Bi Kyo Ran (82)
Fairy Tale (87, Live from 78/79 concerts)
Who-Ma (88, Live from 1983)
Ran (93, Live from 1983)
Madorami (94, Live from 1977)
Deep Live (95)
Kyobo na Ongaku (98, a.k.a. A Violent Music)
|This band was a dead ringer for King Crimson in the Red period, they had every aspect of Crimson down cold, in fact on the first album you'd swear you're listening to Fripp and company until the guy starts singing in Japanese. The second album, titled Parallax is a little more original and mostly instrumental. There are also two live albums that pre-date the first album: these sound so much like Crimson it's scary!|
|Bi Kyo Ran are usually compared to Red-era King Crimson. While the guitarist, Kunio Suma, does a fine Fripp imitation, the rest of band fails to fully deliver the Crimson atmosphere. There are some aspects of the band that give them their own signature sound, including acoustic songs and Japanese vocals, with harmony! On Parallax, their second album, the rhythm section has improved (still mostly the same members) and the Red atmosphere they create is closer to the original thing. The band, however, still doesn't quite come across as a Crimson clone, as they retain enough individuality to give them a unique appeal. Featured on Parallax is the 21 minute "Suite Ran," which covers some blazing, Crimson-like passages to more pastoral settings. The closing section of the suite, "Crimson Children," has some gorgeous Mellotron and guitar. When Crimson is invoked, it's not only Red but I was also reminded of In the Court of the Crimson King in a few places.|
|Bi Kyo Ran are a Japanese band whose music is very much in the area of King Crimson, circa Red. The guitarist does a mean, virtuosic, electric-Fripp imitation, with another gent contributing the Belew-influenced vocals. Despite the obvious imitations, the music is very well executed and stands on its own. Some of the pieces are reminiscent of the Mellotron-backed Crimson of their earlier period, to complete the picture. Additionally, a violinist is also featured, who does the David Cross bit by interjecting screaming violin solos into some of the passages. All in all, Parallax is a fine piece of progressive rock, which should definitely appeal to those who enjoyed mid-period Crimson.|
|I'm not a big Crimson fan. Hell, I'm not even a small Crimson fan! You know, everybody has that one band that everyone else likes but they can't seem to click with. King Crimson is that band for me. I've been listening to them for many years and I still think they're a bit *ahem* overrated... So here comes Bi Kyo Ran from Japan. Described by an astute listener as sounding more like King Crimson than King Crimson, this three piece emulates KC so well that...you guessed it! I think they're overrated too! While not lacking talent, Bi Kyo Ran tends to meander a bit too much. I like chaotic music, but these guys are slow, slow, slow, when they should be fast, fast, fast. The band could use a shot of musical ex-lax to get things going. Vocals are in Japanese, but that's not a detraction at all. If they didn't sound to damn much like outakes of Red and Larks Tongue, I probably wouldn't be as harsh. At least KC had soul and creativity as well as knockout musicianship. Bi Kyo Ran fails in the first two but makes a noble attempt to compensate for it with the third. Now that I think about it, the ex-lax analogy pretty much sums up how Parallax sounds: constipated.|
Some Bi Kyo Ran albums are available from
Others may be ordered from The Laser's Edge
The Madleys of Bridko Bebic (96)
|Solo album of Begnagrad accordionist and leader, was in Nimal, one of the RIO legends. On this album [Madleys] he further develops RIO weirdness and also continues where Nimal have finished, most notably on the track "Fragile part 3 and 4". He is helped by old Begnagrad mate Bogo Pecnikar (clarinet, baritone sax), Shirley Hoffman Wolz on suzaphone, euphonium tubas, there’s a violin, viola player, too. Marcel Momo Rossell has produced the effort. Music is very weird esp. because of Bratko’s way of singing (actually kinda gulping, gurgling, dog like breathing, everything in a melodious way). He’s experimenting with deconstructions, reconstruction, half constructions, etc. There’s again plenty of different sources, omnipresent ethnic (slavic, gypsy, etc.) tendencies, contemporary music, cabaret and even circus kind of weirdness. Feeling is more differently sombre or perhaps unusually laid back, stoned to middle degree, if you want. Demands even more time than Nimal or Begnagrad to get into. But when you get into ... it’s hard to get out. Recommended! -- Nenad Kobal|
[See Begnagrad |
L'Ensemble Raye |
Life Line (86)
Cloud Chorus (87)
US Guitarist that produced two albums in the mid-80's: Life Line and Cloud Chorus. Both are relatively low key projects featuring acoustic and processed electric, with guest musicians on other instruments. Very nice, very spacey, but the second one tends to get a little new-agey. Still not bad, tho.
Michael Bierylo was originally from Detroit, but got his formal music education at Boston's Berklee College Of Music. He recorded two nationally distributed solo recordings, Lifeline and Cloud Chorus. He worked with two bands, Ibrahima's World Beat and Packing For Egypt before replacing founding member Martin Swope in Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic in 1991. Bierylo is currently an Associate Professor of Music Synthesis at Berklee College of Music and lives in Brighton, Massachusetts. -- Fred Trafton (paraphrased from his bio on the Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic web site)
[See Birdsongs of the Mesozoic]
Terminal Velocity (83), Astropop (83)
Okay, so they have a stupid name! BAS had one album titled Terminal Velocity in 1983, and there is as the 3 song EP from it titled Astropop. Their sound combines some elements of Camel, Floyd, and others. Lots of keyboards, guitars and sax over a hard driving rhythm section, with very stylized vocals, sort of a Bowie meets Jim Morrison meets Roger Waters.
From the River to the Sea (92, Demos on self-released CD)
The Infant Hercules (93, Demo, Cassette)
Goodbye to the Age of Steam (94)
English Boy Wonders (97)
Gathering Speed (04)
The Difference Machine (07)
English Boy Wonders - Remade and Remastered (08)
The Underfall Yard (09)
Far Skies Deep Time (10, EP)
Big Big Train (1999) - Pete Hibbit (drums), Greg Spawton (guitar), Martin Read (vocals),
Tony Müller (keyboards) and Andy Poole (bass)
Original Entry, 6/20/02:
On my first listen to Bard, I honestly thought that the band had made a mistake in sending their CD for review in the GEPR. "These guys aren't progressive", I thought. "This is an alternative band that has misunderstood the meaning of 'progressive'." I put the CD away for about a month after listening to only the first song and only put it on again as their place in my review queue was approaching. I gave the album a good listen all the way through this time. I changed my mind. On the second listen, I decided that the keyboardist was a prog artist and the rest of the band was mostly doing alternative and arm-wrestling him for control. By the third listen, the subtleties in this music became noticeable, and I started hearing the progressive touches all over the place. BBT is a progressive band, they just don't punch you in the face with it. The music is so easy to listen to that you think you're listening to adult pop ... except for those Mellotrons, lengthy songs, odd time signatures, synthesizer solos, constantly-changing themes and long dreamy guitar solos. The last two songs even run together to form a "side-long" mostly-instrumental epic. This is progressive rock with a '90's adult pop sensibility. Perhaps that's the best definition of "neo-prog" I've ever heard (though it doesn't keep me from despising that term).
Bard isn't really my personal favorite prog style, but it is well recorded, well performed and has good compositions. I guess I like being "punched in the face" by a band's progressiveness. But for those who like some of the other bands from the so-called neo-prog camps, I could recommend this album highly. Unfortunately, if you're interested in this band, you'd better hop over to their web site and order it quickly, because their site says they've decided to hang it up and disband. Bard may end up being their final release. Which is a shame, really, because this is good music that deserves to find an audience ... an audience that I'm sure is out there somewhere if BBT could just be heard by their constituency. I hope some new fans find them via this GEPR entry. -- Fred Trafton
Big Big Train (2009) - Andy Poole (bass, keyboards), David Longdon (vocals, flute, mandolin, dulcimer, organ, psaltry, glockenspiel, tambourine), Greg Spawton (guitar, keyboards, bass)
The next album after Bard was Gathering Speed. As mentioned above, the band did indeed dissolve after Bard, only to reform again around leaders Gregory Spawton and Andy Poole. They assembled a new band with vocalists Sean Filkins and Laura Murch, keyboardist Dan Cooper and drummer Steve Hughes. This band is unmistakeably "prog" in a pleasant, symphonic way. If I had listened to this album in the correct sequence, I probably would have had great things to say about it, compared to Bard. Gathering Speed is a much better album than Bard. But since I listened to The Underfall Yard and The Difference Machine first, I'll just say that Gathering Speed is an appropriate name. They're gathering speed from Bard on their way to The Difference Machine. A good album, but a mere foreshadowing of what is to come. I would definitely say to try this one out only after getting The Difference Machine and The Underfall Yard.
The Difference Machine is a marvel. Once again, the band's line-up has radically changed since the previous release, with only Spawton, Poole and Filkins remaining from the Gathering Speed band. No way this album will ever be mistaken for an "alt-rock" album unless your definition of "alt-rock" extends into what the rest of us would call "prog". On my first listen I knew that much, though it also didn't really turn me on that much. By the second listen, I started noticing the slow, sustained guitar solos that somehow recall David Gilmour's but without Floyd's bluesy influence and the theme that keeps recurring on different instruments and with different ornamentation. I also make note that the new drummer is really amazing ... only to read in the liner notes that he's none other than Nick D'Virgilio of Spock's Beard, and he's not holding back at all just because this isn't his main band. In fact, he sounds much better than I've ever heard him in Spock's Beard (I'll admit, I haven't heard any post-Neil Morse Beard, and this makes me think I need to). By the way, Spock's Beard's bassist Dave Meros also guests on many of the cuts on The Difference Machine, and Spawton has taken over most of the keyboard duties.
Anyway, by the third listen, some of the busier overlapping instrumentals and vocals start making sense, and like Yes' Relayer, parts that I had been hearing as noise begin to make perfect sense ... in fact, I wonder how I could have ever not heard how these strange, disparate sections work together to form a beautiful unified whole. No, it doesn't sound a bit like Relayer, yet it has the same effect of needing several listens before it makes sense. At least that was my personal experience. And the album continues to grow on me more and more with each listen. There are also parts that remind me of Thieves' Kitchen's The Water Road, again without sounding much like Thieves' Kitchen ... I think it's the vocal harmonies that are reminding me of that album. If I had heard this when I was supposed to have heard it, my "Best of 2007" list would have looked a little different. This is a simply excellent album, and shows that Big Big Train has come a long way since the Bard days.
By the time The Underfall Yard was released, the band has pretty clearly become the Spawton/
Poole project, bringing in guest musicians as required. A possible exception to this is the new
vocalist David Longdon, whose vocals are in the Phil Collins /
Peter Gabriel / Marillion-era
The Underfall Yard continues to improve upon the already fantastic The Difference Machine,
becoming easily the best Big Big Train release to date. Musically complex without devolving
into anything too difficult to follow, styles vary from an almost gospel-ish vocal section to what
sounds like a Crosby, Stills and Nash harmonized vocal singing with
Yes providing instrumentals. There's a bit of heavier guitar on this
album, but it's mostly Howe-like electric with lots of acoustic guitar as well. Keyboards are
not up-front flashy (though there's at least one blistering synth solo in "The Underfall Yard" by
guest keyboardist Jem Godfrey of Frost*), but provide lots
of nice symphonic padding with a bit of
Mellotron. But with real flutes and cellos and a brass
section containing cornet, trumpet, french horn and tuba, they really don't need as much in the way of
keyboards as other symphonic bands might need. Overall, I would compare The Underfall Yard to
a more introspective, less upbeat Camel or, as on
The Difference Machine, a bit like Thieves' Kitchen.
Maybe even a less-AOR Alan Parsons Project from
time to time. But they've found a very nice sound all their own, and it's as good as anything you've ever
heard. This does not sound like what it actually is ... a small indie band without a label trying
to find an audience. Instead, it sounds like a mature band that knows exactly what they want to sound like
and execute it flawlessly. Just a great album, and highly recommended. Easy to see why it landed on
several "Best of 2009" lists. -- Fred Trafton
* ... a fact not lost on Genesis
members themselves. In 1996, Longdon auditioned as vocalist for Genesis
after Collins left the band, for the album that would become Calling All Stations. He actually
recorded several tracks with Banks and Rutherford, but vocalist Ray Wilson was eventually
preferred over Longdon. If you care about my opinion, I think Calling All Stations would have
been a better album with Longdon as vocalist. For what it's worth, Nick
D'Virgilio also played on Calling All Stations, and I have to wonder if
NDV introduced Longdon to BBT. If so, I have to say
The Underfall Yard continues to improve upon the already fantastic The Difference Machine, becoming easily the best Big Big Train release to date. Musically complex without devolving into anything too difficult to follow, styles vary from an almost gospel-ish vocal section to what sounds like a Crosby, Stills and Nash harmonized vocal singing with Yes providing instrumentals. There's a bit of heavier guitar on this album, but it's mostly Howe-like electric with lots of acoustic guitar as well. Keyboards are not up-front flashy (though there's at least one blistering synth solo in "The Underfall Yard" by guest keyboardist Jem Godfrey of Frost*), but provide lots of nice symphonic padding with a bit of Mellotron. But with real flutes and cellos and a brass section containing cornet, trumpet, french horn and tuba, they really don't need as much in the way of keyboards as other symphonic bands might need. Overall, I would compare The Underfall Yard to a more introspective, less upbeat Camel or, as on The Difference Machine, a bit like Thieves' Kitchen. Maybe even a less-AOR Alan Parsons Project from time to time. But they've found a very nice sound all their own, and it's as good as anything you've ever heard. This does not sound like what it actually is ... a small indie band without a label trying to find an audience. Instead, it sounds like a mature band that knows exactly what they want to sound like and execute it flawlessly. Just a great album, and highly recommended. Easy to see why it landed on several "Best of 2009" lists. -- Fred Trafton
* ... a fact not lost on Genesis members themselves. In 1996, Longdon auditioned as vocalist for Genesis after Collins left the band, for the album that would become Calling All Stations. He actually recorded several tracks with Banks and Rutherford, but vocalist Ray Wilson was eventually preferred over Longdon. If you care about my opinion, I think Calling All Stations would have been a better album with Longdon as vocalist. For what it's worth, Nick D'Virgilio also played on Calling All Stations, and I have to wonder if NDV introduced Longdon to BBT. If so, I have to say "Thanks, Nick!"
[See D'Virgilio, Nick |
Click here for Big Big Train's web site
Swimmer (86), Creeping up on Jesus (88)
80's mainstream sounding pop band that occasionally gets a little progressive, and has gotten some airplay as a result. File with Toy Matinee, Icehouse, and the like. Not bad, but not really prog either.
Scottish players of American style pop-rock.
Biglietto Per L'Inferno (74), Il Tempo Della Semina (74, Released 92)
This is a hard-rock band, and the first LP (one of the best album of italian progressive) is really difficult to find.
Biglietto Per L'Inferno (Ticket to Hell) is an Italian six-piece symphonic prog band whose first release is rightfully considered one of the classics of Italian progressive. Instruments include the standard bass, drums, guitar, two sets of keyboards, vocals and flute. The music ranges from Tull-like heaviness (flute and driving guitar) to very symphonic PFM-like passages of piano, synth and guitar. The drummer mixes up the beat with excellent variety and is an integral part of the mix. The closest comparison would be to Semiramis with its heavy passages alternating with lyrical interludes. This album doesn't sustain the heavy intensity found on Semiramis's classic which gives Biglietto's release a more diversified feel. The 15 minute "L'Amico Suicida" is a prime example of the diversity and talent as the band rages through heavy passages (similar to Osanna, anotyher classic Italian band) through keyboard runs reminiscent of Le Orme's Contrappunti into quiet, vaguely bluesy guitar passages. The band lingers not in any of these areas, constantly driving forward and shifting gears reminding me of several Italian bands yet sounding like none of them. The diversity holds across the entire album so that it never becomes stale. Highly recommended.
[See Banfi, Giuseppe]
Kad bih bio bijelo dugme (74)
Sta bi dao da si na mom mjestu (75)
Eto! Bas hocu! (76)
Koncert kod hajducke cesme (77)
Bitanga i princeza (79)
Dozivjeti stotu (81)
Uspavanka z Radmilu M (83)
Bijelo Dugme (84)
Pljuni i zapjevaj moja Jugoslavijo (86)
|First two albums prog, later stuff more commercial.|
Hungarian band. Sounds very similar to Omega, at least the 1986 album I happened to find in London. Not original for a second, but very pleasant listen.
Wolne Loty (86), Ucieczka Do Tropiku (87)
Bilinski is a Polish synthesist and composer, who paints colorful soundscapes with a strong rhythmic backing and soaring melodies. His style's nearest comparisons might be with Vangelis or latter period TD or such. He's got a mess of LPs and cassettes, some are more interesting than others. Of the two I know fairly well: Wolne Loty is his 1986 release and features a more classically progressive style, while Ucieczka Do Tropiku is from 1988 and has a more pop feel and some interesting effects. Both are 100% instrumental.
Atmospheres and Melodies Inspired by the Paintings of H.R. Giger (86)
This is a casette-only release from Auricle. Apparently taking over a year to complete, it is a synth/guitar/weird noise collage of sounds with each piece made to be evocative of a particular Giger painting. As those of you who know Giger's work will understand, this is pretty frightening stuff. Think of something like Tangerine Dream's "Rubycon" with the musical equivalence of cancer ... It tries to balance the horror undercurrent with noises reminiscent of mechanical things and throbbing machinery. Indeed, it's biomechanical music. Not a real noise jam a la Einstürzende Neubauten or minimal gut-wrenching horror music a la Nurse With Wound but pretty listenable and very powerful. Recommended for those who think EN and NWW are a bit too much. Great stuff. The people responsible for Biomechanoid are the Freeman brothers who have previously released on tape only under the moniker of "Alto Stratus." An outfit I've never heard but who are apparently in the space-rock genre. The Freeman brothers own probably the best progressive music outlet in the UK called "Ultima Thule" and do worldwide mail order. They also own the Auricle label which has put out material by Klaus Schulze and other luminaries, not to mention their own Alto Stratus and Biomechanoid stuff. They also own, edit, produce and contribute to a really good prog/alternative music magazine "Audion." Dedicated guys.
Reality Gates (76)
Bantam to Behemoth (08)
Dan Britton plays keyboards in three prog bands ...
Cerberus Effect, Deluge Grander and
Birds and Buildings. He sent me copies of the debut releases of the last two bands,
which I listened to back-to-back. If you haven't already done so, read my review of
Deluge Grander before going on, then read the
remaining part of this review ...
Listening to Deluge Grander first, I was prepared to like Birds and Buildings' album Bantam to Behemoth immediately. Keyboardist, guitarist, vocalist and main composer Britton brings along bassist/guitarist Brett d'Anon from Deluge Grander on this album, but the other musicians, drummer Malcolm McDuffie and woodwind player Brian Falkowski, are new for this album/band. One might think that with the addition of woodwinds, the similarity to VdGG would be even greater, but actually I think Bantam to Behemoth may be even more original than DG's August in the Urals. It's got many similarities to August, but sounds quite a bit "cleaner" -- for one thing, there's less reverb and the soloing is a bit less anarchic. There's more jazzy and fusiony passages. It also features a female vocalist on one track, Meagan Wheatley. It's every bit as highly recommended as the DG album, and can be ordered from their MySpace page below.
Like on Deluge Grander, it seems like Britton's vocals are undermixed (as are Wheatley's on her one track). ... though he answered this complaint to me by saying, "I have a very low voice (about the range of a bass guitar), and I do prefer to have vocals quiet in the mix compared to how other bands do it. To me, it sounds fine, and I suspect the 'lowness' of my voice often makes it sound like the vocals are even 'lower' in the mix (i.e. quieter)". Maybe. But if I was mixing this band, I'd EQ the vocals more towards the high end and compress the instrument mix a little more to bring the vocals out. But let's face it, this isn't my band, and this personal preference difference of opinion shouldn't stop you from checking out Birds and Buildings' album. By the way, Britton also tells me that a second album is in the works, hopefully for release sometime in 2009. -- Fred Trafton
[See Cerberus Effect |
Click here for Birds and Buildings' MySpace page
Birdsongs of the Mesozoic EP (83, EP)
Magnetic Flip (84)
Beat of the Mesozoic (86, EP)
Sonic Geology (88, Compilation)
The Fossil Record (93, Previously unreleased, alternate versions & early recordings)
Dancing on A'A (95)
The Iridium Controversy (03)
2001 Live Birds (04, Live at NEARFest 2001)
1001 Real Apes (06, w/ David Greenberger)
Extreme Spirituals (06, w/ Oral Moses)
Dawn of the Cycads (08, 2CD, Re-issue of first 3 albums + Live from 1987)
Birdsongs of the Mesozoic - Rick Scott, Ken Field, Michael Bierylo, Eric Lindgren
First off, I must say that aside from The Fossil Record, I have not heard any of their other studio material. I have, however, seen them live a few times in the past year or two. The Fossil Record is a collection of studio material from the "early years" of Birdsongs that didn't find its way onto any of their albums. How does it compare to the rest of their work? Well, judging from their recent live performances, I would say they have matured quite a bit as composers, and their sound has also grown much fuller. Birdsongs play a unique, quirky mixture of minimalism, 20th century "classical," and prog. One can hear strains of Steve Reich, Stravinsky, Satie, Louis Andriessen and Univers Zero running through their pieces, and they are not afraid to use a little musical humor on occasion. The music on this CD, however, betrays their influences as well as their "formula" a bit more than the material I've seen them perform live. Most of their pieces develop by taking a theme, usually melodic, and rhythmically and harmonically fragmenting and mutating it. This deconstruction works beautifully at times, but as with other musical "processes," the process can sometimes overshadow the music. I saw them perform a piece which was announced as a cover of a song off of The Yes Album, the challenge being to figure out which one. Though I am quite familiar with The Yes Album, I still couldn't figure out what song they were deconstructing. It didn't matter. The music stood on its own, apart from the clever process. Some of the pieces on The Fossil Record work as well as that one did, while there are others that don't. There are about 15 tracks filling up more than 70 minutes on the CD. The last track is a 23 minute piece called "To a Random"; a very sparse and atmospheric piece written to accompany a film of the same name. The rest of the songs are mostly in the 3-6 minute range. I am eager to hear some of their newer studio material, and I imagine albums like Faultline are probably in fact a better place to start for those new to Birdsongs. Nevertheless, this is a worthwhile compilation that will definitely be of interest to fans of Birdsongs. And no matter what your tastes in prog are, don't miss these guys live if you get a chance to see them!
|Birdsongs of the Mesozoic are one of those unclassifyable groups. I have two of their albums Sonic Geology and Faultline. SG is a compilation of their first three albums, with two bonus tracks. This is the one I would recommend people to start with. Their music is a mixed bag of punk, post-punk, progressive, avant-guard, and classical (there are probably several other styles thrown in for good measure). Their music is pretty much all electronic (I believe they had three keyboardists at one point).|
|Sometimes you can only choose one of a band's CDs to buy and so, based on a list of vague factors and confusing reviews, you make your best guess and take the leap. One may consider many things: Think first albums tend to be good? You take that into account. Prefer small groups that play mostly instrumental stuff? That's important. Hate the cover? It matters. But whether you've chosen correctly will be unknown till you hear it and even then it may be years before you fully appreciate the work. With Birdsongs of the Mesozoic's Dancing on A'A', I sometimes wish I had chosen something earlier instead and though not a bad record, I suspect it isn't the best introduction to the band. Gorgeous music but it reminds me of when I listen to Von Zamla -- it's like; this is amazing stuff but I only want to hear it on occasion. The Zeroes meet Tangerine Dream on a Saturday afternoon, but it didn't hold me. -- David Marshall|
My original entry, 7/13/01:
I have Birdsongs of the Mesozoic's The Fossil Record and Petrophonics which are, as of this writing, their oldest and most recent recordings respectively. I've also seen them live at NEARfest 2001. Excellent use of acoustic piano along with drum sequences, processed guitars and electronic keyboards, plus a woodwind player made this band very enjoyable at their NEARfest appearance. Aside from a few nay-sayers who were murmuring "man, they were sorta weird", the bulk of the audience seemed to enjoy their performance as much as I did.
