Death's Angel (93, EP)
Judging from the notes of one larger avant-music label's catalogue, I had surmised that
Na Margon's Death's Angel represents a tighter collaboration of
Lars "Lach'n" Jonsson and Finland-living Swede Ronnie
Ehrs. More simply stated, I thought that Lach'n was more
involved than I discovered. So it turned out that Ronnie Ehrs the main director of a
project called Na Margon, and what I'm not quite reviewing right now is surely (and sadly)
their lone release, entitled Death's Angel.
Death's Angel is a 3-track CD-EP and features tracks: "Death's Angel", "If" and "Death's Angel (subconscious version)", reversely played and slightly edited version of the title track. In general, I don't like EP's - their brevity is somewhat annoying, but on the other side they are quite welcome in the area of avant-garde music, for brevity would surely prepare less eager prog-listeners to give a focused listen to a less listenable things going on in and ooze-out from various "laboratories". Guess why.
The three tracks, on which band utilizes keyboards, guitar, water effects (Ronnie), vocals (Maria Wassrin-lead and Margareta Nyhlén-additional), drums, wah-wah guitar (Björn Viitanen), soprano sax (Ulf Anderson), synchronized guitar (Tony Nyberg) and bell, hand drum (Lach'n - also uses his marvelous voice) lead us through slickly arranged vistas of not-too-demanding post-modernism. Music is very atmospheric in nature, with Ronnie rolling off a synth carpet for a sligthly distorted and multi-effected guitars, while Björn pounds and rumbles out very cool, almost tribal rhythms, so it is quite intense in a way. Ulf on the other way stresses the pronounced melodicism of the group and adds sort of a dreamy quality to the whole. This EP has few similarities with other Bauta creations (esp. with certain tracks from Lach'n's masterpieces) as well as with less darkened works of Sandell / Steensland duo. Besides, I'm slightly reminded of atmospheric prog-metal of Psychotic Waltz, whose best works were created around approximately the same time. So it's obvious, that Death's Angel is not avant-garde proper. It goes into the ears very smoothly and remains in the memory for some time, but there's nothing too hard to overcome on this EP. Quite recommended for all real prog-explorers. -- Nenad Kobal
Na Margon is a Bauta label release, written by Ronnie Ehrs with the intention
"to capture the uttermost evil and the uttermost good put to music". Ehrs says,
"I do not know if I did succeed, however I would like to think that certain parts
of the music really does." This album also features Lach'n
Jonsson, whom Ehrs has known for over 20 years, though this is their first recording
together. For what it's worth, I don't find this music to be the "uttermost" of either
good or evil. It's actually sort of a dark ambient music, heavy on guitar and equally
heavy on repetition.
The first cut, "Death's Angel" features an almost Philip Glass-like organ pattern with a guitar pattern that interlocks with it, and also sax solos that could be from PG. Over the top of this is Maria Wassrin's almost masculine-sounding vocals proclaiming herself to be Death's Angel, while the drums play an intricate and uncountable rhythm pattern. It is spacey, hypnotic and thoroughly enjoyable. Not a tough listen by any means (at least to my ears), though perhaps mildly disturbing.
The second cut "If" asks the musical question "If I had all ten fingers glued to certain keys on my keyboard, could I play something that sounds interesting?" The answer appears to be "yes" as Wassrin's crooning, wordless vocals (for this song, not the slightest bit masculine) float over the top of a complex, static organ chord with very little movement. Interspersed throughout are languid guitar solos, bass punctuations and splashing noises. The final cut, "Death's Angel (Subconscious Version)" is basically the first cut played backwards with no drums or vocals. This makes it even spacier. Great stuff ... find a copy if you can. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Jonsson, Lach'n (Lars)]|
Uno Zingaro Di Atlante Con Un Fiore A New York (73)
A really non commercial jazz-rock band (like Aktuala).
Air (93), Dreamfish (93), Silence (93)
A German guy turning out vast quantities of great electronic music. Some of it is in the realm of icky techno, but some, especially Air is beautiful ambient stuff rooted heavily in the Klaus Schulze/early Tangerine Dream school electronic progressive stuff. Silence is a more minimalist electronic project, and Dreamfish has some fantastic music, but the music is marred by some idiot blathering cheesy and assinine "poetry" texts over the best track on the LP: the 28 minute spacewalk entitled "Hymn." Out of the bunch, Air is most recommended.
Napoli Centrale (75), Mattanza (76), Qualcosa Ca Nun More (77)
Great first album of jazz-rock with popular music. All the songs are in neapolitan dialect.
Slow Motion (85)
Lots of albums, but only remember Little Hammers (I think that was it). Steel Drum player. More Latin/jazz/new-age than prog. Very mellow, at times a bit boring. It's one pan player and his band, so don't expect to hear what you'd hear down in Trinidad. :-) Actually, I would say NOT prog.
Bedside Companion (78), Dreams and Nightmares (79), Children of the Night (80), Decomposing (81) And You Thought You Were Normal (82), American Bandages (84)
Former violinist with Canadian group FM. His solo stuff is for the most part thrashy dance tracks of little interest to any self respecting prog-head.
Parallel Eccentricities (82)
The Clever use of Shadows (99)
SubVersia (99, as Guy Leblanc)
Heretik Volume I: Body of Accusations (00)
Heretik Volume II: The Trial (01)
Heretik Volume III: The Sentence (02)
Shadows Unbound (03)
The new Nathan Mahl line-up at Le Festival des Musiques Progressives de Montreal 2007.
L to R - Guy LeBlanc (keyboards, vocals), Guy Dagenais (bass), Alain Bergeron (drums) and
Tristan Vaillancourt (guitar).
Original photo by Claude Dufresne, digitally modified (bringing band members closer
together to make a narrower picture) by Fred Trafton
In the '70's, if you wanted to find out if someone knew anything about progressive rock, you could ask "What instrument does Jethro Tull play?" Complete know-nothings might say "guitar", while supposedly progressive posers might answer "flute". Of course, Jethro Tull isn't a guy, it's the name of a band. The '90's (and now '00's) version of this question might be "What instrument does Nathan Mahl play?" But this time, there's a cuter correct answer: Nathan Mahl isn't a guy, but a Guy is Nathan Mahl. Nathan Mahl is Guy LeBlanc working with a line-up of musicians which change quite a bit from album to album. Ha ha. Get it? Thank (or blame) Progression Magazine for that one.
I have heard two Nathan Mahl CD's, Parallel Eccentricities and also Heretik Volume I. Both are excellent albums of progressive rock, generally describable as Canterbury influenced prog (especially similar to Dave Stewart's style in National Health), but with more fusiony influences as well. The music is not all instrumental, but leans heavily in that direction with only occasional vocals, and is also heavily keyboard oriented. Lots of vintage keys including a Hammond B3 (or a sound-alike), analog synths and clavinets. Oh, yeah, I forgot to answer the question I posed before: Nathan Mahl plays keyboards ... oops, I mean Guy LeBlanc does.
Parallel Eccentricities is the first Nathan Mahl album, recorded in 1983 and released in 1983. It is a relatively short album, but the CD re-release contains a multimedia presentation which shows the history of the band if you put the CD into your PC or Mac computer. Musically complex, with lots of fusion influence, this album's only two weaknesses in my view are its short length and the overuse of slapback echo throughout. It's a cool effect, but there's way too much of it on this album. But neither of these problems are bad enough to prevent me from recommending this album.
After a couple of attempted reformations and (by many accounts) a very fusiony album, Borderline in 1991, Nathan Mahl really hit their stride and began to create more albums beginning with Clever Use of Shadows. This was the material that put them on the map when they played at the 1999 NEARfest progressive rock festival and just about everyone in attendence walked out with one or more Mahl CD's from the vendors there.
LeBlanc's recent completion of a world class home studio helped in this, and using it he recorded Heretik Volume I. Originally intended as the first of a two-CD series, the concept has recently expanded to a third album. Inspired by a book by Thomas Szasz which compares modern psychotherapy with the inquisition, this is a concept album which traces a heretic for speaking his mind through his arrest and trial. Most of the details of the story are left to the listener, however, as the vocal parts are fairly few and far between. That's OK by me since the vocals are not my favorite part of this album. But the keyboard playing is excellent, once again in a Canterbury style with lots of fusion, but the organ work also keeps reminding me of John Evan's Hammond work in Jethro Tull's A Passion Play. The second cut even has a counterpoint section at the beginning and end that reminds me of either '80's Crimson or maybe Gentle Giant circa The Power and the Glory. The album is very keyboard driven, but there's good guitar and bass playing too. This is a great album, and I really want to hear the other two parts as well. As of this writing (10/31/01), Part II is available and Part III is being recorded.
In more recent news, I had an e-mail conversation with Guy LeBlanc wherein he talked to me a bit about the current status of Nathan Mahl. I could paraphrase it and try to make it sound like I know what I'm talking about, or I could just let Guy speak for himself. I'll choose the latter. Here's what LeBlanc had to say:
So there you have it! As of this writing, the Exodus CD's are not yet complete. -- Fred Trafton
[See Camel |
Distinguished Panel of Experts |
Albert One (71)
Psych, features Jan Schelhaas of Caravan and Camel.
[See Camel | Caravan]
National Health (78)
Of Queues and Cures (79)
D.S. al Coda (82)
Complete (90, 2CD Compilation of all three albums)
Missing Pieces (96, Compilation of outtakes & unreleased material)
Playtime (00, Live from two concerts in 1979)
|This is progressive rock at its finest. Complex time signatures, great jamming, inclusion of rare sounds such as vocal harmonies without lyrics, cellos, multiple keyboards, etc... National Health is a spin-off band of Hatfield and the North, and they put out their 3 albums in the late 70's, early 80's. Very jazzy at times, hard prog rock at other times.|
|Stated simply: Get something from this band! National Health was the brain child of Dave Stewart (no, not of the Eurythmics) and Alan Gowan. The group developed in 1975 in response to the end of "thinking man's" rock music. In the liner notes for the CD, Stewart describes National Health as "... a large scale rock ensemble playing intricate, mainly instrumental music," a far better description than I could derive. To paraphrase Stewart, the Ramones they are not! The music is strongly structured and composed, not at all free form, but not sounding forced, either. Within a composition, the music develops well and easily flows from one section to another, continuously developing the theme and sounding coherent the entire time. The first two albums represent the band during their peak, despite many troubles that beset the band and its members during that time (humorously elucidated by Stewart in the liner notes.) Song lengths range from eight seconds ("Phlakaton" - an obligatory drum solo, but far from what you would expect from such a solo) to 14'32 for both "Elephants" and "Tenemos Roads" ("... an epic about ancient civilizations on Planet Mercury ..."), and intricate they are. To put on one of these tunes simply for background music is to do it and yourself injustice. The music is quite involved and complex - instrinsic, indeed! Both key modulations and time changes abound. I'm not sure there is a 4/4 time signature on any tune, and I know (from the liner notes) that part of "Elephants" has a moog solo over a 25/8 rhythm. Not a tune you tap your foot to while doing other things. One listen to "The Collapso" (or the even better "Apocalypso") will make you sit up and pay attention. "The Apocalypso" is one of my favorite cuts (most favorite goes to "Tenemos Roads") on the CD and also one of the least serious. It is a rewritten and extended version of "The Collapso," recorded in 1990. If there is an apocalypse, this is how it will sound and it *WILL* be fun. Though quite detailed, the compositions never made me feel like the musicians were just trying to fit in another note or move to another time signature "just because they could." National Health's third and final release, D.S. al Coda, is a tribute to Alan Gowan, who died in 1981. All compositions, with the exception of "Arriving Twice" and "TNTFX" (both by Gilgamesh, Gowan's prior band) were written by Gowan. These tunes are decidedly jazzier and noticably shorter, on average. Though "I Feel A Night Coming On" fits well in the old vein, these songs represent more the direction of Gowan and not National Health. I spend most of my ear time listening to the band's first two releases, however, because I feel they are much more involved than Gowan's compositions. This band and CD are currently on my all-time top ten and are there they are likely to remain. If you have ever listened to Egg or Hatfield and the North, you'll have a feel for the music style of National Health. If you haven't, then I strongly recommend that you get this CD, then pick up some Egg and Hatfield. Shoot, pick up nearly anything with Dave Stewart (with the possible exception of Stewart/Gaskin) on the keys. You will not be disappointed. -- Mike Taylor|
|Jazz-oriented outfit formed by ex-members of Hatfield and The North. Featured Phil Miller, Dave Stewart, Pip Pyle, Alan Gowen, Mont Campbell and others. The music is a powerful connection of jazz-rock and complex progressive stylings, with expanded lineups featuring woodwinds, horns, and voices. An outstanding example of progressive in the true sense of the word.|
|National Health were an offshoot of the "Canterbury scene," specializing in jazz-oriented progressive rock, taking the work of Soft Machine and the like to a more accessible level, and possibly comparable in style to Brand X.|
|Perhaps the pinnacle of Canterbury prog, National Health is composed mostly of ex-members of Hatfield And The North (guitarist Phil Miller, drummer Pip Pyle and keyboardist Dave Stewart), so not surprisingly continues to develop ideas started by that band. The first album is made up of four very long tracks. THe music is not unlike that on Hatfield's The Rotter's Club album. Of Queues And Cures is the band's classic. This one introduces bassist John Greaves (ex-Henry Cow) and cellist Georgie Born, and includes Caravan associate Jimmy Hastings on clarinet and flute and various other sidemen on horns and oboe. The mixture of symphonic, jazz and rock works excellently with shifting rhythms and melodies carried by Miller's simmering guitar and underpinned by Stewart's rich Hammond organ tone. "Squarer For Maud" includes an incredible cello solo at the end, as well as brilliant use of clarinets and oboe in a superb rock format. "The Collapso" is a great vehicle for Stewart's organ playing, and also includes a part for steel drums! On "Dreams Wide Awake", Stewart apparently broke the organ in the process of the psychotic solo at the beginning! Some of Pyle's most impressive drumming turns up on "The Bryden 2-Step (For Amphibians)". The album's only vocal track: "Binoculars", is graced by some heavenly Miller guitar fills. One of the classics of the Canterbury scene, a fine introduction. D.S. Al Coda is a tribute album to keyboardist Alan Gowen, an on-again-off-again member who played on the first album, and died just before the making of the third of leukaemia. It consists entirely of his compositions, mostly performed by the band live but never recorded, though two of the songs ("T.N.T.F.X." and "Arriving Twice") were previously recorded by Gilgamesh. Their most uneven album, yet it includes some fine tracks. "Flanagan's People"/"Toad Of Toad Hall" stands among the best National Health tracks, while "Shining Water" is an impressive exercise in controlled rhythm and dynamics. -- Mike Ohman|
[See Arzachel | Egg | Gilgamesh | Gowen, Miller, Sinclair, Tomkins | Hatfield and the North | In Cahoots | Khan | Soft Heap | Stewart, Dave]
Click here for a National
Health fan web site
Art-rock, said to resemble a heavy version of Kayak. Private pressing.
