Grace Live (81)
The Poet, The Piper, and the Fool (91)
Pulling Strings and Shiny Things (94)
Gathering in the Wheat (98)
|Very simplistic neo-prog, their only CD is decent but nothing really new creatively. Very English/folk sounding, some nice melodies. For some reason they sounded much better live, more unique and sinister than their studio sound.|
|I've heard Grace described as Celtic prog. They're not; at least not if you want to compare them to the ranks of other prog musicians who have explored traditional Celtic music, such as Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull, Mike Oldfield, Dan Ar Braz, Alan Stivell, or Horslips. In truth, Grace plays neo-prog that sounds most similar to that played by other neo-prog bands If you like Pendragon, IQ, Galahad, Aragon, Twelfth Night, Jadis, etc., you'll probably like these guys. That said, they do have occasional passages that sound vaguely reminsicent of British folk music. So, Grace isn't just another Marillion clone, although the Marillion influence is undeniably omnipresent (especially in the keyboard- playing). The band does seem to be trying to come up with it's own distinct sound through an exploitation of folk music, although I don't think they've found it quite yet. Neither of their two albums really stands out, IMHO, but with some better song-writing, I could imagine them doing interesting things in the future. -- James Chokey|
|Grace's second release. Pulling Strings and Shiny Things is considerably stronger than their first offering and brings out the band's stage ability to create moods and spin stories, reminescent of Nursery Cryme-era Genesis. They also know how to rock - kinda makes you want to hop about on one leg. A thoroughly enjoyable album. Poppy is a rather disappointing album overall after the excellent Pulling Strings. Poppy is a rather apt description of this collection of 12 tracks, each 4 to 6 minutes long. The first three songs are somewhat tongue in cheek and show Grace's irritating unwillingness to take themsleves seriously which is a pity because they could be a really class act. There are some sparks of excellence in songs such as "Emily" (where lead singer Mac Austin does a creditable impersonation of Brian Ferry) and "Secret Garden" and the hallmark folk-rock rhythms are present in several tracks. Overall it might have been better though if the band had extended the work on some of the better songs (such as the one commenting on the Federal building bomb) and dispensed with the three or four rather silly fillers. -- Richard Barnes|
Gathering in the Wheat (Cyclops CYCL 065) is a 1997 2-CD recording of a live-set
that chronicles the career of British neo-progressive
group Grace from their 1979 debut to the three albums of their second wind in the 1990s.
As a recording it is raw: quality is acceptable, but the audience is very upfront and none of
the long announcements and onstage banter has been edited out. Perhaps this is intended to better
capture the vibrancy and humorous vibe Grace have been credited with. Certainly
they have their distinguishing marks: while their basic constitution is similar to other 1980s
heroes such as Twelfth Night, they have an overall
uncomplicated, upbeat approach that eschews the more bombastic and melodramatic trimmings of
the likes of Arena and lyrically maintains certain levity
and level-headedness even when occasionally venturing into the "mythical" regions (e.g.
"Mullions" and "Molly Leigh"). Their playing is good, though technical challenge is hardly
its point, and in Mac Austin they have a confident singer whose melodious voice with a
considerable vibrato nicely avoids the most prevalent progressive and metal stereotypes.
Grace's actual hook is their "folk" influence, which comes mainly through in the use of flute, whistle and saxophone alongside keyboards and guitar, but also in the infectious chorus of "Hanging Rock" and the Jethro Tull-like flute solo break of the anthemic "The Fool", both of which owe some of their rhythms and intervals to English folk music, or the Big Country-style Celtic rock feel (march rhythms, a bagpipe-like repeating melodic motive used as a "riff") of "Rain Dance". It is a nice spice when it appears, but hardly as integral an element as sometimes advertised. In fact, even "progressiveness" sometimes seems as just one device the band call up when needed rather than an integral part of the music. It is often the kind of hackneyed cutting and pasting typical of too many neo-progressive bands where a straight-forward song is split in two with some incongruent section that serves as a temporary diversion, not as a vehicle for contrast or thematic development. The ponderous ballad "Architects of War" is a perfect example of this approach, not a bad song as such but it benefits little from the structural detours imposed upon it.
Actually, in many cases the songs are just pop-rock with familiar progressive keyboard and guitar licks applied as a surface varnish, not an untypical phenomenon with neo-progressive either. Grace at least have the necessary melodic substance to allow the songs work on those terms most of the time, which certainly is untypical for many worst-of-both-worlds bands. At least I find the fanfaric art-pop of "Buccaneer" and the catchy, driving "The Square", with Genesis-like guitar arpeggios and some Gabrielics inserted in the soft A-part for good measure, more gratifying upon repeated listens than the more diagrammatically "progressive" "Mullions". So all in all, Gathering in the Wheat probably yields best results if taken as rock first, progressive second. Other way round it may strike as quite unremarkable. -- Kai Karmanheimo
|Links||Click here for Grace's web site|
Book of Rhymes (04)
Where You Go (07)
Mendip Rock (08)
Cary Grace and her VCS3
Original Entry 3/28/09:
I've heard both Mendip Rock and Projections, and though it's perhaps a bit of a stretch to call this music "prog rock", there's no problem at all categorizing it as "English '70's classic rock" in style. Particularly on Projections, there's enough of a Floyd vibe that it made me think of Pure Reason Revolution in a few places, though Grace doesn't borrow much from modern "alt-rock" like PRR. Projections is the latest album as of this writing, and has more proggy elements (at least if you think of Pink Floyd as prog), so it will be interesting to see the direction her writing takes from here.
Grace approaches her albums like her '70's mentors did ... as an overall piece of art from her creative whole, not just writing songs. For example, the cover of Projections is an oil painting she did of a Victorian Chromatrope, and she created the "instruments" used on many of the songs, including "a very large #4 antique Spong coffee grinder" and a set of chimes she made from tuned sections of copper pipe and struck with a mallet. There's also vintage studio techniques like the use of "analogue tape effects" (Ooh, she's gone native! Americans would have spelled it "analog". What am I saying? Americans would have spelled it "digital". Or, maybe to be more English I should have said "spelt" it ...)
Either Projections or Mendip Rock could have fallen through a wormhole directly from the early '70's, compositionally, instrumentally and even recording style-wise (except for the occasional synth bleepings, and even that is mid-'70's style at the latest). The songs have a '70's "English blues" influence and include long song sections intended for improv (a.k.a. "jamming"), both instrumental and vocal. Track lengths tend to range from "longish" to just plain "long". Her vocal stylings are more Grace Slick or even Janis Joplin (though much sweeter than either of them) in style than what you hear from more "proggy" female vocalists (she does not resemble Annie Haslam, Gilli Smyth, Kate Bush or -- God forbid -- Dagmar Krause). Which will put Cary Grace on the "A List" for many who read the GEPR and completely off the list for others. Speaking for myself, I really liked these albums and can easily recommend them to folks who like that English '70's sound. Besides, it's refreshing to hear a young, beautiful lady writing lyrics far more meaningful and intellectual than the usual modern "baby baby I love you" fare. Makes me think the younger generation aren't totally lost after all.
Jeez, I sound like my parents. I hate that. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Cary Grace's web site
Gracious! (70), This Is ... (71), Echo (96)
I know this will sound pretentious, but Gracious!' debut (of two) albums was probably the most progressive album that was released in 1970 (albeit VDGG, Soft Machine, and KC were close.) Why would I say this? Listen to it!
Lots of Mellotron.
A great early 70's band. Sort of psych but not much with more than a smidgeon of early Gentle Giant in there. Roger Dean did the artwork for This Is ... and it is notable in that it looks nothing like a Yes album cover! I think I prefer their debut overall, mainly for the track "Hell" which has a riff that Crimson would have been proud of. Very eclectic with great songwriting. Get their debut, you won't regret it!
Hablo de Una Tierra (75)
España, Año 75 (76)
Valle del Pas (78)
|Excellent Spanish progressive rock band from the mid seventies who released three albums, all that found eventual reissue on the Fonomusic label. Remind me a lot of early Iconoclasta, and of course Spanish bands like Triana or Coto En Pel. The British influences of Yes, Tull, and other Italian bands also abound.|
|Spanish mid-70's instrumental band, very melodic and jazz-influenced, with strong folk overtones. Occasionally they do symphonic stuff as well, but that's the exception to the rule; more often than not they sound like Spain's answer to Soft Machine with some Camel and Spanish folk thrown in. Two of their best albums España Año 75 and Valle Del Pas were reissued on 1 CD. Very worthwhile, does take a few listens though.|
|Espana Ano '75 is some fine fusion in the Canterbury vein. Not too impressive on first listen, but it gets better with subsequent hearings. Valle de Paz is a more symphonic offering, some tracks consisting solely of dramatic orchestral passages! They also add some Spanish folk music (but not flamenco) to their sound, using pennywhistles and gaitas (Spanish bagpipes) to create a totally original sound, not likely to be confused with anyone else. -- Mike Ohman|
|A spanish band very much in the vein of Iconoclasta. Strong keyboard and guitar dominated instrumentals. However where Iconoclasta presents the stronger guitar sound, Granada has more of an emphasis on keyboards.|
|Granada were an excellent Spanish band from the mid to late '70s, which was the hey-day for Spanish Prog. While Italy was winding down, Spain was gearing up to unleash some excellent Prog on the world. In addition to Granada, other "must haves" from this time include Gotic, Mezquita, Crack, Triana, Atila, Iceberg and Iman. I have two Granada albums, Espanda Ano 75 and Valle Del Pas. Both are excellent examples of Spanish progressive and strongly recommended. Granada's emphasis is on keyboard (including an abundance of moog and a fair amount of Mellotron) and guitar, though I'd say keyboards dominate. Sounding like a blend of fusion and symphonic ideals, I am reminded mostly of the excellent Mexican progressive band, Iconoclasta. I suppose the common cultural influences of these two bands also accounts for some of the similarity. However, there are also several classical flourishes on Espana Ano 75 ranging from string sections to oboe to xylophone and vibe. Granada jump back and forth between spacy and intensity with ease. Both of the albums I have have several shorter (4-5 minute) and a few longer (7-8) minute songs so there are no side-long epics just solid instrumentals all around. While I feel Gotic, Mezquita, Atila and Iceberg are better bands, certainly Granada ranks up there with Triana, Iman and Crack. All of these bands are essential to any symphonic collection. Definitely check them out. -- Mike Taylor|
In the Middle, On the Edge (98)
Tricks of Time (02)
Grandstand - Michael Rank Jensen (guitars, vocals), Olov Andersson (keyboards, vocals),
Tomas Hurtig (drums, percussion), Göran Johnsson (lead vocals, keyboards, bass,
The first impression of In the Middle, On the Edge (G S E Records GSCD001) is that someone has sequenced a handful of Genesis tunes and recorded them with his MIDI workstation. Actually, what drummer Tomas Hurtig and keyboard player Olov Andersson have done is record an album of instrumental compositions full of sections that sound frighteningly like something out of various Genesis albums from around 1972 to 1981. Additional inspiration has been scoured from Rutherford's Smallcreep's Day, some of Collins' drumming from his solo work, and even Yes or Pink Floyd. Some licks do sound like they are just one note away from a plagiarism suit, but though they give lot of incentive to play the game of Name That Riff, the band don't actually seem to steal anything, just rewrite things in the spirit of the originals. Most of the time they do it well, too, with only a few places where the arrangements make you feel the mixing engineer must have accidentally muted the lead track during final mixdown. The almost completely digital instrumentation gives the album a bit shallow, home studio sound, and will certainly have the Analog Orthodoxy screaming heresy, but the sampled Mellotron tones generally work okay.
All in all, I have to say I like In the Middle, On the Edge. It has no breath-taking production values and should be issued with a "No originality included in the package" sticker, but the writing is good and playing shows real enthusiasm, certainly much better than most copy bands. If you like old Genesis and can accept the aforementioned defects, then try it out. You can always put it down to guilty pleasure.
The band have subsequently acquired a full-time guitarist and bassist, and do live work as well. I know they did a (surprise, surprise) Genesis tribute concert in Helsinki in 1998, with Ageness' Tommy Eriksson doing the Gabriel impersonation (minus the dress and the fox head). It would probably be a safe bet to say that their second album (not yet released when this was written) will show some Genesis influence. -- Kai Karmanheimo
for Grand Stand's web site
Una Citta' Possibile (72)
An uninteresting rock band.
Granfalloon (89), Ca-Co-Pho-Nia (90, w/ other artists)
From Detroit, Michigan. Influences of '80s King Crimson and early Genesis.
Anakin Tumnus (02)
Anakin Tumnus, Gratto's debut (and sole) album, is short ... only about 36 minutes
in length. And that's the worst thing I can say about it! This is a spectacular release
which almost never saw the light of day. The prog world would be poorer if these three
long cuts had not been found, finished up and released by Chris Rodler of PMM (Progressive
Gratto is both the band's name and the keyboardist/vocalist/composer's name. Gratto was auditioning as keyboardist for Leger de Main, and this is how the Rodler brothers met up with him. They decided to not use him for Leger de Main, but continued to work with him for three years in the late '90's, eventually adding RH Factor's keyboardist Gary Madras (he plays bass on Anakin Tumnus ... keyboards were his second instrument!) as well. After three years of off-and-on composition and recording, Madras split and the group fell apart. But a tape of the sessions still existed, and was found "stuffed between last year's Christmas ornaments and discarded baby clothes" in 2001. Chris Rodler brought it to the studio and added a few finishing touches, and has now released it on his own PMM label.
Listening to the album, I hear touches of Tull-like melodies, Zappa-ish polyrhythms and Gentle Giant type counterpoints (in the instruments, not the vocals) here and there, though the similarities evaporate just about as soon as you recognize them. This music isn't very derivative of anything. It's great symphonic prog with a lot of prog-metal influence from the brothers Rodler (on guitar and drums), but not so much that you think of Dream Theater (though I do occasionally think of Rush, circa 2112). The compositions are intricate, melodically and metrically complex and diverse in mood throughout. It's amazing to me that there's no synthesizers on this album (only piano and organ for keyboards), but I don't miss them a bit! Gratto's philosophical vocals, with heavy studio processing on them in most places, adds greatly to the overall story of a man who's jaded and fed up with everything. Gratto is a fan of C. S. Lewis and Neil Peart's lyrics, and these influences are readily apparent.
This is a wonderful album, and especially at a mere $10.00, you should have it in your prog collection by all means. This one's going to be getting a lot of spin time on my CD player, even now that I'm done with the review. One of the most important releases of 2002, in my humble opinion. Too bad it looks like it will be a one-off album. I could definitely go for more of this. I guess I'll need to check out Leger de Main next! Though it will be missing Gratto's stamp ... -- Fred Trafton
[See Leger de Main |
Gravy Train (70), The Ballad of a Peaceful Man (71), Second Birth (74), Staircase to the Day (74), The Dawn Years (??)
The flute draws the obvious Jethro Tull comparisons, and indeed, some of the music does reflect such influences, but I can't say that this band is predominantly Tull-influenced. The rhythm section is more based in early British blues with some progressive influences in the longer cuts. The vocals are also a far cry from Anderson stylings, again being more in the UK rock and roll line. Though it is the flute that draws the Tull comparisons, the style here is also non-derivative of Anderson. It's as if this band got some good ideas from Tull's This Was and decided to carry on in that tradition while Anderson and Company explored other avenues. Plenty of extended bluesy guitar jams. This early UK prog band is definitely worth a listen.
I got the opportunity to preview (A Ballad Of) A Peaceful Man, and am I ever glad I did, I might have bought it! Musically it's pretty mediocre, just bluesy rock with the odd long track and lots of flute. Sort of like Jethro Tull before they were good, but not as good. Notorious for having one of the absolute worst singers in rock history! Honestly, this guy will shred your eardrums. Other albums are said to sound like Uriah Heep, and you know what that means--stay WELL away!!! (A Ballad... is called a "classic" of British prog. Obviously their standards aren't too high. -- Mike Ohman
The Dawn Years is Japanese compilation from Staircase and Second Birth.
Feeling Gray? (72)
Ex The Trip.
[See Trip, The]
Horizons (70), The Going's Easy (70), Greatest Show on Earth (75)
Brass/Prog Rock. The self-titled album is a double LP containing both previous albums.
