Peter Baumann - Romance 76. 1976 Germany

Even though Baumann joined Tangerine Dream in 1973, he was still only 23 when he embarked on his first solo album. It was Edgar Froese who encouraged him to pursue other creative paths, and Baumann basically setup right where T Dream did. A few years ago I had noted in my review of Edgar Froese's Macula Transfer, that he had diverted a bit from the standard Tangerine Dream sound. That is to say, Macula Transfer was not his interpretation of Stratosfear. Instead, we get Baumann's interpretation of Stratosfear. Side 1 is unmistakably the sounds, themes, and sequences that define one of Tangerine Dream's landmark albums. Which is telling, in that it demonstrates how much influence Baumann had by then on TD's overall sound. Side 2 however is a bit different. Primarily in that he chucked the mellotron and hired his old man - he himself a mover and shaker in the more formal areas of music - to secure a choir and orchestra for his son. So in effect Baumann went Jean-Claude Vannier here. Why bother with a sampling tool when one can just have the real thing? Once the ears adjust, the composition style emerges somewhat the same, minus the electronic equipment. 'Meadow of Infinty' Part 2 confirms this for us, as Baumann was back in the studio with his trusty synths and mellotron, and closes the album in a similar fashion to how it started. Overall an excellent album in the Berlin School tradition, but not one that strayed too far from the script after all.

Personal collection
CD: 2016 Bureau B

A common album on LP, and was released domestically here in the States, where I first picked up a copy during my original Tangerine Dream discovery phase while still in high school (early 80s). CD's however is a different story, with only the afterthought Virgin release from 1990 going OOP and staying that way for years. It wasn't until 2016 that not only one, but 2 CDs appeared on the market. I picked up the Bureau B version, which comes in a digi-pak, and features excellent sound and informative liner notes.

Rousseau - Retreat. 1983 Germany

The older I get, the more I appreciate bands like Rousseau. They exemplify the simpler joys in life. Of course not everyone shares this positive outlook, witness one RYMers wonderful and uplifting review, pasted here in its entirety for reference: "This symph rock abomination should come with a barf bag. Avoid it!". But music doesn't have to be discordant, angular, and complex to enjoy. For certain I'm not promoting banal music to gain position with commercial radio either. But one can still fall well within the guidelines of the broad based term progressive rock, without having to possess a doctorate degree.

Listening to tracks like 'China', 'Yago', and 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' makes you just want to crawl into the cover painting, sit under the large tree with a bottle of wine, a beautiful girl, and simply watch nature go by. No insane taxation, stock markets, nor geopolitical tensions to worry about. Just beautiful life. Sigh.

Of course one cannot escape the influence of mid 70s Camel in any discussion about Rousseau, a band that shares their romantic side. But also early Genesis at their most pastoral comes to mind. The addition of vocals on 3 tracks was not a good plan however, and completely ruin the vibe. 'One of a Thousand' and 'Incomplete' are good songs otherwise though. The album closer was a truly bad decision as it appears Rousseau was going for some sort of New Wave pop hit. Double dumb actually, and a terrible way to end an otherwise splendid album.

One personal story: In 1991 while backpacking through France, I spent a full Sunday in Retonfey (near Metz) at Musea's home. During the day, various musicians appeared in what seemed like an eternal revolving door. It was quite extraordinary actually. Very casual and fun. The last band to arrive were two members from Rousseau (closing out the reissue of this album actually). That night I had planned to train to Luxembourg. Instead, these two gentlemen drove me there on their way back home to Germany. A fond memory for certain and great conversation along the way!

Personal collection
LP: 1983 Sri Lanca
CD: 1991 Musea

The original comes in a single sleeve. Sri Lanca later in the decade tried their hand at heavy metal before shuttering. The Musea CD is fantastic as usual, with full liner notes. No bonus tracks this time unfortunately.

Ozric Tentacles - Strangeitude. 1991 England

Long ago (1989-1992), a buddy and I hosted a monthly 6 hour radio show on Dallas' local NPR station (one of those Saturday night fill-the-airwaves from midnight to 6 gigs - and I did it as a volunteer...) showcasing underground progressive rock, jazz, and electronic music - pretty much the oeuvre I write about here minus hard rock and metal. It was in 1990 that we were first introduced to Ozric Tentacles via a mutual friend who had just purchased the 2 LP set Erpland. We were both mightily impressed, immediately picked up its predecessor Pungent Effulgent (the earlier cassettes weren't widely available back then), and proceeded to play choice cuts from each album. We did get many requests for them, as Ozric has a sound that is immediately likable.

A year later, we were super excited to learn of their new album Strangeitude. And it did not disappoint at all. 'White Rhino Tea' is as progressive a track as Ozric ever penned, with constantly shifting themes and meters. 'Bizarre Bazaar' is this album's 'Kick Muck' - tight and energetic. And they finish on a high note with the blistering 'Space Between Your Ears', where Ed Wynne really lets loose, and is one of their best tracks in their entire canon. For my tastes, I've never been a big fan of Ozrics' pure electronic work, and here there are two, including the title track and fan favorite 'Sploosh!'. The latter does have a foot stompin' beat, but would have been more effective at half the length I'd estimate. So not perfect, but still an excellent 3rd album, and showed the world that they still had plenty more to offer from a creative standpoint. This latter element would slow over the years.

Personal collection
LP: 1991 Dovetail
CD: 2010 Madfish

It was the LP that I first purchased, and later on added the same year CD. A couple of years ago while rummaging around ebay, I found a cheap copy of the Madfish release. A wonderful package, it comes in a hardbound digipak cover with photos plus an extra disc of live material from this era.

Museo Rosenbach - Barbarica. 2013 Italy

I have not heard Museo Rosenbach's first reunion attempt with Exit (2000), but it would seem to be a typically underwhelming reformation album, where the band tried to be relevant, and yet seemed to have no understanding of its real audience. I've seen defenders of the album as well, though no one would be willing to fall on their sword for it I'm sure.

Perhaps the Exit album was a lesson learned for the veterans of the original Museo Rosenbach. Because Barbarica not only addresses its past, but also its future. We've talked about reformations here in the past, and generally they are abject failures. From Italy, Alphataurus and Le Orme have been glaring exceptions as their respective reformations successfully captured the spirit of the original band without them resorting to caricature. Barbarica is similar - except even more successful to my ears. Alphataurus had the added benefit of an unfinished 1974 album to work with, for example. Museo Rosenbach was starting from scratch. Original bassist (and now keyboardist) Alberto Moreno and drummer Giancarlo Golzi are the only steady members across their entire discography. Joining the reunion was original Zarathustra lead vocalist Stefano Lupo Galifi. The latter himself coming fresh off the debut by Il Tempio delle Clessidre which no doubt revived his interest in progressive rock - and most certainly he was held in high reverence by the much younger band that surrounded him. Ego boosts after age 60 don't come as often as they once did I'm sure. Even for myself, I was shocked at just how great his voice still sounded. And he continues to belt it out with the best of them on Barbarica. These three old warriors were then augmented by a new quartet of two guitarists, bass, and keyboards.

