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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Earth & Fire - Reissues

Alongside the Female Progressive Rock bands including; Renaissance, Curved Air, Magenta, Frumpy, and Atlantis, Scandinavian’s own answer to the first two bands, Earth & Fire embraced the psychedelic folk and the symphonic treatment that would have made Yes run for their money. Yet Earth & Fire who were completely ahead of their time and featured Jerney Kaagman who has a rare crossover of Annie Haslam and Inga Rumpf and now one of the judges of talent show, Idols based on the British version Pop Idol and the *shudder* American version, American Idol, brought Earth & Fire the identical sounds of early Symphonic Rock. Their first three albums which were out of print, now finally re-mastered from the people at Esoteric Recordings, are breathtaking and exciting.
To begin Earth & Fire’s orchestral treatment, look at the beginnings of their first self-titled debut album. Originally released in September 1970, Earth & Fire’s debut album showed the band in their psychedelic folk sound and beginning to look for a rock musical direction. The rumbling and pounding opening introduction, Wild and Exciting is a signified heavy number with a lot of harmony and sneering guitar rhythms that features a lot of speed passages indicated throughout the drums and guitar as it solos like its paying tribute to Jeff Beck done by Chris Koerts.
Outside Wild & Exciting, the folk turned into an almost hit single with a glimmering attitude, Twilight Dreamer is a tribute to the Swan Princess while Ruby is the One is a psychedelic pop version of Led Zeppelin meets the Hunky Dory-era of David Bowie has a lot of energetic power as for You Know the Way, Vivid Shady Land, and 21st Century Snow, one is an acoustical love-song ballad as the other two are very upbeat and catchy and have a lot of high voltage power featuring a lot of beautiful harmonic sounds from the band and midsections going beyond the pop sound into more early Strawbs/Rick Wakeman sound (or more the Time of a Word-era mind-boggling version of Yes). The rapid fire single, Seasons is very much an attempt to write a song for another Dutch prog band to get a hit single, Jade Warrior featuring guitarist of Focus, Jan Akkerman while the 7-minute number, Love Quivers sounded more of a neo-classical heavy metal as Jereny brings her vocal arrangement more of a statement rather than just a drunken rock star as Chris Koerts and his brother Gerard flourishes amazingly on the Hammond Organ and then becoming more of an homage to Mike Rateledge Soft Machine style. The last number, What’s Your Name? is more of their calm after the storm with a memorable atmosphere featuring more of their acoustic upbringing and the folk background similar to the flute styles of the Moody Blues, Ray Thomas.
Bonus tracks include two of their B-Side singles, Hazy Paradise and Mechanical Lover – it’s very much one light-hearted and the other an early twisted version of the Steve Perry-era of the Infinity-era of Journey.
Song of the Marching Children was Earth & Fire’s second album, released in October 1971. The band were now moving into more conceptual story line backgrounds and moving away from their folk sound into more of a Genesis Foxtrot-era sound, but this album enjoyed a lot of top success in the UK, Germany, and Belgium as they were getting ready to go on tour to promote their second album. The centerpiece is the 18-minute epic title track, which begins as a Triumvirat keyboard sound as Gerard makes it into a moody piece well made ala early New Age sound as his brother does a tribute to Steve Howe. As Chris remarkably sets his guitar to a war-like background here, the rest of the piece is sinsister, dramatic, and post-apocalyptic along with Synths, Organs, and the Mellotron while Jerney makes the composition a dreamland adventure.
Alongside the 18-minute epic, the four tracks are worth listening to. Carnival of the Animals, a tribute to french composer, Camille Saint-Seans, is a happy-go-lucky number that has a carousel sound on the Organ with Kaagman’s vocals sounding more psychedelia of the late ‘60s while Ebb Tide has a jazz element of early Pink Floyd as the flute and bass do some fusional take of Miles Davis meets Focus, but it’s very straight forward like a dune buggies racing for the win. Another of their hit singles, the haunting 6-minute composition, Storm and Thunder, begins with a thunderous funeral arrangement on the Organ as the Mellotron comes in to give it an eerie call setting in a Gothic Cathedral ala Edgar Allen Poe style whilst the band sing about death and the bloody landscape of hell. While this is going on, the last 2-minutes become more of King Crimson’s second album as its more of a pastoral rock finale with the Mellotron coming in again to give a anti-climatic ending as for In The Mountains is another symphonic piece ala instrumental style making the band sounded like they recorded this in a cottage in England and performing this number with Akkerman and Steve Hackett to do of a crossover of Moving Waves and Selling England by the Pound.
