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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rick Ray Band - The Setlist

After I was finished with High School and moving on to Community College, I would look at bands that never saw the light of day. From the Italian’s to German’s answer to the Progressive Rock genre, they knew their fire was red hot on the spot. Bands like; Banco, PFM, Le Orme, CAN, Amon Duul II, Faust, il Balletto Di Bronzo, and Ash Ra Tempel to name a few, these were the bands that know the score and always receive a cult following around the world and in the States for Prog Festivals. But there is one band that took me by surprise and that is the Rick Ray Band and their album, The Setlist, which is their 31st album! I bet Frank Zappa would be surprised if he was alive today when he would listen to it from beginning to end. This is no fucking excuse. Listening to it, you get the feeling that the resurrection of the genre is born!
While it pays tribute to the virtuoso guitarist from the influences of Frank Zappa, John McLaughlin, Alex Lifeson, Steve Hackett, or Jimmy Page to name a few, the opening number Taken Control is a high-speed chase number with some odd signatures that go beyond the infinity while The Joke’s On Me is a dazzling composition as Dennis Corrigan’s vocal’s arrangements is similar to a Southern Rock style of Molly Hatchett meets Thin Lizzy ala Jazz Fusion style cranked up to 200 maximum high voltage. Something A Little Original starts off with a rumbling introduction and then going into the train-sped chugging display with an instrumental experimental jam session making it feel of King Crimson meets Rush meets The Soft Machine’s third album playing all at once, like a mad scientist creating a dynamic musical opus, but crazy like a motherfucker also, in a big way.
The rest of the compositions are a flaming fire that won’t burn out with homage’s to its ‘70s hard rock and prog rock tributes. Red Tape is a tension of early Judas Priest-tribute political rocker; Standing in Harm’s Way places an interval of Blues Rock meets Amon Duul II’s Dance of the Lemmings with a heavy sax solo done by Rick Schults who is paying tribute to Elton Dean on here; Sgt. Pepperspray, which to me is their homage to the Beatles psychedelia classic of 1967, they go up the mountains to pay tribute to the Liverpool gods in this Beatlesque jam rockin’ groove beat; In The Real World comes in with a Canterbury Jazz Metal taste that would have made Robert Fripp giggle for joy; Reservations in Cell 3 is an homage to UFO’s guitar work of Michael Schenker while The Voices has the Jam Band feel as if The Grateful Dead were a Heavy Metal band instead of a psychedelic hippie band that features the entire band doing an explosive solo background throughout the song. The last two numbers just goes to show that the Rick Ray Band show no sign of stopping. Until The End comes in with the Crimso treatment again with a bit of Rush’s La Villa Strangiato shuffle rocker along with a Math Rock style as they bring down the house in this eerie number. But if you think the album’s over and done with, think again as it ends with Reality Replaces the Symbol, a political number that goes from the economic system going fucked up in the ass as it shifts of again the music of Rush’s first seven albums and Rick Wakeman’s 1984 in an sinister twist that you’ve never heard before. With a cross between Sax Rock meets Jazz Fusion that’s way beyond fucked up in a good way that is championed of Neil Peart’s lyrics.
Since 1999, of carrying the resurrection of Prog, they found a way to kick a shit load of ass and they deserve a lot of attention to new coming bands who have a love of music while getting the flowing juice going again.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Nice - Five Bridges

Coming from London, they started out as an R&B band which was lead by P.P. Arnold until it was time for them to move on as when they have become the earlier pioneers of the Symphonic Prog-era. And after having hit singles including; The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack, Hang On To A Dream, Happy Freuds, Diamond Hard Blue Apples of the Moon, and the controversial 8-minute protest instrumental number, America, in which during an infamous performance at the Royal Albert Hall in the late ‘60s where Emerson burned an American Flag live onstage before being banned from performing there until they came back together 42 years later. But all in all, there was something beyond the singles and the dynamic albums the Nice put out. The Five Bridges Suite, which was composed by Keith Emerson and bassist/lead vocalist David Jackson, recorded at Fairfield Hall in Croydon on October, 1969, showed the end of the Nice’s career but this wasn’t the first time that the band had done a live performance with a symphony orchestra. Let’s not forget The Moody Blues, Procol Harum, Deep Purple, and Pink Floyd in their pre-Atom Heart Mother era, but for The Nice and Keith Emerson himself, this was one of the most shattering live recordings I’ve enjoyed listening to. And if you think that ELP were just a band, wait till you hear this! The centerpieces included on the album, which are their own take of Jean Sibelius’ Intermezzo ‘Karelia Suite’ which features a militant themed style done by the band and some medieval arrangements for the horn section and then the last 2-minutes is Keith fucking up his organ with feedback and trying to smash it Pete Townshend style and making some hissing noises that is right down perfect and then closing it up with a orchestral rock style that sends the audiences blown away from what they heard. The 18-minute introduction of The Five Bridges Suite which features Keith’s classical piano style on the Fantasia 1st Bridge while on the 2nd Bridge the band comes in to do a psychedelic boogie as if it was done in an autobiographical way, the Chorale 3rd is Jackson singing with the orchestral in a melodic tone about the childhood years and then Keith Emerson is doing tradition of jazz and classical music throughout the number-homage to Dave Brubeck and then closing up on the Finale with a Jazz Rock taste to give it a victorious finale with the orchestra.
To become a center of attention is a little dangerous for guitar and lead vocalists, but for Keith Emerson, it was like a breath of fresh air to fuck up the organ and do some crazy stunts with his knifes which were given to him by roadie Lemmy Kilmeister. Influenced by Ragtime, Jazz, and Classical Music as a kid, he brought it to a standstill with their interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony No. 6 3rd Movement while bringing the album close of combining the sounds of Dylan meets Bach in a blues meets jazz fusion version of Country Pie/Brandenburg Concerto No. 6
It may have been an ambitious and a bombastic project for Keith Emerson to do, and more of a colossal feel to it than bringing a band on the road with a symphony orchestra to do a full wide tour, but why the hell not? The Nice released one more album, Elegy released in 1971 after he was getting ready to move on to start a super group with Emerson, Lake and Palmer and then they called it day. While you listen to Five Bridges, you could tell that it was time for Keith Emerson for him to put the Nice to sleep and felt the temperature had gone down a lot. But you can definitely find the tour de force of his beginnings of pre-ELP which was about to be a leap forward for him, a good idea? Absolutely and positive on the spot!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Camel - Reissues

