Reviews in this issue:
- Asia - Omega
- Phased – A Sort Of Spasmic Phlegm Induced By Leaden Fumes Of Pleasure
- Aisles - In Sudden Walks
- Mattsson - Tango
- Soulcage - Soul For Sale
- Cave Of Clear Light (VA) - The Pye And Dawn Records Underground Trip 1967-1975
- Jackson Heights – The Fifth Avenue Bus
- Jackson Heights – Ragamuffins Fool
- Jackson Heights – Bump ‘N’ Grind
- Sweet Okay Supersister - Spiral Staircase
- The Amazing – The Amazing
- 1870 - Mil Ochocientos Setenta - Mitos De Una Resurrección
Asia - Omega
Tracklist: Finger On The Trigger (4:29), Through My Veins (5:09), Holy War (6:00), Ever Yours (4:05), Listen Children (5:57), End Of The World (5:32), Light The Way (5:00), Emily (5:12), I'm Still The Same (4:38), There Was A Time (5:57), I Believe (4:43), Don't Wanna Lose You (4:46)
Not many people would have anticipated that Asia in the original line up would get back together again after some 25 years and even less that they would continue to play live and produce high quality new albums. On the other hand: with E,L & P just performing one reunion gig this year, Yes touring less and Wetton having overcome his heart condition and dealing satisfactorily with his problems on both wrists (carpal tunnel syndrome), Asia is the perfect vehicle for these four established world class musicians to survive in this hectic world where music as art doesn't seem to matter as much as it used to.
The album opens with the powerful Finger On The Trigger: a mid tempo rock song with good vocals by Wetton, a pumping bass and nice organ sounds by Downes while Howe's guitar sounds different from Heat Of The Moment or Yes.... although one recognizes his technique, the sound is slightly different. Producer Mike Paxman (a.o. Uriah Heep) did a fine job. In Through My Veins the atmosphere of the Alpha album returns: tasteful orchestrations and as always fine melodies. After the Buggles-like intro, the perfect sing along song would be Holy War, superb hooks, nice vocal harmonies in the choruses and yet another guitar sound provides the perfect mix between progressive, rock and pop. The extremely wonderful symphonic interlude is pure delight and different from the distinguished sound of Wetton/Downes Icon. The ultimate love song with the characteristic 'Downes orchestrations' is Ever Yours, a ballad in the best of Asia's rich history.
If it would have been 1985 and I would have to pick a tune for a single, it would have to be Listen Children: a call for kids to 'hear our music play', even the last request is in French! A fine fusion between Yes, Buggles and Wetton solo with as usual refined drumming by drummer extraordinaire Carl Palmer. My favourite track is End Of The World: really great melodies, slow tempo, bombastic, symphonic and superb vocals by Wetton who is 'responding' to his own multiple harmonies as we used to hear by the Beach Boys. The progressive touch is provided by Howe in the symphonic end-piece. The first part of Light The Way could have been written and performed by IQ (with Paul Menel). Howe's guitar slides, Downes' keyboards sound like whistles and Palmer showcases his incredible technique, while 'the other half' of the song sounds like a fine pop tune.
The bonus track for the first edition of this album is the love song Emily also in the pop genre. The deep bass sound by Wetton, subtle drumming by Palmer and Downes' piano are the accompaniment of Howe's sliding guitar. Really awesome orchestrations in the middle section, then the Buggles sound returns and Howe rounds off with a slide guitar. Downes' majestic keyboards open I'm Still The Same and the Beach Boys sounds returns, mixed with some Beatles influences, when Wetton uses his falsetto voice. The rest of the track is sung with his 'normal' vocals. Very subtle changes in key and refined arrangements make this song far too complex to be called a simple pop tune. Symphonic folk music in There Was A Time: the melodies could have been by Blackmore's Night but there's a lot of keyboards, as with Dare for instance, instead of mandolins or guitars. Orchestral sounds at the end remind us we are dealing with a world class (prog-)rock band and Wetton showcases his vocal abilities which seem to get better still.
What I would call a typical Asia song is I Believe: mid tempo, catchy choruses, the organ being the primary keyboard and the distinctive bombastic overall sound. The final track is a song that brings back memories from my own childhood, because the sound of the sixties/seventies is recognizable: influences ranging from Beatles (trumpet sound like in Penny Lane at the end!) to ELO and thus a great trip to memory lane. As could be expected, the artwork again is by the famous illustrator Roger Dean. The 'year of the tiger' within the context of Asia's history and in line with previous artworks: well done indeed.
In conclusion for me this is one of the very best albums in the AOR/melodic rock genre in 2010, but due to the participation of four icons in progressive rock music, Omega is even more than that. It definitely sounds more like a group-album than Phoenix (although I like that album very much too!) and it has this powerful mix of modern technology, superb craftsmanship and the influences of four decades of pop and rock music. Let's hope that Omega (last letter in the Greek alphabet!) will not be Asia's last album. Anyway, this offering is very highly recommended!
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
A Sort Of Spasmic Phlegm Induced By Leaden Fumes Of Pleasure
Tracklist: A Surreal Deal (3:47), The Osteopath (3:53), Tip Of The Sky (4:56), Rim Shot To Infinity (6:44), Maelstrom (9:13), I Come Toulouse (3:32), Nachspiel Revisited 1 + 2 (10:48), The Need (2:34)
What we have here by Phased, their fourth release and could just be about the weirdest/best album title of the year for 2009 A Sort Of Spasmic Phlegm Induced By Leaden Fumes Of Pleasure. Now there’s a challenge for any other bands that are reading this. Delete as applicable.
Ok I digress, so where do I start. Phased have been around since 1997, a classic three piece comprising of Chris Sigdell (guitar & vocals), Marko Lehtinen (drums) and Chris Walt (bass) and guest Scott Heller (synthesizer effects), a welcome addition that really does add that extra dimension.
Essentially what we have here is a Stoner/Space/Doom Rock album, that has more than a hint of Hawkwind especially with the addition of Scott Heller’s synth effects, and to me this would be what Black Sabbath would sound like if they had started their musical journey today, which is ironic as there are some sonically early Sabbath influences that can be heard here too. They appeal to the more cult end of the genre like Sleep Jerusalem, Electric Wizard Dopethrone or Come My Fanatics as opposed to Alabama Thunderpussy, (got to be the coolest band name ever), Staring At The Divine or say Monster Magnet Spine Of God or Dopes To Infinity, who dare I say fill the more mainstream end of the genre. The real big difference between the two definitions being the products timbre or as it’s also know psychoacoustics, and it’s metre, Alabama Thunderpussy and Monster Magnets metre being slightly more mid tempo but no less intense. Hell this album only took nine days to record and mix.