Magic Key (72)
Haitian Holiday (00)
Natural Tension - Jeff Crocker (lead vocals, keyboards), John Mays (guitars)
Not Pictured: Glenn Crocker (drums & percussion), Rus Moor (bass)
The music presented by Natural Tension on their very first album is quite original, first of all. On the whole, all these 8 songs were composed and performed in united stylistics, that actually shows that the guys go their own way in terms of style already on the debut album. Structurally, they present moderately heavy kind of Progressive Metal, though with some lyrical and/or 'Art-Rockish' episodes for about two-third of the album, and all these songs are really very good in the 'progressive' meaning. Lead vocal is excellent almost always, but especially during the very same two-third of the length. Well, myriad of bands consider an album's opener as the most commercial song, as well as the heroes of these lines. Yeah, this is the right step, but it is only in compliance with the psychology of most potential consumers, who have little in common with the true Progressive Rock lovers in majority of cases. (Sorry for a necessary, IMO, tautology, as I mainly mean mature Prog-Heads, since most of the songs on Haitian Holiday I can't recommend to Prog-novices as the first stage to comprehending more complex Prog-Metal structures, because these songs are already quite complex.) So, "New Year's Eve" is the most accessible song here, though nice. Charming with some beautiful melodic lines "Westernrise" and "The Art Song" (really, my wife still listens only to them) are just a bit more interesting pieces than the opener. So, having found this remaining 1/3 just "so-so" from the "progressive" point of view, we can now talk about NT and their debut only positively. As for that 1/3, let's consider the guys just wanted to show how masterfully and originally they could play some commercial Neo Prog-Metal. In reality, I think these very talented musicians are just still on the way to choose exactly the Final Form of their structures, according to responses on HH from the part of professional and amateur reviewers on the pages of various webzines and pages of magazines-made-of-paper. IMHO, these latter, despite the fact they're true professionals, the real Titans of 'penish' work, could be the most dangerous advisers - again, just from the "progressive" standpoint of view - with their exceptionally bright and very convincing yet with a distinct commercial approach reviews. Most of the representatives of Progressive Rock sites on the WWW feel themselves totally free to express their honest opinion, but all of them have different views on Progressive Rock either generally or particularly, as well as amateur reviewers, lots of those submit and publish their reviews and opinions on the excellent, really popular (in the two basic meanings of the word, including 'people's') biggest review source on the web http://www.prog.net/. And these are the Voices of Fans. Well, I just hope the members of NT will find the right way to choose the Final Form of their future music. All the other 6 songs on Haitian Holiday are just excellent examples of moderately complex Classic Prog-Metal. Each of these songs contains a few different themes full of many original and interesting arrangements, time signatures, changes of tempo, etc. All the four band members work excellently, and maybe, the lack of keyboard arrangements in some instrumental parts is the only thing they should've noticed (and I'd recommend the NT quartet would become a quintet - just to add a free keyboardist to the line-up). Finally, the last song on the album is a kind of epic one - all in all, the best track on HH and actually a real Progressive killer. As for the lead vocal, Jeff Crocker uses his voice as an instrument with rich possibilities. He has a strong male voice, but he works with it brilliantly, using very diverse vocal arrangements in each song. It would be absolutely enough if Jeff sang alone, and so the addition of two guest back vocalists often just eclipses a unique lead vocal palette, making the overall vocal sound like something of a pseudo chorus, so typical for the majority of American traditional Power-Metal bands.
Summary: To be honest, all the six good songs on album, as well as very diverse (and often dramatic) singing of the lead vocalist, on the whole reminds me a bit of the stylistics of my dearly loved Italians Garden Wall, though of course these are only associations. Natural Tension has, as I said, original stylistics of its own, and all they really need is just to complete the Form properly. -- Vitaly Menshikov
|Links||Click here for Natural Tension's web site|
20000 Miles Under The Sea (78), Space Storm (80)
Estacion de Sombra (85)
|Mexican prog, said to be reminiscent of Univers Zero.|
|[See Culto Sin Nombre | Decibel]|
Outer Space Connection (79)
Psychy Progressive Rock. Private pressing.
Rhinoceroses and Other Forms of Life (89)
She Ye Ye (91)
Hey Driver! Cool Down the Horses (94)
Whatever Happens Twist (95)
Live Rarities Volume One (97)
Pollo d’Oro (98, with Memorial Billy Tipton Sax Quartet)
Tokyo Nov. 25, 1998 (99, Live)
|Highly energetic, slightly punkoid ex-USSR RIO-sounding band. Lots of unexpected sounds, lots of fun! -- Nenad Kobal|
Click here for
Ne Zhdali's web site (in English)
Click here for a review in the Moscow Times (again in English)
NoVa eXPReSS (02)
NeBeLNeST (not in photo order) - Sebastien Carmona (guitar), Greg Tejedor (bass), Oliver Tejedor (keyboards)
and Mika Anselmi (drums)
NeBeLNeST is a heavy French prog-rock outfit that brews a roiling cauldron of complex instrumental rock. Dense, dark and urgent, this band attacks you with troubled but beautiful prog-in-opposition and keeps you guessing with unusual tempo shifts and intense emotional noise. Take Red-era King Crimson, the frantic anger of punk rock, and a sophisticated French sensibility, and you get a feel for this powerful band. Second album, NoVa eXPReSS (on Cuneiform), is a good starting place. -- David Marshall
Unfortunately, I've heard neither NeBeLNeST's self-titled debut nor NoVa eXPReSS,
but I just got to hear their long-awaited third album ZePTO, on the Cuneiform
label (released in ZePTember of 2006!). There's only one word to describe this album: aWeSoMe.
In many ways, this album reminds me of Guapo's Five Suns
due to the heaviness and post-punk sensibilities. But ZePTO is more complex, sometimes more
melodic, and sometimes even more chaotic while not sacrificing any of the dark, noisy insistency.
Frequently reminiscent of their countrymen Magma or a less
classical-sounding Present, NeBeLNeST has gone in their
own direction and come up with something new, exciting and occasionally somewhat frightening (but
in a good way). Definitely one of the best albums I've heard this year ... and I've heard a lot of
really good ones this year.
ZePTO took several years to complete, and during the recording, they lost their guitarist Cyril Maldarez. So some songs feature Maldarez while others use the talents of a new guitarist, Sebastien Carmona. To tell the truth, I don't hear a great deal of difference in style between the two guitarists. They are both aggressive and dexterous and have a bit of that Red-era Frippian overloaded angst. Since the album's completion, however, NeBeLNeST has also lost Carmona and they are currently touring with yet another guitarist, Matthieu Sassier. They're making the rounds of the big prog fests ... they played at ProgSol in Switzerland, and are slated to appear at the Rock in Opposition fest in France in April of 2007, followed by NEARFest in the USA in the summer of 2007. They're pretty popular, and they damn well deserve it!
ZePTO is their first album name with a capitalized vowel. Unless, of course, it's ZePT-zero rather than ZePT-oh, which is pretty hard to tell from the album art. Either way, this one needs to be in the collection of anyone whose interests extend beyond the limited scope of symphonic prog. Essential! -- Fred Trafton
Click here for NeBeLNeST's web site
Click here to order NeBeLNeST from The Laser's Edge
Click here to order NoVa eXPReSS or ZePTO from Cuneiform Records
|Tips Zum Selbsmord (72)|
|Very rare, high-selling LP (more than US$1000) of prog with savage guitar and sinister vocals.|
|The German band Necronomicon's album Tips zum Selbstmord has been released on CD, by Little Wing (Weinthal 1, 84556 Kastl, Germany). It's good, solid early '70s prog-leaning metal, rather along the lines of Atomic Rooster. Nothing particularly spectacular, but a fairly satisfying album nevertheless, with some interesting guitar and organ work, and a choir backing them at one point. Vocals are all in German, with somewhat political lyrics. -- Tim Bender|
|If you don't have a passion for Prog history or fancy yourself a completist, be duly warned: this is a tired, barnacle-covered heap of a band -- the ugly side of Prog, its' disturbed younger brother. Like a group of mildly talented fifteen year-old boys with a lot of angst but little taste, 1972's Necronomicon absolutely bludgeon their gothic, industrial-strength music as it is pried from the dieing instruments: organ, drums, guitar and what may be a bass but I couldn't tell, as it was so badly burned in this wreck. I don't even think they were able to use dental records to ID these poor lads. And the recording quality isn't even worth discussing. Yes, I've heard worse (a little band called Pharaoh Overlord comes to mind) but not much. Quite avoidable unless you need a good belly-laugh ... and who doesn't? -- David Marshall|
|Links||Click here for Little Wing of Refugees records|
Carl McCoy of The Nefilim
After the breakup of the seminal Gothic/Darkwave band Fields of the Nephilim, leader Carl McCoy took 4 years off, then went on to record another album under the simplified and re-spelled name "The Nefilim" and released one album to date, Zoon. I haven't been able to find a copy or any sound files for review, but it would probably be of limited interest to prog rock fans (McCoy fans can take this as a challenge to submit their own reviews if they would like to). Latest news is that he has put together a new version of FOTN and they are recording again. -- Fred Trafton
[See Fields of the Nephilim]
The Nefilim's label Beggar's Banquet has info on both The Nefilim and FOTN.
Live (81), Castle in the Air (84), Disadvantage (85), Negasphere 1985-1986 (91)
Sounds somewhat like U.K. with a Japanese Bryan Ferry (based on my limited auditioning of Roxy Music) on vocals. More "wigged out" than U.K. but not bad.
This band was active during the mid 80's and a live set came out in 1991 titled Negasphere 1985-1986 which may remind of UK, Genesis, National Health, and even Zappa. The vocals are very affected, like fish or one of his many imitators. The recording is fairly substandard. Overall impression: Nothin' really special.
They have two mid-80's releases.
Neil's Heavy Concept Album (84)
This is an interesting curio. Neil is Nigel Planer, a British comedic actor who created his popular Neil character on the TV series "The Young Ones". Neil was a hippie who had in the series let out that Hawkwind and Marillion were his favourite bands, hence the thank-you credit to Planer in the liner notes to Marillion's Fugazi LP. Neil's Heavy Concept Album was done on the heels of the success of the TV show, and actually yielded a hit single in a reworking of the Traffic song "Hole In My Shoe". A number of Canterbury people (Pip Pyle I think, and several others) played on this, and there's apparently even a version of Caravan's "Golf Girl"! I've been looking for this for a long time. I've only heard one track, "Hole In My Shoe". -- Mike Ohman
Mi Kubbesi (96)
I formerly saw this album in catalog of a label which has specialized itself for the harshest sounds only. Album was "reviewed" (written off) as a progressive death metal, which wasn’t really convincing. So I forgot on the item. Few years later, I get the opportunity to seize it from a different source. And was decently surprised. Not really death metal, except that there are a couple of ferocious attacks on "94 Kor", lasting for about 20 seconds, but they can be perceived from a different standpoint (this must be one of earlier tracks), but convincingly technical. And progressive. Can you imagine Ozric Tentacles playing King Crimson era Red or Present (by closing of CD) songbooks (and sometimes the other way round), tinged with turkish ethnic muzak, middle Eastern influences and some metallic sonorities. After hearing this, I can. Sometimes they come close to Cynic (intense and deft playing) or VoiVod (distinct riffs) as well. Vocals, when present and always up there somewhere, are in fact distant meditative calling or melodious shouting, emphasizing ethereal, spacy dimension of group’s sound, and sound more like another instrument on an album, which is essentially instrumental. The last two tracks, "Son" and "41" are rather Present-ish murky explorations. Overall, Mi Kubbesi (whatever that means) is perfect marriage of aerial and earthly sounds, whose prodigy runs through ears so smoothly, that is barely believable, and is neither sensory overload nor diluted with anything. All real progsters shouldn’t have any problem. And having in mind that in 73 minutes of duration listener cannot be bored, this is an ESSENTIAL listening!!! -- Nenad Kobal
for Nekropsi's web site
Click here for an interview with Cevdet Erek, drummer for Nekropsi
Journey To The Centre Of The Eye (71)
A Tab In The Ocean (72)
Sounds Like This (73)
Remember The Future (73)
Sunday Night Live At The Roundhouse (74)
Down To Earth (74)
Live In New York (77)
More Live In New York (78)
Magic Is A Child (78)
Thru The Ears (78)
Man In The Moon (80)
Nektar (93, Compilation from first three LPs)
The Prodigal Son (01)
Greatest Hits Live (02, Live 2CD recorded at NEARfest 2002)
Evolution Dream Nebula (04)
Nektar 2004 Tour Live (05, 2CD)
Door to the Future (05, "Official Bootleg" recorded in 1974)
Nektar - I don't know the date, but this is an old promo shot
Execellent euro-rock band on the verge of progressive that put out quite a few monsters including Tab In The Ocean and Remember The Future Went commercial-prog after RTF.