What amazes me most about Barbarica is how much the new material represents the spirit of their past, without copying it. The instrumentation is a mix of new and old - and the latter is often represented by the former. One of the most amazing aspects of Zarathustra was their ability to write jaw dropping breaks. Those kind where everyone looks at the stereo and says: Did you hear that? Well, guess what? You'll be doing that with Barbarica too. Like all great bands, it was the synergy of the collective whole that made that 1973 opus great, rather than a collection of soloists. Barbarica is exactly that. It's a true group effort, that retains their brilliant songwriting capability. The band sounds bold and confident. I've read some bellyaching that Barbarica isn't the same as Zarathustra. Well I hope not! While I'm not willing to say it's on the same level either - there are just too many parameters to consider where it would have the same effect on me - I will say that Barbarica may in fact be in the Top 3 of all the great Italian albums released in 2013. And that's a huge achievement given the competition. For me, the best ever reformation album coming from Italy. Yea.... Wow.

Personal collection
CD: 2013 Immaginifica

The CD is housed in a fine gatefold mini-LP with cover art that recalls their Zarathustra past, while also looking forward. Just like the music itself.

Grobschnitt - s/t. 1972 Germany

The German group Grobschnitt were one of the more famous bands from the classic 70's Krautrock era. They had a long and varied history that spanned over 20 years and were quite popular in their native Germany. Their music was characterized by theatrical sequences, space rock jamming, a large dose of humor, along with creative songwriting.

Grobschnitt's self-titled debut was a dynamic opening for the band, and is simply a superb slab of heavy prog rock. Hard psychedelic driven guitar and Hammond organ lead the instrumental parade, whereas the crack rhythm section push the proceedings along with constantly changing and complex rhythms. Guitarist "Lupo" has a very sharp edged sound and plays in a constant fiery/heavy blues mode, while drummer "Eroc" is a master of creating and maintaining the tempo for the complex yet energetic compositions. The four tracks contained within recall other heavy German bands of the day like Orange Peel, Prof. Wolfff, 2066 and Then, and even Inside era Eloy. Had this been Grobschnitt's only album it surely would've gone down as one of the great one-off Krautrock classics. As it turns out, it may very well have been their shining moment, though no doubt much great music was to appear in their future, including the can't miss space rock suite 'Solar Music'.

Personal collection
LP: 1972 Brain
CD: 1998 Repertoire

My first copy came from a record store while backpacking in Switzerland, and was the single sleeve copy on Brain (black label). Such was the situation in 1987, where an album like this was impossible to find back home in Texas, and yet it was something of a commodity in Europe at the time. Indeed, Grobschnitt's debut was in print for the entire duration of the Brain label, and is still easy to source well into the 2010's. Over time, I eventually scored the first press original gatefold green label with Metronome under the logo. The Repertoire CD was the first to market, and was mastered by Eroc himself (who is now quite noted for doing such). It's a superb reissue with full liner notes and a 29 minute bonus track - with excellent sound as expected.

Triangle - s/t. 1970 France

Triangle is one of the earliest of the French progressive rock bands. At one point they were lead by the diminutive Alain Renaud on guitar, though he left after a few singles, and explored his more experimental tendencies - most notably with Richard Pinhas and Heldon.

Their debut is a consistently excellent album, that mixes French and English lyrics, with a hard psychedelic bite in the guitar work. The vocals have a slightly gruff sound that recall Family, and especially fellow countrymen Ergo Sum, who they share a similar sound overall with. The highlight is also the longest track. 'Cameron's Complaint' sees Triangle take on a more jazzy sound with additional flute, that recalls the Canterbury scene, and predicts the coming of bands such as Moving Gelatine Plates.

This debut is generally considered their best album. I haven't heard the second album, and it's been many a year since I heard Homonymie, almost to the point I don't trust my rating there.

Personal collection
LP: 1970 Pathe / EMI
CD: 2010 Culture Factory

The LP is a single sleeve with a catalog "tab" in the back. Like the RYM photo, mine has the 1971 sticker, so that would indicate a later press. The album sold well in its day, so it isn't too scarce.

For an album that was once popular, it had been surprisingly ignored in the reissue market, save for the always lame Mantra CD. This travesty was finally addressed by Culture Factory. The CD comes in a fine mini-LP styled cover, with an insert and a small history (in French). Best of all is that the CD has all 3 of their singles prior to the album proper, and each is just as good as the LP itself.

Bodkin - s/t. 1972 Scotland






Bodkin were a major discovery from the mid 1980s, though the album was known to exist prior in very small quantities. The story goes that a German collector had befriended Scottish music engineer and label owner Jim West, and to his amazement, he still had in his possession plenty of vinyl - and no covers. So the story of the LP and the reissues is quite fascinating. See below for further detail.

As to the music, Bodkin hit near the bulls-eye of that organ drenched heavy prog sound. Think of all of those 1971 albums on the German Bellaphon or Philips label. Or the original Vertigo Swirl label roster. Even the Canadian band Warpig. It's got that sound. All 5 tracks here are well played, with memorable melodies and progressions, and fine performances from all. The vocals have that husky "lost" tone, that was popular is those blues infected days. For reasons I could not articulate back to anyone, I didn't care for this album much when it first hit the CD circuit in 1989. My stance softened about 10 years later, and it has grown in stature since then. To me it definitely earns the Excellent rating.

Personal collection
CD: 1991 Witch and Warlock

As mentioned above, the story of the album itself is interesting. Popsike lists precisely one copy that has sold with the original cover (in 2012 - photo #1). It went for a cool $2300 and change (not shown on RYM as I write this). Most original copies out there in the wild did not have an album cover, and go for a much cheaper $1k (smirk) (photo #2). Sometime in the late 1980s, the album was released on vinyl in very limited quantities with paste on custom green or orange covers (photos #3 & #4), but weren't widely distributed at the time (at least that I can remember). In 1989, the German label Witch & Warlock debuted their catalog with a CD reissue of the album (with yet another different cover - photo #5). Ah, but you say, I know Witch & Warlock is a pirate concern right? Perhaps they ended up making poor decisions, but they didn't start out that way. Witch & Warlock are in fact the same guys behind the German Oak album. And I think we can safely presume they did not bootleg their own privately released album (though another story emerged in 2018 about this). The next CD on the label was Dom's Edge of Time, and while I later upgraded to the Second Battle versions (LP and CD), it's pretty apparent from the short notes on the CD that the members knew each other. Most everyone accepts this version as legit (though the sound wasn't improved upon at all). This was followed by an archival German Oak album, and then finally they decided to try their hand at needle drops and foregoing obtaining legal permission. (Confession: I still own their CD version of Diabolus and patiently await for a legit version to surface). They also issued two other albums from Scotland: Soho Orange and Tentacle - both of these being archival releases. Most websites consider these to be legit. And it makes sense, when you consider the German connection to the Bodkin album, as mentioned above. In any case, the CD was repressed multiple times, and it was many years later I picked it up again - mine being one of those reissues (originals are numbered with a different backplate).

Next up was the Akarma release (of course they'd get involved with something like this). And now we have our 5th unique cover (last photo)! This time it's quite extraordinary as the LP opens up as a multi part cross (similar to Necronomicon or Heaven's Brass Rock 1). This most assuredly is the definitive edition right? Wrong! What an utter disaster of a reissue. A needle drop (fine), but with skips and scratches (in the mastering!). C'mon, really? How stoned do you have to be? I eventually parted with it...