Bonus tracks feature two of the single versions of Song of the Marching Children and Storm and Thunder while Invitation is very eerie and very power rock-like sound as the heavy metal sound is back with a classical rock style (maybe more of a weird version of the Scorpions Rock You Like a Hurricane) of Lost Forever it’s more of a MK II sound of Deep Purple. Memories, a lushful hit single with a whimsical background while the B-side From the End ‘Til the Beginning is very sci-fi rock musical with an explosive magnetic time signature.
Atlantis was Earth & Fire’s follow up to Song of the Marching Children very much of a sequel, released in March 1973. This was the band continuing their Symphonic Prog Rock treatment before becoming a Dutch like version of ABBA but Atlantis received critical praises. The 16-minute opening title track is more of a mini rock opera based on the mysterious island in the Greek landscape to make it more of a tribute to Close to the Edge, but more with new concepts and story-complex songwriting from the Koerts brothers to pay tribute to Greek stories that were a part of the movie, Clash of the Titans.
But the opening is magnetic featuring a lot of different time signatures, mellotronic atmosphere, and very much calmed to their follow up to Song of the Marching Children, to feature the guitar, drums, and keyboards along Kaagman’s vocals giving all they got to make it a roller-coaster ride. The power chord pounder of Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe Tonight has more of their power pop sound ala Renaissance in a 15th century taste whilst Interlude is very much an ambient classical arrangement of mellotron/guitar short instrumental as it segues into the Tolkien landscape with Fanfare, another of their pastoral rock sound featuring the keyboards, guitar, bass, and vocals going into a beautiful background in the Elf land forest.
Theme of Atlantis which to me, could have been the overture before the beginning of the 16-minute epic, is another short instrumental with more layered guitar and mellotron work which features some melodic parts of the epic, but the two instruments has some beautiful compositions along with the tones that make it pitch perfect as we close the album with the balladry Love, Please Close the Door. The final number is a mastermind, beginning with an acoustic guitar introduction to make it more again with the neo-classical arrangements and Kaagman’s vocals similar to Cadence and Cascade as it becomes a rock musical arrangement set perfectly at the Royal Albert Hall with the rhythm section by making it more different with the signatures changing the tempo as the lyrics fit well with the instruments.
Earth & Fire were way ahead of their time, but their first three albums show a lot of exciting moments, but their music is meeting with a lot of amazing grace to their symphonic underground sound.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Matt Stevens - Echo

When I’ve first heard this album, I was a little skeptical at first, but hearing for the first time from start to finish, I knew that this wasn’t just a debut album, this here, is one magnificent instrumental album. Mixing with the guitar sounds of Robert Fripp, Ottmar Liebert, Omar-Rodriguez Lopez, John McLaughlin, and Alex Lifeson, newcomer from North London, Matt Stevens is one of the heart stopping guitar players to come out of England. He has already performed in the U.K. and has received word of mouth and created a huge buzz along with his debut album released in 2008, Echo in which he uses a lot of multilayered tracks for his trusty acoustic guitar to give it an eerie and haunting sound in which he would give according to him on his biography, “Live Looping”.
Matt plays his guitar as if he was onstage with his heroes with King Crimson and Frank Zappa as if they recorded together in a cavernous cave; the opening number, Moon Dial begins with a finger picking guitar work along with a haunting chiming section that fits well with the Matt’s composition – has guitar music been so damn good to feature a section like that with a magnificent force in instrumental music for the 21st century? Hell yes! – The drums and the strumming fit in the atmosphere to give it a Radiohead passage to lead into the haunting finale.
