1999 and released by the band, initially as a cdr (July 1999) to help raise funds for the later CD version, which was finally released January 2000."
UMR good friend Spacefreak also added: "Mr. QUIMBY'S BEARD (another band with remote roots to the anarcho-punk scene) as a band started in early 1983. Recording-wise, they were somewhat latecomers to the scene as their recording output started in 1994, with a cassette only release of their first album. Their 2nd was issued by Dave Anderson's Demi-Monde label on CD only format and from then onwards the band only released CDRs (mostly on the Stone Premonitions label home of the great CENSUS OF HALLUCINATIONS). "The Definitive Unsolved Mysteries of..." was indeed release in 2000 and it is nothing more than a remix of their 1999 "The unsolved mysteries of Mr. Quimby's Beard". So that explains the 1999 reference on the reworked version.
I have also the opinion that the rot in that particular scene started in 1994 with the Criminal Justice Bill that penalized open air raves and free festies all over Britain. According to that Act, police could direct people to leave a rave, stop people on their way to one, and seize vehicles and sound equipment. The current provisions applied to gatherings of 20 or more, where amplified music is played at night which "by reason of its loudness and duration and the time at which it is played is likely to cause serious distress to the inhabitants of the locality". Both outdoors or, where people are trespassing, indoors."
A lot of great info here that was buried in the Under the Radar post. As such, I'm going to give this title fresh exposure, and bump it to the current date. My notes above come from a listen not long before the original UTR posting in October 4, 2011.
CD-R: 1999 Stone Premonitions
There are three tracks on the album - totaling close to 60 minutes! Most of the album are interpretations of various artists, and the other is a theoretical cover tune. The album opens with 'Trip To West Coast From Britan' (sic) and purports to honor The Grateful Dead, Deep Purple, Atomic Rooster, Frank Zappa, and Uriah Heep. Well good choices for certain. Not that you'll recognize a single one of them here. Tanaka and his motley crew essentially destroy everything in its sight with a psychedelic rampage. Side 2 is a psychotic variation of Pink Floyd's 'Echoes', a composition that is already greatly enhanced with alternative substances, but this takes the idea to its logical extreme. This is followed by a tribute to Jimi Hendrix, and at this point they're pretty much putting the torch to the studio and igniting it in flames. As the AC astutely observes: "It all seems to be semi-improvised, driven by pummeling rhythms that sort of ebb and flow while the bass, guitar and organ converge and coalesce into one freaky jam after another. Even the most stoned-out-of-their-minds krautrockers would have been shocked by this level of depravity."
CD: 2016 Think!
This was a late era CDRWL discovery by the AC, and proved that he was still finding gold in that mine even as I was winding things down. The new legit CD reissue on Think! (2016) is housed in a mini-LP sleeve that mirrors the original. It appears to be from the master tapes, and if not, it sounds excellent anyway. A must own for fans of the music above. I'd like to think we had something to do with this reissue. There's been evidence in the past of this, but I have no idea on this title.
Marcus (the band) is definitely an example of lightning strikes once. Bandleader Marcus Malone was already a known entity, having joined a late era Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels lineup as lead singer. His band was gaining strength as they played in the more known clubs throughout the Midwest, especially in hometown Detroit, and nearby Chicago. Eventually none other than Ike Turner discovered the band, had them signed up to United Artists, and flew them out to Los Angeles to party (and presumably record an album). The label and studio insisted on some lineup changes as well (including Cactus' Tim Bogert on bass), and that's how they ended up with the unusual 3 guitar lineup.
With that setup alone, I wouldn't have expected much to be honest. But the reality is far different. Marcus predicted the oncoming hard rock and heavy metal movements. And he (Malone) had a personal love for progressive rock. All of those ingredients found their way into this recording. For 1976, on a mainstream label like UA, this album was doomed to be a cult classic from the get. Apparently the Europeans caught wind of it a few months after release (long after Turner and the label had lost interest in their new toy), but it was all too a-day-late-and-a-dollar-short.
