Sunday 31 May 2015

Peter Harris' Ruby from down under 1975

What I'm going to do for the next few weeks, as mentioned earlier, is present a few big in-demand records, after which, in about a month I will be on holidays and will only put up no-download reviews (that are worth seeking out).  Those will at least feature uploaded songs you can stream-- so do, please listen!!  Eventually everything will be available, so it's just a matter of patience in my opinion, if it's not me, someone else will open Pandora's box...

Then in early July I will be back with more wonderful new music for everyone to hear-- and that's a promise.  This searching for old gems just never gets tiresome for me.  For those who are only interesting in hearing what I'm talking about, they will have to wait a bit while I am away.  But before this, some more big LPs: folk, progressive, fusion, etc., will blow your socks off--
Stay Tuned!!

First up a magically, gorgeously beautiful folk album that stunned me when I heard it.  There is some basic information in a few places with a google search, the following is very helpful and informative as initial:

It was a river scene depicting waterbirds, big trees and a paddle steamer painted in bright hues of blue, green, orange and pink. The cover art for Peter Harris’s 1975 LP Ruby inspired Jordie Kilby to pick up a copy in a coastal town second-hand shop a few years back. It started a journey to track Peter down and discover more about his inspiration for the album and the other recordings he made.

Peter Harris studied piano and bassoon at the Sydney Conservatory before heading bush to Cooma, where he spent time working on travelling theatre shows for the workers on the Snowy Hydro. He moved back to Sydney in the early '70s and began teaching and making music. One of his more adventurous guitar students was Dave Madden and they soon teamed up and eventually recorded a single (Remember Me) and an LP (Fools Paradise) together both of which are highly sought-after today for their adventurous song writing and production.  After the two parted ways, Harris moved back to rural NSW and there, inspired by the town of Wentworth and the rivers around it, he wrote the songs that he later recorded on Ruby. Unfortunately he wasn’t in a position to promote the LP from where he was living out bush and the record sank with little trace until collectors began championing its merits in more recent years. 

These days he is involved with children’s theatre and puppetry as well as playing with his Celtic band, Welder's Dog.

From rateyourmusic:

A beautiful companion piece to Madden & Harris's "Fools Paradise", one of the rarest and most sought after Australian Folk LP's. Harris's songwriting shines through with some wonderful timeless and thoughtful tunes, very much English Folk in style, delicate and well produced. Quite a few tracks could easily slot straight onto Fools Paradise, and you'd be none the wiser. "Legend" is one of his finest pieces imho. There's a few moogy bits which probably could have done without, but that's just nitpicking. Side 2 is the better of the two, to my ears, actually tracks 4 to 11 are simply superb. I can see how Madden & Harris, or Peter Harris may not be to everyone's taste, if you love the Acid Folk/Psych/Chaos of Comus...but dislike Tudor Lodge, this maybe not be your bag...but if you appreciate both for what they offer, i'm sure you'll also enjoy this as well. A great shame he slipped under the radar, and well worth tracking down a copy.

This review is right on the money in my opinion.  And speaking of money-- It's not cheap!


Luckily we are more interested in the music than the vinyl circle so we can enjoy it as it should indeed be enjoyed.

My favourite song, delicate, light, melancholy and oh so achingly beautiful, is called Second Hand Dreams:

What heart and soul the songwriter put into this piece.  Let's treasure the effort.

Friday 29 May 2015

The amazing Sailor [Band] from the US 1974 [mono only]

There is no adequate cover available for this rarity which usually sells for the hundreds of USD on ebay.  My copy is derived from an illegal CD reissue that lacked proper scanning technology tragically I was thus left without images but the music more than makes up for that deficiency.

A masterpiece if ever I heard one in the progressive fusion vein, once ripped long ago by the indomitable osurec and high priced if ever you seek it out--  some more information albeit sparse here.

Incidentally it's easy to confuse this band with another from 1976 which is west coast singer songwriter material, but also highly enjoyable and expensively rare.  If anyone wants I have a decent rip of the latter, later Sailor to share, but I am not permitted to share a good copy of this one.

First of all, from Tom:

Sometimes known as The Sailor Band, due to a few copies having a stamp. From Minnesota and surprisingly sophisticated for such a private release. Most albums from 1974 have a strong hard rock element, and there's little of that here with this jazz and classical inspired album. Plenty of jazz guitar and piano as well as amp'd up electric guitar and Hammond organ. Almost all instrumental except the final track. A nice surprise.

For me it most recalls the Natural Life LPs I posted so long ago with its mix of classical compositions and fusion with a strong electric guitar basis.

Here's a great little track full of progressive ideas, that I've always loved due to its unusual chromatic guitar chords combined with equally unusual chromatic phrases by both organ and guitar (but going in the opposite direction) evoking The Waterfall:

Another called Evergreen:

I love the Earth Day message too.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Claude Perraudin's Rumeurs (Patchwork MC 82) by request

Hard on the heels of the last library entry that was so popular here's another famous name and another marvelous little album that I take it was missing.  An unusual feature is the musique concrete or real-life sounds that begin each track.  Mercifully these noisy interludes are quickly over (on the order of 65 seconds) so we can focus on enjoying the music.