There is a legit LP that recently surfaced from England on the Acme label (and replicates the orange paste-on cover). I wouldn't have high hopes for a sonic revelation at this point.

Eduardo Bort - s/t. 1975 Spain

When I started collecting rare progressive rock in the mid to late 1980s, Eduardo Bort's album was considered by many a dealer as Spain's single best progressive rock album - and mighty expensive too (and often times in the dealer world - most expensive=best). So I pounced on the first reissue commonly available, the Fonomusic CD, and anxiously awaited "this best" prog album from Spain. Huh? My inherent cynicism kicked into gear quickly, and my initial thoughts were more akin to "the xenophobes' choice of best album from Spain". In effect, it was in the comfort zone of your common 80s psychedelic dealer who dabbled in prog, but never could really accept any lyrical language but good ol' Engrish ("What's the point of music if you can't understand the words?"). Yes - I've read genius statements like this in the past. And with Spain, it's not just one language, but multiple, each adding a unique spice to the region they come from.

Over the years, I began to embrace Bort's album on its own terms, ignoring the cultural backdrop. The irony here is that Bort had no business singing in English, and is really the only weak element on the album. The music here evolves greatly from the psychedelic folk rock of 'Thoughts', onto the progressive hard rocking 'Walking on the Grass', and finishes in superb symphonic fashion, with multiple themes, meter shifts, and mellotron galore. Overall an excellent pan-European styled progressive rock album and definitely well worth owning.

Personal collection
CD: 1989 Fonomusic

I never did improve upon the initial CD, which is as basic as it gets with a single tray card. But the sound is fine and from the master tapes. Original LPs come in a fine gatefold, and I wouldn't mind owning one myself, but as noted above, it's always been a bit pricey. Incidentally Fonomusic is Movieplay Ver 2.0.

Worth noting that the original and early reissues do not list a definitive date beyond the recording date of 1974. Later reissues appended a copyright of 1975, which appears to be the correct release year.

Feliu i Joan Albert - s/t. 1977 Spain

Feliu i Joan Albert's sole collaboration puts together two classically trained musicians from Barcelona. Joan Albert Amargos was a current member of Musica Urbana, and played keyboards and woodwinds for them. Prior to that he'd guested on saxophone on the 1971 Jarka album. Feliu Gasull provides the Spanish guitar. For the majority of the album, the music is acoustic, beautiful, and serene, with a big sound and some unusual arrangements. One will hear references to George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, no doubt an influence from their own formal training. There's also a feeling of what the original New Age movement was about, before the term was bastardized. Perhaps a bit like same era Popol Vuh, but without the overt spirituality. Closer 'Els Barbers Indignats' breaks out the electric rock instrumentation (with Musica Urbana in tow), and is quite jarring in this setting, and is a great way to end the album. Though one wonders what it could have been were it a pure play progressive rock album. The reissues to date have not yielded any other recordings, so it will have to be left to the imagination unfortunately.

Personal collection
CD: 2004 PDI

Al Di Meola - Elegant Gypsy. 1977 USA

In my junior year of high school, way back in 1981, there was a new kid in school and we became instant friends.  But he was different than all of us. He was rich. Very rich in fact. I never even knew anyone that was wealthy, much less had a friend like that. While I certainly never missed a meal growing up, we definitely didn't have much disposable income - and lived quite modestly. The fact is, rich kids didn't go to schools where I lived. The reasons are multiple, but that's for another time (and drinks presumably).

I bring all of this up here in an Al Di Meola review, because this new chum also brought an entirely new music perspective with him. Unlike myself and my running set, he had no use for FM radio (i.e. AOR/MTV/Corp Rock), hard rock, or heavy metal - the latter being my first foray into collecting underground music. Oh no - this guy was already a well schooled audiophile, who had thousands of dollars of stereo equipment throughout the 15,000 sq ft mansion he lived in. He read all the magazines, and absorbed the music culture that went with it. And jazz fusion was the music of choice. I wouldn't have known what fusion was had it hit me in the nose back then. And his favorite guitarist was, ta-dah - Al Di Meola. And Elegant Gypsy, along with Casino, were LPs he played constantly while at his house shooting pool or playing ping pong. Eventually I bought up the Di Meola line through Electric Rendezvous, and then I exited for college.

There in college, of course, I met more people who were quite informed about music. It was also about the time that a one Yngwie Malmsteen entered stage right (who friend above and I discovered via the somewhat disappointing Steeler album). Then came all those tiresome debates, ones it seems I engaged in for far too long in life. Like "who's the fastest guitarist". And off went the arguments "Malmsteen only plays chromatic scales.." "Di Meola is a one trick pony". "Oh yea, well John McLaughlin blows them all away!"... Who's that I ask? And then I found myself loading up on Mahavishnu Orchestra albums. Ah you kids and the internet. In those days it was talk (none of this was on the radio) and used record stores if you wanted to learn about something.

Eventually I got worn out by all of that, and held Al Di Meola responsible for me not liking music that seemingly was all about technique. And it was in college that I was first discovering Krautrock and European underground prog rock - pretty much the polar opposite of the slick, audiophile friendly jazz fusion.

None of which was fair to our subject matter at hand. Eventually I went back to Elegant Gypsy and revisited it on its own terms - sold off the dogeared LP and purchased the CD - and heard it with a fresh pair of ears. Honestly the chops are only a part of Al Di Meola's repertoire, but I do think he's quite unheralded when it comes to songwriting. He's quite adept at that too, and every song here is enjoyable (with like-minded cohort Mingo Lewis penning the opener 'Flight Over Rio'). And 'Race with Devil on Spanish Highway' is what everyone else says - a brilliant track, the perfect combination of jazz fusion and prog rock. I don't agree with those who state Di Meola was retreading ground that Santana laid out. To me, we're talking two entirely different branches of Latin influenced music.

Nowadays, I may hear the album every few years, and this listen just confirmed again how enjoyable Elegant Gypsy really is. After knowing the album very well for 37 years, I can say that with conviction.

Personal collection
CD: 198? Columbia

One of those old school-no info CD's that proudly state "Now Made in the USA!". If you recall, CDs were originally made in Japan (and expensive at that), so it was something of a big deal when they became a domestic product. It's really too bad folks have moved away from CDs. I would expect a renaissance at some point.

Curtis Knight - Down in the Village. 1970 USA

Who is Curtis Knight you ask? Well he was a cohort of a one Jimi Hendrix before he became "Hendrix" if you know what I mean. So Jimi plays guitar and Curtis Knight sings is the way the late 60s soul albums were portrayed. And now 50 years later, few know who Knight was. Perhaps you've heard of the other guy?

And that's really too bad, as Down in the Village is quite an aural document. It's also one of those one song albums that will live on long past any of our lifetimes. In this case - as with most of the others I will mention - it has yet to be truly discovered. But even taking out said song, what we have here is a fine psych-blues-soul rock album from 1970. The title track is a good opening, but it's the potent 'Lena' that you will hear the mean psych streak that is an indicator of what to come. 'See No Evil' is another winning track. 'Goin Up the Road' is a decent blues rock song. The other 2 songs are throwaway soul numbers. Side 2 is much more consistent, with the final two tracks 'Hi Low' and 'Goodbye Cruel World' competing vigorously with 'Lena'. As a whole, this would be a 3.5 star album if it were not for...

