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Friday, July 30, 2010

The Parlour Band - Is A Friend?

The Parlour Band were from the Channel Islands of Jersey featuring Peter Filleul (Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Rhythm Guitar), Jon ‘Pix’ Pickford (Vocals on Evensong, Wah-Wah Guitar), Craig Anders (Vocals, Electric and Acoustic Guitar), Mark Ashley Anders (Bass Guitar), and Jerry Robins (Drums). They started out as a hard rock band by the name of Rockbottom by doing several gigs in Jersey. The music scene during that time period in Jersey was magnetic and animated as the five musicians came together to form this bad.
When their debut album, Is a Friend?, first came out in 1972 after being recorded at Decca’s Tollington Park in late December of 1971, their were an opening band with Canterbury heroes Caravan and Khan which featured Gong’s guitarist Steve Hillage. They played at Universities, Town Halls in the United Kingdom and then changed their name to ‘A Band Called O’ (not to be mistaken of Shakespeare’s Othello). They went well in the European markets including the Reading Festival and supporters including John Peel and on The Old Grey Whistle Test featuring host “Whispering” Bob Harris.
As they received a huge following, the band called it a day in 1977 as the Punk scene was about to grow. This album is not just a classic masterpiece, but an album that will take your breath away and opening up the doors to hear unsung bands that never saw the light at the end of the tunnel for mainstream success that would have waited for them. As for the wah-wah guitar sounding very spacey, Pickford plays some straightforward guitar layered sound on Is A Friend? But there’s a surprising touch of evidence here, as he brings the vocals to shine for the first time on the dramatic punch on Evening as Pickford sets the mood and the tone of a world of eerie classical homage of Darryl Way’s Wolf’s third album, Night Music. Forgotten Dreams is an organ blues rock sound in the mind of early Deep Purple meets Man while Pretty Haired Girl sounds like a country rock song in the mind of the tragic singer-songwriter of the Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons. Spring and Sweet Comfort’s dreamlike Barclay James Harvest atmosphere are taken over by the echoing voice of Filleul and his acoustic guitar along with the brother Anders, Craig and Mark creating a psychedelic touch in the mind of The Grateful Dead while Early Morning Eyes is a dark folk hard rock conga/percussion pounding ballad done by Jerry Robins.
Follow Me could have been an FM hit with it’s acoustic catchy upbeats and Queen-like sound thanks to Craig Anders and Pete Filleul doing an homage to Brian May’s guitar work in the early Queen albums (pre-Night At The Opera era) as for Don’t Be Sad is in a finger picking-like sound along with Pete’s keyboards sounding almost like a mourning to cheer people up to be happy. Little Goldie recalls a moody-background of Spring’s debut album as To Happiness sounds like a Pastoral harder version of The Zombies Odyssey and Oracle as if it was played by The Moody Blues. They save the best for two tracks: The 7-minute Home has a concept rock opera technique and the bonus track, the raunchy Runaround sounds like a groovy jam session of Man with a brass section coming in to close the album with Angel Easy vibrators.
It’s a pity that this band never saw the light of day to give across this unbelievable debut.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