From the title I don’t think it’s going to take a genius to work it out what this is all about, especially when you have pressed the play button and listen to tracks like Tip Of The Sky, which spells it out very clearly.
WARNING! Here comes the public health warning. Remove anything that’s not fastened down, put the cat out, give the wife some money to go shopping, strap yourself in, turn up loud, these guys are going to take you on a rocket ride that going to pummel your mind and soul in the astral plains, where one can encounter many things which only an experienced traveller will know how to handle, and then leave, making no apologies for the scars left or any damage done. Remember no one can hear you scream in space. The low tuned guitar and bass heavy sounds are that powerful.
A Surreal Day starts the thing trip off with a NASA style vocal intro, (a.k.a. Electric Wizard), and dropping into a Hawkwind flavoured track, and wouldn’t out of place on any of their live albums, especially Space Ritual.
The Osteopath starts with a hint of early Sabbath and opening lyrics “I was born on a crowded freeway, Mother at the wheel, Father he was trembling, being hauled under her keel”. Hawkwind would have loved to have come up with a lyric like that. Genius.
Tip Of The Sky is not for the faint hearted with its low tuned guitars and bass heavy sound mixed with swirly synth effects drags you by the scruff of the neck, and spells the situation out to you in capital letters.
Rim Shot To Infinity is one of two instrumentals on the album and finds the guys jamming out in a trance or should that be spaced out state of mind. The drum work holding the timing as the bass works its magic sculpting infinite space rhythms along side the synth, conjuring up images of white dwarves and nebula. This is a bunch of guys who know what they want and how to get it working together as a unit.
Maelstrom an ode to a dream about a lesbian scene where all is not as it seems. Or is? Musically is has influences of Sabbath and Electric Wizard in tone, climaxing with some really great interaction, between the band and fantastic guitar work, a heavy topic and a heavy song.
I Come Toulouse a song about a man’s decline into drink and infidelity and evolutions failed attempt to create a new and improved species. Hey nobody said this was going to be light stuff. Vocally it sounds a bit like John Lydon in tone and phrasing, and as daft as that sounds it works really well. Is this a very clever play on words? Curious? You should be.
Nachspiel Revisited 1 and 2 being the longest track on the album with more than a ringing guitar tone of Hawkwind in places along with synth effects and pounding drum and bass playing. This is a tune I would really like to see been played live, the guys go off into jam mode with such confidence each seeming to know where to go and where to end up. Nachspiel is a concluding or a final piece or chapter and has some very visceral lyrics conjuring up images of anger and rage.
The Need the final album track and another pounding instrumental that just ends leaving you begging for more. We all know the drill by now musically and make no mistake Phased do not make any attempt to apologies for this.
I have pressed play repeatedly on this album, having never become bored with what I hear. The imagery and sound built around this album is gargantuan. This is one album I WILL revisit discovering new journeys in time and space.
This recording is highly recommended.........
FIVE, FOUR, THREE, TWO, ONE......... YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
Aisles - In Sudden Walks
Tracklist: Mariachi (9:59), Revolution Of Light (4:41), Summer Fall (9:56), The Maiden (9:28), Smile Of Tears (4:00), Hawaii (14:58)
Back in 2005, I remember having reviewed (for a different website…) Chilean band Aisles’ The Yearning quite favourably. This was a healthy slab of neo-prog, epic in scope with some typical Latin embellishments, and superbly performed (save for the fake sampled drums). This time around it is the excellent Felipe Candia, the drummer the band needed, who hits the skins.
Well, the same (add a better sound production) applies to this In Sudden Walks. Again, the Vergara gang - Germán on guitars and vocals, Luis on keyboards and Sebastián on vocals and flute) propose a musical journey all Marillion, Pallas, Enchant or even Camel and Genesis fans should enjoy.
Maybe the odd track here on the album is the opening piece Mariachi, a mildly weird and only partially satisfactory experiment which tries to marry quite inventive, even jazzy instrumental, passages with some kind of (sexy) Spanish theatre piece; it goes on for too long (nearly ten minutes) and I’m not sure it’s the best way to introduce an album.
Revolution Of Light brings back things to conventional territory, and could have been a hit single Hogarth and Co. would’ve loved to pen themselves. Then, both Summer Fall and The Maiden explore the more adventurous and intense side of the band, alternating powerful instrumental sections where every musician gets to shine (special mention goes to Luis and Alejandro Meléndez versatile keyboards and the marvellous Felipe González and Felipe Candia on the rhythm section) with some more peaceful acoustic passages, where vocals and sonic textures take the spot. The Maiden is probably the piece that best exemplifies everything mentioned above, and encapsulates in a bit less than ten minutes all that Aisles is about.
The last third of In Sudden Walks delves into darker and more atmospheric waters, first with the short Smile Of Tears, four minutes of subtle, almost new waveish electronic balladry, then concluding with Hawaii, the epic of the album. And what a strange choice of epic it is, as it avoids the traditional long piece structure, to rather focus on atmospherics and soundscapes, in the sense that it isn’t a long build up leading to a climax, but a fourteen minute exercise on mood and contemplation, (think of Gazpacho and you won’t be too far).
Aisles don’t break new grounds, and don’t stray too far from the known and tested formula, but sure they know how to deliver a very solid, (nice artwork included) and occasionally brilliant product which should appeal to every fan of modern and melodic symphonic rock.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Mattsson - Tango
Tracklist: Never Stand Down (7:40), Believe (6:43), Tango (3:21), The Grand Escape (10:42), I’ll Find Another Way (5:58), Shadows (6:11), The Scream Of My Soul (3:18), The Fire is Burning (5:15), Chain Me (4:58), Tour De Force (7:39), Slave To The Road (4:07)
Lars Eric Mattsson has been around from the end of the 1980’s, doing solo work as well as cooperating in bands and other side projects. One of his more known projects is the band Mattsson, named after its founder and leader.
Mattsson's music can be categorized within the Gothic rock scene, where we typically find bands like Nightwish, Within Temptation, Epica, Evanescence to name a few of its exponents. The afore mentioned bands have at least one thing in common that stands out immediately, most of the vocals are female and Mattsson makes no exception to this rule. As on his last work he has called upon the services of the lovely Adrienn Antal from Hungary to do the vocals. Mattsson also called upon the services of a male singer, being Status Minor vocalist Markku Kuikka. To complete the line up Eddie Sledgehammer is called upon once more to play drums and percussion.
