Andre Ceccarelli (81)
|With a lineup that included Didier Lockwood (Magma, Zao, etc.), Jannick Top (Magma), Christian Escoude, Francois Jeanneau (Clearlight) and a host of other illustrious French jazz and progressive musicians, I really expected great things from drummer Andre Ceccarelli's first solo record (released in the US on the Inner City label). While Ceccarelli does have flashes of progressive fusion greatness (check out the all-too-brief instrumentals "Ded'Circus" and "Space Out"), it is a real mixed bag. There are a lot of vocals (mostly by Alex Ligertwood, who was between gigs with Brian Auger and Santana) and most of the music is a very skilled copy of the popular US R&B band Tower of Power, with very funky bass (Jannick Top really shines!), and lots of tight horn section work. There are some brief sections that sound distinctly Magma-oid ("Life is Real Only Here", penned by Top), but this one is for the die-hard Magma completist only, unless your tastes run toward the funky. Andre Ceccarelli is a great drummer who has gone on to play and record with Sting, Bireli Lagrene, and countless others. -- Dave Wayne|
Principe di un Giorno (76, also known as Celeste)
II (91, recorded in 1977)
I Suoni I Una Sfera (92, recorded in 1974)
Second Plus (94, re-release of II with additional tracks)
|Only in print in Japan is Celeste's Principe di un Giorno or just Celeste as its released in Japan. A heavily atmospheric work like very mellow Per Un Amico era PFM, Celeste's lone release is a beautiful album with great sax and flute and is one of those dreamy albums that is perfect to doze off to at night.|
|An absolutely stunning band out of Italy. They only have three release to my knowledge, Celeste (also called Principe di un Giorno), Celeste II, and a soundtrack that I cannot recall the name of ... yet is available from Syn-Phonic. This is a band that will not overtake you with virtuousity or dramatic statement ... rather they will overtake you with beauty. Celeste is a record full of subtlety and exture ... a very rich dreamy quality. Definitely with the symphonic range. Vocals are in Italian but they do not detract ... rather they fit as merely one more instrument.|
|Celeste's first album, Principe di un Giorno (aka Celeste), is one of the most beautiful and pastoral Progressive albums to come out of Italy, ranking right up their with PFM's monumental Per Un Amico. For those of you who want the gist of the review in the first couple of sentences: get this album. The opening strains of lovely Mellotron washes hint at the beauty about to unfold when acoustic guitar, violin and piano join in with soft vocal melodies to create a timeless elegance heard far too little in Progressive Rock. Songs range from a brief one minute closer to eight minutes in length for two songs. The closest comparison is to fellow Italians PFM and their classic Per Un Amico during the quieter moments. But where PFM venture off on moog solos, the four members of Celeste prefer to use the Mellotron, violin, acoustic guitar, xylophone and flute to create stunning pastoral passages of aching beauty. Another quality that should be addressed is the Italian vocals. Often, Prog fans complain of the "harshness" of Italian singers. Though I can understand this complaint for a few singers, vocals for Celeste and PFM are very soft and quite enjoyable. If you think all Italian singers are "harsh" you haven't heard these bands. This album should be a part of anyone's collection.|
|Principe di un Giorno is a real "classic" of Italian symphonic rock. Its particularity is that the attributes are, not virtuosity but beauty, softness and subtlety of the music. Arrangements usually feature acoustic guitar, keyboards, flutes, bass, percussions and vocals. Mellotrons and flutes are used generously with sprinkles of saxophone, violin, xylophone and horn. Despite a very delicate sound, the music holds mysterious powers, definitely celestial. -- Paul Charbonneau|
Celeste's Principe di un Giorno was one of my first Italian prog purchases -- and for good
reason. When I first learned of the 1970's Italian scene I kept reading about this release, and when I
finally got to listen to it I realized that everything I had read about it was more than true. I have
heard every 70's Italian prog album from a pool of over thirty cool bands and I would have to put
Celeste's Principe di un Giorno (CD Vinyl Magic VM 039) is the crowning glory of the lyrical
and atmospheric aspirations of 1970s Italian progressive rock. Actually, "rock" is somewhat misleading a
moniker for the album's lightly jazz-tinged mixture of folkish melodicism, acoustic-heavy instrumentation
and some of the most stylish and elegant use of synthesizers and
Mellotron on record. Only the conventionally gallant title-track
has something approaching a regular backbeat - most of the time drummer Ciro Perrino eschews the drumkit
in favour of Mellotron and all kinds of tuned percussion
used for melodic ornamentation along with flutes, acoustic guitars and pianos. Because of this and the dearth
of any self-consciously busy or "complex" instrumental passages, the album may strike the more rock-minded
progressive fans as dull. Others can marvel its frugal yet extremely rich symphonic sound - truly symphonic
in that the instrument palette is deployed in contrasting and overlapping sections and layers, not just in
thick blocks of chords - and its incomparable mood that is airy and pretty, yet has its sombre streak. These
two sides are best exemplified by the limpid piano-led section of "Gioche nella Notte" that pretty much flows
across the boundaries of classical, folk and jazz with liquid ease, and "Favole Antiche"'s moribund
Mellotron-backed middle chorale. The fact that the music creates
its dynamics mostly through subtleties of arrangements and composition rather than volume or brawn is all
the more impressive. Even the second-hand Romanticism with obscure longing and florid carpe diem metaphors
in the spare lyrics delivered by rather whispering vocals is for once in tune with the fairytale impressionism
of the music.
The album was recorded nearly two years before its release - an earlier version with female vocals reputedly still exists in the archives - and like many of the first major works of Italian progressive, it carries the detectable influence of In the Court of the Crimson King. It is not even second-hand or filtered through later acts' use of the album's ideas (e.g. Genesis' Trespass or PFM's Storia di un Minuto): a string-line during "Favole Antiche"'s intro contains a virtual quote of "Court of the Crimson King"'s landmark Mellotron riff. Yet Celeste are no more mere copycats than Genesis or PFM were. It is more a case of reverse-engineering the delicate symphonic formula of King Crimson's original and incorporating it as a part of their own distinct style. Hence Principe di un Giorno is not, much like Locanda delle Fate's Forse le Lucciole Non Si Amano Piú a year later, a trendsetter, but the culmination of one musical trend.
Celeste's two further, posthumous releases certainly were no usurpers of their predecessor's throne. II (LP M.M./Mellow MAC 1001) was cobbled together from home recordings and studio rehearsal tapes made in 1977 before the band's dissolution. Hence the sound quality of its four long tracks ranges from below average to just acceptable. With a more conventional rhythm section, the group swerve jazz-wise, taking several cues from Soft Machine circa 1970. "Setteottavi", for example, sets up an unflinching 7/8 rhythm, briefly states a lyrical theme and then spends the best part of ten minutes on what is essentially a sax solo over a fairly static harmonic background. The richness of the string-synthesizer backing and the melodic tightness of the saxophone work keep this from plunging into a complete improvisatory limbo. "Un mazzo di ortiche" inserts a vocal section, a second tune and generally has more variation, range and appeal that even the tentative performance cannot wreck. Unfortunately, the two later tracks are really nothing more than unfinished jams swirling and eddying from jazz to symphonic to stretches of improvisation led by Perrino's tuned percussion. They are more like glimpses at the creative process of the band rather than the finished results of that process. With its questionable sound quality and manifest incompleteness, II bears only passing resemblance to Principe di un Giorno in style and quality.
Only slightly better is the album's CD version Second plus (Mellow Records MMP 154), which includes nearly half an hour's worth of bonus tracks, some probably recorded later than 1977. Most hand out more of the same jazzy broth, only with a smaller ladle, but three songs recall some of the spirit of Principe di un Giorno, if only traces of its vigour and grandness. The archetypally romantic lyricism of "Il giardino armonico" and "Bassa marea"'s almost Medieval sound of growling Mellotron choirs and ponderously stomping percussion come across as brief, austerely realised sketches that lack the final finesse and depth of the first album. Only the short symphonic gem "Lontano profondo" stands out: its elegiac melody, realised through a sumptuous combination of flute and synthesizers, is the kind that should evoke emotional response in all but the most cynical and the most comatose. Unfortunately, it's also far the worst recording on the album - you can get better results with a Walkman in the privacy of your own chest freezer.
I Suoni in Una Sfera (CD Mellow Records MMP 113) is an obscure film soundtrack recorded in 1974 and released in 1992 to exploit Celeste's inflated demand among Japanese and American collectors. Its nine short tracks return to the intimacy of Principe di un Giorno, but concentrate to its mellow atmosphere to a point of almost forsaking its more complex aspects. For example, the dreamy sax melody, the warbling synthesizer effects and the breezy, impressionist piano accompaniment of "The Dance of the Sounds" might just as well create associations with the wide-open sonic vistas of Windham Hill's New Agey releases as well as with some of Popol Vuh's works. This is not to disparage the song or the album, which actually contain a lot to appreciate, but to note that those expecting the dramatics, technical complexities or extended structures of the more "conventional" progressive rock are unlikely to get much out of them. Certainly "Hymn to the Spheres"' earnest chorale backed by spare piano chords and synthesizer, the soft symphonic strains of "To Embark on a Love Affair" and the bittersweet keyboard march of the Ennio Morricone pastiche "Last Flight of the Mind" are very enjoyable musical morceaux. You can hear snatches and templates of Principe di un Giorno's songs in them. To underscore this, the CD also includes early versions of two songs from the album, as well as one that later appeared on Second Plus. Lacking vocals and some instrumentation (most notably the Mellotron), these rough-around-the-edges recordings don't really shine any new light on the brilliance of the original, though it's interesting to note that the most Crimson-like parts of "Favole Antiche" were only added with the arrival of the Mellotron.
In short, Celeste's three album discography contains one indispensable masterwork and two sketchbook-like add-ons. -- Kai Karmanheimo
|Links||[See St. Tropez | Sistema, Il]|
|Celluloid is not a band, but a person, one man with an army of Mellotrons backing him. Mercury has some vocals, but the definitive release is Neptune, which is entirely instrumental. It's often difficult to believe all the sounds on this album were produced by Mellotron, as there's such a tonal range to the music herein; from symphonic fanfares to all-out sound-collage freak-out. -- Mike Ohman|
|Jupiter may not exist, though rumors of its existence evidently persist. See links below for snippets of information from other sources. Thanks to Kai Karmanheimo for these links. -- Fred Trafton|
Click here for more information
Click here for more information
Click here for more information
Septober Energy (71)
|Released in 1971, Septober Energy is a one of a kind album. The music is composed by British pianist, Keith Tippett, and the lyrics are by his then wife, the then Julie Tippett, who is better known as Julie Driscoll for her work with Brian Auger. The album was produced by Robert Fripp. It's a big band jazz album performed by virtually everybody who was anybody in English jazz/rock in '71. Notable names among the cast of thousands: Sax: Elton Dean, Ian MacDonald, Dudu Pukwana, Alan Skidmore, Karl Jenkins, Gary Windo. Trumpet: Ian Carr, Mongesi Fesa, Marc Charig. Trombone: Nick Evans, Paul Rutherford. Drums: Robert Wyatt, John Marshall, Tony Fennell. Bass: Roy Babbington, Harry Miller, Brian Belshaw. Guitar: Brian Godding. Vocals: Julie Tippets, Maggie Nichols, Boz, Zoot Money. As you might notice, Islands-era King Crimson is very heavily represented, along with Assegai, Soft Machine and B.B. Blunder, whose Brian Godding contributes a really hot guitar solo. It's a jazz record overall, but it has lots of rock sensibility, mainly due to the fact that most of the electric bass playing on the album is done by Brian Belshaw from BB Blunder, and as a rock bassist he could only go so far into the jazz idiom. Rather than a limitation I think this works as a carefully delineated definition of what Tippett wanted. Musically, the album's closest counterpart I can think of is the Islands album by KC, not just because it has the same people but the same sensibilities, as well. The lyrics here aren't too great, as if I read them correctly they advocate nuclear destruction of most of earth's inhabitants as a sure way out of tyranny and speeding the way to a hasty rebirth of a better world. Um....yeah. Right. But the singing is quite good. Most of the record, though, consists of carefully orchestrated soloing within a pretty tight thematic structure. And most of the solos, duets, trios and the like, are very good. Nothing too bonky squeaky weird for people terrified of free music. It's all pretty straight ahead. The three drummer effect is very nice, an experiment which works. All in all, a most worthwhile album, one which most Fripp fanatics wouldn't have expected from him but there was a time, believe it or not, when he hung out with real live jazz musicians and got along with them, before he got attacked by Eno's "direct inject anti-jazz ray-gun." -- Kenneth Newman|
|Perhaps the only Prog "big band" ever conceived, Kieth Tippett's 55-member "Centipede" (so...it's true!) contained a cross section of Britain's prog scene (nearly all of Soft Machine, several members of Nucleus, Gary Windo, Ian McDonald, Brian Godding, Mike Patto and Boz Burrell, to name a few), many of Britain's finest jazz and avant-garde musicians (Mongezi Feza, Larry Stabbins, Alan Skidmore, Paul Rutherford, Harry Miller, and others), as well as a dozen or so musicians whom I have never heard of (...I won't name them). To my knowledge, one album was released (Septober Energy in 1974), a 2-record set produced by Robert Fripp which came out on RCA in the US. Most prog fans will be dismayed by the music on Septober Energy, as about half of it is very energetic avant-garde jazz, that is in some ways reminiscent of Sun Ra's more ambitious works. The rest of it riff-based jazz-rock, a bit like post- Wyatt Soft Machine or Nucleus, but more chaotic-sounding. Horn soloists dominate throughout. Personally, I think Septober Energy is great, but then again, I really like avant-garde jazz. Besides the jazz fans, perhaps those of you who enjoyed the really whacked-out bits of King Crimson's Lizard album might also like this. Anyway, Tippett later formed a similar aggregation (Kieth Tippett's Ark) whose sole album (Frames) was recently reissued as a 2-CD set on the British 'Ogun' label. -- Dave Wayne|
|Centipede was a fifty-person group organized by jazz pianist Keith Tippett, including in its host rock, jazz, and classical musicians. (Obviously, it couldn't last very long, and I'm sure was never expected to.) Robert Fripp produced the record, and the liner notes indicate that he did not play on the record because he was too busy producing. (Co-ordinating this lot must have been a hell of a task.) -- Dan Kurdilla|
|Links||[See Tippett, Julie | Tippett, Keith]|
Phase Rotator Retard (02, CDR)
Foreign Tea (09, CDR)
Chris Fournier of Centric Jones
Centric Jones is Chris Fournier's new band after the completion of his Fonya project. In Centric Jones recordings, he has teamed up with drummer Tone and abandoned his use of electronic drums which he used during his Fonya days. I haven't heard any of these recordings, so I have no opinion about them, but they are available from Mindawn by clicking the and links above. -- Fred Trafton
Dark Matter (?, EP)
Live at Orion (?, Live)
Acts of Deception (05)
Returning To The Beginning (08, CDR, Live at Orion and Dark Matter together on one disc)
Cerberus Effect was formed in the American city of Baltimore. Acts of Deception is
their first full-length studio album. In the photograph, all four of the musicians look like they're
somewhere in their mid twenties, though bassist Mike Galway has been around for no less than
ten years, having had time to leave traces in such successful acts as Uncle Gut and
Dysfunctional Family, apart from some others.
I feel especially happy when I hear an album where the music is both profound and unique. The musicians' technical filigree wouldn't be at the first place, but in the case of Cerebus Effect all three of the elements exist, being inseparably linked among themselves. Besides all of that, the band's horizon is incredibly wide, and perhaps any direction of progressive music is within their grasp. Like cards in the deck, the four basic Prog Rock genres: Art-Rock, Prog-Metal, Jazz-Fusion and RIO are intermixed in their music, not only coexisting well with each other, but also giving way to their various manifestations: from Zeuhl to Techno Thrash and even Metal-In-Opposition, the (excellent) vocals ranging from clear forms to those with distinct Doom/Death intonations. That said, only two compositions come with a true lyrical content: "Operation Midnight Climax" and "Identity Crisis", the former featuring a few semi-growled phrases in Russian, among which I deciphered "grandmother", "grandfather" and "our Russia". As well as "Illusions", "Nine Against Ten" and "W", both combine probably all of the mentioned stylings. These five will be ones of [2005's] finest audio puzzles for the brave and adventurous listener. You will be happy throughout the long process of unraveling them.
