Babylon (78), Night Over Never (89), Better Conditions for the Dead (89)
Very Genesis influenced Floridian band who put out a coveted album in the late seventies. This is album is extremely in the Genesis style (like Marillion) yet avoids the commerciality that this band eventually dived headfirst into.) Syn-Phonic also released two bootleg quality live albums from their heyday which show them in a rather muddy light.
Imagine an incredible dynamo of progressive energy in the mold of Nursery Cryme period Genesis, but with some slight punky undertones thrown in as well. Add to this the affected vocals of singer Doroccas, and you have a sound that, while not unlike a high energy version of early Marillion, pre-dated that band by five years. They only released one self-titled studio album around 1978, featuring four long cuts. Hopefully someday that fine album will be reissued on compact disc. A few years ago, two limited issue LPs of their live show were released, (Night Over Never and Better Conditions For The Dead) which included all of the songs from the original album, plus several other tracks not included on the studio LP. While the quality of the recording is no better than an average bootleg, the performance on both of these live albums is incredible.
Babylon, in some ways, is better than Nursery Cryme-era Genesis, although certainly not nearly as innovative, given that their album was recorded in '77. Detectable influences include peak-period Genesis, Gentle Giant, a bit of Zeppelin, even. The vocalist has a very high voice, Plant-like in tone, but phrased more like early Gabriel (if you can imagine that). There's some vague resemblance to Rush, but much more progressive and less metallic. I wish they'd been better recorded; the home-grown qualities of the studio album detract from its appeal, though it's certainly better than the "bootleg quality" ascribed to those live albums. If some really exceptional remastering (or remixing!) is done for the CD reissue, this could be a major winner!
Babylon was reissued on CD. Contact Syn-Phonic for ordering information.
Depois Do Fim (83)
Sete Cidades (01?, 02?)
|Depois Do Fim is a classic South American prog gem! Seven songs, all in the 5-7 minute range. Style-wise, Bacamarte are somewhat (and superficially) comparable to early Iconoclasta, with similarities in guitar style and synth tones, and an obvious Latin flair. Bacamarte's music is ever-changing through a variety of styles, shifting from jazzy flute to heavy, Italian-styled synth layers to blazing runs of guitar and flute. The arrangements are rich, complex and, most importantly, inventive. You never know what direction the band will next take. The musicians are also first rate, though the guitarist, drummer and bassist most catch my attention. The guitarist carries the melody with his non-stop riffing or his emotional solos, thrilling with his fills and trills. He's also quite a joy to behold on classical guitar. The drummer and bassist make an excellent rhythmic foundation. The synth is mostly dedicated to providing the layers of atmosphere and occasional fills. He does quite well, and on a couple of tracks he shows he definitely has the chops. Give or take, the album is about half vocal (in Portugese) and half instrumental. Highly recommended! -- Mike Taylor|
|A strange thing it is to hear music from 1982 that sounds more characteristic of a style of the mid-seventies. But wait! Before you think that Bacamarte is another derivative Yes or Genesis wannabe, let me extoll their virtues! Did you ever get an album, and upon the first listen you were extremely impressed, but not quite blown away? However, as you listened to it over the next few months, you realize that it's a classic, one of the best you've ever heard. This is my impression of Bacamarte's one and only album, Depois do Fim. Obviously, they were influenced by the British prog giants, Yes and Genesis, but the album comes across with more of an Italian or Argentinian style. In particular, PFM circa Per un Amico and Mia's Cornonistipicum. With a lead section of guitar, flute and keyboards that intertwine in complex, busy counterpoint, and a backdrop of wandering bass, Bacamarte creates a warm, rich sound. Combine this with absolutely stunning female vocals, mature writing style and a Latin feel. Like contemporary proggers Anglagard, there is little emphasis on solos, and much on composition. You can listen to each instrument individually without hearing much repetition, which, to these ears, is the highest point achievable in music; all players playing different parts that combine to become something greater. A few moments of the album make me laugh though. There's a 10 second ripoff of the opening riff of PFM's "Generale!," and a short keyboard theme that I'm sure I've heard Rick Wakeman do. Other than that, Bacamarte is very original. The guitar sound is akin to PFM's Franco Mussida, and the keyboards have the necessary "fat" analog sound of the vintage seventies. The LP is something of a rarity, but is one of the few that I would pay the exorbitant collector's prices for. I can't recommend this record highly enough to anyone into symphonic prog. It is a true masterpiece, and deserves categorization with Yes's Relayer, PFM's Per Un Amico, Celeste's Principo di un Giorno, and Änglagård's Hybris. Go get it. Now. -- Mike Borella|
|A nice Brazilian band, from the 80s, but with a definitely 70s sound. They use keyboards/guitars/bass/drums, but also adds a good female vocalist, flutes, accordion and percussion (don't worry, it's no ethnic music!) Their sound can be described as Italian-like, sounding amazingly like Semiramis in some parts, with a very dynamic and strong instrumentation, specially the interplay between guitars/keyboards. Almost no digital keyboards were used, so this adds to the '70s (Italian) prog feel of the whole record! -- Luis Paulino|
[Editor's Note: A few years ago, I did some web research on Bacamarte and found that
they were supposed to have released Sete Cidades in 1999, but I added the
sentence, "but I have been unable to find any evidence that this occurred". Now a
fan has written in to clarify this:]
Hello, the Sete Cidades was released in a limited edition by Mario Neto, in 2001 or 2002 I'm not sure, the CD doesn't mention it. It has 8 tracks, very good indeed, words on 3 tracks, in Portuguese naturally, with very strong theme. It's also a concept album, about the rock formation of Sete Cidades, in the state o Piaui - Brazil, with prehistoric inscriptions, I believe they were the source of inspiration to Neto.
There was a www.bacamarte.com.br but it is not available. -- Ricardo Martinelli
|Links||There does not seem to be a functional web site available for Bacamarte|
Bach Two Bach (71)
|Bachdenkel was a British band that lived in France. They recorded two albums on the independent Initial label. Stalingrad (title appears in the Cyrillic alphabet) was the second of those. Keyboards are in short supply, so the sound is pretty intimate, mostly just two guitars, bass, drums and vocals. The vocals strongly suggest John Wetton. The two-part title song is probably the best, part one being vocal, part two instrumental. Elsewhere there aren't any real standouts, most of the songs are short, and there's no real complexity to the music, but it's not a bad album. It's a pleasant enough album, but not spectacular. One interesting thing about the album is the back cover, which shows a mock crypt with a bunch of names on the gravestone. Some of the names include: Guy Boyer (vibraphonist who played on the second Moving Gelatine Plates album), Rory Gallagher, Peter Hammill, Patrick Juvet (French disco star), Mick Ralphs and Bernard Szajner (French synthesist and Initial label-mate).|
Bachdenkel were a British band, led by vocalist/guitarist/keyboards-player Colin Swinburne.
They released two album during the early 70's Lemmings and Stalingrad and
vanished into oblivion until the recent "revival" of prog and the new interest that arose
as a result of this [resulting in album] reissues [on CD], with some archive material as
Bachdenkel were located in France and as a result, they were not fully updated about the contamporary currents of British prog of the era, this worked in their favour as they used influences of the late 60's and updated them independently, they mix influences from the Beatles' Psychedelic era, singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Eastern and Hippie music and philosophy in a "Progressive" context. The result [Lemmings] is magnificent, great songs with beautiful and unusual lyrics, great music and Swinburne's unique and warm vocals makes this album a great listening experience, a true Masterpiece and highly recommended. -- Gil Keltch
Back Door (72)
Eight Street Nites (73)
Another Fine Mess (75)
|Sax/bass/drums jazz/blues trio who got lots of acclaim because of the bass player (Colin Hodgkinson), who played chords and treated his bass like a guitar. The two first albums had prog overtones and definitely had strong moments and original ideas. The group later faded completely into blues and lost appeal.|
|Back Door toured with Emerson, Lake and Palmer, in fact Carl Palmer was the producer of Activate. Bassist Colin Hodgkinson played with Jan Hammer among others after Back Door broke up in 1977. -- Fred Trafton|
Planet Show (79)
Sky-label synthesist whose one album features members of Lake and Brainstorm.
The Bad Plus (01)
Authorized Bootleg (02, Live)
These Are The Vistas (03)
Blunt Object: Live in Tokyo (05, Live)
Suspicious Activity? (05)
The Bad Plus - Reid Anderson (bass), Ethan Iverson (piano) and David King (drums)
It is quite possible that this progressive jazz trio of piano/bass/drums does not belong in the GEPR. So be it. But if you are interested in the larger realm of progressive music and are particularly fond of the reinterpretation and deconstruction of other artist's songs, you may want to look into this spirited ensemble's These Are the Vistas (Columbia, 2003). Angular, bold and sometimes startling, these top-notch players tear to pieces such hits as Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Blondie's "Heart of Glass", as well some great original compositions that are beautifully recorded. -- David Marshall
Click here for The Bad Plus' web site
Back to Scales Tonight (82), Countryman (82), Echoes (84), Hi-Life (86), Chief Inspector (89), Words of a Mountain (89), So Why (97)
Progressive/new-age keyboard artist.
One Live Badger (73), White Lady (74)
An attempt by ex-Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye to form a progressive supergroup, Badger released two albums but failed to achieve any sort of popularity. Recorded live a couple of weeks before Christmas 1972, One Live Badger is comprised of long tracks that provide an opportunity to feature the keyboard playing of Kaye and more importantly the excellent guitar work of Brian Parrish. The music is kind of like Traffic meets Grand Funk Railroad with an emphasis on spiritual rhythm and blues. Most of the songs have a religeous theme but stay well shy of being preachy. This is not complex progressive, but it is a very nice album with lots of energy, power, and emotion. It has recently been reissued on CD and sports the great cover work by Roger Dean. Their second release, White Lady, has Jackie Lomax taking center stage and a shift from progressive to a more soulful sound. Not overly recommended.
Greeting from Nostradamus (03)
A really unique album from Uzbekistan. Badirov is a drummer, but has written and arranged all the songs on Greeting from Nostradamus. You probably won't find it surprising to hear that this is a very percussion-oriented album, with lots of ethnic-sounding drum influences (middle-eastern/oriental), though he has steered clear of the simple approach of using doumbeks and djembes to get that ethnic sound, instead mostly using a standard drum kit. There is also plenty of tasty guitar and keyboard work to go around along with traditional Uzbek ethnic instruments like ud (a relative of the saz), sato (violin) and nay (flute) to go with the usual rock instrumentation. What comes out of this combination is a unique synthesis of progressive rock, world music and Saturday Night Live jazz musical styles. The recording quality is perfect, as are all of Badirov's guest musicians, and this is an excellent release.
My friend Vitaly Menshikov (of Uzbekistan's Progressor web site) sent me the first pressing of this CD from Uzbekistan. Obviously, I'm not the only one who thought this was a great album, because Greeting from Nostradamus was released for the world market last October  on the Unicorn Records label. My advice: surf on over an order a copy quick! This is great stuff! -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Fromuz, The]|
Soudain l'elephant (93)
baG, a new French band, is Musea's foray into world music. baG has traveled extensively over the past few years listening to and influenced by Oriental, Arabian, South American, African, and French folk music. Their debut CD Soudain l'elephant is an ethno-folk-progressive amalgam of finely crafted and recorded music. The opening song "Suerte" is a slick new-age piece along the lines of Weather Report without falling to the excess of Kenny G. The music significantly improves after "Suerte" alternating between bucolic guitar pieces evoking Pat Metheny and jazz fusion in the style of Chic Corea. Highlights of this album are the Arabic influenced "Udai", the slow moving and eerie "Little Desert Hotel", and the King Crimson experimental stylings of Le Chat Noir. Soudain l'elephant is another excellent Musea release and sure to please a wide audience. One little glitch in the packaging is a handwritten poem printed in reverse on the inside cover of the CD booklet. By scanning and inverting the page I was able to decipher most of the writing. I then ran my guess by the kind folk at Musea who helped me with the following French and English translation:
Comme un elephant son ivoire J'ai en bouche un bien precieux Poupre mort! J'achete ma gloire Au prix des mots melodieux.
Like an elephant's ivory I have something precious in my mouth Purple death! I buy my glory At the cost of melodious words. - Apollinaire
This poem is undoubtedly an explanation of the album title. baG is a band to watch.
The Aviary (91, Cassette)
Hydrophony (92, Cassette)
Bizaria (93, Cassette)
Ephemeron (93, Cassette)
The Aviary (97, re-release on CD)
The Tulsa Project (99, as Squid Pro Quo)
The Magic Empire Strikes Back... (99, as Jethro Tulsa)
Transphoria (99, to be re-released in 2000 on Mellow label)
Happy Hour for a Pack of Screaming Monkeys (00)
Translator (00, 2CD)
Ephemeron (01, re-released on CD with Hydrophony as bonus track)
Welcome Back My Friends to the Gun Show That Never Ends (01, as Keystone Lake and Palmer)
David Bagsby Live in London (02)
The Lamb Fries Down on Broadway (02, as Turkey Mountain Öyster Cult)
Scream in the Dark (02, as Ma-Hu Vishnu Orchestra)
Gang Green Country (02, as Appalachia Bay City Rollers)
David Bagsby with a couple of friends
When I first read the GEPR entry on David Bagsby, I thought, "Hmm ... how did this guy get a review put in here by his publicist? Nobody is that good!" (See following review). But I was intrigued enough to order his Xen CD's, especially since I already knew I liked Kurt Rongey. I was really impressed with these, so I contacted Mr. Bagsby and he was kind enough to send me his entire in-print discography for review in the GEPR. I take it back. There is somebody that good. Bagsby is uncategorizable, but he is a master at whatever he decides to do. He's also got a very strange sense of humor, as you'll see later. There's no way to say "David Bagsby is like ... (fill in the blank)", because each CD is so different. So I'll have to tell you about each one in turn.
The Aviary is one of those "experimental" CD's that's really fascinating for one listen. But you may not want to listen to it very frequently. Bagsby has taken recordings of bird songs from many different species, run them through some computer software which instantly analyzes the pitches being sung, then translates these to synthesized pitches which "sing" the same song as the birds sing. The birds actually "composed" the music, both the pitches and the cadences, but the sound is generated by synthesis. The result is eerie, beautiful and mostly atonal. If you know what it is you're listening to, you can still hear the bird song. But I've played it for a couple of people who were hearing it "cold" without knowing what it was, and they were unable to identify it, though in each case they said, "I dunno, there's something familiar about it, but I can't put my finger on it." If you're into melody and harmony, you probably won't really want this album. If you like the more experimental side of things, this is an incredibly cool recording. I guarantee you've never heard anything like it ... music not composed by humans or machines.
