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2008 : VOLUME 51
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REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:



Supersister - Present From Nancy
Supersister - Present From Nancy
Country of Origin:The Netherlands
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #:ECLEC2056
Year of Release:1970/2008
Time:47:37
Info:Supersister
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Introduction (2:57), Present From Nancy (5:14), Memories Are New (3:47), 11/8 (3:16), Dreaming Wheelwhile (2:52), Corporation Combo Boys (1:21), Mexico (4:21), Metamorphosis (3:27), Eight Miles High (0:22), Dona Nobis Pacem (8:35)

Bonus Tracks: She Was Naked (3:45), Spiral Staircase (3:06), Fancy Nancy (1:48), Gonna Take Easy (2:43)


Supersister - To The Highest Bidder
Country of Origin:The Netherlands
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #:ECLEC2057
Year of Release:1971/2008
Time:51:00
Info:Supersister
Samples:Click here
Supersister - To The Highest Bidder

Tracklist: A Girl Named You (10:08), No Tree Will Grow [On Too High A Mountain] (7:40), Energy [Out Of Future] (14:55), Higher (2:56)

Bonus Tracks: A Girl Named You [Single Version] (3:17), Missing Link (2:58), No Tree Will Grow [Single Edit] (4:27), The Groupies Of The Band (4:32)


Supersister - Pudding En Gisteren
Supersister - Pudding En Gisteren
Country of Origin:The Netherlands
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #:ECLEC2059
Year of Release:1972/2008
Time:57:00
Info:Supersister
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Radio (4:01), Supersisterretsisrepus (0:18), Psychopath (4:00), Judy Goes On Holiday (12:40), Pudding En Gisteren – Music For Ballet (21:02)

Bonus Tracks: Dead Dog (2:43), Wow [Live Version] (12:59)


Supersister - Iskander
Country of Origin:The Netherlands
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #:ECLEC2058
Year of Release:1973/2008
Time:57:00
Info:Supersister
Samples:Click here
Supersister - Iskander

Tracklist: Introduction (0:42), Dareios The Emperor (4:51), Alexander (7:02), Confrontation Of The Armies (2:47), The Battle (7:59), Bagaos (2:54), Roxane (3:21), Babylon(7:57), Looking Back (4:33)

Bonus Tracks: Wow [Single Version] (3:35), Drs. D (2:50), Bagaos (2:44), Memories Are New (6:08)

It is hard to believe that Supersister, one of the leading lights of the Dutch progressive rock scene in the 1970’s (indeed one of the few Dutch groups to make an impact outside of The Netherlands, alongside Focus and Trace) has not yet merited any coverage on The Dutch Progressive Rock Pages, despite a series of 2 on 1 reissues of their back catalogue in 1991, and a reunion which produced some gigs and recordings around the end of the 1990’s and beyond.

Now is the ideal time to remedy this sorry state of affairs, as Esoteric Recordings have reissued Supersister’s first four albums – each as a single disc with much improved sound quality, fully restored (if CD sized) artwork, bonus tracks and detailed sleeve notes, as is customary with Esoteric Recordings excellent output.

Supersister were unique among Dutch groups, presenting a musically sophisticated blend of Canterbury style prog/fusion (strongly reminiscent of Caravan, Egg and Hatfield And The North, with strong classical flavours and garnished with a dollop of Zappa style humour. With no guitarist and an incredibly strong and inventive rhythm section, the main focus is on multiple keyboards and predominant flute. The music abounds with tricky time signatures, delicious melodies, and long instrumental sections punctuated with delicate, wistful and occasionally melancholic vocals and enlivened (particularly on the single cuts) with a wicked vein of astonishingly accurate pop parody rivalling The Bonzo Dog Do Dah Band at their best.

Their debut, Present From Nancy contains three suites of interconnected titles and two stand-alone tracks. The opening Present From Nancy suite in two parts combines a delightful piano melody with the nimblest percussion and gorgeous flute in a highly dynamic combination which grows in power before incorporating a strong jazzy feel and some Canterbury-esque fuzz organ, making for a highly convincing statement of intent. Memories Are New is even better, with the self explanatory middle section 11/8 dazzling with exemplary playing from all concerned.