|Germany's answer to such space rock groups as Pink Floyd and Hawkwind. Their 1974 tour included floating scenes from extraterrestial planets. Remember the Future is classic and should be in everyones library. Its a single song, two-sided composition with lush synthesizers and ethereal singing.|
|Nektar was a band of English expatriates living in Germany. Their earliest albums were hard rock that drew heavily from the space-rock and Pink Floyd styles of the same period, although by 73's Remember The Future, they had a powerful rock sound identifiably their own. After Sounds Like This, their albums were hit or miss: Magic Is A Child is one to avoid, yet Recycled, which preceeded it, is very intense, with synthesizers by Larry Fast. Ones I would recommend are Recycled, Journey, and the LP version of Remember The Future (The CD is a keyboard heavy remix that buried the album's powerful guitar work - avoid it). More Live In New York is a good one as well. The Nektar compilation from 76 features the best material from Journey and Tab.|
|I have two very good albums by this four-piece. Personally, I prefer A Tab in the Ocean (1972), which is noteworthy not so much for complex rhythms or showy playing as just very well written music. They do an excellent job of making a 20 minute song all "hang together" very well, and every note is well thought out and carefully placed. I think in this respect they compare to Yes' considerable compositional skills (esp. Close to the Edge), but if what you're looking for is sheer virtuosity, look elsewhere. Remember the Future (1973), also comes recommended for the same compositional strength and cohesive group playing; it's just not quite as impressive as Tab. -- Greg Ward|
|One of the better known "German" bands, they even had a gold record in the US with Remember the Future. They started in England but moved to Germany for one reason or another. Their output has varied over the years. They started as a psych band, but other albums added some progressive elements. They were supposed to have a wicked light show. Remember the Future and Recycled are probably the best albums of interest to the progressive listener. Each is a conceptual album that is a nice blend of melodic guitar and keyboards with a vocal story. To my ears, they aren't readily comparable to anyone else. The music isn't overly complex, but generally satisfying. My personal favorite is Recycled. I also liked Down to Earth a great deal, but it has a flaw that always nagged at me. A circus concept, there was a "ring announcer" between each song that, for me, ruined the flow of otherwise decent music. Tab in the Ocean and Magic is a Child had shorter songs and were less satisfying. Start with Recycled or Remember the Future. Note that the CD mix of RtF buries the guitar and is not as good as the LP mix.|
|British band that lived and recorded in Germany, and included two (British) members on lights and visuals (Apparently Nektar live was quite an impressive spectacle, hence their surprising popularity). Journey To The Centre Of The Eye is a mindblowing epic with lots of echoplex guitar and dual Mellotrons which is quite in tune with the Krautrock stuff going on around them, yet is definitely British. The reverb guitar cascades often remind me of Ash Ra Tempel or early Tangerine Dream, whereas the lush Mellotrons and often intense tones make me think more of King Crimson. An impressive debut. A Tab In The Ocean on the other hand, is mostly simplistic hard rock with the odd boring slow passage that tries to be "atmospheric". "Desolation Valley" may have been a very effective live number, it certainly deserves better than the lackluster treatment it's given here. The 17-minute title suite does have some nice moments though, sometimes reminding of Genesis. Remember The Future is infinitely better, still emphasizing Roye Albrighton's guitar, but given more of an intense progressive style to work with. The way dreamy, meditative passages with gently arpeggiated guitar build slowly into surging rockers make this one very exciting and highly recommended. Watch out for the CD issue, it was remixed, de-emphasizing the guitar (what's left??) and adding superfluous synth (there was NO synth on the original). I haven't heard it, but everyone I know said it sucks. Down To Earth flirts with a slightly more commercial, song-oriented style, but has some very good tracks, especially the excellent "That's Life". Derek Moore's bass playing here sends shivers up and down my spine. Since it seems keyboardist Alan Freeman is as unwilling as Tony Kaye to use synths, the guest appearance by synth wizard Larry Fast on Recycled is a godsend. This is them at their progressive best, jamming away hot with intensity, the interplay between Roye Albrighton's guitar and Freeman's organ and piano is a wonder to behold, Fast's textured, symphonic synths being the icing on the cake. Moore seems to have found greater confidence in his playing, the power-riffing style first essayed on "That's Life" is dripping at the edges of this, especially on the climactic "Marvellous Moses". An absolutely indispensable album for any prog collector. Magic Is A Child followed the departure of guitarist/lead singer Albrighton to join Snowball, his replacement being David Nelson of Man. It's supposed to be the most commercial album yet, but not really bad. I haven't bothered to get it. Nelson is also apparently on the two Live In New York albums. Albrighton rejoined for Man In The Moon, which I have NEVER seen, but is supposed to be the band's worst effort. -- Mike Ohman|
In 2000, Nektar re-banded to record and release The Prodigal Son. They are still together and will be one of the two headlining acts at the 2002 NEARFest progressive rock festival. This will be the first live Nektar show in over 21 years and will feature all original members: Roye Albrighton (guitar/voice), Derek "Mo" Moore (bass), Alan "Taff" Freeman (keyboards) and Ron Howden (drums). There is some hope that synthesist Larry "Synergy" Fast will be able to appear with Nektar as a special guest. [Note 2/24/06: Larry Fast did perform with them] -- Fred Trafton
Some people would be happy to know that 2002 saw the release of a remastered version of Nektar's Remember the Future which does the guitar (and the music in general) more justice. -- Armel Patanian
[See Quantum Jump |
Northern Dream (71), Sound On Sound (79), Quit Dreaming And Get On The Beam (81), Sounding The Ritual Echo (81), Das Kabinett (81), La Belle Et La Bete (81), The Love That Whirls (82), Chimera (83), Savage Gestures For Charm's Sake (83), Vistamix (84), The Summer Of God's Piano (84), The Chamber Of Dreams (84), Pavilions Of The Heart And Soul (84), A Catalogue Of Obsessions (84), The Two-Fold Aspect Of Everything (84), Iconography (86), Getting The Holy Ghost Across (86), On A Blue Wing (86), Map Of Dreams (87), Chance Encounters In The Garden Of Lights (87), Optimism (88), The Strangest Things (89), Duplex (89), Chimes And Rings (90), Nudity (90), Heartbreakland (90), Details (90), Simplex (91), Luminous (91), Blue Moons And Laughing Guitars (92)
Guitarist and songwriter extraordinaire from solo efforts to Be-Bop Deluxe to Red Noise. Cannot recommend him enough.
[See Astral Navigations | Be-Bop Deluxe | Rain Tree Crow]
Nemo (73), Doin' Nuthin' (74)
Weird French prog founded by Francois Breant and other ex-members of Ergo Sum and Cruciferous. Albert Marcoeur guested on Doin' Nuthin'.
[See Breant, Francois | Cruciferius | Ergo Sum]
Obscure French fusion band that are in the spacey vein, and sound very much like Carpe Diem, Quantum, Wlud or even possibly Allen period Gong.
Broadcast (07, DVD or CD+DVD box set)
Neo - Andy Edwards (drums), Mark Westwood (guitars), Clive Nolan (keyboards) and John Jowitt (bass)
Neo (no relation to the "obscure French fusion band" mentioned above) is a sort of Neo-prog "supergroup". I believe they were formed specifically to perform at Rites of Spring Festival (ROSFest) in 2006, though they have since continued to play together for at least one more concert that was captured on video for their sole release so far, Broadcast. This release is available as either a DVD or a box set with a DVD and a CD of music not on the DVD.
The core of Neo consists of Mark Westwood (Martin Orford Band), Clive Nolan (Arena, Pendragon, Shadowland and many more), John Jowitt (IQ, Jadis) and Andy Edwards (the most recent drummer for IQ). Joining them for both concerts I'm aware of have been Alan Reed (vocalist for Pallas) and Nick Barrett (guitarist and vocalist for Pendragon). They've played songs from just about all of their "other" bands in their Neo shows. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Arena | IQ | Jadis | Nolan, Clive | Pallas | Pendragon | Shadowland | Strangers on a Train]|
Neon Rose (73), 2 (74; a.k.a. Reload), 3 (75)
Neptune's Empire (71)
Prog. Private pressing.
The Tree (78), Head In The Sand (79)
Private issue symphonic prog.
Delicate Motion (02)
Nervewerks - Ross Young (V-drums), Mike Davison (guitar, guitar synth), David
Gonzales (aka Dave Gonzo)(vocals) and Rick Read (bass and Stick)
Original Entry 11/12/03:
Nervewerks was one of the guest acts at our own Ridglea Theater Progressive Rock Sundays series in Fort Worth, Texas. They were amazing to watch live. You don't really get a feeling for how intense vocalist David Gonzales just by listening to the album. You need to actually see him belting out the bands original material and covers of King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" and "Elephant Talk", plus tunes by Led Zep and Tool. Oh, no, it's no accident that Nervewerks sounds a little like all of these bands. They're obviously fans. Ross Young is also very interesting to watch, playing precise Bruford-like polyrhythms while focusing on a point in space one foot in front of his nose ... he's obviously not seeing anything while he's playing.
Check out Delicate Motion if you're into heavy, guitar synth and Stick-oriented prog with heavy vocals. If you like the '80's Crimson parts, then check out The Minefield as well ... it features both Rick Read and Ross Young of Nervewerks along with 99 Names of God's Mark Cook on Warr Guitar. They really sound like '80's Crimson! -- Fred Trafton
Nervewerks broke up a few years ago, and never did release that second CD. Guitarist Mike Davison is currently a member of Herd of Instinct. The Nervewerks web site has vanished from the net, but there's still a legacy presence on MySpace (see link below). -- Fred Trafton
[See Herd of Instinct |
Click here for Nervewerks' MySpace page
In the Following Half-Light (81)
Netherworld (02, CD re-release of In the Following Half-Light with bonus tracks)
Fantastic rare early eighties symphonic progressive band that put out a highly regarded album In The Following Half-Light. The track on the Past Present Future compilation is excellent.
I've only heard their stuff from the Syn-phonic sampler Past Present Future. Great instrumental music, very nice mellow guitar work. One album, I think, called In the Following Half-Light, which is supposed to be released on CD any time now...
"Any time now" turns out to be 2002 (actually, early in 2003), when In the Following Half-Light was re-mastered and re-released on CD by Musea Records, with a 3-part instrumental song named "Cumulo Nimbus" as bonus tracks. There's an interesting story to go with the re-release ...
Jerry van Kooten, a reviewer for the Dutch Progressive Rock Page web site had heard of Netherworld and got ahold of the former members via an internet search and e-mails. He wanted to set up a Netherworld archive page on DPRP, but soon discovered that the band had recently finished converting parts of their album to digital audio and doing enhancements on their Macintosh. He urged them to re-release the album, and the band then the got ahold of Musea and now their 1981 masterwork is available for all of us on CD.
It's been said that the '80's were the "dark days" for progressive rock, and this is ceratinly true if you were a band trying to "make it" playing prog in those years. This is doubtless the reason that Netherworld released only this single album. But as far as quality of music goes, there's no dearth of excellent examples of prog from the '80's, and Netherworld has become one of my best examples that this is true. Musically reminiscent of early Yes but with some of the production qualities and appeal of pomp/arena bands like Styx and acoustic 12-string and Mellotron passages like early Genesis, this is a great album of upbeat prog. There's even a little Frippian guitar in the intro of the bonus track "Cumulo Nimbus". The vocals are frequently in an 80's metal style, more along the lines of Styx or maybe even The Moody Blues than Yes or Genesis, but they work very well with these compositions and contribute well to the band's sound. This is not to say that vocalist Denny Gorden screams perpetually by any means, in fact he sings quite sweetly on some of the more ballad-speed songs and can even imitate Gabriel's ideosyncratic noisemaking (an almost whispered, overly sibilant "just a matter of t-t-t-t-time" for example) when the song calls for it. Definitely good stuff.
Don't let the Styx comparison throw you ... this is excellent prog and deserves to be in every collector's CD rack. The sound quality is excellent, the compositions and musicianship topnotch and this is just an all-around enjoyable release for those of you that enjoy upbeat symphonic prog. If you're looking for dark metallic modern stuff, look elsewhere. One of my favorite releases in recent memory, and highly recommended. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Netherworld's web site.
Click here to order Netherworld from Musea Records.
Corroded Paths (92)
British style fusion band a-la early Brand-X. Excellent rhythm section, ripping guitars, and plenty of original ideas. Decent first effort.
This five-piece fusion outfit hails from the British Isles, led by guitarist Tim Crowther and drummer Steve Clarke. The band is rounded out by Ted Emmett (trumpet), Pete Jacobsen (keys) and Laurence Cottle (bass). Their music is filled with energy and melodic intensity, based on strong rhythmic foundations courtesy of Clarke and Cottle, and polished with brilliant solos from the other three. This is an impressive debut offering, striking a natural balance between structure and improvisation, complexity and accessibility; all are exceptional musicians, and depending on who's leading at any moment, the sound can be covering almost anything from a hard-edged style comparable remotely to mid-period Return to Forever or the current edition of Brand-X, to the more lucid and pervasive jazz stylings offered by the likes of Scott Henderson, Allan Holdsworth, or Bruford in his "Feels Good To Me" days. The writing duties are split between Crowther and Clarke, who tend to showcase the opposing aspects of the band's sound - Crowther, who penned five of the albums eight tracks, concentrates more on the melodics and savor, while Clarke tends to focus on the rhythm and punch. One of the album's most memorable tracks is "Dial Direct," a hard driving funky-at-the-bottom track with some punchy guitarwork that will make Goodsall fans stand up and take notice. "Corroded Path," a Crowther tune, kicks off evoking the same spirits, but yields to some sweet melodic interplay between flugel and guitar. "L21" employs a bit of the Steve Morse touch as it winds through a series of changes and a tasteful keyboard solo followed up with guitar pyrotechnics, covering a lot of territory within four and a half minutes. "No Laughing Matter" strolls through a series of tight turns, all in the jazzier stream, slightly reminiscent of Tribal Tech circa Nomad, although throughout the keyboards are used more freely without guitar dominating the overall mix. In summary, Network's debut is like a breath of fresh air, going beyond the usual technical experience, hinting at new levels of the jazz-rock artform.
Neu 2 (73)
Neu 75 (75)
Two Originals of Neu (77, first two LPs on 2LP set)
Hallogallo (80, first LP reissued under different title)
Black Forest Gateau (82, Compilation)
|Spinoff of Kraftwerk, who started out in a much more adventurous style at first. Like Henry Cow, all their albums are easily findable as all the covers are variations on the same theme. NEU! is a duo of Michael Rother (guitars, keyboards) and Klaus Dinger (bass, drums, vocals, guitar and piano). The debut is a fascinating work of experimental Krautrock. The hypnotic "Hallogallo" is the most like Kraftwerk, but the emphasis is on guitars, not keyboards. The guitarwork can often be spellbinding, note the beautiful "Weissensee" and the heavy-metal-bordering-on-white- noise "Negativland". Required listening for Krautrock fans. I haven't heard NEU! 2. By the time of the last studio album, NEU! '75, they seem to be repeating themselves, note the similarity to "E-Musik" to "Hallogallo". They also add some punky new-wave overtones on "Hero" and "After Eight" (screaming vocals and raggedy guitars). Most memorable is the almost catatonically s-l-o-w moving "Leb'wohl", featuring some vocal mumblings by a most obviously stoned Dinger. Best song: "Seeland", which recalls the soaring guitarwork of "Weissensee". Black Forest Gateau is a British compilation drawing entirely on the first and last LPs. -- Mike Ohman|
Neu!'s three first albums are replete with what that rather clumsy moniker Krautrock
has come to represent: lots of insistent, almost robotic rhythms and mainly
guitar-generated textures that can sound both grating and ethereal, often at
the same time. These of course proved to be survival traits after the musical
climate shifted to favour the New Wave austerity: apart from exerting influence on,
among others, synth pop, techno and post-rock, Krautrock also has garnered
respectability from the critical establishment grateful for a safe avant-garde that
you can still tap your foot to or chill out with, without the dreaded pomp and
circumstances that British prog brought in to complicate the matters. Fortunately,
Neu! mostly deliver the musical goods to back up the hype.
