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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fragua, Spain

Fragua - s/t. 1979 Hispavox.

Another one from the archives. In the early 90s, I did a deep dive on Spanish progressive rock albums. The LPs were reasonably priced, and many were just coming out on CD for the first time. Fragua never made it to CD, but the LP could be had cheap back then. I traded it years ago. I got a chance to hear Fragua's sole album again a few years back, and the below represents that listen.

There was an exciting movement from the mid to late 1970s in Spain that mixed both rock and flamenco music. Especially popular in the southern reaches of the country, the style became known as Rock Andalucia. Some of the bands, such as Mezquita and the early works of Triana and Medina Azahara added progressive and heavy rock elements for an exciting recipe. Fragua, on the other hand, were more typical of the popular music side of the movement. In effect, with Fragua you'll hear traditional flamenco music combined with Spanish pop. There are, though, a couple of truly excellent challenging cuts to absorb. A good album, though not one of the better ones for the style.

Priority: none

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

News: Lion to reissue Probe 10!!!!!

Lion Productions has officially announced their intention to reissue the fantastic 1975 album from Probe 10, including some bonus tracks! Label owner Vincent tells us to be patient though, and it probably won't be released until 2013 or so. Fine with me - I'd much rather it be a first class production than a rush job.

This is HUGE news for the CDRWL (and we played a small role in the events as well).

You can read my fanboyish ramblings of the album here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Uludag, Germany

Uludag - Mau Mau. 1988 Review

moved to UMR

Priority: none

Monday, March 12, 2012

Elastic Rock Band, Germany

Elastic Rock Band - Faruk's Traum. 1980 Schneeball II.

Over at Prog Not Frog, they're featuring a series of albums that we've reported on here at the CDRWL. We've had some fun with that, and I look forward to more reviews from Tristan Stefan.

To turn the tables a bit, here's one that they've featured, but I only had in the main list. And since I'm perpetually behind, I thought it would be a good one to pull from the archives.

As mentioned in the JAS thread, I had bought a variety of albums sound-unheard on ebay during a period from 1999-2006. This was one of the last ones I picked up. It's a decent record for certain, but I did decide to sell it back in an auction about a year ago.

My brief, nonchalant review stated simply "Light and breezy Kraut fusion, with some good guitar leads. Not one to completely overlook, but hardly essential." Even after listening one last time, to see if I really wanted to sell it, my opinion remained unchanged. And off it went.

The review from Tristan Stefan at Prog Not Frog is much more enthusiastic: "Though it's described as average by many in the community even an average from this period is pretty good music. And this is almost to the level of the incomparable Missus Beastly (in my opinion!). To me standouts are Glolock's Dance with its definite National Health chord changes and Hopperesque bass soloing, the ensuing title track with its very Chick Corea keyboard patterns moving to acoustic piano then again electrified, and the first 2 tracks on the second side. Notice in particular how well composed these progressions and patterns are as compared to the average fusion record.

On "Point of View" we have that heavenly breeze of space-synth sound performing arabesques above a guitar melody. Suddenly a minor chord appears, out of the blue as if a shadow. "Fur Carlos" uses the same keyboard as Carol Ann from Soft machine 7 (or is it 6), the almost pure tonal bliss of outgoing spacecrafts to Plato's world of perfection and ideal forms, for me. An interesting part of this track is the riveting chords being rapidly and gently strummed on electric guitar behind the melody. (That fast beat under slow melody combo has been overused to death in TV soundtracks to convey an aura of mysterious suspense.) Later the track moves into traditional and overdone jazz rock territory. At least the first minute of this one is worth listening to!

Hope you can enjoy this lost lost classic of the genre."

For the CDRWL, Missus Beastly (1974-) is sacred ground, and I unfortunately didn't appreciate this album at that level. But I'd rather folks see the positive side of things - and it's nice to see this well-written review offering a different perspective than mine.