The Tulsa Project is the first example of Bagsby's strange sense of humor. This CD is being marketed as if it's a local-interest recording for residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It's supposedly a nostalgic look back at Tulsa local TV shows and their theme music. In fact, this is really false advertising, and if I was some pot-bellied Tulsa redneck buying this album at a local store thinking this was what I was getting, I would be really ticked off. As Bagsby put it himself: "Jethro Tulsa: The Magic Empire Strikes Back and Squid Pro Quo: The Tulsa Project are primarily instrumental CD's, so you don't have to be from Tulsa to enjoy them. Actually I let my prog influences really blatantly hang out on those discs." I'll say! And not just Prog either. Also dissonant neo-classical chamber music and other classical influences like his send-up of Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite", orchestrated exactly like that piece, but using the melody from a cheezy Tulsa TV show to replace Stravinsky's melody. And if that's not enough, there are also pieces which sound like action/horror movie soundtracks, country/western songs, burlesque honky-tonk piano, and Devo-esque electro-punk music. Plus the 16:46 "The Tulsa Sound" which (despite the goofy subtitles) is actually a serious prog piece with Kurt Rongey (who also came from Tulsa). The bottom line is that if you can lay your hands on this CD, there's more than enough cool prog and related music on it to satisfy any progger. If you don't mind the silly aspects of Gong, for example, then you won't have any trouble with this either. (No, the music is nothing like Gong, just the silliness).
Jethro Tulsa: The Magic Empire Strikes Back is more of the same craziness as The Tulsa Project. My favorite on this CD is the "Jethro Tulsa" medley of songs that Jethro Tull never wrote. The arrangements are obviously from Thick as a Brick, Aqualung and A Passion Play, though the melodies have been mutated so that they aren't Tull any more. This album also has "Thrifty Nickel", a tongue-in-cheek country/western tune which contains what may be the most tasteless lyric I've ever heard: "I advertised for a wife in the Thrifty Nickel. Times are tough and I need a jar for my pickle." Can you hear my eyes rolling from where you are? Still, if anything, this CD probably contains even more good progressive material than The Tulsa Project. As before, I recommend it if you can stand the silly parts of it.
Transphoria is easily the most progressive of the bunch. It's an excellent piece of high-energy prog, mostly instrumental on synthesizers, but with some real guitars (or else some excellent synthesized simulations) and a couple of vocal tracks whose lyrics sound as if they were penned by Jon Anderson. In addition to just plain great progressive rock, there are also passages heavily influenced by modern classical composition and classical electronic music (no, not Tangerine Dream, I'm talking about Ussachevsky, Stockhausen and Subotnik). This CD is beyond recommended, this is an essential progressive album for anyone's collection. Bagsby originally released this on his own Esotericity Music label, but it is about to be re-issued by Mellow Records (as of this writing, 11/11/00), so get your order in! This is by far the best of Bagsby's in-print solo work.
Happy Hour for a Pack of Screaming Monkeys: Can you guess that we're about to get into Bagsby's humorous side again? Well, yes, but this time it's not quite as silly as the Tulsa CD's. This is an album of the music of Raymond Scott, whose compositions have been used in over 120 cartoons since the 1930's. You'll be amazed when you hear these melodies and say "I know that song! I had no idea who wrote it!" This is another false advertising CD, since it sounds like a compilation of songs by various bands and was merely produced by David Bagsby. But don't be fooled ... this is really Bagsby with lots of friends as guest stars like Kurt Rongey and Bill Pohl of Underground Railroad and Ron Jarzombek of Spastic Ink, among others. This is a good CD. Not essential, but fun.
Bagsby's double-CD release Translator is so-named, I suppose, because it is once again translating natural sounds into electronic realms. This one works better for me than The Aviary or Hydrophony (see below), both because the individual cuts are quite short, and so don't tend to wear out their welcome, and also because of the more orchestral sounding timbres being used. One will frequently get the impression that a melody has started to arise out of the chaos, only to have it evaporate before it becomes a hummable tune. Interesting stuff, though to be honest I can't listen to both CD's worth at one sitting. Once again, recommended for the adventurous.
In 2001, Bagsby re-released Ephemeron on CD. This is another of Bagsby's more hardcore electronic and/or neo-classical releases, a bit like the Xen stuff. He claims it is a study in humanly impossible polyrhythms, but I can detect very little rhythmic content in a conventional sense. It's actually more like modern classical stuff like Varese to my ears. Excellent music. However, because of its short length, Bagsby added Hydrophony to this release as a bonus track. Hydrophony is another of the mutated natural sounds concept albums, this one electronically mutilating (excuse me, I meant to say "mutating", didn't I?) the sound of running water. It's an interesting piece, but for my taste goes on a bit too long. However, if you liked The Aviary or Translator, this is in the same vein.
Towards the end of 2001, David released the third album in the Tulsa Trilogy, entitled Keystone Lake and Palmer - Welcome Back My Friends to the Gun Show That Never Ends. In spite of the snazzy title, I must say that this is the first Bagsby CD I've heard that really doesn't do that much for me. It feels like a series of musical brainstorming sessions that are completely unconnected. The entire CD is one 45 minute track but consists of numerous disjointed snippets of music which bounce around Bagsby's entire musical palette. In other words, there will be thirty seconds of synthesized noises followed by a minute of neo-classical oboe trio, then a few measures of guitar synthesizer musings, abruptly switching to the soundtrack of a horror movie for a minute, then on to a sampled voice repeating "I do not think therefore I am not" at several different speeds, etc. There are some musical jewels glimmering in this hodgepodge, but it's mostly disconnected, confusing and aimless. There is about a five minute period 36 minutes in with a nice section that lasts for five minutes or so reminding me of "The Voice of NECAM" from Steve Hackett's Please Don't Touch. Then there follows a couple of minutes of Zappa-like composition, but then it decays into chaos again. Due to the gems among the chaos, this album isn't a complete loss, but I would have to recommend any of his other albums before this one. If this is what Tulsa sounded like, I don't blame Bagsby for moving to Kansas.
2002 saw the release of several new Bagsby albums, though I must say they are of ever-declining quality. The first album (at least judging by the Esotericity Music catalog number) is David Bagsby Live in London which is a collection of solo acoustic guitar performances "captured in monophonic using no effects". The recording quality is tolerable and the performances aren't bad, and I must say I'm surprised at Bagsby's expertise on a guitar since his albums are much more synthesizer oriented. However, it's pretty difficult to say this album is progressive in any way ... it's just nice relaxing acoustic guitar music with a classical bent.
The next three albums are part of the so-called "Tulsa Series" again, and seem to consist of ever-deeper scrapings of the bottom of the recording barrell. The Lamb Fries Down on Broadway has a clever album cover which looks like the cover of Genesis' Lamb Lies Down on Broadway album with the giant Tulsa "oil man" statue replacing Rael. But the cleverness is not reflected in CD, which has only two interesting cuts ... the opener "Fraidy Hole" made me think that Bagsby was back on his way up in quality again, only to have my hopes dashed by the ludicrous country/western parody "Shaved Palms" coming up next. The remainder of the album seems to be snippets of incomplete recording experiments ranging from avant-garde synth noises to spoken-word skits that sound like they were performed by a couple of guys who were very stoned at the time. After suffering through all this, however, the last cut (officially, there's an uncredited cut at the very end) of the CD is a complete version of Bizaria, which I assume is a re-release of the original cassette-only release. Here we get to hear again how interesting Bagsby can be when he's inspired ... which he doesn't seem to be for the rest of the album. The first and last cuts almost make this CD worth having.
The next album, Scream in the Dark (this time allegedly by the Ma-Hu Vishnu Orchestra) is at least an album of complete pieces. Well, mostly. This album sounds like a demo CD that someone would send to a horror movie producer in hopes he'll hire them to do a soundtrack for his next movie. Or you could put it on at Halloween to scare the kids off. Rather uninteresting soundtrack-type compositions which start and end nowhere, but might be suitable themes for a movie if more work was done to bridge the sections together. Not Bagsby's best effort by any stretch of the imagination. And also pretty difficult to call "progressive".
Finally, we come to what is by far Bagsby's most excruciating release, Gang Green Country (this one credited to the Appalachia Bay City Rollers). I thought that Welcome Back and Lamb Fries represented musical closet-cleaning exersizes. Stretching this metaphor, then, Gang Green Country is the dust bunnies, clumps of frayed carpeting, paper clips and stray scraps of paper left at the bottom of the closet after everything else is cleaned out. This album consists of 25 snippets of synthesizer noises, guitar scratching and a piece that sounds like it could be named "Super Mario Brothers Barnyard Adventure" full of cartoonish boings, sped-up chittering and animal sounds. Incomprehensible. I've decided that if the christians are right and I'm going to Hell for my beliefs, the Devil will play this album for me for the rest of eternity. I can't imagine worse torture. OK, the bonus track (live from 1979!) of "Marijuana" sung to the tune of "Oklahoma" gave me a chuckle. But in Hell, I'll probably have enough smoke anyway.
In addition to the above, Bagsby can also be heard on Mellow's Canterbury tribute CD. He plays "Hell's Bell's", a medley of Dave Stewart / Bruford / National Health / Hatfield & the North tunes. He also worked with Ron Jarzombek on the 2nd Spastic Ink CD, Ink Complete. If that's not enough, he's also working with Kurt Rongey and Bill Pohl on a piece based on Tolkein's work. This is one busy and diversified guy! Buy just about anything by him (at least anything prior to Welcome Back ...) and you're in for at least a good surprise, and probably a whole lot more. I just hope he gets off his current "Tulsa" kick and gets back to composing real music again. Something else in the vein of Transphoria would be spectacular! -- Fred Trafton
Bizaria, the wonderful new Bagsby solo tape, is just the right mix of
electronic, avant garde, and progressive music. Although there are
individual track names, Bagsby's music is a nonstop sonic feast
constantly changing and surprising the listener. Side one opens with the
tubular analog sounds of the late sixties quickly replaced by an
electronic symphony orchestra in the style of twentieth century
classical music. David achieves on this tape what Klaus Schulze is only
hinting at on his recent boxed set. The music mutates again to eerie
cascading multi-sampled strings, bells, and brass. David knows what he
is doing and he skillfully avoids the pitfall of tired sounds from not
having enough samples. Suddenly the heavens let loose with a
thunderstorm that clears the air only to be filled with the quiet
nocturnal sounds of crickets and other feral creatures of the
night. Transforming once again, Bagsby treats us to an electronic Indian
Raga that could have only been played by a synthesized Ravi
Shankar. Then closing out the side is a Ralph Lundsten influenced piece
of cosmic jazz. That is quite a lot of territory to cover in 15 minutes!
Not to be outdone is Side Two with its avant garde mixture of bells,
vibes, and reverberating crystalline electronics that bend and glide all
over the sonic spectrum. Curiously out of this sonic chaos the sounds
coalesce into a melody with a heavy beat that develops into excellent
ELP inspired progressive rock! Bizaria
is one true bizarre listening
experience not to be missed. Seek out this tape by this highly
intelligent and talented composer. You won't be disappointed.
Hot on the heels of Bizaria is another new Bagsby solo tape, Ephemeron. Mr. Bagsby is amazing in the musical breadth of his talent. Each tape is a unique experience from the mathematical experimentation of Hydrophony through the electronic amalgam of Bizaria to the intelligent avant garde compositions of Ephemeron. This electronic chameleon now presents an outstanding tape of Peter Frohmader and Art Zoyd influenced music: "More Nightmares of Science" (7:30), "Ephemeron 3" (6:12), "Ephemeron 4" (4:30), and "Automata" (8:50). "More Nightmares of Science" is a well crafted subterranean bit of electronic chamber music that can go up against the best of Peter Frohmader. The sinister "Ephemeron 3" with its sampled voices, strings, and bass could well have been used as the soundtrack to Psycho. "Ephemeron 4" is more of the same but not as dark. The final piece is "Automata." Pulsating electronics, rapid toy piano runs, and a gut wrenching bass contribute to the frightening experience of witnessing a robot gone berserk! Lamentably all too soon the tape is over. Is there no aspect of electronic or progressive music that stumps Bagsby? I don't think so. Give his music a try. David has something for everyone.
[See Jarzombek, Ron |
Pohl, Bill |
Rongey, Kurt |
Spastic Ink |
Interstellar Chaos (??)
All you Hawkwind freaks probably remember Harvey as their keyboardist from 1978 to 1991. Interstellar Chaos is Harvey's new solo release and it is much more experimental than anything he ever did with Hawkwind. Here we have "the missing link" of electronic and space music. Harvey boldly goes where no one has gone before taking the legacy of early Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze and extending it to the nether reaches of the universe. I wish more musicians would follow his lead. This is music sorely missed with today's use of digital synths, drums, samplers, and sequencers. The music flows from one song to the next as one seamless journey though time and space. The song titles alone are enough to excite your imagination: "Mistiness in Orion's Head," "Gravitational Pull," "The Sun in Hydrogen Light," "Heading: Cygnus X-1," etc. The CD format is perfect for this music but here the cassette features an additional 10 minutes of music. Unfortunately the cassette has some distracting gaps of a second or so in the middle of some songs that are missing on the CD. If you spend money on no other CDs this year, buy Interstellar Chaos. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
A Rock Mass For Love (71), Memento (7?)
Prog, with psych touches on A Rock Mass....
Out of the Blue (76)
Forward Flight (78)
|Jazz-rock band. The music on their only (?) LP (Out of the Blue) is very similar in style to several other German bands from the same era: Kraan, Passport, Release Music Orchestra, etc. No vocals. Pretty nice stuff, although nothing earth-shattering. I found them a bit lacking in the drum department. -- Dave Wayne|
Devour My Evil Dream (07, CDR)
Baku Llama - Rick Whitehurst (keyboards, vibes), Ann Bernath (drums, vocals, piano)
and David Bernath (guitar, bass, nano-piano)
[Editor's Note: This review was released for public consumption by the author, who originally wrote it for my buddies/competitors over at Progressive Ears, and you will see it in slightly different forms on the CD Baby site and their MySpace page among other places. I've added my own thoughts in the following section.]