Neu! opens with the archetypical "Hallogallo": Klaus Dinger's drum beat is brisk and hypnotic but also subtly dynamic, a more human version of Kraftwerk's motoristic ticking. Michael Rother's heavily-treated guitar swirls and leaps across the soundstage in cyclical whorls of sound that mesmerise rather than assault, but cannot quite sustain the interest for the whole ten-minute duration. Dynamics is in fact where I see the biggest difference from the "monumentality" of many other progressive rockers: after reaching the peak early on Dinger and Rother are happy to cruise along their aural Autobahn with only slight steering adjustments, scanning the roadside scenery rather than making sudden detours or speed changes.
The rest of the tracks are more relaxed and ambient, ranging from early-Floyd-style trips through often only semi-structured worlds of floating sound effects, celestial slide guitars and swishing cymbal textures to a Popol Vuh-like "Lieber Honig" where the most fragile of bass and Japanese banjo drones form a bare background for Dinger's strangled voice that is not so much singing as making a desperate attempt to sing. The one real exception is the grinding "Negativland" whose screeching guitars, grating filter sweeps and machinery-running-amok noises could be classified as proto-industrial metal. Like with most of this album, it is its very primitiveness and lack of technogloss that makes the music more compelling than that of Pro Tools-packing purveyors of noise and nihilism. Far from sounding dated, Neu! leaves a captivating and original impression, but it certainly requires different kind of mentality than the more maximalist approach of most British progressive rock.
Whereas Neu! feels fresh and whole even today, Neu! 2 sounds more like a thrown-together affair where sonic ingenuity cannot make up for a lack of focus and enough decent, original material. "Für immer" is essentially "Hallogallo 2", dressed up with more instrumental bells and sound effect whistles, but ultimately little better than the original. The more compressed "Neuschnee", with its piping, deadpan melody works better, and is the highlight of the album. However, while they feature some striking sound explorations (again, mainly courtesy of Rother's guitar), the drum-heavy "Spitzenqualität" and sound effect sketch "Gedenkminute (Für A + K)" are pretty much filler. Same can be said of various versions of "Neuschnee", "Für immer" and the proto-punk screamer "Super" that make up the B-side of the album. Created by playing scratchy vinyl recordings of the songs at various speeds or jumbling up the tapes in a broken tape recorder, these lo-fi renditions are mainly of interest for those exploring the history of turntable scratching and DJ remixing. As a whole, Neu! 2 is far the least worthwhile of the three albums.
Neu! '75 brought the band back to form with bigger cast and better songs. "Isi" is the final, and the best, reworking of "Hallogallo", brisker, more melodic and largely replacing guitars with piano and synthesizers. The excellent A-side is completed by the droning "See Land", with its weeping guitar harmonies and dragging metronome pulse, and the vulnerable "Leb wohl", all lulling organ drones, minimalist piano mantras and languorous voices hanging titillatingly on the edge of final paralysis. The other half is not as impressive, however: "E-Musik" is largely a rehash of the band's motoristic pieces that closes with a sound collage of their more somnambulant moments, while the pounding, monotonic rockers "Hero" and "After Eight" represent the coming of age of Neu!'s punk leanings. "Hero" is partly salvaged by some good synth melodies, but at six minutes it makes you long for the brevity of most punk. So while an uneven album, Neu! '75 does contain some of Neu!'s best songs and is perhaps the most accessible for the casual listener. -- Kai Karmanheimo
|Links||[See Düsseldorf, La | Kraftwerk | Phantom Band]|
Songs 91 to 85 (93)
Amy X Neuburg - Photo by Yolanda Accinelli
I got a CD entitled Another as a freebie for re-subscribing to Progression magazine recorded by a fellow named Herb Heinz. I loved it! Doing some research, I discovered that Herb was a former member of Amy X Neuburg and Men. I contacted him for further info and he mentioned to me that he and Amy were married, and sent me both Amy X Neuburg and Men's Sports! Chips! Booty! and Amy's new solo effort Residue. I was blown away! Sports! Chips! Booty! was really good, but clearly the Men were holding her back. Residue is nothing short of a masterpiece.
Residue is a studio recording of a set of compositions Amy wrote to be performed live. Several internet sources who have had the good fortune of seeing her live show say that she reproduces the album flawlessly (barring the occasional "technical difficulty") on stage by herself. Amy's primary sound source is her voice, which she alters, loops and mutilates in various interesting ways using electronic drum pads as controllers. She also uses these to provide percussion and adds synthesizers as both controllers and melodic devices. This is not the use of such electronics in the way you're used to hearing them ... all too frequently they are a crutch for people without any real talent. But Amy is a classically trained musician with a vocal range of nearly four octaves, and is also a poet and highly experimental and eccentric composer. These are not dull, interminably pointless loops, but using the machines to build up choirs of vocals in real time and then singing counterpoints and adding percussion which then also becomes part of the loop, sometimes giving a Gentle Giantish vocal counterpoint effect. The result is far more like Frippertronics than house/dub music, but using voices instead of guitars. But Frippertronics (at least as done by Fripp) never had this much energy, crunch, rhythm or variety.
Amy uses her voice in a variety of ways, from Tori Amos pop style to lofty operatic soprano to growling nasty to speaking sarcastic humor ("I've been thinking of dropping the Neuburg and just going by Amy X, but then even more people would ask me if I practice Islam"), stoned philosophy ("... my god is drowning in the bath ... my god is crackling in the bowl ... my god is purple around the edges ... my god is hiding in a foxhole") or whiney, carping bitchiness ("Things are really baaad"). Some have said that Amy sounds like what Laurie Anderson might sound like if only Laurie could sing. She's also been compared to Kate Bush and Diamanda Galas. All are valid comparisons as beginning reference points, but Amy is more experimental than Kate, a better vocalist than Laurie and a heck of a lot less ... uhm ... depressing than Diamanda. It's clear that her lyrics are intended to be fun, though she uses sarcasm and social criticism freely in her compositions. For my taste, it's done just right, humorous without getting nasty and mean-spirited, and always with charm and wit. The music is experimental enough for the most hardened prog snob and accessable enough that just about anybody would have fun at one of her concerts (I would think). I love this album, and recommend it highly to anyone who thinks acts like Laurie Anderson or The Dreaming / Hounds of Love-era Kate Bush are enjoyable. I hope to be able to see her some day ... though she usually plays only in the San Francisco Bay area. Chad and Rob should really invite her to do a solo spotlight at NEARfest, I think she would be a hit! -- Fred Trafton
[See Heinz, Herb |
Neuburg, Amy X and Men]
Click here for Amy X Neuburg's web site
Sports! Chips! Booty! (99)
Amy X Neuburg and Men - Herb Heinz (guitar, vocals), Joel Davel (MIDI mallets, Buchla
Lightning motion-sensor instrument, vocals), Amy X. Neuburg (lead vocals, electronic
drums), , Micah Ball (chapman stick, vocals), J. T. Quillan III (vocals, ambient
personality) - Photo by Kallan Nishimoto
Here's a San Francisco Bay Area band that delivers multiple challenges. It's a challenge to know how to categorize them. It's a challenge whether to call them "progressive" or not. It's a challenge whether a band like this that is obviously geared towards performance can release a CD that reflects who they are at all. Heck, it's a challenge just to alphabetize them for the GEPR (under "N" for Neuburg or "A" for Amy? After all, Jethro Tull is also a band name, and they're under "J". Or how about "M" for "Men"?). So let's address these challenges right away:
Herb Heinz has decided to leave the Men to pursue other musical goals, so AXN & Men have not performed in quite a while, but regarding the question of whether they are defunct, Amy's site says: "They are still as funky as ever, and if that perfect guitarist stumbles into their midst, perhaps they will pick up where they left off." I hope so, I would love to see them some day. In the meantime, Herb and Amy (who are married, by the way) are both producing excellent solo recordings that you should check out as well. See their entries for further info. Joel Davel also continues to push the envelope with solo performances on his Buchla Lightning II instrument. -- Fred Trafton
[See Heinz, Herb |
Neuburg, Amy X]
Click here for the Amy X
Neuburg and Men page on Amy's web site
Throw as many rhythm (tempo and time) and dissonance and weirdness as you can, you have 90
seconds. Do it 19 times, pack it as an album. Get the idea? That's Genzur, the debut
effort by La Neura. Lovers of free jazz, Henry Cow,
Fred Frith solo, RIO and Zeuhl, this is for you,
definitely. It grew on me finally, that's for sure, and this is a fine
piece of work, but takes longer than most albums to appreciate, but when one
thinks about it ... isn't one of the key charms of progressive rock
the need to really listen to the music, invest time and concentration to
appreciate it? Though I do not consider myself an expert in this style of
avant-garde, I'm left with the impression that La Neura does a
re-proccesing of the influences, so this has a distinctively unique flavor,
it's really hard to explain, but I feel this music has a "sense
of humour" (dark, indeed) and at the same time it can be foreboding
and intriguing. If one of the goals of art is to "change" you in
some way, well, I have to say these guys ARE artists.
Trivia: The sax player also is a member of Akinetón Retard (under the nickname "Petras das Petren"). -- Rodrigo Farías M.
|Links||[See Akinetón Retard]|
Quasar 2C361 (77, LP)
Vuelo Químico (78, LP)
Digital Dream (80)
The Visitor (81)
Chromium Echoes (82)
Invisible Views (83)
Alma (87, LP)
From Madrid To Heaven (88)
Oniria (93, 2CD)
Alma (96, new version on CD, + CD ROM track)
Sonar (The Barcelona Concert) (97, Live)
Hydro (07, 30th Anniversary re-release in digipack)
As Michel Huygen:
Neuronium's Michel Huygen
The most well known Spanish electronic ensemble led by Michel Huygen. Great Klaus Schulze music, with a lot of acoustic guitar which adds a twist. Any of their first few are great, especially Quasar 2C361.
What started out as a three piece synthesizer band led by Michael Huygen has pretty much ended up being his own one-man project. "Psychotronic" music is what he calls it, basically a modern hard-synth driven style with occasionally poppy overtones, I wouldn't call this "space" music as it lacks much of that gentler atmospheric touch and subtlety. More comparable to Michael Garrison's harder edge. Sometimes it works fairly well, and other times the result is rather dull. Heritage is one of the better ones.
Spanish duo of Michel Huygen and Carlos Guirao. Chromium Echoes is Schulze-like electronic music and features some non-instrusive vocals on one track.
Numerica is a 1990 work from one of Spain's premier electronic space music artists. Fronted by Michel Huygen, this contains what he refers to as "psychotronic" music. The music is less upbeat than Tangerine Dream and the like, though it has those moments too. The emphasis is on more free flowing chord textures, similar in style to Richard Burmer, but with an undeniable European sensibility.
|Links||Click here for the Neuronium web site|
|Neuschwanstein was a German band who's sole surviving artifact is their incredibly powerful album Battlement, originally released on the Racket label in 78. The sound on the LP could be described as Planets period Eloy meets Moonmadness period Camel, with a touch of Machiavel thrown in too. Lots of Mellotrons, acoustic and electric guitars, unique keyboard work and plenty of interesting and colorful melodies, with a big pedal-bass sound. The vocalist sounds remarkably like Peter Gabriel; lyrics are all in english. The album has six long tracks, although musea has added one extra track for the CD reissue. The original mix was just a little on the bassy side, so with good intentions, Musea brought the band's guitar player in to remix the album. Unfortunately, most of the bass has now been mixed out, and the vocals have been brought further to the forefront, giving the album a whole new character sounding more like Genesis than any of the aforementioned bands. I must admit I'm somewhat disappointed with the remix. Still, for anyone not already familiar with the LP, this CD reissue should be acceptable.|
|Battlement is classic progressive rock from a German band whose symphonic keyboard-laden sound is well in the vein of mid-period Genesis, with the addition of tasteful flute interludes a la Camel. The vocals are in English with nary a trace of an accent, and a bonus track is included.|
|Battlement presents a band who's music necessarily evokes the Gabriel era Genesis. The singer's voice (in English) as well as the arrangements are very similar. The use of flutes and acoustic guitars is a bit more sustained though. The compositions are usually text-based but all include tasty instrumental passages. A production that proudly captures the essence of the sound, the style and the era. A disc that will certainly charm the nostalgic but that may be offensive to purists. -- Paul Charbonneau|
Click here to order Battlement
from Musea Records
Black Hole Star (74), Tales From The Blue Cocoons (75)
A Man spinoff.
Haven't heard much of 'em, but didn't like what I heard.
Decent Man spin-off with appearance by Nektar's vocalist/guitarist. Some songs are great, some suck.
This offshoot of Man had two albums, neither of which exists on CD. My favorite is Black Hole Star. The other is Tales From the Blue Cocoons. Anyone who likes Man would probably like these albums too.
Horizonte de Sucesos (Event Horizon) (02)
Cuentos De Otros Mundos Posibles (Tales from Other Possible Worlds) (07)
Neverness - (not in photo order) Javier Nieto (guitar, vocals), Victor Perez (keyboards),
Dino Martin (bass, backing vocals) and Antolin Olea (drums and percussion)
Neverness' second album Cuentos De Otros Mundos Posibles was released in 2007 by Musea Records. They have a unique take on prog rock ... the guitar work ranges from '70's "acid rock" style to psychedelic to early Crimson-influenced (CotCK/WoP era). The synthesizers are all very analog-sounding, and even manage to go slightly out of tune at times (that's realistic for a '70's synth!). There are brief but well-placed Mellotron passages scattered here and there. The drums are a bit muddily-recorded (purposely, I'm thinking), making them sound like Trespass-era Genesis. In short, if you told me this was a re-release of a late '60's/early '70's prog album, I would be hard-pressed to argue with you. Except, perhaps, for the lack of tape hiss.
Cuentos De Otros Mundos Posibles has several purely instumental tracks and long instrumental sections even in the tracks with vocals. When they do sing, the lyrics are in Spanish. The shortest song "Pachamama" clocks in at 5:17, most are in the 9-10 minute range, and the closing epic "Mundo de Locos" is 12:15. The music is mostly melodic, but has some nice spots that decay into noisiness, though not enough to make them sound too abrasive. Not much bad to say about this album ... a very strong release that I really enjoyed. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Neverness' web site
Click here for Neverness' MySpace page
Click here to listen to some song samples
Click here to order Cuentos De Otros Mundos Posibles from Musea Records
The New Age's Jordan Oliver
Back in 1980 [CD Baby claims it was 1982? -Ed.] Jordan Oliver (then Larry) and his mates released one of the best American prog album of the early 80's. Oliver was the mastermind behind the project/band as well as main songwriter, singer and keybordist. He was supported by a cast of fine musicians including a very talented and dedicated violonist who was all over the album, toe to toe with with the keyboards. The thick and sweeping keyboard sound topped off by the violin gives the album a classical feel, not unlike Esperanto, Curved Air, Pavlov's Dog, Darryl Way's Wolf and many other keyboard/violin led prog bands of the 70's, only a tad lighter.
