S/T (75), Moj Svet (78), Paviljon G (79)
Angel's Dream (97)
Missa Univeralis (Music for the Modern Mass) (99?)
Sob Todos Os Aspectos (00)
Mr. Saba sent me a very nice sampler including several cuts from each of his
albums. This is a great way to hear samples of all of an artist's output! I'll
review each one as if I've heard the entire album, but be aware that I've
only heard the individual cuts I mention.
Saba's first album is Angel's Dream, and it's a (nearly) solo effort. Saba plays guitar and keyboards, plus a guitar controller for his synthesizers. The compositions use electronic drums. This is obviously recorded in a bedroom studio. It's a mishmash of different styles, with prog or fusion elements in most of the songs. The compositions aren't bad, but the cheezy "toy keyboard" sounds and synthesized drums make this album hard to listen to. There are also many errors in timing and synchronization while doing the overdubs. But mostly, it sounds too much like "one person in a studio". I keep thinking, "Man, this guy needs a band bad!" The cuts on the sampler are "Dick Tracy", "Amanhecer", "Suite - The Cicada and he Ant", "Angels Can't Sleep (but they can fly)", and "The Untold Story of Arthur the King" (since this is an instrumental album, I suppose the story will remain untold).
Saba's second album, Missa Universalis, is a far superior release, though it's arguably less "Progressive" and more into the "World Music" genre. This is a suite intended to be performed at a Catholic mass. The instruments are very varied in this work, and the performance is much tighter than in Angel's Dream. Saba has all but abandoned the guitar for this album (except for one acoustic guitar track). "Consagração" is almost oriental sounding with its wood flutes and gongs, but also uses tablas and tympani for percussion and tubular bells for harmonies. Saba melds these cross-cultural sounds together perfectly into a very nice piece. "Comunhão" somehow manages to fuse a Pierre Moerlin-style marimba and a Philip Glass counterpoint arpeggio into another excellent composition. The other piece of this album on the sampler is "Encerramento", not quite as memorable as the other two cuts, but also a good piece. Based on these samples, I would definitely recommend this album, though not if you're only looking for '70's symphonic prog. It's definitly not that.
But as much as I liked Missa Universalis, my favorite selections are from Saba's third album, Sob Todos os Aspectos. This is music for a theater piece written by Brazilian playwright Luiz Horácio. This play contains a treatment of 6 emotions, of which Saba includes "Anguish", "Anger", "Despair" and "Paralysis" on the sampler CD. "Anguish" is a solo electric guitar piece, very improvised and non-melodic. It's heavy distortion and crying pitch-bends very well portray the emotion. "Anger" is a flamenco piece, complete with castañets and acoustic guitar, but with an electric guitar solo being played over the top of it. I personally find this one to be a strange choice ... Flamenco has always been about joy and eroticism to me, not anger. As with all of Saba's guitar solos, it sometimes tends to ramble on a bit. Still, this is a really interesting piece of music, reminding me of the band Carmen. "Despair" is texturally similar to "Anguish", but the guitar is being played backwards. Also a cool piece. The final cut is "Paralysis" which is a pipe organ piece. It's an ominous chord over a droning bass pedal with very little movement in the notes. It is joined by a spacey synth drone towards the end of the piece. This definitely sounds like paralysis.
So, a mixed review, but mostly positive. For prog fans, I recommend you start with Sob Todos os Aspectos and then move on to Missa Universalis if you like it. The music is all instrumental, so if you're concerned about it being too preachy, don't be. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||Click here for Alex Saba's web site (in English and Portugese)|
Sadistic Mika Band (74), Black Ship (75), Hot! Menu (75)
Black Ship has four true progressive songs on it, but what songs they are! The nine-minute "Sumie No Kuni E" moves through three discrete sections. It opens with carefree solo electric piano resembling the tolling of wind chimes. Next is a ballad-like section featuring a man singing and narrating the same text simultaneously. The track concludes with a heavy section with some amazing soloing, ending finally with an echo of the e-piano intro. Fantastic! But even this is overshadowed by the great "Black Ship (Second June, Third June, Fourth June)," which starts off as a fine prog epic with good guitar and Mellotron which gives way to some hot rock jamming with guitar and piano punctuated by wild shouts and then climaxes with a dramatic Floydian/symphonic postlude with some guitar playing that will have you screaming "Encore! Encore!" There are two more tracks worth mentioning, "Four Seasons"-- a keyboard-heavy kitchen-sink slab of symphonic prog-- and the sleepy, minor-chorded album-closing "Sayonara." If only all the songs on this album were like this, but... Well, to be fair there are only two tracks on the album which are really bad, the proto-disco of "Suki Suki Suki" and the unbelievably tacky Japanese rock of "Time Machine," both the only two tracks to feature vocals by Mika Katoh, who gets top billing here. Mika comes to deserve her status as star on the third album, Hot! Menu, performing lead vocals on two tracks and duetting with husband Kazuhiko Katoh on three more. (he sang on most tracks of the first album) Surprisingly, it begins with two instrumentals: "Time To Noodle," a jumping fusion type of jam session with a bit in 15/8 (!) and "Mummy Doesn't Go To Parties Since Daddy Died," which is centred around harpsichord-like arpeggiated piano and blissfully plucked guitar with a constant background of kindergarten-sounds. The band takes its first stab at English lyrics on "Hi Jack (I'm Just Dying)" and "Style is Changing," the former uses the old Western "Oriental music" cliche as its central riff, the latter is a heavily phased guitar-rocker. "Funkee Mahjong" is a much more credible stab at funk than "Suki Suki Suki" from the first album. And I really don't know what to make of "Tokyo Sunrise," for which Mika gets sole songwriting credit. In it, an obviously stoned Mika mumbles about how she wants to make a "tequira sunlise" to a background of a Japanese music-box, two guitars (acoustic and electric) and stand-up bass. Weird. Start with the first album, in spite of its peccadilloes it's worth it. Although Hot! Menu avoids the embarrassing low points of the first album, it likewise fails to include the stunning high points which made the first one so essential. -- Mike Ohman
Sadistic Mika Band doesn't have much in the way of "progressive rock". A few tunes are hard pop-rock with strange interludes, like "Typhoon" on Black Ships, while the rest is straight-ahead pop with country, reggae and rock'n'roll influences here and there. Probably best to skip it and go straight to Black Ships. -- Michael Walpole
[Black Ship was released in the US without a title. So, if you find an album by them with a pink cover on the UK Harvest label showing the band in samba outfits posing before a tropical backdrop, it's Sadistic Mika Band. If it has a blue cover on either US or UK Harvest showing the band members in apparent free-fall, it's Black Ship, the one you want.]
Swallowed In Black (90)
A Vision of Misery (92)
Chemical Exposure (92, Illusions reprinted)
Elements of Anger (97)
Chronicles of Chaos (97, Compilation)
|Not prog, perhaps sharp and hectic "extreme fusion" without a trace of heart and soul, but perhaps worth a listen (A Vision of Misery) at least because of the monster bass player Steve Di Giorgio (usually plays six string fretless bass), who has helped Death’s Chuck Schuldiner to accomplish finest recordings of his band. For those who play bass, essential listening. As performing glissando-style on his bass, Steve could be perceived as a (diametrical) reflection of bright glissandoers (Allen, Hillage) in Qlippoth (from the prog standpoint o.c.). And I’m not joking. -- Nenad Kobal|
Abrahadabra (06, as Arashk)
Sovereign (07, as Arashk)
Ustuqus-al-Uss (08, as Arashk)
Salim Ghazi Saeedi
Iconophobic is just your plain old dime-a-dozen Iranian RIO music. Say whaaat? Somebody's actually making progressive rock music in Iran? And it's RIO? Well, maybe. I've seen Salim Ghazi Saeedi's solo album compared stylistically to many other bands, and all comparisons fall short. Comparisons to Fripp or Zappa completely miss the mark. Comparisons to Univers Zero or Birdsongs of the Mesozoic are way closer, but still don't give the right flavor. I'd say, "If members of Hamster Theater captured a wandering band of Bible-era Iranian circus performers and forced them to play RIO, then they might sound like this. After about twenty years of practice."
A bit too contrived? Yeah, I agree. How about Saeedi's own description? "Avant-garde ancient art rock from Iran"? Right on! What this doesn't tell you is how excellent this album is! The music is instrumental, and Saeedi plays mostly guitar, but also does well on drums, bass, keyboards and violin (unless that's a really well-played violin keyboard sample!). If your tastes run more to Cuneiform, AltrOck or ReR labels than the Sympho or Neo end of the spectrum, then you should be a prime candidate for Iconophobic. But don't be surprised when you also get some Persian-flavored blues or heavy metal passages as well. No need to make any excuses for this album just because it comes from Iran ... the quality of the compositions, the playing and the recording is right up there with anything being made anywhere else in the world. Excellent and highly recommended!
Though Iconophobic is the first album for which Saeedi used his own name, he also created three albums under the "band name" Arashk that are essentially all his own work as well. He does have a couple of guest musicians playing on a few cuts, but mostly it's all him. Saeedi sent me a few examples of music from these albums as well. Though they're certainly not bad, they lean more towards the "Persian-flavored blues or heavy metal" end of his spectrum. These, to me, sound like mere rehearsals for the main event, which is Iconophobic. The Arashk material is less experimental and more "guitar hero" oriented. Nevertheless, they are interesting in their own right. But my advice is get Iconophobic first and then the Arashk albums only if you like the samples on Saeedi's web site. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Salim Ghazi Saeedi's web site
Click here for Salim Ghazi Saeedi's Facebook page
Click the "play" icon below to see Saeedi on YouTube:
Images at Twilight (79)
Silent Knight (80)
World's Apart (82)
In Transit (82)
Heads or Tales (83)
Wildest Dreams (87)
Beginner's Guide to Throwing Shapes (89)
The Works (91)
Security of Illusion (93)
Steel Umbrellas (94)
Generation 13 (95)
Pleasure And The Pain (96)
|Canadian band who got off to a great start, and have tailed off quite a bit recently. Saga, Images at Twilight, Silent Knight and Worlds Apart are all classics combining multiple keyboards and great lead guitar work. Later albums are more pop based or straight rock and often cliched. Wildest Dreams is especially cliched. Security of Illusion reunites the orignal lineup, but the results are still in the AOR vein. Steven Negus does some *excellent* drumming on this album, BTW.|
|Saga was/is possibly the first neo-prog band. Their music has two distinct faces - a progressive sound derivative of Yes and perhaps a little Genesis, and a fairly unique pop sound which seems to be their own. The early albums balance these two sides nicely, offering songs that are both accessible and interesting. This balance held until the overtly low key Behaviour, which followed some personnel changes. With Wildest Dreams they were down to a three piece and sporting a new, punchy techno-metallic sound, which carried through to Beginners Guide, which is where I lost interest in them. The new album Security Of Illusion allegedly features the original five piece lineup. Best albums -Silent Knight, Worlds Apart, Heads Or Tales.|
|The Works is a double-disc compilation of this Canadian progressive rock group. Also featured are three new tracks, all of which are, thankfully, a return to their earlier sound in terms of style. One of these is a cover of Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill"! This is the only Saga compilation that I know of, and covers their career quite well, without emphasis on any particular period. All their staples, including "Humble Stance," "Wind Him Up," etc. are featured, and this could well serve as a good introduction to the band.|
|The band's debut may be classified as the first neo-prog album. Marred by two disco-ish songs, still, there's some fine German-styled synth work here though. The track "Ice Nice" may be one of the band's best songs ever. Michael Sadler's faux-Anglo voice may get on some people's nerves. Silent Knight is probably the best, opening with the memorable "Don't Be Late". Their albums are solidly in the neo-prog mould, but the playing and writing are of high quality. -- Mike Ohman|
|The Canadian group is back with Generation 13, an ambitious production that marks a return to a more progressive development of themes. The five piece band is the same as the one we were used to. The G13 concept, developed in 25 scenes, is inspired by a book dealing with the anguish related to the turn of the century. Musically, the sound is much the same as the one we knew except for a heavy production, with numerous effects, that adds quite a bit of drama to the treatment of the concept. A strong comeback that will please those who knew them and surprise those who didn't. -- Paul Charbonneau|
|The quality of Saga´s albums fluctuated wildly in the 90s. Their first new studio album The Security Of Illusion, though at times influenced too much by AOR and normal hard rock, had good songs, excellent instrumental work (especially by drummer Steve Negus) and at least occasional glimpses of the spirit of their heydays. However, Steel Umbrellas, the album that came out a year later, was a miserably failed attempt at a middle-of-the-road, commercial rock album. It played down guitars, keyboards, instrumental sections and good compositions, leaving only smooth surface, monotonous drumming and some vague funk, blues and pop ideas. There were a couple of good tunes, but they were more than balanced by the irritating quasi-funk of "Feed The Fire" and "Say Goodbye To Hollywood", a ballad so sickly sweet you need a complete dental overhaul after listening to it. After this fiasco Generation 13 was quite a surprise. A dark, longish and somewhat obscure concept album about alienated youth, Generation 13 explored a wealth of instrumental colours from guitar-driven hard rock to abstract keyboard-texture pieces, from neo-classical orchestral songs to hip-hop influences! Though not completely successful (there is a shortage of really good compositions, leading to unnecessary repetition and overuse of slim themes that are not that interesting), the album was a bold move and definitely the most progressive thing they had done since the early 80's. Unfortunately the only ideas from Generation 13 to pop up on the next album Pleasure And The Pain were the screechy guitars and the hip-hop influences; things like keyboards or progressive ideas were buried deep in the mix. Tellingly, the best track was a new version of their old classic "You´re Not Alone", hardly deserving of the treatment it got on this album. Their next release was a live album called Detours which gives a good overview of the band’s output (though there is no material from the mundane Wildest Dreams or the mediocre Beginners Guide to Throwing Shapes), but fortunately focuses on their first four studio albums. Sounding more aggressive than the studio albums and featuring two multimedia tracks, Detours is two hours worth of Saga at their best - even if it contains no new material. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
|Sagittarian (CD Mellow Records MMP 133) is one of the more obscure Japanese symphonic bands, perhaps because the original Aries Records pressing of their sole album was only of a few hundred copies. It is also one of the least remarkable Japanese releases, in good and bad alike. A line-up of drums, bass and two guitarists and keyboardists plays the kind of melodic, straight-forward symphonic rock that has its influences in prime Camel, Genesis and Novalis without actually nicking anything from any of them. The timbral palette is geared more towards early-1980's electronics than those of their paragons and especially rhythmic complexity is somewhat diminished in comparison. Yet the emphasis is on instrumental work, not extended pop song structures, as with the neo-progressive rock (there are some politely neutral vocals on couple of the tracks). The playing and writing are good, just not terribly original or stirring. Occasionally the music does take nicely to flight, especially when they overlay two solo lines, usually on synthesizer and guitar, and use the interplay to build up to a satisfying instrumental climax (e.g. "Twilight Lament"). It's a nice album overall, just not for those who measure the quality of music by its offensiveness. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
Sagrado Coração Da Terra (85)
Farol Da Liberdade (91)
Grande Espirito (94)
A Leste do Sol, Oeste Da Lua (00)
Sacred Heart of Earth (01)
|I heard great things about Sagrado Coração De Terra from numerous people, so was obviously looking forward to hearing them. Their leader, Marcus Viana is an absolutely excellent violin player and is also good on keyboards and vocals as well, but I was less than impressed on first listens. These guys are very accessible and melodic, almost to the point of sounding close to soft rock. Further listens, and they grew on me extremely and are now hard to get of the record player! I think everyone here would appreciate them - the blend of classical and cultural elements with Viana's knack for songwriting make their LPs Sagrado Coração De Terra and Flecha musts for prog fans of all sorts. Beautiful and haunting, gliding and ethereal, I can't get enough of them.|
|Their sound is very symphonic with allusions to South American folk and pop. Driven by the violin of leader Marcus Viana, the music is very emotional in a very classical sort of way, with many dynamic interludes. Female/male vocal harmonies make for some truly beautiful passages. BTW, they are from Brazil and most of the vocals are in Portuguese.|
|About Grande Espirito, it's a new style, with a excellent singer named Bauxita (male), with a powerful voice. Grande Espirito is aimed for the foreign market, since two songs are in English, one in Tupi (Indian language) and an instrumental song, plus four songs in Portuguese. Most of Sagrado's song lyrics are about counciess (?), forest preservation, and spiritual uplift (kind of New Age).|
|Yes, they have a violin player. No, they don't sound like PFM! I find their music very commercial sounding and lackluster. I would suggest trying some of the other bands from Brazil before these guys. -- Mike Ohman|
|This band, led by the excellent violinist (keyboards, vocals and arrangements) Marcus Viana, that also includes keyboards, guitars, bass, drums, flutes and choir. Flecha is a light melodic rock that relies on rich symphonic arrangements. The tracks are usually text-based (in Portuguese) and show classical influences through violin and keyboard arrangements. The sustained use of electric instruments (violin included) insures a rock sound but the music often shows a soft romantic touch. For fans of soft, light symphonism. The line-up on Farol da Liberdade also includes guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, flutes, voice (in Spanish) and choir. In fact, the participation of the various instruments is well balanced and their rich symphonic arrangements dominate. The style stays true to rock with a mostly electric sound (violin included), solid rhythms and simple writing. On the other hand, melodies and arrangements show classical influences that are commonly associated with Italian bands. -- Paul Charbonneau|
The listing for Sagrado Coração da Terra [made] reference to the "late"
Marcus Viana. I know I've heard that from numerous quarters, so it isn't just the GEPR.