Never Stand Down is a heavy gothic sounding song in the veins of Nightwish, easily reaching the same levels both musically and compositionally.
Believe is a heavy prog song which would suit quite nicely on an Evanecence album. Adrienn Antal reaches levels matching up to Amy Lee's singing in Evanescence. Miss Antal shows she has a wide vocal range.
Tango, the title track of the album and from the first bars of the song I got the feeling I had heard it before. Not hard to imagine I think, for who hasn’t heard a Tango tune before. I must admit, guilty as charged, but still I had heard it before and it has the sound and feel of a pop tune from Dalbello - Let’s Tango. It is slightly heavier. A very well played song nevertheless.
The Grand Escape is the longest track on the album and a good one, compositionally beautifully put together, well played and in an operatic style at times. Ayreon like music with three different vocalists, almost classical music and one of my favourite songs of the album.
I’ll Find Another Way is a true ballad, very nice indeed, sometimes with a Eastern feel to it.
Shadows' vocals are sung by Markku Kuikka, a heavy prog song with some neo-prog influences. Most of the time the song just keeps on running if you will and is one of the faster paced songs on the album.
The Scream Of My Soul and now to a different musical style Lars Eric seems to have thought of... Once again Adrienn on vocals where we find blues, jazz, and some other musical styles combined into one song. A well timed rest to the album.
The Fire Is Burning finds Lars Eric himself on the lead vocals in yet another neo prog/ gothic rock song.
Chain Me another ballad with beautiful melody lines. Well played guitar intermezzos and strong vocals.
Tour De Force must have been an actual tour de force for Lars Eric as in this full blown instrumental track we catch him playing all the instruments apart from the drums. We can hear him playing sitar, classical guitar, retro organ – I am not sure it is a genuine Hammond?- bass-pedals, electric guitar and other keyboards. Need I say more. Good song...
Slave To The Road is a good end to a good album. A blues tune to complete an otherwise mostly neo-prog, goth rock oriented album in my opinion.
To complete the picture Tango is a well crafted, well played and easy to listen to album. Fans of the band's I have mentioned might like it, although probably not in its entirety, because there is too much variety within the songs to fit the music into one genre only.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
Soulcage - Soul For Sale
Tracklist: Flaming Flowers [Send In The Clowns] (3:11), I See (3:01), My Canvas, My Skin (3:19), Ride On (2:54), Until You Find Me (4:16), Satellite Children (3:34), Bleeding (3:11), Origin (4:04), Stranger In You (3:02), You Get So Alone (3:37), MIA (5:29)
I have been listening to the Soul For Sale album by Finnish band Soulcage for some time now and I must admit that this album has become kind of a problem for me. From the first spin I have been trying to find a reason why I am not particularly fond of this poppy metal album. The tracks are not really sophisticated (or so it seems), are in no way standard prog metal and no bombastic layers of sound. But the more I tried to find reasons for my disklike, the more I found that I was not really able to find any that really stuck. And now two weeks later I must admit that the dislike has turned to like. This is a good album.
Fins are of course known for their metal scene, bands like Nightwish, Children Of Bodom, Stratovarius, HIM and Apocalyptica all spring from Finland. Although from the same country Soulcage is in no way similar to any of these, still there is a very distinct, "I know this music" ring to this album Soul For Sale. But one that will not be easy to described. There's hints of a down paced Evergrey a less funky Living Color (mainly because of the excellent voice of Aleksi Parviainen) and a number of hard to pinpoint 80s bands.
Soulcage released their debut album, Dead Water Diary, in 2006 and that album did not really shoot them into fame. So the three years in between albums was spent with personnel changes to come up with a line-up that, in the band perspective, is optimal. That line-up released Soul For Sale, first in parts of Europe in 2009 and now to the UK beginning of April 2010.
One of the reasons for my reluctance of liking this album is that although the band describes their music as a diverse mix of metal, rock, pop and progressive styles, the poppy approach is predominantly present. Most of the tracks on this album don't clock past the four minute mark, in fact the longest track, MIA, is a mere five and a half minutes. Of course being progressive is not about being able to write long songs. But it is real hard to write a song with a complex build up in just four minutes.
Still this is a good album. The reason for that is that although seemingly simple on first spin, second listen reveals a somewhat different view. Songs are rich in structure and melodies but in no way over crowded. Musically the band sounds like a tight outfit and the singer is actually pretty good, although there are a couple of songs he is overdoing the emotions just a bit too much.
Noteworthy songs are: My Canvas, My Skin without a doubt the best song on the album, so a logical first single. A song with a nice build up, great guitar loops and a nice quiet keyboard in between. I See (catchy keyboard loop) and Bleeding because the whole song breathes a atmosphere familiar to the German 80s band Propaganda. MIA because of the great chorus and the superb build up (might this be an example of what the band is capable of if they follow a more progressive path)?
Then there is one song I am sorry to have to mention: Satellite Children. What was the band thinking when submitting this song to the tracklist? It is a sweet over the top ballad that I can't listen to for more than a minute. The way too sweet polished sound does not do the rest of the album any justice.