Baku Llama is a California-based trio releasing their debut album this fall. They have other releases to their name according to their MySpace page - but this release [Eris -Ed.] is what they themselves consider to be their first real release, according to the promotional info.
Musically this trio seems to draw their influences from a lot of places. Many of the songs are structured in a way that makes me think that krautrock is a genre they are familiar with, whereas the guitar riffs in many songs are quite similar to what can be heard on Hawkwind's more psychedelic output in the 70's; slow, dark and at often gritty. Keyboards often have a jazzy feel to them, but are also used to create lush or symphonic atmospheres. The piano is used for more or less simple and often beautiful melody lines, but also for jazzy improvisations. Often in the same song.
The overall soundscape in most songs here consists to a great extent of contrasts; beautiful melodies paired with dark and gritty sounds, repeated patterns paired with improvised playing. And the songs as such rarely have an average A4 development, the main thing on this release seems to be mood explorations, where a specific theme or mood is explored in as good as every detail. If I had to make a tag for this music, avant-garde fusion would probably be my best description, adding words like eerie, dark and dreamy to the tag.
As for the songs here, they are a slightly mixed lot in my opinion. All the songs here have moments that really intrigued me, and most to the extent of me really liking them. What I see as the main weakness in some of the songs here, is that somewhat limited patterns and moods tend to get over-explored. The moods and patterns are interesting and intriguing; but after a certain amount of time there's really nothing else to explore, and these songs then get repetetive in my opinion. When the band gets it right though, as they do in most of the songs, the music is really captivating.
My overall conclusion is that this is a good debut album. Fans of krautrock and fusion will perhaps be the ones who will easiest be attracted to this release, but I suspect that this music may have a much wider appeal as well. As the band has samples on their MySpace site, it should be easy to check out if you like this or not. -- Olav Bjornssen
Baku Llama is a odd name for an odd-sounding band. What does "odd" mean in the context
of progressive rock? Oh, I don't know. I think it's the keyboard playing, which frequently sounds
more like the algorithmic sequences I've heard coming from music composition software than what I
usually hear humans playing. Still, when I mentioned this to Rick Whitehurst, who plays
keys for the band, he promised, "The keyboards will make sense after a few listens". And he
was right. They're still odd, but they do make sense.
Eris is actually the second release for the band, but they consider it to be their first "real" album. The songs sound like they're heavily improvised, against an obviously composed underpinning. Guitar and drums form the rhythmic backbone over which piano and electric pianos weave their "odd" melodies and Ann Bernath sings spacily. (Is that a word?)
Eris works for me because of the subject matter. The Goddess Eris, as it turns out, is one of my patron goddesses. She's the Goddess of Chaos and Discord. The chaotic oddity of the music compliments an album dedicated to Her perfectly well. Rick Whitehurst told me the album is inspired by the recently discovered "dwarf" planet Eris. Ha! That's the Goddess on the album cover, complete with golden apple. Hail Eris! All Hail Discordia!
Excuse me. Got a little excited there. Let's get back on track here. Eris is a pretty cool album and very interesting, particularly for a debut effort. I'd recommend it to fans of krautrock, but maybe not fusion fans, at least not those who think flurrys of highly virtuosic fast notes define the genre. In other words, they don't have much in common with The Allan Holdsworth Band. I'll be interested to see where this trio goes from here. More interested than I am in AHB. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Baku Llama's MySpace
page (which is also their main web site at the moment)
Click here to order Devour My Evil Dream from CD Baby
Click here to order Eris from CD Baby
Réflexions Futures (99)
Existences Invisibles (02)
Modified Reality (06)
I've heard Balestracci's second release, Existences Invisibles. He is a solo artist, playing everything himself; keyboards, drums, percussion, voices and sound effects. How to describe this music? This is the sound of one hand clapping ... this is the sound of a tree falling in the forest when nobody is there to hear it ... this is the sound of Grand Central Station after eating too many pot brownies. In other words, this is the sound of something you never thought you would hear, but now you do.
Although this music bears some resemblences to the tribal percussion experimentation of Alquimia or Peter Gabriel, to the symphonic dreamscapes of Vangelis or the visceral electronic textures of Michael Stearns, it also has parts that break into Brufordian fusion or Hermeto Pascoalish jazz while also managing to maintain the vaguely spiritual air of Clearlight. All this you should imagine being phased directly into your brain from a parallel dimension. Really. This is very cool stuff.
Balestracci claims "no programations" which I assume means everything is played rather than sequenced. I must admit my first listen to this CD didn't reveal its charms to me. It took a few listens before I started liking it, but now I think it's just amazing. I highly recommend this one to fans of the spacey prog realms. -- Fred Trafton
for Franck Balestracci's web site (mostly in French, but with some English)
Click here to order Existences Invisibles or Modified Reality from Carbon-7 Records
Sirio 2222 (70)
Trys (99, Live)
|Their first album Sirio 2222, a rather average album of Hendrix-esque psychedelic rock may be of no interest to progressive fans yet their second, the widely regarded as superb Ys is a no miss. If you like jams that climax in incredible splendor and keyboards that compare to some of Wakeman or Stewart's best works, I think you may like this one. Although incredibly haunting, if you like dark works don't miss this one. I offer these quotes in support: Audion (speaking of the Italian band, Semiramis) .".. in the genre only one album I can think of surpasses it - Il Balletto di Bronzo's Ys," Syn-Phonic of Ys: "may be the very best ever and who's to argue " and Wayside (speaking of Sirio 2222) ."..who would next record the classic Ys." If these leading lights of prog music ever influence your music buying tastes, than you can probably see where I'm coming from....|
|Their album Ys is an Italian progressive rock classic from the early seventies. The music itself is most reminiscent of ELP, with fast-paced keyboard and piano leads. The "moods" of the tracks vary from the diminished chord soundscapes commonly used in horror movies to very melodic keyboard and drum interactions, in the best traditions of the genre. The Italian vocals add another dimension to the music, and range from tortured solos to well-structured harmonies. Admittedly, this CD will not appeal to many, but, to those to whom the above description sounds appealing, it should be well worth the listening.|
|Their album Ys is without a doubt one of the best progressive albums to come out of the 70's Italian scene. Intense high-energy rock with some jazz and classical influences, dominated by keyboards and guitar, strong vocals, and brilliant, complex and sometimes chaotic instrumental passages.|
|Ys is a very beautifully dark sounding album. I listened to this for the first time in several months just for this review and it really impressed me more than it ever had before. Only part I don't like is the second to last song or part, the mellow one that has that repeating bass line that drags on forever. This album is very chaotic musically and but not too hard to listen to IMO.|
|The first LP was great (hard rock sound) but the problem was that the label did not publicise the album enough. The guitar and the drums sound good. The second LP was very different from the first, more jazz and classical, with good keyboards|
|YS is a dark and intense jam that, in my opinion, blows away the best King Crimson. If you like progressive rock dynamic and disturbing, go for it. A must have.|
|A heavy Italian classic, their album YS. Always with the lyricism that seems to be inherent in Italian progressive, the music spans the range from melodic to intense in this one album. Melodic Emerson-like keyboard is suddenly replaced by heavy guitar jams (which I can only compare to other Italian bands such as Semiramis and Osanna) and vice versa--there is never a dull moment. Lyrics are sung in Italian, but don't let that stop you from checking out this Italian classic.|
|My exposure to Il Balletto di Bronzo includes a particularly boring live performance at NEARFest a few years back and the extraordinary 1972 recording YS. In fact, I had a hard time reconciling that entirely forgettable 2000 performance with the disturbing genius of YS, given that Gianni Leone was still involved with the band. The music on YS is a curious blend of Egg's debut CD (1970); In the Wake of Poseidon (1970) (King Crimson); and ELP circa Pictures at an Exhibition (1972). However, despite the fact that much of YS actually sounds very "Egg-ish", this is unquestionably a unique work of dark progressive rock that boasts some extraordinary organ and synthesizer playing, and intricate ensemble work. What surprised me the most about YS was the delivery of the "dissonance", which consists of arrangements with a lot of half steps in them, blistering Hammond organ parts, heavy bass playing, thundering (and sometimes electronically altered) percussion, and distorted guitar. While "cacophony" might come to the minds of some, all of this bone-crushing dissonance is presented in a very polite manner. Specifically, politeness is suggested through the inclusion of haunting Mellotron, "spacey" and "ghostly" passages of multi-tracked voices, "jazz-like" walking bass lines, and Baroque period influenced keyboard parts. Unlike Egg's debut, there are no 10-minute "tone generator" solos (that could drive ANYBODY out of the room), just heavy prog sandwiched between "lighter" moments of great Mellotron work. The vocals (in Italian) although powerful, are never harsh or abrasive, and work well within the material. Although this is going to sound really silly, this is an incredibly "cool" CD! Highly recommended on the basis of its distinctiveness. -- Jeff Park|
|Links||[See Leone, Gianni]|
Bambibanda E Melodie (74)
This is an album where the most important instrument is the guitar and the lyrics are reduced to the minimum. It's a rhythmical rock LP.
[See Fossati, Bambi | Garybaldi | Gleeman]
Aun Es Tiempo De Sonar (7?)
Banana is an Argentinian band whose sole release is a work of sometimes very good, sometimes average progressive rock. The music shows a variety of European influences from Yes to Nektar to Focus to Genesis to Camel. Though their sound is very melodic, the rhythm section is pretty basic which fails to elicit any emotional excitement from me. The keyboard work is usually relegated to the background and often limited to Fender Rhodes. Occasionally, some synth lines will burst forth which adds some dimension to the sound. However, the guitar is fairly prominent (almost all the solos are guitar) which is where I most hear the Nektar, Focus, and Camel influences. I'm also reminded of Nektar (from Recycled) in some of the synth/guitar combinations. In a way, it surprises me that the music fails to contain any latin influences like fellow Argentinians, Espiritu. Unfortunately, this lack tends to make the album sound less original that if it contained, for instance, some flamenco-styled acoustic guitar. The vocals (which are fairly abundant) are singularly uninspiring, sometimes sounding like AOR love-song crooning ala Styx. Overall, this isn't a bad album, one many of you would enjoy. Beware of some weaker moments, though.
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso (72)
Io Sono Nato Libero (73)
Garofano Rosso (76)
Come In Un'ultima Cena (76)
Di Terra (78)
Canto Di Primavera (79)
Buone Notizie (81)
... E Va (85)
Grande Joe (85)
Da Qui Messere Si Domina La Valle (a 91 re-recording of their first 2 albums, Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso and Darwin!)
Il Tredici (94)
Nudo (97, an "Unplugged" album of older material)
Banco circa 2001 - I think that's Francesco Di Giacomo (vocals) and Rudolfo
Maltese (guitars) on top, with Vittorio Nocenzi (keyboards) below.
Originally known as Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso they released two albums on Manticore, Banco and As In A Last Supper. These however are merely English versions of their earlier release, the former being of songs from their first three albums Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, Darwin! and Io Sono Nato Libero. The latter is an English version of their fourth Come In Un'Ultima Cena. Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso's first three are definitely classics, with a strong baroque feel, dual keyboards, extremely complicated arrangements, and a strong vocal presence (you may like him or you may not.) They definitely take a little getting used to, although your patience will definitely reveal three beautifully crafted masterpieces. Garafano Rosso and ... Di Terra are mid period albums, almost all instrumental that delve into a more neo-classical realm and are best left for the more explorative. Later albums including Canto Di Primavera and the live Capolinea are rather poor, the latter including some horrible horn parts. I'd stick with the first three for starters.
|I've only listened to Darwin! and Io Sono Nato Libero, and both are outstanding. Intricate and dense, sort of a keyboardish Yes/Crimson cross. Takes 2 or 3 listens to get used to but worth the effort.|
|The only thing I've heard from them is their 1975 Banco. It's a fairly decent piece of Italian progressive rock, certainly much more energetic than their often too folksy labelmates PFM. The highlight for me was the interplay between the bombastic keyboards and Rudolfo Maltese's nicely aggressive guitar work. Vocalist Francesco di Giacomo has operatic pretensions, which is sort of a downer, and occasionally the whole band veers off into a sub-par ballad shtick that Julio Iglesias would later make famous, but other than that this is quite solid. -- Doug Bassett|
|Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, or Banco for short, along with PFM, Osanna and a few others, defined the early to mid seventies Italian progressive sound that so many after them would follow. That sound was equally influenced by folk themes, classical music, and the melodic and experimental british bands of the time, ie. Van Der Graaf, early Genesis, The Nice, and others. Banco, in particular also tended to have quite a bit of Jazz influence to their sound. In the 90's they reformed and re-recorded new versions of the first two albums. Their sound varies somewhat from album to album, but most feature excellent vocals (in Italian) by Francesco "Mr.Chubbs" DiGiacomo (Garafano Rosso is an instrumental album). All come highly recommended, except maybe Capolinea which was their farewell live album, and sounds more compromised.|
|During the '70s, only a few Italian progressive bands gained any noticeable mention in the United States. Banco was one of those bands (as was PFM). Like PFM, Banco remixed a few of their original albums with English lyrics on ELP's Manticore label. For example, Banco contained remixed selections from the band's first three albums. To my way of thinking, the reworking of the songs destroys their natural aura. Because of this, I recommend that you get the original Italian albums, particularly Io Sono Nato Libero and Darwin!. Both of these are excellent keyboard dominated symphonic progressive albums, along the lines of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, except more lyrical and less bombastic. The two keyboardists (piano, Hammond organ, Moog synthesizer) create some wonderful music, finely crafted and well executed. These albums should delight any keyboard fan. Classical influences abound; I'm not sure of this but to me they seem to draw more from the Classical and Baroque periods as well as the 20th century classical favored by Emerson. As indicated above, the lyrics are sung in Italian. The vocalist is a powerful singer, not harsh to my ears, dominating the sound when he does sing. Fortunately for us instrumental fans, the singing isn't as common as the incredible instrumental passages. Capolinea is a live album (from 1980) that fails miserably, despite the fact that it draws from these early albums. The sound is more commercial and the performance is uninspired. Start with the highly recommended Io Sono Nato Libero and Darwin! instead. -- Mike Taylor|
|Their first three albums are supposed to be their best. I only have the English-language Manticore-label reduction of these. It was enough to mesmerize me into their sound. If you like intricate progressive rock with great vocals, dual synthesizers and excellent guitarwork, you're gonna love them! The English vocals do sound rather awkward, the original Italian versions would probably cause me to turn my nose up at this album. I heard another album from around this time, Come In Un Ultima Cena, also excellent. Vocalist Francesco Di Giacomo sounds like an opera-trained Peter Gabriel. Two of the subsequent albums, Garofano Rosso and ...Di Terra are completely instrumental, neo-classical works. Di Terra is the better of these two, evocative, cinematic music. Highly recommended. I heard part of Canto Di Primavera which was nice, in line with their earlier works, yet not quite on that level. Capolinea is supposed to really suck. The other albums between 1980-1989 are also to be avoided. There's a 1990 or so release with a long Italian title which escapes me at the moment. It consists of updated versions of music from the first few albums. I heard some of it, nice, but doesn't add anything to the originals. -- Mike Ohman|
For many fans, I suspect the Italian prog scene takes some getting use to. It certainly
did for me. I still have aversions to much of the "foreign" progressive rock out there
(and there's more now than ever) based simply on ignorance and prejudice, or because it's
all I can do to afford the next English or American band on my list let alone Venezuela's
latest Fusion sensation. But there was one time when I didn't let that stop me from shelling
out the 25 dollar import cost and taking the "ethno-prog" plunge.