However, he does seem quite active for a dead man [see link below]. -- Nathan-Andrew Leaflight
[Editor's note: This embarrassing mistake has now been fixed. Thanks, Nathan-Andrew, and apologies to Marcus Viana!]
|Links||Click here for Marcus Viana's web site, including information on Sagrado Coração da Terra|
For All the Clowns (76)
|Free-flowing electronic prog, compared to Novalis.|
There is something schizophrenic about Sunrise, as the album’s four songs
run a gamut of musical styles without much attempt at cohesion. For
example, the 27-minute title track features free-form improvisation with
prominent bass guitar; some spacey organ vaguely reminiscent of Novalis;
fusionesque synth soloing; a brief symphonic burst of Mellotron and a
rocking section with an organ riff that could have come from The Yes
Album. Elsewhere they can sound a bit like Traffic or even some Nashville
band! Definitely a unique mix of styles, but not one that I found terribly
For All the Clowns is much more concise and enjoyable a work. There is still a host of influences, but they are now better integrated into tighter and well-composed song structures. During the course of the album, the band tackle an Emersonian piano étude ("Prélude"), Tull-like guitar riffs and flute-sneezing ("Dream Queen"), a pleasant acoustic guitar fragment ("Fool the Fortune"), and just your basic German string-synths-and-rich-minor-key-guitar-melodies symphonic rock in the style of Novalis and Rousseau ("The Source"). The highlight must be the title-track, however, which flows from "I Get Up, I Get Down"-style keyboard soup through jazzy vocal sections into a steadily-building weave of synthesizer and guitar solos that is at the same time hypnotically spacey and intensely symphonic. The quality of the tunes drops somewhat towards the end, but overall this is another solid German progressive album. -- Kai Karmanheimo
|Links||[See Subject Esq.]|
Sailor (74), Trouble (75), Third Step (76), Check Point (77), Greatest Hits (78), Hideaway (78), Dressed To Drown (81)
|Symphonic Prog from US, I think very rare and pressed in few copies, was issued on white cover and pasted a picture not unlike '70 bootleg !!!!!!! Mainly instrumental, line up: Sidney Gasner (bs) Mark Wenner (dr) Michael Mc Glynn (kb) Reynold Philipsek (gr) Private press 1974. -- Antonio Ceruso|
Sailor Free (92), The Fifth Door (94)
Sailor Free is a current Italian act delivering heavy acid rock in the vein of Black Sabbath, Jericho and so forth. A four-piece of guitar, bass, drums, vocals and keys, the focus is on the heavy hooks of the guitarist, known simply as The Hook. The first of the 11 songs on the 51 min. The Fifth Door is quite deceiving. Called "Intro II," it's an atmospheric mix of synths, Mellotron and a variety of percussion. (Sonically, this disc is *very* nicely recorded. This is demonstrated by the percussion of "Intro II," which have real impact.) I knew that these guys were supposed to be hard rock/psych but when I heard "Intro II," I thought they might go off like a heavy dose of Tangle Edge. That idea is put to rest when The Hook goes "Wild," the second song. This sets the stage for the next few songs, hard rock with a touch of the psychedelic. Vocalist/keyboardist David Petrosino lyric delivery alternates between smooth and gritty, depending on what the music calls for. Though the heavy hand and wah-wahed solos of The Hook dominate, Petrosino's use of Mellotron, organ and even VCS3 add extra depth, particularly in the later tracks. "Safe Havens," one of the hard rockers ends with a contrasting violin solo played by guest Barbara Barbatelli. This end heralds the arrival of the stronger psychedelic presence, as the band lays back on the heavy hooks. But first, the band gives one more dose of heavy riffing, sustained power chords and a mind-bending wah-wah solo on "Revolution is at Hand." Then comes "The Fifth Door," replete with tabla, Vox organ and guest vocalist Devi harmonizing with Petrosini. The psychedelic flower come to full blossom with this track, reminding me of an incredibly heavy version of The Moody Blues' "House of Four Doors." The Mellotron is put to use against a sax solo and a heavy-handed guitar solo on "Fairy Queen," extending the lysergic journey. The remainder of the songs balances the hard rock and psychedelic acts. There is an unlisted eleventh track, a variation on the opening introduction, to close the disc. If you're heavy into the heavy acid rock scene of the late '60s, Sailor Free should not fail to please.
Saint Just (73)
La Casa Del Lago (74)
|I had La Casa Del Lago. Very good Italian classical progressive. More acoustic and folk sounding than rock. There is a problem though: the feminine vocals are just terrible and destroys everything. Reminded me of Tale Cue's vocalist but worse. But if you like Tale Cue ... -- Jean-François Cousin|
|Links||[See Sorrenti, Jenny | Verde, Antonio]|
Icarus may not be one of the best CDs I have acquired recently, but it is certainly one of the most interesting/surprising ones from the standpoint of my expectations prior to hearing it. Purportedly an offshoot of the band Celeste; I think these guys are in reality Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy recording another solo album under a pseudonym :-). But really, St. Tropez is indeed an offshoot of Celeste, formed by synthesist/percussionist Ciro Perrino with the help of Giorgio Battaglia and Francesco "Bat" Dimasi on bass and drums respectively. Icarus was recorded in 1977/1978, and for the recording they recruited a guitarist, Alex Magazzino, and a female vocalist named Lady Mantide, who is credited with "space voices." If that sounds suspiciously like the "space whisper" of Gong, then you are starting to get an idea of their sound. But to call this simply a Gong or Hillage sound-alike album is not entirely accurate. The CD clocks in at a healthy 75 minutes, and as there is no mention of bonus tracks anywhere, I assume this was originally a double LP. Thus the 10 songs found here provide Perrino and Co. a bit of room to move beyond the spacey synth/modal guitar sound that dominates the album. The guitarist does sound more like Steve Hillage than Hillage himself at times, and the synths are very much in the Tim Blake/Miquette Giraudy vein, but as the album progresses the sound takes on a more recognizeably Italian character. At times this evokes the sound of their fellow countrymen Sensations' Fix, with droning synths and acoustic guitar ostinatos supporting psychedelic vocals or instrumental soloing. There are even a few moments where the sound aproaches that of someone like Banco or PFM. Nevertheless, the music of St. Tropez is pretty much your Canterbury variety of space-rock/electronic-psychedelia, with passing similarities to not only Gong/Hillage but also bands like National Health or Camel. And though I have so far been unsuccessful in acquiring Celeste's Principe Di Un Giorno album, I had the impression that Celeste, and therefore St. Tropez, would sound something along the lines of PFM or Locanda Delle Fate; needless to say Icarus came as a bit of a surprise! So thats what they sound like, but is it any good? Well, to continue the comparison to Hillage, Icarus stands perhaps a notch below the classic Fish Rising, but better than anything else the Octave Doctor created after leaving Gong. The length of the album might tend to make it susceptible to excessive repitition and "sameness," but St. Tropez do a surprisingly good job of varying the sound enough within and between songs to make the entire 75 minutes engaging. This may not be one of *the* essential Italian progressive albums, but it is certainly a unique anomaly of the Italian '70s scene that might be a welcome respite if you've had too much PFM or Osanna styled prog. Icarus was rereleased by Mellow Records in 1992 and is available from Syn-Phonic.
Bitzitako Gauzak (78)
Basque prog band whose sound is different from most. There's no real folk influence, and it's primarily keyboard-based rather than guitar based. The sound is something more akin to Castilian bands like Bloque, Asafalto or Goma. It's sort of symphonic prog with keyboard and guitar jams here and there. Sometimes average, but often exciting, reaching a sort of peak with the climactic closing track "Bilatzea," which has a most memorable theme, one of many on this excellent album. -- Mike Ohman
Gikyoku Onsou (91)
Beyond the Beyond (96)
Shining the Holy Ark (96)
Force of Light (99)
... several more soundtrack and game-music releases
Sakuraba was the keyboardist for the japanese trio Deja Vu. His solo album [Gikyoku Onsou] is an instrumental smorgasbord of keyboard wizardry, with bass and drums backing. The overall style leans toward fusion, with some symphonic, and ELP influenced tendencies; the overall spirit of the music here often reminds me of Edhels, especially on the more "orchestrated" sounding cuts. Excellent.
|Motoi Sakuraba was the keyboardist for Deja Vu. He also contributed his keyboard talents to the excellent King's Boards collaboration of several Japanese Prog keyboardists. His solo album, Gikyoku Onsou is a trio of drums, bass and, of course, keyboards. Sakuraba's keyboard arsensal consists of piano, organ and a battery of synthesizers. Despite the keyboard trio format, Gikyoku Onsou rarely compares to ELP, Le Orme, etc. Sakuraba's style is more refined than Emerson's "in your face" aggressiveness. Sakuraba, like Emerson, shows many classical (and sometimes jazz) influences but I think Sakuraba draws from a different body of classical material than does Emerson. Whereas Emerson draws a lot from 20th century composers, Sakuraba's refined style sounds to me like he draws more from classical or romantic periods. Whatever, Sakuraba certainly has a flair for the keyboards. The drummer draws the same analogy to Carl Palmer. He's very good but shows more restraint than Palmer. There are no vocals or guitar. If you like keyboard Prog but find ELP a little too pompous or bombastic, check out Sakuraba's release.|
[See Deja Vu |
Click here for Motoi Sakuraba's
web site (in English)
The Ten Commandments (71)
From the opening strains of "Prelude," you'll be reminded of the Moody Blues, except not as good. Salamander is an early UK psych band that attempts to create symphonic progressive by using a rock quartet with an orchestra, ala Moody Blue's Day's of Future Passed or Deep Purple's Concerto For Group and Orchestra. I don't think Salamander succeed as well as either of them. Organ abounds, as does guitar and vocals. The Ten Commandments, as the title suggests, is a conceptual album with each song dedicated to one of the commandments. For me, the orchestra detracts from their musical statement. It might have been better served had they focused on the interplay between guitar and organ. There are a few nice moments, but alas, they are few and far between. Mediocre.
Salem Hill (92)
Different Worlds (93)
The Robbery of Murder (98)
Not Everybody's Gold (00)
Puppet Show (03, 2CD, Live & Unreleased material)
Mimi's Magic Moment (05)
Salem Hill is headed up by guitarist/vocalist/primary writer/keyboardist Carl Groves.
Influences can be heard (the usual culprits - particularly Pink
Floyd, Kings X, Kansas,
Rush, Yes, and
Crimson) - but Salem
Hill goes beyond their influences and definitely has a sound of their own. While there
first 2 CDs can be said to be progressive or at least have progressive leanings, depending
on how you evaluate such things (and in any case are very good in their own right), it's
their later three that are most worth checking out.
Catatonia is a concept album. The songs tell the story of a guy disillusioned with life with some peculiar characteristics and I'll leave it to the reader to inquire further about the story if interested. Musically, it's primarily guitar oriented prog - with some keyboards added by Groves and Michael Ayers (who later joined Salem Hill). The Robbery of Murder is shows more musical growth and diversity, as well as a more intriguing story. Ayers joined Salem Hill so there's more going on between the guitars and keyboards. Not Everybody's Gold is not a concept album, but it contains the best music Salem Hill has put out (in my opinion). The keyboards are more integrated on this CD. The gem among all the tracks is "Sweet Home Suite" which is over 20 minutes long and is rich in instrumentation, complex time changes and polyrhythms, advanced harmonies, etc. - beyond that - it is truly orchestrated, not just arranged for a rock band. This track alone is worth buying the CD for. The rest of the CD contains some excellent progrock as well. -- Mike Tennenbaum
Rumor had it after the release of Not Everybody's Gold that the band was on the verge of breaking up. This has been confirmed by the band, and in fact they had decided to call it quits. They called the recording of NEG everything from "not much fun" to "excruciating". Michael Ayers in particular wanted to dissolve the band. However, the original four members of the band (Michael Dearing - guitars, Carl Groves - vocals, guitars, keys, Kevin Thomas - drums, vocals and Patrick Henry - bass) got back together to do one more recording to fulfill a contractual agreement with Cyclops and suddenly discovered they were having a great time again. So, they are back together and working on a new album, tentatively titled Be, and they are shooting for a mid-2003 release date. It is supposed to Be another concept album. -- Fred Trafton
Be was released in 2003, along with a 2CD album of live and unreleased material entitled Puppet Show. The band's latest release is another concept entitled Mimi's Magic Moment, which many fans have called their best to date. Glass Hammer keyboardist Fred Schendel played as a guest on Mimi's Magic Moment, and now Salem Hill's Carl Groves is the lead (male) singer for Glass Hammer. He appears on the newest Glass Hammer DVD, Live at Belmont, and is vocalist for their upcoming new album Culture of Ascent.
Salem Hill have also released a DVD called Mystery Loves Company in 2007. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Glass Hammer]|
Seduto Sull'Alba A Guardare (74), Dopo Il Buio, La Luce (78)
[See Salis, I]
Sa Vita Ida Est (71)
A family band and a little commercial.
[See Salis, Antonello]
Norwegian fusion band.
|Easier to the ears, and related to RRR ... Samadhi created a very interesting style of progressive and at times tends to be very symphonic. Again, a variety of styles are experimented with and again it flows very well. This one I found much easier to get into than RRR.|
|A vangard-jazz album with a great singer.|
Samadhi's line-up includes the ex-guitarist and the ex-vocalist of
Raccomandata Ricevuta Ritorno, but their album has
little in common with the concise barbed wire sound of triple-R's Per... Un Mondo Di
Cristallo. Instead Samadhi (Warner Fonit 3984 28260-2) is one of those Italian
prog albums that contains a range of fairly heterogenous tunes unified primarily by their
allegiance to bel canto-ish vocal melodies that seem to permeate Italian popular music.
The first side of the album is full of short, bright and direct tunes full of acoustic guitar, sprightly keyboards and youthfully enthusiastic vocal harmonies. The melodic gravity is of the same magnitude as Blocco Mentale's, but without that band's volatile complexity to balance it. The instrumental "Passagio di Via Arpino" throws in kitschy horn stabs and indulges in even kitschier fusion noodling. However, the last two songs delve deeper into rich symphonic arrangements, and the album climaxes with the rumbling instrumental ride-out of "L'Ultima Spiaggia" that uses semi-operatic male and female vocals to flesh out the closing bombast. Samadhi's melodic splendour makes it very worthwhile, but not quite eligible to the pantheon of Italian progressive. -- Kai Karmanheimo
|Links||[See Raccomandata Ricevuta Ritorno | Teoremi, I | Uovo Di Colombo, L']|
Sameti (72), Hungry For Love (74)
Prog, w/members of Amon Düül II and Between.
[See Amon Düül II | Between]
For all I know, this is the only Samkha album released on CD, though I've
never heard of other works released under the name of Samkha on any kind of
"media", including LP and even Cassette. The CD's booklet doesn't contain
any information on the band, so all we have here are the details that concern
only this very album, apart from the strange name. Samkha is a Hindu word
whose roots are hidden behind the wall of centuries in the ancient Sanscrit
language. Somebody from the band explains the meaning of Samkha in the booklet.
As they put it, Samkha is "an Indian musical shell which also has religious
significance". (One of the Indian music styles that also has a religious
sense, i.e. it is also used in religious rituals?). Well, let's better talk
about Samkha's music.
I'm inclined to let you know my final opinion on Samkha's only self-titled album right now. Actually, even now I think this album deserves to be rated as a masterpiece yet "officially" I've decided to rate it a bit lower and that's the reason why. Compositionally, "Samkha" is one of the most original and colourful instrumental works I've heard in years, but stylistically, the album is kind of intentionally divided into two relatively equal parts. According to the explanation of one of the band members about what they perform, "this is some kind of Indian music that also has a religious sense". Yes, all the first five compositions briefly and generally can be described this way. But the remaining tracks 6 to 9 stylistically are of a slightly different weight category; and although it's obvious that all the nine album's instrumentals could be played by a band whose approach to composing and arranging musical material is very own and specific, Samkha represents the band's "progressive approach" to composing, arranging and performing not only the Indian music. Well, "Kolyadka" (by the way, it's the name of a Russian Christmas song), "Pilgrim", "Yoke", "Crane's Dance", and "Camel" are full of various Indian raga-like melodies and female vocalizes that are really similar to some Indian religious (or ritual) singings. All this Indian distinct and colourful stuff, typical for each of the first five pieces, doesn't prevent the both leading players - guitarist and flautist (though, there is the sax instead of the flute on "Camel") - from adding to an Eastern palette some Slavonic, but most often West European obviously medieval minstrel strokes. I've found even a few comparable episodes in always virtuosic and almost everywhere original solos and roulades of the guitar / banjo player and flautist. As for the guitarist, there is an obvious similarity with Jimmy Page's playing the acoustic guitar. Igor Kaim did it on "Kolyadka" very close to the way Jimmy did on "The Battle of Evermore" (Led Zeppelin-IV).
Eugene Zhdanov's playing the flute has a clear resemblance with Ian Anderson's (Jethro Tull) immediately recognizable style on two compositions - "Yoke" and "Glass". Few minstrel-like guitar passages surrounded by a strong Indian musical atmosphere can be heard for the first time on Pilgrim. "Yoke", standing right in the middle of the Indian Five, is one of the two fully instrumental compositions here. No vocalizes on this one, female or male, though the latter is heard only on the album's last track. "Yoke" is also probably the most complex, diverse and interesting, hence the best composition here. "Crane's Dance" also differs a bit from the other first five pieces: there are more Arabian than Indian flavours on it, and on "Camel", the fifth piece of the album, Zhdanov for the first time put aside his flute in favour of the sax. That way, there are no similar pieces (at least in the overall sound) among even those five ones that have an obvious Indian musical nucleus in the structures, and that's a good thing (at least for an album of our beloved Progressive).
The second "half" of the compositions represent a more mixed overall picture than the previous one. But, the main thing is, all these (6 to 9) pieces, unlike the first five tracks, aren't based on Indian music. Each of them contains no more than just slight traces of Indian flavours that turn up more or less obviously just in the vocalized parts. It's really hard to call rich and always varied percussive arrangements Indian when all parts of the soloing instruments (guitar, banjo, flute, sax) are by no means Indian. Particularly, "Flame" was named that as if on purpose because basically this is nothing but Spanish Flamenco. Yes, when both soloing and especially rhythmical parts of the acoustic guitar play Flamenco the percussionist automatically switches to the according rhythmical structures. Call them "samba" or "rumba" - whatever, they sound here like the Spanish percussion. With quite a long (at 1,5 minutes) percussion intro, with all the soloing parts of guitar, flute and sax (closer to the end) which are rather of European than of some Eastern origin, and especially with regular inflammatory female ejaculations "Glass" gives the impression of hot Spanish women dancing to the accompaniment of a Prog'n'folk ensemble from some other European country. In this ("second") category, "Lake" is the only composition that has some Indian feel, but its obvious presence here is only due to the female vocalizes while all the varied musical parts, including sax solos, are of the European origin once again. On the whole, this is one of few compositions where a melancholy mood dominates all over.