Two dramatic numbers, the soaring Spanish Guitar sound with Burning Bandstands and the homage to the Dave Matthews Band meets Rush sound of the chugging pounding styles of Airships, both of them sounded like as if they were recorded in the streets of New York City as the people hear the constructors working 24 hours day and night to finish the job for a new building and making it look fresh and much better for the Big Apple to enjoy, while Drama in the Coals explores the Indian and African tribe in a heavy setting as the guitar becomes calm for a moment as his guitar all of a sudden becomes a train going into the jungle with a lot of heavy strumming and the solos become very jazz-orientated. Flies in the Basement, pays tribute to the West Coast sound of the psychedelic ‘60s with a Jerry Garcia touch on the guitar with a lot of loop changes that he does, but it’s definitely worth a Golden ticket to hear. Emerging with a Hackett-like solo and a Malaguena sound that is a thunderstorm that would have made Robert Fripp taken aback by, you begin to wonder is Matt Stevens is going to win the world cup series.
The last six tracks are a thrill ride paying homage to the Progressive Rock sound and the guitarists that Matt Stevens admires. Snow (Part 3) is an ambient David Gilmour sound similar to Pink Floyd’s last album, The Division Bell with the instrumental, Marooned, which almost has a ballad-like quality; Chasing the Sun represents an acoustic version of the Ventures surfing guitar rock sound and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez salsa guitar rhythm as if they had mated together with a lot of heavy recording sessions; while Spencer Park comes in with more of the 15th century Renaissance sound as if it was recorded in India with a spectacular upbeat tempo to make it more sound like if Thom Yorke recorded this during the Eraser sessions, West Green has an Spain stop and go sound tribute that has the Ottmar Liebert meets Jonny Greenwood influence and could have been a part of the indie film, Y Tu Mama Tambien; Jubilee is a ghost-like breathtaking emotional beauty arrangement as for the closing number, Doll’s House mixes with techno acoustic rock to dark-like stories that is very sinister worthy of the OK Computer-era of Radiohead.
The tracks, the arranging and composition’s that Matt does is mesmerizing to get your hands on to. With Echo, you can do no wrong to bring the house down. A nice covert art and heavy acoustic work? Not a bad idea.

Be Bop Deluxe - Axe Victim

Founded in Yorkshire in 1972, Be Bop Deluxe was the combining mix of Roxy Music, David Bowie, Sparks, and Peter Hammill. They came together to as a blues rock band to follow in the footsteps of John Mayall, The Yardbirds, and Cream. But when Glam Rock was in its peak, front man and mastermind of Be Bop Deluxe, Bill Nelson knew where the direction that he and the band were going for. Even though they weren’t trying to copy Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Bill also admired the Art Rock scene that was going on also with; Pink Floyd, Van Der Graaf Generator, King Crimson and the avant-garde of mad music, Frank Zappa. A couple of years earlier the late John Peel was so impressed of what Bill Nelson with the release of his first solo album, Northern Dream, released in 1971, that he urged Harvest Records to get a glimpse of the upcoming singer-songwriter. Harvest may have been glued to Kevin Ayers, Edgar Broughton Band, Deep Purple, and Triumvirat, but they had no idea of what was about to happen next.
But it all worked and the release of Be Bop Deluxe’s debut album, Axe Victim, released in 1974, showcased their Science-Fiction rock stories, jazz guitar works, paying homage to the important Glam Rock bands, and the psychedelic folk rock sound of the late ‘60s in Great Britain.
The lead single, Jet Silver and the Dolls of Venus, almost could have been a prequel to Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes and David Bowie’s The Supermen, is a lukewarm distinct melody with a component acoustic crisp sound along with the chorus that seems dream-land but astonishing for Bill to sing about a band from outer space to give the earthlings a concert they’ll never forget.
Even though Bill Nelson is the brainchild of BBP, his guitar work would bring the experimental sound with a solo in the midsection that would raise a hair and shiver down your spine while other musicians including Rhythm guitarist Ian Parkin, Bassist Robert Bryan, and drummer Nicholas Chatterton-Drew are established musicians. With an amazing line-up to be on the Be Bop Deluxe cruise line, the band was always looking to hit the mainstream. But Axe Victim shows the Be Bop Deluxe at their beginnings to go commercial. Alongside Jet Silver, there are some amazing songs that it’s sending a light shining through the audience.