The music is amazingly involved, constantly evolving, endlessly changing in different directions, with lots of subtle nuances and undercurrents, always leaving you guessing to where the band will move next moment. "Identity Crisis" and "Illusions" are the most intense, dark and heavy, the interwoven passages of organ, piano and acoustic guitar bringing even more excitement to the primordially disturbing sound. The other three alternate harsh, dense and more transparent textures, but are never accessible, either.
As said, Cerebus Effect can't be subjected to comparison regarding composition and sound, either. Parallels are possible only in the overall sense, on the latent quasi-structural level. Very roughly speaking, it would be like Van Der Graaf Generator, Shylock, National Health, Present, Mekong Delta and Iced Earth in one package.
Overall, Cerebus Effect's Acts of Deception is essential listen from start to finish. No one adventurous will go wrong with it! -- Vitaly Menshikov
|Cerberus Effect appears to be on hiatus at the moment, but have recently released a CDR compilation disc named Returning To The Beginning which contains Live at Orion and Dark Matter together in their entirety. Keyboardist Dan Britton has been working with his two bands Deluge Grander and Birds and Buildings. Drummer Patrick Gaffney is still working with Chaos Code. Mike Galway was a founding member of Uncle Gut, though they seem to also be on hiatus at the moment. -- Fred Trafton|
|Links||[See Birds and Buildings | Chaos Code | Deluge Grander]|
Osanna parallel band that put out their only album, the classic Melos. Similar to Osanna or Citta Frontale.
This is a band that is very similar to Osanna (Corrado Rustici is a brother of Danilo Rustici who plays in Osanna). When the band split, Corrado Rustici went to play in Osanna and then Nova.
Cervello were an offshoot from the classic Italian band Osanna. The music ranges from heavy to spacey to pastoral and includes touches of jazz and classical influences. Instrumentation contains flute, piccolo, sax, acoustic guitar and vibraphones in addition to the usual electric guitars, synths, drums and bass. Vocals are in Italian. If you are familiar with Osanna, you'll be familiar with the sound of Cervello except I think this is a just bit more refined. Otherwise, if you like good Italian symphonic Prog with lots of heaviness (ala Osanna, Semiramis, Il Balletto di Bronzo, etc.) then you'll want to check out Cervello. Quite good and quite recommended.
[See Osanna | Nova]
Nadie En Especial (82)
Suenos de Metal (83)
Cintas En Directo (84)
? One more under EMI label, Mexico (85)
|Mexican progressive rock band from the early 80's, featuring keyboardist Carlos Alvarado. Purportedly their sound is a fusion of Italian Classical rock influences and Genesis.|
|I bought a Chac Mool cassette in Guadalajara back in 1981. From what I recall, they sounded quite a bit like the Alan Parsons Project or Pink Floyd (only with vocals in Spanish), both of whom were very popular in the US at the time. -- Dave Wayne|
|Most representative band of Mexican prog in the 1980s, featured Jorge Reyes in guitar/flute, Carlos Alvarado in keyboards, plus a singer/cellist, bass player and drummer, with song writing by the first four, ("sounds like Alan Parsons" said my American roommate) because of tremendous following in Mexico City in 1984 and increased commercial success, they signed with EMI Mexico, did some TV gigs, but this created dissension in the band, singer and drummer left. Reyes tried to keep band going but they disbanded in 1985. -- Manuel Arreola|
[See Jorge Reyes |
In Concert (93), Dies Irae (94), Others?
In Concert and Dies Irae are two very different
releases from Italian Paul Chain. The first CD is improvisational
blues/metal while the other is dark electronics. In Concert is
really beyond the realm of the GEPR but I'll cover it briefly
as it is the first release on The Labyrinth label, the joint effort
of The Laser's Edge in the US and Minotauro Records in Italy. The
Laser's Edge catalog describes Chain as a "legendary doom metal
guitarist." I suppose I have no idea what doom metal actually is
because Chain's playing reminds me of many heavy metal/hard rock
bands of the '70s. In fact, Chain thanks many of them and the list
proves useful when trying to elucidate his style: Alvin Lee and Ten
Years After, Johnny Winter, King Crimson, Deep Purple, Iron
Butterfly, Budgie, Jimi Hendrix, Leslie West and Mountain, Black
Sabbath, Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin and Frank Marino. Mostly I
thought of Sabbath, Deep Purple, Mountain and Marino's Mahagany Rush.
Basically, the Paul Chain group consists of Chain on guitar and
vocals (he doesn't sing very well), Baka Bomb on bass and Eric Lumen
on drums. Sandra Silver gets credit as "live entertainer," akin to
Hawkwind's Stacia, I reckon. Essentially non-stop heavy guitar,
Chain and Co. take off for 10-20 minutes at a whack, playing
scorching (and occasionally meandering) blues-based improvisations,
the same as the heavy metal heros of the '70s did.
Next comes Chain's latest release, Dies Irae. Chain has moved into an entirely different genre, a work of dark electronics. Chain plays all instruments on the eight tracks, though Sandra Silver adds vocals to several cuts. Again, he thanks the bands and artists that have influenced this work: Aphrodite's Child (666), Klaus Schulze, Cream, Kzrysztof Penderecki, Gyorgy Ligeti, Olivier Messiaen and Pink Floyd. (That can't be the power trio Cream, can it?) The 21 minute opener is a brooding amalgam of rumbling moog, sinister organ and a variety of percussion and heavy electronics processing. This is darker than Jacula's Anno Demoni, which is already quite a possessed work. From here, we descind further into the pits of the inferno, as Silver contributes weird vocals to a strange and bizarre landscape of tortured electronics and processing in the 13 minute "Presence of the Soul's Forest." The booklet says that the language used by Silver is not real but purely phonetic. Whatever the case, her delivery is half speaking, half singing and half orgasmic. "Life Down" begins as a mixture of Schulzian textures and Floydian synth leads but soon mutates through heavy processing. "The Hope" treats us to a brief stint of acoustic guitar (no electronics at all) in a vein similar to Gilmour circa Meddle and Atom Heart Mother, though not as laid back and breezy; the playing is quite heavy for finger-style acoustic guitar, in fact. The title track was penned by the above mentioned Penderecki. This piece is very cosmic; it makes me think of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." with its haunted choral voices and deep synth textures mixed together. It's quite a stellar experience that my limited vocabulary can't describe. I'll leave the remaing three songs as an exercise for the reader, though I will say that Chain pulls out his axe for one tune.
Chain's Dies Irae is some of the darkest and gloomiest synth music I have heard. Thus, though I found it fascinating in a morbid way, I won't recommend it to just anyone. If you're into the dank and dark and gothic, this might be worth your while. If the darkest you've gotten is "Apocalypse in 9/8," I suggest you stay far, far away.
|US band on the Cuneiform label, so musically in that vein. If you know the Cuneiform label that is NOT a vague description. Related to The Muffins through Paul Sears.|
[See Feigenbaum and Scott |
Click here for Cuneiform Records
Pleasant symphonic prog from a Southern California band who only ever put out this one album. Very similar in style to the Syn-Phonic bands, and ought to appeal to fans of Lift, Pentwater, etc. -- Mike Ohman
One Small Chance (75)
Facing Gravity (92)
Time Code (97)
|Great German band that is very much in the Marillion/Aragon style. Excellent Fish-like vocals. They have a single release out entitled Pure. Anyone who enjoys prog rock of this nature should have this in their collection!|
|Chandelier is generally touted as Germany's answer to Marillion. There is some merit to that general idea, especially between singer Martin Eden and Fish, but outside of that comparison, there are many other similarities as well. Pure is their first album, released in 1990, and is not bad for a debut album it offers although it doesn't really break any new ground. The playing is impressively tight, the songs are well written, the vocals (in English) are quite good, and the lyrics even stand on their own, it's just that they could be so much better if they were not so intent in following in the wake of others. Apparently their second album is out, but I haven't heard it yet.|
|One of the best of the Marillion clone bands. One release that I know of, Pure. Highly recommended to those of you who have already bought all the Marillion albums.|
|Warning, this is written by someone who doesn't get into Neo-prog as a general rule. I had heard from a few places that Chandelier were one of the better neo-prog bands so in my venture to become familiar with this style I decided to give Chandelier a shot. Well, the folks who claimed them as one of the better neos must also be Marillion fans. It would be very easy to think of Chandelier as the German version of Fish and Co. Being that I'm not a big fan of Marillion you would be correct to assume I'm not a fan of Chandelier, either. The emphasis is on the vocals and lyrical content both of which I rarely pay attention to. The solos are obligatory and not very exciting. The singer sounds very much like Fish though the lyrics aren't quite on par with the former Marillion front man. Within the realm of neo-prog, I have to give the nod to IQ and Jadis since they seem to be more Genesis influenced while Chandelier are obvious Marillion fans.|
|Once I had their third (73-minute) album in my collection. It was released by the same Steamhammer-SPV label: 1997's Time Code. As far as I remember, there were only two original members in that line-up. Although these guys had changed their usual (Marillion-like) style on this album quite radically (this time - towards the hard-edged style of Saga), this is still the same quite boring Neo Progressive. To me, Facing Gravity was even better ... no matter, though. -- Vitaly Menshikov|
The Castle (91)
|Fans of Edhels in the Still Dream period, this one will blow you away! Changing Images is the German Duo of Martin Kornberger on Keyboards and Bass and Volker Kuhn on Guitar and Guitar Synth. The music here is a blend of symphonic rock and modern progressive, with complex arrangements, tight interplay, and while the music is not "hard," there's plenty of fire. One might hear echoes of Jean Pascal Boffo or SFF in their sound, with a splash of the Enid.|
A Tapestry of Afterthoughts (99)
The Tragedy of Leaps and Bounds (02)
Chaos Code is a Baltimore-based quartet that plays very outstanding progressive
music in the fine tradition of classical art rock. For those who look for
elaborate bands, Chaos Code's music encompasses a rich tapestry of sounds with
lots of mood shifts. Their debut album A Tapestry of Afterthoughts
ranges from melodic tunes to strong riffs of guitars. It is a fine a work that
stresses the idea that progressive rock lives and is an musical genre whose
production seems non exhaustible and stands the test of time. The album
contains classical-like themes and reminds me of
Genesis and King
Crimson's In the Court of ... era with the introduction of Chris
Phelps' flute elements and Marty Saletta's keyboards. Such a combination could
not be better. Phelps' voice is sometimes "thunderous", sometimes "mellow" and
all depends of the mood and tone of the song. The seven-track CD kicks off
with "The Cave", a small reflection about the danger of wasting the time in
our youth, which is a reminiscent of early
Genesis. As it moves along to "Heights of Time",
the music gets more intensity and introduces us to
King Crimson's realm. So does it question
today's massive growth and long for yesterday's gone. "Antidote to Entropy"
reveals clear leanings to Crimsonish
atmospheres. Next, the work gets to a musical peak on "Days of Reflection",
a finely extended tune that recalls our past experiences. The masterpiece,
"A Silent Scream" is a sinister description of someone's unconscious state
while being in coma ("The spirit and the warmth have all left me now/Silence
grips me as no words pass across my lips"). "Gravy Fries" is a transition
jazzy tune to the final "The Devil's Trombone". It starts with an aggressive
dissonance and strong argument between the four musicians' performance
followed by a calm flute part. Phelps' lyrics then harshly question someone's
useless, wasted life after so many years.
Chaos Code is one of the several original progressive rock bands to emerge from the Baltimore music scene. It was formed from the ashes of The Web [not the same band listed here under The Web - Ed.] in 1993. They played cover songs of Marillion, Genesis and IQ. In 1996, they began writing their original music. Finally, in 1999, they recorded their self-financed debut album "A Tapestry of Afterthoughts". The original lineup includes superb singer and guitar player Cliff Phelps, Philip Rous on bass, Dan Squillaro on drums and Marty Saletta, who's recently played with The Dark Aether Project. -- Jesús Peraza
Chaos Code broke up for a while after the release of A Tapestry of Afterthoughts,
and by the time Cliff Phelps was done writing new material, none of the other former
members were available for various reasons. So, he put together a new line-up consisting of
drummer Patrick Gaffney (Cerebus Effect,
Deluge Grander), bassist Gary Curtis (Averted
Vision) and keyboardist Tom Langan. This line-up released The Tragedy of Leaps
and Bounds in 2002 also featuring Mike Potter on flute and sax.
The same group went on to record Propaganda, a concept album centered around a piece written by Langan. For this album, they also used local musicians Jose Silva, Barry Caudill and Dave Makowiecki on horn and backing vocal tracks. It was released early in 2006. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See (Cerebus Effect | Dark Aether Project | Deluge Grander]|
Chapter Three (69), Volume 2 (70)
Early, much more progressive than Earth Band.
[See Mann's Earth Band, Manfred]
Chardo's Airlines (90)
Official Bootleg 1 (94)
Official Bootleg 2 (97)
Data Pulsions (99)
Hors Portee Vol. 1 - Instrumental Selection (06)
Hors Portee Vol. 2 - Version Highlight (06)
Slow, contemplative chamber-jazz with pastoral leanings and calliope swirlings, led by presumably distinguished French pianist Chardeau. With many changes of mood and direction but a loose sense of discipline, Chardeau's music seems to just sit there, getting lost in its own quagmire of bottomless silt -- two hours of it if you include both volumes of his 2005 Musea release [Hors Portee]. This might appeal to ambient listeners but I don't know if I could sit through it again. Jerry Goodman plays acoustic violin on [Hors Portee] Vol 1 and electric and acoustic violin on Vol. 2. [Ex-Magma bassist Bernard] Paganotti plays basses. -- David Marshall
[See Goodman, Jerry |
Japanese hard-fusion band with lots of pyrotechnic guitar riffs, not unlike some of Jeff Beck's better stuff.
Die Donnergötter (87), others?
Rhys Chatham is an American from New York who played mainly in France during the '80s. I have one of his records Die Donnergötter (German for Thunder of Gods) which is unique in my opinion in that six guitarists are playing at the same time (plus a bassist and a drummer) in the tune called "Die Donnergötter" (21 minutes of a thunderstorm of electric guitars with a drum solo in the background). The other side of the record, "Waterloo n°2," was written for solo percussionist, three trumpets and two trombones and keyboards, and sounds a little like Steve Reich. The album has been released in 1987 by a German publisher, Dossier Records (Prinzenallee 47b, D-1000 Berlin 65, Germany). -- Frederic Scheid
Mikhail Chekalin is frequently compared with Klaus Schulze, and on the surface it's not a bad comparison. In fact, some of Chekalin's music is quite reminiscent of early Klaus Schulze. Others have compared his style to Peter Fromader's dark synthesis. But even though Boheme Records calls their re-releases of Concerto Grosso #1 and Concerto Grosso #2 "Space Music", this music really lies in between Schulze or early Tangerine Dream and the more "Classical Electronic" realms of Morton Subotnik or the non-melodic early works of Wendy Carlos. Chekalin's Concertos are mostly real instruments (well, samples of them played via a keyboard) and voices, with heavy processing to distort and warp the sounds into alternate sonic dimensions. The quality of the music varies from dreamy and spacey to harsh and abrasive, and wanders back and forth from vaguely musical sections to totally non-melodic sound collages. Chekalin prefers analog tape recorders and playing the compositions by hand rather than using computer technology to sequence and record. Or perhaps he just doesn't have a computer ... or didn't in 1989 when he recorded these.
The first word I would use to describe these compositions would have to be "intellectual", the second would be "avant-garde". "Progressive" or "Space Music" would be down the list a ways. Chekalin's discography is massive, but was mostly released in small quantities on the former Soviet Union's state label, Melodiya, which is why you probably have never heard of him unless you're from Russia or a CIS country. Boheme Records has now acquired the master tapes for these (and other) Melodiya recordings and has begun a re-release of Chekalin's music beginning with the two Concerto Grossos. Whether or not they release any more of Chekalin's recordings will, I assume, depend upon how much people are interested after hearing these two releases. Each of these CD's feature the full content of the original Melodiya recordings of this material, plus other "bonus" material taken from other Chekalin releases, or previously unreleased material.
