Reviews in this issue:
- Emerson, Lake & Powell – The Sprocket Sessions
- Greg Lake - From The Underground Vol. I
- Greg Lake - From The Underground Vol. II
- Aphrodite’s Child - End Of The World
- Aphrodite’s Child - It’s Five O’Clock
- Brainticket - Psychonaut
- Brainticket - Celestial Ocean
- Flash – In The Can
Emerson, Lake & Powell – The Sprocket Sessions
Tracklist: The Score (9:21), Learning To Fly (3:58), The Miracle (6:44), Knife Edge (5:38), Tarkus (10:18), Pictures At An Exhibition (5:34), Lucky Man [Excerpt] (0:47), Still You Turn Me On (3:09), Love Blind (3:15), Mars Bringer Of War (12:03), Touch And Go (3:35), Pirates (13:25)
Whilst many bands like Yes and Uriah Heep underwent several line-up changes during the 70’s and 80’s, Emerson, Lake and Palmer appeared to be an inseparable unit whose very existence depended upon the participation of the three original members. It came as something of shock then when Keith Emerson and Greg Lake decided to re-launch the band in 1985 they did so without their legendary drummer. The problem was that Carl Palmer was fully committed to Asia at the time so a replacement was unavoidable. When it was announced that ex. Rainbow and Whitesnake drummer Cozy Powell was to be that replacement fans were less than emphatic. Sceptics were also quick to point out that his surname conveniently matched the bands initials although to be fair in their short existence Emerson, Lake & Powell never promoted themselves as ‘ELP’. And whilst Powell might not have been the most technical drummer around, his powerful technique fitted comfortably into the bands bombastic style as he demonstrated on their 1986 self titled studio album.
Before reviewing this particular release I should put the studio album into some form of context. Firstly it would be unfair to compare it with the ELP albums of 70’s as they, like so many of the so called classic prog bands, were past their creative prime by the mid 80’s. It was left to the neo-prog acts of the time to produce progressive rock of any real substance. The Emerson, Lake & Powell album however was better than most and definitely superior to the dire To The Power Of Three that appeared two years later (courtesy of Emerson, Robert Berry and Palmer). It also compared favourably with 1992’s excellent Black Moon (the first Emerson, Lake & Palmer album proper in 14 years) and was much better than 1994’s mediocre In The Hot Seat. As I recall however the album was not particularly well marketed and it was only during a trip to New York that I first came across it in a record store (Tower Records on Broadway to be precise).
The inevitable tour followed, preceded by rehearsals at Sprocket Studios, London in the summer of 1986. Recordings from those sessions have long been the source of countless bootlegs before receiving an official release in 2003. This latest reissue has been re-mastered and given the origins of the source tapes the sonic clarity is quite remarkable. The material itself is evidence that they had a new album to promote and this they did with no less six tracks from the Emerson, Lake & Powell album. In fact the first three songs in the set are identical to the opening tracks from the album. As you would expect given the pedigree of the musicians involved the performances are singularly excellent with Powell performing with noticeably more fire than on the studio versions. He and Lake power The Score with unified and rapid fire dexterity whilst the melody is resplendent with a heraldic trumpet theme courtesy of Emerson’s synths. Easily the best track on the then new album, it makes a fitting opener to the set complete with a reference to Fanfare For The Common Man at the beginning.
Learning To Fly and The Miracle also work well in the ‘live’ context followed by a moody Knife Edge, the first of two songs from the 1970 debut Emerson, Lake & Palmer album. Possibly conscious that an 80’s audience might be less receptive towards the band’s longer pieces, both Tarkus and Pictures At An Exhibition are severely truncated with Lakes’ stately Battlefield conspicuously absent from the former. The majesty still shines through however mostly thanks to Emerson’s stunning organ and synth interplay particularly during Tarkus. Even the anthemic Lucky Man gets the abridged treatment before another Lake classic Still You Turn Me On sees the bassist in typically fine vocal form although without the splendid wah-wah guitar effect of the original.