PFM - Photos of Ghosts/The World Became The World/Chocolate Kings/Jet Lag

Let’s not beat the living shit out of each other fellow prog-heads, let’s face it: PFM kicks a shit load of ass! Although taken their name from the bakery in where the band rehearsed daily, the idea of Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) of being an opening band at first was a good idea opening for; Yes, Deep Purple, and Procol Harum to give the audience’s positive reaction. The chances of getting heard seemed it would happen despite the original quintet of Flavio Premoli, Franz Di Gioccio, Giorgio Piazza, Franco Mussida, and Mauro Pagani having surprised Greg Lake of ELP and King Crimson fame, after hearing their second album, Per Un Amico at the Pala Eur in December of 1972, he knew that this was the band would be signed to ELP’s new label, Manticore. These four albums, now digitally restored and re-mastered by the reissue indie label, Esoteric Recordings with full co-operation of Manticore Records featuring liner notes by Ernesto de Pascale shows that a band who were about to achieve cult status.
Since the classic Italian versions of the first three PFM albums; Storia di un Minuto, Per Un Amico, and L’isola Di Niente, are not reissued with this re-release sadly, plainly were at the band’s most achievement with 1973’s pastoral English version with Photos of Ghosts, wherein former King Crimson lyricist Peter Sinfield produced and translated five of the songs into English as the band recorded the album in London at Advision Studios. The band unleashed some of their most dynamic complex songs and time changing centerpieces that would be a part of the PFM trademark. River of Life (Appena Un Po) which edits out the ambient introduction into the classical guitar introduction, is still a complex number with all the symphonic dramatic beauty and crystal love-song folk background as for the FM single friendly voltage dance clapping electrifying rocker, Celebration (E ‘Festa).
They are dazzling along with the smooth pastoral King Crimson influential sounds with the title track, Old Rain, and the 8-minute pastoral ballad, il Banchetto while Mr. 9 ‘til 5 (Generale!) has the mid-rock beats in the mind of Gentle Giant. As with Promenade the Puzzle (Genario), you can tell of the fantasy story writing Sinfield lyrics definitely fit PFM’s profile as it reminds a bit of Cadence and Cascade meets Playing the Game. The tracks are so powerful as it was originally released while the bonus tracks of the first and instrumental mixes shows proof that PFM were ready to hit the United States as the album reached the billboard charts at 180 in the top 200.
Very exquisite and showing their true colors is The World Became The World (L’isola Di Niente) in 1974. The band needed to change their image as they met bassist Patrick Dijvas from the Italian Prog-Jazz fusion, Area to replace Giorgio. He mentioned that he wanted to adopt a new point of view. “It was hard sometimes, it wasn’t easy to find and justify your place in a band like PFM, but eventually I did”
As he brought the Jazz fusion sound to the table with the new line-up of PFM’s music, this was the first time the band was moving away from their Italian Prog sound into a world that was dangerous, deep, and various styles of music. While Photos of Ghosts brought them into the United States for the first time, they knew they had to stay true to their musical background. Beginning with the mighty operatic choir before transforming into a dynamic explosive rocking vocal that is out of this world with an amazing instrumental composition that picks up the slice of pizza with the 10-minute opener, The Mountain as Peter based the lyrics on the ancient god of mountains from Japan that they believe is a legend and a myth.
Just Look Away (Dolcissima Maria) is a clever folk ballad as the lyrics are very much into a blissful childhood memories and looking back while the translation of the anthematic, Impressioni di Settembre which is translated into the title track with it’s lukewarm ballad and the increasing moog and mellotron and a shattering guitar work makes it show why PFM take the music to a ground level. And then it goes off with coins plunk into the changer into a symphonic dance complex composition with Four Holes in the Ground as it goes into more of the situation with Is My Face on Straight? its a great number with the style and image that carry a Yes influence rather than an ELP sound. While Have Your Cake and Beat It shows a Jazz Fusion sound which has a Jaco Pastorious bass work done by Djivas for the first few minutes and then it goes into a stylization of Weather Report’s Heavy Weather homage that just can’t be beat. Same with the bonus tracks which feature a single version of La Carozza di Hans, Four Holes in the Ground, and an unreleased single version of Celebration portrays the band’s stylistic in their own courtyards in Italy.
Having the first two English albums to receive word of mouth, it took everyone by surprise as when they brought Acqua Fragile’s lead vocalist Bernado Lanzetti, who had a combination of Family’s Roger Chapman and Genesis’ Peter Gabriel to the foreplay. Chocolate Kings is considered ‘less-romantic’ but I digress, this was one hell of a controversial album that the band made alongside a live bonus CD of their performance at Nottingham University on May 1, 1976. As punk was settling in the U.K., they found themselves moving away from the pastoral prog sound into fast highway speed voltage with a lot of virtuosity that was carrying the sword of fast upbeat tempos. The title deals with the critique against fascism and nuclear weapons, but into consumerism. Whether you love or hate Chocolate Kings and despise/love Bernado’s voice, this was PFM at their best.
From the coolness of acoustic ballad of Harlequin, the bouncy title track, the symphonic opener of From Under, the homage of the Mahavisnu Orchestra meets Return to Forever on Out of the Roundabout, and the most beautiful closer Paper Charms which features extraordinary and majestic compositions along with the time changes to the core. As for the live recording it is un-fucking-believable. You have the dazzling versions of the title track, Alta Loma Five ‘til Nine/William Tell Overture which features an explosive violin solo done by Pagani as he goes Darryl Way on your ass while the acoustic guitar solo done by Mussida gives the audience a beautiful 15th century renaissance style that they’ve never seen before.
It all came to an end by the time they released 1978’s Jet Lag which was the final album on the Manticore label after the label closed its doors. The band was more of a Classical Jazz Fusion band rather than a Symphonic band, but pack with a Gentle Giant punch, it’s has it’s moments, not to mention the Spanish guitar composition introduction of Penninsula that begins as it goes into the 9-minute title track. It’s a great track in the work of all Prog epics that it goes through time signatures that gives the power of music with all of it’s glory of Patrick’s bass work and Bernado’s homage to Derek Shulman in a weird, but good way as if Return to Forever worked with PFM to create this strong number while Storia in L.A. which starts off with a Chick Corea keyboard introduction as Patrick can be considered “the Italian version of Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorious”, brings it to the forefront as Bernado still shines a light on this number which has a Zappa Zoot Allures-era quality to it.
Breakin’ In has a funkadelic quality to it. The beat is very much bouncy than CK, however the guitar and violin work to bring the track into heavy solo work during the midsection as Cerco La Lingua which has an eerie violin introduction and then it goes into a Area-like jitter dance, but it works and delivers to a standstill. They also demonstrated their homage of the Canterbury sound of National Health and Egg with Meridani which features Mussida doing a Steve Howe guitar solo as the drums and bass follow him wherever he changes the key moments into the number with more of the Frank Zappa power punch while Left-Handed Theory is a jumpy jazz composition featuring Premoli doing some crazy shit on the keyboards ala Herbie Hancock style, violin, and pounding drums to the scenery as the closing number, Traveler, which is a lifting theme and gives us the curtain call for PFM.
Though they decided to take a break in the late ‘80s, they didn’t call it a day, they wanted to take some time off. PFM were actually one of the most influential Italian Progressive Rock band of their time period and while there’s a new following of kids getting to explore this new music rather than the shit you hear on the fucking station, they should be given a second chance to fit the global world of Progressive Rock. Here, listen to these as brilliancy, magnitude, and exploration comes within the forefront.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Biglietto Per L’inferno - Biglietto Per L’inferno