As if on the contrary to "Lake", "Capricorn" is the shortest yet the most lively, jolly and fast instrumental here. Stylistically, it represents a slightly unusual yet unique type of a progressive instrumental: this is a blend of medieval holiday music with Gypsy playful soloing. The album's closing track is the only on which you'll here a male vocalize, apart from female. And Gypsies, by the way are Eastern people.
So, I just described the compositions from the second "half" (category) of the CD. As you see, all of them are even more different from each other than the first five. Which is good, again. Actually, this is one of the most unique, interesting and diverse instrumental Prog-Folk albums I have ever heard. Though now, I can't even remember another one that, being based almost totally on structures of Indian and other kinds of music of the East would be brave enough to add there rich and tasteful arrangements of contemporary and medieval European music, apart from few others. It would be better if the band didn't lead a potential listener in advance to an idea that their album is wholly based on Indian music as stated in the album's booklet. Finally, I have to notice that a traditional way of labeling the band's music within the same frames that are used by Boheme up to now doesn't apply too often. Once again, in music of Samkha I have found no Jazz nor (especially) "world music", though the label present the band's music as a blend of Jazz and world music, of all things. -- Vitaly Menshikov
Click here for Boheme's web site
You can mail order Boheme titles by e-mailing to firstname.lastname@example.org
Samla Mammas Manna (71)
Klossa knapitatet (74)
Snorungarnas Symfoni (76)
As Zamla Mammaz Manna:
As von Zamla:
This pioneering Swedish band combines folk melodies with hard driving rock improvisations and
Zappa-like humor. Their first LP in 1970 (on the Silence label)
gives few clues to their eventual direction. With the addition of the talented guitarist
Coste Apetrea, their second LP, Måltid (1973),
is a mix of hot, guitar-led improvisations, with short, folky tunes. Klossa Knapitatet
(1974) expands on their improvisational side, and may be their best. After a mostly mediocre
collaboration with Greg Fitzpatrick, Snorungarnas Symfoni (1976), they reemerged as part
of the RIO crowd.
SMM turned into Zamla Mammas Manna when Coste Apetrea left, to be replaced by Eino Haapala. This line-up's first release was the two record set För äldre nybegynnare/Schlagerns Mystik. One LP contains live improvisations more in line with Henry Cow than the hard-rock and jazz of earlier releases. The other LP is wild Swedish folk craziness and a long, rambling rock jam. I must admit I love this collection, but be warned, this is not for the faint of heart. Their final release as ZMM was Familjesprickor (1980), their final LP on Silence. A little darker than prior releases, Familjesprickor is, nonetheless, an excellent place to start.
Von Zamla features the keyboardist Lars Hollmer and guitarist Eino Haapala with two different line-ups. Zamlaranamma (1982) features Jan Garret (bass) and Denis Brely (bassoon, oboe, sax) from Albert Marcoeur's band. No Make Up! (1984) features Michel Berckmans (oboe & bassoon) from Univers Zero fame. In 1999, Cuneiform Records released a live set from this line-up, the excellent 1983.
In 1999, the original band, featuring Coste Apetrea, reformed for a one-off release, Kaka. While very good, the band's early energy and creativeness is hard to recreate some 25 years later. -- Doug Hebbard
Band that was always experimenting with silly voices, fast, odd beats,
improvised song parts, unusual instruments, and occasional blazing
guitar solos. Worth to check out is their drummer* Lars Hollmer's (hope I
got his name right) solo work, especially the album Tolv sibiriska
cyklar (Twelve Siberian Bikes) which is loaded with wacky virtuoso
* Lars Hollmer was, in fact, the keyboard player. -- thanks to Doug Hebbard
|Ah, one of the best Swedish bands. One of the few bands the Swedish "prog" from the 1970s who really deserved the label. Playful, humouristic music, mainly instrumental with occassional vocal numbers. You might want to be careful with For aldre nybegynnare which contains only improvised numbers which is not easy digestable. Samla Mammas Manna became Zamla Mammaz Manna which derived into von Zamla. The later von Zamla album is a bit wilder than the rest. A year ago the "classical" combo of Samla rejoined, although I don't think a new album is in the works. However, their second album has been released on CD.|
|Ostensibly a Swedish folk band, their sound quickly picked up rock, jazz, classical and RIO influences and blended them all together into a unique sound totally their own. On their second Maltid, these widely diverse influences are not yet fully integrated into one cohesive sound, and thus the album is a little patchy, but nonetheless enjoyable. Snorungarnas Symfoni is a collaboration with composer Gregory Allan Fitzpatrick, an album of four long pieces, all extremely diverse with very complex yet melodic arrangements, the result being a positively brilliant album that defies categorization yet defines the word progressive. Familijsprickor was their final album, and by far the most intense, both for its edginess and general chaotics. Warning - these guys can get pretty bizarre at times, and may not be for everyone. Start with S. Symfoni. Von Zamla was keyboardist Lars Hollmer's attempt to resurrect the band in the mid-80's.|
|I love asking people how to pronounce this band's name. I highly recommend Maltid for the experimental listener. It falls well into the "progressive weirdness" category that Gong, Area, and Pell Mell are part of. While some of the many short tracks have a considerable about a "noise" (screechy vocals, strange sounds), the band has, not unlike Gong, a killer musicianship that makes Maltid a listenable (and enjoyable) offering. From Sweden (I think) Samla put out a bunch of albums in the early to mid seventies. Supposedly Maltid is one of the worst, which really makes me look forward to hearing the rest. The bassist and drummer are enormously talented, while the guitarist shreds through songs with a unique, distinct style. I can't say much else. Fans of the Radio Gnome era of Gong will love this. The rest of you should approach with a certain amount of caution.|
|I've only heard the first album, which with its silly voices, jazzy soloing and heavy use of electric piano sounded like something from the German or French jazzrock underground. Not unlike early Magma or Moving Gelatine Plates, but with more of a sense of humour. -- Mike Ohman|
|Links||[See Apetrea, Coste | Bodin, Tomas | Ensemble Nimbus | Flower Kings, The | Marcoeur, Albert | Triangulus | Univers Zero]|
Are You Samson? (71)
Organ/guitar dominated prog/psych.
|Prog with Dave Lawson pre-Greenslade.|
|For whatever reason the British band Web changed their name in 71 to Samurai. The line-up is the same than on Web's I Spider, except the addition of a second sax player. Their single release is quite similar to I Spider. It features an intense jazzrock with a certain Canterbury-feel. Samurai is a bit less heavy than I Spider and goes more in the direction of Caravan (e.g.. "Saving It Up For So Long" sounds like a more sax dominated version of Caravan). This is certainly a fantastic record, highly recommended to all Canterbury fans! -- Achim Breiling|
|Links||[See Greenslade | Web, The]|
Ultrasonic Seraphim (96)
Sand, 1974 - (Not in photo order) Ludwig Papenberg (guitars, organ, electronic drums, chorus),
Ulrich Papenberg (bass guitar, percussion, chorus), Johannes Vester (lead vocals, VCS3, chorus)
Very strange, unconventional music from this trio. Golem was produced by Klaus Schulze and the music is slightly folky with very heavy doses of electronic cosmic weirdness, swirling synthesizers and bizarre sounds, and long stretches of electronic minimalism, even some eerie processed voices on tracks like "Sarah." The double CD Ultrasonic Seraphim (released by David Tibet of Current 93 and Steven Stapleton of Nurse With Wound, no strangers to strange music) contains the entire Golem album, several alternative takes, some of which are even weirder than the Golem versions, and some non-Sand related material that's more conventional and not as interesting. -- Rolf Semprebon
[See ALU |
Current 93 |
Nurse With Wound |
Click here for the Sand web site
Head In The Sand (76)
Live (83, w/ Sa Vidare)
In a Body (87, w/ Sa Vidare)
Now Or Never (88)
Strings and Hammers for Fingers and Nails (89)
Music From A Waterhole (91)
Under Oknar (96, w/ Simon Steensland)
many others with different artists from academic camps
Now and then associated with Bauta label, Sandell "heartworks" within similarly
sinister moods as other Bauta members (Jonsson,
etc.), as well as travelling through much more difficult and stranger realms.
Contemporary classically trained, he appreciates to experiment with different ethnic
and folk music, including his native Swedish or working strictly with C-C or improv
I have three of his albums and all three can satisfy in different areas (of study, -:)). All three may be very difficult to put down for certain reasons and they may be not very difficult to put down for certain others. For example, I find Now Or Never quite difficult due to low-key-ness, timbral and textural research while-not-seek-for-constancy, which can produce very chaotic results. On the other side I find that apparently sounding chaos quite relaxing. Tracks are of rather short measure, but despite of their brevity, instruments are allowed to work extensively. Keyboards and samples seek for new sounds, manipulated tapes provide some new, too, drums are producing crash and bang at the »crashest and bangest«, while saxes, if present, screech and whine in best Parker / Zorn vein. Few tracks have a slight angular ethno-folky melody, are well constructed and therefore most listenable. But whether melodic or not NON leaves good "taste" in my ears.
Music From A Waterhole is more melodic, the role of keyboards is more stressed (Sten plays piano, organ, harmonium and provides some samples and receives some help from girls and guys on drums, percussion, voices, electric guitar and one Peter Soderberg add timbres of lute and theorb). Sometimes the complete "installation" rocks to the point of evil metallurgy (awesome sounding middle Eastern themes on "Procession" pt. 1 and 2), and has fairly modern production. Very interesting feature of all Bauta releases (I have listen to) is a mixing of middle Eastern, far Eastern themes with Swedish / Scandinavian ethno-folk ones. MFAW is no exception to this "rule". Frames is Sandell solo, playing pieces mostly written for piano, harmonium, percussion and voice. No samples, synths or tape manipulation! Very individual and not a little odd. Number "Frames in Frames" would be especially annoying to uninitiated, for this is percussion solo which exposes the differences between (a) beat(s) and silence. More of low-key percussion is to find on "The Hunt II". Other tracks are either piano studies of rhythms, studies of timbral effects of piano, etc., all exemplifying different techniques of piano-playing, blending dodecaphony with more common "phonies" or vice versa, and employing minimalistic approach also (some tracks are quite repetitive). Track "The Hunt I" is harmonium solo, and unfortunately the only one written for that instrument.
I haven’t heard Under Oknar, which is said to be quite listenable and somewhat comparable to Area. Whether this is true me can not tell.
All of described (well as much as I can describe 'em) releases are not really musical terrain suitable for landing (for average prog-fan) but, of course, this doesn’t mean that one may not try. One should definitely try to land after one have swallowed down a lot, a lot of progressive and new music. -- Nenad Kobal
|Links||[See Songs Between | Steensland, Simon]|
Sandrose's debut and last is one of the best French prog albums. Similar to Earth and Fire, they play a great prog variant with lots of Mellotron, a superb guitar player in Jean-Pierre Alarcen and an overall very beautiful sound. A must.
Early French progressive band featuring guitarist Jean Pierre Alarcen and powerful female vocalist Rose Podwojny. lots of Mellotron and lengthy instrumental passages, this is one of the better of the classic early French progressives, one not to be missed.
Outstanding French one-shot whose self-titled release was an excellent album for 1972. The guitar work and atmospheric development is top-notch. There are also plenty of organ solos and washes of Mellotron. The female singer sings in English but the long instrumental sections are the norm. Comparable to later, symphonic Earth and Fire, both in singing and style. Singer Rose Podwojny's voice is very similar to Jerny Kaagman of the Netherlands band. Musically, the strong presence of guitar, organ and Mellotron in both bands gives them a similar feel. Definitely worth having!
[See Alarcen, Jean-Pierre | Eden Rose | Suzan, Alain]
Take Off (78)
|Keyboard player Antonio Sangiuliano made one of the more unusual Italian progressive albums, starting from his teenage-goth-Fabio-wannabe cover pose that gives the title a whole new meaning. Many times during the three tracks that make up Take Off (LP RCA PL 31361; CD Si-Wan Records SRMC 1006 or BMG 74321-98209-2) one is reminded of Tangerine Dream's Phaedra, as synthesizers bubble across aquatic soundscapes and ghostly Mellotron voices rise out of the foam. That's only part of the story, however: more often Sangiuliano plays thundering baroque runs or brooding melodies that occasionally twist and turn to more Modernist harmonic territories. On the first side, an opera-style soprano voice briefly melodises during his meditative moments and matches with his Orffian strides, but it is really Sangiulaino and his keyboards that knit this whole shifting musical fabric together - piano, Mellotron and the shrill Polymoog being the most prominent instruments. Drums also appear a couple of times on side two for a few very ELP-like licks, but here too Sangiuliano's keyboards retain the kind of orchestral, occasionally contrapuntal style, rather than trying to emulate Emerson's scattershot virtuosity. This is really a classical-style development and contrasting of themes in alternatively furious and laidback sections stretching throughout the album's length, with the stereotypical Italian "lyricism" subdued in favour of instrumental electronica, while still retaining symphonic arrangements and some rock-style accessibility. A mixed success but an interesting album all the same. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
Ever After (11)
Album cover for Ever After. I can't find a band photo at this time.
Definitely not to be confused with the UK black metal band of the same name, who also has a new debut album out, this Sanhedrin is an Israeli symphonic prog band. I've been bitching a lot recently that "new prog" is all falling into either the angry prog metal genre or else the depressing "alt-rock" or "post-rock" categories. Then along comes Sanhedrin's debut, Ever After, and it feels like stepping from Hell (or Dallas in the summer, same thing ...) into a beautiful garden with cool breezes blowing the scent of a nearby stream across your senses. How completely refreshing!
Sanhedrin's debut reminds me a lot of Camel's Snow Goose due to its mostly "clean" guitar work (as opposed to distorted), flute and lack of vocals. That's no accident ... Sanhedrin started life as a Camel cover band. But they quickly moved on from here to start writing their own material, which also sounds influenced by Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, with some medieval influences (Gryphon?) and italian prog-like organ work (particularly Le Orme). Their CD, several years in the making, was finally released early in 2011 on AltrOck Records' new Fading Records imprint.
This is AltrOck's second release on the Fading Records imprint, dedicated to symphonic prog rather than the more RIO-styled music on the rest of the AltrOck Records label. The first was Ciccada, another excellent band, but bearing very little resemblance to Sanhedrin. But with these two albums as the first releases on the imprint, I'm very impressed at AltrOck's ability to find truly exceptional bands for their label. Their reach is far and wide ... I mean, Greece and Israel? Not my first thought when I wonder, "where does great prog originate?" (yes, yes, I know about Vangelis and Trespass, but you have to admit they're rare). Perhaps it's time for some fresh new entries, and Sanhedrin surely qualifies.
Ever After is one of the best debut albums I've ever heard, and is highly recommended for fans of the above-mentioned bands, or just if you're tired of the excess adrenaline and ear strain caused by too many chugging, distorted guitars. Have a rest! -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Sanhedrin's MySpace page
Click here for Sanhedrin's Reverb Nation page
Click here for AltrOck Records' web site
Fecula bi Corporea (97)
Sarax - Juan Pablo Velasco (drums/keys), Marcelo Larenas (guitar),
Demetrio Cifuentes (bass)
The first word that comes to mind when describing Sarax is "heavy". The second would probably be "intense". This three-piece from Chile has a distorted guitar-dominated sound that ranges in style from Starless / Lark's Tongues-era King Crimson to Progressive Metal like Dream Theater and right on into thrashing crunching headbanging punk rock like the Sex Pistols. About 95% of the album is heavy, intense and metallic though there are some quieter sections.
Ejecucion ("Execution") is a musical representation of the emotions being felt by a man in jail awaiting execution. Judging from the music and sound effects, this includes anger, defiance, screams of anguish (torture?), quiet reflection, and perhaps a final descent into madness (that's what I get from the harpsichord part which sounds like something Lurch would have played on "The Addams Family"). There are no lyrics, but there are some spoken parts in Spanish. The music is not very melody-oriented, but more about painting mental pictures by the use of tension and release, contrasting crunching guitar riffing with softer almost classical sounding piano sections. I would almost rather call this album "Art Rock" than "Progressive Rock". Sarax just calls it "Experimental Rock", which it certainly is. The fact of no English being spoken on the album doesn't bother me at all, though I might wish for a translation of what those spoken parts mean.
Normally, I don't really get into albums this metallic-sounding, but I really liked this one. There are some great breaks from the metal sections, including some parts that are very fusion-y. But even the heavy guitar sections are very cool ... lots of diversity, paranoia, crazed soloing and attitude to go along with fast note runs and odd time signatures. This is a great album, though you may need a doctor's note to buy it if you're clinically depressed ... the subject matter here won't help your condition a bit. -- Fred Trafton
Originally formed as a trio in Santiago de Chile 1995 by bassist Demetrio Cifuentes,
Sarax was first completed with Marcelo Larenas (guitarist) and Juan Pablo
Velasco (drummer and keyboardist). Sarax became a quartet in 2003 with the
incorporation of lifelong friend and collaborator Nicolás Figueroa (guitarist)
as an official member during the writing sessions for 570.Kyhtera, the band's third
album. Their manifesto in their web page reads: "Our main interest is to create music that
is defiant, innovative and, why not, insulting!". Their strategy is mostly based on the use
of diverse musical sources in the context of rock: psychedelia, metal prog, jazz-rock,
Crimsonian stuff (similarly to their illustrious
compatriots Tryo), electronic ambiences, weird adornments
(both instrumentally and vocally) that may well remind us of Mr.
Bungle and Primus' sickly humorous avant-garde
Their debut album Fécula Bicorpórea is a collection of musical ideas gathered across 11 pieces, which were recorded in several times during the mid 90s. The next two albums were more focused; in fact, they both are concept-albums that revolve around Juan Pirrón's cycle of death and rebirth. This character represents the half-anarchist, half-existentialist philosophy of Cifuentes and Velasco (the band's most recurrent writers). In Ejecución, Pirrón is a rebel in jail, awaiting for his execution, scheduled for the next morning; in 570.Kythera, this same character is reborn into the namesake asteroid together with another anarchistic friend named Zirok, only to find out that their new environment is about to meet its final cosmic collapse. The sense of confusion and despair that the tyranny of reality provokes in the mind of man suits Sarax's music perfectly well, which is full of anger, irony and rebellious moods. Nowadays the band’s activity is scarce, since drummer Velasco resides in LA and other members are involved in other musical projects; anyway, according to an interview he and Cifuentes gave to a Latin American e-zine in early 2004 [Progresiva70s], there is the possibility of releasing yet another chapter in this peculiar Pirrón saga somewhere in the future. Guess we'll have to wait and see. -- Cesar Mendoza
|Links||Click here for Sarax' web site|
A Street Between Sunrise And Sunset (03)
Evening Games (05)
Into the Night (07)
Satellite was formed in 2000 by Wojtek Szadkowski out of the ashes of the respected Polish progressive rock group Collage. As of 2009, the members are Robert Amirian on vocals, Sarhan Kubeisi on guitars, Krzysiek Palczewski on keyboards, Wojtek Szadkowski on drums and Jarek Michalski on bass. If you enjoy Marillion and IQ you would enjoy Satellite. Solid writing and musicianship. -- Armel Patanian
Desert Places (74), Lost Mankind (75), Whalecome Live (77), As a Keepsake (77), Die Faust in Der Tasche (79)
Good German semi-progressive that border pop when they aren't jamming.