...'Give You Plenty Lovin'' Oh my, what do we have here? The ultimate combination of freaked out psychedelic jamming with screams of madness, that's what. We are talking what Isaac Hayes and The Bar-Kays did with the face melting 'Do Your Thing'. Or when Del Jones goes deep into the abyss with 'Cold Turkey'. Or John L's pleas for help on 'Flowers Must Die'. We are talking goosebump inducing insanity of the highest order. It's hyper, intense, chaotic, and scary. I almost want to give this 4.5 because of it. I probably will one day. Maybe a proper reissue will unearth similar recordings... Oh we can dream can't we?

Personal collection
LP: 1970 Paramount

Never reissued legally, though the original LP can still be had for a reasonable sum. A gem in the rough if there ever was one.

Splash - s/t. 1974 Sweden

Splash's self-titled second album from 1974, takes the band from their American horn rock styled debut, and stretches out into 3 lengthy tracks. It gives us the listener a what-if scenario as to what Chicago Transit Authority might have sounded like were they part of the European jazz underground rather than held hostage to commercial aspirations and AM/FM radio demands.  Of the 3 aforementioned pieces, the highlight for me is the near 14 minute closer 'Sambahmadu', with its intriguing mix of Latin styled jazz rock and Asiatic themes.

Personal collection
LP: 1974 PLA

The single sleeve cover features a wonderful fantasy design. Still not reissued in any legal form.

Cyklus - Planet of Two Suns. 1979 Germany

Don't let the goofy-guys-in-the-back-of-the-VW-bus-cover scare you. Cyklus' sole album presents an interesting mix of styles. On one hand there's the typical late 70s funky fusion, with the added benefit of a high melodic quotient. This is then juxtaposed against a backdrop of the early 70s Krautrock freaky underground. In aggregate one can wire Cyklus closest to same period Aera - who they share a band member and label with. This is especially true during the time when Embryo's Roman Bunka was also Aera's guitarist. I also hear a bit of the Real Ax Band and same era Alcatraz, which can only be considered a good thing. There's some nice shredding guitar work here as well, which recalls Syncrisis (yet another fine guitar centered Kraut Fusion act) at their most fiery.

Personal collection
LP: 1979 Erlkonig

Single sleeve. Not been reissued legit on LP or CD as I write this post.

Goodthunder - s/t. 1972 USA

At its core, Los Angeles based Goodthunder are a straight up hard rock band, with folk and pop trimmings. If that's all they were about, then they certainly wouldn't be reviewed by me. No, Goodthunder weren't content to settle for lowest common denominator music to strictly appeal to the masses. With a prominent keyboardist in the band, and a wide range of dynamics, time shifts, and colors - Goodthunder somehow managed to create a sophisticated hard rock album when no one was paying attention. And the guitar is pretty heavy for the era, including some nice riffing, in an almost proto-NWOBHM metal style. Not to mention the chunky Hammond organ moments (a bit like the Krautrock Message on their first 2 albums). There's even a bit of late 60s psych carrying over, as found in the vocal harmonies. The progressive breaks are - especially given the setting - quite surprising, and it's these kind of contrasts that makes this album work on a number of levels. In some ways, you could almost compare Goodthunder to what Culpeper's Orchard were doing in Denmark. They never quite reach those highs (and who does really?), but it's definitely in that ballpark. 'P.O.W.' and 'Barking at the Ants' are right near the top of the mountain. Get it.

Personal collection
LP: 1972 Elektra

Originals are housed in a single sleeve and come with a lyric insert.

Chasar - s/t. 1983 Scotland


Yes, this. This is exactly the type of NWOBHM music I'm looking for. Ambitious, yet amateurish. A clear product of the early 80s cassette culture. Some lads from Scotland get together in a room, listen to Rush's Permanent Waves, and decide on the spot to create a band in the spirit of Iron Maiden, Saxon, et al, but with a bit more creativity and free flow of ideas. Perhaps a label like Neat took a sniff, but couldn't comprehend the complexity of the music, and politely declined (in the vernacular "No fookin' way you bloody wankers"). And so the band went about releasing it on cassette, where it made a name for itself among the trading set of the day. This was then picked up by the confusingly named UK based American Phonograph for LP - except they had no metal history, and less distribution skills. Finally, now 4 years later, the ultimate bottom feeder Mausoleum decides to release it, but with a new cover and title (Gypsy Roller). And then... off into the mists of obscurity it went. And has yet to be discovered 35 years later, awaiting a proper reissue of some kind - any kind.

As noted about the music above, it definitely wears its Rush patch proudly, as well as adding some metal crunch. Nothing too heavy mind you, and there's plenty of guitar solos in the 70s hard rock tradition. One can hear the same embryonic steps that Manilla Road were taking at a similar time, different place. Another reference would be the obscure Florida based group UHF. Easy recommendation for those predisposed to these kind of sounds. And we know who we are - don't we?

Personal collection
LP: 1987 Mausoleum (as Gypsy Roller) (Belgium)

The LP above is about the only affordable copy available. For a long while I hadn't realized it was the same album, and continued to wait for a decent priced copy of the original. Duh. Well anyway, I finally figured it out, and here we are. This one isn't going anywhere for a long time.

The first scan is the cassette, followed by the American Phonograph and Mausoleum LPs respectively.

Light of Darkness - s/t. 1971 Scotland

Light of Darkness were Scottish exiles enjoying the Germany hard rock scene of 1971. Black Sabbath's debut is the first reference that comes to mind (blues based heavy fuzz guitar w/harmonica), and the vocals have a passing resemblance to Ozzy - check out 'Ain't No Place Where I Belong' as one prime example. But with a bit more energy, perhaps recalling Elias Hulk in the process. There's definitely a late era psych vibe here too, especially in the melodic/harmonic aspect of each composition. The album was not well received upon release, and thus its rarity today. But a revisionist look displays many rewards for fans of the 1971 Krautrock and UK Vertigo sound.

Personal collection
LP: 2014 Long Hair (Germany)

A rare album in original form (on Philips). The reissue comes in a fine gatefold (like the original) with a short history insert. It appears the two CD reissues on Second Battle have become difficult to source.

Clivage - Mixtus Orbis. 1978 France

The intimate nature of Fertier's Indo Jazz album Regina Astris is expounded upon here on Mixtus Orbis with no less than a full orchestra. The jazz elements are downplayed somewhat, and flute takes center stage, along with the Indian instrumental accompaniment. Some of this album gets very trippy, with echoed vocals and orchestras coming at you from speaker to speaker. There really is no other album like it, which makes it almost impossible to classify. In general, I typically find albums like this satisfying on an academic level, but not emotional. Mixtus Orbis is exceptional in that it resonates at core instincts. Really excellent material here.

Personal collection
LP: 1978 Gratte-Ciel

As I write this, no legit reissue exists in any format.

