MC: Liveloudandlumpy (8?), others
Supposedly weird electonics/acidrock.
Over the Rainbow (80)
Wipe Out (81, 4LP set)
|Led by saxophonist / composer Trevor Watts, Amalgam started out in the late 1960s as an avant-garde jazz / free jazz ensemble that operated in parallel with John Stevens' electric jazz band Away. By the mid-1970s, the personnel included pianist Keith Tippett (King Crimson, Centipede, many others). The main point of interest for GEPR readers of a certain stripe will be the group's last few LPs, which featured electric guitarists Keith Rowe (better known for his work with AMM) and David Cole (John Stevens' Away). Both guitarists depart quite gloriously from the then prevalent model of jazz / free inprov guitar, which (with the exception of Sonny Sharrock and Ray Russell) emphasized a dry, percussive attack and pure effects-free tones. Both Cole and Rowe go to the other extreme, cranking up the volume and stomping hard on the effects pedals. Mind you, this was a decade or so before Last Exit! What's more, the music of Amalgam has a flexibility and grace that Last Exit could only dream of. Those interested in risky, pioneering, no-holds-barred free improv skronk would do well to check out "Deep", "Over The Rainbow", and the massive 4 LP set "Wipe Out". On the last two editions, the band also included drummer Liam Genockey (Ian Gillan Band, Trevor Watts' Moire Music) and electric bassist Colin McKenzie (Trevor Watts' Moire Music). -- Dave Wayne|
|Links||[See AMM Music | Centipede | King Crimson | Tippett, Keith]|
Voice in the Light (07)
Amaran's Plight - Gary Wehrkamp, D. C. Cooper, Nick D'Virgilio and Kurt Barabas
Amaran's Plight is a progressive "supergroup" consisting of D. C. Cooper (Royal Hunt, Silent Force) on vocals, Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery) on guitar and keys (plus backing vocals and some drums), Nick D'Virgilio (Spock's Beard, Kevin Gilbert) on drums and Kurt Barabas (Under the Sun) on bass. With a line-up of veterans from these bands, you might expect this to be progressive metal, or at least very heavy guitar-oriented prog, and you'd be right. I've said it before, and I'll say it again ... prog-metal isn't my favorite genre of prog, so an album of this sort has to be really good before it will make me like it.
Voice in the Light is really good! This doesn't sound like a one-off project album at all, it sounds like a bunch of guys who have been working together seamlessly for years. Overall, Voice in the Light reminds me of nothing as much as Dream Theater's Scenes from a Memeory, probably my favorite DT album. It's even a concept album with a supernatural theme like Scenes from a Memory ("a look at one man's search for answers following a near death experience"), but Voice in the Light has less keyboards and more slow, ballad-like pieces, even some parts that are more sympho-prog than prog-metal. Acoustic guitars share the spotlight with chugging electrics just enough, the bass playing goes through powerful rhythm bass to intricate melodic lines, and the drums are crisp, ornate and powerful without going into the testosterone-drenched machine-gun double-bass intensity-overload areas that many of the prog-metal bands seem to favor. Cooper's vocal stylings work very well with these compositions, and he also doesn't have any need to sound like LaBrie, Tate or the usual other prog-metal suspects, nor does he use any overly-vibrato'ed knee-in-the-groin shrieking styles, nor cookie-monster growling. Just a good, honest well-developed male rock vocalist.
Can you tell what I don't like about some prog-metal? Good. Voice in the Light has none of that stuff and all the things I think are good about prog-metal, plus a bunch of what I think is good about prog in general ... complexity, ambition, freshness and a sense of integrity ... congratulations, fellows. Nicely done.
So, good, hard-rockin' compositions, excellent musicians, great recording quality, lots of variation and breadth in the songs, and an interesting concept. This album's got everything it needs to become an instant progressive rock legend. And I hope it will ... it deserves it! I can only hope this will not be a one-off album for these gents, I could believe they should have a lot more to say. Highly recommended. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Royal Hunt | Shadow Gallery | Spock's Beard | Under the Sun]|
Migracions (91, Cassette demo)
Els Nostres Petis Amis (94)
Canciones de los Mundos Perdidos (95)
Tierra de Especias (00)
Mujer Luna (02)
Sol de Medianoche (07)
Amarok at IV festa Cosesnostres at La Rulot, Barcelona, Spain, 10/28/06
Original GEPR entry:
I've only heard their latest album, Mujer Luna, and it's excellent! Judging by the liner notes, the band seems to be led by Robert Santamaría, who plays guitar, bass and keyboards plus a dizzying array of related instruments such as saz, autoharp, dulcimer, glockenspiel, marimba and many others. The other main band members are Marta Segura who sings lead vocals (in spanish) and penned many of the lyrics and drummer Pau Zañartu. Along with these to are a large group of talented musicians who play "specialty" instruments, including flute, soprano and tenor saxes, violin and tabla.
Musically, the simple way to describe this band would be: "fuses traditional prog rock with world music", which is both completely accurate and completely misleading. These compositions are flavored with Genesis-type sustained guitar work and Mellotron, Zappa-ish marimbas, Italian prog band (perhaps Le Orme?) type Hammond organ work, and then adds liberal doses of Spanish folk (not quite flamenco, but with a similar feel using spanish guitar), Indian tablas and middle-eastern saz to create an ethereal ethnic mix that can't be called anything but "world music". But this is far more intricate and engaging than what usually passes for "world music". In addition, Marta Segura's vocals are excellent and add a lot of class to the recordings. The CD insert even contains the spanish lyrics and their translations into English. Now, that's thoughtful of them!
Sadly, Mujer Luna will probably never become a "classic of progressive rock", but this isn't due to a lack of quality from the album. It's only because it's being distributed on the difficult-to-locate Mexican label Luna Negra, which handles a number of fine bands, but has a limited and unfriendly Internet presence. Fortunately, you can also mail-order this album (and the other Amarok titles) from Musea Records ... but don't confuse this band's offerings with the Polish Amarok! If you're a fan of fine symphonic prog with international flavorings, you need Mujer Luna in your collection! Highly recommended.
The leader is still Robert Santamaría, though other band members have changed, except for Segura. The songs are about mystical topics like the Kabbalah ("Sephiroth"), the Tarot ("Hermit"), the book of 1001 Nights ("Ishak the Fisherman", clocking in at 12:04), and even the Cthulhu mythos ("Wendigo"). But even if you don't understand the words, the music speaks in an international language. If the album was more mainstream, I might accuse it of being "World Music", but there's not a "mainstream moment" (read: "not a boring moment") on the album, or a less than superb song. Some of the shorter songs like "Mama Todorka" (2:02) are especially "World Music" like, yet are excellent just the same ... this cut, for example has an unexpected Hammond organ part in the last thirty seconds. The whole album is just excellent, and worthy of your attention! Oh, and their cover of ELP's "Abaddon's Bolero" is worth the price of admission by itself ... it might be better than the original! My highest recommendation for this release! -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Amarok's web site
Click here to order Sol de Medianoche from ProgRock Records
Click here to order Amarok's earlier titles from Musea Records
Astral Images (00)
Original entry, 5/18/00:
This band (or person? hard to tell ...) advertises themselves as "Progressive" in Progression Magazine, etc. It's a bit more meaty than your typical swooshy synthesized New Age music. Their web page's title should set off the appropriate alarm bells: "Astral Images - new age instrumental music progressive free mp3 download independent film music easy listening". Not bad, if you like "Easy Listening New Age" music, but not terribly Progressive, in my opinion.
For the record, Amaxis is a person, Ralph Oleski. He hasn't released a follow-up CD to Astral Images as of this writing, though the web site contains an MP3 of a song that was supposed to have been released on a new CD in 2005. And, by the way, the web page title is now just "Amaxis - prog rock, synth rock, instrumentals". The terms "new age" and "easy listening" have been removed. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||Click here for the Amaxis web site.|
Amazing Blondel (70)
Fantasia Lindum (71)
Mulgrave Street (74)
Bad Dreams (76)
Live in Tokyo (77, Live)
Live Abroad (96, Live, recorded '73)
A Foreign Field That Is Forever England (98, Live, rec. 1972)
Amazing Blondel 1972 - John Gladwin, Eddie Baird and Terry Wincott
English mostly acoustic group 1969-76. Middle-age renaissance guitar, organ and other instruments, multipart harmony vocals, etc., bordering on the prog movement in England at the time. Related to Gryphon. The musicians had earlier played rock and thus the music cannot be termed classical either. The group was released on Island just as any other rock group at the time. Among lots of famous guest musicians can be named Boz Burrell, Eddie Jobson, Steve Winwood and Mel Collins.
|A mostly acoustic group which prided itself on its "Englishness." After settling on a lyrical mock-medieval sound that featured lutes, recorders and multipart harmony vocals, they produced for the Island label a string of 3 albums considered to be their finest before founding member John Gladwin left the group following the release of their England LP. By this time their sound had evolved to include elements of Elizabethan-era music. The group persisted as a duo, completing one fine additional album in a similar vein for Island (1973's Blondel) before moving to the DJM label where they assumed a more conventional rock/pop sound. While they have been compared to early Gryphon, their literate and original approach combining elements of times past has no peer. The original members reformed to record Restoration released in 1997 (HTD Records), an album which harkens back to their halcyon days. Familiar guest musicians on their albums include Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Paul Rodgers, Mick Ralphs, Boz Burrell, Eddie Jobson and Mel Collins. -- Tom Greul|
|Links||Click here for Fantasia Lindum, an Amazing Blondel fan site created by Eduardo Mota|
Snail Headed Victrolas (80)
Ghost Tracks (83)
|Walter Holland's early eighties Floyd / Tangerine Dream duo, that was actually quite boring and unoriginal. Stick with his good solo material instead.|
|This was synthesist Walter Holland's first outfit, who is better known for his newer stuff like Relativity. There are 2 Amber Route albums I know of, Snail Headed Victrolas and Ghost Tracks from 80 and 83 respectively. Both have one sidelong track, plus some shorter tracks. Mostly synths and electronics. Neither of these are really great, just sort of average.|
[See Holland, Walter]
Click here for the Amber Route page of Walter Holland's web site
Ambrosia (75), Somewhere I've Never Travelled (76), Life Beyond L.A. (78), One Eighty (80), Road Island (82), Anthology (97, Compilation)
Ambrosia began as two young boys from L.A., David Pack and Joe Puerta, who
were eager to make an album. Apparently the top brass at 20th Century
Records was impressed by the lads' enthusiasm, as no expense was spared in
the making of their first album: author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (!) wrote the
lyrics to "Nice, Nice, Very Nice," a real Ukranian balalaika
ensemble was flown in to play on "Time Waits For No One," they
rented an antique Thai gong, etc. Alan Parsons, well-known for his work on
Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, mixed this album. As a result,
the production values are very high, and the music is, luckily for us,
well-written and played. Especially notable are "Mama Frog," a
wild synth-heavy freak out incorporating a reading from Lewis Carroll's
"Jabberwocky," and "Drink Of Water," a grandiose piece
with prominent pipe-organ. Sgt. Pepper's seems to be the most
dominant influence, though the band were obviously conscious of what was
going on in the world of prog. They also managed to squeeze a minor hit
out of the album, "Holdin' On To Yesterday."
Somewhere I've Never Travelled attempted to out-do the first LP in every conceivable way, and succeeded gloriously. Especially "Cowboy Star" and "Danse With Me George." The former includes an over-the-top orchestrated section which sounds like Aaron Copland's score for a western film! The latter uses not only orchestrations, but also a variety of rare keyboard instruments (harpsichord, pianino) to recreate the sound of Chopin's time, yet also incorporates jazz, pop and rock. Whew! This way well be the most stylistically intricate album of all time, just listen to the amazing "The Brunt" if you don't believe me. Yet they also incorporate some straightforward melodic tunes like "Runnin' Away" and "Can't Let A Woman," even the subtle, folklike "Harvey." The two subsequent albums delved ever deeper into the world of commercial balladry, and from a progressive standpoint aren't worth much. Not surprisingly, they were infinitely more commercially successful than what had come before. Still, David Pack's earnest, likable voice makes even the most commercially geared songs ("Biggest Part Of Me" or "How Much I Feel" for example) listenable. Road Island finds them pursuing a heavier rock direction and is better. The two ballads "Endings" and "Feeling Alive Again" are more inspired than the ones on previous LPs, and "Ice Age" proves they've still got it where progressive rock is concerned. -- Mike Ohman
An underrated band whose first album is perhaps their best and as one of ranks the best debut albums. They feature excellent vocal harmonies excellant and musicianship.
Tend to be rather popish and many argue as to whether they truly fall within the genre of progressive rock
I have the first Ambrosia album. It contains their first (and only?) hit "Holdin' On To Yesterday." Their music is strongly keyboards and vocals.
American song based pop / rock group with some good arrangements that made some people label them as prog, or at least bordering on prog. Somewhere produced by Alan Parsons IMO their best effort.
This album is surprisingly great and obviously influenced in some way by Allen and Gong. There are some long and spacey tracks that seem to jam forever.
Prog Quartet, formed from Daevid Allen's Bananamoon backing group.
[See Allen, Daevid]
Click here for song list and brief bio on Spalax label web site.
You and I (87)
Amenophis 2nd Period (1987-1989) - René Kius, Kurt Poppe, Wolfgang Vollmuth,
Michael Roessmann, Elke Möhrle
German symphonic band that put out two albums in the eighties. One, their self-titled monster album, that may easily be one of the best twenty symphonic progressive albums ever produced, and two their awfully commercial You And I an amazing example of how such a fine band went down hill!
|Amenophis is a german outfit that existed two times in the 80's - the first self titled album contains four long and lush extended symphonic pieces, bright and subtle textures, lots of dynamics and bursts of melodic color, with excellent playing by all, my only gripe is the sound quality, the recording was all done on a single four track machine, so the sound quality is a little low-tech, but the power of the music more than makes up for it. The CD reissue contains five shorter bonus tracks. The group broke up and then reformed again around 86, with some original members and a lot of new ones, including two vocalists: Elke Moehrle and also-bassist Wolfgang Vollmuth. There's some very nice guitar and keyboard interplay, but it's more of a smorgasbord of styles; sometimes you'll hear a band reminiscent of Rousseau in their Square the Circle period, or a dark Marrilionesque cut, something like Curved Air in their pop period, a bluesy cut dropped in out of nowhere; about half the tracks are vocal, and it definitely lacks some of the cohesion the first album had.|
|German symphonic band with some hints of Yes. Amenophis is an excellent piece of work for a first album -- many bands never approach this level of maturity. Wonderfully melodic and complex, dynamic and beautiful. Features some great electric and acoustic guitar solos.|
|Amenophis was the debut release by the German progressive rock band, Amenophis, named for an Egyptian pharoah, and was originally released in 1983. The music is very lush, symphonic, prog rock, centred around melodic keyboards and guitars. At times the music could be compared to Epidaurus, but stretches further than that band, as exemplified by fast-paced acoustic guitar fills and lead guitar passages. The musicians are definitely very proficient in their various departments, and utilize their abilities to good effect. The vocals are very minimal, and the instrumental music dominates. The CD also contains 5 tracks that were not on the original LP issue, which were recorded at the same time. These tracks fall more into the synth-guitar category, and can be compared to groups such as SFF or Führs and Fröhling, at which level they are very listenable.|
|As opposed to East, here's what I consider a quality symphonic band. They aren't on the level of Yes or ELP but if you're looking for bands that fit into that sort of style, Amenophis may please you. The musicianship is tight, proficient and likeable. I'm a bit tired of the symphonic bands that keep popping up, but these guys are quite good. Worth a try.|
|While Amenophis was reissued on CD by Musea You And I was the LP/CD product of a little yet excellent German label "Music Is Intelligence", owned by Peter Wustmann. Unfortunately, "MII" has gone bankrupt back in the middle of 1999. -- Vitaly Menshikov|
Click here for Amenophis' web site
Click here to read an overall review of Amenophis on Vitaly Menshikov's ProgressoR web site
|Lexical Music (80)|
Live Electronic Music Improvised (68)
The Crypt: 12th June 1968, The Complete Session (68)
Laminal (69, Compilation)
To Hear and Back Again (74)
AMM III: It Had Been an Ordinary Enough Day ... (79)
Generative Themes (82)
Combine + Laminates + Treatise '84 (84)
The Inexhaustable Document (84)
Irma - An Opera (88)
The Nameless Uncarved Block (90)
Live Allentown USA (94)
From a Strange Place (95)
Before Driving to Chapel We Took Coffee ... (96)
|Very early influential avant garde electronics.|
Click here for an AMM web
site with complete discography including other recordings by band members
Amoeba Split (03, Demo EP)
Dance of the Goodbyes (10)
Amoeba Split (captured from YouTube video) - Ricardo Castro (piano and Hammond
organ, hidden behind speaker on left), Fernando Lamas (drums), Alberto Villarroya
(bass), María Toro (vocals and flute) and Martín Blanes (guitar
and stick), Also in the band but not pictured, Pablo Añón
Original entry 10/11/07:
So far, their only release is their self-titled 30-minute (which is why I call it an "EP") demo CD, but they're working on a full-fledged album. They have no internet presence at the moment (not even a MySpace page), but are working on it. They do have a brief YouTube video uploaded (see link below). In the meantime, if this sounds interesting to you, they can be contacted at the e-mail address below. -- Fred Trafton
It's been nearly three years since the previous entry, and lots has changed with Amoeba Split in the meantime. Most important, their debut full album Dance of the Goodbyes has been released. My previous description is totally wrong to describe this album, which can be heard in its entirety on their MySpace page. I would call this album a mixture of '60's psychedelic music (due to the sound of the combo organ, clean electric guitars and flute playing), early Gong (due to the sax playing) with some Canterbury styled jazz influences (again, the sax and also both acoustic and electric piano comping and bass lines). There's even a bit of early King Crimson influence (parts that sound like Court of the Crimson King). Along with this, there are also some nice synth solos, electric guitar playing, smooth, jazzy bass lines and passages that have some ethnic Spanish classical feel to them. It's mostly instrumental, with long songs in the 9-10 minute range. There are some occasional female vocals sung in English with a fair amount of Spanish accent (though the accenting is quite charming, not objectionable at all).
The recording quality is crisp and clean, even on the MySpace player. Enjoyable in every way and an outstanding debut for Amoeba Split, though a long time in the making. But worth the wait! You can order Dance of the Goodbyes from the band for a mere 10€ (a bit more than $13 at today's exchange rate), and it's well worth it. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Amoeba Split's
Click here to see an English review of the band on the Spanish Progressive Rock Encyclopedia
Click here for a YouTube video of the band
Psychedelic Underground (69)
|The political faction of the late sixties Amon Düül clan, and the most obnoxious and weird of the two - AND the one that made the least impact musically.|
|Amon Düül was the name originally of one of the first musical/political communes in Berlin during the 1960's. They were part of the international anti-war movement as well as one of the earliest German experimental rock groups. There were 2 distinct musical camps embodied in the original Düül. One was free form psychedelia, the other more structured space rock. The music on the 5 albums ranged from electric free rock, to acoustic/free form excursions. It was in the tradition of free jazz, with an overwhelming primal rock beat and foreshadowed the chaos and energy that would later be condensed into the punk rock explosion.|
|I've only heard one album, the double LP Disaster. Obnoxious, cacophonous, repetitious walls of percussion provide the backdrop for uninspired guitar and bass solos. Seventy-two minutes of this is more than enough for anyone. The least listenable album since Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, and that's no exaggeration! -- Mike Ohman|
With the exception of Paradieswarts Duul, all these albums are culled
from the same recording sessions in 1969 within days after the split-off
of Amon Duul II. The music is raw,
aggressive and freeform. Several
percussionists pound away while the barest traces of song emerge and
disappear. Guitars throb one or two chord mantras or explode against a
wall of tribal percussion while vocals moan and chant unintelligibly.
Psychedelic Underground and Collapsing throw in some unusual studio
effects and added guitars. Of the four, Disaster, is probably the best,
with longer tracks that allow the music to stretch out, and it’s a
little less noisy and harsh, though all four have their moments.
Recording quality is not the best, and most of the better musicians left
for Amon Duul II, but these releases are
still enjoyable for their manic freeform energy.