Soul Grooving (68, Merl Saunders Trio and Big Band)
Heavy Turbulence (72)
Fire Up (73)
Live at the Keystone (73, w/ Saunders, Garcia, Kahn, Vitt)
Merl Saunders (74)
You Can Leave Your Hat On (76, w/ Aunt Monk)
Do I Move You (79)
San Francsico After Dark (82)
Meridien Dreams (88)
Keystone Encores Vols 1 & 2 (88, w/ Saunders, Garcia, Kahn, Vitt)
Live at the Keystone Vols 1 & 2 (88, w/ Saunders, Garcia, Kahn, Vitt)
With His Funky Friends (88)
Blues From The Rainforest (90, Merl Saunders and the Rainforest Band)
Save The Planet So We'll Have Someplace to Boogie (91)
Fire Up Plus (92)
It's In the Air (93)
Still Having Fun (95)
Fiesta Amazonica (98)
Struggling Man (00)
Merl's a fixture on the S.F. R&B scene, and has played keyboards in the Jerry Garcia Band, but this particular album [Blues From the Rainforest] will blow you away. (He was surprised when it topped the New Age charts). While his other work excels, it ain't "progressive."
|Links||Click here for Merl Saunders' web site|
Savage Rose (68), In The Plain (68), Travellin' (69), Your Daily Gift (70), Refugee (72), Pop History Vol. 15 (72), Dodens Triumf (72), Babylon (73), Wild Child (73), I'm Satisfied (7?), En Vugge Af Stal (??), Solen Var Ogsa Din (77)
Savage Rose are a Danish band from the late '60s and early '70s. Apparently they released several albums but I only know of two, which are the two I have. In the Plain, released in 1968, is drenched in the psychedelia typical of that time, though there is some foreshadowing of the progressive revolution that was to begin full-force the following year. There are three keyboard players who play piano, organ and harpsichord. There's also recorder, accordion and steel guitar in addition to acoustic and electric guitar. Lead vocals are provided by Annisette who somehow manages to sound like a sexy and diminuitive wildcat! Actually, I'm reminded just a bit of Cindy Lauper. Her vocal styling gives the music drive and energy as she gives her all. There are also some softer moments of piano and vocals giving a folkish quality to some songs. Your Daily Gift follows along the same lines but is both more mature in style and folkier in influence. Annisette's voice is also more powerful than ever. Highly recommended if you are a psych fan but I don't think the Sympho/Prog crowd would like this very much.
This Danish band was quite popular in Scandinavia. It's said their first album was outsold only by the concurrent Beatles release. They certainly posessed a sound all their own, and while the overall style of In The Plain is definitely psychedelic, it has elements that can be described only as progressive. Masterminded by brothers Thomas and Anders Koppel, and starring the soulful voice of the diminutive Annisette, who has been stylistically compared to Janis Joplin but really sounds like no one I've ever heard before. Her high-pitched voice may sound grating and shrill to the uninitiated, but one would hardly expect to hear such an impassioned singer in a Scandinavian band. The band had a very distinctive line-up, bass, guitar, vocals and drums along with piano and organ, played by Thomas and Anders, and harpsichord played by Thomas' wife Ilse. The sound created by the three keyboards interacting is quite original. The band also experiments with auditory landscapes on the dreamy "God's Little Hand" and the beautiful "I'm Walking Through The Door." The rest of the album is psychedelic rock-soul of the highest order, with the odd folkie touch; as on "Evening's Child," which has Thomas playing a Persian santour (hammer-dulcimer). The closing track, "A Trial In Our Native Town" with its laborious Vanilla Fudge tempo, gurgling cathedral Hammond organ, roaring guitar and Annisette's aching vocals, is one that is sure to make psych fans salivate. The other album I have, Your Daily Gift, is more folk-prog than psych-prog. Ilsa Koppel took maternity leave from the band, reducing the line-up to a six piece. Some of the tracks are pretty lame and dated sounding, like "Listen To This Tune From Mexico," with its inane lyrics and Vegas-lounge organ. But "Speak Softly" is a beautiful R&B oriented ballad, one of Annisette's best vocals performances. "Tapiola" is a seven-minute free improvisation, pretty interesting stuff. "Unfold" is a sort of country-rock-folk mix with slide guitar joined by harpsichord! The title song closes the album appropriately, the bright, optimistic lyrics neatly contrasting with the sad, gloomy tone. The minor-chorded piano, and brushed drums work well for this song, the use of accordion adds a creepy element.
Waiters on a Dance (73)
|Savarin is a British multi-instrumentalist. Waiters on the Dance, apparently based on the book of the same name (subtitled "Lemmus: A Time Trilogy") also penned by Savarin, is surprisingly progressive sounding for 1969 [see Kai Karmanheimo's entry below -- Ed.]. The sound is dominated by fuzztone-guitar and some fine Hammond organ, but is also spiced with Mellotron and some lovely piano. The sound is rounded out by some supplemental string-arrangements. This album is often recommended to Renaissance fans on account of female vocalist Lady JoMeek, who sings on all tracks but one (the instrumental "Dance of the Golden Flamingoes") and has been compared stylistically to Annie Haslam. I can't really think of who to compare this album to, perhaps like a heavy version of Cressida with female vocals, although that doesn't really describe it adequately. (I think I did that already, anyway.) Savarin apparently played all the instruments (except strings) himself, even bass and drums. He made an album under the name Julian's Treatment entitled A Time Before This the following year, which is also supposed to be worth searching out.|
|Julian Jay Savarin was (is?) a British science fiction writer. In 1969, [see Kai Karmanhenheimo's entry below -- Ed.] he released Waiters on a Dance which, along with King Crimson's In the Court of the Crimson King and Colosseum's first two albums, stands as the earliest progressive rock albums. Parts of this album (five songs) were released on the CD issue of A Time Before This by Julian's Treatment. These five songs are similar to the Julian's Treatment album. Savarin plays nearly all the instruments and organ (occasionally guitar) is the primary instrument. A female vocalist handles the singing. She reminds me of Jerny Kaagman (Earth and Fire) or Silvana Oliotta (Circus 2000), kind of a medium or high tenor, I suppose. I believe this album is also based on some of Savarin's writings. Waiters on a Dance sounds a bit dated now but is essential for progressive rock historians interested in following the development of the genre.|
|Contrary to what is often reported as a fact, Savarin's solo album did not precede his release with Julian's Treatment, but instead appeared nearly three years after it, as the second part of his Lemmus trilogy. The years between are not evident in musical progress, as Waiters on the Dance mostly continues along the psychedelic, proto-progressive lines of A Time Before This, with Savarin's Hammond holding sway over the proceedings. Spatters of Mellotron and strings colour the sound here and there, and the wailing fuzz guitar sounds a bit more dynamic in the mix this time around. Also, vocalist Jo Meek, while sounding less possessed than Cathy Pruden [on A Time Before This], gives a strong and pleasant performance, coming across as something like Annie Haslam without her top-most register. However, the music is pretty simple and straightforward organ progressive, with decent, though by now dated-sounding melodic writing, and some jamming. Certainly for 1973 this is in no way innovative, though quite pleasant. The two-part "Child of the Night" and the instrumental "Dance of the Golden Flamingoes" stand head and shoulders above the rest of the album, but despite the richer arrangements and less filler, I find Waiters on the Dance slightly inferior to A Time Before This. The third part of Savarin's Lemmus trilogy was never set to music. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
[See Julian's Treatment]
SBB 1 (74, aka Gruppa SBB)
Nowy Horyzont (75)
Ze Slowem Biegne do Ciebie (77)
SBB (78, aka Wolanie O Brzek Szkla)
Follow My Dream (78)
SBB (78, West German, different from previously listed title)
Slovenian Girls (79)
Memento z Banalnym Tryptykiem (80)
Live 1993 (93)
Live in America (94)
Absolutely Live '98 (99)
SBB w filharmonii: akt 1 i 2 (99)
Good Bye! (00)
Karlstad - Live 1975 (01, Live from 1975)
Budai Ifjusagi Park 1977 (01, Live from 1977)
Trio - Live Tournee 2001 (02, Live from 2001)
Freedom - Live Sopot 1978 (02, Live from 1978)
Wizje - ksiazka + CD (03)
22.10.1977 Göttigen, Alte Ziegelei (04, Live from 1977)
Antologia (04, Compilation)
Odlot - Live 2004 (05, Live from 2004)
New Century (05)
Lost Tapes, Vol. 1 (05)
Live In Theatre 2005 (05, CD + DVD)
Live In Spodek 2006 (06)
Lost Tapes, Vol. 2 (06)
Live in Marburg 1980. The Final Concert (07, Live from 1980, 2CD)
The Rock (07)
Iron Curtain (09, scheduled release by Metal Mind Productions on Jan. 26th)
SBB 2008 - Gabor Nemeth (drums), Józef Skrzek (keyboards) and Apostolis Anthimos (guitar)
SBB came into being in 1971 as Silesian Blues Band founded by Jozef Skrzek. (Skrzek was classically educated as a pianist but by the time of Silesian Blues Band he was a bassist renowned for his work with Breakout, the famous (in Poland, of course) Polish blues group.) The other members of the band were Jerzy Piotrowski (drums) and Apostolis Anthimos (guitar). The trio made some radio recordings but it was very hard for them to break through into the Polish musical market. However, they were noticed by Czeslaw Niemen. (Nieman was sort of "king" of Polish rock. He became extremely famous in Poland in 60's, when he was performing pop and soul songs. In early 70's he turned to the experimental, progressive music balancing on the edge of rock and jazz. I can heartily recommend his 70's stuff. It is a truly progressive and original music). As a result, they joined him in the Nieman group, taking part in his artistic explorations and making music, which can be best described as "impressionistic" and "aleatoric". Together they recorded Requiem dla Van Gogha (Requiem for Van Gogh) and Marionetki (Puppets), two records with truly unforgettable music. In 1974 they parted with Nieman and begin to play on their own.
They shortened the name of the band to SBB, which they explained as Szukaj, Burz, Buduj (Search, Break & Build). It was their musical credo: to search for the new possibilities in music, break the barriers and build the new music. They became very popular, mainly because of their concerts which were without any parallels in Polish rock of 70's. Suites with lots of improvisations incorporated hard jazz-rock Mahavishnu or Hendrix-like pieces as well as more soft classical ELP-like Skrzek's piano entries and masterful drumming from Piotrowski (which can be compared to that of Billy Cobham). They were surrounded by a cult of fans, became a symbol of young generation revolt (Apostolis had at that time probably the longest hair in Poland :-).
Their first LP (SBB 1) is a recording of a concert from April 1974 and is an impressive document of early live SBB.
The second album, Nowy Horyzont (New Horizon), is a kind of musical manifesto, a sort of musical collage, combining bits of modern harmonies and Ravel with strongly rhythmic guitar and synth improvisations and naturalistic dissonance effects together with masterful piano cadenzas. "The music is everywhere", Skrzek was saying, "in Bach fugue, rock song or whistling. We like to play music, that's all. We don't care for borders and barriers, they are artificial. We want our music to be free, that's why we are never playing according to any program".
Their third album, Pamiec (Remembrance) is much more stylistically clear than the first two. One may say that the logic and construction is joining the musical freedom here resulting in (in my opinion) the best SBB LP. Skrzek's dreamy vocals are at their best. (The lyrics are written by the poet Julian Matej - full of metaphors and mystery).
The fourth album, Ze slowem biegne do ciebie (I am coming to you with a word), is quite different from the previous album. It is more symphonic-rock like and 'spacey' (one may think about Gong as a parallel) with lots of synths (although Apostolis' guitar is still here and well). There are only two pieces on this LP, each one about 20 minutes and a good example of music played by SBB at this time. During concerts they created a sort of a "continuous form", music with no ending or beginning, full of fragmentary impressions, different paraphrases and frisks with sound.
In 1976-79 SBB was trying to conquer foreign audiences. They played in Austria, West Berlin, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, West and East Germany and Hungary. They recorded 4 LPs abroad, two in West Germany, one in East Germany and one in Czechoslovakia. The two released in West Germany were Follow My Dream and Welcome. The music presented here is much more compact and clearly SBB is trying to make their compositions more accesible for the listener. They are producing shorter forms (songs than suites), the music is a bit more commercial and poppier. Lyrics are in English and are not written by Julian Matej any longer (which is a shame, as far as I'm concerned). Nevertheless their music remains to be very unique and its still full of new musical ideas and innovations.
Despite all these efforts, SBB failed to conquer western markets; after all the disco and punk era in West was beginning. So, for Memento z Banalnym Tryptykiem (Memento with a banal tryptych), there was no more the desire to attract Western listeners. Julian Matej is back again with his mystical lyrics and Skrzek returned to the ideas from before Welcome. The record sounds in a way like a continuation of Pamiec, although some new elements are here, as well as an additional guitarist, Slawomir Piwowar (who played before with the jazz group Paradox as well as with Czeslaw Niemen). This album could well be a good beginning of a new phase in SBB history, but it turned out to be their last album before the breakup in 1981.
Since then, Skrzek continued to compose and perform. It is impossible not to mention here the album Ojciec Chrzestny Dominika (Dominic's Godfather) - his absolute opus magnum. Skrzek is playing over 30 instruments here as well as singing (Matej's lyrics, of course) and, in my opinion, it is one of the best Polish LPs ever recorded. His other works include, among others, music for Piotr Szulkin's film "Wojna Swiatow" (The War of the Worlds), the heaviest album that he ever recorded; Jozefina [Josephine], with English lyrics and original SBB lineup; and Pamietnik Karoliny (Caroline's Diary). He has never stopped performing and I will always remember his light-and-sound shows at Silesian Planetarium. The other SBB ex-members were very active too. Piotrowski became the most wanted drummer on Polish musical market and played with several groups, Apostolis turned to jazz and in mid 80's moved to NYC, where he worked as a session musician, recording with many jazz and rock bands including Pat Metheny as well as composing his own music.
It didn't seem very probable that they will ever play together again so it came as a great surprise when it was annouced that they will give a charity concert in 1993. It was a great show (documented by the album Live 1993) and after it they decided they would try to reactivate SBB. "We told each other that we have to play, because there is still some potential inside us. And, besides, we simply like each other," Skrzek said in an interview. The new SBB lineup features, apart from Skrzek, Piotrowski and Apostolis, Hryniewicz (vocal and acoustic guitar) and Rusek (bass). In this new incarnation Hryniewicz became a kind of new frontman and Skrzek is singing less, concentrating on his keyboards. They gave several concerts in Poland, which were in a good old SBB style featuring mainly the old material with some new pieces and, of course, lenghty improvisations. This year they went to USA, where they toured and recorded an album Live in America. -- Piotr Szymczak
Szkuaj, Burz i Buduj, or Search, Breakup and Build isn't that a name that suits a "progressive" band? Still this Polish trio is not so fantastic. Well, they are not that bad, but their music is a bit generic, even though they are in the "progressive" vein. Like other bands they became straighter with time, but SBB got more disco-like. They started their career in Czeslaw Niemen's band which is not a bad start on the Polish scene.
Mahavishnu and Nucleus with vocals? Best ones are Nowy Horyzont and Pamiec. Lyrics are in Polish except for Follow My Dream and Welcome. The first album is very jazzy.
Polish progressive outfit with several albums to their credit. Welcome is the only one I've heard, and while good, I could easily think of a lot of stuff that's much better.
Polish prog trio, regarded by many as the apex of progressive music in Poland. The band consists of keyboards, guitar and drums, the bass parts all being synthesized. Ze Slowem Biegne Do Ciebie, apparently their fourth album, (no date appears anywhere on the LP) consists of two 19-minute tracks. The basic sound consists of spacy multiple synthesizers highlighted by fusoid guitar and drums. I hear many different influences: Gong, Le Orme, Magma, Kraan, Mahavishnu Orchestra and others are hinted at, but the band has a sound uniquely its own. Fans of the aforementioned should have no trouble enjoying this album.
I have one SBB album, Ze Slowem Biegne Do Ciebie, that is their best by most accounts. The music on this album is best described as spacy fusion. My first comparative thought was to the Danish band Secret Oyster without the sax, or maybe the French Carpe Diem. Other comparisons would be to Mahavishnu Orchestra without the energy and violin, a bit of Gong circa You or Shamal and even a hint of Pink Floyd. Occasional vocals are sung in Polish, naturally. For a trio, these guys create a spacious rather than stark atmosphere. Instruments are moog, Mellotron, piano, clavinet, guitar and a variety of percussion instruments. "Bass" chores are handled by the moog which makes for a nice, fat analog bottom end. Not bad though check with Secret Oyster or Carpe Diem first. -- Mike Taylor
SBB had sort of broken up, in that they had not made a new studio album in many years. But they have recently begun making new albums on Poland's Metal Mind Productions label, who have also been re-releasing older material and previously unreleased "Lost Tapes". The latest new release was The Rock in 2007, and a new album called Iron Curtain is due out in January of 2009. They are planning a tour to promote the album. -- Fred Trafton
[See Niemen, Czeslaw |
Click here for
Metal Mind Productions web site (in English)
Uuteen aikaan (80)
Uuteen aikaan (LP Kompass Records KOLP 22) can be seen as the last bright pearl to emerge
from the first wave of Finnish progressive rock, at the time already drowned by the mightier New
Wave. Out of time and condemned to near-instant obscurity upon release, it somehow manages to sum
up in seven shortish tracks much of what was best in the melodic, folk-influenced progressive rock
as purveyed by Camel and Jethro
"Valmiina heräämään" ("Ready to Awaken") starts with gentle electric piano and the meditative voice of flautist/keyboard player Pia-Maria Noponen, crashes into a faster rock section with a prominent, lyrical solo guitar flanked by a bubbling flute, calms down for some magisterial organ and new vocal melody harmonised by Noponen and woodwind player Ismo Järvinen, then reverses its steps and is over in less than four and a half minutes. Lot of what is attractive about the album is presented right here: the sonorous male/female vocal harmonies, strong and underivative melodies, and studied use of solos and keyboard textures that never lets the music become too top heavy. Unusually in the officially egalitarian but in truth boys' own world of seventies progressive rock, Noponen not only sings and plays but also composed both this song and the ruminative acoustic piece "Tuuleen kaiverretut portaat" ("Stairs Carved in the Wind").