The soaring opening title track, has the stop and go time signature in ¾ with a sonic guitar work that makes the band from just a club band to being Roxy Music’s kid brother as Bill sings the opening line ‘You came to watch the band/To see us play our parts/We hoped you’d lend an ear/You hoped we’d dress like tarts.’ Dealing with Teen Girls going apeshit over the Glam gods and making it so fucking mesmerizing, it’s one hell of a song while Love Makes Swift Arrows is an acoustic proto-punk rock that made Nelson’s guitar work as it could have been a hit single ala Bowie-style. Third Floor Heaven and Night Creatures pay tribute to Slade’s heavy rock and ballad rock sound as for Rocket Cathedrals is a crazy crossover of Robert Calvert and Elton John ala pounding rock style;
Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape is another folk acoustic turned heavy sci-fi haunting rock beauty as the 7-minute composition Jets At Dawn is another guitar layered sound tribute to Sparks’ Kimono My House while the final two numbers the glam-esque sound of No Trains to Heaven and the piano balladry, Darkness (L’immoraliste), brings the album to a close.
Though the band called it a day, the reissues just released years ago to delight a new generation of fans to understand why Be Bop Deluxe were completely ahead of their time and looking at their catalogue and seeing the amazing sounds of the band and Bill Nelson.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Spooky Tooth - Ceremony

While there was no band that could have been considered progressive rock, but more with a psychedelic hard blues rock sound, more of those influences come in through the mind no other than Spooky Tooth. the music may have had a huge influence on Judas Priest who covered, Better By You, Better Than Me from their Stained Class album, The music wasn’t either bombastic with pretentious ice-skating 15th century anywhere to be sighted. Formed out of the ashes of The VIPs and Art in 1967 featuring guitarist Luther Grosvenor, keyboardist Gary Wright, bassist Andy Leigh and Greg Ridley, and drummer Mike Kellie helped to the creation to make the sound of Spooky Tooth to be the first proto heavy metal band to come out of the late ‘60s.
Alongside their first two albums, It’s All About and Spooky Two, their next album would have them put controversy on their market by collaborating with French Electronic composer of the Avant-Garde, Pierre Henry, who’s best known for his hit instrumental single Psyche Rock (later to be known as the Futurama theme), worked with them on their third album, Ceremony was released on the Island label in December 1969, is one of the strangest and twisted example of the experimental sound and disturbing choice to deal with the gothic cathedral details about Christianity to an all high stake and mixed opinions to their fans.
Ceremony starts off with the 7-minute eerie composition, Have Mercy, one of the most haunting blues rock musique concrete sounds of early Gothic Rock turned into a fierce baptism sort of Dalek mystery puzzle solving with a heavy guitar solo and rumbling synths that seemed was coming straight from the mind of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band and the Beatles White Album sessions. Jubilation is a the layers of hell of fucked-up chants setting with Mike Harrison’s lukewarm vocals as Gary Wright’s keyboard and Pierre sets the post-apocalyptic nuclear holocaust of Religion from the minds of believing in Jesus Christ as if Edgard Varese was rolling in his own grave; Confession is an early homage to the Krautrock scene ala Faust style starting off with a droning noise, guitars layered, and hammers banging very loudly whilst becoming funk hard rock midsection as Pierre fly’s off the motherfucking wall with his synths that at first you think that it’s fucked up bullshit in what he’s doing, but Holy Fucking Shit! He’s having the crucifixions a ball and nailing it big time like a motherfucker! The 10-minute sinister classical ambient mystery of Prayer is a tribute to Tangerine Dream’s Electronic Meditation and Amon Duul II’s Phallus Dei; Offering is an erotic heavy dreamland to salvation as if it was recorded in 1979 to give it the supernatural duty calls of chills down your spine; and the final sixth track, the 7-minute hell on bible gods, Hosanna, a worship to the lord our savior atmospheric metallic wonder that makes the band as disturbing monks.