On the recommendation of a veteran progger, I ordered Io Sono Nato Libero. What hit me initially is how strange this music sounds. It has a lithe delicacy that even early Genesis didn't explore* which is off putting and the Italian lyrics sound silly and contrived. The singer seems to want to turn the whole thing into some tragic operetta, moaning and reciting his way through a much too pastoral landscape of plinking tangerine dreamers. Not my cup of tea, man.
But wait, there's more (you also get this folding chair, a $20 value!). You see, I -- as I often do -- forgot the amazing time-release power of good prog, and this CD grew on me, baby. By the second listen I was glad I had kept it. By the third listen I knew there was something good going on here, and by the fifth, I was convinced Banco were one of the best European progressive rock acts ever. Mind you, this was over the course of a year and a half, sparingly auditioning the album for a musically open-minded friend or two while I gave these boys another chance. There's a lesson here, and it made me want to hear more international Prog. Maybe someday I'll get to it for real. -- David Marshall
* Editor's comment: Strange how a guy from San Fransicso calls an Italian band "foreign" while an English band isn't. Stranger still how I sorta feel the same way.
[See Periferia del Mondo |
Click here for the official Banco web site
Cuestion De Tiempo (92)
Spanish instrumental trio, with a focus on guitar and synthesizers. When I listen I am reminded of The Guitar Orchestra at times, but LBL's sound is not as multi-layered and dense; they opt instead to inject their sound with flutes, mandolin, keys, and on a couple tracks, some fairly dark sounding electronics. Overall, this is music that is introspective and free spirited, full of rich emotions and romanticism. Not poppy.
Banda Elastica (85)
Banda Elastica 2 (91)
Los Awakates De Nepantla (94)
Catalogo Del Tiraderos (97)
|A very RIO sounding Mexican sextet, featuring guitars, drums, marimbas, bass, keyboards and sax/clarinet, with guests on violin/viola and flute. Their sound is a highly spirited blend of modern progressive, electrified jazz and ethnic influences. A few tracks feature vocals. They have two albums, a self-titled one from '85 and their second from 1991.|
|This elastic band is/was heavily Henry Cow influenced, but with Maquizcoatl they moved to even remoter and steeper slopes. Band iniated ghastly explorations of prehispanic era of Mexico, whose results could give uninitiated listener the creeps. Today they are another Mexico's band which is not inclined to emulate Belgian Art Zero school, but which managed to achieve astonishingly bleak atmosphere nevertheless. With tons of unknown (to me) ethnic instruments, such as (here all in plural) teponaztlis, huehuetles, sartales, etc. on one side and alto sax, flute, double bass, bass on the other, they managed to capture an atmosphere of Mayan bloodspilling rituals. While primarily acoustic, their creepy audions are unbelievably sable and baleful enough to provide a listener with feeling of leeches and grubs crawl all over him. Imagine that you are in pitch-dark cavity, where orientation depends on detecting of sullen surroundings, bespoken of only with deep echoes of turtle-shells and other percussion. Sparse instrumentation in the begining of tracks often portends something unpleasant, but in vain, because all of sudden, listener may find himself amidst phantasmal chaos of bloodthirsty Mayan spectres. Reverberating sounds of tuned-percussion are hovering above baneful-sounding strings or bass. In average instruments do not play intensely but unbelievable torrents performed by acoustic, promptly spanish, guitar can be heard on "Inamic". Occasionally detected Cow-isms protract into jammy guitar solos, as on "Espejismo". Otherwise, melodies are here more at home than on Decibel's Fortuna Virilis. At least "Nepanolli" is proof for that. Other tracks such as "El Rito" or "Teccizapan" are tuned percussion solo. While tuned percussion try to build melody, usual instruments veer into impro-waters (eg. "Xochiyoauh"; what a title; n. N.K.)). "Zoquitepuztehuiani" even adds synthesizer and sequencer and "Viaje Al Mictlan" synthesizer. Phew! Album fades out incredibly difficult, and it is a real challenger. Booklet boasts with Mayan paintings and "icons", painted with lurid colours (red predominates). If you're not bound to conventional prog-sounds, you'll probably want to check this out. -- Nenad Kobal|
Galaxy My Dear (78), Ma, Dolce Vita (79), Heart (81)
Ex Biglietto per L'inferno. These album are electronic music.
[See Biglietto Per L'Inferno, Un]
Outline No. 12 (83)
NYC modern-classical/jazz/avant-garde violinist.
Two Sides of Peter Banks (73)
Can I Play You Something? (99)
Original guitarist for 2 pretty good prog bands: Yes and Flash. Banks' all-instrumental solo album Two Sides of... is a strange patchwork of introspective, almost jazzy solo and multitracked guitar, guitar duets (w/Jan Akkerman of Focus), prog/fusion instrumentals (with Ray Bennett of Flash on bass and either Mike Hough of Flash or Phil Collins on drums) and some very loose, even sloppy, jamming (w/Bennett, Collins and Akkerman). I actually prefer the solo/duo guitar stuff. Steve Hackett and John Wetton also appear on one cut. Not an essential album, but not a bad one to have around. Akkerman sounds great. After Flash broke up, Peter Banks was in a band called After the Fire* through the late '70s, and then seemed to drop out of sight, although I recall him playing on a major-label (Capitol?) fusion record by an Icelandic keyboardist named Jakob Magnusson in the early '80s. Banks has made a comeback, and done at least one solo CD (titled Self-Contained) as of this writing (1996). -- Dave Wayne
*Editor's Note: The Peter Banks who was a member of After the Fire is a different person with the same name. The other Peter Banks is a keyboard player. -- Fred Trafton
|Original Yes guitarist who has to my knowledge released three solo albums. Two Sides Of Peter Banks is an early '70's entry with one excellent side-long instrumental suite (featuring contributions from Jan Akkerman, Steve Hackett, Phil Collins, and others) and one side of take-it-or-leave-it improvisation. Instinct and Self-Contained are entirely instrumental releases which showcase Banks' formidable but regrettably long-ignored chops. Purists may be put off by the programmed drums and low-budget production, but IMO Banks does the Yes legacy justice. Don't confuse Banks' solo work with his less-than-stellar, post-Yes groups Flash and Empire. -- J. Drake|
|Can I Play You Something? is subtitled "The Pre-Yes Years 1964-1968". It includes unreleased and rare recordings by Mabel Greer's Toyshop and Syn, bands in which Peter participated before the formation of Yes. Both sixties groups featured guitar/vocals by Peter Banks and bass/vocals by Chris Squire of Yes.|
|Links||[See Empire (UK) | Flash | Harmony in Diversity | Yes]|
A Curious Feeling (79)
The Fugitive (83)
The Wicked Lady (83)
Strictly Inc. (95)
|Banks was a founding member of the once progressive, once great band Genesis. His keyboard work is distinct and often imitated, and his compositional skill is what sets him apart from his contemporaries (Emerson, Wakeman, and others). A Curious Feeling is his 1979 Debut album, with vocals by Kim Beacon, ex-of String Driven Thing, and is generally recognized as his best. His later albums grow increasingly more commercial: Although The Fugitive has some nice moments, Bankstatement and Still are pretty disappointing. He has two soundtrack albums: The Wicked Lady and Soundtracks, both of which are ok, but not great.|
Click here for Walls of Sound, a Tony Banks fan page
Hora Nata (72)
|Progressive, compared to early Genesis.|
|I found [in the GEPR], to my great surprise, the band Banzaï. When I was 16 years old I saw a concert of this talented band. I have also the LP Hora Nata with a photograph with very strange costumes. I live in Belgium and I must say that this band isn't a band from the Netherlands following the [former] information on your page but from Belgium. It was recorded at the "Reward Studio" in Belgium. I think that it was very exeptional that a Belgian band could make a LP with this sort of music in Belgium. That's why I remembered their name. -- Koen Dejonghe|
Red Decade (82)
|New York-based guitarist who released an interesting EP on the Neutral label in the early '80s. Despite the presence of two saxophonists, Bill Obrecht and Fritz Van Orden (who later formed the Ordinaires), the music is not jazzy or fusiony at all, at least not in the typical way. Rather, Red Decade (also the name of the band) is a dark-sounding instrumental rock band with saxophones up front. The compositions owe a little to Devo, Peter Gordon, Philip Glass and Terry Riley, but are looser and more malevolent-sounding. What improvisation there is, is brief and noisy. Some aspects of the music on Red Decade found its way into the more conventional-sounding Ordinaires. Great stuff! -- Dave Wayne|
Baraka II (00)
Baraka IV (02)
Baraka (04, Note the 5th album does not use "V" in the title)
Baraka VI (05)
Baraka VII (07)
Shade of Evolution (08)
Inner Resonance (10)
Baraka - (not necessarily in photo order) Shin Ichikawa (bass, vocals), Issei Takami (guitar, vocals)
and Max Hiraishi (drums, backing vocals)
Original entry, 2/3/07:
Baraka seems to play live in Japan quite a bit, but aren't usually heard much outside of their country. However, in April of 2008, they will be playing at the Madrid Art Music Festival (MAMFest) in Spain with several other interesting bands. Most of Baraka's albums are available from Syn-Phonic Music (see link below), though their latest is being distributed through Musea (also below). VII, at least, is worth your time to investigate. -- Fred Trafton
Baraka's new album Inner Resonance is similar to Baraka VII. Powerful instrumental songs with guitar work that sounds like a blending of Robert Fripp and Allan Holdsworth and busy bass work that reminds of a mixture of Geddy Lee and Jaco Pastorius. Neither fusion nor prog-metal, but their own sound somewhere in between. This album has a bit more uncredited keyboard sweetening than Baraka VII did, but it's still very much oriented toward being performable by a 3-piece band. Very nice. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Baraka's
web site (in English or Japanese)
Click here to order earlier Baraka titles from Syn-Phonic Music
Click here to order Baraka VII, Shade of Evolution or Inner Resonance from Musea Records
First Love (75), Barbarella? (76)
Durante O Verao (76)
Brazilian folky progressive band. Ok I guess, not worth that much trouble.
Barclay James Harvest (70)
Once Again (71)
Barclay James Harvest and Other Short Stories (71)
Baby James Harvest (72)
Early Morning Onwards (72)
Everyone is Everybody Else (74)
Live (74, Live)
Time Honoured Ghosts (75)
Best of Vol.1 (77)
Gone To Earth (77)
Live Tapes (78, Live)
Best of Vol.2 (79)
Eyes Of The Universe (79)
Mockingbird - The Early Years (80)
Turn Of The Tide (81)
Berlin - A Concert For The People (82, Live)
Best of Vol.3 (82)
Ring Of Changes (83)
Victims Of Circumstance (84)
Face to Face (87)
Stand Up (??)
