Wednesday 30 October 2019

French Toast, 1984

Here we enter the territory of Fuzak, like migrants climbing a big, beautiful wall, so cover your ears if you wish, and put on the kevlar.
Only one album from these guys, perhaps fortunately, but it has its moments. A song called  Ion You:

Monday 28 October 2019

Mark Vavra's Vacuum Activity, 1980

Obviously, a great title for a record.  But not so impressive after you get past the title, to the music encoded in the long long wiggly groove like unfolded deoxyribonucleic acid translated into sound waves by the diamond needle and electric transducer.
He made only this one presumably private pressed.  Come down in time (is this the Elton John song?  for some reason I can't quite tell.  PS Radka Toneff made an amazing version of it here.  Wait, did I post that whole album once before?  Who knows?)

Friday 25 October 2019

Earthshine's One, 1983

A funky soul song serves as first course for this dinner platter: "one god, one people, one planet".  (Presumably the muslims weren't included, or even consulted, in that positive assessment of our future hopes.)  Then the album moves into more progressive territory with the great instrumental Cycles:

But the band isn't able to quite keep it up.  Jazzier, straightforward, wannabe-standard tracks follow, ordinary chord progressions, lame ideas... Nonetheless worth hearing as a whole.  This album is better than their follow up, incidentally, which is not worth seeking out.  See discogs here.

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Frank Foster's Living Colour - Twelve Shades Of Black - For All Intents And Purposes, 1979 (1979)

An absolutely brilliant progressive jazz-fusion album along the lines of the wonderful Baird Hersey 1975 album posted here way back when.

Note this particular outfit only made one album.  It might be that he made more proggy stuff in his huge discography, and maybe someone can point me in the right direction.  After all, he composed and / or arranged almost all this mini-semi-masterpiece.
Track a1, For All Intents and Purposes:

So you can see we have all the trappings of the standard jazz big band, like Roy Burns, but the composition is surprisingly angular and unusual.  Somewhat more standard is a composition and chart called Cecilia is Love, but equally beautiful nonetheless:

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!

Tuesday 8 October 2019

Project Tyme's Clockwyze, 1984

Another one-off privately pressed proggy fusion album from the US... so many!!
Unlike others posted here, this one is really beautiful from start to finish and bears repeated listening.  As well the spread is quite wide with 80s-style more poppy songs, AOR rock, traditional acoustic prog (think early Genesis) and then of course the mandatory electric fusion element.  I guess it's similar to Ariel Perspectives, truly underrated in my opinion though recall Tom gave that one, deservedly, a priority 1.

I'm thinking this must be a concept album too, it really feels like one.  Not enough patience to sit through all the lyrics.  Information here.

Track a3, B.T.W.C.:

Some really beautiful energy there, got to admit.  Thanks to that double necked guitar up there no doubt.  This particular composition is so similar to other prog-fusion compositions posted here, I'm reminded of Silent Partner's last track, Tom's Luna Sea, etc., etc.

Sunday 6 October 2019

Andrew Stern's Catch Yourself from 1980

Well, we've seen beautiful cover art and photos on this blog but this one has me scratching my head-- Andrew is turned away from a giant Andrew face like an Easter Island
A one-off LP from this fusion guitarist, in the same cool smooth style as the recent Tony Dupuis, Tony Palkovic, and so many others.  It came late in the day for the genre so it's not as proggy as for example the beautiful Don Mock, or Mike Warren and Mike Santiago.  The two Tonys and two Mikes I should call them.  I should also throw out the names Letizia and Rick Bishop's Mister Hide as others of the same ill ilk that have appeared here.
So you get the idea.  It has some really lovely moments, try track b1, Roof Tops:

or the last track which is such a Soft Step:

Friday 4 October 2019

Junius Brutus's 1982 Sleight of Hand

Shockingly here's an artist/band that made more than one album, namely, four in total.  Well, more if you include all the others.  All privately pressed of course.  A clear example of overconfidence in the face of presumably constant and incessant rejection, it really should be an example to all of us when we are young men full of testosterone, anxious for the attention of females.

This particular one is from 1982.  Unlike most of what I've featured so far it's mostly 'psych' and really oddly out of the zeitgeist for that reason.  Usually that's a good thing, but unfortunately I detest the style due to its simplicity, and its 60s throwback.  The second last track which is called Candlemaker's Son has a truly bizarre chorus, though:

I understand these vinyls might be worth a lot of money and be costly to listen to, but I'm 100 percent not inclined to throw away my money for the rest of the lot.  And, which is worse, if someone offered them to me for free I would ask for paypal money sent to me for having to listen to them.
Just kidding, it's not that bad or I wouldn't have bothered to include it here.

Wednesday 2 October 2019

Grok, We Never Sleep, from 1986

Here's another in the long line of fusion albums in the standard 80s style with jazzier and acoustic elements, featuring female vocals.  So it's similar to others I've posted such as Hugo Smooth, Feather Chen Yu, and that other jazzier female-vocaled one that was so requested and so popular, forgot what the heck it was called, for good reason since I personally didn't care much for it... too many albums all sounding the same as my wife would say... too much talk from her every day all sounding the same too... pray she never reads this blog...

Discogs information here.
The track called Don't features a wonderful proggy synth opening, but then descends into more Steely Dan-like hohumness (I've always hated them for being so cowardly in the face of true progressive tendencies instead of sitting on the art rock fence):