Kew. Rhone. (77, w/ Peter Blegvad, as Greaves-Blegvad-Herman)
Parrot Fashions (84)
|Bassist, vocalist, keyboardist John Greaves has played with two seminal Canterbury bands: Henry Cow and National Health. Greaves' solo efforts are nothing like the work of either band, however. Kew. Rhone. is the most unusual of these, and features jazzers Andrew Cyrille on drums, Mike Mantler on trumpet, and Carla Bley on vocals. Other vocalists include Greaves, Blegvad, and Lisa Herman. Musically, Kew. Rhone. is a bit Cow-like in spots, but has a looser, jazzier feel and some of the melodies really stay with you. The lyrics, by Blegvad, are loaded with palindromes, anagrams, ironic twists and other verbal hijinx. A truly fascinating album which demands, and rewards, repeated listenings. Both of Greaves' subsequent solo albums were more accessible and poppish, albeit with many dark moments and ironic lyrical twists. Accident has a real "solo album" feel, (Greaves plays bass, guitar, keyboards and sings) with appearances by the likes of Pip Pyle, Pascale Son (Cos), Yochk'o Seffer, and Geoffrey Richardson on various cuts. Parrot Fashions continues in the twisted pop vein, but with more of a "band" sound. The band on Parrot Fashions includes Mireille Bauer (Gong), Francois Ovide (Gwendal), and Denis van Hecke (Aksak Maboul). If you are expecting music in the vein of Henry Cow, or National Health, both Accident and Parrot Fashions will disappoint. Nevertheless, both albums have their charms. -- Dave Wayne|
|John Greaves (ex Henry Cow), Peter Blegvad (ex Slapp Happy) and Lisa Herman put together this project [Kew. Rhone.] in 1976. Their single LP was recorded in New York with the help of Michael Mantler. The music you find here is quite similar to the former bands of Greaves and Blegvad, experimental, jazz-like rock (British RIO) with strange female singing of Herman (a bit like Dagmar Krause) and some Canterbury influences. Michael Mantler's trumpet is clearly a nice addition, so that I dare to say that every friend of Henry Cow, Slapp Happy or Art Bears will like this one very much. -- Achim Breiling|
|Links||[See Blegvad, Peter | Henry Cow | Slapp Happy | Michael Mantler | National Health]|
The first albums from 1969-90 were all released on LP. Re-released on CD as shown
Grechuta & Anawa (69)
Korowód (71, re-released on CD 1991)
Droga za widnokres (73, re-released on CD 1991 & 1993)
Magia Obloków Pronit (74)
Supraphon (74)[Supraphon may be the record label, not the album title, in which case the album is simply Grechuta & Anawa]
Szalona Lokomotywa (76)
Piesni do slów Tadeusza (80)
Spiewajace Obrazy (81)
W Malinowym Chrusniaku (81)
Wiosna, Ach To Ty (86)
Krajobraz Pelen Nadziei (88, re-released on CD 1991)
Ocalic od Zapomnienia (90, re-released on CD 1991)
From here on, these are CD releases
Zlote Przeboje (90)
Dziesiec Waznych Slów (93)
Jeszcze Pozyjemy (94)
Zlote Przeboje 2 (98)
Zlota Kolekcja (99)
Piosenki Dla Dzieci I Rodziców (01)
Marek Grechuta is one of the most appreciated artists on a Polish music scene. He worked out so good reputation among music journalists and critics that nobody dares to criticize him. I think that Grechuta fully deserves regard which is given to him. He is a very talented and versatile artist - he writes music and lyrics, sings and paints. And all what he do is up to scratch. His music is an unusual, magic prog rock with a jazz influence (violin and piano improvisations) and poetical aura. Grechuta is so unique that it's hard to find similar artists. Generally I recommend him to all jazz-rock fans, from Frank Zappa through Mahavishnu Orchestra to Soft Machine.
I must warn you against choosing a bad album to start with Grechuta. There is a strong DANGER of such mistake in case of this artist, because some of his albums are dominated by poetry not music (so knowledge of Polish is needed). If we reject mentioned albums, only three essential records remains. I mean Korowod, Magia Oblokow and Droga za widnokres. All of them are great but in my opinion Magia Oblokow is the best - most jazzy and most powerful. -- Pawel Annonim
|Links||Click here for a Marek Grechuta discography|
Strings And Pottery (90)
Norwegian ethnic music duo, some of the tracks are upbeat, others are very low key - almost new agey. Reminds me of some of the early 80's Shadowfax albums, or the new Ragnarok. Interesting but nothing to get excited about.
Very poppy french neo-prog band. Some good moments, but usually too commercial and mainstream for my tastes. Like some of the later Atoll albums (Rock puzzle, Ocean) but with neo-influences.
Greenslade (73, recorded in 1972)
Bedside Manners Are Extra (73)
Spyglass Guest (74)
Time and Tide (75)
Live (00, Live, recorded in 1973-75)
Large Afternoon (00)
Greenslade 2001 - Live (01, Live 4-track promo CD)
Greenslade 2001 - Live The Full Edition (02, Live 12-track CD)
|Dave Greenslade, the leader of the group that bears his name, was the keyboardist for the ProgressiveBluesJazzRock band Colosseum, each of whose members went on to subsequent high-quality projects. Greenslade was the most oriented toward the budding symphonic-progressive style, and eventually produced five releases. Four of these have now been issued on Japanese CD, and cover the group's output very well. The self-titled album was recorded in late 1972, and is very representative of the organ/guitar dominated UK progressive rock of that period, comparable to bands such as Fields, Cressida, etc. The accent on Greenslade's organ-work also brings to mind The Nice. This, and the next release, Bedside Manners Are Extra, had sleeves drawn by Roger Dean. Bedside Manners Are Extra was released in late 1973, and featured a more polished style and a more visible Mellotron presence (always a big seller with me!). The next year, Greenslade released Spyglass Guest, carrying on in the spirit of Bedside Manners Are Extra, with the classical symphonic progressive rock style, with Dave Greenslade borrowing his keyboard/organ solo styles from ELP (Keith Emerson). Certain passages are slightly "jazzier" in nature, yet the overall effect is well within the confines of "rock." The fourth release, Time And Tide, released in 1975, was their most accessible work, featuring shorter compositions, yet maintaining the melodic sensibilities of their prior output.|
|One thing I noticed immediately about Greenslade's first album were Dave Lawson's shrill, whiny, strained vocals. Ooh boy, this is going to be difficult, I thought. Fortunately, there is some fine music here. Naturally, the instrumental passages are the best, and being frequent enough to make the album bearable. The dual keyboards are somewhat ELP/Egg influenced but original, consisting mostly of Hammond organ, Mellotron, and various electric and acoustic pianos. No guitar, but multi-tracked bass on a few tracks (most notably the instrumental "Melange") makes an excellent substitute. Ex-King Crimson/Fields drummer Andrew McCullough does some good percussion work here. "Sundance" is a great instrumental. -- Mike Ohman|
I've been a fan of Greenslade's work since Bedside Manners Are Extra (and
Dave Greenslade's solo album Cactus Choir, so I
was both excited and skeptical when I heard that he had reformed the band for a reunion in
2000. How would it stack up against the old Greenslade stuff? Dave
Greenslade and former Greenslade bassist Tony Reeves recruited a new keyboardist,
John Young and set about creating a new Greenslade album,
Large Afternoon. This was a critical success, so they took the band out on a small tour.
The performance for the Classic Rock Society in 2001 was recorded and became two different live
albums, Greenslade 2001 - Live and Greenslade 2001 - Live The Full Edition. The
former is a four-cut promo CD, while the latter is a 12-cut full-length CD that contains the bulk
of the entire evening's performance. Both versions (at the time of this writing) are available for
sale on keyboardist John Young's web site. I've heard
only the promo version.
I would say this is a pretty good recording of some pretty good pieces. The new stuff from Large Afternoon is represented by "Cakewalk", then a waltz down memory lane with "Feathered Friends" from Greenslade and "Joie De Vivre" from Spyglass Guest. The final piece is a new composition, "Wherever I Go", which has not been released on a studio album yet. I only say this is "pretty good" because the pieces all sound a bit more Muzak than I remember Greenslade to be. Just a little too easy-listening, if you know what I mean. The musicianship is all superb, and newcomer John Young does a great job replacing John Lawson on both keyboards and vocals. Still, it left me wanting something.
Even so, I enjoyed this CD. It's great to hear the old tunes being played again in the new millenium, and hopefully Greenslade has more in store for us on a few new studio albums, and as I've said before, I've mellowed a bit with age myself. If I need something more brash, I'll spin up Dream Theater or something. If I want to mellow out to some complex yet easy to listen to music, this CD would be more in tune. -- Fred Trafton
R&B-influenced, high energy progressive group, similar to Fields in
style. In my own mind, one of the best prog groups ever. They were formed in '72 by
ex-Colosseum / ex-Wes Minster Five members
Dave Greenslade and Tony Reeves. To the lineup was added
ex-Web / ex-Samurai Dave Lawson and
ex-King Crimson / ex-Fields
Andrew McCulloch. The lineup was thus: Dave Greenslade
(organ and other keyboards), Tony Reeves (basses and double bass), Dave Lawson (miscellaneous
keyboards and vocals), and Andrew McCulloch (drums and additional percussion). The group dynamics
included the two Daves dueling on the keyboard work, Dave G
and Tony's brilliant interplay setting the groundwork for Andrew's remarkable fills, and Dave L's
warlock-ish vocals riding over the amazingly strong rhythm section. The keyboards most prominently
used in the group's first period (1972-5) were organ, piano (electric and acoustic), ARP synth and
clavinet, while their second period (2000-present) relies on the Korg Trinity and DX7. Their stuff
focuses mainly on instrumental work. Contrary to what is sometimes said elsewhere,
Dave Greenslade is NOT, and has never been, the leader of
Greenslade. The focus is on group performance, and on most of the albums the arrangments were done
by the group as a whole.
Greenslade, Bedside Manners Are Extra and Time and Tide are to my ears among the best albums in the annals of music. Greenslade is a work of immense beauty, from the post-apocalyptic "Feathered Friends" with its breath-taking intro and searing mellotron solo, to the 9-minute "Sundance" which, from its perfectly beautiful and peaceful beginning moves into an rhythm-and-blues onslaught that overwhelms the senses yet remains perfectly unpretentious. Though 5 of the 7 tracks are Dave G compositions, one of the best is a Tony-conceived suite titled "Melange". "Melange" smoothly transists from mood to mood, sporting unbelievable bass, percussion, and keyboard work before climaxing in the album's emotional apex. Dave Lawson's "What Are You Doin' to Me" is one of the two weaker tracks -- which doesn't say much. It sports the dark and witty music and lyrics that are Dave L's trademark style. Superb drumming and bass solos, and the quirky ending, save the day for the track. "Drowning Man" is a phenomenal gothic tune filled with emotional instrumental pieces alternating between some of Dave G's strongest solos.
Bedside Manners Are Extra is in a darker mode. Dave L's vocals were often poorly handled on Greenslade; here, they are pure genius and well reflect the spirit of the album. Every track is a classic. "Bedside Manners Are Extra" is a piece of outwardly soft and beautiful harmonies with sinister undertones. "Pilgrim's Progress" is an epic roller coaster bouncing from ecstasy to vicious fury, while "Time to Dream" is a timeless chunk of pure, diabolical evil that permeates everything from the unnatural pounding on the organ to the dark lyrics to the Dave G clavinet solo that seems to overflow with madness. An eastern styled finish brings it to a malicious close. "Drum Folk" has two minutes of drum solos in surprisingly good taste and a lengthy organ solo that is unmatched, thanks largely to the bass and drums support. "Sunkissed You're Not" is Dave L's best composition for Greenslade, dominated by fascinating ARP work and augmented by top-notch bass. Tony's "Chalkhill", surely one of the most beautiful instrumentals ever, finishes the album on a bright note with a R&B style cadenza that is pure fun. The two Daves really shine with the solos.
Spyglass Guest is the weakest; it seems the two Daves were having trouble collaborating and the group was using sessionists. It also features an inordinate number of Dave L compositions. One of the better pieces is Dave G's "Spirit of the Dance", based on an Irish jig. Tony and Andrew play brilliantly, and the final two minutes (which, curiously, are omitted from live performances) contains lovely electric piano work. The best piece, however, is the religious epic "Joie De Vivre". The group collaborates brilliantly in the cadenza to create a work of energy as well as beauty. Dave G also contributes an irregular, heavily classical instrumental, "Melancholic Race". Dave L gives some interesting vocals and melodies on his "Little Red Fry-Up"; however his other songs are more mellow and not up to the Greenslade standard. The album's still worth getting if you're a Greenslade fan.
At this point Tony left the group and was replaced by ex-Mandrake Paddlesteamer songwriter/guitarist Martin Briley. Though no one could ever replace Tony, Martin handled the transition from guitar to bass with remarkable gusto. He also added some excellent guitar playing and decidedly odd backing vocals.
Time and Tide saw Greenslade regain the group unity that they had lost on Spyglass Guest. The (music-Dave G/lyrics-Dave L) team returns, and though Dave G appears on neither of Dave L's compositions, the album has the feel of a group effort rather than a collection of recordings. Though by far their shortest album, it is certainly one of their best. The focus is much more on the compositions. In that department Dave G pulled through and then some, while Dave L produced an interesting, now-melancholy-but-now-pained-but-now-fearful, keyboard-oriented effort called "Doldrums". At 5 minutes, "Catalan" is the only song longer than 3:30, and is the album's high point: a fast-paced, surrealistic instrumental with an intense clavinet solo. "Waltz For a Fallen Idol" features Dave L's best vocals ever, while Dave G handles both keyboard instruments: beautiful electric piano and a tear-jerking crummer stringman solo. This bitter and clever lament is joined at the hip to "The Ass's Ears", a swiftly flowing and brilliantly composed piece with mind-blowing organ, guitar and percussion work.
None of the songs on Live are quite as phenomenal as their originals, with the exception of certain parts of "Red Light" and "Spirit of the Dance". Yet they are all quite interesting, in particular "Bedside Manners Are Extra" and "Sundance '74". The latter is almost an entirely different song from the original; it is Greenslade at their most relaxed and unpredictable.
After breaking up in '75, Greenslade was finally reunited in 2000 and recorded their first album [Large Afternoon] in 25 years. It is rather disappointing that only half of the original members made it to the reunion; however, while Andrew McCulloch's absence is an inconsolable loss, Dave L has found a fresh and exciting replacement in ex-Asia / ex-Qango keyboardist John Young. The new lineup was Dave Greenslade (synthesizers), Tony Reeves(bass), and John Young (synthesizers and vocals). On the album, mixer Chris Cozens provided drums (mostly electronic). John Trotter (ex-Manfred Mann's Earth Band) took the drum seat for the subsequent tours but left in 2002.
The album itself is disappointing in ways. The bass is produced at a cruelly low volume, the drum machine is a bitter letdown after Andrew McCulloch, the relative lack of variety of keyboards results in a somewhat slick and occasionally over-extravagant synth sound, the mood is overly optimistic, and all 47 minutes is written by Dave G -- no Tony Reeves or John Young compositions whatsoever. Still, there are plenty of highlights. In particular, "Large Afternoon" (an elegantly composed and dramatic instrumental with a number of movements, each enlighteningly emotional) and "On Suite" (a lengthy, punchy, powerful work) make it clear that Greenslade have plenty of creative steam left, even if "Lazy Days" and "Anthems" are boring filler, and "In the Night" is almost absurdly old-fashioned. Falling neatly in the middle are clever instrumentals like "Cakewalk" and the hauntingly beautiful vocals and piano on "No Room-But a View"(excellent lyrics by Dave). John Young's vocals are much more gentle and profound and less reckless than Dave Lawson's, qualities that make him both better and worse as a vocalist. His keyboards are more intense and ambiguous, and less quirky-same comment. Large Afternoon can be tentatively recommended to fans of modern prog.
The Live 2001 album, I am sad to say, should be avoided by all but obsessed Greenslade fans. The group has always been stronger in the studio than live, and from what I've seen, the album captures one of their weaker performances. Rather than get the album, I suggest you go see them live yourself. They have added material onto songs such as "Catalan" and "Joie de Vivre", and on the whole their shows are quite an experience.
Though usually classified as "elitist", for those who can appreciate Greenslade's work, the stuff is 80% fun and 95% genius. Highly recommended for those who think they might enjoy highly complex, r&b-influenced prog. If you like more sadistic stuff like King Crimson or Air Conditioning-era Curved Air, try something from the early period (preferably one of the first two albums). If you feel you need something more soothing, start with Large Afternoon. -- Robert Orme
[See Asia |
Greenslade, Dave |
King Crimson |
Web, The |
Click here for
Greenslade's page on Mystic Records, where you can order Large Afternoon,
or Live (the 2000 release of the '70's band)
Cactus Choir (76)
Pentateuch of the Cosmogony (79, 2LP & art book)
From the Discworld (94)
Going South (99)
|I can't believe nobody in previous GEPR entries has ever commented upon Dave Greenslade's 1979 release with artist and fantasy writer Patrick Woodroffe named Pentateuch of the Cosmogony. This is one of the classic albums of the '70's, a double concept album packaged with a 50ish-page LP-size book of incredible artwork. I've heard that this was re-released on CD in a box set, but somehow a CD-size version of the book just ain't going to cut it. If you can ever get your hands on this, it's a treat for both your eyes and ears, though I've heard it's now a "minor collectible", so it probably won't be cheap. Used copies on the Gemm web site go from $30.00 to $65.00 depending on condition (and seller whim). -- Fred Trafton|
Famed keyboardist/songwriter of Greenslade,
Colosseum, the Wes Minster Five, and the Thunderbirds. Though
his solo work is usually considered in the same breath
as Greenslade's, this is a misconception. While his debut
includes both Greenslade logos on the cover and has Tony Reeves on bass on half of the songs, the
content is completely different. As a solo artist, Dave has largely abandoned the R&B influences
of Greenslade and switched from using mainly organ and electric
pianos to a vast assortment of synthesizers, creating an intensely surrealistic sound that
dominates his albums.
