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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Updated post: Leong Lau


Thanks to the AC, I was able to hear what had become a top want: Leong Lau's second album "That Rongeng Sound". It's an unworthy successor to what I consider one of the best discoveries of 2010 (for myself that is). The AC left no description to ponder on, which was my first good clue that this album wasn't going to live up to its predecessor's splendor.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Everfriend, USA


Everfriend - Tropicsphere. 1980 private
Everfriend - Sphere of Influence. 1981 private
Everfriend - Shoot to Kill. 1983 Jazzical

Here's the final album of the last batch from MM. He had sent me Sphere of Influence a long while ago, and I decided to hold off posting until he tracked down Tropicsphere, which he'd already told me he had a bead on anyway. And here it is.

Tropicsphere starts off precisely in the place that the title suggests: The Love Boat basically. Breezy lounge styled jazz rock with trumpet, lightly amplified electric guitar, Rhodes piano, and lush dreamy female vocals. And then suddenly... ...suddenly it goes all Hatfield and the North. The drummer, who was going bonkers even on the slow commercial numbers, decided enough was enough, and it was time to start jamming! Here come the synthesizer solos and Northette styled vocals, and now we have something worth talking about! Now that the band has been "outed" as it were, all pretense of anything but keyboard driven Big 3 progressive rock are brought forth. Flip the record over and we start off with a flute driven jazz rock number. This is followed by a classically oriented harpsichord medley. And so it goes getting more and more progressive... a very good album overall.

Sphere of Influence (apparently the band likes the name Sphere) is quite similar in its diversity, though IMO a step down from the debut. In researching the record, I see that Prog Not Frog has posted this one, with the following excellent review: "(Sphere of Influence) displays an interesting mixture of styles, from spacey and classically influenced keyboard pieces featuring tons of vintage gear (including Mellotron!) to full-blown complex symphonic prog and even some weird synth-fronted jazz-rock. This one could only have come from the US prog underground. It just totally has that "feel", if you know what I mean." And yes, I completely concur about the "feel" part.

Everfriend were from New Jersey and, perhaps predictably given their music "sphere", later relocated to Florida.

----

May 7, 2015 update: Well, we thought we'd closed the book on Everfriend, but the ever enterprising AC has dug up a 3rd album, unbeknownst but to a few, perhaps only the band themselves. I think they should have named the album Sphere to Kill? Oh well...

So AC, what do we have here? "The third, final and undoubtedly most obscure Everfriend album sees leader Bill Rhodes (real name Ruprecht) in the latter stages of his (perhaps unfortunate) transition from prog/fusion band leader to typical 80s bedroom solo synth wizard, a path he pursued into general obscurity with many forgotten releases through the rest of the 80s and early 90s. The result here is a first side of embarrassingly goofy song oriented synth/drum machine pieces and a more serious side-long electronic suite that's kind of interesting and atmospheric at times, though ultimately falling far short of greatness. Has some period interest, as the then-recent Flight 007 incident that this piece is themed after was definitely one of the flashpoints of that particularly "hot" period of the Cold War, but that will only take you so far. Kind of a sad end really, as the first two albums, while not classics by any means, had some real moments of interest. As a side note, this has to be one of the most homespun looking LPs I have ever laid eyes on, consisting of nothing but a couple of black and white paste-on covers on a generic white sleeve, an insert that looks like it came straight out of an old typewriter and a laughably cheap and flimsy vinyl pressing."

And with that.... Well, yea, time to close the book on Everfriend methinks.

Priority: 3 (for Tropicsphere)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Vangelis, Greece


Vangelis - Sex Power. 1970 Philips.
Vangelis - Hypothesis. 1971/1978 Charly.
Vangelis - The Dragon. 1971/1978 Charly.

Another day, another delay. I have one more rarity sent in from MM's last batch to discuss, and some new ones from the AC and SF to tackle for the first time.

In the interim, let's get back to the archives from the main list. Obviously Vangelis needs no introduction, and his appearance into the CDRWL is odd indeed. But these three LPs have never been reissued to date. All for good reason, as I talk about below. Still, the album's are pretty good for what they are, and it would be nice to see Vangelis relax a bit here and let them loose. However, to be fair, it's his work and his legacy, so we have to respect that.

"Sex Power" is Vangelis' debut solo album, which is a pretty crude, but well done, soundtrack to a French soft core erotica flick. Not sure why this hasn't been reissued, given its historical value at the very least.

"Hypothesis" and "The Dragon" are loose rock jams recorded prior to his masterwork "666" with Aphrodite's Child. Vangelis treats these two recordings much in the same way as Klaus Schulze does with the Cosmic Jokers, in that he's distanced himself from them and claims they were never meant to be released to a larger audience. This argument can be further advanced by the fact that the LP's were released some 7 years later. And Vangelis successfully sued to have them removed from the market. Though not in time for them to proliferate world-wide. These two albums aren't particularly rare in original form.

Because of this circumstance, these albums naturally thrive in the bootleg CD market - unfortunately. For awhile it seemed the Sex Power CD (combined with another album) was authentic, but it proved to be "unauthorized" from a variety of sources.

Priority: 3

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Danger, Netherlands


Danger - s/t. 1973 Cow.