The brief Corporation Combo Boys makes plain the Zappa influence “…we listen with attention to the Mothers Of Invention.” before the band launch into the final suite which opens with the vaguely ominous sounding Mexico and concludes with a very short blast of the Byrds’ Eight Miles High. The second stand alone track, and the original album’s closing number is the eight minute Dona Nobis Pacem which incorporates spooky organ tones in a subtle and spacious brew.

Nancy was an impressive debut album from some precocious teenagers, which still retains its impact after all these years.

If anything, 1971’s follow-up To The Highest Bidder is even better still, concentrating the band’s considerable energy into just four numbers. It’s hard to pick a favourite from the three lengthy opening numbers as they are all great, but I have a soft spot for the slow building intensity of No Tree Will Grow [On Too High A Mountain] and it’s hard not to be impressed with the sheer invention of the sprawling 15 minute Energy [Out Of Future] with its opening manic flute, martial drum beats and bizarre organ interjections jostling with fairground melodies and tricky changeups galore.

The closing track Higher cools things down with gentle electric piano and reflective flute and a charming vocal, hugely suggestive of Caravan, making for a very pleasant end to a superb album.

Pudding En Gisteren is Supersister’s schizophrenic third album, balancing four shorter numbers on the first side of the original LP with the side long Music For Ballet on side two. The opening song is itself a two sided beast; marrying a gentle song with a crazy second half full of manic invention and humour. Supersisterretsisrepus is a musical, as well as titular palindrome, which is almost over in less time than it takes to say its title out loud.

Psychopath is a baroque curiosity, charming and unsettling in equal measure, with delightful harpsichord and fluid piano runs. Judy Goes On Holiday stretches out a bit, employing terrific fuzzed up organ and bass riffs over twelve glorious minutes of frenzied musical mayhem. Its every bit as good as the best Caravan or Egg ever came up with. Somewhat bizarrely, it concludes with a Doo-Wop pastiche that Frank Zappa would have been proud of. The title track is likewise fantastic, its 21 minutes flying by in a whirl of musical creativity. With multiple time changes, it never fails to hold your attention, presenting a succession of strong themes and amazing instrumental dexterity.

A split in the ranks saw flautist/vocalist Sacha Van Geest and drummer Marco Vrolijk depart, to be replaced by Charlie Mariano and Herman Van Boeyen respectively.

1973’s Iskander was quite a departure, being a serious stab at a conceptual work based on the life of Alexander The Great, and largely replacing the humour and wackiness of yore with a more high-minded and improvisatory approach, exemplified by renowned jazz saxophonist Charlie Mariano’s free-styled squawking over much of the album. As such, it is a slightly uneasy mixture of jazz and prog which perhaps disappointed Supersister fans at the time, but which now proves to have aged rather well, indeed being a particularly successful concept album which admirably tells its story within a variety of musical settings, conveying excitement and drama with ease. Gong’s Pierre Moerlen contributes marimba on Bagoas and Charlie Mariano’s nathasuaram (an Indian instrument similar to an oboe) adds a suitably exotic twist to the soundscape.

These reissues are each bolstered with singles cuts, most of which were previously to be found on the Superstarshine compilation, but a few of which are appearing on CD for the first time. Often showcasing the band’s parodic and humorous side, the best of these singles are The Groupies Of The Band (to be found on the Bidder CD) and Wow. The latter of these appears in single form on Iskander (alongside the previously uncollected Drs D) and in extended, live form on Pudding En Gisteren. Both versions are marvellous!

All Supersister fans should check out these reissues as they are far superior in quality than the previous 2 on 1 sets, both in sound quality and packaging. It’s particularly nice to see the comic strip restored to Pudding En Gisteren.

If you have yet to experience Supersister, and have any interest in the so called Canterbury scene, then waste no more time and check then out immediately. Personally I love them all, but I think that perhaps Pudding En Gisteren makes a good introduction as it presents all facets of the Supersister sound in one tidy package.