Excellent stuff. Personally, one of my favorite types of music is this intellectual, not very melodic electronic style, so I think Chekalin is amazing. But I would have a hard time recommending it to any but the most "hard core" of electronic avant-garde music fans. But if you're one of those, these are an incredible long-lost gem not to be missed! -- Fred Trafton
The first thing to say is that all the stuff I mentioned above about Boheme Records no longer matters. Boheme is gone, I know not where, and all the music associated with them is either gone or trying to find a label elsewhere. I know that Chekalin is trying to find a label, and if/when it happens, I'll let you know which albums they decide to carry. For now, I've chosen to review the Volume 1 through 5 series of CD's plus two others that were released in Russia ... so far you can't get them anywhere else, but that may change soon.
Meditative Music for a Prepared Organ Volume 1 and Volume 2 is a re-release of the three-LP Meditative Music for the Decomposed Electro-organ series on 2 CD's. This is a series of solo live improvisations on a "prepared" electronic organ. No synthesizers, no overdubs. Of course, since the "prepared" part of this is that the organ is plugged through various effects boxes, the distinction between this combination and a synthesizer is sort of academic. Don't let the instrumental description fool you ... this is electronic music without a doubt. These albums are where Chekalin really sounds the most like Klaus Schulze. So if you like that sort of slow, developing, spacey electronics, you should find this to your liking as well. All the more impressive for being solo live improv.
The next two albums in the series, Volume 3 and 4 re-release another three albums on 2 CD's, this time "The Symphony-Phonogram" and "The Night Ritual for Choir and Drums" (doubtless a re-titling of "The Ritual - Night for Voices") on Volume 3 and "Green Symphony" plus "Borderline State" (Border State) on Volume 4. Here we are once more into the serious modern classical electronic music style I talked about in the Concerto Grosso reviews above. Chekalin mentions that these are recorded using a 4-track analog tape machine only ... no sequencers or computer editing. The instruments listed are "synthesizers, percussion and vocal", though it's largely synthesizers with a few sections of nice spacey vocal overdubs for sweetening and occasional percussion. There's a few Klaus Schulze-like moments here, particularly the later, more symphonic-oriented Schulze albums, but overall the style is more modern classical than Berlin School. You'd swear a lot of it is really symphony orchestra. This sort of music actually takes a bit of training to listen to. Since I've had that training (... seriously ... in my Electronic Music classes in college with Professor Charles Stanley, a classical composition specialist, explaining what I should be listening to as a running commentary ... it's a really ear-opening experience ... thanks, Professor Stanley!), I find this sort of thing just amazing. But you may find it a bit rough going. Give it a try ... it's really worth it once you "get it".
The last in the "Volume Series" is Volume 5 which re-releases the LP Between Spring and Autumn by Stealth and also has a bonus track ... a live recording called "Concerto for Piano Synthesizer and Voice" recorded in 1993. Sonically similar to Vol 3 & 4, but "earlier" sounding ... which parts of it are and parts aren't. Also, spacier and not as rhythmical, but perhaps darker in tone. All the same comments apply as above. Good stuff, but after just listening to Vols 3 & 4, my ears could have used a rest before cracking the shrink-wrap on this one. I shouldn't try to listen to this much modern classical music in one sitting. I just start craving "normal sounding" harmonies after a while. Still, an excellent album ... just leave some time between this one and similar stuff.
Nonconformist may have been released earlier than the above-mentioned series, but the music was actually written and recorded over an even longer span of time than the Volume series. The title, to my mind, is actually a bit of a misnomer. I would say that this album collects Chekalin's music that CONFORMS to western ideas of what electronic music is supposed to sound like. Less classical and more "techno", Nonconformist has a lot of fast, heavily rhythmic music (dare I say "dancable"?) and more traditional harmonies in it than the earlier albums. Actually, it reminds me quite a bit of Yello or maybe Peter Fromader's Anubis Dance. That's not necessarily bad ... I kinda like that style. But those interested in more "serious electronic music" ... or maybe I should say "academic electronic music" ... should stick to some of the other albums I've discussed above. Still, as modern techno music goes, Nonconformist has a lot to recommend it, including pepperings of off-kilter noises, interesting use of sounds as percussion, '40's private eye music and oriental flutes in addition to the Boom-Clap-Boom-Clap you would expect of techno music. I could do without some of the new-agey jazz piano sections though.
A Pagan Suite was released immediately after the Volume series, however, though this album still features music composed and recorded in the early '90's, it is not a re-issue of anything previously released on LP. Instead, this is a lengthy (78:33) electronic suite in 19 movements. This album still has lots of the "classical electronic music" vibe of the Volume series, but is beginning to incorporate some heavier rhythmic elements. This makes this album a bit more accessable than the Volume series (particularly Vols 3 thru 5), though there's still enough strange noises, dissonance and scary soundscapes to frighten away your landlady, interspersed with weirdly beautiful and harmonic music punctuated by klangs, chuffs and whooshes. Though I find the Volume 1 through 5 series very stimulating on an intellectual level, A Pagan Suite speaks to me the most of all Chekalin's albums on an emotional level. It's just easier to relate to. This is the album I would recommend as a first listen to Chekalin's catalog. If you like this one, then move on into the Volume series next. Unless you're a fan of Yello and the like, in which case you might want to try Nonconformist next.
I haven't been in contact with Chekalin for a while, so I don't know what he's been doing since 2004 as things get increasingly retro-political in Russia. I do know that there's a (non-Russian) label who's considering releasing some portion of his catalog for worldwide distribution at the moment. If this happens, I'll report it, plus anything else I find out. -- Fred Trafton
Chekalin's web presence is currently nonexistent. That may change soon, in which
case I'll supply information here.
Sever Roots Tree Dies (88)
Dumb Ask (91)
Babies Shouldn't Smoke (1993) The Why Album (94)
Not A Food (96)
Enduring The American Dream (97)
Salad Days (00)
Variations on a Goddamn Old Man (02)
Introducing Lemon (03)
Younger than You are Now (04)
Variations on a Goddamn Old Man #2 (05)
What Sequel? (06)
Sever Roots Tree Dies (07, CD re-release of first album)
Variations on a Goddamn Old Man #3 (08)
Fear Draws Misfortune (09)
No Ifs Ands Or Dogs (11)
Cheer Accident - "the main band" in 2009 - Alex Perkolup (bass, guitar, vocals), Thymme Jones (drums,
percussion, keyboards, trumpet, vocals) and Jeff Libersher (guitar, bass, trumpet, vocals)
Like Fear Draws Misfortune, the array of musical styles is dizzying, from Frank Zappa stylings to songs that sound like The Monkees interpreted by The Residents to your usual Cuneiform type avant-RIO with Magma on backing vocals. One song, "Pre-Somnia", features a sound that's halfway between a fuzzed guitar and a bagpipe, leading into "Sleep", which features the same riff of the same sound as a backing harmony instead of the main focus. Given that there's a later song called "Post-Somnia" and several other related title-pairs ("Life in Polyanna" and "Death By Polyanna" / "Drag You Down" and "Drug You Down"), there does seem to be some unifying principle behind the album, but I'll be darned if I can figure out what it is. It seems pretty stream-of-consciousness. "Drag You Down" is especially interesting with its (clearly intentional) rhythmic mis-steps, slow-downs, and overall "not quite up to speed"-iness. And the "Drug You Down" bookend is obviously what this sounds like while on major drugs. But what it has to do with the rest of the album (if anything) is anyone's guess.
No Ifs Ands or Dogs doesn't jazz me as much Fear Draws Misfortune did, but nonetheless it's a good album worthy of a listen or three for those who have what it takes to ... uhm ... endure this sort of music. That may sound negative, but it's like the stimulating, adrenaline-pumping part of pain without the actual hurt. Sorta like biting into a jalapeño pepper. And I mean that in a good way. Some people like this kind of pain. I guess I'm one of them, when I'm in the right mood. But don't play this for someone who thinks "music" is the stuff they hear on The Voice. As Thymme Jones said on their forum, "Hang in there! It starts to get really good in that half-second just before you hear it."
I did find out something else of interest ... Cheer-Accident got their name from a Hallmark card display. I can only guess it was cards that were supposed to cheer you up after you've had an accident. Obviously the band found these seemimngly contradictory words used together to be a good name for their band. -- Fred Trafton
From what I'd read about Cheer-Accident in the past, I expected them to be complete industrial noise. Evidently, they don't have a "style", and every album is very much up for grabs as far as how it sounds. So I wasn't prepared for just how listenable their first album for Cuneiform Records, Fear Draws Misfortune, is. Imagine the multi-part fugue-like structures of Gentle Giant, the jazzy gnat notes of Frank Zappa, backing vocals from The Northettes of Hatfield and the North, the avant-oddity of This Heat, the circus-like RIO whackiness of Hamster Theatre, the hypnotically repetitive chanting of Magma and the dark uneasiness of The Residents all playing at once, and you're somewhere in the ballpark of what Fear Draws Misfortune sounds like. And despite that, I still claim it's actually listenable? Yes, it is! This album is on my short list for the best album of 2009. It's simply a masterwork. A must-have for those who are willing to brave the more difficult waters of prog.
By the way, whoever said (below) that Cheer-Accident sounds anything like Rush must have been written by a deaf person. They're not even from the same galaxy.
In addition to "the main band" as depicted above, Thymme Jones and friends employ a large number of guest musicians to make the sound very lush. One of these is Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's Carla Kihlstedt who contributes both violin and vocals on several cuts. -- Fred Trafton
The following from the original (1999) version of the GEPR:
A rather noisy sometimes dissonant and hard-rockish US band that I've seen compared to Rush in catalog descriptions. To my ears these guys straddle the line between RIO and alternative, with some rather unusual vocals and the occasional introspective piano. Interesting but not pretty.
[See Sleepytime Gorilla Museum]
Click here for Cheer-Accident's web site
Cheiro de Vida (84)
1988 - Vivo (00, Recorded in 1988)
|Links||Click here for further info|
Early 80s English Progressive band most noted for featuring Mark Kelly before he joined Marillion.
Arthur et Les Robots (82)
A l'Abri des Micro-Climats (84, w/ Sophie Jausserand)
Le Diapason du Pere Ubu (93)
Guigou Chenevier & Les Figures (95, w/ Les Figures)
Les Rumeurs de la Ville (98, a.k.a. Rumours of the City)
Le Batteur Est Le Meilleur Ami Du Musicien (03)
Multi-instrumentalist (saxophones, keyboards, percussion, voice) formerly with the French RIO band Etron Fou Leloublan. This solo record [A L'abri des Micro-climats] from the mid-'80s postdates Etron Fou, but bears some stylistic similarities to Chenevier's former group. Saxophones and analog synths predominate, with bass (played by Christiane Cohade), and simple (and rather odd) percussion and twangy, noisy guitar (played by Guy Sapin). Vocals, in French, are by Chenevier and Sophie Jausserand (who wrote most of the lyrics). Chenevier's voice is declamatory, almost grating, yet Jausserand's vocals are almost the polar opposite: clear, sweet, and delicate. A very interesting and distinctive recording that really doesn't fall into any easy category. -- Dave Wayne
[See Etron Fou Leloublan |
Cherry Five (74)
|Another predecessor to Goblin, and infinitely superior to the grunge-rock Flea, was Cherry Five. Influenced much by The Yes Album, with grinding organ and Squire-ish bass. But Cherry Five use a greater variety of keyboards than Yes did at that point. Also the vocals are very different. Sung in English, but not quite as "broken" as many Italian bands. Here and there, they include an occasional "freak-out" that vaguely reminds me of early King Crimson. All in all, I believe this to be yet another classic of Italian progressive, and one I'd recommend highly. -- Mike Ohman|
|Here's a winner for Yes fans who are sick of bands that sound like Yes. Cherry Five combines Squire-esque bass and Wakeman style keys with a subtle rock-n-roll guitar feel and yes, a vocalist NOT trying to sound like Jon Anderson (finally!!) This is quintissential progressive music, if not very original. There are enough time changes and polyrhythmic interplay to keep a die-hard progressive fan interested while it is accessible enough for the casual listener to get into after only one or two tries. I really love the "fat" Moog synth playing...perfect early seventies style. Makes me wonder why hardly anyone ever uses that sound now.|
|Cherry Five is an Italian band that was a one-shot spinoff from Goblin. Having never heard that band, I can't attest to any similarities. The music, however, stands well on it's own. The main emphasis seems to be on keyboards, which includes Hammond organ, electric piano, mini-moog, and Mellotron. Obviously, the band draws on many of their Italian contemporaries, but also from a wide variety of other styles including Yes, ELP, and a dash of Canterbury, but the music is blended into something quite unique. Excellent!|
|Another of the big 70's Italian bands to only put out one album and then bite the dust. They were heavily influenced by the first 3 Yes albums. Using Yes' style and English lyrics they created 4 extremely exciting songs : "Country Graveyard", "Picture of Dorian Gray", and "The Swan is a Murderer" Parts 1 & 2. The musicianship is real tight and I am sure Yes was impressed too. Of all the 70s Italian prog the sound quality on this one is tops- right up there with Locanda Delle Fate's first release. -- Clayton Self|
Our Sunrise (74), Cherub Safety Match (75)
I have Cherub Safety Match. I guess I'd categorize it as light German rock/prog in the vein of Karthago, Randy Pie, Cry Freedom and the like. Like them, they include some progressive songs, like the 12-minute medley at the end and "Overture," the latter including the most keyboards (by Thor Baldursson, who has worked also with Amon Düül II, and Bo Born) alongside some decidedly un-progressive ones, like the country-rock "Catch The Train." There's also non-progressive songs incorporating progressive ideas, like the straight rock of "Adam And Eve," which incorporates a Gentle Giant-ish arrangement for recorders, and alternating bass and tenor voices. The mesmerizing "Choo Choo Train" with its droning organ and hypnotic vocal chants is the most typically German thing here. Overall pretty mediocre, nothing really makes you sit up and take notice. -- Mike Ohman
[See 2066 And Then]
Back to Square One (05)
Chest Rockwell vs. The World (07)
Total Victory (09)
Chest Rockwell - (not in photo order) Josh Hines (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass,
keyboard), Nick Rouse (drums, percussion, keyboard, backing vocals), Nick Stewart (bass,
keyboard, percussion) and Seth Wilson (electric guitar, keyboard, percussion, backing vocals)
Original entry, 11/11/07:
Musically, an eclectic mix of '80's punk, '80's new wave, '90's indie and '70's Fripp and Eno. Lots of acoustic guitar, strange rhythms and vocals talking about odd subjects. Just about the time you think you've got it figured out, it goes off in a different direction. Simultaneously intriguing and annoying, brilliant and muddled, inventive and derivative. I can't remember an album so annoying that I keep putting it on again. Maybe Frank Zappa's earliest efforts. For whatever reason, there's just something about this album that keeps you coming back for another listen. So, despite the warts, this is a highly recommendable album that should have broad appeal to old-school proggers and youngsters looking for something different from the usual fare.
One thing, though. The potato-nosed creatures on the album covers of all but their latest album don't do a thing for the band's image. Repulsive, stupid-looking and annoyingly fascinating all at once. You can do better than that, guys! What image are you trying to portray? Or maybe I'm just too old a fart to "get it". -- Fred Trafton
2009 brings Total Victory. No, not a comment about the war in Iraq, but a new album from Chest Rockwell. This album resembles Chest Rockwell vs. The World in many ways, but is better in virtually all respects. The recording quality is far superior, the writing has less annoying parts and more just plain cool passages. There's still plenty of "indie rock" flavor, but far more "prog rock" too, with odd meters, abrupt breaks between sections of songs, and interesting instrumental, sound-effect and spoken word sections between what passes for a "song structure". The vocals are well done in an "indie rock" way, but also with more progressive stylings in the harmonies and brief blasts of (overdubbed?) vocal choruses. And who can resist sound bites of Franklin Roosevelt explaining why we're not going to war?