Throughout the piece, you get to hear Mike Harrison’s true side from a calm and screaming vocal arrangement while Luther Grosvenor’s guitar work brings it to disturbing and shrieking rhythm section and solos that would fly off the wall as Pierre Henry is doing some mad scientific experiments to cook up the Moog’s and the VCS3 as if the people supporting the god are entering the Jerusalem Church at the right time to jam nonstop. You get the idea Spooky Tooth showed some weird concepts turning from hard rock into a darker Christ-like figure into paradise itself. Though they split in 1974 and reforming again in the 21st century, this album might scare the living shit out of you if you're up for the challenge to play it along with Frank Zappa's Freak Out! album and Captain Beefheart's weird adventures of Trout Mask Replica.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Barclay James Harvest - Live Tapes

By now, you may have to embrace the sound of Barclay James Harvest who have to appear into a dreamland fantasy-like story for they bring to the Prog Rock underground table. But this is definitely a good thing for a strange band that some of the unheard bands from the seventies should be checking out by not destroying their records, so this is a great thing with the quartet from the minds of keyboardist Wooly Wolstenholme; bassist Les Holroyd; guitarist and vocalist John Lees; and the late great drummer Mel Pritchard, these men work together as a team to play inside an English countryside of pastoral ballad beauty of progressive rock. Live Tapes, released in 1978 which was after their 1974 first Live album simply called, Live, the band were signed to a new record label after leaving Harvest and moving to Polydor Records to promote Gone To Earth. It featured some of the songs from the album – including a journalist who described Barclay James Harvest’s music as a “Poor Man’s Moody Blues”.
So what John Lees did in response to the journalist, was to write a song that could have been a sequel to Nights in White Satin which could have made John Lees a kid brother to Justin Hayward and John Lodge in a weird and interesting way. On this 2-CD set helped by the people at Esoteric Recordings, the band was more of an independent symphonic band that had a tour de force here on Live Tapes rather than Yes’s Close to the Edge. Woolly’s keyboard playing has an impressive scope from a diatonic constant pastoral success, John’s vocals shines throughout the live sound with his Steve Howe guitar work as Les Holroyd’s bass playing is very calm and Mel’s drumming brings the band going for the fans to see the magnitude on Barclay James Harvest.
Originally, the album was supposed to be released in the United States, According to the liner notes done by Keith and Monika Domone, the Live Tapes had been recorded to see if America was ready for Barclay James Harvest, but the track-listing had to be changed. It fell through because Europe was a perfect market to release Live Tapes with some astonishing tracks that would definitely get BJH’s attention to perform in America at Prog Rock festivals. But Live Tapes definitely offers an amazing set list that is almost a two-part act of an independent rock musical story into space.
Beginning with the Space Ambient Rock introduction with Child of the Universe, it includes surpassing excellence live versions of the symphonic bonus 6-minute track, The World Goes On, Pastoral Mellotron beauty with a dazzingly live version of the fan favorite, Mockingbird while they pay tribute to Pink Floyd with Hard Hearted Woman and the atmospheric impressive ballad Poor Man’s Moody Blues and Rock & Roll Star. But it gets more of a heavy ride, the neo-classical live touching power of the 11-minute haunting version of Medicine Man sends a chill down your spine remembrance of Hawkwind. The second disc showed their emotional balladry with Taking Me Higher, Suicide?, the hard turned 14th century rocker, Crazy City and the Starcastle clone take of Polk Street Rag.
When the album first came out in June of 1978, Fans from the UK felt that a double live album, was showing Barclay James Harvest pushing too much commerciality and hitting the mainstream too much. Sadly, the album didn’t sell well in the UK, but it was a huge success in Germany reaching the top 20. A Live album that was ahead of it’s time, is finally given the chance it deserves to get.

Fire - The Magic Shoemaker

Before Strawbs, Dave Lambert’s psychedelic band Fire is only known for their garage rock fuzz tone hit single, Father’s Name is Dad, but there was something inside this band when they released this lost concept album. The Magic Shoemaker released on the PYE label in 1970, now reissued from the Esoteric label rather than the earlier re-mastered Castle label a couple of years ago. The album features new liner notes about the making of the album including the story line done by Ray Hammond, this album is a slice of progressive psychedelic apple pie, featuring heavy guitar sounds, bass, and drums along with some folksy crisp along with Lambert’s narration telling to a young group of children about the shoemaker’s story which seems very 15th century, but it works.
Lukewarm, Hippie Power, and very English it may be, but the early sound of progressive rock that would make the fans very appreciated of Lambert’s soaring vocals before becoming a Prog-Folk singer and began to realize how damn good his arrangements really are from start to finish. Whilst Dave’s voice is top supreme, his guitar sound just gives you goosebumps alongside Bob Voice’s shattering drumming brings the Fire sound to the table as for Dick Dufall’s bass work which is similar to Noel Redding of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Fat Mattress. This is definitely a must-have collector’s item of the music and story that gives the complex story-line the treatment of giving force of the recording sessions to give Lambert the power not to make another Fire album.
