REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
Chris Squire - Fish Out Of Water (Deluxe Expanded Edition)
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Format:||CD + DVD|
|Record Label:||Castle Music |
|Year of Release:||1975/2007|
CD: Hold Out Your Hand (4:13), You By My Side (5:00), Silently Falling (11:27), Lucky Seven (6:54), Safe [Canon Song] (15:13), Lucky Seven [Us Only Single Edit] (3:27)
DVD: Hold Out Your Hand [Promo], You By My Side [Promo], Interview with Chris Squire , Fish Out Of Water Audio Commentary with Chris Squire 
There will likely be two major groups of people interested in this re-release, those who already know the album, probably in it's vinyl form and would like a nice shiny copy on CD, and those, perhaps younger people, who may not yet have heard Chris Squire's one and only solo CD from 1975. With this release all parties can be satisfied - for those who already know the music the remastering adds a sparkle to the sound and the extras in themselves are a must for any serious Yes fan. For the rest here's the chance to own a copy of one of the most grandiose releases from the 70's and one which is rightly regarded as being as good as some of the very best Yes output from the time. First though let's start with a little history...
Back in the mid 70's following the release of Relayer Yes were arguably the top band in the world with huge record sales and the ability to sell out large stadiums in a matter of hours without the need for publicity. Collectively and as individuals they were walking off with every music award on the planet and the cinematic release of the Yessongs film even out-ranked Jaws in some American cities. It was perhaps therefore a little odd then that they all decided to take a break from the band to go off and record solo albums. It perhaps says a lot about Yes as a band that the five albums that came from this sabbatical were more diverse than could be imagined - from Alan White's Ramshackled with it's soul/funk influence all the way to Anderson's ethereal space epic Olias Of Sunhillow. Some of the output sounded nothing like Yes and some sounded very much like Yes, Fish Out Of Water managed to be the most Yes-like whilst at the same time being really quite different from Yes itself.
For this project Chris got a lot of help from his old friend from his church choir days and The Syn, Andrew Pryce Jackman who made the superb arrangements for the orchestra in the album as well as playing the pianos. Mel Collins and Caravan's Jimmy Hastings on sax and flute, Patrick Moraz on (electric) organ and perhaps most surprisingly Bill Bruford on the drums where one would perhaps have expected Alan White. The choice of Moraz and Bruford seems to be particularly inspired as it casts a real European jazzy edge over the whole CD, both players along with Squire really hitting the spot. The result was an rich mix of thundering, growly bass, sweeping strings, quirky time signatures and surprisingly catchy tunes - with Chris perfectly able to hold his own singing lead for once rather than backing-up Jon. First I'll discuss the main album, for those that know it already I'll address the extras several paragraphs below...
The album opens with the most Yes-like track of all, Hold Out Your Hand. If you ever wanted to demonstrate Squire's signature bass style and presence you could do a lot worse than start from here! Squire swoops and soars acting as the lead and bass in one, the counterpoint of Bruford's off-beat drumming and Moraz's
syncopated organ work is almost disconcerting, especially when listening on headphones but it works. The remastering is immediately noticeable, the drums in particular are sharp and clear, everything has a edge to it missing from the previous CD releases but at the same time the original 1975 feel and values is retained. Squire reveals during the interview on the DVD that the the track Parallels from Going For The One was originally planned for this album and you can see the same style on offer here but with a quite different approach of course. Without break we transition into the next song You By My Side with it's Neil Young Harvest overtones, a lazy summer afternoon feeling with a great vocals (both lead and backing) from Chris. Jackman's orchestration on the final minute or so of the song is magnificent and once again Bruford's understated drumming augments the music rather than overpowering.
Silently Falling starts gently enough with cascading flute, gentle bass and the main vocal melody before it takes off into something far more dramatic. Heavy piano chords and thumping distorted bass dominate before it launches into a rhythmic mid-section and a cracking Moraz organ solo - the remastering will bring a smile to those who already know the album as Bruford's cymbal work can clearly be heard for the first time. The bass and organ take turns for the lead with the music building up and up before a sudden return to the gentle style from the beginning of the track. Some great piano work then intertwines with Squire's singing again building up with the orchestra joining in a type of rondo to the end.