But I should not end this review with a negative note because this is indeed a pleasant album. It will not knock you of your socks, it is not of that greatness. But it does have great songs that will find it's way to my CD player more often. For people that can appreciate straight forward, not to complicated rock songs with a metal edge, then Soul For Sale is an album of interest.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Cave Of Clear Light (VA) -
The Pye And Dawn Records Underground Trip 1967-1975
CD 1 [74:56] Cave Of Clear Light | The Bystanders (3:44), Season Of The Witch | Donovan (4:56), Morning Dew | Episode Six (2:54), Paradise Flat | Status Quo (3:13), UFO | Neo Maya (2:49), The Future Hides Its Face | Man (5:28), Ride With Captain Max | Blonde On Blonde (5:22), Yellow Cave Women | Velvett Fogg (6:58), Hurdy Gurdy Man | Donovan (3:13), Tell You I'm Gone | Woody Kern (4:10), Hot Smoke And Sassafras | The Mooche (3:12), All Day, All Night | Blonde On Blonde (3:35), Mister Mind Detector | Status Quo (4:04), Peace Of Mind | Pesky Gee (2:20), Confusions About A Goldfish | John Kongos (4:14), It Is As It Must Be | Man (8:30), Flies Like A Bird | Fire (3:40), Velvet To Atone | Trader Horne (2:25)
CD 2 [77:58] Tell You A Story | Fire (5:43), Hall Of Bright Carvings | Titus Groan (11:39), Hilary Dixon | Atlantic Bridge (2:33), Song To Comus | Comus (7:25), I Just Wanna Make Love To You | Mungo Jerry (9:05), Cameramen: Wilson And Holmes | Jackie McAuley (4:53), Road To Glory | Pluto (4:25), Body To The Mind | Quiet World (3:26), One Way Glass | Trifle (4:22), Pharoah's March | Mike Cooper (7:16), I Put A Spell On You | Demon Fuzz (3:54), Someone's Learning | Status Quo (7:10), Time Take My Life | Atomic Rooster (6:01)
CD 3 [76:53] 3d Mona Lisa | Paul Brett's Sage | (3:20), The Trio Billy The Kid | (1:32), Gerundula Status Quo | (3:50), Hard Labour Noir | (5:22), Yellow Roses | Heron (4:11), Save Me | Atomic Rooster | (3:15), Fantastic Four Icarus | (3:20), Man Of Renown | Writing On The Wall | (3:08), Staircase To The Day | Gravy Train | (7:32), Ricochet | Jonesy | (4:05), Can't Find A Reason | Vincent Crane & Chris Farlowe (4:29), Decision | Fruupp (6:25), Lord Offaly | David McWilliams | (6:34), Custom Angel Man | Paul Brett's Sage | (2:43), Flying | Quicksand (4:23), Stand Up And Be Counted | Stray (4:19), No Alternative | Jonesy (8:14)
Whilst perusing through the vaults of Pye Records and their progressive off-shoot label Dawn, the good people at Esoteric have unearthed a veritable cornucopia of material from the labels period of prime activity - 1967 to 1975. Some by bands that are well known and went on to bigger things after leaving Pye/Dawn; most by bands that have remained largely obscure. The wealth of material locked in the vaults is such that this three-CD compilation barely scratches the surface of the treasure trove. Of course, one of the reasons Esoteric has had access to these recordings is to investigate albums that would be worthy of their superlative reissue treatment and several of the albums that contain songs included on this compilation have previously been reviewed by DPRP. To prevent duplication, and for a fuller review of the bands in question, I recommended heading over to our full reviews of Man, Fire, Trader Horne, Demon Fuzz, Paul Brett's Sage, Frupp and Jonesy. Of course, that still leaves a lot of ground to cover so without any further ado, let us proceed.
I guess most people will have heard of Status Quo, a band that has roots extending back 48 years - almost half a century! Love them or loathe them, one has to grant them some respect for sticking around for so long, and remaining popular. Their period with Pyre Records saw them progress from the pop-psychedelia of their first couple of albums, exemplified by the likes of Mister Mind Detector, to the more familiar boogie-rock of their heyday. Of the four tracks on this compilation, Someone's Learning is the most progressive, coming from the transitionary Dog Of Two Head album. Always an easy band to knock, their early years are well worth a proper re-evaluation as they were massively popular for very good reasons. It is also easy to dismiss Donovan, the arch troubadour and so-called 'English Bob Dylan', as just being a hippy away with the faeries. But his early material was massively influential on a number of musicians including Shawn Phillips and even Jefferson Airplane. Consider how many artists have covered the seminal Season Of The Witch, even Steve Hillage had a pop at covering Hurdy Gurdy Man! Another band needing no introduction are Atomic Rooster and although Time Take My Life and Save Me are taken from two of the group's less successful albums (1972's Made In England and the following year's Nice 'n' Greasy, respectively) they are still fine songs in the Rooster tradition with Vincent Crane's characteristic organ blasting throughout. For some reason, I always think that Blonde On Blonde are from Germany rather than South Wales where they actually originate from. Surprising as the two tracks from their association with Pye sound nothing like Kraut rock! All Day, All Night their first single is a rather hippyish, sitar-drenched number typical of the late sixties. Much better is Ride With Captain Max which displays the group's progressive leanings which they were to develop on the two albums they recorded after leaving Pye and signing with the independent Ember label.
Heading into the less well-known bands we start with The Bystanders who provide the song that gives the collection its title, Cave Of Clear Light. The Bystanders were the precursor to Welsh giants Man both groups fronted by the recently deceased Micky Jones. This song was the b-side to the groups sixth single for Pye and is a dose of pure pop psychedelia. There used to be an excellent compilation of all of The Bystanders singles but it sadly seems to be out of print. Shame as the diversity of their output as they searched for their own sound was interesting and impressive. Rock fans may know of Episode Six as the group that provided Deep Purple with both Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. Their excellent cover of Tim Hardin's Morning Dew, a 1967 single, is well worth hearing, if only for the fact that Gillan sounds completely unlike he does with Purple. Even expert DP fans will probably not know that Episode Six's next single was released under the pseudonym Neo Maya. The single, I Won't Hurt You had a totally bizarre b-side - UFO. The song features Graham Carter Dimmock, the band's guitarist, recounting various UFO sightings backed only by drummer John Kerrison and is now quite a collectable single. Velvett Fogg are probably more well known for being the first band to feature Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi and release an album, recorded after Iommi had left, to feature a 'controversial' album cover featuring two naked women daubed in body paint. To be fair, the band were also covered in paint but maintained fully dressed. The album was a flop and Yellow Cave Woman is undoubtedly one of their better songs (it certainly sounds better than the last time I played the album, undoubtedly a testament to the re-mastering). Woody Kern's excellent Tell You I'm Gone bears resemblance to early Jethro Tull with a blues based song laden with lots of lovely flute while Hot Smoke And Sassafras, the A side of the sole release by The Mooche, is an undeniable classic that everyone should have in their collection. In contrast, Pesky Gee's Peace Of Mind is rather lightweight and the band would achieve considerable more success when they changed their name, and musical direction, to become Black Widow. John Kongos is probably the only artist to have his songs covered by both The Happy Mondays and Def Leppard, although neither of them attempted to cover his Confusions About A Goldfish, a light psych number that does hold a certain charm.
