Friday 30 August 2019

Auracle's Glider, 1978

Auracle's two albums have been available already in poor quality mp3s (mono) for some inexplicable reason and I felt they deserved better, in addition to which they're cheap to buy, so I ripped them again. For the same reasons I 'll throw in some lossless rips too, for a limited time.
This band seems to be the brainchild of keyboardist John Serry, Jr., who made 2 albums around the same time (1979 and 1980).  Of note is that it was produced by my old favourite, the legendary Teo Macero.

I really love the title track's gentleness, like a paper airplane made of three-ply velour toilet paper:

Definitely nice and soft on the bum.  As is the rest of the record.  I love the way in the middle section the song tries to modulate out of the original F major into E flat suspended, but then becomes so enamoured of the beautiful improvised curlicues greated by the horns and synths it decides to stick to the same chord, eventually quite majestically or craftily returning to the original F.

Sorry, forget all that.  Herewith the scientific review:
Auracle - Glider (USA, 1978)
Rating: 4425.22
Category 4 (fusion with less than half featuring progressive moves, approximately 32%, give or take 40%, with fusion split into 74 percent jazz and 26 percent rockier sounds)

Wednesday 28 August 2019

UHF Timeless Voyager

A great cover drawing from the days when musicians really cared about their cover art.
I suppose that now that everything is digital and/or online, it's impossible to under-think it, anyways.  Yet another aspect of the past we've lost in our rush to 'progress' technologically.

I was thinking yesterday I should classify all the albums on this blog in one of 5 categories, in order of their importance to me.  This would also satisfy my wife's constant complaint that 'your music always sounds the same.'  

The first would be classic progressive rock such as Genesis was I guess everyone's number one.  Unfortunately, there isn't much in that style still left to discover, though I might have one or two up my sleeve in that dept.  OK, maybe just one which you've already heard.  The second would be through and through progressive fusion, such as National Health.  Luckily there is still more in that vein, it was definitely a very popular style back in the day.  The third and fourth categories are rock with progressive moves, which often is AOR or hard rock with some inventiveness but not permeating throughout, and jazz or jazz-rock with progressive moves.  The fifth category is everything else, including progressive folk and library.  I should probably separate those 2 since library deserves its own solitary confinement cell.  Make it categories 5 (progressive folk like Comus) and 6 (Alan Hawkshaw still my favourite).

So from now, instead of describing an album, I'll just say something along the lines of:

UHF- Timeless Voyager (USA 1981),
Category III, 42.4 percent progressive.
Overall rating: 169730 
Information here.
Best track (that is, don't expect much better), Don't Look Over your Shoulder:

An impressive try-out for the instrumental progressive guitar composition meet.

Incidentally, I really love this album, its rough hard rock sound is really appealing to me.

As it was indeed to Tom Hayes, who made us aware of it ages ago on the ol' cdrwl and then moved the review to unencumbered here.
It was a priority 2 at that time, and it still is for us today.

And does everyone out there remember what UHF TV was?

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Rantz (1982), for those who missed it

From pnf:

First off, note the beautiful cover art.  Although it can be rotated by pi, I don't actually see an image coming out the other way, though this is perhaps my visual fallibility.

This was another discovery from the mighty osurec and it hails from 1982, 31 years ago.  Why do I always harken back to those wonderful days of the eighties?  Why do I always remember the great late Ronnie Reagan with his doll-like rosy crabapple cheeks and glistening black courtierly pompadour shaking his head rhythmically while intoning the words "the evil empire" and "the mad dog of the middle east" from his teleprompter-- which used to fool my scientist father who thought he as an actor had actually memorized his lines--  imagine his chagrin when I told him POTUS was simply reading not looking the viewer in the eye... For little did my dad know that at that time Ronnie couldn't even remember his own name or the B-movie actresses he had slept with, let alone a long-winded speech by Peggy Noonan-Safire or William Safire-Noonan, full of idiotic and ahistorical platitudes.  But he was full of conviction, that same one that motored the McCarthy boat against communism to nowhere, that same certainty which in truth only true robots can achieve-- that the USSR must be destroyed at all costs, even with the creation of a star wars system of lasers in space that scientists told him from day 1 would never work.  It didn't matter to him that it wouldn't work, what mattered were the words alone, and the words worked.  To this day his words still work.  If millions of humans died in the process, the game theory mathematicians in service of politics said, it was worth it for the survival of the rest of us.  Too bad that game theory at that early point had not progressed to fully include cooperation as the optimal rational strategy-- too bad for us who don't understand game theory and were destined to die in those war games, right?
So I mean yeah, how can I not remember those crazy nuclear-holocaust-eighties with fondness?