Love Blind, another song from the ELPowell album, is a tad too radio orientated for my tastes whilst the recognisable strains of Mars Bringer Of War is the albums token classical cover. Unusually its Emo’s shrill keys sound that lets the side down here lacking the menace of Gustav Holst’s original despite the suitably ominous rhythm from Lake and Powell. The latter also provides the obligatory drum solo which is nothing else should have been enough to convince dissenters that he was more than a pale imitation of Palmer. Touch And Go is a neat combination of 80’s commercial sensibilities and classic 70’s prog and again flawlessly performed.
Rounding the set off in cinematic style is Pirates, for me one of ELP’s most underrated epics and thankfully performed here in its entirety. Despite the absence of the orchestra the trio easily replicate the grandeur of the studio version with a virtuoso performance from Emerson with Lake clearly relishing every word of Sinfield’s evocative narrative. Quite where his obtrusive cries at the beginning of the piece came from is anyone’s guess however.
With numerous compilation discs and live recordings to their credit you have to ask does the world really need another ELP related ‘official’ bootleg. In this case the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Whatever your opinion of the ELPowell incarnation the triumphant versions of The Score, Tarkus and Pirates especially are well up the band’s usual high standards making this an absolute must for fans, and Emerson devotees in particular. Even if you were not a fan of the 1986 studio album you will find there’s much to enjoy here where only Lakes’ occasional vocal prompts reveal its rehearsal origins. It’s also good to hear Emo in full flight during an era when eighties synth hot shots like Ultravox, The Human League and Howard Jones were already past their sell by date.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Greg Lake - From The Underground Vol. I
Tracklist: Touch and Go (3:17), A Man, A City (10:59), Don’t Go Away Little Girl (3:05), Medley: Still You Turn Me On - Watching Over You (4:12), Daddy (4:51), Retribution Drive (4:53), Heat Of The Moment (6:24), The Score (9:06), Love (3:06), Affairs Of The Heart (3:48), Learning To Fly (3:48), Lucky Man (2:46), 21st Century Schizoid Man (9:47)
Greg Lake - From The Underground Vol. II
Tracklist: Black Moon (6:22), Check It Out (4:40), Love Under Fire (4:58), Cold Side Of A Woman (4:40), Step Aside (3:31), Preacher Blues (3:19), Hold Me (4:08), Heart On Ice (3:46), Blue Light (4:04), You’re Good With Your Love (2:58), You Really Got A Hold On Me (4:48), Epitaph (4:18), Fanfare For The Common Man (6:13)
Vol I: In this recent unearthing of Greg Lake oriented rarities we find ourselves amidst a treasure trove of material from Lake’s amazing musical past. While not every track is the zinger you would like it to be, there is enough here to satisfy those diehard fans who are after something exceptional. There are only a few tracks here that will be meaningful, but those tracks are the reason that this compilation seems so important.
For starters there are two King Crimson tracks here that are worth the price of the whole album. The live recording of A Man, A City from King Crimson’s 1969 performance at the Fillmore West was lifted directly from the soundboard and gives archival credence to the power of the fledgling Kings ability to build their own personal space. Although Greg is not a prominent feature on this track, the fills from McDonald are enough to send a true Crimsonite into spasms of joy. Then there is the concluding track 21st Century Schizoid Man as presented by Greg Lake & Band - and this is no ordinary backup band as it features the talents of Ted McKenna (Alex Harvey Band), and none other than the powerhouse Gary Moore on guitar. The band gets behind the song and constructs a faithful rendition full of authority that honours the original.