Still plenty of items to go through here. Perhaps some major new discoveries to report on. We'll see. In the meantime, let's get back to the archives. These are albums in the main list that I haven't reported on prior for a variety of reasons.

I first heard about Danger in the early 90s from one of the rare LP catalogs I was receiving back then. The list compared Danger to Agitation Free. Subsequently Danger quickly became a top want and I searched high and low for it to no avail. Eventually I received a cassette of the album. OMG. Agitation Free??? I don't think so! Alright, but just because an album doesn't meet an unreasonably high expectation, doesn't mean it's bad either. However in this case, at least for my tastes, I'll validate this one is not very good at all.

Danger's one album is an Avant Garde / Systems jazz music made with organ, homemade synthesizers and tenor sax. Great atmosphere created by the organ is ruined by incredibly annoying and atonal saxophone honks and bleeps. Takes the patience of the Biblical Job to get through it all. For fans of extreme music, this album remains much sought after. For the rest of us, it's a mere curiosity.

Priority: none

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ashby Ostermann Alliance, USA


Ashby Ostermann Alliance - s/t. 1981 Divide.

Another fine entry from MM, Chicago based Ashby Ostermann Alliance is a good example of early 80s fusion mixed with a strong rock aesthetic. This latter element is often missing in the progressive rock & jazz rock genres. In fact the AOA album doesn't give that indication early. It seems to be pointed in the direction of Latin Jazz, but about midway through Side 1, the guitarist begins to take over. Then the compositions take on more complex forms, and before you know it, you have a mighty fine progressive fusion album on your hands. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that these guys knew or played with fellow Chicagoan group Proteus.

Dusty Groove, the superb record shop from Chicago whose primary focus is in the soul-jazz-funk-fusion fields of music, has recently had a used copy of AOA album in stock. Their quick review says "Obscure fusion from the Chicago scene – played by a group with heavy guitars from Vince Ashby and wailing keyboards from Dennis Ostermann! The sound is jamming, but with some nice tight moments that almost get funky." That's pretty much spot on.

Hard to grab a story line here, but I think this one would go down a storm with the obscure fusion LP buying community. Neat cover art too.

Priority: 3

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Artport, USA


Artport - s/t. 1982 private.

Wanted to give an extra day for the Ginga Rale Band to settle in. In the meantime, I started tackling a new stack sent in from Midwest Mike. His posts definitely resonate with our fusion base of readers. I've still got a few more I need to get out of the archives and give a fresh post, as he's turned in quite a bit of these type of fusion albums over the years.

Late 1970s and early 80s American fusion isn't my favorite subgenre of the progressive rock movement, but I'm starting to catch the vibe that fellow explorers MM, AC and long time good friend Jeff Nintzel have been emanating for years.

Artport is the kind of album I find very pleasant to listen to. Perhaps not something I'll froth about, but is easy to appreciate their technical ability, melodies and composition style. The main differentiator with Artport is the guitar is entirely acoustic. This is a very welcome sound in an all too predictable environment. You still get the 80s slap bass and sterilized shopping mall slickness - but the guitar is extraordinary. I can easily recommend this to private fusion collectors. Artport are from Minnesota, and the album is obscure, though not necessarily expensive.

Priority: none

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ginga Rale Band, Austria


Ginga Rale Band - Wir Bedauern... 1980 Reibo.

Here it is: Our 3rd and last of the recent amazing discoveries from the bottom of the mine. And that's not to say the dig is over, as I've been handed a few more albums from various sources. Though the advance word is none are extraordinary. That remains to be seen (or heard) of course.

This is another one courtesy of our good friend The AC. Quick research over at RYM shows that fellow explorer and Gnosis mate Lev had already landed on these shores. He promised a return visit, but he knew he'd found gold that's for sure.

We've said this many times before, but it can be somewhat mind-boggling that an album this good can be so deeply buried for so long. We've certainly turned up albums that are just as rare - but they may be more obviously flawed or teetering on the fringes of the genre we love. But Ginga Rale Band's debut is the kind of album that is likely to have wide appeal. After hearing it for the first time, I wanted an original LP immediately. I braced myself for the inevitable sticker shock. That collectors knew about it already, and the proverbial arm and leg was the asking price. But I was pleased to find one online for under $100. Not cheap to be certain, but it could have been 10 times that for all I knew. It took a long time to seal that deal, and thus the extended delay from point of first hearing (early December) until reporting here.

Musically, what are we talking about anyway? The AC introduced them to me this way: "Led by keyboardist Pipi Furz and guitarist Rainer Hochrainer, this virtually unknown Austrian group conjured up something truly amazing here. The backbone of their music is a kind of loose progressive jazz-rock of the distinctly "kraut-fusion" variety, but that doesn't really tell the half of it. Long, sprawling tracks unwind in a non-linear fashion, with all sorts of unexpected twists and turns, bizarre vocal interjections and sonic detours, creating an unsettling and distinctly surreal atmosphere that hovers over the entire album like a weird mist. Wild, reckless creativity and delirious imagination abound, entirely at odds with the standard funky fusion and symphonic prog that dominated the Germanic scene of the time. These guys were on too strange a trip to ever think about compromising or playing it safe, describing themselves as a "Dada Rock Brainstorming Cooporation" right on the cover. If this album had come out of 1972 Berlin, it would already be legendary. But emerging from this particular time and place, it never really had a chance. A lost krautrock classic if there ever was one."

