Monday, 21 October 2019

Chalis - One Small Chance, 1975





A band that tried all out to make a progressive pop art rock masterpiece with composed, Genesis-like songs, pretentious lyrics, art rock artifices, Ethos-like in varied instrumentation, but didn't quite make it, in my opinion, though their hearts were in the right place.  I guess I should just steal the other reviews that already exist online for this one, as I 'm sure you could dig up plenty of dirt on these guys.  In this case, the usually apt apps says:

Another 70's US oddity, this time from Minnesota.Chalis' main songwriters were L. Jacobson, S. Germaine and M. Robinson, their sole effort was released in 1974/75 on the obscure Ellen Abby label, apparently a private one.The music is far from consistent and heading to nowhere, but the material is decent enough as a whole.A mix of Pop, Folk, Psych and Symphonic Rock, recalling the accesible tunes of Ambrosia and the softer side of Yes.Very good keyboard layers, some interesting guitar parts and even some flute in rare occasions, never becoming excessive or complex, but moving along a secure path of tight songwriting with sentimental vocals.However the bulk is built around cheesy multi-vocal harmonies, playful piano, acoustic guitar and a generally quite pedestrian atmosphere, where striking tunes were more important than music itself.And there are not so striking at the very end, many bands had built their career on better tunes.Still there is a huge instrumental background for an amateur group with synths, organ, acoustic/electric piano, flute and so on to keep things interesting all the way.Expensive yet rather mediocre production.

It's not as good as the earlier and similar Chakra, I get it.  But it sure is cute.  I guess there's a kind of Beatles-like music-hall tunesmanship that detracts a bit from the overall effort.  On the other hand, that worked really well for the Baby Grand band, who managed to pull it off quite successfully, and who we all loved so much.

The rip (that I have) is good here, so I thought I'd share it.  My favourite song, for a long time, is the title track, which came dead last, that sings Dreams are for those who are sleeping:





As an (amateur) pianist, I've always been impressed by the daring rhythm change that occurs halfway through, decorated in classic prog manner with the orchestra-like sounds of bass arpeggios, keyboard strings and the flute-like frills.  It reminds me a lot of the gorgeous closer to the Ambush album.
Absolute gold, baby-- classic rock, as perfect as it got back then.


Friday, 18 October 2019

Inside Out - Projection, 1981





Yes another softer fusion album like Chateau Breakers and all the rest I've posted here before.  You all getting sick of the sameness?  Not, for sure, if you've ever spent some time on instagram.

In fact it's quite a bit like the previous post, Point of Departure's Leaving, but it's overall somewhat better.

The first track called Infrared again uses those synthy strings to give it outer space appeal, along with those mysterious chords stepping down gently, the whole adding up to a tight little 80s fusion composition:





Of course, it can't be as good as the other ones I've posted in years past.  Some of those were absolute masterpieces.  And if they were all masterpieces, I'd pretty much be spending my whole day with headphones on listening to neverending beautiful music... come to think of it, that's my wife says I do anyways every day... ok forget the whole masterpiece business...

Information here.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Point of Departure - Leaving, 1985




Talk about beautiful cover art!  I had to take a closer look at what that painting depicts.  And I think it's a highway leading to another planet but I'm not so sure.  If it is, let me take that road trip down, or rather up, please, and October Country will second me on that one.  Perhaps he'll be the one holding the cellphone camera up high as I drive that rocket-propelled car into the galactosphere.

Despite the spacey cover this is a mostly acoustic, new agey excursion into instrumental beauty, perhaps most lumpable in the Luther Lane / Innersections category of intellectual chamber jazz.
There is a bit of fuzak nonetheless, obviously given the late year, and some electronics and digitalese to wade through.  Use your hip waders in extra large for those.  And make sure they're waterproof, as there are some pretty simple chord changes that will chill you to the bone.  So make sure them waders are thermally insulated too, as your blood will freeze if you don't make use of that fast forward button there, whether it's virtual or a real clitoris-like button.

Saqqarah brings it all home for me baby:





Monday, 14 October 2019

Crossection, 1979




Wow, look at all that writing on the back.  I gotta admit usually that much blurbing is not a good sign in terms of the musical contents.  Nor is it...  a good sign...
A soul-funk album this time, along the lines of the very popular old post Cosmology.
The soft track called Annika is just so lovely:





For those who don't want too much wimp in their coffee here's the very black Don't Cross the Street:
(I meant black coffee, of course)




An important lesson for any American black man who sees police across said street.  Or, for that matter, any American black man minding their own business at home in their own apt eating ice cream and watching TV.

Information here.