Welcome to the Show (90)
The Harvest Years (91?, Compilation)
Caught by the Light (93)
Alone we Fly (94, Compilation)
Another Arable Parable (??, Compilation)
River of Dreams (97)
|Barclay James Harvest are a British group that were spawned by the progressive rock movement of the late sixties. Their music tends to echo some of the more mellow Genesis output, but, despite being on the brink of mass popularity, they have not yet released the landmark LP that could put them over the top. They are extremely popular in Germany and to a lesser extent in Britain. They were one of the first groups (the first ?) to be picked up by the Harvest label. The name of the label, incidentally, is not derived from the name of the group.|
|The musicians are Lees, Holroyd, Wolstenholme, and Pritchard. They often, under the "conductor-ship" of Wolstenholme, use an orchestral backing to their songs. In their better moments, they sound like something between Pink Floyd and Genesis, but are quite uneven. On their live albums, though, they play their better numbers, so those would be fairly safe purchases. One of their staple live songs, is self mockingly called "Poor Man's Moody Blues," and that description may be valid too.|
|Prog rockers who incorporate the spirit of The Moody Blues and bands such as Genesis into their material. Short Stories and Baby James Harvest were their 3rd and 4th releases, representative of the now well-defined BJH sound, delivered atop the symphonic base laid down by keyboardist Woolly Wolstenholme. Each disc offers close to 80 minutes of vintage BJH, and is accompanied with a detailed insert, including lyrics. Welcome to the Show evokes the spirit of their older material.|
|Manchester, England-based band who have gone through a number of stylistic changes over the years. The first, self-titled album was recorded with a symphony orchestra on a few tracks. Strongly derivative of the Moody Blues, right down to the dramatic reading at the beginning of the 11-minute "Dark now my sky". By the time of Baby James Harvest, they are relying on the orchestrations less; the one track with the full orchestra, "Moonwater", is more like pure classical music than rock. Other than that, the only real outstanding track is "Summer Soldier", a Floydian piece with layered guitars, massed Mellotrons and clever use of sound-effects. Everyone Is Everybody Else ditches the orchestra altogether, as keyboardist Stuart Wolstenholme discovered synthesizers, used to stunning effect of the opening song, "Child of the Universe". "For No One" is another lush keyboard epic. The other high points are bassist Les Holroyd's two somber contributions to the album: "Paper Wings" and "Negative Earth". There is also a medley of folk-orientated songs, "Mill Boys" and "Poor Boy Blues". Octoberon finds them at the height of their popularity. It seems to be the apex of many of their acquired tendencies over the years. "Ra" seems to be one of their best keyboard-epics. "The World Goes On" is one of Holroyd's better moody pieces. They brought the orchestra back for "May Day", which also features a chorus. John Lees' vocals and the overall tone of the piece remind me of Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, but the sound reminds me more of Atom Heart Mother. "Suicide?" seems to be the culmination of the depressive tone that has been developing ever since Everyone.... Don't play it around your suicidal friends. There's many more where that came from, in fact, the band is still together! . -- Mike Ohman|
|The self-confessed "Poor Man's Moody Blues." I've only heard the album X11, and it is certainly similar to MB stuff from the early 80s. But not as good.|
[See Godfrey, Robert John |
Click here for an excellent Barclay James Harvest fan web site
The Answer (70)
Peter Bardens (71)
Write My Name in Dust (71)
Vintage 69 (76)
Heart to Heart (79)
Seen One Earth (87)
Speed of Light (88)
Big Sky (94)
|Bardens' first solo LP was The Answer It doesn't sound a thing like Camel, and in fact isn't progressive at all, but rather excellent heavy rock. Peter Green, who plays here under the pseudonym Arthur Gee, never sounded better. -- Doug Bassett|
|Bardens, In his tenure with Camel, produced some of the finest progressive music ever recorded. Since his departure, his music hasn't totally lived up to what I had hoped it would, but more often drifted into the new-agey realm. Seen One Earth is probably the most solid of the lot, brilliantly applying multi-layered keyboards and soaring guitars for a mostly instrumental vision reminiscent of DSOTM or his final days with Camel. Watercolors is his newest, and is very new-agey overall (read: Boring). White Magic is the soundtrack to a skiing film on cassette that he peddles at his live shows.|
|Played keys in Camel and in Keats. Great organ sound, at least on those albums. He put out a couple of solos prior to Camel, and several new-age efforts more recently, which don't really interest me.|
|Bardens early work don't impress me much. I think the Vintage 69 album is a remake of his two first solo albums, which was made in '69 and '70 I think. Heart to Heart is incredibly dull and fumbling compared to his brilliant work with Camel, but he came back much stronger with Seen One Earth and Speed of Light, which are much more in the Camel vein, bordering to New Age but definitely much more interesting.|
Sconcerto (76), Trusciant (78)
One of the few bands with multiple keyboardists that I can stomach (although only just barely), the all-instrumental prog-fusion band Il Baricentro is led by keyboard-playing brothers Francesco and Vanni Bocuzzi. The Bocuzzis acquit themselves nicely on a variety of keyboards although they stray into the schmaltz zone a bit too often for my tastes. Their compositions range from Latin-tinged fusion, to jazz-funk, to a sort of "Italian prog lite." At its worst, the music takes on a florid cocktail-lounge cutesy feel. For me, the main appeal of Baricentro's music is the spectacular interplay of bassist Tonio Napoletano and drummer Piero Mangini. Mangini is a truly excellent drummer whose approach is a devilish blend of David Garibaldi's polyrythmic funk and Bill Bruford's precision timekeeping. Napoletano's bass playing reminds me a bit of Magma's Jannick Top. On Trusciant they are joined by percussionists Luis Agudo and Max Rocci. Of the two Il Baricentro albums I own, Sconcerto is more progressive while 'Trusciant' (...which is dedicated to Jim Morrison, of all people!) has a more jazz-fusion feel. Both records are good, but not essential, unless you are a drummer. -- Dave Wayne
Italian band that plays in the fusion style of the 70's. The music on Sconcerto is based on arrangements of double keyboards, bass, drums and percussions. Several synthesizers are featured, as well as electric piano (Rhodes) and Clavinet with its funky touch. They have a sound that was common to numerous bands from that era. Note that brass are not used here, despite the very funky grooves the music often takes. Deserves attention from fans of the style, especially where the keyboard work is concerned. An excellent complement to your Return to Forever discs. -- Paul Charbonneau
Orfeo 2000 (72), LP Di Primavera (73)
Their LP was very banal and bored. Not interesting.
Early psych, no prog elements.
The best kept secret of 1994. Bark Psychosis released one of the most addictive and unique Progressive Rock albums of the '90s. On Hex, Bark Psychosis is covering uncharted territory. They cover ambient, minimalism, free-improvisation, space-rock, and have a real knack for gorgeous, catchy and dreamy melodies (rampant throughout). This is neither Symphonic, Fusion, Jazz, RIO, or Zeuhl. Similar to Tortoise and Cul de Sac, but more melodic. The vocals are very laid back, and the instrumentation is as follows: piano, Hammond organ, bass, samples and programming, trumpet, cello, viola, flute, vibes, drums, guitar (very minimal), djembe and Melodica. Bark Psychosis would appeal to fans of Tortoise, Rain Tree Crow, Cul de Sac, Porcupine Tree, & the ambient works of '80s King Crimson (such as "The Sheltering Sky" and "Nuage"). A highly recommended release to "dream by" or "chill out" to. Buy it!!! You won't regret it. Bark Psychosis' Hex is a '90s must buy. -- Julian Belanger
Clara Crocodilo (80)
Tubarões Voadores (82)
Cidade Oculta (84)
Gigante Negão (98, Live, recorded 1992)
A Saga de Clara Crocodilo (99, Live version of Clara Crocodilo)
Arrigo Barnabé is a Brazilian artist who attempts to mix modern classical music with popular music. While not exactly prog, it is still recomendable and very interesting. Comparisons could be made to Frank Zappa, not because he is derivative, but because he studied and liked the same kind of atonal and serial composers, like Bartok or Schöenberg. Barnabé's work is also well-humoured, yet defying and tense.
Clara Crocodilo could be pointed out as his most fine work, some kind of psychotic opera with narration, female chorus and a complete band with lots of horns. The whole album is excellent, highlights being "Sabor de Veneno", "Diversões Eletrônicas", "Clara Crocodilo", "Acapulco Drive-in", "Orgasmo Total". There is also a live version of the album, recorded in 1999, called A Saga de Clara Crocodilo. Although the music is the same, it has new arrangements (with strings included), and the names of the songs are changed, probably because of some kind of recording rights. It is also an excellent album.
Some albums afterwards got more commercial, yet always having something interesting. Also good are Gigante Negão (live recording of what Barnabé called "pseudopera") and Tubarões Voadores, the latter having although some 80's keyboards and synth tones which upset me a little. -- Gabriel Costa
|Links||Click here for a biography of Barnabé (in Portugese) or here (for English version). Barnabé's web site appears to be offline.|
Sin Tiempo ni Espacio (??)
The Madcap Laughs (70), Barrett (70), The Peel Sessions EP (87), (recorded '70) Opel (89)
Syd was the original guitarist and mastermind behind Pink Floyd. He was tossed out of the band before the second album was recorded, being too spaced out to play due to his heavy diet of LSD. Waters and Gilmour worked with him in the mid 70's to produce a couple albums (The Madcap Laughs and Barrett) These sessions also produced enough outtakes and such that a third album was released (Opel). Some of the material is brilliant, some is pretty painful and tortured, but in the right frame of mind....
[See Pink Floyd]
Free Play (91)
Former keyboardist of South-American fusion supergroup Caldera, Eduardo Del Barrio's Free Play has to be one of the most challenging major label (A&M) releases we've had in years. Although most of the compositions were improvised, his unique blend of modern classical, rock, and jazz sounds anything but random. Highly recommended to the adventurous. (While this one defies categorization, it can usually be located in the jazz section.)
L'Alchemista (91), Oxian (95)
From Italy, this six piece is fronted by two female vocalists. The overall sound wanders between quasi-symphonic and rock, mixing fresh ideas with some more familiar ones, they seem to straddle the line between the seventies and the nineties; the musical breaks contain certain classically inspired ideas, while the vocal parts lean towards pop and folk, while not being overtly so. Some comparisons could be made to bands like Renaissance and Coracao Da Terra, but Barrock truly sounds like neither, seeming to be rooted more in the 70's Italian progressive scene, but with all the modern technological advances.
Pictures Of Earth & Space (87)
Build Your Own Planet: (??, Recorded in early '90's, Limited edition of 100)
Evolver (??, Limited edition of 100)
|A pleasing entry into the new-age instrumental synthesizer canon, a genre riddled with bad music and an even worse reputation. Jim Bartz' music is more intricate than many other new-age minimalists. Pictures Of Earth & Space is incredibly similar to Pete Bardens' Seen One Earth LP and the late seventies era Camel, albeit without the vocals. Despite their being a huge amount of digital technology used on the album, the production doesn't sound too clean or cold. All the tracks are instrumental and in the 5-8 min range and are on the mellow side. Bartz shows a remarkable inventiveness with certain sampled sounds but never degenerates into outright self-indulgence, retaining the listeners interest throughout. The beautifully layered music is soothing and relaxing in a good way and never becomes bland. Also Bartz happens to be a handy guitar player as well and (for an electronic artist) includes lots of guitar playing, especially acoustic. This sounds not unlike Trevor Rabin's acoustic work with Yes (Big Generator etc.). Overall a worthwhile purchase for anyone interested in the electronic rock scene. Fans of Ashra, Mike Oldfield, Manuel Gottsching and Gandalf (Austria) should be greatly impressed. -- David Abel|
|Links||Click here for Jim Bartz' web site|
Bara Basikova (91)
Basikova is the singing seductress of the Czechoslovakian prog band Stromboli. Unfortunately, her self titled solo album is mostly just techno-pop of very little interest.
An Outcast of the Islands (98)
Colin Bass Live At Polskie Radio 3 (99)
Colin Bass Live Vol. 2 - Acoustic Songs (00)
In the Meantime (03)
Colin Bass has for long handled the bottom four strings in Camel. On his solo album An Outcast of the Islands (Kartini Music KART 2) he is backed not only by Camel driver Andrew Latimer and the group's drummer at the time, but also a host of Polish musicians from Abraxas and Quidam, both bands with various amount of debt to the great humpbacked beast. Not surprisingly then the album (inspired partially by the eponymous Joseph Conrad novel, partially by Bass' own experiences as an expatriate Englishman) has lot in common with the orchestrated, folk-flavoured sound of Camel's Harbour of Tears, though Bass' music is generally more straight-forward, more eclectic in its choice of styles and melodically more lavish.
Often he is doing straight-forward, strong songs where his soft, melodious voice and acoustic guitar are fleshed out with heavy keyboard arrangements and progressive-style solos (e.g. the synth and guitar work on "Holding Out My Hand"). He goes for the English folk influence especially on the pretty singalong "Goodbye to Albion", which is decorated with flute, penny whistle and a full chorus; shows a bit of gospel touch on "Reap What You Sew"; and gets even close to MOR on the almost Chris Rea-like "Denpasar Moon" (a re-recording of an Indonesian hit he had under his alias Sabah Habas Mustapha).
This is balanced by instrumental numbers like "Macassar" with its tempo and mood changes and a great melody line developed alternatively by guitar and lead synth in the best Camel style, or the soaring "No Way Back", full of great guitar melodies and nimble piano and Hammond work. Finally, the album contains several moody, quasi-classical pieces played solely by the Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra, creating, along with other reprises of material, a solid hour-along whole. In terms of harmonic and technical complexity, An Outcast of the Islands barely rates as progressive. But as a concept album full of finely-crafted melodies and beautiful symphonic arrangements it's a hard one to top. Camel fans should certainly investigate. -- Kai Karmanheimo
[See Abraxas |
Click here for Colin Bass' web site
Parchesi Pie (78), Painting by Numbers (82)
With accomplices Dave Newhouse (reeds and keys: also in the Muffins), and Glenn Wiser (bass and guitars), percussionist / keyboardist Bass recorded one unrelentingly strange album for the Random Radar label (Cuneiform's predecessor). The music on Parchesi Pie comprises very modern-sounding, through-composed chamber pieces featuring mallet percussion, bass clarinet and piano, silly Bonzo Dog Band-inspired vocal bits, strange spoken word interludes which sound like outtakes from the Firesign Theater, some overtly Zappa-influenced ensemble pieces, some even stranger free-improvised interludes, and some Canterbury-inspired bits. Like everything else on the Random Radar label, Parchesi Pie is a great, challenging listen, hampered only by the rather low-fi recording quality. If you appreciate early Zappa, Henry Cow, the Fugs, or the Bonzos, you really must check out this wonderful release! Whatever happened to this guy? -- Dave Wayne
[See Muffins, The]
Filthy Sky (70)
Cogli il Giorno (78)
Frammenti Tonali (80)
Raccolta Vol. 1 (86)
Raccolta Vol. 2 (90)
Azygos Quartet (93)
Fogli d'Album (02)
|Links||Click here for Luciano Basso's web site|
Sitar Power (86)
Sitar Power #2 (95)
Om Shanti Meditation (??)
Others, see web site
|This guy (from Santa Cruz, CA) produces sort of a synthetic techno-rock using synthesizers and traditional Indian instruments. Interesting for a couple listens, but gets lame and cheesy sounding very quickly.|
|Batish's primary instrument is Sitar. He and his family run a Cassette, Video and CD duplication service in Santa Cruz, CA. So, he's his own recording label, featuring himself and his father with other guest musicians, playing mostly traditional Indian devotional/inspirational music, along the lines of Ravi Shankar. He has also produced a number of "How-to" tapes on playing the Sitar, with names like Introduction to Sitar and Beginning Sitar Exercises. -- Fred Trafton|
|Links||Click here for Batish Recording Enterprises web site|
Sulle Corde Di Aries (73)
Clic (74) M. Elle Le Gladiator (75)
Franco Battiato (aka "Za") (77)
Juke Box (78)
L'Egitto Prima delle Sabbie (78)
L'era del Cinghiale Bianco (79)
La Voce del Padrone (81)
L'arca di Noé (82)
Orizzonti Perduti (83)
Mondi lontanissimi (85)
Giubbe Rosse (89)
Come un Camello In Una Grondaia (91) [This may belong with "Classical" releases]
Caffé de la Paix (93)
Unprotected (94, Compilation)
Lómbrello e la macchina da cucire (95)
Studio Collection (96, Compilation)
La Imboscata (96)
Modern Classical releases:
Franco Battiato is one of the most successful singers in Italy. He began his
career as a "light" singer, recording a few singles. In 1971 he started his
particular journey through experimental music, recording his proggiest
issues: Fetus and Pollution. Lots of keyboards and sounds effects for a
pair of records that complement one another. Some very atmospheric parts and
some very melodic songs make these records worthwhile, along with musical
references to the arabic culture and italian folk that will surface from
time to time in all of his following output. Sulle Corde di Aries is
calmer and more ethereal, and the songs are in a similar vein to
His next records are gradually more and more experimental, exploring minimalism and culminating with Le Egitto prime delle Sabbie, with two long pieces based on hardly one note and its harmonics. Very difficult, I canīt recommend this period to anyone but music scholars or any Stockhausen students. After this, came a great change of direction.