All compositions are by Claude, obviously.  More information can be found in discogs.  For those unlucky souls not familiar with this artist, here is his extensive discography with his masterpiece, universally acknowledged, being Mutations 24 -- a work that I have listened to hundreds of times and could listen again the same number of times.  If you haven't heard it, please do so!

The first track called Cities is described as Heavy-repetitive:

As indeed it is.  Whilst notice the synthesizer sounds evoking locomotives on the Train track (pun obviously intended though as is customary, categorically denied):

Some tracks, of course, are simple throwaway, as might be expected on any library album, the song called "Vagues" or waves sounds like something Jean-Michel Jarre would have done but never released as it was too inferior to the rest of his admittedly poor work.  And the last track referring to "Foules" or crowds could easily have been the Hollywood soundtrack to a Pinocchio remake starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as the title character action hero wooden puppet with the hardest arms ever and Angelina Jolie as the old professor, with the whale created by CGI animation out of an old sardines can.   Needless to say when he gets down to the children's hell he beats up all the bad kids and even closes hell down by the deputy sheriff, along with real life authority and friend Steven Seagal.  Cameo by Megan Fox as the love interest: a living barbie doll called Malisa with plastic breasts.  You go, Jean-Claude!

Monday 25 May 2015

Teddy Lasry's Tutti Fluti (Patchwork PW 22) by Request

A relatively average library album, in my opinion with none of the fire of the later Lasry.
Here's a more progressive composition called Monomotapa:

Then on the second side we get a little more of the trademark Teddy flights of fancy in synthesizer artwork with a funky jazzier track called Noir Ébène:

Saturday 23 May 2015

US West Coast Sand's 1976 effort Head in the Sand

Who could ever, ever get tired of that wonderful, classic, fantastic US late-seventies rock sound? It will surely take me a long time, because I've listened to some of these tracks dozens and dozens of times and I hope to hear them as many times again and more in the future both near and in the far astronomical distance...

Let me present to you this awesome Steely-Dan-like songwriting effort from this large group of slightly gay-looking individuals (apologies to the artists, but that was fashion back then) with, to boot, a very easy-on-the-eyes cover painting.

Here are some samples to give you a taste, a soft but beautiful little ballad called "Painted Eyes":

Thanks to my friend included is the lyrics sheet as well as some near-perfect scans of the gatefold and inside.  Notice how the group attempted to also write some clever lyrics, much like Steely.  I say they ' attempted ' to write-- of course we're not talking poetry here, just an above-average attempt at going beyond " I love you baby, you're such a fine lady, etc."   On this song note as well the duelling guitar and synthesizer solos towards the end, always a wonderful effect (and masterfully played I might add), especially when you get one instrument in each channel as in this case.  Alternate phrases in fact are played on right and left at one point (by the same guitarist).  Obviously we have here, with the slide guitar and solos played by two guitars a third interval apart, a very competent and worthy Eagles imitation.

Now why did the Eagles' Greatest Hits sell hundreds of billions of copies and become the best-selling album of all time, for a brief moment, when these guys languished in obscurity?  Simple, there is no justice when it comes to the art of music, not in the late twentieth / early twenty-first centuries.  The test of time for art has been reversed so that now the worst efforts are guaranteed immortality as I observe each time I am forced to hear Celine Dion's My Heart will go on for the millionth time in my life or Shania Twain's Man, I Feel like a Woman...

For a more progressive structure for our jaded ears consider the following song with its awesome hook, "Ballad of the Dead Man ":

This song, in G minor, has that awesome falsetto high-D note that just kills me each time.  Does it evoke a soul ascending to heaven to you too?  Also make note of how well the singer does those bluesy flourishes (going from fifth to seventh for ex. in the middle of a melody).   How, but how, could that song not have been a number-one hit on the charts back in 1976, that beautiful bicentennial year I remember so well, with all those festivities and then all that wonderful rock music we thought the beautiful songs would just never end...  but they did, come the eighties...

At the bottom of the lyrics sheet the following poignant comment:

"All proceeds from the sale of this album go towards the next one.."   was there ever a next one?  Not that I can see from this discogs information:

Very interesting psych-folk band from the early '70s who've been compared to everyone from the Grateful Dead to The Eagles, to early Steely Dan. The band was formed in Portland, Oregon; eight sides were cut in Los Angeles in October of 1972; for Andy Williams' Barnaby Records. The first album, released in '73 and distributed by MGM, featured two single-sided Lps in a gatefold cover with a sticker that read "One Record Album on Two Discs For Continuous Flowing SAND", with the intention that both discs could be put on a turntable with a changer and played straight through without having to flip an Lp. 