"Salaisuuksien satiiniverhot" ("The Satin Curtains of Secrets") is a simpler song jogging along to a sprightly guitar and Järvinen's languid voice, but punctuated with precision bursts of flute, electric guitar and keyboard solos for symphonic colour. In some way this song can be seen as an intermediary between the symphonic pop music of Barclay James Harvest and some aspects of the neo-progressive sound of the 1980s - it just has more energy than the former and more subtlety than the latter. The most haunting melody comes in the rather simple title track, orchestrated in a Moody Blues combination of delicate flute and acoustic guitar behind the halo of vocal harmonies, then soaring upwards upon repeat with Eero-Pekka Kolehmainen's Hammond and full rhythm section, a short piece of slightly melancholic beauty (in a grim contrast to its lyrics about nuclear apocalypse).
The longest tracks, "Mikä aamu" ("What a Morning") and "Askel ylöspäin" ("A Step Upward"), give the most room to at times even fusion-flavoured solo exploration, particularly for Timo Seppänen's electric guitar, saxophone and the flute morphing effortlessly from classical clarity to Andersonian dirtiness. However, the soloing isn't extended extemporising over vamps but a series of dexterous and compact cues tieing in melodically with the changing background and serving more as elements in the instrumental interplay than as virtuoso spotlights. The lurching riff thrown between Asko Ahonen's fretless bass, saxophone and guitar on the latter track is the closest the group come to jamming. The one instrumental, "Koi" ("Moth"), is a "Rhyader"-goes-to-Benefit number with a buzzing, breathy solo flute tracing a folky melody over an intricate acoustic guitar riff punctuated by Leevi Leppänen's busy but driving drumming that helms the piece through the tricky metrical waters at brisk pace.
Compact and accessible as much progressive rock at the time, yet without the unjustified pomposity, mawkish tiredness or desperate pandering to prevailing pop formulas which blighted it, Uuteen aikaan (Into a New Age) is one of the few real and unconditional classics to come out of the Finnish progressive scene and highly recommendable, except to the more ardent champions of dissonance and extreme complexity (because there is little of either). Its title did get it right, though: the musical world had already moved into a whole new age where Scapa Flow and their album were a ridiculous anachronism. However, that it still languishes in obscurity nearly quarter of the century later, when once even more ridiculous novelties have been exhumed and rehabilitated, is simply shameful. -- Kai Karmanheimo
Valheista Kaunein (06)
Scarlet Thread (Valheista Kaunein line-up, not in photo order) - Erja Lahtinen (violin),
Sami Hiltunen (guitar), Jani Timoniemi (guitar), Jukka Jokikokko (bass), Jere Nivukoski (drums).
Not pictured guests: Juha Sutela (flute) and Essi Suikkanen (flute)
Original entry, 9/30/06:
Scarlet Thread recorded an earlier album on the Mellow Records label in 2003 with a very different line-up. I can't comment on it since I haven't heard it. John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg's review at Progressive World is linked above, and he had some issues with the production on this first album. I hear no such problems with Valheista Kaunein, it's quite a nice recording with a well-orchestrated blend of instruments and good recording quality.
However, one of the songs from Psykedeelisiä Joutsenlauluja ("Pimeästä Pohjolasta") ended up on the Colossus/Musea compilation album Kalevala: A Finnish Progressive Rock Epic, which I have heard. I can't say I found any problems with the production quality on the Kalevala version, though it's possible it's been remixed to improve it. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Scarlet Thread's web site
Click here to order Psykedeelisiä Joutsenlauluja from Mellow Records
Click here to order Valheista Kaunein or Kalevala: A Finnish Progressive Rock Epic from Musea Records
A Fearful Symmetry (01)
A Fearful Symmetry appears the be the debut album from Scenario. It is one
of the heavier releases from the Musea label, an album of excellent Progressive Metal.
The album features Banco del Mutuo Soccorso
alumnus Filippo Marcheggiani, whose guitar not only chugs and shreds throughout the album,
but also lays back for some power ballad type songs, with the obligatory acoustic guitars
strumming cleanly alongside incredibly distorted electrics. Comparisons with
Dream Theater are inevitable, and Scenario compares
much better than other bands I've heard compared to DT,
in all areas; the quality of composition and playing, plus the fantastic studio production.
This album's production is as clean and precise as DT's
Awake, which to my mind is one of the finer examples of how to record a Metal act.
In addition to the smoking guitar work is complex, punchy bass, quite a few nicely screaming synthesizer solos, and an excellent singer of the James LaBrie school whose Italian accent is slight enough to not get in the way of enjoying the all-English vocals. In fact, overall, this band doesn't sound very Italian at all, they could be an American Metal act with a singer who just has a bit of an accent. This is just an all-around pro band that deserves to get lots of recognition in both the Progressive and Metal musical circles. An album of exciting music, I recommend it highly to fans of the genre, and even to the more symphonic fans ... this may be the album that finally makes you say, "Maybe Prog Metal isn't so bad after all ..."
One warning: don't fall into the trap set for you by an "unlisted" 10th track ... DO NOT turn up the volume wondering why you can't hear anything. Actually, about 5 minutes into track 9, the song evidently ends, and there's about one minute of silence. Beware: there'a a speaker shredder waiting for you after that minute! The psychedelic phase-shifting and ring modulation of the guitars and vocals may convince you your stereo is blown anyway, but don't worry; it's just a (very cool) studio trick. -- Fred Trafton
[See Banco (del Mutuo Soccorso)]
Near as I can tell, Scenario has virtually no web presence at all.
Janne Schaffer (73, aka The Chinese), Andra (75, aka 2nd Album), Katharsis (77), Earmeal (79), Traffic (86)
Swedish guitarist operates in a fusion frame, sometimes in a more acoustic low-key mode, other times with a full electric band, often all within the same album. Generally melodic, structured, sometimes goes for the dramatics; comparisons might be made with Tolonen, Almqvist, and others. The best I've heard is his 76 LP Katharsis. His last CD Traffic is not bad, either.
|Japanese harder-rock progressive. Very good, very heavy at times. The vocalist reminds of Ian Gillan sometimes. One CD for sure, plus they appear on a lot of the compilation discs.|
|Scheherezade is the reformed (one off) version of original Scheherezade and features the guitar, vocal and keyboard of Novela. In addition, Gerard is the band formed by T. Egawa (the keyboard player of Novela and Scheherezade). -- Hideki Konno (lifted from his Novela entry)|
|Links||[See Gerard | Novela | Starless]|
Le Carnival des Animals (78)
Heart Of The Universe (84)
Primarily Kayak's keyboardist in several incarnations of that band, Scherpenzeel also played with Camel for their studio albums Stationary Traveller (1984), Dust and Dreams (1991) and Rajaz (1999), and can also be heard on the live Pressure Points (1984). In addition, he played keyboards for Earth and Fire for several years, including the albums In a State of Flux (1982) and Phoenix (1989), and was a guest synth player on Ayreon's Into the Electric Castle. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Ayreon | Camel | Earth and Fire | Kayak]|
Symphonic Pictures (76)
Ticket To Everywhere (79)
The Collected Works of SFF (1976-79) (93, all 3 of the above albums on 2 CD's)
Schicke Führs Fröhling - Live 1975 (02, Live)
Schicke, Führs and Fröhling (SFF) - This is them from the
cover of their first album, Symphonic Pictures
Schicke, Führs and Fröhling made three excellent albums of instrumental, highly electronic progressive rock, that were all released in the late seventies on the eminent German label, Brain. Schicke left the group after that, and Führs and Fröhling released a trio of albums of similar music.
The Collected Works of SFF combines the original three SFF
releases (on the Brain label) with two live bonus tracks. With an
arsenal that included two Mellotrons, two moogs, two string ensembles,
acoustic and electic pianos and guitars and a variety of percussion,
SFF's all instrumental music is at once symphonic and celestial,
completely unique and nearly always compelling. Were comparisons to
be made, I would have to say they are closer to the spacy symphonics
of Novalis circa Sommerabend than to
Eloy, another spacy sympho band.
But that just doesn't cover it all. Some cuts, such as "Wizzard" (from Sunburst) is very fusionesque while "Artificial Energy" (from the same album) is an amalgam of Popul Vuh atmosphere with Frippish ambient guitar. Within and across albums, SFF explored different textures and styles that hybridize Berlin electronics with symphonic lushness that prohibits simple categorization and comparison. Across all albums, the songs range from about 3.5 minutes up to the 16 minute "Pictures" on their debut. Speaking of, "Pictures" is one of the best tracks in the set, with ample time for thematic development and changes, covering haunting Mellotron choruses, floor-shaking moog ostinatos, atmospheric strings synths and blazing guitar. For a very striking comparison, listen to the beginning Mellotron two minutes into "Pictures" and at one minute into Anglagard's "Jordrok." Coincidence? You decide.
Ticket to Everywhere shows a slight weakening of content. Some of the rhythms and drumming (e.g., "Song from India") show hints of the dance craze of the late '70s. That's not to say this is a disco album. Far from it, in fact, but still the sound is a bit more accessible. But, songs like the eight minute "Slow Motion" are trademark SFF from start to finish. The bonus live tracks are an excellent addition. "Every Land Tells a Story" is a four minute track of dancing synths and piano with acoustic guitar that was not released on any of the three LPs. The second is a ten minute medley of "Explorer/Wizzard" from the second album and it's an excellent working with a great drum solo. Percussionist Eduard Schicke is a fine drummer who has a touch of fusionesque drumming in his playing. He balances between laid back with the groove and driving forward with constant licks on the snare and high-hat. The original LPs are pretty hard to find but now all three are available on the 2CD set.
[See Führs and Fröhling |
for SFF's web site
Kinder der Wildnis (83)
|Dreamy acid psych guitar. Samtvogel was originally issued in a tiny private pressing (100 copies). It was reissued the following year on Brain.|
Wuivend Riet (87)
Zoo of Tranquility (88)
White Out (90)
Zoo of Tranquility (96, re-recorded for CD)
|White Out is an absolute masterpiece and is many times better than what Tangerine Dream has put out since he left. No I know why I liked Tangerine Dream so much when he was a member. White Out ranges from the introspective to the emotional. Anxiously awaiting his next release. Recommended: everything.|
|Wuivend Riet and The Zoo of Tranquillity are two solid electronic albums from the ex-Tangerine Dreamer Schmoelling. Somewhat more minimalistic, subdued and even experimental than the Tangerine Dream albums he helped create, but still largely based on percussive electronic sequences and subtle, introspective melodies. Should appeal to the fans of 1980's Tangerine Dream, but the eclecticism of his compositions (especially on Wuivend Riet’s two-part, 19-minute title track) and the well-crafted, almost symphonic melodic style on songs like "The Rise of the Smooth Automaton" and "The Zoo of Tranquillity" might also have wider appeal among prog fans. The Zoo of Tranquillity was re-recorded for the CD release in 1996. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
Destruction of Harmony (71), Die Schachtel (71), A Day's Lullaby (71), Meditation (74), Windows (74), Bali Agung (76), Bastien und Bastienne (77), Der Schauspieldirektor (77), Trance Formation (77), The Book (78), Flash Back (78), Video Magic (78), Video Flashback (79), Events (80), Video Magic (81, diff.), Spurensicherung (83)
German synthesist. His album Bali Agung is a collaboration with a Balinese gamelan orchestra, plus guitar and western percussion. Very spacey and magical.
German keyboardist who recorded a string of solo albums in the late '70s and early '80s. Video Magic features Sting (bass, vocals) and Andy Summers (guitar), along with Schoener (keyboards), Olaf Kubler on saxophones (affiliated with Amon Düül II) and Evert Fratermann on drums (also with Volker Kriegel's Mild Maniac Orchestra). Video Magic is a decent progressive rock record which sounds nothing like the Police. Instead, Schoener seems strongly influenced both by later Pink Floyd (i.e., post- Dark Side of the Moon) and Tangerine Dream (circa Rubycon). Andy Summers provides most of the musical high points with several soaring guitar solos, although Sting's screechy and overwrought caterwauling is a distinct liability. -- David Wayne
Die Schachtel features Jon Lord and David Coverdale of Deep Purple.
What A Night (78)
Keyboardist formerly in Victor, Gipsy Love
[See Gipsy Love | Victor]
Irrlicht (72), Cyborg (73), Picture Music (73), Blackdance (74), Timewind (74), Moondawn (76), Body Love (77), Mirage (77), Body Love II (77), X (78), Blanche (79), Dune (79), ...Live (80), Dig It (80), Trancefer (81), Rock On (81), Elektronik Impressionen (82), Audentity (83), Dziekuje Poland Live (83), Aphrica (84), Drive Inn (84), Angst (84), Inter*Face (85), Dreams (86), Babel (87), En=Trance (88), Miditerranean Pads (90), Dresden Performance (90), Beyond Recall (91), 2001 (91), Live at the Royal Festival Hall (92), Silver Edition (93), Klaus Schulze Goes Classic (9?, aka MIDI Classic), Totentag (94), Le Moulin De Daudet (9?)
A pioneer who is still blazing new and unfound trails as we speak. It's not easy to find an individual who after making music for over 20 years professionally is still putting out excellent, uncompromising music. Royal Festival Hall is an interesting mind trip featuring exotic sounds and rhythms in the style of his later releases.
Cyborg was released in 1973 as a double album, and marks the point at which Klaus Schulze started involving a greater degree of musicality into his synth experiments. It was recorded with an orchestra, but the focus is still on the sweepy wavesounds of the VCS3 and other machines of that time. This will appeal to those who enjoyed Timewind and other works of the mid-70s, but not, perhaps, to those who prefer his beat-laden material of the 80s. Body Love 2 is the second part of the soundtrack that has been released on CD. The music carries on in the same vein as its predecessor, containing a blend of spacy rhythms and sequential electronic melodies. On this occasion, Schulze is aided by the able Harald Grosskopf (ex-Wallenstein, Ashra) on drums and percussion, adding an understated, yet useful aspect to the music. The prominence of changing bass-lines throughout most of the music makes this comparable to vintage Tangerine Dream, though at times, the arpeggio- driven melody lines and background bleeps sound much like Oxygene-era Jarre. High praise indeed! Royal Festival Hall Vol.1 and 2 are from London performances by Klaus Schulze. All the tracks are long and full of the sequential rhythms of the style of Beyond Recall and Dresden Performance. With close of 70 minutes of music per CD, this set offers up a pretty heavy dosage of Berlin electronics by one of the founders. X is his legendary analog keyboard masterpiece from the early seventies.
The original electronic cosmonaut. Schulze has continuously expanded the boundaries of electronic space music through his entire career, whether with bands such as Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel, or through his own solo work and vehicles, such as Richard Wahnfried. His work is too varied to really describe and interested parties should try to explore a cross section of his entire output, solo and group. Particularly recommended solo works include Mirage and Timewind, as they were some of the most influential space albums of all time. Other good albums include X and the recent live works, Dresden and Royal Festival Hall.
2001 is a sampling of Schulze's unique electronic music spanning his career from 1972 to 1990. It is not a greatest hits album, but a collection of 4 to 7 minute excerpts from 15 classic Schulze works: "Gewitter," "Voices of Syn," "Totem," "Mindphaser," "Blanche," "Crystal Lake," "Ludwig II. von Bayern," "Weird Caravan," "Amourage," "Silent Running," "Pain," "En=Trance," "The Beat Planante," "Miditerranean Pads," and "Percussion Planante." This amount of music stretches the CD format to its limit. Spanning almost 20 years of music from his earliest analog efforts to his present digital compositions, Schulze expertly selected and combined these extracts to produce a CD that sounds like one long continuous composition. The only piece missing is Klaus' explanation of why he chose these particular passages. A bit of rationale and historical perspective would go a long way in making 2001 a perfect package. 2001 is a great way to experience this music without suffering through those overlong compositions that have plagued his recent releases. While this unique approach to sampling a musicians work is intended for completists, 2001 is a tasty appetizer sure to whet the newcomer's Schulze appetite.
I have Timewind, which is very innovative synthesizer music. Schulze uses slowly building patterns surrounded by warbling sound-effects overall creating unique, textural music that is unlike any other e-musik. Other good albums are supposed to be: Moondawn, Mirage, X. -- Mike Ohman
Totentag is an opera written and performed by Schulze with German singers. The libretto is about the suicide of Georg Trakl (austrian poet) in 1914, in Krakow, in a psychiatric clinic. Music in the style of Wagner. -- Andras Sumegi
[See Ash Ra Tempel | Richard Wahnfried | Tangerine Dream | Yamashta, Stomu]
Ballad Of A Simple Love (72)
Prog/Rock, w/Chris Spedding.
Site Anubis (96)
[Features Lol Coxhill on soprano sax and Bill Laswell on bass. Other members include Raoul Bjorkenheim (guitar), Alex Buess (clarinets), Julian Priester (trombone) and Dirk Wachtelaer (drums).]
James Gordon's Story (93)
Schwarzarbeit are a German quartet consisting of Klaus Schroder on electric and acoustic guitars and bouzouki, Jo Post on keyboards, Ralph Hubert on bass and Jorg Michael on drums. James Gordon's Story is an instrumental concept album about the life of a fictional musician, James Gordon. Basically, the story is Gordon becomes a depressed hermit dwelling in a small room atop a movie theater, burnt out on his musical career. Somehow, by hearing the same ol' movie soundtracks repeatedly, Gordon is inspired to create new music and can once more venture out in the world. Yes, well, I'm glad they kept this instrumental 'cause that doesn't sound like it would make for good lyrical content. Anyway, the music, somewhat comparable to recent Camel (Dust and Dreams), is very melodic and features electric, and a good deal of acoustic guitar against a backdrop of sweeping, digital synths. While James Gordon's Story certainly won't blow anyone away, it's more original than many of the neo-prog bands flooding the market. The CD contains three bonus tracks.