Supersister - Iskander. 1973 Netherlands

Iskander is Supersister's 4th LP, and steers the band from an insouciant Canterbury styled group toward a more traditional prog rock concept album. Still, on close inspection, one can hear similarities to their first 3 albums, and there's plenty of familiar rhythms and melodies that one recognizes from the world of Soft Machine. It's just not as overt. So if one thinks of Iskander as played by neighboring Trace, rather than the predetermined expectation of what Supersister should sound like, the album opens up in a big way given this new perspective.

Then there's the presence of American WWII vet and famed jazzer Charlie Mariano on sax and flute. He was in his own discovery phase of life, moving on from his hometown Boston and his underground psych/prog/jazz group Osmosis, and digging deep into the European scene. It appears he spent most of 1973 in the Netherlands, first jamming with flutist Chris Hinze, before hooking up with Supersister - an odd combination that doesn't necessarily gel as one would hope (Supersister weren't a jazz group for certain). Mariano was to eventually head back to Germany and jam with Embryo for a couple of years, which was a better fit for the talented saxophonist.

Overall, Iskander is more consistent than its predecessor, but lacks the charm of the early albums. Objectively though, an excellent album if you approach it on its own terms.

Personal collection
CD: 1990 Polydor w/Spiral Staircase

Oddly this one I've never owned the original LP for even though it's not very expensive or hard to find. I should probably rectify that situation. My first copy was the French press (also from 1973) that I bought in the 80s. The CD is as basic as it gets, and shares a single disc with the lesser Spiral Staircase (IMO, one many disagree with). But the sound is excellent, and to my ears anyway, is better than the recent Esoteric remasters.

Xhol - Hau-RUK. 1971 Germany

Here we find Xhol, as my imagination will have it mind you, in some smoky club in Hamburg, preferably on the Reeperbahn in the St. Pauli District. Organ and electric sax rule the roost here and no one gets to leave the club until they start seeing inanimate objects move. Psychedelic jazz blues is where it's at - especially on the sublime 'Breit'. The Garden of Delights CD is the way to go here since it introduces us to the 20 minute bonus track 'Suden twi Westen'. This track was recorded in 1974 with Hansi Fisher (of Embryo) on flute along with future Missus Beastly bassist Norman Domling. It's quite possibly the best piece Xhol ever did (and that's saying something!) and I didn't realize that Xhol were still active this late in the game. Highly recommended.

Personal collection
CD: 2002 Garden of Delights

I did once own the original LP, but traded it away for something presumably better. What that was, I cannot say. I want it back.

RUK really is an acronym, and stands for Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser. Obvious now, isn't it?

Circus 2000 - An Escape From a Box. 1972 Italy

One of the more misunderstood albums from the Italian progressive rock scene. Mainly because it has nothing in common with what one expects from the land of PFM or Banco. Circus 2000 are the European extract of prime Jefferson Airplane, but with a distinct progressive rock element similar to Julian's Treatment, Mad Curry, or Sandrose. Escape From a Box is one of the most creative albums from this niche. Laid back, sensuous, hypnotic, and mesmerizing. Resident hottie Silvana Aliotta provides the sultry, and witchy-squeaky (trademark pending) vocals. Hippy dippy opener 'Hey Man' is the only slip up, and even most of that tune works well once the instrumental engine starts to roar. 'You Aren't Listening' is seductive, 'Our Father' has intense Gothic choirs, and 'When the Sun Refuses to Shine' draws you into the vortex of another universe. Brilliante.

Personal collection
CD: 1989 Vinyl Magic
LP: 1999 Akarma

Well, the LP gatefold reissue is certainly nice looking. Would prefer an original, but this will have to do for now, given the exorbitant cost of such. I bought the CD upon release based on the reputation in various mail order catalogs of the day.

Rob Thomsett Group - Hara. 1976 Australia

Rob Thomsett is, by most measures, an ordinary citizen. He was in the military and had a successful career working for the Australian federal government. And he also happens to be quite the talented guitarist - with an enormous imagination and creativity rarely seen even among the more avant garde oriented populace. He'd played in a couple of progressive oriented bands prior (Astral Plane and Oak), neither of which lasted long and there's no recorded history. Living in the relatively isolated government town of Canberra, there was no "scene" to which to attach to, or clubs to express one's new artistic vision. So Thomsett looked inward toward the Aboriginal legends and myths. With that, he created one of those 6th Dimension type recordings we talk about often here - for more on that release see here.

Hara is the followup album, and demonstrates Thomsett moving toward a more professional type sound. Ostensibly a jazz fusion album, it still hasn't lost the magic touch that Yaraandoo had, and tracks like 'It Might Have Been - it Will Be!" and the title song would have fit perfectly on its predecessor. In other places an acoustic otherworldly vibe is brought forth. On its own accord, Hara is excellent, though it will always pale in comparison to Thomsett's master work. Well worth pursuing, especially since you can own the whole album along with the aforementioned Yaraandoo (see below).

Personal collection
CD: 2017 Now-Again (w/Yaraandoo)

Was released on LP+CD, or just the CD by itself (which is what I own - since I already had the LP reissue on Roundtable of Yaraandoo). According to the liner notes of the CD, Hara was released in 1976.

Rob Thomsett - Yaraandoo. 1975 Australia

I'd like to type out some of the liners from the LP reissue. If this doesn't get you going, not sure anything else I say will. I wish I could write like this! "Australia's burnt landscape is sketched in hypnotic washes of Moog oscillations, Bamboo flutes and tape delay. The 40,000 year-old sound of antediluvian Aboriginal folklore is channeled through Mellotron, dilatory jazz guitar solos, and Avant cross rhythms, all symbolizing the harsh and isolated landscape of rural Australia. Yaraandoo is a bold sound exploration never attempted this adventurously again with this country." Wow!

This is one trippy album, I'll tell you that. And there's some Canterbury like grooves mixed in here too and you'll hear a couple of Nucleus / Soft Machine style runs. One thing to note - Thomsett assembles no less than 9 people to play on this album. This isn't a private bedroom affair, but a full scale psychedelic work. This is one of those six dimension type albums that I love so much. The real-deal freaky underground. You'll recognize the pioneering field tapes of Agitation Free's Malesch and the otherworldly-ness of Algarnas Tradgard. For my tastes, this album is genius.

Personal collection
LP: 2011 Roundtable
CD: 2017 Now-Again w/ Hara (USA)

For Example - SWF Session 1973/Cancelled 1972. 1973 Germany (archival)

In the wake of the massive success of Chicago and Blood Sweat & Tears, Germany was one of many countries to experience an explosion of horn rock bands. Round House, Emergency, and Creative Rock are a few that leap to mind. For Example was one of those brass rock bands that came from this scene, but never managed an official LP release.

Now this is one very confusing CD issue, I will tell you that. And the liner notes do little to clear things up, though the history itself is well told. But the recordings themselves are not explained well. First of all, the "Cancelled 1972" part means nothing more than there aren't any recordings here from 1972. Supposedly they were shopping for major label support for an entire year, but failed. Only a passing mention of this is told in the liner notes, and is later fleshed out in the advert for this CD release.