From the scenes of the Canterbury circuit that was happening in the beginning of the ‘70s, there was one band that would bring that genre along with symphonic to a new beginning. Camel was the band to bring the forms of music from ambient, atmospheric, jazz, classical, and experimentations to an all time high. After releasing the first two albums (Camel and Mirage), it was time for them to step forward with their musical arrangements as it shows with the re-release of their three albums showing the band’s surprising magnum opus’s fully reissued.
1975 was a magical year for Camel when they released their concept album based on Paul Gallico’s novel. Music inspired by the Snow Goose shows the band moving away from the lyrical treatments to more of an instrumental album. However, Paul didn’t want any part of it because he was anti-smoker and felt that Camel was part of the smoking contribution. So it was almost a lawsuit when Camel decided to change it with what it is now shown on the album today. The Snow Goose tells the story of love, friends, and disturbing elements of War that was happening in the early part of the 1940s. Even though the story has an emotional quality, the music with its stroking beauty that fits well with the short story, is one of a kind and very eerie at the same time.
Their next album would push them to be almost considered the Canterbury Symphonic version of Tangerine Dream. Moonmadness, released in 1976, showed the concept to a more space-like musical direction than your typical epic song suites. This is one of Camel’s essential album, in a gigantic magnetism, this album shows the band’s arranging and composition. In the songs, they are each written by the band members that were based on their instruments and accompaniments from what they were doing at the time they were making Moonmadness. Track by track, it is almost as if Stanley Kubrick could have done something to score for his 1968 classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Imaginative and dynamic, centerpieces like the Moog space trip, Aristillus done by the late great Peter Bardens, the spooky ballads of Spirit of the Water and Another Night based on guitarist Andrew Latimer and drummer Andy Ward while his composition of the 8-minute celestial body of Lunar Sea is one of the best instrumental numbers to ever come out of Andy’s drumming that is very magically and ambient at the same time.
After Doug Ferguson left and adding new members including King Crimson’s saxophonist Mel Collins and Caravan/Hatfield and the North bassist and vocalist, Richard Sinclair to the Camel line-up they released their next album, Rain Dances which was released in 1977. With this album, the band moved into the Jazz Fusion and a little bit more of the mainstream direction. It has a smooth quality, but a bit radio FM quality to the mix as if this album had some hit singles on the boundary for Camel to do. The numbers are quite interesting in a Jazz-oriented way. For example, the opening 5-minute arrangement done by Mel Collins who takes the sax wherever it goes while the band do an homage to Return to Forever on First Light while Metrognome is very Beatlesque in a lyrical sense done by Richard Sinclair and then it becomes a passage speedway in which Latimer takes his virtuoso guitar solo to new heights that we’ve never heard before. Meanwhile, it becomes very new age which was unheard of for Camel to do. This time, with a little help from Roxy Music’s keyboardist Brian Eno, on the spacey environment, Elke which is odd, but in a good way.
Decades later, these three albums from a influential band qualified a way to look at music and to listen to in an anthropolgic way