On the ELP side of things there is also a lot to offer. Most importantly is the inclusion of The Score from the live Emerson, Lake & Powell. Perhaps many fans of ELP did not appreciate this band, but this track is testament to the powerful presence of each member; Greg’s rumbling bass engine, driven by Cozy Powell’s intricate drum architecture, and heading up the march, the pied piper of prog Keith Emerson builds a Coplandesque cadence to set the whole piece into a jaunty progressive journey through a wooded castle walk. Also present here is a much slower version of this bands Touch And Go done by a newly reformed Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Sadly it feels that Palmer is out of touch with this song as he barely puts any passion into the pounding, but as this track has always been a favourite, this is forgivable. Not as forgivable is the inclusion of Learning To Fly - never a great vehicle for the band, it seems to sit motionless in the sea of energy that has exuded from some previous tracks. In the old days we would have called this filler. Nevertheless, a couple of intimate acoustic settings for ELP are here also, offering an example of Greg Lake at his fevered best, delivering Affairs Of The Heart and Lucky Man (the latter does not have the wonderful Moog ending from Emerson but nevertheless speaks to something enduring about this would be folk song for popular times).
Two ultra rarities also appear in this mix both of which have been lovingly yanked from old 45 rpm singles and thrown into the mix. These pieces indicate Greg Lake’s early roots. The amazing Don’t Go Away Little Girl originally by Janis Ian, echoes Lake’s own emotional stance towards the plight of abused little girls (which shows up again in the not so amazing Daddy presented by Greg Lake & Band later in the album). The second of these rarities, is Love by Shy Limbs. In this case a not so original mix of psychedelic pop that seems to pay homage to a watered down sugar coated, bubble gum head trip.
This brings us to the least necessary track on this compilation; the Greg Lake fronted Asia belting out a less than stellar Heat Of The Moment. Although Greg may mirror some of the vocal tone of original Asia vocalist John Wetton, he does not seem to have the verve necessary to make this song personal. Add to this that the band seems depressed and you have what I would deem to be the most useless track in the set.
Overall, the album delivers an earful of rarities and evidences the care with which Greg has culled through a depth of material in such a small package. This is in many senses a collectors dream, but it is not a good starting point for learning about Greg Lake. Instead it is a testament to a musical heritage, and one of prog’s unsung heroes the inimitable Greg Lake, bassist, guitarist, vocalist, and showman. It’s all here for fans to discover and for that we owe Greg a round of applause.
Vol II: With regards to the second CD, we are not as lucky. While there are certainly some rare gems presented here very few hold much interest for those interested in the progressive side of Greg Lake. Instead the primary features on this CD come from a section of Lake’s musical world that could best be described as schlock rock. The 80s were not a good time for many talented musicians. The eventual presence of drum machines and keyboard sequencers, while originally seeming to open up new possibilities resulted instead in the kind of plastic music that the average prog fan goes running from. Despite some amazing lyrical prowess on the part of Lake, the musical arrangements fall flat. Both Blue Light and Check It Out, penned by Lake and Buggles man Geoff Downes remind the listener of the stylized Glenn Frey/Axel Foley night driving in the city. Also included are the pseudo country track Hold Me, Greg’s take on Smokey Robinson’s You Really Got a Hold On Me, and some other rare Toto & Greg Lake combinations that were previously unavailable and should have remained so. While lyrically amazing, these tracks drip too much syrup for someone seeking the complexity of art rock. Still for those looking for the proggy goodness there is an amazing live performance of Black Moon, The Powell version of ELP with Step Aside, the 69 live King Crimson with Epitaph, and the Gary Moore collaborated Greg Lake Band doing their take on Fanfare For The Common Man in which Gary blows the song into a new dimension redefining the Emersonian keyboard space into a masterful and original guitar sojourn. With these great additions it is sad to give the compilation such a low score. However, what is offered here is probably for deep collectors only. My recommendation is to buy the first disc, but leave the second disc behind and seek out other sources for the goods.