Italian Prog was home for bands like; Banco, PFM, Goblin, and il Balletto Di Bronzo. Biglietto Per L’inferno (Ticket to Hell) took their inspirations from Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Gentle Giant, and Van Der Graaf Generator. But with their debut album released in 1974, they didn’t just break the door down, their music was a combination of early heavy metal and progressive rock to the core.
Formed in 1972 in Lecco, from the bands of Gee and Mako Sharks, Biglietto Per L’inferno are always remembered for their self-titeld debut album. The band considers; Claudio Canali, lead vocals and flute; Marco Mainetti, guitar; Giuseppe Baffo Banfi, keyboards; Giuseppe Cossa, piano and organ; Fausto Branchini bass guitar; and Mauro Gnecchi, drums. This album is one of a kind with the compositions helped by the keyboards and the lyrical backgrounds are emotional, explosive, and strong.
While there isn’t a mellotron on the album however, the way they played this were masters and amazingly it is unexpected that you don’t just need a mellotron, but the usage of organ, moog, and piano, makes the album work like a bat out of hell. With the opening of a symphonic Beethoven-like organ sound on Ansia, which has a lukewarm beauty at first, then it kicks in with a moog solo that is straight out of ELP’s debut album along with a flute work that makes the crossover work. Confessione, which was released as a single in Italy and as a bonus track here, this 6-minute number will definitely take your breath away.
Featuring Canali’s vocals making it from quiet to a shredding fierce of anger and betrayal while having a beautiful classical keyboard arranging along with some explosive drumming techniques done by a guitar and bass battling it out like Chris Squire and Jimmy Page, it is one hell of a track that will take you by surprise. Una Strana Regina starts off with a pastoral organ introduction, folksy and metallic early Deep Purple sounds, and the guitar licking outro that is bouncy and very dance-like to get you ready for Il Nevare. It has a blues-rock passage with a lot of heavy guitars as Canali’s lyrics deals with life and evil takes over the city as he does a David Bowie-like vocalization at the end that is one of the best moments in prog rock history.
The haunting and dramatic 14-minute finale, L’Amico Suicida, is a mourning tribute to Canali’s time in the army as he lost one of his fellow comrades by committing suicide. Canali is almost giving a service as the band plays at the funeral as he sings to his dying friend while the music becomes very explosive and again symphonic as the moog and flute work as Canali scats like a jazz fusion scientist and then the eerie finale gives it a real kick in the gut and makes you sympathize for Canali’s friend and the people serving in the Iraq War. The guitar and organ just sets the balance as it goes into a ¾ time signature like a waltz beyond the graves and then it Canali’s flute and the piano work makes it sound like a Renaissance eulogy at times, but the shrieks of the moog and the vocalizations close the album to a T.
This is a strong and influential album that cannot be missed and reflects the days of mourning, anger, and pain surrounding the band’s arranging and composition. The music of Bigletto keeps on going throughout the 21st century.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pavlov's Dog - Pampered Menial/At The Sound of the Bell

I have a good memory of hearing Pavlov’s Dog’s music in 2005. I kept thinking that this was not just Progressive music, but interesting to hear as this vocalist had a voice similar in the mind of Rush’s Geddy Lee. Not to offend him, but it was a surprising listening experience, being drawn into a band that could have been bigger than Styx. And that was when I was completely hooked into the music of David Sukramp.
Thankfully, these two reissues of Pavlov’s Dog’s albums are lot more interesting as they were originally released in the mid ‘70s. You couldn’t describe the surprise of the beautiful covers in your arms feeling like you’re going back in time, even though they are given a second chance, their music is arguably more hard rock than you can ever expected. Pampered Menial and At the Sound of the Bell released in 1975 and 1976 show at the time when progressive music was coming out of the woodwork into the cult status from St. Louis. They were out of print and hard to find, but thanks to the indie reissue label, Rockville, these albums still sound fresh to this day – a band that could have hit the big time, but never got the recognition they deserved.
Pampered Menial, their first album, came out on the Dunhill label in 1975, was a dynamic record that couldn’t be beaten. At the time, it was championed thanks to ZigZag magazine writer Max Bell who considered them, the “future of rock”. But today, the combination of Rush and Uriah Heep is a lot more considered. You have the calm-like introduction of Julia, the dazzling up tempo mellotron-violin rockers of; Late November, Natchez Trace, and Song Dance while the romantic harder theme song of Theme from Subway Sue set the standards of AOR. The strong melodic structures are featured as Sukramp’s vocals soar into the sky with Episode as for the renaissance intro Preludin gets geared up for the atmospheric segue centerpiece 5-minute closer Of Future and Kings.
At The Sound of The Bell added a strong melodic melody to the core. Thanks to new session players including King Crimson/Yes drummer, Bill Bruford. This is a great follow up to PM, with the songs having a Yes-like sound on She Came Shining while Valkerie and Standing Here with You (Megan’s Song) could have been a sequel to Julia with a classical orientated lukewarm ballad as well as the Lindsey Buckingham-era of Fleetwood Mac homage on Mersey with a magnificent jazzy sax solo fitting the profile.
Try to Hang On is an upbeat tempo in the mind of Paul McCartney’s Wings-era as Gold Nuggets sounds like an eerie acoustic folksy sound reminiscent of Trees meets pre-Marillion. It all becomes very Prog-pop with the brass section as She Brekas Like Morning Sky could have been the dance hit of the ‘70s as the saxes give it a ‘50s rock feel throughout the album and Early Morning On has a pastoral angelic church-like choir sound as for the climatic finale, Did You See Him Cry gives it a suspenseful mellotronic jazz fusion finale like no other. The bonus tracks feature rare live recordings of these numbers in Detroit and at the Herzberg festival in ’76 and 2007 including Sukramp’s early days with Touch.
You can take influential backgrounds raging from; Rush, ELP, and Led Zeppelin and make it a grand festivity of a weekend. Pavlov’s Dog live on the cult status in the past, present, and the future as Prog keeps on shining on forver.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Home - The Alchemist