Anton Roolaart - Dreamer

The homage’s of Yes, PFM, Genesis, and ELP is all on here for Anton Roolaart and it is gigantic than what you think. Since being a DJ for Live 365 with, he released one of the most magnetic debut albums to come out of the tributes to the Symphonic Prog-era of the ‘70s. It is more than likely a magic carpet ride for him to do a genuine favor and he’s one of the best musicians to come out of the Netherlands while moving to the United States as a teen and listening to the prog giants he grew up listening to, Roolaart is now the king of Symphonic Prog Radio DJ of the 21st century.
Right from its beautiful front sleeve of its dreamland artwork, Dreamer looked exactly like that. Recorded in New Jersey from Anton’s Studio and at Lakeside and Studio X, it sounded beautiful and almost medieval at the same time, almost an autobiography from Anton’s childhood years. But there is a huge tour de force from Anton’s guitar work and his dynamic vocals from the arrangements of Jon Anderson and Greg Lake from his own background musical touches that he put together on the album from start to finish by leaning forward the Prog Rock touches.
All in all, this is his magnum opus yet almost a tribute to the Marks I & II-era of Yes’s early days with a touch of symphonic beauty as well as Moog noodling also. Adding musicians to bring the debut to life with; Keyboardist, Rave Tesar; Bassist, Vincent Puryear; and drummers Rich Berends and Charles DesCarfino to the core and doing turning points with impressive compositions they pulled together to make it work like a charm. From the ambient opener of Near or Far to the eerie cavernous Tolkien-related number of On to the Afterglow, Anton knows how to present the album and coming up with some huge surprises that will make you emotional than ever! The ideas of the two genres take to unexpected lands and flying up into the heavenly clouds. It isn’t just a Progressive Rock album, but more of a tribute to the genre and how importance of how Anton does it so well.
For example, the dream-like 6-minute title track, is embodied by the mysterious guitar work done in a David Gilmour-esque technique with a smoothing hard rock feel of Anton’s touches while Scary Monsters is almost like a lost track from Steve Howe’s debut album that controls the dreamland quality of the nightmares that we see of disturbing monsters in our dreams. Elsewhere, Color of your World (not to be mistaken of Little Mermaid’s Part of your World don’t ask why) has the atmospheric guitar work, fretless bass work, and an explosive melodic background that shows the influential sound of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, and Mid Summer’s Day which could have been a tribute to the work of William Shakespeare’s career of a Midsummer’s Night Dream is folky acoustical keyboard rocker ala Rick Wakeman style as it has this unbelievable up tempo beat. There aren’t any downsides to the album. Manon is a mixture of rock and an eerie track that is a resemblance as if Dream Theater were formed in 1973 in London with a view of the city that defines the situation as if Anton was in Italy writing the song during the making of his debut album and The Spider is spooky and strange. It’s has a enhanced mellotron melody and a darker feeling about the web-like creature coming down to meet their fear and phobia of the small-like creature, playing it makes it very interesting for a simple Halloween track.
Dreamer will definitely receive a positive feel from old and new generation of Progsters to get an idea with some magnificent ideas. It’s absolutely worth the wait to buy it.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Mars Volta - Octahedron

After releasing four albums since De-Loused in the Comatorium in 2003, it was time for the Mars Volta to step beyond the ultimate challenge in which Omar Rodriguez-Lopez mentioned before The Bedlam in Goliath was about to be released last year in January, 2008, he wanted the next Mars Volta album to be an “Acoustic and Mellower” background instead of a Hardcore Experimental Punk Rock sound they did during their heyday after At The Drive-In. Even though the quote was taken aback by most of their fans, I thought why not? just give it a shot.
And after listening to it twice, they achieved another goal with their fifth album, Octahedron defines unbelievable moments from beginning to end with the introduction of the single Since We’ve Been Wrong, which is by far one of the most heartbreaking ballads that you’ll be quite surprised when you listen to it. It almost reminded me of 10cc, King Crimson, and Roxy Music had formed together, created a tearjerking prog love song and then made it more of a Beatlesque vocalization that Cedric Bixler-Zavala has done as if he’s Jim Morrison but all of a sudden it becomes a dynamic climax as Pridgen comes in to pound your heart away on the drums.
Teflon is very David Cronenberg-like disturbing ambient sounds as if this was left off his horror classic, Videodrome. The number has a fiery production with Lopez’s guitar work, Juan Alderete’s fretless bass line while Thomas Pridgen is playling like Billy Cobham as a Mad Scientist on the drums. It then becomes a tightrope that is very dangerous one by one as if someone is about to cut the rope and reach their ultimate death 70 feet down on the ground. The recording is spot on and has a shattering conduction. With its eerie mourning that has a huge debt to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo on Halo of Nembutals which has synthesized vocals and guitar at moments which sounds like it was recorded in 1982 while With Twilight As My Guide serves up inside a gothic cathedral in a funeral style of pre-Floyd sounds with a classical fingerpicking technique on the Spanish guitar and the slide sounds including the dark-like quality of the keyboards setting up the scenery.
Meanwhile, it feels like they’re back to the hardcore sound of progopunk all over again with Cotopaxi, it has this reunion rocking suite as if you 100% love the John Wetton-era of King Crimson as if you were in your room writing a 7-minute piece and give it to a band and make it play fucking crazy all over again during this psychedelic Robert Fripp style on this stupendous number. When they’re showing the Prog and Punk roots, they go 600 miles per hour as if they were as heavy between The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Public Image Ltd forming together as Desperate Graves sounds almost like King Crimson’s Starless from the Red album. It just goes to show that you don’t need to show off and being a sleazy fuckwad, but show your true identity and your love of music to make it more magnetic or monstrous at the same time along with lyrics that fit the instrumentations that goes along with it.
Now whoever thinks that The Mars Volta sucks, is completely going way off the balance and missing the situation. I mean everyone has their own opinion about The Mars Volta. Love them or hate them, they are a band I truly champion since Frances The Mute and now with Octahedron, which is one of their crowning achievements ever, they will never back down no way and not anytime soon. It is by far one of their acceptable musical environments this year, and no questions ask, It’s magnificent!

