Ma Banlieu Flasque (79)
Ma Banlieu Flasque (circa 1979) - Loic Gautier (bass), Marc Ledevedec (guitars), Christian "Chypo" Cheype
(drums, vocals), Philippe Maugars (guitars, vocals), Philippe Botta (flute, sax)
Late '70's French proggers Ma Banlieu Flasque released a single eponymous album in 1979. They wear their influences on their sleeves ... the lyrical whackiness of Gong, the complex playfulness of Frank Zappa and the rhythmic chantiness of Magma. Reminiscent of Moving Gelatine Plates with perhaps some of the RIO avant leanings of Etron Fou Leloublan. Like Gong, playful silliness with such excellent musicianship underlaying it that you have to take them seriously in spite of it. Recording quality is very '70's sounding. Though I haven't heard the whole album, there's a great sampling available to hear at their MySpace site (see link below).
This album has been out of print for a long time, though there were rumors about it being reissued on the Musea Records label. This would make a lot of sense, since it's Musea's mission to preserve (especially) French prog history. However, as of this writing, this has not happened yet. In the meantime, check out their MySpace page and give them a listen. Excellent stuff, another one of those obscure bands from the '70's who deserved more recognition than they got. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Ma Banlieu Flasque's web site
Click here for Ma Banlieu Flasque's MySpace page
Machiavel (76, re-released on CD in 1993 w/ bonus material)
Jester (77, re-released on CD in 1993 w/ bonus material)
Mechanical Moonbeams (78, re-released on CD in 1993 & 2005 w/ bonus material)
Urban Games (79, re-released on CD in 1993 w/ bonus material)
New Lines (80, re-released on CD in 1993 w/ bonus material)
Valentine's Day (82, Live)
Break Out (81)
The Cry of Pleasure (87)
The Best of Machiavel (91, Compilation)
20th Anniversary Machiavel - The Very Best Of (96, Compilation)
Virtual Sun (99)
Break Out (00)
Original Hits (00, Compilation)
Anthology (01, Compilation/Unreleased Recordings)
Welcome to Paradise (03)
The Essential of Machiavel (03, Compilation)
Machiavel in 1975
Machiavel were a Belgian band of the mid-seventies, whose brand of progressive rock was very Genesis/Supertramp influenced. Combining Tony Banksian lead keyboard lines with Supertramp-like piano comping, their music was centered around keyboards, and the musicianship of the members was certainly top-notch.
|Several Albums but only Jester and Mechanical Moonbeams are of interest here. Subsequent they totally sold out. Following comments apply to these two albums only. Belgian band, their sound based on highly melodic yet simple structures, with some general influence from Genesis; some tracks use a piano based style reminiscent of Supertramp, others have an etherialism akin to Pulsar's Halloween. Lots of keyboards, lots of Mellotrons. The vocalist is a chameleon of sorts, can change from a powerful yet pure to a rough gravelly sound on a moment's notice. Vocals are in English. Both are good.|
|One of Belgium's biggest and best-known symphonic prog bands. Jester is very much in the Genesis mould, with lots of ARP synths, Mellotron, and the odd melodic, acoustic-guitar orientated song (notably "Moments"). But Machiavel adds a harder rock feel with the strong guitarwork of Jean-Paul Devaux. Vocalist Mario Guccio is in the Peter Hammill mould, a singer with a wide range, both in pitch and emotions, and may not be to everyone's taste. There are enough disparate dynamics and assymetrical meters (7/8 seems to be a favourite of theirs) to keep die-hard prog-heads in check, yet it's not too far out there to scare off neo-prog fans. Mechanical Moonbeams cranks up the hard-rock elements at times, so occasionally it resembles AC/DC with a Mellotron (listen to "Summon up Your Strength," if you don't believe me). But there still are some more melodic moments: "Mary" and "Rebirth" particularly. Also, the inspiring "Beyond the Silence" and "The Fifth Season" make this one well worth the effort. After Moonbeams, keyboardist Albert Letecheur was given the boot, he was replaced by a second guitarist (Thierry Plas), and you can pretty much guess the result. Stop at Mechanical Moonbeams. -- Mike Ohman|
Machiavel is back in 99 with a new album, and a new line-up (Guccio vocals,
Thierry Plas guitar, Isaye drums, Roland de Greef bass, Hervé
Borbé keyboards)(Borbé is the former keyboardist of the Belgian
Prog band Now). The style is more back to the Jester
era than New Lines. Welcome to Paradise is a wonderful album, with some
great songs in the vein of the Mechanichal Moonbeam era.
I would also [like to correct] that Letecheur left the band after Urban Games, and not Mechanical Moonbeam. Thierry Plas [was] recruited for New Lines. -- Alain Ruelle
[See Now (Belgium)]
Click here for Machiavel's web site
Out Of The Blue (73), Bon Voyage (74)
El Concierto Para Ir En Globo (80)
An experimental spanish quartet of guitars, violin, clarinet and drums. They play in a high energy electronic jazz with strong RIO influences.
Mad Curry (70)
Prog comparable to Soft Machine circa Volume 2 and Julian's Treatment for the organ work and female vocals.
Here is a case where only the rarity of an album has defined its legendary status. In this case it's generally under-deserved, as this band is merely better than average neo-Grobschnitt type stuff, there are as many boring tracks as there are good ones. English vocals with strong german accents.
With Love (68)
Made In Sweden (69)
Snakes In A Hole (69)
Live At The Golden Circle (70)
Mad River (71, aka Made in England)
Where Do We Begin? (76)
|Essential band! They where a trio, Georg Wadenius on guitar and vocals , Bo Haeggstroem on bass and Tommy Borgudd on drums. On their first 4 LPs they made really great Jazzrock, with strong bass and vocals. Their fourth Mad River (it was also published under the name Made in England) is a real masterpiece of Scandinavian prog. I could only think of the best recordings of Burnin Red Ivanhoe or Wigwam when listening to this one. Its amazing what unusual sounds and feels that group can get into, and how full a sound they are able to get from what is basically a trio. Definitely a must, quite unique, i don't know something to compare it with!! The last one was some kind of a second start (from the original lineup there is only Wadenius here) and Pekka Pohjola of Wigwam joined in. Here you find fusion ala Brand X, but not that impressive. Recommended are the first three, highly recomed is Mad River! -- Achim Breiling|
I just found your very nice "little" progressive-rock page, and started
looking around. Since I'm from Sweden I looked if you had included Made in
Sweden, and sure you had ... BUT, Made in Sweden has released one more record
that you didn't have on your list ... it's quite a funny release, not like
their other records.
The record is named Regnbagslandet (transl. "The Rainbow Country") and was released in 1970 on the Swedish radios record label "SR Records". The story is this, there where a TV show for kids called "Regnbagslandet" and the record is the original music from the TV show (of course written and played by Made in Sweden). It is not a pure music LP, there also is a lot of monologues/stories from the TV show, read by another Swedish singer (Tommy Korberg).
The music isn't to be compared to their other releases but still, I wish that kind of music had been on the TV I watched as a kid! For anyone that really likes Made in Sweden's records it is a must have! -- Micke R.
|Links||[See Group, The | Pohjola, Pekka | Solar Plexus | Uni Sono | Wigwam]|
German one-shot featuring two guitarists (one doubling on synth), drums, bass, and a lead singer who doubles on flute and Mellotron. The sound is that of a synthetic Camel with heavier guitar, mixed with some Floydian tendencies and acoustic+electric guitar arrangements with flute a-la Neuschwanstein. The vocals (in english) are OK, but not great. The title track is a long 17 minute opus that occupies all the real estate on side 2. Good but not essential.
Madrugada (74), Incastro (77)
On the Gulf (73, limited release, re-released in 1997 as Maelstrom on CD)
Immature Oocytes (82, solo album by Maelstrom guitarist Robert Williams which also contains Maelstrom material)
Maelstrom - Mid-1974 promo -
Jim Miller (drums),
Robert Williams (reeds, guitars, keyboards, vocals),
Mark Knox (keyboards),
Jim Larner (flutes, tuned percussion, guitars, keyboards, vocals),
Jeff McMullen (guitars, vocals),
Bruce Weingardt (bass)
Obscure mid 70's sympho band which has managed to mix-in such seemingly disparate elements, as Yes- or Henry Cow-sounds are and still remained in symphonic waters. Essential for sympho-fans and for all real progsters! -- Nenad Kobal
for a band history and evolution into MD19.
I dig this through Musea, blindfold, as I thought it must be pretty in the
vein of Univers Zero or Art Zoyd. However, tritons abound (if they wouldn't
I'd keep wonder to death, where's that moniquer from), and from that aspect,
myself being attracted by that kind of musical expressions as moth by the
light, I seemed to be on the right way. After close listening I discovered
much, much more, but not entirely on the positive side.
More than half of the silvering is usurped by two very long, extended tracks "Jestem UFO" 12 mins+ and "Tulku" 14 mins+, of which the later is a bit closer to the ground. These two could be at home on every headier release of 70's German improgpsychelectro scene, fueled by lysergic acid. Of course, if done only by guitars, fx' and drums. But fortunately dissonances (or at least that kind of feeling) are omnipresent. On later occasionally cello or piano lands, springing dodecaphonic slabs, while other instruments are always somewhere above. The former "smoker" is made esp. for the keyboards which send bats, yes, bats straight to the brain which play blind man's buff in-there and bounce from the cortex (sooo high-pitched, arghhh), and for moaning cello. Both "made-to-measure's" provide a lot of (too much) room for long, smoking guitar-solos and improvisations.
These two mammoths are juxtaposed with four new music/RIO-ish miniatures, which bring to mind U. Zero ("Planiergerat"), Nimal ("Electric Mandala") and even Etron Fou ("Herbatka Yassova"). Why band chose the brevity for these very well accomplished musical themes, is beyond me. If these'd be just a little bit extended, there'd be a great deal fun. I think they could be longer, three minutes each (I cannot help but feel deceived a bit.) And when an album starts with bass-clarinet dodeca-solo, or this is paired with the blaring trumpet (flugelhorn) while bassoon is digging tunnels in neighbourhood, as on "Kalambury", I couldn't think of anything but opposition. Besides that, there's also 6 min+ long "Enoptronia", where nice congas can be heard and which announces headier things, but remains squarely in contempo district. The track no.9, "Columbo" is jazzy-pop with nice flute, sounds like a relief party, yet it is not the closing number. Ironically, silvering fades out with a Schonbergian mini-(morris) "Opus Hokus", thus confusing listener even more.
Nevertheless, despite oddities mentioned (one has to get used to them), this item sounds very original, very fresh and very prog!! And not really quirky or murky. Overall, still very promising and for the prog-explorers, recommended!!! -- Nenad Kobal
Click here for
Maestro Trytony's web site. I hope you can read Polish.
Click here to order from Musea Records.
Magdeburg (80, a.k.a. Verkehrte Welt), Grande Hand (82)
Melodic, symphonic prog.
|Magdalena's single album is one of the best albums to emerge from the Japanese progressive rock explosion in the 80's. Like many of the symphonic rock bands in Japan, Magdalena were a five-piece with a strong guitar and keyboard presence and powerful female vocals, in this case by Megumi Tokuhisa, who went on to join Teru's Symphonia after Magdalena disbanded in 1988 (there was an attempt to revive the band in 1991, but the only thing to come out of it was a demo tape). "Leanhaun-Shee" opens the album with a powerful melody played by electric guitar and lush synthesizers, leading into an elegant verse where Tokuhisa's voice alternatively croons softly and soars into dizzying heights, reminding a lot of Kate Bush. The vocal sections are very accessible, almost like neo-prog, but the whirlwind-like keyboard and guitar work which accompanies them lifts the music on a whole different level. "Anna-Magdalena". This ballad shows the classical side of the band, with Tokuhisa's voice firmly in operatic mode and backed by some classical guitar and very baroque piano and harpsichord work. The somewhat mellow song is given a bit of edge by a short, shredding electric guitar solo. "Shadow". This driving, up-tempo rock song is propelled by biting electric guitar riffing and features some aggressive support vocals from Hiroko Nagai of Pageant. It is the weakest song on the album, because of a rather mundane vocal melody, but the instrumental work, including nimble synth and guitar solos, is again excellent. "Waltz" is another classical-sounding piece, darker this time, with the synthesized strings and the mournful electric guitar slowly waltzing along while Tokuhisa's voice sings long, emotional vocal lines. The sound of church bells announces "Omen", the longest track on the album, which mixes softer, classical guitar-dominated moments with some really lush and aggressive symphonic sections, all very dynamic and moving smoothly from beautiful to ominous. A guest flute and some rather menacing backing vocals spice the sound even further, and the drummer gives a particularly strong performance here. "Lagrima". A somewhat calmer fusion of classical elegance and heavy symphonism, this song has an incredibly strong chorus and a canon-like instrumental break where guitar, bass and various keyboards take turns in playing a baroque melody. "Left-Alone". A brief and soothing epilogue to a powerful album, this song consists of far-away sounding synthesizers emulating a string section, over which Tokuhisa sings softly and wistfully, trailing off into silence and letting the synths close the piece. Conclusions: An excellent combination of accessibility and complexity, melodic beauty and powerful playing, Magdalena is an album that should appeal to fans of both neo-prog and more complex symphonic rock. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
|Links||[See Pazzo Fanfano di Musica]|
Lanean Sartzen (81)
Rare Basque prog.
Hour of Restoration (91)
Impending Ascension (94)
Test of Wills (97)
Hundred Year Flood (02)
Impossible Figures (03)
Symphony for a Misanthrope (05)
Magellan - Trent Gardner (Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Trombone), Wayne Gardner (Guitars, Bass,
Backing Vocals). Trent and Wayne always feature lots of guest artists on their Magellan albums.
New US band that is making quite a splash in progressive circles. Their sound can best be described as a mix of Kansas and Yes, but with a some-what harder edge. Their initial release is entitled Hour of Restoration and is a very worthy effort.
|Pretty disappointing. Nothing innovative or special here. Not much like Yes, but reminds me more of Kansas. Pop-metal with keyboards. Doesn't deserve the credit they're getting.|
|This is sort of a one-man project, with Trent Gardner doing the writing, singing, producing, keyboards ... They bring a bombastic variety of sympho, interspersed with some heavy metal riffs style Metallica. Quite complex at times, they remind of Rush. There's a lot of variation, in rhythm as well as in the rest of the music. If you like heavy sympho, this might appeal to you. I like it a lot. BTW, this is (by my knowledge) the first band to bring out an album on the Magna Carta label, the second one being Shadow Gallery.|
|Hour of Restoration isn't a bad start. Somewhere between BG-era Yes and Dream Theater. Maybe some Kansas too. Musically very good, but the most atrocious lyrics I have heard in the genre. Hard, but not metal. Cool album cover with a Fragile-like ship. Nice shifting time signatures.|
|Progressive metal band from Northern California, formerly called Streamline. On their 1st CD Hour Of Restoration, some of the material is pretty good, while some is so-so. Long 15 minute cut that kicks the album off sounds like it was patched together from 3 different studio sessions.|
|It is very heartening to note the new deluge (relatively speaking) of US bands that are reviving the domestic prog rock scene. Combined with the re-issues of bands from the seventies, the new bands include groups such as Animator, Mastermind, and this band, Magellan. Magellan's music is very strong and dramatic, in style somewhat in the same vein as mid-to-late period Yes. The vocalist is reminiscent at times of Steve Walsh of Kansas.|
|More AOR-style neo-prog. Comparable to Kansas, I think, but heavier. Lots of time changes. Hour of Restoration is pretty widely available here in the USA.|
|I've heard their first album, looking forward to their second. Sounds like Asia, but with a heavier flair, kinda like Dream Theater. The lyrics are ... interesting, to say the least (the first track, "Magna Carta," is about the signing of the Magna Carta!). Worth getting, if you don't mind hard progressive. And ignore the lyrics the first couple times you listen to the album. They DO grow on you, but I still have problems combining heavy sympho and historical lyrics.|
|Impending Ascension is their fine follow-up to their debut Hour of Restoration. One screwy thing though, it that even though they are an American Band, this disc is only available as an import. For the uninitiated, they combine the instrumental styles of Yes, Rush, and Dream Theater, with some Yes like harmony vocals in spots. One unique features of theirs are that the longer epic songs usually have to deal with historical or political events. They also feature electronic programmed drums. They are well done, so they don't sound robotic or detract from the music. Doane Perry of Jethro Tull guest drums on "Waterfront Weirdos," and plays electronic drums as to provide a continuity of sounds. Their music also makes use of frequent time signature changes. One minor complaint of mine has to with their shorter tracks. With most groups, the short tracks are poppy. With Magellan, however, they sometimes sound like unfinished ideas, not a complete song. So, they should stick with the longer works, which is what they excel at. This disc has a little more of an up front in your face sound, but is in the same vein as the first album, featuring modern keyboard textures and distortion guitar, to go from Symphonic one moment to hard rocking (albeit complex) the next. They even make use of vocoder. Fans of modern sounding progressive rock and the first album will do well to check this out! -- Alan Mallery|
|Hour of Restoration impressed me a lot at first ... then I found them less worthwhile as time goes on ... a couple notches above Kansas. -- Dennis Montgomery|
|Magellan is the project of composer, singer and keyboardist Trent Gardner. He is joined on Impending Ascension by a guitarist and a bassist and drums are usually, but efficiently, programmed. The style is a fairly heavy and dramatic text-based rock. In fact, the higher pitched vocal harmonies evoke 1980s Yes. Here, the symphonic touch of the keyboards is often accompanied by loud guitar riffs and heavy, changing rhythms. An excellent production that brings out the energetic performances and a very contemporary sound. -- Paul Charbonneau|
|Links||Click here for Magellan's web site|
Revolutions (01, 2CD)
Broken (04, EP)
Another Time ... Another Place ... (04, 2CD Live)
I'm Alive (04, EP)
The Gathering (05, DVD)
Home (06, 2CD including Home and New York Suite)
Home (06, 1CD without New York Suite)
New York Suite (06, 1CD without Home)
Live at The Point (08, Live)
The Collection Promo CD (08, Compilation, free download from web site)
Chameleon (Announced release date October 10th, 11)
Magenta - Top row not sure who the first 3 guys are, but far right is Chris Fry (guitars),
Bottom row Rob Reed (keyboards), Christina Booth (vocals). If this is the Metamorphosis
line-up , the first three guys are
Original entry 8/5/02:
The first CD appeals to my Pagan nature with its two stories set in ancient times. The first suite, "Children of the Sun", is a story of a people in tune with nature and their land who must abandon their peaceful ways to protect their land from invaders. They manage to do so, and are happy to return to their peaceful lives. Musically, this suite reminds me of Yes, with its strong theme played in numerous variations on every instrument, lofty vocal melodies and harmonies, and Steve Howe-ish guitar soloing. The song "Opus 1" which immediately follows is actually part of the suite in spite of appearances ... it's a recapitulation of the main theme of "Children of the Sun" on classical guitar, once again reminiscent of Steve Howe's classical guitar pieces such as "Mood for a Day".
The second suite on the first CD is even more blatantly Pagan ... "The White Witch" is a wise woman who lives outside of the village, helping the people with her herbal remedies even though she is feared and taunted by her people. When a plague breaks out in the village, killing many, the witch uses her herbs to cure the sick, and her teachings to help the people cope with the deaths and commit themselves to a spiritual path more in tune with nature. The Yes resonances continue strongly here, from the spiritual nature of the lyrics to the swirling Wakemanesque synthesizer solos though the guitars aren't terribly Steve Howe-ish. The piece climaxes with what must certainly be a celebratory ritual and chant to the "Mother of All and Bringer of Life" that builds in intensity somewhat like the "Wurm" section of "Starship Troopers", but using Christina's vocal overdubs to build the intensity. This is my favorite of the four suites, and hearing it on an F2 Music demo CD was what encouraged me to buy the CD.
The second CD is the techno side of worship as opposed to the ancient side. Musically, I think this CD is the weaker of the two, but that may just be because the "ancient" themes speak to me more than the "techno" ones. It is still rife with Yesisms, but the themes seem to get more repetitious on this CD than on the first ... perhaps they are supposed to, in order to emphasize the technological feel of these suites. In spite of this, I still really like this CD as well, and it's continuing to grow on me with subsequent listens.
The third suite, "Man the Machine", discusses Man's worship of and subsequent merging with with computer intelligence, followed again by a classical guitar piece "Opus 2", though I don't recognize this as being any of the themes from the suite. This suite really has a lot of early Genesis feeling, in both the instruments and the vocals, though is also has some chorus sections that sound more like America (remember "A Horse With No Name"?) than Genesis.
The fourth suite, "Genetesis", explores what happens when biotechnology creates a race of superhumans that us normal people can only think of as gods, and how we subsequently relate to worshipping them. If you wondered if Rob Reed has ever heard Steve Howe play, you won't wonder after hearing this ... there are at least two places where the guitar part might as well be Howe as guest guitarist. Quite nice.