From L'era del Cinghiale Bianco to Mondi Lontanissimi, these are pop-rock records, but very interesting (and even commercially successful) ones. Especially the lyrics, sometimes very deep, sometimes ironic, full of references. He starts singing in many different languages, even within one song. Not prog, or very little prog at best, but interesting.
With Fisiognomica, Battiato started walking towards classical music, using orchestra on some songs and composing a couple of operas. L'Imboscata and Gommalacca are rockier than any of his previous works. The latest has a shy return to prog and experimental, yet for a wide audience. -- Paco Fox
|This is the best progressive soloist in Italy and now is very popular. I recommend Fetus and Pollution.|
Click here for Franco Battiato's official
web site (in Italian)
Click here for a Franco Battiato fan site (also in Italian)
El Sonido (86)
Walkin' Home (95)
Movens in Carmine - Herder (96)
Die Suiten (97, Compilation, Recorded 71-86)
First Recordings 1971-1973 (00, Recorded 71-73)
Live 2001 (02)
|A band consisting of two Germans and two Cambodians, their music is very symphonic in style and heavily influenced by all sorts of South-East Asian forms. Good examples of use of weird, "folksy" instruments on only LP, Suite. -- Stefan E. Stefan|
Click here for Bayon's web site (in German)
For further info, click here or here or here (all in German)
Workers' Playtime (71)
Ex-Blossom Toes in progressive mode.
[See Blossom Toes]
Axe Victim (74), Futurama (75), Sunburst Finish (76), Modern Music (76), Hot Valves (76), Live! In The Air Age (77), Drastic Plastic (78), Singles (81), Raiding The Divine Archives (90)
Art Rock band that featured guitarist extarordinaire Bill Nelson. Good for the uninitiated especially Sunburst Finish in which Nelson explores his version of the future with pop songs with flashy guitar.
The music is not categorized as progressive in the style of Mellotron/keyboard symphonics, but is more within the realm of intelligent rock music comparable in spirit to Peter Hammill's solo material. For those unfamiliar with Be-Bop Deluxe, Modern Music or Sunburst Finish would probably be the best starting points.
Excellant guitar oriented rock with intelligent lyrics and mood shifts ranging from hard-edged to very subtle and passive.
Bill Nelson's mid-70's band, they produced a long string of albums that range from art-rock to mainstream pop, yet always very inventive, intelligent and generally progressive. The best of the bunch are probably Futurama, and Sunburst Finish, which feature plenty of excellent tunes and Nelson's trademark guitar pyrotechnics.
I have only heard their greatest hits album, but from that I would judge that Sunburst Finish is their most progressive album. I like it a lot, but it's more accessible than what I'd normally call progressive.
I have Axe Victim. Early 70s glitter-rock a la Ziggy Stardust-period Bowie with a heavy emphasis on Bill Nelson's flashy guitar style. Not by any means essential from a progressive standpoint, but fans of flashy guitar playing will probably drool all over this. Sunburst Finish and subsequent LPs are probably the most progressive. -- Mike Ohman
[See Astral Navigations | Nelson, Bill]
Bead Game (??), Welcome (68)
Early, heavy prog.
The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music (67)
Ragnarok Electronic Funk (69)
In a Wild Sanctuary (70)
All Good Men (72)
|Proto-Synthesizer music from the late 60s/Early 70's. IMHO pretty boring overall, goes nowhere.|
|Typical of early electronic music, definitely not prog, though of interest for those who want to find the roots of synth music.|
|Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause were American session keyboardists who were experimenting with the Moog synthesizer long before it became fashionable. Ragnarok Electronic Funk and In A Wild Sanctuary are all Moog. I haven't heard either of these. For Gandharva, they try interacting with other musicians, with mixed results. The high point is the B-side, a collaboration with jazz great Gerry Mulligan that was recorded in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco. Lovely, atmospheric music with lots of pipe organ, moog drones and Mulligan's pretty sax playing. The rest of the album ranges from rock jamming to electronic and gospel (!) and sounds about as cohesive as such a combination might suggest. -- Mike Ohman|
|I've heard only All Good Men. The album has two or three very good electronics/synth pieces in the vein of early T-Dream or Klaus Schulze. The rest of the album is very bad pop/rock/synth stuff with no redeeming value that I could hear. The few good songs aren't worth the effort it takes to listen through the bad songs. Don't bother. -- Mike Taylor|
|Mike Ohman's write-up of these recording artists is accurate, but since 1970's In a Wild Sancuary is an album of important though somewhat forgettable music, I felt it should be mentioned. In particular, the cuts "Another Part of Time", "And There Was Morning" and "Salute to the Vanishing Bald Eagle" are excellent late proto. This is a long forgotten bit of Ameriprog that may have influenced even Keith Emerson with its' bold use of Moog at a time when technologic-sounding music hadn't quite hit and the warmer sounds of The Who and Moody Blues tended to prevail. The music certainly is progressive, mixing church music with jazz, rock, electronic, and anchored by a rich-sounding organ, drums-bass combo, fuzzy guitar on top and what must have been some startling early synthesizer experimentation. I can't speak on their other records, but evidently Beaver and Krause were a very promising early art rock outfit that were doing their thing before the genre had developed. -- David Marshall|
The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music was a strange release ... an instructional album
complete with a short "textbook" to help explain how to use the newly-invented Moog
Synthesizer to aspiring musicians who had inadequate technical background to operate the
complex modular machines. In spite of the fact that there was little on the album in the way of
"songs", mostly being explanatory spoken words and examples of sounds, this double LP on the
Nonesuch label was on the Billboard classical charts for six months, and was the
best possible advertisement for Moog Music.
After this, Beaver and Krause began their brief career together as recording artists, pioneering styles that would one day become full-fledged genres of their own, including electronic psychedelic rock. With the inclusion of jazz instrumentalists and classical music, they paved the way for various progressive genres including fusion, symphonic prog and especially ambient music. In a Wild Sanctuary is said to be the first album ever to incorporate recordings of natural and urban sounds into the compositions. Bernie Krause continued in this tradition after the death of Paul Beaver in 1975. He would eventually earn a doctorate in bioacoustics and create a huge library of field recordings of animal habitats, which you can peruse on his web site (link below).
The bulk of Beaver and Krause' work has been recently (May 2006) reissued on CD and is available at the link below. -- Fred Trafton, with thanks to Ron Garmon (link below)
Click here to order Beaver and Krause
CD reissues at CD Universe
Click here for Bernie Krause' Wild Sanctuary web site
Click here for Ron Garmon's blog page containing an excellent overview of Beaver and Krause' works
Forever Blue Sky (90)
Acoustic guitarist in new age vein, with sparing use of other instrumentation. Nice enough, but doesn't really challenge the senses.
Nurse's Song with Elephants (72)
Star's End (74 w/ Mike Oldfield, Chris Cutler)
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (75, w/ Mike Oldfield)
The Snow Goose (75, w/ Camel)
The Odyssey (76, w/ Mike Oldfield)
Instructions For Angels (77, w/ Mike Oldfield, Mike Ratledge)
Star Clusters, Nebulae and Places in Devon/The Song of the White Horse (81)
The Rigel 9 (85)
Great Equatorial (94)
The Wind Music of David Bedford (98, Composer)
David Bedford is an associate (or mentor?) of Mike Oldfield. Actually, some of Oldfield's most interesting and unprecedented playing can be heard on these records. Star's End is a very modern (but not really "avant-garde") classical piece for orchestra (the Royal Philharmonic), guitar (Oldfield) and drumset (Chris Cutler), which I find very rewarding listening. Bedford's writing is uncluttered, and he makes wonderful use of all the varied instrumental textures available to him. I am NOT a classical music expert, but to my untrained brain, Star's End recalls the work of modern composers such as Stravinsky and Varese. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a very different sort of release, with Bedford handling all the instruments (keyboards, percussion, flutes, violin, odd instruments) except guitar (Oldfield again). A narrator (Robert Powell) reads excerpts from the "... prose gloss which Coleridge added to his poem for the 1817 edition." Although the music is pretty "out there," it is more accessible than Star's End and successfully recreates the dark foreboding of the poem, unless you're a Philistine like me and can't banish the vision of Monty Python's John Cleese stomping around shouting "Albatross, get your Albatross here..." A great album which reminds me a tiny bit of Art Zoyd from their less frenetic period. A sea shanty crops up on side two. The Odyessy also has literary and seafaring inspirations, and there are some broad musical similarities to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Again, Bedford plays all instruments except guitar (Oldfield on two cuts, Andy Summers on one cut). Vocals, both choral and solo voices, are more prominent than on Rime..., and here Bedford makes extensive use of analog synthesizers. Overall, The Odyessy is a lighter, somewhat less challenging listen than either of his preceding albums, opting instead for a spacey, romantic, synth-heavy, more conventional progressive sound. Still, a very pleasant release which has some strikingly pleasant moments. -- Dave Wayne
Instructions for Angels is modern classical music, distinguished only by its instrumentation which is mostly analog synthesizers, sometimes blended with real orchestral instruments. Individual tracks are all variations of a theme; nothing too "modern" or complex, but not too exciting either. The title track is a bit different, though, featuring church organ and some great guitar work from Mike Oldfield.
Rigel 9 is a more unique work, based on the story by science fiction/fantasy writer Ursula Le Guin about some astronauts encountering alien beings on the planet Rigel 9. The whole thing is presented almost like a radio play, with the story told through the spoken dialogue running through the album. The music is somewhat subservient, establishing and enhancing the moods rather than leading. It sounds interesting, though, somewhat Philip Glass-ian in style with lots of repetitive motives and melody lines played on celestial synthesizer sounds and augmented by strings and woodwinds; guitar, bass and drums also make brief appearances. There is also a wonderfully otherworldly-sounding choir and the lovely solo soprano voice of Sarah Duthie performing the "alien voices"; their parts contain a few truly beautiful melodies and give the music some opera-like quality. Two brief songs are included, both reminding of some of the lighter tracks on the early albums by Alan Parsons. Quite enchanting an album, really, though may be too thin musically to appeal to most prog fans. -- Kai Karmanheimo
|Links||[See Camel | Oldfield, Mike]|
Bedful Of Metaphysicians (86)
I don't know if this was a real working band or just some one-off project that recorded this independent LP and then disappeared forever. Either way, this is one amazing smorgasbord of musical styles, tongue-in-cheek humor, and excellent musicianship throughout. It's difficult to describe this due to the fact that at any point in time the band could be playing in just about any concievable style filtered through their own demented musical vision. The band is led by Dirt Condominium (Guitars,Bass and Chroma) and Burma Diode (Keyboards), who also share responsibility for most of these compositions; The Dark Bongo plays saxes, Gordon Spiwak handles the drums, percussion and piano, and Michael Garrison on electric guitar and bass. They are augmented by various vocalists on different tracks, which together with the diversity of styles, almost gives it a feeling like it's 8 tracks recorded by 8 different artists! All in all a very interesting album, not your standard progressive fare by any means.
Act One (70)
Waters of Change (71)
Get Your Dog Off Me (73)
Beggars Can't Be Choosers (79)
Final Curtain (96)
|Scottish band who are very much in the early seventies British style, i.e. East of Eden, Cressida, Spring etc. One of their albums features a cover of the "hit" "Macarthur Park." Lots of Mellotron for those of us that can't get enough.|
|A worthwile band from the early seventies with lots of Mellotron and Hammond organ. In places, it is fairly dated with song titles like "Time Machine" and song lyrics like "People of the land, join together hand in hand." Still enjoyable, though.|
|I have two of their albums, Waters of Change and Pathfinder. Waters is the one that introduced Mellotron-player Virginia Scott to the band, and is probably their best. It sounds not unlike Cressida or Jethro Tull, but unlike them, dripping Mellotron from every pore. Best songs: "Silver Peacock" and "Festival." Scott temporarily left the band for Pathfinder, a much more heavy rock orientated album. Some songs, like "Madame Doubtfire" and "The Witch," even have vaguely satanic lyrics! Especially the former, which ends with a nightmarish whirlpool of evil sound-effects and screaming. There's also some lighter moments, like the harpsichord heavy version of Richard Harris' (!) "McArthur Park." The best track is "From Shark To Haggis," which starts out dark and ominous, then transforms itself halfway into a wild Scottish jig. The Jethro Tull parallel holds here as well. Get Your Dog Off Me! reintroduces Mellotron to the band, and adds Moog synth to boot. Haven't heard this, or the subsequent albums (Lifeline, Beggars Can't Be Choosers, Sagittary) for which Scott rejoined. -- Mike Ohman|
|Beggar's Opera were a Scottish band from the early days of progressive rock, and a mainstay on the seminal Vertigo label. The bands first three albums are readily available on CD, and each one is fairly different sounding than the one preceeding it. Act One, the bands debut, is a hard rocking opus that seems to pay homage to Deep Purple. Between the blistering guitar/organ interplay to the long lengths of a few of the songs, one can almost imagine that this album was a long lost recording of either Mach I or Mach II Deep Purple. Tracks like "Raymonds Road" and "Poet and Peasant" contain guitar and organ jams that are strikingly similar to what Blackmore and Lord were doing at the time, while one of the CD's bonus tracks "Think" is more in the vien of Iron Butterfly, with its dated, hippy style vocals and upfront organ. Overall Act One was a very strong release, but the band came up with a new sound on Waters of Change. The introduction of the Mellotron brought in a more progressive flavor to this release, and the songs took on a more King Crimson based sound. The combination of long suites and shorter songs still remained, but there was more of an emphasis on atmosphere and intricate arrangements. Standout songs such as "Time Machine", "Nimbus" and "Silver Peacock" are all drenched with Mellotron, Organ, strong guitar work, and haunting vocals. On Pathfinder, the band laid back on the Mellotron and cranked up the volume again, similar to bands like Cressida or Raw Material. While there are some good songs here, such as "MacArthur's Park" and "Madame Doubtfire", the album is not as compelling as the previous two releases. A fourth album, Get Your Dog Off Me, reportedly returns to the Mellotron heavy style of Waters of Change, but still remains unreleased on CD. -- Peter Pardo|
Act One (70): Not every progressive band, even those who finally were
crowned as the kings of prog, dared to start with complex arrangements
of classical composers. Beggars Opera were bold enough to do so. Their
rock interpretations of "Poet And Peasant" and "Light Cavalry" by
Franz von Suppé, as well as "Raymonds Road" (which mistakenly credited
as written entirely by Beggars Opera, but in fact is an arrangement
of Mozart's "Turkish March") deserve to stand side by side with
Pictures at an Exhibition (by ELP) and
of the Hungarian Rhapsodies by Franz Liszt. They run ahead of their
time: please note, Pictures ... had been released two years and
Lisztomania even five years later ... Of course, Ars Longa Vita
Brevis (The Nice) appeared before, but
Act One is a masterpiece of prog without a doubt. No question, this
album is the best starter. Reissued on CD in 1997 by the German
Final Curtain contains last available tracks featuring three of the members of the band from the earlier (read "great") years: Linnie Patterson (voc), Gordon Sellar (bass, voc), Alan Park (keys). Some of the tracks were recorded in 1980 and the remainder in the late 80's when Linnie untimely died and Gordon took over on vocals.