Saturday, 12 October 2019

Terry McDonald's Street State of Affairs, 1980






A one-off LP from this sax player who also composed and produced.
Here we have a pretty unified mix of post-bop, comtemporary jazz, acoustic jazz, backing electric guitar giving a fusion feel.  The music is usually pretty advanced, perhaps like Herbert Joos but minus any orchestra, like Part of Art.

Some gorgeous progressive songwriting appears on the closer called Namib's Song:





Friday, 11 October 2019

Alpha Omega 1976, by request




I've often mentioned this guitar-based instrumental fusion album in this blog.  It's a point of reference because it just 'hits all the right notes' for me, musically.  Information is here.
It's the creation of John Bellamy.  The old review:

I am very happy to present this new rip of Alpha Omega, an album whose style is impossible to pin down, in fact I would say it's sui generis. You might even call it chamber fusion, to make a new genre. It always reminds me of Italians Orch. Njervudarov's brilliant classic. Especially the first song's riff really recalls the angularity of their album. Notice that although Steve Maxwell plays all keys, the composing (which is the ne plus ultra of this work) is credited to John Bellamy. I don't find much information about him at all, I would like to know if he composed more or if this is his one-off masterpiece. Another good point of reference would be the midnight madness phase did, or fusion quartet comprovisations, very composed jazz rock incorporating a lot of orchestral-style elements. When I listen to some of his guitar riffs, they are so chromatic and fast I have a lot of trouble following the notes, of course I'm not a professional musician, but I have no problem with standard radio fare. Consider for ex. the title track, starting with a dzyan-like guitar riff repeated in different keys, then the bass keeps going up and down by minor seconds as the others riff on top. I guarantee no other fusion record from the period has such an oddball chart. It sounds improvised, but I doubt it is. Or consider the track Dawning, with perhaps the oddest melody in all fusion history, played by a guitar and a sax an octave apart, sax with great wah-wah effects. Only in the last acoustic song do we get some more 'conventional' songwriting, with its straight-up E minor.
Or consider the first track, after the drum solo, the re-intro guitar riff is first played a minor 3rd above on the keys, but then again he plays it a minor 2nd above-- I'm like, "Could it be--?" is it a mistake? it couldn't be, it's the same riff but a half-tone above. Totally against any god-fearing compositional rule there. Then near the end of same song, he plays a D octave up in the pattern: duh dee duh duh dee, a dead giveaway that he had a classical education, which almost of all them did back then, of course. I want to thank master shige again for this incredible-sounding new rip, despite the slightly scratchy record, I love you bro (and your work). And finally, I won't even get into the crazy guitar solos Bellamy plays, which are so off the blues scales or any scales they are functionally atonal in the Arnie Schoenberg way.
And I would love to say, John Bellamy, if ever you read this, please comment and tell us more! I love this work of yours.

Obviously, an interruption in the series of American fusion albums, which we'll return to shortly.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

David Pritchard, 1978 and 1979, and Contraband, 1971












Love the space bird hatching on the top collage, at once so silly and so profound.  Perhaps a premonitory reference to Mahavishnu's Birds of Fire?  But above all, part and parcel of the seventies, that hopelessly naive and naively hope-filled period.

The Contraband band made one stunning all-instrumental fusion LP with the typical Bitches Brew references, full of high energy and almost atonal passages, most similar maybe to the Australian Quasar's two LPs (Nebular Trajectory and Man-Coda).  Also perhaps similar to the (also Aussie) Alpha Omega I have raved about so much on this blog.

In total there were four musicians who contributed compositions to Contraband, notably the keyboardist Pete Robinson who wrote all of side b and guitarist Dave Pritchard.  Always on the lookout for fabulous fusion (can never get tired of that stuff) I saw the latter made two records in the glory years of 1978, 1979, expecting something along the lines of maybe the brilliant James Vincent or genius Don Mock.  Unfortunately, we had too high hopes--but similar to the recent case where Auracle's two uncovered two more by John Serry, I can confidently state these two late-era fusion albums will please fans of the genre not just a little.  There are times where he reminds me of the new agey-tendencies of David Friesen who has also been extensively covered here, not always a bad thing, overall the testosterone has declined like so many a middle aged man and we have much less of the high octane electric guitar gain (distortion) and rhodes attacks.   Said man also, not coincidentally, is a bit too desiring of pleasing his wife as opposed to throwing all caution to the winds in atonality, screwing around with any old genitalial availability in the grand old progressive tradition, as for example the first track on 1978's Light-Year, which is called Black Moon:





In my opinion the follow up is a bit better, consider how it opens with the lovely title Hog Futures:





The addition of trumpet reminds me not a little of the great Jeff Tyzik material, again.

Going back now to the original early 70s fusion tokamak explosion of Contraband, the LP is just over-stuffed with great material.  The first track is one of Robinson's:





Oh for those younger, testosteronal days again!