Lyrically, the album is a tight ball of overwrought angst, fear, anger and despair. Here's an example of the lyrics, from "Body Prop" (some repeated parts redacted): "You say it so I must believe. Fearful fear falls down, a place for some to call home. Saying no, I'm lying. When lives are lost I don't believe that there's a place for me, a place for me to come home. There's nowhere to go, and we all die alone. You're lying at the bottom. Fall to me. Fall, the giver. Finish it, finish me." All the lyrics are like this. Unspecific anger, frustration and despair. Sometimes this sort of thing annoys me, but in this case, it's poetic enough that I like it. It also occurs to me that when I hear it sung, I don't really hear the words themselves, only the emotions behind them and the melodies they're making. It's sort of like listening to a foreign-language album, actually.
Total Victory also has some nice heavy punk/thrash metal guitar parts in it, and the beautifully ugly sounds of synthesizers from Devo's pre-popularity days. Finally, the troll-faced king on the album cover declaring "Total Victory" while his castle burns beneath him is priceless ... a far better use of this strange art style than the previous albums. You can order Total Victory from CD Baby (see link below) for the paltry sum of $6.00. This album is well worth it, you owe it to yourself to order this one. These guys should be a lot more well-known. If life was fair, this album would be their breakthru to the big time. But, as I'm sure Chest Rockwell's members will agree, life is rarely fair. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Chest
Rockwell's MySpace page
Click here to order Back To Square One from Interpunk (only $5.00!)
Click here to order Chest Rockwell vs. The World from CD Baby (only $6.00!)
Click here to order Total Victory from CD Baby (only $6.00!)
Chevalier (85), Tibet (86), Saarienne (87), Zantic le Jazzman (88)
Chevalier was guitarist with Magma in the Attahk through Retrospektiw period. His style is in a lighter jazz-rock vein, yet heavily influenced by the zeuhl sound. There are four albums: Chevalier/Eliard/Chevalier/Vandenbulcke, Tibet, Saharienne, and Zantic Le Jazzman. The first is the most intense and obviously Magma influenced, while the later ones further develop in the same style. All are exceptional. Start with Zantic, if only because it's on Musea and will be the easiest to find.
Only heard a demo tape I had received as a dubbed copy of "Great Japanese band ranging from instrumental progressive to jazz." I have heard them compared to the Mahavishnu Orchestra, but I have never HEARD the Mahavishnu Orchestra, so I can not comment. The first piece on the demo, "Russia" reminds me of Red Queen To Gryphon Three era Gryphon for some reason, and the rest is quite jazzy and adventurous, but not in the same way that Henry Cow or RIO stuff would be; rather, it just sounds like a bunch of very competent musicians bashing out prog-jazz in a very fresh and inventive way. Oh yeah... the drummer's great. Plays a bit like Furio Chirico of Arti+Mestieri and The Trip, but a lot jazzier than the Trip stuff. He's fond of odd syncopations. Strongly recommended.
chimpan A (06)
chimpan A - Rob Reed (keyboards, programming), Rob Thompson (guitars) and
Steve Balsamo (vocals)
chimpan A is a new project by the F2 guys, the label on which Magenta releases their albums. Their debut release can't be mistaken as a Magenta album, despite being co-written, performed, produced and engineered by Rob Reed. chimpan A features vocalist Steve Balsamo (he played the title role in a recent London revival of Jesus Christ Superstar) instead of Christina (though she does sing backup on at least one song), but the major difference is in the musical styling. Though there are progressive touches everywhere, it would be hard to call this a "prog album", certainly not in the sense that Magenta is "prog". This is more of a mix of progressive with alternative or post-rock and adult pop, with that odd feeling usually described as "edgy". But that's not a bad thing.
The music is very emotional, crossing a wide variety of styles. It is very mature in the composition and sound quality. You'll never miss the lack of a drummer. Probably not for everyone who reads the GEPR, but if you enjoy acts like Peter Gabriel or Bjork, you will find a lot to like about this album. (If you need more "progginess", try the new Magenta album Home first ... stylistically, it's right in between this album and more "old school" prog.) But chimpan A's reworking of Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" theme (yeah, the Exorcist melody) in "The Secret Wish" is worth the price of admission by itself. Oldfield would have never dreamed of this way to use that little note sequence.
So what is "proggy" anyway? The more albums I review, the hazier the distinction seems to become. What I can say is chipan A is really good stuff, and you owe yourself a listen. Even if the name is dorky. Check out the samples on their web site or MySpace page. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Cyan | Fyreworks, The | Magenta | Othello Syndrome, The]|
Christmas (70), Heritage (71)
Christmas developed out of Reign Ghost and was the precursor to The Spirit of Christmas. In fact, this is the core group that formed The Spirit of Christmas (minus vocalist Preston Wynn) and these guys show some of the hallmarks of the subsequent formation, including some fine drumming. Heritage was the band's second LP. The self-titled first is due out on The Laser's Edge sometime in the future and there are, I believe, plans to issue a previously unreleased live album. At more than 48 minutes, the LP was quite long by 1971 standards and the CD reissue contains an additional eight minutes in the form of two bonus tracks. Most of the songs are in the short 2-5 minute range but "April Mountain" is nearly 11 minutes and "Zephyr Song" weighs in at just over 13. Like the other two formations, Bob Bryden is the driving force as he wrote all the music and lyrics on this album. With a strong West Coast feel, you'll hear similarities to Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, early Steve Miller Band, etc; gone is the fuzz guitar. Guitarist Rob Bulger plays clean, clear, bluesy licks and even duels on occasion with Bryden's guitar. The sound is occasionally rounded out with miscellaneous keyboards, also played by Bryden. Christmas, despite their Canadian origins, would have been right at home at The Fillmore West. If you relish the hey-day of the Haight-Ashbury district, you'll do well to check out this album. Die-hard Prog fans need not apply.
[See Reign Ghost | Spirit of Christmas, The]
The Visitation (77)
Alien Soundtracks (78)
Half Machine Lip Moves (79)
Red Exposure (80)
Blood on the Moon (81)
3rd from the Sun (82)
No Humans Allowed (82)
Chrome Box (82)
Raining Milk (83)
Into the Eyes of the Zombie King (84)
The Lyon Concert (85)
Another World (86)
Dreaming in Sequence (87)
Tidal Forces (98)
|Very alternative sounding bay area band, noisy and anarchic. Lots of albums. Beware of catalog descriptions that may lead you to believe otherwise.|
Noisy and harsh, with tons of feedback and a totally mind-damage
overload of sound, Chrome created some unclassifiable music. As album
titles suggest, sci-fi themes run throughout these works. Alien
Soundtracks and Half Machine Lip Moves (available on one CD) are both
excellent for those who like over-the-top noisy guitar-and-synth
psychedelic industrial rock songs played at manic energy, mixed with
short interludes of electronic weirdness, backwards tapes and mutant
vocals and sudden jolting song transitions. 3rd from the Sun is quite
good too, though a little more straightforward.
After Helios Creed left in 1983, Damon Edge continued putting out albums under the name Chrome, but these are considered to be far inferior to earlier releases, so avoid. After Edge passed away, Creed reformed Chrome for Tidal Forces, which is actually quite good, with moments that almost recapture the classic Chrome sound. -- Rolf Semprebon
Live at the Whiskey Au Go Go (75), Ima Wa Toki No Subete (75), Like A Message From the Stars (77)
Offshoot from Far East Family Band; cosmic keyboards and shimmering guitar leads.
[See Far East Family Band]
The Churchills (68)
Early psych from Israel, they moved to England and changed their name to Jericho Jones, then simply Jericho. They also changed styles. The Churchills' single album is said to be a psych classic, but I found it to be too silly in the lyrics department for my tastes. Though still not great, I prefered their later work as Jericho. Fans of early psych may really go for this album, though, so check it out.
[See Apocalypse (Israel) / Jericho | Jericho Jones]
Chute Libre (77)
Ali Baba (78)
|Cinelou brothers from this band joined Pierre Moerlen's Gong.|
Click Gong, Pierre Moerlen's
Click here for further info.
A Child in the Mirror (10)
Ciccada - George Mouchos (guitar), Evangelia Kozoni (vocals) and Nicolas Nikolopoulos (flute, keyboards).
Not pictured: Omiros Komninos (bass), Christos Zelelidis (drums) and Panagiotis Gianakkakis (piano).
Ciccada is evidently misspelled ... at least in English. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary says it should be "Cicada". Ask me if I care. Any band that sounds this good can spell their name any way they want to.
A Child in the Mirror is an absolutely outstanding debut for this band from Athens, Greece. Don't be fooled by the fact that they're on the AltrOck label, which usually specializes in more RIO-styled bands. Ciccada sounds like a mixture of Jethro Tull and Gentle Giant with a bit of Hatfield and the North and Renaissance thrown in (mostly due to Evangelia Kozoni's Gaskin/Haslam styled vocals, but also musically). If I hadn't already read about them before, I would have sworn this must be an English band just judging from their sound. My favorite features are the Tullish flute passages (and even guitar stylings) and organ solos that sound like "Apocalypse in 9/8" done by Dave Stewart. Completely riveting.
They freely admit to being influenced by all of the above, but they've used these starting points to create something that's all their own, yet could stand proudly alongside the best albums from those bands. If life was fair, A Child in the Mirror would become an internationally famous overnight classic. Of course, it's not fair, so Ciccada will probably remain relegated to special-interest web sites like this one. What a loss for the world! I'm dead serious when I say this is one of the best albums I've ever heard, bar none. Absolutely essential for anyone who has any interest in the bands I just mentioned, and probably for anyone interested in symphonic prog in general.
For anyone keeping score, several members of labelmates Yugen (Botta, Cavedon, Cipollone and Signo) and also DFA (DeGrandis) participated in this album, in addition to "guest artists" playing bass, drums and piano. But they sound like a band that's been playing together since they were twelve years old. If I was to say something negative about this album, it's that Kozoni's vocals are undermixed. But that's certainly not a reason to avoid A Child in the Mirror. If this one doesn't make near the top my "Best of 2010" list, there will be some unbelievable albums put out later this year. I'm not holding my breath. Gems like this don't happen all that often. -- Fred Trafton
Vida (Sons do Quotidiano) (77, EP)
10.000 Anos Depois Entre Vénus e Marte (78)
José Cid is said to be the father of Portuguese symphonic rock.
He founded Quarteto 1111, the first band to
present a newly approach to music, with a modern line-up and instrumentation.
His prolific career led him to publish several singles and albums. The only
one with interest for progressive rock fans (at least, to the history of
progressive music) has been 10.000 Anos ... Most of the songs,
influenced by a sort of mix combining The
Moody Blues and Pink Floyd psychedelia were
composed by Cid, some of them with the help of bass player Mike Sargent and
drummer Ramon Galarza. The pop inclinations of José Cid led him to found
during the late 70's a 4 piece vocal pop group (Green Windows) in the line of
Abba (they even went to Eurovision song contest!). Cid, himself kept a career as
songwriter and singer (and went once again, this time by himself, to the
Eurovision song contest!) -- Paulo Pereira
I suggest that you include on José Cid's discography a very good piece of progressive rock launched before 10.000 Anos Depois .... I'm talking about an EP from 1977 with the title Vida (Sons do Quotidiano). The EP contains only one song of the same name. The musicians are: José Cid (vocals and keyboards); José Carrapa (guitar); Zé Nabo (bass); and Guilherme Inęs (drums). -- Rui Laires
|Links||[See Quarteto 1111]|
Rare Italian quartet, in the vein of PFM. Very good.
Cinderella Search (93)
Stories of Luminous Garden (01)
Cinderella Search is the title of a Marillion song, but this band doesn't really sound that much like Marillion to me. Which is fine, because I think they're a lot more interesting than Marillion, especially since the departure of Fish. They do, however, sound very British; if someone played these CD's for me "cold", I would never guess they were Japanese. I hope they would take this as a compliment, because they seem to be trying very hard to sound like a '70's U.K. progressive band ... and have succeeded very well!
Cinderella Search says they were inspired by Genesis, Marillion and UK. The influence of first two are probably more clearly evident on their first, self-titled album. Here are all the trademark choral and flute Mellotrons, Steve Hackettish guitars (electric and acoustic), and Tony Banksian keyboards, (on synths and piano). But they also branch out to other styles that don't sound so derivative, and their vocalist Akihisa Nakamura sounds nothing like Peter Gabriel or Fish, but sings in a rather high register. He seems to have a unique accent, but doesn't sound at all Japanese as he croons out his English lyrics. On this first album, violinist Junko Minobe is experimenting with lots of violin styles, including Celtic, Classical and even a brief flurry of Country fiddle, but hasn't settled on a particular style yet. On Cinderella Search, the band really has a mostly quiet, layed-back sound like Camel. Some of it also reminds me of the more organic songs from White Willow.
Now with their 2001 release, Stories of Luminous Garden, one can clearly hear the UK influence, due mostly to their heavy reliance on Minobe's violin parts (she also plays with Un Known and sits in with Azoth). She has now found her sound ... a lot like Eddie Jobson circa the first UK album, or perhaps a bit like Jerry Goodman. This album rocks a lot more than their first, in fact a couple of the songs, "Mon Ami Pierrot" and "Silent Fairy Dance" are so bombastic, I would almost call them Arena Rock. Don't take that as a negative ... they just sound very pompous as opposed to some of the more laid-back cuts like the almost classical "Snowfall (Reprise)" with its string quartet. Other songs feature jazzy fusion-style electric piano, new-wavy sequencers and drums, and even a musical nod to "Watcher of the Skies" at the beginning (solo string Mellotron). They never let the music get boring or predictable.
Cinderella Search is known (in Japan) for their theatrical live performances like early Genesis (you can see vocalist Nakamura in a Gabriel-like mask in the photo above ... most photos I've seen of him, he's either in makeup or in a mask).
Pardon the hyperbole here, but I can only say that this is one of the better '70's style progressive bands I've ever heard, and I can't recommend them highly enough. You do have one major problem ... I can't figure out where to tell you to buy these titles! They don't seem to be handled by the usual mail-order houses (Syn-Phonic, M&M, Artist Shop, etc.), so I don't have any idea how you can get your hands on these incredible CD's. The titles may be available from their web site, but if so, it will be hard for any English-speaking consumers to tell (I sure can't tell!). They clearly need some distribution channels outside of Japan! -- Fred Trafton
NEWS: Guitarist Masayuki Adachi of Azoth has made Cinderella Search's latest CD available by mail-order from his web site. Click the link below.
MORE NEWS: Cinderella Seach's two albums are now available from Japanese distributor Music Term, along with a number of other Japanese titles. -- Fred Trafton
[See Azoth |
for Cinderella Search's web site, mostly in Kanji (undisplayable
in most western browsers) with some Romaji (English)
The Seven Stories (97)
Into the State of Flux (00)
Cinema includes the keyboard player, guitarist and drummer from
Fromage's final line-up, as well as bassist, violinist and a
woman vocalist with operatic qualifications. On Into the State of Flux (Musea FGBG
4346.AR), they have moved away from Fromage's rather obvious
neo-progressive rock sound, but they still maintain a heavy synthesizer presence, melodic
accessibility and, unfortunately, a very uneven song quality.
The album is at its best in guitarist Tohru Ohta's two compositions, the 19-minute "Color of Soul", where guitar and keyboards give a truly symphonic treatment to strong, at times Asian-flavoured themes, and the lush, classically-influenced "A Dayfly and a Sunflower" with an elegant string arrangement and beautiful high-register vocalise from Hiromi Fujimoto. In contrast, many of keyboardist Yushihiko Kitamura's pieces are pretty but sugary instrumentals that come closer to new age than progressive rock. Drummer Hirozaku Taniguchi's two songs are rather average, simple symphonic numbers, where Fujimoto's vocals sound a bit listless and out of place confined to a lower register and more rock-style melodies. Elsewhere there is more classical influence in the mainly instrumental compositions, but the whole album leaves an unbalanced impression, with "eureka!" mingling with "been there, done that", and the band's instrumental capabilities and vocal strengths often seem underemployed (especially violinist Tokiko Nakanishi).