Flower Travellin' Band - Satori

It’s easy to pay tribute to Flower Travellin’ Band who are considered one of the most influential bands to come out of the Land of the Rising Sun. But when you look back at their early catalogue from the early ‘70s you began to realize that Prog isn’t just a four letter word, but there were some cool and obscure bands to come out of that era that inspired bands like Iron Age and Grails who considered FTB their true inspiration in their sound of music. But there was one album that would put these guys on the map and define the term Japanese Hard Rock or shall I say J-Hard Rock of the ‘70s that it reminded me, a perfect alternate soundtrack to the ultimate Anime series that defined the genre with the cult favorite of Action meets robotic arms meets controversy, Trigun and Serial Experiments Lain.
The result is Satori. One of the most unbelievable albums to come out of Japan, it has all the ingredients that it needs: pounding guitar sounds, cowbell, screeching vocals, the mixtures of sitarla which is pre-inventive guitar before guitarist Hideki Isima created the strange instrument before reunited with the band over 37 years later, and of course dynamic time signatures that completely fly off the wall particularly from Ishima himself who comes up with some sinister moments on the guitar while Jun Kowzuki and Joji Wada team up like brothers with the bass guitar and drums and create some tensional surprises that take up the 5-part tranquility of the composition that could have been a large debt to Aphrodite’s Child’s 666 and Eloy’s self-titled debut album. And then, there’s lead vocalist Joe Yamanaka who does some explosive vocal arrangements including some screaming and the harmonica solos that he does during parts 1 and 3 where everything is proto-progressive death metal. The centerpieces of Satori are just explosive. If you are ready to face the challenge of weird hard rock coming out of Tokyo and play a shit load of Anime Episodes while you’re at it.
The Indian Psychedelia raga sounds of Ishima taking over Part 2 which a mixture of shuffling and virtuoso solos that is Zappa-like style as he plays the Sitarla for the rest of the seven minute suite. It is almost as if Ravi Shankar joined up with Deep Purple and created a new instrument that would have audiences go apeshit over the new musical device that Hideki plays extensively while Yamanaka is hitting the right notes at the exact time as if he’s a Japanese version of Robert Plant with the high and screeching notes. The outstanding display of Part 3 and Part 4 sounds almost like Vangelis’ 1973 debut album Earth which is almost a sequel to 666 at their Indian meets Samurai experimental qualifications of Krautrock like an Arabian Night story that is very sexy and erotic at the same time during the arrangements while the opening introduction of Part 1 is a cross between Black Sabbath meets The Mothers of Invention metal gone avant-garde of a reminiscent. The finale, Part 5 could only be described from the Tokyo gods that are well researched in the debt to King Crimson’s pre-Red era with their stop and go moments and the experimental dalek treatment that seems perfect for a Japanese Horror soundtrack ala Dario Argento style.
Anyway, a new generation of fans to discover J-Hard Rock music, must check out Flied Egg’s Goodbye album, the first two Speed, Glue and Shinki albums, Strawberry Path, and Flower Travellin’ Band’s Anywhere album, but if you are planning to buy Satori, be warned. Even though it is considered the best work from their career, it might have your brain fucked up in the ass by taking a shit load of drugs or get blown away.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Luv Machine - Turns You On