His debut, Cactus Choir, is his solo magnum opus. This one is loaded with endlessly imaginative atmospheres that create a brilliantly surreal soundscape; the Roger Dean cover actually gives you a pretty good sense of what the interior is like. Dave doesn't rely on all style with no substance, however. He dishes out everything from waltzes to classical to blues and throws in odd rhythms, fascinating progressions, and other surprises. My personal favorite tracks are "Country Dance", which shows an amazing variety of sounds and incredible riffs on just clavinet and electric piano, and "Swings and Roundabouts" with its weird ups and downs and mysterious percussion finale; but this is one of those albums where everyone has their favorite, and there are no throwaway tracks.
After Cactus Choir, Dave's solo albums are all instrumental concept albums, and get progressively worse. Penateuch of the Cosmogomy, while much less aesthetically pleasing than Cactus Choir, is a monumental triumph of surrealism. Though Dave apparently didn't know when to stop (the last three songs are boring throwaways), most of the album is quite good. Phil Collins and John Livingston each play percussion on a few tracks and Dave throws in some church organ and even tubular bells, but all 21 tracks are unquestionably synth-dominated. The vast majority are 3 or 4 minutes long, and while there are three lengthy pieces ("Three Brides", "Mischief", and "Miasma Generator"), there are none that go past 6 minutes long. Highlights are "Three Brides" with its classical tones, complexities, and smooth transitions; the breathtaking surreal beauty of "The Minstrel"; the religious ballad "Baracole"; the poignant "Lament For the Sea"; and the intense "Miasma Generator". Though the album suddenly dies after climaxing in "Miasma Generator", it's well-worth getting for the lover of rich and imaginative synthesizer explorations.
I've only heard snippets of From the Discworld, so I can't say much about it. It seems to be worse than Penateuch, but still better than Going South. The latter is a concept album following the adventures of a flock of birds in their desperate quest to reach the warm south before winter falls, and is entirely written, arranged, and produced by Dave. Except for the latter, this is not unusual for Dave, but except for piano on 3 songs, the album was recorded using only synthesizers. It's almost unquestionable that Going South is a pretty lousy album, Dave's worst. It's frankly boring and stretches for a band sound when all that's available is a few keyboards. But a close listen reveals that the album is rife with excellent riffs, and that the problem is misdirection, not lack of talent or motivation. For that reason, I would actually recommend this album to fans of Dave G. There are even a few highlights on the album: "Going South" is an interesting composition with some great solos, "Crane Dance" is a surprisingly aggressive tune, and "Piano Flamingo" is an old-fashioned jazz piece dominated by a spectacular piano solo. The best tune, however, is the finale, "South Revisited". It flips between eerie tones and swirlings and hopeful riffs, then breaks into another distinctive Dave Greenslade solo with some lovely piano. On the whole, though, Dave's genius as a composer has only been finally put to good use again in the reformed Greenslade.
It is pretty obvious that a solo career was never in Dave Greenslade's destiny, and he himself seemed rather uncomfortable with the idea. Despite that, however, his first two albums are excellent and are recommended, especially to fans of the surreal. Anyone who doesn't like keyboard-oriented prog should shy away from his work, however, and Greenslade and Colosseum fans are not advised to buy his solo albums for the sole reason of his membership in those groups (if you must blindly pick one up, though, go for Cactus Choir). -- Robert Orme
[See Colosseum |
Click here for Dave Greenslade's page on Mystic Records, where you can order Going South
Cold Cuts (71)
Cities In Fog (85), Places Of Motility (86), Timbral Planes (87), Changing Skies (89?), Ear-rational Compilation (90?), Crossing Ngoli (91?, W/Angus), Lost Terrain (92), In Another Place (93)
Ambient ala Eno, but darker.
Songs of Leaving (93, EP)
Further On (94)
Painted Pictures (98)
One Day Soon (98, Live)
If I Was (00, EP)
A Little Voodoo (02)
Grey Eye Glances Live (03, Live)
Grey Eye Glances - Dwayne Kieth (keys/vocals), Eric O'Dell (bass), Jennifer
Nobel (guitar/vocals), Brett Kull (guitar) and Paul Ramsey (drums)
Grey Eye Glances is a folk-rock band formed in the early '90's with guitarist/vocalist Jennifer Nobel, keyboardist/vocalist Dwayne Keith and bassist Eric O'Dell. They were quite literary, and chose to play mostly at Border Books stores. They recorded their 1993 EP Songs of Leaving to sell at shows, and followed up with Further On in 1994. Here they would have languished in obscurity (at least as far as an entry in the GEPR is concerned), except that they were then joined by then-ex-Echolyn members Brett Kull (guitars) and Paul Ramsey (drums), with whom they released their subsequent albums. Kull and Ramsey continue to perform and record with Grey Eye Glances even though Echolyn is once again together. -- Fred Trafton
[See Always Almost |
Click here for Grey Eye Glances' web site
The Crime (94)
Live - The Official Bootleg (97, Live, Limited edition of 497)
Fear (97) Another Review
The Time Of Our Lives (98)
Grey Lady Down 2001 - Sean Spear (bass), Phill Millichamp (drums), Julian Hunt
(guitars), Mark Westworth (keyboards) and Martin Wilson (vocals)
These guys are a newer band on the UK scene, frequently opening for bands like Jadis and Pendragon, and have recently release their first album. The sound centers around the keyboard of Louis David. He only uses a few boards, mostly analog, which, along with the unpolished production, can evoke an 80's retro sound to my ears. However, they probably weren't on a huge budget. David also makes some use of some analog type sequences on a couple songs for a unique flavor. He also makes frequent use of the Mark Kelly sawtooth type Minimoog sound. Julian Hunt provides able guitars, making good use of effects, and the warm distortion rhythm guitar used by Andy Latimer and Nick Barrett. The drummer seems capable. The bassist? I have no idea, as there is not much low end. The vocalist is a pleasant suprise. One is that he has a great voice and two is not trying to be a Fish or Gabriel clone, which ruins the originality of many a band. In fact his vocal stylings have more in common with Michael Sadler of Saga.
The opening track, 12:02 starts out with a rousing minimoog type line reminiscent of "Market Square Heroes." Mostly an upbeat and positive tune, it makes a good opener, but stronger material is yet to come. In the middle of the tune, the guitarist uses some wah-wah rhythm, which to my ears sound a little funny. But maybe that's just me. "All Join Hands" starts out with a cool arpeggiator/sequenced line which drives the song, with a Pendragonish Chorus. I like this song a lot. The third track, "Thrill of it All," starts out with a Greg Lakeish acoustic guitar bit, with the first part of the tune being an acoustic ballad. After the second chorus, the singer hangs on a note, and it kicks into a 3/4 Marillion type feel (like the feel on "Garden Party") with an analog lead driving the track. It then switches into a psuedo-reggae(!) type feel, then returns to the "Garden Party" type feel and eventually fades out. Another good tune. "The Ballad of Billy Grey" is the first of the "epic" tunes. It opens with another cool analog type of sequence with some long filter sweeps, then kicks into gear. This track has a slightly darker feel than the previous ones. Another Kelly type analog lead sets up the tune, which settles into a Marillionesqe minor chord progression ( like "He Knows You Know"). Three verses follow in this format, gradually building and adding more orchestration. The latter part of the tune kicks into more of an upbeat Pendragonish feel. A very satisfying tune. "Circus of Thieves" opens with a delay guitar line, with keyboards coming in with a Clive Nolan-like lick (whatever that means). This tune sounds like it would be at home on Pendragon's The Jewel. Next comes "Annabel," which a little more rockish at the start. It then contrasts this with a softer verse going into a Pendragon-like chorus. The closing track, "The Fugitive" is the other longer epic track, which is another great tune. It opens with just an eight note keyboard figure and simple drums, then moves into a Pendragon type chord progression. After repeating this figure, it states the main keyboard theme driven by the rhythm guitar. I am reminded of Saga here. Great feel. It settles down into a slower verse without rhythm, like a slower Jadis tune. It picks up with another great minimoog type line again. Mark Kelly fans who miss his use of Minimoog will sure appreciate this. The slower verse then returns, followed by a dramatic Genesis-like section. This eventually segues back into the beginning feel of driving rhythm guitar and keyboards carrying out to the end.
Although these guys are not overly complex, I found the music to be very satisfying. Their main influences seem to be the bands I have mentions, but combine that with some of their own traits to have a sound to their own. As this is a debut album, perhaps for future releases they can continue to diversify themselves and get some better production (can we hear the bass next time?). That could certainly put them over the top. -- Alan Mallery
Grey Lady Down had evidently split up or taken a long hiatus before returning with a "new debut" album in 2001, Star-Crossed. I hadn't heard any of this band before, but with the wildly differing opinions I heard about them on the Internet, I wanted to hear some to decide for myself. So I contacted them and requested their newest CD for review in the GEPR, which they were kind enough to send me.
Star-Crossed is, in my opinion, an excellent album in the vein of what many seem to call "neo-prog". As I've said in other reviews, I don't really get this whole "neo vs. not-neo" prog thing, but most proggers seem to feel that "neo" stands for "not excessively ornate". If so, then calling GLD "neo" seems unfair ... the complexity of these cuts is pretty high, though they are all relatively accessable in their tone. No blasts of dissonant Univers Zero noisiness or huge quantities of notes played at 200 miles an hour. Instead, these are songs, melodic, symphonic and hard-driving with loads of good keyboards and guitars. The emphasis is on composition and ensemble rather than being particularly flashy.
I wasn't certain at first whether or not I liked vocalist Martin Wilson's voice, but on repeated listenings I've decided I like his style a lot. This is good, since the music is pretty vocal heavy. His style sounds a bit like Fish or Gabriel, and he has that breathy, tremulous, gravelly, "almost out of tune but not quite" sound like these two. It took me a little getting used to, but now that I have I'm enjoying it. He always sings all by himself with no vocal harmonies at all.
The other gripe I've heard about this band is that they're "derivative" and "unoriginal". It's true that they use a lot of studio techniques that will remind you of other famous prog bands. The attack-suppressed electric guitars and acoustic guitar picking will remind you of Steve Hackett and Anthony Phillips respectively. The distorted Hammond sounds like Emerson and the synth solos sound like Banks. There's even a song ("Shattered") that has a muted echo slapback guitar intro that will remind you of Pink Floyd. Yeah, so what? You're in pretty darn good company if you can sound like these guys and do it convincingly, and Grey Lady Down pulls it off quite well in my estimation. There's nothing startlingly new here, but it sounds comfortably progressive and it rocks with the best of them. I can recommend Star-Crossed with no hesitation. I still haven't heard any of their earlier albums. -- Fred Trafton
The Grey Lady Down web site appears to have vanished from the Internet. Two of the band members (Westworth and Spear) went on to form Darwin's Radio. Grey Lady Down appears to be defunct, at least for the moment. -- Fred Trafton
Original GLD drummer Mark Robotham moved on to join Thieve's Kitchen, but recently told me via a Facebook message that he and Mark Westbrook (currently keyboardist for IQ) are talking about a possible GLD reunion sometime next year (summer of 2011) for "a couple of gigs". I'll let you know when I find out more. -- Fred Trafton
Uhm ... make that "Mark Westbrook (recently keyboardist for IQ)". See IQ entry for news. -- Fred Trafton
A Grey Lady Down reunion will take place for Mattfest 3, a prog festival taking place June 4 (that's 2 days from now!) in England. Former keyboardist Mark Westbrook is apparently not available, and so will be replaced by Piers de Lavison of Genesis tribute band ReGenesis. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Darwin's Radio | IQ | Thieve's Kitchen ]|
Grime were a French band similar to Ange, Mona Lisa, and the like, for the dramatic nature of their presentations, both vocally and musically, though I detect an additional influence from UK groups of the mid-seventies, including Greenslade and Genesis. The CD contains six live bonus tracks.
Grime was a French art rock band formed in the mid-seventies. Intended for sale at their concerts, their first and only album was a privately released limited edition LP of 1000 copies. Consequently Grime received very little notice in the press and outside France. Now thirteen years later this Musea CD reissue contains their original LP Grime with six live bonus songs recorded at the "Panespo Club" in Neufchatel, Switzerland on 12 December 1981. Conceived as a concept album, Grime tells the story of a man on a subway who discovers that he can no longer get off. After falling asleep he awakes and looks outside to find the train stranded on a beach. This confusion between dream and reality is the departure for a musical odyssey to worlds of the fantastic. In the end the man wakes to find that he is still on the train in the same dull world. Grime was Didier Morando: drums, percussion, and vocals; Thierry Duval: keyboards, and lead vocals; Nick Vicente: bass, piano, and vocals (studio); Didier Duval: 6 and 12 string guitars, acoustic guitar, and vocals; Marc Nion: alto sax, flute, vocals, and sketches; and Michel Munier: bass (live). Didier Duval chose Grime as their name because in Greek theater it signifies an actor made up as an old man. This image intrigued Didier and he tried to incorporate it in their live performances. Grime's music is an example of French progressive rock with a subtle blending of poetry, music, and theater. Their music is a mixture of complex melodies, vocals, and instrumentation similar to other popular contemporary progressive bands: Camel, Genesis, H. P. Lovecraft, King Crimson, Le Orme, and Supertramp. Only the brutal opening song "Cauchemar" (Nightmare) stands apart from the rest of the music. This punk influenced song opens with French shouting representing the trapped man's awareness of his dilemma. The live music recorded 2 years later documents their growth as musicians and as a band. Grime's music is great. They give good sax but no violins! I commend Musea for resurrecting this lost masterpiece from obscurity.
Fool's Mate (70)
Features Carol Grimes (vocals), Phil Miller (guitar), Steven Miller (piano), Pip Pyle (drums), Roy Babbington (bass) and Lol Coxhill (saxophones). Said to be a great early prog jazz-rock album with excellent lyrics and singing.
[See Ayers, Kevin | Caravan | Coxhill, Lol | Gong | Hatfield and the North | Matching Mole | Nucleus | Soft Machine]
Autumn Flowers (91, Cassette only)
Exotic Blend (91)
Autumn Flowers - Rerolled (97, re-recorded version of 1991 release, on CD this time)
EP 2000 (01, 4-song EP, limited edition of 3000)
Seventh Wave (02)
Grimskunk Plays Fatal Illness (03)
Fires Under The Road (06)
Grimskunk - Franz Schüller, Joe Evil, Peter Edwards, Alain VadeBoncoeur,
They sing in French and English. A lot of their stuff sounds like Jethro Tull circa Passion Play or Il Balleto di Bronzo. They also do some searing thrash metal (but then again, so does Happy Family) and even a ska number or two now and then. I'd love to find out what they are like live. -- Kenneth Newman
This unique band from Montreal is famous in Quebec for their impressive live performances (they actually sound better in show then on disc). They give LOTS of shows all across the province. They have a very eclectic sound and are difficult to categorize. Their music is kinda punk, kinda metal, kinda ska ... but with 70's keyboards omnipresent. Albums like Meltdown and Seventh Wave are definitely not progressive, and really not my cup of tea, but the other albums all contain some progressive influences, especially the self-titled Grimskunk, which is, in my opinion, their very best work. You have to give this one a spin! It has an epic feel to it, but never overdone or pretentious, with killer songs "Circle Square Triangle", "Watchful Elms" (what a masterpiece!) and "Bach in the Moors of Mars". Grimskunk is quite hard to compare to other bands, but I guess it has some elements of Liquid Tension Experiment, Deep Purple, and Uriah Heep (there's even a cover of "Look at yourself" on Grimskunk). At times Franz Schüller's singing is somewhat reminiscent of Peter Gabriel's in early Genesis, but that's a long shot ... Joe Evil's keyboards and organ playing is furiously fast, the drummer, Alain VadeBoncoeur, is very strong and almost flawless, and the two guitars do their job (the accent is really put on the organ). Plus the singers (Franz Schüller and Joe Evil) have great voices and a good sense of rhythm. The lyrics are also interesting. Grimskunk has an epic yet modern sound that any progressive adept must hear.
On other albums, check out these songs: "La Légende d'Overhead", "Rhinocéros" and "Vikings" on Autumn Flowers; "Nursery Rhyme" on Exotic Blend; "Overture in E Minor" and "Colorblind" on Meltdown; "Mahmoud's Dream" and "Ya Basta!" on Field Trip. The rest is not bad, but not really progressive. If you have only one album to buy go for Grimskunk's Grimskunk; download the song "Watchful Elms" and you'll see what I mean. -- Mathieu Melançon
Click here for Grimskunk's web site (in French)
Click here for Grimskunk's web site (in English)
Original Entry 12/7/08:
If Fripp and Eno's two '70's albums No Pussyfooting and Evening Star had included Edgar Froese from the same time period (when he released Aqua, Epsilon in Malaysian Pale and Macula Transfer), then they would have sounded like One. Since these are among my favorite electronic albums of that day, and totally defined the "ambient music" genre (in my mind at least), it makes me really like Grindlestone. Actually, though One starts off this way, it also starts to incorporate some darker ambient elements partway through (they've compared this aspect to Robert Rich, which I must agree with), and these elements fit nicely into Grindlestone's sound.