In spite of what has been said about them above, I don't find them that difficult to classify ... they are somewhat uneasily within the scope of RIO, with superficial resemblences to bands like Henry Cow or Univers Zero, but not really sounding much like either of them. They combine avant-garde noise, neo-classical sounds, hypnotic sequences, minimalist "pulse" music and prog rock in a very interesting mix.
The Fossil Record is a collection of early works from 1980-87 (cute album title, huh?). This recording certainly shows the band trying to find their sound, though all of the pieces bear some resemblance to the 2001 band I saw. In addition to original compositions, this album also contains covers of Brian Eno's "Sombre Reptiles" and The Ventures' "Out Of Limits", so they definitely run the gamut musically. This earliest line-up consisted of Erik Lindgren, Roger Miller, Rick Scott and Martin Swope. The sense of experimentation and breaking the rules is already there in this line-up, and this is an enjoyable listen, perhaps more melodic than they came to be by the time of Petrophonics.
By 2000's Petrophonics release (and the previous release, Dancing on A'A), only Lindgren and Scott remain from the original line-up, joined by guitarist Michael Bierylo and saxophonist Ken Field. Petrophonics is an excellent album, again in the RIO vein, but also fairly minimalist. I am occasionally reminded of Philip Glass along with the previously mentioned RIO artists. Very nice stuff. These albums are highly recommended for the adventurous. -- Fred Trafton
And, speaking of weird, Birdsongs has already released another album this year as well. Evidently they play music as a background for a narrator (David Greenberger) who tells stories he's gathered from the residents of the Duplex Nursing Home in Boston. Judging from the web site, BotM has actually done live shows with this guy, and now they've released an album together, 1001 Real Apes. These guys will try anything, apparently. I wouldn't be surprised to find this is a pretty cool album as well. But for now, that's only a theory, since I haven't heard it. -- Fred Trafton
While this music may be considered "hard to describe" in a New York Times or Rolling Stone album review, it's not hard for a GEPR reader at all. "Dissonant Neo-Classical with a beat", RIO or "Avant-Prog" will all give you the right idea, or "one of the more melodious Cuneiform-type artists" will also do it. Nice stuff, with dissonances that aren't so brash that they make your teeth hurt, and even resolve into harmonious sections on occasion. It never occurred to me that the "whacky" sound of "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Theme" is due to the use of dissonances that resolve into harmonies, until BotM's (all too short!) reworking of the piece rubbed my nose in the fact.
Like all "Avant Prog", this sort of thing is only for when you're in the mood for something a bit on the difficult side, and can devote your full attention to listening. But for those times, it doesn't get any better than this. Excellent stuff, and convieniently packaged on 2 CD's too. -- Fred Trafton
[See Bierylo, Michael |
Family Fun |
Click here for
the Birdsongs of the Mesozoic Official web site
Birth Control (69)
Hoodoo Man (72)
Plastic People (75)
Backdoor Possibilities (76)
Live 79 (79)
Deal Done at Night (80)
|Sketchy German semi-prog band that had some ups but mostly downs. Backdoor Possibilities is yuck.|
|They play their own style of prog and some people definitely like it. Listen before buy.|
|Berlin's Birth Control got their start in the late sixties with a self-titled album. There are some obvious symphonic passages, but the album is for the most part psychedelic. Thanks to drummer/singer Bernd Noske, whose voice sounds remarkably like Jay Ferguson's, the band sounds at their most psychedelic a lot like Spirit. But keyboardist Reinhold Sobotta has apparently been listening to King Crimson's first album, or some other early prog album, as his two contributions to the album, both instrumentals, have a definite prog sound. His "Recollection" is largely in 5/4 and has a cathedraloid organ intro, while the ten-minute "Sundown" includes scoring for strings. The rest of the album is fine as psych albums go, except for a lame cover of the Doors' "Light My Fire." (a song I've never liked by a band I've never liked.) Noske and guitarist Bruno Frenzel formed the nucleus of the band which remained constant through all the different line-ups. Sobotta was long gone after the first album. The next Birth Control album, Operation, didn't appear until 1971. I haven't heard it personally, but someone who has told me it sounded like Deep Purple. WHether he meant the pre-HM Deep Purple, or the hard-rock DP we all know and some of us love I don't know. After hearing Hoodoo Man, I am inclined to believe the former suggestion though, as it features one track with church-organ (the title-song I think) and another based on a classical piece, both seem to be the sort of thing Jon Lord would have done before Deep Purple went the hard-rock trail. (Remember Concerto For Group And Orchestra?) For 1973's Rebirth, Birth Control too went down the hard-rock trail. There's still some prog leanings here, but most of it resembles Allan Holdsworth's work with the band Tempest. Notable tracks include "Together Alone Tonight," the only REAL prog tune on the album, and "Back From Hell," which includes a two-minute drum solo. On the other hand, "She's Got Nothing On You" sounds oddly like ZZ Top (!), thanks in no small part to new bass player Peter Foeller's blustery vocals. Also of note is the introduction on this album of keyboardist Zeus B. Held, who would become a prime mover in future band activities. I've heard two tracks from the live album. Apparently they come from the OPeration period. More improvisational than most of the music I've heard by them. One track features a tripped-out organ-solo reminiscent of Frumpy, and Noske going berserk on a number of percussion instruments. Plastic People is the first REAL prog album the band produced. By introducing synthesizers, string-arrangements (on "My Mind") and tricky rhythmic workouts exercised by the whole band (note "Tiny Flashlights" and "Trial Trip"), the sound grew exponentially. Even the lyrically inane "Rockin' Rollin' Roller" is enjoyable. However, I don't think it wise of them to choose Foeller to do most of the lead-vocals on this. His gruff singing-style may have been appropriate for the heavy stuff on Rebirth, but here it just doesn't fit in. Take for example the closing track, "This Song Is Just For You," which thanks to his vocalising, and a nifty horn-arrangement, sounds eerily like Chicago's "Make Me Smile"! Backdoor Possibilities was the band's crowning achievement, a concept album about a New York businessman who meets the Grim Reaper when he's stuck in a stalled subway train. Even if the concept is half-baked (they throw in a totally unrelated instrumental half-way through and then don't really follow up on the story well from there), at least the music proves to be engaging, to say the least. Not only do they expound upon the developments of the previous LP, but they also manage to include everything but the kitchen sink. Do you want Gentle Giant-ish madrigal singing? Listen to "Legal Labyrinth." "Futile Prayer" is a lush minor-chorded synth-epic reminiscent of early King Crimson, while the three-part instrumental "La Ciguena de Zaragoza" is highlighted by David Jackson-styled multiple sax-work. Produced by Caravan/Genesis/Van der Graaf Generator producer David Hitchcock, who clearly had at least something to do with the content of this album. Highly recommended. ...But not even David Hitchcocks production could save Increase. It's odd that the band's creative peak should be followed by its artistic nadir, but here it is. Desperately hoping for a commercial score, the band tries everything from a Roxy Music ripoff ("Until The Night") to a noxious disco song with unbelievably vapid lyrics. ("Get Up!," which is SO bad I was praying it was a parody). Except for two mediocre prog tunes ("We All Thought We Knew You," a tribute to the late Helmut Koellen, followed by "Seems My Bike's Riding Me," about the joys of motorcycle-riding...ironic because I think that it was a motorcycle accident that killed Koellen.) most of the album is devoted to vacuous pop-rock yuck. Would you believe a song titled "Skate-Board Sue"? Apparently the person who caused this was keyboardist Zeus B. Held, not surprising when you consider his subsequent career in the eighties, producing disco acts like the vile Dead Or Alive. (of "You Spin Me Round Like A Record" fame) Reportedly they went back to the hard-rock style on Titanic in 1978, apparently as a reaction to Held's machinations. He was dumped from the band after that album. (He made a solo album the same year. Titled Zeus Amusement, I'd steer clear of it even though I haven't heard it.) One more live album, Live 79 followed, apparently drawing mostly from Titanic. Birth Control made a new album with a new line-up for a new label in 1980, Deal Done At Night, antother one I haven't heard. That seems to have been the end of it, except for an obscure early 80's item on the likewise obscure Ohr Today label.|
Bittova and Fajt (87), Svatba (87), River of Milk (91), Bittova (91), Bittova and Dunaj (??)
Bittova is violin and voice, Bittova and Fajt is folk/prog/gypsy.
This innovative Czech singer/violinist combines slavic folk music with minimalist jazz and classical for odd and often amazing effects. Kind of like a hyper Meredith Monk playing folk music, if such an image is even possible. Bittova weaves trancing repetative lines between her voice and violin. Her lyrics are beautiful (in translation on River of Milk) and the sound of Czech is quite enthralling. Pavel Fajt is a percussionist who brings out the best in his collaborations with Bittova. Bittova & Fajt is the finest CD in this lot--worth hunting down. They both appear in Fred Frith's movie (and accompanying soundtrack), "Step Across the Border." Everyone I know who's seen this film has immediately tried to seek any Bittova CD's they can get their hands on. Bittova & Fajt also appear on one of the Live at the Knitting Factory releases playing their excellent song "Strom." -- Jajasoon Tlitteu
Revelator (98, with Nicky Skopelitis)
|Revelator could also be Skopelitis album with Raoul helping. Not sure. -- Nenad Kobal|
Black Country Communion (10)
Black Country Communion - Glenn Hughes (bass, vocals), Joe Bonamassa (guitar), Derek Sherinian
(keyboards) and Jason Bonham (drums)
Black Country Communion? Isn't that a rock band? What the heck are they doing in the GEPR? Honestly, I got interested because of the participation of one of my favorite keyboardists, Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater, Planet X). But this all-star list of names from Classic Rock (even if not "Prog Rock" as such) has to catch the attention of anyone who was around in the '70's. Glenn Hughes was bassist and vocalist for Deep Purple, Trapeze and had a brief stint in Black Sabbath. Jason Bonham is the son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, and is a well-respected drummer in his own right, even subbing for his father in some recent Led Zep reunions. "Black country" is the nickname for the industrial area in Britain where Hughes and Bonham grew up. Joe Bonamassa is a well-known American guitarist, influenced heavily by British and Irish blues bands, and also prog rock (he frequently plays Yes's "Heart of the Sunrise" and the "Würm" section of "Starship Trooper" in his live performances). So, I thought I should hear these guys.
Well, this just goes to show that fantastic, energetic and emotional rock doesn't need to be in the "Prog" category. But it sure doesn't bear much resemblance to what they call "rock" nowadays. In the '70's, they would have been monsters. And even today, their debut album hit the charts, topping #18 on the US Rock charts and #6 on the US Indie charts. Definitely a guitar and vocal oriented band, though the drumming and bass work is also spot-on perfect, and Sherinian's keyboards (mostly organ) are restrained and understated, fitting perfectly with the '70's retro-rock feel of the album. No Planet X-style heavy fusion insanity to be heard here, move along, move along. This is more the Billy Idol/Alice Cooper side of Sherinian's multi-faceted talent.
If you need high complexity, classical music influences or avant-garde difficulty in your music, then Black Country Communion is probably not the band for you. But if you wish you could have attended Woodstock because you would have enjoyed it (or if you did attend Woodstock and enjoyed it), then you're gonna love this album. To be honest, I've been getting burned out on some of the pompous, over-produced mental gymnastics I get from my daily diet of prog. Black Country Communion has proven to be a hard-rockin' antidote. Great stuff! AND, a new album in the can, to be released in June 2011, only about 9 months after their debut. -- Fred Trafton
[See Deep Purple |
Dream Theater |
Planet X |
Sherinian, Derek |
Click here for Black Country Communion's web site
Diary of a Blind Angel (92), Welcome to the Moonlight Circus (94)
Neo-classical metal similar to early Yngwie Malmsteen, but with good lyrics. The guitar and keys are incredible, Dream Theaterish sometimes, sometimes like Malmsteen or Johannson. excellent acoustic guitar interspersed throughout, and very exciting music everywhere. Everything is powerful and crisp, with near-flawless instrumentation and melodic vocals, which are sometimes mispronounced but still pretty good. Not a screamer, just a singer with a voice that i like but some people I know don't. Perfect for Malmsteen and Dream Theater fans. Lots of time changes and a sort of folkish, Marillionesque way of arranging songs. Neo-prog metal with a very dark atmosphere.
Dark Smiles (03)
And Life Goes On (05)
Play Again (06)
The Black Noodle Project - (not in photo order) Jérémie Grima (vocals, guitar),
Anthony Leteve (bass), Matthieu Jaubert (keyboards, vocals), Franck Girault (drums) and
Sébastien Bourdeix (guitar)
[Regarding And Life Goes On]: Average Floydians doing their best with OK but tired material. In fact, this disc sounds a bit like The Final Cut in that the songs could be The Wall outtakes. Even the band photo [not this one, the one on the album cover -Ed.] looks like early Floyd with a Gilmour look-alike and a dreamy countryside. Save your money and get a Pink Floyd bootleg from 1975 or look into any of David Gilmour's three albums. -- David Marshall
Click here for The Black
Noodle Project's web site
Click here to buy The Black Noodle Project's albums from Musea Records
Open the Next Page (90)
Led by keyboardist Fumiaki Ogawa, this band plays something between a contemporary fusion and classic progressive, with thin stylistic threads to bands like UK, but with a very polished Jazzy feel throughout, maybe some Zappa influence, Pat Metheny; They sing ... in English, and you can understand the words. I only know of one CD Open The Next Page. Excellent new music.
The Black Sun Ensemble (85)
Black Sun Ensemble (88)
Lambent Flame (91)
Elemental Forces (92)
Psycho Master El (94, as Black Sun Legion)
Sky Pilot (99, Remix/remaster of Psycho Master El with new material)
Self-Titled Pyknotic (00, CD reissue of '85 self-titled album with 2 unreleased cuts from the same sessions replacing lost masters of 2 original cuts)
Hymn of the Master (01)
Live at KXCI (02)
Live at KXCI Vol II (04)
Bolt of Apollo (05)
... several cassette-only releases
Jesus Acedo in a 1988 promo shot
US ensemble led by Jesus (now Dagan) Acedo and a fine guitarist if I may add. Unfortunately, their albums have been getting worse, and they do not show the talent like they did in the days of their self-titled debut or their second one.
Note that the following article was written by someone who used to be a fan and is now a member of the band. Normally, I don't like to have band members write reviews, but this is a special case. Besides, it's a fun read. Consider yourself warned. -- Fred Trafton
... your entry for The Black Sun Ensemble (of which I am a member) is less than flattering. Your description would be right on if it were the late 90's, but not now. With the help of Eric Johnson (Bass, Guitar, Banjo, Moog) [No, not that Eric Johnson -Ed.], Brian Maloney (Sax), Leila Lopez (Drums) and myself (Percussion) we have helped Jesus De Paz (he has not used the "Dagan" moniker in ages -- which told me your entry is very outdated). Eric and Brian has been recording and playing with Jesus since 2000, I have played with them live since 2001 but was not an official member until 2003. I have played with the band at the South By South West music fest in Austin the three times we have been invited there. (2001-03). Leila has just joined the band.
The first offering from this line up (Brian Kohl on Drums) was Hymn Of The Master (2001). I was not on that record. The new band was just getting their footing and it is rough, but not without inspiration. It's almost on the brink of train wrecking all through the album but I like it more than any other member of the band for that reason! Largely because of the vocals, which is all done by Jesus. He can't sing, but pulls it off somehow (kudos to Eric Johnson's studio skills). It was released on Camera Obscura Records out of Australia, which we are still on. The title track is great, as is "Captain Wormwood", "669", "The Beast", "999", "Love In The Heart of The Joyful", "Lamp Lady Vision" and "Song for Precious". The band was still getting to know Jesus the madman, and pretty much followed his lead creatively in the early daze. So the sound was very crunchy and aggressive. It was the primordial new beginning for The Black Sun.
In 2003 came Starlight. It is obvious the band has matured with this second offering. Eric Johnson and Brian Maloney took on more songwriting credits, and shared a lot more of the creative decision making. The production and songwriting is far superior. The whole album has a holistic flow and flavor. The opening track "Jewel of the Seven Stars" is a lush and trance-inducing number. "Loki's Monstrous Brood" is very reminiscent of King Crimson's Red period. "Arabic Satori" has some intense stream of consciousness spoken word by one time percussionist for the band, Joseph Graves. He plays some bass on the album as well. He also reappears on the final title track as well, bringing the album to a great conclusion in style! "Angel Of Light" is a much like the feeling in "Hymn," but is still more clearly played and executed in every way. The other gems to me are "Mascara Moon," a song which certainly illustrates that this new incarnation is something to be reckoned with. "The Lycian," is also very Crimsonish, which is alright by me, but has that Black Sun drama in it's own right! My two favorite tracks are "I am I was" with Eric on vocals. Eric has a great and distinct style. He has his own band Sun Zoom Spark (a more psych-pop band) on his label slowburn records-check them out! I also love "Remedios Rising" a Brian Maloney instrumental. Beautiful.
Then came the self released Live at KXCI and later Live at KXCI Vol. II. The latter is the better offering, for no other reason than the band started to head off to more early waters-sounding much more like the first album than ever before. We had just gotten back from SXSW, and we were very tight. Eric is heard playing Banjo and kick drum at the same time! Then bass. I am on percussion, Brian on sax.
Now we have completed Bolt of Apollo, soon to be released on Camera Obscura once again. Oddly enough, it is the current NEXT album Across the Seas Of ID (The Way to Eden) that is more like what the band currently sounds like live. Apollo is all instrumental, with Ernie Mendoza as a guest (an incredible drummer) on kit. I will not go into these two albums all that much, but I will say both offerings we are very proud of, and Jesus is playing better than has in years. Which is why I am writing this, because he has been playing amazingly well, and has been incredibly creative these past six years, overcoming great odds.
I am in the band, but I do not write this because I want to brag about the band I am in. I am writing this because Jesus is one of the greatest guitar players I have ever heard. Playing with him has been like a shamanic experience at times, especially lately. With two new albums, very good albums soon to be released, he and the band deserves a better entry within your awesome web site. I first heard the band when I live in the NYC area, in a record store called "It's Only Rock'n Roll." They were playing on the speakers (Lambent Flame) and I was instantly captivated. I was too broke to buy the record, but stayed for for the rest of the record. I did not forget the band's name and I didn't even know they were from Tucson. I then moved out here, and after meeting Eric was shocked to realize I could go see them! Now I am in the band, and it is an honor. I was barely a musician when I first played with them, but now I can call myself one, because playing with Black Sun isn't easy, and it's a fucking trip! -- John Paul Marchand
I had never heard of the Black Sun Ensemble until I got the write-up from John Paul
Marchand (above), so I asked him to send me a sample. In the meantime, I studied up on
the band a bit from the bio and album descriptions on their web site. I was intrigued by
Marchand's cryptic comment about their band leader Jesus de Paz "overcoming great
odds". They discuss this a bit on their web site. It seems that from 1988 to 1993, the original
incarnation of the band, led by guitarist Jesus Acedo, produced a string of psychedelic
guitar-oriented rock they describe as a "hallucinogenic brew of eastern raga, mescaline trance
mysticism and mesa-perched desert riff ritual". Evidently, the use of "vast quantities" of
hallucinogenic drugs were involved in these creations, contributing to Acedo's 1994 meltdown
in which he "created a funeral pyre" out of half the pressed copies of Psycho Master El while
claiming that the devil was speaking through him on the album. Acedo disappeared
for a time after this, returning in 1999 with a newly remixed, remastered and embellished version
of Psycho Master El, re-titled Sky Pilot. He has since proven that he has pulled
himself together again with a new line-up and new music, as described above. Acedo calls
himself Jesus de Paz nowadays (but not, evidently, "Dagan"), but it's the
Marchand did indeed send me their newest release, Bolt of Apollo. This is an album of (nearly) all instrumental music. I don't know if I'd really call this album "progressive rock", their own description of "psychedelic rock" seems more appropriate. It's very guitar-oriented, with a bit of a Hendrix or even Grateful Dead feel (though not as bluesy as The Dead), very "late '60's psych" in texture and even recording style. Though not "prog" as such, there are crazed guitar passages that are reminiscent of Lark's Tongues/Red era Crimson, and I'm sure that GEPR readers who grew up in the psychedelic era will find a lot more than that to like about Bolt of Apollo. I'm not sure younger audiences will appreciate it as much ... in spite of Acedo / de Paz' recovery from the brink, having had some past personal experiences with psychoative substances would seem to be a prerequisite for grasping this sort of music. Since I'm the one making this assertion, what does that say about my life in the '70's? I admit nothing. But I must say I liked Bolt of Apollo. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||Click here for Black Sun Ensemble's web site|
The Rope (86)
Before the Buildings Fell (86)
Mesmerized by the Sirens (87)
Ashes in the Brittle Air (89)
A Chaos of Desire (91)
Terrace of Memories (92)
This Lush Garden Within (93)
The First Pain to Linger (96, Maxi-CD and novel)
Remnants of a Deeper Purity (96)
With My Sorrows (97, Maxi-CD)
(Nameless) (98, Maxi-CD)
As One Aflame Laid Bare By Desire (99)
The Scavenger Bride (02)
With a Million Tear-Stained Memories (03, 2CD)
HALO STAR (04)
Black Tape for a Blue Girl's Sam Rosenthal
and Lisa Feuer
One look at the titles in the discography will tell you that this is an art-rock band. The basis of the music lies firmly in the electronic textures of synthesist Sam Rosenthal, with its roots in the sonorities of Eno, Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze. But Rosenthal has gone off in his own direction, creating music that is at the same time ethereal, dark, warm, ominous and introspective. It's almost ambient, and owes a lot of its timbre to that genre, but it demands your attention too much to be "wallpaper music".