Amon Duul's only other album is the far more mellow Paradieswarts Duul, which contains only three long songs (plus an additional two from a single on the CD). Acoustic guitars strum out bare-bones riffs over the muted tribal drumming, and wistful vocals create beautiful stark avant-progressive folk that’s nothing like the other albums, nor anything else. -- Rolf Semprebon
Click here for the Amon Düül II web site (also has ADI info)
Phallus Dei (69)
Dance of the Lemmings (71, a.k.a. Tanz der Lemminge)
Angel Dust (72, Illegal Bootleg CD, poor sound quality)
Carnival in Babylon (72)
Wolf City (73)
Utopia (73, as Utopia, re-released as ADII w/ extra tracks)
Live In London (73)
Vive La Trance (74)
The Classic German Rock Scene: Amon Düül 2 (74, 2LP)
Made In Germany (75, 2LP or 1LP versions)
Pyragony X (76)
Almost Alive (77)
Only Human (78)
Rock in Deutschland Vol. 1 (81, Compilation from Phallus Dei through Vive la Trance)
Milestones (89, 2CD, Compilation from Phallus Dei through Vive la Trance)
BBC Live In Concert (92, recorded '73)
Surrounded by the Bars (93, mostly Remix/Compilation)
The Greatest Hits (94, Compilation from Hijack through Vortex)
Nada Moonshine # (95)
Kobe (Reconstructions) (96, recorded '69-'71)
Eternal Flashback (96, recorded '69-'71)
Live in Tokyo (96)
The Best Of 1969-1974 (97, Compilation)
Drei Jahrzehnte (1968-1998) (97, 4CD Remix/Compilation)
|One of the most influential German bands in the history of progressive music and maybe one of the most unclassifiable bands of all time. Mystifying, primal, shredding, groaning, cosmic, unearthly, complex - all at the same time. Try Yeti or Dance Of The Lemmings.|
|Well, Amon Düül II started off in the early seventies with some noisy German-electro-industrial kind of music, but later graduated to prog rock. Hi Jack, and Made In Germany are two LP's more representative of their prog rock phase.|
|This classic german band began in the late 60's as a commune, then split into two bands Amon Düül and Amon Düül II. They have a long history and went through many changes along the way. Their style in the early years was very spacy and free-form psychedelic, gradually becoming more progressive, then more accessible, then another split occurred and there was Amon Düül UK. Their best output is from the early to mid 70's period, and includes the albums Yeti, Dance of the Lemmings, Wolf City, Vive La Trance, Hijack and Made In Germany. After that they sort of went downhill. The albums before 1970 are more like free-form psychedelic nonsense, Carnival in Babylon is a real stinker. Wolf City is a good place to start, it's probably their most progressive album yet still has a lot of the good psychedelic spirit carried over from Yeti and Lemmings. There's also a great live album in there somewhere.|
|Amon Düül II is one of the classic German bands. I have four albums, which tend to fall into two groups. The first two represent a very free-form, experimental/drug-influenced era for the band. They are Yeti and Tanz der Lemmings and they are fantastic. There is a great deal of variety across each of these double albums, particularly the latter. There is acid-drenched guitar ala Ash Ra Tempel, heavy guitar riffs ala Hawkwind, loads of ethnic percussion, and dreamy experimentalism. It all sifts together to make a psychedelic exploration that carries you to far away places. You don't even realize you've been drifting along until you're set back on the ground. It's similar in vein to Popol Vuh, which is no wonder as they have shared members. A must hear for space fans. The other two albums come a few more years down the road. They are Vive le Trance and Made in Germany. The band takes a more song-oriented approach, though they aren't commercial in any way. With these albums there is definite rhythmic structure in the songs instead of the 18+ minute free-form excursions found on the earlier albums. There is still plenty of heavy guitar soloing typical of the German underground as well several dreamy or breezy sections to wrap your brain around. Both male and female vocals (with fairly thick German accents on the English vocals) are more prevalent, as well. Made in Germany is an attempt at a rock opera. The early part of the album doesn't work for me but after a couple of songs the texture and trademark guitar enters and the album improves. Overall, it's similar to Vive Le Trance though I'd rate it a notch below simply because of the few duff tracks. There are some rockin' tracks as well. Both are very good albums and worth an audition to see if they are suitable for your tastes. If you like lysergic experimentalism, start with Yeti and work your way forward. (Phallus Dei may also be worth your while though reportedly not as good.) If you prefer a little bit of structure to your music, start at Made in Germany or Vive Le Trance and work your way backward. Wolf City and Carnival in Babylon were released between the above four albums are said to be a cross between the two styles, as you might expect. They are generally highly regarded among Amon Düül II fans. -- Mike Taylor|
|Surrounded by the Bars contains remixed versions of the band's better songs from their classic early seventies period but have never appeared together on a compilation before. Furthermore, the original band members have reformed - temporarily at least - to record two brand new tracks (not three, like the insert says) for the occasion. Let's hope the reunion lasts, because the new tracks are quite good, although very unlike what the band had done before: "Surrounded By The Bars" is a modern take-off on one of their early tunes from Wolf City, sounding very techno-influenced and hard edged, with Renate's voice sounding better than ever. "Dance on Fire" is a harder rocking tune, a bit noisy, with unusual vocal interplay - yet it has all the earmarks of strangeness that made their early work so good. The remixed tunes include "Kanaan," "Archangel Thunderbird," "Wolf City" and "A Short Stop at the Transylvanian Brain Surgery" from the second side of Dance of the Lemmings. The remixes sound considerably cleaner than the original versions, with some real stereo separation and depth. Since this is the only CD compilation of early material available by AD2, this would be a very good place for the novice to get their feet wet - their unique and unusual music has to be experienced to be understiood - and this contains some of the best examples from the 69-74 period.|
I could write novels about them, but I'll try to restrain myself. Led by
singer/guitarist/violinist/sax player Chris Karrer, whose totally bizarre
vocal style is quite indescribable, full of manic yodels and wild animal
sounds. Other longtime members: lead guitarist John Weinzierl whose fiery
playing is unequalled, female vocalist Renate Knaup whose vocal range is
quite incredible, and keyboardist Falk Rogner who posesses a very original
organ/synth style. The first album is quite strange, imagine Pink Floyd at
their weirdest and it still isn't even remotely like this. The 20-minute
title suite on Phallus Dei is one of the most incredible pieces of
improvised music I've ever heard. Yeti is still weird, though they
obviously are trying to be more accessible. The improvised side long title
track isn't as good as "Phallus Dei," yet is much more cohesive
than most such space-rock. Dance Of The Lemmings is an incredible
double album. "Syntelman's March Of The Roaring 70's" is a
four-part, 15-minute suite, which is the closest thing to
"conventional" prog they've done so far, with lots of Mellotron.
The B-side, collectively entitled
"Restless-skylinght-transistor-child", is some of the most
varied and eccentric music they did so far. "A Short Stop At The
Transsylvanian Brain-Surgery" is the best track. Side C is "The
Marilyn-Monroe-Memorial- Church," one of the most diffuse and
incoherent side-long improvs I've ever heard. The rest of the album
consists of spacy instrumetnals with prominent hard-rock guitar. With this
album begins their "classic" period, Carnival In Babylon,
Wolf City and Vive La Trance. You can't go wrong with any of
these. Vive La Trance becomes slightly more song-orientated, a
tendency which was to continue for subsequent albums. The live album which
followed drew exclusively from Yeti and Dance of the
Lemmings. Many of the tracks are ruthlessly edited, which makes it a
big disappointment, a double live LP would have served them better.
Hijack was the first turning point for the band. They were trying
to gain a wider audience without compromising their sound. It's more
conventionally progressive overall than previous albums, but the dark,
murky tone that pervades the whole album immediately sets it apart. High
point is the weird, percussive instrumental "Da Guadeloop,"
which most closely resembles Can. Made In Germany was originally
released as a double LP, but was trimmed to a single for British and US
release. I haven't heard the full-length version, nor do I know anyone who
has. Made in Germany is the closest they've got to mainstream
commercial yet, but is still very listenable and progressive; the bottom
hasn't yet fallen out.
Pyragony X followed a drastic lineup shift, thus the sound changed,
and not for the better. There are traces of the great band they once used
to be, but the LP is dominated by new members Stefan Zauner and Klaus
Ebert, whose styles are too commercial and poppy to fit in to the style
well. It wasn't really a bad album, but is very difficult to enthuse
oneself over. Almost Alive is supposed to be slightly better, but
Only Human is the inevitable commercial sell-out fans have been
dreading. Pop, straight rock, and even disco are exploited here, with no
success at all. Not surprisingly, the band broke up afterwards.
[See Gila |
Popol Vuh |
Utopia (Germany) |
Click here for the Amon Düül II web site
Hawk Meets Penguin (81)
Meeting With Menmachines (82)
Airs On A Shoestring (87, Compilation)
Die Lösung (90)
Fool Moon (90)
|This incarnation of Düül was formed by guitarist John Weinzerl and original bassist Dave Anderson in Wales circa 1980, and features Guy Evans of VDGG fame. Two albums were recorded at that time, (Hawk Meets Penguin and Meeting With Menmachines) before Weinzerl went back to ADII in time to record Vortex in 81. This group has gotten back together off and on thru the 80's and recorded several albums, the latest of which is Fool Moon, and supposedly comes close to capturing the original spirit of ADII circa Carnival and Lemmings.|
|Die Lösung as well as Fool Moon feature the late Robert Calvert as singer. He is not listed on Fool Moon, but the heavily accented German vocals on one of the tracks are definitely by him. Probably the last thing that was recorded of him. -- Friederike Greifswald-Tolleson|
|Links||[See Amon Düül II | Calvert, Robert | Hawkwind | Ozric Tentacles | Van der Graaf Generator]|
First Key (73)
Heaven On Earth (84)
Wer Well (85)
|One of the very few German symphonic bands that sang in their own language, Anabis were one of those early eighties bands that owed much to Genesis and Eloy in their symphonic period) and were a band that went from good to mediocre. On Wer Will they produced a very good symphonic album in the German language, and their second Heaven On Earth was sung in English and was a poor follow-up. Their third is supposedly very dull.|
|Anabis released three albums between 1984 and 1988; Heaven On Earth was a fairly strong debut, with powerful dynamics, lots of melodic color, and some strong yet delicate acoustic-electric guitar interplay with lush keyboards and flute, whose 4 long cuts seemed like an endless web of sonic changes, much like mid-period Grobschnitt. Yet every now and then there's an out-of-place outburst of mainstream sounding rock, and the singer's voice which gets a little annoying at times, although fans of the Marillion sound may like it. The second album Wer Will was a big improvement over the first, more cohesive and inventive. Theatre, the last album, was a little more direct and accesible, while still remaining very creative and colorful, with some changes in instrumentation, especially on the 15 minute title track. It definitely shows the band in a more comfortable setting doing what they do best. In some ways this one is their most original. What happened to 'em?|
|Concerning Theatre, I can give following statement: It's the album where you immediately know where you're at, what are you doing and what you won't do anymore. One quickly hears what is and what is not right. Otherwise I could also say, "Wow, finally an album that would make even bands like Asia or Pendragon blush". It's the album surpassed by many Marillyon/Saga wannabees as it makes them sound like real geniuses. I suggest to everybody to demand a listen of this, in order to cleanse ones' sonic visions (=audions) and to be able to distinguish between worthy things and unworthy ones. That's a recommendation for all neoproggies, too. Give this album a listen anyway, at least for few seconds, because it's a type of garbage, you won't hear regularly. Especially, when it's called prog and it's sold in prog-sections. Other albums said to be much better, but this one is truly undead. -- Nenad Kobal|
Anacrusa (75, a.k.a. III)
El Sacrificio (78)
|Argentine band that lived and recorded in France.|
Beyond the Black Crack (76, reissued on CD '99)
|Said to be done in the zaniest Resident-ial manner possible. Taking into account the moniquer of the band, this could be even more wacky than The Residents. Nothing for the faint of heart-ed! -- Nenad Kobal|
The Suite (93, composed in 1973, recorded in 1980)
25 Years Later (96)
|Though the band is listed as an Italian band, they are really Swiss [German, actually -Ed.] folks who transplanted themselves to Italy, I assume, to cash in on the more fertile progressive scene. Even though they are German, the music is much closer in style to the symphonic Nederlander band, Earth and Fire. The are lovely tenor (occasionally soprano) female vocals, with plenty of bluesy Hammond organ (no synth) and searing guitar. Some flute here and there is added to round it out. Songs range between four and nine minutes, the title track being the longest. The music is a somewhat darkish, symphonic sound. If you're into Earth and Fire, this band is similar in style and one you would probably like, as well. Well worth a listen. -- Mike Taylor|
Excellent jamming jazz rock album with zeuhl touches.
Regresso As Origens (80)
Obscure jazz rock band from Portugal. The first Ananga-Ranga line-up
appeared in 1976. The name Ananga Ranga is that of an Indian love
manual similar to the Kama Sutra. Members included Firmino Luis
(Guitars and Vocals), who had previously appeared with a group called
Aranha (Spider), Alvaro (bass and vocals), Manuel Barreto (piano and
vocals), Necas (drums), Rui Pedroso (keyboards) and Panther
Their music was something new to the Portuguese Rock scene of their day. They were obviously influenced by bands such as Genesis, Pink Floyd, Camel and Manfred Mann and they made no effort to hide this. Listening to their second album, Privado (1980) I can only say that they certainly did credit to their idols.
It was said of them that if you closed your eyes while listening to their music you'd be unable to distinguish them from musicians of the great international bands of the time, such was the perfection with which the band showed their influences.
In 1979 the group changed lineup with the entrance of Vasco Alves on bass and the departures of Pantera and Pedroso. They signed a recording contract and released two singles: "Disco Sound" and "Verme" followed by "Fascinio" and "Salto no Tempo". These two singles were along the commercial standards set by the recording company and were not at all to the band's liking and the truth is that they leave a lot to desire. But these recordings were mandatory if they were to retain their contract.
Ananga-Ranga did not want to record this type of music but Jazz Rock (of which genre they were amongst the pioneer Portuguese groups). It was for this purpose that they enlisted the saxophonist Manuel Garcia with whom they recorded their first LP Regresso As Origens.
With the guest participation of the exceptional violinist Carlos Zingaro on "Rockalhao", and tracks such as "Joana" (dedicated to the son of Manuel Barreto), "Bar", "America", or "Bolero" they recorded Jazz Rock at its best. The guitars of Firmino, the keyboards of Barreto and the sax of Garcia fill in the melody accompanied by the rhythm section of Vasco and Necas.
The group was invited to participate in the television show "Soltem o Rock, mas guardem-no beml" alongside major bands of the time such as Tantra, Arte & Oficio and Rao Kyao which helped to establish them nationally.
Their second LP titled Privado (Private) contains tracks sung mostly in English. Manuel Garcia was not part of line-up on this album but still participated as a guest artist.
On this album there is also the guest participation of Alfredo Nascimento on percussion in "Umnidade". At last, when the band seemed that they had reached musical maturity, Vasco Alves quit and left Ananga-Ranga. Without one of its mainstays the band split up on the eve of their hoped for breakthrough to an international market.
At a period when the Portuguese Rock scene was in boom, the remaining members called it quits. Firmino went to the United States and Necas joined the band Atlantis led by Lena D'Agua, to eventually end up in the band accompanying Loyal Robert, unable to continue as a jazz musician at least not on the Jazz Rock scene of the time. -- Costas Giannakenas
Visions Of A Peaceful Planet (80)
Natural Rhythms (81)
Quiet Fire (86)
World Without Walls (90)
Asian Fusion (93)
Planet Passion (01)
Ancient Future - the band members of AF shift around depending on what sort
of concert they are playing. This sub-group is Doug McKeehan (keyboards), Matthew
Montfort (scalloped fretboard guitar & other string instruments), Ustad Habib
Khan (sitar), Emam (tabla, doumbek, percussion) and Irina Mikhailova (vocals)
These guys are probably better known for the new-agey crap they've been releasing on the Narada label since the mid-80's. Their early 80's albums are more world influenced, with sitars, tablas and flutes and such. Their finest moment is clearly Natural Rhythms from 1981, where an entire side the album is improvisation between the "natural" music of Indonesian and Californian tree frogs and the band, recorded on location in Bali and in the woods of northern California.
All instrumental, the music on Asian Fusion can be described as three parts accessible yet
virtuostic Jazz Fusion, three parts Art-Rock bordering on New-Age, and four parts true World
Music. There are twelve pieces on this album in all, and the most interesting tracks (from
the standpoint of progressiveness) are from 2 to 5, though, on the whole, this album is full
of exceptionally original melodies.
Stylistically, Planet Passion represents a real fusion of the musical forms of the various nations of Earth, which, though, is based on such structures of the composition and arrangement that we use to call Prog Fusion. Highly diverse in sound, all of the ten compositions, that are featured on the album, are filled with very tasteful and diverse arrangements created by the masterly solos and passages of each of the soloing musicians and interplay between them as well. Some of the guitar, flute, and violin solos are so fast and virtuosi that they can remind you of jazzy improvisations, though actually, all of them were thoroughly composed by the laws of the 5-tone Eastern school and traditional, classical one as well. The mixed construction of all of the album’s tracks, based on the two different schools of composition, makes them especially impressive. There are only three songs on Passion Planet, while all of the other tracks are instrumental. One of the songs is full of African motifs. Another represents a blend of the West and East European melodic lines that develop to the accompaniment of African percussion instruments. In a Russian manner, the third one can be described as "there is the smell of a Russian spirit here". What is interesting is all of the other tracks (all of which are instrumental) are, on the whole, devoted to the music of the East, one way or another. All of them are just filled with Indian, Arabic, Chinese etc., musical atmospheres. Based on the exceptionally tasteful and virtuosi solos and passages of acoustic and electric guitars, various Eastern flutes, violins, and even (kind of) the Eastern vibraphone, the arrangements of each of these compositions develop constantly. Doubtless, this album shows that the band is completely back to form, as there were elements of ambient music in the second half of their previous effort Asian Fusion. -- Vitaly Menshikov
|I've only heard Ancient Future's most recent release, Planet Passion. I can't say I would have categorized this album as "progressive" if AF hadn't already been in the GEPR, but there are definitely progressive elements to this highly accessible and new-agey album of world music. I hesitate to call it "new-agey" because this apellation is usually the kiss of death as far as a prog fan goes. But there is a lot to like about this album, accessible and meditative though it is. This is true "world music", a fusion of western and "alternate" scales, middle eastern and polynesian-sounding percussion, odd acoustic instruments from around the world, and a generally uplifting feel to all the pieces. I'm sure that many fans of symphonic prog or more harsh music (RIO, avant-garde or progressive metal) would proclaim this album to be "boring", but it is certainly not predictable, and exhibits a high level of musicianship from all participants. Excellent quality recording too. I recommend this for those days when you don't need the "slap you in the face" complexity of much prog stuff, but are ready for the more patient, introspective kinds of subtle complexity an album like this has to offer. Recommended. -- Fred Trafton|
Click here for Ancient Future's
Click here for Vitaly Menshikov's complete review of Asian Fusion on his ProgressoR web site
The Ancient Veil (95)
The Ancient Veil is a guitars/vocals and flutes/saxophones duo. While most tracks on their self-titled album are based on the combination of acoustic guitar, various flutes and vocals (in English), the arrangements tend to vary, thanks to the contribution of numerous guests on violins, oboe, clarinet, percussions, bass, choir, piano, etc. As a rule though, the sound remains light, natural and essentially acoustic. The result is a very delicate and melodic music with strong folk, jazz and classical roots. Rock elements are then practically absent. -- Paul Charbonneau
[See Eris Pluvia]
The Vision (91)
Focus Or Blinders (94)
Ancient Vision - (in no particular order) Tom May (keyboards, guitar), Barry Spry (bass),
Russ Gross (guitar), Rob Leytham (drums), Tom Hook (vocals), Joe Allen (keyboards)
Ancient Vision is a five piece from Kansas City, playing a symphonic rock style which reminds me a little bit of some of the mid-70s Italian bands infused with a healthy dose of some of the stylings of the Moody Blues or early King Crimson. Occasionally a Marillion type reference pops up, but rarely, mostly these guys have a sound that pre-dates the 80's.
|The second Ancient Vision album Focus Or Blinders represents a sympathetic, moderately complex art rock, whose main merit is apparent originality in composition and arrangement. I liked a lot the vocals and lyrics. On the whole, this is not an ordinary album. However, the presence of a couple of good clean songs spoils the overall impression. Also, the closing track is almost free of ideas. -- Vitaly Menshikov|
Click here for Ancient Vision's web site
Click here for Vitaly Menshikov's complete review of Focus or Blinders on his ProgressoR web site
Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe (88)
An Evening of Yes music Plus (93, Live)
In 1988, these four former members of Yes decided to try
to get together the "Classic Yes" lineup to do a new album. Legend has it that Chris
Squire was not interested in this project, being satisfied with the current incarnation
of Yes, which at that time was himself, Trevor Rabin, Alan
White, Tony Kaye and Jon Anderson. The legend says that Chris stated that he was
Yes, and no band without him could call themselves
Yes. Rather than arguing, Jon decided to work with both
bands, and the new line-up simply went by Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe,
replacing Squire with bass/stick virtuoso Tony Levin.