Grindlestone began in 1999 with Don Falcone (Spirits Burning, etc.) getting together with guitarist (and Guitar Craft alum) Douglas Erickson. Unlike many of Falcone's other projects, this one doesn't have a dozen guest musicians, but is just these two as a duo. This seems to make the music quite a bit more focused and less chaotic than, say, Spirits Burning, which, to be frank, suits me just fine.
One is their debut release, and I love it. This is some of the best ambient music I've heard since the '70's by those very bands I just mentioned. For those of you who share my passion for this style, you'll need Grindlestone's One in your collection. I'm hoping for Two some day. -- Fred Trafton
The second Grindlestone CD is out as of June 2011, and it's not called Two. The title is Tone. As much as I liked One, Tone completely blows it away. Not a bit of Fripp and Eno here (well, perhaps just a bit). This album is still Don Falcone and Douglas Erickson, but stylistically it's a world apart ... and above One. This is really an album of what they used to call Musique Concrète, though I'm sure these guys use comuters and samplers to fold, spindle, stretch, pitch-shift, and otherwise mutilate their "found sounds" into this incredible atonal symphony of noise rather than the tape machines and splicing the original Musique Concrète composers used.
This album owes more to the likes of modern classical composers like Györgi Ligeti (famous among non-classical folks for the two spacey pieces used in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey) or even more like Basil Kirchin's Worlds Within Worlds. The sounds are unearthly, yet nag at the back of your consciousness as being somehow familiar. These are obviously not synthesizer effects, but manipulations of recorded sounds. You can even occasionally make out a mangled guitar sound. The subtle sounds can best be appreciated using headphone or high-quality ear buds (not the pieces of crap they give you with your iPod). Mastered by Robert Rich, who clearly "gets it" as to what an like this is supposed to sound like. This slbum is completely major-league music. It has nothing to do with progressive rock (or with either word by itself) or even space rock. But it is completely spectacular and highly recommended! Who needs LSD? Be prepared to have your mind expanded!
So here's where the wiseguy critic gets to guess the name of the next album. Stone? Or maybe Throne? Hey, I just hope there is a third album. They can call it anything they want to. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Falcone, Don | Rich, Robert | Spaceship Eyes | Spirits Burning | Quiet Celebration | Trap]|
As the World Grits (93, recorded '72-'76), Rare Birds (97, recorded 76)
Because this band follows the vocal verse-chorus format, it can't really be described as "progressive." But let's cast off those restrictive prog criteria for a moment and look at what's really going on here. Yes, this is a band that tried (hard) to "make it." Too bad they did it with thoughtful, intricate songs and flawless musicianship, or they might have "made it" after all. Grits created a cerebral jamming sound combined with extremely personal, savagely bitter, and often hilarious lyrics. Imagine Flo and Eddie-era Mothers crossed with Crown of Creation-period Jefferson Airplane, and you should have a good idea what this album sounds like. Yet this comparison is far from superficial: Tom Wright's guitar work emulates Zappa yet becomes his own; Amy Taylor's vocals recall Grace Slick, but the feelings and nuances expressed are hers alone. Composer and keyboardist Rick Barse reveals himself as an eloquent yet tortured artist. For what this album lacks in complexity or unorthodoxy, it makes up for with guts and sincerity.
Grobschnitt (72), Ballermann (74), Jumbo (75), Rockpommel's Land (77), Solar Music Live (78), Merry Go Round (79), Volle Molle (80), Illegal (81), Razzia (82), plus several more during the 80's
Grobschnitt had many elements that made them so special - a great dual guitar sound, good keyboards, and a strange drummer/effects man (Eroc) who brought an element of silliness and humor to the group (one of the things that made Gong so fascinating in their heyday.) Their first five albums are all classics and are for various different reasons. Deriving from early seventies space rock and the best of Santana, Grobschnitt's first album (self- titled) is a fantastic album that builds and releases tension in style and may be one of my personal favorites (I am a huge Santana fan - this band is way too overlooked in progressive circles.) A change of style into more symphonic realms occured on their double second (reissued on 1 CD) Ballermann which featured one record of varying length symphonic songs and one record that contains the cosmic suite "Solar Music" Maybe their least immediately accessible album, subsequent listens reveal this album's majesty. Moving to a more "accessible" sound on their third LP Jumbo, Grobschnitt moved into the realms of Yes-styled symphonic progressive while remaining very German. Funny voices (by Eroc) permeate the album on the minute long cuts which balance the epics (especially "The Excursion of Father Smith") quite well. A German version of this album exists as well. Maybe the one Gibraltar readers will like the most is the band's fourth, Rockpommel's Land that moves even closer into the Yes realms, featuring a beautiful Roger Dean-styled cover. Four tracks here, including a 20 minute same-titled, epic, this concept album is basically about a young boy and a hugebird (the maraboo) that consistently helps him and bails him out of trouble. This album is also very symphonic and has more of a keyboard presence than the first three. In my opinion, a landmark in space/cosmic rock is Grobschnitt's fifth, a live rendition of the classic "Solar Music" from Ballermann - Solar Music Live. This album is almost wall-to-wall guitar solos that shimmer and glide along a space rock backdrop - absolutely amazing music. I haven't bothered to find any of these guys later albums - sources say they fall short of these five - but their sixth Merry Go Round can't be much worse than Solar Music Live can it? Rockpommel's... and SML have both been reissued on CD as well as Ballermann and are all musts. I hope to see the first and third get the same treatment.
This classic Germand band produced a long string of great and not-so-great albums during the 70's and early 80's. Their sound is characterized by fairly original overall style, colorful melodies, and a very unique lead voice. Most of their albums have some bizarre clowning-around on them. Lyrics are sometimes in german, sometimes in english, but never mixed on the same album. Jumbo comes in both english and german versions. Rockpommels, Ballermann and Jumbo are three of the more dynamic, colorful and typically progressive of their albums. Solar Music is a more spacey and experimental live album. Illegal and Merry Go Round are mixed bags, both with a somewhat harder edged sound, and both get very strange at times. Their second live album Volle Molle pretty much sucks all around, and their first album is classic german hard rock, not all that progressive. The indespensible ones are Ballermann and Rockpommel's Land.
German band which seems to have been *very* symphonic, and of the worst pretentious kind. At least their Rockpommel's Land is of that kind and is no fun at all. On their 1981 effort Razzia they are, like so many other bands, oriented towards more straighter rock is much better. (It's not straight without a twist, though.) Although you'd better not know German when you listen to "Wir wollen leben."
Excellent, sometimes kooky German band. Comparable to Yes in many ways, my favorite is Solar Music Live which is one power break after another. "Solar..." reminds me a lot of Steve Howe's solo in "Yours is No Disgrace" from YesSongs - except it's about 40 minutes longer. Great stuff.
Grobschnitt were one of the crop of German bands that fell into the Krautrock category, mixing progressive rock influences with improvisational elements and humour to create a very compelling brand of music. The irreverence was evident in their music, but not at the cost of technical and compositional proficiency. All the musicians were masters of their instruments, and created cohesive albums that showcased their talents. Ballermann is a prime example of this music. Recorded in 1974, it featured keyboard/guitar-based progressive rock delivered with intensity, but interspersed with quiet, melodic passages, and anchored by the drumming of Joachim Ehrig (Eroc), who went on to further fame with his solo releases. This work also contains 33 minutes of "Solar Music," a Grobschnitt concert staple. This is a very adventurous piece that moves through a variety of musical moods, with enough room for all the members to display their respective talents. The vocalist, a gentleman nicknamed "Wildschwein" adds a further Arthur-Brown-like dimension to the music, which, in turn, adds to the unpredictability. However, his appearance is quite limited, and the music dominates through most of the 73+ minutes of this CD. Illegal, Rockpommel's Land and Solar Music Live are all from their middle period, where they were at their best. Their music is keyboard/guitar oriented, with standout drums and percussion by a gent who went by the name of Eroc. Illegal is the most improvisational of the bunch and recalls the somewhat psychedelic sounds of groups such as Amon Düül II and the like. Rockpommel's Land is a "concept" work, about the fantasies of a boy lost in a strange land. For those who enjoy lengthy, symphonic works, this would probably be the best recommended. The music has a backdrop that recalls bands such as Genesis, but the ability of the musicians in this band to improvise adds something more to the sound. Solar Music Live is a live recording that captures the musical virtuosity of the band very well. Volle Molle also contains live recordings by the band which offers proof of the power of the group to improvise and put together a powerful performance. The music is raucous at times, but mostly fast-paced progressive rock with long instrumental passages driven by guitar, keyboards, and drums.
I have two Grobschnitt albums, Solar Music Live and Rockpommel's Land, two very different albums, both excellent. Solar Music Live is incredible. Grobschnitt apparently went through several phases, nearly one for each album, so SML can hardly be considered representative. It can be high recommended though. Shimmering guitars over a mesmerizing backdrop, this album is considered by some to be one of the best space rock albums of all time. The album is nearly 60 minutes of flowing musical thought, with a little bit of silliness thrown in for fun. Judging by the CD cover, they must have had an interesting stage show. Rockpommel's Land is a concept album and much more symphonic in nature. If you've heard Novalis's classic Sommerabend, you'll have a feel for this album. The concept is of the travels of a boy and a strange bird. Some have said this album is very Yes-like but I think it's a little more similar to Novalis than Yes, plus they have their own quirkiness and sense of humor. Perhaps it's just my ears. Though I prefer the spacey texture of Solar Music Live, this album is well worth a listen, particularly if you are a symphonic fan.
Grobschnitt are one of the better Brain-label bands. Ballermann, originally a double LP, includes the 33-minute guitar-prog classic "Solar Music". Lots of people will want it just for this, great keyboards too! "Magic Train" is another great long piece, with varying dynamics in the different passages. "Nickel-Odeon" is pretty good, even though there is a chord-progression that blatantly rips off Yes' "Yours Is No Disgrace" in the middle. "Drummer's Dream" is a nice softer, acoustic tune. And "Sahara" is a weird piece with fine guitar work and slowed down vocals by drummer Eroc (On the spoken intro, he reminds me of Sgt. Schulz from "Hogan's Heroes"!) Rockpommels Land is a concept album, apparently about a young boy who rides a giant bird to the land of stone-people, or something like that. The story notwithstanding, there is some fine music on this one, with more excellent guitar playing and more keyboards than Ballermann. Yes is strongly in evidence, but this reminds me even more so of the McDonald and Giles album, especially the side-long title track, which is not unlike "Birdman". Excellent stuff. Solar Music Live is, as the title indicates, a live version of the title song, but extended out to about 50 minutes, with odd experimental tricks by Eroc and great slabs of dual guitar jamming. I, who normally don't care too much for live albums, really love this album. The experimental tendecies first explored here were further developed not only on Eroc's solo albums, but reportedly also on the next couple of Grobschnitt albums: Merry-Go-Round and Illegal. Keep that in mind when you find these. Razzia was recorded without Eroc, and apparently was the first of their lame neo-prog LPs. I have a couple of these: Kinder and Narren (1984) and Fantasten (1987). The first is a concept album, both are comparable to Genesis of the same period, i.e. pretty pop orientated and boring. The live Last Party is supposed to be the only worthwhile document from this period. -- Mike Ohman
[See Eroc | Reichel, Hans]
Why Didn’t You Tell Me?! (71)
Behind The Sounds (72, w/ Mathi Caspi)
Kzat Aheret/Nonames (75 w/ Shlomo Ydov & Shem Tov Levy)
Cotton Candy (82)
Family Album (83, w/ Shem Tov Levy)
Behind The Sounds 84’ (84 w/ Mathi Caspi)
Mood and Entertainment (84, w/ Jonathan Geffen)
My Mother Always Wanted Her Son To Be On TV (85)
Because Of The Mango (88)
Netto Live (91)
Shlomo Gronich With The Sheba Choir (93)
Shlomo Gronich at the piano
Gronich (b. 1949) one of the most important Progressive musicians of Israel, is the son of a musician, he was a prodigy who made his first appearance as a classical pianist at the age of 7, He discovered the Beatles as a youth and was deeply influenced by them.
After serving as a keyboardist in a military band he began composing and arranging for others. He became professional in 1970 and released his first and revolutionary album Why didn’t you tell me?! in 1971, the album though not very focused is considered by many as the first Israeli Prog album ever, it comprised Bach, traditional Jewish music and prog and was a very unique album for it’s time (and still is today). Latter works by Aphrodite’s Child, Slapp Happy or Art Bears can be compared to it.
By 1972 he had collaborated with another talented Israeli musician Mathi Caspi and recorded an album with him Behind the sounds which is considered a milestone of Israeli Prog, it featured Gronich on piano and voices and Caspi on guitar and voices and contained some tracks which became classics since then.
After the album and the tour, Gronich wrote and arranged for others and composed music for ballet, television and theatre. By 1974 Gronich had teamed with two more Israeli talents, Shem Tov Levy and Shlomo Ydov with whom he formed one of the first Israeli Prog bands Kzat Aheret (Nonames) the self titled album which came out in 1975 was another classic of Israeli prog, this time comprising influences of the Beatles, Bach, Gentle Giant, Genesis, The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Israeli and oriental folk, yet remaining highly original and excellent, the standout tracks were the three instrumentals and the groups adoption to the Israeli folk song "Two Chinese" the album also contained two songs which became immediate classics of Israeli music; "Pink skies" and "The Little Prince".
After the album and the tour, Gronich moved to USA where he tried to break through but failed. While being there he composed an opera entitled "America" which was based on the work of Franz Kafka and worked with an avant-garde band called Ramsses. By 1979 he came back to Israel to compose a film soundtrack and renewed his career. The Live album marked his return as a recording artist and comprised live version of his opera and of several new and older songs, after this he collaborated with several artists as session musician, composer or arranger.
By 1982 he released Cotton Candy which was his strongest and most focused album and also the most recommended for those who seek the progressive aspect of his work. At 1983 he collaborated once more with Shem Tov Levy and recorded Family Album with him this was the last progressive recording by him. He reunited with Mathi Caspi in 1984, toured with him and released a second Behind The Sounds album which was much weaker than the original version.
After this during mid eighties up to the late nineties he was involved in various projects including ballet music, modern classical music and music for theatre, cinema and television as well as recording several more solo albums and collaborations. The well-known American jazz flutist Herbie Mann has recorded one of his songs "Nueba". Gronich is a unique and talented musician who deserves much more appreciation than he received in his hay days. -- Gil Keltch
|Links||[See Kzat Aheret (Nonames)]|
Enigmatic Elements (03)
Darkclubing at Tavastia (Still awaiting release as of 1/4/05, Live)
Ultramarine (Mellow Records MMP399) is symphonic progressive rock in
the 1970's style, and it's not often that today's bands manage to make
something this good within that genre. The Finnish quintet Groovector
introduce themselves with 64 minutes of slowly evolving, often mellow, almost
cinematic instrumental music, where flute and keyboards weave out enchanting
melodies over rich keyboard layers and a rock-steady rhythm section.
Groovector's sound is shamelessly retro, especially in the keyboard department
where you get Hammond B-3 smears, clinkety Fender Rhodes comping and buzzing
analog synthesizer solo lines (there is especially one drilling Micro Moog
patch that is featured heavily). Electric guitar appears on just two songs to
provide bluesy, melodic leads and solos.
If comparisons are required, Focus and, to a lesser degree, Camel would do, largely because of the instrumentation and melodic qualities, but Groovector don't really sound like either of them. In the same way, the lyricism during the more delicate moments (especially the short acoustic guitar piece "Berceuse") might remind of the 70's Italian prog sound, but the at times melancholy, at times rhapsodically bittersweet melodies and impressionistic arrangements bear greater family resemblance to Scandinavian folk (in the way of Bo Hansson, for example) than they do to Mediterranean romanticism. There are some more familiar-sounding bits and bobs here and there (e.g. a very Genesis-like organ riff at the middle of "Walzwerk"), but when you put it all together, you end up with something that sounds like no other symphonic band, even if it may remind of many such bands. Like the best of those bands, Groovector concentrate on building and developing strong themes with good use of dynamics and contrasts in tone colours, rather than indulging in flashy, drawn-out soloing. Take "Selangor" as an example: it opens with a strong, slightly downcast theme played on acoustic guitar against an almost loungey backdrop of Rhodes and scuffling, jazzy drums; the music then gets louder with heavier drumming, bass and an intense synth solo with a hard, sustained tone resembling overdriven electric guitar; finally the music starts winding down and returns to the initial melody, now developed on the synthesizer until the piece closes. The beat is largely streamlined (even mundane), the harmony steady and there is nothing very fast or complex about the playing, but the excellent melodies and dynamics carry the song throughout. The band are capable of negotiating odd-time rhythms and virtuoso keyboard episodes, as show on "Melange" and the album closer "Elegie", but for most part the focus is on gradual thematic development with the aid of dynamics, timbre shifts and subtle variations in melody and arrangements. Classical influences abound flute/keyboards duet where a strong and concise melody is nicely orchestrated with piano, Hammond and harpsichord, and in the flute work in general, as it stays within Mel Collins-like warm and pastoral tones with only a few concessions to a more breathy sounds in the manner of Ian Anderson or Thijs van Leer.
