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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Games, USA


Games - Stargazer. 1977 Cascade Court.

I was recently reminded of this Florida (scratch that - thanks to a comment from Eric, the band are from Los Angeles!) group who pretty much stick to the progressive oriented AOR album formula, like their Midwest brethren to the north. The music also recalls the all female UK group Mother Superior, which was reissued on the Audio Archives label a few years back. And, on my last listen, I picked up a whiff of classic Alan Parsons Project. Overall, a mix of complex progressive and more pop oriented material.

This was considered one of the big rarities in the 1990s, so I obtained a cassette from a friend back then. I don't think the quality of the album has been able to maintain its mystique, and nowadays is actually quite reasonable if you're in the market for an original.

Priority: none

Monday, November 29, 2010

Facedancers, USA


The Facedancers - s/t (USA) 1972 Paramount.

There really is no album like The Facedancers. Typical of the Paramount aesthetic, Washington DC based The Facedancers were an eclectic bunch, that had no real identity, though to be sure it was probably the label's most purely progressive rock act (besting the also varied Baxter album). They use harmony vocals and have a slight folky and bluesy touch to their songwriting. But most of the songs feature long and complex instrumental breaks, that sounds right out of early 70s northern Europe, with flute, electric guitar and organ. The guitarist plays in a decidedly psychedelic manner. Excellent album. Muddy recording would benefit greatly from a remastered CD. I could see Gear! Fab! taking this one on, as it fits their profile best.

Priority: 2

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Earthstar, USA




Earthstar - Salterbarty Tales. 1978 Moontower.
Earthstar - French Skyline. 1979 Sky (CD on Sky (1995) and long deleted)
Earthstar - Atomkraft? Nein Danke. 1981 Sky.
Earthstar - Humans Only. 1982 Sky.

Earthstar is more or less the working band name for one Craig Wuest. Many (I mean many) years ago I found an LP copy of "French Skyline" at a local record store and I still consider it one of the best electronic albums from the US (though recorded in Germany and France). Of course, having Klaus Schulze produce the album probably helped immensely. It's a powerful album in the Berlin School style. That album was reissued on CD by Sky about 15 years ago. Sky never embraced CDs and it's pretty much a shoddy afterthought. So it would be nice to see a label take this on more seriously.

Years later I heard "Atomkraft? Nein Danke". Without Schulze's involvement, this one moves more towards the new age style than their previous work. Features piano, synthesizers and even some odd mellotron (technically a Birotron - thanks Planet Mellotron!). Not much sequencing here. I thought it was pretty decent, but nothing to write home about.

I never did hear "Humans Only", if for no other reason than no one ever said it was worth listening to. LOL. Hey, time is a precious commodity....

So that leaves us with the extremely rare and privately released debut "Salterbarty Tales", an album that I've been searching for a looong, looong time. Now, thanks to one of the benefactors of the CDRWL, I've finally heard the debut via CD-R. I didn't know what to expect to be honest. Based on the few snippets of info I could find, I gathered it wouldn't be the tour de force of "French Skyline". I suspected it may be more quiet and new agey, similar to "Atomkraft?...". And so was I right? Kind of. The opening track had me drooling, with processed fuzz guitar mixed in with the electronics. A definite French vibe pervades similar to what Phillippe Besombes was doing with the Pole label. The next two tracks highlight piano and harpsichord respectively, and are definite proto new age songs. Following this, we are taken back to the otherwordly sounds of the first song, though this time there's oboe buried in the mix. Perhaps the best use of the instrument I've heard in an electronic setting. Side 2 opens with a lengthy near side-long composition that at times is sublime and combines the best elements of the 1st and 4th songs on Side 1, and also adds a bit of sequencing. The album closes on a quieter note, but still fits squarely in the cosmic music realm. I was more than pleasantly surprised by the quality of this album. It would be great to see this title reissued.

Priority: 2

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Den Za Den, Macedonia


Den Za Den - s/t. 1980 RTV Ljubljana.

Funny, as the data I had on this was it was released in 1977 and from Montenegro. I have no idea where I got that notion, as I cannot find any reference for either. In studying my LP (that I bought in the mid 90s) there is no mention of the date, and the album was released by the Slovenian branch of the various state labels. But plenty of internet references clearly point Den Za Den as being from Macedonia, and many of them also call out a similar sound to that country's most known group: Leb I Sol.