The first 3 tracks are the clear highlight here, and are the only ones that are truly the "SWF Session 1973" - adding to the confusion. These 3 tracks are like the best of Chicago with ripping Terry Kath like leads and complex horn charts. After a short piano ditty, tracks 5 through 12 are the real head scratcher. The credits say it was recorded at the "Horst Jankowski Studio Stuttgart" sometime in 1973 - but it's clear to be a live recording. And the audience reaction is either ridiculously over-exuberant, or it's been piped in as a phony. Now as a former high school stage/jazz band performer, I can say that the student body would often react in an overly positive way to show support (especially since we were recorded live on radio). But it doesn't sound anything like an audience at a club show, for example (no pun intended). As well, the style of music is noticeably different from the first 3 tracks. It's still horn rock, but at the other end of the spectrum. Rather than jazzy, complex brass rock, we have here a soul based pop rock with horns... ...with a fake audience. Track 13 is labeled as coming from a radio show, but it sounds like a similar live recording to tracks 5 - 12, but musically is a bit closer to the first 3 songs.

Personal collection
none

Put the CD in the sell bin.

Runaway Totem - Affreschi e Meditazione. 2012 Italy

A very odd new release for Runaway Totem. Those coming to this album looking for their trademark Zeuhl sound will be sorely disappointed. It's mainly an electronic album (heavy on the brass sounds) with acoustic nylon guitars, all heavily filtered - and could almost be considered an ambient release. There are a couple of rock moments, with Italian vocals, but overall this one is a real curveball. That's not to say it's a bad album - it is indeed a very forward looking and progressive release in the truest meaning of the term. Not sure where I stand on it. Definitely not what I expected so I stand confused. Decided to sell after all....

Personal collection
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Ars Nova - Android Domina. 2006 Japan

I realized after buying The Goddess of Darkness real time in 1996 that Ars Nova had little more to offer from a creative standpoint. Somewhere down the line I ended up with the next one The Book of the Dead, and my opinion remained unswayed. And here we are with Android Domina - a Japanese mini-LP I only bought because it was dirt cheap. Now we have the girls in full S&M regalia, and opening the album with mock orgasmic sounds. Honestly, they sound - and act - like a bunch of silly Japanese girls at a pajama party. Why they must tease the middle aged male dominated progressive rock crowd, is anyone's guess, but I suspect it is yet another "Lost in Translation" scenario. Because once that bit of tomfoolery is over, our gals get down to the serious business of keyboard dominated instrumental progressive rock. And they still have nothing new to offer. Can't dock them for the performance, it's all very good. Like Ozric in that way....

Personal collection
none

Decided to part with the CD. I have too much stuff like this now.

Kontrast - s/t. 1986 Germany

Kontrast was Out of Focus Ver 2.0, and at this point in their career they sounded more like Embryo than Embryo did! Kontrast band leader Remigius Drechsler had been with Embryo for about a year, so perhaps not so surprising. Strong ethno prog/jazz rock with flute, sax, stringed instruments, with Asiatic/North African melodic themes. Some fusion and more than a hint of the psychedelic. Very much out of its time, and decidedly non-80s sounding.

Personal collection
CD: 2008 Cosmic Egg (UK) w/Volume II

Volume II is a full album of archival material. A bit more loose than the album proper. I did own the LP up until March 2018, but decided to let it go, and just keep the CD.

Pig Newton & The Wizards From Kansas - Still In Kansas. 1969 USA (archival)

Still in Kansas is an interesting archival album from The Wizards From Kansas. Originally released by Rockadelic (and the version I'm listening to now) with band participation. The lion's share of the album contains essentially early versions of tracks (1969) found on their 1970 Mercury album. Though I own that album on CD, I'm not overly familiar with it, and I didn't do a back to back to hear the difference between them. Given their individual short duration, I wouldn't expect anything revelatory here. The other 3 tracks were recorded elsewhere reputedly in 1968 and 1969 with 'Clouds of Exchange' apparently being their lead-in demo song that landed them some marquee gigs. Again, more interesting than exciting.

The LP comes with 2 inserts, one a history of the band, and a second features photocopied newspaper articles and advertisements. For those that don't know: Pig Newton isn't a person, but rather it was the original name of the band. When they toured, they became known as Pig Newton & The Wizards From Kansas. Mercury dropped the Pig Newton appellation later. Even more interesting, to me at least, is that when they played live at Fillmore East in New York, they simply went by Kansas. How history could have been altered had they maintained any notoriety with that moniker!

If you're looking to hear these songs on CD, the legal reissue by Sunbeam in 2012 features them as bonus tracks, which is really what they should be (there's also a 2 LP set from the label). There are discrepancies in the dates, and the Sunbeam issue states the "early album" recordings are also from 1970, whereas the earliest date is 1969 rather than '68.

So a fine package if you already own the the primary album on LP, and would like the "bonus" tracks separate.

Personal collection
none

I had the Rockadelic LP, but decided to sell it.

The Blue Bus - Your Mind's Moving Too Fast. 2001? Germany? (archival)

Honestly my BS Meter is in the red zone on this title (perhaps I should make this an iPhone app?) by The Blue Bus. I find it somewhat hard to swallow that a full LP's worth of tracks from the 60s has absolutely ZERO corroboration anywhere (including looking up band members). The album was released in 2001, by a German label with no other releases (and allegedly from the US if RYM is to be believed - but I think that is wrong (see below)), but there's no backstory of the band provided. Just a faded photo (how quaint...) of 3 dudes (not convincingly authentic 60s looking to be honest) sitting in a suburban backyard, presumably in southern California (why is anyone assuming this from Los Angeles anyway? Where exactly does that come from?). And then a German label comes along and suddenly has access to these tapes? But no story to tell? And now it's 17 years after the LP has been released, and yet nothing has emerged. Not buying it....

OK, so if having the wool pulled over your eyes isn't a problem for you, what of the music? Well, I have to agree with other reviews I've read, it sure the heck does sound like 1960s garage psych music (so kudos for that). Whoever is behind these tapes is where the real story is. I'm much interested in the provenance for certain (see below for my guess). "The Blue Bus from Los Angeles" - probably not that.

Personal collection
none

My LP copy (2001 Vee Germany) is in the sell bin.

There is a website for  the label on the LP: www.vinyl.de  Go there and you tell me what you find?

This album is BS to the core.

I think here's the real story:
https://www.discogs.com/artist/1699280-Harry-Vee-2
https://www.discogs.com/artist/647901-The-Broken-Jug

El Templo del Dinero - s/t. 1999 Mexico

As I've written about in the past, Smogless was a Mexican label in the late 90s something akin to the Kosmische Kouriers or Prescription Drug (UK), with a blend of bands celebrating the psychedelic underground. El Templo del Dinero was but one of these ensembles, likely collected for this recording rather than as a touring concern. The participants are an unusual lot for a recording such as this. Guitarist Victor Mendez had played in a couple of oddball bands from the early 90s - one was the unhinged Zeuhl group Vector Escoplo and the other was the arty Subsuelo. Neither very good to be honest. Drummer Victor Baldovinos comes from the decidedly symphonic group Iconoclasta. Newcomer bassist Alfredo Landa fills out the trio.