Disc two contains many of the longer tracks of the compilation, including longest of the lot Hall Of Bright Carvings from the sole album by Titus Groan who took their name from the brilliant novel by Mervyn Peake. A marvellous piece of early progressive rock this is an excellent piece with many characteristics of the era and one of the highlights of the set. The recently reformed Comus are widely respected for their progressive folk leanings but I have never really found their material that appealing. However, Song To Comus is better than I remember from the days when I used to have their album with the insistent flute driving the song along. The vocals still don't really do it for me though. Largely remembered for their somewhat novelty hit In The Summertime, Mungo Jerry might seem an odd inclusion, but the extended cover of the Muddy Waters classic I Just Want To Make Love To You is miles away from the popular jugband single, even though they were both recorded for the same album. Can't say I like either. Jackie McAuley was an original member of Them and formed one half of Trader Horne along with original Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble. After the demise of the latter group he released a solo album which failed to sell, largely due to McAuley's refusal to play live. Cameramen: Wilson And Holmes is quite an odd song, mixing a more baroque style, harpsichord beginning and ending with a lush central section to great effect. Pluto were a more straight forward hard rock band and Road To Glory is characteristic of much of that style of music from the early 1970s. Steve Hackett's first recorded work was with Quiet World who released the religious concept album The Road in 1970. Body To The Mind doesn't really display much of Hackett's style and he probably didn't need to ponder too hard about leaving the group to join Genesis. One Way Glass by Trifle also stands out being a lighter, poppier number but none the less enjoyable for it. I had a much harder time with Mike Cooper's Pharaoh's March, the first four and a bit minutes is just wailing saxes, although the guitar part in the middle of the song is sweet enough before more of those bloomin' wailing saxes intrude again.
Prize for the shortest track goes to Billy The Kid by The Trio. Short it may be but it is still jazz wank nonsense. Back on firmer ground we have Hard Labour by Noir, an unusual proggie group for the era as the band was comprised of black members. This was another great discovery for me and I hope that Esoteric re-release the complete album, We Had To Let You Have It, at some point as it would sit very nicely alongside Demon Fuzz. In another contrast, Heron were a white folk band who were infamous as the group who recorded their two albums al fresco in the field next to their communal house. Yellow Roses is a prime example of their material and very good, as are the rest of the songs on their two albums. Icarus, a London-based progressive group, recorded a whole album based on characters from Marvel comics and even got permission from the publishers to include some of the most famous cartoons on their album sleeve. Fantastic Four is better musically than it is lyrically. Scottish band Writing On The Wall only managed one single release, the A side of which, Man Of Renown, is included here. Nothing too special but a nice rarity inclusion all the same. Original copies of the first two albums by Gravy Train are much sought after by Vertigo Swirl label collectors. Inexplicably, Vertigo dropped the band after the second album whereupon they signed with Dawn. Staircase To The Day is the title track from the group's final album, definitely the better of the two for Dawn and with a classic Roger Dean sleeve to boot! The rare single by Vincent Crane & Chris Farlowe, Can't Find A Reason sounds very like a gentle Atomic Rooster song which is not surprising given that both were in that band at the time of the song's release! A gentle song with piano, orchestral backing and lots of nice backing vocals. David McWilliams is best known for Days Of Pearly Spencer, the cover of which by Marc Almond was a big hit. The grandiose production on the cover of that song is not replicated on Lord Offaly, the first half of which is a bit of a dirge. More than makes up for it in the second half though and confirms McWilliams status as a superior singer-songwriter. Quicksand are another Welsh band with links to Man whose family tree would take up several volumes. Flying is not the best track from the only album Home Is Where I Belong but is still worth checking out. Finally, and congratulations if you have got this far, we have Stray, long a personal favourite of mine who in their prime surpassed most of their contemporaries but never quite got the breaks. Their only album for Dawn was Stand Up And Be Counted and was one of their last completely great albums that showed the diversity and expansiveness of Del Bronham's song writing skills.
Cave Of Clear Light is a wonderful introduction to the world of Pye and Dawn Records. As usual Esoteric have done a class job in selecting the tracks, remastering and packaging this collection. With many rare and previously unavailable on CD tracks, this compilation is a highly recommended release for fans of seventies music. What is more, it is a great introduction to some of the other Esoteric releases and a tease as to what possible may become available at a future date. I have my eyes peeled for re-releases of the full albums by several of the groups included but in the meantime have more than enough to be getting along with on these three discs.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Jackson Heights – The Fifth Avenue Bus
Tracklist: Tramp (2:18), Dog Got Bitten (3:06), Autumn Brigade (4:35), Long Time Dying (3:26), Sweet Hill Tunnel (8:45), Laughing Gear (2:49), House In The Country (3:21), Rent A Friend (3:40), Luxford (3:28), Pastor Roger (6:10)
Jackson Heights – Ragamuffins Fool
Tracklist: Maureen (3:50), Oh You Beauty (4:20), As She Starts (3:25), Be Bop (3:58), Catch A Thief (4:48), Ragamuffins Fool (4:43), Chorale [Five Bridges Suite] (3:24), Chips And Chicken (3:58), Poor Peter (2:01), Bellyfull Of Water (3:57)
Jackson Heights – Bump ‘N’ Grind
Tracklist: I Could Be Your Orchestra (4:16), Spaghetti Sunshine (3:34), Long Necked Lady (3:47), Public Romance (2:32), Bump And Grind (3:25), Cumberland Country (3:41), It's A Shame (4:20), Ladies In The Chorus (3:06), Whatever Happened To The Conversation (3:50)
Jackson Heights are yet another band from the early 70’s that had a relatively short existence but a prolific output. Four albums in three years is pretty good by anybody’s standards but poor sales dogged the band from the outset. Following the demise of The Nice in 1970 (when Keith Emerson went AWOL to form ELP) bassist and vocalist Lee Jackson decided to return to a simpler, acoustic based style. As a result he formed Jackson Heights (a play on his own name and a district of New York) releasing their debut album King Progress on the Charisma label that same year. Things didn’t work out for the band however (both personnel wise and label wise) and 1971 saw Jackson regroup with songwriter, guitarist, singer John McBurnie and keyboardist Brian Chatton plus a move to a new label, Vertigo.
That’s where the story begins as far as this collection is concerned with the reissue of the bands three most recent albums The Fifth Avenue Bus, Ragamuffins Fool and Bump ‘N’ Grind all receiving the customary Esoteric makeover. The re-mastered sound is up to the labels usual high standards although there are no bonus tracks this time around with each disc remaining faithful to the original vinyl record.
Originally released in April 1972, The Fifth Avenue Bus (a title that continued the NY theme) included Michael Giles on drums. It’s a role that the founding and then ex King Crimson sticks man would fulfil on all three albums although he never became a full time member of JH. The majority of the songs were written or co-written by McBurnie and the style is a million miles from the bombast of The Nice being mostly lightweight pop songs with striped down arrangements centred around acoustic guitar, piano and strong vocal harmonies. Tramp is a curiously subdued opener that’s almost like a lullaby whilst Dog Got Bitten is more up-tempo with a bright, slightly calypso feel thanks to congas and electric bass. Like many of McBurnie’s songs the laidback style thinly disguises the social conscious and political themes contained in the lyrics.