Coming out of the Caribbean Seas of Barbados, seems very unlikely for obscure ‘70s Heavy Metal music. But with a mix of Soul, Prog, and Hard Rock from the minds of singer and guitarist, Michael Bishop and drummer/vocalist, Errol Bradshaw took the Proto-Metal sounds a little bit further with the release of their only album released in 1971, Turns You On. Formed in 1968 around their hometown in the Tropical Islands, Luv Machine was rised out of the ashes of The Blue Rhythm Combo as they performed in small gigs in Barbados and soon had a following from their hometown including a heavy cover of Build Me Up Buttercup. They moved out of the country of the Carribean Sea into the West Midlands in Wolverhampton and became Luv Machine from there on. Having a bill with Writing on the Wall, Gracious, and Elton John at the Marquee in London, they realized it was word of mouth in the streets of London.
After being signed by Polydor Records, the group went into the studio to record this legendary lost masterpiece before calling it a day in 1971 after it was released. The album soon became a huge favorite among internet sales including eBay which featured a disturbing controversial artwork of a woman’s legs stuck in the record player that seemed too offensive for the market to release such an artwork but remains a favorite among vinyl lovers. But since 2006, with the help of Napalm Death’s Lee Dorrian’s record label Rise Above Records, Turns You On soon got a second chance that is like a candlelight that won’t burn. And let me tell you right now, this is an album that won’t be let go for a very long time. “If the conditions would have been different” Dorrian mentions in the liner notes for the reissue in 2006 of Turns You On, “Who knows what might have been in store for this great band.”
This is ultimate early soul metal sounds like a motorcycle going across the country that pays tribute to ‘70s rockers including Black Sabbath, Cream, and Led Zeppelin. Beginning with the Blue Cheer meets The Jimi Hendrix Experience funky rocker of Witches Wand, in which Bishop is steaming hot on his guitar solo and screaming vocal arrangements that is absolutely dynamic of smashing sounds of the instruments which sounds very chaotic in a musical sense while You’re Surprised and It’s Amazing have more of a tribute to the African kings of Prog, Demon Fuzz as if they were a hard soulful rock band than the Grateful Dead in an early proto-punk rock way. Then it becomes very psychedelia than ever with the calypso rocker of the hippie generation of Happy Children and then becomes very sinister with Everything and the take of Pete Townshend’s lyrical tribute of Maybe Tomorrow while Reminiscing has some beautiful compositions with early power chords, harmonized vocals and a shattering riff that could have been a part of the top 20 riffs along with Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water. Change Your Mind on the other hand is the homage to Led Zeppelin’s shuffle rocking sound of the blues sound that could have been a huge inspiration for the Black Crowes to sink their teeth into as Corupt One puts the band into an anti-dance music while the finale of another tone that is angry and very pissed off is the pounding rhythm of Portrait in Disgust shows the band’s skeletons in the closet of their flashback of their fondest memories of good and bad in the Caribbean Seas of Barbados.
Almost ahead of their time, Luv Machine signified the early days of Hard Rock, giving the influences of Metal a step further than going into gigantic stadiums. No wonder it is considered a Lost Treasure and having music lovers sink their hands onto.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love

The eerie folk rock opera motive was currently acceptable for The Decemberists first concept album, The Hazards of Love which was released in March of this year, and although they wanted to make it their own tribute to the Prog Rock genre with a bit of the folk motives under it, their fifth album is a record that doesn’t pull any punches under the minds of those acoustic and keyboard minds in their casual dresses they wear from their hometown Portland, Oregon.
While the mythical singing ballads and darker guitar licks done by Colin Meloy and the Keyboard sounds from Jenny Conlee’s influences raging from Husker Du, The Smiths, and R.E.M. (not to mention Conlee’s love for ELP), stroke their alternative and indie rock looks graciously, its only to hear the lukewarm sounds between Nick Drake, Trees, Fairport Convention, Mellow Candle, and Pink Floyd that could have been a huge inspiration for them to write their Concept album which is a love story which takes place after the events of The Crane Wife from their previous self-titled fourth album, takes place from an ensemble cast of characters to have a brought of tension and hatred to bring the story in a climatic climax like no other. Also adding to the experimental sounds is The Doors and with some dalek lyrics with a mind-boggling rhythm section and you have this album which could be one of the essential works of 2009 as it gets word of mouth and a huge buzz from College Students who really get a kick out of this Indie Prog-Folk album.
Alongside the acoustic and electric instruments that are appreciated, just on every song on the album is Jenny herself playing some incredible instruments that rage from a Hammond Organ, Harpsichord, Moog, and arranging with an Accordion that is perfect for jazz and polka bands, but used extremely well for this as she might have played during her teen-era while she was listening to her parent’s record collection. From the heavy baroque rocker The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid, with its reverb fuzztone guitar sounds that is very Jimmy Page like, to the sinister introduction with the harp and guitar on the title track, the album is compromises a raging influences to Punk, Prog, and Folk with dynamic vocals to bizarre twisted arranging instrumental solos.
The Hazards of Love is a shattering piece of work. Track by track that could have been recorded outside of a forest in England, but it still gets a definitive wholesome. It becomes very beautiful while you listen to it on your iPod and on your headset and makes your brain grooving to the music – here are some perfect examples and tell me your head will go fucking insane! The pounding melodic rocker The Rake’s Song segues into the Led Zeppelin meets John Martyn punk-prog cliché on The Abduction of Margaret while it becomes a tribute to Husker Du meets King Crimson in a heavy metal way with The Queen’s Rebuke/The Crossing. It becomes like a showdown in a country British folk revival in the last three centerpieces of the album; The shuffle between guitar and accordion with Annan Water, which is almost a traditional folk song that comes straight out the biblical hymns in an atmospheric way. More disturbing of hard folk again is the fingerpicking-inspired touchness of Margaret in Captivity which could have been written for a British Hammer Film. Yet Part 3 of Hazards, Revenge is a terrifying number which sounds very Jethro Tull like, is probably one of the best songs to come out of The Decemberists career.
It takes a while to get into, but with strange lyrics and a resurrection of the prog genre, but like most newcomers, this is a Prog-a-folklore classic with such magnificent backgrounds including children singing on most of the songs including the Revenge part, just goes to show that this is no bullshitting around for all of its glory.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Frumpy - Frumpy 2