My summary is that I'm really enamored of this release, and I would recommend it to all symphonic prog afficionados, '70's retro proggers, and (I suppose) neo-prog lovers (whatever that means). At the very least, order the F2 Sampler from their Prog Rock site and hear the full "White Witch" suite plus many more great progressive masterpieces from other F2 artists. If you like Magenta, you should also check out Cyan (no kidding), which is the same band with a different vocalist, though Murphy sings backup vocals on the more recent Cyan recordings as well. -- Fred Trafton
Update 9/3/04 (and link to Matthew Hopkins added 10/8/04):
My concern about Magenta being a one-shot band was unfounded. In 2004, they came out with a second studio album, Seven and have a 2-CD live release Another Time, Another Place slated for release in October as well. I'll comment on the live album after it's released, but for now I'll talk a bit about Seven.
Seven refers to the seven deadly sins, (in album order) "Gluttony", "Envy", "Lust", "Greed", "Anger", "Pride" and "Sloth", though the lyrical content takes a broad view of the meaning of these "sins". For example, "Lust" refers not to sexual lust, but the lust for power, "Greed" is represented by a starlet's desire for public attention and notoriety and "Sloth" is a prayer to native american deity Gitche Manitou (the singer is meditating or perhaps even laying down to die, and is thus being "slothful").
Musically, Seven is very similar to Revolutions. If I were more of a cynic, I could say that if you've heard Revolutions, there would be little need to hear Seven because they're really awfully similar. But, as you can see from my original write-up, I enjoyed Revolutions a lot, so more of the same is OK by me. I must say I'd like to see some more growth in the next album, though. By the way, Revolutions and Seven both sound a lot like Cyan's albums except for Christina's vocals, so I'm afraid Rob Reed is getting into a bit of a rut with his writing. Fortunately, it's a very pleasant rut, so for now you can still count me as a Magenta fan.
My one gripe about this album is an intensely personal one. "Lust" is actually a sequel to "The White Witch" from Revolutions, and Magenta did the same thing I hated (bear with me) about the movies Aliens and Alien 3. The original in each case stood out for me as a classic because it captured a female character who remained loyal to her beliefs and sense of protective "motherhood" and triumphs in the end of the respective originals. The viewer/listener is left with a female archetype to praise, feel good about and (if you're a female) perhaps even emulate. Then the sequel comes along in both cases and trashes the original. What was once a wonderful experience is wrecked by the mere knowledge of the sequel, which makes everything you saw/heard in the original become a pointless, tragic betrayal. In Alien 3, the child Ripley saved in Aliens is shown at the beginning of the movie to have been killed by a face-hugger stowaway aboard their ship, and Ripley herself is a host for a new alien queen. That sucks!
Back to the music review ... "Lust" picks up where "The White Witch" leaves off, with the witch gently leading her people to a new spirituality and belief in themselves, casting off the yoke imposed on them by Matthew Hopkins (a notorious name in the annals of witchcraft hysteria, also known as "The Witch-Finder General"). But, as the song progresses, the old ways return, and no longer in need of her herbal remedies, the people turn on her and burn her at the stake. Yes, there's a nice chorus at the end where the witch affirms her faith, "into your arms, my sister Luna" as she's burning to death. But, like Ripley, that sucks! Hey, Magenta, can you fix this on your next album? I can think of a number of ways ... and having the witch return from the dead to kill everyone in the village isn't one of them. E-mail me, Steve Reed (Magenta's lyricist), let's talk ... about lyrics and witches. -- Fred Trafton
First off, I should have mentioned in the last addendum that Magenta has really changed from Revolutions (basically a Rob Reed/Christina Murphy project album with guest musicians from the F2 label) to a real, gigging band, though of course Reed and Murphy are still the core members. The first live release (another 2CD release!) from Magenta demonstrates this, and Another Time ... Another Place ... proves that they do quite well as a live band, for those of us who haven't had the pleasure of seeing them personally. Of course, they can't do every part that was on the studio overdubs, but with a 6-person line-up (Chris Fry - Guitars, Matthew Cohen - Bass, Allan Mason - Drums, Martin Rosser - Guitars, Guitar Synths and of course Rob Reed - Keys and Christina - Vocals), they can do a pretty good job of it.
Another Time ... Another Place ... was recorded using some pretty pedestrian equipment - an Apple G4 iBook loaded with MOTU hardware and some music software. Amazing what a great job this kind of setup can do, the recording quality is really excellent. The album is an amalgamation of concert dates played throughout Europe from 2002-2004. They play 4/7 of Seven and three of the big opuses from Revolutions (with an abridged version of "Genetesis"), with the addition of their single "Broken", a new piece "Opus 3", clearly written to be a concert intro using an Emerson-like pipe organ and synthesizer motif, plus an old Cyan piece, "Call Me". I like the Seven cuts best, since they were obviously written with live performance capability in mind, and sounds a lot like ther studio versions. However, the Revolutions material sounds odd ... it's been re-scored for live performance, and is therefore more guitar-heavy than the studio versions. It's not bad, but I've listened to the studio version so often that the re-scoring will take a while for me to get used to. At any rate, Another Time ... Another Place ... is a good addition to your Magenta collection, and I'm still a fan waiting with bated breath for their new 2CD studio release forthcoming this year, tentatively entitled Home. -- Fred Trafton
Home is the latest (2006) studio release from Magenta, who are giving all indications of becoming one of the mainstays of the modern pog bands. Yet another 2CD release (sorta ... it's sold as either a 2CD version of Home or single CD's separately titled Home and New York Suite). They've also released a live DVD (I believe it's a video version of at least some of the material on Another Time ... Another Place ...), reviewed elsewhere in the GEPR.
I must admit, Home was a surprise to me. Starting with a piano and vocal solo, it feels at first like it's beginning to stray dangerously close to Alanis Morissette territory. But you just have to love Christina's (just Christina, OK? Never mind the Murphy part) scalpel-precision use of her trademark heavy, fast vocal vibrato. She'll hold a note perfectly on pitch, then vibrato it on only one word to add emphasis. Or sometimes a whole phrase will have heavy vibrato the entire time. If she was a guy, I'd say she was trained in the heavy metal style of vocals. But this is about as far from heavy metal as it gets.
But any correspondence with Alanis Morissette vanishes quickly, and you realize you are definitely listening to a prog album. A better comparison might be ... if Revolutions was Magenta's Misplaced Childhood, then Home is their Brave. Oh, what an obnoxiously arrogant "prog reviewer" thing to say. Hey, you try to figure out what to say when the new album is wandering far away from what you previously loved about a band, but you still love the new stuff. Don't expect much in the way of Mellotron-drenched '70's-style prog. Or neo prog either. This music is far more mature, better produced, and doubtless more reproducable in concert as well. It's also "tasteful", and, in its way, "accessable". I must admit, it keeps teetering on the edge of losing me. But as Peter Gabriel once said in a lyric, "This is the new stuff ... I come dancin' in". That album (So) almost lost me at first too, but on repeated listenings, it's become one of my favorite Gabriel albums.
OK, I'm listening to it as I type ... the album has now progressed to a really nice Christina/Christina duet (that'll be hard to pull off in concert!) ... oh now a very Steve Howe guitar solo, then very Banksian piano part ... hey ... here's a Christina/Reed duet ... I'm going to have to go back and listen to that first one again, I may have been wrong. The drums are incredible too, both the playing and the studio technique in capturing them ... extremely pro-sounding. Really lets you hear every nuance that most drummers would rather you can't hear so clearly (the drum credits for the band go to Allan Mason-Jones, though previous drummer Tim Robinson also gets credit as a "guest", so I can't be sure who I'm hearing here ... whoever he is, he's good).
There's lots of great stuff to listen to. No, it's not Revolutions II. I guess I wanted it to be. Heh ... I also said I wanted their next album to be not so similar to their previous ones, didn't I? I guess I should be more careful what I wish for. This is a great album in its own right, and a new direction for Magenta. Essential. Now, all of this is decribing Home. I'll be telling you about the second CD, New York Suite, in a later update. -- Fred Trafton
OK, sorry, I never did get around to reviewing New York Suite, and I'm not going to attempt it now. I never got to hear their 2008 release, Metamorphosis ... though they switched to The Laser's Edge label for US distribution, F2 still distributes it too, and they haven't sent me any promos in a while. Maybe my delinquency in getting reviews put online made them lose interest in the GEPR. Can't say I blame them. Sigh. Too bad.
Like you want to know. Never mind.
Anyway, despite this, Magenta is still one of my favorite bands, so I wanted to let you know that they have a new album due for release in October of 2011 entitled Chameleon. The release process is so complex and innovative, I'll just direct you to their Chameleon Project web site for details. Suffice it to say it involves CD's, DVD's, online releases, something about a second album, and a pre-buy option. For most bands, I just wait for the promos to show up if they really want me to review it. For a new album by Magenta, I think I may just line up with the rest of the world and pay my share. Because I don't want to miss out on this one. -- Fred Trafton
[See Caamora |
Chimpan A |
Fyreworks, The |
Othello Syndrome, The]
Click here for Magenta's web site
Elf Tales (98)
Live (00, EP)
Heavy Meddle (03)
The Magic Elf - Roy Altemus (Bass), Carl Roa (Guitar) and Dave Miranda (Drums)
Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery, but for progressive rock fans, it can be a kiss of death. Better to hear "has elements of this band" or "I heard a bit of that band" while "maintaining their own unique style", than to hear "save me from another Genesis clone" ... the road to the bargain bin is paved with good intentions. Couple that notion with the knowledge that the band you almost slavishly devote yourself to is the Dixie Dregs, certainly one of the icons of progressive rock; well, you better have some very serious chops. And The Magic Elf just about pulls it off.
A straight instrumental power trio anchored by Carl Roa on guitar, Dave Miranda on drums, and a rotating cast of bassists (currently Roy Altemus), The Elf takes the intense energy of the Dregs' driving rock and does it solid justification, without the added benefit of strings or keyboards. The key is Roa's compositional skills. Doubtless his riffs are very clean and very proficient, but he manages to keep them well within the framework of his songs, not nearly as easy as it sounds. There is no meandering, very little ego at play here. Miranda's drumming is frenetic, to put it bluntly. One listen to the live version of "Mr. Destructo" pretty much confirms his ability to grow extra limbs as needed.
Like the Dregs, The Elf cross genres easily, from medieval to country (even giving a tip of the hat on Heavy Meddle's "Scrambledreggs"). Both albums are virtual homebrews, with Roa and Miranda doing all the studio work themselves, probably sweeping the floors as well. Considering this, the resulting product is amazing, truly. Weak points? Roa's acoustic playing can be uneven, sometimes lacking convincing subtlety against his electrical prowess. And there will certainly be those who are immediately turned off ( "... compared to the Dregs, well ..."). Not fair, really. The Magic Elf may not be knocking the Dregs off their exalted aerie, but this is damn good music, high energy rock that gets it right. -- Chuck Michelson
|Links||Click here for The Magic Elf's web site|
Laughs and Thrills (85, Live, recorded in 72)
The Pipe, the Roar, the Grid (88, Compilation of demos & live tracks from 70-72)
100 Miles Below (89)
Living Weeds from Ancient Seeds (91, Compilation of demos & live tracks from 70-72)
|The original Magic Muscle were basically Rod Goodway and Adrian Shaw. Simon House and Nick Salomon dropped in for the recording of Gulp! Adrian Shaw played with Hawkwind from '77-'78 and later joined Saloman's Bevis Frond. -- Knut Gerwers|
|A much less spacey, more straight ahead driving rock sister of late 80's Hawkwind. I like this a lot though it's not really classic progressive. Besides, with a bassist named "Baz Magneto" they must be good! -- Dennis Montgomery|
|Links||[See Bevis Frond | Hawkwind]|
Spaced Out (9?)
Politics of Ecstasy (86)
Eyes of the Angel (89)
Process of Illumination (90)
Spaced Out (91)
RU Spaced Out 2 (93)
The Spaced Collection (97)
|[See Astralsia | Van der Graaf Generator]|
Motions of Desire (05)
Circus of Life (07)
The Suffering Joy (11)
Magic Pie - (not in photo order) Kim Stenberg (guitars), Eirik Hanssen (lead vocals, ac. guitar), Gilbert
Marshall (organ, keyboards, lead vocals), Eirikur Hauksson (lead vocals, ac. guitar), Lars Petter Holstad
(bass guitar) and Jan T. Johannessen (drums). Allan Olsen (not pictured) was a second lead vocalist for
the band's first two albums.
Original Entry 3/26/08:
From the 20-minute long opener, "Change", you know you're in for a prog treat as it goes through its related sections with class, style and unexpected twists, while still sounding perfectly cohesive. The next cut, "Motions of Desire", starts with a sort of Celtic-sounding drum motif, though by the time the vocals get going, it's not very Celtic. This song sounds a bit like a Floyd song due to the vocal harmonies, though the hard-rocking guitar, heavy Hammond and smokin' twin synth solo won't allow you to think it's a Floyd song for long. The intro to "Full Circle Poetry" is spacey, with synth drones and echoed guitar, but quickly moves along to a martial rock anthem sound ... again with a brief hint of Celtic feel, and later a bit of white man's Reggae (seems like someone in the band may have heard some Police at some point). This is one to get the heads banging and lighters flaring in a concert. Another epic clocking in at 14:15.
I could go on with this blow-by-blow, but it seems unnecessary. Motions of Desire is just about as good as heavy symphonic prog gets, with plenty of power without crossing over into progressive metal and you owe it to yourself to seek it out. You can't really claim to be a connoisseur of modern prog if you haven't. Just my opinion. Give this album a listen and see if you don't agree. Uf I had to say something bad about the album, it would be that it starts to sound sorta same-ish by the time you get 3/4 through the album. But I'll also admit I've only listened to the album twice, and sometimes it takes a while to get the subtle differences that really make the songs. I'll be giving this one more chances.
As for their latest album, Circus of Life, it's quite good too, but also very different from Motions. As I was listening to this album, I kept thinking of Pink Floyd, which baffled me a bit until I realized it wasn't really Floyd I was reminded of, but rather Alan Parsons' studio technique. This combined with much heavier and more prog-metalish guitars gives the interesting but somewhat disconcerting impression that you're listening to an Alan Parsons Project album with Dream Theater as guest musicians. It's a bit odd, but it's done quite well and after I got used to this strange confluence of styles, I found I liked it. There's also a fair amount of late '60's psychedelic influence in here too, from the music to the "hippy art" album cover.
Magic Pie seem to be one of the new darlings of prog reviewers and listeners, and it's easy to see why. Their music is similar enough to things you've heard before that it doesn't require too much effort to get into, yet different enough to keep you interested. A good combination, and since they're working on a new album, with new vocalist Eirikur Hauksson replacing Allan Olsen, we're likely to get more servings of Magic Pie soon. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Magic Pie's web site
Click here for Magic Pie's MySpace page
Magical Power (73, w/ Keiji Haino)
Super Record (75)
Welcome to Earth (79)
Music from Heaven (85, Pressing limited to 500 pieces)
Beginning in 1993, released numerous CD's not considered to be Progressive
Hapmonyim (01, 5CD Box Set, Limited edition of 500 numbered boxes, compiled from Super Record sessions 1972-75)
After a whole week of listening to the new Magical Power Mako Hapmonyim Box-Set issued by MIO Records in Israel, I would like to share with you some of my impressions of it, before discussing the music itself I would like to refer to the high standard of the design and the packaging the five CDs are housed in a magnificant box and accompanied by a beautiful booklet and a different insert for each unit; this is clearly a labour of love.
Mako is considered to be a genius and a legendary cult figure in the Japanese Progressive Rock/Avant-Garde circles. He began his career in the early seventies and soon began releasing albums on his own, this box set features his Hapmonyim series of improvasitions/compositions recorded between 1972-1975. Each of the CD's is a piece of its own lasting for hour or more.
I must admit I'm a great fan of neither Avant-garde nor Faust and when I was told that Mako is considered to be the Japanese answer to Faust, I approached it with extra caution. However when the first sounds came out of my stereo I immediately relaxed; the music is very melodic, very spacy and very interesting.
Mako is an accomplished studio technician and is aware of all of the studio manipulations and possibilities, he uses the studio as an instrument and as a vehicle for creating spacy-psychedelic soundscapes that will make you float immediately, the music itself builds up and develops slowly but constantly, changing mood and patterns every few minutes or so. It comprises a mixture of acoustic folksy instruments such as Koto, Harmonium and Eastern percussion and electric instruments, notably Mako's psychedelic electric guitar which sound like a cross between Mike Oldfield, David Gilmour and an electric saw.
There are also sung parts and multi-use of echoed voices a la Gong's Gilli Smyth's Space whisper technique. The music is ranging from well written parts to total improvisitaion, from melodic to dissonant, from total relaxion to extreme violence and so on, throughout all this Mako is keep searching constantly for new sounds and ideas.
This is a very interesting release not easy-listening but very rewarding work of art and is especially recommended to listen to it through headphones and in an altered concious state of mind (if you potheads out there catch my drift) this will take you even further into Deep Space. I recommended this box-set to anyone with an open mind and ears and especially to fans of Faust, Amon Düül II, Popol Vuh, Ash Ra Tempel, Gila, Gong, Hawkwind, Brian Eno and Ron Geesin.
A super sonic experience -- Gil Keltch
|Links||Click here for the MIO Records web site, containing info on Mako and where you can order Hapmonyim|
Canto Para Una Consagracion (82)
La Transformacion (85)
Musiqueros del Silencio (87)
Unfortunately, I have their first two albums on one CD, entitled Kronikas,
released on brasilian Record Runner and purchased through Musea for the
reason of curiousity and after reading some good reviews. Both were mixed
and recorded by Lito Vitale (of MIA fame). Hmm, I have calmed down my
curiosity and am richer for knowledge that I've f...ed up myself with that
The keyword here is: mellow. Other important notions seem to be pastel and texture. Mellow in Italian or Latin-American way, which means more mellow than usually mellow. Flute is added to the usual line-up of guitars, keys, bass, drums and vocals. Altogether it sounds rather suave to my ears. Can not be compared with French monster band by any means. This is tender (sedating?) ethnic music tinged with radio-friendly jazz-isms and poured into lightest Pink Floyd imaginable plus a Collins-era Genesis accent here and there (I must admit here that I do like "Gabrienesis"). Breezy but rather lukewarm. The prime aim is to create dreamy pastel soundscapes, what overall results in acute "low-key-ness". For those with hypertension and who at the same time acquire some taste for fusion. In category of fusion this is far better than, say, Tribute. There's also something inexplicable in their music and this element which I can not define although I feel it, is perhaps the most "their own" and progressive of everything here. One track on the debut, entitled "Araucaria", is really good. The second album which is a bit better, is more jazzy than debut and has three quite good instrumentals, few exceptions which help me not to fall asleep when listen to 'em. Magma seem to feel quite well in the longer song-format but that cannot help much, because seldomly something happens. Otherwise bland and mediocre, at least to my ears. I'm juggling with the idea, whether they'd grow on me if I'd give 'em 20 listens? 30 listens? 40 listens? I don't know, there's plenty other music I wish to hear and I have to give it a chance. I didn't hear the third one, but I'm also not dying to hear it. Well, if anything mentioned does not sound bad to your ears, go for it. Oh, yes. Flute-player is quite good. -- Nenad Kobal
1001° Centigrades (71)
The Unammables (72, as Univeria Zekt)
Mekanïk Kommandöh (73)
Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh (73)
Wurdah Ïtah (74)
Live-Hhaï (75, Live, aka Live Kohntark)
Üdü Wüdü (76)
Retrospektïw III (81)
Retrospektïw I and II (81)
Mythes Et Legendes Vol.1 (86)
Les Voix (92)
Theatre du Taur 1975 (94, Live from '75)
Bobino (95), Live from '81)
Concert 1971 Bruxelles - Theatre 140 (96, Live from '71)
Floë Ëssi/Ëktah (98)
Simples (98, EP, Singles compilation)
BBC - Londres 1974 (99, Live from '74)
Theusz Hamtaahk: La Trilogie au Trianon (01, Live, 3CD, VHS and DVD versions)
Kohntarkosz Anteria (04)
Uber Kommandoh BBC 1974 (04, Live, recorded in 1974)
Magma circa 1975 - (Left to Right) Stella Vander, Christian Vander, ?, Didier
Lockwood, ?, Benoit Widemann, ?, Klaus Blasquiz
Several centuries in the future, when society as we know it today has decayed into chaos, a group of earth people seeking a new start flee to the distant planet Kobaïa, to start a new civilization. Magma is a concept band whose albums explain the origins and development of the new civilization on Kobaïa, all in the new language of that planet. As might be expected, the music from Kobaïa is very unlike what we are accustomed to on earth, as is their language. Magma's music is very strange and beautiful, but does take some time to get accustomed to. Led by drummer Christian Vander, the group has gone through many personnel changes throughout the years, and the alumni list reads like a who's who of french musicians: Klaus Basquiz, Guy Khalifa, Jannik Top, Bernard Paganotti, Michael Herve, Rene Garber, Didier Lockwood, Francis Moze, Benoit Widemann, Jeff Seffer, Francois Cahen, Teddy Lasry... the list goes on and on. The first album is a double, and traces the story from its origins on earth through the first months on the new planet. Musically it shows the band's roots, a spirited jazz-rock style not far from Soft Machine of the same period. The second 1001° Centigrades explores further in the same general musical territory. The following year they released The Unammables under the pseudonym "Univeria Zekt" - on a different label, which quickly justified legal action on the part of their record compant, resulting in the album being pulled from store shelves, creating an instant rarity. MDK is very different from anything they had done before, a very repetitive modal type of music, dark and gothic, with the power of a full choir backing them. Wurdah Ïtah was the soundtrack to the film "Tristan Et Yseult," and carries on similarly to MDK, but with a leaner lineup, basically as a 4 piece. Köhntarkösz moves into new realms, with a more ethereal majestic approach, a soothing album with one 32 minute track split between two sides of the album, with two shorter tracks rounding the album out. The live album presents material from their all of their albums to date, including a full live version of Köhntarkösz; This is definitely the best album to start with, as it mixes instrumental and vocal material, louder and quieter tracks, and gives a good retrospective of the band in what most consider their finest period. Üdü Wüdü delivers a much harder edged, more grotesque sound, in a period when the band was fragmented. Inedits is a live album of performances from throughout their career, and while the sound quality is not as great as the double-live, the performances are excellent, and it documents some interim lineups of the band that are not recorded elsewhere. Attahk was the first album which overtly offered strong evidence of John Coltrane's influence on the band, a much jazzier album than any of its predecessors, and in general a more fluid approach, akin to Köhntarkösz. After a long and grueling tour, the band went into hiatus, working on solo albums and spinoff projects. Around 1980 the band reformed and toured, which resulted in the Retrospektiw albums the following year; These albums contained mostly reworked versions of their older material. By Merci, the lineup had nearly completely changed, and the sound had moved even further towards the Coltrane inspired jazz only hinted at in Attahk. This is probably the least appreciated of their albums, as it's the first that is in no way connected to Theusz Hamtaahk (the Kobaïan history) and features songs sung in french and english. It's not my favorite either. Mythes et Legendes is a compilation of early singles and scaled down versions of longer tracks, with spoken introductions (in french) presumably explaining the story behind them. the Offering projects are more jazzy than anything before them, but not commercial sounding like Merci; the lyrics are now essentially scat, and the music is much lighter than before, mostly piano, acoustic bass, occasional flute and drums. Where To Start ? Live, no question about it, this is the best introduction to their music. After you get used to it and decide you want more, then go for Köhntarkösz, Attahk, Üdü Wüdü, and MDK. -- Peter Thelen
For those of you who read French, try and get your hands on the book
Antoine De Caunes (yes Brit friends, the one who hosts Eurotrash on
Channel Four!) wrote about Magma in 1979. The book gives interesting
detail about the history and whereabouts of the band. The book was
published at the time by French publisher Albin Michel, and is now (late
'96) announced as "to be reprinted soon" by them.