Of interest to collectors, as far as I know Faruk's Traum is the only album on the Schneeball "II" label. To me, it sounds like many of the artists on the main label, so not sure why there was another designation for the label.

Priority: none

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Staff, Denmark

Staff - Primerose. 1984 Danish Music Production

Moved to UMR

The AC's original notes: "Following on from the recent Matao entry, here's a directly related obscurity that I was quite pleased to come across. After Matao broke up, Engin himself went in a more decidedly jazzy direction (akin to Okay Temiz) with his Atilla Engin Group and the big-band Tyrkis. However, it seems that Matao's guitarist Svend Staal Larsen was still keen on pursuing the middle-eastern tinged progressive jazz-rock style they had already established, so he formed another band called Anatolia. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have actually recorded anything, but shortly after this he founded yet another group, Staff, who did manage to produce this one LP before disappearing themselves. And as indicated, this album is indeed something of a direct lineal descendant of Matao, being instrumental jazz-rock/fusion of a very high standard, still with the occasional middle-eastern influences and a slight progressive touch. Of course, this being a product of 1984 (right at the tail-end of the classic jazz-rock movement, even in the European underground), you will have to grit your teeth through the distinctly 80s production values, but if you can deal with that, it's all smooth sailing. Similar to Matao, this is a very focused and consistent effort, around 45 minutes of solid instrumental jazz-rock, with no real dips in quality or experiments gone awry, and at times Larsen really lets it rip with some fiery soloing, just like in Matao. And then Engin himself even joins in on the last track for a nice piece of moody ethnic fusion. Considering the time period, it would probably have been impossible for them to live up to the lofty standards of the original, but this is really a pretty satisfying listen in its own right, and definitely worth a shot for fusion fanatics."

Priority: none

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ways, France

Ways - Planètes. 1986 private

Moved to UMR

Priority: none

Friday, March 9, 2012

Francis Moze, France

Francis Moze - Naissance. 1982 Harps.

Following on from the Major Surgery post (4 days later, but such is my life), we have another fine record submitted by The AC - this time in the fusion category. Francis Moze is one of many ex-Magma alumni to have pursued a short career in the fusion field. Perhaps the most overt of these attempts was the collaboration of Lockwood, Top, Vander & Widemann, and their 1981 album so subtlety entitled "Fusion". It's not overly surprising, given that Magma were at heart a jazz group right from the beginning. However by the time of "Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh", the band had become so creative, it spawned an entire music movement that still survives today: Zeuhl.

Moze was a veteran of the early Magma lineups, and later turned up on a couple of the more fusion oriented Gong ensembles. Thus his one sole album flew under the radar, unlike his bass playing brethren such as Paganotti and Top.

The AC says: "Obscure fusion album by this former Magma bassist. At first glance, this would seem to be quite typical of other such early 80s French efforts from the likes of Francis Lockwood, Raymond Winter, etc. That is, light and glossy jazz fusion with not too much in the way of depth. That's not too far from the truth, but as the album goes on it reveals itself to be above average for this style, with some fairly engaging instrumental compositions and a pleasant overall atmosphere. Worth a look for genre fans."

And that's exactly right, the album really gains momentum as it goes. Personally I'm a big fan of the McCoy Tyner styled staccato piano, and Moze's band utilizes this technique to great effect, propelling the music forward at an exciting rate. I'm rather certain our fusion readers will want to hear this one. Very nice record from perhaps a surprising source.

Priority: 3

Monday, March 5, 2012

Major Surgery, England *** REISSUED ***

Major Surgery - First Cut. 1977 Next

*** Reissued  by Proper Music, July 2013 ***

Moved to UMR

Priority: 2

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Le Match, Canada

Le Match - Légendes. 1975 SonoGram. Later pressed by Trans-Canada.