In a historic way, there have been many concept albums that define prog rock’s history. Raging from The Pretty Things S.F. Sorrow, The Who’s Tommy, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, and Genesis The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and managed to influence those albums through today’s bands. With this, Home’s last album, The Alchemist tells the story set in the 1900’s of a young man who is wise or rebellious to say the least takes the old man’s dying powers. Using these powers, the boy saves the world from being disastrous nightmare in his hometown – an inspiration to Fullmetal Alchemist, but with a prog rock taste, there’s a bit of the darkness to the story. Being chased by the angry mob and being put to the test by his old mentor, the young magician uses his powers to hesitate as he puts his foot down to save the townspeople from the end of the world.
As in the climax closes the story which is sort of similar to the Half-Blood Prince Severus Snape from J.K Rowling’s final book of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the townspeople become mighty pissed as they burst into the old man’s house and killing him right in front of the apprentice’s eyes. Home’s concept is unique while the songs and instrumental pieces to mix sounds of Wishbone Ash, pre-Starcastle, and Yes to see where the direction would lead them. Yet the line-up is amazing featuring; Mick Stubbs, lead vocals, guitar, piano; Laurie Wisefield on lead guitar, Mick Cook on drums, and Cliff Williams who would later join Australian heavy metal band, AC/DC on bass, and guest musician Jimmy Anderson on keyboards.
However, this amazing remastered edition done by the people at Esoteric Recordings, comes with Jon Wright’s liner notes about the history of the band, the making of the album, and the split after The Alchemist was released. In retrospect, it remains a lost hidden treasure from the prog vaults that you need to check out. It has the melodic set, with the folksy guitar touch and elegant opener of Schooldays to the mourning pounding hard rocker of The Old Man Dying while Jimmy does some magnificent keyboard compositions setting the story.
They flow with the boy’s story on the fantasy-like dreamland groove Time Passes By the straight ahead upbeat flow of The Old Man Calling as it becomes dramatic and filled with tension as it segues into The Disaster fits well with the guitar and synths filling the score with great classical boundaries throughout The Sun’s Revenge with amazing Gentle Giant-like harmonies. The short little Steve Howe referenced guitar work of A Secret To Keep is powerful as it goes into the Moog Brass militant drum beats of The Brass Band Played done by Anderson beautifully as the band humors with applauds. Rejoicing features a fierce guitar fret work done by Wisefield while The Disaster Returns (Devastation) is one of the most time changing compositions to come out with a bang.
They let rip of the townspeople betrayal of killing the old man with Laurie’s shattering guitar solo to a sinister climatic climax on The Death of the Alchemist as it closes on the pastoral titled track that makes it a perfect finale of Unheard Prog Rock gems. Coming after the title track, the bonus tracks feature two singles and one unreleased track that is magnificently fits The Alchemist. You have the Elton John homage of the pounding rhythm section with Green Eyed Fairy, an acoustical love song ballad dedicated to a nun by the name of Sister Rosalie while the unreleased track, the Renaissance music festival sound of 17th century comes alive on Hayward Town.
The Alchemist isn’t just a Progressive Rock album, but it is one of the most amazing albums that could have been made into a movie and will hopefully see the light of day in the future, but sit back and listen to the album and enjoy the concept.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Aphrodite's Child - End of the World/It's Five O'Clock

From great film composers and the eon’s of New Age music of European Progressive keyboards, Vangelis O. Papathanassiou, who is best known for writing the score of the Academy-Award winning 1982 film for best picture and best score with Chariots of Fire and other film scores including; Blade Runner, 1492: Conquest of Paradise, and Oliver Stone’s bombastic flop, Alexander. But what most people don’t know about Vangelis, is that he founded one of the most unheard bands to come out of Greece from the psychedelic scene of the late ‘60s called Aphrodite’s Child which featured; Demis Roussos on bass and lead vocals, Silver Koulouris on guitar, and Lucas Sideras on drums. However Silver left the band to perform military service after Colonel Papadopoulos had made Greece to turn it very right-wing as Silver was forced to go under heavy services in the army.
The band was now a trio and these two reissues re-released for the first time by Esoteric Recordings, represent a different view of the European Psychedelic scene. From 1968, End of the World, was their debut album as Vangelis had given the exploration policies of pushing the envelope of new technology in the studio from adding folk-like Greek stories, the rock boundaries and adding the mellotron, you got yourself a full weekend in the studio. It has influences raging from The Beatles, Procol Harum, and The Moody Blues. Of the album itself, the dooming psychedelic ballad, End of the World is very much an eerie symphonic beauty that follows in the same footsteps of the 15th century classical emotional Rain & Tears with a magnificent climatic climax that the band does with an angelic vocalization at the very end.
Don’t Try to Catch a River is in the mind of the Lennon/McCartney singer-songwriting technique that made it into the Top ten charts in Europe in the mind of 17th century composer, Johann Pachelbel. Mister Thomas gives a fancy light-hearted harpsichord and carnival-like sound of the tale of an old man while The Grass is No Green shows Demis Roussos in his narration of eerie traditional stories in the Greek tales of the rain falling down and a plague coming into the world with a whirlpool of crescendo terror and an disturbing yet surprising vocalization done by Demis. Valley of Sadness is a superb homage to the early sound of the psychedelic version of the Bee Gees while You Always Stand in my Way is a mellotronic tribute to Mike Pinder ala Days of Future Passed-era as for the extremely pounding folk acoustic chugging turned ambient atmospheric of The Shepherd and the Moon makes it a very climatic piece as it gives to the closing finale, Day of the Fool.
The 6-minute nightmarish composition with twisted keyboard compositions and Demis sings about the person’s mind going into a nervous breakdown and into mass madness similar to One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. However, the album’s far from over. The bonus tracks feature Silver’s Kolouris guitar work on the A & B side of the Greek-folk psych vocational beauty of Plastics Nevermore and the classical piano of the Indian-Greek musical background of The Other People.
Aphrodite’s Child was now superstars in Europe. And it wasn’t comfortable with Vangelis as he always wanted to be in the Studio rather than be a live musician. They headed back to the Studio in Soho at Trident Studios to record the follow-up album to End of the World with their second album It’s Five O’Clock. On this album, this was more of working together done by Vangelis and other compositions with Demis Roussos and Lucas Sideras. It was a little more of a pastoral psychedelic album, but it’s worth listening to, not to mention the combination of acoustic sing-along numbers and country rock at the same time.
You have the anti-war protest song that has a Fairport Convention ring to it on Wake Up while the opening number, It’s Five O’Clock carries the eerie ballad tradition of Rain and Tears. The twangy-Bob Dylan bluesy country feel on Take Your Time feels like it could have been written for the Nashville Skyline-era as Lucas Sideras takes over the vocals and drums like a Texan as Demis plays some down-home acoustic upbeats on the guitar and the harmonica making it sound like it feels you’re right at home. The acoustic folk ballad of Annabella is in the style of the Moody Blues Nights in White Satin and Mason Williams’ Wanderlove.
One of the highest points of the album is Lucas’ upbeat number of Let Me Love, Let Me Live which features a dynamic percussion work from him and the hand-clapping pounding feet number along with a wah-wah organ solo done by Vangelis to make it a fast-pounding sing-along song while Funky Mary features a jazz-orientated African tribe beat done by Lucas and Vangelis going nuts on the organ and on the vibraphone. Good Time So Fine is Demis doing an imitation of Louis Armstrong and then as a Broadway singer on this quirky pop number that has a New Orleans Jazz Preservation Hall tribute in the midsection. The Greek Italian flavored love song ballad is heart felt on the emotional Marie Jolie as the quirky pop sound comes to an end as it roars back 1920’s homage to Tiny Tim with Such A Funny Night of Greek-Prog pop sound.
The bonus tracks on the second album takes the cake. The homage to French composer J.P. Martini’s Plasir D’Amour which was re-worked as I Want To Live, is unbelievable. It has the similarities of Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling In Love with You as if Procol Harum had performed the piece as a glorious gospel rocking ballad while the fuzz tone garage rocking up tempo hit single, Magic Mirror sees Aphrodite’s Child as Status Quo. The two Italian songs in which they were written by different song writers, was originally going to be performed at the San Remo Festival which is shown on YouTube, but they performed the two hit singles instead, still it’s quite interesting to see. Lontano Dagli Occhi and Quando L’Amore Diventa Poesia are in the time signature of ¾ as it might have been a huge influence in the Italian music scene of the ‘70s, this is an explosive love-song and eerie magnum opus as Demis sings his heart out in these two numbers.
Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall carries the reflection of moving forward as the person leaves his childhood behind into time changes through every year in this heartfelt single. As Lucas Sideras comes back in the Soul Rock sound in the African-tribe sound again with Air. Of these two albums, it’s would be more satisfying as they were the pre-666 sound.
Probably because they were going for the European Psychedelic market, but achieved in most of the countries. Though 666 broke the door down of weird and groundbreaking magnitude, these two albums deliver these boundaries so well.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come - Reissues