Even though The Magic Shoemaker is really worth listening to, there was an act of principles surprisingly of the band five highlights of the conceptual story. The blues-hard rock shuffle Like to Help You If I Can mixed heavy guitar solos similar to the Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, jazzy opening bass line, political helpings to the Shoemaker from the King to make him fly which would stop the battle. Yet the early sound of lukewarm haunting piano balladry turned psychedelic folk pop of the treasure hunt was Shoemaker, which, with Lambert’s vocals reminded me of Spooky Tooth’s Mike Harrison; More of the their earlier days of the Nuggets garage rock sound of the late ‘60s I Can See The Sky, featuring the band doing a small tribute to The Who and the Small Faces; The ragtime tongue harmonica quirky sense of humor ending Happy Man Am I is a short little ditty that makes you smile as if they recorded the number inside a cabin to make fun of themselves while working on material for the Shoemaker sessions;
And if that wasn’t enough, the 6-minute introduction mixed with an heavy African-tribe psychedelia-sound, Tell You a Story, Lambert’s fiery vocal introduction and sneering guitar work that would have made the Doors and the West Coast Sound of California taken aback by while the four bonus tracks on this reissue, are worth to take a listen to.
You have the proto-punk power pop ‘60s taste of Father’s Name Was Dad, Treacle Toffee World is their tribute to the Syd Barrett-era of Pink Floyd while ‘Round the Gum Tree is another quirky number as if Dave Lambert had teamed up with an English version Alvin & The Chipmunks to record this comedic little ditty as if they were paying an homage to The Move’s Here We Go ‘Round the Lemon Tree. And Toothie Ruthie showed their earlier touch of Bubblegum music as if they were trying to be the Monkees and the Archies, but thank god they didn’t. After the Magic Shoemaker was released, the band called it a day before reuniting to perform the album in its full glory in 2007 for a live version. Still, a band and an album to really check out before listening to the Strawbs.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Pete Sinfield - Still

It’s hard to talk about that in the history of Progressive Rock about Peter Sinfield, who’s lyrical backgrounds helped paved the wave for King Crimson to help write the songs to give it a Tolkien and Fantasy background that he gave to bring to the forefront. Even though alongside King Crimson was the first band to bring prog rock in a firestorm, Pete Sinfield’s concept showed a lot of brilliant backgrounds in songwriting in which Donovan became his biggest influence to write lyrics based on his love of books and very science-fiction in an apocalyptic view of hell with; ‘The wall on which/the prophets wrote is cracking/at the steams.’ It sounds very beautiful to come up with lyrics like that from his days with working with guitarist Robert Fripp to leaving the band after the release of Islands to pursue a solo career. In 1972, he worked with Roxy Music by making their landmark glam-prog self-titled debut album whilst he got to work Crimson member, Greg Lake with the first prog rock supergroup, ELP on the glorified Brain Salad Surgery of the 32-minute sci-fi epic, Karn Evil 9 and of course with Italian prog kings, Premiata Forneria Marconi by writing English versions of their songs on the first English albums. But what most people don’t know that he also released one of his first solo album, Still is an album that you need to listen to and any fan can definitely relate the lyrical techniques you have to listen to for the first time to get into the hang of it, but give it a few shots and you’ll see why he’s one magnificent lyricist. Mind you, you don’t see him as a Prog’s answer to Leonard Cohen.
Now in an Expanded 2-CD edition set done by Esoteric Recordings which are working on bringing the Manticore label to prog fans to the core, featuring early sessions in 1973 and 1975 including two bonus tracks; the country folk sliding guitar ballad, Hanging Fire and the King Crimson style of the love song beauty, Can You Forgive A Fool? that weren’t release on the time when Still first came out, It’s one of the best re-masters that I’ve got a pleasure to take a listen to. Mixing with Pastoral Symphonic Beatlesuqe freedom, Sinfield didn’t make any excuses of his background with King Crimson, yet the songs are magnificent. Along with Envelopes of Yesterday, which has a very 15th century George Harrison related guitar work ala Canterbury style to Caravan’s first album, the opening introduction Song of the Sea Goat could have been too hard to be put on Genesis Trespass album which seemed very English cottage-like with an eerie ballad that has piano, flute adding to the scenery as if Peter Gabriel had more of the compositions for his story-telling complex songs, The Piper is an homage to Fairport Convention along with A House of Hopes and Dreams which has a lullaby psychedelic dreamland for children to sleep and go beyond the clouded white horses flying through the sunless sky; Under the Sky which was covered earlier with Judy Dyble featuring Giles Giles & Fripp on the Brondesbury Tape sessions, has a Canterbury version of Tangerine Dream jazz fusion style whereas Will it Be You and Wholefood Boogie is a down on country blues style, where Sinfield finds it fun to sing to come up this quirky bumpy song; While Greg Lake makes a surprise duet with the atmospheric composition of the title-track, the closing number, The Night People has a Weather Report meets Pink Floyd funkadelic style.