Take the newest CD (at the time of this writing), As One Aflame Laid Bare By Desire. It's a concept album of sorts. The concept is about an artist painting a model: "as the woman moves across the picture plane she leaves her clothed state behind and emerges nude, like a butterfly from a cocoon". The pieces are all about the artist's feelings about his model. He doesn't know her, so he creates an identity and history about her in his own head. He realizes that the feelings she has aroused in him may have stripped him more bare than she. There's more to the story, but it's all more textural and dreamlike than having any particular plot. Actually, it evokes a lot of emotions, with Rosenthal's synth washes playing underneath light and haunting flute passages by Lisa Feuer, Julianna Towns' ethereal vocals, and oboe, clarinet, violin and acoustic guitar by other guest artists to give it a bit of a "chamber music" quality.
But is it Progressive? Rosenthal prefers to call it "Goth" or "darkwave". But it is a progression from other forms of music I would classify as "progressive", and it's not the slightest bit commercial ... I can't imagine this getting any more airplay than other bands they've been compared to, like Dead Can Dance and Miranda Sex Garden. So, yeah, it's progressive. And pretty cool too, in a depressive sort of way. I wouldn't run out and order the entire discography, but you should try out at least one album and see if you like it. You can try out the MP3's over at MP3.com [not any more ... -Ed.], but I'll warn you that the impression you'll get from experiencing an entire CD is quite different than just listening to the individual samples you'll get there. I advise trying out at least one whole CD. Be prepared to turn down the lights and relax into it ... -- Fred Trafton
Click here for
the official Black Tape for a Blue Girl home page within the Projekt records web site
Click here for a Black Tape for a Blue Girl fan web site
Black Widow (70)
|A sort of very early prog with influences from jazz, blues and rock, though of little interest today IMO.|
|Hard rock/prog with satanic influences. Organ and flute instead of guitar.|
|Third album features guitarist John Culley, ex-Cressida. Supposed to be very satanic-orientated a la Dr. Z or Pathfinder-era Beggars Opera. They also apparently had a very over-the-top stage show. -- Mike Ohman|
|Early prog with satanic tendencies. Similar in sound to Cressida and co. albeit with "evil" lyrics. I have Sacrifice and is not even that bad, although it is from 1970. You can hear some quite good flute and some clarinet although is not so easily discernible. Most of songs are quite energetic as it is the hit "Come To The Sabbath" , covered or ripped by plenty of hard rock/metal bands. It’s style which was later "weighted", popularized and brought to the edge of good taste by dark metallers Mercyful Fate. Concerning lyrics, I don’t believe this guys were seriously into satanism, it’s more like a parody of the parody. I think the singer should die laughing when sing this. It’s kinda peak of satanic hard prog rock music.I don’t know, music somehow doesn’t fit to that thematics. Overall, nothing to die for, yet it has some moments. -- Nenad Kobal|
|Links||[See Cressida | Pesky Gee]|
Blackthorn (77), II (78)
Prog folk, female vocals.
Dirt Box (72)
Crystal Machine (77)
Blake's New Jerusalem (78)
Tide of the Century (00)
Synthesist Tim Blake was born on February 6th, 1952 in Hammersmith, West London. He played the trumpet in his school band, then attended drama school at age 15 where he became interested in the study of sound. This was when he became involved with Clearwater Productions, and was introduced to (among other bands) Hawkwind, who was at that time playing around with electronics and early prototype synthesizers, though at that time he was unable to do much with them except experiment at home with signal generators.
Then, in 1971, Blake was put in touch with Daevid Allen who was recording his "solo" album Banana Moon. Blake was supposed to become Gong's sound man when they returned to France, but by the time they got back, this job had been taken by Vénux De Luxe. At this point, he tried to join Gong as a synthesizer player. He returned to England long enough to buy one of the first Synthi EMS synthesizers (the seventh one, to be exact), but when he returned, drummer Pip Pyle was so annoyed by Blake's synthesized tweets and bleeps, the band decided to let him go for the time being, and they made Camembert Electrique and several subsequent albums without Blake.
Blake remained in France and founded the Crystal Machine studio, making a demo cassette of his modified EMS "Crystal Machine" compositions. Then, in 1972, he rejoined Gong in time for Flying Teapot and the next two Radio Gnome Invisible albums. He also appears on several live albums recorded during these three years. Don't look for "Tim Blake" on the credits for these albums, though. He went by "Hi T. Moonweed" for those albums. During this time, Blake also worked with Cyrille Verdeaux's Clearlight on the Symphony album and Delired Cameleon Family's Visa de Censure n°X.
At the end of the Radio Gnome Invisible series, several band members had a falling out, and this incarnation of Gong broke up (though he was later to rejoin this line-up for reunion concerts in 1977 and 1994, which were released as Gong Live etc. and Gong - 25th Birthday Party respectively). Blake recorded Fish Rising with Steve Hillage and then returned to France with his girlfriend Brigitte and began again working on his Crystal Machine project.
After a difficult period, Blake began to collaborate with Patrice Warrener and Bernard Szajner, and Crystal Machine became a multimedia event with Blake on synthesizers and an increasingly spectacular laser light show between 1976 and 1977. Blake's first solo album, Crystal Machine is a compilation of live recordings from this period. Then, in 1978, Blake decided to do an album of songs, and his next solo effort Blake's New Jerusalem was just that. This album also featured Blake's singing and keyboardist Jean-Philippe Rykiel.
After this, Blake worked with Hawkwind's Nik Turner on an album called Xitintoday, which also featured old Gong cohorts Steve Hillage, Miquette Giraudy and Mike Howlett. This collaboration was probably what set the stage for Blake's joining of Hawkwind in Autumn of 1979. He played with them for two albums, Live '79 and Levitation. However, a disagreement among the band caused Blake to be abandoned in a hotel by the rest of the band while on the Levitation tour, and Blake was once again on his own. He returned again to France, this time taking up residence in a windmill in Brittany (where he still lives today).
Blake became something of a recluse for many years. He made a few appearances at festivals and played a concert in 1988. His next album release would not be until 1991 with Magick. This was another album of songs similar to New Jerusalem, but Blake says he didn't like the recording quality of this album. This caused him to begin work on "Studio Virtuel", his own independant digital multi-track recording facility installed in his windmill home. Except for his appearance with Gong for their 1994 reunion, he has mostly chosen stay away from public performances and concentrate on his own solo work in this studio.
In 2000, four years of work have culminated in the release of a new CD, Tide of the Century, inspired by the highest neap tides of the century. Last year, Blake gave live performances of Tide of the Century in Holland and St. Brieuc, mixing synthesizers, computers, and acoustic piano on stage. Blake says, "I think I've managed the logical follow on to Blake's New Jerusalem at last. Living in Brittany, I've found the source to a Celtic feel that's made sense in the continuing story of Yannis Gltyr." There could be a French version La Marée du Sciécle in Spring 2001, and he wants to perform an acoustic version featuring Celtic musicians next year. He is also writing a "Suite on Celtic Airs" for bombarde & organ for Roland Becker, and is slated to appear in a Hawkwind reunion ("Hawkestra") on Oct. 21, 2000 with Dave Brock, Lemmy, Nik Turner and others at the Brixton Academy in London.
News 7/22/04 (From the Gong web site): Those of you who do not regularly visit the Planet Gong Forum will not be up to date on Tim Blake's recovery after a very serious car accident on 30th May. Well I'm happy to report that although still temporarily housed in a wheelchair and armed with set of crutches he is almost fully rebuilt, mending well (although there is a way to go yet) and will hopefully be fully restored to rude health in a month or so. -- Fred Trafton
|Gong synth wizard who has put out a few electronic albums.|
|Tim Blake was a member of the original Gong, who, in 1977, released Crystal Machine the first of his solo works. The music falls squarely in the category of electronic music, and is probably most similar to mid-seventies Tangerine Dream, in that it is not upbeat and rhythm-oriented a la Jarre, but more flowing and sustained, with slowly changing patterns of bass and melody over somewhat static backgrounds. New Jerusalem was released a year later, and features, to some extent, vocals. The tracks on this sound somewhat like Gong gone electronic, with a more beat-oriented approach to the music than Crystal Machine, with more than a passing similarity to Jarre in the non-vocal sections.|
[See Clearlight |
Delired Cameleon Family |
Hillage, Steve |
Nik Turner's Sphynx]
Click here for Tim Blake's web site
|Along with Atlas and Kaipa, Blåkulla were one of the few Swedish bands that played symphonic rock in the 1970's. On their only album release this five-piece band shows strong influence of early Yes, especially the guitarist who often sounds quite a bit like Steve Howe, only with more distortion. Keyboards are mostly organ and bass and the singer doesn’t try to sound like Jon Anderson, so they are not a copy band. Their songs are split between short, slightly folky ditties dominated by acoustic guitar and longer, more rocking tunes with a fair amount of instrumental work. The most successful tracks, IMHO, are "Sirenernas sång", whose majestic guitar line reminds me of Tabula Rasa’s "Lasihelmipeli", and their short, fanfare-like interpretation of "Drottningholmsmusiken, sats 1" by Johan Helmich Roman, "the father of Swedish music". The CD version (by Ad Perpetuam Memoriam) contains three bonus tracks recorded in 1974 with a different bassist. These song tend to be heavier and more blues-inflected, reminding more of Deep Purple, especially as churning organ sounds are more prominent here. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
Wire Stitched Ears (95)
Stringy Rugs (97)
A Sophisticated Face (99)
Altra Strata (03, as Blast 4tet)
As Nowhere as Anywhere (07, as Blast 6tet)
Blast 1999 - Jan Erik van Regteren-Altena, Michiel Weidner, Bart Maris, Pad Conca
(foreground), Dirk Bruinsma, Frank Crijns, Frank Lorkovic, Edward Capel
Original entry came with original GEPR reviews:
Mike Taylor's description above still gives a good idea of the sound on Blast's
2003 release, Altra Strata. This is avant-garde wierdness that will appeal to those who
like Cuneiform/ReR style bands (in fact Altra Strata is on the ReR label).
If you think a band that sounds like a mix of This Heat,
Univers Zero and early
The Residents only more improvisational sounds like fun, then Altra Strata
will suit you just fine. This album is pretty out there, but still falls on my radar screen as
"musical", though I consider my screen to be pretty big. The fact is that I enjoyed this album
and will likely listen to it again when I'm in the mood for this sort of stuff.
Which is tougher to say for their latest release, As Nowhere As Anywhere. Aside from the fact that this is one of the cooler album titles I've ever heard, I'm afraid this CD has fallen outside of my comfort zone. I mean seriously, this album sounds like a bunch of drunks making random noises on instruments. They have totally dispensed with any pretense of harmony, rhythm, composition or anything else that usually sets "music" apart from "racket". They've also added vocalist Saadet Türköz (that's a she) who appears to be trance channeling the wisdom of ancient Hawaiian Kahunas in an obscure Eskimo dialect (OK, according to the blurb on the FMR web site the words are actually Kazakh and Turkish, though I sure wouldn't know the difference). My advice: don't play this album at a party unless: 1.) it's time for everyone to go home now, or 2.) everyone is tripping on Peyote. Sorry. Just too much anarchy, even for me. The fact that they have changed labels from ReR on this album to the even more obscure FMR (Future Music Records) label may mean they've gotten too weird even for ReR. And that's pretty weird. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Blast's web site
Click here for Blast's page on the Cuneiform Records web site
Click here for FMR Records
Kew Rhone (76, with John Greaves), The Naked Shakespeare (83), Knights Like This (85), Downtime (89), King Strut (90), Unearthed (94, with John Greaves), Just Woke Up (95)
Blegvad is a creator of clever, quirky pop songs, very creative and idiosyncratic but within the short song format. Those who are looking for displays of instrumental virtuosity will not find them. Those who require straightforward song lyrics may also be disappointed - while many of Blegvad's songs are well-told stories, many others are elaborate word-playing that will not appeal to everyone. I particularly enjoy and admire Kew Rhone (which includes playing by Carla Bley and Michael Mantler, at whose home studio it was recorded). Here the song lyric as word game is taken to a fascinating extreme, and the arrangements and playing are great. I also recommend Downtime - most of the songs are relatively straightforward, but very good with nice backing by Chris Cutler, John Greaves, and others. -- Dan Kurdilla
Flat, spineless Canterbury-singing with some moments now and then.
[See Slapp Happy]
The Rise and Fall of Passional Sanity (92)
Blezqi Zatsaz is the work of excellent Brazilian keyboardist/composer Fabio Ribeiro and his arsenal of analog and digital keyboards. He is joined by guitarist, bassist and drummer. Symphonic arrangements and classical influences are prominent while the sound ranges from typical symphonic rock to electronic music (Jean Michel Jarre style). The rich sounds of the keyboards handle most of the melodic and harmonic work while the rest of the band takes care of the rhythm. Easy listening instrumental music that should reach a large audience. -- Paul Charbonneau
Battalions of Fear (88)
Follow the Blind (89)
Tales from the Twilight World (90)
Somewhere Far Beyond (92)
Tokyo Tales (92, Live)
Imaginations From the Other Side (95)
The Forgotten Tales (96)
Nightfall in Middle-Earth (98) (Progressive World review)
A Night at the Opera (02)
Live (03, 2CD Live)
A Twist in the Myth (06)
At the Edge of Time (10)
Gothic speed metal with fantasy themes and progressive elements. I have
Nightfall in Middle Earth, which is a loosely constructed story
based on one of the tales in Tolkien's Silmarillion. It's Prog Metal,
but more along the lines of Queen than
Dream Theater, with lots of multitracking
in both the vocals and the Brian Mayish overdubbed guitars building up
orchestral textures. In between each song is a brief "radio show" style of
voice acting with sound effects to move the story along, or sometimes a
medieval-styled instrumental passage. These are actually pretty well done,
particularly the spoken parts, performed by some guys with pretty good
voices. Since these passages are kept down to only a couple of minutes
each, I sort of like the effect. Unfortunately, the recording style of the
main long song sections is much muddier than
Queen, or I would like this album a lot more.
It feels like there's too many overdubs, and instead of sounding
orchestral it just decays into metallic chaos in a lot of places. Even
so, it's not bad as it is ... but I wish I could produce this band, I
would like the result a lot more (yeah, I like to do "Monday Morning
If you have any doubt about Queen's influence on Blind Guardian, check out the title of their new (2002) release! -- Fred Trafton
Most people come here to get information and progressive rock bands. Well, I do not consider Blind Guardian extremely progressive, but adventerous in some way and (especially their 2002 album) very refreshing. I will review the album, A Night at the Opera (2002), which is in my opinion Metal Opera and not Power-Heavy Metal.
But before, I'll introduce you to the band a bit. First off, you need to know that Blind Guardian is a quite old band (in the Metal scene). They have gained a lot of experience and fans with time, and are now an extremely known and reknowned band for Power-Heavy Metal. They have never been Power to the core (like Rhapsody or Nostradameus) nor too heavy styled (like Iced Earth). Rather, they have mostly played "in-the-middle" of the two and experiencing stuff. Still, I consider them a bit more heavy than power because they often play slower than power metal, and sometime use acoustic instruments which gives a strange medieval style to their music. If you hear songs like "Lord of the Rings" and "A Past and Future Secret", you would really wonder if it is really Heavy Metal. Like I was saying, Blind Guardian can be very acoustic and pretty ballad like, they like giving a "raconteur" style to their songs; story-telling legends from past times, epic and medieval days. At the same time, they can be extremely harsh in their music, listening to "Excalibur" (interpreted with Iced Earth) really gets the sense of "devilness" going. But still, they aren't going to swear or scream, and in this way they stay on the melodic side of music. Blind Guardian like to use big choir effects to back up their lead singing. They have made quite impressive songs in this manner like "And the Story Ends" which uses a choir in most of the song and gives a sense of great power. When you listen to Blind Guardian, you have to let yourself imbedded by the medieval way and style. If you like Dungeons and Dragons, or The Lord of the Rings, you will like the style of them.
A Night at the Opera goes beyond Heavy and Power Metal. Think of giving an orchestra to a Metal band who likes to play powering, heavy and epic hard songs and that loves mightiness. The album is pretty crazy, as to say. It takes Metal to a new state. First of all to like the album, you need to like power. The whole album is based on epic-medievil styled music, but played with a sens of overwhelming depth. Most of the album is made up of fast, unending songs. In a way, you get a sens of great battles and combats, but in another way, your ears get hurt. This would be one of the only bad points of this album. Songs are very symphonic, orchestra like, with alot of guitar licks covering everything up. The most evident influence of this group is Queen. Especially the singing, which is evidently Queenish. Another small influence would be Meat Loaf, the great Rock Opera band. Though this is less evident, you get that sence of "opera" going like them. The drumming is especially impressive, when you concentrate on it. The thousands of beats this drummer can get going is crazy.
In my opinion, the bad part of the album is the lack of emotions. I would have really appreciated if the group would have made some mellow parts of songs, making everything more "airy". What happens is that you get this unending, everchanging addition of riffs, beats and choir parts with a guitar that doesn't give you any chance of decompressing. I think that, even if this is mainly Metal, putting in some spaces to let us breathe a bit would have been necessary and even essential. Still, the album is a great step for the band. If you would like to get a sense of the album but don't want to go out and by the CD, get yourself the song "And Then There Was Silence" (no, there isn't any silence : ). This song is 14 minutes long and gives you a great idea of the style of songs you will get. All in all, it is a very good album and very "avant-garde" for the kind of music (considering Metal isn't very adventurous) and I really appreciate the band trying to do something new. Good Job guys. -- Philippe Groarke
Blind Guardian 2010 - Promo shot for At the Edge of Time album
At The Edge of Time comes in two versions ... a single-CD version and a 2CD version with alternate versions of some of the songs and a video. I got something in between ... the deluxe iTunes download, which contains all the songs from both CD's but not the video from the second CD. Good enough for me. The extra cuts include "Wheel of Time (Orchestral Version)", which I think I like more than the "main" version. Interestingly, the demo version of "Tanelorn (Into The Void)" has words that aren't about Tanelorn.
Perhaps even more interesting from my point of view is news that Blind Guardian has been working on an orchestra piece for many years now, and the orchestra they used for At The Edge of Time seems to be to their liking. A new album is in the works which will be the least guitar-oriented album the band has ever done, though they say it will still be unmistakably a Blind Guardian album. As much as I liked the way they integrated guitars and orchestra for At The Edge of Time, I'm really looking forward to this! More to come as I hear it ... -- Fred Trafton
[See Looking-Glass-Self |
Debut At Dusk (87)
One of the earliest American neo-prog bands.
The LP, called "Erba" in Greek, is very interesting for the flute and the keyboard and the problem is the vocals. All the member of the group are singing but there isn't a really singer.
Blocco Mentale is an Italian five piece consisting of the usual drums, bass, keyboards, guitar as well as sax, flute and occasional harmonic. All five members contribute to the Italian vocals. Like many Italian symphonic prog bands, the music on their sole release (Poa) is very melodic and draws many influences from PFM. The sax lends a different air than PFM as does the use of five singers, though I wouldn't label the music as vocal dominant because there are many long instrumental passages. There are occasional heavier moments that recall to mind bands like Il Balletto di Bronzo though quieter PFM-like passages are the norm with plenty of flute, acoustic guitar and Mellotron. Some of the vocal passages tend to drag down the music a bit (preventing this from being a true classic) but the instrumental passages are where the band really shines forth. Electric guitar and Hammond organ trade licks with the sax over a solid rhythm section. Overall, this is a good album and one that fans of melodic symphonic prog should enjoy. However, if you don't have some of the truly classic Italian symphonics, such as PFM's Per Un Amico or Semiramis's Dedicato a Frazz, you should get those first. Save this one for later explorations.
Ahead Rings Out (69)
Getting to This (70)
All Tore Down-Live (94, Live)
Pig in the Middle (96, as Mick Abraham's Blodwyn Pig)
The Modern Alchemist (97)
Live At Lafayette (97, Live from 69/70)
The Full Porky - Live in London 1991 (98, Live rec. 1991)
Live at the Fillmore West, San Francisco, 3rd August 1970 (99, Live "Official Bootleg")
On Air - Rare Singles & Radio Sessions 1969-1989 (99, "Official Bootleg")
The Basement Tapes (00)
Blodwyn Pig circa 1988 - Clive Bunker, Gordon Murphy, Mick Abrahams and Andy Pyle
Blodwyn Pig was the band started by Mick Abrahams after he left Jethro Tull. Influences are similar to early Tull: jazz, blues, but very little trad folk. Saxes and other woodwinds play a prominent role here, played by Jack Lancaster, who would later surface in the Brand X clique. There are two albums from around 1970/71 Ahead Rings Out, and Getting to This. Anyone who enjoys the first few Tull albums should have no trouble with these.
|Circa 1970- From what I recall, they played a blend of rock and Jazz. Really good driving rhythm and sax with some horns, excellent band.|
|Bluesrock with some good moments and riffs here and there, though small amount of prog in it.|
[See Abrahams, Mick |
Brand X |
Click here for Mick Abraham's
official Blodwyn Pig web site
Contrasts (69), Rebirth (70), Reflections on a Life (71), Blonde on Blonde (72)
Land of the Midnight Sun (86), Timeless Flight (??), Shoreline (??), Sierra Passage (??)
Colorful new-agey stuff more in the vein of Lanz and Speer's Desert Vision, Land of the Midnight Sun is supposedly a musical tribute to the picturesque beauty of Alaska. Musically synthesizers predominate throughout, but there are some drums, guitars and such.
Solo effort by Didier Malherbe aka Bloomdido Bad de Grasse.