The maverick who arrived in the psychedelic scene with his flamboyant theatrical antics of the 1968 hit, Fire, the master of the hellfire returned to Britain after doing an American tour as he became an underground icon in the U.K. that was when he decided to form Kingdom Come in 1970 out of the ashes of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. These three albums were way out there, because when you hear these reissues, you can definitely tell there wasn’t just magic, but a freak-out space adventure that stood against the solar system’s time and for the band’s history.
You can hear tapes going haywire, bizarre lyrics inspired by Robert Calvert, and habitual methods of against the musical mainstream that combine a driven force into something that is unbelievable and magnificent. Part-Space Rock in the mind of Hawkwind, freak-out sessions, part-Progressive Rock concept into the starship enterprise, and at it’s explosive best when it sounds like a car going 80 mph throwing an explosive tornado twist of VCS3’s out of the glove compartment with Brown telling the band to get ready for light speed screaming and shrieking like a madman in the Arkham Asylum. The albums weren’t a commercial success when they first came out in the ‘70s.
Galactic Zoo Dossier, their first album for example, is considered a pioneering landmark album, a mad-scientist experimental taste from his days in the Polydor label. Yet you have the disturbing 6-minute jazz soul ballad turned King Crimson-like Robert Fripp orientation of Sunrise, militant oink drum sounds of the disturbing Night of the Pigs, the Hammond Organ sending an attack call on Gypsy Escape, the acoustic political taste of Trouble as it segues into the a cappella humor of the undead with Brains while it goes into the sinister medley of Galactic Zoo and the spoken-word avant-garde ghostly mass madness of Creep. The tapes going destructive in the studio with Metal Monster, the chugging introduction such as Internal Messenger and the closing piece of the hard rocker, No Time, it shows why Brown was the captain of Enterprise with his theatrical background.
In keeping the chaotic’s to a substantial level, they decided to go twisted again with the follow up on Kingdom Come. He wanted to exercise his spiritual realization that was about to draw him forward, “I was certainly going through a lot of spiritual exercises and disciplines at the time, and you can hear some of this in the songs,” he says in the sleeve notes with an interview of Classic Rock and Metal Hammer magazine writer, Malcolm Dome. This was a huge approach as they were definitely about to embark to give the listener a challenge on what was originally heard on Galactic Zoo Dossier.
Seemingly, the sense of humor came to Brown’s attention in this comedic operatic organ and guitar driven sound mixed with weirdness from the synth in the mind of Frank Zappa on City Melody to the funky psych groove of Traffic Light Song along with the atmosphere opening ballads of Water and Love is a Spirit That will never Die. The bouncy piano quirkiness of The Teacher could have been a part of the rock musical mind of Oscar Wilde as it segues into the 7-minute craziness of The Experiment (featuring “Lower Colonic Irrigation”) as he and the band go through several stages like a musical play gone bizarre in time changes, choir-boy like vocals, a screeching sound probably from the piano strings, a gypsy-guitar Django orientated section that could have been used for the theme for the TV series of Disney’s Zorro as it goes back into the climatic finale of King Crimson as it closes with farts and Brown sounding like Noel Coward to give it that humorous finale. The Whirlpool does not need explanation, although it features a disturbing guitar composition, clocks ticking, and a ghost-like moog solo, it all works very well while the finale of the 8-minute gospel and uplifting weirdness featuring the Mellotron on The Hymn as Arthur gives the listener a service.
Now, you got to admit, he’s not fooling around, but he sings his heart out very well to close the space services with a bang. Little surprise he decides to call it a day with the band as they close their third and final album, Journey in 1973. By now, the band were going far beyond the electronic music storm instead of being big superstars as Brown points out in the sleeve notes, he wanted a technique in the classical analogy format. “We were attempting to do, in rock and electronic terms, the closest that we could get to a string quartet. So the parts for guitar, bass, and keyboards were written with this in mind.”
On Journey, he begins with the Krautrock influential synthesized dreamland sound turned into a sonic nightmare on Time Captives that is a pre-punk prog sound in the mind of CAN meets Iggy & The Stooges meets Amon Duul II. The compositions are very much been open to the band to come up with more of the Space Rock sound with the synth and the guitar doing some magnificent compositions going up and down the scale and making it very 21st century with Triangles while Gypsy and Superficial Roadblocks sounds like a doomed epic soundtrack of the post-apocalyptic world of hell. It sounded like it was recorded in the early ‘80s at times, but damn! Brown and Kingdom Come were not fucking around.
The reminiscent of Brown’s early days in The Crazy World is back at top form with his psych-soul computer mode-like mastermind on Spirit of Joy whilst Brown delights in his Captain Kirk’s chant and screech mode in the spooky bass and moog compositions on Conception as it closes with the heavy blues rockin’ number that could have been written in the 22nd century, Come Alive. It’s Brown becoming a Heavy Metal god, as the guitar goes metallic and bluesy while the synth’s setting the scenery of this closing number. Journey is alongside Galactic Zoo Dossier, one of Kingdom Come’s most unsung works.
All of the three albums come with bonus tracks. From alternative versions of the tracks, A and B sides of the singles, and a BBC Session for the late John Peel who considers Brown’s Kingdom Come on September 5, 1972, “It’s spontaneous and very colorful, but hardly critical.” They were loved or loathed of a great English Science-Fiction band that called it a day after Journey was released and was damned by the sales and critics alike. These unheard gems of the golden-era of the Progressive Rock days, might be hard for listeners to listen to, but they deserve a second chance and hugely a lot you can hardly imagine.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Hawkwind - Quark, Strangeness & Charm [Deluxe Edition]