I now own a dozen Magma albums, and therefore have what I would call a good general overview of the work of Christian Vander et al. First of all, there are three pieces of work which cover more than one album I wish to signal. The first one is "Theusz Hamttaahk" ("the time of hatred"), of which "Wurdah Ïtah" ("Death to Earth" the Tristan et Iseult album) constitutes the second part, while "Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh" is the third part. The first part, allegedly entitled "Wurdah Glao" ("Death and Blood") never surfaced as such. The story line is more or less what was kinda exposed in the first album: a bunch of dissident earthlings leaving the Earth, founding a mystical utopia on the planet Kobaia ("eternity"), and then coming unwillingly, yet rather violently in contact with the bad guys from earth, who appear to calm down once they know that the kobaians have brought Stoah ("The Weapon") along. The second notable piece of work is "Emehnteht-Re," which covers parts of Kohntarkosz and Udu Wudu, which is a bit more obscure, mixing elements from Ancient Egypt with the usual kobaian paraphernalia. The third one, "Ork" was not concieved by C. Vander, but by bass player Jannick Top. It consists in tracks entitled "Ork Alarm" (on Köhntarkösz), "Ork Sun" and "De Futura" (on Üdü Wüdü). Sleevenotes explain that Orks are to machines what machines are to man (huh?).
Among the classical influences to be found in Magma's work, I wish to add
Igor Stravinsky (use of polyrhythms), and Carl Orff (choir style), which
are the references usually cited in Europe when talking of Magma.
About written Kobaian, it has to be pinpointed that e-mail cannot render the frantic typographical delirium of the album sleeves, on which most i's and u's bear "umlaute" (ie two dots on top), S's bear w-shaped accents, and W's right-sloping ones ... there is even a specific letter which does not exist in a standard ASCII font. Some of the sleeves do give French traductions of kobaian titles or words, but if you don't read French, you'll have to go on wondering what's going on.
What you should know is that Magma were hugely controversial in France in the '70s. Some journalists even dubbed them as "facist" or "nazi," which is quite an achievement for John Coltrane admirers. What really happened is that France was, at the time (and somehow still is), dominated by musical mediocrity and tasteless, mindless pop or chansons. In such a context, a group coming up with good, complex and demanding music had to be rejected by the corporate press, especially if they are dressing uniformly in black with big agressive red Magma logos on the chest and matching steel necklaces. One has to say, anyway, that Christian Vander sometimed encouraged it, as when he told reporters "I consider the audience as as many enemies, and every time I hit a cymbal means death to one of them."
I know that Magma CD reissues aren't easy to get from you local dealer. In case of difficulties, try contacting directly Seventh Records, who are dwelling somewhere near Paris (sorry, ain't got their coordinates with me now...). The company operates worldwide mail order by letter or fax, selling all Magma albums, as well as associated products (t-shirts, badges, lighters, even the "Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh" sheet music). -- Laurent Mousson
|One of the most brutal, intense bands to ever make a record. Punk hero Jello Biafra (of Dead Kennedys) has called Magma the most vicious of the progressive rock bands (I hope I'm getting the quote right!), and anytime a *punk* hero talks about progressive rock you've just got to sit up and take notice for the sheer novelty of the situation. Some have said that Magma are hard to get into; I would disagree, as the raw, primal savageness of their music seems to connect to some dark unseen force seething under the surface of the human psyche. (Or, as a poster to rec.music.progressive put it, "Do NOT play Magma for your girlfriend!") I don't have enough of their albums to suggest a definitive starting point, but you can't go wrong with Live -- I'm surprised the concerts that went into this recording didn't cause as much social unrest as the debut of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring." Mind-blowing. -- Greg Ward|
|Undeniably strange experimental prog band with a far-fetched sci-fi concept they had to invent their own language to tell. The first album is pretty half-baked, some good Soft Machine-like jazzrock for about half of it, but lots of self-indulgent soloing. Vocalist Klaus Blasquiz sounds at his most "conventional" (if you can call it that) here, like perhaps a singer in some German underground band. Stylistically not unlike Moving Gelatine Plates or some of the German underground jazzrockers (Thrice Mice, Out Of Focus) of the time, but over the space of two discs, it becomes a bit wearying. 1001° Centigrade is a slightly less indulgent single disc, but taking them to more otherworldly realms lead by Blasquiz' unconventional vocalizings and based in the intricate horn and reed arrangements. Not their best, but a distinctive style is definitely forming. For Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh, the band was in full bloom. Augmented by a five-woman backing choir, this is the apex of their vocal orientated work, with Blasquiz grunting, screeching and wailing away like a madman, and the band forming mesmerizing textures in the background. Not for the faint-hearted probably, but for the explorative, a must. Köhntarkösz strips away most of the horns for a primary reliance on keyboards (nothing fancy, just piano and organ). The vocals are downplayed as well, but still noticeable. The 30-plus-minute title-track is split into two parts. It's the centerpiece of the album. Another fine one. The double live album features the addition of Didier Lockwood on violin, and is probably the most easily digestible for starters, being as it is in a more fusion mode. One disc features a live version of the previous album's title track, the other is composed of new tracks unavailable in studio versions. Drummer Christian Vander sings lead on at least one of the songs. Üdü Wüdü presents a more fragmentary band, with Blasquiz, Vander and bassist Jannik Top being the core, fleshed out by various session players, mostly members of Heldon. It is the first Magma album to feature synthesizers, so it's back to the dark, murky territory of earlier albums, but in a decidedly more high-tech mode. The 18-minute "De Futura" is the albums apex, with some excellent bass playing. Attahk is another one of the band's more accessible albums, more song orientated with more pronounced jazz and rock influences, and primarily featuring the trilling falsetto voice of Vander, as opposed to Blasquiz' unearthly barks and growls. Merci is almost commercial, but still definitely in the Magma style. Apparently some of the songs have English or French lyrics, either that or there's a Kobaian phrase that sounds JUST like "Oh baby". -- Mike Ohman|
|Magma has to be heard to fully understand but just knowing that they were one of the most influential French bands should be enough to realize their importance. Lead by drummer Christian Vander, Magma create a very dramatic and intensely driving form of progressive rock. Vander draws equally from the likes of jazzman John Coltrane and 19th century classical composer Richard Wagner. He combines these influences with his own unique vision and his own language called Kobïan. Their style has become known as Zeuhl and many French (and some not) bands show influences of Magma. Their music is incredible fusion characterized by a strong driving, almost throbbing drum and bass presence over which you'll hear violin, sax or keyboards. There is also a strong vocal (male and female) presence that is very dramatic and expressive. Incredible and intense! I have four Magma albums, Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh, Live, Üdü Wüdü and Attahk. Live makes the best starting point as it is an excellent performance highlighting the intensity that makes up Magma. Üdü Wüdü and Attahk are also excellent. Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh took me the longest to get into, of these four albums. Relentless in intensity, the powerful, almost operatic vocal intensity can take some adjustment for someone used to instrumental prog. Magma are a *must hear* band. However, to check out the instensity without the strong vocal presence, check out Zao or Weidorje, two splinter bands that are equally intense but have little or no vocals. Listen to these two bands to check out the zeuhl style but you should experience Magma. It's incredible. -- Mike Taylor|
|Magma were a very influential French band from the seventies whose music was a very powerfully rhythmic combination of jazz influences and rock, fronted by the dramatic vocals of Christian Vander. Attahk, Üdü Wüdü, and Live are, by most considerations, their best works, and make for a very appropriate introduction to the band. Notable to Magma was the fact that the vocals were in a fictional language created by Vander. Yet, with the drama of the music, the vocals do not in any way detract from the full effect.|
Magma was the first-evening headliner band at
NEARFest 2003, which I attended with my wife,
Grace. We'd had a long day and no sleep for the previous two nights. Grace was so tired
she almost went back to the hotel, leaving me to catch this last band by myself. I
almost encouraged her to do so, knowing Magma's reputation as being a band that scares
off women. But, after a cup of coffee at the Marriott next door, she decided to try
to stay awake for this last band of the day.
Half an hour into the performance, I looked at my wife ... she was sitting there staring at the band with a glazed expression on her face. I thought, "she's hating this and is fighting falling asleep". I asked her, "Are you OK?" Her response, without ever taking her eyes off the band was, "This is the single coolest thing I've ever seen in my life!" OK, she's liking it, then.
She spent the rest of the night gushing extreme fan worship, even to the point of wondering if she could sell herself as a love slave to Christian Vander to go on tour with them. She was kidding, of course. Mostly. The following day, we bought a copy of the DVD Theusz Hamtaahk Trilogie, and that evening we caught up with Christian Vander at the Marriott bar, and I got a great picture of Grace with her grim-faced new hero (see the Fred Trafton FAQ for the photo). Grace is a major fan now and is learning Kobaian to better comprehend the lyrics. She's threatening to write a review for the GEPR to tell anyone who had anything bad to say about Magma that they're just plain WRONG, and they don't understand the beauty an majesty of this music.
Regarding the Theusz Hamtaahk Trilogie DVD ... we've played it at least half a dozen times. An excellent recording, both from an audio and video perspective, and I would highly recommend it to fans of Magma. It finally fills out the entire Theusz Hamtaahk cycle (it's divided into four movements on the video), which has been performed live for many years but was never completely recorded on the studio albums. It's awesome. Vander pulled the plug on the recording of their NEARFest performance just before their set, but this DVD contains a similar set of music with a larger version of the band (more vocalists), so it's the closest thing you'll be able to get to the NEARFest performance. However, Vander never gets out from behind his drums to sing on the video, as he did at NEARFest. Oh well, you can't have everything.
Update 1/11/05: At NEARFest 2004, Grace insisted we buy the 3CD version of Theusz Hamtaak Trilogie because the complete lyrics to the trilogy are printed in the booklet. Now she can actually sing the Kobaian correctly! It's the same concert as the DVD, and to tell the truth, the DVD is more interesting because you can see the band playing. If we hadn't seen a very similar concert live at NF '03, I'm not sure I would feel that way. -- Fred Trafton
[See Alice |
Altmayer, Michel |
Cahen, Francois |
Chevalier, Jean-Luc |
Guillard, Alain and Yvon |
Raux, Richard (and Hamsa Music) |
Thibault, Laurent |
Vander, Christian |
Widemann, Benoit |
Click here for
Christian Vander's Seventh Records
Magna Carta (69)
Times of Change (70)
Songs from Wastles Orchard (71)
In Concert 71 (72)
Lord of the Ages (73)
Martin's Cafe (7?)
Putting it Back Together (76)
Took a Long Tme (7?)
Prisoners on the Line (78)
Live in Bergen (78)
|Folk-progressive. Compare them to the Strawbs, though not of the same calibre.|
|Folk Band with some proggy elements which made its best albums late sixties early seventies. Rick Wakeman was a session musician on two or three albums. Line up consists of two guitars and a harmony vocalist. Most are similar with the Seasons album containing one concept side and the second a collection of lightweight tuneful numbers. Main songwriter is Chris Simpson (actually Magna Carta is his band), with almost every other album a different second guitarist. Sometimes the vocals are sung in harmony with a third member whose name I've fortgotten but he certainly sounds like a female (Jon Anderson squared) Sometimes a bit prog when there is an organ break or lush strings in the background. Last good album is Lord of the Ages with an ambitious first concept side illustrated in the Roger Dean album cover. After that the albums are less than mediocre and the prog elements have totally disappeared. -- Eric Hermans|
Les Voyages de Mikado (92)
Le Miroir aux Defauts (93)
Etang Rouge (98)
Les Gens De ... (01)
L'Immortel Opéra (05)
Magnésis 2005 - Denis Codfert (drums), Eric Tillerot (vocals), Olivier "Joe" Gauclin Tétu
(guitar), Alexandre Moreau (keyboards), Jean-Pierre Matelot (keyboards) and Fabien Lo
L'Immortel Opéra is at least a concept album if not a rock opera (it's hard for me to tell since the lyrics are all in French, and all the CD liner notes are as well), somehow involving Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Magnésis' music is usually described as "Neo-Prog", but L'Immortel Opéra sounds to me like '70's prog, in spite of the use of some digital keyboards and "string machines" or string patches substituting for Mellotron. It still sounds very deep and important in that '70's way. Perhaps the less-than-perfect studio technique helps. The vocals are spoken as much as sung, and not because Eric Tillerot has a bad voice. When he does sing, he has great control of pitch and vibrato, and a very emotional delivery. The band has a very dense, orchestral sound, probably in part due to the fact that they have two keyboard players. And though I can usually go through an entire CD of prog music without even noticing the bassist, I can't ignore Fabien Lo Cicero's excellent bass parts, featuring both slinky fretless lines and percussive slap bass. Add to this some nice melodies, good guitar work and an overall epic feel, and Magnésis has released a truly exceptional prog album in L'Immortel Opéra. I'll be looking for earlier releases as soon as possible, and if/when I hear them, I'll let you know. In the meantime, I highly recommend L'Immortel Opéra to all symphonic prog fans. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Magnésis' web site
Click here to order Magnésis titles from Musea Records
Straight On Till Morning (94)
Inhaling Green (99)
Nick Magnus is one of progressive rock's great unknown keyboard players, and rather
unfairly so. While his work with
On the techno-side is "Cantus", which combines, with mixed success, an operatic female vocal melody, Gregorian samples and trashing dance rhythm loops in the style of Enigma, Era or even latter-day Jean-Michel Jarre. Between these two styles are the obviously Vangelis-influenced "Conquistador" and "Free the Spirit": the former practically copies the Great Greek's "Conquest of Paradise" with its massed march snares, choral samples and anthemic melody, but the latter is a strong symphonic work in its own right, elevated by a humanising guest performance from John Hackett, whose gentle but sublime flute lines offer a warm counterpoint to Magnus' towering synth fanfares. Hackett also appears on "Veil of Sighs", an Enid-like reverie with a beautiful, fragile melody and a dreamy synthesizer coating half between classical and New Age. More like diversions are the jazzy "Dixon Hill" and the campy, discoish rendition of George Martin's "Theme One" (probably best known from Van der Graaf Generator's cover version), both of which sound a bit too thin and synthetic compared to other songs.
After laying out the full range of his influences, Magnus finally attempts to bring them together on the 16-minute title track: it has an absolutely gorgeous, classical-style symphonic movement, but also shuffling rhythm loops, some real electric-guitar soloing and poetry recited by a voice synthesizer. The whole is slightly lop-sided, but the best parts make the ride well worth it. The same could be said of the album itself: Magnus' excellent melodies, tasteful playing and attention to production detail make this an overall strong album that breathes and flows much more organically than many boy-and-his-synth albums out there. Progressive purists and the Analog Orthodoxy may sneer at the digital instrumentation and attempts at crossover with 1990s electronica, but those respecting well-crafted, symphonic synthesizer music a'la Vangelis and The Enid are unlikely to find many better albums out there. -- Kai Karmanheimo
|Links||[See Autumn | Enid, The | Hackett, Steve]|
Project Pu (01)
Recreational Music (02)
Magpu at their Sept. 13th, 2002 "Hiatus Concert" in Dallas, Texas - Kurt Kistler
(keyboards, vocals), Brian Cox (guitar, vocals), Terry McIntyre (drums, vocals)
Kyle "the Giant Bass Player" Grundmann (bass, vocals), Cliff McCarthy (MIDI
xylophone, percussion) - Photo by Fred Trafton
Magpu has been playing their offbeat brand of progressive/free jazz/avant-garde/art rock around the Dallas area since 1997, but didn't solidify to the line-up shown above until Cliff McCarthy joined in 1999. Since I live in the Dallas area, I've known about these guys for a while, but never got to see them until now ... their final performance. Well, maybe not their final performance, but the band is on indefinite hiatus due to the departure from town of Kyle "the Giant Bass Player" Grundmann (yes, he's a really tall guy).
Magpu have released 2 CD's and a large number of live recordings. You can download many hours of live material from their web site to listen to online or make your own CDR's from. This band plays music for recreation, not profit, which means 1.) They can feel free to play anything they darn well want to, and 2.) They not only don't mind you making CD's of their stuff for your personal use, they encourage it. When they were gigging, they encouraged fans to bring their own recorders and jack into the main mixing board to create their own tapes. Now there's a laid-back band!
Magpu's first CD release is titled Project Pu, and is an hour-long CD derived from two days of completely improvised jamming in October 1999. They selected the best parts and added various extra bits of studio work in between the jam segments, resulting in "an uninterrupted sonic experience". Their second CD, Recreational Music is an album of more composed works, presented in "studio quality" (which I assume means it was recorded in one of the band members' home studios).
Magpu's farewell concert was an enjoyable affair. Near as I can tell, they rented a small local club out for the evening, invited all their friends, and bought a couple of kegs for people to refresh themselves with while Magpu played. The music ranged from totally improvised to heavily improvised between composed sections. They use lots of "found instruments" like tubes and hoses and various odd percussion. I would describe it as a mix of Escapade-like improvised Space Rock, Zappa-ish craziness (or maybe it's just that Mallet KAT player Cliff McCarthy resembles Frank in his early days, and also plays what is basically an electronic Vibraphone) and even early, anarchic Gong, like Camembert Electrique. There's also this vague Crimsonish influence, but you can tell by the fact that I don't mention a particular era of Crimson that it's only a vague influence. But perhaps the best comparison (if you've heard them) would be to Sun Ra and his Arkestra ... Magpu is every bit as spacey and improvisational as Sun Ra, though more rock than jazzy.
The band also brought a projector and large screen (a sheet hanging from the ceiling, I believe) and projected scenes from "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Star Wars" and "Koyaanisquatsi" while they improvised their own scores for the projections. I found this to be particularly effective, and it is strange how the music can change the whole feel of a scene, making these old chestnut films I've seen dozens of times each seem very different.
So, order their CD's from their web site and maybe they'll come to believe that someone cares enough about this kind of music that it's worth their time to find a new bass player (though perhaps not a giant one this time) and begin improvising their way around Dallas again. -- Fred Trafton
Update: Magpu kicked butt in their "we're on hiatus but playing anyway" performance at Cattle Prog on Dec. 7, 2002! With a guest appearance by Kyle "The Giant Bass Player" Grundmann and a guest vocalist for one song, this was an incredible performance by one and all. Keyboardist Kurt Kistler also designed the Cattle Prog poster art and T-shirt art! Hopefully, a recording of their performance will be made available either on Magpu's web site or here in the GEPR for you to listen to sometime soon. Stay tuned for further information!
|Links||Click here for Magpu's web site|
Highway 375 (98, EP)
Echoes From The Edge Of The Millennium: 1987-1999 (99, Compilation & previously unreleased material)
The Green Earth (01)
The Garden (02)
Lucid Dreamer (05)
The Book of Revelation (07, as White Tower)
Andrew Robinson of Magus
Magus was formed in Vermont in 1987 by multi-instrumentalist Andrew Robinson. Various cassette EPs were released in the late '80's to early '90's, followed by a series of CD releases in the late '90's and continuing into the millenium. Robinson has worked with a number of musicians in the context of Magus, but he is the only constant. Some albums released as "Magus" are, in fact, Andrew Robinson solo albums, notably Highway 375 and The Green Earth, though the latter did have guest musicians as well.