There are no weak tracks here, though not every song is a winner either. But for fans of mid 70s hard rock, it's a bulls-eye. The finale 'Rise Unto Falcon' is the song that most demonstrates Marcus' prog rock interests, with loads of mellotron to boot. Predictably that was my favorite of the batch, as I never seem to tire of that unique blend of hard rock meets progressive sound.
History tells us that even if Marcus had survived this recording and made another, it wouldn't be anything similar. It would have been highly likely that funk, soul, pop, or disco would have been forced onto the band, and they would have ultimately disintegrated anyway. That tale has been told numerous times. Perhaps it's best Marcus went out on their own terms, with an album (and name) highly revered 40 years after the fact.
CD: 2014 Rock Candy (UK)
LP issue: 2015 Lion (USA)
CD issue: 2016 Lion (USA)
In 1977, it appeared that Jacqueline Thibault (Laurence Vanay) was finally on the verge of obtaining her big break. After two releases on obscure French and Italian labels, major corporation Decca was much interested in the talented Ms. Thibault, and expressed a desire to release her next album. Once delivered, the label had asked for a remix, but given other issues with the studio that she was a (small) stakeholder owner of, priorities slipped, and the album was remixed in the mid 1980s. By then, it was all too late of course.
Jacqueline Thibault was always a bit different. She grew up a child prodigy, with overly protective parents. As such, her influences were much limited, and she never was immersed into the rock culture of the 1970s that could have shaped her sound for better or worse. However she is brilliant, and very feminine - which is why her early albums are so stunning in contrast to everything else. They are subtle works, but totally divine once you allow the music to marinate. Drive-by listeners scoff at her greatness, because they don't hear the expected razzle dazzle - or a comfortable, overly familiar, sound. So they scream overrated, presuming it's nothing but collector hype to raise the profit level - which only reflects back on their own ignorance of the situation at hand.
This beautiful isolation and innocence that Thibault possesses, continues to be projected throughout Les Soleils de la Vie. Today, she makes music for disadvantaged children in need. I couldn't think of anyone better suited for the task.
The biggest gripe I have about this album is the unfortunate mid 80s remix, which sounds every bit of its era. That plastic, hollow sound that dominated the times is so very evident here. Still the music shines through despite the obvious challenge. I would love to hear what the original sounded like, before Decca insisted on a remix. I would buy it again, if this version does surface.
Contrary to what was generally thought by collectors in the 90s/00s, this is an archival recording never released prior.
LP: 2015 Lion Productions (USA)
CD: 2016 Lion Productions (USA)
CD reissues: 1990 Crime; 1994 Nexus; 2013 Crime (mini-LP)
For years, I used to joke that Providence were the Night Ranger* of Japanese prog. It was always meant to be a lighthearted stab, an innocuous crack aimed at the good-natured prog fan (if such a creature really exists). Of course, humor works best when there's a hint of truth in it... I mean it's not like Night Ranger went on long instrumental flights of fancy. Nor did they employ a mellotron (fake as it may be) as a key sound device. But you know, there are times when they remind me of....
There are four components that will catch your ear when listening to Providence's debut. One is the powerful female vocals of Yõko Kubota, who defiantly sings in Japanese in the same manner as any number of these girls on the TV vocal contest shows would. Second is the bass playing of Yasuyuki Hirose, who puts in a monster performance. And he obtained that perfect woody bass sound like Chris Squire would do in his prime. Third is the synthesizers, sounding every bit of an early to mid 80s power AOR band (...it's the final countdown....). And finally is the superb production. Hard to imagine a small private label album from Japan besting many of the major studios and labels of the time. Oh, and Christian Beya of the old 70s French band Atoll joins on guitar, and he's rockin' out! Overall, there are long stretches of high energy progressive rock here to enjoy. But be prepared for some MTV styled power pop too. Maybe Yõko looks cute in leather pants?
* I just noticed Night Ranger are still around! Now that's the ultimate example that begs the question: What's the point? One would presume they're not trying to preserve their artistic legacy. rofl.