Hombre, Tierra Y Alma (79)
El Hijo del Alba (80)
Musica Para La Libertad (81)
Grandes Éxitos (82, Compilation)
En Directo (99, Live)
A Spanish Progressive band with a few albums out. The only one I've heard is their third, El Hijo Del Alba. At the very beginning it sounds like it might be a little bit weak, along the lines of Synergy or something, only much less interesting. However, this is quickly left behind and the album becomes much more interesting, at least in its variety. Bloque blend synth and Spanish vocals with electric and acoustic guitar (lots of electric) in a wide variety of styles. Vaguely Celtic folk melodies, acoustic ballads with melodic guitar solos that make me think of a Spanish Allman Brothers (for lack of better comparison), heavy riffing with feisty guitar solos like many a UK rock band (say, a cross between Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath), upbeat rock 'n' roll songs with backing horns, driving passages that remind of the Italian band Osanna and much more: these (inadequately) hint at the diversity of styles heard on just the first side of the album. The band sure can't be faulted for standing still! The second side is more Progressive (also more better, to use a cajun phrase) with several songs (mostly guitar excursions, some synth) held together by a recurring theme stated by keyboards and guitar. The problem is that the album as a whole doesn't sound cohesive but instead like a mere collection of songs. The first side fails to build excitement and anticipation for the second side -- instead, I become confused as to the purpose and direction of the band. Too, the bassist and drummer play in a simple rhythm without much variation which fails to draw me into the music. Not bad, but I can't seem to get real excited about this particular album. However, it is enough to make me curious about some of their earlier albums. Basically, if you can find it at a deal, snatch it up. But there are several other bands more worthy of your long green if you are still exploring or on a limited budget.
|Bloque is certainly one of the best groups to come from the '70s Spanish scene. Their style is best described as guitar-oriented melodic prog rock. That is not to say that they do not use keyboards, but certainly the guitar is the focal point. Vocals are in Spanish, of course. Their best is Musica Para La Libertad which includes the incredible instrumental track, "Tau Ceti," which is guaranteed to make guitar fans drool. El Hijo del Alba is also excellent. If you are still hungry, get the second one. Their first is rather poor and only for completists. -- Juan Joy|
|Links||Click here for Bloque's web site|
We Are Ever So Clean (67)
If Only For a Moment (69)
|Seminal psych with two lead guitars.|
[See B.B. Blunder]
Blue Chip Orchestra (88)
Blue Danube (91)
White River Red Spirit (97)
Red Sky Beat (98)
|A later incarnation of Bognermayr/Zuschrader. They have released two CD's so far, both of which feature highly orchestral work, and are excellent. The second one was released just a couple of months ago [this was written in 1991! -Ed.]. Their interpretation of "Bolero" on the first one is very listenable, if somewhat trite.|
|The back of Blue Chip Orchestra CD claims they are the first digital philharmonic. BCO has impeccable sound quality, and some convincing electronic orchestrations, but as a whole it doesn't compare to classical music (if this is the intention). The darker passages are the more interesting, and I think the music might have been more effective if it wasn't broken up into smaller pieces separated by the sound of pages flipping.|
|This is Hubert Bognermayr and Harald Zuschrader, ex-Eela Craig. I heard one track, "Bolero Carmin". Sounds like an attempt to mix latter- day synth music with acoustic, classical instrumentation. Not unlike labelmate Matthias Thurow's work, but not quite as good as that. -- Mike Ohman|
Blue Chip Orchestra was the brainchild of keyboard player and Erdenklang label founder Hubert Bognermayr,
a "digital philharmony" striving to mix the stately and stratified style of Middle-European art music with
the brighter beats of contemporary electronic music. Blue Danube - Donau So Blau (Erdenklang 91346) is
a tentative effort to achieve this kind of synthesis. The song titles evoke the spirit of composers like Mozart, Smetana
and Bruckner and occasionally use, not always credited, snatches of melodies from actual pieces of the said composers.
However, taking the arch marches, the romantic sweeps and Straussian burlesques and dressing them up with
floating rhythms, vocal sampling and jangling digital tones does not in itself lend to a particularly engaging music.
Members of Bognermayr's Blue Chip Academy play all kinds of electronic and custom-built hybrid instruments to match
Bognermayr's extensive digital synthesizer programmes and arrangements. This gives the music a bit more range and
organic quality than most electronic music of the same era, and hence makes it sound less dated fifteen years later.
It avoids all unnecessary bombast and most clichéd methods by which many progressive bands, for example, came undone
when trying to mate classical with popular. Yet somehow it also fails to leave much of an impression or to evoke a great response.
The concept is sound and the realisation intriguing, but here the coupling of classical and electronic does not feed off
into a positive synergetic loop.
White River Red Spirit (Erdenklang 70992) and Red Sky Beat (Hearts of Space 11089-2) are two different versions of the same album, differing in artwork, running order and song durations. In both cases, the music is atmospheric electronica bordering on New Age, with an abundance of breathy pads, langorous melodies and various sampled or synthesized vocals and rhythms from Native American musical heritage. There is more vitality to this music, yet it is mining a far more familiar territory with already established tools. Interesting for what it is, but quite far from progressive rock. -- Kai Karmanheimo
|Links||[See Eela Craig | Bognermayr and Zuschrader]|
Out of the Blue (78)
Just For the Record (79)
The Intermediary (82)
Free Delivery (90)
Country Boy Country Dog / How to Discover Music in the Sounds of Your Daily Life (94)
"Blue" Gene Tyranny
Just For the Money - a must have [I think he means "Just for the Record" -Ed.]. A few atonal pieces plus the classic "Timing". You probably heard this one (Change now....)
|Links||Click here for "Blue" Gene Tyranny's web site|
Blue Morning (73)
These sound like Soft Machine.
[See Soft Machine]
Blue Motion (80)
Blue Motion is a trio consisting of excellent percussionist Fritz Hauser, and two keyboard players, Stephan Ammann and Stephan Grieder. Their sole, self-titled album consists of 12 tracks, two long tracks (12+ minutes) and several shorter sketches. The short sketches range in length from 37 seconds to a little over four minutes, with most around 1.5 minutes. As you might imagine, with this line-up the musical focus is on interplay between all three musicians. The sketches are suggestions of brief musical ideas but don't have time to develop anything more than a theme statement and short variations. The two longer works show a well developed sense of style and interplay. Hauser is an excellent drummer and xylophonist. His playing is an excellent counterpoint to the interplay of the two keyboardists. Alternating between piano and synth, the sound is sometimes comparable to a stripped down version of Kenso, while other times they sound more classical in nature. The music may not be to everyone's taste. I personally enjoy this album a great deal but others think the lack of development in the sketches brings down the quality of the album as a whole. If you're looking for something unique, and enjoy good keyboards and a quality percussionist, you would do well to look into this album.
Karawane der Mystiks (??)
|Mini Plasticine Man (00, EP CD)|
Bob's Your Monster - Mike Pinch (Guitar), Stu Pinch (Bass) and
Rob Berry (Vocals)
I've been putting off writing this review. I admit it. It's because this is such a hard band to pin down and describe. The music isn't like anything else I've ever heard. It wanders around among the categories in my head and just refuses to find a home in any of them. And my perceptions change every time I listen to this little EP.
I'll listen to it one day and think, "This isn't progressive at all. These guys are just another club band. But they are a little strange ... I don't think they'll ever get much radio airplay." A couple of days will go by and I'll put it on again. This time I'm thinking, "How could I have said this isn't progressive? Listen to that strange bass line on "Let Me Breathe" ... it sounds like it's ripping my woofers to shreds. And this song, "Thirteenage", it's in 11/8 for cryin' out loud! Of course this is progressive." Next time around, I'll think, "Oh, I see, this is really sort of Jazz-rock, it's just that vocalist that makes it sound strange." And so on ... I swear, it's a new CD every time I put it on. Which makes it hard to describe, but fun to listen to.
Bob's Your Monster used to be called "Ouch!", but evidently that name was taken by another band (who'd have thought it?). Well, I doubt anyone's going to take "Bob's Your Monster" away from them. And, Bob is a monster, if they're talking about Rob Berry (no, not the one that sang with Emerson and Palmer on 3 To the Power of Three). He's a monster vocalist with a heavily-vibrato'ed voice which sounds like it might be more at home in a Metal band than here. But his high-register crooning is what usually captures the attention. It glides over odd-metered passages so smoothly and effortlessly, you'll be fooled into thinking it's 4/4 time, just because it all sounds so easy.
The Pinch brothers, playing guitar and keys, have created some real oddball tunes here, flavored with light rock, mellow night-club jazz, and 80's top-40's sounds, then spiced it up with some progressive explorations and strange studio effects. They've come up with something so unique that they aren't even sure how to categorize themselves. I think they chose "progressive" because nothing else really fit. OK, I'll buy it. They're progressive.
This EP is a pretty interesting demo, but the recording quality does sometimes show some "self-produced" problems, including subtle distortions in the vocals which don't seem like they were intended. Still, all in all, not a bad recording. If you're looking for something a little different than the usual "sounds like Yes, Genesis and King Crimson" fare, give these guys a try. The Mini Plasticine Man EP is all they have released so far, and it's available on their web site. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||Click here for Bob's Your Monster web site|
An Ordinary Night in My Ordinary Life (96)
In my own opinion the better solo-record to come out of The Flower Kings family, as Roine Stolt´s effort Hydrophonia was a huge dissapointment. This however sounds much like The Flower Kings at their best, although this is instrumental stuff. It is performed by the flower guys, and plenty of Roine´s excelent solo playing thruout. For obvious reasons the keyboards have a very prominent role and nobody can layer different kinds of keyboards - Mellotrons, Hammond organs, moog synths and electric pianos - like Mr. Bodin. A virtual master at creating soundscapes without cluttering the sonics (Roine could actually take some pointers from this guy when it comes to the more busy Flower Kings segments which tend to lose an instrument or two in the mere mass of sounds). A great variety of songs, ranging from the more somber church-like music, "Daddy in the Clouds", via the freaky jazzbop tune "Speed Wizard", stopping by at the very "Revolution 9"-esque "An Ordinary Nightmare in poor Mr. Hope´s Ordinary Life" complete with "Number ten!" samples. The concluding 16 and a half minute three-piece song "Three Stories" is simply a great symphonic trip with all the ingredients you could wish for: every vintage keyboard there is must be featured on it, a couple of Roine´s solos at his most manic, and also some beautiful quiet introvert piano ponderings. A must have if ever you enjoyed The Flower Kings or groups like them, because this is easily as good as anything they have done in a long time. And you don´t have to worry if you weren´t that impressed by Tomas´ input in Flower Power, as this is much more consistently brilliant. -- Daniel
[See Flower Kings, The |
Samla Mammas Mannas |
Click here for Tomas Bodin's bio on the Flower Kings web site
Heavy underground prog.
The Body Album (81)
No official releases
[Please note that the following article violates one of the usual GEPR rules ... it was written by the artist himself. But Boebbel provided some nice, concise write-ups for his three interlinked bands, and it's unlikely that I would get info on these in any other way. If you know of him and have an opinion, please send it in and I'll publish that as well. In the meantime, be aware that there will be some built-in bias in the following article. You have been warned. -- Fred Trafton]
After having been a band member of Zak & Boebbel and Oezem, Belgian multi-instrumentalist Boebbel decided to start a career as a solo rock comedy performer around 1973. He turned himself into a true phenomenal one-man orchestra, performing songs, monologues, poetry, short plays and instrumentals. He accompanied himself on guitar or selfmade instruments such as the 'sitared guitar' or the 'klopmöbel', a percussion set that was an amazing complex of small idiophones. By means of an ingenious tube construction, he was even able to do a percussion solo while at the same time playing a trumpet solo. He really had a very personal way of singing, which could be described as a peculiar mix of howling and growling. His instrumental and vocal interventions were weird but inventive, such as alpenhorn solos, gurgle laughs, or bicycle seat wah-wah playing. And what to think about flamenco guitar arpeggios accompanied on castanets, both being played at the same time by means of a set of strings around the wrist! Occasionally he was accompanied by a backing group, such as e.g. Schroktepel (with Marc Van Hove on drums and Dirk Bogaerts on guitar).
Boebbel's main objective was to make people laugh or shock them. The lyrics of his songs dealt with masturbation, transvestism, sadism, pedophilia etc. ... and it often happened that one of his performances was stopped by local authorities. Together with sax player Paul Van Laere he therefore decided to found an instrumental jazzrock band called Psychotone around 1980.
However, the people who saw him perform will never forget songs like "Pustule Rock'n Roll", "House of the Lepers", "The Unrelenting Masturbator", "The Chicken Screwer", "Embryo Blues", "The Impotent Phlegm", "The Flying Turd", "The Workman", "Blond Theo", or "Leave my Dick Alone".
Some tapes of bootleg quality from rehearsals and live performances are circulating around, so if you're lucky you just might pick up one of these recordings. Some of the rehearsal tapes are just one long improvisation from the beginning till the end, as this was one of Boebbel's unorthodox ways of composing or constructing a song. After his career as a musician, Boebbel became a famous assemblage sculptor under the pseudonym of Ribley! -- Rick Boebbel
Click here for Boebbel's incomprehensible web site under
the name of Ribley!
Juex De Nains (86)
Vu Du Ciel (98)
Parfum d'étoiles (00) (ProgressoR review)
Before going solo, Jean Pascal Boffo was the guitarist for Michel Altmayer's French band Troll. I'm not positive, but I don't believe Troll ever recorded while Boffo was a band member. Boffo's first solo release, Jeux De Nains, was the first ever release by Musea. Nomades is Musea's 100th release! It's also a bit odd for a Musea release as the CD was released in a digipack rather than the usual jewel case. Boffo's releases have all generally been different and this album is no different. Previous albums have been mostly acoustic guitar or electric guitar combined with synthesizers, or even a small orchestra on Rituel. The ten tracks on Nomades. The ten tracks on Nomades are a conceptual representation of the desert nomads and caravans of the Middle East and Eastern Asia. As such, the music on Boffo's fourth release is full of Middle and Far Eastern themes. Upon first listen, I thought, "yah, it's okay." Upon second listen, I thought, "hey, this is pretty good." Now, I think it's a damn fine album, full of shifting textural layers of electric guitar, violin and soprano sax, upon a base of typically Middle Eastern style percussives. Reflecting Boffo's roots, there is also a fusionesque edge to his guitar tone and fine solos. While the sinuous themes of "Snake's Dance" or "L'oeuf du Desert" can be appreciated by many Prog fans, this album is subtle enough that it can even be played during dinner for your non-Prog friends, or even your parents! That is not to say the 47 minutes of music on this CD is mere light jazz dinner music, as that would be far off the mark. The incorporation of jazz into Mid-Eastern themes is generally unique within Progressive realms, though sometimes reminiscent of David Torn's excellent Cloud About Mercury. The intertwined melodies of the three main instruments are subtle and require several listens to unravel and should delight fans of the above mentioned Torn album as well as many other Prog fans. Nomades is an extraordinary (as in out of the ordinary) album that fans of guitar-based Prog should find genuinely pleasing. Carillons, from 1987, is quite a different beast, still jazzy but without the oriental themes. Long time associate Herve Rouyer is the drummer, while Denis Batis plays synths, and Carlos Pavicich plays bass on four of the seven tracks that feature the low-end guitar (Boffo handles the other three). Ten songs range from 3:13 to 7:04 minutes and total more than 44 minutes of music. Like Nomades, Carillons, Carillons took some time to grow on me, though I think I still prefer the unique Middle and Far Eastern textures of Nomades. The cover and inside of the Carillons booklet are colorful fantasy illustrations, with faeries, elves and pixies, which sets the playful mood for this album. You'll hear dancing synths and joyous guitar in a jazzy, instrumental matrix. Nowhere is this more evident than in "Joyeuses Paques." The music is lighthearted but not light weight. When Boffo dons the bass guitar, the music takes on a zuehlish tinge underneath, perhaps reflecting his stint with Troll, while Pavicich's bass work is more melodic. Songs without bass, such as "Conte a rebours" and "Le retour des nains" enhance the magical world inhabited by such playful imps, though some bottom end is still provided from the keyboards. Boffo's guitar is heard throughout, very melodic and reserved, remaining an essential part of the mix, rather than a flashy solo artist on top of a backing band. Jean Pascal Boffo has not stood still in his musical career. He explores different styles, themes and contexts. From what I have heard so far, he has always been successful. I hope Boffo retains his artist integrity and sense of exploration for many future albums. -- Mike Taylor
|Boffo was the guitarist with the legendary French zeuhl band Troll. He's released three solo albums to date: Jeux De Nains is predominantly an acoustic guitar album, with bass and synth added on some tracks, evoking a Magmoid feel. His second Carillons is the electric facet of his sound, the spotlight being shared with keyboardist Denis Batis, producing a more sophisticated and energized sound with soaring melodic guitars. His 3rd album Rituel, originally released in 1988, was remastered for CD, with three bonus tracks. Three distinct faces of his sound are represented here: The album opener is the stunning 23 minute three part symphonic title track, on which JP abstains from reliance on synthesizers, and uses a small orchestra to achieve his ends instead. The result: positively mind-shattering. The balance of the tracks fall into the acoustic guitar category reminiscent of his first album, or shorter Guitar/Synth driven progressive pieces that remind of his second. Musea promises his long awaited 4th will be out in 93.|
|Rituel is Boffo's third release, and the CD has 5 additional tracks not featured on the original LP. The closest comparison would be to Steve Hackett, in terms of the guitar sounds and melodies, which are aided on this release by symphonic, orchestral keyboard backing and a full array of wind instruments, especially on the three-part title track. Other points of comparison would be Anthony Phillips, especially to his later, more heavily orchestrated works, and, to some extent, Gandalf, the Austrian synthesist/guitarist, whose latest release, quite coincidentally, featured Steve Hackett to a good extent.|
|On Nomades, this excellent guitarist plays an electric jazz music with mid-eastern flavoured themes. Drummer (and percussions), saxophone player (soprano) and violinist are added to his solid work on guitars, bass and programming. The neatly crafted exotic melodies are developed progressively, as the intensity of the rhythmic section increases. The rich and dynamic production brings out all the nuances of the performances. Despite showing undeniable energy and becoming quite busy at times, the music has a mellow feel can curiously evokes the demeanour of a camel! -- Paul Charbonneau|
|[Parfum d'étoiles is] not the most mind-blowing of the latest releases of the Musea company at the end of the year, but one of the very good category. Generally, Musea started with Boffo of all people, and this is already the 8th studio album of a musician, who's become world renowned a long time ago practically equal to Steve Hackett, Anthony Phillips and another few performers, whose all but exceptionally solo career lives up to a band creation in terms of quality of the material. In fact, the quality of composing and performing of all with no exception albums of Jean-Pascal matches that of the Titans of Solo, yet their main quality is a constant search for new forms, which made each new album of his a pleasant surprise for his numerous fans. From Classic Art Rock the leading Solo Pilot of France takes a sudden step in direction of Symphonic Jazz Fusion, then amazes with a work totally consisting of most various 'musics' of the Orient, etc. However, unlike the majority of the other established Solo Pilots - likes of Jeremy, Fonya, Chance, Bill Laswell, and others, Boffo works with a powerful cast of performers, so that his albums have a sound inherent in normal bands. With the so called "Truly Acoustic Progressive" (the most famous example - Steve Hackett's "Momentum" of 1988, whereas Ian Anderson's "The Secret Language of Birds" is hardly more than a half-acoustic album, and that conditionally, since it has a characteristic band sound on the whole) has practically nothing to do (though, his 'separate' acoustic guitar pieces are always wonderful). Likewise, his last opus Parfum d'étoiles belongs to the few full-blooded solo-efforts, while the movement of solo Acoustic Progressive as a whole attained a mass character in the last years, actually. Having nothing against it, I have always preferred a rich sound of a band. Again, keeping in mind the rich stylistic diversity within the discography (in my view, more than a positive factor - absence of stagnation) each Boffo's album, taken separately, does deserve a note of 4+, at the very least. A significant part of the ProGduction of this wonderful Frenchman is fully instrumental albums. There are vocal tracks in Parfum d'étoiles, but first, they are only 4 in number (and almost 49 minutes of the album's time are instrumentals). Secondly, the songs are in themselves of high quality, and the singer knows the tricks of her trade (one song is sung in English, and her manner of singing reminds in places of Sally Oldfield in Hackett's album Voyage of the Acolyte). And third, thanks to the remarkable producing, the vocal tracks are largely dispersed among the instrumentals, like vocal islands in an instrumental sea. And while Boffo's talent as a composer is evident everywhere (starting with his debut album), as a unique performer and above all as a guitarist, it is in instrumental pieces that he has a space worthy of his genius. I can't decide for the best instrumental track - all of them with no exception strike the imagination with surprisingly savoury themes and diverse, at times simply magical arrangements. Many of the experienced fans of our "progressive psychological niche" remember well, that the majority of the genre's best works, along with "progressiveness" as such, carried in themselves a kind of magic. I recall now unique, mysterious, very "soulful" synth solo of Manfred Mann circa 1973-1978, and something of the kind I hear now in some passages of Boffo. It's difficult to put this magic of sound into words, but that's it, which many, many, even "terrifically" progressive modern bands lack these days. -- Vitaly Menshikov|
[See Altmayer, Michel]
Erdenklang - Computerakustische Klangsinfonie (82)
In the mid to late seventies, these guys were part of a very symphonic,
progressive rock group called Eela Craig. Their music was very lush
and majestic, build on a foundation of keyboard sounds. They released
five albums, none of which are available on CD, which are now collectors
items of some value, commanding upto $30 for the last four and upto $500
(!) for the first self-titled one.
After the dissolution of Eela Craig in the early eighties, B and Z got together and released three works, the first one of which was the first ever release on the Erdenklang label. It was called Computerakustische Klangs- sinfonie, and featured synthesized instruments playing acoustic sounds. A couple of lesser known works were also released, both of which have very religious overtones, much like gospel music and chants played to the backing of keyboards. There is a fair bit of spoken prayer in these two, which tends to make them somewhat unaccessible to the average electronic aficionado.