All we need now is a reissue of the band’s final album, the crazy Spiral Staircase which saw the return to the helm of Sacha Van Geest and full immersion in the zany side of the band.

Conclusions:

Present From Nancy: 8 out of 10
To The Highest Bidder: 8 out of 10
Pudding En Gisteren: 8 out of 10
Iskander: 7.5 out of 10

DAVE SISSONS



Jack Bruce & Friends - I've Always Wanted To Do This
Jack Bruce & Friends - I've Always Wanted To Do This
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #:ECLEC 2073
Year of Release:1980/2008
Time:40:09
Info:Jack Bruce
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Hit And Run (3:36), Running Back (3:39), Facelift 318 (3:23), In This Way (3:59), Mickey The Fiddler (5:12), Dancing On Air (3:54), Livin' Without Ja (3:12), Wind And The Sea (3:24), Out To Lunch (2:41), Bird Alone (6:52)

Hot on the heels of the lavish 6CD career retrospective Can You Follow?, Esoteric Recordings reissue the previously unavailable on CD I've Always Wanted To Do This by Jack Bruce And Friends which originally hit the streets in 1980. The friends in this case, are, as you might expect, heavyweights of the musical industry, namely: Clem Clempson (guitars), Billy Cobham (drums and percussion) and David Sancious (keyboards and occasional guitar). Released after a two-year recording hiatus brought about by Bruce being fired from RSO management by Robert Stigwood himself but at the same time refusing to release Bruce from his management and recording contracts. And people talk of the good old days of the music industry! Occupying his time with session work and guest musician status, the end of the RSO contracts coincided with Bruce working in a group with his aforementioned friends. As the quartet had gelled following a series of US and UK concerts, rehearsals were undertaken in preparation for the recording of an album. Following the release of I've Always Wanted To Do This, the group went out a full US and European tours, the latter of which included two television recordings. After a final concert in May 1981 in Helsinki, the group disbanded, as the intention had never been for the union to become a permanent proposition.

The majority of the tracks on the album were penned by Bruce in conjunction with his long-term writing partner, Pete Brown and display a maturity that can only come from such a long-term association and explorations through various genres. As with a lot of Bruce solo albums, the music is quite diverse, although, as would be expected with such a jazz luminary behind the drum kit, the rhythms overflow with nods in the jazz direction. However, saying that, Cobham's sole writing contribution, Wind And The Sea is a lovely love song blending piano, upright bass and acoustic guitar with Bruce in particularly fine voice. Sancious also uses the piano extensively on Running Back, a track he co-wrote with Clempson and Graham Bell, which, unfortunately, sounds like the theme tune to an 80s TV programme, at least it does before Clempson's solo! Bell also appears as a co-writer (with Clempson) on the bluesy number Out To Lunch during which Bruce gets to blow on his harmonica.

Hit And Run is one of the stronger songs with all of the band contributing fine individual performances that contribute to make something better than the sum of its parts. Facelift 318 is a sly look of the (then) fairly new habit of rich people undergoing cosmetic surgery. Some lovely turns of phrase from the pen of Brown (You've got a mortgage on your desperation being a particular favourite) are marred by a rather naff spoken 'advert' for the services offered by the Facelift 318 team. The spirit of the time is also present on Dancing On Air a rather offbeat song which has a light funk, and dare I say it, slight disco feel. However, all is redeemed by the more upbeat Livin' Without Ja and the excellent final track Bird Alone, which surely justifies the re-issue of this album all by itself.

I've Always Wanted To Do This is a long way, both chronologically and stylistically, from Bruce's fantastic debut solo album Songs For A Tailor but then Bruce has never been one for consistently ploughing the same furrow. What we have then, is a well played and produced album of solidly consistent songs that will be a delight for Jack Bruce fans, a haven for Cream completists, a worthy dabble for people who appreciate more mature rock with jazzy tinges and of marginal interest for anyone looking for all out progressive rock. I like it though, so guess which category I fall in to!!