Sometime back in the late 1980s, I met a gentleman from Tokyo at a local record convention here in DFW (he was here on business). We struck up an immediate friendship, and he was kind enough to send me on occasion a progressive rock specialist magazine called Marquee (named for the record store that is still going, and is behind the excellent Belle Antique CD label). I still have all the mags he sent to me (Kaz, you still out there? Get in touch!). Each issue would focus on a particular country and expose a variety of excellent albums, many of them very obscure (especially back then). Issue 32 (dated 1989) was all about Canada.

It was through this magazine that I first heard of Le Match. From my perspective, all I could determine and see was the album cover, year, label and track titles. Everything else is in Kanji. That's right kids. Back in the old days, sometimes purchases were determined by covers, track titles and foreign languages. What a difference 25 years makes eh?

Naturally I asked my friend to help me interpret. He hadn't heard most of the albums, but gave me an idea of the descriptions. The review of Le Match was lukewarm, so I never pursued it. Years and years of seeing it catalogs, I continued to move past Le Match. And the descriptions didn't persuade me either.

Enter SF. He asks where's the Le Match entry. "Ya know, man, I just never bothered with it. You think it's good?". "Yea - see for yourself!" And voila, I had a copy to sample.

As soon as I heard it, I instantly knew the type of music. And it's a style I'm very fond of, and have spoken about it at length here on the CDRWL. That unique genre of music that mixes a commercial AOR sound, but with a distinct Gentle Giant complexity. It's short form progressive rock. The sound that represents the progressive rock landscape of the 1970s American Midwest (and Ontario by extension). The only difference here is Le Match sing in French, which makes sense since they're from Quebec. In that way, I'm reminded of that most excellent band Et Cetera, though Le Match are definitely more geared towards the commercial aspect of the sound, rather than the overtly progressive Et Cetera. So Le Match are a bit of an anomaly for the Quebec scene, and "Légendes" is miles away from the Harmonium / Connivence / Contraction / Maneige sounds that we know and love from the region. "Légendes" is vocal heavy, but features some wonderful violin, synthesizers, flute and guitar, and the compositions are thought out with plenty of complexity to keep most progressive rock fans happy. There's a folksy undercurrent here, but I wouldn't label this folk rock myself (another way of saying, I wouldn't put them in the Barde camp either).

I bought an LP immediately (it's not expensive). For myself, I did insist on buying the original on SonoGram which comes in a gatefold, whereas the second press is a single sleeve.

A current ebay auction has the following description which I concur with: "Overlooked and underrated album by this band made of ex-Nouvelle Frontiere members. This fuses the intensity of Italian prog with lashes of violin and flute to folk rock ala Gryphon, and I also hear a Gentle Giant influence here (GG was HUGE here in the seventies)."

I think this would be a great fit for the ProgQuebec label.

Priority: 3

Saturday, March 3, 2012

News: Het Pandorra Ensemble and Randy Roos available for Pre-order

I don't usually announce albums in this manner, as we've already posted the news on these titles months ago. But for me, and this site's main purpose, Ken's new label is a landmark moment. If this model succeeds, I think we'll see many more obscurities come out on CD. If not, then there's little hope that others may follow suit. Ken has a proven track record of success in this business, so this is our best bet.

So yes, I'm relegated to cheerleader here, but I think it's important we support this initiative if you want to see more rarities come out. The price point is high, but understand that it's likely these will rise in value over time. And I'm sure that's the cost Ken feels will sell out the limited edition while still making enough to cover expenses and invest in new product.

Pre-order details:

Het Pandorra Ensemble
Randy Roos

Georges Grunblatt, France

Georges Grunblatt - K-Priss. 1980 Ramses / Polydor

Moved to UMR

Priority: 2

Friday, March 2, 2012

News: Novalis Flossenengel to be repressed by Made in Germany

As stated before, I don't do a very good job of keeping up with OOP titles, but if I do see a reissue announcement of an album that I know many folks are looking for, then I'll try to note it.