Lucky Seven is perhaps the most unusual piece on the CD having more of a funky feel - syncopated pianet, bass and drums are all accentuating different beats from one another while a smoky, jazzy sax plays over the top and the occasional bass run filling between the gaps. It's all very quirky and strange, I'd guess in 7/8 time but I can't be sure... It works well but really acts as a aperitif before the main course, the longest and proggiest track on the album, Safe. This is a monster of a piece full of twists and turns, time and tempo changes, soft and heavy sections, and recurrent themes reworked as the track progresses. The orchestra really takes off playing with power and finesse, intertwining with the bass in the most delightful manner. There are several seemingly false endings to the track each one in itself quite satisfying yet carrying on to a new crescendo. On top of the orchestral maelstrom Squire pushed the electric rock bass to a level one wouldn't have thought possible. When it finally ends with a very simple but beautiful bass and guitar resonance you're quite exhausted.
That's the scope of the origial release covered, now for the extra items. Firstly we have the US single edit of Lucky Seven - OK for completists but doesn't add anything over the original, far more interesting though is the video content. First up there are two promo videos of the orchestra and band miming to the record, well perhaps they're playing for real but the audio is from the record anyway. This has clearly been copied from an old video tape and the picture is very dark but it's great to see it if only for Bruford's dungarees! Then there's a substantial interview with Chris lasting around 50 minutes which is much more than I've ever seen Chris speak in the last forty years. Chris shows himself to be warm, friendly, funny, magnanimous and humble. There are lots of anecdotes around the recording of the album where you really understand the input the others gave, especially Jackman, and many snippets of Yes info many of which I had never heard before so it's well worth watching. The final extra is Chris introducing the album and talking through it over the audio - a bit like a directors commentary on a DVD. At first Chris is clearly self-conscious and almost doesn't know what to say but he soon relaxes and makes some fascinating observations on the music and some perhaps less-so but it's clear that this was done perhaps in one take and hasn't been edited, you get everything, warts and all. Having known this album myself for about 25 years I was delighted that Chris' comments enhanced my appreciation of the music even further so this is a must-watch item although I'd recommend that you know the music well beforehand.
All in a great set of extras, far and above the average you usually get and genuinely interesting and insightful. The packaging of the CD is above the average also being in a glossy fold-out digipack format. An booklet insert with the liner notes, credits and lyrics completes the very classy presentation.
This album was lauded on it's original release in 1975 and sold a substantial quantity of around half a million copies, which is pretty impressive for a solo album by a bass player. The reviews at the time were glowing - I remember one journalist said that the album was "so powerful that it peeled the wallpaper off his walls" - OK, he was speaking metaphorically but you can see what he meant. An album that will be appreciated by most proggers but an absolute must-have for Yes fans, even the casual ones, this re-release with the remastering and the additional material makes it an even more compelling purchase, go and buy it now and thank me afterwards :-)
Conclusion: 9.5 out of 10
Trettioåriga Kriget – I Början Och Slutet
Tracklist: I Krigets Tid I (4:36), Barndom (3:31), Ungdom (4:54), Ungdom II (5:54), Benke (5:40), Lovsĺng (7:05), Öknen (2:41), S-bahn (3:14), Floden (3:40), Ryttaren (4:20), I Början Och Slutet (3:45), I Krigets Tid II (4:05)
Swedish veteran proggers Trettioåriga Kriget prove that 2004’s comeback album
Elden Av Ar was no flash in the pan by releasing this excellent concept album. All the usual Kriget trademarks are present here: crunchy hard rock riffs; melancholic folky moods; gloriously atmospheric Mellotrons; ringing melodic guitar leads; commanding lead vocals; superb crystal-clear production; top quality packaging.
This time around they step up a level by producing a unified conceptual piece, complete with recurring musical themes and lyrical motifs. Lyricist Olle Thornvall matches his usual poetic excellence with some (seemingly) autobiographical reflections on a life lived in rock. Although the songs are sung in Swedish, the booklet provides English translations which greatly enhance one’s understanding of the ideas behind this thoughtful and rewarding work.
Difficult (and perhaps unfair) though it is to pick out highlights from a disc which cries out for your complete attention from start to finish, I would like to highlight a few favourite moments. Firstly, I love the superb instrumentals which bookend the piece – excellent shop windows for the band’s instrumental prowess. I am often reminded of modern day Rush here, but with the added proggy textures of the Mellotron to increase my enjoyment.
Next, much praise for singer Robert Zima, who is in fine voice throughout, but particularly impresses on Lovsang and Ryttaren where he has to complete with some particularly fiery accompaniment. Stefan Fredin contributes lead vocals to Benke, a wistful recollection of an old friend, and the superbly atmospheric and infectiously melodic Oknen.