Conclusion: 6 out of 10

MARK HUGHES



Satisfaction - Satisfaction
Satisfaction - Satisfaction
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #:ECLEC2069
Year of Release:1971/2008
Time:55:29
Info:Esoteric Info
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Just Lay Back And Enjoy It (7:36), She Follows The Band (3:50), Cold Summer (5:10), Sharing (6:16), Call You Liar, Liar (4:17), You Upset The Grace Of Living When You Lie (6:27), Just Like Friends (4:01), Go Through Changes (7:13)

Bonus Tracks: Love It Is [A-side single] (3:01), Don't Rag The Lady [A-side single] (3:17), Gregory Shan't [B-side single] (4:21)

Like so many of the releases from Esoteric Recordings, they are ensuring a whole new generation, along with those with memories dating back several decades, will be able to savour those relatively unknown bands who emerged at the dawning of progressive rock. Adding to those growing number of bands on Esoteric's roster we now look at the short lived career of London based sextet Satisfaction, who produced one album and two singles before disbanding in 1971.

Satisfaction in many ways reflects the changing styles adopted by its founder Mike Cotton. Cotton emerged in the late 50s fronting the Mike Cotton Jazzmen - the name I'm sure says enough. An astute musician, Cotton moved with the times and the early 60s saw many changes in musical direction along with a name change to Mike Cotton Band (later settling on the Mike Cotton Sound). He embraced R&B and made the transition through soul, before we pick him up in the progressive scene at the beginning of 1970.

For this new venture Cotton joined forces with ex Artwoods' guitarist Derek Griffiths, along with Howard 'Lem' Lubin (bass & acoustic guitars) and Bernie Higginson (drums & percussion). Cotton also remained faithful to his roots adding a brass section comprising of himself on trumpet, flugelhorn, cornet, harmonica and from his Jazzmen band John Beecham on trombone and tuba. Completing the line-up is Nick Newall on flute, saxophones and trumpet.

The opening track sets the tone for the album, although the initial couple of minutes did raise a few "progressive" doubts, with the brass section punctuating the early 70s style funky guitar. The introduction of the vocals courtesy of Cotton & Griffiths add an instantly catchy melody that lingers in the mind well after the album has finished. And this infectious upbeat mood remains for the first two minutes until a different tack is taken with lightly picked guitar and cleverly interwoven flutes. In turn this moves into a more up tempo solo section from the trumpets/brass and guitar. We return to the intro and the 60s styled pop vocal/harmonies to the close.

Jangley picked guitar and flute open the 60s styled She Follows The Band - the catchy melodies and Tullian overblown flute fills make the four minutes of this track flow by very quickly. I was reminded of The Spencer Davis Group during Cold Summer with its strong bass line and melodic brass lines. Higginson drives the piece on, adding busy fills throughout. Sharing is also propelled by a strong bass which contrasts the psychedelic vocal lines. A nod to Floyd perhaps. Call You Liar, Liar returns us to a more straight forward brass driven rocker with the solo section taken by Griffiths.

The only track not penned by members of the band is Tim Hardin's You Upset The Grace Of Living When You Lie. A sensitive arrangement of the song and featuring a protracted and enjoyable alto sax solo from Nick Newall. Just Like Friends again has all the hallmark Satisfaction sound with the brass forming a strong backbone to the catchy vocals and the snappy guitar. The album concludes with a 70s styled rocker that Cream might have come up with but with shades of Ashton, Gardner & Dyke thrown in for good measure, although the track does tend to lose its way a little with the "smashing up" of the guitar sounds towards the end of the song.

The bonus material consists of the band's single output. Love It Is has "shades" of early Deep Purple all over it, certainly if we replaced the brass with a Hammond. Griffiths also does a laudable Blackmore... Don't Rag The Lady is an instantly skippable twelve bar blues. The final track is the B side of Don't Rag The Lady and a whole lot more interesting. Possibly the proggiest track on this re-issue. It has a driving African rhythm, lilting flute and wordless vocals, much in style of Jade Warrior. The track features some great flute, harmonica and with building percussion section in the middle. All returns to that swaying beat to close the album off.