Space cadets, Hawkwind, had already achieved an underground status thanks to their previous albums on the United Artists label; In Search of Space, Doremi Fasol Latido, the double live-set of Space Ritual, Hall of the Mountain Grill, and Warrior on the Edge of Time. There is an enormous part of their legacy that had been neglected of the band’s formation since 1969. The unheard albums after being signed by Tony Stratton Smith’s Charisma label were ahead of their times.
When Mark Powell, chief of Esoteric Recordings, started a new label for the Cherry Red family, Atomhenge, it was time to go back in the spaceship and restore full speed of the post-UA label. That and the 2-CD deluxe edition set of Hawkwind’s unsung masterpiece; Quark, Strangeness, and Charm just show that there is no stop sign for them.
When the sales of their previous album, Astounding Sounds Amazing Sounds was a disappointment, they knew they had to make a comeback to the Space Rock sound, this time with a punk attitude as it was about to begin it’s wave in the U.K. and it was up to the late songwriter and members, guitarist Dave Brock and songwriter Robert Calvert to come up with a song list and lyrics that was way out of the modern world. Spirit of the Age opens up with an electronic buzz attack that would not have sounded off on the VCS3 as Calvert’s lyrical background of the 22nd century with Androids taking over the world, “Your android replica is playing up again” through a tribute to Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove in a punk-like power punch on Damnation Alley while Robert Calvert’s anti-Einstein humor lyrical boundaries on the catchy titled track that is a rocking roller-coaster ride with “Einstein was not a handsome fellow/nobody ever called him all/he had a long moustache to pull on it was yellow/I don’t believe he ever had a girl.” Fable of a Failed Race is a wonderful post-apocalyptic ballad showing Hawkwind singing “Upon this land that once was green/is now all sand” the lyrics deals with this Utopia that once it was a beautiful place to go to, is now in ruins and chaos.
The middle-eastern violin introduction, done by Simon House for Hassan I Sabbah, is just unbelievable as it goes into the chanting done by Brock and he and Calvert go into the High Tide zealous sound something that The Stranglers could have done on Rattus Norvegicus while The Forge of Vulcan is a VCS3 adventure in the infinite in the mind of the Experimental punk duo, Suicide. Days of the Underground is a humor melody of new strangers in a new land with spacey guitar riffs and weird synths setting the background as it segues into the short and punky rhythm instrumental section of the Iron Dream.
The bonus tracks features unreleased versions of rare takes of Damnation Alley, Spirit of the Age, and a space rock 9-minute jam session in the key of A minor while the Hash Cake cut is Dave Brock’s guitar layered atmospheric sounds of the solar system. The second disc contains more of the Rockfield Studio sessions including an 11-minute version of Spirit of the Age, a rare take of the title track with Uncle Sam’s on Mars, the Motorhead-inspired sound of the 10-minute first studio version of Damnation Alley, the acoustical demo of Days of the Underground, and live versions of Robot and High Rise is worth the bargain.
Quark is weird, fast, and twisted. After the release of the album in 1977, the band was falling apart as Dave Brock and his comrade Calvert formed Hawklords releasing their only album; 25 Years On. But the re-mastered edition of Quark released on Esoteric’s new label, Atomhenge which releases the post-UA catalogue of Hawkwind’s catalogue, is probably to be one of the most unbelievable classic Hawkwind album and the band’s most cult classic. As they said in the sleevenotes; “So once again, we’ll try and get the motor’s running and take off.”