After all, his magic religion of capitalism is still the spiritual altar to which we all pray.  We pray for the god of capitalism to make us rich, to give us luxury cars, to let us win the lottery (every day I go to work I hear someone mention this)...  We can grow our money like magic, if we just think the right thoughts.  And the priests, the economists, still stick to the script, they don't believe there is any other way for us, they assure us of a future cornucopia of abundance for all, with perpetual exponential "expansion" of the economy, in a limitless infinite earth that will accomodate 10 billion, even 100 billion humans (cf. Julian Simon RIP).  Now all bachelors can go on reality TV, become rich and famous, then have countless females to sleep with just like the heaven of Islam.  All women can have plastic surgery to make themselves as desirable as their evolutionary imperative instructs them to be, with large breasts, white skin, large red lips.  For a person to question our religion is heresy of course, they are laughed at in serious company, they are ostracized as childish or naive, they are talked down to as if stupid, they are universally ignored in any public forum.  In this way are religions perpetuated through falsehood and irrationality until the day their foretold or unforetold apocalypse passes-- like when the Comet Hale-Bopp passed by without a doomsday and the believers were forced to commit suicide.  Unfortunately our high priests the economists will not be immolating themselves when they are eventually shown to be wrong, they will simply stand in line for unemployment insurance and food stamps like everyone else, probably not even showing shame at their prior false promises or a full belly despite their financial wisdom.

And while I'm on the subject of doomsday (as usual!)  let me mention that all those cruise missiles, the creepy nuclear-powered subs patrolling the oceans that never surface, the thousands of warheads that would kill us all 'thousands of times over' in a nuclear winter as they used to say, they are all still with us-- Reagan and his warring legacy of words that work can still destroy us totally if there does arise a world war three.  Today it seems impossible, but what if there were worldwide famines and mass migrations for many years?   What if the recent economic downturn extends and gets worse and never ends, for anyone anywhere?  And how likely is it that these weapons will never be used, ever?  This seems very low probability to me.

[Interesting that in the 6 years since this was written the probability of nuclear war has gone up by so much.]

I include two fantastic tracks, the Indigo Sunset softer instrumental, and a hard-rocking guitar song that is virtually proto-alternative with punkish singing and incredible tritonal chord changes, nothing bluesy about it at all.

Track 6 (Tesnus Ogidni):

Track 8 (Gnostic Blues):

I wish Tom Hayes and cd reissue wishlist would feature this since I feel it should be priority 3 at least.  There is a wonderful mix of hard, soft, instrumental, no fusion, but a lot of ingenious composition and some killer tracks.  Reminds me a bit of Syn Cast the first Stone, but with a harder edge.

Why are these magnificent records so completely lost???  
But this is our purpose here, to ressuscitate them and preserve them for posterity as the patrimony of our culture, when music reached its absolute apex of creation.  Assuming those nuclear warheads don't rain down on us instead in some distant future.

How interesting that I referred back to Syn here, in the same way I referred to Rantz yesterday.  I guess great minds think alike, especially when they're the same.  The fact is I think this is the better album of the two.

Monday 26 August 2019

Syn's Cast the First Stone (1980)

Herewith begins a long, long string of American prog, rock, and fusion albums from the same period, obviously late seventies to early eighties.  This will go on for weeks, if not months.  Although I've posted tons of this already, it amazes me there is still so much 'new music' to listen or rediscover from the past.