What Satisfaction has in abundance is catchy melodies and strong arrangements. Cotton's formative jazz years are omnipresent throughout. Granted this releases is indicative of the times but certainly a creditable release and well worth a listen. The original production stands out - initially undertaken by David Hitchcock who of course went on to work with Genesis, Canterbury stalwarts Caravan and also Camel (coincidentally Pete Bardens was briefly a member of Mike Cotton's band). The re-mastering has ensured that this standard has been maintained.

Fans of Jon Hiseman's Colosseum or perhaps the recently reviewed Keef Hartley Band may well find common ground. Personally I hadn't relished reviewing this CD - ahhh those preconceptions still linger - however it turned out to be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Satisfaction the band and the album reflect the musical background of Mike Cotton and although this is a worthy release I believe I can see why the band did not move on to greater success. Although the band was made up of crafted musicians it is those ever present influences from the jazz, R&B and soul eras that may not have sat well with the emerging Genesis, Yes, Floyd and Nice/ELP fans. But perhaps now are more enlightened audience will find this melding of styles worth investigating further. I certainly did!

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10

BOB MULVEY



Robert Calvert – Freq
Robert Calvert – Freq
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #:ATOMCD1001
Year of Release:1985/2008
Time:35:11
Info:Esoteric Info
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Ned Lud (4:39), Acid Rain (4:54), All The Machines Are Quiet (5:29), Standing On The Picket Line (3:15), The Cool Courage Of The Bomb Squad Officers (5:20), Work Song (3:59) Bonus Tracks: Lord Of The Hornets (3:54), The Greenfly And The Rose (3:41)

South African born poet/singer Robert Calvert is best remembered for his work with space rock legends Hawkwind, but he also recorded a series of solo albums before his tragic early death, in 1988, at the age of 43.

His best-known works are his first two; both are concept works featuring Hawkwind members and various other guests (notably Bonzo Dog leader Viv Stanshall on a series of Pythonesque sketches, which link the songs on Captain Lockheed And The Star Fighters). His second, Lucky Leif And The Longships suffers from too eclectic an approach, where Calvert parodies various musical styles in pursuance of his story.

Personally, I prefer the straight-ahead rock song format of his third album Hype (where the concept material is contained in the novel (sold separately) of the same name). The style is much more consistent, and the songs are witty and catchy. It’s a much under-rated album in my humble opinion.

By 1985, Calvert had embraced a minimalist style and was accompanying his poems with robotic drum machine rhythms and sparse and simple keyboard lines. Freq was the first recorded example of this style, continued on his next (and final) album Test-Tube Conceived.

Freq, as originally released on vinyl, only contained 27 minutes of music (bolstered here to 35 minutes by the addition of two bonus tracks) and a further 6 minutes of between-track talk recorded on the picket lines of the U.K miners’ strike of 1984-1985. Vocally and lyrically, Calvert is on top form. Unusually for him, the subject matter is chiefly concerned with the plight of the working–man, with particular reference to the miners’ strike and other concerns of the modern industrial world. (Standing On The Picket Lines, All The Machines Were Quiet, Work Song).

The opener Ned Lud references the historical figure that inspired the Luddites – the machine wrecking anti-technologists of nineteenth century England. My favourites are All The Machines Are Quiet and Work Song, two really catchy pop numbers - but the militant aggression of Standing On The Picket Line also has a lot going for it.

Calvert may not have approved, but I for one really appreciate being able to edit out the talk and hear the songs in uninterrupted fashion. It makes the album so much more enjoyable to listen to. I have to admit that my vinyl copy never got much play back in the day, but now I can jettison the dialogue, I’m really enjoying the CD.

The two bonus tracks are taken from a single and are early versions of tracks that later appeared on Hype. They help add substance to this CD release and are both good songs, but I prefer the Hype version in both cases.