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Magenta - The Singles

Neo-Progressive Rock has always been around since the early ‘80s from the minds of Marillion, IQ, and Pallas. And it’s always been a boy’s sport where they play Dungeons and Dragons and The Legend of Zelda relentlessly while watching Saturday morning cartoons of Thundercats, Silverhawks, Voltron, Transformers, and He-Man while coming up with lyrics that inspired by the influences they look at. When female singers come in the forefront as Christina Booth is doing, she is met with the voice and soaring arrangements she gives to the audience what they want.
That is she brings one of the most surprising bands to come out the Welsh Prog scene, and is the prog rock musical queen similar to Princess Adora (She-Ra) and Eowyn from Lord of the Rings only with a magical sword and powers to wow fans alike. From the influences of Annie Haslam and Roger Waters, fellow welsh prog rockers Magenta emerge with an improvisational sound of Yes with glorious keyboard sounds thanks to founder Rob Reed. Many of the Female Prog bands are being worshipped in the minds which have been approved for festivals and geek musicians alike.
Their first compilation album, The Singles, is A & B sides that never made into their previous albums, but it’s worth a treat to make a very simple yet still explosive collection of their singles. Rob mentioned they had worked hard to make sure new versions are heard according to Magenta’s website, saying, “We’ve bent over backwards to make sure the album stands up on its own. A lot of work has gone into giving people value for money, and making sure the new versions were as good as possible without being total rehashes of the previous version. Looking back at it now, I think it actually sounds like a band album in its own right, so I’m very happy with it.”
He’s definitely right about it and the evidence is in for six most enduring centerpieces. The soaring introduction of Speechless is very Welsh-like when they wrote it back in the mid ‘90s during the Tripa-era, it’s very much a pop song as if they wrote it for Depeche Mode while the acoustical folksy Pink Floyd ballad, Cold, could have been written for the video game sequel, Bioshock 2. More alternative heavy metal turned eerie is the pounding King of the Skies mixed guitar layered sounds, harmonized vocals, and a groove that is straight out of Stadium Rock for the 21st century.
Night and Day which was released originally as a single featuring a duet with Annie Haslam of Renaissance fame, but without her in this track, it’s a mesmerizing refrain; Booth’s vocals lifting the pastoral dimension with a calm after the storm as the arrangement is crafting beautifully. Essence of Love is very much a tribute to virtuoso artist Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells while the ballad comes back in with the closing lukewarm acoustical crisp of Sunshine Saviour, which is Christina and Stephan Rhys Williams duet beautifully together as if they recorded this number for the action animated series from japan, Madlax.
This is a strong compilation album that does a lot of research of Magenta’s history surrounding the band and Booth. The adventures of Magenta continues to move on and see what directions they will lead us to.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Magenta - Seven

No, this is not based on the 1995 thriller starring Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brad Pitt, and Kevin Spacey, but this is a concept album based on the seven deadly sins which is known as the cardinal sins or capital vices to be more of the concept. Like a cross between Yes and Renaissance, this special edition reissue of their follow up to their debut album, Revolutions, Magenta has succeeded very well since forming in the late ‘90s out of the ashes of Cyan. It includes a DVD featuring interview with Steve and Rob Reed about the making of the album, bootleg live videos including an acoustic performance at the Pop show they did. And of course the 5.1 surround sound that makes you feel that the album was made to be an epic animated film in the mind of Hayao Miyazaki.
There are only seven tracks that clock over 10 minutes except one for 5-minutes with Anger. But this here is heaven as to show why Magenta remains one of the most breathtaking Progressive Rock bands to come out of the 21st century. And this will definitely get you started to a style that follows into the footsteps of Annie Haslam, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Yes. Christina Booth’s angelic vocals and her technique in her arrangements draw a closer line as a female version of Jon Anderson while Rob Reed does a lot of his keyboard virtuoso styles similar to Rick Wakeman and Tony Banks of Genesis and his bass lines in the mind of Chris Squire, Chris Fry is giving his guitar more layered sound similar to Steve Hackett, drummer Tim Robinson is keeping the beat flowing and see where the band might do some time changes in the key signatures and he does it very damn well.
And for guest guitarist Martin Shellard, he’s got a lot of high energy playing in the style of David Gilmour. The opening, Gluttony speed races in weird time signatures and twisted rhythm sections that the band does as Rob creates some dream-like keyboard sounds. At times it’s pastoral, emotional, and a thing of beauty in it’s lukewarm homage from the Close To The Edge-era, but it’s an adventurous step forwards to keep the band chugging like a train ready for lift-off. Showing the medieval and sci-fi fantasy they have for Magenta’s background ethnically tributes of Classical music to Symphonic Rock throughout this album for epic boundaries in this classic album, they did a lot of research for the unexpected. After the acoustic turned surprised moments of flashback memories of romantic spooky ingredients on Envy, they go orchestral on yo’ ass! With the Vienna Symphony Orchestra giving a dazzling introduction with the strings ala Concerto style! They give us a dramatic explosive Renaissance homage of 15th century baroque Italian style of Lust while Greed is worth listening to due to the ambient and atmospheric compositions in which I call it “The Hackett tribute.”
Anger is a short number that is 5-minutes, a powerful mourning number that its own tour de force and packs a real kick in the gut in the David Gilmour On An Island-era that Chris Fry does for the last few minutes of the number. The race track keyboard sound is back on it’s toes as they do a groovy jam session on Pride then turned symphonic folk rock into epic glory as for the final number Sloth, is a wonderful surprise fitness into the style of gracefully good fun into the style of Yes’ Fragile. This is right up in the female Prog Rock sound and Magenta's classic in the history of their career bringing Prog into the new generation of the 21st century.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Officina Meccanica - La Follia Del Mimo Di Fuoco