Scope (75), II (75)
First Draft (02)
|Script is a Dallas, Texas area band. They play in a style I would call prog-pop, but pretty heavy on the original style of Yes (The Yes Album), with vocal harmonies and an uplifting feel. There's a Styx-like anthemic feel to many of the songs, but also loads of thick string synth washes to keep everything lush and beautiful. First Draft is clearly a demo-quality release, but not badly recorded. This band features John Eargle on keyboards, who also has a solo album recorded as Worlds Collide. The most recent word is that Script is "on pause" due to the bass player's moving to North Carolina. It remains to be seen if they can move forward from here. -- Fred Trafton|
[See Worlds Collide]
Script doesn't have a web site, but you can click here to e-mail drummer Mike Musal for further info
Each Other (99, self-produced demo)
Live at the Progparade #1 (00, Live "Official Bootleg")
Divorced Land (01)
Scythe - Udo Gerhards (Keyboards), Tomas Thielen (Vocals, Guitars, Keys),
Ingo Roden (Bass), Martin Walter (Drums)
Not pictured - Verena Buchholz (Flutes)
I don't know what it is about Divorced Land. It should have everything I like in it. Good musicianship, blazing solos, strange time signatures, quality recording, and original material. Parts of their music will occasionally remind me of such diverse influences as Van Der Graaf Generator, Daevid Allen, Pink Floyd and even Jane while not really sounding like any of them.
Still, even though I've now put Divorced Land on at least half a dozen times, I never seem to be able to listen to it. When I first put it on, I think, "Hey, this is really pretty good. Why didn't I like this before?" Then, I'll suddenly realize the CD is over and I've been off thinking about a bunch of other stuff and not paying attention to the music. Not that it's ambient music or anything ... far from it. Still, there's something repetitive and hypnotizing about it that makes me just tune it out. When I force myself to listen, there's actually a lot of good stuff going on, but the moment I stop concentrating on listening to it, I'll find myself thinking about my latest project at work, what's going on in my latest D&D scenario, or what a jerk that guy who just passed me on the freeway is ... and once again ignoring the CD.
I guess I'll have to say Divorced Land is pretty good, but doesn't really grab my attention. Give a listen to some of the samples at the Galileo Records site and see what you think. You may believe, like others, that they're the best band to come out of Germany in years. For myself, I'd have to say that the other Galileo releases are much more interesting. -- Fred Trafton
Sea Level (77), Cats On The Coast (78), On The Edge (78), Long Walk On A Short Pier (79), Ballroom (80)
Sea Level was formed by Chuck Leavell, Lamar Williams and Jaimoe Jai Johanson, all ex-of the mid-70's Allman Brothers lineup, in an effort to produce a less commercial jazz based funk-fusion, and, along with the Dixie Dregs, were the hopeful stars of the Capricorn label, before it went belly-up. Their songs were about split between vocal tracks and instrumentals, and transcended the normal boundaries of fusion/funk through a very diverse range of influences. In many ways they might be compared to the later output of the german group Kraan, both in energy level and musicianship. Unfortunately, this brilliance lasted only through the first three albums, the last two suffered from what seems like an increasing turn a more commercial direction. Best album to start with is their self-titled first, or the third, On The Edge.
Sea Train (69?)
Marblehead Messenger (71)
The other band to emerge from The Blues Project, Sea Train was led by bassist and flutist
Andy Kulberg and featured bluegrass fiddler Richard Greene. There was also a sax and the
usual guitar and drums. The ambitious first album continually shifted gears from art-rock
to neo-baroque to laid-back country to folk-rock. It sold poorly, perhaps because of the
undistinguished vocals and miserable cover art.
Personnel changes followed, signaled by a name change: Sea Train became Seatrain. Singer/guitarist Peter Rowan joined and pushed the band closer to bluegrass, and Greene plugged his violin into a wah-wah pedal. The next two albums, both produced by George Martin, are noteworthy mainly for Greene's energetic fiddling, and are of little interest as progressive rock. Seatrain yielded a small top-40 hit, "13 Questions," remembered with affection by aging hippies. More personnal changes followed Marblehead Messenger, including Greene's departure. The final album, Watch, is noteworthy only for the reworking of Kulberg's old Blues Project instrumental, "Flute Thing." -- Don McClane
Mirrored Image (78)
Prog on tiny private label.
Four Moments (76)
Live in Los Angeles 1994 (99, Live, Recorded in 1994 at their ProgFest reformation)
|Australian mid-70's four-piece who started out with a sound that was close to Yes with some pointers to the Floyd/Nektar axis. The sidelong suite "Four Moments" is pretty nice, but a little derivative at times. The second album offers much more originality, power and development, and IMHO the better of the two. Two of these guys went to Windchase (the group).|
|Sebastian Hardie is an Australian quartet who released a couple of albums in the mid '70s. Both are characterized by a side long suite and a couple of medium (8-10 minutes) length songs. The music is dominated by melodic guitar and also a bit of keyboard. Both Four Moments and Windchase are very nice albums though not outstanding. The closest comparisons I can make for the guitar is Steve Howe in tone and Steve Hackett in style. The music is Genesis influenced to a degree but I'd say Sebastian Hardie are more melodic, ala Camel. The melody is carried by guitar while keyboards are used for chordal backdrops, though there are occasional synth solos. Sometimes the music drags on a little, usually while they're singing, but some of the guitar solos are nice, though again, nothing spectacular. Just very melodic. There is plenty of variety within each side-long song though so it doesn't ever really stagnate. On the whole, it's not bad at all if you like melodic, symphonic Prog with pleasant guitar. Start with either one.|
|The two sides of the debut by this Australian band show two different aspects of the band's sound. The A-side is composed entirely of the four-part "Four Moments" suite. Influenced most apparently by the better parts of Yes' Tales From Topographic Oceans album. This one spotlights the awesome keyboard talents of Toivo Pilt, with lots of Mellotron and inspired Moog solos. The other side is a showcase for guitarist Mario Millo, who is strongly influenced by Dave Gilmour and Andy Latimer. Brilliantly melodic music carried over by Millo's delicious lead guitar. An album which really grows on you. -- Mike Ohman|
|My friend Jim, an old school progger, loves these guys and I don't blame him. In addition to being an excellent band of fine musicians, Aussie four-piece Sebastian Hardie delivered a real treat to those proggers in the 70's that, though impressed by what Yes and ELP were doing, missed the rich, warm and wonderful sounds that poured from albums like Court of the Crimson King and weren't satisfied with one Camel record a year. Evoking the kind of melodic, song-oriented symphonics that were mostly the domain of artists like the Allmans, SH was a group that stuck to its sentimental guns and got the most from a subtle blend of grand pomp rock, church classical and a sort of American harmonic sensibility. Musea's 1999 release Live in L.A. appears to have much of the material on the first two albums from 1975 and 76 and is a good starter. -- David Marshall|
[See Millo, Mario |
Click here to order all Sebastian Hardie
titles re-released by Musea Records
De l'Existence (03)
Nagah-Mahdi - Opuscrits En Quarante-Huit Rouleaux (06)
|[Regarding Nagah-Mahdi ...:] Startling and chaotic stew of different musics chopped, mixed and grilled (including reggae, thrash, dance, Eastern, symphonic, Latin, acoustic, etc.) in a way that reminds me of Secret Chiefs 3. The music is truly progressive but mostly in a demonstrative way, sliced into bite-size pieces (there are 48 cuts) instead of an infusion of it all together. It is a bold experiment but a disappointing work of music. -- David Marshall|
Click here for Sebkha Chott's web site
Click here to order Nagah-Mahdi - Opuscrits En Quarante-Huit Rouleaux from Musea Records
Death May Be Your Santa Claus (71)
|The guys from Seventh Wave got their start in this band. I heard a few tracks from Death. Heavy prog not unlike other bands of the time (Quatermass, Beggars Opera, Web and the like). Some copies of Reality use the band name Moving Fingers. -- Mike Ohman|
|Reality is strange psych music. -- Andras Sumegi|
Reality is mainly guitar/organ-driven psychedelic pop, at times quirky
("Rhubarb!"), at times just silly ("Denis James the Clown"). Some of it is
just bluesy rock, but Ken Elliott's inspired work on organ and, occasionally,
Mellotron gives the music some extra depth beyond the mundane song structures
(e.g. "Steam Tugs"). The three final tracks convult and stretch things
out with Moody Blues-styled bombast and
sudden classical-styled interjections with string arrangements in the title
track, and, along with their anthemic single "A Fairy Tale", make this an
album worth hearing for the fans of psych or proto-progressive. Others need
Taking its unlikely title from an ultra-obscure underground movie which the band appeared in, Death May Be Your Santa Claus (only if this is a Terry Pratchett novel) is a heavier and more concise work in the style of British early-prog, with heavy organ presence and vocal work that comes to resemble Arthur Brown's at times. The arrangements have more sophistication than most of those bands, though, even if the final track "Funeral" veers back to an orchestrated psych anthem (this track is missing from most LP pressings). Things get really experimental on side two, where there is a collage-like suite of segued tracks full of gothic organ tones, heavily processed voices, screeching sound effects and electronically generated oscillation that resemble what Tangerine Dream would be doing within two years time. A forceful and idiosyncratic album, but I wouldn't call it essential either.
After this, Second Hand was really down to just Elliott and drummer Kieran O'Connor. They recorded one more album under the name Chillum and then eventually mutated into the more electronic Seventh Wave. -- Kai Karmanheimo
|Links||[See Seventh Wave]|
Blind Man's Mirror (76)
|German prog in the Eloy / Octopus / Tibet mould, but with sax and other woodwinds adding an odd touch. The singer has a limited range, and as a result the melodies are fairly repetitious. There are some strong moments (e.g.: the exciting instrumental "Shanghai"), but overall it's pretty forgettable. -- Mike Ohman|
Tutto Deve Finire (72)
A vangard-jazz album. Every cover of this LP is different.
First Grand Constitution and Bylaws (96)
Second Grand Constitution and Bylaws (98)
Eyes of Flesh, Eyes of Flame (98)
Book M (01)
Book of Horizons (04)
|Eclectic and lively instrumental stuff from, most notably, composer/guitarist/producer Trey Spruance (formerly of Mr. Bungle) who offers a fairly brave though somewhat uneven mix of Persian, ambient, Thrash and experimental music done in a symphonic rock format. The pieces verge on schizophrenic at times, wanting it all but not patient enough to let it happen. It's as if Zappa and Tortoise had one day to record an album together and tried to do too much rather than focusing in, and consequently, not as good as either. -- David Marshall|
[See Mr. Bungle]
Dreamin' of my Past (94)
On Dreamin' of my Past, Beppe Crovella (veteran Italian keyboardist) surrounds himself with four surprising young musicians on bass, drums, guitar, flute and vocals. This work features his compositions and performances which assure loads of rich keyboard sounds in the context of pieces with lengthy developpements. This format implies various roles for the band members. For example, voice and flute (both occasional) are mostly used with Mellotron or piano, while rhythms usually get busier with the addition of organ and synthesizers. A rich production of symphonic rock which, as suggested by the title, will surely evoke classics of the style. -- Paul Charbonneau
[See Arti E Mestieri]
Songs To Wake The King (unreleased as of 8/6/07)
|Secret Green is a new band formed by former The Enid guitarist, composer and founding member Francis Lickerish. Joining him are two other The Enid alumni, Willie Gilmour (keyboards) and Neil Kavanagh (bass and vocals) along with vocalist Hilary Palmer, guitarist Jon Beedle, Andy Tillison (Parallel or Ninety Degrees, The Tangent) on keys and John Howells on drums. They are recording their first album entitled Songs To Wake The King. The band will perform at the Arundel Arts Festival on 9/2/07, and will be playing some The Enid material in addition to songs from the forthcoming album. -- Fred Trafton|
[See The Enid |
Parallel or Ninety Degrees |
Click here for Secret Green's MySpace page
Secret Oyster (73, aka Furtive Pearl)
Sea Son (74)
Vidunderlige Kaelling (75, aka Astarte)
Straight to the Krankenhaus (76)
Secret Oyster is probably my favorite Scandanavian prog band (they're Danish) and also in my top twenty bands overall. Formed by members of Burnin Red Ivanhoe (Karsten Vogel on sax, Jess Staehr on bass), Hurdy Gurdy (Claus Bohling on guitar) and Coronarias Dans (Kenneth Knudsen on keyboards, Ole Streenberg on drums; Bohling was also a member of Coronarias Dans at one point). Unfortunately, I've only had the pleasure of listening to one Burnin Red Ivanhoe album from early in their career (W.W.W.) but Secret Oyster seem a logical extension to the jazzy prog of BRI . I have four Secret Oyster albums, their eponymous first, Sea Son, Straight to the Krankenhaus and Astarte. A broad comparison for all albums would be something like Soft Machine meets Pink Floyd. Secret Oyster play a very spacious blend of fusion, jazz and prog that calls to mind bands like Carpe Diem, Edition Speciale, bits of Thirsty Moon and, of course, Burnin Red Ivanhoe.
Secret Oyster (released in the USA as Furtive Pearl is their first release and it's an auspicious debut. Bohling's guitar is featured heavily along with Vogel's saxophone across a backdrop of organ. While Hurdy Gurdy was a blues-rock trio, Bohling demonstrates his adept chops in a progressive style with occasional blues references. However, the strong guitar presence gives Secret Oyster a much more active, rockier feel than later albums. The opening cut has organ, sax and guitar simultaneously playing licks of blazing speed. Other times they trade licks round-robin fashion. I wish this were the case for the entire album but it is not so. Many songs feature Bohling's electric excursions while organ and sax take a secondary role. On some of the extended instrumental workouts, the band falls into improvisational jams over a single chord. Despite the excellent playing, this lack of rhythmic diversity gets to be a might tedious. On the 10+ minute "Public Oyster" we are treated to some spacy improv that would become prevalent on later albums but again there's the "one chord jam" problem and no interplay among instruments. It's organ, sax, guitar, each in turn. The closing track calls to mind the first half of Pink Floyd's Saucerful of Secrets with horn. In all, Secret Oyster is a very good album if a bit primordial.
Sea Son came next and shows the band advancing the style developed on their flagship release. The writing is more mature and Bohling's guitar, though still very evident, is better balanced against the other instruments. The nine minute "Mind Movie" is another long guitar feature though with slightly more interesting chordal work behind it. There are more acoustic moments (piano and guitar) and better dueling of guitar and electric piano ala Chick Corea's Return to Forever. While "Mind Movie" would fit on the previous album, most of the other songs show a stronger fusion aspect. "Black Mist" begins with an excellent but brief moog section before sax breaks in across the top. Up to this point, the keyboards had been organ and electric piano. The use of the moog synth adds more depth and dimension to their overall sound which they would exploit on later albums. The presence of a string quartet on "Painforest" is a beautiful juxtaposition of classical music and spacy fusion over soft waves of deep moog. The final eight minute track is an excellent duel among sax, moog, electric piano, guitar and guest trumpet by Palle Mikkelborg. Sea Son is a definite improvement over their debut.
I haven't yet heard the next two albums, Vidunderlige Kaelling and Orlander. Because Straight to the Krankenhaus is a development of the first two albums, I would guess that those middle two albums are similar in style to the Oyster's other releases. Straight to the Krankenhaus, while a step on from their first two albums, is also a return to their jazzy roots. The writing is stronger, the tenor sax is brought to the front more often, string synths have been added to the arsenal and Bohling turns in some of his most expressive solos to date. Comparisons to Soft Machine, Nucleus or Isotope would not be far off the mark here. "My Second Hand Rose" and "High Luminant Silver Platters" show signs of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever in the funk-influenced fusion grooves, while the eight minute "Delveaux" shows influences of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here in a quiet jazz format, as well as a very emotive moog solo. Speaking of solos, while there are many the band focused much more on overall atmosphere which is part of the reason I feel this (and Astarte) are stronger albums than their first two releases.
Last comes Astarte, their final album if I have the order right. Like Straight to the Krankenhaus, the album is chock-full of excellent progressive/fusion though a couple of tracks are a little weak. This album is apparently a soundtrack to a movie somehow based on the Goddess Astarte. "The Stars in the Street" reminds me of Jan Hammer's "The First Seven Days" with its atmospheric synth work. On the title track, it is as if Elton Dean and Ravi Shankar has guested on Hammer's album. The sitar is played by Bohling. There are also more Mahavishnu Orchestra references both in the funk groove of "Bellevue" and the McLaughlin-styled picking at the opening of "Astarte." The quiet "Solitude" is an introspective acoustic piano piece while "Tango-Bourgeoise" is a short, light-hearted ... you guessed it ... keyboard tango. Finally, "Outro" is a restatement and expansion of the "Intro" theme. Again, there is good balance between group composition and individual solos.
The music on all four of these albums is very much the sound of Secret Oyster. They have drawn from other styles and genres and crafted them with their own vision. I suggest starting with either Astarte or Straight to the Krankenhaus. If you like what you hear, then seek out the others. -- Mike Taylor
|This is incredible stuff. To my ears they sound like a more psychedelic Happy the Man with some early Gong thrown in, more guitar oriented than HTM though. There are also some folk influences, eastern stylings (incl. a long track with droning sitars), and like most scandinavian bands they do an occasional waltz or tango track, altho they do it progressively.|
Secret Oyster is composed of members of three other bands: Burnin
Red Ivanhoe , Hurdy Gurdy
and Coronarias Dans. The liner notes to Sea
Son state that their sound is a distillation of these three bands.
From what I've heard of Secret Oyster, these early bands may be worth
searching out. The first album was issued in 1973, as Furtive Pearl
in the U.S., self-titled everywhere else. I haven't heard this. Sea
Son is progressive jazz-fusion,
with saxophones, no less. They seem
rather Soft Machine and
Nucleus influenced, but the result is more like
fusion bands like
Hatfield and The North. The
tracks range from circular chord-cycles in variant time-signatures to
energetic one-chord jams, energized by the strength of the musician's
improvisational skill and ability to colour the music with dynamics. The
players are: Claus Boehling (guitars), Ole Streenberg (drums), Karsten
Vogel (saxes, organ), Kenneth Knudsen (piano, moog) and Jess Staehr
(bass). On a couple of tracks, notably the beautiful "Painforest," they
are augmented by a string quartet, guest players on trumpet and percussion
make appearances as well.