My main gripe with this album, however, is with the boxy and damped sound quality and the mix that seems ever in the state of flux without finding a satisfactory form. The drumming, admittedly the least impressive part overall, sounds like the drummer is hitting plastic cans, and the powdery, sparkling and swirling keyboard layers regularly jump distractively in and out of focus, blurring other instrumental lines. So if mellow, borderline-new agey atmospheres don't scare you, there just might be enough gorgeous melodies on this album to justify getting it, but even then I would definitely suggest listening to it first. There is too much room for improvement on Into the State of Flux for me to recommend it to anyone without reservations. -- Kai Karmanheimo
[See Fromage |
Click here for Cinema's web site
No Ordinary Man (99)
One Who Whispers (02)
Elemental Forces (06)
Cipher - Dave Sturt (studio effects and bass) and Theo Travis (flutes and saxes)
Cipher is a "dark ambient" (their description) band headed by Dave Sturt (Jade Warrior's '90's albums) playing bass and sampled wierdness and Theo Travis on saxes and flutes. They have close ties to the Gong crowd, in fact One Who Whispers features Daevid Allen playing his "glissando" style guitar on 2/3 of the tracks, and the CD is being distributed via GAS (the Gong Appreciation Society). Oh, yeah, and Travis is also Gong's current sax/woodwind player, of course.
They also have ties with Porcupine Tree, since both No Ordinary Man and One Who Whispers were produced by Steven Wilson and also because Richard Barbieri (keyboardist for Porcupine Tree and Rain Tree Crow) guests on both albums.
But enough of name-dropping. These guys are from the "in crowd", OK? But what does their music sound like? I haven't heard their first album, but judging from One Who Whispers, I have to say: "Dark ambient" my foot ... this is pure stoned-out space rock. Much like Daevid Allen's spacier solo works (there are no vocals on One Who Whispers) with, perhaps, a bit of Porcupine Tree's more modern "alternative" sound. Or even flirtations with house/dub here and there. But this is music to get stoned to, no doubt about it. Longish (each cut is about 5 to 6 minutes), echoed-up slowly-evolving works guaranteed to spur imaginative introspections. I love this kind of stuff. Perhaps a bit on the predictable side, but very nicely done! Recommended!
One Who Whispers is available from the Gong web site (see link below). No Ordinary Man is currently out of print, though the band is working on getting a second pressing done, so check their web site for latest information on this.
Thanks to my friend in Uzbekistan, Vitaly Menshikov, for turning me on to this CD. -- Fred Trafton
One Who Whispers is the second album by kind of a supergroup Cipher. Their debut
album, No Ordinary Man, was released in 1999. Theo Travis has also five solo albums
to his credit. Here are some excerpts from the One Who Whispers CD press kit. "The
new album further explores Cipher's individual sound world, mixing live flute, sax, and
bass with dark soundscapes and hypnotic layers of looped instrumental atmospheres. Six
tracks feature the "glissando" guitar textures of Gong's
Daevid Allen. The guitar signal is heavily processed
through echoes and loops of different lengths, which can then be reversed or played at
different speeds. The result is a hypnotic sound that is both textural and expressive.
Many of the soundscapes and samples are in fact performed by Dave Sturt's MIDI-bass, by
which different notes on an electric bass trigger washes of sound, beats, or abstract noises."
In fact, this music does not concern Progressive. I have written dozens reviews of truly progressive albums that bring to the listener "a healthy dose of hypnotism". Of course, where could one hide a hypnotism in those randomly built up soundscapes that dominate throughout the One Who Whispers album? (Or, maybe, I should take a "healthy" dose of LSD to feel it?)
This opus is almost entirely filled with an incredibly slow and tedious music, which affects me like a real somnambulant. Maybe, this kind of hypnotism is implied in the CD press kit? Yes, each of the "whispered pieces" (a very silent sound is rather typical for this album) features also the live parts of either a flute or alto saxophone. However, almost all the solos of these wind instruments are as incredibly slow as the sound sculptures themselves, which, in their turn, are almost as inanimate as real sculptures. IMHO, there are no real compositions on One Who Whispers. The album is filled with nothing else but pushbutton music, which, moreover, would've been completely dead without the parts of real wind instruments and a few solos of bass. (Personally however, I consider all of it just a dead music, anyway. Though especially, I am curious why the pages of the best progressive magazines are occupied with positive reviews of the albums that were really just sculpted?) Music must be composed by composers, and not built up by engineers and designers. Any sugary AOR and even pop music performed by a real band is much better than all the so-called sound designs and sculptures. -- Vitaly Menshikov
|Links||[See Allen, Daevid | Jade Warrior | Porcupine Tree | Rain Tree Crow]|
Raunio (01, Live)
Circle - Janne Westerlund, Jyrki Laiho, Tomi Leppänen, Mika Rättö,
Jussi Lehtisalo (Photo: Kalevi Rainio)
Circle came together in the Finnish city of Pori in 1991, and since then have churned out a daunting number of releases on independent labels Bad Vugum, Metamorphos and their own, Ektro. Apart from the band's "democratic dictator", multi-instrumentalist Jussi Lehtisalo, their whole line-up has changed several times, but they have retained a fundamental and recognisable, yet progressively mutable style - prompting one critic to say that "Circle have been making the one and the same album for the past ten years."
Their early singles established the basic style in its rawest form: single-mindedly ticking but aggressively energetic rhythms and simple distortion guitar riffs repeated ad nauseam, but also spacey synthesizer drones and almost Gregorian chant-like vocals singing in an ad hoc mixture of English, Latin and improvisatory nonsense the band initial dubbed Meronian. Krautrock and Hawkwind's space jams stood as obvious influences, Circle balancing on the same fine line between mesmerising minimalism and mindless monotony - and often trampling on both sides of it. These were later compiled, along with a few rarities, on the CD Kollekt.
Their first long-play, Meronia, was a bit heavier affair, a relentless assault of heavy guitar riffs and grinding beats with the hymnal vocals and spectral synthesizer washes providing an eerie contrast. Zopalki was somewhat less monolithic, with its more substantial portions of frosty keyboards, cello, dynamics and variation on the guitar cycles making for a more polychromatic sound.
Hissi (Lift) was a major departure into space, with the guitar masses and voices replaced by nebulae of digital drones, tart textures and (often cheap) effects, created with synths and processed guitars, which showed the influence of the trance-oriented electronica scene. Though now more layered and hypnotic than bludgeoning, the basic beats remained insistently repetitive, but the album left a scattered and bit aimless overall impression, an experiment that didn't quite work out.
Fraten returned to the more focused guitars/drums sound, but with a cleaner, more texture-oriented approach that hinted more openly at the Teutonic monotonists Can and Neu!. The use of Stick, largely non-distorted but processed guitars and the increasing polyrhythmic complexity within still superficially simple musical framework of one riff per song also suggested a few lessons in 1980's Crimsonics.
Pori was a kind of homage to the band's hometown, and incorporated a few jazzy saxophone solos into the sound on the long closer "Porin jazzjuhlat" (inspired by the annual jazz festival in Pori), but also a few more laid-back and earthier moments, such as the affably melodious somnambulation in the summer wind, "Kruunu päähä Pori kuningas" (Put your Crown on, King of Pori), and the brief but haunting, Ligetiesque cello/choral number "Seisomakatsomo" (Standing-room-only sections). Synthesizer was also more prominent as the lead instrument than before.
In contrast to the spacey, largely instrumental ambience of these releases, Taantumus (tellingly, Regression) was in many places a throwback to the guitar walls and monasterial chanting of their first two albums, though one that still bore the marks of lessons learned in the years between. This rather diverse album sported one of Circle's best songs, the rolling "Valtaisa hahmo" (An Enormous Shape) whose jagged riffs and plangent vocals (in Finnish this time) evoked the spirit of another idiomatic Finnish prog band, Haikara. On the other hand, Faust was the closest association to be made with "Pelqton", seven minutes of monotonously grinding wall-to-wall guitar noise and drum splashing beyond which pearly piano sounds, jazzy percussion and the kind of gurgling that suggest a death metal vocalist accidentally swallowing his microphone distantly echoed.
The live record Raunio (Ruins) had lots of Hawkwind-style one-chord jams with pumping bass lines and excessive distortion, but also employed the rather stentorian voice of keyboardist Mika Rättö (from Moon Fog Prophet, another Pori prog band) to create fascinating and sometimes frightening layers of drones on many numbers. In addition to live improvisations, it featured one song from both Taantumus and Prospekt, the album where Circle have come closest to straight-ahead, psychedelic guitar-rock. Which isn't all that close, really.
It is difficult to keep up with the band's releases, and by the time you read this, they will probably have at least two or three new releases out. For the moment, their latest work is Sunrise which sees the band branching into surprising directions, especially the retro-metal style of tracks like "Nopeuskuningas" (Speed King) and "Hautain takaa" (From Beyond the Graves) which are almost like chorusless NWOBHM songs with space rock keyboards, typically cyclical guitar riffs and Rättö's absolutely lunatic vocals. On the other hand, the acoustic "Satulinnut" (Fairytale Birds) is more akin to Moon Fog Prophet on their Finnish albums, and the 15-minute hypno-motoristic jam "Lokki" (Seagull) is like driving against the traffic on the "Autobahn" with neither lights nor breaks - or as close as it is possible to get on a Finnish freeway.
I find most of these albums stretch out farther than their material would warrant, but those who are fond of the repetitive grooves and eerie atmospheres of Can particularly could well be taken by some of them. Meronia, Prospekt, Pori and Fraten are all good places to start: if you prefer crunch, try the first two; if texture, the latter pair. -- Kai Karmanheimo
[See Moon Fog Prophet]
Click here for Circle's web site
Movin' On (77)
All Stars Live (78)
Fearless Tears And Even Less (80)
|Quoted as being close to Van Der Graaf Generator, I was eager to hear them but surprised to find out that Circus' Movin' On sounds nothing like VDGG at all. In fact the only comparison to VDGG I could try and explain would be in the way Circus are similar to Aerosol Grey Machine or Least We Could Do... period VDGG, in the quiet phases. While I would never try and lower Peter Hammill, Circus' lead vocalist (and guitars and sax) is a far more confident and less "harsh" singer than Hammill, and has a deep voice with a bluesy feel to it. The music is definitely within early Crimson realms, yet is much more innovative (IMHO) than Crimson in the early seventies (pre Larks Tongue's). For one thing, there are no keyboards and instead we have a wide array of musical instruments, from an excellent drummer/vibes player, to flute, bass, sax, and 12-string guitar. These guys were really something special, and remain at least for me, the best band to come from Switzerland. Although there seem to be no plans, I hope their 1st, third and fourth albums get similar treatment!|
|Let's get the negative part out of the way first: the vocals. They're excellent. For the most part, Roland Frei's voice reminded me of a cross between Freddie Mercury, George Michael, and Preston Wynn of Spirit of Christmas, a rich tenor voice that is liquid smooth and distinctive. Vocals are present for about half the album and they are a pleasure to listen to, and I don't care for vocals. Well, if they excellent vocals are the worst part, then what does that say about the music? It smokes. Tight interplay between all instruments and a great rhythmic foundation can be found in the bass and drums. Each player, including the guitar player, is definitely very proficient on his instrument. Not readily comparable to anyone else (a compliment of the highest regard), Circus weaves a musical texture that is both melodic and intense. It's dynamic, melodic, instense, laidback, a must.|
|Links||[See Blue Motion]|
Listen To The Band (70) - Note: Unknown whether this should be listed here or under Cirkus
|Circus made two singles in 1967 and 1968, followed by their only album (as far as I can tell), which is about half cover versions, half original tunes written by saxophonist Mel Collins [pre-King Crimson?]. The extended instrumental sections in their version of "Norwegian Wood" have some very primitive-sounding fuzz guitar converging and entangling with the saxophone, and the clouting drums push the band to the brink of chaos in the Crimson fashion at one point. Most of their original tunes, however, are bucolic numbers with emphasis on acoustic guitar and dulcet sax or flute. There is definite jazziness to their instrumentals (e.g. their cover of Mingus' "II B.S."), but the band never really forsake the soft touch. It's all very pretty and deftly performed, but not terribly distinctive. Rather dated psychedelia bordering on the early British prog sound, though the lack of keyboards distances it from the organ-dominated mainstream. The CD re-release is by Castle (ESMCD 926). Though they apparently were darlings of the music scene for a short while, the band are now notable mainly for Collins' presence in their ranks, and under no circumstances are they to be confused with Cirkus, a completely different British progressive rock band. Or the Swiss band Circus. Or any of the other obscure Circuses waiting to be rediscovered in the desk drawers of oblivion. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
[See King Crimson]
Circus 2000 (70), An Escape From a Box (72)
This 70's Italian band (vocals in English) employs some unique ideas in their sound, as well as some progressive tendencies, including rapid shifts from soft acoustics to hard rocking electrified guitar jams, etc. Some folk influences are also apparent in the sound, as well as typical late sixties psychedelic folk-rock type harmonies led by lead vocalist Sylviana Aliotta.
A classic Italian psych band. Both albums are similar, though An Escape From a Box sounds a little more mature. Psych fans should be sure to give them a listen. Overall, I like them pretty well, though it depends on my mood. Sometimes they sound a little too much the same. Pretty balanced between the female vocalist and electric and acoustic guitars. It grows on you, though.
The first LP was really commercial and the lyrics in english. The second LP was much better and the voice of Silvana Aliotta is wonderful.When the band dissolved, Franco Lo Previte went to Nova and then Kim and The Cadillac.
The First Goodbye (82)
|Cirkel was a Dutch band from the mid-eighties that hopped on the progressive rock band wagon. The First Goodbye was their debut album and this Musea reissue includes two bonus songs. The first thing I noticed on my initial listening was the similarity of Cirkel's vocals to Depeche Mode. Cirkel was apparently creating a hybrid of New Wave and progressive rock that sort of works, yet they could have tried harder for some originality. The bridge in the middle of "A Song of Love and Hate" is the main riff from John Foxx's hit single "Miles Away" and the chorus from "Sea" is a direct quotation from The Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin", "and I love you, oh how I love you." It is even sung with the same emotional intensity! The First Goodbye does have its moments, the best being the final track "Elfin". "Elfin" is the most inventive song on the album abounding with majestic themes, distorted vocals, and a musical tribute to The Moody Blues. If you ever wondered what it would have sounded like if The Moody Blues had been born 20 years later in Holland, you should check out this reissue.|
|The band members were Hans Den Hartog (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Hennie Van Mourik (bass) and Ad Struijk (drums). Van Mourik went on to play bass for Maryson and Ice. -- Fred Trafton|
|Links||[See Ice (Netherlands) | Maryson]|
Circus (69) - Note: This is the album now listed under Circus [UK]
Listen To The Band (70) - Note: Unknown whether this should be listed here or under Circus [UK]
Mellissa (76, EP)
Future Shock (77, as Future Shock?)
2 (The Global Cut) (94)
|Interestingly, we have conflicting information on this band. The entry immediately following was in the original GEPR, and attributed the first 3 albums to this band, though One was listed as being recorded in 1971. Since this seems to be an odd title for a third album, I'm more inclined to go with Kai Karmanheimo's information in the next entry after that and believe that Cirkus and Circus [UK] are actually two different bands. But since I'm not sure, I've kept both points of view. Perhaps since these guys resurfaced in the late '90's again, I can get ahold of someone in the band via e-mail and ask them. If I get clarification on this, I'll add it to this entry. -- Fred Trafton|
|Early prog ala Cressida, Spring, Salamander, Moody Blues; Apparently changed spelling after first release; Mel Collins was in band before he joined with King Crimson.|
It has been said that when the early-70's progressive boom goosed the bewildered record
companies onto a signing spree to obtain some progressive artist roster, all you really
needed to get a record contract was a woodwind and a Mellotron. Cirkus didn't have a
woodwind, so that's probably why their album only came out as late as 1973, but they did
have a Mellotron and a feel for a Moody Blues-style
combination of acoustic guitar-driven English nostalgia, organ-heavy post-psychedelic pop
hooks and quasi-classical orchestral bombast. The swelling "and I love you" chorus of
"Song for Tavish" has "Nights in White Satin" written all over it. However, Cirkus also
exhibit considerable electric guitar edge and in songs like "You Are", "Brotherly Love"
and the two-part "Title Track" briskness, rhythmic vigour and string-section laced symphonic
dramatics that the Moodies could never hope to match.
Fans of song-based early prog should have no trouble eating up One.