I have heard only Echoes From the Edge of the Millennium, which is a compilation of music from the previous CD's and also contains some previously unreleased material. This CD is, I would suppose, the best way to get an overview of Magus' output.
The opening song "Traveller" sets the mood for the entire album ... after a pretty cool spacey intro, a pattern of notes emerges from the guitar, a single sequence one measure long with a 4/4 techno-ish beat thumping away underneath. On top of this are added odd synth and guitar noises. That's it. There are no chord progressions, or even a verse/chorus structure. Most of the songs are structured like this, though the things that happen on top of the hypnotic patterns change ... sometimes guitar solos or synth solos or trade-offs between the two, other times vocals, processed or clean. I would call this ambient music, after the fashion of Brian Eno, circa Another Green World or Before and After Science. Some of the Frippian guitar solos add to this impression. It's not the ignorable, goes-background kind of ambient music (except perhaps for for Track 11, "The Infinite"), but it's definitely hypnotic and repetitious, which I believe is the prime requisite for the "Ambient" label. Some of the cuts are so danceable, I might almost call them "Trip-Hop" music.
There is quite a bit of variation from song to song, the repetition occurs only within each piece. "Until the Sun Burns Out", for example, is a danceable beat with a voice-over of a TV news report discussing the terrible situation in a Russian city, with people dying of starvation. Then Andrew's distorted voice begins singing about how Mankind's not evolving, only his machines. Interesting, but in my mind a bit long at 7:29. Another variant of this technique is "Spanish Waters", where the repeating pattern is this time a 6/8 latin-flavored sequence played on a nylon-string guitar, but once again without any chord progressions. Finally, there's "Highway 357 (Revisited)", with a similar technique though this piece could be right out of an '80's new wave dance band with its percolating synthesizer sequences.
There are some major deviations from this style, particularly "She's the Lady", which is a ballad played on 12-string (or a chorused steel-string?) guitar with vocals and no other ornamentation. But, mostly, once you've heard the opening cut, you've got a good idea of what you're going to hear for the rest of the album.
As I re-read this review, it sounds sort of negative. Well, I must say this isn't my favorite style of music, but it is very well recorded, well produced and well constructed for this type of composition. There should be a wide audience for Magus' music among GEPR readers. -- Fred Trafton
The music of Magus is mostly composed by Andy Robinson. He primarily handles guitar and vocals, often leaving the rest of the instrumentation to session players which tend to vary. The music is always diverse, from spacious Floydian instrumentals to songs of acoustic purity (though still spacious!). I think its the acoustic guitar aspect of the music that sets Magus apart from many other bands ... the classically driven acoustic tapestries often provide a beautiful backdrop for thoughtful songs such as "Nostradamus", "I Am the Sun" and "North Atlantic Song".
There are occasional hints of world music that crop up throughout the discography too, such as "Rainforest" and the title track from The Green Earth. There are also plenty of lush synths and keyboard driven songs amid the intricate and driving guitar work. Andy's voice is refreshingly down to Earth and genuine sounding; not a melodramatic, theatrical Fish soundalike so common in modern prog. The lyrics are thought provoking and deep, often addressing man's inhumanity and coldness. Ecological decline is also a topic Andy frequently tackles as well.
Their 2002 release The Garden features a conceptual piece (about 1/2 the album) involving a couple surviving in a post-apocalyptic future. A lot of songs in the Magus discography have interesting concepts, but this album is probably the most ambitious. This required the vocals of Lynnette Shelley [The Red Masque] to perform the vocals of the wife in the story. The story line is written out in the liner notes of the CD & greatly enhances the listening experience. This particular album also features Starcastle's Gary Strater on bass guitar. -- Steve Nicholas
Andrew Laitres (a.k.a. Andrew Robinson) didn't do much new Magus music after the Lucid Dreamer. He did release one new album under the name of White Tower which he described to me as "a one-off project. I took previously released Magus instrumentals (as well as a few new ones) and had a narrator narrate most of the 'Book of Revelation' over it." But now, after several years of relative silence, he's returning with a new band name, The Winter Tree, and a new eponymously-titled album. He told me, "There are way too many bands around the world called Magus or Simon Magus, Dark Magus, Magus Beast, etc. so I decided to change it." See The Winter Tree entry for further information. -- Fred Trafton
[See Red Masque, The |
Winter Tree, The]
Previous links here to the Magus web site and the distribution house of M&M Music are both non-functional. See The Winter Tree web site for info regarding Magus.
Uusiin maisemiin (74)
The meaning of the term "progressive rock" has always been fluid and continues to be so. Hence
Magyar, a six-piece from Varkaus who took their name from a label of a wine
bottle, qualify for a small footnote in its history. When their first single, "Elävien
hauta" ("A Grave for the Living"), came out in 1970, English was still the official
language of rock, Finnish used mainly for novelty hits or throwaway comedy numbers.
Magyar, on the other hand, quite unabashedly sang in plain Finnish about the evils
of "the system" and its rulers - a now clichéd-sounding hotchpotch of axioms championed
by the "culture radicalism" of the day, but certainly "progressive" according to
contemporaneous standards. The actual song had a distinct
proto-progressive edge as well: a catchy but standard guitar/sax riff and an unremarkable
blues-based vocal melody dominate, but they are juxtaposed with a separate, slower middle section
with ephemeral vocal harmonies and clarinet-lines lifted almost straight from "I Talk to
the Wind". Three years later the band still trod the same
art-rockish territory with another single, "Autiolla kadulla nimettömässä kaupungissa"
("On a Deserted Street in a Nameless City"), a chunk of ever-popular urban alienation performed
to organ-based rock with several progressive-style woodwind lines and structural anomalies.
Magyar seemed perched on the edge of creating a fully progressive work.
Unfortunately, whether through line-up changes or conscious decisions, their first and only album, Uusiin maisemiin (Love Records LRLP 96), turned out to be a much more straight-forward rock affair. Most songs are thoughtfully-made but standard 1970s soft-rock songs trudging along in 4/4 with thick organ chords, thoroughly unremarkable guitar riffs and understated solos that fill the normal voids in the succession of vocal verses and choruses. Flashes of progressive past do appear occasionally in the arrangements, such as the hymnal progression of "Eksynyt laiva" ("The Lost Ship") which serves to frame the lush intertwining of instrumental lines, or the honking horn intro to "Asumalähiön Odysseus" ("Ulysseus of Suburbia"). Only "Kuin lintuja sataisi puihin" ("Like Birds Raining on to the Trees"), with its beautiful and rhapsodically harmonised woodwind lines and pastoral instrumental episodes, revisits the progressive spirit of the singles. Progressive rock fans would thus find in the LP a mere curiosity, but the CD re-release (Love Records/Siboney LRCD96) is of slightly better value, for it includes all four songs from the singles as bonus tracks. -- Kai Karmanheimo
We Will Carry You over the Mountains (02)
Kings of Time (04)
Magyar Posse were the first serious Finnish contender in the
post-rock category - better late than never. Whether
post-rock qualifies as progressive is a matter of taste.
At least We Will Carry You over the Mountains (Verdura Records Verdu-8) has lots in common
with especially the German variety of progressive:
hypnotic, mid-tempo rhythms and cyclical grooves overlayed with highly reverberant guitars and
ephemeral synthesizer orchestrations fashioning out Ennio Morricone-like romantic melodies
and atmospheres. These build into impressive climaxes, as best exemplified by the primal flare of
"Singlesparks Are Spectral Fires". Lounge meets lunacy, non-sensical vocalise appears in places,
and buzzes, drones and little jangling, musical-box-like melodies waft in and out of the way of
rising, repeated guitar riffs - the big name of Magyar Posse's native Pori, Circle, have
certainly been an influence as well. The final and revealingly titled "Lufthan" combines a happy
automaton-like beat, unaffected hymnal synthesizer progression and, later, a more upfront guitar
melody in a way of Neu! or lot of
Kraftwerk-related German electronica, giving the album an
uplifting finale. Most of We Will Carry You over the Mountains is well within the rather
narrow limits of post-rock, an expert excursion into
an already well-trodden ground.
Kings of Time (Verdura Records Verdu-11) is an altogether more monolithic slab of sound. Though divided into separate tracks, it is essentially a single piece of music where various dirge-like themes are developed and contrasted with soft acoustic and screaming electric guitars, various wordless voices, violin, sax and synthesizers. The lounge influences sink behind the oppressive, grainy melancholy that rises to bell-tolling, almost Gothic climaxes, a plume of pathos hurled up by sawing guitars and chained to the ground by the bulky, deformed bass and the slogging drums. There is great, breathy beauty and a few heart-stopping dynamic shifts, but the material does entirely quite sustain the length of the cycle, the murky, slow-boiling symphonic anguish and depression starting to wear the listener down towards the end. The closing number is again an up-tempo take-off from the gloom of the main piece, but the Circle-like one-riff gallop never quite achieves the escape velocity necessary for cleansing self destruction. Even with its failings, Kings of Time has enough cathartic power and emotional depth to warrant a listen, if the overall style interests you. -- Kai Karmanheimo
The Inner Mounting Flame (71)
Birds Of Fire (73)
Between Nothingness and Etenity (74)
Inner Worlds (75)
Visions Of The Emerald Beyond (75)
Adventures in Radioland (86, as John McLaughlin and Mahavishnu)
The Lost Trident Sessions (99, recorded in '73)
Mahavishnu Orchestra Mark I - Jerry Goodman (violin), Jan Hammer (keyboards),
Mahavishnu John McLaughlin (guitars), Billy Cobham (drums), Rick Laird (bass)
John McLaughlin's early 70's fusion band, showcases his unique guitar style and features an all star lineup of Billy Cobham, Jerry Goodman, Rick Laird and Jan Hammer. My only gripe is the crappy recording quality of the first two albums, especially the first ... otherwise every album is a 100%er!
Top fusion band of the seventies led by John McLaughlin, guitarist extraordinaire. Their first two albums are absolute masterpieces of the genre: The Inner Mounting Flame and Birds of Fire, both Columbia recordings available on CD from CBS Records. The music is intense beyond belief, probably more harmonically sophisticated than anything else coming out at the time, and contains an instrumental virtuosity and expressiveness that musicians still aspire to. The original lineup was McLaughlin on guitar, Jan Hammer on keyboards, Jerry Goodman on violin, Rick Laird on bass, and Billy Cobham on drums. A third (live) album Between Nothingness and Eternity fell far short of the achievements of the first two, and later versions of the band contained a completely different lineup (and at times the inclusion of *strings*), thus severely degrading the potency of the original chemistry. Later McLaughlin projects included teaming up with Santana for an album and also working acoustically with a group of Indian musicians for several albums under the moniker Shakti. Nothing really compares with the first two Mahavishnu recordings except perhaps Billy Cobham's first album Spectrum, which Jan Hammer played on (along with Tommy Bolin, Lee Sklar, Joe Farrell, Ron Carter, and other musicians). Recorded the same year as Birds of Fire, it comes closer to the spirit of Birds of Fire than subsequent Mahavishnu albums.
|This band just utterly blew me away. I've only been listening to them for about two weeks, but I'm really impressed. Take Lark's Tounges era King Crimson, add a dedicated keyboard player, and then take the energy level and jack it way up. There isn't as much distortion as KC, and there are mellower tracks, which I also love. My best description is mostly hyper, up-beat jazz-rock fusion. If you were to buy one album, get Birds Of Fire, of the three I've heard, it's my favorite. Especially check out "One Word" and "Open Country Joy."|
|For my tastes, the best fusion group to ever exist. Led by the incomparable guitar of John McLaughlin, the Mahavishnu Orchestra combined jazz, rock, and eastern influences into a fiery, dynamic tour de force. The Orchestra actually had two formations. The first band consisted of Jan Hammer on keys, Jerry Goodman on violin, Billy Cobham on drums, and Rick Laird on bass. They released Inner Mounting Flame, Birds of Fire and Between Nothingness and Eternity. Start with either of the first two, particularly Inner Mounting Flame. The sound is somewhat raw but is full of energy and vitality. The musicianship is second to none. You'll be astounded at the interplay between McLaughlin, Hammer, and Goodman. There are enough time and key changes in one *song* to satisfy any progressive listener. The next formation consisted of Jean-Luc Ponty on violin, Gayle Moran on keys, Michael Walden on drums and Ralph Armstrong on bass. This formation released Apocalypse and Visions of the Emerald Beyond. The former is the hardest to get into but is an excellent album none-the-less. It comes a full orchestra with The Orchestra fusion assault. The incredible VotEB is the essential album from the second formation. The focus is the interplay between guitar and violin and it is dizzyingly complex and intertwined. Phenomenal and intense, this is as good as it can get, led by a supreme musician.|
|Though Birds of Fire is the definitive (but not necessarily best) MO album, 1974's Apocalypse is an exciting and rewarding work from John McLaughlin and friends. Forgiving a few slow moments, it may be the single finest orchestral jazz-rock session ever recorded (by the able hands of George Martin) and McLaughlin's greatest moment as musical director/composer. This features the second MO line-up & cohorts spewing fire along side the lush-sounding London Symphony Orchestra, at times echoing what The Zeroes were doing with chamber-rock. It is just the kind of glib fusion record I usually avoid but I was actually proud to add this one to my A-list. Powerful, masterfully themed, a rare treat and profoundly progressive. -- David Marshall|
|Actually, there was a third formation of Mahavishnu Orchestra as well. In the '80's, McLaughlin attempted to ressurrect the Mahavishnu Orchestra and released a couple of albums that are not generally thought highly of, at least by comparison to the earlier incarnations of the band. These albums, Mahavishnu and Adventures in Radioland (released as John McLaughlin and Mahavishnu) feature bassist extraordinaire Jonas Hellborg in one of his earliest appearances. Billy Cobham returned to drum for the first album, and sax player Bill Evans (no relation to the famous pianist) filled out the roster. For Adventures in Radioland, McLaughlin and Hellborg are joined by keyboardist Mitch Foreman and Simmons drum player Danny Gottlieb. Though I haven't heard either of these albums myself, every review I've read of them refer to them with some variation of "disappointing", though in each case the virtuosity of the playing is not in question, only the freshness of the material. -- Fred Trafton|
|Links||[See Cobham, Billy | Davis, Miles | Goodman, Jerry | Hammer, Jan | Hellborg, Jonas | Nova | Ponty, Jean-Luc]|
Live Bootleg (02, Live)
Phase 2 (04, Live)
Return To The Emerald Beyond (07, Live, 2CD)
The Mahavishnu Project - Adam Holzman (keyboards), David Johnsen (bass), Gregg Bendian (drums),
Glenn Alexander (guitar) and Rob Thomas (violin). Original photo copyright 2006 by Robert Mode.
Digitally manipulated by Fred Trafton (moving band members closer together).
In 1971, John McLaughlin left Miles Davis and Tony Williams' Lifetime to form the groundbreaking Mahavishnu Orchestra. Though they were only together for four years, they left behind a legacy of intense and influential music, imitated by few ... until now.
The Mahavishnu Project was formed in 2001 in New York City, where they began performing their own renditions of music from classic Mahavishnu releases such as Birds of Fire, Inner Mounting Flame, Between Nothingness and Eternity and Visions of the Emerald Beyond while trying to remain true to the improvs of the original band, and to McLaughlin's compositions.
The Mahavishnu Project is led by extraordinary drummer/composer Gregg Bendian, widely known for his work with Pat Metheny, Ornette Coleman and John Zorn. He is joined by guitarist Glenn Alexander, keyboardist Adam Holzman, bassist Dave Johnsen and violinist Rob Thomas, all of whom have worked with many great bands and icons in the jazz and rock community. They have toured extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe. The band has begun extending the Mahavishnu legacy into the future by including Mahavishnu-inspired original compositions in their shows.
And yes, they're endorsed by the master: "Just a little note of appreciation for what you are bringing back to life. This musical period was the beginning of finding my own way in music, and to hear you guys playing those tunes in such an unbelievable way is quite amazing. Great job!! Keep up the good work." (John McLaughlin, Oct. 2002).
The above is just info paraphrased from their web site. As to the actual album review for Return To The Emerald Beyond, I have mixed feelings. The album is a 2-CD set, and the first CD is a live rendition of Visions of the Emerald Beyond, all the songs from the Mahavishnu Orchestra album played in the same order as the album. Now, this is my favorite MO album by virtue of the fact that it's the only one I know really well. But be that as it may, I always thought this was one of the best albums I had ever heard by any group, any time. So maybe I shouldn't be surprised that I was a bit disappointed by this first CD. Not that the musicians are bad by any means ... they're all virtuosos, and play very well. But the songs just don't sound like the original album. The Mahavishnu Project's renditions of the songs seem to accentuate different notes, particularly in the high-speed guitar solos, which makes the percieved "melodies" different, even though the note sequences themselves are faithfully reproduced. It's just disconcerting, and it sounds wrong to me. So I have a tough time enjoying this CD even though the musicianship is really very good.
Then it may come as no surprise to you that I find the second CD much more enjoyable. Since I'm not familiar with any of the songs on this CD, I have no expectations, so I can simply enjoy the music for what is is ... complex, virtuosic, heartfelt and brilliantly executed. I suspect that if I heard the original Mahavishnu Orchestra versions now, I would find that those sound "wrong" to me. ***SIGH*** No wonder musicians always bitch about narrow-minded listeners who insist that every solo be played exactly like the original versions on the albums when they play in concert. But I think this is a little different here ... in this case, the renditions are so close in arrangement to the originals (on CD#1 I mean) that the differences seem jarring. If they had just done something further afield, I would have probably been OK with it.
So from my perspective, I would recommend this album to people who aren't that familiar with Mahavishnu Orchestra ... or who can forgive the differences more easily than me. I for one will probably only listen to CD#2 when I bring this album out again. If I want to hear Visions of the Emerald Beyond, I'll probably choose my original MO version instead. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for The Mahavishnu Project's web site
Click here to order Return to the Emerald Beyond from Cuneiform Records
Mahjun (73), Fils a Colin-Maillard (74), Happy French Band (77)
A somewhat progressive French folk band, could be France's answer to early Gryphon, Pentangle, or Fairport.
Babylonia Suite (77)
ELP-style band. No new territory is explored, nor does this cut have the drive and energy of ELP.
This band goes way back to the mid-seventies, I'm sure they broke up ages ago. Their ELP influenced album Babylonia Suite while not earth-shattering is still very nice and stands as evidence that there was some real progressive music going down in Japan way back when. No vocals.
Babylonia Suite is all-instrumental progressive rock on organ/synth/Mellotron /piano/bass/drums. It was actually recorded in 1978, and reflects the prime prog rock menu of those days, with all the hallmarks of the symphonic, melodic style. The use of moog-style lead passages brings to mind ELP as the closest point of comparison. Due probably to the age of the original recording, the sonic quality of the music is not as crystalline as modern recording allows, yet the quality of the music comes through very well.
Inlandsis is Frédéric Maillet's debut "new age/progressive" (his description, not mine) album released in 2005 on Musea Records' Dreaming imprint, which is their "soft electronic" sub-label (my description, not theirs). This album is indeed both "new age" and "progressive", sounding quite a lot like his countryman Jean Michel Jarre with a little of the bombast and orchestration of Vangelis.
Inlandsis has only two long, dreamy cuts titled "Part 1" and "Part 2", clocking in at 25:34 and 29:34 respectively. They are all-synthesized instrumental washes of sound with some sound effects mixed in. This isn't "rock" at all, without any drums or percussion to be heard anywhere. Inlandsis (according to Babelfish) means "Ice Cap", and that's what the music sounds like ... icy glaciers drifting slowly and majestically across a frozen polar soundcape.
The album is marred only by an occasional slightly out of tune synthesizer part ... 9 out of 10 of you probably won't even notice it, but I'm really oversensitive to this. Still, not bad for what it is, which is dreamy, new-agey synth music. Not my favorite album I've ever heard in the genre -- if you've never heard Jarre's Oxygene or Equinoxe, for instance, try them first -- but all in all Inlandsis is a good first recording. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Frédéric Maillet's
web site (in French)
Click here to order Inlandsis from Musea Records
Il canto dell'arpa e del flauto (78)
The wind's game (85)
122 indiani di serie bis (94)
Whale song (96)
Musica Vol.1 (97)
Musica Vol.2 (98)
Last winter's tales (00)
Dragoons ducks and owls (01)
Pepe Maina Compilation - Music for Dreams and Illusions (02, Compilation)
Pepe Maina was kind enough to send me a compilation CD spanning his 20-plus-year musical career. Maina's music is what I might call "light prog" in the sense of "light classical". Too melodic to be Techno, not complacent enough for New Age (in spite of song titles about whales and wolves), a little on the simplistic side for symphonic prog, and too complicated for hypnotic space music, but with aspects of all of the above. He calls it "ambient/prog", but in my opinion it begs to be listened to more than most music I would call "ambient".