From The Underground Vol. I : 7 out of 10
From The Underground Vol. II : 5 out of 10
Aphrodite’s Child - End Of The World
Tracklist: End Of The World (3:17), Don’t Try To Catch A River (3:42), Mister Thomas (2:53), Rain And Tears (3:15), The Grass Is No Green (6:08), The Valley Of Sadness (3:16), You Always Stand In My Way (3:58), The Shepherd And The Moon (3:06), Day Of The Fool (6:02) Bonus Tracks: Plastic Nevermore (2:34), The Other People (3:08)
Here’s a band that most people will be aware of to some degree, but if they are not, I can assure you there two of the members of this band, you will definitely have heard of before. The band members are no other than Vangelis Papathanassiou (keyboards, percussions, vibes, flute and vocals), Demis Roussos (vocals, bass, guitar and bouzouki) and Lucas Sideras (drums, percussions, guitar and vocals).
Aphrodite’s Child were formed in 1967 and after having only recorded three albums, End Of The World, It’s Five O’clock and the multi million selling 666 my personal favourite, they sadly folded. 666 wasn’t released until after the band ceased to exist as a functioning unit, being an album of religious music per se, based loosely on The Apocalypse of St. John in the New Testament, dark stuff indeed. Once the band split all three members carried on recording and performing to some degree, with some of the members fairing slightly better than others. Aphrodite’s Child played their blend of psychedelic prog rock, featuring a somewhat unique approach and sound. Having been originally called Papathanassiou Set they acquired a record contract whilst being stranded in France, due to a nationwide transport strike, after having returned to France, having been refused entry into the UK due to visa issues. The band then decided to change their name to what they seemed as the more manageable name of Aphrodite’s Child. The rest as the say is history.
The approach of Aphrodite’s Child is somewhat unusual, but very distinctive, especially with Roussos’ vocal presentation, warbling, sometimes operatic and challenging, but never ever dull. They were certainly a very talented bunch of guys, who complemented each other well having a vision; history confirms this with the success of the individuals in future years after the sad demise of the band.
End Of The World took a more experimental approach to its song construction, sounding like a band that were still finding their feet, producing eerie, off kilter sounding psychedelic music. A good example of this being a song based on a Greek fable, The Shepherd And The Moon, with its mellotron soaked psychedelics, which leads in to the original proper album closer, Day Of The Fool which is polls apart to the previous track musically, being more bass heavy and darker in approach and quite scary at times. “She knows what’s up in my mind, she smells like a tree”, a pivotal line within the song, which really sums up where this piece, and to some degree the band is coming from. The song has a real air of innocence; the undercurrent is very sinister indeed, making for a very powerful and rather interesting song.
Don’t Try To Catch A River has a heady straight 60’s rock approach, with it catchy melody and harmony. Mr Thomas is very quirky with its baroque approach, musically sounding very English, but unfortunately the diction is not as convincing, but as a set piece it is very strong song. Rain And Tears was the smash hit ballad for the band, (a reworking of Pachelbel’s Canon in D major), which I guess generated a lot interest in the band, in the rest of the world, opening the market up for them. I’m sure that when one or two who went on to purchase the album, where somewhat surprised at what they heard. The Grass Is No Green, as with Day Of The Fool, moves in darker realms of the mind, with its meter twisting and turning, Roussos’ vocals warbling then becoming spoken word at times, giving it atmosphere. I would have loved to have been sat in on those sessions. The Valley Of Sadness is a beautiful moody piece highlighted by Roussos’ emotional vocals, where as You Always Stand In My Way has a rougher and ready approach vocally and musically, displaying that there was more than one dimension to the band.
Plastic Nevermore and The Other People are two bonus tracks that have been included in this package, being the songs that got the band a recording deal. Between them, they really sum up the total sound and vibe of the album, hippy, psychedelic and progressive.
Musically this is a very strong and well constructed album, featuring some absolutely fantastic musical interaction, being a great time capsule, a starting point for the origins of the musicians involved, being a world apart from where they are at now. It is very much an album of its time though; the quote below really sums the whole package up, word perfect;
“End of the World is rightly regarded as a classic of Psychedelic rock music, and is arguably one of the most unique albums of its genre, a successful fusion of Byzantine folk influences and lysergic experimentation. Let its music feed your mind.”