Personally I don't hear it so much, as Den Za Den are way more fiery, with a stronger melodic sense. Still there's no denying the late 70's fusion sound. What separates Den Za Den from the pack is the exceptional guitarist, the distinct melodies, and perhaps best of all, the insane drumming along the lines of Arti + Mestieri. I'm a sucker for active drummers, so I naturally rate this one higher than other fusion albums of the era. Maybe Slovakia's Fermata is the closest comparison amongst the usual suspects like Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report. Like most East Euro LP's, the sound quality is extremely muddy. Experience has shown the master tapes are well preserved, so a CD reissue is likely to raise the rating another point. This one desperately could use a reissue.

Priority: 2

Friday, November 26, 2010

Circus, Switzerland





Oops. I had intended on adding Circus at the beginning of the blog when I was publishing my already-established Priority 1's. Then came the announcement from the German label Sireena that they were going to reissue the debut album (which has sadly fallen through), and I put the entry on hold. And then I forgot about it! So this entry is long overdue.

Circus - s/t. 1976 Zyt.
Circus - Movin' On. 1977 Zyt. (the 1990 CD on Decoder is long deleted)
Circus - All-Star Band Live. 1978 Zyt.
Circus - Tearless Fearless and Evenless. 1980 Illuminatus.

My review for Gnosis (dated 2006) for the debut stated: "The Swiss quartet Circus is as diverse as the country itself. Though based in the Germanic city of Basle, Circus does not recall any band that is typically known as Krautrock. And their instrumentation is highly unusual, featuring only flute, bass, drums/percussion and vocals with occasional saxophone and acoustic guitar. With such a stripped down line-up one would expect a more minimal recording, but in fact Circus have quite the full sound. Much of this has to with bandleader Marco Cerletti’s bass gymnastics. Through pedals and effects, he obtains guitar and organ like textures, while also maintaining that wonderful “woody” bass sound that can often drive a recording. Of course, the dedicated flute player helps immensely in the melody and solo department. Though most known for their second album “Movin’ On”, arguably Switzerland’s finest progressive rock moment, this debut is not one to overlook. More subdued than its successor, it nonetheless packs a wallop, through dynamic change, when you least expect it. Again, easy comparisons are tough with Circus, but UK stalwarts Van der Graaf Generator come to mind in the vocal department (courtesy of Roland Frei), and the constant counterpoint allows us to pull out the Gentle Giant credit card. There’s also a sophisticated chamber music feel throughout."

As mentioned above, "Movin' On" is widely considered their masterpiece, and I concur. The legit CD on Decoder (1990) is criminally out of print, and this album is often bootlegged, as demand remains high. "All Star Band-Live" is pretty much a jam session, and completely moves away from the intricate and delicate compositions of the first two albums. It's a huge disappointment from my perspective. The final album is a very good comeback, though Circus are beginning to incorporate some AOR influences. Perhaps the best comparison here would be the Swiss band Flame Dream at the time of "Out in the Dark".

Priority: 1 (for the first two albums)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Celluloid, USA



Celluloid - Mercury. 1982 private.
Celluloid - Neptune. 1983 private.

Celluloid is the non de plume of Chuck Minuto. "Neptune" is entirely performed on mellotron and thus sounds like a mellotron sampler album, especially considering the number of tapes used. "Mercury" is slightly more diverse, but still heavily focused on the mellotron. Unless you can't get enough of the instrument, these albums are hard to recommend. Even more strange is these were released in the early 80s, when everyone was ditching the heavy analog equipment. I'm featuring separately only due to the unique nature of the recordings and the fact that the mellotron is a featured instrument for the style of music we typically highlight.

Priority: none

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

News: BTF releases Garybaldi archive album


If nothing else, what an absolutely AMAZING cover. Wow, I wish all new releases took the time and effort to put out something like this. Time to put away the Photoshop tools I think, and get back to real paintings such as this.

This cover of course is an homage to what I consider one of the top 10 LP covers of all-time: The triple fold out of "Nuda". One of my prized possessions.

Garybaldi - Note Perdute

"An amazing collection of rarities for one of the most important bands of Italian 70′s prog-rock: Garybaldi. This anthology contains a track that was meant to be included in their Gleemen debut, some live and alternate versions recorded between 1969 and 1998, and an amazing gem, three live tracks recorded during the Naples Be-In festival of 1973, one of the very few testimonies of those legendary festivals, as in those times no one used to record gigs in Italy! The CD version of this release also includes a special DVD documentary dedicated to Garybaldi with some amazing interviews and vintage videos. Also a vinyl version for collectors will be released.
The artwork has been entirely conceived by Matteo Guarnaccia, one of the most important psychedelic painters in Italy: inspired by the famous “Nuda” cover art, he draw a marvellous triple gatefold artwork.