Although it was an excellent effort, the combination of the wrong label (Barnaby was not a "rock" label, being otherwise occupied with Everly Brothers reissues and Ray Stevens Lps, and didn't know how to promote them) and the wrong distributor (MGM was in the midst of its infamous artist purge and in preliminary sale talks with PolyGram) caused the record to sink.  After a followup album in 1973 (? - Editor), the band went their separate ways, but Rich Gooch [producer and bassist] and Jack Charles [guitarist and vocalist] went on to some fame after joining Quarterflash.

[It was another band member however, also credited as guitarist and vocalist, who wrote the compositions, Dan Ross, and he disappears from view at this point.]

Bonus, the first album from 1973, which is also a wonderful slice of Southern rock dripping with juicy, oily, goodness like the best pepperoni pizza from the cheapest little hole in the wall strip mall you ever saw...  god bless 1970s America...

Notice the oddity to this one: There were two records pressed, each with only one side, so you didn't have to make that annoying trip to the gramophone to flip the vinyl over!  That surely didn't catch on...

And of course, I and yourself must thank the wonderful friend who not only introduced me to this unforgettable music but was gracious enough to share the record with me and you and everyone else who is interested in preserving this music hopefully for as long as humans have ears that discriminate in the direction of beauty...

Long live US prog...  or at least, for a few more years, with any luck?

Friday 22 May 2015

Wooden Songs - Lover's Suite from Germany 1987

This is a very mellow meditative record of softer songs very similar to Confidence in the Future, but more pop-oriented.  Unlike the latter I am able to present a full rip luckily, or perhaps unluckily as you might find.  In keeping with the concept of a Suite the songs run into each other but still are separable.  I enjoyed the piano noodling in between many of the tracks, though it may sound a bit too extemporized for many.  As well the player seems to overuse the sustain pedal, as beginners often do, in order to compensate possibly for a deficiency in accomplishment or precision.

The Intro to side b really takes it into the intellectually thoughtful and progressive realm, thus dooming these poor artists to commercial failure without a doubt:

While this song is notable because it's one of the worst I've heard in a long time:

At the bottom of the front the following helpful description:

"Songs by Wolfgang Arendt and Oliver Matthaus..."

The former is on the piano and the latter on the guitar.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Lou Stein's Introspection album from 1972

From the blurb on the back, written by Lou in 1972, New York:

The dilemma confronting the creative musician today: is it possible to fully express oneself creatively speaking within the boundaries of the real world he also lives in, further, where does he fit in with his individuality, into 'what's happening' in contemporary music now--
the music on this album represents what I am today... and the influence contemporary pop music has had on my background, which has always been jazz-oriented, as well as having devoted a number of years to the study of the classical piano..
therefore I have set forth here, introspectively, where I am at now...

Interestingly for us, there is an electric guitar (for which I see no credit) on the side b track Crosstown, which I will go further and say has definitely been influenced by the progressive rock that must have been quite big at the time-- these were the days of ELP filling stadiums worldwide, after all:

Wouldn't you agree that song is well worth hearing, if not multiply replaying?  Quite a dynamic and interesting composition, combining classical and rock effectively in a well-melded and sparkly amalgam.  I would go so far as to say it wouldn't have been out of place on a keys-prog band or Eurofusion band like Gong, Finnforest.

Unfortunately the next track, Good Humor Man, completely ruins the high expectations there on, which slowly lower as the side progresses to the bitter end, with track No Man Alone sounding like something from the Sound of Music played by Liberace in an estrogen-overdosed daze.

However, the first track (on the first side) which is a carefully constructed Sonata, really blew me away.  Its passages are well crafted, feature another mystery-played guitar, and alter in various ways to a really dramatic finale.  How I wish these were the pieces that were played at the Symphony Hall downtown, thereby perhaps guaranteeing more youth in attendance rather than the hospital's worth of post-retirement nonagenarians that seems to be the norm in those places!!  Of course he has broken from convention in replaying the first theme at the end, so the commercial aspects took it away from the rigors of classical form, not a crime of high treason I suppose.

A little bio on the man seems appropriate.  From wiki:

Lou Stein (April 22, 1922 – December 11, 2002) was an American jazz pianist.  Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Stein's first major gig came in 1942 when he joined Ray McKinley's band. He also played with Glenn Miller when the latter was stateside during World War II.  After the war he worked with Charlie Ventura (1946–47) and following this became a session musician. He performed with the Lawson-Haggart Band, Benny Goodman, Sarah Vaughan, the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, Louie Bellson, Red Allen, Coleman Hawkins, and Lester Young, and recorded a few records as a bandleader. 
In 1957 he scored a U.S. Top 40 hit with "Almost Paradise", which peaked at #31 on the Billboard Hot 100. His cover of "Got A Match" made the Cashbox Top 60 in 1958. He played with Joe Venuti from 1969 to 1972 and later with Fred Phillips; he continued recording into the 1990s.

So certainly, his jazz credentials were impeccable.  On this record it's a shame he couldn't keep in tune with the progressive buzz he so clearly mastered on b1.  Nonetheless I am glad I heard this.