So with that, the excellent label Made in Germany has announced their intention to reissue Novalis' Flossenengel (it was pressed for CD originally by Castle in 1991). Made in Germany is the label that has more or less filled the void left by SPV/InsideOut.de

For many this was one album too late for Novalis. Some will say it was their last hurrah. While for others, it represents their pinnacle achievement.

Pasted here is what I would guess to be the liner notes. Thanks to Green Brain for this info:

"After their very romantic albums Vielleicht bist Du ein Clown or Sommerabend the album Flossenengel, published for the first time in 1979, depicted a cesura for Novalis.

Hartwig Biereichel remembers: "This album marks our creative peak. The dreamy and naive phase ended with Flossenengel. It is a concept album - and each song builds on the preceding one. Moreover, for the first time we had shorter tracks. In contrast to our previous monster tracks, the songs were more condensed. What many pleased and others criticized: With this album we became compatible for the radio for the first time. The songs were rougher but at the same time more rhythmic and structured."

Flossenengel deals with Atlanto, a whale who fell into captivity and almost dies because of it. Yet in the end, the fisherman who had captured him releases him into the ocean. Long before Hollywood turned this topic into famous movies such as "Free Willy", German romantic rockers dealt with the threatened species.

The story is told in ten songs and starts with the instrumental song called "Atlanto". The track combines the music with original underwater recordings of whale songs. The two minutes song "Ob Tier, Ob Mensch, Ob Baum" concludes the album which symbolizes the solidarity between human kind and nature. Just like in the starter song the listener is able to hear integrated whale songs.

Lutz Rahn about the longplayer from 1980: "With Flossenengel we made an album which deals with the relation of nature and humans. The human being is closely intertwined with its natural environment. If he disturbs it, and he is close to it, he deprives himself of his livelihood. We wanted to make people aware of this problem."

Hartwig Biereichel: "Problems that we cannot avoid, attack us from all sides. This theme is what our lead singer Fred Mühlböck tried to convey in his songs. We kept loyal to our musical style, melody still ranks first, we only cut dispensable padding and do no longer play any mammoth tracks."

Even after 30 years, the theme of this album is still highly relevant. Back then Novalis were downright prophetic.

Hartwig Biereichel: "Sure, this makes us happy, even though the cause is rather sad. Even back then one could foresee what kind of ecological catastrophe seems to develop. It was also clear that the human greed would steadily grow. This has not changed. We still do not respect nature, even knowing that resources are limited. There will come the day when there will be no turning back and we will leave the next generation in a total chaos which cannot be fixed."

Being asked if the band would describe their music as romantic and why they sing in German, Lutz Rahn says: "Those are categories of the advertising industry. We do not want to be put into some box. Our music has always been individual. I conceive it as delicate. We sing German because in our mother tongue we are able to express ourselves best. Furthermore, our lyrics are understood anyway. Language barriers when we sing German in other countries? I do not see that no longer so dogged. The general reservations against foreign languages are decreasing. In Japan for example we have sold 50.000 albums."

Hartwig Biereichel: "In 1979 we were distinct in a way that we had a high value of recognition and a very unique profile - take our singer Fred Mühlböck who had a very unconventional way of singing and a very arbitrary form of interpreting the lyrics. I do think that back then, Novalis could indeed be called a brand. Our albums were bought because people knew exactly what to expect."

However, the idea to come up with a concept album about an agonized creature was not a publicity stunt. The band also took this subject on tour. During the show on a huge stage backdrop they projected a film of whales in their natural habitat. For the Flossenengel tour that had the motto "The Sea must live", next to the driver and the tour manager six engineers went with them on the road. The nearly two hour performance was spectacular as well. An enormous inflatable blue whale of 15 meter length hovered over the stage. This dark whale was a donation from Greenpeace and in all those spotlights it looked very majestic - similar to Pink Floyd's inflatable pig. Further, Novalis presented a perfect light show consisting of 84 spot lights, strings of lights, crackers and florescent objects that really stimulated the audience.