This record will be celebrate in 4 different releases:
1) Triple gatefold LP with 180g black vinyl and a 25x60cm poster with vintage pics of Garybaldi/Gleemen.
2) Triple gatefold LP with multicolor vinyl, a 25x60cm poster with vintage pics of Garybaldi/Gleemen, a special glossy deluxe transparent 60x90cm maxiposter with 24 original comic cartoons drawn by Matteo Guarnaccia, numbered and autographed by the artist himself. Limited edition of 100 copies.
3) “Garybaldi-Guarnaccia” box containing: Triple gatefold LP with 180g black vinyl, the two 25x60cm photographic and 60x90cm comic posters, the CD+DVD release and one of the 24 original drawings inclued in the deluxe poster. Limited edition of 24 copies, available only on Matteo Guarnaccia exhibitions.
4) CD+DVD in triple papersleeve format. Contains the CD and the DVD with over one hour of Garybaldy rock-umentary, with interviews of all band members and many vintage videos of the golden age of Italian prog.

Tracklist:
Il volto stanco della gente (unreleased)
Hai messo al rogo M. H. (alternate version)
Harold (live 1998)
Luci buie (Live 1973)
Madre di cose perdute (Live 1973)
Sette? (Live 1973)
Passaminabirra (unreleased, live)"

News: BTF releases a new archival discovery: Le Vite Parallele


BTF has a few exciting looking items on the horizon (including a new album by Nuova Era, one of my favorite Italian bands of the late 80s and early 90s).

This one looks to be an embryonic work, and a missing link as it were from the Italian beat scene to the progressive one. Unlike in the US or England, the Italian progressive rock scene just seemed to "wake up" one day, and there it was. No doubt there were other bands / recordings like this one (going off the notes below of course). Looks like a great discovery! Also, really interesting story about the first Formula 3 album cover (one of the all-time great covers on an otherwise mundane beat styled album).

"Le Vite Parallele are a sensational discovery, since we are dealing with a concept album, recorded in Milan between 1969 and 1970 and never published until now!
Formed by singer Enzo Maolucci and recorded in the famous "Basilica" of Mina, arranged by Nando De Luca (the one of "Azzurro"!) and nearly released by Sandro Colombini, boss of the famous "Numero Uno " label, this work is also remarkable for the wonderful cover made by Tullio Rolandi: when Alberto Radius saw the sketches, he immediately contacted him, and that is how the artwork of the famous "Dies Irae" of Formula Tre was created.
This record is a remarkable document because it comes in a moment in time when Italian prog records could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Even more surprising that it is a concept album! Musically it is strongly focused on melodies, with relatively short tracks, but baroque arrangements and a use of keyboards that predicts the symphonic prog scene, that would be developed shortly thereafter by the big ones.
So this is a fundamental step to understand evolution of Italian prog in its beginnings and it is still unbelievable how such a fundamental piece of work has been left in oblivion for all these years.
Limited edition of 500 copies, deluxe papersleeve containing a large poster showing the history of the band and all the wonderful graphic sketches made in 1970.

1 STREGA D’APRILE
2 IL BUCO NEL MURO
3 SUI BALZI ROSSI
4 PER MIKE McCOY
5 IN QUESTA SELVA
6 CROCE PESANTE
7 PER DEOLA
8 I DABI LAMA LINDE
9 LA VECCHIA E LA STORIA
10 SCIMMIE NUDE
11 CALCI IN FACCIA
12 DI ERIKA
13 LE MELE D’ORO"

Bounty, USA


Bounty - s/t. 1977 H-Arts.

Strong instrumental progressive rock album from southern California, with grand piano and mid 70s synthesizers as the primary leads. Some accent guitar along with a crack rhythm section round out the instrumentation. Reminds me most of the Another Roadside Attraction album from Canada, with a touch of Graced Lightning and Italy's Festa Mobile. And naturally ELP should be called out as well. According to the backside of the LP, Side one's sole track is from 1977 is only 11 minutes whereas Side 2 is a more traditional 20 minutes and the two compositions date back to 1975 (but recorded in '77).

Priority: 2

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

After Life, France


After Life - Cauchemar. 1975 Discophon.