Monday 18 May 2015

Leo Philipp Schmidt's Outlines II from 1987

It's obvious to me that this is his magnum opus composition to which he devoted hours, months, years of work, perfecting the music to strike an exquisite balance between 'world music' or new age borrowings, jazz, classical music and chamber elements, as a statement to the world: I have something to say.  And I'll take a wild guess the world did not listen to him-- though I may (hopefully) be wrong.  He not only composed these works but plays keys, woodwinds, guitar, and even sings, to a certain, perhaps not ideal, extent.  He made another record a few years later, I am quite curious about.  What is to me particularly fascinating is that the cover design as well as art (the paintings) were by him which is also the case for the later record, you can see here in miniature:

We saw this before in the case of Martin Springett who crafted such a Genesis-worthy album but went on to become a visual artist after his progressive initiation (and swan song!).  I've mentioned many times before how this dedication to visual art was such a feature of these older records and how lacking I feel it is today, partly due to the small size of CD covers.  And now that few even buy those, one can expect cover art to gradually devolve to becoming even more neglected!

Here's a sample, the shorter track on side one called Leaving All Things Behind:

Credits :
Drums, Percussion – Hakim Ludin
Engineer – Martin Wieland
Guitar – Klaus Bösser
Keyboards – Hanna Michel
Oboe – Johanna Issle
Saxophone – Chris Hirson
Strings – Joachim Romeis
Vocals, Keyboards, Woodwind, Guitar – Leo Philipp Schmidt

Now later this week I'm going to be back with a slew of highly in-demand progressive masterpieces...  you will be hearing some great music.  So stay tuned please!  But first, or next, a record that really blew me away when I heard a few of the songs-- and the back story behind it is absolutely fascinating to read about.

Sunday 17 May 2015

Skurow and Sunshine and this LP from 1977 Make my Day ( no download )

There's been a lot written about this magnificent hard rock (not prog) opus which is apparently quite rare to purchase.  Credits can be found here on discogs as usual.  Note the very interesting comment:

Distributed by Album World. Cover and labels have 9 tracks listed. Some lps only play 7 tracks, 9 track versions do exist.

I wonder?  Of course, inevitably, my copy has only 7, as I guess the complete LP must be quite valuable if ever it turns up on ebay.

Here is a really in-depth (maybe a bit too in-depth) assessment from, bizarrely, not Tom Hayes, but rather from the BADCATRECORDS website:

Tax scam labels like those falling under the Album World conglomerate were renowned for all sorts of dirty tricks including simply appropriating demo tapes, miscrediting material to non-existent groups in order to keep the actual writers in the dark  and cobbling albums together from various acts under a made-up name.  All of those tricks seem to have taken place  on 1977's "Makes My Day".  Though the brief liner notes make no mention of it, about two thirds of the tracks appear to have been recorded by the mid-'70s Las Vegas-based band Skurow.  Featuring Ronnie Skurow and former Merry-Go-Round drummer Gary Kato, the band signed with London, releasing at least two 45s in the States and the UK, before collapsing.   The songs from those singles ('Keep Your Funky Side Out', 'Makes My Day', and 'Crimson Lady' all appeared on the Sunshine LP.   Musically the Skurow tunes were uniformly good with the band demonstrating a knack for clean, crisp melodies, nice harmony vocals, and an impressive versatility that included country-rock ('Just a Pretty Face '), white-boy funk ('Keep Your Funky Side Out'), and FM-ready rock ('Crimson Lady').   Shame they didn't get to record an album on their own.

The other tracks appear to be the work of the late composer Philip Kachaturian.  Kachaturian had already seen some of his work grabbed by the Album World affiliated Mark Holly label under the name Viva.  The Viva album entitled "Automobile Downstairs" seems to have re-purposed  the incidental music composed for the late H.B. Halicki's 1974 archetype car chase film "Gone In 60 Seconds".  (Look under my write-up for Viva for additional information.)   The funny thing was that even though 'Everything's Gonna Be Alright', 'Tell Me Now', and 'Space Flying" were credited to Kachaturian (the second tune was  shown as a Kato - Kachaturian collaboration), these tunes sounded nothing like his "Gone In 60 Seconds" work.  Instead two of the three were enjoyable slices of country-rock, top-40 pop, while the latter track was reportedly a slice of Latin-rock.

1.) Makes My Day  (Ronnie Skurow) - 
The 'A" side from the second Skurow 45, 'Makes My Day' was a very commercial slice of top-40ish rock with  tasty lead guitar, nice Latin-tinged percussion, and sweet harmony vocals.  Would have made a nice FM single.   rating: **** stars
2.) Keep Your Funky Side Out   (Gary Kato) - 
'Keep Your Funky Side Out' had previously see daylight as the 'A' side from the first Skurow single.  Musically it was an okay slice of white boy funk that might remind you a bit of Wild Cherry.  Nice squealing guitars, though the lyrics left something to be desired.   rating: *** stars
3.) Just a Pretty Face  (Gary Kato) - 
Sporting what was probably the album's pettiest melody, 'Just a Pretty Face' found the band aptly slipping into country-rock territory.  Imagine Poco at their most pop-commercial and you'd have a feel for what this one sounded like.   rating: **** stars
4.) Crimson Lady  (Gary Kato - H. Calter - Ronnie Skurow) - 
Another Skurow tune, 'Crimson Lady' was a surprisingly melodic slice of hard rock ... better than 95% of what you'd find on a tax scam