Tip: When you search for this band on the Net, enter both "Beggar's Opera" and "Beggars Opera." After all, the apostrophe dropped out from their name on the later releases. -- Eugene Poliakov
Artificial Horizons (74)
Artificial Horizons was pressed and released by the Horizon label based in Sandy
Springs, Georgia. From what I can garner this is Mr. Behren's sole recorded work. An
extremely rare LP, the album may be found from time-to-time in second hand shops and
small independent record stores on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. It's a
remarkable disc before it even hits the turntable with a black and white mandala-styled
sleeve that appears to have been generated by a good old dinosaur of a computer. On it
you can read the slogan, "This music is the vessel in which you will travel to galaxies
unknown," as well as other rather strange phrases. The sounds on Artificial Horizons
also explore a certain window in time: a methodology of musical imagination that combines
technical knowledge and experimentation as well as the occasional whimsy. The record is
a smorgasbord of studio exercises from long wave phase-shift work to
Tangerine Dream-like sequences to delicate acoustic pieces
to jarring electronic tone generator sweeps. Tom's work here could be considered
"progressive" in that many of the electronic techniques seem to be way ahead of their time;
very expertly wrought. The moody atmospheric work of "Edsel's Lament" the final song on
the album, featuring a unique guitar sound because it's not a guitar but a dulcimer, would
definitely lend itself towards such categorization. This record has a very playful quality
at times like with "Whistlie", which features some random electronic blips and bleeps as
well as somebody (you guessed it) whistling. Other intermittent background voices creep up
here and there throughout the disc - perhaps this is whoever was in the studio with at the
Artificial Horizons on the whole seems like two complete works (side one and side two) because the songs flow into each other in a manner that makes it difficult to differentiate between individual songs, lending a wonderful sense of continuity to the music. One of the most powerful sections on this record occurs on the second side as the mysterious and atmospheric "Scene at Forty Five", with its almost gamelan-like instrumentations, smoothly segues into the majestic and somewhat menacing "Phase Interpretation". Tom Behrens's Artificial Horizons is an interesting and varied series of pieces that seems wander from some forgotten idyllic limbo and delightfully so! I heartily recommend this record ... if you can find it. -- Steve Fitzpatrick
Beia Come Aba (79)
A very non commercial jazz-rock band.
Being and Time (09)
Being & Time - Fuyuhiko Tani (guitar, guitar synth, keyboards) and Hiroshi Tsukagoshi (bass)
Being & Time is a Japanese duet consisting of Fuyuhiko Tani playing guitar, guitar synths and keyboards, and Hiroshi Tsukagoshi on bass guitar. Tani is also a Ph.D. psychologist and associate professor at Kobe University, while Tsukagoshi is an M.D. anaesthesiologist. But if that makes you think that Being and Time might be new-agey relaxation music or something, don't give it a second thought. This is fusion, very much along the lines of Bruford or the first UK album, both of whom are acknowleged as influences by the band.
Perhaps the oddest thing about the band is, despite sounding like two bands for whom Bill Bruford was the drummer, this band has no drummer. That's not to say there's no drums, but these appear to be programmed drums, though whether on a fancy drum machine or using a computer is unknown. But I must say they're some of the best programmed drums I've ever heard, and if I hadn't seen their YouTube videos of just the two of them performing, I'm not sure I would have realized this wasn't a band with a real (and real good) drummer. While this renders their live performances (which I've only seen on YouTube) a bit on the flat side, it doesn't detract from the quality of their debut CD in the least. In fact, the CD is an album of excellent instrumental fusion, and deserves the attention of anyone who likes Bruford, UK or Allan Holdsworth. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Being & Time's
web site (in English and Japanese)
Click here for Being & Time's MySpace page, which also contains several embedded YouTube videos
Tastare-The Oldwonnes (92, recorded í77)
Begnagrad (82, rereleased as Konzert For A Broken Dance, 90)
|Interesting RIO-ish outfit with ties to Nimal and Debile Menthol.|
Tastare was recorded in 1977, but not released until 1992. It embraces
bandís first period, 1976-78. Thus Begnagrad can be perceived as RIO band of
the first generation. The most known of is bandís leader Bratko Bibic
(pronounced like Bibitsch or be-beech), also known for being former member
of RIO supergroup Nimal. He has also participated in Lars Hollmerís
Accordion Tribe and has one solo album (see elsewhere). Instrumentation also
includes clarinet, bass and drums. The music on Tastare may not be RIO in
the strict sense, but stands firmly on itís own as for example first two
albums of Samla (eponimous and Maltid). One can find it more accessible than
"usual" RIO stuff (H. Cow, U. Zero. etc.), but may find some crash and bang,
too. It features 13 tracks, is very eclectic yet itís great. The closest
comparison (here just as comparison for the sake of comparison, not
necessarily appropriate) would be Stormy Six circa Biglietto Del Tram or
Cliche, due to strong ethno/folk presences, though here weíre not talking
about Napolitan or other ethnic music from Italy, but, of course, Slavic
one. On this album I heard for the first time successful combination of
jazz, rock and Alpine jump-dances (read polka, etc.) in the track
"Kranjskagorabluesnazaj". (Perhaps germanophonic listeners will know what I
am writing about). Some tracks have also medieval/baroque pedigree.
Overall effect is thus somewhat gloomy, but definitely unique. Playing is
alternating between totally written and improvised, sometimes all musicians
in different directions, sometimes unison. When one talks about medieval
aspect in Begnagradís music, one must say that also the moniquer stands for
that. Begnagrad read separately "beg na grad" means "escape on/in/to the
castle" and is reminiscent of times when Turkish armies had been making
theirs "merciless sweeps across Central Europe". Thus poor peasantry ran
onto the castle (if their feudal lord let them in, else...) or the special
highly fenced churches on the hills. Cut back to description of album: the
music on Tastare is HIM (highly intricate music) of illuminative nature.
On the Konzert for a Broken Dance, originally entitled Begnagrad, things changed a bit. Everything is closer to a basic RIO sound, is much more complex and harder to get into than bandís 70ís works. Itís interesting how originally classic RIO bands started and then slowly moved to more definite (but still not that much definite) sound which Chris Cutler defined together with H. Cow as a basic RIO sound, and actually all of them converged in it. This is characteristic of all 70ís RIO or pre-RIO bands including Samla, U. Zero, Stormy Six, Begnagrad, etc. Music on Konzert has stressed ethnic component, some alpine touches are again present, but medieval elements have all gone. Instead there is a differently darkened quality present in some tracks, for example on "Waltz" (="Cosa Nostra"), and again diverse influences from jazz, rock, ethnic pop from various parts of late Yugoslavia and beyond, hardcore, etc., which define the "Broken Dance" as a kinda concept of the album. The musicianship is widened with violin, and for this occasion Mr. Bibic played also melodica and Faninger piano; Mr. Pecnikar besides clarinet ocarina and whistling. Mr. De Gleria (known from Nimal, too) double and electric bass. Violinist also played drums plus there was percussionist which played electric and acoustic guitars. Guitars were not characteristic for the 70ís line-up (thus showing even more opposed musical statements than in second incarnation). "Thelastnewone" ("Tazadnatanova") is definitely predecessing Nimal in a way, showing similar fusion craziness and tight playing. On "Knecht-ska" (="Narodna/Kmetska"; real translation would be Popular/Peasantís song) can be heard staccato attack, which would make blush all punk/hard core bands of that time and plenty black/death metal bands of today. Overall, this is again one of those truly essential listenings, which certainly do take time to get into, but is payed with high interest rate.
Both albums are highly recommended! Konzert is now sadly out of print, and as much as I know, Tastare are available mainly in Slovenia. -- Nenad Kobal
|Links||[See Bibic, Bratko | Debile Menthol | Nimal]|
Welcome Home (86), The Sleeping Beauty (87)
Super boring neo-prog band that sound like Camel on a synth programmer. Well, I guess if you like (etc. etc.)
This german band released one album in the mid 80's on the "music is intel- ligence" label. Their style sounds like a poppy Camel with lots of keyboards but lacks the depth and intensity of that band. The exception to this is the sidelong title track The Sleeping Beauty, which is really quite nice.
Guitar wizard from the Covington, KY/Cincinnati area. He probably has the most impressive resume of any living guitar player, having performed and/or recorded with the likes of Frank Zappa, Talking Heads, David Bowie, Laurie Anderson (among others), and having been a member of the 80's version of King Crimson. He also teamed up the regional band The Raisins (now known as psychodots, with a lower-case p) for two albums under the name The Bears. This band produced some very sophisticated and witty pop music that has an early Beatles feel to it -- what the Fab Four might have done had they been starting out in the mid-80's and had they been better musicians. I prefer their first, self-titled album, but the second, Rise and Shine, is worthwhile. Belew's guitar wails. It screeches and careens all over the place. Listening to this man is exhilarating. He makes liberal use of electronics, but unlike most players, he doesn't use them just for the sake of trying to sound different -- or worse, to hide his own musical deficiencies. Belew's electronic effects always enhance the music quite nicely, and even without them, the music would still be amazing stuff. His songwriting usually shows a fair amount of wit and humor, but he can get a bit tiresome when he's concerned with putting across a "serious message." My recommendations would be Lone Rhino and Young Lions. (The latter contains the delightful "I Am What I Am," which takes a radio broadcast of a dude named The Prophet Omega and puts music behind it. Belew played this piece on his last tour, with Omega's part recorded. It was the only time I've been at an ear-splitting concert and wished they would turn it up louder.) Desire Caught By The Tail is an instrumental album, probably of greatest interest to guitar players.
[See Anderson, Laurie |
Fission Trip |
Fleck, Bela and the Flecktones |
King Crimson |
Click here for Adrian Belew's web site
The New Spirit Of Christmas (88)
[See Kindler, Steve and Teja Bell | Rising Sun]
Bella Band (78)
Good Italian fusion band that were on the Cramps label. Recommended to Arti E Mestieri fans.
Very good fusiony Italian one-shot. Not on CD yet, but the LP is well worth owing. True progressive in the best sense, derivative of no one, complex music, great feel. Highly recommended. -- Mike Borella
Metropolitain (75), Sea Fluorescent (76)
Ex-Heldon, but his music more comparable to Crosby Stills Nash and Young. Second album has some jazz-rock with guest Jerry Goodman of Mahavishnu Orchestra and the Flock fame.
Bellaphon (83, Demo Cassette)
Bellaphon II (84, Demo Cassette)
Labyrinth (85, Single)
|In 1998, Yozox Yamamoto and Masahiro Torigaki of Ain Soph joined Taiqui Tomiie and Mitsutaka Kaki to reform the disbanded Bellaphon.|
|All instrumental band from Japan. Their music is as beautiful as it is melodic. Heavily influenced by bands such as Camel and Sebastian Hardie, their single effort to date, entitled Firefly is a bonafide classic.|
|A lot like Edhels or Minimum Vital with their sound, but more like Camel in their apporoach, Bellaphon's Firefly is one of the better Japanese albums available and is a good start for those starting to get into the symphonic world. Some nice jams also mark this solid release.|
|Japan's answer to Finch, They only had one album so far as I know (Firefly), and it's not been released on CD yet. Quite Impressive with a strong fusion influence and powerful melodics a la Camel. Instrumental. Find it if you can.|
[See Ain Soph [Japan]]
Click here for Bellaphon's home page (in English)
A collector's item in prog circles with a taste for Vertigo material, though I find it of small interest.
Jazz-prog. Supposedly the rarest Vertigo swirl album.
I've seen this recommended to Triggering Myth fans, so perhaps Happy the Man fans will enjoy?
Près de Paris (75), 2 (7?), Musiques (78), Solilaï (81), Compilation (8?, Musiques/Solilaï), Early Pierre (8?), Spices (88)
Top-notch jazz-folk guitarist/singer whose distinctively non-wimpy music was erroneously and unfairly lumped in the "New Age" category. Although not really a "progressive rock" musician (...mainly because of the "rock" part of the phrase), many of his records feature Gong reedman Dider Malherbe. Musiques is solo guitar, while Malherbe (and one or two others) accompany on both Solilaï and Spices. All of Bensusan's records are sublime! -- Dave Wayne
Falling Back To Where I Began (05)
Selfishness : Source of War & Violence (08)
Tell Fred to fix this
Images from Earth (98)
|Berkley is a self-described composer of "dramatic world ambient music". His albums are usually categorized as neo-classical or new age, but may be of interest to prog folks.|
|Links||Click here for access to Numinous Records for bio on Berkley and ordering info for his albums.|
Il Berlione (92), In 453 minutes Infernal Cooking (94)
This Japanese quintet features guitar, bass, saxes, keys and drums. Their sound could best be described as a Canterbury / RIO influenced rock with a healthy dose of mid-period King Crimson. There are strong jazz elements, comparable to the Hopper/Dean period of Soft Machine, and the angularity of Univers Zero. Excellent new music from Japan. Highly recommended.