At their concerts after a short time the spark lept over onto the crowd taking on "nearly ecstatic proportions with several visitors" as the press noted. The Trierische Volksfreund wrote: "The tracks of the album Flossenengel showed the band at their best: impressive sound collages alternate with dialogues between easy plucked guitars and piano". The Hildesheimer Allgemeine Zeitung held that "the journey through their music never had been that good as in this year. The five musicians from the river Elbe finally succeeded in presenting their songs on stage with the proper drive. Because of the improved instrumental arrangements the partly simple harmonies suddenly worked far more exciting and interesting than before."

And the Saarbrücker Zeitung describes Fred Mühlböck's stage act like this: "Mühlböck plays the cross flute so beautifully. Not only in this he makes us strongly think of Angelo Branduardi, similar to him he jumps, runs and dances all over the stage." The Siegener Zeitung writes: "Mühlböck fiddled the violin, cried with his harmonica; he rocked his double-neck guitar, wandered as a clown through the enthusiastic audience or went to crawl under the stage. The dragging rhythm by drummer Hartwig Biereichel, the suffering bass from Heino Schünzel and Detlev Jobs' comforting guitars conveyed the unknown width and the soundless depth of the ocean."

Stephan Schelle


01. Atlanto 5:12
02. Im Brunnen Der Erde 4:28
03. Brennende Freiheit 2:20
04. Im Netz 8:38
05. Flossenengel 3:26
06. Walzer Für Einen Verlorenen Traum 3:27
07. Sklavenzoo 6:00
08. Alle Wollen Leben 4:45
09. Rückkehr 6:00
10. Ob Tier, Ob Mensch, Ob Baum 1:50 "

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Jarngustav, Sweden

Järngustav - Tiden Läker Inga Sår. 1978 Nackspaar (NS1)

Another big time rarity that I've had on a Curiosity list forever. And The AC once again managed to find a copy (thanks again)! Like the Leong Lau record we just spoke about, this too arrived sans description. After one listen, it was obvious as to why.

Järngustav is blues rock, plain and simple - all sung in Swedish. Side 1 contains five short, depressing tracks. Side 2 is a 17 minute blues rock jam, though not very inspired, or particularly rocking. It does kick in gear - finally - at about the 15 minute mark. I love Swedish blues rock, but you won't be confusing Järngustav with November or Saga anytime soon. It's easy to understand why this one has stayed so obscure.

Progg.se, the excellent online Swedish rock encyclopedia says this about Järngustav (with assistance of Google Translate): "Järngustav (Iron Gustav) formed in Gavle around January 1978. Their LP is published privately and among the rarest discs from Sweden. The disc is said to offer heavy progressive rock of which the title track covers an entire side of its 17 minutes of playing time. The disc was recorded and mixed in Mora Träsks own studio in Gävle between December 1977 and August 1978. One of the songs from the LP is also in the various artists collection "Now, Nah Ends"." In further reading the comments, it doesn't appear anyone on the site had actually heard the record. It's apparently much sought after amongst fans of the Swedish underground. It's very possible that this album may strike a chord more to the locals than on the international scene.

A former ebay auction, courtesy of Popsike, says: "Way cool and primitive Swedish band with raw crude guitars, crude vocals that are a gas, has that private messed up lost garage sound all through, one side is songs with doses of old rock, fuzz, punk, even in the garage cool snotty vocal ineptness, and best of all is side two with their epic side long track "Tiden Laker Inga Sar" (also the title of the LP) with many sections, spacy meandering to heavy rock, ambitious in a very basic idea of being progressive, never loses the amateur messed up edge. These guys are wonderfully far from sounding slick." I think the description is accurate, though I don't share the enthusiasm.

About the only other band I can think of that reminds me of Järngustav is Kontinuerlig Drift. If all this sounds appealing, then Järngustav is worth seeking out.

Priority: none