Yet again the good folks at Esoteric Recordings have done a sterling job bringing this album, (and others), to the masses, having been re-mastered, including bonus tracks. Keep up the good work as the world needs labels like yours.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Aphrodite’s Child - It’s Five O’Clock
Tracklist: It’s Five O’Clock (3:31), Wake Up (4:03), Take Your Time (2:38), Annabella (3:44), Let Me Love, Let Me Live (4:43), Funky Mary (4:11), Good Time So Far (2:44), Marie Jolie (4:39), Such A Funny Night (4:37) Bonus Tracks: I Want To Live (3:52), Magic Mirror (2:53), Lontano Dagli Occhi (3:44), Quando L’Amore Diventa Poesia (2:40), Summer, Spring, Winter And Fall (4:55), Air (4:17)
Vangelis Papathanassiou (keyboards, percussions, vibes, flute and vocals), Demis Roussos (vocals, bass, guitar and bouzouki) and Lucas Sideras (drums, percussions, guitar and vocals), took their short Aphrodite’s Child recording career to the next level with It’s Five O’Clock.
Aphrodite’s Child’s second album had the band building on their first album, spending in my eyes more time on the composition of the songs. Vocal presentation became as important as say, the way the drums, keyboards and guitars worked together, being more polished than on End Of The World, (whose production did suite and complemented the album, although bright at times). This was also probably due to there being more monies available, having built on their past experience / experimentations in the studio and success with the international hit Rain And Tears, having their record label wanting more hit singles. The band were still producing good psychedelic songs like Annabella, but also threw blues, jazz fusion and countrified songs into the mix too, which worked really well for them. This was their commercial mainstream album.
I relate to the three Aphrodite’s Child albums as thus; End Of The World, (the learning curve), being the experimental piece, It’s Five O’Clock, (fine tuning), the cohesive album for mass appeal and 666 (the masterwork), the showcase conceptual piece taking / using the best from their previous two albums, melding and producing a masterpiece. This may be a controversial statement, but I do seriously feel that this is the case. For me these three albums are a really good example of the natural progression of a band.
You can certainly feel that this time the band had sat up, listened and took on board what bands like The Moody Blues and Procol Harum were producing, creating their own unique version of it. There is not one weak track on the whole album.
Such was the confidence of the band they even recorded two songs in Italian, Lontano Dagli Occhi and Quando L’Amore Diventa Poesia which were written by two separate song writers being somewhat musically removed from the feel of the work at that point in time. Both were approached with confidence and style, with Quando L’Amore Diventa Poesia being the better of the two tracks, with its quirky sound structure.
Opening track It’s Five O’Clock is inspired by Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade Of Pale, being a psychedelic ballad, which demonstrated the heady heights the band had climbed too, and were able to achieve. Roussos showed the world what a vocalist was capable of, given the right material to work with. I don’t believe emotionally he ever surpassed this track vocally, (being one of my all time favourite songs). Wake Up is a more acoustically driven piece with a more reserved approach that builds with varying instrumentation being included along its journey sounding very much like a 60’s protest song. Take Your Time has a country feel with Sideras supplying the vocals, having Roussos supplying some very nice harmonica work, having a Bob Dylan feel to it. Let Me Love, Let Me Live is another song that Sideras supplied vocals for, being a psychedelic rock number, moving away from the smoother sounds that the band had supplied thus far on the album. Vangelis really excels with his organ work throughout, where he supplies a backward electric organ solo. This was the sound of a band having fun in the studio. Funky Mary as the title would suggest, is a jazz rock influenced piece, showing that the band were happy to diversify and play with varying styles. Good Time So Fine is another fantastic psychedelic pop number with vocals being shared, adding character. Listening to songs like this, you can appreciate that Aphrodite’s Child didn’t always take themselves seriously. Marie Jolie see Roussos taking vocal lead again delivering what he does best, with some really nice percussion work underpinning the song, having a somewhat Parisienne feel to it, courteously supplied by Vangelis. Such A Funny Night closes the album as it was originally recorded, another psychedelic pop number featuring the flute, recorder and bouzouki.