Maina's music (at least on the compilation he sent) is all instrumental. His earlier works are all synthesizer/samplers and flute with percussion, but he's added guitar to his latest recordings. His drums seem to be mostly drum machines or sampled drums played on keyboards plus a assortment of hand drums; if so, the programming/sampling is nicely done and not mechanical sounding at all. Maina works in his own studio, named Nonsense Studios, and works largely on his own, though he has collaborated with others for movie soundtracks and TV ad campaign music. His albums are all self-released, though the production quality is excellent.
For comparisons, his latest compositions (since 1995) remind me quite a bit of Steve Hillage's early post-Gong solo albums, though without vocals. Not as droney as Rainbow Dome Musick though, I'm talking more like Motivation Radio or Green era. They have a similar "nature spirituality" feel, which is pretty amazing considering there are no lyrics to give any such indication. As the music gets earlier (they are organized in reverse chronological order on the compilation), it starts to have less spacey feel and get into a bit of latin jazz or even light fusion.
But across all the years, Maina's formula remains the same - pick a catchy chord progression, usually only a few bars, and repeat it while soloing over the top with interesting synthesizer and sampler sounds, processed guitars and occasional sound effects. The variations within this motif are interesting enough to keep the pieces from getting boring, even without vocals. This is nice, relaxing, light prog that your wife or girlfriend might even like (sorry, ladies, but Prog rock is a sadly male-dominated music genre). No great challenge to these pieces, but you don't have to be embarassed to have it on when your Prog friends drop by either. Try out some Pepe Maina by ordering from his web site! By the way, it appears that the CD I heard or a very similar compilation CD is now available from his site as well. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||Click here for Pepe Maina's web site (doesn't work well in Netscape, use Internet Explorer if you can)|
One of the more worthwhile of the early 70's prog bands, helped a good deal by the keyboard talents of Patrick Moraz. His Hammond organ calisthenics are definitely the reason to pick this one up: his playing brightens "God", "Passing Years" and the intro. He even whips out an early "klaviosynthesiser" for the trippy "More Tea Vicar". Also of note is bassist Jean Ristori, who adds a beautiful cello to "Pale Sky" (He later played cello on the track "Lone Fantasy" on Pulsar's Halloween album). One other fact that gives Mainhorse an advantage over many of their other continental peers was the inclusion of an English vocalist and English lyricists, avoiding any worries about broken English. -- Mike Ohman
[See Moraz, Patrick | Refugee | Yes]
The Wood Of Tales (90)
La Porte del Silenzio (93)
La Città sul Lago (98)
In Concerto (98, Live)
Raccolta 1990 - 1998 (98, Cassette-only compilation)
Rari ed Inediti (00)
Oltre L'Ignoto (01)
|Solid new Italian neo-progressive. Should get better with their next release. First one? The Wood Of Tales.|
|Malibran, while good, have yet to mature, their first release, A Wood Of Tales, is rather loose yet shows much promise and many elements of what made the Italian scene so great in the seventies.|
|They sound like Biglietto Per L'Inferno.|
|Hard rock mixed with soft symphonic prog. The first album is quite rocking, with a big presence of the guitarist. Apart from the usual prog instruments, they have also a flute player, and a good one at that! This feature makes this band a bit difference, since they know how to fit the flute sound, specially on the second album. La Porte del Silenzio is specially a good album. Sung half in English and half in Italian (much better IMHO, since the singer has a horrible accent), the album has the usual (more than) side-long piece, plus some smaller, and equally good songs. All musicians play well their instrument, but with no particular highlight. The keyboardist, though, is a bit hidden between the two guitars, but he's always there, filling up the songs. The sound has no immediate comparison. They're not straight neo-prog, they have a slight tendency to sound like the old 70s band, but due to the recording, they wouldn't pass for an old band... If you like tasty flute work, then this band will appeal to you, even more if you also like guitar-dominated prog. I found them quite nice and I think most will find them too. -- Luis Paulino|
Malicorne II (75)
Malicorne IV (77)
En Public (78, Live)
L'extraordinaire tour de France (78)
Quintessence (79, Compilation)
La Bestiaire (79)
Collection (7?, Compilation)
Balancoire en Feu (81)
Les Cathédrales de L'Industrie (86)
Légende, 2eme Epoque (89, Compilation)
|If their "best-of" album, Quintessence is any indication, the best way to describe these guys is a French Steeleye Span. Absolutely brilliant treatment of French folk songs with instrumentation ranging from krumhorns and hurdy gurdies (yes, some stretches smack of Gryphon) to electric guitars. The band's leader, Gabriel Yacoub also released a solo album entitled Trad. Arr.. Highly recommended to folkie progheads... Not a dud track on Quintessence, which is rare for best-of compilations :-)|
|One of the finest folk/prog bands ever. They started in the early 7ties as a folkband, mainly as a project of Marie and Gabriel Yacoub, and recorded their first LP in 74. The first three outputs are mainly folkrock (similar to early Steeleye Span), mostly traditional songs but very nicely arranged and played by the band (a lot of medieval instruments, bassoon-like horns and solo strings but also bass guitar and some synths). Starting with IV they developed a much more progressive style. Electric guitar and keyboards get more dominant and a string quartet and brass quintet show up. The masterpiece on this one is the ten minute track "Le Jardinier Du Couvent". Tour de France goes one in a similar way, but definitely the highlight is Le Bestiaire. Brian Gulland from Gryphon joined the band playing bassoon, sax, flute and krumhorn and this certainly was a strong addition. Balancoire is nearly as good, featuring the fantastic "Vive La Lune". IV , Tour, Bestiaire and Balancoire are highly recommended . Mix Gryphon with Steeleye Span, add some cello and violin and French chorus singing and you get an idea how they sounded. Quintessence and Collection are compilations from their first four releases (Collection came with exactly the same cover as Almanach!). Légende is a CD compiling material from their later LPs (starting with Tour), thus is a nice introduction to this great band for any prog listeners. -- Achim Breiling|
Our Lady of the Bones (95)
The Dissolution Age (01)
|Malombra is a heavy dark prog Italian group with lyrics in English. They are musically in the range of Black Widow and Atomic Rooster but with a personal approach.|
Sean Malone at NEARFest 2004
Review added 5/20/02:
[See Aghora |
Gordian Knot |
Click here for the Sean Malone/Gordian
Knot web site
A very rare album that is said to easily command $700-750 in collector's circles.
Revelation (69), 2 Oz Plastic With Hole In Middle (69), Man (70), Do You Like It Here? Are You Settling In? (71), Live At Padgett Rooms, Penearth (72), Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day (72), Man and Friends, Christmas At Patti (73) (2 10" LPs), Back Into The Future (73), Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics (74), Slow Motion (74), Maximum Darkness (75), Welsh Connection (76), Friday The 13th (83), The Twang Dynasty (93), Man 1994, The Official Bootleg (94), Call Down the Moon (95)
Maybe more rock than prog, but these guys sure used to deliver the goods. Rockin' stuff.
Another one of those bands that aren't really progressive in the general sense of the word (or the stylistic one either) but nevertheless, find themselves on many a prog collector's list. Why? These guys rock hard. Much jamming abounds, with an incredible sense of Grateful Dead-ish spaciousness, but end up blowing them away with their guitar work. Their early seventies stuff is all highly recommended to guitar freaks (like me!)
I heard one track from Slow Motion. "Hard Time To Die", I think it was called. Some fine keyboard work, lots of electric piano, but some pretty irritating vocals. If there are songs like this on other albums, I wouldn't mind hearing them. I heard snippets from other tracks: hard rock, jug band music, etc. In other words, it pretty much runs the gamut. -- Mike Ohman
Man were a relatively popular guitar/organ band from Wales. They've released many different albums and have had many personnel changes. They have ties to Wild Turkey, Gentle Giant, and Quicksilver Messenger Service as well as lesser known bands like Ducks Deluxe, Deke Leonard's Iceberg and the Neutrons. Be Good to Yourself at Least Once a Day is regarded by many Man fans as their best release. It contains for songs averaging about 10 minutes each. This particular formation takes a two guitar front, adds organ (and some synth) and goes off on long instrumental excursions (just a few vocals) of dual guitar leads and keyboards that is reminsicent of Wishbone Ash, early Steve Miller and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Certainly, fans of the style of those bands would want to hear this album. Slow Motion isn't as good. The eight songs are now running 4-6 minutes long. Only two of the members from Be Good... are still around. The band is a quartet but there are several guest musicians appearing on various songs. The style is really not much different from Be Good... other than shorter songs and more vocals. I think their forte, however, were the extended guitar assaults. Another popular Man album that I haven't heard is Maximum Darkness which features John Cipollina on guitar. It's a live album that features long songs and a three guitar assault.
[See Gentle Giant | Neutrons, The]
Man on Fire (98)
The Undefined Design (03)
Man on Fire - Live line-up, I believe it's Eric Sands (guitar), Jeff Hodges (vocals, zendrum), Rob
Sindon (drums), Richard Meeder (fretless bass, vocals) and Steve Katsikas (keyboards)
If you're the kind of prog fan who needs a lot of Mellotron or Hammond organ to maintain your interest, then maybe Man on Fire won't be your cup of tea. Their second album, The Undefined Design is mostly the core two members, Jeff Hodges (vocals, keyboards, Zendrum, samples and loops) and Eric Sands (fretted and fretless basses, guitars) with Steve Carroll contributing lyrics and "esoterics", whatever that means. Drums are handled by guest musicians, and Kansas' David Ragsdale contributes violin on 3 tracks. It's a good album, though I must say the "modern" sound put me off a bit. The recording quality is superb, but stylistically it seems to have more in common with the so-called "edgy" alt-rock (does anyone still say "post-rock"?) style than prog. It's a good album with proggy parts and interesting lyrics, all meticulously arranged and recorded, but it didn't really move me that much.
Their third album, Habitat, is more interesting to me than The Undefined Design. Firstly, I'm a sucker for concept albums (even a loose concept like this ... songs about the various inhabitants of a "Habitat", in this case a city block, from the point of view of the Habitat itself), secondly the addition of Crimson's Adrian Belew as a guest guitarist on nearly every song, and finally the strength of the compositions and quality of the recording. Man on Fire seems to now have a full-time drummer, Rob Sindon, and once again David Ragsdale plays violin, this time on five of the 12 cuts. Some might argue this isn't prog rock at all, but I certainly wouldn't be among them. This is very guitar-oriented and song-oriented, and there are certainly aspects of post-rock, electronica and maybe even a dash of alt-metal. I don't know why anyone who doesn't hate rock wouldn't like this, even those who would usually turn up their nose at a "prog" album. The vocals are emotionally delivered in a unique but not difficult-to-listen-to style, the lyrics are topical and gritty but not preachy or gross. The guitars are ... well, it's Adrian Belew, need I say more? An excellent album that will be getting a fair amount of play on my CD player even now that I'm done with the review. There's not many CD's I can say that about.
As of March, 2006, they announced that they would release a live album of their 2005 performance at ROSFest (which included Little Atlas' Steve Katsikas as a guest on keyboards as well as session player Richard Meeder on fretless bass and vocals), but this has yet to be released. Their performance is said to have included Habitat in its entirety. They are also in the studio working on their fourth album as of this writing. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Belew, Adrian | Kansas | King Crimson | Little Atlas]|
Mandalaband (a.k.a. Mandalaband I) (75)
Mandalaband II: The Eye of Wendor: Prophecies (78)
Mandalaband III: BC - Ancestors (09)
Resurrection (10, Remastered 2CD Compilation of Mandalaband I & II)
Mandalaband IV: AD - Sangreal (?, Scheduled for May 2011, but unreleased as of this update)
David Rohl, circa 2010
Quoting directly from the back sleeve ... "The brainchild of Strawberry Studios chief engineer Davy Rohl, The Eye Of Wendor was the first of a projected musical trilogy describing a Tolkienesque world and its inhabitants, performed by The Mandalaband. The band were actually a group of musicians assembled by Rohl to help him realise his musical vision, and included several well-known names from the panoply of mid-70s rock artists ..." Contributors include 10cc, Barclay James Harvest, Justin Hayward (Moody Blues), Maddy Prior (Steeleye Span), and Paul Young. From listening to the Mellotron-laden passages of symphonic music, the hand of Woolly Wolstenholme (keyboardist for Barclay James Harvest) is very much in evidence. Much of the vocals bear the mark of various members of 10cc, placing this release quite well in the 10cc-meets-BJH class. The score is very musical and enjoyable, filled to the brim with melodic hooks, and orchestral rock interludes. As a bonus, half of their first, eponymous release, "Om Mani Padme Hum (Four Movements)" is included on the CD.
After more than 30 years, David Rohl has assembled a new version of the Mandalaband and is actively recording again. In 2009, he released Mandalaband III: BC - Ancestors with cover artwork by Ed Unitsky, and a remixed/remastered 2CD set which re-releases the first two albums, called Resurrection. He's currently in the studio with another assemblage of musicians recording AD - Sangreal, which was supposed to be released at the beginning of 2011, then May of 2011, but still hasn't been released. The web site (see below for link), however, has some videos of the recording in progress. -- Fred Trafton
[See Barclay James Harvest |
Moody Blues, The |
Steeleye Span |
Click here for Mandalaband's web site
Cristo Redentor (68), Righteous (69), Games Guitars Play (70), Baby Batter (71), Get Off in Chicago (72), The Snake (72), Shangrenade (73)
American Guitarist who is probably best known for his stints with Canned Heat, John Mayall, and other session work. His finest moment was his first album Cristo Redentor, which stands as a monument of instrumental rock, highly innovative both technically and structurally (even by today's standard), combining influences from rock, blues, jazz and country. A good comparison would be Chet Atkins' album Stay Tuned.
I have Cristo Redentor, and it's a pretty good album. It's somewhat psychadelic with some good guitar work.
Very commercial music.
Pecado Tras Pecado (93)
Mandrágora's described themselves as "influeced by all the great progressive rock groups. [They're music is] full of complex melodies, breath taking arrangements, and all sorts of meter changes. But Mandrágora is not foreign to other musical styles, they do Prog in the complete definition of the word. They liberally mix pop elements, rock sounds, ethnic roots, african textures, and tons of other elemants in their unique musical view. Mandrágora is constantly searching and experimenting with new forms. The final product is of course a very suprising and atractive repertoire."
Something Missing (85, Cassette)
Over the Moon (89, CD released on Delerium has extra tracks)
Under the Sun Live (90, Cassette)
Head First (91, CD released on Delerium has 3 extra tracks)
Mandrake Madness (92, Cassette, Outtakes and Live)
While the Green Man Sleeps (93)
Temple Ball (94)
Once in a while a recording arrives in my mail box that blows me away. Earthdance is the latest CD to do so. Formed in the summer of 1984 by Simon Williams, Mandragora is a major exponent of neo-psychedelia. Playing alongside bands like Hawkwind, Gong, and Ozric Tentacles, Mandragora has honed their unrivalled blend of jazz, reggae, ethnic, electronic, and space rock music in their latest release. Simon Williams and ex-New Age keyboardist Phil Thornton form the nucleus of Mandragora with a variety of guest musicians playing on each of the seven songs. Each song is unique and explores a different facet of Mandragora's capabilities. All are excellent with two songs shining above the rest. One is the outstanding instrumental "Xylem" where Mandragora captures the rhythmic spirit and instrumentation of Klaus Schulze's "Miditerrean Pads"! Then there is "Factory in the Jungle," a pseudo reggae protest song about the loss of the tropical rain forests that grows and develops into a cosmic jam the world has not heard since the early years of Hawkwind. Earthdance is a true masterpiece! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Click here for
some Mandragora web pages on the Delerium web site
Click here for an interview with Mandragora on the Aural Innovations web site
A Revivre Le Futur... (90)
Alias for ex-Troll leader (can't remember his name). Very Genesis sound alike with new synths and drum machines.
French band led by Michel Altmayer (drummer of Troll). Unlike Troll, this is very melodic and colorful stuff, mostly instrumental, in the vein of early Edhels, without the blistering guitar edge or electronics. Definite strong Genesis influence, but occasionally the throbbing zeuhl bass can be heard just below the highly polished surface.
Mandragore is the solo vehicle for Frenchman Michael Altmayer who once led Troll. The music is full of lush digital synths and occasional guitar over drums. Very melodic that shows several Genesis influences. The drumming is rather stagnant. Sometimes very nice melodic prog, other times is veers dangerously close to merely decent new age. Overall, not bad as background music but I get bored if I concentrate on it.
[See Altmayer, Michel]
Maneige (75), Les Porches (75), Ni Vent, Ni Nouvelle (77), Libre Service (78), Composite (79), Montreal 6AM (80), Images (83)
Their sound started out very symphonic, then evolved into sort of a symphonic Pierre Moerlen's Gong. By Libre Service the fusion elements of their sound were stronger, and by Images most of the percussive stuff of the early period had given way to a sound that fell somewhere not far from Edhels with a more jazz-rock feel. Most of their albums are 100% instrumental, I think only Les Porches has vocals on some tracks. The core lineup throughout was Alain Bergeron (Flute, Saxes, Keyboards), Denis LaPierre (Guitars), Yves Leonard (Bass), Vincent Langlois (Piano, Keyboards,Percussion), Gilles Schetagne (Drums and Percussion) and Paul Picard (Vibes, Xylophone, Marimba, Percussion,etc.).
I have Ni Vent...Ni Nouvelle which is a very beautiful album. Musically, the music on this release is most comparable to Gentle Giant, yet the band has a very unique sound, perhaps a little more like Locanda delle Fate. Judicious use of tubular bells, flute, violin, soprano sax, gong, recorder, and a variety of percussive instruments, such as xylophone and vibes, lend a fresh and relaxed feeling to the music. I've not heard the others, but this is an album worthy of anyone's collection.
Canadian instrumental prog with a fusion bent. Three members play percussion of some sort, so if you guessed that the music is percussive, you'd be correct. The debut album is rather diffuse, with lots of aimless soloing, but there are moments of lucidity. These become the basis for Les Porches, a more interesting and stronger album overall. The pieces are still quite long, but to good effect. The solos don't drag on as on the first album, and there's a lot more stylistic diversity, drawing on jazz, 20th century classical and other styles. Ni Vent...Ni Nouvelle concentrates the sound developed on the previous two albums into small, bite-sized chunks. It also adds a string quartet to a couple of tracks. A good album, with a touch of symphonic flair. Except for the excellent "Les péntocles," the symphonic influence is muted on Libre Service, displaying a more jazzy feel. There's even a touch of funk--in 7/4 time, no less--on "Troizix," a splash of Jamaican reggae on the percussive "Toujours trop tard." -- Mike Ohman
The Book of Dreams (02)
Mangala Vallis 2003 - Gigi Cavalli Cocchi (Drums, percussion), ?, Mirco Consolini
(guitars, bass), ?, Enzo Cattini (keyboards). The three named musicians were the
line-up from The Book of Dreams, and I assume the other two guys are recent
additions to flesh out the line-up for performance.
Original entry, 5/24/03:
After a brief (1:47) spacey "Ouverture", the second cut really starts the album with "Is the End the Beginning", a longish (9:28) symphonic prog workout with a section that is remarkably similar to Genesis' "Apocalypse in 9/8", especially the drum and bass pattern that plays underneath the organ/synth soloing. But it's on the third cut, "The Book of Dreams" that really sounds like Genesis, with a section lifted directly from "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)", to the point that Genesis could sue for copyright infringement if they wanted to (if they still existed, or cared I mean). In addition, guest vocalist Vic Fraja, who sings on 3 cuts ("The Journey", "Days of Light" and "Asha") sounds so much like Peter Gabriel, it's obvious that they're really trying for that early Genesis sound. And they have achieved it.
Now, others might use these facts to draw the conclusion that Magnala Vallis is "just another Genesis rip-off band". But for myself, I think Mangala Vallis is fantastic. Genesis certainly hasn't done anything this good since Wind and Wuthering at least (maybe since The Lamb), and they haven't done anything at all for years, so why not pick up the mantle and continue to make music in this vein, which many of us love so much. MV are excellent musicians who are up to the challenge of taking up the mantle, so I say "go for it!". I've listened to this album way more often than I needed to just for the review, just because I've enjoyed it so much.
So if you're a Genesis fan that doesn't mind another band playing music in the same vein, Mangala Vallis should make you happy. By the way, the vocals on The Book of Dreams are handled totally by guest artists, and they're all excellent, singing in English with little or no Italian accenting. I note little in their sound that says "Italian band" to me ... they could absolutely be a UK band for all you can tell from the recording. Whether this is a good thing or not is up to you, but I like this album a lot and can recommend it highly. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Mangala Vallis' official
Mad Moon Rising (99, Demo)
Mercenary (99, Demo)
Machine Mind (00, Demo)
Brother's Promise (01, Demo)
The Valley Of Evergreen (02, Demo)
The Mad Moon Rising (04, first full-length album)
Fools In Control (06)
No Signs Of Wisdom (To be released in July 07)
Manitou is a six-member Finnish Progressive Metal band. I've seen them popping up on the web for several years now, but with no albums and no album deal signed. They have finally self-released their first album Brother's Promise [actually, this was their fourth demo -Ed.] as an MP3.com CD. I originally wrote a small blurb about them over a year ago, just saying "Prog Metal with emphasis on the Metal", but now that I've developed more of a taste for prog metal in general, I just have to say these guys kick serious prog metal butt! They're a great prog metal band and deserve far more attention than they've gotten.