The CD re-release One plus (Audio Archives AACD 009) is padded with number of bonus tracks, including two short songs recorded on a 4-track in 1971. Their sound is very grainy and crackly but the music is pretty interesting, especially the silvery "The Heaviest Stone", which sounds like it has had some post-1971 overdubs. Finally, there are all three tracks from the 1976 EP Mellissa, recorded with a different singer who also plays some saxophone, finally giving the band that missing woodwind. All the songs are more straight-forward and harder-edged than the One material, though the title track (another one in the noble tradition of love songs to inflatable dolls) has some mildly interesting synthesizer work.
Data on the band's later discographic manoeuvres in the seventies is inconclusive, but it would appear that in 1977 they recorded an album called Future Shock, which was based on a theatre piece that the band had been involved with. The soundtrack connection is probably why some sources list this under Future Shock, not under Cirkus (either that or the band changed their name on the way). What is sure, however, is that they reformed in the 1990s and released two more albums as Cirkus. -- Kai Karmanheimo
The Citadel Of Cynosure (90)
Citadel Vintage Vinyls (01)
The Citadel Star Tracks (07, CDR, remastered from 1979 tapes)
D'ANthologie 1 - Swords or Shields? (07)
D'ANthologie 2 - Crosses or Crowns? (09)
Citadel - Ian Michaels (Drums), K. Whitman
(Vocals, Bass, 6/12-Str Acoustic Guitar), G. Whitman (Vocals, Electric Guitar,
6/12-Str Acoustic Guitar), Matt Sachs (Synths/Pianos)
Citadel was an American band led by Gary and Kiki Whitman, with a sound vaguely reminiscent of Starcastle (remember them ?). The Citadel Of Cynosure is a concept album from 1990, the story of "The Dreemurz," a peace loving nomadic people from another galaxy, and their struggles with the Affrage Pirates, who control their world. There's even a booklet insert for concept album junkies that explains all the background of the story, with lyrics and line drawings.
Citadel is still active after a fashion, though not in the original line-up. They released two CD's of archival material since Citadel of Cynosure, entitled Citadel Vintage Vinyls and The Citadel Star Tracks. These are available at the CD Baby links below. -- Fred Trafton
First, I'll talk about Citadel of Cynosure. Let's just say that, while the story line of the story masquerades as a sci-fi story, it's really a fantasy story (that's not necessarily a terrible thing ... I would say the same thing about Star Wars). The music is pretty good on the album, but when it comes to the lyrics and the story, sometimes I'm not sure whether to laugh, cry, or just be embarrassed for the band. I hate to say something like this about a band who are clearly very serious about what they are doing and doing their best to make it work. But for me, the story is so full of clichés, continuity gaffes and a complete suspension of any of the laws of physics that I just can't take it seriously. Sorry, but it's just true. I mean, really, "Dreemurz"? And why does another race need to come from another GALAXY? Isn't another solar system far enough away?
The new album, D'ANthologie 2 - Crosses or Crowns? is far better. The music is all over the genre map, and includes folk, metal, electronic, arena rock and epic prog, mostly created using Douglass/Whitman's midi guitar. The music is quite good, and the lyrics this time around are at least passable at their worst and pretty cool at their best.
But now I have to give a warning that holds true for both albums. The recording quality is ... well ... to be kind, I'll call it a "strange choice". For both albums, the sound coming out of the speakers is just wierd-sounding. I used to work in a studio back in the analog days when we had a gadget called a DBX noise-reduction system (a sort of super Dolby). You would encode your mix-down through this thing onto your tape. It applied various volume-dependent filter paramaters to the input, and also compressed the sound being recorded on the tape. During playback, you would decode the music and it would come out normal-sounding, while reducing the tape hiss dramatically (which was the point of the thing). Both of these albums sound as if they were encoded by a DBX and then never decoded. The result is a pinched, reedy, sizzling sound quality, somewhat like an amp just about to scream off into microphone feedback. It actually hurts my ears to listen to these albums, particularly the new one. On speakers.
But there's a secret going on here ... as I said, a "strange choice". Here's the secret: both of these albums sound great on a set of enclosed headphones. The stereo effects really jump out at you, and sounds that are lost in the shrillness on speakers suddenly become crystal clear over the phones. I suspect these albums were mixed using headphones, and were optimized for them. I'm guessing there's some phase-cancelling going on when you use speakers, and this is what leads to the sound quality I don't like.
My apologies to the Citadel folks, but I have to call 'em as I see 'em, and hopefully I've given you an idea how to enjoy these albums. Though, lyrically, Citadel of Cynosure will still always make me cringe. But I can still enjoy the music ... through headphones. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for the Citadel web site
Click here to order all Citadel albums from CD Baby
Click here for Kiki Wow (formerly Whitman)'s solo home page
Click here for Rejyna Douglass' web site
The Adventurers Of Taeloth (09)
No band photo (see text below), but this is the (very cool) album cover
from Citadellion's debut.
Citadellion is a progressive metal band from Sweden. They're a "studio band", by which they mean they don't play live (yet), and get together only to record their parts. It seems all the members have never been together in the same place at the same time long enough for a band photo. In fact, this seems to be the project of Björn Olmarker who writes the music and lyrics, plays rhythm guitar and does "arrangements", which I assume means he also works on recording and adding other instruments. Of the other "band members", David Åkesson and Martin Jonasson are credited only for vocals, while Mr. Gul is credited only for lead guitar. I'm guessing here that Björn Olmarker is responsible for everything else, including bass, keys and drums. If so, he's quite good at all of them.
As to the "progressive" part of this ... if you're thinking Mellotron and synth solos, then look somewhere else. Dream Theater-level metal complexity and bizarre time signatures? Nope. But I'll label it good old-fashioned headbanging epic metal with long, anthemic songs, a concept (a 5-album fantasy epic, of which The Adventurers Of Taeloth is the first), and a lot of "proggy" touches like synths (in a supporting role only ... this is a guitar album!) and screaming vocal harmonies. Dripping with heavy testosterone levels and the earnest seriousness that can only come from the young, The Adventurers Of Taeloth will get the adrenaline pumping and the head banging and have you wishing for more. They remind me quite a lot of Blind Guardian, and if they're "progressive metal", then so is Citadellion.
And the best thing? The album is free for the downloading! Head over to their web site (which right now is only a MySpace page, though a nicely-designed one) for several download options. This is a deal you can't refuse ... give Citadellion a try! -- Fred Trafton
Click here for the Citadellion's MySpace page
Serpents In Camouflage (92)
Somewhere But Yesterday (94)
Ghost Dance (96, recorded around 1986)
Raising The Stones (97)
Playing Dead (02)
|Absolutely brilliant Scottish Genesis-clone! If you like the sound of Genesis around the year 1973-4, and early Marillion, then this is the band for you. They do nothing new, just composing in the Genesis style: long songs, muted guitars, raw scottish vocals, and LOTS and LOTS of great Minimoog solos!!|
|After a few minutes of listening to Somewhere but Yesterday, it becomes obvious that they draw their inspiration from the old Genesis of the seventies. The style of the vocalist as well as most of the arrangements clearly evoke the Nursery Cryme - Foxtrot era. In fact, only the use of synthesizers betrays the era. The band features vocals and flute, keyboards (lots of organ), guitars, bass and drums. The compositions show surprising bits of originality and the very appropriate production captures the essence of a now legendary sound. Only purists will be able to resist. -- Paul Charbonneau|
Regarding Somewhere But Yesterday:
What's a masterpiece! Finally, I can present to you perhaps the only great Clone-album. Xitizen Cain, these excellent composers and musicians alike, dedicated it to Genesis, which in reality is simply a serious kick. This album is by no means a "poor copy" of any one of Genesis' albums! Also these Scottish guys are not simple imitators of the Legend. Somewhere But Yesterday, a magnificent Clone no doubt, seems to appear as if especially for me, for you, for all of those who miss much the true Genesis! In the course of almost 70 minutes of listening of this album, one gets an absolute impression of another excellent work from Genesis of 197..., which "got lost accidentally". Though, my favourite album from Xitizen Cain is their last, paradoxically underrated Raising the Stones, about which [see links below], and which is also maybe not so underrated as their debut Ghost Dance, failed to be noticed. -- Vitaly Menshikov
For awhile, Citizen Cain referred to themselves as Xitizen Cain, theoretically to avoid confusion with the Orson Welles movie. However, by the time of Playing Dead, they've decided go back to a "C" again. Just as well, I don't see who would ever confuse the two.
Citizen Cain is, as the other entries have mentioned, an excellent Genesis sound-alike band. Playing Dead is the band's most recent release, this time released on "Pig in a Poke Records" which is almost certainly their own label. The guitars frequently sound exactly like Steve Hackett and the synth solos exactly like Tony Banks. But the most obvious sound-alike is Cyrus' Peter Gabriel imitation. With the demise of Shaun Guerin, Cyrus wins the prize for best Peter Gabriel imitation ... he really sounds exactly like Gabriel. Overall, the music sounds like Selling England by the Pound-era Genesis. However, I would say only about 70% of the album sounds like this.
They seem to have grown tired of being "just a Genesis clone band" and are branching out a bit. On at least 30% of the album, I also hear influences from ELP, particularly some of the organ solos, and even Gentle Giant in some places. All but the vocals, that is, which always sound just like Peter Gabriel. But that's not such a bad thing ... in fact it's really quite good. I will, however, take issue with some reviewers who have claimed that the Gabriel similarity is "merely a matter of genetics ...". No, I don't think so. The pronounciation, emphasis and articulation is intentionally imitating Gabriel. Not only that, but the studio techniques also imitate early Genesis recordings, including multi-tracking Cyrus' vocals in normal range plus one-octave-up falsetto singing, not to mention similar vocal effects processing. Nah, it's not simply an accident of birth that makes Cyrus sound like Gabriel ... he's doing it on purpose. Of course, the fact that he's got a similar voice to start with surely doesn't hurt ...
I also have to mention another aspect of the album that's in common with Gabriel's work with Genesis, namely the lyrical content. The lyrics, like Gabriel's for Genesis before him, have been carefully crafted by Cyrus to evoke feelings of ancient mysteries with their references to the mythologies of many ancient cultures. Even the new Citizen Cain logo on the album cover (also crafted by Cyrus) is full of mystical symbols and sigils. These thought-provoking lyrics, delivered in Gabriel's voice is what makes Playing Dead a compelling new Genesis album ... yeah, I meant to say that.
While some may disparage clone bands as unoriginal, when an album sounds as much like a lost work of Genesis as Playing Dead does, it's hard to even call it a "clone". This is an homage, and it's very well done. But this goes beyond "homage", which is a reverent look backwards. This album takes a step ahead into what Genesis might have become. I recommend Playing Dead as a modern Genesis album ... an album of what Genesis might be doing now if only they hadn't gone commersh and then fizzled out entirely. Thanks, Citizen Cain! -- Fred Trafton
Click here for the Citizen Cain
web site (now a bit stale)
Click here for Citizen Cain's MySpace page (for the most up-to-date info)
Click here or here for the ProgressoR reviews of Ghost Dance or Raising The Stones respectively
El Tor (75)
|Their magnificent El Tor is vocal progressive music at its best in which I cannot draw comparisons because of its uniqueness. The musicianship is superb and the only band that may have anything in common is Osanna!|
|Their El Tor album is a little overrated I think, sort of a hodgepodge, nice playing and definitely some great moments, but overall it lacks the direction required to make it a classic.|
|The A side of El Tor have a funky-jazz sound with a great Enzo Avitabile. The B side have an acoustic sound. The lyrics talk about social and political problems.|
Both prequel and sequel to Osanna, Città Frontale surfaced,
for the first time, the progressive rock scenario in 1970. No record, however, marked their debut. The name
Città Frontale was given by one of its member, Lino Vairetti, after the title of a
sculpture he fell in love with when attending the Fine Arts Academy in Naples, Italy. The original members,
which included Gianni Leone, split up soon and gave life to
Osanna and Il Balletto di Bronzo.
When Osanna broke up in 1974, Città Frontale was brought to life again by two Osanna founding members, Lino Vairetti and Massimiliano Guarino which set themeselves for a rock opera album. Ex-Saint Just member, guitarist Gianni Guarracino, joined the group along with saxophonist Enzo Avitabile, bassist Rino Zurzolo and pianist Paolo Raffone. They recorded the controversial El Tor in 1975 that did not get a warm welcome from the critics being seen as a too strong departure from the heavier Osanna sound. The name of the record is taken from "El Tor", the scientific name of the cholera bacterium whose epidemia stormed Naples in 1973. Also noteworthy is the cover design by drummer Massimo Guarino, who also designed some of the Osanna covers. El Tor shows a fairly good mix of true prog rock, mediterranean folk sounds and jazz rock, although a subtle commercial approach sneaks in here and there. Vairetti's incredible voice dominates the record. While the first two songs show a close resemblance to early Osanna tunes, the second part of the record has a more folksy and poppier trait.
Overall, the record shows a careful production and all band members make a good display of their very high musicianship. Among the best songs of this record, "Duro Lavoro" get the highest score for its well calibrated mix of vocal harmonies, acoustic instruments, the flute interplaying with a nice zappesque guitar and a nice refrain. The listener may easily recognize influences from Osanna, PFM, Frank Zappa, Maxophone, Soft Machine, Saint Just, Toni Esposito. In few words, it is worth the purchase for italian prog-rock lovers while the true Osanna fan may probably get some disappointment. After El Tor, Città Frontale left the scene to Osanna again. Enzo Avitabile and Rino Zurzolo became high in demand session men. Enzo Avitabile also enjoyed a succesful solo career. -- Ludovico Vecchione
|Links||[See Il Balletto di Bronzo | Leone, Gianni | Osanna | Saint Just]|
First (78), Der Taetowierte (79, aka City II), Dreamland (80)
City Boy (76), Dinner At The Ritz (77), Young Men Gone West (77), Book Early (78), The Day The Earth Caught Fire (79), Heads Are Rolling (80), It's Personal (82)
This Birmingham-based (West Midlands, not Alabama) folk-turned-art-rock sextet was quickly signed to Phonogram Records in 1975, presumably because of they sounded so much like 10cc. (Remember, this was about the time Godley and Creme split from 10cc to make the Consequences triple album. It was apparently feared that the band would break up.) In spite of the similarity, City Boy are not merely 10cc rip-off artists. Their stronger emphasis on hard-rock sets them apart immediately. Early on, strong identification with progressive rock and a couple of funk-orientated tracks give them further distinction. The self-titled debut is probably the one which will most appeal to prog-fans. The eight-minute "5000 Years/Don't Know Can't Tell" is a highly underrated slab of prog-rock, with fiery guitar, simmering synth and Mellotrons galore. It's also carried over well by the dual lead vocals of Lol Mason and Steve Broughton, a distinctive feature of this band. The other outstanding progressive track on the album is the haunting "Sunset Boulevard." Here the whole of the song is anchored around the electric piano of keyboardist Max Thomas, while the dynamics are punctuated by lead guitarist Mike Slamer and the rhythm section of Chris Dunn (bass) and Roger Kent (drums). It's all too rare to find bands this tight. The rest of the album isn't really what I'd call "progressive," but I like most of it anyway. Highlights include "(Moonlight) Shake my head and leave" (crystalline pop), "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (an infectious 10cc-esque rocker) and "Haymaking Time" (a beautiful folkish ballad). Also of note is "Oddball Dance," which is just plain weird. The album would be perfect except for a couple of embarassingly dated-sounding funk-orientated songs ("Surgery Hours" and "The Hap-ki-do Kid") which smack of the dreaded D-word. The band's sophomore effort, Dinner At The Ritz, shows stronger 10cc influence, while expanding the band's stylistic pallette. Highlights include "Narcissus," a raunchy rocker with rolling Hammond organ and wailing guitar and an amazing middle section with guitar-and-synth unisons, and "State Secrets--A Thriller," which is a three-part satire on secret-agent films ending with a climactic instrumental section with synths and layered guitars. Elsewhere, there's some fine hard-rockers and a brace of shimmering pop pieces, notably "The Violin," which is an old-fashioned romantic tear-jerker complete with strings, autoharp and steel-guitar (by B.J. Cole). Also appearing: David Jackson and Peter Hammill from Van Der Graaf Generator on the title-track! Young Men Gone West seems to ditch any pretensions of being a progressive band, and just presents a set of rock and pop songs. Still good, especially the hard-rock numbers ("Dear Jean," "Bad For Business," "The Man Who Ate His Car"), and the album-closer, "Millionaire," which has a nifty arrangement for brass-band. Book Early brings them into the big-leagues-- commercially anyway-- with the big hit single "184.108.40.206," which caused a bit of controversy by spelling out the Mercury Records phone number out in touch-tone at the beginning of the song. (Thus, it's not surprising that their next two albums were issued on Atlantic in the U.S.) It also introduces us to the band's new drummer Roy Ward, who also sings co-lead vocals on "220.127.116.11" with Mason, giving the band THREE lead vocalists. The album is similar to Young Men... with its balance of rockers ("Summer In The Schoolyard," "Moving In Circles") and ballads ("Goodbye Laurelie," "Beth"). Again the climactic track is the last one, "Dangerous Ground." The band followed up this LP with "What A Night," a single not included on any album. [Editor's Note: "What A Night" has appeared at the end of side 1 of Book Early on at least some versions of the record. It may be a difference between US and non-US pressings.] Apparently they still had art in their system, hence The Day The Earth Caught Fire, a concept album of sorts concerning their fears about what the upcoming decade may hold, beginning with the orchestrally augmented, Supertramp-esque title-song, and culminating in the twelve-minute, four-part "Ambition." But three of the songs on the A-side (notably "Interrupted Melody," a Springsteen-clone, and the melodic pop of "Modern Love Affair") have nothing to do with the concept and break the album's flow. Still, "New York Times" (apparently a much older Broughton/Mason composition updated for vocals by Ward) is a stunning ballad with orchestral backing, while "Up In The Eighties" and "Machines" use synthesizers effectively to create a 1980's sound a year early. One of their better efforts. Broughton left to rejoin his brother Edgar's band, leaving Heads Are Rolling primarily Mason and Ward's show. It's their weakest effort, but there's nothing really wrong with it, it's just doesn't form as much excitement as previous efforts. Most of the rockers sound too forced and commercially-geared. Thus unlike earlier efforts, the best tracks are the ballads ("Speechless," "You're Leaving Me," "Life on the Balcony").
