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written by: Nigel Camilleri
A Brief History
Certain record labels specialise in offering albums from hitherto unknown bands from various eras of the
annals of musical history. Shroom Productions is just one of these
record companies which has managed to unearth a number of gems, amongst whom is this band called Intra. Based in
Cleveland, Intra started their musical life in the early seventies, a history which progressed till 1990, though
the band never got to releasing a full length album. Thus this album manages to gather a number of demo sessions
and the sole EP release by the band together with three live tracks and thus present us with the whole musical
history of Intra within seventy six minutes.
||The main motivator behind the band was Mato Tomorowitz, the only member who remained within the band
lineup from its inception to its demise. Tomorrow's initial influences lay within country rock music and his
first band was called The Country. This was around 1971, a time when the musical world was being
dominated by the progressive and the jazz-rock genres. These styles would be of great influence on
Tomorowitz, who began to introduce gradual changes within the musical structure of The Country, for
example by incorporating intense chord changes, giving the band a style that he would term as progressive
country. One of the main influences on Tomorowitz was British legends Yes, an influence which shines
through the music of Intra.
The complete metamorphosis from The Country to Intra came about in the period between late 1972 and
early 1973, when Tomorowitz was drafted into the Army reserves and came across the name Intra in an army manual.
His return from the army saw him also changing his musical direction and together with the bass player and
drummer from The Country, formed Intra.
|The years 1974 and 1975 saw the band jamming and practicing away without any major changes to the lineup.
Tomorowitz started experimenting with guitar pedals and effects which would create the sonoric backdrop to
their music in the absence of a keyboardist. However the main change to the band structure came about with
the introduction of a lead guitarist, Billy Wright, which enabled the band to further expand their musical
capabilities and record a set of recordings in early 1976, known as the Owl sessions.
However, due to lack of public interest, mainly due to the fact that popular support towards progressive rock
was on the decline, led to a certain amount of dissatisfaction within the band ranks. Due to a limited amount of
clubs that featured live music, the band had to opt to including cover version within their live performance and
had to find a balance between playing covers and originals, not the most favourable of environments that would
allow a band to promote its own material.
The final set of recordings come from a demo recording of two tracks from 1990, and these to be the last that we
will hear from Intra. This is indeed unfortunate, as after I have heard this album over and over again, the music
is extremely pleasant and good. The strange aspect of this is that so many mediocre and worse bands managed to
get record deals during the same period Intra existed, yet this group which offered a very interesting blend of
rock was unable to acquire any form of deal. Indeed an unlucky band who thankfully can be fully appreciated be
this one CD that Shroom Productions have ably put together.
||During this time the band was undergoing numerous changes as Tomorowitz persisted in trying to obtain a
record deal for the band by sending out various demos to record companies. An EP was released in 1984, the
Chemical EP, which sees a radical change in the band lineup with the inclusion of a keyboardist, Tom Rotar,
and Tomorowitz taking over vocal duties.
Albums reviewed here are:
Intra - Intra
Tracklist: Soda For a Symphony Jerk (6:03), The Voice of Winter (3:33), Heroes of Ganymede (3:53),
Farmboy (4:38), One Last View (9:41), Son of the Astronaut (7:20), The Machine (5:19), Three's (4:45), Ritual
(5:15), Sea Bird (8:17), The Projectionist (8:04), Circle Kings (4:57)
Tracks 1-5 from the unreleased "Owl" sessions, 1976
Lineup: Mato Tomorowitz (Rhythm Guitars), Jim Masar (Bass), Billy Wright (Lead Guitars), Joe Mazzolini
(Drums, Vocals), Mal Barron (Flute, Saxophone)
Tracks 6-7 from the "Chemical" EP released in 1984
Lineup: Mato Tomorowitz (Rhythm Guitar), Michael Blazy (Drums), John Charlillo (Bass, Keyboards), Tom Rotar
(Keyboards), Mike Baran (Lead Guitar)
Tracks 8-9 from the "You Will See) demo, 1990
Lineup: Mato Tomorowitz (Rhythm Guitar), Will Scharf (Drums), Mark Tiborsky (Lead Guitar), Jim Bossard
(Bass), John Charlillo (Bass)
Tracks 10-12 recorded live in Cleveland, Ohio 3/5/80
Executive Producer - Richard S. Patz; Produced by Mato Tomorowitz
Artwork - Thomas Schelman; Design and Layout - Richard S. Patz
The first five tracks on this album date from the 1976, Owl sessions and sees the band at what could be termed
as their most experimental throughout the whole of the album. There is a sense that one of the major influences
on the band was British group Yes, however, this very line-up did not have a keyboardist. Instead they
utilised the services of Mel Barron on flute and saxophone who augmented the band's sound akin to that of various
Canterbury scene bands such as Caravan and Soft Machine. This is very evident on the instrumental
Soda For A Symphony Jerk.