LP: 1990 BSP
CD: 1994 Nexus
I bought this on LP not long after it was released in 1990 and still own that copy. It comes in a very nice poster cover, with a booklet. High production all the way, as mentioned in the review proper. This is one of the rare LPs from Japan that wasn't released with an obi, as it appears it was made for export (despite the lyrics being sung in Japanese). Ironically it's also one of the few Japanese albums that was never reissued outside of Japan. Strange. I never felt compelled to own this on CD, but just within the last month, I did secure one on the cheap (1994 Nexus). That was the impetus for this listen. Interesting to note that the CD reissue (with different cover - 3rd scan) misspells the title "...On Old Myth From"
This album isn't nearly as immediately likable as Grey/Pink is, and it was always on the margins of whether or not I should keep it. About a decade later it finally penetrated through my thick skull, and today I consider it one of their better albums. The thing about Caravan is that you have to sit through what I call the "Pye Hastings' Ditties". They're not bad songs per se, but more geared toward the whiskey drinking nightclub set, rather than the psychedelic backdrop of their best work. And on For Girls, those ditties are front loaded with 'Headloss' (second half of the much better 'Memory Lain, Hugh'), 'Hoedown', and 'Surprise, Surprise'. One can get disinterested early. Suddenly 'C'Thlu Thlu' pops in with an angular King Crimson like sound (also not a known Caravan quality), and it's very disorienting. But Side 2 is as good as anything Caravan ever released. And it closes with one of their best epics in 'A Hunting We Shall Go', which is classic Caravan, with Dave Sinclair's fuzz organ driven solos, just as God had intended music to be. This is the album that introduced long time member Geoffrey Richardson to the fold. His viola is a very welcome addition to the Caravan sound, and one wonders how much better the early albums would have been had he been on them. Caravan were never to reach these heights again, though the followup Cunning Stunts certainly is worthy of investigation as well.
*Lubbock is in west Texas, and where I attended college. Lipps was one of a handful of good used record stores we had in the area in the 80s. They had taken over an old Piggly Wiggly grocery store, so it was a big place. It closed down while I was still in college (...so last week. Noooooo. 1986 I think?) But here's the interesting part. Our neighbor here in the suburban Fort Worth area, who lives precisely 2 doors down from us, is the older brother of the owner of that store! How crazy is that?
LP: 1973 Deram
LP: 1973 Brain (Germany)
CD: 2001 Deram (Japan)
CD: 1996 Microfon / Sony
Though the album is arguably more progressive oriented, that doesn't necessarily translate to better in my book. But the debut is a high bar to hurdle, and I'm afraid they ran right into it. There are once again 3 types of music to be found here. One is a majestic, classically oriented symphonic sound, with occasional Asian scales interspersed. Like a cross between The Enid and mid 70s era Jade Warrior. You'll hear this sound on the opening two tracks, the closer, and 'Open Book'. Then there's the twisted, technically oriented prog rock like found on the debut, and these are represented by 'Ibby It Is', 'Steaming Pipes', and 'I Forgot to Push It'. Which leaves the odd track out. It's the only one with vocals this time, and an unusual sound for Happy the Man. 'Wind Up Doll Day Wind' takes a page of out of the Trick of the Tail playbook, and infuses it with a modern energy and instrumentation. By God if Happy the Man didn't predict the neo prog movement by 4 years or so. Not something I'd ever associated HTM with before, but a close listen revealed something new.
In the end, a very good album. Borderline 3.5 to 4 stars. Going with the latter, figuring one good craft beer will take it a half star further anyways.
LP: 1978 Arista
CD: 2005 Strange Days / Arista (Japan)
And for this album by Paradox? Well... quite the band name, eh? Just askin'.
Musically speaking, Paradox pretty much come up with a riff - and then another riff. And followed that with a.... c'mon guess?.... riff. For each song. Yea, the muddled timid Hetfield soundalike vocals kinda blow, but it's a small price to pay. Because thrash is all about riffs. And they are here. All over the place.
CD: 2000 AFM
Not so for Wolf People. Quite simply this is the best post 1968 UK psychedelic album I've heard, even besting Sun Dial's Other Way Out. Of course, no real album from 1968 would sound like this. Ruins represents the ideal of the 1968 Carnaby Street landscape. When listening to this album, you want to see girls in paisley mini dresses, white go-go boots, and stylish hats. And a lot of mascara.