Clannad (73), Clannad II (74), Dulaman (76), In Concert (79), Craan Ull (80), Fuaim (82), Magical Ring (83), Legend (84), Macalla (85), Sirius (87), Pastpresent (89), Atlantic Realm (89), The Angel and the Soldier Boy (89), Anam (90), Banba (93)
New agey celtic folk-rock band. Their early album Fuaim is quite nice. I've heard that their newer stuff is more adventurous and progressive.
Started out doing traditional Irish and moved into writing their own material which drew on traditional and rock. Came dangerously close to schlock with Sirius, but Anam is a fine return to form. Recommended: Anam, Magical Ring or any traditional release.
Irish progressive celtic folk pop. Early albums fairly traditional folk and folk rock. Big with the Adult Contemporary crowd these days. Features siblings Maire (vocals, harp), Pol (guitar, mandolin, flutes, whistle, keyboards, vocals) and Ciaran (bass, keyboards, vocals) Brennan, and their uncles Padraig (mandolin, guitar) and Noel (guitar) Duggan. Albums Crann Ull and Fuaim feature the now famous Enya Brennan, younger sister of Maire, Pol and Ciaran, on keyboards and vocals. Started as a very traditional irish folk group, interpreted traditional irish music from their region of ireland, sung largely in gaelic and loosely blended with pop elements. Distinctive and lively. Later albums blend traditional irish folk instrumentation with ethereal keyboards and rock drums, and feature session musicians such as Mel Collins (who tours with them). Fuaim was the genesis of their current more progressive style, the first with strong keyboards and sax. Some jazz elements in evidence. Magical Ring continues the trend with more ethereal keyboards, more session musicians, more songs from Pol and Ciaran, more songs in English and the UK hit Theme from Harry's Game (now featured in Volkswagon commercials and in the film Patriot Games). Haunting. A great album. Followed by the beautiful soundtrack to the UK tv series Robin Hood, "Legend." By now songs are written almost exclusively by Pol and Ciaran. Followed by arguably their greatest album Macalla - an ideal blend of traditional and pop elements. Bono duets on "In a Lifetime." Sirius, produced in LA by Greg Ladanyi, also features great songs and guest Bruce Hornsby. Still very powerful, their most commercial effort. PastPresent is a compilation featuring songs from Magical Ring through Sirius and two new songs. A fine single "Hourglass" also released in 1989 (unavailable elsewhere). Atlantic Realm and The Angel and the Soldier Boy are mostly- instrumental ethereal keyboard soundtracks featuring mainly Pol and Ciaran, and no traditional instruments (half of Angel features a children's story narrated over Ciaran's music...). Pol left in 1990. Ciaran took control on the melancholy Anam, but they were beginning to repeat themselves. A fine album, but lacking impact. The American release of this album includes Theme from Harry's Game and In a Lifetime. Released a too-sweet version of Joni Mitchel's "Both Sides Now" as a duet with Paul Young in 1991; the song was featured on the soundtrack for the movie "Switch." In 1992, Maire released a solo album that, not surprisingly, sounds very similar to Clannad. Much more lively than Anam, it features three more Brennan sisters on backing vocals. Clannad's most recent album is Banba (1993), very similar to Anam - worthwhile, but treads water to some extent. "I Will Find You" from Banba also featured in the film "The Last of the Mohicans." Recommended: Fuaim, Magical Ring, Legend, Macalla, Sirius, Anam, Banba.
Out of the Blue (70, Live recorded in 1969, re-released 2001 with
bonus studio tracks recorded in 1968)
Clear Blue Sky (71)
Cosmic Crusader (96)
Mirror of the Stars (01)
|Hard rock/prog power trio. Mostly guitar, some organ and flute. Roger Dean artwork on LP cover.|
Out of the Blue - I think I won't be wrong to say that probably anyone
considers Hawkwind the Pioneers of Space Rock.
But I remember well that at least Hawkwind's
self-titled debut of 1970 was far from that Space Rock style thanks to which
they subsequently became a huge cult band closer to the middle of the 1970.
While I like Hawkwind very much (especially
Levitation and Astonishing Sounds, Amazing Music), now I am
going to dethrone this band - at least as the pioneers of (psychedelically
progressive) Space Rock.
[The first seven] original studio tracks recorded in 1968 and never released until now . [The last four] versions that appear (among others) on the band's official debut LP released by "Vertigo" in 1970, were recorded live in 1969.
For some reason, first of all I've noticed that John's vocal tone was obviously much lower at his tender 18 than now - at his 50, though I find his current, kind of neuter, polished vocals very original, that sound especially impressive to the accompaniment of strong, heavy guitar riffs. But I have to admit that anyhow John had excellent vocal qualities more than 30 years ago too. Most of the seven Out of the Blue songs have practically the same structures that I've found on the band's latest Mirror of the Stars album though the way the early songs were constructed is different. First of all, there are much less vocal parts on Out of the Blue and compositions contain much more instrumental canvas. While I find John's early guitar riffs practically the same as on Mirror of the Stars (of course, minus the quality of guitar sound), his solos on Out of the Blue are simply outstanding with their positive "wildness". Each of the three band members worked on this album to sweat his guts out and their long and highly diverse arrangements are the most ungovernable I ever heard. On the first two or three songs vocals appear just in the very beginning and then only the instruments travel the length and the breath of the compositions with all the conceivable and even inconceivable arrangements, jams, crossing solos of guitar, bass and drums, all simultaneously. The overall sound of the album is incredibly heavy and harsh for 1968. There is lots of heaviness and psychedelics throughout the album, though few arrangements are more variegated in mood, and then these not too long episodes are filled with acoustic guitar passages and a few more or less gentle solos. There is probably [only one] song on the album that has a clear spacey feel almost throughout - "Kill You Lie". All the six other songs are of the same true Space Rock "quality" as such Hawkwind albums as Hall of the Mountain Grill and Warrior On the Edge of Time. We don't have here, on the other hand, such ungovernable heaviness even in the band's heaviest albums such as Levitation (their best, IMO), The Chronicle of the Black Sword and the like. I have no idea how (and how long) sound on Clear Blue Sky's official debut album their four original live versions that I hear on Out of the Blue. Frankly, I liked all the seven studio tracks (a whole album actually) more than the four bonus live tracks though all of them contain excellent prolonged arrangements. I just didn't find there that wonderful furious rage I hear on every track of Clear Blue Sky's real debut album of 1968 called Out of the Blue. Not as heavy as previous studio songs, these four live tracks represent rather a mix of psychedelics and space music (in its more traditional sense reflected by such performers as Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra and lots of the likes) with an obvious progressive "approach" to arrangements, than what we used to call Space Rock - with accent on the second word.
It's a great feeling to know that there was (is!) another one, the third truly progressive album following the first two genial Pink Floyd albums, with the first marking the birth of Progressive Rock in June 1967, being "hidden" from us up to now, by the way. Out of the Blue is not just one of the most revolutionary works in the history of Rock Music, this is also a real progressive killer and (I dare say) the very first Progressive Hard Rock album (in other words the first pre-Prog Metal album), whose elements are obvious among all the other ingredients of mostly truly progressive styles and genres. More. Seven original Out of the Blue tracks that Clear Blue Sky had recorded almost two years before the Hawkwind guys were just in work on their debut album are actually the very first full-length work of this exact style. If you still aren't sure that Hawkwind's debut album is far from what we call Space Rock, especially with regard to Hawkwind itself - I'm sorry to remind you about this axiom once again. So the star of real psychedelically progressive Space Rock had risen at least three years before Hawkwind began to perform the very kind of music Clear Blue Sky played on their real debut album in 1968. You don't have to believe me this time (though, I hope so) - anyone who likes Hawkwind can just compare the albums of the band's most successful period to Out of the Blue and even to Clear Blue Sky's debut official album of the same 1970 because I know that Hawkwind released their first brain-child only by the end of that year. My thoughts by no means reflect my chilled attitude to Hawkwind, as I really like this band very much. I just think that the truth is the only thing to triumph always ... All in all, Clear Blue Sky created their own, highly original and innovative, potent mixture of Psychedelics and Progressive Hard Rock, which later will be called Space Rock, far back in 1968, i.e. earlier than any other band or performer of the same style.
Mirror of the Stars - Really, it was as unexpected to see a promo package from the UK's "Hi-Note" label as its contents turned to be some of the most wonderful albums I've received this year. My wife Nelly brought this parcel from the post - with an unfamiliar to me address of the sender on the cover - just yesterday evening about 6 p.m. and I, being deeply impressed with all the four CDs by "Hi-Note", decided to write immediately at least a couple reviews on the two most important of them, in my view. Although there are about 10 CDs to be reviewed in priority, I find too many significant factors that have to do with the latest Hi-Note's releases to talk about them right now.
After I listened to Mirror of the Stars I was more than just wondering why the people at "Hi-Note" described this music in a promo press kit precisely with the same words as in the album review in Progression magazine. The guy who reviewed it in Progression is either a big fan of "garage" music and, this way, paid a compliment to the band, or, which is more likely, he doesn't properly orient about Metal manifestations and especially about those in British Rock music. All in all, where did he find American "garage" on Clear Blue Sky's latest album? The most interesting thing here is that John Simms played the same ("garage"?!) riffs more than 30 years ago, as the basis of his unique style of playing the electric guitar hasn't changed over the years. Just listen to both Mirror of the Stars (of 2001) and Out of the Blue (of 1968) albums and compare them. Though it would be more than enough to any experienced prog-head or metal-head to listen to the band's brand new work to make sure that this music in general and John's guitar work in particular have absolutely nothing to do with that (damn!) garage style.
Mirror of the Stars represents a wonderful hard-edged Progressive Space Rock of a quality that the "Kings of the Genre" Hawkwind has never reached. John Simms's highly original guitar riffs, moves, etc are, first of all, of a "pure" British origin (such an axiom just cannot sound differently, bearing in mind that the band, as well as the Progressive Rock movement itself, came to life in Britain in the second half of the '60s). Secondly, all variegated guitar moves the bandleader uses are tasteful, strong, often positively hypnotic and always diverse - completely in line with the (progressive) style the band works in. His vocal themes are very picturesque and, after all, I just can't imagine a garage band whose singer would have as high-pitched a voice as John's. Finally, the band's overall musicianship, including an outstanding work on the part of the rhythm-section, doesn't contain a single element typical for "garage music".
It must be said that the Clear Blue Sky music has a distinct English feel from the first to the last note. Also I consider a good factor that all the three original members feature the band's first album in the new millenium. Their joint work on Mirrors of the Stars is as strong and tight as (probably) never before. I see there's almost nothing about this wonderful band in the Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock, so I feel it a necessity to meet all the lacks concerning Clear Blue Sky's discography, reviews, etc. From my side, I'll add there both the materials on the band's real first and latest albums I have as soon as possible. Also, such important events in the history of Rock music as a reincarnation of the true Progressive in old good England, its motherland, on the threshold of the new millenium, should be aired in all possible progressive channels. Yes, now I can tell you that with such albums as one from the heroes of these lines and the wonderful works of new English bands, such as Tantalus, I hear quality, true Progressive Rock to come out of Britain for the first time in many years. -- Vitaly Menshikov
Click here for
Clear Blue Sky's web site
Click here and here to read Vitaly's original (longer) reviews on his ProgressoR web site
Forever Blowing Bubbles (75)
Les Contes Du Singe Fou (76)
Symphony II (90)
Mosaique (In Your Hands) (96)
Note: Cyrille Verdeaux's web site counts Delired Cameleon Family's Visa de Censure n°X among the Clearlight discography, but this wasn't really a Clearlight album. Delired Cameleon Family has a separate entry in the GEPR.