The name of the band/project was originally The New Age and only the album Neptuned came out under this patronym. It was reissued in the 2000's under Oliver's own name (for some commercial reason, Oliver being more popular under his own name*) instead of The New Age, which could lead to confusion as Oliver's solo discography as little to do with prog rock. But the title, the sleeve and the music remained the same.
All the rest of Oliver's discography should be irrevelent and has nothing to do musically with The New Age Neptuned. -- Alain Mallette
* My own assumption would be that Oliver didn't want people to think this was an album of so-called "New Age Music" and therefore stopped using the name. -- Ed.
Click here for The New Age's (one-page) web site
Click here to order Neptuned from CD Baby
A New Idea of Heaven (91)
This short lived band released only one album (a 70 min.CD) to my knowledge, of which the first half was pop oriented mildly progressive tracks with nice male/female vocal harmonies, vaguely reminiscent of Cocteau Twins. The last half gets more interesting and is more instrumentally oriented, full of fire. Two members of this band later went on to form Lives and Times.
[See Lives and Times]
Senza Orario, Senza Bandiera (68), New Trolls (70), Concerto Grosso N 1 (71), Searching For A Land (72), UT (72), Concerto Grosso N 2 (76), New Trolls Live (76), Aldebaran (78), New Trolls (79), F.S. (81), America O.K. (83), Tour (85), Amici (88), and at least 27 singles.
A prolific Italian band whose every release was something different. In release are their horrible 60's beat debut Senza Orario Senza Bandeira as well as the packaged Concerto Grosso Per 1 and 2, complete with orchestration and also resembling 60's music although more in the style of Hendrix or the Moody Blues.
Every once in a while -- maybe once a year -- I'll discover an album so fantastic that I can't stop playing it. In the 1970's, it was material by ELP and Yes. The early 1980's introduced me to The (Dixie) Dregs... an instant love affair. I learned about Gentle Giant and Allan Holdsworth in the mid-80's, and most recently I've found PFM, Art Tatum, and Caravan. My "album discovery of the year' for 1992 is UT by the New Trolls. It is spectacular! Recorded and released in 1972, it is available on CD in both Italian (Fonit Cetra CDLP 430) and Japanese (number unknown) pressings. The following is a detailed review of the album. First, an overall impression: WOW. This is an impressive piece of work. The performance is excellent, and the music is quite varied in style. If you like ELP, Gentle Giant, Peter Gabriel's Genesis, PFM, and Yes, you will probably love this album. And interestingly enough, it has turned several die-hard heavy metalheads into New Trolls fans. It's rare to find a band with such versatility. They play intricate counterpoint and beautiful melodies with ease... and yet they can rock as hard as any heavy metal band. Their style is a blending of many others, but it sounds original. I have heard that the various New Trolls albums sound wildly different, and some are pretty poor. So, if you have previously heard NT and disliked them, I recommend giving UT a listen anyway. BTW, if you like UT, I also recommend that you check out their Concerto Grosso No. 2. Overall, it's not quite as good as UT, but it has some real standout moments. I just bought it, and I've been humming it for a week.
They started as a rock band (like Hendrix, Vanilla Fudge). The best album is Concerto Grosso Part 1 with a mix of classical and rock music. From the album Aldebaran the sound became more commercial (like Bee Gees).
The New Trolls are a band whom I understand have gone through a couple thousand different permutations and musical stylings. (Hallmark of a classic progressive band....change lineups and music with the weather....ala King Crimson, Yes, Gong) Their classic is generally regarded to be UT I would have to agree. While I do not possess any other of their disks, this one is definately classic. Very much in the symphonic vein, I find this to be a disk that grows on me with each listen. I hear something new everytime. The vocals are in Italian. However, they are appropriate and while some foreign vocalists can grate that never happens here. Those that enjoy some of the less mainstream Tull will definately enjoy this. All in all, a must.
New Trolls were an Italian band whose output has been quite inconsistent, in that they have released hard rock, pop ballads, and progressive rock works. As far as their prog rock releases are concerned, their highlights were UT, and the two separate albums, Concerto Grosso Part 1, and C G Part 2. The Italian CD reissue combines both of the latter into one CD, which, in addition to the high quality of the music, also offers good value for money. On to the music... The compositions are all motivated by classical music motifs, and are entitled "Allegro," "Vivace," and so on. However, the presentation is in a rock format, and the group has achieved this very well. This is prime classical rock, accompanied by an orchestra conducted by Luis Bacalov. The only comparison I could possibly make would be to Ekseption, but this music is far beyond the lightweight classical-based songs of that band. In short, if the idea of classical music within a rock context appeals to you, this release will definitely not disappoint.
I recently picked up their highly regarded 1972 release called UT. This album is an amazing amalgam of progressive rock covering a wide variety of styles yet it remains cohesive rather than schizophrenic. There are references to several of the "big names," including Yes, ELP, Genesis, King Crimson, Focus, and the general 1970s Italian progressive scene, including PFM but the music is uniquely their own. Musical energy is abundant as is complexity and variety. Though there is plenty of excellent, melodic keyboard work there does seem to be a slight emhapsis on the driving, high-energy guitar. The Italian vocals aren't harsh in any way and shouldn't be a detraction. This album is highly regarded for a reason. Get it!
I have a tape copy of UT. The first half is rather ELP influenced yet original, with strong organ work and is quite good. The rest of the album essays several different styles and is mediocre. "C'e Troppa Guerra" is a heavy-metal song that for the most part resembles Black Sabbath, but it includes some dynamics that make it somewhat interesting. "Paolo e Francesca" is a pleasing David Bowie soundalike, but I'd hesitate to call it progressive. It seems to have the same chord progression as one of the songs from Space Oddity, perhaps the beginning of "Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed". -- Mike Ohman
[See Ibis | New Trolls Atomic System]
New Trolls Atomic System (73)
Tempi Dispari (74)
|An offshoot of The New Trolls who's self-titled is one of the best out of Italy ever. Also related to Ibis.|
|The first LP is a classic rock. The second one is a jazz music and was not interesting. When the band was dissolved, Renato Rosset went to play with Nova Tullio: De Piscopo is now a famous soloist.|
|New Trolls Atomic System were a splinter group off of New Trolls. They released two very different albums. So different that it's hard to believe they came from the same band. Because there is little or no information on the Korean CD reissues, I can't be sure they are the same band! New Trolls Atomic System is most similar to UT, which isn't too surprising, I suppose. Strong synth work can be heard played with an ELP-like energy. But they don't sound like ELP. In fact, the opening song, "La Nuova Predica di Padre O'Brien," reminds me more of Museo Rosenbach jamming with Ian Anderson. Yes, there's some distinctive flute that instantly recalls Jethro Tull to mind. Now and then we're treated to heavy guitar licks along with searing saxophone in a rollicking frolic of rock cum progressive. The seven songs average a little over six minutes each. Tempi Dispari is *very* jazzy. It contains two songs, each about 16 minutes. Yes, it's a short album. The first is titled "7/4" and the second is "13/18." I guess that gives you an idea where they're coming from. "7/4" is definitely in that time, at least in sections. I don't know about "13/18" because I didn't know /18 existed. It think it's a typo because the song is subtitled "trediciottavi" which means 13/8. Anyway, the music is instrumental and characterized by sax, organ and guitar taking turns at the solo spot, like most jazz music. The musical foundation is a mix of jazz (mostly) and rock (occasionally) though not fusion. "7/4" follows this pattern but ends up in a fairly progressive jam. "13/8," at the beginning, sounds like mere noodling while trying to get something together. Once together, it sounds vaugely like a Soft Machine jam with added guitar. Both songs are often very spacious and sometimes even spacey. I like New Trolls Atomic System better though this is worth an occasional listen.|
In 1973, musical and political differences essentially split New Trolls
into two camps, the hard-rocking Ibis and the symphonic-oriented New
Trolls Atomic System. Whereas the official New Trolls albums that I
have heard, UT and both Concerto Grossos, are uneven works, balancing
gripping melodies and vigorous experimentation with turgid jamming and vapid heavy metal riffs,
New Trolls Atomic System is a stylistically diverse, but consistently strong work that
has all those albums' strengths and none of their weaknesses. There are still rather heavy riffs
on "Ho Visto Poi", but instead of taking the song over, they are held in expert control to create
just long enough bursts of harsh, angular stomping that then dissolve cathartically into
spacier, beatless vocal sections, with synth whistles and ringing guitar notes echoing all
"Tornarc a Credere" is the album's most unabashedly Romantic symph-exercise, with female backing vocals harmonising the upward-thrust vocal melody over triumphant keyboard triads, and features an exultant, fanfare-like middle section where the music becomes a synth-driven march across a symphonic wonderland. "Quando L'erba Vestiva La Terra" is another high, a sadder symphonic rhapsody reminiscent of Procol Harum and early King Crimson, where layers of Mellotron, flute, guitar and Baroque organ swirl solemnly in their orbits, until the heavy piano unexpectedly gathers up momentum and slings the piece into a fusiony coda complete with busy drumming and piercing saxophones. The fluctuation between fusion and symphonic also characterises "La Nuova Predica di Padre O'Brien" and "Ibernazione", which move nimbly from flute/sax and organ-led jamming to more lyrical material stated on Mellotron, Eminent or Moog.
The least satisfying track is the poppy folk-rock number "Butterfly" that seems a bit out of place, though could be seen as a good wind-down after the intensity of what's been before. Even the bonus track, the Mussorgsky arrangement "Una Notte Sul Monte Calvo", which was originally released as a single, cooks on the strength of its rotor-like synth-bass ostinato, the rich and suitably strident tonal palette that is used to orchestrate the purloined main riff (listen to the sinister downward glide of organ), and especially its uncluttered tightness (something that ELP could have taken heed of), which squeezes a lot of things in a small space without letting anything drag on for too long. This could sum up the strengths of the whole album: varied, lavishly arranged, yet almost no flab whatsoever. The end result is one of Italy's top prog albums, highly recommended to the fans of the style. -- Kai Karmanheimo
|Links||[See Ibis | New Trolls | Nova]|
New York Rock and Roll Ensemble (68), Faithful Friends (69), Reflections (70), Roll Over (71), Freedomburger (72)
New York band that included a oboe player and cellist. First three LPs are apparently the artiest, with baroque pieces adopted to rock, poetic lyrics and the like. Later albums apparently rockier with shorter songs, but still incorporating the classical instrumentation. -- Mike Ohman
Good unique Californian progressive band, who have been quiet since the release of their self titled EP.
California 3 piece band, probably now defunct. Sound compares favorably to an experimental UK, singer even souns like Wetton. This 5 song mini-LP was the only thing they ever put out - on the "Rain of Thought' label. Quite good.
Bayou Moon (85)
Work Resumed on the Tower (84), Letters Home (86)
The spinoff of The Art Bears. See Art Bears for a vague description.
Another Henry Cow/Art Bears connection. More simple and gentle on your ears.
Another good Henry Cow spinoff. Robert Wyatt sings on Letter Home.
[See Art Bears | Henry Cow | Slapp Happy]
Détros del Umbral (99)
Live at Nearfest 2000 (02)
Détros del Umbral and Metanoia are prime examples of the modern retro-symphonic approach: Nexus take a little new, a lot of old, something stolen and pound it until it's black and blue. The old is served by keyboardist Lalo Hubler who genuflects at the shrine of Keith Emerson - made out of Hammond and analog synths, of course. But like many latter-day apostles of KE, he can also lean heavily on his digitals for a towering symphonic sound - almost gothic at times in fact, with church organ and tubular bell tones layered in as if it were doomsday. The new is Carlos Lucena's metal-edge guitar heroics: some heavy riffing but also counterfire to Huber's strafing synthesizers and some nice acoustic finger-picking during the lulling moments. Also singer Mariela Conzalez offers a Spanish-speaking version of something like a pop-diva with a hard-rocker's attitude, i.e. having a good dynamic range and rather dramatic delivery. The boys' own instrumental thing does take so much space that she is there only half the time, more one device used for certain effect, rather than the focus of the music. Put together and performed with an iron hand (especially by the metal-minded rhythm section), all this becomes a regular vortex of layered wailing, riffing, bombast and occasional lyrical or spacey touch that crosses the lines between progressive metal, harder-edged neo-progressive and Triumvirat-style symphonic take on ELP. The sound can be intense, exhaustive or just silly in all its overblown grandeur - depending largely on the listener.
And as for the stolen ... well, most of the compositions are openly derivative, and not just for the usual quotes from Emerson / Wakeman / Banks. For example, "La Procesion Interior " (Détros) sounds like a thinly disguised remake of the closing section of Steve Hackett's "Shadow of the Hierophant". Détros still sounds somewhat haphazard, tentative at times; on Metanioa the compositions have improved and the ensemble playing is more comfortable and powerful. The catch is the greater tendency to ramble, jamming away on ideas that might have best been left alone. At 70+ minutes both albums are somewhat overextended in any case, though they never degenerate into complete filler. So in general the group offer little originality or invention, but they have great chops, good energy and generally decent compositions to compensate for that handicap. Those who can appreciate over-the-top symphonic approach with modern metallic feel on the lines of (but generally more powerful than) Cairo, for example, should have lots of fun with these. -- Kai Karmanheimo
|Links||Click here for Nexus' web site|
Grupo NHU (78)
High Bias (98)
Time Crunch (01)
Live! Blood, Sweat and Beers (03, Live)
Niacin - John Novello (Hammond B3), Billy Sheehan (bass) and Dennis Chambers (drums)
One of the more seasoned contemporary organ-based fusion projects, Niacin is a welcome return to a warmer, "browner" kind of jazz-rock with classical tonalities but roots in a traditional Hammond B3 sound (ergo "Niacin", the name for vitamin B3). A trio of players to be reckoned with, a real band with no central leader to get in the way of the music flowing, Dennis Chambers on drums, John Novello on the B3 and bassist Billy Sheehan work over some rippin' blends of R&B, classical, rock and jazz. Their first CD (Stretch, 1997) is very good but the 2001 release on Magna Carta, Time Crunch, is a really great session with solid originals as well as covers of KC's "Red" and Jeff Beck / Jan Hammer's "Blue Wind". -- David Marshall
Click here for Niacin's web site
Click here for Niacin's webpage on the Magna Carta site, where you can order Deep, Time Crunch, Live! Blood, Sweat and Beers or Organik
In Sheltered Winds (86)
Although the cover art and the fact that Peter Nicholls is the lead vocalist/lyricist on this album might lead one to believe this is a lot like IQ. Well...not quite. There are no keyboards and the music is very low-tech. The guitar is jangly and very Byrds-ian, pretty much homogeneous sounding throughout the album. There are some askew time-signatures but no real solos or jamming or anything. Nicholls' vocals and lyrics are very apparent, but for the most part this sounds like a mediocre band with Nicholls singing. You'll be far more satisfied with The Wake. -- Mike Ohman
|Prog, featuring Danny Fichelscher of Amon Düül II and Popol Vuh. First album is apparently all percussion.|
|Extremely funky Can soundalikes. This band contains some mainstays of the krautrock movement like Danny Fichelscher of Amon Düül II and Popol Vuh and Udo Lindenberg of something else which I can't remember. Both these members play percussion on the LP. The LP is percussion heavy (4 percussionists in all) but not just percussion. There are some extremely funky tracks, with wah-wah guitar and busy bass runs. The LP will remind mostly of Tago-Mago period Can but also of Weather Report and an instrumental Santana. Tracks range from 3-12 minutes and there is no singing, mostly trumpets and sax taking on the top lines. "Bones" reminds me of Can playing the Sesame Street soundtrack but don't let that put you off. Standout track for me is "Kattarh". A big collectable here in England on vinyl, sought after by DJs as well as prog-fans because of the many break-beats to be found on this LP. I'm not sure what label this was originally on - maybe BASF? -- David Abel|
|Links||[See Amon Düül II | Popol Vuh]|
The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack (67)
Ars Longa Vita Brevis (68)
Everything As Nice As Mother Makes It (69)
Five Bridges (70)
Elegy (71, Live)
Vivacitas: Live at Glasgow 2002 (03, Live 3CD [2 music, 1 interview])
plus countless best-of compilations and repackagings
The Nice - Album cover for the single of "America"
Predeccessor to ELP and Refugee. Much more classical and symphonic than ELP in some respects, though some may view it as more pompous and pretentious. Foundations of Emerson's style and ELP's future were laid here and in particular on the song "America."