Two of the albums best songs in terms of tuneful melodies are the poignant Autumn Brigade and the haunting Long Time Dying. The latter was composed by pianist Lawrie Wright who left the band halfway through the recording session to be replaced by Chatton. The melody here is very similar to The Bee Gees’ New York Mining Disaster 1941 (which also influenced Barclay James Harvest’s The Great 1974 Mining Disaster). Two other fine tunes include the poetic House In The Country which features Mellotron hovering inconspicuously in the background and the bittersweet Luxford with a beautiful melody in the style of Bread. Jackson’s vocal inflections closely mirror those of David Gates here although his gravel tones couldn’t be more different to the American’s smooth crooning.
The songs that worked the least for me are the more up-tempo offerings, the slightly funky Laughing Gear which owes a debt to The Beatles and the upbeat Rent A Friend with its light hearted lyrics and honky-tonk piano being the kind of song MOR popsters Marmalade churned out in the 60’s. The former does at least include a rare burst of electric guitar whilst the latter is distinguished by some particularly fine bass work from Jackson.
The longest track by far Sweet Hill Tunnel includes some splendidly rich Crosby, Stills and Nash style harmonies but it owes its length to an extended jazz piano excursion driven by busy and particularly impressive drumming from Giles. The albums only real concession to prog however comes in the shape of the concluding Pastor Roger with a stop-start arrangement and dynamics reminiscent of Genesis’ quirkier songs like Harold The Barrel, especially the chorus. The cynicism in the lyrics is worthy of John Lennon, ending with mocking variations on the Christian anthems All Things Bright And Beautiful and Onward Christian Soldiers.
Although The Fifth Avenue Bus didn’t fair particularly well sales wise, Vertigo’s faith in the band meant that they were soon back in the studio despite their heavy touring schedule at the time. The follow up Ragamuffins Fool appeared in October 1972 just 6 months after its predecessor and featured the same line-up of Jackson, McBurnie, Chatton and Giles. Album opener Maureen also became a regular concert opener for the band with its tumbling piano intro bringing to mind The Faces. It’s a catchy, upbeat song with strong harmonies and lively piano and drums from Chatton and Giles respectively.
Again however the most successful songs are the mellower, reflective pieces like Oh You Beauty, As She Starts and the lyrical Be Bop especially. If anything the CS&N influenced three part harmonies are even more polished this time around although as in the case of Oh You Beauty they evoke UK vocal bands like Gallagher and Lyle as much as they do their American counterparts. I was also struck by how similar McBurnie’s melodious lead vocal is to Les Holroyd of BJH.
Catch A Thief picks up from where Sweet Hill Tunnel left off on the last album with a repeated piano riff overlaid by jazzy improvisations ala Dave Brubeck (and Keith Emerson during his live solos). Whist Chatton is a first class pianist it does however feel a tad overlong and somewhat self indulgent to my ears. And speaking of Emerson, the Chorale from The Nice’s Five Bridges Suite is reprised here making it easily the albums proggiest piece with rippling piano, Mellotron and strong harmonies supporting Jackson’s distinctive nasal delivery.
Like the last album, the rest of the fair is not really my kind of music with Ragamuffins Fool and Chips And Chicken both being jaunty piano led tales about life on the road with the title song in particular evoking The Beatles’ more whimsical efforts like When I’m Sixty-Four. The concluding pairing of Poor Peter and Bellyfull Of Water are even further off the prog radar being light hearted country and western ditties. The banjo and fiddle in the former adds a sense of authenticity but the only real let-up for me comes in the latter with its Yes like wordless harmonies and Jackson’s prominent bass line.
Unfortunately Ragamuffins Fool went the same way as The Fifth Avenue Bus in terms of sales which prompted one last ditch effort in the shape of 1973’s Bump ‘N’ Grind. This was the bands most poppy album yet and pulled out all the stops with big production values. Two songs in particular, (both penned by McBurnie) standout thanks to the lavish use of orchestra. The appropriately titled opener I Could Be Your Orchestra is also the albums best song with a memorable chorus, striking piano work and strident orchestral embellishments. Likewise the title song Bump And Grind features sweeping strings in addition to meticulous three-part counterpoint harmonies. It’s a superb pop song (or lightweight rock song if you prefer) reminiscent of 60’s era Bee Gees and early Barclay James Harvest. Two renowned guest drummers were used for this particular session, Ian Wallace (who like Giles was also ex King Crimson) and Ian Paice from Deep Purple.
The other standout song Spaghetti Sunshine (this time written by Chatton) sounds like a holiday snapshot of Italy with lively piano soloing and an engaging hook that brought to mind the Raspberries power-pop classic Overnight Sensation. Elsewhere the songs are a mixed and varied bag that reflects the bands quirky, off the wall brand of pop and it’s not hard to see why they found it difficult to find a niche market. Long Necked Lady is another jaunty, mid-tempo tune in basic 4/4 with synth bass, fiddle (superbly played) and bango. Public Romance creates an air of nostalgia with its boogie woogie piano, jocular lyrics and energetic Manhattan Transfer style harmonies. Not really my cup of tea it has to be said despite the faintly proggy Moog solo (on loan to Chatton courtesy of Keith Emerson).
The upbeat Cumberland Country may have a UK setting but the sound is decidedly mid America with its funky electric piano sound and smooth slide guitar. Jackson and Chatton supply the joint lead vocals but the best part is Giles’ crisp drumming. The mellow It's A Shame is too laidback by far undermining the otherwise biting lyrics about broken relationships although it includes a fine mid-section with widescreen Mellotron and piano. The concluding Whatever Happened To The Conversation could easily be aimed at today’s text message obsessed generation. Sadly the song is not as inspired as the title despite the lively, good time feel and Jerry Lee Lewis style rock and roll piano.
Despite the alluring album artwork (which drew more attention than the music contained inside) Bump ‘N’ Grind was another commercial failure for Jackson Heights and although they were making money from rigorous touring they parted company in 1973. It was around the same time that Jackson met keyboard ace Patrick Moraz which would lead to the formation of Refugee along with former The Nice drummer Brian Davison. For more on that story read my review here. McBurnie and Chatton on the other hand would become successful session musicians with McBurnie coincidently performing on Moraz’s excellent 1976 Story Of I debut solo album and the 1977 follow up Out Of The Sun.