As any reader of the CDRWL knows, there were dozens of Kraut fusion albums from the late 70s and early 80s. Some are slick and tedious, others had a raw edge that is highly appealing. But Ginga Rale Band took it a step further concerning the latter point. Not only is it raw and complex - the music is incredibly unpredictable and exciting - but there's also this dark haunting cosmic angst that conjures up images of Tangerine Dream's "Electronic Meditation" and Ash Ra Tempel's "Schwingungen" when there are screaming voices present. "Wir Bedauern..." gets wilder and freakier as it goes, almost always a hallmark of a great album.

It would seem obvious the name was a play on the ginger ale drink. And that's been confirmed. There's actually a page on the web about them. The AC took this a step further and added these historical notes: "My German is nonexistent, but with the (somewhat dubious) help of Babelfish, I was able to determine that the band was founded in 1977 in Salzburg as the "Ginger Ale Band". In 1980 they changed the name to Ginga Rale Band, and released "Wir Bedauern...". It seems their "dada rock" concept saw them producing some sort of stage show with film projectors, additional actors, etc, (syncs up with the Austrian guy on RYM who said something like "They held nice open air festivals..."). It seems like after this there were some major line-up changes, and the band took a totally different direction. As you can see on the discography provided by that site, they produced a couple of (presumably private press) singles, which seem to be tied in with some kind of rock opera named "Rock Dream" that they were involved in. I checked around and amazingly found one of these tracks posted on youtube! As you can hear, it's angsty punk/new wave oriented stuff with female vocals, totally at odds with their earlier material. I think this is down to the line-up changes that I mentioned, and this brings up another interesting point. It seems that after "Wir Bedauern...", the band mostly became a vehicle for Hochrainer and his wife. In fact, it turns out that "Rainer" Hochrainer was actually named Paul, and you can also see his rather extensive discography (extending up to the current day) on that site. It turns out that Hochrainer and a couple of the other Ginga Rale guys actually guested on the first Aardvark (the Austrian one, obviously) LP, an album I remember hearing a long time ago and not liking at all (stylistically all over the map, from what I can recall). Anyway, after these singles they made an appearance on an obscure Austrian new wave/punk compilation under the name of "Friques Ginger Rale Band".

This sort of punk attitude unfortunately carries down to the track titles on "Wir Bedauern...", and represents the only problematic aspect of the album. There are only two tracks per side, and none are actually listed on the record label itself. But the back cover is clear on what those titles are. I've spent the last 13 years or so of my career heavily involved with Human Resources, so I shudder at seeing the N word. It's not clear why they use this title twice (even though they are different songs). The album doesn't appear to be racist in any way, and the content is almost entirely instrumental. I would imagine any kind of reissue would have to at least address this within the liner notes or even a renaming of the title(s). Some may say we are all too politically correct for our own good, but I could see many more folks being just flat out offended by it (including me frankly).

Back to The AC's historical notes: "Finally, in 1984 "Information" was released, and then it seems they disbanded. I had heard that this later LP was in a Germanic polit-rock/agit-rock style, but based on the album's entry on that site and the style they had already been playing in for the past 3 years, I'd say it's probably more like a new wave/agit-punk mixture. Obviously well outside our interest area, in any case. Anyway, I haven't been able to find any useful links to this point, but I'm hoping that Hochrainer's relatively recent musical activity would mean making contact with him is still possible, hopefully leading to some interest in a Ginga Rale Band reissue or archival release."

Ginga Rale Band is a bulls eye for those that love the German Kraut fusion style, with the added bonus of successfully re-creating the atmosphere of the edgy cosmic Berlin-styled Krautrock of 1971.

Amazing find.

Priority: 1

Friday, February 17, 2012

Woorden, Netherlands


Woorden - s/t. 1968 Omega.

Ack - no real progress made last night. Still at least a day away from our latest big discovery. Back to the archives.

I could see this album having strong appeal to the right listener. And I'm not the right listener...

Woorden's sole work is a freaky jazz / beat poet / psychedelic album - primarily sung / spoken in Dutch, with some nonsensical English. Real underground sounds here. Imagine hitting North Beach circa 1967, and thinking those cats in Haight Ashbury are nothing more than a bunch of peacenik punks who'd run under Mommy's skirt the moment the "pigs" and "fuzz" broke up the party. But these guys would keep on smoking their cigarillos while still vehemently protesting against The Man..... Man.

Cool period artwork for the gatefold cover.

Priority: none

News: Garden of Delights relists Pancake's "No Illusions" for future release


Thanks to a comment from reader Jim D, it appears GoD has re-added Pancake's final album "No Illusions". For my money, this is their best album and I'm glad to see GoD has reconsidered.