Still is not a masterpiece, nor Sinfield can sing also, but again the prog version of Leonard Cohen, but there are definite surprises to view the moments of the momentum to brightened up your nice cup of English Tea and Biscuits and the mastermind could have been okay as a singer, but I definitely prefer him writing lyrics rather than singing and going on tour to promote the album. It’s worth listening to if you love Peter Sinfield.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Spring - Spring

When I’ve first heard this album, I thought of the combining mix of Barclay James Harvest’s Once Again, Fire’s The Magic Shoemaker, and Genesis’ Nursery Cryme. It was new, unsung, different, and lukewarm and I was sure that this band that formed at the beginning of the golden-era in 1970 at Leicester, England had put the crossover together and made a really pretty damn good album. But I managed to buy it just for the hell of it, to realize that Spring’s only debut album, released in 1971, is one of those albums that you need to listen to from time to time by getting a real feeling to it and is a machine that just won’t shut down.
What took me by surprise about this was that they are three mellotron’s on this album. Now talk about interesting ideas because King Crimson used two of the keyboards for the Lizard album and of course Bigelf also, if you’ve seen some of the music videos they showed on YouTube. Whereas other progressive rock bands want to take their classical inspirations to gigantic stadiums, other bands wanted to go for smaller gigs with guitar solos and fantasy lyrics that are just mesmerizing, Spring’s self-titled album, is the album features them not only just a band, but interacting with a mind-boggling experience that would keep you asking for more surprises that would lay ahead for themselves.
Alongside Spring’s debut album on the NEON label, produced by Elton John’s producer, the late Gus Dudgeon, there are eight tracks including some bonuses done by reissuing label, Akrama: The Prisoner (Eight By Ten), Grail, Boats, Shipwrecked Soldier, Golden Fleece, Inside Out, Song to Absent Friends (The Island), Gazing, and the three bonus tracks, Fool’s Gold, Hendre Mews, and A Word Full of Whispers. Most of the numbers are a suite, giving Spring, a finished autobiographical storytelling beauty.
The pieces of the puzzles are here: vocalist Pat Moran brings his voice to a thing of atmospheric beauty, but there are five highlights on the album that took me by surprise.
The piano ballad, Song to Absent Friends (The Island), has that Elton John/Bernie Taupin feel as if it was left off the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, but it’s a fine damn tune to make you feel warm whilst The Prisoner (Eight By Ten) has the eerie quality that is very similar to Alexandre Dumas, The Man in the Iron Mask; Gazing is a tribute to BJH’s first two albums in a proto-hard rock style that features a beautiful guitar solo in which Ray Martinez does throughout the last two minutes while the drums and the mellotron fill the void to bring a thing of lukewarm progressive fairy tales; Fool’s Gold starts off with an acoustic folk ballad similar to Trader Horne but then it turns to a heavy organ background which gives Kips Brown the chance to go and give it his shot throughout the midsection as guitar and drums done by Martinez and Pique Withers duking it out to see who would win the Prog Rock golden cup, but they are definitely winners right here; and Shipwrecked Soldier, is a setting in the depths of the war in Vietnam with a pastoral rock sound ala militant march prog protest rock song that would send a shiver down your spine as Pat sings his heart out about the soldier fighting for peace, not for violence, graveyard, slaves, and mad scientists.
When the album was released in 1971, the band went on tour to support the album including opening for the Velvet Underground until they called it a day with the unreleased second album, Spring 2 in 1972. Still it’s a worth listening to if you admire the sounds of Cressida, The Moody Blues, and Beggars Opera. Interesting to take a listen to? It’s worth a shot!