1.) Everything's Gonna Be Alright   (Philip Katchaturian) - 
Nice, driving country-rocker with a sparkling melody and uplifting lyrics that would have made a dandy mid-'70s single.   Another album highlight.   rating: **** stars
2.) Tell Me Now   (Gary. Kato - Philip Katchaturian) - 
Another catchy slice of mid-'70s country rock, with a nice commercial edge.  rating: **** stars
3.) You'll Be Mine   (Gary. Kato) - 
Credited to Kato, 'You'll Be Mine' sounded like a Surkow effort.  Another highly commercial pop-rock tune that sounded a bit like an American version of Badfinger.  Nice.   rating: **** stars
4.) When a Man Loves a Woman   (Percy Sledge) - 
One of the two tunes listed on the liner notes, but not found on the actual Reportedly a loungy remake of the Percy Sledge hit.
5.) Space Flying   (Philip. Katchaturian) - 
The second MIA tune also seemingly available on some copies of the album.  I've seen it described as a decent slice of Latin rock.
album.  The song was apparently included on some pressings of the LP.

Incidentally, for those (like me) who don't understand his mention of "tax scam label," here is the explanation, from a quite interesting interview with the author of a book on the subject, shocking as it may sound:

In 1976, some record label executives discovered that it was possible to create an entire label as a subsidiary to the major label, and to write it off as a huge tax loss to help the “real” label remain profitable. The idea was that a large number of albums (for instance, Tiger Lily and Guinness released almost 100 records each in just under two years) would be on the new label, and the entire batch (ie, every copy of all of the records) would be listed as unsold. They would probably list something like 10,000 copies pressed of each record, even though it’s possible that they pressed up only a few hundred or so. The ones they pressed were never even attempted to be sold; they were sent as promos and dumped into warehouses with cutouts.  Where this gets even more interesting is that in order to create 100 albums in just over a year’s time, the labels had to dig up everything they had in the vaults: demos, albums that were intended to be released but were not, tapes that were purchased from other labels, re-releases of albums that they had released on real labels under different names, stuff that was not ready to be released yet, etc. Many of these are clearly not finished or not properly mastered. The album covers follow a bare bones principle: a simple cover photo and a white back cover with a minimal amount of info (song titles, label info, maybe credits, though many of those are missing and/or fake.)
(Read the whole article-- it's fascinating as hell!)

For myself I've listened to the first two songs dozens of times and I will never, repeat, never get enough of that breezy American convertible sound blasting this slice of bluesy hard rock, driving down Route 66 and drinking a beer and watching those oh so pretty ladies out there struttin' their stuff, wow it must have been beautiful back then in the seventies:

Notice how the instrumental passage in the middle offers you a very safe, but effective, modulation into a minor key for the solo.  The song to me really recalls blues rockers Foxhat.  That yeah yeah hook really takes it over the edge for me.

Here's the track he mentioned about keepin' your funky side out:

This track has the unusual feature,in the three-part vocal harmonies of the chorus (which are, I might add, expertly done), that a second (i.e., an A note on top of the G chord) is one of the added-on intervals along with the customary fifth which creates a slight dissonance, this was first used (I might obviously be wrong) by the Beatles in "Baby you can ride my car" or whatever that song was called.  Here it's done much more successfully, of course.

And the other track he said was a standout, I totally agree with, is the Crimson Lady-- interesting how my favourites are the same as his:

Crimson Lady, Rock ON!!  Clearly, the pickpocketed band Skurow should have been given an LP to release...

I can't resist featuring another song although probably I will get in trouble with the friend who lent me this record, having posted already half his album, Gary Kato's You'll be mine:

Although slightly more pedestrian, it features the interesting aspect of a downgoing series of chords, in major key this time, complementing a melody that makes a wonderful fifth interval jump down at the end.

Anyone interested in reading a bit more about the artists on this interesting oddity and how they were connected together can look in this update to the acid archives here.  Apparently poor Skurow was shocked, many years later, when he found out his music was misappropriated.  If you're curious whether the Skurow 45 tracks are identical to these Sunshine LP tracks, they are indeed, they state there.  No need to hunt down those rare 45s.

You will also read there that one of my old favourites, Ilian, was also a tax scam release!!  Which explains the omission of songs on the LP versus what was printed on the back, as well as the poor quality of recording for some songs (which presumably were merely demos).  But thank god those tax scammers released the mystery man Ilian's music, which otherwise might have disappeared without a trace forever.

Ironically, if his music survives, as indeed it should, it will be due to the back story of this LP rather than the original 45s as Skurow!!  And now, Crimson Lady, Rock On!