Freq, though clearly not his best album, should still, on the strength of the songs, be a must-buy for all Calvert fans, and may also interest those who have a taste for Electro-pop artists like Kraftwerk and John Foxx.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10

DAVE SISSONS



Stomu Yamash’ta & Come To The Edge – Floating Music
Stomu Yamash’ta & Come To The Edge – Floating Music
Country of Origin:Japan
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #:ECLEC 2084
Year of Release:1972/2008
Time:51:51
Info:Esoteric Info
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Poker Dice (18:11) Keep In Lane (8:37) Xingu (13:08) One Way (11:55)

Stomu Yamash’ta’s Red Buddha Theatre – The Man From The East
Country of Origin:Japan
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #:ECLEC 2082
Year of Release:1973/2008
Time:45:00
Info:Esoteric Info
Samples:Click here
Stomu Yamash’ta’s Red Buddha Theatre – The Man From The East

Tracklist: Scoop (3:00) Ana Orori (3:12) What A Way To Live In Modern Times (9:20) My Little Partner (4:01) Mandala (12:58) Memory Of Hiroshima (8:44) Mountain Pass (3:45

Stomu Yamash'ta, Steve Winwood, Michael Shrieve – Go
Stomu Yamash'ta, Steve Winwood, Michael Shrieve – Go
Country of Origin:Japan
Format:CD
Record Label:Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #:ECLEC 2081
Year of Release:1976/2008
Time:41:00
Info:Esoteric Info
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Solitude (1:05) Nature (4:27) Air Over (0:43) Crossing The Line (6:51) Man Of Leo (3:55) Stellar (1:23) Space Theme (2:51) Space Requiem (1:31) Space Song (3:58) Carnival (2;48) Ghost Machine (2;09) Surf Spin (2;26) Time Is Here (2;54) Winner/Loser (4:18)

This trio of discs form part of Esoteric Recordings Stomu Yamash’ta reissue programme (several other titles are also being reissued), and very welcome they are too!

Only previously familiar with the Go project (of which more later), I have waited a long time to finally hear some more Stomu magic, and I definitely want to explore deeper into his catalogue now.

Born Yamashita Tsutomu in Japan, in 1947, Stomu Yamash’ta (as he came to be known in the West) was a teenage percussion prodigy, playing with the Japan National Symphonic Orchestra. After a spell studying Jazz drumming at the Berklee College Of Music, and time in France working with theatre groups, Yamash’ta arrived in England and hooked up with Morris Pert (later to play with Peter Gabriel, Mike Oldfield, Kate Bush and Brand X ) and his group Come To The Edge for 1972’s Floating Music.

Combining two studio tracks (Poker Dice & Keep In Lane) and two live cuts (Xingu & One Way), Floating Music is a treat for adventurous listeners. Encompassing oriental percussion, Avant Garde techniques, and Neo-Classical, Jazz, Folk and Rock styles, the album constantly delights and surprises across its 4 lengthy tracks.

My favourite is the marathon-length Poker Dice, which drives along on marvellously inventive percussion from Yamash’ta, but also features excellent Electric Piano from Peter Robinson (of Quatermass, Brand X and others) and propulsive Bass lines in an infectious and compelling Jazzy caper.

Keep In Lane starts off like one of Can’s series of Ethnological Forgeries, with ferocious multi-tracked percussion, before mutating into a vigorous, bold brassy Jazz number.

Xingu opens with attention grabbing Free-Jazz lunacy, before settling into atmospheric soundscapes from which gradually emerges a Jazz Funk tune, which in turn mutates into some Soft Machine-ish fusion soloing.

Album closer One Way is another challenging number, perhaps the most Oriental sounding of the bunch, and one that keeps the listener on his toes throughout, again featuring several dynamic shifts and dramatic musical about-faces.

Floating Music is an unusual, but deeply rewarding album, which has stood the test of time well and still sounds relevant today, and is definitely worth obtaining if you are into adventurous Jazz Fusion.

Incidentally, the opening and closing numbers turned up on the soundtrack to Nic Roeg’s film The Man Who Fell To Earth.

Credited to Red Buddha Theatre, 1973’s The Man From The East is the soundtrack to a theatre show, and as such, seems a little disjointed without the accompanying visuals. With widely varying styles, it struggles to hang together as a cohesive album, Nevertheless, there are some sublime moments to be heard.