Keith Emerson's first prominent band, The Nice had a bad reputation in the USA. Mr. Emerson played an arrangement of "America" (from West Side Story) and he kept burning American flags. This tune, along with another Nice gem, "Rondo 69" (I don't know what the "69" is for were played by ELPowell and ELP for encores during the last two tours. Anyways, the music has a very strong classical influence ... much more so than ELP. In fact, most material was with an orchestra. There were the usual long pieces, most notably "Five Bridges." The definitive album, Keith Emerson and The Nice has most of their noteworthy material including "America". The album is live and features some truly brutal keyboard torturing. If it's a cheap CD, pick it up. Otherwise, you can find a greatest hits CD with everything on it for about $2.
Best known as Keith Emerson's "first band," the early 4 piece band consisted of Emerson, Brian Davison (drums), Lee Jackson (bass and vocals) and Davey O'List (guitar). O'List quit after the first album, and they went on as a 3 piece. Jackson has to be the absolute worst vocalist ever to record, I mean this guy positively cannot sing, period. Fortunately, by Nice and Five Bridges the emphasis was mostly on instrumental stuff, although it still seems every song would still be destroyed at some point by Jackson's awful crooning. Musically, lots of Dylan covers, butchered classical pieces, like that.
|Keith Emerson fans take note! In case you didn't know, this Emerson was one third (or one fourth, depending on which album) of The Nice before he was the E of ELP. The Nice's music is a really quirky late-60's sort of mix: some incredible powerhouse instrumentals, some beautifully played, almost heartfelt songs, and some very fun(ny) pop. IMHO, their albums got better as they went along. The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack has some great moments (particularly the title track and the rather pretentiously psychedelic "Dawn"), but is easily surpassed by Ars Longa Vita Brevis. This latter album was an important step in the development of the pompous art-rock Emerson later made his fame and fortune on, as it has one of the earliest side-long prog pieces I've run into; what's more, they split this one into "movements"! Amazingly enough, too, Emerson actually credits most of the composers of the various "cover" pieces - Bernstein and Sibelius get full credit for "America" and the Intermezzo from "Karelia Suite," and Bach is almost credited for the theme borrowed from his "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3". (i.e. the liner notes say they borrowed from this Concerto, but never actually mention the name of J. S. Bach. Guess you're just supposed to know who wrote the Brandenburgs.) Their third album, Everything as Nice as Mother Makes It, is absolutely superb. (Note that this one was re-released by Columbia in 1973 under the title Nice; the contents and liner notes are the same, but the original has lots of cool pictures.) It still has the same strange mix of styles as the other two, but everything is just GREAT! If you only get one Nice album, get this one. (But Ars Longa is also very much worth having, as are the two live/compilations, Elegy and Five Bridges, whose CD reissue is a little complicated but they do exist.) Note to vinyl hounds: gobs of crusty old "Greatest Hits" (or what-have-you) collections of The Nice exist, and some of them have weird/rare versions of several songs. Worth a few bucks if you find 'em in a used record store.|
|Yes, Emerson played keyboards in this band. Unfortunately, there's nothing else to recommend it. Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack introduces horrible vocalist Lee Jackson who has no sense of pitch or phrasing, and clumsy guitarist David O'List, who stumbles through every solo as though he's forgotten how to play. Over all this, Emerson thrashes away like he's not conscious that there's a band backing him at all. As for progressive-ness, well if you think that taking a song in 9/8 (Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo A La Turk") and playing it in a straighter 12/8 ("Rondo", for which Emerson gets the writing credit) is progressive, go ahead and get this album. Ars Longa Vita Brevis definitely benefits from the lack of O'List's presence, but is really psychedelic, not progressive. Still, it's probably their best album. The self-titled album which followed seemed to signal the beginning of a dearth of originality and imagination: 70 percent of the music consists either of covers or is based on the works of others. Even the "originals" are old, "Azrael Revisited" is a new version of an old Nice song. The downward spiral continued for their subsequent albums apparently hitting rock-bottom with Elegy, which some have called the worst "progressive" album of all-time. Needless to say I haven't bothered to check it out! Only a terminal ELP fan need bother. This band doesn't begin to approach anything nearly as interesting as ELP did, though. -- Mike Ohman|
Yes, The Nice was Keith Emerson's first
band. But it had great reason to
stand alone on it's own merits. The band was originally formed as back up
back for an American Blues and R&B singer. Eventually, the band eclipsed
the singer. Their first three albums from 1967 to 1970 were poor examples
of psychedelia with immature subject matter, terrible lyrics, and typical
70's style production techniques. The live shows at the time were where the
band would shine. Emerson became well
known for his stage shows, organ
demolition, knives and whips were the big features. The two classics at the
time, still played by Keith Emerson into
the late 90's were "Rondo" and
"America". The interesting thing about these two tunes is that both possess
lead guitar parts greatly enhancing the power of the song. The lead
guitarist, David O'List, was, well, pretty bad, but somehow he managed to be
on the two encore songs for The Nice and ELP.
With the final two albums, their maturity came into it's own. Lee Jackson's vocals faded into the background and 5 Bridges became a classic. This is a suite recorded with an orchestra depicting the 5 bridges crossing the Tyne River in Newcastle, U.K. The highpoint of the album is the live recorded version of Sibelius' "Karelia", complete with full orchestra backing and a Keith Emerson Hammond Organ destruction solo in the middle. I think the best album they produced was Elegy. For an introduction this album has a great version of "Symphony Pathetique", played on organ, bass and drums. This was the song that got me started listening to classical music. For pure piano virtuosity, and simply wonderful listening, "Hang on to a Dream", on Elegy is probably the best recording The Nice ever put out. It has a very free flowing jazzy feel, has superb piano parts, and the band is playing tightly as a band. To top it off, there's the definitive live version of "America" as the last cut on the last official album of The Nice. The live album, Elegy, comes across as a progressive jazz band trio, hamming it up with some rock and classical blended into their repertoire. No Nice album has more energy than this one. Shortly after this album release, Emerson recorded the first ELP album. After that, the pretentious and bombastic nature of his music took over. 5 Bridges and Elegy provide a great organic sound (no pun intended) before the soul left Keith Emerson. -- John Herraghty
After his departure from The Nice, guitarist David O'List briefly joined
Roxy Music (from October 1971 to January 1972), but
left when he decided their style wasn't for him. He was replaced for the recording of
their first album by Roxy's sound man Philip
Targett-Adams (who later took the stage name Phil
In 2002, Keith Emerson got together for a series of concerts with a reformed The Nice, featuring original members Lee Jackson on bass and vocals) and Brian Davison on drums. Dave Kilminster (Qango, John Wetton Band) fills in for David O'List (if he needed filling in for ... he only played on their first album anyway). During their tour, they recorded Vivacitas: Live at Glasgow 2002, a live 3CD set. Two CD's are music and one is an interview with Emerson, Jackson and Davison prior to the tour. At least one reviewer at DPRP has found the album to be agreeable. -- Fred Trafton
[See Emerson, Keith |
Emerson, Lake and Palmer |
Emerson, Lake and Powell |
Jackson Heights |
Roxy Music ]
Click here to order either an import ($39.99) or
domestic ($19.98) version of Vivacitas: Live at Glasgow 2002 from Amazon.com
On Dry Land (01)
Nice Beaver - Hans Gerritse (guitars, lead vocal), Erik Groeneweg (keyboards, lead vocal),
Ferry Zonneveld (drums, percussion, backing vocals)(hidden behind Erik) and Peter Stel
(bass, backing vocal)
With a name like "Nice Beaver", you may think this is some sort of joke band like Wierd Al Yankovic or something. The band is named after a silly joke from the first "Naked Gun" movie. It's supposed to be philosophical ... about sometimes not getting what you expected. Good thing their playing is a whole lot better than their band name ... if you think this is a joke band, let me disabuse you of that perception immediately. This is a serious prog band, melding virtuosic fusiony guitar and bass lines with dreamy symphonic "Fly on a Windshield" string washes and wonderfully pompous anthemic Rush-like heavy guitar sections. This album gets the blood racing from the opening notes and never lets you down for the entire album.
The beginning of "Hope You Don't Mind" sounds to me so much like John Wetton's vocals from the first UK album that I'll accuse him of being emulated on purpose, singing a slow ballady part; then the song shifts gears into a hard rocking section with a rock chorale (Freddie Mercury's overdubs in early Queen albums come to mind), and blistering Hammond soloing. (Maybe since all four band members sing, they don't need overdubs. It would be fun to see them play this one live.) The Wettonesque voices reappear in "Where the River Runs", which contains the album title "On Dry Land". Another of my favorite songs, "Wintersong" is a slow builder, a bit like the end of Yes' "Starship Trooper", but with an almost U2 "Joshua Tree" anthemic feel, evidently a heartfelt elegy (or tirade) about being sick to death of the cold; the refrain cries out with an angst-filled, "I'd sell my soul for Summer"! The songs styles vary quite a bit, but all contain excellent guitar work, smoking keyboards and fast, precise bass work, both on fretted and fretless basses.
Rush comes to mind frequently in the guitar playing, metallic yet flowing and melodic. Unlike a lot of small prog bands who seem to be straining to get all those notes into their proper places, this band seems to just be having fun. They play tightly together with great ease, giving even the most complex of the tunes a light and breezy feeling. I hope to hear more from this band, and I highly recommend this release! Do yourself a favor and surf over to their site to order a copy. -- Fred Trafton
I hadn't listened to the album in a while, and I've just finished re-listening to it again. This is a good album, much like On Dry Land as far as what other bands you'll think about while listening, including various fusion and melodic metal bands (especially, this time around, Queen on one part due to the guitar overdubs). I don't particularly hear anything that sounds like Wetton this time, though the vocals are clear, well integrated and absolutely American sounding (no trace of dutch accent). Nice soloing especially on guitar, but also some nice keyboard and even bass spotlights too. I'm having a bit of trouble right now with a "heard it all before" attitude towards every album I'm listening to, and thus I feel like this album doesn't deviate much from On Dry Land's territory, in fact I wasn't as thrilled by Oregon. But you should take that with a grain of salt ... Oregon is still a fine album and worth looking into.
Latest news from Nice Beaver's web site is that the band has recorded several more songs. I don't know why they would bother to release this information unless there's a new CD in the works, so keep on the lookout for further updates on their site. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Nice Beaver's web site
Nichelodeon - Claudio Milano (vocals), Francesco Zago (electric guitar), Maurizio Fasoli
(piano) and Riccardo Di Paola (synth) - Sept. 29th 2007
Cinemanemico, as the name would suggest, has a definite "cinematic" feel to it, as if it could be the soundtrack for a movie. Or, more precisely, a movie opera, since Claudio Milano's vocal histrionics are front and center on this album. Singing mostly in Italian, with a few parts in English and other parts with wordless emoting (screams, wails, grunts, pained yodeling and evil laughter) or spoken word (again in Italian and heavily accented English). It wouldn't be wrong to call this album "voice and piano centric", though this would give you a pretty skewed idea of what the album is like. How about "voice and piano in Abu Ghraib with Fripp and Eno as accompaniment"? Yeah, now we're in the right ballpark. There's lots of Frippertronics style guitar and viscerally wrenching synth noise that puts a "getting your teeth drilled" edge to the music. But in a good way.
It's hard to call this album "prog" in the usual sense, though it's certainly experimental and as non-pop as it's possible to be. Note in the line-up there's no drummer! No drum machines either. That means it can hardly be considered "rock", and thus not "prog rock". In the band's bio, they call themselves "an insane alternative to entertainment". Though I wouldn't expect such a description to sell many albums, it's true enough. "Entertained" isn't the first word I would think of as a description of my feelings while listening to this album. "Intrigued", "fascinated" or "mesmerized" I could go with. But not "entertained". Not for the faint of heart, but I would think many GEPR readers would find Cinemanemico to be worth a spin or three. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Nichelodeon's vocalist,
Claudio Milano's web site
Click here for Nichelodeon's MySpace page
Dziwny Jest Ten Swiat (67), Sukces (68), Czy Mnie Jeszcze Pamietasz (68), Enigmatic (69)), Niemen Enigmatic (71), Niemen Vol. 1 (72), Nimen Vol. 2 (72), Strange is This World (72), Ode to Venus (73), Russiche Lieder (73), N.AE. (74, aka Niemen/Aerolit), Mourner's Rhapsody (75), Katharisis (75), Idee Fixe (76), Best of Niemen (78, '60s singles collection), Postscriptum (79), Przeprowadzka (82), Terra Deflorata (89)
A Polish singer who got very popular in Poland with Beatles-type of songs, but who evolved into a true searcher in experimental lands. Niemen Vol 1 for instance is avant-garde jazz. Katharsis is almost only synthesizers. Best of Niemen is 60s pop, Niemen Engimatic is one single and one double album of good jazz-soul-rock, Niemen Vol. 1 and Nimen Vol. 2 are both experimental and feature SBB, Niemen Aerolit is typical jazz-rock.