I haven't mentioned it prior, but it's been on their site a few months, that Garden of Delights also plans on releasing a second archival album by Tetragon called "Agape" from 1973. The first one, "Stretch", was quite good and better than I expected. So we'll see!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cellutron & the Invisible, USA


Cellutron & the Invisible - Reflecting on the First Watch, We Uncover Treasure Buried for the Blind. 1978 Green Mountain.

Alright, back again. Work is beginning to dominate all aspects on my life. I sensed that at the beginning of the year. Desperately trying to keep up with the hobbies here. We still have one monster album to report on from the AC's January batch. That LP arrived in the mail earlier in the week (I bought one immediately) and I want to hear it one more time before posting. Hopefully tomorrow.

In the meantime, let's go back to the archives to kill time. This is proving to be a good exercise, as I hadn't added my rating/review for this title to RYM yet, even though the entry has been there for years. Just an oversight on my part.

I remember first stumbling upon Cellutron & the Invisible in an obscure Little Rock, Arkansas record store back in 1992. I thought I'd found the American Heldon, or worst case, Ilitch. It had that right look! I couldn't wait to get home and check this puppy out. But alas it was not to be the case. It's a rather dull and static electronic album, but with a few guitar touches that saved it from being a complete yawner.

Priority: none

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jean-Michel Desbouis, France




Jean-Michel Desbouis - Prince. 1982 FLVM.

Here's another album, like the US band Window that we reported on this past summer, where I had a cassette for many years which contained almost no info, and thus I couldn't corroborate any of the data. So I never added it to the CDRWL. For all I knew it was a demo of some sort that never was released.

The cassette was simply labeled: Prince [1986 France]. Gnosis had the same title as me (Prince - s/t. 1986), now since adjusted. RYM currently has a Prince listed as 1977 without a cover. It looks all the world to be this album. They also had the Desbouis album listed, but without a rating until now.

How did we get here? Well, another submission from the king of treasure hunters: The AC. My eyes perked up as soon as I saw it. I wonder if...? I mentioned it to him about my suspicion. As always, he had a thoughtful response, that gives a very reasonable explanation towards the confusion. "It's quite possible that both of these mystery albums you mentioned are actually the Desbouis album. The whole presentation of this LP is bound to cause confusion. The front cover has absolutely no text on it, while the back cover is basically the same as the front, but with just "Prince" printed on the top. Only the insert has any information on it, but it only lists the track titles and musicians. There's no release date printed anywhere on the LP. I knew from the sound, style and place of origin that it was probably an early 80s album, but I couldn't be certain until I found Desbouis' own Myspace page, which confirms that it was recorded in late '81 and released in '82. As I mentioned in my notes, this is definitely one of the rarest of these French electronic prog LPs, so I could certainly envision a scenario where years back some prog fan finds the LP, but it's missing the insert. It then enters into circulation via tape trading, with no real information other than that it's called "Prince"... ...This would also explain why, aside from the fact that it's always been very hard to find to begin with, that it's remained so obscure. Because if people really knew that it had Stella Vander singing on it, I'm sure it would have been a much better known item in the prog underground for years now, due to the general obsession with all things Magma. It's only a theory, but if these other albums you mentioned do indeed turn out to be one and the same, it could be a plausible explanation." (BTW I feel obligated to say this: This note wasn't even written with publication in mind - and just shows you the depth of his writing/cognitive skills. I know he won't mind me sharing.)

So after hearing the album and then doing a quick comparison. YEP! They're the same!

So let's get to The AC's album notes: "Extremely obscure French electronic prog album, and quite similar to other efforts of this type from the late 70s/early 80s underground scene. The main difference here is that none other than Stella Vander is on board to provide vocals on some of the tracks, which is a very nice addition. The whole album has a sort of floating, spacey vibe that's somewhat trance-inducing. It's high quality stuff, and definitely recommended to fans of the genre. Unfortunately, it's also one of the rarest LPs of this kind. Desbouis had previously played in a band named Aum, and is still musically active to this day. You can check out his current project on Myspace, and be sure to scroll down the page a bit for some cool pictures of Stella, himself and all of that great vintage synth gear taken during the recording of this album." He included the MySpace link as well.

There's not much else I can add here. The female vocals from Stella add an otherworldly vibe to the very professional electronic soundscapes and sequences. Definitely recommended to fans of French and German electronic music.

Priority: 3

Thanks to SF for the additional scans!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Leo Jones Workshop, USA


The Leo Jones Workshop - Fire Engine and Crossover. 1974 Mirrorsonic (CS 7237)

And as promised from yesterday, here's a great discovery for all of you who love the early 70s dirty deep funk jazz psych rock of Miles Davis. I know I do, and I have to thank long time Gnosis mate Vdorje for that appreciation.

This album once again arrives from the vast resources of The AC. His perspective: "Leo Jones is a trumpet player who studied under free jazz heavyweight Bill Dixon in the late 60s. In the early 70s, he received a grant from the city of New York to run a program called the "Lower East Side Community Music Workshop", formed to foster musical creativity in the city's youth, and ultimately leading to the creation of this unique artifact, recorded with a bunch of Jr. High school students in Manhattan. The album consists of two sprawling side-long tracks, seemingly stitched together from a couple of live jam sessions. The style presented here is firmly in the mold of early 70s Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi band, Eddie Henderson, and the like. A relentless groove is laid down, with Leo and the kids attempting to "run the voodoo down" on top of it, with electronically effected trumpet, electric guitar, electric piano, clavinet, etc. Due to the raw nature of the recording and the mostly amateur musicians involved, this can seem somewhat sloppy and aimless at times. But, when it all finally comes together it does get pretty intense and hypnotic. I suppose the term "kosmigroov" might come to mind, but this is actually quite a bit darker and freakier than that generally implies. This LP can be hard to track down, but it's certainly one that warrants investigation for fans of psychedelic electric jazz."