They recorded one album of original compositions, which oddly enough sounded an awful lot like Yes. This is a pretty good album, and is surely worth the price of admission for any Yes fan. They also released a live album, An Evening of Yes Music Plus, which contains most of the songs from ABWH, plus lots of Yes tunes. Noteworthy is a kick-butt version of "Close to the Edge" with Levin's stick replacing Squire's bass in many new and wonderful ways.
They were in the process of recording a second studio album when Squire approached them with the idea of creating a multi-generation merger of Yes. This is the album which eventually became Union, and if you look carefully at the credits you'll see that it's more like a compilation of songs from both versions of Yes than a "union" of any kind. The actual "union" never happened until the tour of that name, when Howe, Rabin, Kaye, Wakeman, Bruford, White, Anderson and Squire actually got together and held their egos in check long enough to create an incredible concert tour, playing music from all the Yes generations (including ABWH) and the new stuff from Union. (Sadly, Levin didn't participate in this union.) Of course, this mega-Yes line-up quickly disintegrated after the tour, and ABWH has not (yet) gotten together again in that form to make another album. -- Fred Trafton
[See Anderson, Jon |
Jon and Vangelis |
Levin, Tony |
Wakeman, Rick |
Feelin' Alright (72), The Eagle Flies (73)
Big Science (82)
United States I-IV (84, Live, recorded in 1983, 5LP/4CD)
Mister Heartbreak (84)
Home of the Brave (86)
Strange Angels (89)
Bright Red (94)
The Ugly One With The Jewels and Other Stories (95)
Life on a String (01)
Talk Normal - The Laurie Anderson Anthology (01, Compilation)
Live in New York (02, Live)
Laurie Anderson may not fit conveniently in with what is generally considered progressive rock, but then she does not fit conveniently in with most categories. A multi-media artist from New York's avant-garde underground, Anderson had included musical compositions as part of her repertoire for years, when in 1981 she made an unexpected jump to British pop charts with "O Superman", an 8-minute song of tape loops, vocoder vocals and stark synthesizer minimalism that drew its inspiration from Jules Massenet's "O Souverain", a cry for help to God. Only in Anderson's version it is the disembodied voice of an answering machine in the aftermath of the hostage crisis and Desert One pleading attention from the military, industry, technology and, yes, Superman - the supposed gods of the high-tech, neoconservative America of the early-1980s. Intertextual and idiomatic, catchy but off-beat, serious yet playful, "O Superman" is the microcosm of Anderson's musical oeuvre.
Her debut album Big Science is lot like its monochrome cover shot of spiky-haired and andronygous Anderson in a white-washed suit and goggles against a stark grey background. It builds on insistent rhythm tracks, just as often samples, loops or electronic sounds as conventional percussion, over which spare synthesizer or Farfisa chords, drones or melodies build or often just linger. The sound itself is dry and unadorned, even cheap-sounding at places. It owes lot to the repetitive mimimalism of Terry Reilly, the wonky melodicism and atmospheres of Brian Eno's Another Green World and the clinical abstractions of academic avant-garde (e.g. "Example #22" that collages moronic pop, screechy wailing and spoken passages in German).
And in the middle of it all is Anderson's oddly melodious and friendly voice that almost never rises beyond recitation, almost never really sings, as it relates the weirdest stories in a simple, everyday language. Language is, more than anything else, Anderson's main instrument, and her texts cheerfully mix everything from biblical imagery, ad lines, catch phrases, fairytales, popular science texts and everyday observations to create the kind of surreal poetry that can turn a simple act of walking into a mythical experience or spell out post-modern theoretical babble in amusing vignettes with little pretension. The end result can range from self-mocking silliness to clever social commentary. At best it throws up songs like "Born, Never Asked" and the title track, solemnly ambling, almost gothic electronica full of imagery of progress and American set phrases that in the context assume more the aura of alienation, banality and pipe dreams than of the industrialist and individualist utopia they were used to peddle. So from a traditional progressive rock viewpoint, it is a move from maximalism to minimalism, from epic to everyday, from cosmic seriousness to ironic commentary - truly the eighties ethos. But along with Peter Gabriel's fourth album and Kate Bush's The Dreaming, Big Science was the most exciting transmutation of contemporary pop music to appear in 1982.
All these songs were extracted from United States I-IV, a five-hour stage production that Anderson had been writing for over a decade before staging and recording it in 1983. The 5-LP/4-CD set does not really give a complete picture of the event that had a strong visual element, including films, mime and Anderson's quirky self-made instruments, such as the tape-bow violin and miked glasses. Many of the performances feature just Anderson speaking against synthesizer drones or backdrops and employing harmonizers to raise her voice into a piping falsetto or drop it into a rumbling authoritarian huff. Elsewhere there is everything from tape collages to a bagpipe solo, so the actual songs form maybe only a third of the whole set. The extended versions of "Big Science" and "O Superman" do benefit from the hall ambience, and there is a batch of other strong songs here, ranging from the slow ambient reverie "Blue Lagoon" to the almost funk-tinged "Language Is a Virus from Outer Space" (Anderson would remake most of these songs on her next two albums). The whole thing is a bit too cumbersome to be taken in one go and as a whole as fragmentary as what it is suppose to portray, the contemporary United States in the turbulence of information revolution and the utopian and dystopian effects it has on the society trying to cope with it. The music is primarily for avant-garde fans, but even a more conservative progressive rock fan may like some of the songs, or at least be struck by some of the bizarre imagery of Anderson's stories, such as that of spermatozoa the size of sperm whales swimming across the Pacific at mach 20.
Mister Heartbreak is often regarded as Anderson's artistic and popular peak. In place of the spare bleakness of Big Science this album abounds with then-state-of-the-art synthesizer sounds and features substantial contributions from the likes of Bill Laswell and Adrian Belew, whose flatulent guitar flailing offers a stinging contrast to the swarming synthscapes of the opening track "Sharkey's Day". This song cheerfully flaunts the pop textures and vocabulary of the day, yet never settles into that mould. Neither does the rest of the album, which rests more on the then-novel ambient ideas, but also closes with William Burroughs reciting the rest of Anderson's non-narrative on Mr. Sharkey against the funky rhythms, synth brass and other pop candy that really sound alien in the context. The tolling chant "Gravity's Angel" and the Asian-sounding reverie "Kokoku" attain their strength more from the synergy of Anderson's voice and the haunting soundscapes (including a skilful use of other vocalists) than the actual harmonic developments. Peter Gabriel contributes vocals on three tracks and co-wrote the song "Excellent Birds" (a different mix appears as "This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)" on the cassette and CD versions of Gabriel's So), and his influence is telling in the use of layered rhythms, spare bass vamps and Synclavier-generated textures. This album is a finely-crafted balancing act between listener-friendly 1980s rock sound and timeless weirdness, and the fact that twenty years later it sounds both the product of its time and utterly relevant still, attests its success.
Home of the Brave, ostensibly a selection of tunes from the soundtrack of the eponymous Anderson performance movie, is less successful in maintaining that balance. The short aural movie still "White Lily" and the three instrumental tracks hang more or less out on the experimental limb, with all kinds of sonic curiosities created with electric violin, synthesizer, Belew's guitar and the kind of dabbling voice sample manipulations reminiscent of Jean-Michel Jarre's Zoolook (which Anderson contributed to). On the other hand, "Talk Normal" and "Language Is a Virus" (here funked up by dance producer Nile Rogers) are stuffed too full of then-hip rhythms and polished pop paraphernalia of the day to really come to life. Also the already short album includes an extended reworking of "Sharkey's Night" which appeared on Mister Heartbreak. While certainly enjoyable, this is the one Anderson album that tries too hard to stand on two benches at the same time.
Strange Angels goes for an all-out quirky pop approach and actually works much better as a result. For the first time Anderson sings majority of the material (in a pleasant soprano), with only the sober voice-and-keyboard pads piece "The Dream Before" connecting with what had gone before. "Coolsville" is all cold sheen and hypnotic synth bass, while "The Day the Devil" is an over-the-top combination of stomping percussion and voices, gospel choruses and Anderson's hilarious, effects-enhanced soliloquy as Devil the no-bullshit salesman coming to sweep away the consumerist congregation. Even the more standard pop numbers are not without their charm and tricks, especially in the vocal and percussion arrangements, though progressive rock fans will probably be least taken by this album. Its single release "Beautiful Red Dress", a debunking of PMS myths and a polemic about women's status in the job market, was one of her more openly political songs, and indicative of her priorities over the next few years. When she eventually re-emerged with a new album, the eighties were long over and her approach reflected the change.
Co-produced and partly co-written by Brian Eno, Bright Red takes a big step back to the spoken-word sparseness of her early works, yet with a smooth, synthy ambient sound of the 1990s. Neither overly avant nor accessible, the album suffers from occasional lack of edge, but at its best it strikes a good, mature balance between the opposites. For example, "Muddy River" has a strong and infective vocal melody, yet it is accompanied only by a cumbersome beat that heightens the song's melancholic, hope-against-hope mood, while "Tightrope" and "Same Time Tomorrow" are Anderson at her narrative best, all shimmering synths, subliminal percussion and spectral vocal effects backing up the hypnotic voice and its poignant imagery. The lyrical focus is now more clearly on personal issues of memory, communication and loss, of delving into the past at the onset of an uncertain new era, though her continued obsession with the dehumanising aspects of information technology resurfaces in updated, new media forms ("Puppet Motel").
That same year Anderson published "Stories from the Nerve Bible", a retrospective book of stories spanning her whole career, and embarked on a short reading tour. One of these was performances was preserved as The Ugly One with the Jewels. As it consists of Anderson reading her stories with minimal accompaniment from synthesizers, pre-recorded tapes and occasional guest percussion or guitar, it is only marginally engaging as a musical experience (apart from chillingly intense performances of "Same Time Tomorrow" and "White Lily", the latter eclipsing the original studio version), but an amusing overview of Anderson's stock of surreal stories all the same.
Life on a String carries on the overall style of Bright Red, but has a bit more accessible and richer sound, including some string arrangements and even the use of Mellotron, and more liberal attitude in using elements of pop, jazz, classical and contemporary world music. It is musically the most interesting in the violin-led songs like "Slip Away" and the instrumental "Here with You", the least in numbers like "One Beautiful Evening" whose rather prosaic composition and arrangements serve to remind that while Anderson has been flirting with "mainstream" pop music throughout her musical career, lot of her originally left-field ideas have now become established and even fashionable parts of that "mainstream". She defuses the predictability bomb with the eclecticism of individual songs on the one hand (e.g. the jumbled-up electrobeats and the mock-"attitude" vocal delivery of "My Compensation" followed by the cartoonish orchestral show tune "Dark Angel") and choice bits of idiosyncratic composition on the other (the title track). The somewhat sombre lyrical material tends to lack the surreal bite of her best work: the sentiment of "Statue of Liberty" and the melancholy imagery of "Washington Street" may be heartfelt but come across as nearly banal. It is the shining hymns "One White Whale" and "Pieces and Parts", originally part of the 1999 stage production "Songs and Stories from Moby Dick", where Anderson's musical and lyrical vision coalesce with crystalline melodies and snappy metaphors that link mythical to mundane. Hence the album is a combination of old and new, hit and miss, and darker than anything since Big Science yet probably her least overtly electronic work.
So twenty years after her popular music debut, Anderson's artistic vision is still very much alive and evolving. For the uninitiated, the live-set Live in New York and the compilation Talk Normal (drawing from all albums except Life on a String) offer a comprehensive retrospective on those twenty years of Laurie Anderson as a teller of tall tales, charter of American mythology and, yes, progressive musician (in the widest sense of the word). The live album is also recommended to seasoned listeners, as many of the songs are given a whole different perspective in this four-strong band setting. -- Kai Karmanheimo
[See Eno, Brian |
What can I say about Jon Anderson? He has one of the most immediately recognizable and frequently imitated voices in progressive rock, or any genre for that matter. He has been one of the most constant members of the legendary Yes in almost all of its incarnations. He has made a number of albums teaming with greats like Vangelis and Kitaro. He has lent his vocal talents as a guest vocalist for King Crimson (Lizard), and Tangerine Dream (Legend soundtrack). As a soloist, he has made one of the most beautiful, inspiring and innovative recordings ever created (Olias of Sunhillow) and has made some of the most boring, insipid recordings ever created (pick your favorite example). You may love him or hate him, but if you're a progressive rock fan, you can't ignore him.
Jon Anderson was born on October 25th, 1944 in Accrington, UK. Legend has it that he worked on a farm and drove a taxi before creating his first band, The Warriors, with his brother Tony. The Warriors recorded a 45 entitled "You Came Along" in 1964 which met with less than spectacular popularity. Jon's next move was to do some recording as a solo act under the name of Hans Christian Anderson in 1967. He did a cover of of The Association's "Never My Love", which also failed to attract much attention. Then in 1968, he met up with Chris Squire who was playing in a band called Mabel Greer's Toyshop. This band had previously included Peter Banks, and Bill Bruford sat in on drums for their last concert. All these folks teamed up and performed their first gig as Yes on August 4, 1968 at East Mersey Youth Camp in Essex, England. They played mostly covers of other bands songs.
Jon sang and toured with Yes for all of their first 5 years, encompassing Yes (69), Time and a Word (70), The Yes Album (71), Fragile (72), Close to the Edge (72), Yessongs (73), Tales from Topographic Oceans (74) and Relayer (74). At this point, the band agreed to take a hiatus to allow each of its members to explore some music they wanted to do which did not fit into the Yes style. Jon's album was Olias of Sunhillow, an incredibly georgeous album of epic adventure in mythical times and places. This album's instrumentation is mostly (analog) synthesizers, acoustic guitar and harp, with lots of interesting "world" percussion and Jon's vocals, frequently multitracked to create large chorales. Vangelis is thanked in the liner notes, and the suspicion is sometimes voiced that he had more than a little to do with the composition, orchestration and playing on this album. It also has a fantastic set of paintings to go with the story line, which fall sadly flat when reduced to CD dimensions. If you can find a copy of this album on the original vinyl, it's worth owning for the artwork alone.
Jon went on to sing with most of the remaining Yes albums (plus "almost-Yes", namely Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe), the only one I'm aware of his missing was Drama. Interspersed with these incarnations, revivals and mergings of Yes, Jon continued to put out solo albums, and a series of more commercially-oriented collaborative albums with Vangelis (Jon and Vangelis).
Jon's solo albums are wide-ranging in their styles. They could mostly be placed in the "new age" or "world" categories without much trouble, but except for Olias they are not terribly progressive in nature. Some have said that Toltec "doesn't suck", but that's about as high as the praise goes in the prog community for all of his solo efforts outside of Olias.
Jon has always been a "spiritual seeker" as one can tell from his lyrics in both Yes and Olias. To hear him tell it, he had tried several spiritual paths, but none seemed to satisfy him. But in 1987, he met an old Hawaiian lady who was called Divine Mother by her followers, and Jon became an ardent follower of her and her teachings, and remains so today. This spiritual mindset is easily heard to influence his music and lyrics. He would love for you to know more about it, and you can if you visit his web site. -- Fred Trafton
Jon Anderson circa 2011
By 2008, Yes began planning a 40th anniversary tour to be titled "Close to the Edge and Back". This tour was to have featured Rick Wakeman's son Oliver Wakeman on keys. The rumors were that they had been working together on four new "lengthy, multi-movement compositions" for the tour. However, Jon Anderson was admitted to the hospital in May 2008 suffering from a severe asthma attack. Anderson was advised to stop working for at least six months, and so this tour was canceled in June.
By November, Yes had assembled a new touring band without Jon Anderson. The tour was re-titled as "In The Present", and the band wasn’t clear on the question of whether this was Yes or a new band. In some places it was billed as "Steve Howe, Chris Squire, and Alan White of Yes", featuring these three along with Oliver Wakeman and singer Benoît David of Mystery and Yes tribute band Close to the Edge. Anderson, for his part, stated on his web site that he felt "disappointed" and "disrespected" (words that were later removed), despite Squire's statement that the tour had Anderson's "blessing".
Anderson, having recovered from his asthma attack, however, was not ready to simply fade away without his famous "backing band". He toured by himself for a while, using a midi guitar stup to create orchestral backing. Anderson's wife Jane is said to have compared it to singing karaoke. But this came to an end when his equipment was stolen while on tour in Turkey. But Anderson continued to tour using only his acoustic instruments, and he says the audiences were just as responsive to this as they were to all the technology. So, he's kept it simple since then, aside from some work with vocal choirs and orchestras.
At that point, he teamed up with former Yes bandmate Rick Wakeman for a tour. No bombastic Hammond or synth soloing to be had here, just these two using piano, acoustic guitars and voice. They composed an album of music together by long-distance, The Living Tree, and there's a live album of the tour in the can awaiting release in the near future as well.
While Anderson was convalesing, he sent out invitations to a number of musicians inviting them to work with him. He received many responses, and has now put together an album of these collaborations, called Survival and Other Stories. The album contains songs of many types, from very Yes-like ("New New World", the album's opener, which sounds like it could have been an outtake from Magnification, even down to the orchestra and Steve Howe-like guitar stylings) to simple but heartfelt ballads with only vocals and guitar. Many of the songs remind me of Paul Simon's post-Garfunkel solo albums, though with different ethnic influences from Simon's. There is plenty of Andersonian pantheism evident in the lyrics, particularly on "Big Buddha Song", which namechecks all the dominant prophets and deities of the world's major religions and also manages to incorporate a slightly modified version of "We Have Heaven" as a backing vocal. Those hoping for a sequel to Olias will be disappointed, but this is an album of solid if not particularly proggy songs sung by the most famous voice in all of progdom ... and he still sounds as good as ever. It's a good album, with songs ranging from "pretty good" to "very good".
Now, I'll exercise my right to express an opinion. One held by many in the prog community. Here it is: if he ever gets with the right partner musician who wants to do an Olias sequel (fake-coughs "Vangelis" into his hand), I'm certain he would still have the vocal chops to do so. I for one would love to hear it, and I'm sure pretty much all of the prog rock community would second that excepting the small minority that just don't like Anderson's vocals or lyrical ideas. Would it sell well enough to tour with in 2011 and beyond? Who knows, but I wish he'd give it a try. Double CD (with a vinyl option!) ... album art by original artist David Fairbrother-Roe ... with a remastered version of the original Olias album ... and a reprint of the original artwork properly sized instead of shrunk to microscopic oblivion on a CD sleeve ... I'm getting all misty-eyed just thinking about it. -- Fred Trafton
After writing the above, I came upon the following info in the Olias of Sunhillow entry on Wikipedia:
In 2004, Jon Anderson called for collaborators to contact him via his website. He described a project that would be a "return to Olias". In 2006, around the time Olias of Sunhillow was re-released, Jon announced that he was making a sequel called The Songs of Zamran: Son of Olias. In late 2008, he announced on his Myspace page that he was hoping to finish the sequel soon. In 2009, he posted messages on his Twitter and Facebook pages indicating that he was still working on the project. In a Rockline interview on July 20, 2011, Jon was asked about the sequel by Eddy from Wisconsin. He said that he would (hopefully) have the first bits of Zamran out in a year.