On The Voice Of Winter, we hear the vocals of drummer Joe Mazzolini for the first time. Stylistically
the band retain that British element about their playing, though the vocals are somewhat different from the
classical progressive bands which tend to be somewhat smooth in nature. Instead the vocals are more along the
lines of a Gentle Giant style. An impressive aspect of the way the music is conducted is the way the band
manages to shift continuously in time signature with some awkward rhythms interspersed by some great duetting
between guitar and saxophone, something which stands out on Heroes Of Ganymede. The weird and quirky
musical style is maintained both in Farmboy and One Last View. Hearing these tracks over and over
again does allow the Yes influence to permeate through especially when one hears some distinctive
Howe-like guitar licks and solos, a factor that should endear this band and album to the numerous Yes fans
that exist and who might be looking for something new and adventurous. Strangely enough Barrons vocals and the
use of non-distorted guitar work does also at times remind of the style employed by the late great Jeff
The next session takes us eight years forward, to the release of the Chemical EP in 1980. The lineup has
changed radically except for Mato Tomorowitz who this time also inherits vocal duties. There is no presence of
flute and saxophone, yet a keyboardist, Tom Rotar is brought in instead. Actually Tomorowitz's vocals are much
more accessible and pleasant than those of Barron whose strained voice does get slightly irritating after a short
while. In fact Tomorowitz's vocals sound very much like those of Jim Pembroke (Wigwam). Thus as can be
felt on the tracks Son Of The Astronaut and The Machine, Intra seemed to have found their own
sound. This involved a fusion of the open guitar styled playing that they always incorporated, and could be heard
effectively on the first five tracks, as well as managing to create a fuller sound tanks to the keyboards.
However, it seems that Intra did not go the way of many progressive-rock influenced bands in the eighties who
made full use of the latest keyboard technology together with the complexity of the seventies influences. The
keyboards still maintains that airy mellotron-like sound that makes the tracks sound older than the actually are.
However, the keyboards also play a role as electric piano complementing the guitars in creating some mesmerising
tunes and rhythms, a fact most perfectly exemplified on The Machine.
Six years later and we are brought to the final recording session of the band from the You Will See demo,
recorded in 1990. Once again two tracks seem to have been laid down, or at least presented to us on this
compilation, and they are Three's and Ritual. From the previous line-up only Tomorowitz and bassist
turned keyboardist John Charlillo remain, though the musical setup as well as the style remains unvaried.
Unfortunately the quality of the recording is inferior to the previous tracks with somewhat of a hollow sound
with Three's seeing the band seemingly losing out on their adventurous edge, an important aspect of their earlier
recordings. Ritual starts off with the theme from spaghetti western film The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
and has the band returning to a somewhat familiar musical territory. What is different is that there is less of
the long instrumental breaks that made the initial tracks so interesting. Instead the music features a constant
driving back rhythm accompanied by heavy guitar licks interjecting throughout the length of the track.
The final three tracks present on the album take us back to 1980, and this time it is a live recording from a
concert in the band's hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. By this time the band had already acquired the services of a
keyboardist within their lineup and thus the music is more akin to that of the second batch of recordings (The
Chemical EP sessions) rather than the Owl sessions. Sea Bird has an excellent introductory section which
then descends into more of a hard rock styled tune while The Projectionist shows what Intra were best capable of.
A string jazz-rock tune with some incredible bass playing, helped no little by the fact that the bass is placed
relatively high up in the mix, thus really allowing it to stand out! However, this track manages to show how the
band could play at ease alongside continuous shifts in time signature amidst extremely complex rhythms. It is a
pity that such a tune cannot be heard in a properly recorded studio version.The album comes to a close with
Circle Kings, which easily rates as one of the more dramatic songs that the band have to offer with its
slow build up and climax which suffers due to the relatively poor recording of this version.
On hearing this album one can only sum up that Intra were one of those
bands, of which unfortunately there were quite a few, who happened to be at
the wrong place at the wrongs time. Purely on the basis of their 1976
tracks, in all probability, if they had been around before 1976 and possibly
based in Great Britain, today they woudl have a number of albums to their
name and possibly not have to be included as a Forgotten Son!
There is no website dedicated to Intra, though Shroom Productions
does offer a sample of their music as well as some information on the band. Should you have any information
pertaining to Intra which you think could be added to the site, do not hesitate to contact me.