The next album, Straight To The Krankenhaus, began a more decidedly jazz-fusion-y feel, with a greater emphasis on Vogel's reeds. Knudsen is lashing out on a greater deal of keyboards (clavinet and string synth mostly), and the songs are on the average shorter in length. The best tracks include "Delveaux," a dreamy drum-less improvisation heavy on the synth and guitar, and "Traffic and Elephants," an urgent fast number with fine sax blowing by Vogel. Another high-quality jazzrock album, their others (Vidunderlidge Kalling, Orllaver, Astarte) are supposed to be good as well.
(Postscript note: in 1978 Staehr was in a band with ex-Savage Rose drummer Ken Gudmand. They recorded an album called Vogt Dem For Efterligninger, Danish for "Watch Out for Imitations." The bands name? The Starfuckers! No joke! A few members of Secret Oyster, notably Kenneth Knudsen, appeared in the 1980s sometime on an album by Indian violinist L Subramaniam.)
The Laser's Edge is re-releasing the entire Secret Oyster catalog on CD, beginning with
Vidunderlige Kaelling (a.k.a. Astarte) in 2005. This CD reissue features 3 additional
previously unreleased bonus tracks and new liner notes written by Karsten Vogel. There will
be five more releases in this series. According to Ken Golden of Laser's Edge, the
next release will be Sea Son, though a date hasn't been mentioned yet. Click on the link below
for further info and ordering.
Karsten Vogel now plays sax with Taylor's Universe (sometimes called Taylor's Free Universe) and also on some of Robin Taylor's solo albums. The latest Taylor's Universe album (as of this writing, 10/6/05) is named Oyster's Apprentice if that gives you any ideas.
Firstly, there is no album named Orlander (nor Orllaver), but three of the members contributed a short track entitled "Orlavaer" to a various-artists album titled Christiania in 1976 under the name Secret Oyster, so this was the source of the confusion on my part. Secondly, the previous band of Boehling, Streenberg and Knudsen was named Coronarias Dans. There is an "s" in Dans which was missing before. Third, the line-up on the first Secret Oyster album was different, with Mads Vinding on bass rather than Staehr and Bo Thrige Anderson on drums rather than Streenberg. Both Vinding and Anderson had previously played with Burnin Red Ivanhoe.
Finally, Mike Taylor mentions in the above review that Karsten Vogel played tenor sax. Mr. Vogel disagrees, and would like us to know he played alto and soprano saxes. It might not make much of a difference to us, but it does to Mr. Vogel, so I'm pleased to set the record straight. -- Fred Trafton
[See Burnin Red Ivanhoe |
Coronarias Dan |
Day of Phoenix |
Hurdy Gurdy |
Subramaniam, Dr. L |
Taylor, Robin |
Taylor's Free Universe]
Click here to order CD reissues from The Laser's Edge
Element 115 (05)
Second Sighting (07)
Secret Saucer 2007 - (not in photo order) Steve Taylor (guitar, bass, drums), Dan Schnell (acoustic
& electric guitar), Paul Williams (synthesizers, drums), Billy Spear (bass), Steve Hayes (synthesizers,
bass), Dave Hess (synthesizers, glissando guitar), Greg Kozlowski (guitar, bass), Jay Swanson (keyboards)
and Thomas Marianetti (drums, synthesizers)
Original entry, 2/2/07:
The project seems to be coordinated by Architectural Metaphor's Greg Kozlowski, and includes performances by Steve Taylor (Hawkwind; guitar, bass, drums), Dan Schnell (Equinox, Quark, Strangeness & Charm, Chimerical, Sun Machine; acoustic & electric guitar), Paul Williams (Quarkspace, Church of Hed, National Steam; synthesizers, drums), Billy Spear (Ultra Violet Rays; bass), Steve Hayes (Star Nation, Sun Machine; synthesizers, bass), Dave Hess (synthesizers, glissando guitar), Jay Swanson (keyboards) and Thomas Marianetti (Sun Machine, Nick Riff; drums, synthesizers). It sounds pretty much like you'd expect ... hypnotic rhythms with spacey, slowly mutating guitar riffs, swirly synthesizer meanderings and occasional washes of noisy racket. There are places where the tuning leaves something to be desired, or the rhythms falter for a while and then pull back together again. There are moments of orgasmic brilliance and other moments of "what the hell was that?". But that's to be expected on a 100% improvised album, especially when the performers aren't necessarily even playing their usual instruments.
Overall, though, Element 115 is an excellent album for those who like to explore the outer reaches of intergalactic space while never leaving their most comfy chair. If you like your prog well-planned, full of classical influences or bazillions of gnat notes, you should look elsewhere. This isn't that kind of music. But for those of you who like the idea of space jams, this is like wow dude. A second album should be ready in the spring of 2007, and another weekend-long jam session has already been recorded to make still a third or fourth album. -- Fred Trafton
There's not as much info on this release as on the first one, but it seems to have been put together in a similar way, with a bunch of musicians getting together for jam sessions, and then taking the best parts for a release. The participants for this one are shown in the photo above. Not much more needs to be said about this album except if you're a space rock fan, this album is a must-hear. If you're not a space rock fan, this album probably has nothing to convert you, so if you're bored by Architectural Metaphor, Quarkspace, Øresund Space Collective or Alien Planetscapes, you'll be equally bored by Secret Saucer. But for those of us who love space rock, Second Sighting is a bright gem ... or a nugget of radioactive Element 115 at least. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Secret Saucer's web site
Click here for Secret Saucer's MySpace page
We Hope To See You (74)
Magyar-Io (76), Delire (76), Ima (77), Ghilgoul (79), Chromophonie 1: Le Diable Angelique (82), Chromophonie 2: Le Livre De Bahir (84)
Selena Moor (90)
Dedicato A Frazz (73)
Put out their sole album in 1973, a masterpiece entitled Dedicato A Frazz. Maybe one of the best Italian albums, Semiramis were incredibly dynamic and heavy and showed a prowess that many one-shots were hard pressed to match. The songs could be slightly redundant to some of you, but this is part of the magic. A tension is created and rarely let up through the course of the album.
A classic heavy symphonic band, yet the trademark Italian lyricism is evident throughout. It is a darkly intense album like Metamorfosi, but in a different style. The intensity starts immediately and doesn't let up to the very end. Intense moog and guitar interplay that creates and releases tension throughout the entire album. There is more guitar than on Metamorfosi and some melodic interludes like only the Italian bands can do. If the Metamorfosi sounds interesting (or you like them) then get this one as well. An excellent album.
Dedicato A Frazz may well be one of the crowning glories of Italian prog. Perhaps the ultimate album to offer those who want a compromise between the heavy intensity of Il Balletto di Bronzo and the gentle melodicism of P.F.M. Not only is there great guitar and keyboard work on this album, but also the band's drummer plays a mean vibraphone, fast and accurate. The songs are short (all under six minutes) but to good effect. -- Mike Ohman
Makes heavy use of those classic synthesizers we all know and love, and features numerous time changes to keep things interesting. An essential release if you're into the Italian stuff.
Here's a relatively obscure Italian band that deserves a good word. While the vocalist may grate on the nerves of the unprepared, the musicianship is impressive enough to warrant a positive review. The band uses a fast,"play, modulate, repeat, change" style through most of the cuts that reminds me of a fusiony Bach interpretation. I haven't listened enough to say much more except that this is yet another worthwhile 70's Italian offering.
Semnal M (77, Single)
Ternul cursa de persoane Apahida-Cluj Napoca (78)
Cântece Transilvanene (79)
Planeta Visurilor Noastre (83)
Mari succese Semnal M (94, Compilation)
Povesti la gura sobei (98)
... more compilations & releases
Transitos (04, Demo EP)
Senogul - Pablo Canalís Fernández (bass, percussion), Eva Díaz Toca (drums,
percussion), Eduardo García Salueña (keyboards), Pedro Alvarez Menchaca (guitars,
e-bow), Israel Sánchez Barragán (guitars)
Senogul sent me their demo CDR Transitos a few years back, and while I liked it, it just didn't ever quite bubble up to the surface of my "to do" stack high enough to get the GEPR entry to happen. But they recently sent me their first full CD, simply entitled Senogul. I was so impressed I had to re-listen to Transitos again to see why I had forgotten it. Actually, every song on Transitos is also on Senogul, but they have all been re-recorded and sound much better. Now that I've listened to both side by side, Transitos actually has its charms too, but there are some noise artifacts and slightly loose playing that gives this album a noticable "demo quality". If you get Senogul, there's really no need for Transitos since it exceeds the original in every way, and has several new compositions on it over and above the cuts on Transitos.
The music is all instrumental prog, with a lot of fusion influence without ever getting too jazzy or having any individual hog the show. The guitar work sounds like a confluence of Hackett (due to the E-Bow work I imagine) and Holdsworth (timbrally, not fast note flurries) with several other styles (including a very King Crimson "Fracture" type section in "Microcosmos Blues") to create their own style. Since there are two guitarists in the band, the album tends to be guitar heavy without getting into heavy guitars (virtually no metal stylings), which is fine with me. Keyboards are piano-dominated rather than synths and organs, which I usually don't like, but in this case the piano work is excellent and fits in perfectly to the sound of the pieces.
Senogul are a fine group of musicians and have put out one of the top albums of 2007, this is one all fans of good melodic prog and fusion should enjoy. They're currently working on a new album which should be ready "soon" (though we all know what that means ...). Senogul will be joining their friends and fellow Spaniards from Kotebel (and a couple of other excellent bands) for the first annual Madrid Art Music Festival in April of 2008. Click here for more information. And in the meantime, order Senogul, I'm betting you'll like it as much as I did. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Senogul's web site
Click here for Senogul's MySpace page
Click here to order Senogul from Musea Records
Fragments Of Light (74), Portable Madness (74), Sensations' Fix (Bonus for the radio only) (74), Finest Finger (76), Boxes Paradise (77), Flying Tapes (78)
An Italian prog band that doesn't sound like an Italian prog band. Originally a trio (later expanded to a quartet) led by guitarist/synthesist Franco Falsini. Fragments Of Light is supposed to be the best. It's definitely the least vocal orientated. Tons of Germanic synthesizer are infused in the mostly short tracks. Highly filtered guitars, both electric and acoustic, are also used, sometimes together. Quite unlike anything else you'll ever hear. Finest Finger is more vocal orientated (as before, all English lyrics), but pretty much in an identical style. -- Mike Ohman
[See Falsini, Franco]
Shingenma Teisen (84)
Japanese prog band led by keyboardist Hiroyuki Namba, who played on the third Kenso album.
Fields Unsown (96)
The promotional literature included with the Fields Unsown CD says that Senses are a "progressive rock/rock band" influenced by "Yes, King Crimson, ELP Jethro Tull, The Who and Led Zeppelin" as well as "several jazz, new age and classical artists such as Copland, Holst, Vivaldi and Bernstein." The six songs on this don't really call to mind any of those bands or classical artists. In fact, for four of the six songs, I think mostly of the Canadian Rock band Triumph. Leader, singer, keyboardist Joan Morbée sounds just like Rik Emmitt. These songs are in the 3-6 minute range and radio friendly, both in length and substance. The longest, most Progressive song ("In Light of the Moon/Reflection/High Tide") is nine minutes and is a neo-proggy Triumph meets Asia. Another band I was reminded of was Castanarc. -- Mike Taylor
E Tutto Comincio Così ... (7?, late, released 92)
|By the end of the 1970's prog had become a passé in Italy as much as everywhere else, which is why a band like Sensitiva Immagine could only get a limited tape release for its recordings. A crying shame, as E Tutto Comincio Così ... , finally released on CD with four bonus tracks in 1992, is classic melodic prog with lush keyboards, lots of acoustic guitar, some tasty electric solo guitar and good compositions. Keyboards are usually the main instrument, the keyboardist painting ornate chordal backdrops and flashing out synth lines and solos which combine high melodic content with blazing, elaborated dexterity in the way of many Italian groups; he also adds some gorgeous piano work, some of which reminds of Loccanda delle Fate (the overdubbed synth/guitar/piano interplay in "La Favola di Narcisio ed Eco"). Electric guitar appears mainly as the second solo instrument, playing emotional, highly melodic solos and generating great melodic interplay and harmonies with the keyboards. Acoustic guitar is also used heavily for ringing arpeggios and lavish strumming, and it gives tracks like "Al Confini del Mondo" a feel similar to the ballads of PFM or Le Orme. Rhythm section is solid but nimble, already proving their worth on the second track "Overture" where they establish a busy and bouncy foundation for the keyboards and guitars to duel over. Vocals are present in about half the tracks, relatively confident and restrained, but apart from "Harlem" and "Al Confini del Mondo" they are secondary to instrumental flights. Overall, E Tutto Comincio Così ... is an hour of spirited and well-made symphonic rock that shows influence of Genesis and various Italian groups without copying any of them. A real gem to all those who like Italian prog or melodic symphonic rock in general. -- Kai Karmanheimo|
Rannan Usvassa (80)
Rannan Usvassa (Heliander HELP 703) may be the most obscure Finnish progressive rock album.
In fact, even the identity of the musicians behind the pseudonym Sepi Kuu is unclear. Stylistically
Rannan Usvassa (In the Mist of the Shore) is actually more late-in-the-day psychedelia
than progressive rock, as most of the album's twelve short tracks build on a few chords strummed or
arpeggiated on acoustic guitar, over which an unsonorous voice more recites than sings blank verse about
existential angst and mysticism by the numbers. Organ, oscillators and flute gather their modal mist
around these structures, while a fuzz guitar occasionally snakes up to thicken arrangements with background
growls or, in the case of "Puhukaa mitä puhutte" ("Say What You Will") and the title track, understated
solos, in a style remotely comparable to early Jade Warrior. Bass and
percussion also make appearances, played with the same homespun plainness and lack of technical boasting that
marks the whole project - for better or worse.
There is a decidedly amateurish air about the monotonous staccato thrum of "Tämän linnoituksen on kestettävä" ("This Fortress Must Stand") or the stop-start, kindergarten-variety proto-industrial-metal muck that accompanies the vicious circle of amateur-philosopher homilies in "Ajatus" ("Thought"). And yet "Muuratut kasvot" ("Bricked Faces") digs up surprising lyricism from its dusky vocal melodies, ringing guitar arpeggios and meditative keyboard solo, while the one instrumental "Manvantara" cleverly flanks its centre-position solo flute with asynchronous sets of drums panned to the opposite sides of the stereo field, each coupled with a feedbacking guitar or synthesizer. As a small-time psychedelic album Rannan Usvassa is quite acceptable, but any aura of lost classic obscurity may have furnished it with is totally unwarranted. And obscurity was a fact in 2004, for the original vinyl was very rare and no CD release existed (the Tachika pirate-CD-R edition does not rate as one). -- Kai Karmanheimo
Liturgia Bezumia (92, re-released on CD in 2001 as A Liturgy of Madness)
The previous review of this album in the GEPR simply said "Guitar-based prog/complex power
rock." Well, that's right as far as it goes. But it doesn't really tell you a lot about
what this album sounds like. Vitaly Menshikov of the
Progressor web site wrote the liner notes for Boheme's 2001 CD re-release of this
Melodiya label archive album. He calls this an early example of prog metal. If this
conjures up for you images of Dream Theater,
Rush or Queen, then this is also
an inappropriate description. Sepsis is a difficult band to categorize because this
music isn't much like anything you've heard before.
Vitaly mentions that the original release of this album didn't even have the musician's names listed on the jacket. There is still not much more known about this band today since the musicians have vanished in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but the original tapes still existed for Boheme to ressurrect. At least the musician's names are mentioned this time around. This is a standard "power trio" line-up of guitar, bass and drums. But the sound you hear from this typical line-up is anything but standard. A Liturgy of Madness is an apt name for this album, for is sounds quite crazy. No lyrics, just instrumental craziness.
The first thing I noticed on my first listen to this album is the guitar sound. It sounds as if one of the strings is mistuned so loose that it buzzes against the fretboard, or the fretboard is warped enough to cause the buzzing. This is a really grating sound and it was all I could hear on the first listen. I don't know if this was intentional or if the guitarist was just working with what he had, but if setting my teeth on edge was what these guys had in mind, they couldn't have done better. My first listen also gave the impression that this wasn't very musical; that it was very noisy and non-melodic racket without much real musicality.
However, this is one of those albums that changes with repeated listenings. Far from being non-melodic racket, the composition of these pieces are quite complex and intricate. They are definitely noisy and display that quality of "this is really out of tune" much like Brian Eno's earliest albums, particularly Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy. However, if you get past this and listen to the actual notes making up these pieces, you'll notice that the guitar, bass and drums are all all participating in a complex interplay of counterpoint melodies. The drums don't just bash out a rhythm, and the bass doesn't just boom out tonics, they are all playing complex melodies (even the drums) that interlock together to create this Liturgy of Madness.
So, if you're a patient fan of prog metal or even a fan of RIO, I think this album has a lot to recommend itself. To be honest, it's harsh enough that I will listen to this album sparingly. But for those times when I want something that overstimulates my nerves like too many amphetemines, this album fills the bill nicely. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Boheme's web site
You can mail order Boheme titles by e-mailing to email@example.com
Click here for Vitaly Menshikov's review on his Progressor web site.
Joint Is Better Than Panzerfaust (90)
|Czech band who put out two releases in the early 90's. They played a kind of experimental rock with a strong neo-classical prog. influence. The songs (mostly 3-5 min.) are RIO-like (on their first) or develop in a more classical style reminding of Art Zoyd or U-Totem (on U). They had seven members (accordion/guitar, keyboards, guitars, bass, drums, clarinet, sax) and sung in Czech, German or English. "Wishes" from U reminds even of Dead Can Dance, "Es war Einmal" from U has a strange teutonic/classic feel, some kind of a slow prog-march. All in all both albums are highly recommended, Panzerfaust was only published on LP and may be hard to find, whereas U was distributed by Recommended No Man's Land on CD. -- Achim Breiling|
Keyboard player John Serry was in the mid-70 fusion band
Auracle, and recorded 2 LPs with them for the Chrysalis label.