Hooray! -- Fred Trafton
[See Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe |
Jon and Vangelis |
King Crimson |
Squire, Chris |
Wakeman, Rick |
|Andromeda was a keyboards/drums (Peter Schild/Günter Steinborn respectively) duo from Cologne(?), Germany. As far as I know they have only one self-titled recording, which is definitely worth listening for any prog fan. Two other musicians credited on the album are Gerry Fleming on bass and Tony Hendrick [supposedly well known in Germany] on guitar. The latter also produced the album. Most of tracks are (co-)written by Peter Schild whose strong classical training is an eye-striking component of their music that varies from quite aggressive (I did not say rude) hard rock to classically influenced prog with dominating gentle piano. Drumming is not outstanding, not bad though. The boys play really their own music which is not very easy to find a comparison with. They are rocky rather than jazzy or else I could compare them at some moments to Moraz/ Bruford. Sometimes Vincent Crane comes in mind although Andromeda of Germany has very little to do with the music of Atomic Rooster and such a likeness may be misleading. The album has been reissued on CD in 1997 (serial # SB042) and is available for a while on the German Second Battle label. -- Eugene Poliakov|
7 Lonely Street (90, previously unreleased material, only 450 copies made)
Anthology (94, material from early years & unreleased tracks)
Live at Middle Earth (94, live rehearsal)
BBC Top Gear Session '68 / Live At Middle Earth '67 (95, a BBC session plus the above album together)
Andromeda - John Cann (guitar, vocals), Mick Hawksworth (bass, vocals),
Ian McShane - drums
Andromeda, a London based power trio, recorded just one solitary LP issued in the UK only on RCA in 1969. This is now an extremely rare item. Helping to bridge, as it does, the gap between psychedelic pop and all out heavy progressive metal the album is a real period piece. Some hail it as a masterpiece. I however prefer the superior bludgeon power of Toad, Horse or, say, Tear Gas. Leader and guitarist John Cann later helped form Atomic Rooster who scored successfully with several LP's and a genuine "hit" single "Devils Answer."
Interesting footnote: My wife when she was barely eight years of age, sat crossed legged watching Andromeda rehearse in a church hall whilst her older brother and his band (called Orion) practiced in an adjoining room! She recalls A) they were loaded B) frighteningly hairy. -- Stone
[See Atomic Rooster]
Click here for a fan web site
|Guitarist, formerly in the Czech fusion band Energit, who has recorded a number of solo records. The music on Capricornus, his first solo record, is evenly divided between Andrst's group (bass, drums, violin, keys), and acoustic guitar, either solo or in duets with violinist Jan Hruby. The group cuts are really nicely-done, somewhat moody fusion instrumentals, the sort of music that fans of Mahavishnu, Weather Report, et al. might appreciate. The acoustic pieces are also really good, and have elements of both blues and Eastern European ethnic music. Andrst is still recording as of this writing (1997). -- Dave Wayne|
Live EP (97)
Official Bootleg Live in Japan (98)
From Within (99) (ProgressoR review)
Nucleus Remastered (04, includes bonus track)
Waking the Dead, Live in Japan (05, Live, CD and 2LP versions)
Anekdoten are a four piece from Sweden. Vemod was recorded early during said year, and from what I've heard, they are highly regarded by, among others, their countrymen Änglagård. What do they sound like? Well, in one word, heavy. When I started in on the 3rd track I thought I was listening to Ruins! They are also quite dark, not unlike Änglagård, or Kultivator, or even Il Balletto di Bronzo. Perhaps the sound they evoke the most though is that of mid-period King Crimson, especially Red and some of those wild improvs on The Great Deceiver live box set. The instrumentation is, if I recall correctly, guitar/Mellotron/vocals, cello/Mellotron/vocals, bass, and drums. This accounts for a lot of the Crimson similarities, but beyond that the harmonies and melodic intervals they use recall KC, as well as Änglagård and maybe even a little French zeuhl. They have a heavy bass sound, and the guitarist does often sound like Fripp, both in tone and style, even going so far as to cop a few Fripp licks in his solos. Two of the songs depart from the "heavy" sound for a welcome respite of mellow acoustic meanderings, featuring plently of Mellotron. Speaking of Mellotrons, they are usually heard equipped with tapes of strings, choir, and occassionally flutes and brass. Anekdoten go even further with tapes of double reeds, clarinets, and maybe even some others I haven't picked up on yet. There are some nice passages where the two Mellotrons are set up with different tapes, and the layering of the sounds, such as strings and double reeds, is a trick one doesn't often hear. The album consists of 7 tracks, mostly in the 7-8 minute range. There are two instrumentals, and the rest have vocals, in English, which fit quite well with the mood of the music. The sound is rather "produced" so there is no mistaking this for a long lost mid-70's album. Overall this is a good CD; not spectacular, but there is enough here to make this a "grows-on-you" kind of album. The musicianship is solid, yet there are no flashy solos or technical tours-de-force that might begin to push this towards the prog metal realm. My biggest criticism would be a slight lack of maturity in the writing. If they improve on that in the future, Anekdoten could really be something. As it is, this is a good debut album (though a step or two below the Änglagård and if you're not afraid of heavy prog you would do well to give this a listen.
|Heavy, driving fuzzbass (Rickenbacker plus distortion) combine with intelligent Frippian guitar and a good dose of Mellotron on this debut from a Swedish quartet who are cohorts with Änglagård. Recorded in the same studio with the same engineer as Änglagård, this music sounds more like mid-period Crimson than any other modern prog band I've heard. The bassist and drummer play off each other very well, creating a hard driving rhythmic propulsion for which the guitars can scream, sing and riff over, while Mellotrons and/or cello fill in the sonic space to create a truly massive sound. The songwriting lacks the maturity of Änglagård, but is satisfying nevertheless. While the album has plenty of dynamic contrast among songs, there isn't enough contrast within each of the songs themselves. After you get half way through a tune, you can be fairly sure where its going from there. The biggest problem with this album I feel is that the gothic imagery is way overblown and a bit too pompous. I prefer a more honest approach as opposed to these manufactured dark images. But this isn't that serious of a problem, and the music more than makes up for it. I was disappointed at first, because it wasn't another Änglagård, but it has grown on me very, very much, to the point where I can safely say it is easily one of the best 10 albums of 1993.|
|I think Anekdoten's Vemod was the best release of 1993. The most immediate comparison for Anekdoten's music is to the scathing fury of Red-storm prime King Crimson, but there is also much more. The thunderous bass lines recall to mind Magma's Jannick Top or Bernard Paganotti. I also hear the dynamic sensibilities found in Änglagård's symphonic masterpiece; I would not be surprised to learn that drummer Peter Nordin jams regularly with Änglagård's masterful young drummer. Like Änglagård's Hybris, Anekdoten's many different influences are detectable yet the band goes beyond the ordinary to create a vigorous and energetic music. One final comparison to Änglagård: The focus of the music is not in the solo but in the composition. All members contribute threads to the entire musical fabric rather than claiming any particular song as a showcase for individual talent. Personally, I prefer it that way. The band consists of Nicholas Berg on guitar and Mellotron, Anna Sofi Dahlberg on cello, Mellotron and vocals, Jan Erik Liljeström on bass and vocals, and the above mentioned Peter Nordin on all things percussive. Other than Mellotron and some guest piano work on "The Old Man and the Sea" and "Thoughts in Absence" there are no keyboards. Additionally, there is some guest cornet and flugelhorn work on "Wheel". Vemod consists of seven songs, all but two in the seven minute range. The CD opens with "Karelia", one of just two instrumental songs, the quiet strains of two Mellotrons hinting at the dark, quiet lyrics ahead in later songs. The Mellotrons soon yield to a raucous melee that typifies most of the instrumental passages. Frippian guitar licks, pronounced and distorted zuehl-like bass, and sonorous cello lines meld with dueling Mellotrons to create a dense wall of sound, relentless in its passion. Through it all, Nordin calmly directs the band with his thoughtful, mature use of the traps. The exceptions to the intensity are the somber "Thoughts in Absence", with its "Starless"-like themes and swirling electric piano, and the aptly titled instrumental, "Longing", featuring Berg quietly playing acoustic guitar along with Dahlberg's aching cello passages. The lyrics are despondent, complimenting the quieter sections, yet the instrumental passages are furious and angry, belying the gentle despair of the words. For example, in "The Old Man and the Sea", we hear the singer gently intones the lyrics, then musically narrate the old man's battle with the unrelenting sea, describing the clash with thunderous bass, searing guitar and pulsating cello amidst washes of Mellotron. This combination of lyrics and instruments typifies much of the album. The final song, "Wheel," is full of dark, gothic imagery. Here, Liljeström's and, heard for the first time, Dahlberg's voices, processed into a eerie, ghost-like quality, bring to mind haunted castles high on hilltops with lightning flashes all around. Again, I must say I think Anekdoten's Vemod is simply the best release of 1993. If the idea of King Crimson mixed into a kettle with Änglagård and stirred by Bernard Paganotti sounds tantalizing, Vemod is for you. Check it out. -- Mike Taylor|
|Once when I was listening to this in my car stereo, I briefly forgot what I was listening to. I heard a bit of a horn solo, and thought it was King Crimson's Red LP! You could fool a lot of people with this. Still, they use electric cello and Mellotrons in original ways, so there's the embryo of a distinct style present. Once they gain the required maturity they need, I see a healthy future for this band. -- Mike Ohman|
|Excellent music along the lines of USA/Starless and Bible Black/Red-era Crimson. One moment they're driving and heavy, the next cello drenched melancholy. Lyrics in English and sound great...Vemod was my favourite prog CD of '93! -- Dennis Montgomery|
|I love King Crimson, and they were the great inovators, and Anekdoten started out doing KC covers, and all that ... but I always thought Anekdoten were great songwriters in their own right, and Nucleus was a monster of an album. OK, there's distorted bass and Mellotrons and a Frippian style of playing leads, but the songs themselves aren't that derivative, at least not since Vemod. And I think of From Within as "Nucleus without the highs and lows". A great album, but it lacks great songs like "This Far From the Sky" and "Here". Other than that it's just dandy, and if you like the previous Anekdoten material you don't have to worry about the current state of the Swedes. Granted their songs aren't as busy as Änglagård's, but I prefer Anekdoten in the long run seeing how they most definately are the more solid songwriters and musicians technically; not as "showy" and pretentious as Änglagård tend to end up being. From Within is very solid. -- Daniel|
here for the Official Anekdoten web site
Click here for Ron Chrisley's (now rather outdated) Anekdoten fan web site
Le Cimetière des Arlequins (73)
Au-delà du Délire (74)
Emile Jacotey (75)
Par les Fils de Mandrin (76)
Tome VI (77, Live)
Ange en concert 1970-71 (77, Live, recorded prior to first studio album)
Le Mal d'Adam (79)
Vu d'un Chien (80)
A Propos de... (82)
La Gare de Troyes (83)
Tout Feu Tout Flamme - c'est pour de rire (87)
Sève qui Peut (89)
Les Larmes du Dalaï-Lama (92)
Un P'tit Tour et puis s'en Vont (95, Live)
Rideau! (95, Live)
A...Dieu (96, Live)
Juste une Ligne Bleue (90)
Les Mots d'Emile (96)
Troisième Etoile à Gauche (97)
Les Poèmes de la Noiseraie (98)
Master Series Vols 1 & 2 (98)
La Voiture à Eau (99)
Ad libitum (99)
Rêves Parties (00, 2CD Live)
Culinaire Lingus (01)
Tome 87 (02, Live)
? (05)(Yes, "?" is the actual name of the album)
Ange created a form of music that will go down as one of the most innovative in the progressive world. While constantly compared to Genesis, Ange's music sounds a world apart and is probably due to the heavy French sound that pervade's all of their releases. Led by the charismatic Christian Decamps, Ange immediately began to make music with an intense theatrical air - one that probably accounts for the Genesis comparisons. Ange shows were a theatre in themselves - in fact before one of Ange's tours, Christian Decamps broke both heels while rehearsing a stunt for the show. Ange were quite popular in France, their second LP, La Cimetiere Des Arlequins actually reaching Gold Status. Their music is definitely in the symphonic realm yet the French element is much too noticable for comparisons to the English bands of the same type. I find it too entrapping to narrow their style down, it was mostly their own, but if you find heavy French lyric too much to take, you may want to try something else. While a heavy lyrical presence is felt in all their releases, they are balanced quite nicely with excellent instrumental outbreaks, especially notable is guitarist Jean-Michel Brezovar, who's solo on "Exode" from their arguably best album Au Dela Du Delire is quite emotional. Ange were definitely at their peak (like many 70s prog bands) in the early to mid seventies, and their first seven LPs are all highly recommended progressive releases. I'd start with Au Dela Du Delire or their fourth Emile Jacotey which seems to be sort of a concept story with an old French man as narrator. Their debut Caricatures, fifth Par Les Fils Du Mandrin and double live (1 CD) sixth Tome VI are also highly recommended to French music explorers. All of these mentioned + a double live LP of their pre-Caricatures material En Concert 1970-1971 have all been reissued on CD.
|This music is firmly in the prog rock vein. I just didn't find it very interesting. The lineup is guitar, bass, keyboard and drums. The vocalist is very emotional, crying out words (unknown to me, since I don't speak French) and sounding at times both powerful and pathetic... almost punk. The first tune, "Reveille Toi" is average-fare prog rock, and quite repetitive. The second, "Dans...," is a ballad that I found mostly boring, though pretty and symphonic at the end. The two tunes from Emile Jacotey were a little more interesting. "Bele..." has lots of stops and starts that were cool at first, but I slowly got tired of them. The last tune, "Le Nain...," was humorous, silly, and enjoyable. It reminded me of something that might be sung by the "bad guys" in an old Walt Disney movie, with a little vaudeville thrown in. I wasn't particularly thrilled with any of these tunes. Except for "Le Nain De Stanislas," they are pretty forgettable when compared to other bands who do this stuff better.|
|French group, in the true symphonic vein. Very fond of concept albums. Good, seldom too pretentious. Their music is often frantic and a bit dark. Beauty as such has never been something they have strived for. Has been around for a long time as you can see from the discography above. The earlier albums are would you expect, but like many other "progressive" bands they developed into more straighter rock with the arrival of the eighties. You could say that Guet-Apens is their last truly symphonic album until Seve qui peut which was a singular return to this style. But that their music became straighter doesn't mean that they "sold out." Some of their rock albums are very strong. Personwise, Ange was originally a group well all contributed with song-writing, but in later years the two brothers Francis and Christian Decamps wrote all songs.|
|Le Cimetiere is my favourite album of theirs. Dark, haunting music with melodramatic French vocals that overall resembles Van der Graaf Generator. The use of oddly distorted Hammond organ reminds me a lot of early Rare Bird. This album is most notable for a high-strung prog version of Jacques Brel's "Ces Gens La." Au-Dela Du Delire continues in the same vein, and is also highly recommended. Perhaps even more so, as it's not quite as scarifying as the previous album. Emile Jacotey is a transitional album. As such it doesn't hold my interest very well, but it's not bad. Par les fils de Mandrin is much better, a concept album done in a much less manic style than previous LPs. Use of French folk music as a springboard for musical ideas here makes it distinctive. This is probably the best starting point. -- Mike Ohman|
|Listening to Ange's music forced me to re-assess my definition of progressive rock and broaden it a bit. Specifically, while the arrangements are not complicated in the least, ensemble work is not particularly intricate, and the members of Ange are certainly not virtuosos, they possess incredible emotional depth and "cosmic sensibilities". For this reason, I would describe much of their music as sophisticated and haunting "experimental rock". Although references to early Genesis are ubiquitous, it is the mood of Ange's music (NOT instrumental virtuosity), coupled with Christian Decamps obvious references to Peter Gabriel-patented mannerisms that are peripherally suggestive of early Genesis. Representative works by Ange include Le Cimitiere des Arlequins (1973); Au Dela du Delire (1974); and Emile Jacotey (1975). Although all three are equally good examples of French experimental rock, I would have to say that Le Cimitiere des Arlequins might be slightly more on the "progressive" side of the equation. My understanding is that Par les Fils Mandrin (1976) is also quite good but I have not listened to it. All vocals are in French. -- Jeff Park|
[See Decamps, Christian |
Decamps, Francis |
Haas, Daniel et Yves Hasselmann]
Click here for the Ange web site (in French only!)
Vie (81), Delirium (82)
French prog in the vein of Ange, Mona Lisa.
[See Ange | Mona Lisa]
A rarity to beware of. I was told this 1973 indie release was similar to Änglagård. In reality, it's boring pop-folk with slight proggy tendencies. Might bear a passing resemblance to the Moody Blues (in fact, they close the album with a Swedish version of "Nights In White Satin"), to my ear, they sound like an artier, folkier version of the early Bee Gees. Boring and interminable. -- Mike Ohman
Hybris (92), Epilog (94), Buried Alive (96, Live at Progfest '94)
Hybris is a new release on the Mellotronen label out of Sweden, whose name should give a decent insight into their focus. Contrary to all indications, though, this music was recorded in mid-late 1992, but would be at home on the racks along with groups such as Camel, Sebastian Hardie, and all the seventies' progsters whose output can be termed "melodic, symphonic, keyboard- dominant rock." Atop the chord washes churned out on the Mellotron and Hammond, a flautist and guitarist offer up the melody, taking the listener right back to works such as Mirage, or the earlier works by Genesis. On some of the tracks, the guitar and keyboard leads are quite aggressive, making for a varied listening experience. Three of the four tracks have vocals in Swedish, but they are very much overshadowed by the music. Depite the comparisons, to conclude that this is a derivative release would be to do the album a disservice, because the set of influences that are incorporated into the music manifest themselves as very enjoyable, vintage progressive rock.
In the early '90s, it seemed like every six months a band comes out of nowhere and gives the sluggish progressive scene a solid push. Kurt Rongey's fantastic Book in Hand, Deus Ex Machina's Gladium Caeli, and Brand X's Xcommunication are examples. And now there is Änglagård. A five piece from Sweden, Änglagård redefines symphonic rock for the 90's, without borrowing too much from their 70's predecessors. The instrumentation is based around flute, guitar and keyboards, which develop the main themes, and a brilliant rhythm section. Kudos to Änglagård's drummer. He deserves to be considered one of the very best; in league with Palmer, Bruford and Moerlen. Their sound varies little throughout the album, but the four pieces show a wide range of skill. Like most of the classic progressive releases, Hybris features a writing-oriented style. Rather than each musician do their respective soloing and show-off virtuousity, they complement each other by subtle accompaniment. Each track seems to consist of several dozen multi-note motifs played by one or two instruments, followed by either multiple accompaniment or a time and melody change. Hybris is a non-stop changing piece of work, which is rare these days. Comparisons can be made to Shylock, Nuova Era, Step Ahead and others, though this band is highly original. Dare I say it? Änglagård has made a *major* contribution to progressive music and this album shouldn't be missed by anyone. It is accessible as well as complex and intriguing. From total obscurity, Änglagård has become one of the most promising three progressive acts currently in existence.
It nearly boggles the mind how a band can use instruments typical of '70s progressive rock, create an atmosphere that would make you swear it was recorded in the '70s, draw from some of the biggest acts of that time (Genesis, Yes), as well as some of the lesser known acts (Shylock, Carmen) yet create something that is so new, fresh, exciting and vital, this in 1992. Indeed, Änglagård's Hybris nearly rocked (excuse the pun) the progressive world, setting it on its ear. Änglagård is incredible, easily the best new progressive band of 1992 and arguably one of the best since 1982!! The band is a six piece consisting of drums, bass, flute, two guitars and keyboards, with some members contributing the occasional (Swedish) vocals. The four songs, averaging 11 minutes each, are outstanding sonic paintings, delightful in their dynamics, invigorating in their interplay. No instrument stands out against any other; instead, each contributes to the overall sonic texture - the song is the objective, not the solo. The keys used are the quintessential progressive boards of the 1970s: Hammond organ, mini-moog synth, and the ever-popular Mellotron. The rhythm section is outstanding, rock solid yet constantly shifting the time and mood of the entire piece. The drummer, 18 at the time of recording, deserves a special mention. His playing is very mature and never dominates the piece yet he is always in control of the musical direction. He should be a force to reckon with for years to come. Were you to take one recommendation from this survey, I STRONGLY suggest you consider Hybris. The burning question: Can they repeat? Yes, they can! Epilog represents a distinct and definite maturation of the readily identifiable Änglagård sound. While Änglagård were composing and recording their sophmore release, rumors of tension and impending breakup of the band surfaced. Although the future of Änglagård is still an open question, the music on Epilog does seem to reflect turmoil within the band. Present still are the repeating musical phrases that build tension, the dynamics that from a whisper explode from the speakers, the choral 'trons, the angular guitar lines, the fluid flute, and the powerful percussion. What seems to have increased is the complexity, the intensity, the anger and tension, and the somber gothicism that seems to so pervade the current Swedish prog scene. In fact, to me the dark, melancholy atmosphere is the most notable change. Gone are the vocals, replaced by quiet and reflective passages of extended duration. The double-exposed photography of faces and human shapes in natural scenics that permeate the CD booklet expound upon the harmonius spirituality contained within all nature, highlighting the gothic air of the music. Each photo is accompanied by a poem written in Swedish. Will Epilog indeed be the final chapter of the brief history of Anglagard? If so, the acoustic piano of "Saknadens Fullhet," which closes the album, is a suitable lament. In 1996 fans are given a coda, Buried Alive, a live recording of Änglagård's performance at ProgFest 1994 was released. Unfortunately, it also documents their final ever performance. -- Mike Taylor
It took a long time for me to get into this group. When I first heard
Hybris I thought that it was really nothing more than a bunch of Yes
bits strewn together in an un-related, almost random fashion. But, with
each listen I slowly began to realize that there was much more to this
album. What seemed to be random bits slowly began to reveal their
underlying form and structure. With each listening, each song revealed
more and more surprises. Now it's made my top 10 favorite albums of
all-time. It is truly extraordinary. What we have here is a band that
loved Progressive Rock of the early 1970s. Their love for this music is
readily apparent yet their music is much more complex and changing. A
good Progressive Rock group may distract you from whatever you're doing
while listening once or twice during an album; A great Progressive Rock
group makes you abandon that activity and give full and complete attention
to their music. Anglagard is such a group. There really is no stand-out
instrument because all of the instruments are treated quite equally.