My few regrets are that the band tend to lock themselves too much on to the mid-to-slow tempo range and that some more lead space could have been assigned to guitars and keyboards instead of the flute to give the music more range; as it is now, the music sounds plodding at places. Still Ultramarine is one of the most interesting and successful takes on old-school symphonic rock in years.
None of these qualifiers applies to Enigmatic Elements (Mellow Records MMP442), which departs significantly from the debut in three respects. First of all, the flautist has left, and the unremarkable performances by the guest saxophonist on half the tracks do not entirely fill the void. Second, low-key vocals have been added to four songs, but they neither distract from nor add any significant interest in the musical structures they adorn. Third and most crucial, the band have abandoned the straight retro-symphonic approach by emphasising the cool jazz aspects of their sound and bringing in a few decidedly modern sonic touches.
Most of the latter are flaunted on the opener "Remember" in the form of lightly applied synth effects, sequences and drum loops that clearly derive from turn-of-the-century electronic dance music. The flirtation with these devices doesn't really go further than that, but the groove is definitely more central to the music, taking its cues from the jazz vocabulary the band draw from so eagerly. At best this jazziness injects a bit of Camel-like warmth and fire into the laidback impressionism familiar from the first album. At worst it means meandering solos over structures that aren't interesting enough to hold them up, something that the first album was never quite guilty of. This comes through clearest on the aimless "Rain On", as the saxophone invites the band to spin out of control for a big ensemble-cacophony blowout, but its huffing and puffing fails to excite them into a necessary frenzy. Hence the song comes across as a collection of unrelated solos that joggles along for awhile without a proper fulcrum and then simply collapses.
Other tracks are much more successful, especially the most traditionally symphonic "Never Growing Old" that concludes with a suitably emotional guitar solo, but the overall effect is unimpressive. The symphonic sound is too watered down for retro fanatics, the electronica experimentation still too tentative to make a difference, and the jazz aspect pleasant but unable to bridge the gap between disparate elements. At least Groovector are making progress with this album, even if their direction seems to be unclear. -- Kai Karmanheimo
Click here for Groovector's web site
Click here to order Groovector CD's from Mellow Records
Note: Following each album is a list of the instruments credited to Grosskopf for that album.
D=drums, P=percussion, S=synthesizers, V=vocals/voice, K=keyboards
With Ash Ra Tempel:
With Klaus Schulze:
Selected discography with others:
Harald Grosskopf, April 2011 (photo by Erez Avissar)
Harald Grosskopf placeholder
Click here for Harald Grosskopf's web site
Grosso Autunno (76), Almanacco (77)
Not very good players.
Ground Zero (93)
Null and Void (95)
Revolutionary Pekinese Opera (95, also remixes subtitled Version 1.28 and Version 1.50)
Consume Red (97)
Plays Standards (97, re-released by ReR, 2002)
Last Concert (99, Live)
Ground Zero's Otomo Yoshihide
About Consume Red: Not your typical prog by any means, Consume Red is welcome apparatus for those who'd like to clean their brain from time to time and remain closer to prog standpoint as opposite to clean ears and brain with Merzbow. From manufacture of Otomo Yoshihide, guitarist, turntablist and musical terrorist. One track. Starts with one riff and ends with four - layered upon each other. Volume level is constantly heightened. Until at around 52 minutes everything explodes. Indispensable. For somebody. -- Nenad Kobal
|Links||Click here for Otomo Yoshihide's web site|
The Group (78)
|Pekka Pohjola's group just before releasing his first solo LP.|
|Finnish all-instrumental progressive/fusion band featuring Pekka Pohjola (bass), Olli Ahvenlahti (keyboards), Vesa Aaltonen (drums) and Seppo Tyni (guitar). Very similar to Pohjola's solo records (most of which featured various combinations of his bandmates in The Group), albeit a bit looser, jammier and more solo-oriented. Tyni's rough-edged, rock guitar sound provides a welcome contrast to Ahvenlahti's mellow electric piano and synth. A decent record. Tyni later joined drummer Ippe Katka's group (Katka is another ex-Pohjola sideman) which made one gloriously twisted avant-garde fusion LP in the late 1980s. -- Dave Wayne|
|Links||[See Made in Sweden | Pohjola, Pekka | Uni Sono | Wigwam]|
Agemos Trip to Mother Earth (68), Paradise Now (69), Polyandri (74), others?
Very obscure band who somehow had their first and 1969 album reissued on the German SPM label. This album is one of the most innovative of its time, and while verging psychedelic very often, there are enough surprises to keep everyone happy!
The master tape for Polyandri (74) was lost, so a transcription for the CD reissue was made from an LP. The sound quality is not too good but the music is excellent! One of the most floating psychedelic albums I've ever heard. -- Andras Sumegi
Group 87 (80)
A Career In Dada Processing (84)
|Never heard this band, but since its roster is VERY similar to that of the studio musicians in Mark Isham's Castalia album (including MI), I think they're New-Age. BTW, anyone know where to find their stuff (CD or LP)?|
|Falling somewhere between lightweight new-age fusion and proto-techno-pop, this instrumental group featured Peter Maunu (guitars, keys and violin), Mark Isham (brass, keys), Patrick O'Hearn (bass), and guesting Terry Bozzio (drums) on some tracks. Comparisons mught be made to Jerry Goodman's Ariel or some of the later solo projects by any of these guys. Overall pretty good.|
|Basically an all-star, all-instrumental progressive rock (not fusion!) band with ex-Zappa bassist Patrick O'Hearn, guitarist Peter Maunu (ex-Jean Luc Ponty and Billy Cobham), and multi-instrumentalist Mark Isham. O'Hearn's -Zappa bandmates Terry Bozzio and Peter Wolf guested on drums and keyboards on the first album which could be described, in retrospect, as "heavy-metal new-wave New Age". Seriously. Maunu's guitar has teeth, O'Hearn's bass growls, and Bozzio is his slammin' self. But all of the tunes have a polished LA sort of bright, poppy sincerity which I associate with people who wear crystals and take their horoscopes very seriously. There are also lots of herky-jerky, vaguely machine-like rhythms which I associate with bands like Devo. The difference is that these guys play their asses off. In a few spots, the music reminds me of German bands like SFF and Passport. A Career In Dada Processing has Maunu and Isham, but percussionist Peter van Hooke (who was with Isham in Van Morrison's band) has replaced O'Hearn. Although 4 years had elapsed since the first album was recorded, A Career ... is very much in the same vein as the first album, albeit with a more purely "electronic" sound. Maunu's guitar buzzes, rather than screams. Not bad stuff at all, but already sounding a bit anachronistic. Isham, O'Hearn (who later joined Missing Persons) and Maunu have all gone on to do solo records in an overtly New Age vein, with Isham's being the most palatable by far (check out Vapor Drawings). Isham has also done some interesting work with David Torn (Cloud About Mercury on ECM), a decent "return-to-my-jazz-roots" type of recording (Blue Sun), and is of course a very famous movie soundtrack person. Isham currently leads the "Silent Way Project", a group that specializes in cover versions of Miles Davis' electric music from the early and mid-70s. -- Dave Wayne|
|Links||[See O'Hearn, Patrick]|
Digitalive (00, Live, CDR)
Melatomania (02, due to be released in June)
Group Therapy - This is the best band photo from their web site, and it still
doesn't show all of them. The members are (not in photo order): Hiroyuki Kitada
(Electric Guitar, Guitar Synthesizer), Hidetoshi Inque (Soprano Sax), Keido Igarashi
(Trombone), Takashi Kawasaki (Electric Guitar), Yasunori Yoshida (Electric Bass),
Atsushi Mukai (Drums), Shingo Tsuji (Electric Guitar)
Melatomania is the second studio release from this six-piece Japanese band playing a rock-flavored jazz. They sound sort of like the Saturday Night Live band playing backup for the Blues Brothers (but all instrumental). I might also say it reminds me of Chicago without vocals or perhaps a movie soundtrack for some hardboiled detective flick. It's hard not to like this music, as it is very well recorded and performed and has some pretty nice soloing in it from all the members. But there isn't much compositional intricacy here. The songs all follow a rather simple formula: start off with an eight bar chord progression, then have each band member do a solo over it (or sometimes even a guest musician), then a quick bridge to a new chord progression and everybody takes a solo again. Sometimes they will then reprise the original progression again and sometimes not. It's easy to listen to and the soloing is actually not bad, but this just doesn't seem particularly progressive to me. I would label this music as improvisational jazz before I would call it prog. Still, a nice effort by this sextet and an enjoyable listen. -- Fred Trafton
Group Therapy's debut album Atlantis (which was also released by "Mellow") was
among those first few CDs that I received especially for my review back in the spring of
1999. I'd like now to remind you my view on the term Jazz-Fusion, which is one of the five
main genres of Prog. Talking about Fusion I mean the true sense of this word: the
confluence of different musical genres, sub-genres, etc. Of course, concerning "our" genre,
I understand Jazz-Fusion as the confluence of anything related to jazz music (Jazz-Rock,
first of all) with various forms of progressive music (Progressive Rock, first of all, of
course). You can regard the latter definition of the term of Jazz-Fusion as a brief
description of the music of Group Therapy. Especially precise, it sounds with regard to
the band's second album Melatomania.
The final version of the complete Melatomania album is so amazingly different even from the five-track demo of it, not to mention the band's debut album Atlantis, that I need just forget of that demo and delete the review on it as well. No Fusion (as it was on Atlantis) nor even Jazz-Fusion (as it was on Digitalive), but Classic Art-Rock with the elements of Jazz-Fusion and Prog-Metal is what I hear on the band's second studio album. All of the album's basic structures and most of the arrangements are typical for Classic Art Rock, though only the chords of keyboards, that Hiroyuki Kitada elicits from his guitar synthesizer, have a clear symphonic sound. While all of the fast solos of both of the brass, no matter whether they were improvised or composed (which is most likely in my view), - are, on the whole, typical for Jazz-Fusion, most of the fast guitar solos (which are rather harsh and at the same time very masterful) squeal like "natural children" of Prog-Metal. Each of the compositions, that are featured the album, including both of the short tracks, contain a lot of the so called progressive ingredients such as: rich and diverse arrangements, changes of themes, tempos, and moods, tasteful and virtuosi solos, parts, and interplay between the varied soloing instruments, etc. Beginning with "Incidents In Damascus", which is filled with Arabic flavours, all of the remaining tracks on the album also contain the Eastern melodic colours - at least in places. "Sekiwake" (track 6) is especially rich in specific Japanese motifs.
Melatomania is radically different from all of the previous works by Group Therapy. Despite the fact that all of the tracks of the band's new album are wonderful, I still regard "Incidents In Damascus" the best composition on the album. But the words of praise I used before just with regard to "Damascus" are now worthy of Group Therapy's second album as a whole. Melatomania is so astonishingly unique that can change the "average" attitude to Jazz-Fusion rather radically. This is not only a real Prog-killer: this work is incredibly innovative from the first to the last note - even in the approach to implantation of the 5-tone Eastern parts to the traditional compositional structures. Masterpiece is the word. In addition, I'd like to say I won't wonder very much if with the next album Group Therapy become the band of Progressive's Fifth Element (which for the time being is the "genre niche" for those performers whose music doesn't fit any of the first four genres of Prog). -- Vitaly Menshikov
Click here for Group Therapy's web site
Click here to order Atlantis (now) or Melatomania (soon) from Mellow Records
Out Off (72), Frrrrrigidaire (73)
Keyboard-based prog. Out Off is a instrumental soundtrack.
Av Bara Farten (83)
Utan Sans (88)
Månskratt (90, w/ Lena Willemark)
Groupa 15 years (98, Compilation)
Mats Edén (fiddles), Sofia Karlsson (vocals), Terje Isungset (percussion),
Jonas Simonson (flutes), Rickard Åström (keyboards)
Groupa is a Norwegian progressive folk band that started in 1980, combining Swedish and other Scandinavian folk music with newer instruments including synths, saxophones, and roto-toms. Their 2000 album Lavalek continues their trend of fresh takes on Scandinavian folk - a must-listen for all folk-prog fans. -- Joel Shaver
Click here for Groupa's
Hingus (Breath) (81, reissued on CD 2000)
OM (88, reissued on CD 2000)
Mess was actually Grünberg's band, and their single album release is
currently out of print. Breath and OM are solo albums and have been
recently re-released on the Russian Boheme label.
Grünberg is an electronic artist who recorded in Talinn, Estonia. His style is very similar to Edgar Froese's solo albums (like Aqua and Epsilon in Malaysian Pale), but he doesn't really go off on the rhythmic sequencer arpeggios like Froese. Instead, he uses percussion, though there is no attempt to make it sound like "real" drums; he simply uses interesting percussive synthesizer timbres. The other point of reference here is Isao Tomita ... the synth patches (particularly on OM) sound as if they were stolen right from Tomita's studio! The vibrato'ed whistling and phased string timbres sound just like Tomita's versions of Pictures at an Exhibition or Snowflakes are Dancing. These sounds fit well into this spacey Tangerine Dreamish sound.
Hingus (translation: "Breath") begins with Parts I thru IV of the "Breath" suite, and at a total of about 23 minutes was obviously a "side-long" piece on the original LP. This whole CD really recalls Rubycon-era Tangerine Dream, with its echoed organ washes, reverbed Mellotrons (or is it String Ensembles?) and watery background sounds. Grünberg, however, has a bit more melody and composition in this work than TD, who leaned more heavily on free-form improvisation. This allows the instruments to occasionally play composed harmonies with each other and not just the occasional happy accidents that happen when everyone is jamming independently in the same key. Don't get me wrong ... I love Tangerine Dream, which is why I also think Grünberg is great ... I'm just pointing out one of the minor differences between two albums which might otherwise be twins. Well, siblings at least.
OM starts out with Part V of "Breath", begun on the Hingus CD, though the first four parts were recorded in 1979-80, while this part was recorded after 1985, so it was probably not originally part of this suite. As a matter of fact, it stylistically doesn't bear much resemblence either. This album in particular contains a lot of the Tomita sound influence, and two of the songs, "Reflections" and "OM" also contain some Japanese traditional sounding music, reminiscent of Japanese Koto music. But Grünberg stays out in space the whole time, even the Japanese sounding parts are drenched with reverb, echo and spacey synth drones. It is interesting that Grünberg would name this album OM given that I can hear no Indian influence at all ... oh well ...
|Sven Grünberg is, perhaps, the most famous "Solo-Pilot" from the USSR / CIS. Being always surrounded by the most modern synthesizers in any period of his activity, this "keyboard" composer and musician, apart from two albums reviewed here (earlier they have been released by the only Soviet recording company - monopolistic major "Melodiya"), has several soundtracks and other musical works to his credit. Breath, the first Grünberg's album, shines with a variety of sounds the maestro elicites from the "clever" electric keyboard instruments called synthesizers (and each such instrument had some typical "computer" data even in the beginning of the 1980s). Grünberg always successfully used all the varied conveniences of synthesizers to create his own, quite original, "spacey" compositional structures. As for the convenient spacey forms that enjoyed a great popularity especially in the end of the 1970s - early 1980s thanks to the French band simply called Space, Grunberg had never anything to do with them. Already in the very beginning of his musical activity Sven worked more in a serious "spacey way", being inspired by a whole bunch of German bands, from Tangerine Dream to AshRa to all the other Ra Temples, and created that "spacey" musical style long before Space appeared. Grünberg's imagination can be easily called unrestrained, as this Estonian "solo-pilot" of musical spaces was guided primarily by his own original ideas. So, those into thoughtful and really expanding spacey electronic music with lots of charming suites, backed with wonderful special effects, will experience bliss a number of times, as if dissolving in the endless "space spheres" of the Breathe album, especiallly listening to the material with head phones. Like any serious 'headphones' album, Breathe hides plenty of "secret corners" that are peculiar to music of this kind. It's not so easy to get into this music after a couple first listens even for the experienced "voyagers to the spheres of musical spaces". -- Vitaly Menshikov|
Hingus: Recorded in Tallin in 1980 this record is a one man's work. By playing all
instruments himself as well as having composed the music Sven Grünberg offers us the
essence of his music; from the cycle "Breath/Hingus" in 4 movements where the organ is the
main actor and to the symphonic poem in 6 movements "Flower of Light" in a more electronic
vein, the thread could be the title of the remaining tune completing the record: "Journey".
Minimalistic, sequential, programmed with diverse algorithms and instuments interventions,
this is a music close to Glass, Riley or alike.