Actually, just Clearlight and basically Cyrille Verdeaux and a million guests, most notably Steve Hillage, Didier Malherbe (a.k.a. Bloomdido, Gong), and Tim Blake (Gong, Hawkwind) on Clearlight Symphony. All of them are great, but my personal favorite (at least for this week) is Forever Blowing Bubbles. Also great, is Clearlight Visions which features the incredible violin playing of Didier Lockwood (Magma) and more sax by Bloomdido.
|This legendary mid-70's French progressive-symphonic band was led by master keyboardist Cyrille Verdeaux, with help from guitarist Christian Boule, and Gilbert Artman on drums. The sound is rich, full and colorful, truly symphonic, ofttimes spacy, with occasional psychedelic guitar flareups. This is not just another bunch of synth-art wannabees trying to sound larger than life. In addition, the early albums feature guest appearances by the likes of Steve Hillage, Tim Blake, and Didier Malherbe. Symphony and Symphony II are grand on a grand scale. Symphony II is a partially re-recorded version with a lot of extra material added. Bubbles is a little more rinky-dink, but still nice, with shorter tracks and no thematic concept. Has some guest appearances by David Cross (ex-Crimson), and Joel Dugrenot (ex-Zao). The later albums are purportedly very acoustic-piano oriented, less symphonic, poppier, and feature vocals. Start with Symphony or Symphony II.|
|Often this band is called Clearlight Symphony, but that's not correct. The band's name was Clearlight, and their first album was called Symphony. Cyrille Verdeaux is the band leader and composer. Their first album is excellent, somewhat styled after space-fusion Gong, particularly on "Symphony Part 1" which features several Gong members, including Steve Hillage. Symphony consists of two songs, while Forever Blowing Bubbles consists of seven shorter songs and more variety. Verdeaux's synth work is more pronounced and very nice. This makes a good starting album.|
[See Artman, Gilbert |
Blake, Tim |
Boule, Christian |
Cross, David |
Delired Cameleon Family |
Shaun Guerin |
Hillage, Steve |
Verdeaux, Cyrille |
Click here for Clearlight/Cyrille Verdeaux web site
More Grains of Sand (94)
Clepsydra 1995 - Lele Hofmann, Ivo Bernasconi, Aluisio Maggini, Gigio
Pedruzzi, Andy Thommen
Clepsydra is a new Swiss band in the neo-progressive vein, a-la Deyss et al. Their sound is close to Deyss, which is imitation Marillion, which is imitation Genesis, get the picture? They have one album Hologram which features a cheesy hologram on the front of the booklet. The music is well executed and occasionally mildly interesting but gets low marks on originality.
|Clepsydra are a new entrant into the field of neo-progressive bands, and serve up a more aggressive type of music, fronted by guitars and keyboards. As with early Marillion, the music is melodic in nature, alternating between quiet piano/synth passages and full-blown, symphonic workouts. The vocals are in English, albeit with a slight accent, which is not much in evidence except in a couple of the earlier portions of Hologram. Eight vocal tracks on the CD and the remaining five are instrumental. The music is probably closest to that of Step Ahead, a neo-prog outfit from France, whose re-issue is eagerly awaited by many.|
|This Swiss-based band shows the usual five-piece lineup: vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass and drums. The style on More Grains of Sand is also very typical of the melodic rock produced by British bands since the '80s (ex: Marillion, Pendragon, I.Q.). Despite a tired old style, they manage to produce a music that pleases instantly. The presence of both singer and guitarist are noticeable, the keyboards provide a rich symphonic texture and the rhythms are very precise. Simple compositions with expert performances et loads of emotion. A high quality production that compares favourably to its numerous equivalents. -- Paul Charbonneau|
|The Swiss band Clepsydra consists of: Aluisio Maggini (vocals), Lele Hofmann (guitars), Philip Hubert (keyboards), Andy Thommen (bass, bass pedals) and Pietro Duca (drums, percussion). Hologram, Clepsydra's debut release, is average neo-progressive fare that I can't get very excited about. Thirteen songs range from the 1:20 minute opener and closer ("Sunrise" and "Sunset") to the 7:40 minute title track. Most songs are 3-5 minutes in length. Four of the songs are instrumentals. Clepsydra take their cue from Marillion, Pendragon and other British neo-progressives. To my ears, however, Clepsydra sound like a watered-down version of the '80s originals. None of the songs sound very inspired to me. Rather, they follow the same format, plodding along during the vocals sections, with the obligatory and predictable guitar solos in the Steve Rothary vein. Hubert's keyboard playing has a minor role, adding only chordal atmosphere and a few incidental fills. Three years after their debut, the band followed up with More Grains of Sand, which received a favorable review by Christian Schmolzi and Tillmann Seidel in Gibraltar V5 #1. If you are a big fan of the entire neo-prog scene, then you'll want to give more weight to Schmolzi and Seidel's opinion than my own. The thirteen conceptually-related songs about love are in the same vein as Hologram, with a tad more emphasis on vocals. Only three songs, totalling about six minutes are completely instrumental. But, there are now more songs in the 7-8 minute range which allows for longer instrumental passages. I consider this a big improvement over Hologram. Hubert's keyboards come to the forefront more often during the extended instrumental sections, and Hofmann's guitar work still has a major role. Hubert's work is comparable to Martin Orford of IQ/Jadis, Clive Nolan of Pendragon, and Mark Kelly of Marillion. The seemingly added emphasis on vocals is a turn-off for me. While not a bad singer by neo-prog standards--but not a notable one, either--I found that Maggini's voice grated on my nerves as he hit and held the climax notes that led into the instrumental passages. The rhythm section is still less than invigorating, choosing only to keep the beat, rather than interacting in any dynamic way. While I consider More Grains of Sand an improvement over Hologram, neither album made me want to return for repeated listenings. Caveat: I'm not known as a big neo-prog fan, so, if you are, take my comments with so many grains of, erm, sand. -- Mike Taylor|
|This album has it all: good songs, strong performances, excellent production - and almost no originality whatsoever. Yes, on their third album Fears Clepsydra’s main influence is still very much the Fish-era Marillion. The singer doesn’t sound and fortunately doesn’t even try to sound like Fish, but otherwise the band effectively recreate the sound of Marillion, which was the goal they were already aiming at on their debut album Hologram. However, this album shows immense improvement in all sectors. Compositions are well-crafted, with excellent melodies, the sound is rich and huge, the musicians give very confident performances (within the limits allowed by this brand of neo-prog, of course) and most songs are long enough (four in the 8-12 minute, the other six in 2-6 minute range) to allow some instrumental exploration with great solos from both the guitarist and the keyboard player. If you are not yet fed up with bands trying to sound like Marillion, you might want to give this a try. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
[See Shakary |
Click here for the Clepsydra web site
Cold Steel (95)
Not to Be Or Not to Be (96)
Mirror Site (98)
The Cold Steel CD was produced by (bankrupted that year) famous
Dutch "SI Music" label. That company then was actually the only relatively
major Prog-label, but despite the fact that most of "SI Music" based bands
played quality Neo that could potentially have a huge commercial success
even in the mid 1990s, the label had to go bankrupt anyway. It looks even
more strange since a very solid Japanese label "Zero" (among some others)
purchased licenses from the label and most of the "SI Music" bands
enjoyed a great commercial success (some of them still do) in the Land of
the Rising Sun. So Cliffhanger has become a true discovery for the French
Prog-label "Musea": In fact, Cliffhanger is a very nice relatively new Dutch
band with their own originality within the framework of Classic Symphonic
Progressive, sometimes with a faint stylistical (only) likeness to Genesis.
Cold Steel consists of quite complex compositions with fresh and diverse
arrangements. Although after a few listens to their second album it
becomes clear the band are still in search of their own, completely firm
sound on Cold Steel, apparently Cliffhanger is a unique band in some
ways since they present mature music, as well as a solid musicianship,
already on the debut album. Doubtless, Cold Steel is one of the strongest
debuts of the first half of the 1990s. The last track here - Koopman's
"side-long" "Bad Dream" - is actually the album's centerpiece.
Not to Be Or Not to Be is a real present-day masterpiece of Classic Progressive Rock. You'll find it in the "Musea" catalogue. Don't save cash on this album: buy it and enjoy! Not to Be Or Not to Be is even more interesting and complex a work than their debut, with some raw, very original intricate music from start to finish. Although your CD display shows 73 minutes of album's total time, in reality it clocks in at 61st minutes. So there's no need to hear silence for the next 10 minutes just in order to listen to some random sounds that the guys elicit from their instruments, i.e. to hear what they probably do between the parts of their rehearsals by the end of the CD. But, as I said, a whole hour here is complete with wonderfully interesting music. Need I really add anything more to my own honest opinion (in other words, to the opinion of more than just quite an experienced Prog-lover) on Not to Be Or Not to Be a few lines above? I'd only say that although anything featured this album are high-quality stuff (including even a short instrumental "Moon"; let alone a real Prog-killer "Sewers"), the only "side-long" composition here ("Ragnarok"), as in case with the previous album, is a special treat anyway. For both cases here comes special thanks to the compositional talents of bassist Koopman.
[After hearing Mirror Site] I understand why lots of Prog reviewers consider Cliffhanger a Neo band. Only the three songs (two of them are the longest ones), and one of instrumentals (also the longest one) on this album can remind you of that really tight and strong joint playing the compositions throughout which you used to hear on the first two albums. Particularly, these tracks are 3-4-5 & 7. This is actually the titletrack itself - the Mirror Site "suite" in three parts (two being composed by Koopman again, taken together, sound as an LP's side-long piece) and "Truce". Back to the album's centerpiece, if I were the producer of this album I'd replace Mirror Site's second part with the third and, of course, rename both the parts accordingly. Then there wouldn't be such an unbalanced situation on the album when two instrumentals run one after another. All the rest [of the] songs, being on the whole arguably quite corresponding to the firm Cliffhanger sound, actually were created in such a simple way I didn't even expect from these guys. The majority of vocal parts here are as simple as by no means long-as-it-was-before arrangements. Though all vocal and instrumental parts on the whole are nice at least from the point of view of a Neo-lover, there's not too few of guitar and keyboards solos that sound especially primitive. While the 6th instrumental track is arguably good concerning Neo, I am especially disappointed with the last instrumental, especially since it's going right after one the best and the only interesting "separate" songs here. Thus, from the point of view of an experienced Prog-lover The Mirror Site represents not just creative stagnation, but a very unexpected fall right into one of the lowest category of Prog called Neo. But, fallen into the Neo sub-genre, Cliffhanger with The Mirror Site has become one of the Top-20 bands there. It seems the band members, however, understood that with this album they've lost their esteem at least in the face of "classic" Prog-heads, so they disbanded shortly after that album was released.
Cliffhanger was in the status of "disbanded" during a surprisingly short period of time - just about a year. For all I remember, these guys reunited already in the first half of 1999 and shortly after that event they announced the next Cliffhanger album Circle saying of it that, being crafted in the vein of their debut album, it will be as strong as Cold Steel. While I really consider the Cold Steel album almost a masterpiece, I still pick the second Cliffhanger album as their best in all senses. I think, the band members have been in a hurry to announce the following album as a proper part of their cliff-hanger-discography, as while this new one is slightly better than their more than three years standing previous album, both the first Cliffhanger albums surpass Circle in many respects. This time all the good-to-excellent tracks are concentrated in the middle of the album. More precisely, these are tracks 4 to 8 and at least three of them were composed and performed in Cliffhanger's best traditions. The weakest of these best (huh!) compositions is an instrumental one. Actually this is an excellent, totally keyboard-driven piece with cascades of variegated arrangements, speedy solos and tasteful passages - all done masterfully to the accompaniment of a diverse and powerful, always tight rhythm-section. The major imperfection here is more than just the lack of guitar. The track sounds as if Cliffhanger are just a (wonderful keyboard) trio, but not a quartet. Now it's time to talk about the album's real weak points (i.e. compositions). First of all I am very disappointed by the leading track, on which Reine's singing is as simple as his own semi-acoustic rhythm guitar chords, to the accompaniment of which he mostly sings here, as the instrumental "help" from the direction of his bandmates is too inert to improve it (is this a potential hit since the most accessible song with quite an obtrusive refrains opens the album?). The second song is, maybe, a bit better, though both of them were created the way Cliffhanger never did before. The third track is a very simple instrumental, and the closing ninth track, which is also instrumental, has a few more or less interesting episodes. (Hey, Gijs, where have you lost your wonderful "side-long", epic, thoughtful and complex compositions?) Please note: there are too many unvocal tracks on the two last Cliffhanger albums and each of them contain just one really decent instrumental, whereas all others were as if played to reach the usual time standards. Again, as if following The Mirror Site album's scheme of contents, almost a half of materials featured in Circle is nothing if not examples of Neo. Thus, presently the name of the band doesn't correspondent to the "classic" sense of a cliff-hanger. Though, bearing in mind that the so called soap operas are the same cliff-hangers for lots of Earthly people, too, then Cliffhanger can be the cliff-hanger at least within Neo Progressive. But if the guys were brave enough to release a version of Circle that would be shorter than their traditional "56 to 60 min" (about 45 min without at least the three first tracks that are the weakest), then we could seriously talk on the theme "Cliffhanger are back to their roots" and give an excellent rating to Circle. As for this album as it is, looking back at Mirror Site I would name it The Fool Circle. -- Vitaly Menshikov
Regina Astris (77)
Mixtus Orbis (79)
|The band Clivage released three albums in the late seventies. Some of the most fascinating progressive music defies description, and Regina Astris is certainly one of those. Clivage's music fits into the same mold as artists such as Third Ear Band, Between, Alain Markusfeld and Aktuala. The music is very Eastern influenced and holds much in common with those bands due to the raga like atmosphere. The instrumentation is quite diverse with violin, tablas (and related percussion), acoustic guitar, sax, and string synthesizer (not often common in similar musics.) Symphonic fans may not care too much about this, and it could easily be written off as being "new age," but this is far more innovative and unusual. The bands mentioned before are a pretty good pointer, chances are if you like them you'll like this. Excellent.|
Clockhammer (90), Klinefelter (91)
Clockhammer was a Nashville based progressive rock trio. The sound was kind of jazzy thrash, featuring few solos, lots of tempo and dynamic shifts, and the voice of guitarist Byron Bailey. Their first release, Clockhammer, is fairly simple, dissonant stuff, owing a lot to Husker Du. Bailey's voice is a cross between Richard Thompson and Nick Drake; imagine the latter fronting Helmet and you approximate the sound of this initial release. Few solos, and a pulverizing overall sound with the exception of a very cool straight ahead reading of "Girl From Ipanema" that closes out the album. Klinefelter is the band's masterwork. Featuring a more sophisticated sense of dynamics and more complicated time and tempo changes than their earlier release, it has an eerie autumnal quality that I've seldom encountered in heavy rock. Bailey's voice is uncannily like Drake's here, and the wistful vocal quality and melancholy of the music combine to create an oddly timeless, floating, yet very heavy, set of songs. Solos, when they appear, are heavily distorted, John McLaughlin-like outbursts. This is a band that really has a sound all it's own. The solos have the McLaughlin like overdrive and intensity, but I wouldn't say that they have anything else in common with Mahavishnu Orchestra. The song structures really don't parallel much of anything I'm familiar with. Perhaps the best comparison would be Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left for the haunted quality of the music. Both releases are fine but Klinefelter is definitely the keeper of the two, though. -- Tim Schultz
Cluster II (72)
Cluster and Eno (77, w/ Brian Eno)
Grosses Wasser (79)
|I have three albums which are supposed to be representative of three different stages of the band. Cluster II was the second recorded as a duo, with the "C" spelling. There aren't any actual synthesizers, just organs, guitars and the like heavily distorted through cheap, audio lab equipment. Unlike Tangerine Dream and the like, the sound is quite hard-edged, proto-industrial electronics bleating out slowly shifting patterns. Surely not going to appeal to everyone, but those who like daring use of electronics will surely enjoy it. Sowiesoso is the cream of their middle period, a more melodic use of synths, pianos and percussion which sounds influenced by Eno, yet quite original. As before, working in slowly shifting patterns, but using beautiful melodies as opposed to stark drones and dissonances as before. One of the finest electronic albums of the 70s, worthwhile for the lovely and haunting "In Ewigkeit" alone. Grosses Wasser is rather similar, yet perhaps closer to Eno in style, with quirky short pieces, and the interesting side-long title piece. Not essential, but pleasant enough. -- Mike Ohman|
|Links||[See Eno, Brian | Harmonia | Roedelius, Hans-Joachim]|
Open Spaces (71)
Space Cabaret (72)
|I have Space Cabaret. The first 17 minutes of this album are fairly nice early British progressive with good Mellotron work, and alternating male and female vocals, plus a folky bent that makes it appealingly British. The rest of the album consists of folkie music and psychedelia which was already dated sounding when this album came out, so you can imagine how bad it sounds now. Not necessary. -- Mike Ohman|
CMU, or the Contemporary Music Unit, had musicians with deep interest in and even some
academic credits in the study of the history of music, and the anything-goes atmosphere still lingering
at the time allowed them to dabble in all kinds of styles. Hence Open Spaces is a kind of petri
dish where various musical strains try to develop and promulgate with marginal success. These include
undistinguished blues-rock, light pop-jazz, folky psychedelia, orientalia in the chanting cover of
Pharaoh Sanders' faux-Asian melody "Japan", and finally a lost-in-space jam where an echo-smeared
guitar wanders aimlessly in the labyrinth of somnambulant chorale, drums and viola. The playing and the
female vocals are proficient but no more distinctive than the writing. Even period charm is in short supply.
Three out of six band members had been replaced by Space Cabaret, which makes an audible difference. The first four songs segue into a "suite" of sorts: the opening may be a campy light-jazz number, but "Archway 272" introduces a really rather powerful rock sound where the combination of jazzy piano, Mellotron strings, roaring Hammond and whistling synthesizer lines trying to break free of the gravity well creates a great piece of early progressive. The two further songs dispense with Mellotron, but are no less impressive, going from whispering whimsy to wailing rock soar in the wake of male vocalist's Bowie-like performance. The rest of the album, however, disappointedly retreats somewhat to folky or bluesy psychedelia, even though the long "Lightshine" has interesting organ and synthesizer parts during its introductory verses. While clearly superior to Open Spaces, Space Cabaret hasn't held up anywhere as well as some of the other, more advanced albums cooked in the same early-progressive cauldron at the time.
See For Miles re-released both albums on one CD (SEECD 373) in 1993, but omitted the track "Chantacleer" from the first one. -- Kai Karmanheimo