Their emphasis is on the music and an instrument will only come to the
front if it is beneficial to the entire group's performance. Each song is
an exploration of feelings, ideas and musical stories with incredible
climbing highs and sharply diving lows which sometime occur with the band
ceasing play for a beat or so. They have few vocals, and all are used to
enhance the music and never to detract from it.
I am now going to try and illustrate typographically one of their songs to give you a better idea. The second song on the album opens with a solo flute that is soon joined by acoustic guitar and chimes. Then, a sinister and dark organ comes in with it's own solo backed by what is, in essence, the bass sound of a cello. Acoustic guitars and flutes reappear with a slight variation on the opening theme. These carry onward to the solo organ which, with the help of a building bass drum, Mellotron, and bass, take you to the main recurring theme of the piece: a flowing and melodic Mellotron and guitar featured with Squire-like bass abruptly cut-off by Spanish-styled castanets (!), strong electric bass, and flute. The theme comes back suddenly and then a flute solo with chimes calms the piece down once again to begin the vocals after a perfectly placed and quick floor-tom roll. The vocals are accompanied by soft music that quickly turns heavy. Soon, all stops for a beat and the guitar is left alone for a second or so. They do a very Genesis-styled stop and start bit like "Apocalypse in 9/8." Then, again the band ceases playing and the drummer hits the snare, the cowbell, and then a cymbal and the band comes back in again. This continues onward with the castanet bit coming back a few times. The piece's closing section contains a synthesized choir, loud drums, and very strong Mellotron with heavy bells accompanying. The point is, the music is very much a stop and start kind of thing. Being so, it may be incredibly hard to get into at first. I think so anyway. It seems like there's no ryme or reason. But, there is -- oh yes, there is.
Above all, this is not a wanna-be band or a Yes/Genesis cover band. They've found a way to incorporate some of those band's ideas into their own unique sound and style. With successive albums, my guess is that we will hear more and more of their own sound. Before I leave, a word or two must be said about this band's incredible percussionist, Mattias Olsson, a classically-trained drummer. His use of all sorts of chimes and bells is magnificent. He knows when to drum and when to keep quiet. Anglagard could not afford to lose this guy as he is integral to their music. Thing is, he's young, so he will most likely only get better! I hope Anglagard sticks around for a few years. -- Clark Ray
Superb Swedish band formed by six ingenious young musicians. Though their music is a brilliant tribute to groups from the past, it remains fresh and original thanks to dynamic performances, quality musicianship and clever arrangements. Hybris features double guitars, keyboards (with Mellotron), bass (Rickenbacker), a remarkable drummer, flute and bits of vocals (in Swedish). This succulent symphonic rock, with its unpredictable grooves, is pretty hard to resist. An exceptional disc that deserves all the attention it's getting. After their smashing debut, this Swedish band retaliates with even more impressive Epilog. Arrangements of double guitars, keyboards, bass, drums and flute are still present and complemented by guests on strings. The music picks up where it left with Hybris but compositions are bolder and more intricate. Their explosive energy remains with even more complex rhythms but perhaps with a more obscure atmosphere. An imposing release that remains challenging with every listen. According to the booklet, Buried Alive is the Swedish group's last performance. The concert was recorded at Progfest '94 and is everything we would expect from the band; nothing more, nothing less. They play all four tracks from Hybris plus three more from Epilog, including the short introduction "Prologue." The sound is rich and crisp and the performances are true to the studio versions. In fact, those who expect a lot of surprises may be disappointed. This recording confirms that the live band could deliver all the merchandise. -- Paul Charbonneau
Click here for the Änglagård home page.
Angels Cry (93)
Holy Land (96)
Freedom Call (96, EP)
Holy Live (97, Live)
Angra (2002 line-up) - (Not in Photo order) Eduardo Falaschi (vocals), Kiko
Loureiro (guitar), Rafael Bittencourt (guitar), Felipe Andreoli (bass) and
Aquiles Priester (drums)
Angra lit up my world in 1997 when I despaired of having any good music. Before that I only listened to progressive music such as Dream Theater and Fates Warning. Angra more or less introduced me to Classical-influenced power metal. The name "Angra" comes from the name of the Fire Goddess among the Guarani and Tupiniquim tribes of the Brazilian Amazons. With this in mind, it's not coincidence that Angra hails from São Paulo, Brazil, and plays melodic power metal with Classical and Brazilian influences. Angra has four major releases under their name (with a few other EP's and demo's flowing around).
Angels Cry - Amazing melodic power metal with a ton of Classical music thrown in but sped up to a sonic boom.
Holy Land - To me this is Angra's masterpiece. The theme of Holy Land is Brazil, and the album flows like a collection of stories from 1499 to the modern day. The album starts with a soft choral piece and sounds of the ocean, and then thunders into "Nothing to Say" which tells the bloody conquest of the Americas. The search for redemption grows into a yearning for exploration of the sea in "Silence and Distance", which flowers into the masterpiece "Carolina IV". The song "Carolina IV" is a complex amalgation of Brazilian, Classical and Metal parts, but strangely it works really well. The next song, "Holy Land", carries the same Brazilian-Classical-Metal mix, but the theme shifts from exploration to Brazil itself. It tells of a Golden Age where the scar of the Conquest is mended and the Brazilian culture emerges from the various peoples that settled Brazil. "The Shaman", on the other hand, tells a story of an indigenous shaman performing rituals to save his tribe from supernatural demons, predators in the jungle, and the encroaching civilization. Midway through the song there's a recording of an actual shaman speaking in Tupiniquim and probably performing the ritual! "Make Believe" takes a slower tempo, and is a more introspective composition. The pace picks up again with "Z.I.T.O.", which has an uplifting spirit about building a better world. The ballad "Deep Blue" takes the listener back out to the sea, which segues perfectly into "Lullaby for Lucifer", a simple acoustic track about the past and the future. At the song ends, it leaves you in a dock somewhere in coastal Brazil with the ocean waves coming and going.
Freedom Call - This is an EP with lots of "miscellaneous" stuff. The first song, "Freedom Call", should've been on Holy Land, because it talks about slavery and thus is part of the history of Brazil. The version "Queen of the Night" here has added orchestral arrangements but is still a true power metal tune showcasing Andre Matos's amazing vocal range. "Reaching Horizons" is from Angra's 1992 demo of the same name. It's a nice balad that got them the record deal but is not terribly memorable. "Stand Away" and "Deep Blue" are alternate versions of the same songs found on Angels Cry and Holy Land. The bonus tracks are live recordings from the Holy Land tour.
Holy Live - A slice of the tour. Not too interesting unless you're a die-hard fan (which I am and that's why I have it).
Fireworks is the third full-length album from Angra, and probably their worst (although worst in Angra standards is still higher than 99% of the music out there). The biggest problem is that the record is inconsistent. There are some really good songs, such as "Wings of Reality", "Petrified Eyes", "Lisbon", "Metal Icarus", and "Speed", but there are also songs that don't work for me. The title track "Fireworks" is unmemorable. "Paradise" drags on too long. "Mystery Machine" and "Extreme Dream" are such generic power metal tunes that they could come from Halloween.
Rebirth - Angra broke up in 2000, with Andre Matos, Luis Mariutti, and Ricardo Confessori leaving to form Shaman. The remaining band members recruited Eduardo Falaschi, Felipe Andreoli, and Aquiles Priester to continue on with the name Angra. I'm still waiting for this album to be released in the USA but nowadays with the magic of online file sharing I got to listen to all the songs. After a few listens, I'd say that Rebirth is a good album, more in the vein of Angels Cry with slight Brazilian influences, but still not comparable to the masterpiece Holy Land. However, since this is a nearly new crew, I'll give them the benefit of doubt and wait to see how their next album fares. -- Lawrence K. Lo
Click here for Angra's web site, in English Spanish or Portugese
Tempus Stetisse (92)
Book of Comedy (99, as Anima Dominum)
|Supposedly like Tisaris.|
Click here or
here for further
information about Anima/Anima Dominum
Sturmischer Himmel (71, as Anima Sound)
Musik für Alle (72, as Anima Sound)
It's Up To You! (74)
Monte Alto (77)
Der Regt Mich Auf (82, a.k.a. Controversy)
Bruchstucke Für Ilona (85)
Limpe Fuchs solo releases:
Nur Mar Mus (99)
Recorded in the late 1960s and issued on the famed OHR label, Anima's first LP (reissued
in the mid-to-late 1990s on the ZYX label) is a prime early example of ESP-styled dadaistic
Euro-free improvisation. For whatever reason (their presence on the NWW List, perhaps?) these
folks were associated with the Krautrockers, don't
kid yourselves - this is free jazz!
Unfortunately, it isn't all that good by free jazz standards, though it has some nice moments. The band includes J. A. Rettenbacher (best known for his work with German / US jazz-rockers, the Dave Pike Set) on electric & acoustic bass, jazz / classical piano virtuoso Friedrich Gulda, Paul Fuchs on Fuchshorn, Schilfzinken, Klangbleche, voice, electronics, and percussion, and Limpe Fuchs on voice, drums, FuchsZither, electronics, and percussion.
Gulda is best known for his classical piano recordings (mostly on the Saba / MPS label) and for his modern jazz recordings for Columbia and MPS / Saba. Some proggers may well find Gulda's more conventional recordings quite appealing, as he rarely hesitates to cross-fertilize various classical / orchestral elements into his jazzier material. Gulda performed a fair amount of free-improv and otherwise experimental music well into the mid-1970s (and perhaps beyond). He recorded 2 such LPs for the Brain label, one of which (Nachricht vom Lande) included appearances by Cecil Taylor, Albert Mangelsdorff, John Surman, Barre Philips and Stu Martin. Husband and wife improvisors, instrument makers and visual / multi-media artists Paul & Limpe Fuchs are still active in the free-improv realm, and both have recorded quite extensively for the FMP label. -- Dave Wayne
Though the group Anima, also known as Anima Sound, came out of the
late-1960s counterculture Krautrock scene
of Munich, their music is far closer to experimental free jazz than anything remotely
like rock music. Configured around the married couple Paul and Limpe Fuchs,
Anima's recordings offer improvised atonal sounds using unconventional instruments
and unrestrained creativity. Many prog fans will find this radically avant-garde music
way too unstructured. More normal instruments like drums, bass and cornet are combined
with wordless vocal yelps and screams, as well as the Fuchs' own homemade
inventions like the Fuchshorn, Fuchszither, and Fuchsbass to enhance the
strangeness of their musical anarchy.
The debut, Sturmischer Himmel, recorded at "a thousand year old cottage on a windy hill," features just the Fuchs' couple, but on later albums they joined by others, including avant-jazz pianist Fredrich Gulda on the eponymous Anima and then their son, Zoro Fuchs on two releases from the 1980s. One side of Monte Alto consists of a Limpe Fuchs piano solo. Anima stopped releasing albums in the mid-1980s, but Limpe Fuchs continued a solo career after that, with three releases that are in a similar vein to the Anima stuff. On Via, with extensive use of her voice, has been compared to the work of Diamanda Gallas, whereas Muusiccia and Nur Mar Mus are more atmospheric and abstract. Though her solo records lack some of the unhinged wildness of the stuff from the early 1970s, they are still extremely inventive and creative.
The first three Anima records are highly recommended and any of the others by them or Fuchs alone are all exceptional, but only if one appreciates experimental jazz, total freeform, and serious avant-garde music. -- Rolf Semprebon
Editor's Note: The previous GEPR entry on Anima Sound incorrectly identified Paul
and Limpe Fuchs as brothers, prompting the following correction:
Paul and Limpe Fuchs are definitely not brothers, since Limpe Fuchs is a woman. As far as I know they are (or were) man and wife. Limpe Fuchs used to appear on stage naked, with painted body, and danced around her various percussion instruments while playing. -- Friederike Greifswald-Tolleson
One of the first bands signed to new independent Italian label GasTone, the first album from
Anima (unrelated to either the German or Brazilian bands) is a sort of spacey world music affair,
focused on rhythm, flutes and synthesizers. But at other times it has a '60's psychedelic feel in the
guitars and combo organ, a modern space-rock feel with some techno edge to the rhythm section or
even parts with "straight ahead" jazz piano. All the while, vocalist Elisabetta Macchia sings
in a sort of Italian salsa style (if there wasn't any such thing before, she's invented it). Another
reviewer described her vocal style as "mischevious", which is a pretty good summation.
In short, "prog" would not be the first word I'd think of to describe this music. In fact, some GEPR readers would doubtless listen to this and declare "that's not prog!", and I would be in sympathy with that view. But I do think Anima would appeal to many listeners with progressive musical sensibilities looking for something outside of the realm of "sounds like those '70's guys". Fresh and interesting. And, they are supposed to have a second album on the way soon. Check out the link below to GasTone Records. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for
GasTone Records' web site
Jagannath Orbit (08)
The Way (10)
Current members of Anima Mundi, Jan. 2009 - Yaroski Corredera (guitar), Virginia Peraza (keyboards),
Carlos Sosa (vocals), Roberto Diaz (guitar) and José Manuel Govín (drums). Note:
this is not exactly the same line-up as plays on Jagannath Orbit.
Original Entry 1/19/09:
Not that I have anything against bagpipes. But I'd rather hear a band that sounds like Anima Mundi on their new release, Jagannath Orbit. If I was to sum it up in one sentence, I'd say it has the lyrics of a Mahavishnu Orchestra album with music inspired by Yes or Starcastle with a bit of Tangerine Dream, Tomita and even some Asia-type arena rock thrown in for good measure. In short, just about everything I think of as essential for a good prog album is also what Anima Mundi thinks is essential. I was forced to love them.
This album features two wonderful multi-part "side-long" suites on it, "We Are The Light" (17:42) and "Rhythm of the Spheres" (16:29), plus several shorter songs (like the 11:44 "Jagannath Orbit", which isn't all that short either!). OK, so they sound like new-agey titles. But there's nothing new-agey about this music. It's very strong, complex, uplifting and spiritual in a way that surprises me from a band that lives in a place like Cuba, where things must surely be very difficult for a prog band. The bio on their web site confirms this, with musicians coming and going from the band (the current line-up has changed several times since the basic tracks of Jagannath Orbit were completed in 2002), and a big-production, expensive concert that "almost took AM to ruin", it was for a time questionable whether this album would ever see the light of day at all. I'm very glad that it did, because it's fantastic. I wonder if they shot any video of that big concert? If so, I'd love to see it.
If I had to say something bad about this album, it's that the recording has some strange resonances in the midrange that sound bad to my ears. I've noticed that boosting the treble and bass (thus lowering the midrange) improves the sound quite a bit. But as far as the music itself, this is a spectacular album and deserves attention from any fans of the bands I've mentioned (except maybe this will be too complex for Asia fans ... there's really only a little arena rock influence, most of it in the first part of the first song). With some slightly more professional production, these guys could be as interesting as Yes in their heyday. (Is Eddy Offord still alive? Oh well, I guess he wouldn't be interested ...) Really! An outstanding album. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Anima Mundi's web site
Anima Obscura - Frank D'Angelo (guitars, MIDI guitars), Michael Petiford (drums, Stick)
and Elliot Hillis (bass)
Original Entry 11/17/06:
Click here for Anima Obscura's MySpace page
Chocolate Covered Pears (??, MP3.com CD)
Spare Room Demo (??, MP3.com CD)
Note: all songs from the above two CD's are downloadable for free from MP3.com
Original Entry 5/28/02:
What I discovered is that anyone can call their tunes progressive rock, even if that doesn't mean to them what it means to those of us who read the GEPR. Animal Couch is a pretty cool guitar-oriented band with two female vocalists. They play alternative rock with some slight goth overtones. They're not bad, and have a very professional sound, but they are decidedly not progressive rock. No matter what MP3.com says. I should have guessed by their "number of downloads" statistic ... -- Fred Trafton
MP3.com in its former incarnation has been defunct for years (the newly funct version isn't big on prog rock), and so, apparently, is Animal Couch. They still have an operational MySpace page (see below) whose latest entry says, "broke up years ago...check out our top friends for our current goings on". Just keeping this entry here for historical reasons, and fixed broken link to now-nonexistent web site. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Animal Couch's MySpace page
A band from Champaign/Urbana, Illinois, in the US. They try too much to sound like Yes and Rush, and their singer is very difficult to listen to, but worthwhile to Yes and Rush fans who like the symph-rock style.
Their sound is a lush keyboard and guitar based symphonic approach, with a lot of tight changes, colorful melodies, and superb vocal harmonies a-la early Styx. The arrangements are all clever and kaleidoscopic, with an energy level that might be compared to mid period Rush. The first album is Gallery, and is quite good.
I can't say much about this: I've got the Gallery album, but what puts me off is the bad production. It sounds like all (and I mean ALL) high tones have been cut, sort of like dolby but far worse. The result being that it sounds very dull. Not a CD I'd recommend (unless you have a very good installation and like correcting such flaws by twiddling with you equalizer for half an hour.
Their sound combines elements of Yes and Rush with introspective lyrics and some nice acoustic piano interludes.
Neo-prog with a lot of potential. I have their first, Gallery. Heavy Rush/Marillion type influences, if they can start coming out with more original sounding material they could be really great.
Ankh (94, aka Black)
Koncert akustyczny (94, Live)
Ziemia i Slonce (The Earth And The Sun) (95)
....bêdzie tajemnic (It Will Be A Mystery) (98)
Ankh - Live in Berlin, April 23, 1999
Ankh sent me a sampler so that I could hear their favorite tracks from all their releases. For the first few songs I was tempted to say, "Suppose Itzhak Perlman sat in with the Sex Pistols ...", since the first few cuts are based on classical violin selections with a shred and thrash guitar/bass/drums rhythm section headbanging along underneath it. But as the sampler continues, it becomes obvious that this is not the only style Ankh does.
Other songs have Slavic folk dances, punk rock and even some rockabilly stylings as their basis rather than the classical music melody. Most of the songs have the punkish heavily distorted guitar, but there are also some softer more ballady pieces. All songs feature the classically-oriented violin playing along with (or fighting it out with?) the thrash guitar. Since the lyrics are all in Polish (I guess), I have no idea what they're singing about, but the vocals make for an interesting instrument anyway, when they're used, which is only on about half the songs. All the pieces are a bit on the repetitious side for me, without much variation once they have stated their theme in the opening measures. (For what it's worth, I have the same complaint about Led Zeppelin.)
In short, not your usual "Prog Rock" fare. Interesting, at least, for their use of classical music themes a la ELP. A bit too noisy for me, though, particularly since they don't offer a lot of complexity. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||Click here for Ankh's web site|
Le Joueur De Lune (79)
|Folk-prog with keyboards, flute, electric guitar.|
Tussilago Fanfara (77)
Swedish electronic duo, Mikael Bojen and Ingemar Ljungstrom.