The Fifth Avenue Bus: 6.5 out of 10
Ragamuffins Fool: 6.5 out of 10
Bump ‘N’ Grind: 6 out of 10
Sweet Okay Supersister - Spiral Staircase
Tracklist: Retroschizive [Introduction Schizo] (2:21), Jellybean Hop (1:35), Dangling Dingdongs (6:52), Sylvers Song [Groan, Stamp, Shock, Hoot] (3:08), Cookies, Teacups, Buttercups (3:10), Gi, Ga, Go [Golumble Jafers] (4:00), It Had To Be (3:45), Nosy Parkers (4:25), We Steel So Frange [Epilogue] (3:00) Bounus Tracks: Coconut Woman (3:22), Here Comes The Doctor (3:54)
Supersister is a progressive rock band from the Netherlands that was active in the early Seventies and a few short years they released four studio albums. In 1973 Robert Jan Stips and bass player Ron van Eck wanted to take a different direction, a more jazzy improvised sound and after some changes in the line-up the band recorded Iskander. This change from their rock sound received a mixed reception and when concert attendances started to diminish they called it a day. In 1974 Robert Jan Stips and co-founding member Sacha van Geest joined forces again and started a side project which also featured Ron van Eck along with Elton Dean (former Soft Machine). Spiral Staircase is the only album to come from this project now re-named to Sweet Okay Supersister.
The opening track Retroschizive [Introduction Schizo] is a reworking of the song Spiral Staircase which was the B-side of the first Supersister single She Was Naked. Immediately is shown the talent of Robert Jan Stips as a brilliant musician on anything with keys on it. He has a unique way of creating melodies on keyboards and pianos. A voice reciting some sort of poem reminds of Jabberwocky from the Nolan and Wakeman project after which starts the psychedelic music, strange melodies with high vocals and a seamless transition to Jellybean Hop. This small piece of music is very psychedelic and sounds like Gong.
Dangling Dingdongs is just as strange. It starts with a single note hammered on the bass guitar, which after a minute or so (with noises) the bass starts a melody. The bass is played in a way that you can hear the fret rattle against the neck of the guitar - and it stays this way throughout the majority of the song. A very jazzy track with many outbursts, whilst in the last minute of the piece are some soundeffects of someone walking and people talking, not really sure why they put this on an album. Sylvers Song [Groan, Stamp, Shock, Hoot] is again very psychedelic and Gong comes to mind again. Starting with very strange noises, it is only about half way through that the song suddenly fires up and becomes a very funky.
Cookies, Teacups, Buttercups features bagpipes however I cannot make heads nor tails on this song. Gi, Ga, Go [Golumble Jafers] features some Latin beats and has a Caribbean feeling to it. The end of the track shows that the band has an effect box (pitch shifter) which makes you sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks. Once again a completely unnecessary piece with sound effects. It Had To Be is the first time I feel like I am listening to a song instead of some psychedelic acid trip. A very dreamy mellow song, but still not really to my liking. Noisy Sparks elaborates on the theme of It Had To Be then suddenly explodes into a freaky jazz song. We Steel So Frange is a very mellow ending to the original album, albeit with lots of strange noises and tunes.
The last two songs, Coconut Woman and Here Comes The Doctor, are both a collaboration with the Los Allegres Steel Band. Caribbean music even more than in the song Gi, Ga, Go [Golumble Jafers], not my kind of music.
I know Robert Jan Stips from his band The Nits, his albums with Freek De Jonge and I also saw him several times as a guest musician, so I was very interested in hearing where his musical roots came from. Though I can hear on this album he is very talented and I can hear his unique style of playing, the album Spiral Staircase to me is a disappointment. The music is very psychedelic and very incoherent, maybe in the Seventies it was fun, but now it is very outdated. The sound effects on this album were probably new at that time but now it sounds very out of place. The original album was only thirty three minutes and most of that is psychedelic gibberish to me. The two bonus tracks on the re-release are Caribbean, Latin music and again I really do not like. Maybe fans of Gong can find some bit of interest but I sure cannot.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
The Amazing – The Amazing
Tracklist: The Kirwan Song (6:39), Dragon (3:14), Beach House (5:50), Code II (7:05), Deportation Day (5:31), Is It Likely (5:10), Romanian (7:04), Dead (4:53), Had To Keep Walking (11:01), The Strangest Thing (3:06)
The Amazing are a Swedish four piece outfit purveying their own brand of psychedelic folk-rock and pop that is at once both derivative and inventive and this is their debut full-length CD. Combining vintage analogue keyboard sounds and luminous, chiming guitars to provide intimate and sensitive settings for their songs, The Amazing consists of Reine Fiske (guitars, vocals and bass), Christopher Gunrup (ex-Granada – guitars and vocals), Fredrik Swahn (bass), Johan Holmegard (drums) and Magnus Vikstrom (organ/keys). Fiske and Holmegard also form the core of equally psyche Swedish hipsters, Dungen whom AMG describe as “a blend of '60s-styled psychedelic rock, free jazz, Swedish folk, and instrumental ambience”
Much the same can be said of The Amazing who, on initial impressions, draw heavily on the tonal and sonic template of the mid to late Sixties as musical styles shifted from the beat-pop combo to psychedelia. You can take a whole host of bands as a reference point, particularly The Byrds or The Beatles when they started to grow beards circa 1967 and The Magical Mystery Tour, but the clearest touchstone for me is The Association with that dreamy, sun-drenched Californian sound that we associate with The Beach Boys, Harpers Bizarre or The Mamas And The Papas. However, The Amazing are Swedish and sunshine and surf can be a little hard to come by so instead we are treated to the kind of calm, resolute desolation that might arise from thirty days of night. Whilst they borrow the close harmonic vocal structures of their Californian forbears there is a darker strand of aching and fragile sensitivity in their more explicitly glum compositions.
Nor do their borrowings end in the ‘60s. Indeed, once I started to consider the finer details of each track, there are much closer affinities with members of the British traditional rock and folk scenes of the early Seventies. In particular, The Amazing obviously have a penchant for post-Peter Green, early Fleetwood Mac, their sound is so reminiscent in places. Nothing could be more evident than in the album’s opener, The Kirwan Song which actually uses the theme from the Danny Kirwan-penned Sunny Side Of Heaven (from Bare Trees, 1972) in a sort of tribute or homage to the man. It’s a delicate and graceful reworking and, as such, it sets the tone for the whole album.