Ruins opens with two blistering tracks in 'Ninth Night' and 'Rhine Sagas'. Only to lead into the album's pièce de résistance 'Night Witch'. I've never heard a song like this before. From a composition perspective, it sounds like one of the more classy NWOBHM bands (think Legend)... as played by Outskirts of Infinity. The song is melodic and memorable, and that which includes two of the most incendiary fuzz guitar breaks we've heard since Many Bright Things covered the Butterfield Blues Band's 'East West'. 'Kingfisher' is the closest Wolf People gets to their prog rock roots, though strangely it may be the album's weakest cut. Starting with 'Thistles' you realize the album will continue its staggering psychedelic quality. All the songs are well-written, not just exercises in guitar fuzz overload and effects. Along with 'Night Witch', the other bonafide monster track here is 'Not Me Sir' which has a slight Middle Eastern tonality. Overall, there's not a weak moment to be found throughout.
If the radio was a still a thing, then Ruins would be what I want to hear on it. Of course we know we wouldn't, but as mentioned prior, Ruins represents the ideal.
CD: 2016 Jagjaguwar (USA)
Gift's debut is significantly different, though. They had yet to add an organist, and there are no progressive touches here. This is just straightforward, kick-yer-ass non-stop hard rock. The riffs are heavy by 1972 German standards, and the songwriting is solid throughout. There's an occasional flute to soften the mood, and provide some dynamics to this otherwise loud and rockin' album. Gift opens up with 'Drugs'. Well, that's table stakes ain't it? 'You'll Never Be Accepted' and 'Groupie' follows. An aural documentary of the times apparently. Of course the opener is anti-drugs, so it sort of blows my story, but one should admire the group standing up to, and against, the attitudes of the day.
Overall, I'd say Gift are less bluesy than Armaggedon, and more consistent than Dull Knife. I'd file the album next to Dies Irae and Haze if looking for direct comparisons.
CD: 1998 EastWest/Telefunken
LP: 1978 Philips
CD: 2013 Mercury (Japan)
The original features a 2 page insert as well as a lyric inner sleeve. I first purchased this LP in the early 90s, and didn't supplement with a CD until 3 years ago, when I bought the 7 CD box set (that wasn't cheap...). The mini replicates the LP release to perfection. In addition, the CD was newly remastered in Japan and is not just a reprint of a former French or Japanese mastering.
LP: 1978 EMI
CD: 2016 Belle Antique (Japan)
Originals come in a fine gatefold. The Belle Antique release appears to have been independently remastered, and not taken straight from Musea as is their usual protocol. I never did hear the Musea disc, as by the time I went looking for the CD (I already owned the LP, going back to the early 90s), it was long sold out. In any case, this mastering is clearly taken from vinyl, as you can hear the muffled pressing noise.
Anyway, on top of a confusing name, the band followed in the footsteps of other off-the-wall German prog metal bands during the middle 90s. Payne’s Gray is completely off the rails, and Superior’s debut is more on the inside track, but between these two oddballs is Cant. And talk about inauspicious openings, ‘Love in Your Heart’ might as well have been on a Michael Bolton album for goodness sake. WTH? Like Payne’s Gray, the metal aspect of their sound doesn’t show up until song 2. Each track gets more progressive than the last. By the middle of the album, we are deeply immersed into long epics with multiple themes and meter shifts. How did that happen? Did I miss a step? Is this two albums on the same CD? Even more funny, is the album’s most progressive track, the almost 16 minute ‘Shades of Blue‘ isn’t even listed on the back tray. It skips from song 4 to song 6. How off center can one get and still be straight down the middle?
Tides is an incredibly obscure album. One other person claims ownership on Discogs with me. It’s never been for sale, except for a copy with a different cover (what??). Nobody is looking for it (has anyone even heard of it?). On RYM there are 2 ratings including me. So 3 of us in the world claim ownership of this. Ponderings that need conclusions. File next to your Secrecy albums, a hidden metaphor if there ever was one. Anyway, if you be one of 'dem prog metal guys, 'den I suggest you find 'dis one. Just don't tell me you can't find it.
CD: 1996 CSD
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