Officina Meccanica was an Italian Art Rock band that was following into the footsteps of the Peter Gabriel-era of Genesis featuring Luciano Maiozzi (Lead vocals/mime), Gianni Barbati (guitar, keyboards), Randolfo Canini (Bass guitar), Luigi Canini (trumpet), Vincenzo Bentivegna (sax), and Bruno Dionisi (drums). The band released the Bambini Innocent single, and mime performance on RAI in 1974 on TV in Italy; they were a band that was ahead of their time. Word of mouth started to spread about this group on what they were doing with their performances with theatrical backgrounds and suspenseful music they would bring to the crowd along with Luciano who could have been Gabriel’s brother who always dressed in black, with the face painting as if it was to pay tribute to Lindsay Kemp.
The group didn’t have time to record a full-length album. 35 years later, this compilation of their singles, unheard live recordings was released called, La Follia Del Mimo Di Fuoco (The Madness of the Fire Mime). They didn’t get a chance to record their debut album because Prog was about to fade away in Italy as Punk was about to explode just near a block and so they called it a day in 1978. Now with this album, you’ll find out why this band were way out there and considered the Italian version of Van Der Graaf Generator and Genesis.
Besides opening up for Banco, PFM, and Renato Zero, guitarist Barbati plays some sinister guitar work as the horn section done by Canini and Bentivegna, creates some fierce composition that is jazzy and times a tribute to VDGG’s David Jackson, and guest keyboardist Gaio Chiocchio of Pierrot Lunaire fame brings the fire with the moog and mellotron on one of their tracks while drummer Dionisi is keeping the band in tempo with his jazz-like sound as if Bruford is watching him very proudly. Luigi’s brother Randolfo is playing like a madman on the bass creating some fierce-like walking bass lines that is out of this world.
Suite Bambini Innocenti recalls a Dalek theatrical melodic mourning Mexican fanfare done meets classical guitar structures done by the horn section that is a reminiscent of Peter Hammill’s dark-like lyrics while Primo Turno sounds like at first an Italian version of Genesis Seven Stones and then becomes a fierce mad-like hard rock sound at the very end as if it was done by il Baletto Di Bronzo. The 10-minute mass madness of Via Non Esiste deals with consumerism. Here, the band goes buck-wild of the horns, bass, guitar, and drums with some ferocious jam-style notice it sounds like a carnival turned evil at the opening notes. Nel Grattacielo Delle is another jam number showing the evidence of the band’s musical background paying homage to Marcel Carne’s Children of Paradise.
Amanti Di Ieri sounds like a futuristic romantic ballad with the acoustic guitar, melodic vocals, 21st drum work, and sweet beauty to the core. Il Viaggo is a 10-minute King Crimson meets Gentle Giant workout session with time changes, high voltage guitar exercise and a few vocal arrangements it keeps the monster in the cage from getting out. The last number Angelo is very much a children’s song to the first born. It is very much the calm after the storm with it being folksy and 15th century to close the album. A shame the band never saw the light of day an offer of this compilation that is destined to be heard.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Le Orme - Collage

Influentially, the Italian trio which was an answer to ELP, Le Orme (The Footprints), released their second album in 1971 as they were beginning to go more of the pomp and circumstance influential sounds instead of their debut psych debut with Ad Gloriam. Since they are still together, and lead vocalist Aldo Tagliapietra is retiring from the band after being with the group for nearly 41 years, the group released magnificent complex compositions of arrangements. Yet related to the sounds of Banco, Genesis, and King Crimson, they offered a Ravioli taste with the usage of the keyboards into a swirling dramatic adventure they brought to the Spaghetti table done by Toni Pagliuca.
Collage shows how Le Orme could be in the eerie symphonic format as it was the introduction to go into an orchestral adventure rather than singing about politics and war. It is worth investigating too, not to mention the church-like scientific method of experimental music with Immagini as they go into the Sci-Fi world as Aldo’s voice sounds like a robot for the 24th century as Toni does a Julian Jay Savarin meets Keith Emerson style on the Organ to give it that warm welcome as if it’s to open the doors to a new world at a new beginning. The opening title track, sets the beginning of Orme’s world of Prog as they do a classical rock number as if they recorded this in the church as it pays homage to The Nice’s The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack.
At time’s it medieval and pre-Dungeons and Dragons at the same time in the midsection when it sounds very 15th century of the Renaissance festival where the band performed this piece at the King and Queen’s wedding anniversary where they are tapping their toes nonstop to hear them play it. Era Invero, a romantic love song in a baroque way as the piece deals with a husband who has to work nonstop to pay for his family, but still loves his wife while Cemento Armato is a full-fledged mind-boggling composition starts off with Aldo’s echoing vocals as Toni does a classical piano introduction and then Michi Del Rossi comes in setting the tone of the number to give it a real kick in the gut by going pre-Goblin at times in which the band are doing a Jazz-Funk Deep Purple taste. Rossi’s drumming steals the number as he pounds away like Carl Palmer to give the band a tension-like piece as if they are composers of film music to a horror film that has a climatic climax.
Sgurardo Verso il Cielo bears again the beginning of Symphonic Rock. While it’s considered a fan favorite and rare footage of the band performing the piece with the orchestra, you’re asking for a hell of a lot of surprises coming your way. The duel between Aldo and Toni of Bass and Keyboards sets the scenery with a high voltage as the sound and Michi’s drum’s at times sound like rapid bullets shooting out of nowhere. It’s Pastoral turned acoustical landscape of unbelievable music coming out of nowhere for this composition that is straight out of Beethoven’s 1st symphony. The 6-minute Evasione Totale stands in the footsteps of a Krautrock version of Pink Floyd ala Space-Rock style in which takes us by surprise while the last number Morte Di Un Fiore, is very much the Beethoven Folksy Prog sound.
They go Orchestral Rock style in the tradition of Yes all the way as it raptures the pure melodic backgrounds in this mystical beauty. After all, the band will probably play this, Uomo Di Pezza, Felona E Sorona in its epic glory. And, there is no stop sign for Le Orme in all their power they give to the fans. As Prince Adam would say before transforming into He-Man: "By the Power of Greyskull, I HAVE THE POWER!"