Czeslaw Niemen started in the '60s as a singing organist, very much in the beat-pop mould. His early '70s output (from Vol. 1 through to Ode to Venus) is of paramount interest to prog collectors as they were recorded with the band that later became SBB. In 1974, Niemen formed his own prog rock band called Aerolit. He began playing synths extensively. The 1974 album, whatever you call it, is an interesting blend of fusion, electronics, and bluesy vocal wailing. Though credited to N.AE. (i.e.: Niemen and Aerolit), N.AE. and the very electronic Katharsis is virtually a solo album, a mainly instrumental tour-de-force in which Niemen plays all the instruments himself. Many, many layers of synth form the basic backdrop of sound, plus some Mellotron for added texture, bits of "musique concrete" and a touch of 12-string. Oh, and some impassioned vocals, which make this truly a sort of catharsis, as it's dedicated to a drummer friend of his who recently had died. Working with a band again, Idee Fixe is a real all-out production: a double LP which originally came with a 7-inch EP (which was missing from my copy). It's a kind of bridge between the fusiony style of N.AE. and the very electronic Katharsis. On it, Niemen works with a poet; the poetry is translated into English for all to enjoy. -- Mike Ohman
"Audion" sez best is '72-'76, including a period of space fusion and the radical synth/Mellotron work, Katharsis.
Progressive German hard rock.
Planetary Expedition (80), Hallucinatory Executions (81), Poltergeists (81), Shadowless Veil (83), 2031 A D (84), Ombra (84), Cybersun 231 (84), Space Ritual At St. Mary's (86), The Largo Tree (86), Shadows Of Light (87), Barriers (92)
Great dreamish cassette-mostly trio who have put out classic tapes like the highly recommended Ombra and Largo Tree.
Barriers is another in a long line of excellent Nightcrawlers releases. This double cassette comes packaged in a unique double sized hard plastic case. Something I've never seen before. It allows for larger Jon Alderfer cover art but the size makes it difficult to store. The Nightcrawlers (Peter Gulch, Tom Gulch, and Dave Lunt) recorded Barriers from February to June 1991. Where their previous music took inspiration from Tangerine Dream Lazarus, Voices of Ether, Random Chances, Rapid Rover, Barriers, Feathery Dusk, Strange Attractors, and Broken Symmetry all pay homage to Klaus Schulze's recent efforts without being monotonous. Each track is relatively short (5 to 14 minutes in length). It isn't until we get to Parallel Worlds that The Nightcrawlers break a new barrier. Here we have a definite non-Tangerine Dream, non-Klaus Schulze inspired upbeat piece that even has a melody! Did I detect a similarity to that late 70's band Earthstar? The remaining tracks (Twisted Spaces, Collapsing Waves, and Electro Evolution) are minimalist, abstract electronic excursions that evolve into "classical" teutonic e-music. Barriers is a cassette album that will certainly please all fans of cosmic e-music.
I've heard only their self-titled release. They apparently have several cassette releases. Nightcrawlers is pretty decent electronic music and is very similar in style to Klaus Schulze circa Timewind and Tangerine Dream's Phaedra or Quichotte (without the guitars). Good rhythms though nothing that hasn't already been done.
[See Goricon | Kolab | Xisle]
Nightrider is another in Musea's series of French progressive reissues. Nightrider was a French 6 piece band from the late 70s with the English vocalist Bob Salazar, 2 keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums. Musea kicked out the jams on this CD: original cover art; a 12 page booklet with photos, history, and lyrics; and a color picture CD of Nightrider in concert. Nightrider, like Kansas, crossed 70s hard rock with progressive music producing exquisite instrumental breaks featuring Herve Guido's and Frederic Rossini's elaborate keyboard chops and John Woolloff's tremendous electric guitar licks. Unfortunately in 1979, French sales of their album were low. Nightrider eventually broke up in 1981, never to release another album. If you long for those days of Kansas or Styx styled progressive rock, Nightrider is for you.
Atmospheric Norwegian synth music. Cassette-only release.
Nightwinds (79, released 91)
A combination of Aragon and Starcastle (ie not as dark sounding as Aragon, but more acoustic than Starcastle). Very good musically. Lyrics are good but the lead singer screetches once in a while (not like Aragon's heavy-metal screetching; more a this-is-a-little-out-of-my-range screetch). In fact like Aragon the vocalist takes some getting used to. They really show their roots: a song called The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons is about a child born fully-grown who ages in reverse (sounds like Gabriel-era Genesis subject-wise). Plenty of great solo-synthing throughout (mostly analog stuff like ARP and Prophet with a Mellotron thrown in for good measure).
Actually, I'd give Nightwinds more respect than calling them anything like Aragon. For one thing they had a real drummer :-) and an absolute monster of a bassist. I'd compare them to Trick Of a Tail Genesis with a little Led Zeppelin thrown in to boot. I'd actually compare these guys to North Star a little as well. But these guys do verge commercial, and although the albim was recorded in 1979, they do verge neo-prog.
Nightwinds are an obscure Canadian band, whose self-titled release has been rediscovered and pressed onto a limited-edition CD. Musically, they are a symphonic prog rock band, fronted by keyboards, much in the style of mid-period Genesis, and characterised by very Squire-like bass. The keyboardist of this band is one-half of the duo Exchange, who have released a couple of electronic music works in the past couple of years.
Excellent canadian band rediscovered by the Laser's Edge. A sophisticated progressive rock, the sound may owe some influence to Genesis, Gentle Giant and other english bands of the period. The vocalist is stylistically unique and otherwise outstanding, and the band plays with energy and brilliance.
Canadian band that was *very* Genesis inspired. Songs like "The Pirates of Rebecca's Choice" and "As the Crow Flies" show the band using every Hackett and Banks trick in the book. The latter song is said to be an homage to Genesis. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" invokes memories of "Harold the Barrel." Basically, these guys will remind you of mid-period Genesis circa Trick of the Tail or Wind and Wuthering. The difference is that they have a Squire-like bass player. Other songs not quite so Genesis-like, but also not as engaging. Definitely better than some Genesis inspired bands I've heard, if you are a Genesis fans, give these guys a listen.
Most people discovered this band for the first time with the Laser's Edge re-issue of Nightwinds. The usual lineup of voice, guitars, keyboards, bass and drums offers a symphonic rock common to English and American bands from that era. The vocals are pretty ordinary but the instrumental work is solid. It is worth noting the superb work of the bassist who, at times, plays in a busy style like Geddy Lee or Cchris Squire. A familiar style, solid performances and a FM radio feel that make the listening even easier. -- Paul Charbonneau
Angels Fall First (97)
Wishmastour 2000 (01, Compilation)
Over the Hills and Far Away (01, EP)
From Wishes to Eternity (01, Live)
Century Child (02)
Tales from the Elvenpath (04, Compilation)
End of an Era (05, Live)
Bestwishes (05, Compilation)
Highest Hopes: The Best of Nightwish (05, Compilation)
Dark Passion Play (07)
The Sound of Nightwish Reborn (07, Compilation)
Made in Hong Kong (09, Live, EP)
Lokikirja (09, Compilation)
Imaginarium (To be released 2012)
Nightwish - Jukka Nevalainen (drums), Tuomas Holopainen (keyboards), Tarja Turunen (vocals),
Marco Hietala (bass, vocals) and Erno (Emppu) Vuorinen (guitar).
Original Entry 7/21/04:
Lead vocalist Tarja Turunen has a classically trained mezzo-soprano voice that can be gentle and expressive when necessary but also has the power to ride effortlessly on top of a metal band without drowning. Lyrics are mostly in English with a Finnish accent that can sometimes make them a bit hard to follow, but the CDs all include printed lyrics. While I'll admit I'm a bit of a Philistine when it comes to poetry, I find the romantic and often melancholy lyrics mostly gibberish. Keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen does most of the writing. Apparently this is cause for derision among self-styled hardcore metal heads who figure only a guitarist can write heavy metal. As a proggy, I respectfully disagree. Tuomas, a devoté of movie music who cites Danny Elfman and Vangelis among his favourite musicians, writes some of the most satisfying metal out there, in this reviewer's opinion. His melodies are catchy and easy to listen to and his arrangements show genuine talent, no shortage of musical education, and the essential power and energy that characterize the genre.Angels Fall First, a surprisingly well-produced opus for a debut album (basically an expanded demo CD), reveals occasional hints of the band's early folk roots, especially in Emppu Vuorinen's acoustic guitar on the title song and in the closing piece "Lappi (Lapland)"—a nine-minute work in four movements just in case you were worried they might not be progressive enough -- but over all establishes the essential symphonic metal style that will continue through the next several albums. The album opens with the totally rocking "Elvenpath", a fantasy-oriented song with (believe it or not) overlaid samples of narration from Ralph Bakshi's animated movie The Lord of the Rings. Weird, but somehow it works. The album has weaknesses. Keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen provides lead vocals on "Beauty and the Beast", "The Carpenter", and "Astral Romance", but sounds truly awful in contrast to Tarja's trained and naturally talented voice. This mistake is not repeated on any future albums. "Nymphomaniac Fantasia" is a juvenile attempt at eroticism that falls embarassingly flat. Well, he was only twenty-one at the time. The eclectic nine-minute closer, "Lappi (Lapland)", starts with a folky, acoustic movement with lyrics in Finnish, progresses through a short, cinematic instrumental segment highlighting Jukka Nevalainen on drums, paces majestically through a middle part with long resonating fuzzy guitar intonations, and wraps up with a lyricless more acoustic passage that once again lets us soar on wings made of many layers of Tarja's lovely voice. At this point, the band is a four-piece with Emppu doubling on guitars and bass.
With Oceanborn, the band is up to a five-piece with the arrival of Sami Väskä on bass and is in peak form. Flute, violin, viola, and cello are intelligently applied in supporting roles. "Stargazers" and "Gesthemene" open the album with energy and ebulience. One of the catchiest pieces is "Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean", on which guitarist Emppu shows off his considerable chops and Tarja is joined by a growly troll vox representing the devil. "Passion and the Opera" is, as you might guess, a showpiece for Tarja's vocal talent. My personal favourite from this album, "Swanheart", is a majestic ballad that starts gently with flute, piano, and Tarja's lovely solo voice, builds gradually through the addition of rich vocal harmony carrying a lovely bitter-sweet melody, pauses for a breath, and then BLAM! lets loose the rock band with paced power and passion. The rousing instrumental "Moondance" gives a nod back to the band's folk roots with a rock take on a Cossack dance. You can't help but shout "Hey!" between verses. "Walking in the Air" is another beautiful and satisfying power ballad with brief hints of what sound like Andean flutes reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel's "El Condor Pasa". The album closes with a curiously unlisted track called "Sleeping Sun", another slow, sublime ballad, which was a major hit back home in Finland.
Wishmaster continues in the same style as Oceanborn, but puts Tarja's voice just a bit more front and centre (where it should be). "She Is My Sin" opens the album in classic hard-driving Nightwish fashion. This time, Tuomas tackles erotic lyrics with greater maturity and skill and creates a classic. "The Kinslayer", which I have read is about the 1999 Columbine Massacre in Colorado, features sharp, choppy, constructively dissonant vocal bursts evocative of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" and malevolent, menacing, spoken voice-overs. The many-layered overdubbing of Tarja's angelic voice in the upper registers, backed by a male quintet, turns her into a heavenly choir in the closing minute of "Wanderlust": simply exquisite. "Two For Tragedy" runs with anguish and despair. "Wishmaster" returns once more to one of Tuomo's favourite themes: Tolkienesque fantasy. "Crownless" gives Emppu and the rhythm section a serious aerobic workout that will get your blood pumping. I'm not sure what to make of "Dead Boy's Poem". The music is sad and powerful and the lyrics seem to be melancholy, but as usual I can't make any sense of them. Wishmaster ends on a high point with an exhilarating eight-minute multi-part allegro-andante-allegro offering called "FantasMic".
Over the Hills and Far Away, which I have not yet heard, consists mainly of live performances of material from the first three studio albums, with three new studio works thrown in: a much-praised cover of Gary Moore's "Over the Hills and Far Away", and two original pieces: "10th Man Down" and "Away".
Exit Sami Väskä, enter Marco Hietala (of Tarot) on bass and vocals. On Century Child, Tarja now shares the vocal stage with Marco with mixed results. Marco's theatrical tenor voice, which I'm sure could play a fine Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, provides some welcome variety to the band's vocal texture, but, possibly in an effort to make a more balanced sound, Tarja seems to be holding back. I miss the unbridled power of her thoroughbred voice at full gallop. "Dead to the World" opens with a Yes-like burst of vocal harmony like the opening lines of "Leave It" from 90125. The dark, heavy, abrasive "Slaying the Dreamer" throws a bone to died-in-the-wool metal heads with Marco growling out a classic Metallica-esque vocal. "Forever Yours" and "Ocean Soul" return to the gentle-yet-heavy ballad of which Nightwish is the reigning champion. Here, Tuomas has worked his usual atmospheric magic, and the songs are beautiful, but once again I yearn to hear Tarja stop holding back and just let it out the way she did on Oceanborn and Wishmaster. Next, we're surprised with a real treat: Tarja and Marco take on Andrew Lloyd Webber's duet "Phantom of the Opera" with impressive results. I'll take their Phantom over Gerard Butler's any day. Finally, the so far somewhat qualified success of Century Child is redeemed by the ten-minute, three-movement masterpiece "Beauty of the Beast", not to be confused with "Beauty and the Beast" from Angels Fall First.
At the time of the writing of this review, Once has been released in Europe, but seems to be taking forever to find its way across the Atlantic, much to the frustration of Nightwish's New World fans.
Comparisons: Less complex than Dream Theater, but more operatic than Lacuna Coil, more symphonic than The Gathering, more melodic than Tristiana, more classy and sophisticated than fellow Finns Stratovarius, and more beautiful than all of them because of Tarja Turunen's awesome voice. Start with Oceanborn or Wishmaster. -- Jeff Guild
Click here for Nightwish's web site
Beyond The End ... Eternity (71), Sixth Ear (72), Magnetic Web (73), Zero Gravity (7?)
Actually a duo of Moog synthesist Nik Raicevic and organist Pascal. Supposed to be quite weird. Nice sci-fi LP covers.