Later, they named themselves the Blue Chip Orchestra, and have released two CDs so far, both of which feature highly orchestral work, and are excellent.
|Links||[See Eela Craig | Blue Chip Orchestra]|
The Man Who Was Boiled in Lead (85), Hotheads (87), From the Ladle to the Grave (89), Orb (90), Old Lead (91), Boiled Alive (92), Antler Dance (94), Songs from The Gypsy (95)
Boiled in Lead (BiL) is a difficult band to categorize. They've variously
described themsleves as "Celtic Rock," "Folk Punk,"
and "Celtodelic World Beat Rock and Reel." Based on their most
recent tour, I'd describe them as Celto-Balkan-American alternative folk
metal with a virtuosic edge and an irreverent sense of humor. If you can
envision a cross between Fairport Convention, 3 Mustaphas 3, the
Replacements, and Frank Zappa, you might have an idea of what BiL is
Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, BiL got their start playing rocked-up versions of traditional Irish folk tunes. Their first two albums, The Man Who Was Boiled in Lead and Hotheads (both are long since out of print, but are now available on the the compilation disk Old Lead), consist of fairly straightforward Celtic rock with a bit of a punk edge. From the Ladle to the Grave is a more diverse and musically sophisticated album. largely as a result of their a drummer, Robin 'Adnan' Anders, who is technically impressive and has an extensive background in a variety of world musics. Unsuprisingly, From the Ladle to the Grave moves into new territory, showing a good deal Eastern European, Middle-eastern, and African musical influences in addition to the Celtic elements. Don't be misled, however, into thinking that this-era BiL sounds anything like, say, Peter Gabriel or other world-rock artists. In spite of these new directions, BiL retained it's rogue-folk edge and tongue-in-cheek humor. This trend continued with Orb, which took the band even further into Balkan music and included a couple of tunes from Scandinavia and Thailand, Both of these mid-period albums feature some precise playing, complicated rhythms and time signatures, and some wonderful work on fiddle and percussion.
After the release of Orb, the band went through another set of personnel changes, resulting in noticeable shift in musical direction. Most significantly, singer/guitarist Todd Menton left and was replaced by Adam Stemple, who brought to the band a distinct bluegrass/country influence. (This change left bassist/dulcimerist Drew Miller the only original member of the band.) With the new lineup, BiL released Antler Dance in 1994, which was a return to the raw edge that characterized their earlier albums: lots of distortion and feedback and a little less variety in their use of traditional instruments. Songs from The Gypsy is a major change in direction for the band-- or at the very least, an unusual detour. The album is really a song cycle based on a novel by Stephen Brust called The Gypsy. (Brust wrote the lyrics for the album as well.) Most of the music, written entirely by Stemple is an unadventurous, yet sound, bluesy folk rock, although there are one or two songs on it that incorporate Hungarian folk melodies and feature some great fiddle-playing by Josef Kessler. The album is strangely humorless for Boiled in Lead. There are few songs on it that display any sort of wit or irreverence, either musical or lyrical-- with the possible exception of "Ugros," which features a clever, but bombastic violin solo.
For prog fans, I'd recommend From the Ladle to the Grave as a first buy, although Anter Dance wouldn't be a bad pick, so long as you don't mind that it's quite a bit harder and a lot less Celticky than most of their other stuff. (But if you're into heavy metal middle-eastern music w/ raunchy guitar, psychedlic dulcimer, tastefully unrestrained bodhran-playing , and wild Gypsy fiddling, all with a bit of a Southern twang, it's definitely the album to get first.) If, on the other hand, you tend to prefer relatively traditonal British Isles stuff, Old Lead might actually be the best starter and Orb wouldn't be bad if you were interested in their ventures into other folk traditions. -- James Chokey
Psychedelic Underground (68)
I was checking the GEPR and found a mistake in the Bokaj Retsiem entry. I have the
record [Psychedelic Underground] and it says it was originally released in 1968 on
the German exploit label FASS and featured Rainer Degner as the composer and
musician Herbert Hildebrandt was the producer.
Inside the LP, there is a review by Roger Maglio of Gear Fab Records, Orlando Florida, and it says there is not an actual biography of the band. In the review they mentioned that the name Bokaj Retsiem is perhaps Meister Jakob or Jakob Meister spelled backwards but no one really knows.
The music is really excellent a fusion of psychedelia/blues/jazz. In the song, "Drifting" (track 5 / Side two) they scream in German for over 30 seconds, and I believe because the name Rainer Degner and because they scream in German that the band was from Germany. -- Agustin Oviedo
If Only the Stones Could Speak: A Musical Journey Through the Myths and
Legends of Medieval Brugge (02)
John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg is a name familiar to many prog rockers. If one were to delete
all of his prog band/artist interviews from any given issue of
the issue would be about half of its length. And, if one were to remove his album
reviews from the
Progressive World web site, they would lose nearly half of the site's content.
Mr. Bollenberg has interviewed many prog bands and artists in his time, and thus has
made friends with many of them. So, when it came time for Mr. Bollenberg to put
together his own album, he found many big names in prog were willing to help him
to realize his vision.
If Only The Stones Could Speak is a concept album about the history of medieval Brugge, and the artists who are members of "The Bollenberg Experience" for this release read like a who's who of progressive rock. Featured are such luminaries as Rick Wakeman (Yes), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Roine Stolt (Flower Kings, Transatlantic), Pär Lindh, Björn Johansson, William Kopecky (Kopecky), and Heather Findlay and Brian Josh (Mostly Autumn). Bollenberg co-composed the songs with Björn Johansson, wrote most of the lyrics, and sings lead on most of the songs, though he is helped out by Heather Findlay and Bryan Josh on "Minna". The album is about as international as it can be, having been recorded in Sweden, Belgium and the UK, and is manufactured and distributed by the French Musea label. I only identify the band as [Belgium] because this is where Mr. Bollenberg lives.
Musically, this album is symphonic prog with a distinctly medieval flavor, reminiscent of Rick Wakeman's The Myths & Legends of King Arthur & The Knights of the Round Table (and whose title also bears a strong resemblence). Because of all the guest artists, the style has a bit of a patchwork feel, which Bollenberg attempts to make the best of by making the songs be about very different myths and legends. To tell the truth, though I find this album to be a valiant effort and certainly not terrible, my overall feeling is lukewarm about this release. Bollenberg's vocals are OK, but not necessarily the best suited for this medieval styled music, and the whole thing comes across sounding a bit contrived for a concept album. Still, it's not a bad first release, and judging from the "Thanks" section of the CD insert, Bollenberg seems to have a second album in mind (with, perhaps, some involvement from Arjen "Ayreon" Lucassen?).
Bottom line: a tempered endorsement with hopes that the next attempt will be a bit more cohesive and written to better highlight Mr. Bollenberg's vocal talents. Keep on proggin', John! -- Fred Trafton
Click here for The
Bollenberg Experience's web site (under construction)
Click here to order If Only The Stones Could Speak from Musea Records
7Kr01 (01, 4-song EP, only 150 pressed as promos)
Circadian Rhythm (03)
Movement and Detail (06)
Bolt's first release, Circadian Rhythm, is generally described as "technical"
or "math rock", though I haven't heard it. I have
heard their second release Movement and Detail, however. This album reminds me a lot of
Fripp's League of Gentlemen, combining fast, oddball
guitar note sequences with punkish (or maybe more "new-wave-ish") bass and drums. Some parts also
remind me of early
Gong circa Camembert Electrique or Continental
Circus, though the guitar is much more like Fripp than
Daevid Allen. The music has a lot of counterpoint
with repeating, hypnotic sequences ... the kind of music you would usually hear played on a
Stick or Warr
guitar. But on this album, the instrumentation
is very commonplace, it's just the notes coming out of them that's strange, angular and
One of the "songs" on the album is a recording of what sounds like an answering machine message with some guy (or maybe two) just blasting the band for how useless and talentless they are. Among the barely comprehensible compression artifacts and slurred gibberish, he can be heard to tell them they should go kill themselves because they're pointless. The caller is obviously a drunken asshole, but it takes cojones for a band to put a voicemail like this on their album. The rest of the cuts are all instrumental, and far from being talentless, these guys are not only technically interesting from an academic standpoint, but they rock too! An up and coming band that, if life is fair at all, should hit it big. Tell the drunken asshole on the answering machine to go get some musical taste or just shut the *%&$# up. Bolt is cool. Recommended! -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Bolt's web site
Click here for Bolt's MySpace page
Click here to order Circadian Rhythm or Movement and Detail from 10T Records
Love is the Law (69), Solid Bond (70), Others
Sixties mix of jazz, blues and rock which made the foundations for lots of 70s music, and as such important, though today of small interest for prog lovers.
Solid Bond featured Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, and John McLaughlin at same time.
Bondage Fruit (94)
Bondage Fruit II (96)
Bondage Fruit III Recit (97)
Live at IPMF (99)
|Japanese Zeuhl band. Seems like Japan is the only other country besides France where one can find good Zeuhl. The second album is excellent, like Magma at their most percussive, with plenty of strange vocal chorusing and lots of other effects. It’s a bit less jazzy and at times more strange than Magma. Some excellent guitar solos, and other interesting instrumentation (violin, marimba) make for some highly original music, highly recommended for fans of Zeuhl . The third and fourth albums are even heavier and less Zeuhlish, and both have long repetitive tracks. Not quite as good as II. -- Rolf Semprebon|
|Maybe one of Japans best Zeuhl bands during the 9ties (along with Ruins and Happy Family). They reached their peak with II, a disc full of heavy and dark tunes, typical hysteric Zeuhl vocals and weird guitar playing. The 15 minute "Terminal Man" is certainly one of the most impressive pieces of progressive music I ever heard coming from Japan! III Receit, a live recording, is said to contain more improvised jazz rock (a la Mahavishnu), especially as the main female vocalist left the band after II. -- Achim Breiling|
I haven't heard this band until now, though I am acquainted with their biography and know that in the beginning of their activity they had a female vocalist in the line-up. Guitarist Kido Natsuki is the band's absolute leader and he composed all of the material on the completely instrumental album IV. Musically, it represents a unique blend of RIO, Classic Art-Rock, and Avant-garde, though it's all wrapped up in guitar heavy riffs and improvisations or improvisation-alike solos. The last two are ingredients of two genres more, - Prog-Metal and Jazz-Fusion, - so the music of Bondage Fruit is really a kind of phenomenon on the progressive scene. What's the main thing, however, is that music is very interesting, but at the same time so complex and intricate that only the most adventurous and profound Prog-lovers will be able to comprehend it after several attentive listens. -- Vitaly Menshikov
for a Bondage Fruit web site
Click here for some fan photos of Bondage Fruit in concert
Click here to read Vitaly's review of IV in its entirety
Bonfire Goes Bananas (74)
|Wonderful, all-instrumental jazzy progressive rock band. I'm not sure if they are Belgian or Dutch in origin, but their 1974 album Bonfire Goes Bananas (recorded in Brussels, but my copy was issued on Dutch EMI) is a real stunner, and still sounds fresh, inventive and frisky 22 years later! Although their music is almost certainly influenced by Hatfield, the Softs, and perhaps other 'Canterbury' bands, Bonfire's sound is very original and rewarding on its own terms. The playing is superb throughout, and compositions (mostly by keyboardist Frank Witte) are tricky, convoluted, full of musical puns, but are still very tuneful. Highly recommended! -- Dave Wayne|
|This was a band who tried to stun audience with well balanced use of usual chords and less usual ones (dissonant). Well they succeeded at least by few of us who like their results. Musically, they are a mixture of straight hard/heavy rock patterns with Cantebury style fusion, sort of music only Dutchmen can do. Groovy and complex (to some extent). They may be close to their compatriots Supersister or to Finns Wigwam (due to the heavy sounding organ) and are heavily influenced by Focus. They must have been listening to the Samla Mammas Manna as well, because there’s a lot of similar sounding quirks on the album ("Vuurstaal part II.", "Chinese in Europe", etc.). If I’d have only blank CD (without credits, without titles, etc.) I’d swear these are the Mummies’ Mana-collectors, trying to do straighter rock album (ha!). Also worth to mention is 18+’ long "The Stage of the Running Nose", which reminds me of Hatfields. CD-reissue contains four bonus tracks, two shortened version of two LP songs, and two unreleased, which are of lesser quality and sound much like Focus on rockier side. Well, I could survive even without these two earlier efforts, but CD is from japanese source, and Japanese’ seem to be pretty "omnivorous" regarding everything what comes from the West. The original LP tracks are fortunately in majority and are excellent. Do not let the Japanese price change your mind, when you’ll see this in catalogue of your favorite distro-label. Recommended!! -- Nenad Kobal|
Andrew Booker is a one-man Progressive Rock Band. Imagine modern Tangerine Dream going back in time, and teaming up with the more Progressive moments of Mike Oldfield's Crises-era. This will give you an instant idea of what Andrew Booker sounds like. Andrew sings all the vocals, plays all the drums, programs all the keyboard sequencing, and writes all his own songs and lyrics. He's an independant monster!!! If you like Tangerine Dream ('80s and '90s era), The Ozric Tentacles (without guitar), and '90s originality; Then Andrew Booker's "Ahead" is a must have!!! Andrew Booker is THE "Progressive Rock" sound of the future. -- Julian Belanger
|US Prog trio in Yes direction with few keyboards and good guitar work, private pressing. Line up: Clayton Booth (gr, sy, v) Michael Davis (dr) Gary Lowe (bs, p). -- Antonio Ceruso|
Au Restaurant d'Alice (70), Le Jour Ou Les Vaches... (74), Clochard (76), Dans Quel Etat J'erre (79)
Symphonie Catastrophique (from Dans Quel Etat J'erre) is fairly descriptive of their style. Actually, this is quite good. King Crimson meets Zappa meets Univers Zero with highly emotional French vocals a la Ange. Not as inaccessible as you may think. Powerful and certainly interesting music, well worth a listen. -- Juan Joy
The Continuing Story of Counterpoint Parts 1-4 (??), Parts 5-8 (??), Parts 9-12 (??)
Minimalist work ala Steve Reich and Philip Glass.
Exprime la Naranja (79)
Eduardo Bort (75)
|The first album is excellent progressive rock highlighted by Bort's monster chops on the guitar. The only weak point are the vocals in broken English. It is definitely worth having. I was made aware of the existence of a second release (title unknown) by Lost Vinyl's president. He described this second effort as in a Latin-rock vein a la Santana, and not at all progressive as the first one. You have been warned. -- Juan Joy|
|Eduardo Bort is a Spanish guitarist whose musical influences appear to be from the psychedelic bands of the late 1960's. As I am not "up" on many of the psych bands of that era, it is hard for me to make comparisons; however, the over all sound is more in the direction of psych/prog than straight psych. There are definite progressive overtones with some synth and Mellotron work scattered throughout the album. But the focal instrument is Bort's electric and acoustic guitar. Bort makes a fine psych guitarist, which is to say that he plays the psychedelic guitar style very well, though he is nothing exceptional overall. If you like fuzz guitar, you'll like this. He sings in English, but with a strong Spanish accent, making it rather hard to understand what he's saying. Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable album. It's not a disc I play often but it definitely has its moments and is worth keeping in my collection. -- Mike Taylor|
Fiction and Several Days (95)
Astronomy Made Easy (97)
General Observation (98, Live)
Stolen Bicycle (99)
Boud Deun - Shawn Persinger, Rocky Cancelose, Matt Eiland and Greg Hiser
A Virginia based instrumental band featuring violin, guitar, bass and drums. The name is pronounced Booed Dee-un. The band sites King Crimson and Mahavishnu Orchestra as influences. At the two shows I've seen, they also sounded a lot like the Dixie Dregs, with a bit of Kansas and Rush thrown in. Their Fiction and Several Days CD gives a good idea of how they sound, but their live shows are where they really shine. They play well together, and each member also plays a great solo or two. They throw in time changes, sudden stops, varying musical styles within a single song, the whole works. Occasional musical quotes keep things interesting - at the last show I saw, the guitarist played a bit of "Day Tripper" and the theme from "The Munsters" during his solos, and the whole band abruptly shifted gears at the end of the first set and played bits of Abbey Road. If you get a chance to see these guys live, don't pass it up. -- Robert Eichler
|Brilliant four-piece fusion in the vein of Mahavishnu Orchestra, whom occasionally run into Red-era King Crimson while burning up the guitar and violin fretboards. Great bass work, great drumming, all with the intensity of top-notch '70s fusion. Both are highly recommended. -- Mike Taylor|
|This American band is formed by four excellent young musicians playing guitar, violin, bass and drums. The style on Fiction and Several Days owes more to 70's style fusion than to any other type of rock. Simple production and limited range of sounds give way to the originality and intensity of the compositions. Violin guitar and bass trade complex melodies sustained by varied, just as complex and sometimes furious rhythms. A jazz-rock fusion with a fairly heavy sound, complex arrangements, changing rhythms and plenty of energy that make it very demanding to the listener. -- Paul Charbonneau|
|Links||[See Distinguished Panel of Experts]|
Photo Musik (78)
Non-Fiction (79, re-released on CD 2002 w/ bonus tracks)
|Very Hillage inspired French musician who hails from the excellent Clearlight. HIs solo album Photo Musik is like a slightly pop version of spacey Gong. Its rather good, though.|
Boulé was more than simply "Hillage-inspired", he
played with Hillage in his band at the time, The
Electric Gypsies, and he can also be heard on
Hillage's Live Herald double album. This
was also the time he released his second solo project, Non-Fiction. Prior
to this, Boulé also toured with Lard Free and played
with Gong in Paris.
This album isn't really all that interesting, to be honest. It's mostly straight-ahead rock of the type which would become popular in the early '80's, and also with a fair amount of "white man's funk" added to the mix. This is in spite of the help of sax player Jean-Pierre Thirault who makes a valiant and relatively successful attempt at sounding like Didier Malherbe, and the synthesizer slidings and warblings of Jean-Pierre Rykiel (who also played with Hillage on Open/Studio Herald). The most interesting cuts are "Magic Fanfare" and "Glissander Aquarian/Viva Da New Sound", though even these are just poor man's versions of Hillage, circa Motivation Radio or Green.
The last two cuts on the CD re-release are new pieces from 1999, and these are by far more interesting than the 1979 material, much more full-bodied and symphonic. But also more "digital" sounding than the earlier music, if that's a problem for you. Overall, I'm lukewarm on this album, and I must say that if you missed out on this one, it wouldn't be the end of the world. Listen to Boulé on Clearlight's Symphony album instead, he's really great on that album.
NEWS (11/22/02) - Christian Boule passed away Sunday, November 6th, 2002. He had recently been working with Tim Blake who co-produced his yet to be released final album, Comet Hotel. -- Fred Trafton
[See Clearlight |
Hillage, Steve |
Click here to order Non-Fiction from Musea Records
The Dancer (77), Electric Glide (78), Step Out (80)
Ex-guitarist from Isotope. His album, The Dancer is competent enough, but lacks the interesting writing that made Isotope so good. -- Mike Ohman
Guitarist out of Isotope, a fusion group with Canterbury ties (Hugh Hopper was their bassist for a while). Prior to Isotope, Boyle was in Brian Auger's Trinity and also recorded with Stomu Yamashta (featured soloist on Come to the Edge, Freedom is Frightening, and Raindogs). His first solo album The Dancer is very good jazz-fusion, with backing from luminaries such as Simon Phillips (drums), Brian Auger, Robin Lumley (Brand X), and Rod Argent, as well as most of Isotope and Pacific Eardrum (the latter another UK fusion group which featured ex-Matching Mole keyboardist Dave MacRae). For obvious reasons, The Dancer sounds somewhat like the final Isotope record (Deep End), but is less quirky than anything Isotope ever did. Simon Phillips is simply awesome on this record!!! Boyle did at least two more records. Electric Glide was a somewhat less interesting followup to The Dancer. Although there are some blistering fusion tracks on Electric Glide, the music is clearly taking a turn to the commercial (jazz-funk) realm. Supposedly, there is another release after Electric Glide which was very commercial, with vocals, etc. Gary Boyle is still active in the UK jazz scene, and did a tour with bassist Eberhard Weber in the early 90's. -- Dave Wayne
Black Light Syndrome (97)
Situation Dangerous (00)
Bozzio Levin Stevens - Well, actually, Stevens Bozzio and Levin
Bozzio Levin Stevens released their first album, Black Light Syndrome in 1997. I have only heard a few songs off of this album, but it appears to be much more improvised than the 2000 release of Situation Dangerous. I believe Situation Dangerous is completely composed, and as a result sounds more mature than their original release. The overall sound has both strong rock and classical influences, especially when Tony Levin is playing the cello. A few songs are a little weak because they are mostly based on a single riff, but most of the songs are complex and incredible. Tony Levin and Terry Bozzio are probably the best known musicians in this band, but the person who impressed me most was Steve Stevens. His style has obvious classical influences and is very sophisticated. This isn't the best work I have heard from Terry Bozzio, but the drumming is excellent nonetheless. Perhaps he uses an over-abundance of inverted hi-hats though. Tony Levin is his usual self with an abundance of slides and weird bass lines. I bought this album completely on a whim, but I was definitely not disappointed! Songs worth checking out are "Endless" and "Tragic." -- Eric Wohnlich
|If the above review is accurate then I'll keep my eyes open for their second release. The first CD [Black Light Syndrome], however, is disappointing both because of the high hopes one has for the players and because it is a rather loud, grating and juvenile album. There are a few good tracks -- "Dangerous", "Melt" and "Lost" are melodic and reasonably progressive but if you're interested in speed-prog (or sessions featuring Tony Levin), check out Liquid Tension Experiment. -- David Marshall|
[See Anderson Bruford Wakeman and Howe |
Gabriel, Peter |
Levin, Tony |
King Crimson |
Liquid Tension Experiment]
Rock Slides (69)
Early jazz-rock attempt on the adventurous ABC-Probe label by session keyboardist
with significant Euro-jazz connections. I don't know much about Bradford, though everyone
on this LP is pretty well known in modern Euro-jazz circles (and beyond). Featured players
include US ex-pats Stu Martin (drums - best known for his work with John Surman, Barre
Philips and Joachim Kuhn) and Nathan Davis (saxophone and flute - a prominent jazzman
with several fine recordings as a leader under his belt). Also aboard are Belgian
guitarist Philip Catherine (later with Jean Luc Ponty,
Placebo, Pork Pie, etc.), German
bassist Gunter Lenz (numerous jazz and session credits), and Belgian bassist Nick
Kletchkovsky (who later joined Marc Moulin's 'Placebo'). Bradford (mostly on acoustic
piano), Davis and Catherine contribute most of the solos, and the chunky rhythms of
Martin, Lenz and Kletchkovsky give the music a brash, funky edge.