This highly polished and accomplished work is one which will continue to grow in one’s estimation with each successive listen. T K is a band intent on continually exploring new areas and refining their techniques. Long may their quest continue.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Man - Man
Tracklist: Romain (6:13), Country Girl (3:08), Would The Christians Wait Five Minutes? The Lions Are Having A Draw (13:04), Daughter Of The Fireplace (5:17), Alchemist (20:52), Daughter Of The Fireplace (Single Version) (3:09), Alchemist (First Version) (24:22)
Man - Do You Like It Here, Are You Settling In?
Tracklist: Angel Easy (5:03), All Good Clean Fun (4:34), We're Only Children (8:31), Many Are Called, But Few Get Up (7:29), Manillo (5:18), Love Your Life (9:05), Many Are Called, But Few Get Up (live 1971) (9:32), Angel Easy (live 1971) (5:26), Romain [live 1971] (18:33)
Man - Live At The Padget Rooms, Penarth
CD 1 Spunk Rock (24:50), Many Are Called, But Few Get Up (10:42), Angel Easy (5:16)
CD 2 H Samuel [jam] (19:28), Romain (20:37), Daughter Of The Fireplace (7:58)
Ah, The Mighty Man band. Without them the history of Welsh rock music would be a lot poorer if only for the sheer number of albums that the various band members through the ages have been involved in. It would also be a difficult task to draw a timeline for the group as the frequent comings and goings and offshoots would leave the brain spinning, much as the music of the group in their heyday was wont to do. And it is with the band at the peak of their powers of creativity that these first three re-releases are concerned with. The beginning of the 1970s saw Man living in Germany where their first two albums, released by Pye Records, had sold well compared with the poor sales in the UK. In Germany the band attracted regular audience of around 2,000 paying punters, compared with a handful of curious people in their home nation. So financially it made good sense for the bad to up sticks, particularly as their royalty rate for what albums they did sell was practically non-existent.
The other thing about German audience was that they expected the band to play for about five hours at a stretch, something that was only possible by greatly extending the songs they had in their set, something that came to characterise the Man sound. By 1971 the band had signed to United Artists and recorded their first album for the label, the eponymously titled Man. Rather a mixed bag, the album contained a variety of styles of music; the slide guitar rocker of Romain (named after a Belgian policeman that bassist Martin Ace had hospitalised after he had got rather heavy handed with his night stick), the somewhat misplaced country sound of the appropriately named Country Girl, the energetic blues of Daughter Of The Fireplace inspired by Johnny Winter, and the compelling psychedelia of Would The Christians Wait Five Minutes? The Lions Are Having A Draw (and that is draw as in toke and not lottery!).
Alchemist, or to give it its full title Alchemist Of The Mind (Scholar Of The Consciousness) is a rather strange mixture of Stockhausen inspired avant-garde, electronic soundscapes and general experimentation (although I defy anyone to locate the paper cup that was apparently recorded being flattened!). Unfortunately, it is not that compelling a piece, perhaps on stage amongst a couple of thousand stoned hippies with a light show and a haze a marijuana smoke it might have made a lot more sense. It does have its moments, like the heavy riff that is a mixture of something from the first Black Sabbath album and Spinal Tap's Stonehenge or the spaced out sections which sound like Hawkwind if they played on downers rather than amphetamines, but on the whole it is not something that demands frequent playing. Unfortunately, one of the bonus cuts is another version of Alchemy which happens to be over three minutes longer! Not dramatically different from the version that was included on the original album (or at least I didn't fancy analysing the two versions too closely to discover the differences). The other bonus cut is the shortened single version of Daughter Of The Fireplace which has a great impact as three-minute single.
Unbelievably Do You Like It Here, Are You Settling In? was written, recorded and mixed in six days, one track each day. Considering this was the band's second album of 1971, they had no problem in delivering the goods. Indeed, a number of the tracks are bone fide Man classics. Angel Easy is a rather laid back opener which reminds me of Brinsley Schwartz while All Good Clean Fun is the most experimental piece on the album with lots of great piano by Clive John mixed in with the guitars of Deke Leonard and Mick Jones. It is the last three tracks of the original album that makes the album a classic. The essential number Many Are Called, But Few Get Up, the smooth guitar solos that characterise Manillo and ending with the epic work out of Love Your Life with its chugging guitars and growling Hammond, sounding like a predator stalking its prey. One of the consistently fine twenty odd minutes in the bands studio catalogue.