Esoteric Recordings have left no stone unturned here, as with their previous album, presenting not only the original nine tracks from the album re-mastered, with six bonus cuts, the singles that were released to promote the album, but an excellent booklet too.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Brainticket - Psychonaut
Tracklist: Radagacuca (7:27), One Morning (3:55), Watchin’ You (5:17), Like A Place In The Sun (6:31), Feel The Wind Blow (3:35), Coc’o Mary (6:11)
Esoteric Recordings continue to release classy recordings on their new REACTIVE imprint, which is dedicated to the reissue of classic German rock. For this we must thank them, as some of these items can and do become long lost classics, plus some well known locations charge / sell some of these items at times for copious amounts of money. Well worry no more my friends as here is one of THE essential long lost classic prog psych albums, Brainticket’ Psychonaut.
Psychonaut was their second album which was recorded in Milan in 1972, the band having been rebuilt after falling apart soon after the release of their first extreme psychedelic album Cottonwoodhill. Brainticket was very much a multi national band with members originating from Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and even America, having recorded several albums for the fairly well known German prog rock label Bellaphon.
The band consisted of Jane Free (lead vocals, tbilat, tambourine, slide whistle, sounds), Jöel Vandroogenbroeck (organ, piano, flute, sitar, sanze vocal, rumors, generator, arrangements), Rolf Hug (lead guitar, acoustic guitar, tablas, vocals), Martin Sacher (electric bass, flute), Barney Palm (drums, percussion, strange sounds), Carole Muriel (additional vocals tracks 4 and 5) and Peter (witch doctor on good vibes).
Radagacuca starts off the whole show with its spacey Hammond keyboard work and flute interaction. It’s not long before the percussions, sitar and acoustic guitar kick in and the song starts to build, taking its time before it rocks out with some fantastic Hammond work. The vocals harmonies are good featuring some very strange spacey lyrics.
One Morning opens to the sound of thunder being led by some very interesting piano work, which opens the way for some really nice vocal harmonies, rhythmic and metered like the percussion supplied throughout the track, mirroring each other, almost echoing the sound of rain fall.
Watchin’ You sees the vocal work being handled by Jane Free. The track is heavier and less experimental in approach than the previous two tracks, featuring some really nice electric guitar and bass work. The Hammond organ sound is never too far away, being used to great effect throughout. As the song ends it slows down with the sitar kicking in, giving the remaining music an Eastern feel.
Like A Place In The Sun keeps up the heavier approach, sounding somewhat like the Dutch prog band Earth And Fire, both musically and vocally, which includes spoken passages. Barney Palm’s drum work is outstanding on this track giving the whole song character. Vandroogenbroeck’ Hammond work takes lead with some really nice heavy bass being contributed by Sacher.
Feel The Wind Blow falls back into the hippy, trippy, folksy, psychedelic arena sounding vaguely like George Harrison, with its pleasant summery lyrical approach
Wandering on a summer’s day
Listening to the trees
Whispering chant they sway
Bowing to the breeze”.
Under the surface of what’s first presented, is some nice organ and flute work, which is not immediate, creating a really nice atmosphere, allowing the song to breathe.
Coc’o Mary is for me by far the most interesting and best track on the album. Its approach seems somewhat out of kilter with the rest of the album, sounding very much like Jethro Tull, especially with Vandroogenbroeck’ flute work, crossed with ELP, with stunning Carl Palmer style drumming and Keith Emerson styled phrasings. With this being an instrumental, the musicians are allowed to focus on what they do best. Had the album comprised of six tracks of this standard this would have been a massive hit, rather than the hidden gem that it is today.