Om is a multilevel symbol for the wholeness and unity of existence itself, the universe and the individual, macro and microcosms. Combining the use of traditional instruments with electronics is the way Estonian composer Sven Grünberg chose for materializing the emergence of a really homogenous world music. Merging different cultures with new technology gives a continuous movement towards future which in turn manifests itself in the present, thus bringing back the past. An ambitious program of 4 works composed between 1981 and 1987. -- Pierre Tassone (Music By Mail, see link below)
Click here for Boheme's web site
You can mail order Boheme titles by e-mailing to email@example.com
You can also mail order from Music By Mail in Denmark, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
L'Alba Di Domani (72)
|Very good soft melodic italian folk. Acoustic-oriented with flutes and some pleasant vocals and melodies. Quite underrated and PFM-like. Maybe not the first Italian band to check out but if you like the soft PFM-sound of their first 3 classics, you may want to check out Gruppo 2001 as well. The other entry listed them as a vanguard band. I don't know what "vanguard" means but this is nice folky-style music with prog touches. Recommended. -- Betta|
Midnight Mushrumps (74)
Red Queen To Gryphon Three (74)
The Collection (92)
The Collection II (93)
About as Curious as It Can Be (01, Live recordings from 1974-75)
Gryphon in 1972 - Graeme Taylor (guitar), David Oberlé (percussion, vocals),
Brian Gulland (crumhorn, bassoon) and Richard Harvey (recorder, keyboards)
Super and very overlooked British prog band that were well into the classical realms. Remind me a lot of Gentle Giant on the Red Queen To Gryphon 3 which is often quoted as their very best. If you like prog rock with a very classical and jazz sensibility, with a sense of Gentle Giant, you got the right band.
|I've never been more impressed with such a (at least to me) undernoticed band. All I have is The Collection and this group captures the beauty of medieval/folk type music better than Dead Can Dance and even Gentle Giant. Highly recommended, I haven't heard more symphonic oriented later stuff yet. If you like medieval music this is the best prog band that I've heard do this style. The music is simply great.|
|Gryphon started out as a medieval folk band, and ended up as progressive rock band several years later. The basic lineup was: Richard Harvey (recorder, krumhorns,keyboards,etc), Brian Gulland (Bassoon,Krumhorns,keyboards,vocals), Dave Oberle (drums and vocals), and Graeme Taylor (guitars, recorder, vocals). Beginning with the second album various bass players came and went, and the last album features an expanded six-piece lineup with a new drummer, Oberle being a full time vocalist by this time. The first album is strictly a folk album, featuring mostly covers of anonymous traditional english folk tunes, although their unusual baroque instrumentation makes them more interesting than you might expect. Midnight Mushrumps began to move more into a progressive musical direction, although their folk roots are still the strongest element. With their third album, the folk element diminished and they became more influenced by the likes of Gentle Giant and Yes (who they toured the US with in 74): Red Queen To Gryphon Three is truly their masterpiece, a 35 minute four-part progressive instrumental opus without one dull moment. Raindance reintroduced vocals on about half the album's tracks, and offered more variety of style than any of their previous outings. Treason, the final album in their first incarnation, retained the general musical style of its predecessor, maybe a bit more acessible, all with vocals, and a more polished production. It's an album that would've broken the band beyond their cult status had it been released a couple years earlier, but by 77 it was no longer fashionable for big record companies to have fledgling progressive bands on their roster, so they were dropped and at that point it seemed like as good a time as any for the band to call it a day. The Collection is a retrospective containing mostly material from their first second and fourth albums, the longer tracks being edited. Collection II is similar, offering the balance of material from the first two, some selections from three and four, plus some unreleased material from the vaults. The place to start is RQTG3, most will agree this was their finest moment, it stands as a landmark of originality.|
|An amazing collection of Musicians (capital M). Gryphon started out by performing 13th century dances, jigs and reels and later moved into a more progressive vein. Their music is very complex, yet *very* listenable. The Collection is a good introduction.|
|I have Red Queen to Gryphon Three. This album combines medieval influences with progressive rock tendencies. That statement simply doesn't do justice to the magnificent music on the album. They blend krumhorn (in the oboe family), bassoon, and recorder with the traditional rock instruments of guitar, bass, synth, and drum. The conceptual album consists of four long songs, based on chess themes. The closest comparison would be to Gentle Giant in that there is incredible contrapuntal interplay between all instruments. Should you get the opportunity to snag the CD or LP, I strongly suggest you do so at that instant. You will not be disappointed.|
|Any band that features a krumhorn player is worth checking out! Oboes and bassoons as well, I think. In a similar vein to Gentle Giant, but Gryphon probably played more of the medieval flavoured stuff. More folky, I guess.|
|I've heard Red Queen To Gryphon Three. If you take away the neo-classical references from Gentle Giant and just leave in the mediaeval stuff, namely the recorders, you might come up with something very like this. They also use bassoon and krummhorn (!) to a great extent, giving them a style not likely to be confused with anyone else. All instrumental. -- Mike Ohman|
|I know this is old news to a lot of people, but with the re-issue of the first four Gryphon's on CD via Japanese import, many more people have a chance to hear this remarkable music. Unlike their first two, this, Gryphon's third album, does not take such a folk/medieval approach, but instead combines the listenability of progressive rock with their folksy roots. The result is a well-written, complex, light-hearted 40 minutes of music, consisting of only four tracks. There is counterpoint galore, enough to please a hard-core Gentle Giant fan, but no vocals to distract you from the brilliance of the music. When taken at once, it's hard to follow the mesh of interweaved harmony, but each instrument alone shows a restrained playing since their individual lines must fit into the pattern of the counterpoint. This is one of the most exciting recent releases. If you don't want to spend $25 on the CD, a taste of Gryphon can be found on their two Collection CDs, both of which are domestic in the US. Speaking of which... Collection is a compilation CD put out by Progressive International. Yes, those honest, uncorruptable businessmen who brought us Aragon are actually putting out some killer CDs these days. I bought this as a money saving attempt, rather than buying the first two Gryphon CDs on Jap import. Many of the tracks on Collection are from Gryphon and Midnight Mushrumps. If you like the folkier side of Gentle Giant, or if a progressive rock version of the Pogues or Steeleye Span interests you, this disc is worth checking out. Several of the tracks are arrangements of traditional and/or anonymous pieces of music from 200-500 years ago. Back then, your average bit of music was more complex than what passes for popular music today. It may have intricate polyrhythms and counterpoint, but still be accessible enough to dance to. But the rest of the tracks were composed by the band members, and - surprise! The originals are as wonderfully complex as the covers! Two members of Gryphon being graduates of the Royal Academy of Music may have something to do with this (isn't that where a certain Mr. Wakeman attended class?) There are few bands that combine the writing and performing talent of Gryphon. They surpass bands like Yes, King Crimson and Reniassance in pure virtuousity. This is a very worthwhile CD from a great band. Listen with an open mind an you'll be rewarded.|
|This British band is known for a music with folk themes and strong medieval influences. The five solid musicians, on Midnight Mushrumps, offer a varied instrumentation that includes keyboards, guitars, assorted flutes, bassoon, bass, drums, percussions, mandolin and krumhorn. The tracks usually feature lively melodies with delicate symphonic arrangements. The originality of the music lies in the successful presentation of traditional melodies and sounds in the usual rock context. This timeless production still sounds very fresh. -- Paul Charbonneau|
|I’m not going to lose words about their masterpiece Red Queen To Gryphon Three, which is an indispensable item for any prog adept. Raindance is slightly inferior comparing it to predecessor, though still very good. Treason is, what I’m going to write about here. This, their fifth album, would be qual. no.3 in Gryphon’s discography or perhaps should share third position with their second, Midnight Mushrumps, though they’re not that comparable either. Treason, released in 1977, is still quite good for times, when bands one after the other moved into the "yucky" areas of blatant commercialism. Album has seven tracks, the first one "Spring Song" being long exactly 10 minutes, is great musically. Few tracks have that pompous Yes-feel and are of lesser quality. This is obvious because Gryphon toured with Yes regularly, and after Raindance they also shared the manager. The medieval/folk element is barely present, with Gulland’s bassoon playing prevalently rockier patterns. Concerning the versatility of the music, this album is perhaps closest to Gentle Giant, otherwise these two bands aren’t even that comparable. More prominent is light and vital playing similar to Raindance’s shorter tracks. Overall, pretty decent album, which defines Gryphon’s opus as worth having. -- Nenad Kobal|
|Those absolutely obsessed with Gryphon might want to listen to Richard Harvey's "Concerto Antico for guitar and small orchestra," performed by classical guitarist John Williams with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paul Daniel. It seems a long way from progressive rock, but if you mentally add bass and drums, you're not far at all from Midnight Mushrumps. -- Don McClane|
Click here for the Gryphon web site
Camino del Concierto (80)
Despues del Silencio (83)
|Slightly new ageish prog-jazz all instrumental band. The album is dedicated to the memory of Hesus de la Rosa (Triana's keyboardist and leader). Nice, but not up to par with the great groups from Spain. -- Juan Joy|
[Regarding the first album, Guadalquivir ]:
A pretty decent Spanish fusion band with an interesting lineup: two guitars, saxes, bass and drums (w/occasional piano). Neither guitarist is as supremely gifted as countryman Max (Sunyer) Sune (of Iceberg), but both acquit themselves to positive effect throughout the record. Drums and bass are competent, and the sax player is OK, but kinda gets in the way at times. The compositions are very strongly influenced by Spanish (or perhaps Moorish?) folk themes, and of course, by Flamenco music. The very bare-bones production and total lack of synthesizers serves the music quite well. Strangely, the only band leaps to my mind to give you, the reader, a comparison is the Latin American fusion band Caldera, who also incorporated a lot of folk elements into their sound. Actually, this is a pretty good fusion record which stands up quite well against most of the over-produced tommyrot that gluts our used record and CD stores. My copy was pressed on very attractive green vinyl ... I hope yours is, too! -- Dave Wayne
Camino del Concierto, their second album, follows the same musical direction as
their first one, but the overall mood is happier, more colorful, and their sound a bit less
agressive. A few extra musicians collaborate as guests in this album, among them
Iceberg's keyboardist Josep "Kitflus" Mas.
The story behind their third and last effort is quite special. The band had already broken up one year earlier when, unfortunately, Triana's leader Jesus de la Rosa died in a crash car. As a tribute to his memory, Guadalquivir rejoined (minor changes in the line-up included) in order to write and record material for that third album. The general mood here is much calmer: some may find it somewhat new-ageish, but to my ears it is just somber and melancholy, obviously due to the elegiac subject to this album. There was no tour after this recording, but the band split up for good. -- Cesar Mendoza
[See Iceberg |
Click here for more info on Guadalquivir (in Spanish)
A La Vida Al Dolor (75)
Otros Dias (79)
One of my favorite artists from Spain is Gualberto Garcia Perez.
Gualberto first came to fame as the guitar player of Spanish
Psych/Hard-Rock band Smash
While still with this band, he started working on his first solo
album on which he was backed by them on several of the tracks, the
album remaind unreleased until 1978 when it fully issued as part of a
compilation album "El Nacimiento Del En Rock En Andalucia"
this very first album cobined several hard-rock tracks with Smash as
a backing group and quiet psychedelic folk with sitar, Spanish
guitars and violin, a combination which became Gualberto's trademark
After breaking up with Smash, Gualberto officially started out his solo career with the excellent Ala Vida, Al Dolor (To Life, To Pain). This great album consisted of two song cycles and continued his great psych-folk explorations with the affordmentioned combination of sitar, violin and Spanish guitar He further developed this sound, this time adding electric guitars, synthesizers and a rhythm section on his next Masterpiece Vericuetos which sounded like a jam session between Ravi Shankar, Pink Floyd and Vivaldi in a very complex and superbly structured instrumentals, inspite of the diverse influences the album is flowing and exciting and it's highly recommended.
He went on to release two more albums during the late Seventies which I haven't heared yet, but are reputed to be more in a chamber-rock style and good ones too. -- Gil Keltch
Towers Open Fire (97)
Death Seed (00)
Great Sage, Equal of Heaven (01)
The Ducks and Drakes of Guapo and Cerberus Shoal (03, 1 cut of Guapo, 1 cut of Cerberus Shoal, 1 cut of both together)
Five Suns (04)
Black Oni (05)
Guapo - (not necessarily in photo order) Daniel O'Sullivan (keyboards, guitar, electronics), Dave Smith (drums, percussion) and
Matt Thompson (bass, guitar, electronics)
Guapo changes record labels almost every album. Their line-up has always included Dave Smith on drums and Matt Thompson on bass, and added Caroline Kraabel on sax for some cuts from Hirohito through Great Sage ... and other guests as necessary. For the last two albums, however, they seem to have solidified as a three-piece, adding Daniel O'Sullivan on keys and guitar.
The only album I've heard personally is Five Suns on the Cuneiform label. This is a very heavy album, a mix of Magma (especially when the Fender Rhodes is the keyboard being heard), Larks Tongues-era King Crimson (especially when the Mellotron fires up), the "heavy metal" spaciness of Space Ritual-era Hawkwind, a dash of This Heat and liberal helpings of punk/thrash or Tool-like distortion and anger. I've also heard them compared to NeBeLNeST and Ruins, though I'm not familiar with these bands. Suffice it to say they're intense.
The centerpiece of the album is the "Five Suns" suite, broken into five sections and clocking in at over 45 minutes. For much of this time, drummer Dave Smith is going berserk on his kit while the keys and bass weave Magma-like hypnotic patterns around the frenetic rhythms, actually managing to keep the drums from decaying into total anarchy. Other times, the pace slows to hypnotic Hawkwindish metal which slowly succumbs to more drum anarchy as the intensity builds. In the first cut, it builds to such an intensity that it sounds as if your power amp has just fried, as the sound cuts out at fast random intervals ... but it hasn't, it's just a special effect.
After the "Five Suns" suite is a minute-long cut of silence before the final two musical tracks of the album. The audio equivalent of a bite of ginger between courses of sushi. The last two cuts are both similar to the "Five Suns" suite and a bit different. These lean heavily towards the Magma-like influences, but still done with Guapo's more modern distorted guitar sound. Overall, a good album if you're not in need of something upbeat and sunny today. That Guapo isn't. -- Fred Trafton
Hey, just in case you wanted to note it the trio Guapo are from England not from the U.S.A. I do have Five Suns and Black Oni and just like you said there are two excellent albums. [There] is also a side project from two of the members Daniel O' Sullivan and Dave Smith under the name Miasma ... -- Julio Lopez
Click here for Guapo's web site
Good old band, the album was themselves produced.
Guerilla Welfare (85)
Canadian avant-garde, music is created from taped, sampled and found sounds, along with some conventional instruments. Bits and pieces of dialog are spliced together and such. Pretty bizarre, me likes it but most would not enjoy.
By The Dark of Light (02)
The Epic Quality of Life (03)
The first thing everyone notices about Shaun Guerin is how similar he sounds to Peter Gabriel. That's no accident, as he was the lead vocalist (and drummer) for a southern California Genesis tribute band called Cinema Show. The influence of PG and Genesis can be heard on his solo albums, particularly By The Dark of Light, but they are by no means clone albums. Shaun also injected a lot of other proggy influences into his work and came up with something he could truly call his own.
By The Light of Dark is a real "solo" effort, all songs are composed by him and he plays all the instruments. His guitar and keyboard work make it difficult to believe he's first and foremost a drummer as an instrumentalist, making the instrumental cuts on his albums as interesting as the vocal ones. The title cut is almost all instrumental, with only two sentences sung in it, and some hot guitar and piano solos keeping it interesting. "France" is totally instrumental and features some nice subdued drum work to keep the piece moving along with some music that sounds a bit like a movie score. "Run to Fall" is more overtly percussion oriented, with drums, piano and various marimbas and other percussive sounds ... I think I hear a bit of his Clearlight bandmate Cyrille Verdeaux's piano style creeping in here too. Still, I must say I'm partial to the vocal pieces like "Sing My Prayers" which could easily be a lost Peter Gabriel cut, stylistically somewhere in between Security and So. I really like the album and can recommend it highly. It's also an "Enhanced CD" with three "unreleased" MP3 cuts hidden away in a data file that you can listen to on your computer ... they sound a bit unfinished, but they are after all "bonus" cuts.
But as much as I like By The Light of Dark, Shaun's crowning musical achievement will surely be his second solo album, The Epic Quality of Life. This sounds a lot more like a "band" album, and that's because he uses the talents of John Thomas (guitars) and Matt Brown (keys) of Cinema Show and Dan Shapiro (bass) of Clearlight in addition to his own instrument playing. The compositions and lyrics are far superior on this album ... in fact, they seem to bare the man's soul in many ways. "The Epic Quality of Life" is clearly sung by a man trying to find all the good things going on in his life in spite of not being "a man of wealth and fame" - upbeat, lushly orchestrated and with a bit of prog-metal creeping into the style, this is a brilliant piece. One of my other favorites, "Monsters in My Room" shows the other side ... a frightened and despairing child attempts to come to terms with the monsters in his room by inviting them in ... but the plan backfires and hundreds of monsters appear, and the music fades out with the child's certainty that he's about to be devoured. The vocal stylings on this song are very Peter Gabriel-like, but some of the other songs sound like they owe less to Gabriel, and I suspect this was Shaun's attempt to break free of the "sounds like Gabriel" syndrome. This is also an Enhanced CD, with a video of "The Edge of the Earth" from this album in a live concert performance from 2002.