Memories (94), Artemis (95)
Annalist started in Warsaw in 1992. They're a rather heavy band with art-rock ambitions. First album Memories has a dark atmosphere. The musicians were influenced by Fields of the Nephilim, Marillion and Twelfth Night. Songs are rather short, from three to six minutes in length, and all have English lyrics. One song, "Lunacy," is longer at 13 minutes and consists of some improvisation in the King Crimson mode. A pity the young musicians weren't good enough to play such music, so "Lunacy" is the worst part of the album. Fortunately it was only their first effort. On the second album, Artemis, the improvisation is very good, and "Eclipse" is the best song. Artemis has two kinds of tracks: rather poppy songs with Polish vocals (only one is good, the rest you can forget about) and darker, more powerful compositions with English lyrics. The second kind are the far better part of the album. Vocalist Robert Skrzednicki sings worse than on Memories. Technically better maybe, but without any spirit. -- Janusz Groth
|One of the original Ohr bands, who produced two for the classic label. The best one is Osmose that featured an intense fold-out-into-a-pyramid cover and music of equal intensity, brimming with originality and spontaneity and is a must for fans of German space rock/fusion.|
Annexus Quam is a German free-improv quintet with psychedelic leanings - similar to groups like Anima (who, like Annexus Quam, also recorded for Rolf-Ulbrich Kaiser's OHR label) and Limbus 4. I haven't heard of any of these guys before or since: Martin Habenicht - bass, electric bass; Hans Kamper - trombone, nylon-string guitar, pan-flute; Harald Klemm - electric zither, electric guitar, percussion, etc.; Peter Werner - electric guitar, percussion; Ove Volquartz - saxophones, flute. Beziehungen contains two long, rambling tracks, and 2 shorter ones. Each are faded out, so I'm guessing that they are excerpts from longer, continuous performances. Two of these "Trobluhs el ë isch" and "Leyenburg 1" seem to have some compositional structure to them. The other two pieces "Dreh Dich Nicht Um" and "Leyenburg 2" seem to be totally improvised on the spot.
Compared to some of the other stuff in this vein that I've heard, Beziehungen isn't bad, though not all of it works. These guys are not seasoned improvisors, and rhythmic / chordal improvisation is clearly their forte. The overall sound is a cross between low-fi ESP-style noisy free-jazz freakage and the more pastoral, meditative style of groups like Between and Popol Vuh. The latter strain figures prominently on "Dreh...", which is fuelled by a chiming minimalistic figure played by Kamper (on nylon-string guitar) and either Klemm or Werner (on electric guitar). The piece really falls apart, however, when the guitarists move on to something else. "Leyenburg 2" has some really dynamic improvised action involving Kamper (now on trombone) and bassist Habenicht, and some very odd electronic sounds. My problem with this CD is the fact that none of the players (other than Habenicht) is a consistently engaging soloist, though Kamper (on trombone) and one of the guitarists have their moments. The reed player, Volquartz, is not particularly good on any of his axes, and he's responsible for a lot of aimless noodling on "Leyenburg 1" and elsewhere. Bassist Habenicht's rhythmically charged playing would have sounded great with a decent drummer working alongside, and the band's total reliance on small percussion (shakers and such) really undercuts the development of any sort of rhythmic impetus or pulse.
Not bad, but not essential either. -- Dave Wayne
Anno Luz (88)
|Solid Brazilian duo who put out an album in the vein of electronic music like Neuronium or some Tangerine Dream. A good solid album - nothing incredible - but quite interesting as a Brazilian exponent of progressive music.|
Trips North, Trips South - Not Intended For Consumption B/W Downtime (7?)
Cassette only electronics/environmental music.
Red Tape Machine (72)
This band sounds really like Jethro Tull.
Inside The Shadow (76)
US indie label prog band.
A New Dawn (86, EP)
Pastales (94, Compilation)
|Similar to Ange and Barclay James Harvest.|
|Pastales is a compilation of demos, live tracks and singles. The group never recorded a proper album. They also have the song "The Quest" on Musea's Enchantement compilation. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
|Anoxie's bass player (Lionel Gibaudan) played with XII Alfonso in concerts, but not on any albums. Thierry Sportouche (editor of Acid Dragon progressive rock magazine) was lyricist for Anoxie, and is also singer and lyricist for Silver Lining. -- Fred Trafton|
[See XII Alfonso |
Silver Lining ]
Over the Hills (82)
Out of Sight (99)
Antares - Claus Neide (Vocals, Keys, Guitar) and Peter Patzer (Keys).
(Invisible behind the drums is Khalid Schröder?)
I've only heard Out of Sight. It's an interesing album, with the same set of songs repeated twice ... first as "Radio Mixes" which are the songs complete with vocals. Then the entire album repeats as a "Playback Mix", or what I might call a "Karaoke Mix" which is just the instrumentals with no vocals.
Although the album is well-produced and has some catchy tunes, I would barely call it progressive. Actually, several of the songs remind me of Phil Collins' solo pop music he did outside of Genesis. The orchestration and sound is progressive, but the actual music is simple enough to get radio airplay. If you want to hear just how simple the arrangements are, just listen to the vocal-less versions and you can hear how repetitive and simple they sound without the vocals to add interest.
Not bad, but I can easily name a few dozen other bands I'd rather listen to. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||Click here for Antares' web site in German and English|
Sea of Tranquillity (79)
|This is an obscure one-off album; actually, at 27 minutes it barely qualifies as an album. It seems to take Pink Floyd's astral associations one step further by presenting itself as a concept piece about a moon flight, even as the music loans heavily from David Gilmour's guitar style and Floyd's harmonic and sonic concepts. The heavier-than-Floyd synthesizer arrangements could also suggest early-1980's Eloy. However, the opening track "The Leaving" has almost a discoish beat and its unintentionally humorous "woman" chorus is much more suggestive of Bob Marley than of Roger Waters or Frank Bornemann. But further along the line the vocalist tends to show his best side by shutting up, and the music throws in a few exquisite instrumental moments, such as the lyrical piano minimalism of "Apollo 11" or the delicately interwoven spiderwebs of acoustic and electric guitars and synthesizers on "My Girl Friend". There is also a near-constant supply of thick analog synthesizer textures, leads and pads to please those who feel that synthesizer technology died at the dawn of the digital. While nothing of cosmic importance, Sea of Tranquillity is a nice enough novelty item, and recommendable to fans of Floyd-style spacey and melodic stuff, though I wouldn't go to the ends of the universe to obtain a copy. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
Pure Electric Honey (90), With My Favorite "Mothers" and other Bizarre Muzik (92, Cassette), With My Favorite "Vegetables" and Other Bizarre Muzik (94, CD release of "Mothers" with a deleted song and a new song), Lunar Muzik (97), The Message of the Bizarre (Coming Soon)
During my college days of lysergic experimentation, I spent much of my time
hanging motionless above the heart of the sun, deciding which colour I
liked. Though my psychedelic daze have been behind me for many a year,
now and then an album comes along that, upon closing my eyes and opening
my ears, immediately recalls fond memories of by-gone days. Enter
Ant-Bee's Pure Electric Honey, a glorious LP who's emmanations
oozes over my eardrums with a sweet familiarity. Listening to this album,
you will recall "Saucerful of Secrets." You'll think of
"If" and "Summer '68" from Atom Heart Mother,
or, perhaps, "Green is the Colour" and "Cymbaline."
Insects and red-wing blackbirds will take you to "Grantchester
Meadows." You'll feel the heartbeat of the Dark Side. You'll hear
dreamy Beach Boy vocal arrangements and all sorts of Beatles references.
You'll hear double speed voices and other tape manipulations, bagpipes and
sitar and all sorts of studio sorcery. Yet, above it all, what you'll
really hear is one of the most original and inventive albums of the
so-called neo-psychedelic scene. To come down to earth briefly, Ant-Bee
is Billy James, who plays most everything, including vocals, drums,
percussion, tablas, guitar and keyboards. He is also the manipulator of
tapes. James was aided by several friends for various moments (e.g., the
sitar, bagpipes or backwards violin) but this LP is the brainchild of
James. And, to any fan of early Pink Floyd or the neo-psych scene, this
album is HIGHLY recommended. I have to reiterate: this is an album
brimming with invention and originality, despite the many references to
the music of an era past. Get yourself some pure electric honey (and
forgive my enthusiastic cliches).
...Favorite "Mothers"... sounds like a mix of Zappa, early Pink Floyd (from Piper... to Ummagumma) and the Beach Boys (!), Unless you're brain dead, you'll have guessed that Ant-Bee's favorite "Mothers" are the Mothers of Invention. Their influence is evident throughout. The cassette opens with "Lunar Egg-Clips Runs Amuck," a bizarre, Zappa-styled tune full of unexpected twists and turns, and replete with "martian" vocals (sung by Lunar Egg-Clips, of course). "The Live Jam" is an excellent, erm, live jam of growling sax, synth and guitar, recalling prime instrumental Mothers, but with a spacy, then freaked-out "Moonpie" ending. This jam alone is nearly worth the price of admission. One of the more interesting songs on the album is a cover of Brian Wilson's "Do You Like Worms" from the legendary Smile sessions. This cut sounds eerily like The Beach Boys. In fact, this exact version was included on a Beach Boys 3LP bootleg, as the guy who compiled the b'leg though it was Wilson and company. Also along these lines is "The Girl with the Stars in Her Hair," another Beach Boys-styled tune with dashes of madcap Syd Barrett thrown in for good measure. "Who Slew the Beast" is a dose of wigged-out psychedelia, vaguely along the lines of the studio material of Pink Floyd's classic Ummagumma, but freakier. These tunes indicate the variety of tunes heard throughout this cassette and are a testament to Billy James' bizarre humor, musical ability and psychedelic sense. To anyone into the neo-psychedelic mindset, this cassette is definitely a must-hear. To anyone of the Zappa/Mopthers mindset, this cassette is a must-have. However, let me point out that the cassette contains brief interviews with three ex-Mothers of Invention: Don Preston, Bunk Gardner and Jimmy Carl Black. Each of these insightful snippets interspersed between songs will be slathered over by die-hard Zappa freaks, though they're hardly essential to this tape (though there is a small Moog freakout by Don Preston between two of the interview snippets). Complete interviews are available on cassette from Electric Yak. ...With My Favorite "Vegetables"... is the CD release of ...Favorite "Mothers"..., although with a few differences. Each format (cassette and CD) contains a song not found on the other. There's also an extra ex-Mother interview snippet (Jim Sherwood aka Motorhead), and a couple of other miscellaneous Mother snippets. -- Mike Taylor
[See Preston, Don | Zappa, Frank]
Click here for Ant-Bee web site.
|A very experimental band. The second album is the best.|
|Dark, doomy prog, pre-Jacula.|
|Ralefun opens with "Magic Sadness". Slow, sombre piece, reminiscent of Pink Floyd with its stately drumming, churning organ backdrop and Gilmouresque guitar patterns. The strong, sad melody is carried by the synthesizer. A short piece of graveyard prog. "Agonia Per Un Amore" starts with wind sounds, flute and the guitarist whispering in Italian. Piano and rhythm section soon enter, he starts to sing and we are faced with a vocal version of the first track, with flute carrying the main melody instead of synth. "Witch Dance" is a faster song with driving drums, hard rock guitar riff and some flute-playing that brings to mind Jethro Tull. The guitarist interjects half-spoken/half-sung comments like "Oh, my witch" or "You're my black witch", which sound comical more than anything else. Not so interesting as the first two tracks, though, as the song doesn´t really go anywhere. "Incubus" starts with solemn piano and another strong, sad melody, this time played with guitar, but also manages to throw in all kinds of weird sounds and short instrumental flights, resulting in a rather fragmented track. "In Einsteinesse´s Memory" is another faster song and closer to straight-ahead rock, though there is a longish instrumental section with some good guitar and flute solos. Nice vocal melodies and for some reason the guitarist´s low-key singing reminds me of Mark Knopfler! "Enchanted Wood" is the longest and weirdest piece on the album. 12+ minutes of slow, spacy, sinister music, with sound effects, quiet drumming, weird keyboard and guitar sounds and guitarist´s reverb-drenched whispers combining into a haunting, though ultimately a bit static album closer. Conclusions : There are similarities to Goblin here, though Ralefun doesn´t have the intensity of Goblin´s best works. Some good moments here and performances are solid. Not essential listening IMHO, but interesting enough if you are looking for something a bit different. – Kai Karmanheimo|
Rare French progressive rock.
Anyone's Daughter (80)
Piktors Verwandlungen (81)
In Blau (82)
Neue Sterne (83)
Live 1984 (84, Live)
Last Tracks (86)
Danger World (01)
Requested Document Live 1980-1983 (01, Live)
Requested Document Live 1980-1983 Vol. 2 (03, Live)
Anyone's Daughter 1978-1982 - (Left to Right) Uwe Karpa (guitar), Matthias
Ulmer (keyboards, vocals), Kono Konopik (drums), Harald Bareth (lead vocal, bass)
The very best example of late seventies German symphonic prog rock. These guys were definitely influenced by Genesis, but more so by German contemporaries Eloy and Grobschnitt. They put out a handful of rather hard to find albums, all which are supposed to be great. Their first is the one I like the most, including the excellent side long suite "Adonis" (also the name of the album), which is atmospheric symphonic prog at its best. Recommended to everyone on the net. This is one everyone into progressive rock will like.
|Anyone's Daughter is a German quartet in the traditional prog style of guitar, drums, bass, and a battery of keyboards, including Hammond, Moog, ARP, and pianos. There is some saxophone on one song. The music on Adonis is spacey symphonic, similar to other fellow German bands like Eloy and Novalis. Clearly, fans of either of these two bands would like Anyone's Daughter. The guitarist uses a slow, steady hand on his riffs (somewhat reminiscent of Andy Latimer from Camel), which is suitable for this spacey style and his presence is as important to the sound as are the keyboards. Speaking of the keys, there is some excellent moog work to be found on Adonis so analog fans will surely want to check out this album. In some passages, the guitar is the focus while the moog provides a deep sonic underpinning; elsewhere in the tune, the moog has the lead voice while the guitarist gently comps and picks underneath. Finally, there are some killer moments where the moog and guitar match licks note for note in a dueling frenzy that ultimately ends up in a new key, time signature, or vocal section. The vocals are in English with a bit of a German accent. In fact, the vocalist reminds me quite a bit of the singer on Eloy circa Dawn which you may find good or bad, depending on your point of view. I don't find them to be a detraction at all; in fact, I think the music more than makes up for any "flaw" you may find with the accented lyrics. If you like spacey symphonic prog, this band is well worth a listen.|
Anyone’s Daughter are IMHO one of the best German prog bands ever. They
released six albums between 1979 and 1984, all of them slightly different
but all very worthy.
Their debut Adonis contains the stunning four part, 24-minute title track, which moves from spacey, synth-dominated jamming to bursts of frenzied rock and on to majestic symphonic sweeps. Throughout the piece, guitarist Uwe Karpa shows an impeccable touch with his instrument, whether playing open-string arpeggios on the spacey sections, nimble backing riffs or soaring melodic lines. Keyboard player Matthias Ulmer is equally adept in using his keyboards to the best effect, particularly his Mini Moog, out of which emanate both melodic solo lines and spacey whistles. Rhythm section is steady and solid, in the way of many German symphonic bands. Bassist Harald Bareth’s voice is okay; not that strong or distinctive but it doesn’t get on your nerves either (unless you are stickler for perfect pronunciation). The music is comparable to bands like Eloy and Novalis, but IMHO Anyone’s Daughter are more dynamic and varied, especially considering how diverse the other three songs on Adonis are. "Blue House" is a laidback instrumental, slowly gathering intensity, with some rich and floating synthesizer textures and gorgeous melody lines harmonised by guitar and synth. "Sally", on the other hand, is almost a standard rock tune which trades the lush organ and synth textures for piano and guesting saxophone. The nearly-instrumental "Anyone’s Daughter" shifts between symphonic sections and very Germanic-sounding jamming where organ and guitar let it rip.
Anyone’s Daughter does not quite scale the heights the debut album achieved. It consists of nine shortish songs, which retain the rich symphonic sound, but are sometimes lacking the melodic depth and development of the first album. One or two songs actually remind me of a more melodic and symphonic version of Jane; elsewhere Genesis influences occasionally pop up. The most rewarding tracks are IMHO the 8-minute "Another Day Like Superman", which has some fiery guitar/synth battles, and the beautiful, low-key ballad "Sundance of the Haute Provence".
Piktors Verwandlungen was the first album where the band sang in German and is perhaps their most progressive work. Recorded entirely live, the album is a musical interpretation of Herman Hesse’s novel, which means that there are some rather dull sections comprising only of spoken narration over electric piano or guitar. However, most of the album is filled with excellent instrumental work, as the band stretch out more than on either of the previous albums. Guitar is a bit sharper and more prominent than before, the band often more aggressive, and the interplay/dialogue between guitar and keyboards explored extensively. The whole album flows neatly together into a single unbroken suite (at least on CD).
In Blau saw the band returning to shorter songs, but also searching for new ideas, discarding some of the spaciousness in their sound for a more upfront approach. As a result, the album has more stylistic variation than its predecessors, but maintains a high quality overall. "Für ein kleines Mädchen" is built around a merry acoustic guitar riff; "La la" is an up-tempo instrumental with strong Yes references; "Nach diesem Tag" is a mellow rock ballad, which hints at the more mainstream direction the band was heading. The three-part "Tanz und Tod" opens with a rocking section, which has a very Genesisoid organ riff and a pulsing synth bass lines reminding of the new wave synth-rock of the time; the middle part is a keyboards-only intermezzo, a little like ELP’s "The Endless Enigma"; this segues into a slowly-building section which sounds like a leftover from the previous album, spoken lyrics and all, leading to a glorious recapitulation of the main theme from the first part.
Neue Sterne was a more obvious move into commercial direction. There are catchy, singalong rock numbers like "Viel zu viel", which still show the band’s sense of melody intact and feature occasional keyboard and guitar ideas not too far removed from their prog roots. However, the twisty 7-minute instrumental "Illja Illia Lela" shows they can still deliver the progressive goods with passion, going as it does from soft, Hackettian classical guitar to driving rock, allowing even the bassist to take the lead for moment. The pulsing, synth-bass driven instrumental "Konsequenzen" is also noteworthy, and some of the other songs are comparable to the nascent neo-prog of the time. So this album is their least progressive release, but not without its merits.
The Live 1984 album features songs from all their albums except Piktors, though Neue Sterne is best represented. There are also a couple of non-album songs: two quaint acoustic-guitar instrumentals and the bassist’s solo number "Land’s End". Regrettably only the first part of "Adonis" is included; it segues into an obligatory drum solo, which I feel is a waste of good disc space. The band’s performance is strong and sound quality is excellent, so this album might serve as a good introduction to the band. Note: this is a double LP, but the single-CD re-release has been achieved at the expense of two omitted tracks. The CD back cover lists all the 16 tracks on the LP, while the booklet omits tracks "Treance", "Tanz und Tod" and "Der Plan"; however, listening to the disc will tell you that "Der Plan" is in fact included. Go figure. -- Kai Karmanheimo
|Links||Click here for the Anyone's Daughter web site (in German)|
Vänspel (79, w/ Stefan Nilsson)
Aqua Mother Earth (90)
|I understand this guy was the first guitarist for Samla Mammas Manna. I haven't heard any of Samla's stuff, but my impression is that this album is in the same vein. It alternates between tracks with a full band and solo/duet pieces. The full-band tracks tend to have extremely simple rhythms (three tunes are partially or entirely based on the same swing-like beat) which hides the complexity underneath. It sounds childish and quaint until you notice the seven-bar riffs or whatever. The other pieces ("Iberiska Improvisationen," which is solo, "Nyspolat" and "Blaboly", which are duets with Stefan Nilsson on keyboards and Mats Glenngard on violin respectively, and "Andra Dorrar," which is a trio of guitar, synthesizer and female vocals) tend to be a little easier to get into. Apetrea is clearly more at home with an acoustic guitar than an electric one. He went on to work with Jukka Tolonen the same year, as well as recording a duet album with Nilsson (which also had Jukka on it) called Vänspel. -- Michael Walpole|
This is a pretty awful record, not Samla-like in the least. Instead it's full of this commercial New Agey-jazz mix that you hear on places like The Weather Channel. Absolutely not recommended. -- Alex Davis
|Links||[See Fitzpatrick, Gregory Alan | Samla Mammas Manna]|
Rain and Tears (68, Single)
End of the World (68)
It's Five O'Clock (69)
Best of Aphrodite's Child (69, Compilation)
Best of Aphrodite's Child (94, Compilation CD, not the same as the above, released in France)
Greatest Hits (95, Compilation, falsely lists Vangelis' Sex Power as an unreleased Aphrodite's Child album)
The Complete Collection (96, 2CD Compilation, does not contain complete 666 "progressive" material!)