It's fairly well-known that first impressions in progressive rock aren't necessarily the deciding factor in one's opinion of a band. Many bands I've grown to love didn't strike me as anything special the first time I heard them (e.g., Gentle Giant, Djam Karet...). I ordered Il Berlione based on some of the raves I've read about them. And, after about 25 minutes of listening to this album I had to turn it off, I thought any more would make me sick to my stomach. It wasn't the right time or place to give it a fair listen. So, that night I put it on again and after only about 20 minutes I was sound asleep, only to wake up in the middle of the night with my headphones still on. So, first impressions were not so hot.... Third time's the charm. Progressive rock is a strange label for this band, but I can see why it *may* apply. Il Berlione sounds to me like a mix of Hatfield and The North, National Health, and Earthworks but with more complexity than any of those bands. Their style ranges from very jazzy to fusion to flat-out rock in places. However, nothing I have ever heard sounds quite like Il Berlione. No vocals here, all instrumental. This young Japanese band uses a 5-pc lineup of drums, bass, keys, tenor sax, and guitar as the core lineup for most of the songs. First off, the drummer is absolutely stunning, and incredibly tasteful. This is the best drumming I've heard in fusion-style prog, bar none. In fact, everybody in this band is completely skilled at their particular instruments, and I suppose that is essential if you are going to make music this complex and be able to pull it off so tightly. The complexity of the music is what initially turned me off, but eventually won me over when I could figure out what was happening thematically and structurally. Il Berlione often uses a lot of atonal and modal motifs which is not surprising in fusion, but they do it in a unique way, unlike anything I've ever heard, as I've said. The best moment on the album, in my opinion, is about the last half of it. Track #9, "Make You Die, Your Brain" (I gotta laugh at how far off this translation must be) is a spirited Crimson-esque riff-based guitar rocker with a patterend bass line reminding me of Djam Karet a little bit. Then at the end, when the theme reappears, the tempo lurches into another gear and off they go....Reminds me of the sax explosion on Crimson's tune "Starless" from Red. This track is followed by the passionate "Memories in the Rain" which is the simplest song on the album in the sense that it is based on a cyclic chord progression in the organ line, with a swing-based drum beat. The sax solos for a while, all the while building dynamically. The phrasing is brilliant here. Then towards the end the blistering guitar solo takes off. This is the definitive solo on the album, very inspired and this kid has got incredible chops (I say kid because he looks like he's 14 years old, honestly). This gives me goose bumps every time I hear it. Many obscure prog bands have small budgets, and consequently they don't always get the production/mix they deserve, but Il Berlione is about as textbook perfect as you can get in this area. The engineers did a fantastic, no rather FLAWLESS, job. Very rich, clean, and balanced. So what is "bad" about this album? Well, not much, really. If I had to pick one thing, it would be that the tenor sax is raw and overbearing at moments. Saxophones, in general, have poor tone, imho. There are plenty of moments where there is no sax at all on this album, and others where it sounds great (e.g., "Memories in the Rain") but in certain places, it's just too much for me. So, if you like fusion-based prog rock a la the Canterbury bands, Il Berlione adds in a dose of highly original style and puts it all together on this very *remarkable* album.
Il Berlione is a new Japanese band whose 1992 eponymous release is one of the best releases of that year. The band's inspiration seems to come from many sources, including RIO bands such as Henry Cow, the jazzy Canterbury scene, King Crimson as well as traditional Japanese music. Clearly a diversity of styles. Because of this, the music heard on their first album is rather hard to put into words. The musicianship of band members is simply superb and they are fully capable of playing across a wide range of complex styles and angular melodies without sounding lost or confused. Il Berlione moves across this diversity of styles with rapid ease in a very fluid manner. Though all the musicians are very accomplished, special mention should be made of guitarist Naoya Idonuma. Actually, all are worthy of special mention including drummer Masahiro Kawamura. But back to Idonuma: the guy scorches in fusionesque blazes through "Lama" and "Make You Die, Your Brain" (I'm sure something is lost in the translation but it sounds cool as hell) yet he can be quiet and subdued when the music warrants. In a word, he's tasteful. Incidentally, Idonuma plays a wide variety of styles but the influence that comes across the most in his playing is that of Robert Fripp and King Crimson. It is from him that most of the King Crimson comparisons in this review are derived. However, songs like the opening "A Triple Role" have parts that would have fit onto Crimson's Three of a Perfect Pair and would have vastly improved that album. Other sections of the same song though call to mind the angular, modal melodies of Univers Zero or Henry Cow, while another one of Idonuma's solos comes across as a fusionesque Phil Miller from National Health. All this in the opening track. In addition to the usual instrumentation, sax is very prevalent as well as occasional traditional Japanese instruments, which when present give the song an extra dimension, further enhancing the band's appeal. This review does not adequately describe Il Berlione's very impressive first album but I do hope it intrigues you enough to check it out. It will be well worth your time. Highly recommended.
This Japanese group offers a very active instrumental music built around the guitar, saxophone, keyboards, bass and drums. It also includes the use of percussions and traditional instruments. However, the distinct characteristic of this music is its explosive energy and its very high intensity. The tracks in Il Berlione are often based on rhythmic patterns and commonly lead to guitar and sax improvisations that flirt with dissonance. The style owes as much to jazz as it does to rock. In fact, the only rock elements present here could be the electricity and the blistering guitar work. A release that deserves a warning to those who prefer relaxation to peak hour traffic in Tokyo. For In 453 Minutes Infernal Cooking, these five Japanese guys are back with their guitar, saxophone, keyboards, bass and drums. While the use of other instruments has been reduced, the music retains its jazz influences where guitar and sax improvisations are common. The band still shows a high level of energy but the raging intensity now makes room for a bit more conventional melodic work. The style is also closer to a conventional jazz-rock fusion. The rhythmic components remain important but themes are now more often based on melody. Easier to listen to than the first one, this disc offers strong performances that should please jazz-rock fans. -- Paul Charbonneau
Reise Zu Den Sternen (79), Hundertausend Urgewalten (82), Rocker Von Der Küste (84)
"Audion" sez Reise is space-rock concept album inspired by Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, but later albums regular hard rock.
And the Waters Opened (73)
Hesse Between Music (75)
Stille über der Zeit / Silence Beyond Time (80)
|German ultra-low key space rock band that was led by Peter Michael Hamel and Roberto Detree (ex-of Embryo). They have six or seven albums, the best of which are their ethnic influenced first Einsteig and the spiritually influenced Dharana, with its sidelong masterpiece. Most of the later stuff is quiet stuff that goes nowhere, unless you're having trouble getting to sleep.|
|An interesting international group comprising hand percussion (tablas and congas), acoustic and electric guitars (Roberto Detree), oboe, and keyboards (Peter Michael Hamel), with guest musicians on bass, vibes (Tom van der Geld) and other reeds. The major musical parallels here are largely acoustic, ethnic-influenced "fusion" groups such as the Paul Winter Consort and Oregon, and Contemplation would not sound out of place in the ECM catalog. This is not sentimental, vapid "new age" noodling, and if you listen patiently, the music gently unfolds to yield great rewards. -- Dave Wayne|
|Ethnic-orientated, multi-national space-music group led by keyboardist Peter Michael Hamel. Fans of Popol Vuh ought to like this. -- Mike Ohman|
|Links||[See Embryo | Hamel, Peter | Sameti]|
Miasma (87), Inner Marshland (87), Bevis Through the Looking Glass (87), Triptych (88), Autie Winnie Album (88), Any Gas Faster (90), Bevis and Twink (90), New River Head (91), Gathering of Fronds (92), London Stone (93), It Just Is (93, Sprawl (94), Superseeder (95), Son of Walter (96)
Bevis Frond is really Nick Solomon. He is from London, England and got his start have being awarded some money after an accident. He used the money to buy some home recording equipment and other stuff (the story was in Musician, but I threw it away so the details are not very precise). It would be easy to say that Bevis Frond is a Jimi Hendrix sound alike, but while it is his heavy influence of Hendrix is obvious, he is more jam and psychedelic orientated than Hendrix was (which is kind of hard to believe when I think about it.) I don't rank him as good as Jimi in skill, but something about is approach I find quite lovable. His style has remained quite steady of the last 6 years but he his song writing is becoming for concise. This may or may not be a blessing, depending on your point of view. The first LPs came out in 1988 on Reckless records, and were recorded on home equipment. Nick Solomon is the only player on all the tracks except for some bonus tracks on the CDs from the vinyl only Acid Jam which was Nick Solomon live with a real band! Starting with Any Gas Faster the sound quality is, overall, improved.
Bevis Frond is the solo vehicle for guitarist Nick Saloman. New River Head, the only album I have by the Frond, is heavy, Hendrix-inspired pyschedelic rock. The singing characterized by a droll British accent (a bit like Elvis Costello, actually, despite the accent) but that's not why you'd want to check out this band - the heavy guitar work would be the reason to give Bevis Frond a listen. The songs are typically in the 3-5 minute range and usually feature molten Hendrixesque leads. Saloman is a bit of a multi-instrumentalist, however, so some songs feature acoustic guitar, piano, and recorder while other musicians contribute violin or sax. This adds some diversity and a break from the heaviness. For example, one song sounds reminiscent of a traditional Irish folksong with violin providing the melody. New River Head is a double album and can be a bit much to take in one sitting, at least for me. If you like the idea of what I described above, you may find it worth your while.
[See Hawkwind | Magic Muscle]
The Interstellar Suite (87)
To my knowledge, Amin Bhatia has recorded only one album, entitled The Interstellar Suite. The album can best be described as symphonic electronic progressive music. It's all keyboard work, but done in an EXTREMELY symphonic way. Basically, the album is a 42-minute spacewalk. It sounds generally like the soundtrack to the "science fiction/space movie of your choice." It has a very general sound to it, as the name implies. It takes you through the various stages of space travel from the perspective of some unknown, indeterminate Voyage Team. It starts off with an overture, and then several various themes with varying degrees of intensity and dramatics. It then finishes off with some diminutive of the opening number. What happens in the middle is basically "The Launch," "The Battle" and a general victory for the winners. Pay close attention, assuming that you find this album (It can go in the "very very rare" category), to the number entitled "The Battle"; there's a very Griegian sound to it, reminiscient of "In The Hall of the Mountain King" in all of its bombast. Another atmospheric winner is "Walking In Space." It's extremely spacy and celestial, and really gives you the feeling that you're floating in space. Lie down and turn off the lights during this one. Yet another number containing one of the "original" themes is "The Ship". It follows "Overture" in opening the album, so it's the second theme that repeats. In "The Ship" you'll hear a very tranquil, almost romantic rhapsody which is supposed to give some musical interpretation of the story of the ship, I am guessing. It doesn't seem to do this altogether well, but it is an absolutely beautiful piece nonetheless. Other songs on the album are simply rearranged versions of the previously mentioned ones. I'd give this all-instrumental album an 88/100, and I'd change that to about a 94/100, if I were a fan of Star Trek music.
Alas, the main setback of this album is that it is so hard to come by. It was released on Capitol's subdivision Cinema Records. Well, Cinema Records made a lot of hype for themselves back in the period '86-'88, but nothing ever came about from it outside of what they already had worked out. A Patrick Moraz solo electronic album (which was excellent in my opinion), a Pete Bardens (Camel) solo album (which wasn't good in my opinion), Michael Hoenig, and this one here. That's basically all this label ever put out. Too bad, too, because they had some good picks to start with. Now that the label is defunct, none of these albums can be found anywhere anymore. But if you like the dramaticism of Star Trek / Sci-Fi music, start searching for Amin Bhatia's The Interstellar Suite. It is definitely worth it. -- David Barro
Until Bob Moog's birthday of 2008 (May 23rd), Interstellar Suite was indeed the only
release by Amin Bhatia. But on that date, Bhatia released Virtuality, which is both
an album in its own right and also a historical document which demonstrates the development of
synthesizer technology since the 1960's. Bob Moog was involved in the production of Virtuality
until his passing in 2005. The album is dedicated to him for his vision and support, and a portion of every
album sale goes to the Bob Moog Foundation.
The CD is split into sort of a "Side One" and "Side Two" as if it was an LP from days of yore (no, not a literal 2-sided CD, just conceptually). "Side One" is "Virtuality, A Journey Inside Your Computer", which is a suite of short, mostly melodic electronic pieces that flow together into a unified whole. Supposedly the concept is trying to give an audio representation of what it might be like to be a sentient data stream exploring the insides of a computer. It's certainly well put together and impeccably recorded with some of the most amazingly realistic synthesizer work I've ever heard. But musically it's a bit bland, what I might call sophisticated new-age music. It's not bad at all, but I surely wouldn't call it "prog".
But the centerpiece of the album is "Side Two", a 15-minute version of Ravel's "Bolero" realized completely on synthesizers. Bhatia re-titles his version as "Bolero Electronica - 75 Years of Synthesizers in Chronological Order". I'll admit I've always beeen a sucker for this piece, first in its orchestra version, and then on the 1973 synthesizer album Everything You Always Wanted to Hear on the Moog But Were Afraid to Ask For by Kazdin and Shepard (which Bhatia tells me through his management that he owns "and has pretty much wore it out"). Bhatia's version is actually pretty cool, as it progresses through a history of synthesizers and related electronic instruments. I'm probably biased due to my previous interest in this piece and the synth history aspects of it, but I find this to be well done and worth the price of admission by itself. There's a condensed 7-minute version also for those with a shorter attention span. Some sections were played by Patrick Moraz and Steve Porcaro (Toto). But let's face it, who can tell?
Bottom line: Tomita or Wendy Carlos this isn't. It's too slick and polished and ... well ... unobtrusive. But it's not bad and has some quite good moments, particularly in the less melodic and the few raucus parts of "Virtuality" and both the really electronic-sounding parts and the full orchestra parts of "Bolero". Definitely worth a listen, especially for electronic music fans. -- Fred Trafton
[See Moraz, Patrick]
Click here for Amin Bhatia's web site