Bonus tracks are three numbers from a November 1971 concert in Germany where Man played between openers Amon Duul and headliners Can. The first two cuts, Many Are Called, But Few Get Up and Angel Easy are pretty accurate representations of the tracks from the recently released album but Romain is taken to a whole new level and showcases how tight the band had become as an improvisational unit tripling the length of the number and showcasing each of the band members. The ending siren effect played by both guitarists on newly acquired wah-wah pedals whipped the audience into a frenzy (better heard on the Live From The Padget Rooms album) and rightly saw the Welsh rockers blowing Can out of the water.
A mere five months later and a lot had changed in the Man camp. Firstly they had played a concert in Berlin bottom of the bill to Soft Machine, Yes and Family and managed to upstage the cream of the high profile British acts. This was duly reported in the music press giving the band some much needed exposure in their homelands. Then keyboard player Clive John left the band meaning the band had to rely more on the twin guitar approach and finally they were included in the line-up for The Greasy Truckers Party along with fellow United Artists acts Brinsley Schwartz and Hawkwind. The resulting live album sold out of its initial run almost immediately and increased the profile of the band immeasurably. The success of The Greasy Truckers album prompted the band's label to suggest that Man recorded their own live album and came up with the idea that is should be limited to 8000 copies and released at mid price.
Recorded on their home soil in Penarth, the resulting album hit number one in the mid price chart and prompted speculation that Man were the 'next big thing'. Originally the album was three tracks, Many Are Called... and Daughter Of The Fireplace on side one and the H Samuel jam on side two. The latter two tracks are rather obscure in live format as Daughter Of The Fireplace was not kept in the set for long and the Jam is quite a chaotic and loose amalgam of odd bits and pieces including fragments of Alchemy and Would The Christians Wait Five Minutes? The Lions Are Having A Draw. Although the three track album is not the best representation of Man live, the reissued album, featuring the whole set, makes up for the limitations of the original album with an extra 52 minutes of first rate live Man. Spunk Rock and Angel Easy are both storming versions and probably better performance wise than on The Greasy Truckers album (hence the reason they were left off the original vinyl release). Romain also rocks solidly being altogether more focused on the guitar interplay now that there were no keyboards included.
These three Esoteric (and esoteric!) releases are the start of the reissuing of the Man United Artist catalogue. The releases are remastered from the original tapes and the accompanying CD booklets are full of rare photos and cracking liner notes by guitarist Deke Leonard, who should serious consider writing a book! For Man fans these re-releases are a delight and even for the curious they present good value for money, particularly Do You Like It Here, Are You Settling In?. With the next batch of reissues coming very shortly this really could be the Age of Man!
Man : 6+ out of 10
Do You Like It Here, Are You Settling In? : 8 out of 10
Live At The Padget Rooms, Penarth : 7+ out of 10
Los Barrocos - Sin Tiempo Ni Espacio
|Country of Origin:||Argentina|
|Record Label:||Viajero Inmovil|
|Year of Release:||1974/2006|
Tracklist: Está Próximo El Momento (3:50), En Cualquier Siglo (3:25), Cuatro Movimientos Breves (6:55), Sin Tiempo Ni Espacio (5:10), Siempre Encontraré Un Lugar (4:10), Historia De Una Confabulación Destinada A Fracasar (4:55), Como Una Rueda (2:10), Noche De Sol (6:55)
Sin Tiempo Ni Espacio was the first and only release by the Argentinian band Los Barrocos, recorded in 1972 and released in 1974 on good old-fashioned vinyl, which still shows on the CD cover, perhaps the original artwork, that mentions a separation of the songs between an A and B side. Remastered from the original master tapes a digital version of this album was released in 2006.
The group consisted of José Luis Hernández (drums, percussion and vocals), Oscar Roberto Paulini (guitar and vocals), Agustín Gutierrez (bass and vocals), Héctor Boó Guerrero (violin) and Alfredo Raíl Campanelli (guitar and vocals). The use of two lead guitars and a violin, that plays a prominent role in their music, gave this group a special and significant sound; the excellent vocal harmonies (in Spanish) contributed more to that. You could describe their music as a sort of mix between prog rock, hard rock, folk, psychedelia and classical music; they have been called the Argentina's answer to The Flock.