The Singles (01, Compilation)
Babylon the Great (02, 2CD)
The Singles + (03, 2CD, contains live bonus tracks)
Note: The GEPR previously listed a 1969 album called Aphrodite's Child which does not seem to exist. This may have been a duplicate of the Best Of ... compilation or an alternative edition of another album.
After Vangelis 60's pop band The Forminx broke up, Vangelis formed Aphrodite's Child with singer Demis Roussos and drummer Lucas Sideras. They recorded three studio albums together, mostly albums of '60's pop hit songs. But for the third album, 666, Vangelis wanted to move in a more experimental direction, and this album is progressive.
All three albums, End of the World, It's Five O'Clock and 666 have been released on CD on the Greek subsidiary of Polygram Records. There is an early release on the BRmusic label which was billed as a CD release of It's Five O'Clock, but is actually a compilation album, so beware.
The album which has the most interest for GEPR readers will be 666. Vangelis started working on this album in 1970 because the band's contract with Mercury required a third album. Mercury was unenthused about a progressive album release and asked for a new single first, which was "Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall". After this, they recorded 666, joined by Silver Koulouris, but Vangelis was left to complete the album on his own when the other band members left to pursue other interests. By the time it was released in 1972, the band had already broken up.
An interesting side note about this album was a controversy at the time that resulted in boycotts on certain radio stations. A remark on the album's sleeve stated that the album was recorded "under the influence of Sahlep", variously interpreted as being a drug or a demon. It is actually a Turkish drink which uses Sahlep powder (a spice). The album was also condemned for the use of sounds made by vocalist Irene Pappas on the song "Infinity" which were considered to be lewd. Of the compilation albums released on CD, Babylon the Great (2002) is said to have an emphasis on the more progressive side of the band rather than the others which are more "pop hit" oriented. -- Fred Trafton, condensed from information on the Elsewhere Vangelis fan web site
|Vangelis' first outfit who released the very unusual 666, one of the first concept albums ever released. This album is quite innovative and contains some excellent jams. Their other albums were supposedly very pop styled.|
|666 must have been one of the very first concept albums ever. This was Vangelis' group before he went solo. The group split after this album since they didn't like the direction the music was taking. Vangelis wrote this experimental double-album featuring amongst others Demis Roussos on vox, full of very strange pieces. Several songs are more on the psychedelic side of things, other ones more commonly progressive. Some even feature the Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here guitar sound! Really good, except for the very long piece at the end which is just a monotonous psychedelic mix of other parts of the album. An underrated classic!|
|Early Greek band featuring Vangelis and Demis Roussos. They had a big hit with "Rain and Tears" a 17th century German song sung in English. Their first albums were 60's flavored international pop, while their last, 666, was a weird excursion into psychedelic jams and vocal orgasms.|
|My local Tower CD buyer says that they were just a typical pop band, and then one day they put out 666, and then broke up. I think that album is very good. It ranges across a good number of styles, and has more than its fair share of strong tracks. I was surprised to find out that Vangelis could actually play :-)|
|Links||[See Forminx, The | Jon and Vangelis | Socrates | Vangelis]|
Perto do Amanhecer (95)
Aurora dos Sonhos (96)
Lendas Encantadas (97)
The Best of Apocalypse (98, Compilation)
Live in USA (00, Live)
Magic (04, EP, once a free download, now unavailable)
Live in Rio (07, Live, in CD and DVD versions)
The Bridge of Light (08, Live)
Apocalypse 1993 - Chico Fasoli (drums), Eloy Fritsch (synthesizer), Ruy Fritsch (guitar),
Chico Casara (lead vocal, bass)
The album is made out of 11 tracks and it is progressive rock undoubtely. The avarage time of each song is from 3 to 4 minutes, and the longest track clocks in 5:05 minutes. Someone might think that a few songs are "commercial," as the band expected to be played on local radio stations, out they are of very high quality and, as it always happens to prog-rock, they didn't receive the attention they deserved from them. The music is based upon simple structures regarding the drums and bass (wich are both very well played) with few guitar parts. Now the band has just added a new guitar player. The highlight and delight of the music is the keyboards, present in every track and brilliantly played by Eloy. In this field, you will be able to identify all the best of Banks / Genesis, Wakeman / Yes, Kelly / Marillion, Bardens / Camel and on. I'd say that Apocalypse's music is similar to Rush and Marillion. The lyrics, all sung in Portuguese, talk about life and human being in general. Attention Marillion freaks: one of the tracks is a short version (about 2:30 minutes) of "Lavender," with Portuguese lyrics, and it is quite good. The album is self-produced but it is very well finished, with lyrics insert. Overall, this album is highly recommended and should be very enjoyable for all those who like and do not expect anything more than the usual neo-prog stuff.
There is no Apocalypse album (1991) in the band's discography, while originally, Lendas encantadas (1997) is the very first album by Apocalypse. It was recorded ... in 1989, and released (under the same title) in the LP format only in Brazil in 1991. In 1997 this album was fully remixed and remastered. Besides the original LP songs composed and recorded in the 1980s, the band added three new songs (never released before), which were originally composed in 1992 and 1993. It is quite strange, but this album, created by the band more than ten years ago, sounds much better than both of their later albums. Actually, Lendas encantadas is one of the best Neo-works I ever heard. That's true, its structures are not very complex, but it contains a lot of varied arrangements and fast virtuostic solos from the keyboardist and both guitarists as well. Dynamism is the Artist of the Lendas encantadas paintings, most of which are full of original colours. Undoubtedly, this debut album still remains the best work ever created by Apocalypse. Both Perto do amanhecer (1995) and Aurora dos sonhos (1996) albums sound by no means as inspired as Lendas encantadas. Apocalypse will look forward if they do work backwards searching for the roots of their inspiration. -- Vitaly Menshikov
I have to disagree with Vitaly's assertion (above) that there is no Apocalypse album. If you look on their web site (see link below), you'll see that this album was recorded when they were a three-piece power keyboard band, after guitarist Ruy Fritsch left and before he rejoined the band. It is true that most of the songs from this album were re-released on Lendas encantadas, with some additions and deletions, but they are not the same album. At any rate, Perto do Amanhecer, Aurora dos Sonhos and Lendas Encantadas are indeed the three albums currently available on CD from Musea. -- Fred Trafton
News 11/19/04: Apocalypse has revamped their line-up, with Gustavo Demarchi on vocals and Magoo Wise on bass. They have announced that they will be producing albums with English vocals from now on rather than Portugese. A sampler EP of their new work, including cover art, is available from their revamped web site (see below). -- Fred Trafton
Apocalypse 2008 - Ruy Fritsch (guitars), Chico Fasoli (drums), Gustavo Demarchi (vocals, flute), Magoo Wise (bass), Eloy Fritsch (keyboards)
Eloy Fritsch provides a keyboard-dominant sound, but with plenty of room for excellent Hackett/Rutherford influenced guitar and bass plus some nice vocal work to shine through as well. Despite some of the somewhat snooty comments in the previous entries dismissing Apocalypse as "the usual neo-prog stuff", I certainly wouldn't put Refugio in that category. This has a very retro '70's sound, up to and including the recording style. OK, it may be a bit predictable to the seasoned prog buff and not break much new ground ... but damn, it's pretty hot stuff in spite of that. Refugio is a really good album for those who like this kind of prog, and I can recommend it wholeheartedly.
I stupidly neglected to download the Magic EP when it was available online, so I can't comment on that. I do think Live in Rio is a great album, though they really sound just like Rush ... oh, wait, that's Rush in Rio. Sorry, wrong album. Just kidding. Actually, I haven't heard Live in Rio, in either the CD or DVD incarnation.
The Bridge of Light is the latest Apocalypse release, and features the new line-up performing songs in English. This isn't a studio album, but yet another live recording. I would complain about this, except that the sound quality is so good that it might as well be a studio album. Actually, I think the sound is superior to Refugio. That's possibly due to a good recording, partially due to the fact that Apocalypse is one heck of a fine live band, and finally due to the band going from a four to five members (with a guest musician, Hique Gomez, contributing electric violin and backing vocals to many of the songs).
The Bridge of Light has a heavier sound than Refugio. Though there's still plenty of keys, a more agressive guitar sound comes to the fore here, along with the heavily-vibrato'ed metal-bandish vocal stylings of "new" vocalist Gustavo Demarchi. Though the music never gets into the Dream Theater area of chugging prog metal, you can tell that Apocalypse has partially absorbed this modern heavier prog trend into their style, and it sounds pretty darn good. I wouldn't pick Genesis as the first band I'd compare this incarnation of Apocalypse to ... in fact, they don't sound that much like they did on Refugio at all, with the possible exception of Eloy Fritsch's Wakemanesque synth work. Actually, some parts remind me a bit of the best of Uriah Heep ... well, at least that will give you some idea of the direction the sound has gone in.
The Bridge of Light is divided into two "Acts". "Act I" is a series of unrelated prog tunes, while "Act II" is "The Bridge of Light", a sort of rock opera about a boy named Jimmy who was left at the doorstep of a hooker's house who must leave at the age of 13 to begin a journey of self-discovery to find out who he really is. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what it is that happens to him ... maybe a few more listens will make it clearer. But it seems to involve a showdown with Mr. Earthcrubbs who is a "major financial dealer" and receiving guidance from a pocket calculator known as Z14. OK.
This entire concert will also be released on DVD sometime soon ... you can see a teaser on YouTube. Despite the slightly sarcastic tone I took while describing the story (a bit of a cheap shot with a character that's a calculator named Z14), I must say that this is another excellent album, and again I can easily recommend it.
Apocalypse was going to be performing The Bridge of Light at this year's ROSFest, but due to the global financial crisis and the prices of airline tickets from Brazil to the USA and back, they have decided they can't do a concert here in the US at this time. They're hoping things will look better by next year, and will be able to come here then. In the meantime, they're concentrating on giving concerts in Brazil. -- Fred Trafton
[See Fritsch, Eloy]
Click here for the somewhat stale
Apocalypse web site
Twilight Music (80)
|Solid jazz-rock fusion quartet featuring Danish trumpet virtuoso Allan Botchinsky, bassist Bo Steif (Pork Pie), drummer Lennart Grüvstedt, and Dutch keyboardist Jasper van't Hof (Pork Pie, Association PC). Second keyboardist Morten Kærså is aded on one track. Proggers may well appreciate van't Hof's "big" keyboard sounds, in particular. Though it didn't knock my socks off, this LP is pretty darned good in an ECM-ish post-Weather Report jazzy fusion mode. A useful point of reference would be the recordings of Eberhard Weber's Colours group, only with less emphasis on the Fender-Rhodes piano - Steif's rich lead bass work certainly brings Weber (and Jaco Pastorius) to mind. High points include an intricate and fiery re-working of Charlie Parker's "Confirmation", Botchinsky's dark and moody "Down and Down", and Steif's vaguely Zappa-ish original "Time is Up". On the minus side, much of "Twilight Music" seems a bit too polished and polite, and there is only a hint of the hard-edged craziness that fueled the explorations of Stief's and van't Hof's previous collaboration, Pork Pie. -- Dave Wayne|
|Links||[See Association PC | Pork Pie]|
Probably heavy pych.
[See Churchills, The | Jericho | Jericho Jones]
In the short history of Greek symphonic progressive rock, Apocalypsis stand between the
1970s sound of Akritas and the neo-progressive approach
of La Tulipe Noire. Apocalypsis (Minos MSM 385)
reminds of Belgian Machiavel's proto-neo-progressive
take on the Genesis sound: centered on a decent but
comically histrionical vocalist and his near-incomprehensible English lyrics, the songs use
plenty of Genesis-like fanfaric melody lines, bass licks
and symphonic textures, but with a guitar-heavier, more streamlined and upbeat approach.
Unfortunately, Apocalypsis' compositions and arrangements lack the depth and impact of
Machiavel in their prime (and come nowhere near
any Genesis in the 1970s). "Metempsychosis" does open
the album very promisingly with a plangent chorale and bombastic melody swept along by a
deluge guitars, vocals and keyboards. Later, there will be an occasional melodic spike, soaring
lead or inspired instrumental break, especially when the keyboard player tries to be more Baroque
than Banks. But there is too much idling along the way, too
much unconvincing singing and too much hitting chords in hope of a big effect, and the sound can
provide neither the scope nor grit to deliver the kind of drama the playing aims at (but falls
short of): the keyboard player uses only some organ, electric piano and synthesizer set mostly
for hollow bright tones between harpsichord and strings, while the guitar is beaten into anonymity
by the unremarkable production. Apocalypsis ends up being a decent album in the theatrical
symphonic rock tradition but nothing more than that.
Same cannot be said of Apocalypsis' follow-up No (Minos MSM 418), as the categorical negative could well be used to describe the album itself. Line-up has changed, synthesizers have come to fore, and the band have fully embraced the more pedestrian soft-rock sound of their day. Progressive ideas remain clear but highly diluted within shortish pop songs cataloguing social, personal and global ills. For example, "No Morality" has a vaguely Alan Parsons Project-like funky symphonic-pop feel; "No Food Part One & Two" is one part whispering build-up over atmospheric keyboards, other part sub-Genesis rocker with staccato rhythm guitars and a tacky-sounding, carousel-like keyboard part; and the cheery and shallow synthesizer pop of "No Art" is like Genesis auditioning for the Eurovision Song Contest (which is exactly where Apocalypsis' keyboard player went a few years later). In many ways, the sound and style of No parallel the works of Marillion and Twelfth Night in the UK at the same time. In comparison to [Twelfth Night's] Fact and Fiction, for example, Apocalypsis' compositions are unmemorable, their playing pedestrian and their vocals an over-prominent hindrance rather than the powerful focus of the songs. The two last tracks try hardest to come up with something interesting, the atmospheric synthesizer march and final guitar-led acceleration of "No Change" being quite good actually, but even here the simultaneously polished and tacky production and general awkwardness of the playing torpedo the effort. No Art, No Power and No Sale.
Both albums are available on one CD (Minos-EMI 7243 5 93288 2 9) with utilitarian packaging and a strange, short "extra track" consisting of what sounds like an impromptu recording of a family gathering stuck between the albums. -- Kai Karmanheimo
Plays Metallica by Four Cellos (96)
Inquisition Symphony (98)
Cult - Special Edition (01, 2CD)
Best of Apocalyptica (02, Japanese Compilation)
Reflections Revised (03, CD+DVD combo)
Amplified - A Decade of Reinventing the Cello (06, 2CD Compilation)
Worlds Collide (07, CD+DVD Combo)
Apocalyptica - (not in photo order) Eicca Toppinen (cello), Max Lilja (cello), Antero
Manninen (cello) and Paavo Lotjonen (cello)
I've been interested in Apocalyptica since the parenthetical statement made by Markus Derrer in his Godspeed You Black Emperor! entry that "Note: Apocalyptica is not actually progressive as much as they are a cello quartet that plays heavy metal." This sounded like it could be interesting to me, so when I saw two of their CD's in the "Clearance" rack at Half Price Books for $3.95 each, I had to pick them up.
They turned out to be the first two albums, Plays Metallica by Four Cellos and Inquisition Symphony. Both of these albums are similar in that they are a selection of heavy metal pieces, mostly cover tunes, played using only four cellos. Plays Metallica by Four Cellos is all Metallica songs while Inquisition Symphony has covers of songs by Faith No More, Pantera and Sepultura in addition to three cuts written by Apocalyptica leader Eicca Toppinen.
The music on these two albums is all interesting, but I think these are more "novelty" albums than real pieces of work. This is partly because of their being mostly cover tunes and partly because the point is to see what can be done using only four cellos. The lack of drums and vocals severely limits the amount of power and emotion that can be imparted, even when you distort the cellos. And what's the point of heavy metal music with insufficient power and emotion? They did prove it could be done. But it feels like too much of an academic exercise and not enough metal.
According to their web site bio, the band came to realize this themselves when they were playing at a metal festival where they played "South of Heaven", a Slayer song and Slayer's drummer Dave Lombardo sat in with them. They liked what this did for their sound and so they invited Lombardo back as a guest for their fourth album, Reflections.
After recording their next album, Apocalyptica with their own drummer Mikko Sirén, their latest effort Worlds Collide reunites them with Lombardo on drums and a bunch of guest vocalists: Corey Taylor (Stone Sour/Slipknot), Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) and Adam Gontier (3 Days Grace). My first guess would be that this will massively improve their sound, changing the point of the band from "what can be done using only four cellos?" to "what kind of music can we make with four cellos as the main instruments?". The first question is so exclusive that it leads to "novelty band" status, while the second question should allow these guys to kick some heavy metal butt. I really would like to hear their latest album, and when I do, I'll tell you about it here.
One more point before I wrap up: the "are they progressive?" point I opened up with (Markus Derrer implied they weren't). Prog snobs incessantly bitch about music that's "too derivative" or "sounds too much like __________". So here's a band that's trying something really different and this isn't "prog enough"? What? You want synthesizers and Mellotrons or it isn't prog? The complexity here's not high enough for you? These guys are classical musicians, they could bury you in complexity without even thinking about it. But that's not what they're trying for. As far as I'm concerned, Apocalyptica is plenty "prog" enough for me, and so they are well deserving of a GEPR entry. I should probably call them progressive metal in fact. They're the hardest rockin' cellists in the world. I'd like to hear someone give me a good argument about that. I'd be willing to listen. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Apocalyptica's web site
Click here for Apocalyptica's MySpace page
The Border of Awareness (95)
Out of the Darkness (00, 2CD, as Arne Schäfer, recorded 1989)
Die Gläserne Wand & Schleifen (01, 2CD, as Arne Schäfer & Gerald Heimann, recorded 1988)
The Garden of Delights (03)
On the Aftertaste (06, Recorded 1989-1995)
Mystery Remains (09)
Apogee's Arne Schäfer
Check out Apogee's The Border of Awareness if you like Hammillian prog. It is quite good and I wouldn't be surprised that once it gets the attention, this disc will become a popular item amongst the prog crowd. Apogee is the work of one German man who plays everything and sings (in English). It sounds very much like a band, i.e., the interaction between the instruments sounds spontaneous and fresh. The lyrics are thoughtful. And, while maintaining the comparison with Hammill, this disc here does have some very nice playing. Which is not something we can say about many Hammill tunes. On the whole, The Border of Awareness delivers a good deal of dynamics and classic prog stylings. While not breaking any new ground, it is well felt, very well produced, and hits the target enough times to make for worthwhile listens. -- Alain Lachapelle
[Editor's note 3/26/03: Vitaly has separate pages on his ProgressoR site devoted to Arne Schäfer, who has put out albums both under his own name and as Apogee. I have consolidated all the reviews into a single entry under Apogee, and edited them significantly. If you'd like to read the complete reviews, see the links to the (full) original versions in the Links section below. -- Fred Trafton]
The Border of Awareness - Knowing well all the three "sides" of Arne Schafer's creation - as one of the two masterminds of the leading German progressive band Versus X and as the only mastermind and musician for both his solo proGjects Apogee and the other of his own name, - I probably can consider him as the most important person of the German Progressive Rock movement of the last decade, at least.