Shortly after posting this with no download a friend sent to me a copy of the 9-track album with those two missing tracks that are so hard to find.  Of course, they make for a truly bizarre experience since "When a man loves" is instrumental muzak, therefore completely out of place, and the last song is some bizarre funk. It almost seems like the executives were joking with this-- and that's probably the explanation, someone's ancient joke.  Notice also how this rip has a lot of noise, the recording from analog was poorly done with a poorly grounded wire.

And here forthwith that long-awaited Space Flying track, so badly recorded evidently that it almost sounds like the instruments and singer were out of tune:

Friday 15 May 2015

Lou Stein's Temple of the Gods from 1980

A promising sounding title for an album turned out to be a little bit too ordinary in the rubric of modal jazz, mainly acoustic, for my liking.  Here's an interesting composition nonetheless, called Aphrodite:

Here and there you will note interesting turns of chord or fourth-interval constructions, but it is a bit slight overall.

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Jean-Philippe Goude's Sur un air de gymnastique (78) by request [and Meli-Melodies (1981)]

Obviously these two wonderful albums belong together.  The latter has been available for some time digitally while as far as I know the former not, so I'm quite happy to present to you a brand new work to listen to.  When it comes to progressive masterpieces Jean-Philippe Goude's (who was in famed zeuhl masterpiece band Weidorje) earlier record with Olivier Cole (his percussionist on all these records, who was also in Gilbert Artman's Urban Sax) called "Jeunes Annees" is for me the true work of genius. As well one should mention 1980's Drones which is not to be ignored either.  In addition notice the presence of famed magmaesque artists Paganoti (misspelled with one t on this record!) on bass, and Kajdan on electric guitar on this 1978 outing.  (Another guitarist, Alain Ranval, plays on Meli.)

Given that it has held out for so long this album is not surprisingly the slight inferior in comparison with Meli.  The most progressive composition I was able to find was Midi, which seems to be a restatement of another track from another album, not sure which one exactly:

(Gotta love that final chord.)  Yet most of the music here is far too simple to be of any use to us.  Perhaps we were expecting too much, after being spoiled by the embarrassment of riches to be found in Weidorje, Jeunes Annees, Drones...

Anyways here's my favourite track (most advanced, composed, Thollotesque) from Meli, Le Ska du Loup:

[Sigh, how it takes you back to those wondrous gorgeous progressive Magma years!!!]

With regards to his later chamber works, I felt his best was the earliest, De Anima, though the simplicity of these compositions leaves a lot to be desired.

Monday 11 May 2015

Miki Petkovski 1979 Ko zna (Who Knows) [lossless]

There is a review on rateyourmusic that absolutely nails it:

Miki Petkovski is a great yet unnoticed classically trained pianist and keyboardist from Macedonia. Being member of some top notch bands from mid to late '70's from back then Yugoslavia as Smak, and Leb i Sol he managing to release his first solo album [and only album so far as I know --ed.] in 1979 named Ko zna ( Who knows), who gone totally under the radar of jazz rock/ prog movement of that time, despite some excellent musicianship and great ideas overall. On this release the musicians involved here are from Smak and Leb I Sol,  it sounded and performed at highest calibre not far in places of aformentioned bands in terms of instrumental arrangements. It has some commercial aura on some pieces and for that reason gone unnoticed in prog/jazz rock listeners of the time. The opening Igra (The game) is simply excellent, is short, positive and catchy in vibes and is a good opener, is little commercial in approach, but who cares is great. The highlights are for sure the instrumental tracks,  "luminacija (Illumination), Katarza (Catharsis) , and another two who was already played with his bands where he was involved with Leb I Sol - Sinteza (Synthesis) and with Smak - Budjenje (Awakening) , all these pieces are top notch showing Petkovski high skills and inventive ideas. He bordering very well jazz rock elements with progressive parts to create some outstanding  passages, easy memorable and full of character. All in all a very worthy release, I remember I got this one from Yugoslavia around 1991 and since then was a real delight. It's a shame that this release is not issued on CD yet, he deserve a far more recognition. Miki Petkovski moved to Canada soon after releasing this album and become quite popular among pianists and musicians from there releasing as well some album under his same or in collaboration. Ko zna deserves attention in the prime excellency this album is not far from the masterpieces of Leb I Sol or Smak. Easy 4 stars from me. I forgot nice female vocals.

Right on the money there...!   I will feature the long track called Illuminations (of course mentioned above) from the end of side a, a true stunner of a composition:

So, starting with a basic D minor (with added 2 to add that always-plaintive sound), very simply the melody is first dictated by the flute and another piano, and as the tension builds, you feel it increasing to a crescendo, the repeat pattern gets more intense on electric keys, and boom, just when you can't handle the dramatic intensity, it goes over the edge with a woman's la-la-la singing the melody, almost screaming it, in operatic style.  As if that weren't enough-- the song would have been a 5-star one up to that point-- Miki then plays a keyless, almost atonal but more Stravinskyesque polytonal series of chords as a bridge that reminds me a lot of the piano segues played I think by Chotem on Harmonium's Heptade 2-LP (could he have heard that work?): there is no definable key-- it really requires a lot of talent to play something like that, being groundless in musical education and thus pure genius, then there is a second stage to the song returning to the D minor, you think you're in a waltz tempo but in reality there is a beat missing from each fourth bar, so you get something like 3/4 twice then 3/4 then 3/4-- leading to an unfinished, almost chopped quality to the melody.  Pure genius!!! Have a listen through to the end and enjoy the many changes in this one unique composition.  All hail prog!