After the demise of Auracle, Serry recorded 2 solo
LPs, also for the Chrysalis label, in 1979 and 1980. My general rule for fusion bands is
that the earliest LPs are the best, and that the solo LPs recorded by the individual
members of the band following its demise are usually not as good as the band's better
work. Auracle's first LP was much better than its second, thus proving my theory once
again. However, Serry proved to be a rare exception in that both of his self-produced
solo LPs are significantly better than anything Auracle ever recorded by a long shot.
What's more, the second, Jazziz, is better than the first.
While Serry's music retains some traces of the cutesy music-school-whiz sort of thing that marred both of Auracle's LPs, both Exhibition and Jazziz are ambitious works that bustle with energy, complexity, and top-notch musicianship. Serry's keyboard style owes a huge debt to Chick Corea's, and the overall sound of both LPs is also rather similar to some of Corea's more fusion-oriented post-Return to Forever solo stuff (e.g., Leprechaun). However, Serry's music has an abundance of edgy Zappa-like humor that Corea's lacked. Unlike Corea, he never lapses into pathos and saccharine sentiment. It also seemed that Serry was happy to play fusion with an electric band - a refreshing departure for the early 80s, which saw pretty much the whole fusion world denounce the form and return to its jazz roots.
The personnel for both LPs was pretty much the same, and they play Serry's music with the drive and finesse of a working band, albeit one that's spent a lot of time in the LA studios. Though the music is polished to a typically high 80s-style gloss, it never lapses into smoothness. None of Serry's compositions permit any slacking off, anyway. Besides the leader (who plays acoustic & electric pianos, Arp Odyessy, Yamaha CS80, clavinet), there's Gordon Gottlieb on vibes / marimba, Bob Sheppard on saxophones, Barry Finnerty on guitar (replaced by Mike Sembello on Jazziz), Gordon Johnson and Flim Johnson on electric bass, and Carlos Vega and Peter Erskine on drums. Erskine, in particular, turns in some truly spectacular playing on Jazziz - I am still trying to figure out what he's doing on "Don Quixote's Hustle: A Disco Nightmare". Though there are syndrums on both LPs (am I the only person who hates those things?), both lack string synthesizers (am I the only person who hates those things?).
Both of John Serry's solo LPs contain some pretty substantial music, and are well worth seeking those who simply cannot get enough intelligent, complex jazz fusion. -- Dave Wayne
Serú Girán (78)
La Grasa de las Capitales (79)
No Llores Por Mí, Argentina (83, Live)
Seru 92 (92)
En Vivo (93, Live)
After the demise of La Máquina de Hacer
Pájaros, keyboardsman / guitarist / vocalist Charly García and lead
guitarist / vocalist David Lebón teamed up to form a new band, agreeing on common
ideas while residing temporarily in Brazil for a couple of months: they were actually
old acquaintances (Lebón had guested in some of Sui
Generis's albums). Soon after, they were joined by Oscar Moro (drummer in
La Máquina) and a very young talented
Pedro Aznar on bass, vocals and additional keyboards, and so they started recording their
first album. By taking latin jazz nuances and symphonic textures and blending both into
a regular pop-rock song format, Serú Girán managed to create a real varied
repertoire, which included jazzy songs, long complex progressive instrumental passages,
acoustic pop numbers, eerie depressive ballads, and even some tango and some light blues
touches. As it was stated somewhere else, their style can be best described as harmonically
complex pop-rock with progressive touches. Though the instrumental passages are numerous,
every now and then García, Lebón and Aznar manage to create beautiful and
emotionally captivating vocal harmonies.
The orchestral layers of synths, Aznar's impressive mean bass playing, and Moro's precise timepacing and rolling, are maybe the most featured trademarks in their instrumental ensemble.
Their debut album shows a band in some state of relaxation, as if the members were still trying to get familiar with each other. The good musical ideas are there, but the listener may notice some lack of energy. The most outstanding tracks are the longest and most symphonic ones, "Eiti Leda" (which dates back to the last days of Sui Generis) and 'Serú Girán', besides the speedy jazz-rock number "Autos, Jets, Aviones, Barcos" (Aznar's bass really shines here). On the other hand, a more melancholy mood is displayed in the beautiful ballad "Seminare".
Their second album, La Grasa de las Capitales, shows a stronger band and a better structured repertoire. The variety of this material is quite rich: here we find high-spirited jazz-pop (the title track, "Frecuencia Modulada"), symphonic progressive ("Paranoia y Soledad", "Los Sobrevivientes"), acoustic folk ("San Francisco y el Lobo"), and even a couple of breathtaking, ethereal ballads which come to show that depression can actually be a very powerful drive ("Noche de Perros" and "Viernes 3 AM"). In conclusion, a successful combination of inspired compositions, attractive arrangements and flawless performances: IMHO (as many Serú Girán fans would agree) this was to become their best recording ever. Some of the lyrics in this album portray a heavily ironic criticism against the sociopolitical situation in their own country (remember, in the 70's South America was overwhelmed by cruel, endless military dictatorships). Their follow-up record was Bicicleta, which follows in the same vein as its predecessor, though the overall result isn't as excellent. Still, there are included some tracks which deserve proper attention. The symphonic mini-suite "A los Jóvenes de Ayer", the baroque-like ballad "Desarma y Sangra", the light jazz oriented "Canción de Nayla", and "Canción de Alicia en el País", an energetic rock anthem against the military powers-that-be.
Peperina, their fourth studio recording was a showcase for more individual musical ideas: meanwhile, the togetherness of the band was gradually breaking down. All the occasional symphonic touches were virtually gone, but still this is not your regular 80's new wave record: we could just describe it as "weird pop". Along with the recurrent jazzy songs ("Esperando Nacer", "Salir de la Melancolía") and a bunch of eerie numbers ("Cinema Verité", "20 Trajes Verdes", "Lo que Dice la Lluvia"), here we also find a frenzy rock'n'roll instrumental ("Cara de Velocidad"), and a mid-tempo rumba with a percussion extravaganza closing ("En la Vereda del Sol"). As I said before, not so progressive, but overall, weird enough to catch attention.
Their 1983 live record was taken from some of the gigs in their farewell tour. All members' instrumental skills are quite evidenced, but the repertoire misses some of their best tracks. Had it been a double vinyl album, the final result could have been improved. Their different individual interests led to the band's inevitable break-up.
Ten years later after their demise, Serú Girán reunited to record their comeback album Serú 92. Basically, it's a collection of ten songs, with some really attractive tracks ("Hundiendo el Titanic", "Queen Elizabeth II"), but a bit far from their past creative peak. The live album which was released a year later exposes more outstanding material (basically, their most celebrated older songs), and serves as a better live document than No Llores .... For the uninitiated who don't intend to hurry up, this live record could be an appropriate taster, but definitely their three first albums contain their best material, and you might as well want to try and get started with any of these. -- César Mendoza
|Links||[See La Máquina de Hacer Pájaros | Sui Generis]|
Strinkadenn Ys (02)
I get to hear the debut releases of many new bands. But this one is really something
special. I just want to say Strinkadenn Ys knocked my socks off. This is a rock
opera, the brainchild of composers Gérard Le Dortz and Claude Mignon, along
with a host of guest musicians including vocalist Bleunwenn. It is very progressive without
suffering from the "look how great I am" syndrome. It has beautiful melodies, a vocalist
to rival Annie Haslam for range and clarity, a musical
style that runs the gamut from Pink Floyd spacey atmospherics
to Enya symphonics, and a Celtic feel from the use of bodrons, bagpipes and harp. There's
plenty of progressive guitars, both acoustic and heavy electric, but always with lush
organs or synthesized strings to give it a symphonic feel. There's even one track ("Hybr'Ys")
that sounds like a gothic horror movie soundtrack with tubular bells gonging out tolls of
doom. Or perhaps those are supposed to be church bells?
Strinkadenn Ys is a rock opera performed all in the language of Brittany, called Breton. It sounds to my ears like a cross between French and Gaelic, and is very expressive, at least from the lips of Seven Reizh vocalist Bleunwenn. It is the story of a young woman named Enora who finds meaning in her life through Celtic mythology (hence the Celtic feel of the songs). If I had to say something negative about this release, it's only that I can't understand the story ... I would love it if Seven Reizh published an English translation on their web site. Note that I didn't say I wish it was performed in English, only that I wish I could understand the Breton. It sounds just perfect the way it is.
I can't recommend this CD highly enough, this is one of the best releases I've heard all year. And, if the Babel Fish translation of their web site didn't mangle the text too badly, it appears that this is only the first CD of a planned trilogy. I'll be first in line to buy the follow-ups to this one. If you'd like just one more bonus, you might be able to listen to this one without frightening your wife or girlfriend away. My wife likes this CD! Essential! -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Seven Reizh's web site
Click here to order Strinkadenn Ys or Samsara from the Musea web site
Things To Come (75), Psi-Fi (76).
Mid 70's technoid pop duo with some ever-so-slight progressive tendencies, their music was ahead of its time in that it sounds like much of the early 80's techno-pop, but in general it could hardly be considered progressive. Beware: the album covers are very cool and have a definite "progressive" look.
A duo which made two albums around 1973. The first was called Things to Come and was one the first "real" albums I bought in my life. This was when it still was enough to have lots of Moogs and ARPS on your album to be flashy. And "progressive." But should we be honest, this was not at all pop-unlike.
From the ashes of Second Hand (an early 70's British prog band in the vein of Web, Beggars Opera, etc.) comes Seventh Wave, whose real claim to fame was being the first synth duo, presaging everyone from O.M.D. to Soft Cell to Erasure. But Seventh Wave made genuine efforts to make progressive music, they weren't always successful. Ken Elliott plays all manner of keyboards and synthesizers and sings, while drummer Kieran O'Connor contributes lots of orchestral percussion (tympani, chimes, xylophones and such). Besides this, Things To Come is problematic. Four of the tracks are uninteresting pop-rock with banal lyrics, the arrangements (especially on "Old Dog Song" and "Fail To See") sound like "Hungry Heart"-period Springsteen gone synth-mad. Several other tracks are mere sound-effects. Just try to find a trace of melody in "Premonition," which sounds like the audio track (not the incidental music) from a "Doctor Who" episode. Still, they manage to create some worthwhile listening, notably in the beautiful multitracked solo synth piece "Smog, Fog And Sunset," which sounds like Larry "Synergy" Fast in his more inspired moments, while the four short instrumental tracks at the end (beginning with "Communication Skyways") form a nice seven-minute suite. When Psi-Fi arrived, signs of improvement were apparent. The ersatz Phil Spector Wall-Of-Sound on the straight rock numbers was ditched in favour of a more streamlined sound resembling some Bowie or Roxy Music. Elliott seems to have lost his desire to noodle unnecessarily with his synths. But the REAL reason to own the album are the two fine, long progressive numbers at the end of the album, "Camera Obscura" and "Star Palace of the Sombre Warrior." The former especially far outshines all their previous, and then-current work. Also of interest: "Manifestations," a spacy piece with a guest-starring role by Hugh Banton of Van der Graaf Generator, "Aether Anthem" and "El Tooto," both short, merely fanfares but pleasant enough. Both LPs have been reissued on CD on the German Line label, but you'd probably be better off looking for used copies in cutout bins.
[See Second Hand]
Poussière de Lune (93, Demo)
Thunder in the Dark (96, 5-track Mini-CD)
Indian Spirit (99, 6-track Mini-CD)
Nordic Tales (01, 4-track Mini-CD)
Northern Recital (02)
Seyminhol - Christophe Billon-Laroute (bass), Nicolas Pelissier (keyboards),
Kevin Kazek (vocals) and Julien Truttmann (drums). Note there's no guitarist!
It appears that Nicolas plays guitars in the studio.
Seyminhol was formed in February of 1992 and, during its ten-year activity, this French band released a few mini-CDs. Northern Recital, the first full-length CD by the band, is a concept album based on the ancient Scandinavian tales and myths.
After I heard the first two songs on the album: "Iron of God" and "The Call of War (2 & 3)", both of which are highly influenced by Helloween (circa the Keeper of the Seven Keys dilogy), I was almost sure that this album is entirely about Teutonic Metal. (Which, in its turn, is kind of the German branch of NWBHM [New Wave of British Heavy Metal].) Fortunately, it turned out to be that stylistically, Northern Recital is quite a motley [I think Vitaly means "diverse"] album. Furthermore, with the exception of "Under a Blood Red Banner" and "At the Back of Thunder" (tracks 6 & 10), both of which, though, are influenced by Helloween only partly, all of the other tracks here are both highly original and progressive. Here, though, I have to make a reservation that both of the songs that I was just talking about (6 & 9) are, on the whole, sound progressive as well. Stylistically, they represent a blend of NWBHM and Progressive Doom-Metal (of a dramatic character), and not just NWBHM. All seven of the remaining tracks on Northern Recital are, overall, more than merely excellent and all of them sound different than any of the NWBHM-related four songs either quite radically or completely. The contents of the songs: "The Funeral", "Ode to Eternity", and "Sackonungr" (4, 5, & 7), represent quite a unique blend of Classic Prog-Metal and Symphonic Art-Rock with elements of Classical Music. These three are the most diverse and intricate compositions on the album. "Berserkir" (9) is a short and slow, yet, very noticeable instrumental piece done in the vein of symphonic Doom-Metal (think of Therion) and featuring a "sinister" narration. All three of the remaining songs: "Land of Long Cold Winter", "Immortal Lords", and "Into the Wind of Chaos" (1, 8, & 11), are clearly about Symphonic Art-Rock, which, moreover, sounds very much like Classical Music. Consisting of diverse interplay between passages and solos of various chamber and string instruments (including the harp) and passages of acoustic guitar and piano, and performed without an electric guitar and the rhythm section, these three are the most beautiful pieces on Northern Recital. Also, it must be said that all the "lyrical" parts on the album (and there are plenty of them here) sound exclusively dramatic - both vocally and instrumentally. Another aspect that should be mentioned here concerns the sound of the album, which, thanks to a very active and effective use of various keyboards, including a string ensemble, is very, very rich. By the way, there are much more of the solos of keyboards than those of guitar in the instrumental arrangements on Northern Recital.
So, on the whole, this is by no means your typical Prog-Metal album. Each of Seyminhol's four members showed a truly masterful musicianship on their debut album, while their joint performance is simply outstanding. The lead vocals, as well as the parts of the mixed choir that are heard here quite often, are very good and by all means. As for the album as a whole, along with Drop-O-Rama's Nothing Changes, reviewed by me previously, I find Northern Recital one of a few of the really strong debut albums of the Prog-Metal genre that I’ve heard in the new millennium. -- Vitaly Menshikov
Click here for Seyminhol's web site (in
French only for the moment)
Click here for Brennus Records, a subsidiary label of Musea Records
Lume Alba (78)
Albumul Albastru (8?)
|These guys are from Romania, and Zalmoxe is one of those albums that grows on you the more you listen to it (at least for me), which is odd considering it is not overtly complex. Still there is a lot going on and a lot of variety. Some excellent synth work, both in the sounds and the playing, give the music a very full, lush sound, that with the guitar can get quite dark and aggressive at times. The synths are the main instrument, but they manage to avoid sounding neo-proggish in their omnipresence. Very good vocals and vocal harmonies on a few tracks. I can't really think of anyone to compare Sfinx to (though I haven't heard much Eastern European prog yet), which I guess is a bit of a complement. Zalmoxe was originally released in 1978. The songs all flow together in what appears to be a concept, though you would have to understand Romanian to know what it is.|
Should a Romanian music fan be asked which are Romania's most famous bands in 40 years of
Romanian rock history, the answer would be invariably:
"Phoenix" and "Sfinx".
Phoenix's three and Sfinx's two albums of the 70's are
profoundly original creations impossible to be likened to the music of other contemporary
bands, sounding still fresh and inciting even after 25-30 years from their apparition.
While Phoenix draw their inspiration from the Romanian folklore, mixing folk beats with
hard rock and prog passages, Sfinx's maturity work, the concept album Zalmoxe, is
an accomplished prog opera with complex synth-based sound architectures. Its lyrics refer
to the major deity in the Dacian religion, i.e., the religion of the former inhabitants of
Romania before the advent of the Romans, and those not blessed with fluency in Romanian will
certainly fail to feel the full impact of the music as a whole. Further, Zalmoxe
needs to be listened quite loud in order to get the full blast of Misu Cernea's powerful
two-pedal drumming, the late Nicu Enache's intricate synth layers and Dan Aldea's filigran
guitar work. Guitar lovers, listen to the first guitar solo three minutes into the first
song and you'll see why I mean this a brilliant and original work!
Sfinx's first LP Lume alba ("White world" - issued in 1978, reissued on CD) is an eclectic mix of hard rock and prog with good guitar lines, with a totally weird song ("Calatorul si copacul" - "The traveller and the tree"), inspired by a 19th century Romanian poem and driven by the guitarist Dan Aldea's violin. "Sinteze", "Muntele" and "Secolul vitezei" are hard/prog songs with strong and original guitarwork interspersed with keyboard counterpoints (see in particular the instrumental "Secolul vitezei" - "The speed century" - obsessive Mellotron line followed by a great guitar solo) while "Hora de baieti", with the lyrics of a classical Romanian poet of the 20th century, is a brilliant hard rock piece with a strong riff and a two-guitar interplay. "Hora de baieti" has also a political connotation, referring to a never-never land where people are judged by the appearance of their shoes, a hint at Romania's former dictator Ceausescu's early years as a cobbler's apprentice ... The album ends with "Om bun" ("Good man"), a middle age ballad complete with flute and minnesaenger [sic] lyrics.
Dan Aldea, the driving force behind Sfinx, has left Romania at the beginning of the 80's and is still making music in Munich. Sfinx's third album, Albumul albastru, without Aldea, is nothing to write home about. Fallen under the influence of Sorin Chifiriuc, replacing Aldea as the creative mind and sensing which way the wind was blowing in the 80s, the band dabbled in a poppyish sound with only one noticeable song, "Intr-un cer violet" ("In a violet sky"), slightly reminiscent of the Stranglers' "Golden brown". Sfinx still exist in Romania and are even very succesful but mostly as businessmen (providing concert gear) than musicians. -- Corneliu Cazacu
Click here for Dan Aldea's web site