On July 17th 2003 at the age of 41, the monsters in Shaun's room finally overwhelmed the epic quality of his life for just long enough ... Shaun is now singing in the great gig in the sky. Just prior to his death, he completed his work for Epic Quality ... and also for the newest Clearlight release, Infinite Symphony which features his drumming and Gabrielesque vocals. He leaves behind not only his Clearlight bandmates, but also his Cinema Show bandmates (who had already suffered the death of another band member a year earlier) and several family members including a son he mentions at least twice in Epic Quality .... Shaun's departure is a real loss to the world of prog and to those who loved him. Dan Shapiro of Clearlight Music has told me that they are planning one further Shaun Guerin release, working title Live and Archived. It will be a combo DVD/CD set of a live performance that was professionally videotaped October of 2002 and various cover tunes and unreleased songs including his version of Genesis' "Back in NYC" and Pink Floyd's "In the Flesh".
The other thing about these albums that can't go unmentioned is Paul Whitehead's incredible artwork. The first album, featuring a man carrying a water bottle and riding skates similar to the ones being used in the "croquet game" from Genesis' Nursery Cryme cover is excellent, but his painting for The Epic Quality of Life is just spectacular. If this painting was done before Shaun's death, then Whitehead is not only a genius but a prophet as well. It features a domed city floating in the clouds, but it's only half finished. The completed part is a country setting drawn in a strange perspective which makes the dome appear to go on forever into the distance. The city is separated by a wall, and the unfinished side includes a set of gargantuan drums, ghostly and fading (perhaps a reference to Shaun's posthumous Clearlight performance at Progday 2003 where he was credited as playing "ghost drums"), plus the skating man from By The Dark Of Light skating (to his doom?) from a plank extending out into space. In case you're wondering if these images have anything to do with Shaun's death, there's also Icarus flying too close to the sun ... this painting is a beautiful and heartfelt epitaph to a man who will surely be missed. -- Fred Trafton
[See Clearlight |
Magma's horn section. Alain plays saxes, Yvon plays trumpet, flugelhorn, etc. The music is straightahead fusion with very little zeuhl influence, despite the fact that Francis Moze, Bernard Paganotti and Klaus Basquiz are all over the album. The sound is hard, funky and brassy. Pip Pyle plays drums and wrote lyrics for two of the songs - the rest are all instrumentals.
[See Magma | Weidorje]
Cure for the Common Crush (07)
Id Guinness (yes, of course it's a pseudonym) is a solo artist whose work has been called "indie". Since that just means he's an independent artist, it simply means he doesn't record for any label, but there's also a particular expectation for a "sound" to the music that goes with "indie". Though Guinness does have some of this sound, there's also enough inventiveness and ... uhm ... dare I say "weirdness" to his album to qualify him for entry into the GEPR. If not "prog" itself (and to my mind there are far less "prog" bands listed in here), then at least his music is of a type that should appeal to a lot of people who like prog.
His album Cure for the Common Crush is a collection of songs that combines electric guitar soloing reminiscent of David Gilmour with some good drumming and interesting lyrics and vocals a bit reminiscent of David Bowie (in fact, there's a Bowie cover song on the album, "Always Crashing in the Same Car" which Bowie did on the Low album during the time he was collaborating with Brian Eno ... my favorite Bowie period). Both the vocals and guitar are subjected to interesting studio "treatments" that add to the interest of the songs ... and makes them a bit on the strange-sounding side unless you're into prog. That's not a problem for you is it?
In addition to Gilmour-type guitar soloing, there are also passages that are reminiscent of Peter Gabriel and also The Beatles or even some of the less grungy Eno albums like Before and After Science (but not ambient). As you may have guessed by now, this places this album at the "less challenging" end of the prog spectrum, but don't let that worry you. This is a very cool recording, and it's pretty tough to not call it "prog", even if it's more song-driven than epic. At any rate, go over to Guinness' web site or MySpace page (links below) and check out the songs. I found them thoroughly enjoyable ... you might too! -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Id Guinness' web site
Click here for Id Guinness' MySpace page
The Guitar Orchestra (91), A Pernod For The Bamboo Man (91)
The whole concept here was to create an album using guitars and only guitars, no voices, no keyboards, no synths and no samplers. The only other instrument is hand percussion... The sound falls somewhere between David Gilmour and Mike Oldfield, with layers upon layers of soaring guitar leads and delicate acoustic parts, this album is a must-have for all guitar junkies that are and ever were! The driving force here is one Chris Baylis, who produces, engineers, and plays all guitars except the Bass, capably handled by Simon Edwards. The Percussion is provided by Hossam Ramzy or Ricky Edwards (track depending). One of the best guitar albums ever, right up there with Steve Tibbetts Yr.
The Guitar Orchestra is actually Chris Bayliss plus bass and percussion. As the insert says, "Every sound you hear on these tracks (excluding percussion) was created by the playing of real acoustic and electric guitars... no voice, no midi hook ups, no samplers, no synths, no keyboards... just guitars.." Bayliss accomplishes some very full sounding compositions using multi-tracked guitars and a variety of effects. The songs are all very melodic, and the inventiveness certainly makes it stand out in comparison with the stuff that is coming down the "new age" pike these days.
Platsebo (91, Cassette)
Vsyo Kak Son (94, Cassette)
Coasts of Endlessness (99)
"S. P. Gulliver" is really Estonian keyboardist Vladislav "Slava" Petchnikov,
who is also the host of an Estonian Progressive Rock radio show (KUKU). His early
releases are almost impossible to find, even in Estonia, but Coasts of
Endlessness, his first totally-solo (almost) CD is available from Mellow
He calls his debut CD "electronic progressive new-age". That's not a bad description, though the "new-age" part may turn off prog fans more than it needs to. The closest albums I can think of to his style might be Synergy circa Metropolitan Suite or perhaps even closer would be Roger Powell's Air Pocket. The album consists of two songs, "The Coast of Endlessness", which is really a bunch of short movements played sequentially to form a suite, and "Metamorphosis", which is also a suite. The movements aren't particularly thematically related, it's more like a bunch of separate musical ideas arranged in a particular order. These ideas run the gamut from classical to fusion to new age. But they're all interesting, and this format allows Slava to move on to a new idea before the old one wears out its welcome.
All of the music is electronic (except for violin on "Metamorphosis"), including the percussion. This doesn't bother me much considering it's supposed to be a "Suite for Ensoniq SD-1" which, if you can't guess, is the brand name of his synthesizer. The percussion sections vary from drum sounds to old manual typewriters to the sound of a pack of firecrackers snapping in the distance. It's very imaginative, which keeps it from sounding too "drum machine".
The music on this album flirts with Classical stylings, progressive rock, jazz fusion and even occasionally ventures into David Arkenstone type symphonic new-age territory, though it doesn't stay there long enough to get annoying. A very nice CD, and worth trying out if all-electronic music doesn't bug you. Ensoniq should advertize this as a "how-to" manual for using their equipment to its fullest. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Radio KUKU info
Click here for S. P. Gulliver's web site
Gun (68), Gunsight (69)
Early group w/ Ginger Baker.
[See Bond, Graham | Three Man Army]
Looking At The Earth (84)
Rashad Shafi presents Gunesh (00, CD re-release of the above two LP's)
45° in a Shadow (00)
|Unusual fusion from Turkmenistan.|
I'm not sure whether Gunesh is really a high-energy jazz band or true fusion. On the
other hand, one might say the same of Frank Zappa circa
Hot Rats or The Grand Wazoo, which Gunesh resembles, particularly
in the brass arrangements. I don't think anybody would argue that
Frank doesn't belong in the GEPR, and I would put
Gunesh in the same category.
Rishad Shafi is the drummer of Gunesh, and like Bill Bruford, sets the tone for the band with his complex, chaotic and rhythmically ornate drumming. Vladimir Belousov is the fretless bass player who manages to follow these percussion contortions and forms the backbone of the music which has lots of composed parts with plenty of room for improvisation in and around them. Add flavorings from Western rock, Arabic chants, Indian sitar dronings, and a Vietnamese singer and you have quite an electic palette of colors to paint with.
Rashid Shafi Presents Gunesh is a compilation of tunes from the first two LP's, remastered and released by Boheme Records, and is of their earlier music. The music contains lots of brass and woodwinds, and only a smattering of guitar and synthesizer, though where they come through they are excellent. This more than anything moves this band away from the "fusion" label and more into "jazz", at least to my ear. There are definite Zappa stylings, but also woodwinds that remind of Didier Malherbe of Gong fame, but more Expresso-era than Angel's Egg.
45° Centigrade is 113° Fahrenheit for us Americans, and "in a Shadow" obviously means "in the shade". 113° in the shade is a scorcher, and so is this CD. A bit less ethnically flavored than the first, perhaps, but still with plenty of high-powered jazz and incredible, frenetic drumming from Rashid Shafi. This CD is little less experimental and more "westernized" fusion than the first album, with some tunes that sound like they are almost getting a bit poppish. This But for most of the album, it's still scorching fusion.
Both CD's are excellent if you're not too much of a purist about where jazz leaves off and rock begins. This is just plain fantastic music, I don't care what you label it. Both CD's highly recommended, but I would try Rashid Shafi Presents Gunesh first. -- Fred Trafton
|The second CD [45° in a Shadow] by a wonderful Turkmen band Gunesh (actually this is their third album) consists of the recordings made by the leader Rishad Shafi with different musicians in different years, precisely - from 1985 to 1990. What is more, the tracks of 45° In a Shadow were recorded in three different cities: in Ashkhabad (capital of Turkmenistan, their homeland), Tashkent (capital of Uzbekistan, where I live, by the way; the best recording studios in Central Asia) and Moscow (capital of Russia, still a cultural center of C.I.S - at least). I don't really know where was recorded the album's title-track, but such a terrible heat is possible in Ashkhabad only. However what may be, is that 45° In a Shadow chock full of hot eastern colours. Totally instrumental, apart from a couple little episodes with nice vocalized lines, this is a very energetic fusion album. With most compositions short here, all of them are played in up-tempo with cascades of blistering solos and smoking interplays between a great many instruments to the accompaniment of unceasing, bombastic, virtuosic and diverse drumming of Rishad Shafi. The two lengthy compositions are extremely diverse in mood, especially "Rhythms of Ancient Land". This is the only piece on the album composed and played in a somewhat pensive mood with charming sounds of sitar and light percussion. A bit more accessible than I See Earth (1984), 45° In a Shadow is nevertheless a more dynamic album, and so the fans of instrumental fusion are bound to feel a burst of energy with each listen (like fans of heavy metal, by the way). Don't forget that this album is full of really hot eastern colours, and Gunesh is, maybe, the only band whose music is totally weaved of Eastern motifs. -- Vitaly Menshikov|
to read Vitaly Menshikov's full review on his
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UFO (70), Hinten (71), Kang Guru (72), Guru Guru (73), Don't Call Us, We'll Call You (73), This Is.. (73), Der Elektrolurch (74), Dance of The Flames (74), Mani Und Seine Freunde (75), Tango Fango (76), Globetrotter (77), Live (78), Heydu (79), possibly more
Guru Guru started out around the same time and on the same label as Tangerine Dream, and the second lp I have, Hinten, is really spacey guitar rock with some effects and radio thrown in. Definite Hendrix influences and really really fun but simple space rock. Dances of the Flames (? from memory) is so much like a Mahavishnu sound that a friend of mine flipped when he heard it. The line up changes over time and the hit another peak on Mani und Seine Freunde, which is drummer Mani Neumier(sp?) with members of Kraan, Karthago, and Harmonia (which is basically Cluster, otherwise known as Mobius and Rhodelius). This one reaches a funky jazz rock sound that has that germanic tinge, I dunno how these german guys do it, but there's a sincerity these german groups that shines through even though they usually sing in English with funny accents). The follow up was Globetrotter, which still has some members of Kraan involved and which I think is a very polished effort. My LP is overplayed to death, I really hope these make it to LP or have. English lyrics on most of their stuff. I recently found a 1988 LP by them that sounds pretty different that anything else by them and I'm not too fond of it yet.
I personally prefer the early and more rare material by this psychedelic Kraut Rock trio. Both UFO and Hinten are Ohr records in the finest tradition of early German music and remind me what Jimi Hendrix may have sounded like if he wouldn't have keeled over. Fantastic throbbing bass, screaming guitar and pounding drums highlight these excellent releases. Their first two Brain albums Kan Guru and Guru Guru are also excellent yet more conventional. Watch out for the cover of Hinten though, which has pictures of a man's naked ass on both sides AND in the gatefold. If it wasn't so rare, I'd throw it away!
I heard a little of Hinten, which is very Hendrix-inspired but spacy. The self-titled album from 1973 features a side of straightforward power trio rock, but done in German style, and even including a medley of old Eddie Cochran songs! The other side is more of the sound-effect laden German space-rock we've come to expect. No keyboards, but a fine celestial sound that will appeal to many. Drummer/leader Mani Neumeier was supposed to have posessed the world's largest drum kit, he also had an over-the-top stage act involving elaborate headdresses and burning drumsticks. Dance Of The Flames is a really outstanding one I heard one time. The band adds a fusion element that somewhat reminds me of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and it's just stunning. The guitar and drums are all over the place! Some of the later albums, Mani und seine Freunde and Globetrotter for example, have a lot of people from Kraan guesting on them, so it ought to come as no surprise that they sound a lot like Kraan of the same period. -- Mike Ohman
Guru Guru were one of the long-lasting bands of the German underground, aka "Krautrock." I have three of their albums, Kanguru, Der Electrolurch and Dance of the Flames. Kanguru is an excellent experimental/heavy psych album with some spacy elements. Consisting of four long songs (each more than 10 minutes) the music consists of heavy guitar riffing ala Hawkwind (as oppsoed to the acid-drenched excursions of Ash Ra Tempel) only not as plodding as Hawkwind. I like this much better. A sense of humor pervades the entire album. These guys are a must of the early German scene but symphomaniacs will want to listen before they buy. Der Electrolurch is a compilation album that contains three songs from Kanguru and I assume it represents most of their other albums prior to 1974 as well. Many of the songs are similar to the style heard on Kanguru, some are a bit spacier and a couple come directly from Chuck Berry/Yardbirds/Jeff Beck school of blues-rock. Quite a variety can be heard on Der Electrolurch and would serve as a good introduction to the band, particularly if you are sketchy about this style. Finally, Dance of the Flames shows the band changing directions. Gone are the humor, the experimentalism and even the space elements. Replacing them are furious guitar solos, some of which are *very* reminiscent of John McLaughlin and Mahavishnu Orchestra circa The Inner Mounting Flame. Coincidence in titles? You decide. Other solos are grungier and bluesier and seem more akin to German Oak circa their self-titled release though with more direction. Elsewhere there are occasional Hendrix-like riffs solos though without his unique vision. This is a great album. So, while Der Electrolurch would be a good introduction to Guru Guru (their earlier years, anyway), any of these albums would be good purchases.
I have Kan Guru, and it doesn't do much for me. Pretty good jams, but I didn't hear anything in there that made me think it was worth what I paid for it.
... jaloa ylpeyttä yletän ... ylevää nöyryyttä nousen
(a.k.a. ... pride's an exalted purchase... humility's the lever sublime) (78,
as Jukka Gustavson's Alone Together Orchestra)
Valon vuoksi (79)
Toden toistoa (81)
Kadonnut Häviämättömiin (95)
Between Fire and Ice (03)
Kiiltomato, kynttilänliekki, kuu ja aurinko (05)
|After disbanding Wigwam, Gustavson made an instrumental album Jaloa Ylpeyttä yletän, Ylevää Nöyryyttä nousen [English translation: "pride's an exalted purchase, humility's the lever sublime" - Ed.] (a long name ...) which is a whole-record-lasting composition based on Bible (the creation, arch, etc.). Next was Valon Vuoksi, which was also instrumental. Then, in 1981 he made a prog album with Finnish lyrics: Toden Toistoa. Unfortunately, no one wanted to publish it, so he made it with at his own expense. It flopped and Gustavson went totally bankrupt. This is sad, because the music is really good Weather Report-influenced prog. After a ten year recording break (due debts and bankruptcy) he has published two CDs: Bluesion and Kadonnut Häviämättömiin. Both include songs in Finnish and English, and instrumentals as well as concrete sound effects. Bluesion is almost a "man and a piano" project, Kadonnut is made with a band featuring old Finnish prog-jazz musicians. I recommend listening to them, although his style is nowadays much simpler than in the '70s. If you can get any of his old solo albums, buy them! People haven't yet understood their value. As a conclusion I'd like to say that Jukka Gustavson was the major creating force in Finnish progressive rock, and no one will deny him being the most brilliant and imaginative keyboardist in Finnish rock ever! -- Sasha Mäkilä|
Keyboardist Gustavson used to be in Wigwam, along
with bassist extraordinaire Pekka Pohjola, and also
appeared on Pohjola's first solo album (Pihkasilma
Kaarnahorva). Alone Together ... is apparently
Gustavson's first solo release. At first glance, I
though this might be a Finnish take on Jesus Christ
Superstar, as the album cover depicts a nightmarish
urban scene on the front which contrasts with an
angel-filled paradise, replete with not-so-subtle
religous imagery, on the other. The copious liner
notes (in Finnish and English) are full of biblical
references. However, the music is purely instrumental,
and is played by a core sextet (Gustavson and Esa
Kotilainen on keys, Juha Bjorninen on guitar, Tomi
Parkkonen on drums, bassist Heikki Virtanen, and
sax/flute man Pekka Poyry) augemented by a rather
large horn section. The liner notes make it very clear
that the music ties into certain religous concepts,
which I won't go into here. Suffice it to say that the
music, presented as a continuous album-length piece,
is really fine. There is a musical theme which runs
throughout the album, which is first stated by
Gustavson on solo organ at the opening of Side 1. This
theme is picked up by the ensemble, and then the
sextet enters and improvises variations on the theme.