Saturday 9 May 2015

Mike Herting's Who Owns Brazil in 1990

A beautiful record from Germany that really doesn't overdo the Latin aspects, thankfully, mixing a great deal of interesting songwriting with depth and feeling.

I really fell in love with the last track called Spectre, about hunger:

Now that there are more overweight and obese people in this world of 7 billion than starving, there is even less excuse than before for not addressing those structural imbalances that still lead to massive hunger in less developed countries (e.g. agricultural subsidies, which pay Western farmers for dumping cheap corn on the world market, impossible in Africa) and outrageous food waste in Europe and North America.  Yet just as this stratification of rich and poor has gotten worse, selfishness on the part of the rich has gone up in lockstep-- big surprise.

Sadly I read a recent article in a Science Journal that described how using satellite imaging, we have seen Brazil (after a lull in the nineties caused by international pressure-- remember Sting?) has secretly but positively resumed destroying its virgin forests at an accelerating pace and is almost on track to accomplishing the worst case scenario of twenty-five years ago, e.g., 95% of forest gone in twenty years.  And because this was once an international cause celebre, expect that it will never again draw anyone's attention-- never, such is humanity...   This time the culprit appears to be primarily the bizarre human lust for steaks and hamburgers.  Think about that the next time you eat a McDonalds Happy Meal.  As well most people believe Indonesia's rainforests (with its gentle orangutans) are a write-off, the cause there being primarily the insatiable Asian need for wood, and equally insatiable Western need for cheap palm oil for products like nutella, etc., and you can bet China has begun to take aim at the last remaining areas of forests in Central Africa.  Only some change within that country will allow these forests to remain intact, and don't count on it, the upcoming climate conference later this year in Paris is expected to announce billions of dollars in transfers from the West to the less developed countries in part to compensate them for keeping their valuable forests, in part as restitution for once again making their lives harder.  Given that the development aid coming from Western countries has hit an all-time low in the last few years since the recession, I don't think we will see any such monetary transfer in our lifetimes except in the form of promises though there might be hope for the children and young adults coming to their senses later when they gain power in this rotten world.  (In that regard, there is a good deal to be hopeful for, since each generation becomes more progressive than the preceding-- I think about how fair treatment for homosexuals was not even talked about when I went to school, today, it's taught in the earliest grades.)   So it's all up to China-- like the elephant poaching, the tiger and rhino exterminating, the 90 percent of sharks in oceans killed for that putridly disgusting shark-fin soup, and why not say it straight up: as chief emitter of carbon dioxide today, China can fairly be called the destroyer-in-chief of the entire planet at this point.  All hail!

For us at least we have this beautiful music with which to drown our sorrows...

Thursday 7 May 2015

Hungarian East with 1984's Az Áldozat (Sodoma) [The Victim (Sodom)]

I confess that I hadn't been aware of this band until recently when I heard this record.  I realize it's been put out on CD so I'll display it quite briefly.  Evidently the band has an enormous discography following a first record put out in 1981.

What appealed to me with regards to this one is that the music is all instrumental and written for a ballet.

From rateyourmusic:

A transitional album of the great Hungarian prog heroes: the old line-up was almost split up but they haven’t been teamed up with Takáts yet.

This is not a regularly progressive rock record but music composed for a ballet performed in progressive rock vein. The sound is very traditional: the record sounds similar to the debut Játékok the synthetic sound present on the two succeeding albums is not apparent here. Not only the sound reminds to the first album but also some of the musical themes have been heard on Játékok. Those who liked their first album will definitely enjoy this.

This is a completely instrumental album and very functional as music. The closing track is a revised repetition of the opening ‘Sodom’, slightly in the vein of ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’, both seem to run too long. The tracks in between are generally moderate in tempo and more interesting. The two standouts are ‘Women’s Lament’ and the beautiful ‘Lea’ which is clearly the record’s best moment with the guitar work within. ‘Auction’ is an ambient like piece which is very functional, while ‘Dance of Course’ is in the vein of the first and last track with more energy.

I would say Sodom is a very good album since East for me is still a standout act of Hungarian progressive rock. On the other hand something is missing here: a short material where almost half of the running time is occupied by the first and last track. That’s why I recommend this one for fans and collectors only.

It is definitely disappointing that the last track reiterates the first, tritones notwithstanding.  I dearly would have loved to see this with choreography.  Anyways I'll throw in all the first four records at the bottom.  Here's the first track for your listening pleasure:

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Knut Rössler 's Brassy Brew - Bus Stop (Germany, 1981)

Surely there's nothing like a gorgeous cover photo as the above.