Musically, Rock Slides is fairly typical of late-60s attempts at merging jazz and rock, though a bit more creative and risky than most. The presence of a largely uncredited horn section on most of the tracks brings groups like Blood Sweat and Tears to mind (though this LP is completely instrumental). Even though Davis' boisterous, Coltrane-ish sax and flute solos are much more adventurous than anything offered by even the most accomplished of the late-60s / early-70s progressive rock big bands, a lot of Rock Slides sounds like the soundtrack for a hip 60s action movie or TV show. Quite dated sounding, but not bad at all if you like this sort of music. -- Dave Wayne
Lullaby (for the Hearts of Space) (80)
The Way Home (84)
Western Spaces (87, w/ Steve Roach and Richard Burmer)
Desert Solitaire (89, w/ Steve Roach and Michael Stearns)
Secret Rooms (90)
Rain (95, w/ Tim Clark)
The Spell (96, w/ Tim Clark)
Decent new electronic musician who made the fantastic Western Spaces with Steve Roach. Haven't heard anything by him that has impressed me that much yet.
|Galaxies is Braheny’s soundtrack to imaginary interstellar travels. However, this is not spacerock but rather melodic, elegant, at times mellow synthesizer music, somewhat comparable to Kitaro or Vangelis in its warm melodicism and big symphonic sounds. Braheny uses a MIDI wind controller a lot to give his solo melodies a fluttering, singing quality which coupled with the rich analog and digital timbres he uses makes the music breathe quite nicely. There is very little rhythm section. Mellow and at times a bit repetitive electronic music, but worth auditioning if you like the artists mentioned above. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
[See Burmer, Richard |
Roach, Steve |
Click here for Kevin Braheny's label, Hearts of Space
Thought Horizon (95, Cassette only)
Brain Forest circa 1995 - H. P. Le Frois,
Dalton Ivey, Phil Wylie and Paul Kollar
Brain Forest was a band in Raleigh (North Carolina?) from about 1994-95. Though not a strictly prog band, they certainly had their progressive moments, as this demo cassette shows. Their sound drips with Mellotron throughout, so much so that the cassette cover contains the label: "Warning: Contains Mellotron! Care should be used when applying to eardrums". Their sound is sometimes reminiscent of Court of the Crimson King-era KC or maybe the early psychedelic Moody Blues. "Urban Sprawl" has a lot of Industrial feel to it, maybe a toned-down Pere Ubu meets the Mellotron. This tune, along with "VLQ", also have some kick-butt bass work from bassist Paul Kollar.
This cassette was recorded in a rehearsal studio that "was a warehouse/airplane hanger type of place", with just a few overdubs added to the mostly live-to-stereo recording. This gives this cassette a very "live" feel. (There are also some questionable choices made on when to do a note bend during the guitar solos ...) According to Sprawling Productions head Kollar, "Brain Forest recorded lots of material both live to two track and in multi-track ... as for all of the other tapes, I'd love to finish them up and release them but the guitarist has them and he has been missing for some time now." Too bad. I'd like to hear a cleaner version of these guys sometime. Maybe one day, the tapes will resurface. -- Fred Trafton
[See Kollar, Paul |
St. Elmo's Fire]
Click here for Sprawling Productions web site
In the Land of Power (90)
Excellent 5 piece synthesizer band from Arizona, their only CD to date is In The Land of Power. The music describes life in the desert from sundown to morning, in pulsating, shimmering electronics, magically spirited and intensely beautiful. Fans of Klaus Schulze, T.Dream and Michael Garrison will surely enjoy this.
Brainbox (70), Best of (72), Parts (72)
Pre-Focus Akkerman / van der Linden which sparks now and then.
A band from the Netherlands, Brainbox can be considered a precursor to the famous Nederlander band, Focus, as it featured both Jan Akkerman and Pierre van der Linden. Their self-titled first album covers a variety of styles of which only a few songs hint at what was to come with Focus. Overall, the sound has a psychedelic vibe. To give you an idea of the variety, two songs are basically straight-ahead electric blues. They do a cover version of Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair" with acoustic guitar and flute. One song sounds like it could have come off of a Steve Stills album such as Manassas while two songs are a bit closer to Focus (circa In and Out of Focus) in nature with longer guitar solos and many flute passages. "Sea of Delight," the longest tune on the album, also starts out like another Steve Stills tune but soon goes off on a long psychedelic guitar exploration. Near the beginning it is very Byrds-like but it includes a few trademark Akkerman licks later heard with Focus. This long solo then settles into the spacey "guitar improv" which is soon followed by a drum solo before winding up with the final verse. If'n you are a fan of psychedelia or a Akkerman completist you will want to get this. Die-hard Prog fans need not apply.
[See Focus | Solution]
Healing of the Lunatic Owl (70)
Brainstorm (93, Cassette)
Brainstorm Two - Earth Zero (95, Cassette, re-released on CD 2001)
Tales Of The Future (98)
Brainstorm - Steve Bechervaise (Keyboards), Craig Carter (Guitars, vocals),
Vittorio Di Iorio (Percussion), Paul Foley (Vocals, guitars), Jeff
Powerlett (Bass, vocals)
These guys are fun in a "let's go to the local pub and tip a few" sort of way, but are they Progressive? I don't think so. At least not on Brainstorm Two - Earth Zero. Yes, there are hints of early Space Rock efforts, like Pink Floyd (let's say around Ummagumma time frame) or Hawkwind (circa Doremi Fasol Latido). This album a bit above "garage band" level, at least they have some clever lyrics in some places (i.e. "Back Home on Terra", which sounds like an Irish coal miner's lament about bad working conditions and general feelings of hopelessness ... except this is sung by future terraformers on some far away planet who are simply wishing they were "Back Home on Terra").
The album opener is "Freeway", which they seem to feel is their signature song. It's all about how "I like driving down the freeway in my car". It wouldn't sound out of place on a B-52's album, and the rest of the album is a melange of Space Rock, surfer rock, and maybe a bit of Daevid Allen's Good Morning-era acoustic stuff. Not too bad, really, but too short song oriented and surferish to really sound very prog (there is one ten-minute multi-part song on the album, but most seem designed for easy radio airplay). The band says their next album Tales of the Future is more progressive, but I haven't heard it. B2E0 isn't bad, but you won't have lost anything terribly important if you give this one a miss. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||Click here for Brainstorm's web site|
Smile a While (72
Second Smile (74)
|Early German fusion band. They developed dynamic and complex music with quite unusual harmonies, based on flute and distorted organ. Comparisons might be drawn to the Canterbury scene (Soft Machine, Caravan) or early French fusion (Moving Gelatine Plates). Smile A While has been reissued by Musea 1996, including some bonus tracks recorded during a radio feature. -- Achim Breiling|
Cottonwoodhill (71, aka Brainticket), Psychonaut (72), Celestial Ocean (74), Adventure (79), Voyage (80)
Audion states that Brainticket's first Cottonwoodhill or on German CD as Brainticket" is the most psychedelic album ever released. Well, maybe, but this one drives me up a tree! The titled track sure is psychedelic and has this annoying and insistent theme that is a backdrop for swirly psychedelic effects and a woman's highly insistent voice that talks about anything from cosmic cliches to "Oh yes, and sex, I like sex!..." If I were to trip on this, I may end up jumping off of a cliff.... Their second Psychonaut is far more pleasant and an ethnic type of early German rock!
Yet another from the German space scene. I've heard half of Psychonaut the recommended starter album. Ethereal flute, other percussive instruments, and sitar help to set the mood for a cosmic journey, that's dashed with splashes of Hammond organ and nice vocals that are almost folk-like in quality. Great stuff.
Led by Swiss keyboardist Joel Vandroogenbroeck, Brainticket immediately established themselves as the ultimate freak-out band with their first album, Cottonwood Hill. Notorious for the 27-minute "Brainticket Pts. 1 and 2," a lysergic mix of weird sound effects, tape loops, paranoid female vocals, and electronic improvisation, all set to an insistent theme played on Hammond organ. One of the strangest and MOST drug-influenced things you'll ever hope to hear. Psychonaut tones things down a good deal, not unlike middle-period Amon Düül II, but lighter and more psych orientated. Sitars and flutes are used quite a bit. -- Mike Ohman
Aloft in a Balloon (81)
Unorthodox Behaviour (76)
Moroccan Roll (77)
Do They Hurt (80)
Is There Anything About? (82)
X-Trax (87, Compilation)
The Plot Thins - A History of Brand X (92, Compilation)
Live at the Roxy LA (95, Live from 1979 tour)
Manifest Destiny (97)
A History: 1976-1980 (97, Compilation)
Missing Period (98, previously unreleased recordings of pre-Unorthodox Behaviour material)
The X-Files (01, 2 CD Live & Unreleased material) (ProgressoR review)
Timeline (00, 2 CD concerts from 1977 & 1992)
Trilogy (03, re-releases of Manifest Destiny and Xcommunication plus a previously unreleased live recording from New York City on September 27, 1979)
Macrocosm: Introducing ... Brand X (03, Compilation)
|There are really 2 Brand X's ... the one from the mid 70s and the 1992 Brand X. The original Brand X was formed by drummer Phil Collins, Guitarist John Goodsall, keyboardist Robin Lumley and bassist Percy Jones. With various personnel permutations, they made typical progressive rock albums ... all worth hearing! The 1992 Brand X is Goodsall, Jones and drummer Frank Katz. This is a progressive/improvisational power trio, all of the great musicianship of the "old" Brand X and great new stuff as well. Percy Jones' fretless bass is certainly well worth a listen!|
|What started out as Phil Collins and friends having some fun while they were otherwise unemployed turned out to be one of the most influential fusion bands of all time. Initially featuring Collins on drums, Robin Lumley on keys, John Goodsall on guitars and Percy Jones on bass, the lineup always seemed to be in a constant state of flux. Livestock was their half-studio half-live album, and is generally regarded (along with the first) as one of their very best efforts. From Masques onward the band waffled a lot and lost a lot of the cohesion they had on the first three. A slimmed down version of the original lineup (Jones and Goodsall) reformed the band in 1992 with drummer Frank Katz and recorded a brand new album Xcommunication (clearly their best since Livestock), and went back on tour. A compilation album of their early stuff (X-Trax) also exists.|
|Perhaps not truly progressive, most progressive listeners seem to enjoy this band. Best known member is Phil Collins, but caveat emptor: Collins does little song writing and none of it sounds like anything Genesis had ever done or ever will do. This is top notch fusion, lead by the excellent guitar and bass of John Goodsall and Percy Jones, respectively. A good starting place is their live Livestock but all are excellent. High quality music from high quality musicians.|
|I broke a golden rule by getting Xcommunication. Due to the overabundance of really bad reunions, I tend to skip any sort of reunion recording. However, many people who's opinion I respect kept urging me to try Xcommunication. And my opinion? Hot Damn! Not only is Brand X back, they released a CD that is almost as good as anything they did in the 76-79 period. It's a musically uncompromising 45 minutes of instrumental progressive fusion. No hit singles, no ulterior motives, just good clean music. Brand X is now a 3 piece, with drummer Frank Katz joining Goodsall and Jones. Katz compliments the original Brand X style very well - he's a busy, irrhythmic player who rarely takes it easy with 4/4 time sigs. Goodsall burns the frets as quickly as ever, and Jones get his usual weird farting noises out of the bass. I'm especially impressed with Jones' playing. Chris Squire could take a few lessons from him (including some on motivation ...). The product (ha) is a killer release, possibly the best prog rock of 1992 (though Xaal's On the Way is pretty damn good too). While this won't make me run out and buy every reunion album that's coming out, my golden rule has been broken.|
|Indeed, Xcommunication is the return of Brand X under the economical format of a trio. Goodsall (guitars) and Jones (fretless bass) are back with their distinctive styles and are joined on drums by the very efficient Frank Katz. Also, the addition of synth (midi) guitar partitions tries to compensate for the absence of keyboards. We then find a simplified version of the band's sound and the style remains a pretty heavy jazz-rock fusion with very lively rhythms. For jazz-rock fusion fans, old and new. -- Paul Charbonneau|
|I am familiar with all Brand X's official releases (I mean all studio albums and Livestock, featuring mostly new compositions), but I didn't expect that The X-Files, an album which also consists mostly of unreleased songs either by Brand X or the band's side-projects (most of which have been formed by the majority of the band members), would become another masterpiece in the Legend's discography. There are only two tracks that feature both the The X-Files and two of the band's official albums (Xcommunication of 1992 and Manifest Destiny of 1997) on Disc 1, with a playing time exceeding any of the band's nine albums from the Brand X Mk I period (1975 to 1982). But while you have more than 45 minutes of totally unknown songs on Disc 1, you have at least about 65 minutes of stunning new music on Disc 2. A general musical "formula" of Disc 1 should sound as precise as (just brilliant) the music Brand X present it. An extremely intriguing, outstanding, complex, powerful Prog-Fusion, filled with truly mind-blowing arrangements that are full of the most fantastic solo acrobatics you have ever heard for many years. (because Brand X & Co remain now the only Prog-Fusion Titans, as the Others split a long time ago). Actually, the majority of compositions, that feature Disc 1, are not only extremely complex, -- they, with all unpredictable, very volatile structures and sudden changes of musical directions, which often go in line with just unbelievable changes of highly complex time signatures (that you won't find in the creation of the bands of Classic Art-Rock and Prog-Metal, by the way), and fantastic high-speed virtuosic solos, are too complex to describe each of them here. You must listen to them several times to understand them and discover the very prog beauty in this Jazz-Fusion masterpiece. Disc 2 contains two Brand X founders' side-works that sound for the most part highly different from anything created by them in Brand X. Hard 'n' heavy Prog-Fusion that these guys played as John Goodsall and Jones-Katz Projects, apart from others, in the 1980s, had their own, distinctly original and at the same time very tasteful sounds, unlike most of the other bands' side-projects. There is also a long marvelous, by all means the best acoustic guitar instrumental I ever heard, really: all well known Majors of this style are now dethroned by John Goodsall, -- check The X-Files out and listen to it, -- only then can you "bomb" me if in your (just personal) view I am wrong now. -- Vitaly Menshikov|
|Links||[See Genesis | Intergalactic Touring Band, The | Jones, Percy | Quatermass | Nova | Sun Trader | Tunnels]|
Angelo Branduardi (74)
La luna (75)
Alla fiera dell'est (76)
La pulce d'acqua (77)
Cogli la prima mela (79)
Gulliver, la luna e altri disegni (80 - re-recording of La luna with one new song, "Gulliver")
Concerto (80, Live)
Branduardi '81 (81)
Cercando l'oro (83)
Branduardi canta Yeats (86)
Pane e rose (88)
Il ladro (90)
Si può fare (92)
Domenica e lunedì (94)
Futuro antico I (96)
Camminando camminando (96, Live)
Il dito e la luna (98)
Futuro antico II (99)
L'infinitamente piccolo (00)
Futuro antico III (02)
Altro ed altrove (03)
Angelo Branduardi has been an incredibly successful singer in Italy and several European countries throughout the seventies and eighties. A violin virtuoso, a scholar in Renaissance and Baroque music, Branduardi has been the archetypical folk minstrel, unmistakable for his voice, his enormous mane of hair, his complex and quietly harmonious compositions of classic guitar and violin. His most famous songs, such as "Alla fiera dell'Est", "La pulce d'acqua" or "Cogli la prima mela" are so widely famous in Italy that, like him or not, they have become part of the lore and almost everybody in Italy can sing more than a few bars of their lyrics. Some of these songs have been republished outside of Italy with English lyrics.
His career can be distinguished in three main phases: the early years (1974-1977), in which he successfully built his persona of the renaissance minstrel come alive, the middle years (1978-1981), in which he consolidated his incredible success in Italy with immediate and lasting hits, and the late years (1983 - present) in which, thanks to a sizable following of faithful and captive fans, he freed himself from the need to deliver smash hits in the charts, and began experimenting and looking for new musical directions, often outside of rock (which, as a style, was never really prominent even earlier) and of pop/folk/popular/ancient music.
Although Branduardi can be considered much more a folk singer than a rock musician (in fact, I think he would reject any such allegation), some of his earlier pieces have unmistakably prog rock arrangements that could turn into a pleasant surprise for the average prog rock fan. Powerful, wide, electric rock arrangements can be found in his first, self titled album, including the obsessed and aerie 11-minutes long "E domani arriverá", and in his live 1981 performance, "Concerto", a triple-album/double CD whose arrangements are quite more electric and tense than their studio counterparts. Consider listening with some attention to "L'uomo e la nuvola", "Il signore di Baux" and "Ballo in Fa diesis minore". --Fabio Vitali
|Links||Click here for Angelo Branduardi's web site|
|Impressions On Reading Aldous Huxley (72)|
Click here for Mike McLatchey's
review on the Gnosis web site
Click here for the only other mention on the Internet I could find for this band
Bread, Love and Dreams (69)
Strange Tale of Captain Shannon and the Hunchback from Gigha (70)
|One of my all-time favorite bands of any genre period! Bread, Love and Dreams consisted of David McNiven (ex-Human Beast), Angie Rew and Carolyn Davis. Pentangle members guest on a few of their albums. If ever there was a band that brings back the magic of the flower-child generation with butterfly-like melodies and lyrics, BLD is the band. Off the wall lyrics, excellent melodies, excellent vocals (by all 3 of the members who seem to take turns singing lead vocals in different songs) and excellent musicianship. Whereas other bands get their strength by complexity of their compositions, BLD gets their strength from non-complex melodies (which are incredibly melodic, beautiful, melancholic and surreal) and very complex lyrics. I swear all three of them are also legitimate poets. All three of their albums are major classics for me and a must for anyone who likes Nick Drake, Pentangle, Fairport Convention and any other British folk (and even American folk) bands that sport a flower-child/hippie sound. Bread, Love and Dreams may be the best of the genre. The 21-minute title track from Amaryllis is a mind-blower. I need also say that all three of them play acoustic guitars and there a lot of acoustical guitar interplay as well as that cozy warm early 70's organ sound. Some of the best lyrics and melodies I have heard are contained on all three of their albums. Strongly recommended for fans of melodic folk/flower-child music. So far, they're one of the best I have heard in this genre. -- Betta|
|Links||[See Human Beast | Pentangle, The]|
Sons Optiques (78, re-released on CD 2002 w/ bonus tracks)
Voyeur Extra-Lucide (79)
|Breant is a keyboardist, loosely affiliated with the Magma crowd, who did two rather appealing solo records in the late '70s (1978's Sons Optiques, and Voyeur Extra-lucide in 1979, both on the Egg label). The basic sound of both records is somewhere between jazz-fusion and progressive rock. Although both LPs feature several notable guest musicians (violinist Didier Lockwood, saxophonist Jean Louis Chautemps, keyboardist Guy Khalifa, percussionist Albert Marcoeur, guitarist Jean-Michel Kajdan, and others), Breant's multi-keyboards are firmly front-and-center. To my ears, Sons Optiques is more impressionistic, less electronic, and is dominated by solo keyboards (mostly piano), while Voyeur is very synth-heavy, but has more of a "band" sound. Both records, while not the most stunning I have ever heard, definitely contain some fine music. Side one of Sons Optiques, in particular, has some lovely moments. I'd certainly recommend both records to Didier Lockwood fans, in particular, as he is a featured soloist on both. -- Dave Wayne|
|Sons Optiques was quite was good. Interesting, complex fusion. I seem to remember it having a few names in the lineup. Voyeur Extra-Lucide, however, is rather tame and mainstream by comparison. -- Mike Borella|
|I heard Sons-Optiques once. French synthesizer music with a heavy Magma feel to it. Not surprisingly, Klaus Blasquiz makes a guest appearance on this. Voyeur Extra-Lucide is supposed to be more accessible. -- Mike Ohman|
In 2002, Musea Records re-released Sons
Optiques on CD, with a couple of bonus tracks recorded in 2001 (they claim 1979
as the original release year rather than 1978. I'm not sure which is correct). The
music is very keyboard oriented and cinematic. Lots of '60's style dissonant jazz
(think "The Twilight Zone" theme song) and movie suspense music is mixed into this
album, which is supposed to be a soundtrack to an imaginary movie. That's just what
it sounds like! There are also some parts that remind me of the first couple of
Clearlight albums. I don't personally hear much in
the way of Magma feel at all despite guest performances
by Klaus Blasquiz and Didier Lockwood. Unless you just think all dissonant jazz sounds
like Magma ... this album's bass and drums are barely
noticable, making it very unlike Magma to my ears.
I consider this to be a good album, but to tell the truth it didn't really do that much for me. I don't really know why not, I don't have any specific complaints. Just didn't speak to me if you know what I mean. Maybe you'll feel differently. -- Fred Trafton
[See Cruciferius |
Ergo Sum |
Click here to order Sons Optiques
on CD from Musea Records.
Poussiere des regrets (73)
Partir pour ailleurs (79)
This is the collaboration of brothers Jacques Brégent on vocals, and
Michael-Georges Brégent on keyboards. Formed in the early 70's with the
idea to present the works of some of the less know French poets, with this in
mind they recorded their first album with the help of five other musicians, and
then the group disbanded. Georges teamed up with Vincent Dionne
and formed the duo of Dionne-Brégent.
They recorded two great albums in 1976 and 1977.
After this project, the brothers got together again and formed a new group. This time they were surrounded by seven others musicians, and they recorded Partir pour ailleurs where some of the works of Leo Ferre, Felix Leclerc, Paul Eluard, Paul Verlaine and Charles Trenet are given life. This is a great record, the vocals remind me of Ange. They are sung in a very expressive-theatrical way just like Ange did, but that's the only similarity, this music is more challenging and experimental and very well played, with good guitar, acoustic and electric, and a wonderful use of different keyboards. Great, great music indeed. -- Julio Lopez
La Ofrenda (??), Jayeche (75), Hermanos (??), Estoy Como Quiero (??), En Concierto (??)
Vytas Brenner is a synthesist/pianist and Ofrenda is his band. Their style is a jazzy fusion with Latin and space-rock touches. Jayeche is an intriguing album, alternating dreamy synth-scapes with energetic, percussive fusion workouts. Surprisingly good, especially given the cheapness of the synth equipment. -- Mike Ohman
Sight and Speculation (7?), Clocks (7?), Earthbirth (77), Interlife (78), Eclipse (79), Guitar Trek (80), Others
Brett was the guitarist in Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera, and later joined the Strawbs for their third album Dragonfly. All along the way He's released solo albums, mostly of folk-oriented instrumental guitar rock in a somewhat progressive vein. His best known are from the late 70's.