The production throughout is ringing with reverb and other treatments that lend it an astral aspect, an otherworldliness that can be heard on tracks like Code II, the liveliest piece on offer here. It recalls elements of The Soft Machine, The Flaming Lips and even The Doors with its drifting and swirling backdrop of Farfisa organs that appear to great effect throughout the album alongside some equally effective mellotrons to pad out the sound and contribute to the strong sense of atmosphere that is created in each song. These atmospherics are largely organic sounding, by which I mean there is a peculiarly outdoors, natural feel to each piece whether that be the comfort and magic of campfires, the wonder of open spaces and broad, starry skies or the claustrophobia of dense woodland, all of which are conjured here. Whilst the variety of atmospheres is noteworthy and crucial to the overall feel of the album, the production can sound bloated as each instrument battles through the veil of reverb to find a place on the soundstage. This is especially negative in appreciating the vocals which at times are so heavily effected that the lyrics are almost entirely indecipherable.
Dragon and Beach House are two of my favourite pieces from the album. They both use a stripped-down acoustic setting with just voices and guitar reminiscent of Nick Drake, allowing the songs to breathe more clearly and speak for themselves musically, ably demonstrating the ‘less is more’ principle. They are misty and moody, folky songs that share the fingerpicked translucency of say, Who Knows Where The Time Goes by Fairport Convention. These vintage sensitivities can also be heard on the similarly intimate Is It Likely with its lovely melody recalling Head And Heart by John Martyn, as well as Albatross by the aforesaid Fleetwood Mac, just as the album closer The Strangest Things could also be paired with something like Martyn’s Spencer The Rover.
The more interstellar moments can be heard in Had To Keep Walking which trips and stumbles through sun-dappled woods until a clearing emerges where Syd Barrett and Mike Oldfield interchange layer upon layer of ethereal guitar patterns. This develops into a quite beautiful and dreamy passage before the song reprises its opening and meanders off back into the woods with Fleetwood Mac again leading the way. Excellent and inventive guitar work here. Contrastingly, but equally spacey, is the preceding Dead which uses heavily treated guitars to create a hazy wash of hypnotic, jangling fuzz through which Fiske laments a spectral, almost transparent vocal melody
So, I suppose you’re now looking through this list of luminaries I have used to reference this album and thinking, “Sounds cool” and that’s just it, The Amazing is deliberately and self-consciously cool. Glacially cool. So cool that you can’t Google their name with any ease. There is an inherent obfuscation here that I dislike. It’s the sort of cool that plays this album to your new girlfriend just to show you have a sensitive side and you’re not a self-serving brute, as you try to hide your Cannibal Corpse collection. Similarly, if you’re in that 21-30 year old male demographic of GQ or Esquire or Mojo reading ‘afficionados of the new underground’, then it’s an album to get excited about because no one else will have a copy. There’s enough minimalist gorgeousness in its design to adorn the spaces of the smartest apartment and enough cosmic grit to darken the walls of an indie-kid’s bedroom. Really though, it’s an album for snoozing to on a hazy summer afternoon in the park – alone. Or, for playing to your uber-sophisticated, uber-happy friends who own smart, minimalist apartments during a dinner party, just to bring the atmosphere down and stop them grinning so smugly. It’s an album contemplating its own navel; an album to get depressed to. If it were a dessert it would be an ice-cold lime and passion fruit sorbet served in a nest of gossamer sugar strands garnished with tiny flecks of fly agaric. Myself, I’m not entirely averse to such pretentious sweetmeats, but after a while, it’s like being force-fed giant marshmallows by a bastard in a glittery top hat while pretty girls in kaftans smile fixedly from behind a bubble machine which fills the room with oily rainbows of mind-emptying-spheres-of-death and, like Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner I want to escape from this nightmare vision, but I can’t because I’m inside an enormous latex balloon.
To sum up then, in the broader context of music releases for discerning ears, I would award this album a solid 7 out of 10, the songwriting is good and the execution is entrancing, but for our readership I find little here to warrant much further investigation, unless you are one of those ‘modern’ people I keep reading about who are ‘eclectic’ in their musical preferences. Personally, I am clannish and stubbornly blinkered.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
1870 - Mitos De Una Resurrección
Tracklist: Puerta Abierta (4:07), Canto Primero [Quiera El Cielo...] (5:48), Mitos De Una Resurrección (12:48), El Ceremonial (12:00), Canto Segundo [Allí, En El Bosquecillo...] (9:25), Una Vendetta (10:05)
The albums reviews on this site devote a significant effort into trying to identify the genre of progressive rock that a particular album belongs to. Despite this not being an easy task, it is right that this is done, because this allows readers the opportunity to decide quickly whether they are likely to enjoy that band’s music. In the instance of 1870’s Mitos De Una Resurrección, it is not just the genre identification which is difficult but indeed the decision as to whether this is “progressive rock” at all. Regular readers will know that I have a broad view of what constitutes “progressive rock”, but I have to say that even I struggled with Mitos De Una Resurrección, which is 1870’s first album. It’s not that it isn’t progressive - it’s certainly that – but it’s not really rock. However, the problem is that under the genre of “RIO/avant-prog” it seems that virtually anything goes, and because the music might appeal to some readers, I thought I would write a short review and at least give people the chance to follow the links to the samples to hear for themselves if they are interested.
1870’s only real claim to be considered under the RIO/avant-prog banner, other than for their music to be classified as nu-classical or avant-garde jazz, is Hugo Luque’s use of “electronics”: whether this includes conventional synthesizers isn’t entirely clear, but it is Luque’s sound experimentation forays that dominate the latter two-thirds of the album. Elsewhere, there are no other conventional “rock” instruments; there are no drums, although there is percussion, and the remaining three members of the band play French horn (Gustavo Albarrán); oboe, English horn and an early, but still widely used, electronic instrument from the Moog factories, the Theremin (Karel Gómez); and processed French horn (Alfonso Cosme). I suppose that this “chamber music” feel, prevalent in the first third of the album, takes them all the way back to Henry Cow, although I’ll admit to being a novice where their music is concerned.
Also, there are vocalisations, distorted speaking and speaking but no actual singing. As you’d expect from something categorised as RIO/avant-prog, there is little if any discernable melody or conventional rhythm; indeed, some might argue that there is little, if any, music.
Nevertheless, the album is not totally without interest. The oboe and the horns in particular have some interesting passages during the early part of the album and some of the production yields some interesting effects – especially that one of oscillating the amplitude between the left and right audio channels, which makes it feel as though one’s ears are being boxed!
If you’re at all interested, have a listen to the samples.
Conclusion: 4 out of 10