Let's start with this guy, a completely unknown or hidden obscurity.  A one-off obviously Xian band that made this progressive rock/fusion/pop album in 1980 with a kitchen sink in styles along the same lines as for ex. the recently posted Sunrise, but also, Window's Empyreal Ballet, Ariel's Perspectives, Jester, Luna Sea, etc., etc.
Information here.  Mostly it reminds me of my old favourite Rantz, for which I still have so much affection, with the mix of female vocals and very slight eighties sound.  But inevitably, it's not quite as good overall.

Track 9 which is called Second Time Around:

Saturday 24 August 2019

Hiroyuki Namba / Nanba, 4 albums (1979-1984)

There is an extensive bio on rym, which you can read if interested.  I am not sure why that turn of events would ever come to pass.  Suffice it to say he made some remarkable music in this period, very reminiscent of the earlier posted (but perhaps a bit superior overall) Masanori Sasaji.  The latter in particular used to very good effect his classical music education to provide some really interesting creative directions.  Namba, on the other hand, is more straight electronics-soundtrack-fusion in style,  I'm sure you know what I mean by that genre, often descending into the light fuzak territory, for which he can't be reproached given this was the apocalyptic trend in the early 80s.

On the 1982 album the Jun Fukamachi aspects of the fusion are both undeniable and irresistible:

While later, on the 1984 opener called Prologue, it feels like the good ol' days of prog rock could last forever:

Though in reality, like Gatsby's dream or Ronald Reagan's 'Morning in America again', those days were already dead and long gone, never to return again.

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Japanese Outer Limits, 5 albums (1985-1994)

From discogs:

Japanese progressive rock band. Outer Limits were established circa 1980 debuting with a split LP in 1981. Primary influences in their style include King Crimson, Genesis and European bands like Grobschnitt, Hoelderlin and PFM. The original band split in 1990 reforming again 8 years later, again existing for some 10 or so years.

From rateyourmusic, two spot-on reviews from apps and another describe quite perfectly their second album, which is my favourite:

In 1986 Made in Japan Records released Outer Limit's sophomore effort titled ''A boy playing the magical bugle horn''.From the liner notes it appears that this was a fantasy concept, written by drummer Nobuyuki Sakurai.Sakurai along with Tomoki Ueno, Shusei Tsukamoto, Takashi Kawaguchi and Takashi Aramaki were the band's regular members, although the album features appearances by Tadashi Sugimoto on contrabass plus a pronounced string section with Masako Hara, Yuko Sato and Yumiko Koakutu guesting on violins and cello.Kaoru Shimohara, Seiichi Furukawa and Fumiaki Ikoma are three more guests, who contributed backing vocals.

A more dominant string section, the heavy presence of soaring synthesizers and the display of a concept via regular or distorted vocals and narrations show a turn by the band from the very ethereal style of their debut to a more dark and mysterious sound with plenty of KING CRIMSON and U.K. similarities, although touches of THE ENID and GENESIS are still apparent.The romantic soundscapes and symphonic textures are now partially replaced by haunting violin-driven arrangements with a Chamber Music feel and a more complex guitar presence with ROBERT FRIPP overtones.The talent is there, name to me a set of bands, which could actually combine symphonic tunes with technical power and sinister atmospheric values, still I miss the band's impressive melodies and constant cinematic edges from ''Misty moon''.In fact it's hard to believe that in 1986 a group could launch such a complex symphonic effort, Outer Limits did so however, sacrificing a grandiose sound for darker and more bombastic ideas.The concept though seems like a good reason for combining Film Score-like Music, orchestral arrangements, KING CRIMSON-esque Prog and storytelling vocals, some moments are quite excellent, but as a whole this effort sounds a little inconsistent plus the vocals are too melodramatic and theatrical without any particular color.

A bit of a letdown compared to the band's magnificent debut.Still a valuable work of 80's Prog, extremely intricate and instrumentally challenging with a strong theatrical taste.For fans of U.K., GENESIS and KING CRIMSON.Warmly recommended.