The two longest tracks were recorded live in a Parisian theatre with the rest being recorded in Advision studios, London with Morris Pert’s group formed after the dissolution of Come To The Edge, once again featuring Peter Robinson on piano and with Isotope’s Gary Boyle guesting on guitar on My Little Partner.

Highlights include:

  • Mandala - a 12-minute slow-burner that slides from a Hippy-Rock Jam into a strangely atmospheric instrumental section, sounding like an Oriental Bo Hansson;
     
  • What A Way To Live In Modern Times – a twisting, shifting track which incorporates strange vocal grunting and chirruping, powerful percussion and to conclude, a Japanese song with delightful, high female vocals and jaunty fiddle, and
     
  • Memory of Hiroshima, a suitably haunting track, book-ended with a siren wail – which develops from an eerie drone –through passages of mournful violin- becoming more melodic, and featuring Electric Guitar leads over strong melodic backing before strident brass arrangements materialize towards the end- it’s terrific stuff.

Overall, though, it is a challenging listen, which is perhaps best left for seasoned Yamash’ta fans only.

Altogether different is the 1976 album from Yamash’ta’s International supergroup Go, whose self-titled concept album remains his tour de force and crowning achievement. Here, Stomu abandons his avant-garde / experimental tendencies for a smoother, more accessible sound, which melds Space Rock, Jazz Fusion, Funk, Pop, Soul Ballads and Progressive Rock into a hugely appealing Concept work in the manner of Dark Side Of The Moon or Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds.

With a hand –picked and stellar group of musicians including Steve Winwood, Michael Shrieve, Master synthesist Klaus Schulze, Fusion Wizard Al Di Meola, orchestrations by Paul Buckmaster and supporting roles for Pat Thrall and Traffic’s Rosko Gee, its easy to see why this work was popular, but hard to understand why it wasn’t even more so. It should have been absolutely huge and surely deserves a place in the collection of any discerning music fan today.

This sublimely executed cross-genre masterpiece has distinct sections, but plays like, and is best enjoyed as, a single symphonic suite with vocal interludes. Steve Winwood is close to the top of his form here and his rich, soulful vocals fit surprisingly well with a much more progressive backing than is usual for him.

Klaus Schulze lays down generous helpings of his usual cosmic and spacey synthesisers all over the album, and Al Di Meola contributes stupendous (if, for him, slightly restrained) guitar parts. Shrieve and Yamash’ta add excellent drums and percussion. Orchestral bridges nestle alongside funky Pop and Space Rock segues into Soul with seamless dexterity.

This unique album could appeal to Prog, Pop, Soul, and Fusion fans alike.

It is a case where the whole is somehow much more than the (not inconsiderable) sum of its parts. It would be pointless to pick out highlights, as the whole thing is wonderful from start to finish, but some of the vocal sections (Man Of Leo, Time Is Here, Winner /Loser for instance) make good starting points for the curious.

Go was followed up by a Live album - Go Live In Paris (also reissued by Esoteric Recordings) and a second album Go 2. An import CD was available a while ago, which contained all three Go releases, but (if my memory serves me well) the live album is a pretty straight run-through of the album and adds little, and the second album is vastly inferior to the first. I therefore recommend starting with Go and then moving on to Floating Music or perhaps one of the other Yamash’ta albums revived by Esoteric, saving The Man From The East and the other Go titles for later on.

Go is much more commercial than most of the music I listen to, but it has a special magic which has entranced me since I first heard it in the 1970’s and which is undiminished today. It makes an ideal introduction to the many and varied works of Yamash’ta, whose career has included Rock, Jazz, Classical, Folk, Electronics and New Age recordings. Though I guess few will like all of his recordings, he is a remarkably adventurous and adaptable musician, whose work is never less than interesting and which offers much to the exploratory Progressive music aficionado.

Conclusions:

Floating Music: 7.5 out of 10
The Man From The East: 6.5 out of 10
Go: 9 out of 10

DAVE SISSONS




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