When Frumpy released their debut album, All Will Be Changed in 1970, they had no idea they were reaching a cult status in their hometown in Germany and in England, France, and the United States. After the disastrous gig at the Fehmarn Love and Peace Festival with bad productions and organization along with a stormy weather that almost caused an uproar, they headed back to the studio with a new member. Guitarist Rainer Baumann who was added to the Frumpy line up, brought a proto-shattering piece a heavy guitar work that would make the Frumpy sound authorized unbelievably. Only two of their compositions ran for 10 and 12-minutes while the other tracks remain cookin’ and steaming hot like a NASCAR race track that only runs for 600 miles per hour. Plus when it came to getting down to business for Frumpy 2, the German group knew what to do instead of releasing a single version of their songs.
Even though there are only four numbers on this album, though, it still packs a punch like no other. The roaring 10-minute piece of Good Winds combines a flourished slide guitar, Inga’s vocals going through a leslie speaker to give her double vocals a ghostlike movement, and an eerie harmony that has an atmospheric background coming straight out of the tidal wave which has a dynamic Keyboard solo done for the last 3-minutes done by Kravetz which I bet he was heavily influenced by The Nice and Egg. More of the surprising moments is the 8-minute blues intense rocker How The Gypsy Was Born, which features has a crossover of Free meets Janis Joplin in this prog-ballad/ up tempo beat like no other.
The last two numbers is an exaggerating groundbreaking driving forces in their own compositions that they write really fucking awesome to. Take Care of Illusion represented proto-hard rock with a sinister tone with an exhilarating slow-down beat along with a symphonic organ-like solo that sounds like its winning the race while the guitar is doing a heavy Hendrix relative solo as Baumann takes it up a notch. And if you think the album is done, well guess again my dear prog and krautrock fans. Unite at once with this heroic 12-minute finale of Duty, a suite that doesn’t need any introduction or presenting the suite of the year of 2009. Its another tour de force epic boundary that shifts through a mourning funeral keyboard sound that is similar to the mellotron while Inga is singing about the brave life of a man who fight for his duty and his family while serving in the army and died to sacrifice his comrades while the gospel funk rocker moves the groove up a notch from Canterbury Fusion to Wah-Wah guitar rockin territory that is funktified that is very similar to Hendrix’s own group the Band of Gypsys to a full on heavy rocking jam that is worthy to the Fireball and Machine Head-era of Deep Purple in which Jon Lord would have been very proud of and then to the Led Zeppelin homage during the last 4-minutes as it becomes very heavy and very humble to the proto-heavy metal homage of the those two bands combine as they go off the wall like no other.
After the release of their second album, Frumpy went on to release their last album released in 1972, By The Way, and then called it a day after the three members of the band started to form their own band called Atlantis. A couple of years later, they came back at the beginning of 1990 with the release of their reunion album, Now. And years and years later, their music still captivates their fans across the European globe. Their second album, still its way ahead of its time, but it could help to understand why they were the powerful rock and roll band to come out of the Kraurock-era of the 1970s.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Renaissance - Ashes Are Burning

“Dollars down the penny drain/Frozen in the Clouds/Dream away the last pain/In waterfalls of sound” amazing lyrics from a young man who’s been listening to the music of Renaissance which features the legendary vocals of Annie Haslam. For me, I’m a huge fan of the Annie Haslam-era and their fourth album, Ashes Are Burning, released in 1973 is one of the most elegant albums I’ve listened to. If you love Yes, then this band you definitely need to check out. Their albums from 1972 to 1979 are just prominent, melodic, enthusiasm, and emotional if you want to enjoy the music. For example, the opening number on Ashes Are Burning, Can You Understand? starts off in a dynamic forceful energy with a symphonic orchestra along with a grand baby piano that begins with a dramatic feel while Jon Camp is doing Chris Squire on his bass doing an unbelievable bass solo and then the harmonizing vocals coming in as the crisped sounds of the acoustic guitar come in strumming as Annie sings like an angelic figure. She has this soprano voice like no other – different than the influential sounds of Christina Booth of Magenta fame – as the music becomes very up and down beats as she is like the narrator telling the story to a young audience about the lifetime sunshine and love coming through the open air as the instruments including a string quartet come upon her match like a magnetic beam as they match well out of the magic they’ve created.
Let it Grow is very lukewarm in a folksy ballad that takes on the first side of the album. It deals with the situation on the finding the right key on who is the real person inside and being free on who you are in which Haslam sings the line ‘Spending days just holding hands and feeling free/play around, watch the sunshine coming through/come around, stay around, watch the loving grow around you’. The lyrics are spot on and it’s almost like a Fairy tale story and motivated – all of the above. On The Frontier is an homage to the Strawbs with a small appearance of the Moog coming in with a Bebop Jazz take right in the midsection while it has a classical technique as it talks about a group of people living in the settled area outside of the country looking for a new day and the seeds of yesterday are breaking through to the listener and joining the day in a new beginning for the frontiers to search for a new land.
Carpet of the Sun which has become a live favorite for the band including an storming performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City recorded in 1976, has a moderately warm beat. The line was taken from Betty Thatcher who wrote the lyrics for this album, based it on a children’s question about her grassy lawn. This has another homage to the Strawbs again with an emotional ballad while men who saw the group perform were fighting back tears during the piece while At The Harbour which talks about their wives waiting for their fishermen to come home during a disastrous storm that was about to hit them. Anyway, this has a classical guitar beauty done by John Camp while Annie sings in a mournful away about the fishermen in a funeral momentual piece as if it was a traditional folk hymn including an somber organ sound which sets the scenery of the harbour. The finale of all finales which is also another live favorite, the 11-minute title track that is one of their most magnum opus in a haunting arrangement and composition.
Even though it has a lot of surprises including a bass solo, piano, organ and a dynamic time signature that goes different beats per measure, it might be impossible to do the piece again for them if they want to do another reunion one more time. If you love to get into Renaissance’s music, then Ashes Are Burning is a starter to get you going.