Brainticket produced a good second album that has skirted slightly around the psychedelic edges that the band was born from. When the band really tested the water with a track like Coc’o Mary they were always going to be onto a winner, but unfortunately they didn’t capitalise on it. What I loved about Brainticket was the fact that they were not afraid to experiment and takes chances. There are no real weak tracks on the album per se, but the real stars for me on this album were Jöel Vandroogenbroeck stunning dexterity with the organ and Barney Palm’ stunning percussion and drum work, for that alone this album is worth the admission price.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Brainticket - Celestial Ocean
Tracklist: Egyptian Kings (5:51), Jardins (4:16), Rainbow (0:46), Era Of Technology (1:15), To Another Universe (6:20), The Space Between (7:59), Cosmic Wind (5:28), Visions (5:32)
Brainticket’ Celestial Ocean was their third album, which this time was recorded in Rome in 1973. The release of this album was a change in direction, with the band becoming more sonically experimental in their approach. The other main change being that the band became a trio consisting of Jöel Vandroogenbroeck (keyboards, guitar, synthesiser, flute, and vocals), Barney Palm (percussions, vocals, tabla) and Carole Muriel (vocals, zither, synthesiser, generators). Brainticket were certainly a band who liked to keep their listeners on their toes, never producing similar sounding albums until the 80’s. The line-up of the band would constantly change too.
The album was based on the Egyptian Book of the Dead pre empting Nik Turner’s Sphinx similar 1978 concept album Xitintoday. This time Brainticket used a far wider and more diverse range of instruments alongside electronics. Sounding very much like pieces of work being created by such influential acts as Faust, Can, Hawkwind or even early Tangerine Dream.
The vocal work presented on this album, is in the main spoken word, as Vandroogenbroeck et al were not the greatest singers, although saying that Vandroogenbroeck does sing, somewhat out of key on To Another Universe, which makes it sound more spacey and trippy. The group cleverly used different languages to get the same effect, (French, German and English), making it all sound far more intellectual than it really was. As with their previous album Psychonaut the real star of the show though is the strong use of instrumentation, great keyboard, zither, synthesiser, guitar and flute work with plenty of electronic space trippyness. The band wasn’t afraid to experiment to achieve the sound effects they require.
Egyptian Kings opens this conceptual piece featuring some rather interesting and creative musical interludes. The vocal work is overlapped through the piece, a concept that they utilised throughout the rest of the album. There is no doubt that Brainticket were very proficient with their instruments, not being afraid to take risks with experimenting. Jardins relies heavily on the zither and spoken word by Muriel, whilst the flute and acoustic guitar really creates the atmosphere. Rainbow is a very short movement which leads out of Jardins as the closing synthesiser tone, changing the whole tone of the rest of the album, segueing into the track Era Of Technology, which has a strong Hawkwind-esque feel, electronic noises with spoken word segueing straight into To Another Universe, which carries on in the same direction. This track features rhythmic drumming from Palm being underpinned by electronic interjections. These tracks reminded me slightly of the Space Ritual era of Hawkwind. The Space Between has an interesting approach having Palm supplying a very rhythmic passage, working in conjunction with Vandroogenbroeck’s synth passages. The complement of the instrumentation and vocal passages makes it a very strong track, being a particular favourite of mine. Cosmic Wind features the zither, synthesisers and flute, having a laid back and mellow approach. The album closer Vision re-visits the theme of The Space Between, being piano led throughout.