Their big influences seem to be Dream Theater, Queensrÿche and Iron Maiden if that gives you a hint about their musical style. They sing in English. You [used to be able to] download all their songs from their MP3.com site or their IUMA site and build the whole album on CDR yourself, if you want to. But they're only asking $7.98 for the MP3.com CD, or $3.99 for the netCD version. I advise you to support this great band by buying it rather than just downloading the whole album. Give them a listen, at least ... if you're a prog metal fan, I don't think it gets any better than this! -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Manitou's web site
Click here for Manitou's MySpace page
Click here for a band bio on the Tartarean Desire web site
Chants Would Be a Fine Thing (84)
I May Sing Grace (84)
Psalm Enchanted Evening (86)
Second Chants (92)
The solo-album Second Chants of this ex-Twelfth Night vocalist can best be described as minimalist. Fans of Philip Glass, Wim Mertens and such might be very pleased with it. It is very sober, mostly consisting of a simple background with Mann's vocals over it. The background can be acoustic guitar, but also a sort of repetitive industrial sort of sound, like working machines. The instrumental pieces are a bit more melodic, and quite nice (especially on "Evensong"). Guest star is Pete Nicholls of IQ fame, who does some very nice vocals (although they sound sort of shaky). The nicest song is "Yes," which is sung in bits and pieces during some sort of fake radio or TV-programme, in which the singers are poking fun at all sorts of things. All in all, I can recommend this album, which is IMHO not just a curiosum, though it might seem so.
|One time singer with Twelfth Night. Solo albums are pretty unpredictable, his newest Second Chants is pretty bizarre stuff that few would enjoy.|
|Second Chants is the last solo effort from the recently deceased ex-Twelfth Night lead vocalist. It is centred around the vocals of Mann, who has taken more than a leaf out of Peter Hammill's book. Six of the tracks feature additional vocal backing by ex-IQ vox-man, Pete Nichols. Be advised that this does not sound like a Twelfth Night-meets-IQ neo-progressive extravaganza, but is a more subdued, yet effective showcase for the compositional skills of Geoff Mann. The music, as with Hammill's efforts, is sparse in comparison with the symphonic style of the bands that the personnel stem from. Yet, there are three instrumental tracks in the keyboard/guitar vein that offer interludes. All in all, this should appeal to those who enjoy the style of Peter Hammill, and, of course, the admirers of Geoff Mann.|
|In November of 1992, Mann was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. He died in his home in Rochdale, UK in February of 1993 at the age of 36. Mann was a Reverend of Christ's Church in Harwood, UK. He is said to have quit Twelfth Night to pursue his religious beliefs in a stronger way, though he continued to produce the solo albums listed here up until his death. He has a web site (listed below) maintained by Peter Labrow and Mann's widow, Jane where you can order his albums. -- Fred Trafton|
[See Casino |
Catley, Marc and Geoff Mann |
Click here for Geoff Mann's web site
Earth Band (72)
Glorified, Magnified (72)
Solar Fire (73)
The Good Earth (74)
Nightingales and Bombers (75)
The Roaring Silence (76)
Angel Station (79)
Semi-Detached Suburban (79)
Somewhere in Afrika (83)
Budapest (84, Live)
Soft Vengeance (97)
Mann Alive (98)
The Best of Manfred Mann's Earth Band Re-Mastered (Vol 1) (99, Compilation)
The Best of Manfred Mann's Earth Band Re-Mastered (Vol 2) (00, Compilation)
Evolution of Mann (03, Compilation)
Manfred Mann 2006 (04, with Manfred Mann's Earth band)
|Not progressive, but guitar- and synth-oriented rock. If you like Saga's Worlds Apart album, you'd probably like these albums by MM's EB: Angel Station, Chance and The Roaring Silence.|
|I'm sure many will rave about MM's Earth Band, which I don't find to be very progressive at all, just sort of a rehash of already well explored ideas on a marketable poppy AOR substrate. Manfred Mann's truly innovative band was Chapter Three, which preceeded MMEB by a couple years. Their unique approach had a definite jazzy feel, with Mann's piano, the organ and unusual vocals of Mike Hugg, with bass, drums, and alto flute. They (Chapter Three) only have two albums, the best being the first (self titled).|
|I've got Solar Fire which is unremarkable except for a great progressive opening song: "Father of Day, Father of Night."|
|Though their approach to progressive music (cover versions of popular singer/songwriters songs done in bombastic long versions and rock adaptations of classical works) was pretty dated in the mid-sevneties, they did manage to squeeze some decent, albeit commercially-geared, music out of it. Solar Fire is one of the best, featuring "Joybringer", which was based on Bach's famous "Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring" and is a good deal better than Apollo 100's "Joy". Nightingales And Bombers is not as good, but perhaps historically important as the first public acknowledgement of Bruce Springsteen as a songwriter with a cover of his "Spirit In The Night". Ironically, it would be Springsteen who provided the Earth Band with their biggest hit: "Blinded By The Light" from The Roaring Silence. That album was their most commercially successful, riding in the wake of "Blinded", but featuring more than that to recommend it: especially a beautiful version of Mike Heron's "Singing The Dolphin Through" and some good originals, most notably "Starbird" and "This Side Of Paradise". Later albums much sketchier, though they managed to squeeze the odd hit single form them (most memorably with another Heron composition: "Davy's On The Road Again" from Watch). -- Mike Ohman|
|The hit single "Joybringer" was not based on anything by Bach (despite Mike Ohman's review) but on "Jupiter: The Bringer of Jollity" from Holst's "The Planets Suite". The official website essentially confirms this by saying that the Solar Fire album was built around "The Planets" theme due to the single's success. Here's the link. -- Neil Gregory|
MMEB is Manfred Mann's incarnation in the 70's progressive rock scene, following
a successful Rockabilly period in the 60's. Mann's habit for inspired adaptations of
Dylan's and Springsteen's rather obscure songs, created some new dimensions of
prog rock jewels, e.g. "Father Of Night", "Spirits In The Night" and "Blinded By The Light". His
earthly life and cosmic concerns are obvious, from the band's name to album covers, titles and
MMEB music is a more conventional simpler form of prog rock, without complex arrangements, based on a standard rock quartet (drums, bass, guitar and keyboards). Solid rhythm section, gives way to virtuoso interchange of phrases and the alternate fast solos of Mick Rogers' guitar and Manfred Mann's organ/synth, the absolute feature of MMEB sound. Influences from Camel, Pink Floyd, early ELP and Yes, especially Keith Emerson's and Rick Wakeman's keyboard styles, as well as from classic Cream-like rock sounds.
Messin's "Cloudy Eyes" is a hidden sad instrumental beauty, reminding of "Funeral For A Friend" from Elton John's legendary Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. "Sadjoy" follows. Overall, not at their best moments.
Solar Fire's highlight is Dylan's "Father Of Night", an epic prog rock track. Sensational organ/synth and guitar work. "In the Beginning ..." and the self-titled "Solar Fire" are also marvelous tracks. Overall, a very good prog rock album.
The Good Earth contains "Earth Hymn", an incredible Mann composition, and classic prog. The rest of this album is a bit far from progressive standards, but fairly good.
Nightingales and Bombers is MMEB's most coherent and complete work. Magnificent string arrangements in the opening track "Spirits In The Night", the album's highlight. "Visionary Mountains" is a dreamy quest. Keyboards often create early Floyd-like soundscapes, while successive leading of fast and increasing tempo guitar and keyboard playing dominates. All in all, one of the best prog rock recordings of the mid '70's.
1976's The Roaring Silence is their biggest selling album ever, with a USA No.1 hit single of Springsteen's "Blinded By The Light". "Starbird" has interesting guitar-organ alternations and "Questions" is a fine ballad. Chris Thompson and Dave Flett's arrival gave a more commercial rock touch to MMEB.
Watch reveals clearly the group's new course to more simple commercial blues-rock song formats. "Mighty Quinn", a revival of Mann's 1968 No.1 hit, is present here. "Chicago Institute" and "Davy's ..." are the best tracks, but all strongly remind Kansas, Foreigner and Alan Parson's Project sounds.
1984's Live In Budapest adds nothing in particular to their discography. -- Kimon Danielidis
[See Chapter Three]
Click here for Manfred Mann's
Tall Stories for Small Children (99)
The Cure (00)
The Ragged Curtain (02)
The View From My Window (03)
The Press Pack Sampler CD (04, Compilation)
A Matter Of Life & Death (The Journal of Abel Mann) (04)
One Small Step ... (05)
Anser's Tree (06)
Songs from the Bilston House (07)
I've only heard the MP3's on Guy Manning's web site, but they call for further investigation. The songs from The Cure are disturbing, no doubt because this is a concept album about insanity. The vocals in "Real Life" remind me of "An Inmate's Lullaby" from Gentle Giant's In a Glass House, and sound every bit as crazy in that lilting, "everything's OK, really it is" sort of way. "Whispers on the Wire" features an organ track that's halfway between ELP and The B52's (if you can imagine such a thing!). The music I've heard is haunting and somewhat sparse (as opposed to symphonic), especially the MP3-only unreleased cover of "Hushabye Mountain" from "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". This sounds every bit as whacked as "Real Life", though not in any way I can put my finger on.
News 7/22/04: Guy Manning has a 6-track (plus one bonus track) sampler available for free download from his web site (similar to the Parallel or Ninety Degrees Sampler, also complete with CD jewel case & disk artwork), so check it out by clicking on the link below. By the way, it does not include any of the songs I talked about above. Further, you may be interested to know that Angela Goldthorpe of Mostly Autumn played flutes and recorders on The Ragged Curtain. -- Fred Trafton
[See Mostly Autumn |
Parallel or Ninety Degrees |
Unusual Weather (86)
Toward the Center of the Night (89)
Drastic Measures (91)
The Book of Flame (98)
With Michael Hedges:
A student of Jaco Pastorius (Weather Report), Michael Manring started out becoming famous on the Windham Hill label. Wait a moment! Isn't that the "new-age" label? And doesn't "new age" suck? Well, in my opinion, there's a lot of "me too" new age music out there that isn't all that interesting. But Manring, one of the original artists signed to the Windham Hill label, has always been pushing the envelope, even with his first three solo recordings on the label and as bassist for his friend and label-mate Michael Hedges until Hedges' untimely death in 1997. There's nothing boring about Manring's bass, even on these relatively accessible recordings.
Even so, Manring eventually tired of being labelled a "new age artist" and decided to branch out into something more aggressive than Windham Hill would have been interested in releasing. So, he changed labels and recorded Thonk, the only Manring album I've personally heard. Though Manring himself jokes, "I'm sure they'll still put the album in the New Age bin", this album is anything but "new age". He describes it, with tongue in cheek, as a "new age death metal fusion". I'd call it more like "extreme fusion", somewhat along the lines of Planet X, but with bass and guitar in the forefront rather than keyboards. However you describe it, "new age" isn't high on the list of possibilities. This is certainly progressive rock, and quite enjoyable to listen to. I would like to thank the idiot who sold his copy to Half-Price Books, where I picked it up for a couple of bucks. Some people just don't recognize genius when they hear it. Or maybe he was just expecting a new age album. Hehe.
On Thonk, guitarists Steve Morse ("I had him play on the most jazzy stuff, not on the real thrashy stuff") and Alex Skolnik ("Of course, he's a heavy metal guitar player first and foremost, but there's a lot more to him than that.") lend a hand, as does drummer Herb Alexander (Primus). Manring would work with Skolnik and Alexander again on two albums released as Attention Deficit.
Manring is quite famous among bass players, and he does a lot of bass "clinics" for aspiring bassists (look under "Concert Schedule" on his web site to see if he's coming to your town). He uses and endorses the Zon Hyperbass. He also does a lot of performing as a solo bassist, showing that the instrument is capable of a lot more than it is usually used for. He will be doing this during his "solo spotlight" in NEARFest 2006, and I'll be there! -- Fred Trafton
[See Attention Deficit |
Click here for Michael Manring's web site
Time to Fly (93)
I wanted very much to like Time to Fly by this young Swedish band. I was successful only to a limited extent. Upon first listen, I was reminded of ELP's "Tarkus," not in style but in contrast between studio and live versions. The live version of "Tarkus" is one of my all-time favorite works, ELP at their absolute best -- energetic, loose and monstrous. In contrast, the studio version of the suite sounds rigid and formal. I had a sense of "deja-vu" with Time to Fly. Sounding stiff, I can't help but think Manticore would be much better live in a club than a studio. Manticore straddle the fine line between Neo-progressive and Retro-Progressive, jumping back to the sound of the '70s and forth to a '90s style from one song to the next. The band comes off as a mix of the "big three": ELP, Genesis and Yes. Most of the digital and analog keyboard work by Erik Olsson strongly invokes Keith Emerson. However, there is also a Banksian influence in many of the passages. Add to that the prequisite (for current Swedish Prog, anyway) of large doses of Mellotron and Manticore angle away from the ELP clone trap. Occasional Wakemaneque passages are also heard, while guitarist Ulf Holmberg (who also plays one of the two Mellotrons) smacks of Hackett and Howe, as well the more modern sounding style prevalent in Neo-Prog. Despite the obviously derived nature of Manticore's style, the band show potential to play some pretty good Prog. The main problem with Manticore, for me, is drummer Putte Eriksson. His playing is very boring and plain. As a friend of mine said, "lobotomized." It's strictly to the beat and forget any kind of exchange between him and the rest of the band. This lack of good trap work ruined the overall effect of the group's effort. To add flame to the fire, I quite like Goran Holmberg, the Squire-styled bassist. If only he had a good drummer to spar with, Manticore would have an great rhythm section which would vastly improve the band's music. Instead, it served to remind me why I dislike a lot of Neo-Prog. The other major drawback is the recording mix. The songs are loaded with Mellotron yet it's buried in the mix. So is the guitar and, often, many of the other keyboards. For me, the Mellotron, when used, is responsible for much of the emotional impact of the music. Buried in the mix, the 'trons have no such effect for me. One minor quibble is the choice of the English lyrics. Kjell Jansson's heavy accent makes it hard to understand what is being sung. I would rather that Manticore sing in Swedish so I can enjoy the vocal melody and not worry about what is being said. But, that's my own preference, so it may not be perceived as a flaw by you. To be fair, relative to much of today's Neo-Progressive Rock, Manticore stand up well, despite the insipid drum work. Unfortunately for them, they follow close on the heels of Landberk, Anglagard and Anekdoten, the Swedish standard for Progressive Rock. Manticore pale in comparison. Hopefully, the flaws will be worked out for a second release. I really want to like these guys. Time to Fly doesn't make it easy. -- Mike Taylor
[See Lindh, Pär]
The Jazz Composers Orchestra (68)
No Answer (74)
The Hapless Child (76)
More Movies (80)
Something There (83)
Many Have No Speech (88)
Folly Seeing All This (93)
Cerco Un Paese Innocente (95)
|US trumpet player, who started with Jazz and Free Jazz. On Jazz Composers Orchestra you will find big band free jazz improvisational music. Beginning in the early 7ties he developed a very unique art rock style centred around his trumpet playing. On most of his releases several sophisticated vocalists (Jack Bruce, Robert Wyatt, Carla Bley, Marianne Faithfull and Kevin Coyne) present exceptional lyrics by well known poets (e.g. Samuel Beckett or Harold Pinter). They are usually joined by a strong and powerful group, changing from release to release quite rapidly. The musicians the most famous (despite the singers) are Don Preston, Nick Mason, Terje Rypdal, John Greaves, Don Cherry, Larry Coryell, Tony Williams and Chris Spedding. The atmosphere on all his recordings is truly melancholic and quite dark. The music has a definite neo-classic appeal, the keyboards (piano, organ, synths) are usually very strong, Something There and Many Have No Speech feature a symphony orchestra, Folly the Balanescu Quartet and Cerco a chamber brass orchestra, but usually guitar, bass and drums keep the rock roots dominant. Live, recorded at the 1st International Art Rock Festival in Frankfurt, features Bruce, Preston, Mason and Greaves and is maybe the best introduction to this music (at least it was for me). -- Achim Breiling|
|Links||[See Greaves, John | Preston, Don | Rypdal, Terje | Wyatt, Robert]|
Mantra Sunrise (00)
Mantra Sunrise is guitarrist John Miner's band before he put
together the Art Rock Circus to perform Heaven's
Café. Together with Joel Bissing, vocalist and lyricist, John has created
an album of dark, moody music, almost gothic in nature. It drips with reverb in every
song, but ultimately probably has more in common with The Doors than any symphonic Prog
album I might name. The studio technique and lack of synths make this sound like a
re-release of a "classic rock" album from the late '60's, though
Miner's alternate guitar tunings give some of the songs an odd
texture not heard there.
The solo electric and acoustic guitar pieces by John Miner, "Brudnell", "Your Heart Acousic" (is that supposed to be "Acoustic"?) and "Mantra Sunset" are the high points, though some of Bissing's vocals are also interesting in a moody sort of way.
Miner and Bissing haven't worked together in awhile, because Bissing has been off to the Seattle Art Institute to study music. He has written another album's worth of material and intends to record it with Miner as Mantra Sunrise again soon. He feels it will have a "Brit-Pop" feel, but Miner says that "it probably won't any more once I get through with it". -- Fred Trafton
[See John Miner's Art Rock Circus]
Click here for more info at Tributary Music's web site
Diamond Head (75)
Primitive Guitars (82)
The Explorers (85, w/ Andy MacKay, re-released 1991 as Manzanera and MacKay)
Wetton/Manzanera (86, w/ John Wetton)
Guitarissimo (87, Compilation & unreleased tracks)
Nowomowa (87, w/ Paul Williams and Andy Gossart)
Southern Cross (90, re-released 1997 as Million Reasons Why w/ extra track)
Manzanera Moncada - Live at the Karl Marx, Havana (91, Live)
The Manzanera Collection (95, 2CD Compilation)
Phil Manzanera, 801 Live album, 1976
I heard some of Diamond Head, which didn't strike me as being especially exciting, but was far from unpleasant. K-Scope features most of Split Enz on it, and not surprisingly, sounds a lot like them. -- Mike Ohman
|Manzanera is a brilliant guitarrist, but to be honest I usually like him better in bands than on his solo works. 801 Live and Quiet Sun's Mainstream are both wonderful examples of Manzanera's talent. Diamond Head has its moments, but is overall forgettable. I haven't heard any of his other solo works. -- Fred Trafton|
[See 801 | Quiet Sun | Roxy Music]
En Directo (72, Live)
|Pysch group with lots of great fuzz guitar. If you like psych, this band is for you. En Directo is a live album. -- Juan Joy|
|Links||[See Esqueixada Sniff]|
La Máquina de Hacer Pájaros(76)
La Máquina de Hacer Pájaros (in english= "The Bird-Making
Machine") was a band created by Charly García, right after he disbanded
Sui Generis. This time he abandoned the
folk-influenced sound of Sui Generis in
favour of a more "prog-symphonic-rock" approach. He once said about La
Máquina, "we were the Yes of the third
world". Not a bad descrition, since their sound was similar to
Yes, with the influence of South American music
among other influences.