I have Interlife and Eclipse and they are superb all instrumental albums. Paul is a guitarist that started mainly as a folkie, but these two albums are definitely progressive. He mixes folk, symphonic rock, and a dash of fusion into mesmerizing pieces. He plays a variety of acoustic and electric guitars and is supported by a full band. The side-long title track on Interlife is a tour de fource of acoustic/electric guitar playing. Eclipse is as good or maybe better. The title track is one of the most beautiful symphonic rock pieces I have ever heard, complete with orchestra. Paul is an unsung hero. These two albums are worthy of anyone's collection. -- Juan Joy
Peter Bursch + Bröselmaschine (76)
Feel Fine (78)
|Bröselmaschine's single album delivers a pretty combination of folk and psychedelia with a noticeable touch of the contemporary German underground. The first four songs highlight acoustic guitar and contrast clear female vocals with more German-inflected male vocals, all very folky and beautiful (the track "Lassie" is even credited to the most prolific composer in the history of music, Trad.). A progressive bent is given by spacey electric guitar work that ranges from atmospheric to wah-tinged fuzziness, fleshed out in long but hypnotically low-key solos with the help of low-key bass, percussion and flute. The two other songs are longer, primarily instrumental jams with more obvious Eastern influences. "Schmetterling" is particularly reminiscent of Mantra-era Popol Vuh with its tablas and congas, sitar drones and even a hint of Mellotron. A very nice album for those who like folky prog. It has been re-released on CD by ZYX Music, so you don't have to go hunting for the rare LP edition to hear it. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
|In 1968 Joan Baez came to Germany and was accompanied on her tour by a folk-band called "die Anderen" (the other ones). After this the band developed a new concept (el. guitar, bass and Mellotron were included) and changed their name to Bröselmaschine. They published their self titled debut in 1971. It was and is quoted as one of the best folk/prog. productions put out in the early seventies in Germany (comparable to Hölderlin's first record). After extensive touring throughout Europe they disbanded in 73. The bands guitarist P. Bursch restarted the Band in 76 and they recorded two more albums in a more folk/rock/pop style. -- Achim Breiling|
Wasa Wasa (69)
Sing Brother Sing (70)
Edgar Broughton Band (71)
In Side Out (72)
Bunch Of '45's (75)
Super Chip (82)
|Edgar has been described by Rolling Stone Magazine as "the black sheep son of a black sheep family." Mum was the road manager, brother Steve (drummer on [Mike Oldfield's] Tubular Bells) was the drummer. Various other people play on albums, Victor Unitt (guitar god after Clapton and Green fall off the map also of Pretty Things "Parachute" fame) adds his talent to several albums. Blues, space and poetry that J. Morrison would be proud of. Another Harvest label band with several covers done by Hipgnosis and engineered by Peter Mew (early Pink Floyd engineer). On the Glastonbury Faire compilation with an updated Fugs piece they title "Out Demons Out." Wasa Wasa 1969 First effort bluesy, funny antiwar ballad "American Boy Soldier." Definitely showing Howling Wolf influence (cf. "Evil"). Edgar Broughton Band 1971 One look at this cover and you'll never forget it. Leather texturized cardboard photograph of sides of beef with Edgar hanging upside down naked among them. Unitt is on this one. Their best album IMHO. In Side Out 1972 Another Unitt album. I haven't listened to it in some time but the weakest as I recall. More country sounding. More strange packaging, the cover is hinged to open from the left and right. Oora 1972 Unitt on this one. Another unusual cover, band photos and titleing printed on outer plastic bag. Bandages 1975 Mike Oldfield guests. From L.A. Women era Doors sound to uneasy creepyness. I think that is all the albums (my collection is all out of order after two hurried moves). Late 1970's saw a release in the Harvest heritage series A Bunch of 45's which I really would like to get. A friend bought the only copy I have ever seen and it had a few really great singles that were not released on LP's.|
|Links||[See Oldfield, Mike]|
A Meal You Can Shake Hands With (69), Thousands On a Raft (??), Others
Early jazz / rock / blues, but no prog IMO.
Songwriter, wrote "Politician" w/ Jack Bruce; 1st album includes Chris Spedding on guitar and Dick Heckstall-Smith on sax.
Give Me Take You (68)
Duncan Browne (73)
The Wild Places (78)
Streets of Fire (79)
Music from the Travelling Man (85)
Songs of Love and War (93, posthumous release)
|Browne, together with Peter Godwin and Sean Lyons comprised Metro. After Metro he produced two excellent solos (Wild Places, Streets of Fire) from '78 and '79, which were song oriented with great guitar, progressive yet very accessible, both style rich and diverse in influence. Wild Places would definitely be the one to start with. He also had a very old LP from 1968 titled Give Me Take You, which has recently been dredged up and reissued on CD. This one is pretty much a stinker.|
|For the most part, Streets of Fire and The Wild Places consist of dreamy, atmospheric, progressive pop which reminds me a tiny bit of Dire Straits. The prog content of these records would seem to be Tony Hymas' keyboards, and a few tricky time signatures. Frankly, this stuff would be really pedestrian if it wasn't for the backing band which also includes prog/fusion superstars Simon Phillips (drums) and John Giblin (bass). The saving grace of both records is that each contains a lengthy, completely wicked instrumental tune where Browne and Co. really cut loose! -- Dave Wayne|
|You have left out under Duncan Browne his most seminal album titled Duncan Browne. This was released in 1973 and is very reminiscent of Nick Drake and Tim Buckley ... and his posthumous release, Songs of Love and War 1993. He also appeared as guest artist on various recordings of Colin Blunstone, Mike Heron, Tom Jefferies, and the Zombies re-union. Duncan was a very underrated artist, master of the 6 and 12 string guitar and a very lyrical lyricist. -- George Fazakas|
Songs for a Tailor (68), Harmony Row (71), Things We Like (71), How's Tricks? (77), many others
Scottish bassist, cellist and vocalist most famous for being 1/3 of the heavy blues-rock supergroup Cream. Jack Bruce, while not a "prog rock" artist per se, deserves mention here for his many forward-looking solo albums, and for his involvement on numerous prog. rock and fusion records by artists as diverse as jazz drummer Tony Williams, Canterbury band Soft Machine (the Land of Cockayne album), and lyricist/producer Kip Hanrahan. His early solo albums (Songs for a Tailor and Harmony Row) are finely wrought blues- and jazz-inflected pop, and feature guitarist Chris Spedding (Nucleus), drummer John Marshall (Nucleus, Soft Machine), and guitarist Felix Pappalardi (Mountain). The all-instrumental Things We Like is an early (recorded in 1968, but in the can until 1971) example of jazz-rock fusion with guitarist John McLaughlin, drummer Jon Hiseman (Colosseum) and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith (Colosseum). Predictably, Things We Like sounds a great deal like the first edition of Tony Williams' Lifetime, but without any keyboards. How's Tricks? is very different from the previously-mentioned albums, and spans a wide stylistic range from bar-band blues rock to fusion to semi- progressive. Here, Tony Hymas' symphonic keyboards and Simon Phillips' big drums provide the surface appearance of prog rock, but Bruce's vocals and songwriting are always very blues-derived which, from my perspective, keeps the music from sounding like honest-to-god progressive rock. (Interestingly, Hymas and guitarist Hughie Burns from the How's Tricks? band would go on to form the excellent progessive fusion band 'The Lonely Bears' with reedist Tony Coe and drummer Terry Bozzio in the late 1980s.) More recently, Jack Bruce has recorded solo albums with jazz-fusion artists such as Billy Cobham, David Sancious, Allan Holdsworth, David Leibman, Bernie Worrell, and others, for the CBS and CMP record labels. -- Dave Wayne
Feels Good To Me
One of a Kind (79)
The Bruford Tapes (79, Live)
Gradually Going Tornado (80)
Master Strokes (86, Compilation also including some Bill Bruford solo works)
Bruford (Original line-up) - Dave Stewart (keyboards), Bill Bruford (drums/percusion),
Allan Holdsworth (guitar) and Jeff Berlin (bass)
A few words of explanation before launching into the main part of this entry.
Bill Bruford (the person) was in a band called Bruford. This entry is about that band, and you can read more about Bill Bruford in his personal entry. Just to make things more confusing, Feels Good To Me was originally released as a Bill Bruford solo album, but since the cover has only "Bruford" on it, this stuck as the band's name when they went on to record further albums with the same core line-up. So, it seems reasonable to include Feels Good To Me with the Bruford discography.
With a career that was first defined by his metrically-challenging work and instantly
recognizable drum sound with progressive rock groups Yes
and King Crimson, nothing could have prepared
anyone for the surprise of drummer Bill Bruford's
first solo release, Feels Good to Me. While
Bruford's signature style -- a
mathematically-precise approach that never failed to find the innate groove in even the
most complex of time signatures -- was in clear evidence, the album didn't sound like a
drummer's solo album. The emphasis was on composition, and while others in the group --
including Hatfield and the North and
National Health keyboardist
Dave Stewart, on-the-ascendance guitarist
Allan Holdsworth and the then-unknown electric
bassist Jeff Berlin -- would have ample room to demonstrate their formidable talents,
there was nary a drum solo to be found.
Bruford made it clear from the get-go that his role as bandleader was to be that of an equal contributor rather than a dominant voice. And while these late-'70s releases -- Feels Good to Me, One of a Kind, Gradually Going Tornado and The Bruford Tapes -- clearly emerged from a progressive rock sensibility, they also demonstrated a harmonic depth that echoed Bruford's longstanding interest in jazz albeit, in the case of these recordings, more of the fusion kind.
The first notes of "Beelzebub," with Bruford doubling on xylophone, made it immediately clear he had been doing more than merely honing his signature drum style over the years. His brief solo piece, "Five Per Cent for Nothing" on Yes' best-selling Fragile demonstrated that, when given a chance to compose, Bruford's interests extended well beyond the drum kit, but the kind of compositional depth and maturity of Feels Good to Me came completely out of left field. While Bruford graciously acknowledges the contribution of Dave Stewart's "reasonably advanced harmonic advice" -- and Dave Stewart would, indeed, assist with the arrangements and compose some material for the recording -- for the most part all the compositions are Bruford's and it's clear he's been doing a lot of homework.
By the time One of a Kind was recorded two years later, the core group from Feels Good to Me had become even more focused. Bruford restricted himself to the drum kit, likely in an effort to create a recording that could more easily be reproduced live. Gone, too, were the vocals and added trumpet -- further indications that Bruford was looking at the group as a viable touring entity. With Dave Stewart gone from National Health and Holdsworth back from time in the US with Tony Williams, it seemed as though everything was lining up.
And while there are somewhat fewer textures on One of a Kind, it's more than made up for by a firmly-cemented group sound, and a more consistent set of compositions. Bruford is still the primary composer, but the album also features a tune by Stewart and Alan Gowan, another sadly under-appreciated keyboardist who worked with Stewart in early incarnations of National Health, and a tune by Holdsworth. That "Hell's Bells" and "The Abingdon Chasp" seemed to fit seamlessly within the overall complexion of the album is simply a testament to the fact that, while every member was a strong musical personality, they were also an ensemble that moved forward with a singular vision.
Recorded in July, 1979 at a Roslyn, New York club for radio broadcast, The Bruford Tapes shows just how inventive the group could be. Featuring material culled from Feels Good to Me and One of a Kind, they may have wanted for Holdsworth's unique style [Holdsworth had been replaced by "The Unknown John Clark" at this point -- Ed.], but they more than made up for that in sheer energy and a surprising looseness. Despite complex arrangements, this was clearly a playing band, and it's possible that the absence of Holdsworth -- whose perfectionist tendencies can sometimes get in the way of his letting loose and surrendering to the music -- may have actually worked to the group's advantage.
Progressive Rock? Jazz Fusion? Jazz-Rock? Bruford's 1970s band was all of these things ... and none of them. And The Bruford Tapes, with its combination of high volume intensity, detailed long-form writing and reckless improvisational abandon, does nothing to assuage those looking for easy categorization. It is, however, as fine an example as you're apt to find of the kind of unrestricted exploration and cross-pollination once seen on major labels, but now more often relegated to the small independents.
The Bruford Tapes demonstrated a more raucous energy than Bruford 's first two releases, but the follow-up studio album, Gradually Going Tornado, proved that the group was capable of generating the same kind of power in the studio. And while Berlin's singing on half of the album's eight tracks may have seemed a concerted bid for greater acceptance, it's important to note that Bruford had already featured vocals on Feels Good to Me -- although the relaxed phrasing of sultry singer Annette Peacock was considerably more artful than Berlin's tighter tenor. The inclusion of vocal tracks might have appeared, on the surface, to be a calculated commercial move rather than an artistic one. Still, the fact is that Bruford and Stewart's writing which, despite the verse-chorus approach of the vocal tracks, retained its harmonic and rhythmic complexities. In that respect Gradually Going Tornado was every bit as progressive as the group's previous albums.
The addition of vocal tracks may have turned off some of the progressive intellectuals, but Gradually Going Tornado also had its share of distinctive instrumentals. Berlin's "Joe Frazier," like Bruford and Stewart's "Sample and Hold" from Feels Good to Me, revolves around a lengthy theme that would test the skills of bassists around the world. Bruford and Stewart's episodic "Q.E.D." would have sounded completely at home in the repertoire of either Hatfield and the North or National Health, featuring Stewart's bell-like electric piano work. Bruford's "Palewell Park" is an uncharacteristic duet, with Stewart's acoustic piano trading off with Berlin's bass throughout its tender changes. Stewart's "Land's End," the ten-minute closer, features wordless vocals by singers Barbara Gaskin and Amanda Parsons -- last heard with Hatfield and the North and National Health -- and lifts a theme directly from "The Bryden Two-Step," off the latter's Of Queues and Cures. "Lands End," in fact, is demonstrative of just how key Bruford's drumming style was to defining the overall group sound, as it takes on a completely different complexion to Pip Pyle's kit work on the National Health version.
Gradually Going Tornado would be the last recording by the group. It was around this time that Bruford rejoined guitarist Robert Fripp for a new incarnation of King Crimson that would include guitarist Adrian Belew and bassist Tony Levin, so it's uncertain whether it was the commitment to Crimson that signed the death-knell or lack of commercial interest. Either way the four discs that Bruford recorded in the mid-to-late 1970s served as notice that he had a greater role to play as bandleader, writer and performer -- a role that continues to evolve to this day and shows no sign of slowing down. -- John Kelman (condensed from his articles on All About Jazz, reprinted with permission. See links below to read the full articles).
When I saw there were only a couple of listings for Bill Bruford
in the GEPR, I felt compelled to write another. His first two solo albums are milestones in progressive
music and his third, the live Bruford Tapes, is a tour de force for his band and is one of the top
ten prog/fusion albums of the 1970's (filling in on guitar is John Clark who does the best
Allan Holdsworth imitation I've ever heard, years before anyone
knew what AH was actually doing.) This album or his second,
One of a Kind, are absolute musts, especially for the fledgling proggie. -- David Marshall
[Editor's Note: David's write-up names these albums as Bruford "solo albums", though as I mentioned above, I view these as band albums since the same line-up persisted for 3 studio albums and a live album (except, as pointed out, for the guitarist change from Holdsworth to Clark). I'm not sure whether Bruford himself considers these to be "solo albums" or "band albums" or even cares to make such a distinction. But the GEPR listings define it this way, so David's paragraph is included here rather than under Bruford, Bill.]
[See Anderson, Wakeman, Bruford and Howe |
Bruford, Bill |
Hatfield and the North |
Holdsworth, Allan |
King Crimson |
National Health |
Stewart, Dave |
Click here for Bill Bruford's web site
Bill Bruford, drummer extraordinaire, is best known for his work with Yes and King Crimson. But his solo work as Bruford is not to be overlooked. Combining the best of progressive (himself and Dave Stewart) and fusion (Allan Holdsworth and Jeff Berlin), he has created some excellent progressive fusion masterpieces. Any are good, but check out Feels Good to Me and One of A Kind. This is also a great place to check out Holdsworth's guitar style if you've never heard him before.
|Bill Bruford is perhaps one of the most accomplished progressive rock and fusion drummers of all time. No doubt his tenure with great bands like Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, Gong, and UK would qualify him for the first, but his solo albums truly bring out the very best of his fusion side. Feels Good To Me and One Of A Kind were his first two, and probably his best, featuring Allan Holdsworth, Jeff Berlin and Dave Stewart. The Bruford Tapes is a live one from this same period, recorded for a radio show. His third studio album was Gradually Going Tornado, which seems to offer a little more variety than the first two. Master Strokes combines all the very best of the first three studio albums, plus some material from his two albums with Patrick Moraz, and is a good place to start for the uninitiated. Earthworks is his newest project, and branches out into some new uncharted areas for Bill; not his best, but that's just an opinion.|
[See Anderson, Wakeman, Bruford and Howe |
Holdsworth, Allan |
King Crimson |
Levin, Tony |
Moraz, Patrick |
Stewart, Dave |
Click here for Bill Bruford's web site
Po (92, Home recording, only 25 copies)
Los huesos de un pequeñísimo sapo o ya es otoño para el osito negro (96, Cassette only limited edition)
Chuís parece árbot (97)
Experimental rock band from Costa Rica formed by José Ospino (drums), Mauricio Pauly (bass and vocals) and Mauricio "Tuco" Quirós, with a very original style mixing hard rock, free jazz, fusion and a little bit of Crimson. Their lyrics, in Spanish, are quite dense and poetic sometimes, very difficult to interpret most of the times. The instrumental work is quite consistent and complex, with some passages of total weirdness. Along with their own albums, they were featured in a tribute album to Guatemalan progressive band Alux Nahual. They disbanded around 1998. -- Juan M. Sjöbohm
Via (90), Lyckliga Stjarna (92)
Bryngelsson was the longtime guitarist of the swedish group Ragnarok. His 1989 solo album Via is sort of an avant flavored jazz-rock affair, fairly unique, melodic, and progressive in the progressive sense of the word. Features Guitars, synth, saxes, oboe, cello, accordion and percussion. Really nice stuff, but a slow-grower and takes time to get to know. Not for the Marillionheads.
[See Ragnarok (Sweden) / Triangulus]
Such Fine Particles of the Universe (02)
Bubblemath - (Clockwise across the arc) Jay Burritt (bass), James Swensen-Flagg
(drums), Jonathan G. Smith (vocals, guitar, flute), Blake Albinson (guitars,
keyboards), Kai Esbensen (keyboards, vocals)
What is Bubblemath? A new branch of mathematics? A new type of computer memory? No! They are a progressive rock band from Minneapolis! And their debut CD Such Fine Particles of the Universe is a triumph, especially for a band's first album. There are many bands who can't get it together anywhere near this well on their third or fourth CD.
A lot of people didn't care for Echolyn's as the World. I'm not among these folks, I happen to love as the World, and the first impression of Bubblemath is that they sound a lot like this Echolyn album, particularly the vocal harmonies. However, this is Echolyn on amphetemines ... to call this band "energetic" is like saying a nuclear weapon is "just a really big firecracker". True, but it doesn't begin to give an impression of the magnitudes involved. Bubblemath moves quickly from one song section to the next, and just when you think you've figured out what they're about to do next, they throw you a curve ball.
In the course of the album, you'll be reminded of Dream Theater (for distorted keyboards that sound like crunching guitars and also for precision double bass drumming), Devo (for viscerally ugly synthesizer noises), early Robert Fripp (for demented guitar solos), The Sex Pistols (for punkish thrash guitar in some parts), and Frank Zappa (both for rapidly-changing snippets of music following one after the other and for lyrics that range from irreverent all the way to downright rude). There are also classically melodic keyboards and acoustic guitar parts which degenerate into chaos or conjeal themselves into shapes of strange fractal crystalline beauty. We even get a blast of Ian Andersonish flute and a pseudo-50's rock song a' la The Stray Cats ("She's No Vegetarian"). Hang on to your seats, this is a roller coaster ride through many musical styles all presented at Warp Factor 12.
Blake Albinson told me that, "What we did on the first CD is unload most of the old material from the early/mid 90's, so the next one will be much more interesting (for us anyway), and more proggy." This is hard to imagine. To me, this is what progressive rock is all about! No rehashed Genesis or Yes music here. This is all really fresh and new, in spite of brief reminders of the afore-mentioned bands. This is really all Bubblemath's own flavor of prog, and a delicious flavor it is! My highest recommendation for this release - absolutely essential! Check out some full-length songs on MP3.com [not any more ... -Ed.]. Oh, as an added bonus, Such Fine Particles of the Universe comes in very cool packaging too, an embossed and die-cut full-color glossy digipak package. These guys have thought of everything. Except their web site, which as of this writing, frankly sucks. But I'd rather have great music and a bad web site than the (all too common) reverse. -- Fred Trafton
Such Fine Particles of the Universe consists mainly of quite short songs (there
are no instrumental pieces on this album). Nevertheless, this is the most complex
Art-Rock album and, counting those by the performers of the other progressive genres
(first of all, Fifth Element and RIO), one of the most complex albums that I've heard
in the new millennium in general. Each song on Such Fine Particles of the Universe
features a wide variety of the incredibly intricate instrumental and vocally instrumental
parts that change each other more frequently than even kaleidoscopically (in our
traditional sense of this word). Despite the continuous use of very complex stop-to-play
movements and unusual odd meters, Bubblemath play and sing (which they do often in
chorus!) predominantly very fast on the album. Certainly, otherwise they would not have
squeezed such a large number of different themes and parts on each of the album's tracks.
Which, though, is only partly true. As a matter of fact, all these are just features of
the band's very own stylistics, the definition of which, in my view, should sound not
differently than as a truly modern art (i.e. elitist), and more than merely hard-edged
Art-Rock with elements of Prog-Metal and Symphonic Progressive. (Art is Art, and not
Glam, after all! Otherwise, why not call "Art movie" a "Glam movie" just because of
there is a theatrical element as well?) Yes, it is hardly possible to regard Such
Fine Particles of the Universe as an album of Symphonic Art-Rock. Everything changes
here so rapidly and suddenly that none of you will relax even for a second while
listening to these (really) fine particles, hundreds of which whirl in the universe of
this album. So, just a complex Modern Art-Rock would probably be the best definition of
the style invented by this band, and Bubblemath themselves are most likely the very first
Modern Art-Rock band to appear on the Progressive Rock map. There are textures of a truly
innovative (Modern) Art-Rock in the music of a few of the contemporary bands, such as
Echolyn, for instance. Among them however, only
Saga and only once, - with their very underrated Generation
13 of 1995, - were, IMHO, really close to reach the status of the first Modern
Art-Rock band. Nevertheless, there are not that little of the classic symphonic textures
in the basis of music of the other of those bands that tried and try to perform
Progressive that would be completely free of quite hackneyed forms of Art-Rock of the
1970's. All the songs that are present on this album were created within the framework
of a unified stylistics. Certainly, the integrity of musical palette of Such Fine
Particles of the Universe is the main aspect because of which it got the status of
the first complete album of Modern Art-Rock (at least on these pages). Furthermore, each
of the following three songs: "She's No Vegetarian", "TV Paid Off", and "Potential
People" (4, 6, & 11), contain, in addition, a few of the highly original episodes where
a strong Progressive sounds in the vein of an old-fashioned music, which is another
novelty on this album. Certainly, there is no point in comparing the said episodes with
some of the songs by Queen. Although most of the lyrics on
the album are of a cynically humoresque character, I liked them. (In fact, I had a good
laugh more than once while hearing and reading what these guys are singing about.)