Now that's some story! An accomplished trumpet player laying down the deep groove with a bunch of 7th and 8th graders! When you hear this, you will not have any idea most of this is performed by kids in their young teens. It would seem task master Mr. Jones ran a tight ship. What an amazing artifact!

A must for fans of the genre.

Priority: 2

Friday, February 10, 2012

Demon & Wizard, France


Demon & Wizard - Evil Possessor. 1982 private.

Took a few days off this week from the stereo, but managed to make some progress last night. We still have one monster album to talk about and my LP is on the way now. Of the 3 (including Thomsett and Phase), this might be my favorite of the lot. More to come on that. Also, tomorrow I'll be reporting on an album that I'm certain fans of early 70's Miles Davis will freak on.

Today's post is once again courtesy of the AC. A very interesting album. Many of my initial thoughts were the same as AC's, so let's get his take first this time: "Hailing from Reims, this duo's lone LP, a private press released in micro quantities, is seemingly all but forgotten by time, representing perhaps the deepest, darkest recesses of the old French underground scene. In the unlikely scenario that you were to happen upon this relic collecting dust in some tiny French record store, your first thought might be that it's an unknown Venom style proto-black metal record, what with its ultra-primitive hand drawn cover that looks like something straight out of an old Advanced Dungeons & Dragons module, and track titles like "Medieval Holocaust", "Shaking the Gates of Hell" and "Black Witch". But what a shock you would be in for as the needle drops, revealing a shadowy aural landscape that would serve as the perfect soundtrack to some weird 70s horror film. Haunting, folky acoustic guitar passages blend into classic French electronic prog, with gurgling analog synths, bass, electric guitar, and occasional vocals, creating a strange, occult atmosphere that will stay with you long after the music has stopped. Admittedly, the execution is a bit amateurish at times (these guys were probably mere teenagers when this was recorded), but in a way that only adds to the charm. Definitely worth hunting down for fans of French deep underground sounds and experimental krautrock."

Haha - that was my first thought too: "Black Metal" by Venom. As an old metal head from back in the day (as in 1979-1983), I can only imagine my look of horror as I dropped the needle on this album, thinking I'd uncovered an underground metal masterpiece.

Demon & Wizard fall in line with many of the obscure acts of the French underground of the late 70s and early 80s. I would have expected this to be released on the D.I.Y. FLVM label, as it has that vibe. Or perhaps Disjuncta. The sparseness created by the acoustic guitars and synthesizers had me thinking at once of Images, Kennlisch, Lourival Silvestre, Flamen Dialis and even early Richard Pinhas circa "Rhizosphere".

Another nice find from the AC!

Priority: 3

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

News: Garden of Delights to release live May Blitz Show


Garden of Delights, via their non-German oriented Thors Hammer imprint, will release an archival live show from the UK based power rock trio May Blitz called "Essen 1970". GoD has released some other Essen shows in the past most notably from Xhol Caravan. I think this one could be interesting, as it would seem that May Blitz could be an adventurous act in a live setting. We shall see!

Label says: "On Tuesday, 22nd October 1970, the group performed in the Gruga hall at the third Essen Pop & Blues Festival. The event was recorded semi-professionally. The recordings could be purchased from the promoters and were re-mastered in a studio with great effort and care. The sound, however, is naturally not as good as that of the two studio LPs. The 32-page booklet contains a long band history in German and English, photographs, a detailed discography, numerous cover and label repros as well as a personal retrospective report by guitarist and singer James Black. A must for collectors. It is the first legitimate release of a May Blitz live recording and is released both as LP in deluxe gatefold cover and as CD."

Monday, February 6, 2012

News: Modulus to reissue fantastic new discovery: Phase - Midnight Madness!!!




And here it is, as hinted for some days now, the second of 3 monster albums we're reporting on from our latest dig into the rarities mine! And this is the first time in CDRWL history where the post coincides with an announcement of a CD reissue!

Phase - Midnight Madness. 1979 Red Mark - QCA. (aka Fusion Quartet - Comprovisations. 1981 Happening.)

This is the final album from the original November batch that Midwest Mike sent in. It was the one he was the most enthusiastic about, as he knew it was a great discovery. So good in fact, it created a firestorm behind the scenes. And thus its delay in getting this posting out.

It's almost hard to believe an album like this can remain completely unknown until 2012 (neither version is listed in RYM (like many of our titles, Isabel has been kind enough to have now added these to RYM!) - and I just added it to Gnosis). Especially considering there were two full pressings of it with local distribution in a large metropolis area like New York / New Jersey. And with the locale in mind, it didn't take long for Modulus owner Ken Golden to track the band down. They're practically in his backyard! And it's official: Phase will be Modulus' 3rd release after Het Pandorra Ensemble and Randy Roos (BTW - those two now have a street release date of March 25).