They introduced in Argentina the novelty of having two simultaneous keyboardists. The band was:
|An Argentine band featuring Charly García (voice, keyboards), Carlos Cutaia (keyboards), Gustavo Bazterrica (guitar), José Luis Fernandez (Bass) and Oscar Moro (drums). Very gentle sounding prog with a very distinct south-american sound, LMDHP reminds me at times of bands as diverse as Genesis, Return To Forever and even Yes, while always mantaining a very unique sonic personality. Though there are two keyboardists, they never seem to overplay and seem more interested in creating a soothing backdrop than noodling. They are both very gifted musicians though, which is evidenced by some of the more intricate work on songs like "Como Mata El Viento Norte" or "Bubulina". Like all the other bands I've heard with Charly García, these guys have a heavy jazz influence, although it's seldom overbearing. The guitar player tends to play acoustic work somewhat reminiscent of Mike Rutherford in Genesis, although he lets loose in cuts like "Las Calles de Costa Rica" to give way to fiery electric bursts in the vein of early Return To Forever. Charly Garcías falsetto is somewhat hard to warm up to, but this band really grew on me. Perhaps the only caveat is that sometimes they get a bit too soft, but otherwise it's a great band to listen to. It also should interest fans of Argentine rock, as it was the band that paved the way for the seminal progish rock band Serú Girán. -- Dark Sol|
|Peliculas (Microfon C-90) is 38 minutes of melodic symphonic rock and warm, sometimes funky fusion driven by guitar and double keyboards. "Obertura 7.7.7" sets the scene with nice call and response between bass, piano and classical guitar, before a gallant melody, driven by organ, synth and electric guitar, emerges from a laid-back, Camel-like groove, complete with a typically funky electric piano comping. "Marylin, la cenicienta y las mujeres" highlights both the albums strengths and problems: the song features borderline sappy vocal sections complete with a fortunately subdued boys' choir, but the instrumental closing section cooks nicely with layers of guitar, piano and synthesizers amassed over a sharp bass riff, creating a twisting yet sweepingly melodious effect. "Hipercandombe" has funky synth and clavinet, and the vocal melodies are quite standard, but here too the band save the day with some burning solo trade-offs and harmonised leads from synth, guitar and organ. The only unredeemed track is "El vendedor de las chicas de plástico", which really is nothing more than a slick groove, string-synth smears and schmaltzy vocal melodies decorated with the kind of sub-Bee Gees harmonies that New Trolls were imbuing their music with at the time. Speaking of New Trolls, the band's affable melodies recall the much vaunted lyricism of many Italian prog bands, though they are tinted with a warmer, distinctly South American touch. Melodic finesse and symphonic arrangement harmonise best on "Ruta Perdedora", as the surging, staccato vocal melody is turned into an instrumental motif for different instruments to repeat in a series of ascendant rushes and releases. Not as good as Pablo el Enterrador's self-titled release, Peliculas should still appeal to the fans of Argentinian take on melodic progressive rock. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
|Links||[See Séru Girán | Sui Generis]|
|This is a most interesting band. They are basically a combination of symphonic rock (with a 70's sound), with ethnic elements. They call this mixture "ethno prog-rock". Initially, there's an evident influence of Los Jaivas, maybe if Los Jaivas had ever decided to write progressive rock, they could have come out with something like this, who knows ... The fact is that Mar de Robles (a translation would be "Sea of Oaks") are into something really distinctive. Two percussionists mean that there are highly textured and complex percussive lines, with a clear latin feel (not particularly Chilean, but just latin). They often use the method of exposing and repeating a theme, keeping the first half of the phrases unchanged, and modulating the end of the phrase with each repetition, thus achieving a certaing psychedelic feel. There's also a wide use of a certain rhythmic pattern, 3/8 with accents on the second and third beat. This shouldn't be specially meaningful, but is the pattern of the Chilean typical dance ("Cueca", not "Gueca" as Sting believed it was). The outcome of all this is that they are getting an interesting mixture of pure symphonic and psychedelic rock, with Chilean folk music. If you are into ethnic-flavoured prog rock, check this one. -- Rodrigo Farías M.|
Click here for Mar de Robles'
Download music here, under Downloads>mp3
The First Run (94)
Live (98, Live)
|Neo-progressive band that plays in the Rush and Marillion style. Great band! All the members of the band are working in the same direction.|
|Marathon were a Dutch band who released two studio albums and a posthumous live album. Their debut The First Run is definitely neo-prog, influenced by Rush, Saga and, to a lesser degree, Marillion. Ten songs between 5 and 10 minutes in length, all with vocals. Guitarist Ronald Ten Bos dominates the sound with big power chords, ringing arpeggios and jerky riffs in the Alex Lifeson / Ian Crichton fashion, as well as emotional melodic solos a'la Steve Rothery. Keyboardist Tony Ten Wolde concentrates on playing rich background pads and occasionally joining the guitar in some nifty arpeggios. Bassist Jacques Suurmond and drummer Willem Van Der Horst are a typical neo-prog rhythm section: solid, steady and inconspicuous - it is a matter of taste whether you consider these qualities negative or positive. Equally ambiguous is the performance by lead vocalist Erik Ten Bos: he has a strong voice and usually hits the right notes, but he insists on singing in that annoying American AOR style which mixed with his accent is a combination that gets irritating after awhile, though not so bad that it would override the music. The album sound is very professional, polished, pristine, lush and striking (of course, it may sound overproduced to those who prefer the retro approach). It is in the composition department that Marathon give their most uneven performance. The first three songs are great with strong melodies, emotional delivery (especially on "The Seventh Dimension"), some rapid changes in mood and tempo during the instrumental sections, and soaring guitar solos; the songs also seem to be thematically linked by lyrics dealing with all kinds of paranormal experience. I have to say that the final chorus of "Beyond The Veil" sounds very much like the Rush song - that's right - "Marathon". Unfortunately the last seven tracks are a mixed bag. "Medicine Man" and "Voices" seem only half-written, as their promising verses are followed by unmemorable choruses and pointless instrumental sections; on the other hand, "Open Field" is a great atmospheric ballad with a haunting melody, played with just some shimmering keyboard sounds and acoustic guitar. "Red Ride" and "A Wall" suffer from mediocre writing and banal choruses, but come alive momentarily during the instrumental sections. The final two tracks, "I'll Be There" and "Patterns of the Landscape", are closest the band come to aping Marillion: the former is an "Incommunicado"-styled, party-on singalong, while the latter is a more atmospheric piece (sounding a bit like "The Short Straw") as well as an awkward attempt at an environmentalist statement. To sum it up, The First Run is an uneven but generally enjoyable neo-prog album, at times bordering on AOR. I would place this somewhere at the middle of the neo-prog scale, nowhere near the masters of the genre (IQ, Jadis, Twelfth Night) but still above most of the watered-down, no-original-ideas wannabes (too numerous to mention). -- Kai Karmanheimo|
Dreams Consumed (71)
Excellent all-instrumental solo effort by the unknown Marco Gomez. This is truly a homegrown effort, produced by Marcosmos Productions on his own independent label. All guitars and synths are performed by Marco. Marco can be considered as the Mike Oldfield of Mexico with a similar style of weaving guitar and synth melodies with such precision and zeal that it immediately provides a very appealing listening experience. Some of the synth passages, such as "El Encuentro," "Tria," and "Umbrales" have a baroque meets flamenco feel. Much of the guitar work has a King Crimson or Robert Fripp-like quality that blends very complex ryhthms and time changes with intricate, somewhat dark, synth melodies reminiscent of Änglagård on occasion ("Palomas De Cristal," "Hells," "XX XXX," "Tyrannus"). The album also has some dabblings that venture into the psychedelic realm with Bach-like organ swirls and fuzz guitar licks. Yet on occasion, Marco's keyboard style reminds me of Rick Wakeman, especially on the baroque/Bach-like material. The only negative comment I have is that one can tell this is a first effort. On occasion, Marco tends to wander with the guitar a bit and ends up in the trap that a lot of guitarists fall into by playing as fast as possible to show us his expertise. Some of his jams get repetitive also. But these two negatives should not dissuade one from buying this album. Marconceptos is a brilliant first time effort that has something to offer everyone and should be part of every prog enthusiast's collection. -- Steve Staub
Albert Marcoeur (74)
Doin' Nuthin' (74, as Nemo)
Album a Colorier (76)
Armes et Cycles (79)
Celui ou y'a Joseph (84)
Albert Marcoeur (89, 2CD reissue of 1st four LPs)
Ma Vie Avec Elles (90)
Sports et Percussions (94)
m, a, r, et coeur comme coeur (98)
Plusieurs cas de figure (01)
Albert Marcoeur is known as the French Frank Zappa. This is a
fair description if one means Hot Rats era Zappa.
Marcoeur began playing saxophone in the French jazz band The Lake's Men in the sixties. By the time he was in the band Kapak, Marcoeur could be found on drums. His first solo effort, Albert Marcoeur (1974), is the most Zappa inspired: lots of horns, percussion and wild humor. His next two LPs are more song oriented and are beautiful efforts. Marcoeur spends a lot of time building each record, and the musicians he surrounds himself with are always top notch.
The one essential release would be the 2-CD set reissue of his first four records. Marcoeur's subsequent releases are all quite good, even if they are not as exciting as his earlier work. Although I have not heard his new  CD as of today (October 2001), I can highly recommend his '98 release m, a, r, et coeur come coeur. -- Doug Hebbard
|Described as the French version of Frank Zappa. In a RIO vein, the music can be zany, unique and quite good.|
Click here for Albert Marcoeur's web
site (in French)
Rainbow Knight (86)
Star Light (87)
The Force of Trinity (88)
Mage Lich (89)
The Ring of Truth (92)
Crystal Heart in the Fountain (95)
Fantasien 1998 (98)
|All except Fantasien are cassette releases. Fantasien is a CD release.|
|The original Fantasien was released in Japan in 1991, but thanks to Musea's efforts the band re-recorded the entire album, which is now available as Fantasien 1998 (Musea FGBG 4223.AR). Marge Litch's line-up is the archetypical drums/bass/guitar/keyboards/female vocals, while their music is an interesting mix of familiar and less-familiar styles. The album's opening and closing tracks remind very much of Teru's Symphonia: sharp electric guitar and pounding rhythm section tempered by bombastic keyboard flourishes and strong, highly melodic female vocals, with classically influenced arrangements and a very dynamic sound. Both are excellent, the grandiose melody of the latter being especially haunting. The third track "Dealing With The Witch", on the other hand, is pure opera. Synthesizers weave an orchestral backdrop for the contrasting voices of lead vocalist Junka Sera and guesting Tomoki Ueno (of Outer Limits and Deja Vu fame) to duel and converse; a quite unique and powerful song. The remaining four songs fall in the progressive metal category, but they are still much better stuff than most of the material produced by countless Dream Theater clones and other metal bands trying to "go progressive". There are the obligatory heavy riffs, galloping double bass drums and shredding solos where the guitarist and the keyboard player play million notes a minute, but the band contrast these with quieter symphonic moments where keyboards play gorgeous classical lines and Sera's layered vocals weave magnificent, almost gothic carpets of sound. I still prefer the other three tracks over these four, but those who like symphonic progmetal bands like Rhapsody will quite probably love these songs. All players are technically brilliant and all get to show off their chops. Lyrics are, naturally, in Japanese. Production is up to the usual high standards we have come to expect from Japanese prog bands (apparently the original Fantasien was somewhat lacking in this area because of budgetary limitations), even if the mixing engineer must have had his hands full in trying to maintain a proper balance between the instruments during some of these songs. In short, 64 minutes of powerful, at times metallic symphonic rock with extremely strong vocals. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
|Links||Click here for Marge Litch's web site (in Japanese)|
70's Japanese band with an early symphonic sound. Hot guitar and keyboard exchanges and japanese vocals. relatively dated sounding, though.
Visions from Out of the Blue (??)
Mainstream prog with much Mellotron.
Script For A Jester's Tear (83)
Real to Reel (84, later reissued w/ Brief Encounter EP)
Misplaced Childhood (85)
Brief Encounter (86, EP)
Clutching at Straws (87)
Live at Loreley (87)
B'Sides Themselves (88, single B sides)
The Thieving Magpie (La Gazza Ladra) (88, Live)
Seasons End (89)
Holidays In Eden (91)
A Singles Collection (92, Compilation)
Live at the Borderline (92, Live)
Live in Caracas (92, Live)
Live in Glasgow (93, Live)
Afraid Of Sunlight (95)
Made Again (96, Live)
Kayleigh/Essential Collection (96, Compilation)
Best of Both Worlds (97, Compilation)
This Strange Engine (97)
Marillion Singles Box '82-'88 (00, Box set, Compilation)
Anorak in the UK Live (02, Live, available in 1CD and 2CD versions)
Marbles Live (05, Live)
Somewhere Else (07)
Happiness Is The Road, Volume 1: Essence (08)
Happiness Is The Road, Volume 2: The Hard Shoulder (08)
Recital of the Script (09, 2CD or DVD, Live from 1983)
Less is More (09)
High Voltage Festival (10)
Marillion 2006 - Pete Trewavas (bass), Mark Kelly (keyboards), Steve Rothery (guitar), Steve Hogarth (vocals)
and Ian Mosley (drums),
Marillion, taking their name from Tolkien's "The Silmarillion," are widely accepted to be the first neo-progressive rock band. Their sound is similar to Genesis '72 to '82 or thereabouts with Pink Floyd and Yes influences to a lesser extent. From their first album Script For A Jester's Tear through Clutching At Straws, the music is directed around the poetic and sometimes fantasy lyrics of the lead singer Fish, who sounds very much like Peter Gabriel. The music is kept simple and sparse in order to make the lyrics the focus of the music. The synthesis between lyrics and music is, at times, rather extraordinary and moving, yet nearly always depressing. Their first three albums are loosely connected and explore the concept of a depressed jester that seems to have lost so much that he begins to go insane. The first album is probably their most progressive release - well, at least it's the least mainstream-sounding. It's lacking in many areas, but the title song and "Forgotten Sons" are notable. The second album, Fugazi, really works well, in my opinion, as they take more chances and get a bit heavier and fuller sounding. "Assassing" and "Emerald Lies" are quite good. The next album was a true concept album called Misplaced Childhood. It's linked songs tell a murky story about lost loves and lost childhood innocence. It produced a catchy, moderate pop hit called "Kayleigh." Their best-written, best-performed, and mostly best-liked album is Clutching At Straws, a concept album that discusses the depressions of society and the use of drugs and alcohol to suppress them. There are a number of finely crafted songs on this release, including the opening triad of songs "Hotel Hobbies/Warm Wet Circles/That Time Of The Night" and "Just For The Record," "Slàinte Mhath," "The Last Straw," and a catchy radio hit called "Incommunicado." This album is probably the best starting point for someone interested in getting into Marillion. Fish left in 1987 and Steve Hogarth took over on vocals and shared in the lyric writing. Unfortunately, the lyrics and their synthesis with the music isn't as good. Their new sound seems more geared for radio play, although they still have an air of depression in the music. Their latest album is a concept piece called Brave about a young girl that contemplates suicide on a bridge. It is billed as a return to form, and although it is a step in that direction, it is still lacking much of the magic of those early years.
Marillion began its career with the album Script for a Jester's Tear. While this album shows influences from many of the great 70's progressive bands, Marillion had definitely developed a style that was all its own. Exquisitely arranged music was accompanied by the vast lyrics talents of Marillion's lead singer: Fish. Songs such as "Script for a Jester's Tear" and "The Web" burned with beauty unlike anything else in the field of rock and roll; and songs such as "Garden Party" and "Forgotten Sons" cut with a social satire that was almost as deep. With their second album Fugazi Marillion really hit their stride. The music had divorced itself from the influences that were apparent on Script, and Fish's lyrics became vast in their intricacy. So vast, in fact, that the cathedral like imagery employed in Fugazi almost collapse in upon itself. Approach this album with poetic care. With these first two albums Marillion had achieved many great things, but these albums were soon to pail in comparison with their third work Misplaced Childhood. This album placed Marillion among the greats. A work only comparable in progressive music with such albums as Pink Floyd's The Wall and Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick. This album, one continuous piece of music, shows off Marillion's skills at composition. All together flawless. With this album Marillion was to see the greatest amount of success and publicity the band has seen in its career. This was the only time that Marillion made any mark on the U.S. music scene, and probably is the only time that they ever will.
Marillion's fourth album Clutching at Straws was to be "old" Marillion's farewell to the world. The album, dealing with the problems of drug addiction and alcoholism, was the final album to be made with Fish as front man and lyricist. Fish left the band in 1988 to pursue a solo career. The exact details of the breakup are still the subject of some conjecture. With Fish gone many thought that Marillion was at its end, but the band hired a new front man by the name of Steve Horgarth and came back with a new album Seasons End. Steve Hogarth was everything that Fish was not: Short, good looking, a brilliant singer, and a crappy lyricist. Seasons End showed that Marillion was doing very well without Fish, thank you very much, and were going to survive quite well. The album, and Steve Hogarth, were well received by the fans and things looked good. Meanwhile, Fish had put out a solo album Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors which marked a deep departure from anything that Fish had done with Marillion. Gone were the dripping verse of Script and the heartfelt angst of Misplaced Childhood. What emerged was an independent, more commercially viable Fish; also showing that he could do fine without Marillion.
Up to this point, Marillion's music had remained very much unchanged. Even with the switching of front men, the music had continued in very much a straight line. This was to change, however, with their next album Holidays in Eden. Taking a very strong step in the direction of commercial rock and roll, this album failed in both pleasing Marillion fans, and gaining a bigger market share in the Top 40. All together this album was the first "bad" work to come out of Marillion, in all its ten years of existence. Fish was faring no better. His next album Shadow Play was met with mixed reviews. His work also showed a move in the direction of the main stream, and many "old" Marillion fans wondered if this was the same old Fish they had grown to love. Things were looking bleak on both sides of the Marillion fence.
Then, in February of 94, Marillion released their 6th album Brave. Once again, Marillion had returned to their old progressive ways. Though one can hear the echoes of Holidays in Eden on this new album, Marillion has shown that it can produce a concept album without relying on "old" Marillion material. Though Fish has not released his new album at the time of this writing (March 94), reports from concert goers is that the new material is pretty good. Things are looking bright for the future of Marillion and Fish. If you have not yet discovered them, then now is a good time to do so. It looks like the best is yet to come.
The archetype of neo-prog bands and still one of the best. I never heard the extreme Fish/Gabriel similarities people go on about. They're not *that* similar. Marillion do owe a lot to Genesis and Peter Hammill but they were never, even in the beginning, derivative in anything other than a historically flattering sense. Not a bad album even counting Holidays in Eden which people moaned about a bit. The radio songs on Misplaced Childhood are actually good (God knows how they got on the radio!). Both Clutching at Straws and Seasons End have a radio track on them ("Incommunicado" and "Hooks in You" respectively) which are largely throw-away and totally different to the rest of the music. I only just found out that the CD of Clutching at Straws has an extra track I never knew about that fits in with the entire suite nicely. Fish left due to "lyrical differences" ... the band thought he was getting too obscure ... he was obscure but his lyrics were quite brilliant as long as you weren't in the "thoughtful = pretentious" kindergarten. Start with Misplaced Childhood and work backwards then forwards. A great band with some really classic material ("Chelsea Monday," "White Russian," "Blind Curve," "Grendel" (*very* Genesis)).
[See Arena |
Chemical Alice |
Wishing Tree, The]
Click here for Marillion's web site
Absolute Zero (01)
The Criminal Element (01)
Mark 1 - Chris Molinski, Kyle Jones and Robert DiFazio
I checked out the web site on these guys after I got the CD. I was surprised to find that they were all kids ... born in the mid-80's. "I've got socks older than these guys," I thought. "A real progger has grey hair, yellow teeth and a pot belly. They actually said in their press release, 'this CD could quite possibly be the catalyst of the new progressive movement so many have been waiting for'. Yeah, right. What could these youngsters know about prog?"
Plenty, as it turns out. OK, they're not the most virtuosic individual players you're going to hear. What do you want? They're all teenagers. They don't have all those years of practice and training dragging them down and holding them to the same old, tired rules that the grey-haired pot-bellied set has to contend with. Nobody ever told them they couldn't write a major chord progression that resolves in a minor chord. So they just do it anyway. And it sounds really cool. Unexpected. Progressive. That's when I slap myself on the forehead and remember that back in the "good ole days" of progressive rock, the giants weren't the old greybeards ... Keith Emerson, Chris Squire and Robert Fripp weren't much older than these guys when they started the entire Progressive Rock genre with some of the best albums ever made. How soon we forget ...
But back to Mark 1 ... these three guys say they were in a rut playing covers of pop bands until one of the band members got his hands on a copy of Selling England By The Pound, and that changed everything. You can tell, there are many techniques from this album and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway that are very evident in Absolute Zero. From a very Tony Banks synth sound and playing style to the "Enossification" of the vocals just like The Lamb, and even a vocal vamp which includes "You gotta get in to get out", these guys really love that Genesis sound.
Still, there's plenty different in their sound, and they only sound like Genesis off and on. This is not a clone band. The guitars and drums sound nothing like their Genesis counterparts, and the music tends to be relatively thin rather than lush and thick like Genesis. Absolute Zero is a concept album, about a guy rebelling against his big corporation. His company's goal: to bring the temperature to "Absolute Zero". "Why" you ask? Do you know why your company does what it does? Maybe you would rebel too if you had 4-foot-high Oscar the office supply thief to help you out. My recommendation: buy Absolute Zero! I haven't had this much fun listening to a new CD in ages. You can even find it on Amazon.com!
When I was reviewing Absolute Zero, Mark 1 told me, "There should be more ambitious material from us in the future". Well, it's out now. Their second album The Criminal Element isn't as exciting as Absolute Zero, but it still has some good stuff on it. Much more varied than their first album, and without any overall concept, The Criminal Element is an album of pretty good songs, though nothing really stands out like their first album. Clocking in at only around 40 minutes (with two 9-minute-plus songs and one silly one that lasts under a minute), this is almost an EP by comparison to Absolute Zero. The songs still feature the Selling England By The Pound-era Genesis sound, and if anything the vocal styling is noticeably even more like Phil Collins than the previous album. However, they are also trying to find more of their own sound in this album. I think that's the problem ... their own sound isn't as successful as their Genesis sound. Overall, The Criminal Element isn't bad, but I hope for more concept stuff in future albums, and perhaps a bit of fine tuning to their own sound. Maybe they should try listening to a few more prog greats and try integrating some other material into their sound as well. Not Yes, ELP or Dream Theater though ... those have been done to death. How about Thinking Plague or National Health? -- Fred Trafton
|Links||Click here for Mark 1's web site|
Le Monde En Etages (70), Le Son Tombe Du Ciel (71), Le Desert Noir (77), Platock (78), Contemporus (79), Live (80)
French guitarist/multi-instrumentalist, very unique. His albums blend multi- layered acoustic guitars with fiery leads, piano, ethereal female voices, throbbing bass and percussion. His guitar style could be described as early Larry Coryell (acoustic) meets Randy California (electric) with a strong middle-eastern influence. Le Desert Noir is a heavier guitar album which features drums on almost every track, overall very hendrix influenced. With Platock, there is more maturity in his sound, combining delicate acoustic guitars and more piano to his trademark sound, with less reliance on drums. Contemporus attempts to continue in the same vein, but fails to reach the same energy level, except possibly on the sidelong "Contemporus" suite. Start with Platock, which most will agree is his best. First two releases are very rare.