The great thing about Brainticket is that you never get the same product twice. They weren’t a band that was afraid to take chances, experimenting with differing sounds. This era of music for me is rather interesting as bands of this ilk as others genres, were all trying to create new soundstages, pushing boundaries, be arty, making no apologies for what they produced. This is a band I would have loved to have seen back in their day. Even in today’s music sphere, Brainticket are still influential.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
Flash – In The Can
Tracklist: Lifetime (10:10), Monday Morning Eyes (5:14), Black And White (12:07), Stop That Banging (2:01), There No More (10:37) Bonus Tracks: Watch Your Step (2:49), Lifetime [Single Version] (3:00)
Esoteric complete their series of Flash reissues from the early 70’s with the release of In The Can augmented with the inclusion of two bonus tracks. It was actually the band’s second album sandwiched between the proggy eclecticism of their 1972 self titled debut Flash and the more commercial aspirations of their final offering 1973’s Out Of Our Hands. Its position is quite fitting in that stylistically it has a foot in both camps mixing ten-minute plus songs with shorter tunes. By this point in their career the band was already enjoying moderate success in the USA, a tricky transition for any European band. Intense gigging was also adding to their already considerable playing skills as was evident on this second release.
Formed in 1971 by ex Yes guitarist Peter Banks and vocalist Colin Carter, the Flash line-up was completed by bassist Ray Bennett and drummer Mike Hough. Another former Yes man Tony Kaye had been the unofficial fifth member but only stayed long enough to add keyboards to the first album. Originally released in late 1972, In The Can followed fairly closely on the heels of its predecessor and the album title was clearly a clever play on the old saying ‘flash in the pan’. The display of female flesh on the cover continued the trend for risqué artwork which like the band’s name was designed to catch the attention of any casual record buyer browsing his local store.
Like Small Beginnings which kick started the first album (and the bands career), the mid-tempo opener Lifetime is a confident display of intent with Banks’ breezy guitar line complementing Carter’s sunny vocal melody. Also like Small Beginnings it includes several references to Banks’ former band, especially the Time And A Word album, his last with Yes. The bass riff could have been lifted from Sweet Dreams and likewise the drum pattern that separates each verse is straight out of Then. Ironically for his part Banks seems intent on proving that he is every bit as good as his replacement with a lengthy semi-improvised solo that echoes Steve Howe’s rampant display during Yes’ version of America released earlier that same year. He also throws in a snatch of Focus’ Hocus Pocus for good measure. Monday Morning Eyes continues in a similar but less memorable vein despite some engaging massed harmonies and busy Bill Bruford flavoured percussion flurries.
The 12 minute Black And White, co-written by Banks and Bennett features some stunning instrumental interplay particularly from the two composers but arrangement wise it often feels like they’re treading water wondering where to take the song next. That said it features tight knit harmonies courtesy of Carter and Bennett, Hough’s ambitious drum fills and some of Bank’s best guitar work ever. The throwaway Stop That Banging allows Hough a solo opportunity to show off his drum skills before Banks’ imposing fuzzed guitar launches Bennett’s There No More. It has a quirky stop-start structure that finds room for a tasteful bass solo and some splendid jazzy guitar licks. The mock grandeur of the vocal finale that brought the original album to (an abrupt) close sounds a tad too ponderous to really work in my opinion.
The two bonus tracks here were the respective A and B sides of a single that was released in early 1973 as a stop gap between this and the band’s third and final album. At less than 3 minutes, Watch Your Step is a departure for the band being a no-nonsense rocker with a riff more familiar to The Faces and an untypically raunchy vocal from Carter. It’s difficult to fathom who the target audience would have been given that it’s nowhere near as catchy as it should be. The edited version of Lifetime retains a good measure of Banks’ guitar display from the original and does at least give a broader taste of what the band was capable of.
Reflecting back on this album 38 years on, for me it now seems clear that Banks was finding it hard to leave his past behind. Whilst he indulges in a variety of different (and showy) guitar techniques, Carter, Bennett and Hough assume the roles of Anderson, Squire and Bruford, albeit with commendable accuracy. The only problem is Yes had moved on substantially and In The Can followed humbly in the wake of such classics as Fragile and Close To The Edge. Banks however was stuck in a time warp and living out a fantasy. This for him was how Time And A Word should have sounded if his guitar parts had not been replaced by strings and brass and he’d been given the kind of freedom that he was denied back in 1970.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10