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Saturday, November 14, 2015

East of Eden - Mercator Projected

Now for me, as you read this blog, I’ve been a champion of the reissue label of Esoteric Recordings which is a part of the Cherry Red family that releases obscure gems that launched back eight years ago by Mark Powell. One of the bands that have landed on my feet a few milky-ways ago was a band called East of Eden. I’ve read about them when Sid Smith mentioned about them on his own top 30 albums on Postcards from the Yellow Room in the summer of 2007 along with Centipede, Egg, and one of my favorites, Premiata Forneria Marconi.

This year, I’ve re-discovered their music. After supporters including Lee Dorrian (Napalm Death/Cathedral) founder of the Rise Above Records label which he mentioned their first album on the top 20 obscure prog/psych albums in which it was issued back in 2009 as a part of the 150 albums you need to listen to before you die from Classic Rock Magazine, and the late great John Peel. It’s time to head back in to the hemispheres of the sound of East of Eden since their formation back in 1967 in Bristol as originally known as the Pictures of Dorian Gray.

Originally released on the Deram label in 1969 and reissued by Esoteric in 2008, they were one of the early pioneers of the Prog genre. Often they were beginners of the Symphonic Rock sound, but it’s more than just the orchestral sound. It’s has a middle-eastern sound, with a Jazz and Blues Rock touch to it along with the sound of Experimental & World Music on their debut, Mercator Projected.

There’s a haunting sound thanks to the sound of Dave Arbus’ violin, who would later do the climatic finale solo on The Who’s Baba O’Riley, brings a dramatic and sinister tone on his instrument. And not to mention alongside Dave there’s; Geoff Nicholson on Guitar and Vocals, Ron Caines on Alto Sax, Steve York on Bass, Harmonica, and Indian Thumb Piano, and Dave Dufont on Drums and Percussion.

The blaring harmonica blues rock-out improvisation with York’s bass lines give it a punching groove as he takes center stage to show a lot of his ideas with the freak-out punch on Centaur Woman in which it talks about a half-woman, half-beast and Steve’s improvisation nails it down to bring the sound of thunder. Opener, Northern Hemisphere has a Doors-like introduction that resembles The Soft Parade-era between guitar, bass, and violin which kicks it off with a riff and the lyrics dealing with the fall of the western civilization.

And the vocals which goes through both the Leslie Speaker and the Dalek-like spoken word dialogue, gives it a chilling scenery and not to mention the sound of the changing channel and increasing tempo to head back into the opening lines. Waterways goes into the darker territories in the 5/4 time signature essence of Amon Duul II’s pre-Phallus Dei momentum for the improvisations.

With Geoffrey’s Egyptian guitar solo and the thumb piano creates tension and drama followed of Ron Caines alto saxophone going into a raga/screeching powder keg ready to explode at any minute for a climatic end, It’s chilling and has a dystopian beauty to it. The Bartok influences fits into the inspirations for East of Eden’s roots. 

The galloping drums and double-tracking vocals that Geoff does in Communion shows. I could imagine the Alice Cooper band listening to this along with King Crimson for the inspiration for Halo of Flies for the Killer sessions and the increasing sound with the screeching violin and the little story-telling and humor at the end with a burst of laughter shows that they have a sense of humor.

But it’s the 8-minute closer In the Stable of the Sphinx in which it deals with getting the news spread very fast in the desert. This is where East of Eden come into play as they blast into space of the Jazz Rock improvisations with a lot of intentions and goals to create free-rein into their music and it’s a send-off as the five piece get into the psychedelic jazz power with fierce energy.

The bonus tracks two demos they did for Waterways and In the Stable of the Sphinx that goes for 11-minutes. But their take of the Byrds classic, Eight Miles High is a classic interpretation of the song with a Jazz approach and nailing it well that I really get a kick out of. The booklet contains promos and photographs of the band, tour dates, and posters.

I really enjoyed and adored East of Eden’s debut album. The power, the mystery, and the avant-garde sounds, give it that darker atmosphere that just gives me goosebumps every time I listen to their debut. So if you love the obscure side of the Prog/Psych genre, then delve into the music of East of Eden’s Mercator Projected. 

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