So let's get Ken's quick summary of the background first: "Phase was keyboardist's Regan Ryzuk's band and they were based out of Montville, NJ. Two years later Regan released it under the Fusion Quartet "Comprovisations" title. It's a very good album that I think will floor a lot of people and it deserves to be more widely known."

Now let's get some impressions of the music. MM says: "Instrumental progressive jazz rock of the highest caliber. From the very start this album explodes out and doesn't leave you with much room to catch your breath! Top notch musicianship with fiery solos of bass, piano, Moog and electric guitar. Odd and complicated time meters with killer trade-offs as well as incredible unison sections. This sometimes reminds me of Iceberg, a bit of Return to Forever and the Italian band Nova (at their peak). As mesmerizing at it is amazing! I believe once this gets known it will become a future rarity. Highly recommended to jazz rock, fusion and progressive rock fans."

The AC was brought into the action as well. He picked one up immediately and had this response: "Killer album! Really complex and edgy for a private fusion LP of this sort, almost getting avant-progish at times. I think the fact that the keys player uses a regular piano rather than a Rhodes also lends to this impression. Guitar gets quite ferocious at times, too. Love the ultra-technical music geek notes on the back of the sleeve! Wonder whatever happened to these guys? They really were top-notch players."

So I think those comments sum it up well. It's smoking fusion first, instrumental progressive rock second. A great mix of instrumental dexterity, with complex compositions and ferocious playing. RTF meets Kenso; or Iceberg meets Transit Express for a more obscure reference.

An amazing find.

And it will be on CD this year!

Wow.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Yog Sothoth, France


Yog Sothoth - s/t. 1984 Cryonic.

Still on track for our announcement tomorrow. In the meantime, I'll need to pull in a "gap filler" from the main list to cover today's post. Now this is an album where my mediocre rating is in the minority. Many of my friends and peers seem to enjoy it. My notes upon hearing Yog Sothoth were "Like a more free jazz version of the 80s Zeuhl based efforts by Yoch'ko Seffer or Bernard Paganotti. Can get a bit annoying in places." I've seen comparisons to that most dark of Zeuhl adopters Shub Niggurath, but I just don't hear it myself. They share an affinity for Lovecraft and that's about it.

There are a handful of Cryonic albums that didn't make the transition to Musea. Most notably the Komintern LP reissue. The more radical the album, the less likely it saw a CD on Musea.

All the same, many folks want to see this on CD. Probably would make sense to see it reissued on a label like Soleil Zeuhl (though I personally could think of many other albums in the genre that are more deserving).

Priority: none

Saturday, February 4, 2012

JAS, USA



JAS (James Arthur Schneider) - Awakening. 1977 private. (1975-1977 recordings)

OK - we have a big announcement coming up on Monday - and it features one of the 2 albums I've been hinting about for days now. That LP arrived in the mail today, and I want to hear it one more time before posting. I know I won't get to it tonight, so it will be tomorrow, with a post on Monday. Exciting stuff. And it will be wrapped together with a CD reissue announcement. Yes, that's right, a total superb unknown LP with a CD reissue all at the same time! So everyone will have a chance to own it soon.

In the meantime, let's cover off on this major rarity recently sent in. Now this one is wrapped in an interesting story (perhaps only for me LOL - so you can skip a few paragraphs if you only care about the music). As I may have stated before, I started compiling "curiosity lists" as far back as 1988 or so. I started bringing in mail order catalogs from the back of the pages of Goldmine. Guys like Paul Major (the best catalog writer ever!), Gregg Breth, Greg Pawelko, Zary Smith, Jeff Baker, Walter Geertsen, Willi Oertel amongst many other worthy lists (old timers will remember these guys). I would diligently catalog the unknown titles. Originally written in a notebook, and then later to computer text files and ultimately into spreadsheets. I did that until about 1996 or so, and then I tired of all the also-ran albums that were being hyped up a bit. What we would later call in the Gnosis world an 8 level album (2.5 stars in RYM land). Not terrible by any means, but just average. So I gave it a rest, and focused on either new bands or collecting originals of albums I already knew.

Then came ebay (early 1999 for me), and a whole new slew of unknown albums were thrust upon us. And once again I began to diligently capture anything that looked interesting. I came up with all sorts of interesting "saved searches" on ebay to smoke out even the most obscure album. Over time, even that list was finally exhausted. Except for Jas - Awakening. And that's just how I had it listed. I had some generic music tag on it like "jazz psych with Indian instruments". Years of searching the internet turned up nothing. I handed my curiosity list to Heavyrock around 2005 or so, and even all his well-heeled contacts didn't have a clue. I saw the album listed in other folk's want-lists, with my exact description, along with other albums I had been looking for in the past (and had already found), so I knew the source of the want list: Heavyrock. Or me by extension. Eventually I concluded that I must have written the album down wrong, or missed some key bit of information. After all, I had found 100s of albums just like that back then, and I wasn't doing a deep dive. They were "casual curiosities" to be honest. Maybe another way of me saying I wasn't prepared to pay actual $ for it, but it would be cool to hear it first and then I'll lay down some jack if I like it. But since it never showed up in 10 years of looking for it (anywhere!), I pretty much wrote it off.