Atlantis - Atlantis

Taken their name from Plato’s Timaeus and Critias, Atlantis was the brain child of Inga Rumpf after her original band Frumpy split up in 1972 after the release of Frumpy 2. The group was formed in that same year with a new line-up which featured a new line-up including two members from Frumpy; keyboardist Jean-Jacques Kravetz, guitarist Frank Diez, drummer Curt Cress, and Frumpy bassist Karl-Heinz Schott who joined the line up. The group would later bring John Burns, who’s famous for working with Genesis on Foxtrot and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, to produce their legendary self-titled debut album released in 1972 that would put the Krautrock genre a huge surprise like no other.
There are complete unexpected surprises when you listen to this and a general direction they take, but for Atlantis, it had a complete different capacity into being a sensational rock band. Inga Rumpf is still shining brilliantly with her magnificent vocals which are a similarity of a female version of Paul Rodgers. Bassist Karl-Heinz whose influential sounds of the Funk-Rock tendency and the homage to Band of Gypsy’s Billy Cox and seeing the Prog favors while Diez is doing an homage to John McLaughlin, Hendrix, and Jimmy Page and Curt Cress drumming technique is a sibilance to Mitch Mitchell and John Bonham.
There’s a lot of ingredients on here, but for Atlantis, it had more of an influential Hard Rock sound with a R&B/Soul influence in them. Which is breathtaking from start to finish in its reissue glory and that is why the Vertigo label released such a grandiose lost masterpiece. The reaction of the self-titled debut album is a huge 100% positive. Beginning with the pounding piano rocker Get Up that has a dancing rhythm like no other by adding a soulful rock meets a darker taste of a German version of Led Zeppelin. Big Brother is a unbelievable crossover between the Jazz Rock fusion sound Colosseum meets Traffic along with the pounding conga sounds of the late Reebop Kwakuh Baah while Rock ‘n’ Roll Preacher is a Blues shuffle rocker in the mind of Rod Stewart & The Faces style as Maybe It’s Useless has more of a Free homage. Let’s Get On The Road Again which was sampled by Andy Votel on his Vertigo Mixed 2005 compilation, is a pure sing-along upbeat tempo as Reebop takes over his congas to come up with a driving along into the sunset in this driving rockin’ number as Inga sings her heart out during the song.
And then the unthinkable, they go Fusion again! The 9-minute composition, Living At The End of Time is fast-sped number which combines the sounds of Blues Rock and of course Jazz Fusion meets ‘70s Heavy Metal which is Rory Gallagher’s Taste meets Weather Report meets Budgie. In it, you can tell that the band were having a grand old time doing it as they coming up with some crazy licks on the keyboards, drums, bass, and the guitar which is very similar to Ritchie Blackmore in what Frank Diez is doing. How awesome can you get during at an epic like this? Words of Love, not to be taken by the Buddy Holly song, but written by Rumpf herself, has more of a folky acoustic lukewarm ballad which could have been inspired while she was listening to british folk bands like Trees and Mellow Candle and then becoming a Ballad Hard Rocker uptempo beat which has a Bad Company style while the bonus track Mainline Florida which Eric Clapton covered for his masterpiece 461 Ocean Boulevard, sounds fresh and technically a tour de force! Brilliant and of course, Astonishing? You bet your ass they really. Atlantis are the band that deserves the Prog Hall of Fame at the right time and at the right place.