Based on this lineup, one wouldn't normally expect an homage to early Guru Guru and Sensations Fix, but more or less that's what we're dealing with here. Instrumental psychedelic space rock is the order of the day. The sound is raw and very much a product of the deep underground. El Templo del Dinero was hardly alone doing this kind of music in Mexico at this time, and one will hear similarities to Humus, Loch Ness, and Frolic Froth. The guitars are wonderfully compressed and super fuzzed out, and the rhythm section moves around constantly. Sometimes in sync, sometimes not - which is part of the allure. But it's definitely a competent work by experienced musicians. I've seen references to this being a jazz fusion type album, but I cannot hear it myself. No more than Guru Guru's UFO being considered such. Another reference would be the obscure Chicago based band Matter.

El Templo del Dinero is another one of those CDs I bought real time, enjoyed, and filed. Here we are 19 years later on a revisit, and I had very little music memory of it - only that it was in the Humus vein. I can understand this album being a bit too raw for some, but it's not in the wear-you-out genre like the Japanese groups such as Acid Mothers Temple can be. I enjoyed it myself, and hopefully will hear it again sooner than 19 years. Hopefully I can still hear at all by then....

Personal collection
CD: 1999 Smogless

Larry Coryell - At the Village Gate. 1971 USA

At the Village Gate is a very interesting album from jazz guitarist Coryell. I've heard quite a few of his albums prior including the Eleventh House works, and they follow similar fusion / jazz rock paths as laid out by John McLaughlin/Mahavishnu Orchestra, Wolfgang Dauner's Et Cetera, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. In effect, musicians born out of jazz but with a strong interest in rock music. So even though I had read this album to be different, I wasn't expecting it to really be that way. And I was to be proven wrong.

At the Village Gate truly is an instrumental psychedelic rock album. This is very much in the realm of Jimi Hendrix and Cream. Perhaps not as intense as the burgeoning Krautrock movement of early Ash Ra Tempel and Guru Guru, but take away some of their more excessive moments, and you arrive At the Village Gate. The guitar tone is decidedly psychedelic with plenty of effects applied, while the rhythm section is constantly on the move. "Busy" as the liner notes suggest. For the style, it's a bit subdued, but for an experienced jazzer like Coryell, it's definitely risky and on the edge. For my tastes at least, it's the best album I've heard by him.

At the Village Gate is a relatively obscure album for a marquee name such as Larry Coryell, who sadly passed away recently. Real Gone has provided the first legitimate reissue on CD in 2017. Don't miss it this go round if what I say above resonates.

Personal collection
CD: 2017 Real Gone

CD comes with unique liner notes and great sound.

Dungen - Häxan. 2016 Sweden

Dungen's CV for over a decade will read as a modern take on the 1971 Silence Records stable mixed with Mikael Ramel's Till Dej. The fact that the band defiantly sings in their native Swedish, and still manages to have a large cult following even here in America is something quite extraordinary. But what if the band decided to remove the songs and lyrics? Häxan is the answer to that question. Gustav Ejstes and company have provided their musical interpretation of a 1920's era animated German film. And the German reference can be taken even further, as this is spot on Krautrock from the Kosmische Kourier era. It has that warm analog feeling with the biting psychedelic fuzz edge juxtaposed against the wavering flute throughout. There are beautiful melodies and soundscapes, but little that would typically qualify as a traditional "song". So journey south with Dungen from Stockholm to Berlin and enjoy Häxan. I can listen to music like this endlessly.

Personal collection
CD: 2016 Mexican Summer (USA)

Curt Cress Clan - CCC. 1975 Germany

Curt Cress Clan had one album released smack dab in the middle of the funky fusion era, and this album falls right in lockstep with expectation. Starts with a barnburner in 'Cyclone', and 'Fields' is wonderfully moody. 'Movin Right Along' also kicks a fair amount of booty. Despite the somewhat trite composition style, all is not lost, as it contains exceptional performances from Volker Kriegel (who obtains a wonderful fuzz guitar tone throughout); Kristian Schultze on keyboards (and yet again the fat analog synth tones are great here); and of course Cress himself on the drum kit, who gets in a few great patterns. One to buy if a fan of Kraut Fusion.

Personal collection
LP: 1975 Atlantic
CD: 2010 Sireena

The CD is housed in a digipak, complete with liner notes.

Second Direction - Four Corners. 1976 Germany

Coming from the jazz wing of the ever large Kraut Fusion movement, Second Direction provides the listener some of the genre's finest moments. In particular when band leader Fritz Münzer pulls out the flute (primarily on 'Storm Flute', 'Flying Carpet Ride', and the title track), the results can be divine. Second Direction have perfectly encapsulated the optimism of the era, with gorgeous melodies and sublime rhythms. Hearing this makes you want to take a ride through the countryside, and enjoy a picnic with a bottle of wine and a beautiful girl by your side. Overall I'd submit that Second Direction ties closest to the two Sunbirds' albums, though all remnants of Krautrock have been filtered out here.

Personal collection
CD: 2000 Spinning Wheel

A very obscure CD reissue. The label is legit, and was active at the turn of the century.

Schnauser - Protein for Everyone. 2014 England

My big fear coming into Protein for Everyone, my first encounter with Schnauser, is that there would be traces of indie/alternative music. Not that I read this anywhere, but instinctively the younger bands have it in their DNA due to constant exposure, different than my own generation. I can't stand that music myself. The monotone sound and nihilistic outlook goes against my very optimistic and creative nature. Give me a pissed off metal band any day - at least they care enough to be mad!

So with that out of the way - Schnauser have succeeded entirely on not dragging that element into their sound. Hooray! This is square-on psychedelic era Canterbury music, of the kind that didn't get past 1971. The soft affected vocals, the period instrumentation (especially the keyboards and fuzz bass), and the melodies are all extremely well done. It doesn't quite have the depth of the masters, and one does begin to think that if Stereolab had emulated Soft Machine or Caravan, rather than French 60s pop and Neu!, this would have been the result. That would have been great actually, now that I think about it.

The first 4 tracks are the highlight, and it begins to slowly break down from there. On first glance, 'Disposable Outcomes' appears this will be Schnauser's 'Nine Feet Underground' or 'Esther's Nose Job'. Alas it isn't, primarily because the band opted out of giving us some fuzz keyboard jam moments, and instead offers some weird story. That's really too bad, because there are moments throughout where I thought this would be a 5 star masterpiece. So in the end, it lived up to its title. On that note, this is one of the very few albums where a 4 star/Gnosis 11/excellent grade could be considered a disappointment. All the ingredients are here (they go so far as to define the band makeup in the CD literally as ingredients!) and they succeed, but I feel they did not transcend the genre, when you instinctively know they have the ability to do so. Still - this is a must own if you enjoy the early Canterbury movement.

Personal collection
CD: 2014 Esoteric Antenna

Leviathan - The Legendary Lost Elektra Album. 1969 England (archival)

Leviathan were an English band from the late 60s with quite a backstory and a decidedly sad ending. Rechristened from the more mod sounding Mike Stuart Span, Leviathan were like many bands of the era, who were moving from catchy pop oriented singles into more heady album material. Oddly the band's demise appears to have come from a confusing promotion wherein Elektra decided to issue 2 singles at once, and both failed to chart. The first two tracks on this album represent the better of the singles, and demonstrates why Leviathan should have been a force on the psychedelic / upcoming progressive rock scene. Fantastic guitar leads, psychedelic infused vocals, and solid melodies are the name of the game with Leviathan. The other single contained 'The War Machine' and 'Time', and were both a bit dated for the cutting edge 1969 mindset, though still quite good. My pick for the best track is 'Through the Looking Glass', which is that rare breed of true "psych prog" as one might hear on the Pussy Plays album for example.