Fast forward to November 2011. I rarely scan ebay much anymore, except to look for a handful of LP originals I'm willing to pay $ for. But one evening, lacking anything else better to do while listening to an album, I decided to pull out some of those old "saved searches" I had on ebay and go through them. Most of these were built from 1999-2001, and I still have all of them. Perhaps most surprising is that they even still work (ebay is a case study on how to screw up a good thing). Many of these searches I haven't even looked at in 6+ years.

And lo and behold, on the one time I use an old search - there it was: Jas - Awakening. The ebay description filled in some blanks. Jas is J.A.S. - James Arthur Schneider. The auction featured photos of the front and back cover, which are on display here. Since MM is a huge fusion fanatic, I alerted him to it figuring he'd probably get more out of it than me. So he put in a bid. And lost. Much to our surprise. I mean who else knows this album? Well, all the folks that got a hold of my curiosity list years ago - that's who. Oh well, no big deal. We'll hear it eventually.

Two months later - guess what shows up in my virtual mailbox? - JAS. From the AC! Holy cow! Sure enough he knew someone who won that album. Are you kidding me? What amazing timing for all of us. So let's get his viewpoint:

Not to be confused with the 80s Atlanta-area spiritual jazz group Jas, this recording is actually the work of one James Arthur Schneider, an apparently west-coast based pianist and multi-instrumentalist whose bearded and totally stoned-looking visage adorns the back cover of this ridiculously obscure LP, recorded in two different sessions (live in Fairfax, California, 1975, and in the studio from Eugene, Oregon, 1977). Schneider's group is a seven piece jazz/rock ensemble, with a number of the musicians doubling on various Indian instruments as well. Schneider's acoustic piano forms the backbone of the music, joined by sax, flute and various other background elements over an active jazzy rhythm section. Both sides of the album, each consisting of two lengthy untitled instrumental tracks, unfold in a similar manner. The pieces generally start out in a somber jazzy mode, gradually building in intensity until the excellent and very McLaughlin-esque electric guitar joins in, taking things to another level. The best is saved for last, as the final and longest track rides a darkly intense rhythm, exploding into a frenzied crescendo with some of the most insanely ferocious, coruscating jazz-rock guitar I have ever heard. After this breathtaking peak, the piece further develops with flute at the lead, until eventually descending into an eerie conclusion, with ethnic percussion, backwards sound effects and creepy monk-like vocals. This track in particular is easily one of the most mind-blowing pieces of music I have heard in a very long time, and honestly left me in a state of near shock the first time I listened to it. I could perhaps envision some freaked-out underground jazzers from Germany or maybe Sweden having come up with something approaching this, but for a totally unknown US recording I found it to be highly unusual, to say the least. I would love to see this reissued and exposed to a larger audience, but unfortunately there's no way this would be feasible in its current sonic state. The sound is very raw and unbalanced, and would need a good deal of cleaning up to really make it presentable. But, if Mr. Schneider was to ever resurface and the original recordings still survive, I believe this would be a highly worthwhile project, especially if any additional archival material also exists. Finally, a quick note on the possible reason for the obscurity and scarcity of this album: Based on my copy of the LP, I would speculate that this never actually received a true commercial release, as the LP labels are completely blank, and both the back cover and original protective sleeve bear personal dedications from Schneider himself, indicating that this was perhaps only printed in a tiny run to give to friends, hand out at concerts, etc.

So, if you read carefully, the AC captured a very important point: This album wasn't ready for prime-time. It sounds like a bad demo. It makes Astre's "Foresight" sound like Dark Side of the Moon by comparison. Some of those smoking electric guitar solos are so buried in the mix, you can barely hear them. And yet you can tell he's really wailing. Intensely so.

Obviously, this is a very rare album. Not listed in RYM as of this writing (thanks Isabel for adding!). Mr. Schneider if you're out there - give us a shout!

Priority: 3 (in its current state) Priority 1 if remixed properly!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Compass, USA


Compass - Compass Rises. 1973 Schoolhouse.

While still waiting for "that" LP to arrive, let's go dig into the bag of rarities that the AC sent across last month. This one is definitely out of range for the CDRWL, but I still found it a very pleasant jazz record. As the AC notes, it's almost rare to hear a US jazz band use this much restraint during the early 70s. "Brit-jazz" is an apt comparison. This is the kind of record my wife really likes. Not squeaky and squonky experimental jazz nor the new age slop gloss that was to come around later in the decade. Just well played jazz, with a rock edge. Nice.

Compass were from upstate New York and recorded the album in Marblehead, MA (NE of Boston). According to data I found on the Net, it appears the band is looking into reissuing this title themselves in the near future. You will often see this band listed as Compass Rises, but it's definite the band is known as Compass. This group is not related to the American blues rock band Compass, who released one album in 1970.