Visitor Parking (76), Industrial Sabotage (80)
On the Random Radar label.
[See Feigenbaum and Scott]
Tremulant (01, 12" EP)
De-Loused in the Comatorium (03)
Live EP (03, EP, Live)
Frances the Mute (05)
Scab Dates (05, Live)
The Bedlam in Goliath (08)
Mars Volta - Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavalas
Original entry, 10/25/05:
After reading many reviews like the one above, and a fairly in-depth cover story in Progression magazine, I was intrigued by these guys, but had never heard any. Unlike the plethora of unknown band's CD's I get as promos from various prog rock labels, The Mars Volta doesn't need someone like me to get exposure for their band, so I wasn't in line to get any promos from them. I would have to actually buy an album myself if I wanted to hear them. Horrors!
So, when one of our local Border's Books and Music stores decided they didn't want to be in the CD business any more, they started selling off their entire stock of CD's at half price. Whether that's a sign of a faltering economy or a signal that CD's as a music medium are in their death throes is a subject for a lengthy article, and not an aside in a band's entry. But I saw this as a chance to hear The Mars Volta, and I specifically went looking for one of their albums. Sure enough, there was a copy of their latest release, The Bedlam in Goliath, and so I picked it up.
Firstly, let me say that I've read a lot of reviews from "traditional prog" fans that had nothing good to say about The Mars Volta. They were blasted as being everything from "pointless noise" to "too much youthful anger" to "too commercial". Since I count myself among the "traditional prog" ranks, I was afraid I might have the same reservations about The Bedlam in Goliath. But I must say that, while I do sympathize with my fellow "trad proggers" views as expressed above, personally, I love The Bedlam in Goliath. I'll admit it wasn't love at first listen. But then I also had to listen to King Crimson's Lark's Tongues in Aspic several times before I started to be able to hear the music clothed in all that angry noise. And, of all the "traditional prog" albums I could name that The Bedlam in Goliath reminds me of, Lark's Tongues in Aspic is the one that most frequently came to mind. Or maybe Starless and Bible Black or Red, but that general era at least. That was the time I was following a charismatic christian spiritual path, and these albums were on my list of albums I felt I had to avoid because I felt them to be evil. Satanically inspired, even. These days such a concept seems pretty stupid to me, but I could easily see a person of this persuasion nowdays having the same problem with The Bedlam in Goliath that I had with those early Crimson albums. It feels pagan in an anti-christian way, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the warped christian iconography in the liner notes. Perhaps Voudoun or Santeria? I'm not really sure what these guys are into, though there is a strange story about an Ouija board's influence on the album, and the subsequent quest to rid themselves of the thing when bad stuff started to happen.
But all that, while interesting, doesn't say a lot about the music, except indirectly. I guess I would have to categorize The Bedlam in Goliath as Progressive Metal in general terms, though more punkish metal than, say, the Dream Theater or Rush variety. The high-pitched vocals are indeed sometimes reminiscent of Geddy Lee or Jon Anderson as the previous reviewer said, though with a distinctly frantic feeling, and with a fingernails-on-a-chalkboard stress-inducing angst factor. If I listen dispassionately, there are some parts of this album that occasionally slow down and get mellow, but overall the album feels like it never lets up in the fast-paced high-notes-per-second amphetamine-induced frothing-at-the-mouth convulsions intensity level. If that sounds unpleasant to you, then you may be among those who won't like this album. But, though I wouldn't be able to handle a steady diet of music like this, I've got to say this album is a topnotch, stylistically groundbreaking tour-de-force, and deserves a hearing by anyone claiming to be interested in progressive music. For the times when I need to get the adrenaline pumping (and, as a bonus, perhaps piss off some goodie-two-shoes Jesus-peace-besotted types), I'll have The Bedlam in Goliath in easy reach for a while. Truly progressive rock.
And, I've just noticed that I probably used more hypenated word groupings in this article than I ever have before. I wonder why. Do you care? Didn't think so. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for the official The Mars Volta web site
Click here for The Mars Volta's MySpace page
Click here for another, apparently unofficial Mars Volta web site
Marsupilami (70), Arena (71)
Weird early seventies British band that did the Nektar trick and transplanted themselves overseas (this time in the Netherlands.) The only band that I can compare them too would be East of Eden, and if you haven't heard them, than I can't really compare them with anyone else. Excellent and very ahead of its time progressive music, in the mid period Crimson ethic, with weird and oblique melodies and harmonies.
Marsupilami were a Netherlands (I believe they moved there from England) band from the very early '70s. The album revolves around organ, guitar and flute. There is a bit of a Camel feel in the melodies (particularly with the flute) but the lack of moog makes them sound quite different. There is also a strong folk feel in the vocal melodies and some of the music. The organ work gives a bit of a early '70s psych feel. Arena is a concept album but the songs on both albums run in the 7-9 minute range. Perhaps not essential but generally pretty nice if you like melodic prog with folk touches and a bit of a "early" feel.
A British 6-piece from the early seventies. Their sound reminds me of an upbeat Strawbs. They are more of a prog rock band with folk inflections here and there. I especially like the heavy keyboards and busy drumming. Their overall sound is somewhat typical of the period - full of late sixties influences - but unique enough to be worthwhile. They occasionally sound like In Search of Space era Hawkwind but with more emphasis on vocals and keyboards. The instrumental proficiency and variety will keep the average prog-head interested.
The opening track to Arena begins with singer Fred Hasson speaking: "I've come here today to rip the veil from your eyes, open your heads and PULL OUT YOUR BLOODY MINDS!!!" It only gets odder from there, as they display their twisted, satanic take on ancient Rome, complete with graphic descriptions of lion maulings, inverted crucifixions and other forms of ancient torture. Despite the dated (and amusing in a somewhat campy manner) quality of the lyrics, the music is surprisingly advanced for 1971. Keyboardist Leary Hasson was later in CMU, but the music here is less dated (well, less "hippie"). His playing is very strong, startling blasts of organ and ocean waves of Mellotron lurk round every corner. The whirling, often distorted flute of Jessica Stanley-Clarke adds an intriguing feel as well, as do her haunting harmony vocals. Fred's lead voice is similar to Cressida's Angus Cullen in general tone and pitch, though more highly strung and less accomplished. Good early prog. -- Mike Ohman
En Direct du Rock'n'Roll Circus (69), Acte II (70), Les Originaux (87)
French six piece. The first one is normal rock, slightly progressive because of flute and sax. But the second, a double LP called Acte II is nice. On this one they create a Jazzrock/Fusion style with dominant sax, flute and organ, so you may compare it to Canterbury bands (Caravan) or Supersister. But there are also some cabaret-elements in it, at least in the shorter pieces. Not extremely great but not bad. -- Achim Breiling
End of the Beginning (07, remix/re-release of Airraid w/ 3 new tracks)
Martini Henry - Ken Moore (bass), Garrett Henritz (drums) and Matt Graboski (guitar & vocals)
Martini Hanry is a three-piece, originally from Maryland, but now moved to California in hopes of furthering their musical careers. They put together an album in 2005 called Airraid featuring Matt Graboski (guitar & vocals), Garrett Henritz (drums) and Chris Cavey (bass). Cavey left the band and was replaced by Ken Moore. This line-up recorded several more songs and these were released together with a remix of Airraid for a new release in 2007 entitled End of the Beginning. This is the album I've heard.
When you first listen to Martini Henry, the first thing that grabs you is Grabowski's frantic and furious acoustic guitar work, and his gruff, gravelly whisky voice. My first thought was, "boy, this doesn't really sound like prog". No, it doesn't ... if you're thinking of "the usual suspects" like Genesis or Yes, or even the "new wave" like Porcupine Tree or Pure Reason Revolution. However, if we're simply defining "prog" as innovative, new, and unlike anything you've ever heard before ... not to mention omnipresent oddball time signatures ... then Martini Henry certainly fills the bill.
After the first couple of songs, you get used to Grabowski's acoustic guitar and vocals, and start listening to the percolating, busy bass lines of both Cavey and Moore's contributions, and the strange, rimshot-heavy, "'40's drum techniques gone punk" drumming of Henritz. I'll bet this guy has heard some Keith Moon drumming in his life, too. The bottom line is that there's something unique and interesting going on in every instrument. There's no keyboards and a relatively small amount of electric guitar ... this album is mostly about acoustic guitar, bass and drums ... and, of course, Matt Graboski's unique vocal stylings. This album is an easy recommendation to anyone who's not too bogged down in "old school" prog stylings. Great stuff.
One other tidbit ... if the name Graboski sounds familiar to you, that may be because of Jay Graboski's '70's prog band OHO. Jay is Matt's dad, who also produced Airraid in his studio. Talent does sometimes run in the genes. But in this case, I think the son has surpassed the father, at least for my taste in prog. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Martini Henry's web site
Click here for Martini Henry's MySpace page
The Pillory (78)
The Pillory/The Battle (05, 2CD)
"'The Pillory' is a major electro-acoustic orchestral work that is an intense and complex composition. The concept is a perpetual one which takes place not necessarily in our past, present or future, nor within our current perceptions of time, space reality or consciousness. The music is symmetrically scored to correlate with the metaphysical ideas. It's structured into nine movements in portmanteau form (all movements in one), which corresponds with the overall thematic idea: The metamorphosis of 'lusion' through nine points of an existence -- lusion is a word I coined to express that which is real, the antithesis of an illusion." -- Jasun MartzIn a 1981 interview, Martz admits that the above original concept of "The Pillory" falls perhaps into pretentious realms. Yet, in a vague and nebulous way, it also explains Martz' thought process behind the composition of this orchestral work. The nine movements to which Martz refers are "Pre", "Birth (Death)", "Realization", "Confinement", "Adaptation", "Verge", "Rebellion", "Judgement" and "Death (Birth)". Although only played once in public with a full orchestra, the 44 minute The Pillory is scored for a 40 piece Neoteric Orchestra (as he calls it), including 14 voices, a variety of keyboards and Mellotron, strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion. Although Martz listened to the likes of Soft Machine, Magma, Henry Cow, Van der Graaf Generator and King Crimson in the '70s, the compositional style of "The Pillory" more resembles such 20th century classical composers as Stravinsky, Schoenburg, Penderecki and Stockhausen. While I'm not particularly familiar with the last three composers, I definitely detect elements of Stravinsky in the orchestration and tonal colorations. "The Pillory" ranges from hypnotizing layers of texture to disturbingly cacaphonous free playing, from extended Mellotron-only passages to ghostly voices echoing is dank corridors, all bound together in a gel of haunted darkness. "The Pillory" is an imaginative avant voyage of timeless quality.
Also included is a four-movement, 20 minute bonus track that lives in neo-classical realms occupied also by Art Zoyd and Univers Zero. The first three movements were originally released by Eurock but the fourth movement has never before been released. "In Light In Dark In Between" is a trio improvisation of piano, electric violin and clarinet. Martz is the pianist, Eddie Jobson is the violinist (he's also the principle violinst for "The Pillory") and John Luttrelle is the clarinetist. Recorded around the time of recording for "The Pillory," Martz, Jobson and Luttrelle, who had never before recorded together, felt they could successfully improvise together. This piece is that improvisation, without overdubs or edits of any form. Although both Jobson and Luttrelle are classically trained, Martz never had such formal training. Martz does not sound out of his league, however, as his angular piano lines mesh well with Luttrelle's jagged clarinet phrases and Jobson's insistent violin melodies. An avant-classical treat that only enhances an already excellent release. -- Mike Taylor
|Jasun Martz and the Neoteric Orchestra are fantastic! The Pillory is a 40 minutes long, very powerful, orchestral piece of music. Jasun Martz plays synthesizers, Mellotrons and a lot of other instruments, Eddie Jobson plays solo violin and synthesizer, and there are 39 more people playing or singing in this piece of music. The Pillory was re-released on CD by the Swedish label Ad Perpetuam Memoriam in 1994. A must for all Mellotron Maniacs! If I should compare this work to something well-known, it will be Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" and King Crimson's "The Devil's Triangle" (from In The Wake Of Poseidon). -- Gunnar Creutz|
Little did I know when I received The Pillory/The Battle by Jasun Martz that I
had been in training all my life to listen to this album. Years of listening to classical music
and progressing into "modern classical" racket, "hard" electronic music (I used to call it
"noise" until I was properly trained to listen to it by my professor of Electronic Music,
Charles Stanley), and finally into the darkest and least melodic reaches of prog ...
RIO and Avant-Prog. I only
bring this up because some of you without this kind of background might find this album to
be sorta rough going. But for me, it's just about the coolest thing I've ever heard.
No, The Pillory/The Battle is not the same album as the 1978 album reviewed in the previous sections (Martz sent me a copy of that album as well ... though it's very good, it's nowhere near the magnum opus of the new recording). It's hard to even categorize The Pillory/The Battle, though "Modern Classical" seems closer to me than any of the usual "prog" genres. But to be sure, there's plenty of prog influences, including the plentiful use of Mellotron among the 115-piece "orchestra" made up of "weird musicians who play weird instruments" (his words, not mine) from around the world. There's probably even a guitar or two in the orchestration. But it sounds like mostly recorded orchestral instruments, samplers, synthesizers and Mellotrons, plus ghostly choral voices. Don't expect much rhythmic or melodic content; this album is all about strange and beautiful harmonies and cacaphonies painting pictures with sound. This album should appeal to those who enjoy avant classical music as much as avant proggers.
Martz has a very mixed musical background. Though it says above that he didn't study classical music, he must have had some training, because he toured as a synthesizer programmer with Frank Zappa, from whom he claims to have learned more about music than any of his "music instructors", whoever they were. He played keyboards for Michael Jackson (yes, that Michael Jackson), and also co-wrote Starship's "We Built This City on Rock and Roll" (though every time he mentions this, he apologizes for it). Then while tumbling down a mountain (no, really!), the idea for The Pillory/The Battle came to him all at once, and when he landed, the entire piece was composed in his head. I may have heard stranger composition stories, but it's hard to recall one right this moment.
At any rate, it would be unfair to say "this album is destined to become a classic". It was a classic at the moment of its release, and all I can say is a copy of this album is required in any library of experimental/avant prog or classical music. Essential! Easily one of the top 10 "progressive" of releases for 2005, or perhaps of all time. -- Fred Trafton
|After the publication of the above review, Jasun Martz offered a giveaway of 5 copies of The Pillory/The Battle to GEPR readers. I asked that they send me a review in return. Following are reviews from the giveaway winners.|
|Though The Pillory/The Battle is a masterful, important work of neo-classical soundscapes and as Fred says, "is required for any library of experimental/avant prog or classical music", I don't know if it is required for a general collection of progressive music. It certainly is not a must for a prog-rock listener's A-list. This is blasphemy, I know. Every write-up that I've read of this wunderkind composer - and there are many - is absolutely stellar. You would think him the new Frank Zappa, and perhaps he is. My main problem with Jasun's music is its' listenability -- it often lacks it, which is unfortunate when one must digest a two-and-a-half hour CD. The album explores progressivity but it also feeds on an aural inertia much less compelling than the minimal masterworks of, say, Steve Reich. It is the sheer volume of this project that frustrated me and I began to crave something to grasp on to, thirsting for some non-ambient composition. I may not know how to listen to it but I'd like to be able to listen to it. In many ways, the record is like an exhibition of the world's modern musics, but they are demonstrated separately rather than blended on a molecular level in the way Zappa or David Bagsby might do it. There are a few satisfying passages of great Prog, particularly "Battle 3" which is sure to delight, but they appear infrequently. Massive, contemplative, ominous dark oceans of sound executed with supreme confidence, that is how I would describe Jasun Martz. If it's what you love most, have at it, this is prime rib. If not and you like a little more structure or direction in your modern orchestral stuff, be bearish. -- David Marshall|
A painter, an ad exec and a musician, Jasun Martz is a very complex and sophisticated artist. His first album, "The Pillory" was released in 1978. It was a stunning blend of progressive, avant-garde, noise and freeform jazz, all the genres that were hip at that time. Following his involvement with Frank Zappa's large touring orchestra (as a synthesizer wiz-kid tasked to maintain the instruments Eddie Jobson would play on), Martz started writing music while on the road. He was able to gather around 40 musicians, including Eddie Jobson and Ruth Underwood that would help him record his music. Considering himself more of painter than a musician, Martz decided to focus his creativity on visual arts and that's what he's been doing for over 25 years.
The Recording Sessions
As one can imagine, is really hard, if not impossible, to categorize this eclectic mix of styles, sounds and genres.
The first movement starts with a low drone, but the music builds in intensity and everything erupts when the battle signals are given with seven horn blasts (Martz is an expert at synthesizing all sorts of atmospheric sounds). Distant explosions are heard along with marching troops and machines. A very sad choir joins in and the Mellotron passage that follows can only depict the widespread devastation man inflicted upon himself. The Second movement is introduced by a woodwind section (that sounds like a funeral march in my ears). This is simply a composition of contemporary classical music, the sound growing more and more complex as the tracks advances in time. The choir from the first movement is coming back to haunt us with rich tonalities that draw daunting landscapes. "3rd Battle" starts with some percussions rhythms that certainly have something tribal in them. Overlapped is a middle-eastern blowing instrument: the suonas. The rhythms are quickly replaced by an almost fusiony violin solo (I wonder who the player is - the liner notes mention Benedict Brydern as the soloist). Guitars and mellotron join in to lead the music into what is the most progressive rock track of the album. The music flows fluidly into the "4th Battle", the audio anarchy engulfing the listener from every angle. "5th Battle" is introduced by background sound that reminded me of "Lamb Lies Down on Broadway". The Mellotron is overlapped by a grave organ sound and the shortest track of the album sets a dark, somber mood. Battle number 6 is almost entirely ambient music, with some very calm, but rich textures that end with a sequence of percussion, I believe this is the "wire brushes on galvanized metal".
The second disc contains the last battle and the lengthiest one for that matter. We are treated to a long sequence of electronic ambient, avant-garde, experimental and industrial noises, carefully interlaced to create soundscapes, moods and atmospheres.
Heralded by most of the reviewers as an instant classic from its release day, The Pillory / The Battle is guaranteed to please the ears of the most adventurous listener. Fans of electronica, avant-garde, ambient, industrial noise, contemporary music, experimental and progressive rock will be mesmerized and enchanted by this recording. Highly recommended.
The album is dedicated to Charles Darwin and Frank Zappa. Jean Dubuffet created the original cover art especially for The Pillory, Martz's first opus. The Pillory / The Battle has a detail (the eye) of the original artwork.
As a side note, Jasun Martz plans to release the third and final symphony in The Pillory trilogy in another 25 years, in the year 2030. -- Eddie Lascu
[See Jobson, Eddie |
Click here for Jasun Martz'
Nuove Lettere (96)
Distratto dal Sole (98)
Del perduto coraggio (00)
|Italian Prog. In addition to their albums listed above, they have appeared on compilations Vigevano in Musica (1995), Zarathustra's Revenge (1997), Fanfare for the Pirates (1998) and To Canterbury and Beyond (1999).|
|Links||Click here for the Mary Newsletter web site|
Master Magician I (96)
Master Magician 2 - On Goes The Quest (98)
Master Magician I is a musical interpretation of a fantasy novel written
by W. J. Maryson, the keyboard-player of a band that bears his name. The
music on the album shifts between atmospheric, keyboard-heavy instrumentals
resembling film music cues, mellow symphonic rock somewhat reminiscent of
Camel (circa Harbour of Tears) and melodic,
sometimes slightly poppy songs. The overall mix of styles is quite good, with only a few moments
where the music doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Lush keyboards and
melodic guitars dominate the sound, at times orchestra and choir are used
to a rather majestic effect. The lead vocalist sounds very much like
Peter Gabriel. Compositions are generally very good and the sound is warm and
full. Overall, a worthy addition to the mellow, melodic brand of
progressive rock. Released on the Music is Intelligence label.
Maryson wrote a sequel to his novel and On Goes the Quest sets it to music. The overall style is similar to the first album, only in a more refined form, with a bit more power and focus. There are more rocking songs, some of which bring to mind the neo-prog sound of the likes of Shadowland with strong melodies, synth solos and a reasonable amount of electric guitar edge. Thijs van Leer of Focus guests on a few tracks, and his flute lines flow mellifluously, adding an extra touch especially to the atmospheric "The Desert Nightfall" and the folky "Wons". Overall, an improved version of the first album. -- Kai Karmanheimo
|Most of the band members (except Maryson himself) went on to form another band named Ice, who released an album in 2006. -- Fred Trafton|
[See Cirkel |