This is the brainchild and compositions of saxophonist and flautist Knut Rössler.
Remember him?  He was in Fuchs-Goos Band and Chameleon which I posted here.  He also appeared with G. Lawall here.

The music is quite light and funky and less progressive than the Chameleon 2 record which for me is his best work.  That album came together like magic in a progressive all-round harmony.

Clearly the most accessible track is B2's perfectly titled "Hit": 

A bit simplistic, but perfect for a pretty spring day.

Sunday 3 May 2015

By request, The Two Faces of Teddy Lasry from 1983 [Patchwork MC 72]

I had high hopes that the two sides would present two different sides of his music-- presumably, advanced and commercial, unfortunately so far as I can tell this is not the case at all with both sides suffering from an excess of simplicity. "What's wrong with simple music?" I'm always asked when I talk about my love for progressive rock. Well, let's take it to a reductio ad absurdum: would you listen to children's nursery rhymes all day, which is as simple as music can get, or perhaps country songs?

As usual in this record we are treated to his trademark style of percussive single-note fibrillation:

(A6, Tempest)

A pattern that is getting a little bitter to my taste having been used so many times before, particularly in the last installment Interpol.  For me his best, or most progressive and composed works, were 1976's E = mc2 and 1979's Seven Stones.  Track B4 comes close in interest and accomplishment, entitled In the Heart of the Earth:

It's quite amazing how many records he put out in the seventies, though to me most are middling.  Having said that, this one is definitely above average and I am glad it was bought.

Friday 1 May 2015

Luna Set - Monkey‘s Midnight Mood from 1982 [+ their 2 other albums]

Long ago I posted their Luna Set Art album and mentioned how much I dearly loved its delicate and precious style... and this one is their next best, with some very tasty progressive numbers.  A very poor mono rip has been circulating for years, and I always felt it deserved better.

This trio consists of vocals by Juliane Klems, producer and keyboardist Mario Strack, and flute and sax player and contributor to some compositions, Kai Taschner (described as an actor, voice actor, and musician).  Note that Mario went on to write a few more CDs in the later era.  Please read his wonderful bio on discogs, indicating how self-sacrificial a life in the arts is, even today, or especially today:

Born 4. 23. 1956 in Graz (Austria) 
Autodidact since he left school in the early 70's, he became a member in several rockbands and toured with them playing the keyboards. 
During the 80s he did lots of work as a composer and music producer for small indie-labels and major companies with his own Band "Luna Set" as well as with various other artists. 
With the beginning of the 90's he decided to go back to perfect independence. 
Together with his wife, the painter Jacqueline Ditt, he founded "universal arts" as an art market concept. This means, they are running their own gallery and a production-studio. 
Expanding to visual arts, Mario Strack started creating audiovisual clips with the electronic media. His style is known as "Illustrated Music" - a combination of "lyrical electro rock" - songs and moving pictures - that expands the artwork to a multisensual experience. 
Today he lives and works as a free artist in Munich. 

As a bonus I'll repost their other two records so those who are curious can hear all their oeuvre. Perhaps you will agree with me that the third album Art is their best work.

Here's the most progressive song, Taschner's T.G.I., which I've always loved to listen to over and over again even back when I only had a mono copy!!

From Strack, I think his best composition is "The German Khan" (an in-joke?).  I know the two-minute long synth intro is hard to slog through, but your patience will be rewarded eventually.  It's a shame the remainder of the LP couldn't have been conducted with such ambition, but I understand there might have been a leaning towards commercial success here.  (Cf. the first song's lyrics, "you will hear my voice on the radio, you will see my face in the video..." tragic, I guess.)

Here's the old prognotfrog on Art from two years back:

Last album from this new wave/minimal synth band not yet available, this is from 1983.  I didn't much like the first record (posted long ago on possibly mutant sounds (?)) -- to me it was a bit too simplistic in that minimal synth style, but this is all-out in progressiveness with the songwriting: there are odd touches everywhere, sudden modulations for example in most songs.  I really love the gentle, feminine aspects of the compositions and the absence of jumpiness that to me is such a defect of the genre.  It's very enjoyable and can be listened to over and over again in my opinion without any boredom.  As well, I thought the next record, "Monkey's Midnight Mood'  became a bit too poppy again albeit with the exception of one or two progressive tracks.

Credits for this band can be seen here:

On a completely unrelated note, today is the birthday of my youngest son who turns six, though he is still our beautiful little baby.
Happy Birthday to him:

look there goes another angel,
self-ascribed humanness in twice iris-halos
in an aftereffect projection of maroon vision,
no motion picture, a crawlaway face
like a morning hero, smiling in curvatures of space
broadly mixing a flour of miracles with soda minutes
in the stained glass way, pilgrim Samaritan vademecum
he’s on hand for a foot out, a placable doorway
and noah whip, in assumed traffic directions
positioned for our proportions
a small will of tider bearings, a good lack 
on gold curled, luck in passing
book of hours off a plane tree
little manger cliffhanger, 
he’s my rainbow in black and white night
for no one else to seem, my bornagain angel
my own personal protagonist 
in every new plot to come