The AC says: "Compass is an upstate New York jazz group who released this lone obscure LP, which was actually recorded in Massachusetts and pressed in Cincinnati. This one sort of straddles the line between electric modal jazz and early jazz-rock/fusion styles. But unlike many albums of this ilk from the early 70s US jazz scene, this lacks any of the free and freaky elements that were in vogue at the time. Instead, it embraces a more reserved and melodic sound, reminiscent of certain "brit-jazz" works that were being produced across the pond in the UK. The quality is quite consistent throughout, but the lengthy track "Schizoid" from side two is especially effective, with its echoing Fender Rhodes and plaintive sax creating a haunting, late-night vibe. Speaking of the Rhodes, anyone who (like myself) is a big fan of this classic instrument should consider this a mandatory listen, as the album is absolutely drenched in it from start to finish. Nothing mind-blowing here, but a very enjoyable effort nonetheless."

Priority: none

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Wintauge, Germany


Wintauge - Dem Anfang ein Lied. 1983 private.

I was really hoping to report on one of the other "big 2" I have on tap, but there's been another delay, so let's cover off on another major rarity. I was first tipped to Wintauge by Gnosis friend Lev, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of German music. And leave it to the AC to track this one down for us. I'm grateful to both for the knowledge and the resources they possess.

To simply put: Wintauge are a rock band that sings in German. A style of music that is actually known as Deutschrock in Germany itself, and which is distinguished from Krautrock. What makes the band interesting, are the instrumental portions of the songs, which have a strange 1960s aura - primarily due to the use of primitive keyboards and guitar tones. So imagine the music of late 70s Novalis but sounding like Oratorium.

The AC comments: "Private press mixture of anachronistic prog-folk and spacey, slow moving symphonic rock, quite typical of the late 70s/early 80s German scene. Generally well done for the style, if a bit amateurish at times."

In reviewing Popsike, it appears this album consistently sells between $300-$400. So it's rare even in Germany. Great cover art.

The below video is an absolute hoot. To me it looks like the band invaded a department store for a TV shoot. A truly low-budget early 70's PBS-styled production. The stilted crowd looks completely bored, ready to pounce on the first Warsteiner offered. The lead singer appears to have been a castoff from a failed SWR bid to license Hee-Haw. Maybe these guys knew Akropolis? Stay for the entire 3 minutes (actually the music is quite good on this one), and look for the banner being hoisted up. What a riot.

(Just click on the Watch it on YouTube link after they give the disclaimer of embedding disabled)

Priority: none


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rob Thomsett, Australia


Rob Thomsett - Yaraandoo. 1975 private.

I've been hinting at this for days now - but here's the first of 3 brilliant (IMO) albums I'm going to be reporting on. Of the 3, this will be the most recognized due to an LP reissue, though I think this title is sailing way below the radar. I find it amazing that there's still so many great albums yet undiscovered (or barely discovered) - even though there are dozens of folks just like myself looking under every rock for a new treasure.

Thanks again goes to the AC for tipping me to this one. He sent along a digital copy and informed me that there's a legit LP reissue (on Roundtable from Australia). I bought one immediately after hearing the album (you can purchase it from Dusty Groove - though they're temporarily out of stock). I wouldn't mess around too long with it - if any of what is said below tickles your fancy, and you still have a turntable setup, then by all means race out and buy one now!

But being that this is a CD reissue wishlist, we're obviously calling for a reissue in a more convenient format. It's pretty apparent the LP is taken from an original vinyl copy, and there's only 100 of those in existence. And given that Mr. Thomsett himself authorized this release, then one has to presume the masters are nowhere to be found.

OK - onto the music. 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 we 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!

The AC further adds: "Fascinating and somewhat unique psychedelic/progressive jazz-rock artifact from down under. Originally released as a tiny run of 100 copies with handmade covers, and finally reissued last year by small Australian label The Roundtable. Unfortunately, it's an LP only reissue, and while it does include a nice insert, I'd much prefer to see a proper CD version with more extensive liner notes, photos, etc. In any case, this one is certainly deserving of wider exposure. It's a short album (barely topping 30 minutes), but the interconnected suite of tracks flow together seamlessly on both sides, being a sort of concept album based on ancient aboriginal "dreamtime" mythology. It's highly evocative and dripping with the hazy, surreal atmospheres of the Australian outback. Flutes, percussion, droning synthesizer and mellotron, and of course Thomsett's excellent guitar-work make for a very pleasing sound overall, despite the somewhat primitive nature of the recording. Thomsett actually returned to this work years later and released a new, re-recorded version of it on CD in 2004. While obviously not at the same level as the original, it's still quite good in its own right and is well worth tracking down if you enjoy this LP."

In regards to this 2004 CD, I have one on the way to me now so I can compare for myself. And, as the AC points out, the only flaw of the original is it's too short. I could have easily digested 45-60 minutes of this!

Dusty Groove writes: "A strange, cool and stylistic boundary busting set from Australian jazz rock guitar player Rob Thomsett! Yaraandoo is a 1975 set inspired by Aboriginal folklore. It has some spare, dryly wispy bits of percussion and bamboo flute that feels that gives it that feel – but Thomsett also brings in some loose, proggy and jazzy rock dynamics with heavy drums and electric guitar, some improvisational jazz inspired passages, plus some tape delay and other effects."

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.

Priority: 1