I don't exactly know why, but I love Apogee and Arne's "full-blooded" band Versus X absolutely equally despite the fact that the richness of Apogee's works is just a result of repeated overdubbings. Also, working alone on his solo projects, Schafer uses programmed drums, while playing all other instruments "live". Since these synth-drums sound not monotonous, but mostly in a diverse way - with lots of breaks and other tricks typical for a real drummer - I am almost sure that Apogee's skillful drumming is a result of Arne's manual work. Not too many Progressive Solo Pilots use programmed drums properly, i.e. to beat on the keys with fingers masterfully. Anyway, the main thing, I don't know any other Solo Pilot with a compositional talent comparable to Arne's. If The Turbulent Zone in my view is the pick of the overall discography of the musical "conglomerate" Versus X / Apogee / Arne Schafer, then, comparing both the debut albums from Versus X and Apogee, now I find The Border of Awareness more interesting thematically and more integral compositionally. Each of the compositions presented on the album is full of wonderful, distinctively original music, that on the whole I wouldn't dare draw comparisons with anything I've heard before. Of course, I know that some "comparison" reviewers find the music of Apogee strongly influenced by the Titans like Van Der Hammill, et al. [but] I don't hear any obvious influences in the music of Apogee and, as before, I am sure that any not obvious influences are not in opposition to originality at all. Listening to The Border of Awareness (as well as all the other albums of the "conglomerate"), frankly, I can't find here any significant trace even of those influences that we normally call "not so obvious". As for Apogee's stylistics within the genre, this is the same Classic Symphonic Art Rock, under whose banner work all their units, as well as a myriad other bands. Despite the fact that originally Arne was a guitarist, all alone he plays various keyboards so effectively that Apogee's music has on the whole more powerful symphonic structures than Versus X. If you love Classic Symphonic Art Rock with an intense dramatic subject saturated with diverse events, The Border of Awareness will seize your attention from the first notes and keep it in a wonderful state of waiting for new developments till the album's end. Tens of varied, complex, sometimes unexpected arrangements within each song are sure to induce you to listen to the album time after time. Schafer's singing is also very moving and diverse, as well as his highly profound and literary lyrics, - all right, this way influences of Peter Hammill are obvious, but that's a really good thing. Lots of masterly solos from each ... instrument (passages of acoustic guitar are "something special" here in general), and a rich polyphonic sound make The Border of Awareness a work of a "full-blooded" band. I don't know any other album, performed completely by one man, that provokes such a real illusion of a whole band playing. Also, none of other albums I've heard, composed and performed by Progressive Solo Pilots, can live up in terms of quality to The Border of Awareness in any regard.
Sisyphos is the second album of one of the three progressive "units" of Arne Schafer that, taken as a whole, represents a real trinity - the most powerful and significant musical force at least on the current German Rock-front line of the Virtual Holy War for the Restitution of Progressive Music as the Mainstream Queen. The 65-minute work consists of three "side-long" tracks and two short, the latter are first and last songs on the album, a kind of introduction and conclusion, and look in place there. Made in the same stylistic formula as all the three lengthy tracks, these just 4- and 5-minute pieces sound, however, progressive - in the truest meaning of the word - too. But of course, the crucial musical events take place in the other compositions with their 55 minute playing time. Compositionally and vocally, Sisyphos follows the line of the already recognizable structural base of Apogee laid in the debut album - in terms of the same richness of the sound and even large doses of lush orchestral arrangements added. But the absence of the wonderfully playing saxophone and of such distinctive wind instruments as oboe and flute, that Arne so masterfully called forth from his synthesizers on The Border of Awareness, makes the sound of Sisyphos not so diverse as it was on the debut album. Also, while anyone could confirm that arrangements of Apogee-2 are as interesting and diverse (as well as the level of complexity) as they were on Apogee-1, I don't find here that wonderful magic I hear with every listen on The Border of Awareness. This magic, if you know what I mean, is an extremely rare thing in the current Progressive movement in general - despite the fact that we have a lot of masterpieces in it. I still wonder how many musical works created in the 1970s - and, of course, by no means only within Progressive genres, - possess that unique magic feel. Still, that's what "A Classic for the Future" means exactly.
Out of the Darkness double-album contains the selected songs from the very first recordings made in '86 to '88 by Arne Schafer. After several attentive listens to Out of the Darkness I've found here the roots on which the further Arne's progressive activity as a Solo Pilot of Apogee are based, though, of course, Apogee's creation is more mature, complex and interesting than this one. But lyrics! Arne's lyrics were very profound and literary already in the beginning of his creation. And Peter Hammill's "poetical" influences are really obvious on Out of the Darkness. You won't find, however, any thematic borrowings even in "early Schafer", as well as Arne didn't use in his early lyrics even few ideas of Hammill. But as for music, it's too hard to even notice some direct "Hammillesques' on Out of the Darkness, though, perhaps, Arne was inspired by the music of Peter's solo albums, too.
On the Aftertaste - Recently I've received another CD from Arne consisting of the tracks that weren't included in both previous official Apogee albums [The Border of Awareness and Sisyphos] reviewed above. Being composed and recorded in different years (from 1991 to 1998), all the six songs of this self-released album called On the Aftertaste have practically the same amazingly monolithic stylistic nucleus. So, going one after another, they create as a result a wonderful picture typical for (at least musically) conceptual albums - as if all these pieces were composed one after another at the relatively same period and especially for this album! But the most astonishing thing here is that almost all of them have some musical magic - this is the same wonderful thing, that I've missed for a long time, that I was talking about [for] The Border of Awareness. On the Aftertaste sounds very much in the vein of The Border of Awareness and thus it doesn't have that slightly "electronic after-taste" I feel when listening to Sisyphos. Concerning the structures, themes and arrangements of this work I could describe them here the usual way I use in such cases, but since these words would be quite similar to ones in the review of Apogee's debut album, you have a concept of On the Aftertaste album's details already now. Frankly, in my view both the aforementioned works of Apogee (of Arne!) are masterpieces of the same level, and I am not even sure which one of them I like most. But I am sure that this latest magnificent opus from Apogee - no matter if it consists of unreleased tracks or some others - would make happy thousands true Prog-lovers from all over the world and so it is necessary that On the Aftertaste should be released and properly distributed by some real label.
Frankly, if Die Glaserne Wand & Schleifen double CD isn't released officially (classic) Prog-lovers from all over the world miss one of the most wonderful albums ever created in the history of Rock and by far not only. Arne's Die Glaserne Wand & Schleifen IS the ONLY album of real Classical Rock Music. No, no, I remember that most of the Isildurs Bane and especially Univers Zero albums are in some ways close to what I'm talking about, but anyway, sorry: that's another story. While those bands tend to concrete forms of real contemporary Classical Music that actually contain just slight traces of Rock (exactly), this Arne's second double album represents neither Classic Rock Music nor Classical Music, but precisely Classical Rock Music (yet another term?). Being composed, performed, recorded and produced by Arne alone (as always in his solo activity - either simply as Arne Schafer or Apogee) using mostly (if not all) electric musical instruments, Die Glaserne Wand is that kind of Progressive you may never have heard before, but you're going to love it to death once you hear it. Listening to this album now I still can't but wonder how Arne came to elicit from such antediluvian things as synthesizers-made-in-the-1980s [such] unbelievably pure classical sounds of church organ, bagpipes, oboe and trombones, though it would suffice to hear how he 'does' various orchestral movements to get really amazed. Who in general did anything really strong within Classic Progressive in those years (1988-1989)? Not only did Arne put out a masterpiece of Progressive, but also created a new form of contemporary progressive music, the first and last exemplar of which still remains obscured for thousands Prog-lovers. Yeah, if I say the more I listen to it the more I like it will sound like a banality, but meanwhile I am closer and closer to a conclusion that this is the best album of the "dark decade" of the 1980's.
[In 2003], Arne Schafer presents his regular album under the vehicle of Apogee being this time (finally!) backed by a drummer, who, moreover, is none other than his Versus X band mate, Uwe Wollmar. The track list of The Garden of Delights reminds me of that of Yes's double Tales from Topographic Oceans - with the only exception, which, of course, concerns the presence of the third track here. This is the only instrumental piece on the album with brilliant, constantly developing interplay between passages and solos of classical guitar. So indeed, "Cassini Division" is really somewhat a division between the long tracks, all four of which, like in the case of still the same Tales ..., were created within the framework of a unified stylistics. By that however, any resemblances between The Garden of Delights and Tales ... are final. As well as all the other Apogee and related albums, the new one is the product of a genuine inspiration and is free of any influences. The music is not only very original, but is also richer in heavy and Classical Music-related textures than ever before. Undoubtedly, long epic compositions still remain the dainty dish for most, if not all, of the "classic: Prog-heads, so here they are, in all their glory. Each of the four epics: the album's title track, "To Keep the Balance", "Paying the Bill", and "Swallow the Illusion" (1, 2, 4, & 5) is filled with a really vast number of different musical pictures and has everything necessary to be on par with most of the best side-long suites from the heyday of Progressive. The music is exceptional, and its development is full of unexpectedness: from Classic Art-Rock, through Symphonic Cathedral Metal, to a lushly-orchestrated Classical Music in almost a pure form and being mixed with Rock textures, etc, again, and over, yet, almost always within different dimensions. Being a real multi-instrumentalist, Arne uses his large instrumental arsenal in the most effective way. I am impressed by the parts of each instrument here, but especially by those of acoustic and electric guitar, organ and piano. Besides, it must be heard how masterfully Arne uses the possibilities of modern synthesizers to reproduce the sounds and solos (including very specific: such as pizzicatos, for instance) of varied string, chamber, and wind instruments. The vocal and instrumental arrangements are filled with dramatics and eclecticism, which is like honey to my soul, bringing me a wonderful, all-absorbing sense of my unity with music and inspiring me to write music, too. Uwe's drumming is outstandingly diverse and masterful as well, though most of the Classical Music-related arrangements feature only light percussion (mostly cymbals etc) and no proper drums. Arne Schafer is a really charismatic composer and musician. Thus, there is probably nothing special in the fact that he was never a victim of stagnation during his long musical career, and The Garden of Delights has become the best Apogee album to date. Don't miss it at any rate. -- Vitaly Menshikov
I've heard two of Arne Schäfer's Apogee albums, The Garden of Delights and Mystery Remains. These albums were both recorded over a long period of time. The Garden of Delights was recorded between 1998 and 2003 while Mystery Remains spans 2004-2008. In spite of this, I'm going to talk about them together, because stylistically they could be part of a double CD set.
Both albums feature Arne Schäfer's intellectual and somewhat opaque lyrics, his strangely fascinating vocal style, his musical compositions, and his playing on all instruments except drums. Those are handled by former Versus X bandmate Uwe Wöllmar on all of The Garden of Delights and "Tracing Experience" on Mystery Remains while current Versus X drummer Thomas Reiner takes over for the remaining cuts on Mystery Remains.
Much has been made of Schäfer's similarity to Peter Hammill. I suppose if I was to try to find some well-known prog band to compare him to in order to get an idea of what he sounds like, this comparison will at least get you somewhere in the right galaxy. But to be honest, I don't really hear that much that reminds me of Hammill other than the overall gloomy tone. Musically, this is far more intricate and advanced. Lyrically, it's a bit closer, though I'm still trying to figure out if Schäfer is political, spiritual, left or right, or just a loonie. The way he uses and abuses the English language, it's hard to believe that English isn't his first language, and scratching my head about the intent of the lyrics is one of my favorite parts about these albums. But basically, they just sound like Schäfer, so the only band I can really compare him to is Versus X, which isn't fair because that's his band.
Vitaly has spent many words (above) trying to describe Apogee, an effort which in my opinion is doomed to failure. And fail he does. I'll just say the music is complex, dark and largely vocal-oriented (though with great instrumentals too!) and deserves to be listened to by anyone interested in good prog. If you haven't heard at least one album by either Apogee or Versus X, you need to, and either The Garden of Delights or Mystery Remains would make a fine introduction to a sound you'll want to hear more of. Totally exceptional. -- Fred Trafton
[See Versus X]
Click here for Apogee's web site
Sometimes the primitive triumphs. When Apollo (LP Blue Master BLU-LP 118; CD Warner
0927-47661-2) came out in the summer of 1970, indigenous Finnish rock music (rather
than amateurish imitation of prevalent Anglo-American models) was only a couple of years
old and Finnish progressive rock, barely out of the womb. Edward Vesala (drums,
percussion), Harri Saksala (vocals, accordion, harmonica), Eero Lupari (guitar) and
Heimo Holopainen (bass) had previously made a name for their band by playing covers of
Led Zeppelin and old rock 'n' roll, but the album they created, with some help from
- among others - Jukka Gustavson, showed they
had much greater ambitions than just gliding along in Zeppelin's slipstream. It
contains three distinct and almost incompatible types of songs. The most obviously Leden
songs are the crude rockers such as "Symboli" (The Symbol) and "Hideki Tojo 1884-1948", full
of hyper-amplified blues-rock riffs on shrill fuzz guitars, thudding drum rhythms and Saksala's
mooing and caterwauling voice whose sheer eccentricity is their only truly unique feature.
Much better are the gorgeously melodic, string-augmented ballads that show arrangement lessons learned from Procol Harum and Moody Blues, but with a compositional vocabulary closer to contemporary domestic pop than the R&B roots of those British bands. Here the progressive colours start to show, in pastel tones, but still. Witness, for example, the insistent, crescendo middle riff, the shuffle fade-out and the out-of-nowhere folky coda which all add subtle interest to the stately procession of "Lohduton uni" (A Desolate Dream). Like the headbangers, these are very much vocal numbers, platforms for alternative proclamations of violent, adolescent Weltschmerz and anarchist triumphalism, as best summed up by the hippie manifesto "Ajatuksia" (Thoughts) and the gory melodrama of "Pakoon maailmaa" (Running from the World). As with the music, passionate naïvety mingles with occasional insight.
The final and far the most experimental strand is made up of Vesala's two instrumentals, "Trimalcion" and "Labyrintti" (The Labyrinth), strange montages of moribund voices, etheric flute melodies, and angular rhythms and riffs building up and suddenly collapsing into electronic cacophony or free-jazz morceaux. References can be made to the anarchistic sound experiments of the Finnish band Sperm and even some of Floyd's studio adventures on Ummagumma, the kind of late-psychedelic "underground" style that the more structured and disciplined (clinical?) progressive rock abandoned.
An album's worth of any of these three styles would certainly have been numbing, but together they form, against all expectations, an astonishingly enjoyable whole that should go down well with those looking for vibrant and unpredictable roughness on the periphery of progressive rock. The band may have been confused about their musical directions but confusion clearly was not their epitaph. Still, soon after they were gone. Saksala went on to sing on Kalevala's first album, while Vesala co-founded Karelia and eventually became one of the leading lights of Finnish free jazz. -- Kai Karmanheimo
|Links||[See Gustavson, Jukka | Kalevala | Karelia]|
No album releases, only one single: "Pensieri d'aprile", in (74)
|The sound is similar to Osanna.|
This is a great album (the sound is like PFM) but the band is unknown to most people who like prog.
An undiscovered Italian progressive gem a la PFM, Genfuoco, Celeste.
Apoteosi's self-titled release is beautiful Italian symphonic album in the vein of early PFM and Celeste. While this album doesn't quite stack up against the ultimate beauty of PFM's Per Un Amico or Celeste's Principe di un Giorno, Apoteosi is an excellent album in it's own right. Pastoral passages of Mellotron and piano or flute and acoustic guitar give way to heavier moog synth and electric guitar explorations. During the heavier moments, you might be reminded a bit of RDM. Many of the instrumental passages have an intricate classical feel. The music has flowing development and is always changing direction and meter. The Italian lyrics are delivered quite nicely by a female vocalist. This is a little discussed album but undeservedly so; any fan of the Italian symphonic scene will find much to enjoy about Apoteosi. -- Mike Taylor
Driven by keyboards and guitar, this is quintessential progressive rock. All the right elements are there - complex musical interplay, a solid rhythm section, time changes, and so on. This release is sure to please the fan of mellow Italian symphonic rock. The overall sound reminds me of early PFM, yet not quite as upfront and in-your-face. It is guitar and keyboard driven, with occasional vocals. Highly recommended. -- Mike Borella
Apple Pie 2004 - (not in photo order) Vartan Mkhitaryan (vocals, guitars, percussion, keys),
Alexey Bildin (bass, fretless bass, vocals, sax, percussion, keys), Oleg Sergeev (main keys,
vocals) and Andrey Golodukhin (drums).
It's unbelievable that a band with such an American band name, sound and vocals is actually Russian. But they actually are. Other reviewers have described them as a cross between Spock's Beard and Dream Theater, and I must admit I thought of both of those bands too while I listened to Crossroads. But the music here is very diverse in style ... nay-sayers have said the band is trying to find its sound while others applaud the diversity. To tell the truth, I also hear a lot of arena rock sound in these guys, like a more complicated sounding version of Styx, and I find I like the album more if I think about them like that.
Some of the songs are so far afield that they don't even sound like they belong to the same band. The furthest apart is track 5, "Temptation", which sounds like it wouldn't be out of place on a Blues Brothers album, which despite this (or because of this?) is probably my favorite cut on the album. Other songs are indeed reminiscent of the quieter songs from Dream Theater's Scenes From a Memory or A Change of Seasons. There's also some Saturday Night Live jazz tunes here that verge on having a "lounge jazz" sound (or ... would you believe Toto?), though again more complex than the usual fare for this form. Personally, I like the diversity. A good album if a bit on the "generic" side for my taste ... there's nothing here that really stands out, although all the musicians are very good, the compositions aren't bad and the recording quality is superb.
The band's web site has two recent pieces of news ... firstly, the band's bass and keyboard players (Alexey Bildin and Oleg Sergeev respectively) have left the band. They describe this event as "predictable", but offer no explanation and recommend that we simply "take it as a fact and ... no longer return to that topic". OK, fine with me. A new bassist named Maxim Gdanov (BiggMaxx) has been recruited, but the keyboardist's slot is still open for now. The second piece of news is that the band is continuing work on a follow-up album, which if I read it right, is to be titled Another World. If they can't find another keyboardist soon enough, guitarist Vartan Mkhitaryan will fill in on keys for the album. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Apple Pie's web site (choose
between English or Russian)
Indigo (In Preparation)
Aprendiz de Brujo means "Sorcerer's Apprentice". They're from Argentina and play a
psychedelic-inspired symphonic prog with lots of
spacey synths and synthesizer effects with languid guitar soloing over the top. The songs
on their debut album Transicion are about half instrumental and half vocal (in
Spanish). Pretty good, though there are some points where the mix causes a particular
synth to pop out at overly loud volumes, or a guitar solo gets buried. But this isn't
all that bad except in one or two spots. The entire Transicion album is downloadable
(or see links on their web site), and "garage band" isn't a bad description, though they're
a pretty darn good garage band. Nothing to get overly excited about, but certainly a
The band e-mailed me to let me know they were not from Venezuela, but Argentina (sorry about that!), and that their second album will be called Indigo. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||Click here for Aprendiz de Brujo's web site|
La Celebre Ascension Abyssale De Joseph Celsius (79)
Released in America on a major label, Apsaras' self-titled CD is rather lightweight, often bordering on new age.
[See Aksak Maboul]
Aquarelle (77), Sous un Arbre (78), Live à Montreux (78)
This seven member (bass, guitar, sax/flute, violin, keys, drums and voice) French Canadian ensemble has at least 2 LPs (Aquarelle from 1987, and a live set recorded perhaps a year or two later), of which I have heard only the first studio LP. On this album, Aquarelle play a melodic all-instrumental brand of very prog rock similar to fellow French Canadian band Maneige, except less quirky and more influenced by the classical music of the Romantic Era. The sound is dominated by acoustic piano, flute, violin and the wordless vocals of Anne Marie Courtemanche. Interestingly, they chose not to use the popular effects of the time (phasers, mu-trons, etc.), and as a result this music has aged well, and doesn't seem all that dated, even today (1996). This, however, is not a *great* record... the music is rather flowery and fussy and the playing seems to lack personality. The standout soloists are violinist Pierre Bournaki and the keyboardist/leader Jean-Pierre Lescaut. The rest of the players are merely competent, and the vocals never seem to fit in. -- Dave Wayne
Lo mejor de Aquelarre (77, Compilation)
Corazones del Lado del Fuego (99)
|Heavy prog comparable to El Reloj or Campo di Marte.|
|The 1974 Brumas album is their classic, and the CD includes two 1973 bonus tracks. Pretty strong songwriting, staying away from the all too frantic, complex show-offy stuff. The term: Symphonic Rock would hit the spot. Plenty acoustic guitar, but more or less non-impressive singers (they take turns). Many low-key/easy listening folky bits, some hard rocking bars, and a few jazz-light moments. Relatively early for an Argentinian album so they sometimes touch on late psychedelia, although they do that well too. This one comes with a medium recommendation. Crucis are way better. -- Daniel|