Frumpy - All Will Be Changed

When people think of Krautrock, they say; Can, Amon Duul II, Cluster, NEU!, and Kraftwerk, to name a few. But for one band who came out of Hamburg, Germany, it goes to show how important this band can really rock at the beginning of 1970 with their quintessential debut album. Frumpy had power and a vision including female vocalist Inga Rumpf. Her vocal arrangements which were influenced by the Blues and Soul sounds from; Janis Joplin, Nina Simone, and Aretha Franklin, she captivated the sound of her voice and the way she sang like no other that had fans crying because of her majestic voice. She is still considered the most influential female vocalist as being number one in Germany to this day.
Alongside Inga Rumpf, the other members of Frumpy have real talent and are excellent musicians. The display of the best effects from having a wide variety of skills from Karl Heinz Schrott, who bass guitar sounds pre-Jaco Pastorious can allow him to do anything he wants while Jean-Jacques Kravetz, who plays the keyboards insanely like a cross between Peter Bardens and Matthew Fisher, is almost like a Mad Scientist to let him do whatever the hell he wants to mix in some dynamic solos while Carsten Bohn drumming is like an industrial factory sound that has a shattering performance as if he was born in Birmingham, England. Formed out of the ashes of the folk group, City Preachers in 1969, they decided to move on from their Folk influences into something that no other band could have done before. “Well, the record company had been impressed by our live shows” Inga Rumpf mentions during the liner notes of the debut album. “We didn’t have much time, so that’s why one week between two shows had to be enough for the whole production.” They were signed by Philips Records and soon recorded their debut album in only one week and released, All Will Be Changed.
The idea of recording it one week was unheard of, but it worked because the deployment in a sequel between Rumpf’s vocals and Kravetz’s keyboard playing of the Hammond Organ, creating a blues and jazz rock sound of the nine tracks to make it seem like their enjoying themselves while recording it from start to finish. With its influences raging from the Blues, Jazz, Folk, and the Hard Rock sound, All Will Be Changed pushed the envelope really hard. The opening, Life Without Pain, is certainly an outstanding achievement. A Gospel Rock exercise not taken away from Dusty Springfield’s Memphis Sessions, the music becomes more developed into an approximation of an emotional Motown ballad. In a style of a gothic church-like manner, with its suites, Rosalie parts 1 & 2 along with Otium has more in participation with Traffic meets The Nice while Indian Rope Man has a ferocious darker tone that could have been on Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland or Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way. Morning is Schott’s piece as he does an incredible bass solo in this Jazzy Funk fusion ala African Rock style! The finale of the suites sequel is Floating parts 1 and 2 as Kravetz, who does a tribute to Keith Emerson in this sneering Organ solo for only seven minutes on Baroque, he just plays it like a motherfucker and like no other that you ever heard before on any prog album and tell me how good this piece is.
Surprising? Shattering? The Answer, Yes. The numbers seems very anti-singles but it goes to show how damn good Frumpy were and how far ahead of their time they wanted to go beyond the boundaries after getting ecstatic reviews from Sounds by the time it was released in 1970. Its still one of Frumpy’s and Krautrock’s unbelievable lost classic.

William R. Strickland - Is Only The Name

Coming out of the United States that became a novelty flourished proportions at the very end of the flower generation in the late ‘60s, the singer-songwriter, and the mystery of guitarist and vocalist, William R. Strickland, who was admired by Jim Morrison of the Doors, made his only debut album released on the Deram label in 1969, simply called William R. Strickland Is Only The Name.
His only album is almost a cross between Arthur Lee, Wild Man Fischer, Skip Spence, and Frank Zappa’s Freak Out!, it is a mixture of the Avant-Garde Folk scene as if it was twisted in a fucked up way including a Moog Acoustic crisp of Computer Lover which was featured on the first Progressive Rock compilation sampler from Deram called, “Wowie Zowie! The World of Progressive Music.” It is an odd number, but it matches Strickland’s profile on how this piece was way ahead of its time. If you think that song was weird, the album gets even more unconventional than ever before. The opening number, You Can Know My Body (But You’ll Never Know My Soul), which features a mariachi feel done by an orchestra in a British psychedelic feel as if Strickland was an doing a song for Arthur Lee & Love. It has this bombastic sound of the symphony while William is strumming like a madman in this eerie ballad melding Forever Changes and Strange Days-like twisted folk music, Romeo De La Route is pure twisted psychotic asylum piece as if Strickland is strumming and singing gibberish and coming up with some crazy antics while singing in to the mental patients along with Touch which has this dramatic quality and having a dynamic string quartet just going off the wall in this unusual number as he scats and using spoken dialogue that is very Charles Manson-like and almost erotic at the same time when you hear this number.
It becomes more dramatic with If I Stand Here Much Longer, it almost reminded me of a twisted folk song that could have been on the 1973 soundtrack to the Citizen Kane of all Horror films, The Wicker Man. The number has a rising feel with the string quartet while William’s vocal lines become a disturbing nightmare throughout the piece as if he’s fucking pissed off at the whole world as he goes through the temperature rising, smashing guitar strings, and the Jekyll and Hyde personality he comes up with his mind-boggling voice setting the tempo like no other. Oops That’s Me!!! is as fucked up than ever! Strickland’s spoken lines about his childhood in a Scott Walker feel while he attacks the guitar as the music becomes more of The Mothers of Invention technique as the banjo fits the story of his crazy life and then we get into the finale of World War 3½, the last number is a post-apocalyptic anti-war song about the corporation that has innocent young men who believes he doesn’t fit in the scenery in the Army and the Vietnam War. Here, William speaks like the late great Lenny Bruce as he tells the story in this narrative background of the Army and the machine guns they’ll use in the Antarctic and the directions they’ll use in the Snowy land to attack and how to see who is the enemy or not. It’s a comedic and dramatic number for Strickland to do on this humoristic number on this nuclear war story.
He wasn’t a fantastic musician, nor a folky songwriter like Tim Buckley and Nick Drake, but he pushed the envelope to give him total freedom to combine the strangeness of the magic that he gave from start to finish. It’s not an easy album to listen to, but it takes a while to get into when you listen to it about two or three times with the twisted minds of the lost hero, William R. Strickland. And that ladies and gentlemen, is only his name.