In any event, the album was pulled by the label president, for reasons that are still not clearly understood. It is suggested that the band still needed to improve on the album, but funding was going to have to come from within if the album wanted to see the light of day. This of course was not possible, and the band disintegrated on the spot. As noted by the title, the album indeed had gained legendary status via the record buying community going back to the 1980s. It took almost 50 years in total, but finally we can all hear this most promising group. It's bitter sweet though, as we'll never know the what-if scenario.

Personal collection

CD: 2016 Grapefruit / Cherrry Red

Namaz - 300 M.P.H. 1981 Germany

For Namaz's debut, try to imagine Embryo circa Bad Heads and Bad Cats, or the Real Ax Band - but carrying on into 1981. Tropical and breezy Kraut styled fusion with sultry female vocals are the order of the day here. Final track 'Cyklus III' goes into freaky Santana guitar mode to close in excellent fashion. A fine album for fans of the genre.

Personal collection
CD: 2008 Creole Stream (Japan)

Mystere de Notre Dame - s/t. 1996 Italy

Mystere de Notre Dame were like many bands of the mid 90s, and definitely engaged in a bit of Dream Theater worship. The chops weren't quite there, and the professionalism was B grade, but no doubt competent all the same. For the first 3 tracks, you will admire Mystere de Notre Dame, but a bit of deja-vu will come about soon enough, Then comes 'Dominus', and it's still Dream Theater - as found in the Twilight Zone. It's not on-purpose attention grabbing either, but rather a tad off-center. In this way Mystere de Notre Dame reminds me of those nutty German bands of the same era like Payne's Gray and Cant. It's as if the band knew they were sleepwalking, and needed to do something else - but weren't quite sure what to do. Was it their Italian heritage? Perhaps Semiramis was on their mind... By no means is this radical in the same way as fellow countrymen Garden Wall are, it's just...different. The album has received relatively low marks across the board on both RYM and Gnosis, and I figure it's because of the typical Dream Theater association, and the first 3 tracks don't help. But a deeper dive reveals something more. I wondered why I kept this CD all these years, and now I know. And I will continue to do so.

Personal collection
CD: 1996 Music is Intelligence (Germany)

Yves Laferrière - s/t. 1978 Canada

If viewing this record for the first time, one could be forgiven for marrying the album cover with the 1978 date, and coming to the conclusion this is yet another period fusion album. But that's not the case at all. Yves Laferrière was one of the primary songwriters on both of the Contraction albums, and on his one solo album, he has successfully recreated the past. This sounds every bit like an early 70s Quebecois progressive rock work, and could easily be considered the 3rd Contraction album. The same style of songwriting and the beautiful female vocals are just 2 of the components that make this comparison obvious. All the songs are relatively compact (save the more lengthy and raucous closer), and there are no obvious standout moments - and yet each and every track fits "just so". If you're a fan of Contraction, you'll want this.

Personal collection
CD: 2006 ProgQuebec

Ars Nova - Fear & Anxiety. 1992 Japan


The all-female keyboard trio Ars Nova were a breath of fresh air that blew into the landscape in the early 90s. They proudly followed other such acts like Deja-Vu, Social Tension, Motoi Sakuraba, as well as the various acts that contributed to the Kings Boards compilation. It is this sampler where we find Naomi Miura's (Rosalia's keyboardist - Rosalia incidentally is an all-female progressive pop band) brilliant instrumental piece 'Corde Spirale'. This track, no doubt, provided the inspiration for Fear & Anxiety (Naomi is mentioned in the credits). Keyboardist Keiko Kumagai displays an enormous amount of talent and creativity as she composes all the songs and obviously directs the course of each track. Though she plays a myriad of modern day digital synthesizers, the centerpiece of her sound comes from those wonderful old analog machines - the Hammond organ and the Mini Moog. 'Dark Clouds' opens the album rather ominously with minimalist piano, and haunting synth voices. Then the rhythm section kicks in courtesy of the Saito sisters, Yumiko and Kyoko, and we're off into keyboard trio nirvana with '[dziha:d]' (I think something got lost in translation here...). Ars Nova consistently play with angst and passion! On 'House of Ben' Keiko produces a sound Black Sabbath would be proud of. 'Prominence' and the two part 'Fata Morgana' finish this work with a similar display of imagination and performance. Fear & Anxiety is strongly recommended for those into the aforementioned Japanese groups, legends such as ELP and Supersister, as well as anybody into innovative progressive rock.

Personal collection
CD: 1992 Made in Japan

After waiting for some years for someone to upload the original CD cover, I finally did it myself yesterday on Discogs. I bought this CD upon release. The album was reissued in 1994, and that's the common cover you see (second scan).

Shiva - Firedance. 1982 England

I'm such a sucker for the older NWOBHM bands, before they felt compelled to be in lockstep with the "scene", and here they just sort of made things up as they went along. Very much like my favorite progressive rock bands of the early 70s. Has more of a Rush influence than usual for a UK band from this era. There's some commercial stuff here that keeps it from a higher rating (especially on Side 2), but it's still a great listen. It'll probably grow on me over time (and it has!). File this one in the innovative early metal category next to Legend (UK), Diamond Head, Sacred Blade, and Manilla Road.

Personal collection
CD: "British Steel" (Russia)

Damn. I fear I ended up with the bootleg. I got it on ebay from a US seller, and I'm convinced they would have had no idea. The only way you can tell it is unauthorized is by the matrix on the disc, or lack thereof. Oh well it didn't cost much, so it wasn't worth complaining about. I'll ditch it if and when I get a legit reissue.

Solis Lacus - s/t. 1975 Belgium



Solis Lacus' sole album is a mix of deep grooves and sweet melodies, which is the blueprint for the mid 70's instrumental jazz rock scene. One could easily see Solis Lacus operating as the 4th Placebo album. Though by 1975, some of the rougher edges have been smoothed over, and it's not ever going to win any underground awards. But it definitely serves well for 70's styled "gettin' in the mood" with plush coaches, wood paneled walls, and shag carpet. Trumpet and saxophone lead the solo parade, while band leader Michel Herr provides the Fender Rhodes and monophonic synthesizers. This is the right music for the right time.

Personal collection
CD: 2012 Heavenly Sweetness (France)

The CD is housed in a fine tri-fold digipak using the original cover (scan 1). Comes with a history in English and French, and further on the band members each reflect back on the album, but this time only in French and Flemish. Also displays the two other album covers, as the LP was surprisingly reissued twice in the late 70s and early 80s by different labels (see scans 2 and 3)

Peter Baumann - Romance 76. 1976 Germany

Even though Baumann joined Tangerine Dream in 1973, he was still only 23 when he embarked on his first solo album. It was Edgar Froese who...