The compositional, arranging, and performing skills of Bubblemath are simply fantastic. Of course, such a mind-blowing and non-conformist gem like their Such Fine Particles of the Universe drifts far from any commercial routes. And what is more, unlike most of the contemporary albums of Art-Rock genre, it goes against the stream of progressive mainstream. All the open-minded Prog-lovers of the world! Allow me to recommend you to get this album at any cost. Such Fine Particles of the Universe digipack CD, along with that of the second CD by Cabezas De Cera, is one of the most wonderful CD packing I’ve ever seen. -- Vitaly Menshikov
Click here for Bubblemath's web site
Excellent Argentine ensemble who put out the excellent Anabelas. Just reissued by Music Hall so you should pick this one up. Crimsonesque progressive with a cultural influence.
Anabelas is an excellent album, featuring mature composition, great group playing, and a very nice sense of dynamics and texture. There is an intensity to this music which is controlled beautifully over the 3 long pieces (including a 20 minute instrumental) found on this CD. A solid, adventuresome rhythm section provides the foundation for the great contrapuntal themes woven by sax, flute, violin, and electric guitar. When I first heard this, I was immediately reminded of Magma. The expanded ensemble of Magma is here, along with the harmonically and thematically intricate compositions. Having said that, Bubu is far from a Magma clone. The thematic development is reminiscient of pieces like Kontark, but it is presented with more of a classical flavor, especially in the three and four voice counterpoint, than the jazzier intricacies of Magma. Perhaps most significantly, there is not the heavy, brooding mood that permeates many Magma works. Anabelas does have an ominous feel at times, but it is not nearly as overpowering as that of Magma. Ther are free jazz wailing sax outbreaks interspersed with quiet contrapuntal passages, and even an aggressive guitar lead or two. But, far from random, these events all fit nicely into the well planned thematic development and sense of forward motion which alternately builds, relaxes, and builds again through the final recapitulation of the main themes. No noodling, and very little soloing, to be found here. There are (Spanish) vocals on two of these pieces, and they are definately part of, rather than an excuse for, the music. I know that some folks aren't too fond of vocals in languages other than English, but these do not detract anything from the music. For those who are into more intricate prog, there is plenty of dissonance and structural complexity to delight. And for those who look for solid, thought-out compositions, this will not disappoint.
Bubu are an outstanding representative of Argentinian Progressive Rock. The band touches across many different styles yet imitates no one. Bubu are a band to influence not to be influenced. As a matter of fact, fans of Atavism of Twilight will recognize some themes from Bubu's 19+ minute track, "El Cortejo de un dia Amarillo." There is, however,recognition of past masters, the most obvious being King Crimson and Magma. The Crimson influence is mostly through the guitar of Eduardo Rogatti which is Fripp-like in many places and is the closest this band comes to imitation. More obvious as an overall influence, however, is Magma as Bubu performs driving marches with dramatic vocals (often with no lyrics) and Wagnerian intensity. You can also hear shades of the Canterbury scene from Henry Cow to Soft Machine, Italian Symphonic, jazz, fusion, Stravinsky and much more. The music is not schizophrenic despite these seemingly very different styles; the band is completely focused and in control. There are seven band members plus an eighth listed as composer and arranger of this complex music. And complex it is. With violin, flute, sax, guitar, bass, drums and voice there are many different forms of interaction between instruments. The band switches from high intensity multi-layered and intricate themes to simple and sonorous violin passages. Bubu is a band to challenge your listening skills and is a great place to start to get into the more "adventurous" styles of progressive rock. Heartily recommended.
For ten or fifteen years I've been looking for something that uses jazz licks with rock structures as well as the best bits of King Crimson's Lizard do. I've bought God knows how many meaningless fusion CDs looking for the way I knew jazz-rock fusion should be, but I hadn't found anything remotely like what I wanted until last week, when I came across Anabelas by Bubu. It's quite varied music, with what sounds like free improv. for first few seconds followed by all sorts of progressive rock and jazz, but consistently interesting and a bit challenging without being inaccessible. This stuff is so good it's made me contribute to the GEPR for the first time! -- Jason Grossman
This Argentinean group plays very intricate and original music. The group features violin, flutes, saxophone, vocals, choir, guitar, keyboards and drums. Their music is characterized by the variety and interaction of the instruments. Their mix of smooth and melodic themes with more intense and dissonant ones is very effective. Influences are varied (classic, jazz, rock, folk) but make up quite an interesting blend, thanks to the audacious arrangements of composer Daniel Andreoli. Unconventional music of particular interest to those who like to experiment. -- Paul Charbonneau
Journey (79), Second Journey (83, released 92)
Symphonic progressive mixed with spacey electronics.
Budgie (71), Squawk (72), Never Turn Your Back (73), In For the Kill (74), Bandolier (75), If I Was Britannia, I'd Waive (76), Impeckable (78)
Budgie was a hard rock group they were out about the early and mid 70's, I forget the # of albums and names of albums they have and do not really know anymore about them.
Soft hard-rock of mid-70s of no interest for prog lovers IMO.
Dead Forever (72)
Volcanic Rock (73?)
Only Want You for Your Body (74)
Mother's Choice (7?)
Average Rock'n'roller (77)
|Over the top hard rock/prog.|
Pljuni Istini U Oci (75), Zabranejeno Plakatirati (77), Zivi Bili Pa Vidjeli (79), Ako Ste Slobodni Veceras (82), Nevino Srce (83)
Solomon’s Splendor (00, Re-released 2003)
Adapt (04, CD/DVD set)
If you think the harmonics of Phil Keaggy, the hammering of Stanley Jordan, the speed of Joe Satriani and the creativity of John McLaughlin are special, then the acoustic work of Trace Bundy will certainly please. Not totally progressive, Bundy himself describes his music as a combination of progressive, folk, acoustic, Latin, classical. However, no matter how good you think he is when you listen, it’s nothing compared to listening and watching together.
Dubbed by fans as the Acoustic Ninja, Bundy is a guitar genius whose "maverick style and mind-erasing chops hurt egos everywhere he plays," wrote Tim Thornton of the band Newcomer's Home. Bundy wraps it all up and calls his music "ninja core" -- as in the phrase, hard core. Bundy's inimitable approach to his instrument allows him to explore sounds and textures from anyplace on the guitar -- whether both hands hammering strings on the frets or slapping the strings in a bongo-like fashion. Not abandoning traditional technique (listen to "Solomon's Splendor"), Bundy takes them to another level by adding his own twists on hand position and finger action.
Based in Boulder, Colorado, Bundy is now touring all over the U.S. winning new fans by introducing them to his unique brand of picking, plucking, hammering, slapping and percussive techniques and simply leaving them transfixed for the duration of his sets. "I watched the audience at a recent show and no one would move a muscle during each song," said one fan in Missouri. "His music captivates you, draws you in like hypnosis, until the last note, then you want to leap up and scream."
Knowing his approach is so unique, Bundy's latest release, Adapt, combines both a CD and a DVD. The DVD is a high-quality production film of a concert in Boulder. It also contains special features and background stories. But, his performance is what is so visually compelling. If you close your eyes, you would swear there are at least two guitars playing. Open your eyes and you'll see two hands both dueling and dancing at the same time while weaving a tapestry of tones, notes, chords and rhythms in original compositions.
Make no mistake; his music is no Rorschach-like improvisation. His canvas is colorful, but with structure and theme both logical and whimsical. Yet, Bundy uses structure and theme variation to his advantage to accentuate his unique approach. One review reported that, "Seeing Trace Bundy perform live is to experience a swift musical kick to the head."
For the uninitiated, there are both audio and video clips on Bundy's website. He must be seen to be believed. -- Dan Grubbs
|Links||Click here for Trace Bundy's web site|
Piece of Mind (71)
Ex-Roxy Music guitarist whose one album was released on the Ohr label in Germany.
Buon Vecchio Charlie (recorded 71, released 90)
Original entry, from pre-2000 GEPR:
Previously unreleased early seventies Italian band, and an important album at that since it was one of the earliest classical rock bands. Japanese only and probably out of print.
There was a Japanese CD released in 1990, unknown label. There was [another] CD release in 1999 on the Melos label. The info I find says it was recorded in 1972, but not sure. The release is self-titled. [not titled Melos as previously reported -Ed.] -- Mark Boyden
|Occam's Razor (99)|
"Occam's Razor" is a philosophical concept which basically says "the simplest
explaination which sufficiently accounts for all the facts is probably the
correct one". I'm sure I don't have enough facts to explain completely what
accounts for Occam's Razor (the CD), but I'll give it a try.
One of the facts to explain this CD is that Alan Burant is, in addition to being a guitarist and songwriter, the radio host of an Edmonton, Canada prog rock radio show named "The Erotic Dancer's Guide to Fine Music" (also available on the web at cjsr.com, utilizing quicktime). This means he has lots of exposure to and knowlegde about Prog music, so there are several "in-jokes" on his CD. Like the song titles "A Plague of Light Housekeepers" (a reference to Van Der Graaf Generator's "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers") and "Apocalypso in 9/8" (which is neither a calypso nor bears much resemblence to Genesis' "Apocalypse in 9/8").
Musically, there are plenty of homages being paid to famous Prog performers as well. "Plague" and its companion "Mirror Image" feature a VDGG-like woodwind with organ chorus, though Alan (thankfully, in my opinion) makes no attempt to sing like Peter Hammill. "Lost in the Depths of your Mind", however, is a dead ringer for a Jon Anderson song, right up to the backing overdubbed chorus, and the timbre of his voice sounds just like Anderson for this song. "Let us be Lovers" could be right off of a Gong album around You vintage if only Gilli Smyth was crooning the names of goddesses in the background. And the other sound-alike, to my ears, is "Surround" which sounds like A Night at the Opera-era Queen (multi-tracked sustained guitars and harmonizing vocal multitracks), though in a decidedly militant mood. Especially the ending, which reminds me of "God Save the Queen". But Burant's music isn't all derivative. Even on the above songs, the homages are only influences, these aren't supposed to be knock-offs of other bands styles.
All around, I really like this CD and would recommend it. But there are definitely some poppier cuts to sit through while you're waiting for the proggy parts. This only becomes annoying to me in the 16-minute epic "Within, Without, With You", where prog, ballad and straight-ahead rock all struggle for control of the song. I almost wish Burant had decided on one of the above and not spliced them together in this way. Maddeningly, some of these sections are the best music on the CD while others just don't do anything for me, making for a uneven experience.
So, my favorite cuts are "Vertigo" a fusiony rock piece written mostly in in 5/8, with a simple structure but very aggressive latinish rhythm and harmonies, "Occam's Razor", which features piano and guitar playing the same 7/16 motif at two different speeds, somewhat reminiscent of Discipline-era Crimson, and "Surround". I also liked "Let us be Lovers" a lot, but I'm a sucker for that spacey Gongish pointless twiddling that others seem to despise. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||Click here for Alan Burant's Active Records web site|
Destroy All Monsters (10)
Paradigms & Storylines (Unreleased, scheduled for Summer 2011 release)
With Darwin's Radio:
Declan "Dec" Burke is a guitarist, singer and songwriter. He was one of the leaders of the English neoprog band Darwin's Radio before becoming a part of prog "supergroup" Frost*. Darwin's Radio dissolved with the individual members going on to do their own things, and Dec Burke's "own thing" was to begin a solo career with the release of his debut Destroy All Monsters.
Even Burke's web site calls Destroy All Monsters "a more pop take on the prog genre", so I suppose he won't be offended if I agree. To be more specific, this is an album of heavily orchestrated rock anthems and metal ballads calibrated to make your head bob and ... well, I suppose people don't wave lighters in the air any more, but you get the idea. The sound is thick, sizzling with high-end EQ, massively overdubbed and heavily compressed to gargantuan fatness. It sounds cool for a while, but my ears start to weary of the sameness of the production after the first couple of songs. And, after multiple listenings, I find there's not much I didn't get on the first listen. Not that it's a bad album for all that, but it also doesn't really stand out in my mind, at least not for my tastes. A qualified "thumbs up" if you like your prog on the "easy" side.
On the other hand, if you like this sort of thing (and I know many people do), Burke is just putting the finishing touches on a follow-up album, Paradigms & Storylines, slated for release sometime this summer (2011). Keep on the lookout. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Darwin's Radio | Frost*]|
Bhakti Point (87)
Western Spaces (87, w/ Kevin Braheny and Steve Roach)
On the Third Extreme (90)
Shining by the River, Vol. 1 (96)
Treasures of the Saints (96)
|Boring electonics. I fell asleep at the wheel to one of his cassettes...|
|On the Third Extreme is the third release by the American "new-ager," in which he combines the spacy, atmospheric style of his previous release, and of his popular collaborative effort with Steve Roach and Kevin Braheny, Western Spaces, with a more rhythmic approach to create a varied set of tracks. Overall, the music sounds like an introspective version of Yanni, and should appeal both to those who enjoy a "spacier" sound and to those who prefer the sound of other contemporary American musicians, such as David Arkenstone, David Lanz, etc.|
|Bhakti Point (1987) is not boring at all. This album by far surpasses On the Third Extreme. I had the three of his first releases: On the Third Extreme I was happy to get rid of; Bhakti Point I was never willing to part with. His second album was of a kind that I did not decide yet if I was right as I gave up. -- Eugene Poliakov|
|Links||[See Braheny, Kevin | Roach, Steve ]|
M 144 (69, 2LP)
De danske Hjertevarmere eller Koksi Lady (69, EP)
Burnin Red Ivanhoe (70)
6 Elefantskovcikadeviser (71)
Miley Smile/Stage Recall (72)
Right On (74)
Still Fresh (74, Compilation)
Burnin Live Ins. No. 2 (91)
Lack of Light (98)
|Excellent Danish progressive with tinges of jazz, which was later even more evident when two of the members formed Secret Oyster. A variety of instruments are used, including violin, flute, trombone, and sax, in addition to the regular fare of guitars, keys, etc. For the most part, they sound like Denmark's answer to Wigwam and Soft Machine. Great interplay between all the instruments. Their W.W.W. album has recently been released on CD. I hope the others soon follow.|
|Best Danish prog act, but a little bit more jazz and rock than prog, though quite listenable.|
Formed as M/S Mitte - The Burnin Red Ivanhoe in 1967 by Karsten Vogel (sax,
keyboards) and fellow companions from the Danish (avant-garde) jazz milieu. The idea of fusing
jazz with rock turned out quite successful, though it was rather unheard at the moment. Soon
after the name was shortened to Burnin Red Ivanhoe, and from around 69/70 they made fame
with their "classic" line-up consisting of Vogel, Kim Menzer (trombone, harmonica,
flute etc.), Ole Fick (guitar, vocals), Jess Staehr (bass) and Bo Thrige Andersen
(drums). In early 72 the group split, on the peak of their carreer, but reformed in 73 (at one time
including all members of Vogel's new project, Secret
Oyster). During the late 70s the "classic" line-up occasionally reformed for domestic
gigs - until an official reunion in 79, which led to the album Shorts in 80. In 81 an altered
version of the group (including UK guitarist Gary Boyle a. o.) toured a few countries, before
it folded. In 91 the group reunited (the classic core: Vogel, Menzer and Fick)
and a rhythm section of younger musicians (Thrige Andersen had died in 85). In 98 an album of
new recordings, Lack of Light, was released - the first since 1980. The group still gig
NOTE! Though it isn't grammatically correct, the name is spelled Burnin Red Ivanhoe (with no apostrophe, i.e. not Burnin' Red Ivanhoe). -- Robin Taylor
[See Hurdy Gurdy |
Secret Oyster |
Taylor, Robin |
Taylor's Free Universe]
The Kick Inside (78)
Never for Ever (80)
The Dreaming (82)
Hounds of Love (85)
The Whole Story (86, Compilation)
The Sensual World (89)
The Red Shoes (93)
Kate Bush is best known a pop musician, but she has produced some experimental and avant-garde music that might well be called prog. Her first two albums, The Kick Inside and Lionheart, comprise melodically rich, tastefully arranged, lilting female vocals a la Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, or Sarah McLachlan. On Never for Ever, Kate becomes a bit more experimental in her song-writing, but it's on The Dreaming that she really starts creating music that pushes the envelope of pop, incorporating complex song structures, unusual sounds and textures, distorted vocals, and a psychological heaviness that was generally absent from her previous albums. This album is hard-hitting and a marked contrast to the mellowness of Never for Ever. Kate's fourth release, the Hounds of Love, is really a two-part album. The first part is composed of five fairly poppish tunes (actually, "Mother Stands for Comfort" is pretty experimental), but the second half, entitled "The Ninth Wave" is a multi-part composition that many folks on a.m.p. and r.m.p consider to be a masterpiece capable of standing proudly alongside any other side-long prog epic. In this psychological/ mystical suite, Kate is probably at her most eclectic and experimental, drawing variously upon Irish, Asian, and classical influences. After Hounds of Love, sadly, Kate's music isn't likely to be of much interest to prog fans. The Sensual World has its moments (esp. the title track and "Rockets Tail"), but for the most part, it's a retreat from innovation into an uninspired "adult contemporary" sound. The Red Shoes is even blander and should probably be avoided by all but die-hard completists. As a good first-buy for a prog fan, I'd strongly reccomend The Dreaming, although Never for Ever or Hounds of Love would be good choices too. Those prog-heads who don't have a disdain for somewhat poppy stuff should definitely give The Kick Inside a listen, though. -- James Chokey
|I agree pretty completely with the above reviewer's assessment of her albums. But finally, after more than ten years of relative silence, Kate returns with a 2CD epic Aerial in late 2005. This one really strains at categories ... if you really need your "prog" to sound like Yes, Genesis or the other usual suspects, then this album will hold no interest for you at all. But, if you're interested in experimental yet accessible vocals, haunting and strange melodies, "world" rhythms and harmonies and Eberhard Weber's elastic fretless bass wizardry, then this album may indeed have something for you. Aerial is far superior to anything she's done since Hounds of Love, and (to me) seems to keep getting deeper with each listen. If you're a Kate fan, you've already bought the album. If you used to be a fan but gave up on her after the humdrum The Red Shoes and The Sensual World, then I suggest you give her another chance. Aerial is both exactly what you would expect from a Kate Bush album and simultaneously something new and exciting. -- Fred Trafton|
Click here for Kate Bush's official web site
Click here for a Kate Bush fan web site
The American Metaphysical Circus (1969)
From the liner notes - "Joseph Byrd was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He is a descendant of the famous Byrd family of Virginia and he grew up in Tuscon, Arizona. During high school years, he played in country-and- western and pop music bands, but by the time he entered the University of Arizona he had begun playing vibes with a jazz group. After graduation, Byrd received Stanford University's Sollnit Fellowship for graduate study in composition. But Byrd chose to split for New York, where he had already begun listening to electronic music and meeting young, far-out Berkeley experimental composers. During his years on the New York modern music scene, Byrd worked as conductor, arranger, teacher, Associate Producerf for a record company, and assistant to critic-composer Virgil Thomson. He was also gaining recognition as one of the leading young experimentalists, and his works were being performed from Paris to Tokyo. Then Joe Byrd came out to U.C.L.A. and ended up living in one of the early Ocean Park beachfront communes with a group of Indian muscicians, artist and graduate students. While serving as a teaching assistant at U.C.L.A., he studies acoustics, psychology, and Indian music, but his interest inevitable returned to experi- mental and environmental music. By the summer of 1967, Byrd has dropped out of U.C.L.A. to become once more a full-time experimental composer and happening-producer. Today, Joe is a recognized composer and arranger who plays electronic music, organ, electric harpsichord and, occasionally, calliope.." (reprinted without permission)
[See United States of America]
The Last Druids (02)
The Eye of the Cyclone (03)
Tom Byrne released his debut CD The Last Druids in 2002. Tom has composed a 50-minute opus concerning the events in 6th-century Britain ... or at least one possible interpretation of them. In fact, the historical interpretation isn't really all that important since this is an instrumental album, though there are some interesting liner notes in the CD insert.
Musically and compositionally, The Last Druids is an excellent suite, with all the style and grace of Rick Wakeman's The Myths & Legends of King Arthur & The Knights of the Round Table, and covering similar subject matter (or at least about the same time frame). Less bombastic and a bit more New-Agey, perhaps, but still quite interesting. However, the album does have some problems in its execution. The digital timbres Byrne uses sound a bit on the thin and sparkly (all high-end) side, and (sounds to me like) use of a quantizing sequencer makes the music a bit too perfect. A bit too much like a MIDI file playing on your PC. And, the use of synthesized drums throughout the piece does start to get on my nerves by the end of the album. This is all the more annoying because I can really hear in my head how this could sound with some warmer analog timbres and/or some real guitar and drums or maybe even a real string section. This is really symphonic music and should sound more orchestral with more dynamics and less like a PC sound card.
There's nothing wrong with this piece that a band playing it together in a studio full of expensive microphones, drum kits and pianos wouldn't fix. Consider this to be a high-quality (and a bit too perfect) demo and you should be able to get a lot of enjoyment out of it. I did. Byrne has a second CD he's just released, The Eye of the Cyclone, which he's promised to send me as well. I'll tell you about that one after I've heard it.
Oh, by the way, The Last Druids has a great album cover ... I wish I could see this one in LP size. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for
Byrne's IUMA page (and to download samples from his new album)
Click here for a review of The Last Druids in Aural Innovations
Byzantium (72), Seasons Changing (72), Live and Studio (72)
Byzantium, a pastorial English prog rock band, released two albums in the UK for A&M Records...namely Byzantium and Seasons Changing. The later was by far the superior work, boasting intriguing songs and provocative arrangements. It was also housed in an elaborate foldout poster sleeve which is now exceptionally difficult to obtain in perfect condition. However, by far the most elusive Byzantium item is an album they self-financed and pressed privately in early 1972 titled Live And Studio prior to the A&M recordings. This too is a fine example of progressive musicality, possesing a rougher hue than their other recorded work. Byzantium's roots, and here I'm referring to at least two members, lay in the psychadelic folk sound of a little known combo called Ora, who recorded an elusive and highly priced rarity for the tiny Tangerine label in 1969. In addition, the group's main songwriter and vocalist, Chas Jankel, later recorded solo and during the late 70's was actually swept up in the bugeoning new wave scene being hailed in some quarters as Elvis Costello's equal! As a footnote, I actually saw Byzantium play live on a few occasions. Uninspiring and hippie like in their approach they seemed forever overshadowed by the more dynamic giants of the era such as Greenslade and, dare I say, Help Yourself. My fondest memory was watching them perform in the open air, London's Hyde Park actually, supporting Suppercharge, Gong and headliners Wigwam. -- Stone