The band was founded already in 1966 and played till 1970 in the composition that recorded this album in 1972. Apparently they put on some interesting live shows in the early seventies, but despite that and this certainly not uninteresting album it all didn't last long for this band.
The listener who digs deep into their music might find some faint resemblances with King Crimson and Jethro Tull, but they're surely not in the foreground.
As another reference I can quote a reviewer from Uzbekistan who mentioned in this respect Pavlov's Dog's debut album Pampered Menial.
As already said this album signifies itself by the excellent and distinctive violin playing and the beautiful vocal harmonies. Having four people in the band that can sing makes such a fine accomplishment possible. The whole album offers a consistent sound without any real weak spots; regularly the vocal harmonies are followed-up or accompanied by the violin, but also the guitars play a significant role. It really is the rather unique combination that makes this album so interesting to hear. The violin really acts as the topping on the cake here, no excessive and frantic violin solo's here, but just some fine additional bits to lift the song up and to make an essential contribution to the atmosphere of the song.
And it's exactly this atmosphere that is the strong point of this album; I've heard many interesting albums with great sounds and instrumentation and musical extravaganza but lacking any form of coherence and atmosphere. For some music this is maybe not of significant importance, but in the genre Los Barrocos operated it surely is and they managed to produce a solid result. Because of the delicate violin sound and also the harmonious Spanish vocal arrangements a sort of South American vibe flows through the whole album; it's North American influenced music with a South American touch.
I must say though that on spare moments I spotted some slightly off-key singing, so I personally think that this also might have been a reason for going for the combined way of singing, but it was a right choice as it fits well with the music. Another strong point of the album is that the vocals are not all too prominent; on some songs they clearly lead, but on several others they either have a subordinate role or are not even present; three songs are instrumentals. This is a clear signal for me that these musicians are apt in what they're doing and indeed the final result sounds as such.
For real prog fans this album perhaps won't offer much to become very excited over as it lacks keyboards all together and also impressive guitar solo's and the whole album has a rather mellow vibe with more folky or even a bit gypsy feel over it. The overall sound does have a recognizable seventies feel to it and does sound a bit backdated now, but if you're keen on the sound of the seventies you're in the right corner here.
Nowadays we might not consider this album as very progressive, but in its time it surely was and even today you will have severe difficulties to find many bands that resemble Los Barrocos thus making them quite unique and therefore also progressive. The music on this album is very melodic and truly more based on melody lines than a solid bass/drum rhythm and that makes it even more enjoyable and a clear display of true musicianship, the vast amount of instrumental parts displays that very well. Mainly the tracks in which the violin is the highlight are the true gems on this album, which makes you wonder if they shouldn't have emphasized more on that to reach a more memorable result.
It's therefore rather sad this group never came to further evolve themselves into something truly fabulous.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Mystere Man - Libérez Ma Conscience
|Country of Origin:||France|
|Record Label:||Musea Records|
|Catalogue #:||MP 3068|
|Year of Release:||2007|
Tracklist: Etre Lŕ (4:06), C'est Pas Le Sang (6:12), Liberez Ma Conscience (4:50), Désillusion (3:49), Blatteman (8:28), La Douleur De L'absence (6:26), Tenir Quand Męme (5:09), Plus Tard (5:55)
Mystere Man is the result of the musical meeting between a metal orientated guitar player and a progressive orientated keyboardist-singer. It's announced as a mixture of Pallas, Dream Theater and French chanson.
It's indeed like listening to a French version of Pallas in some of the time changes and the heavy guitars could refer to Dream Theater, however these comparisons are all done with a great deal of imagination - as the terrible sound quality makes this album almost unbearable to listen to. The vocals, but especially the guitar sound, are mixed very badly and it sounds like a bootleg recording in a toilet. It's a shame because you can hear they put a lot of effort in these songs.
The instrumental Blatteman shows these guys can really play, a very interesting composition. If only the sound quality was better this would have been an interesting release and the diverse compositions would have appeal to a broad audience and especially fans of Pallas. Very interesting songs - but during each listen you find yourself turning knobs, in vain, to improve the sound.
This is clearly an album that is not finished - the quality of sound is absolutely awful. The album is still offered as "quite an unique alchemy" but I doubt if the band still exists. I hope these two guys get a second chance because it's obvious they have more to offer than this. For the rating I have given each one point, for effort.
Conclusion: 2 out of 10