The other:

A boy playing the magical bugle horn is the second offering by japanese band Outer Limits. The album was released in 1986 and is a good follow up to the predecesor Misty moon from 1985. Not very much to add here, just this album is almost in the same vein with the album from '85 but with even more aproach to symphonic prog. In places this symphonic prog elements are combined very well with opera singing, creating a real treat for prog listners, an atmosphere that is in same time very dark but also very intristing and catchy- the perfect example is Liris. Well, my fav piece from here is the opening track Magical blue horn , the best from here, delivering some very intristing bass lines combined very well with excellent key passages made by Shusei Tsukamoto, the violin of Takashi Kawaguchi is brillint not far from (UK, Danger money era) but with a crimsonesque touch here and there, a good and strong example of Japan '80's prog music. The rest of the pieces are above average, even in that times , '80's, prog was something only for conoseurs, and surviving only in underground. With this release, and the first one, Outer Limits knock back at everything they stoped from being one of the best prog bands from Japan and why not from world. Not a weak piece here, and not a step down from the first album, this is another 4 star for this important band from Japan, I enjoy very much listning to thier first 3 albums, excellent and inventive albums in a tough period for progressive music.

The very very impressive title track of Bugle Horn, perfectly proggy with all the right moves:

No diminution in quality following a decade, from the 1994 album, Platonic Syndrome (great evocative title!)

Monday 19 August 2019

Japanese Moon Child Demo (1978-1981)

A series of three Japanese artists follows.

For the first time ever on this blog so far as I can remember (not far, obviously) there is no image for a recording.  And this is because it's a demo tape, whose provenance is unknown even to myself.  Not only is the origin a mystery to me, I will assume it's ungoogleable as well, though some out there are remarkably successful at digging up info on these rarities (cf. the Craft CD I posted earlier).

The remarkable thing about this demo tape is the side-long composed track called Moon Child, I think, which is squarely in the seventies symphonic progressive tradition with a mix of movements, styles, passages, employing all the classic instruments: mellotron, electric guitar, chamber instruments (fuzzy electric violin), etc.  It's most similar I suppose to some of the French or Italian mellifluous side-longs such as Latte e Miele were so successful at (Pavana) or Pulsar's Strands of the Future, or Carpe Diem in Couleurs.  Another similar piece might be Smak's masterful Put od Balona, wherein fusion riffs and tender passages alternate in a constantly changing program music narrative.

Due to its length I can't post a sample, but trust me-- for those who love prog, you may die happy after hearing this one if this is the last thing you listen to...

Friday 16 August 2019

Slovenian Quatebriga in 4 albums spanning 1984 to 1997

From discogs:

Slovenian jazz group Quatebriga started in 1984 when Begnagrad members - bassist Nino de Gleria, drummer Ales Rendla and guitarist Igor Leonardi teamed up with saxophone player Milko Lazar and later with David Jarh. In the following years the group changed a couple of members but the firm base remaining Lazar - de Gleria - Rendla trio. In that time also some other musicians were working with the band: Aci Lukač - keyboard, Branko Mirt - electric guitar, Matjaž Albreht - flute and saxes, and Agim Brizani - percussion.

In any case, they made a mix of folk and fusion with RIO elements, even free jazz, similar to Kebnekajse and others.  The one drawback possibly is the recycling of material from one album to the next.

From the debut album, Uverture & I Remember Begnagrad:

Favorite Things, from 1987:

Wednesday 14 August 2019

2 Hungarian fusion albums: VA Session at Night (1980) and Tomsits Jazz Group's Dream and Reality (1978)

Here are two really wonderful Hungarian fusion albums.  Starting with the chronologically earlier Tomsits Jazz Group headed by orchestrator, pianist, and trumpeter Rudolf Tomsits (note the early passing at age 67) we have the perfect, for me, mix of fusion with european classical elements in an aptly named session called Dream and Reality.