Stylistically, Alone Together ... is difficult to
pigeonhole. What I hear is a sort of synthesizer-free
jazzy-big band-rock (...but not really "fusion") which
reminds me of Pohjola's first few solo records
(particularly Pihkasilma Kaarnakorva and B the
Magpie, both of which feature saxophonist Pekka Poyry
as well), Zappa's "big band" stuff circa Waka Jawaka
and Grand Wazoo, or perhaps some of the instrumental
pieces by groups like If and Zzebra,
who also used horn sections. A fine piece of work.
Recorded a year later, Valon Vuoksi is an altogether different kettle of fish. Though I am not 100% sure about this, the music seems to have been written for a ballet performance. Appropriately, perhaps, Valon Vuoksi is dominated by through-composed works for various small ensembles (reeds, violin, keys, percussion) very much in a modern classical or chamber music vein. While Valon Vuoksi definitely has its charms, those looking for the propulsive jazz- rock of Yksin Yhdessa will be sorely disappointed. -- Dave Wayne
During his years in Wigwam, Jukka Gustavson came
to be considered Finland's premier rock keyboardist, and few players have rivalled him as an
influence (which says also something about lack of domestic competition). His virtuoso playing
on the organ, his distinctive, Stevie Wonder-influenced vocal style, but above all else
his ability to compose both affable melodies and highly ambitious musical structures were a
quintessential part of Wigwam's sound during their
"progressive" phase. Sometimes his ambitions and his serious, personal vision have been too
opaque to be appreciated, but his sincerity and persistence has never been in doubt. This also
applies to his solo career, which began three after his departure from
Wigwam for artistic and ideological reasons and has run since
then with extremely low public profile.
Originally composed as the first part of the score for a ballet called "Yksin yhdessä" (Alone Together), ...jaloa ylpeyttä yletän... ylevää nöyryyttä nousen (LP Love Records LRLP 194; CD Love/Siboney LRCD 194) is an album-length instrumental work supposedly depicting the biblical themes of the Creation of the world, the Fall of Man and the Flood. Gustavson, who had become a Jehovah's Witness, also supplemented the album's message with a self-published 50-page book that he handed out to anyone interested. As programmatic as the music may be, the first side of the album forms an excellent flow of musical motifs, from the hymnal opening chords on the organ to the jaunty woodwind melodies that recall Gustavson's better moments on Being. The second side gets into more dissonant waters and sounds less convincing, though no less adventurous, for it: the cacophony of guitars, synth noises, percussion rumble and sound effects on "Vedenpaisumus" reminds less of a world-engulfing flood than a bad pile-up on a busy motorway. After this montage of styles, the final and longest track, "Kolme evankeliumia" (Three Gospels), is almost straightforward fusion, where virtuosic solos from keyboards, guitar and saxophones over a funky and harmonically staid instrumental backing are punctuated by deft horn riffs and melodies. Impeccably played and produced, this is a brilliantly offbeat album that rates as Gustavson's greatest solo achievement.
Valon vuoksi (LP Kerberos KEL 604) also began life as a ballet score, but is a more low-key affair than its predecessor. Its concept is the old romantic standby, the celebration of the cycle of seasons and nature as a manifestation of divine design (the album title can be read as either "the Flood-tide of Light" or "for the Sake of Light"). The message is conveyed mainly through Gustavson's organ, electric and acoustic pianos, with support from cello, viola, woodwinds and percussion in various combinations, creating one long, meditative chamber-music piece. Again, the two sides of the album showcase different musical aspects: while the first side favours sombre, sometimes slightly dissonant modal themes, organ and electronic tones, the second side employs slightly more lyrical material, piano and acoustic tones - until the themes fuse together on the title track, a gloriously pretty but unaffected pastoral. The album is the closest foray Gustavson has made to purely classical mode of composition and development, stepping rather far from the structural and especially rhythmic conventions of rock and jazz - though jazz phrasing is still all over his synthesizer solo on the opening track "Taivaan Täyteyttä" ("Fullness of Heaven"). Hence the conventional drumkit appears only on the brief, jubilant "Kesän Kunniaksi ..." ("For the Glory of Summer"). Earthy, devout and slow-moving, Valon vuoksi is difficult and perhaps not entirely successful in conveying its programme to the listener, but a very idiosyncratic and creative work all the same.
By 1981, New Wave had engulfed Finland as well, and progressive rock was about as desirable as syphilis. Under the circumstances, Gustavson had tremendous trouble getting his third solo album, Toden toistoa (LP Ponsi PEALP 26; CD Ponsi PEACD 26), released, eventually having to finance it with a grant and money loaned from his relatives, and to absorb the loss, when it sunk without most of the nation even noticing it was ever there. This was no surprise: Gustavson may have discarded woodwinds in favour of synthesizers and guitar and beefed up his rock and even funk elements, but he was still a ghost of yesteryear for the punters and, with two commercially underwhelming albums under his belt, hardly hot property for the record company. The fact that he decided to open his mouth again and express his religious beliefs across each of the album's four long tracks didn't help its performance either. The value of Toden toistoa (Reproducing the Real) has only been properly acknowledged with the CD re-release nearly two decades later, for while it doesn't match Gustavson's two earlier works, it is still a good album, perhaps the last really good one he has put out. The first two compositions are among Gustavson's best, full of his typically easy-flowing instrumental and equally choppy vocal melodies. They contain some of his most accessible - and still progressive-rock - songwriting and some of his most conventionally "symphonic" approach to arrangements. On the second side the rhythm takes over more, relegating melody and harmony more as a support for the chanted or spoken lyrics. Gustavson's lyrical deluges of praise and proclamation drew some understandable critical flak, but he is hardly preaching or prosetylising. There is a general smoothly-rolling, joyful vibe marking this whole album, its tight, often funky rhythms and the interplay of guitar and Gustavson's keyboards, which seems to come from a genuinely benign and content man striving for his vision of beauty and truth.
The world, however, had little time for all that, and after this commercial fiasco Gustavson was without the finance or a publisher for his music for over a decade. He spent the 1980s composing for his wife's modern-dance productions. When he did re-emerge, it was quietly and cautiously with a rather surprising album.
Despite its name, Bluesion (Beta BECD 4026) is not a bona fide blues album but a collection of songs and instrumentals covering blues, ragtime, pop and European art music. I emphasise the word collection: this is a sweep through disparate styles rather than an attempt at fusing them on a large scale, as he had tried to do on his earlier albums. The meditative "Everyday" and the shuffling "Varo - Ihminen" ("Watch Out - Man") are the most obvious blues works, but the joyful pop harmonies of "Song of the Secret Person of the Heart" are already some way from the "blue root". Then there are collages made out of sound effects and speech, while "Palokärjen lento yli vuonon" ("A Black Woodpecker Flies over a Fiord") contains a neoromantic art song complete with a classical-style soprano vocal from Maria Boman. Apart from a bit of guitar and drums, the instrumentation is almost exclusively piano, with synthesizer used for dashes of orchestral colour, making this the most low-key album Gustavson has released.
On Kadonnut häviämättömiin (Beta BECD 4032) Gustavson returned to more substantial arrangements and adventurous playing. The driving, jazz-influenced "Meren pauhu meren laulu" ("The Roar of the Sea, the Song of the Sea") spins a nimble riff that serves as scaffolding for strong and focused solo and ensemble playing. Other instrumentals repeat the pattern, but with less conviction. "Kontrasteja" ("Contrasts") does get interesting, the way it dissolves into free-time atonalism and then resolidifies around a natty keyboard arpeggio that is a clear nod towards progressive rock archetypes. Though many of the leads and solos are allocated to the guitar, the focus is still on piano or breathy, bell-like synthesizer pads, at times exclusively, as on the impressionistic "Metsä meren keskellä" ("The Forest Among the Sea"). Three of the five vocal cuts - the extended 12-bar blues "You My Brother", the stately ballad "Rakkautta rakasta" ("May You Love Love") and the spoken experimental piece "Tuomion humussa" ("In Judgement's Whirl") - sit uncomfortably together with the rest of the material, even if they are not without merit as individual compositions. The mood of their lyrics, as of much of the music, is largely melancholy and downcast, lending the album a pessimistic air more akin to Gustavson's Wigwam years than the exultation of his early solo work. In quality it matches neither.
If Kadonnut häviämättömiin ("Lost in the Imperishable") was dark and fragmented, Moments (Impala 003) is a relaxed and simple return to one of Gustavson's early influences, the Jimmy Smith-style organ jazz. Drums, bass, guitar and saxophone accompany his undeniably expressive Hammond and Fender Rhodes through mid-tempo R&B grooving, cooljazz shuffles and even some free excursions. Rock doesn't come into the picture, except perhaps peripherally on the cover version of "Yesterday", the album's only vocal track. As a jazz record it works nicely, though occasionally it seems to lack the necessary spark.
Between Fire and Ice (Rockadillo Records ZENCD 2082) is a richer work. The backing band had by now settled into the Jukka Gustavson Organ Fusion Band, and they produce a vibrant performance on the long jazz instrumentals like "Fraktaali symmetria". But this time Gustavson branches beyond jazz and vintage keyboards, using blues songs, hip-hop-style beats and spoken vocals ("Walkin' & Talkin'") and concludes with the instrumental "Syrjäännyt" ("You'll Be Marginalised") whose mischievously swinging piano ostinati, organ breaks and bass solos sail near Wigwam's Fairyport. In a way, the album can be seen as a summing up of Gustavson's musical history, just as the title track proclaims his musical credo. It is a seasoned, mature album by an experienced artist with a long career behind him. It is also a rather tame work and certainly not progressive rock anymore. Fans of progressive should still try Gustavson's first three, as they contain some of the most idiosyncratic material made under that rubric. -- Kai Karmanheimo
|Links||[See Kotilainen, Esa | Pohjola, Pekka | Wigwam]|
Dry Humping the American Dream (02)
Sludge Test (06)
Live at MS Stubnitz Concert (08, Live DVD, recorded 2001-07)
A Modest Proposal (09)
It is an arena where the sounds of chaos do battle. Ancient bands battle to the death on these bloody grounds, their music transformed to physical violence by the house band. Is it The Electric Castle? Oh, no. This arena makes The Electric Castle look like a playground. This is The Gutbucket, the RIO incarnation of The Electric Castle. You are invited. The stage is set. The topless sheep are kitting neckties from their own flesh. The crowd is assembled ... the giant "play" button is illuminated in the center of the arena. Prepare to be assaulted by sound, and despair!
Wormholes spin open at opposite ends of the arena and the contestants slide into place. In this corner ... The Residents, humanoid eyeballs in tuxedos and top hats. And in the opposite corner, Frank Zappa and the We're Only In It For The Money line-up of The Mothers Of Invention, all dressed in drag. The referees are here ... the house band, known to all as the Gutbucket band. Barbarian axe players, crazed sax player and ninja drummer using the drumsticks as nunchuku. Don't mess with these guys. They will transform the eldritch chaos of the combatants into audio waves to be captured. The contestants approach one another, eying each other warily. One of the now-naked sheep jumps from its cloud, does an acrobatic spin and lands on the "play" button. The crowd goes wild! "Bleat, bleat, baaaaah!" Let the orgy of sound begin!
The audio chaos is impossible to describe; it causes pain and anguish, yet also great pleasure as it assaults the ears and other vital organs. Saxophones squeal in agony while being mercilessly battered by the ninja drummer and barbarian bassist. The audience of naked sheep are beginning to look more like ominous, hairless neanderthal versions of the traditionally innocuous creature. They grunt and squeal with pleasure at the gore and bloodshed below. No, wait, that's the sound of the guitar player. Anger. Confusion. Chaos. Spastic note flurries coalesce into structures that mimic the rough outlines of melodies, only to be destroyed in the next measure. Pleasure. Pain. Ecstasy!
And then, it is done. The contestants are shredded blobs of throbbing meat at the center of the arena. Nobody wins in The Gutbucket. The crowd disperses. The house band mops the sweat and gore from their brows and begins to break down their instruments. A lonely figure enters the arena, walking to the center where the giant "play" button has been replaced by a single silver disc. He picks it up and moves by the band toward the exit, nodding in solemn salute. "Even better than A Modest Proposal", Steve Feigenbaum of Cuneiform Records says to the band. "Got a name for it yet?".
Steve couldn't quite hear the answer, and wasn't sure he wanted to. So he just called it Flock instead. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Gutbucket's web site
Click here for Gutbucket's MySpace page
Click here to order A Modest Proposal or Flock from Cuneiform Records
A Vos Desirs (77)
En Concert (81)
Danse la Musique (85)
Glen River (90)
|The first albums were strictly Celtic folk music, and excellent if you like that genre. Comparable to the Chieftains or to the more folk-oriented Horslips albums. The third one however is a mixture of Celtic folk, prog rock and jazz, which makes it much more interesting. All the musicians are top notch. If you like prog and Celtic music, this may be for you. -- Juan Joy|
|From what I gather, Gwendal originated as a band devoted to playing the ethnic/folk music of Brittany. By the time they recorded their 6th album, their music had evolved into a melange of folk, rock, jazz and progressive elements. Speaking to a friend, I once described the music on Gwendal as being "... what the Dixie Dregs would have sounded like if they'd grown up listening to Celtic music". Listening to this record today, some aspects of that comparison are dead-on, but others may mislead the reader. Some aspects of the instrumentation are similar: violin, guitar, fretless bass and drums. Gwendal adds flute to the mix, and there are no keyboards. The compositions are attractive and tuneful without being sappy, odd and quirky without being contrived, and there's lots of room for improvisation by violinist Bruno Barre (who has a really lovely, effects-free sound), flutist Youenn Le Berre and guitarist Francois Ovide. While not as chops-heavy or fusiony as the Dregs, they manage to stir the pot pretty vigorously. There are also some truly lovely acoustic pieces, and enough sophistication to keep a jazz/RIO nut like myself stimulated. Even so, Gwendal's folk roots are always apparent. Play this record (... if you have it!) for your friends who say they "hate" progressive rock ... they will quickly change their tune! Francois Ovide is on most of Albert Marcoeur's recordings, later turned up in John Greaves' Parrot Fashions band. -- Dave Wayne|
Legend of the Kingfisher (73)
Another major rarity, Legend of the Kingfisher had only 140 copies originally pressed. This album is a psych album with some progressive touches. The opening cut contains plenty of Farfisa organ, vocal harmonizing and some Jefferson Airplane-styled fuzz guitar. After that the sound becomes a little more Progressive though still firmly in the psychedelic. The Farfisa isn't very prevalent; the guitars lead the way. In fact, there are a couple instances of some nice, intertwined dual guitar leads. There is plenty of flute and bird songs and other summer sounds between each song. But it's not as summer breezy as Ithaca, for example. Overall, not bad but I'd say check out the Ithaca first.
Live at the Bar Maldoror (85)
A strange project that involves Steve Stapleton remixing bits from concerts by Nurse With Wound, Current 93, Annie Anxiety, John Balance, D&V, Diana Rogerson and others. Steve Stapleton claims it's not really a NWW album but it apparently sounds like one. Nothing to do with the NWW album with the same title and also nothing to do with the NWW album entitled Gyllensköld, Geijerstam and I at Rydberg's. Confusing eh?
[See Nurse With Wound | Stapleton, Steve | Rogerson, Diana | Current 93]
In The Garden (71)
Unlock The Gates (73)
James Walsh Gypsy Band (78)
Gypsy (promo shot, no personnel credits given)
I don't really care for ... anything produced after their 1st 3 albums. [They] show a big change to their style, ie., from progressive to popish. [But] I have the first three "classic" records. Here is my mini review of each.
Of all the songs on [side 1], "Man of Reason" is kind of a pop-rock tune that could have hit the charts. Dual lead guitar use. The keyboard is prominent on this song. Kind of a Grand Funk style. [Side 2] is my favorite side of the album. "The Third Eye" has a progressive feel to it. They use a piano in the song. Pianos are not traditionally a progressive instrument, but it works. "Decisions" is a great tune. I wouldn't characterize this as being a progressive tune in the classic sense of the word since they sing throughout, but they use long stretches of instrumentals and it is still very progressive. Hope that makes sense. Starts off slowly, builds and then it takes off. [On side 3, the] songs blend their harmonies, singing, keyboards. They also do some jamming with their guitars, but most are slow with the use of strings. [Side 4 contains two songs]. "Dead and Gone" is a mash of acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and keyboards, combining with some jazz elements. They also sing throughout the song. Superb style. "Tommorow Is The Last To Be Heard" is a rocker, with the style of Santana.
In the Garden:
I guess the first two [albums] are collectors items based upon the web site. -- Gary Lowery
Click here for the official
Gypsy web site
Click here for a Gypsy fan site