Reissued on LP by Wah Wah, but no CD as of yet. After Life are one of those insane rarities, so obscure that it’s just now surfacing to the collector market. They were a French group whose only album gained a release in Spain. Turns out someone was digging through an old farmhouse in Aragon and found a stash under the hay, behind the pitchforks....or something. As for the music, it’s one of the most baffling releases I’ve heard in years. On the plus half, there’s a haunting progressive laced sound, with that doomy vibe only the French seem to conjure up. Recalls first album East of Eden or The Visitors, and the vocalist has that gruff voice which is very similar to the guy from Alusa Fallax. Most of these are sung, whispered, or narrated in French. The Visitors influence is not that surprising when one learns that the master of all things obscure is involved: J.P. Massiera. On the downside, and I mean really down, there’s these godawful rock-n-roll tracks, like Bad Company playing the most insipid Bachman Turner Overdrive tunes. Complete with honky-tonk piano, harmonica and badly accented English vocals. It’s not a good A-side, bad B-side situation, but rather they are intertwined for an entirely frustrating listen. Obtain a cheap copy, but don’t spend too much time digging for it – at a record show or in the barns of the Spanish landscape...

Priority: none

Monday, November 22, 2010

Alpha du Centaure, France


OK, we've returned and as promised, I'm back in the saddle here. Didn't see any news of interest while we were gone, but I'm still checking sources.

Alpha du Centaure - Contact. 1979 Spirals.

Imagine if Jimi Hendrix played in front of a jazz rhythm duo. Wild fuzzy wah wah guitar screaming over stand-up bass and scattered jazz drumming. If only the guitarist played that way for the entire duration - that would be some album! There's also some typical jazz guitar and on those cuts, you'll be wishing you had your Grant Green albums handy instead. Bought this one on ebay a few years ago, and it's one I plan on keeping.

Priority: 3

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Taking a short break


Just a courtesy post to my regular readers that I plan on unplugging and taking a couple of weeks off from my normal routine. I will not be able to post/reply-to your comments until I return.

I should be back to posting around Nov. 21 or 22.

Thanks to everyone for reading and supporting this blog!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Brèche, Canada


Breche - Carapace et Chair Tendre. 1979 La Tamanoir.

Uplifting progressive folk rock with a multitude of acoustic instruments like guitar, flute, violin. Recalls other similarly minded Quebec groups like Connivence, Harmonium, Les Karrik, and label mates L'Engoulevant. Maybe Malicorne as well from the mother country.

Priority: 3

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Crossfire, Australia


Crossfire - s/t. 1975 Harvest.

With the soprano sax, and occasional hard guitar lead, Crossfire brings to mind the German group Aera, or maybe a slightly less rocking Secret Oyster. Fellow Australians Mackenzie Theory could almost be sited as a reference, though trading the violin in for soprano sax. All instrumental save the last track (and the vocals proved to not be a good idea). Crossfire went on to release at least 3 further albums starting in 1978, presumably even more fusion oriented than their debut.

Priority: 3

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

News: First 3 Lighthouse albums due to be reissued


Well known (at least by the standards of this site) Canadian horn rockers Lighthouse, are set to have their first 3 albums put on CD by a label called Bandiera Music. I cannot find any info about the label, which is usually a red flag. However it is being distributed by a reputable company that does not deal in boots, and the description adamantly insists they are from the original RCA master tapes. So for now we'll presume they are legit. I suspect more data will come out about these releases over time. I think they will do well in the reissue market, as Lighthouse had a couple of radio hits in the early 70s.

Dizzy Bats, Switzerland


Dizzy Bats - The Light and the Dark. 1974 Swiss Records.

One of many records to be compared to an "x Placebo" where x = country of execution. In this case we supposedly have the Swiss Placebo (though I thought Lost Peace was closer in style). Still a pleasant bit of instrumental jazz funk with funky bass, sax, flute, etc... - speaking of which, there are a couple of flute driven numbers that do indeed recall Marc Moulin's bunch.

Priority: none

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Einstein in Eden, Germany


Einstein in Eden - s/t. 1981 Polydor.

Interesting album that is truly symphonic rock - as in a symphonic band plays rock music. Side 1 is the more interesting piece that mixes epic classical soundtrack with electronic music. I could see fans of Art Zoyd appreciating this aspect of the group. Side 2 has more of a rock feel, with big fat beats approaching disco, that gets awfully close to Walter Murphy and The Big Apple Band - and genuine hokum ensues. Eventually they get back to their senses and close the album similar to how it started. But the stains are already on the carpet. Hard to get out.

Priority: none

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fourth Sensation, Italy


Fourth Sensation - s/t. 1970 Ricordi.

Somewhat typical instrumental psych/blues/jazz rock music. Roller rink organ dominates, and this sound is combined with half Les Paul era non-distorted electric leads and half way-out psychedelic fuzz. This is precisely the kind of music that would be used in those party sequence shots of an old "Streets of San Francisco" episode. All good fun, though nothing extraordinary like the Braen's Machine "Underground" album, or even Blue Phantom, both also from Italy during this time. Fourth Sensation is probably most similar to the Psycheground album - that was reissued by BTF/AMS recently.

Priority: none