The first and introductory track is called Dream:

While the Village Samba, oddly enough given the title, gives me everything I need from fusion and then more:

The other album here from 1980 is a VA.  Note that a number of different musicians have contributed to the whole, though it adheres together quite perfectly from beginning to end with a nice fusion energy carried through with creative and intelligent musical ideas, for example, eschewing the usual jazz or fusion chord changes and showing a depth of emotional sincerity that is very pleasing.
The Operetta:

Monday 12 August 2019

French Composer Michel Colombier [limited time only]

Here's some material that just made me drop everything when I heard it, surprised I had never paid attention to this composer before.  In particular I already knew of the 'famous' Wings album with the unforgettable theme Emmanuel, from 1971, but hadn't heard a remarkable fusion opus he made in the late seventies which falls squarely in the great progressive fusion tradition of those years, and can be easily overlooked when swamped by his library-OST body of work.

First of all we can reassure ourselves that on wikipedia he is a famous individual.  As follows:

Michel Colombier (May 23, 1939 – November 14, 2004) was a French composer, songwriter, arranger, and conductor. In a career that spanned over four decades, he composed over 100 film and television scores, as well as chamber music, ballets, and concept albums.  He won a César Award for Best Original Music for Élisa, and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and three Grammy Awards.

I note that he worked with French progressive (electronic) artist Michel Magne, and Petula Clark, Quincy Jones, Herb Alpert, etc.  Regarding the opus Wings from 1971, we can actually use allmusic for the customary professionally written description full of the standard music review cliches:

With the Tijuana Brass mostly on hold at the time, Herb Alpert commissioned what was immediately touted as a landmark project from French musical polymath Michel Colombier -- a pop symphony with the positively Mahlerian ambition to encompass the entire world in about 37 minutes. Alpert produced it, the gnomelike Paul Williams contributed lyrics, and Colombier composed the music and recorded it mostly in Paris, with additional big-band tracks and voices added at A&M Studios in Los Angeles.

Though Paul Williams, who was a genius of seventies songwriting, probably wouldn't appreciate the description.  The fact is, the album is all over the place in terms of orchestration, styles, and themes, a quality I don't usually mind as long as there is a sense of cohesiveness somewhere, but that's lacking on Wings.

The song Emmanuel, with its classic French soundtrack sound, has a story behind it.  Michel wrote it for his son who died at the horrifically young age of 5, drowned in a swimming pool.  If you haven't heard that track, here it is on youtube.  It was used on French TV in that era and so was well known in that country.

In any case the album I'm referring to here today is the ST 1979 album in which he definitely took to flight with the spirit of fusion.  What's equally ridiculous is the star power that got assembled for this one LP, almost like a Grammy Award audience from the period: Larry Carlton, Michael Brecker, Herbie Hancock, Jaco Pastorius, etc.

The opening, called Sunday:

Did he perhaps make more fusion as ultra-competent as is featured on this LP somewhere?  It's genuinely hard to tell from the database information as listed here, and I don't feel the need to wade through a ton of soundtrack material to find out.  To explain why I threw in two of those seventies OSTs.

Then in 1983, he lands back on terra firma from the high-flying seventies with Old Fool Back on Earth, a magnificent double-CD set of compositions that recalls to me the Claus Ogerman works such as Gate of Dreams (his masterpiece), Cityscape, Elegia, etc.  It's true it's a bit too long in the sense there is a lot of filler, a multiplicity of ideas that could have used some paring down, but it's really quite stunning.  And it flows together beautifully, unlike Wings.

Note the lovely illustrations better seen on the CD here.

The chord changes which evoke shifting ripples on a pond never cease to entrance me on the Nympheas (i.e. water lilies, as in the over-exposed impressionist paintings)

When I think of how this music is indebted to artists like Ravel from the early 20th century but travels so much farther in the direction of breathtaking beauty with the help of twentieth century jazz or pop harmonies in its soft skill and depth of feeling, I just stand in awe at what the human mind has created in the musical sphere.  Can't wait to see what those AI programs will accomplish in the same dept. after 2030 when 'the singularity' takes them far beyond us.