Nil & Nocturnes (99)
Quarante Jours Sur Le Sinai (02, self-released)
Nil Novo Sub Sole (05)
Quarante Jours Sur Le Sinai (06, re-released on Unicorn Digital label)
Nil - (not in photo order) Benjamin Croizy (keyboards), David Maurin (guitars and flute), Samuel
Maurin (basses and Stick), Frank Niebel (drums) and Roselyne Berthet (vocals)
Nil is a French band. They started in 1994 and self-released their first CD named Nil & Nocturnes in 1999. They subsequently self-released their second CD album Quarante Jours Sur Le Sinai in 2002. After this, they were signed to the Canadian Unicorn Digital label with whom they released Nil Novo Sub Sole in 2005. Unicorn subsequently re-released Quarante Jours Sur Le Sinai on their label in 2006. Their web site claims that "due to heavy brains surgury, the band hasn't been very productive lately", but they're trying to release a new CD before 2010 (!). I have a copy of the original self-released Quarante Jours Sur Le Sinai, which is what I'll talk about.
Quarante Jours Sur Le Sinai is a really good album of symphonic prog, with guitars ranging from acoustic to metallic to Holdsworth-like, acoustic instruments like harps and flutes, slinky fretless bass lines and subtle but interesting keyboard work, including Mellotron. The music has a bit of arabic influence due to the subject matter, but not so much that it seems overdone. Mostly it's just a really good prog album. All that prevents it from being one of the all-time great prog albums are the drums.
Now, don't get me wrong ... Frank Niebel isn't a bad drummer. It's not as if he's having any trouble negotiating the odd time signatures and radical tempo shifting. I'm sure he feels it's his job to anchor the rhythm to prevent all the frilly instrumental bits from sounding like so much flotsam and jetsam flying in the winds of the Sinai. But one man's anchor is another man's millstone, and I think Neibel's straight-ahead rhythmic anchoring prevents the band from flying off into the greatness this composition deserves. I keep wondering how much better this album would be with someone who drums like Neil Peart, Carl Palmer or Bill Bruford playing instead. When guitarist David Maurin is playing triplets or quintuplets or changing time signatures every other measure, the drummer really needs to sell this rhythmic complexity by echoing it in the drums, not just plowing over it to hold the main beat. I've never had this issue with an album before, but I feel like Quarante Jours Sur Le Sinai suffers for it. But enough of the Neibel-bashing. It's not as if his style ruined the album or anything, it's just not the approach I would have taken.
But don't let my misgivings prevent you from seeking out Quarante Jours Sur Le Sinai and giving it a listen. It's really a good album, and you may not even agree with my assessment of the drums. Good stuff, and I hope to hear more from this band, including their third album Nil Novo Sub Sole some day.
[See Syrinx |
Voix De Surface (90)
Consisted of members of Debile Menthol (Marcel "Momo"
Rossell), Begnagrad (Bratko
Bibic, Nino De Gleria (as guest)), Orthotonics, Curlew, etc.,
(Pipin Barnett), L’Ensemble Raye (Shirley Hoffman-Wolz)
and plenty of guests on different instruments, Nimal was/were RIO-supergroup. They most
clearly represent the third generation of RIO bands. They were inspired by the bands
of the first generation (H. Cow, U.
Zero, Samla M.M., etc) and had utilized experiences from the
groups of the second in which they played (with some oscillations to first and third generation).
I have the last two albums both of which are highly intricate recordings and the best blending
of jazz-fusion and ethnic musics (esp. Slavic; the other band in that vein would be
Zoambo Zoet Workestrao) ever, esp. in the "opposition". There
are also some other qualities, which I cannot really define, but one can feel them when
listening to these albums. Comparison for the sake of comparison would be
Samla at their Zamla period. Music is even more dancey than
Zamla and when it’s dark, it is darker than Zamla ever were. Of course we are not talking
the gothic feel of Univers Zero. Sombreness is derived
from medieval and barocco themes. It is obvious that RIO-bands shared and still share
common interest in exploring the darker side of things. For a RIO band, Nimal are unbelievably
catchy, sometimes it sound like they border on world music. Idiosyncratic? Definitely.
Voix de Surface is comprised of 9 trax. Tracks range in style from vivid through mid-tempo to slower and more sombre ones. Counterpoint, contrarhythms and polyrhythmics abound and everytime I listen to it I find sth unheard. "Une Lucie" is very dancey in the Samla vein but more catchy, it is almost a hit, and would appeal also to non-RIO fans. It ends with a passage which sounds rather solemn, even more than in the case of UZ, showing an untouchable greatness. Other tracks like "In Tenda" have medieval feeling (like early Begnagrad), mixed with 20th century music and rich slavic melodies. Track number 5, "Tarotska" is invention of Bibic and is like nothing you have ever heard. It is remarkable for his yodeling and melodious gasping which is mixed with medieval/barocco melodies, cabaret and music from old cartoons(!). Special note for guitarist, fiddler "Momo" Rossel: He is definitely inspired by Frith, yet it sounds quite original, definitely more than much hyped Ribot.
Dis-tanz contains 14 tracks and continues successfully in search for new harmonic/dissonant combinations with strong rhythms and themes taken from Slavic folklore. It is more energetic (riffs are echoing in the brain days after listening), has less sombre feeling, it is also more diverse than its predecessor. It starts with a hit-like "Opa!". "Ein warmer Schnee-Kuss" ["A warm snow-kiss"] is result from collaboration between Bibic on accordion and Shirley Hoffman-Wolz on euphonium and is really warm, quasi love song. Fragile part I. and II. are Bibic’s solo accordion explorations. The greatest of all is almost 8 minutes long (shorter song-format is distinct for Nimal) "Grand Carre" with the central theme derived from Resian ethnic music (the most western part of Slovenian ethnic territory but on Italian side of the border) which really kicks asses. "Od Tukaj do Zdaj" (translated "From Here to Now") is very energetic, the begining part sounds almost like VoiVod (!). For RIO-fans these two are an absolute must. Those interested in adventurous music may go for it as well and after all, the rest of the prog bunch may get used to them, too. I didn’t hear their debut, I saw a copy-only vinyl offer on Wayside recently for respectable sum of money, the music must be very good. Get them, if you can, I hope they will be rereleased soon. I think they really deserve permanent availability. Highly recommended! -- Nenad Kobal
|Links||[See Bratko, Bibic | Curlew | Debile Menthol | Ensemble Raye, L']|
Only a couple of years out of their teens, Nimbus, a vocals-guitar-keyboard-bass-drums quintet
from Salo, made their first recordings, the songs "Ode to Eagle" and "Heretic Fool", for the prestigious
Love Records in 1973. These were not released at the time, and the group changed companies. Just
as well, perhaps, for "Ode to Eagle", released over twenty years later on the first Love Proge
compilation, is a short and unremarkable tune dominated by moody guitar arpeggios and moodier vocals
walking uneasily on the alien territory of the English language - a few "proggy" twists in the melody
and accompanying riffs justify the progressive moniker, barely.
On their ambitious concept album Obus (LP Satsanga SATLP 1013) they had managed to shake off the garage smell and sensibly switched to their native language in order to describe in a typical seventies fashion their pessimistic future vision of how humankind is wasted away by personal isolation, dehumanising technological progress and its abuse of the environment. The fact that the story's narrator is described as an immortal, white-bearded yoghurt eater and his safe return from the future credited to "Gyro Gearloose and his time machine" suggests that the group might not be taking themselves entirely seriously, no matter how angsty and finger-wagging their sermons against the evils of violence, self-deception, modernity and egotism can be. Musically their long vocal sections favour mid-tempos, steady organ backdrops and restrained, clean-but-stuffy guitar around a soft voice and its generally accessible but straggling melodies, clearly composed to fit the polysyllabic and blocky profile of the Finnish language. They are eager to wilfully break away from 4/4 and steady tempo with all kinds of instrumental parts and solos from guitar, organ or electric piano, some of them inspired, a few out of place (e.g. the lambent, Yes-derived guitar/organ break in "Jälkisäädös" that comes and goes in a flash with little relevance to the overall song structure) and one grating on guitar in "Ennustus" ("The Prophecy") that is the aural equivalent of passing a kidney stone. "(4) Epilogi" is essentially a moody modern-classical piano solo bookending a short vocal section. References could be made to Wigwam (especially the organ parts and vocal melodies), Tasavallan Presidentti, Yes (in some guitar parts) and perhaps very early Camel - though not as good as any of these.
The first four songs on the album try to form a single whole, with a recurring melody developed alternatively by vocals, guitar, keyboards and the guest violin, but the end result is disjointed and lacks definition and conviction. Their compositional skills were clearly not as good their playing skills. The overall feel of the music is of mild, mid-tempo melancholy, like sadness kept from despair by sheer lethargy. Only the final track, "Yksinäinen purjehtija" ("The Lonely Sailor"), takes a more upbeat approach, as guitar and electric piano trade silvery, pseudo-Baroque solos over a rather gallant chord progression on the organ. Obus becomes a nice album that doesn't evoke great passions, comparable to the efforts of such other second-division Finnish proggers as Kaamos and Fantasia. Its release does mark a sea-change in the history of Finnish progressive, as from here on "meaningful" Finnish lyrics became more and more important for Finnish progressive acts, eventually substituting English as the language of choice in the works of such acts as Nova and Tabula Rasa. Not that there is much danger of hearing Obus, as it has never been released on CD (the poor-quality pirate CD-R from Poor House can be safely dismissed). Nimbus are also credited with the original music for a 1973 play called "Vapaan maailman laitamilla", but this has never been recorded. -- Kai Karmanheimo
Nine Days Wonder (71), We Never Lost Control (73), Only the Dancers (75), Sonnet to Billy Frost (76)
Nine Days Wonder were one of the house bands on the German Bellaphon label alongside Nektar and Message, and their sound is rather similar to those bands. Well, sort of. Their self-titled first from 1971 is reported to be hard-rock orientated and not very progressive at all. Unfortunately, it's their most common album, though it does look nice with its gimmicky cut-out cover of dead fish by Hipgnosis. We Never Lost Control from 1973 does resemble Nektar a bit, but is pretty original. Walter Seyffer's voice is comparable to Roye Albrighton's, but is rather more urgent and highly strung. It may not sit well with everyone. The sound is mostly centered around the keyboards and discordant saxophones of Freddie Muenster. The jagged time signatures and occasional dissonances give the band's music a twisted edge, emphasized by the song titles and lyrics, which are some of the most hallucinogen-inspired gobbledygook this side of Amon Düül II. Sample lyrics (from "Andromeda Nomads"): "For even if they succeed in being the mouse in the elephant's trunk, they must wear their sneakers to keep him from sneezing." No kidding! The best songs include: the nine-minute "We Grasp The Naked Meat," which seems to have the most musical variation, "Days In Bright Light" and "Andromeda Nomads," which seem to showcase their strengths best. Also of note is "Fisherman's Dream," a mellow Mellotron piece with soaring guitar, a pleasant diversion from the urgency of the rest of the album. Two more years later, the band issued a third album, Only The Dancers. There are apparently more than this, but I don't know what the other albums are called. Supposedly they mellowed out with time.
[See 2066 And Then]
Jouer Spielen To Play (93),others?
Three Italians (two guitars and bass) joined by Charles Hayward (Quiet Sun, This Heat) and Chris Cutler (Henry Cow) on drums. The music is strongly influenced by Hayward, so that the style is quite similar to his solo works. You will find here avantgarde rock ala Henry Cow, Fred Frith or This Heat, strong guitars and crazy improvisations. Brilliant stuff. Jouer Spielen To Play was recorded live on an Italian tour in 1991/92. They recorded also a first one with Henry Kaiser and Fred Frith somehow involved, but I don't know it. -- Achim Breiling
[See Henry Cow | Quiet Sun | This Heat]
99 Names of God - Mark Cook (Warr guitar), Kris Swensen (vocals, keyboards)
and Jason Spradlin (V-drums)
99 Names of God are from the Arlington (near Dallas), Texas area. They started out as a five-piece about seven years ago, but have now leaned down to a three-piece. But their approach has remained the same over the years. Heavily influenced by various media, including avant-garde performance, art idealism and progressive / electronic / experimental music, they create surrealistic moods in the context of each individual piece. One might almost call 99 Names of God ambient music, yet it goes against the grain of this description by demanding to be listened to.
As a reference, I would say their sound contains quite a bit of '80's King Crimson, some Bill Nelson (they contributed to a Nelson tribute album in 2000) and a large dash of '90's "alternative" sound while remaining complex and always interesting. Vocalist Kris Swensen has a clear, melodious voice reminiscent of Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard which sounds ethereal and otherworldly juxtaposed against Mark Cook's contrapunctal Warr guitar and Jason Spradlin's V-drum kit. Kris also plays keyboards. They play the Dallas area club scene frequently, and we've also had the pleasure of hearing them at the GEPR-sponsored Ridglea Theater Progressive Rock Sundays event in Fort Worth. Watching Mark Cook's fingers on the Warr guitar is just amazing, and the music was exceptional.
The band has two albums, Excursions and Interwoven, which I still haven't had a chance to hear. They say that Interwoven is the more "prog" of the two, but the cuts I've heard from Excursions are very good too. They have also contributed to several compilation albums. Mark Cook also plays Warr guitar with The Minefield and the newest incarnation of Hands. Kris Swensen also has an electronic/loop based solo project called Bad Little Girls Get Shots. -- Fred Trafton
|Outstanding Texas band who do a totally pure kind of progressive rock -- it is definitely rock and it's nothing but progressive, which is rare these days. 99 Names of God just plays their music, embracing their bar band status and kicking some serious ass. Though some of the material is "ambient", the tracks I've heard mostly consist of complex rock patterns with a dirty but sophisticated sound and singer Kris Swensen may be the best I've ever heard at vocalizing to this sort of strange brew. In an early KC vein with a few contemporary influences from the avant-garde and even punk, 99 Names may be the single best "little" prog rock group out there. Kudos to them. -- David Marshall|
[See Hands |
Click here for 99 Names of God's web site
99.99 (Four Nine) (81)
More of Four Nine (82)
Story of Simon Simopath (67), All of Us (67), Dedicated to Marcus III (69), Songs of Love and Praise (70), Local Anaesthetic (71)
Nirvana was mostly a duo of Patrick Campbell-Lyons and Alex Spyropoulos for most of five albums. Local Anaesthetic, however, was the work of just Campbell-Lyons. Like many of the early UK bands, the music is proto-prog rock with several extended guitar solos. The album roughly comparable to bands like Mayblitz, Pink Fairies, Gravy Train, etc. However, there is lots of piano work and they often draw from folk and jazz influences in addition to blues-based structures so the album isn't always straightout driving rock. It sounds a bit dated but overall I find this album surprisingly good. If you are into the early UK prog scene, Local Anaesthetic is well worth hearing. The earlier albums lean toward the pop end of the spectrum so prog fans will probably want to stick with Local Anaesthetic.
This is not an early incarnation of the '90s alternative band.