REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
After... - No Attachments
Tracklist: All Left Behind (3:17), Enchanted (5:35), Summer Fuss (4:56), Carried By The Wind (5:59), Resurrection (5:13), My Straight Path (5:58), The Mention... (5:27), Good Things Are Worth Waiting For (3:33), Hope's Still Alive (4:53), Happiness (6:08)
Polish band After... return with their third studio album and first new material since 2008's Hideout album, although in the interim the
Live At Home release kept the momentum going. This release sees the band move labels to join the growing roster signed to Metal Mind Productions and also sees long-term recording engineer and producer Zbyszek Florek being assisted on production and mixing duties by The Pineapple Thief's Bruce Soord and Steve Kitch, respectively. One other change is that this is the first studio album without a keyboard player as Tomek Wiśniewski, who departed in 2010, has not been replaced. However, the remaining quintet - vocalist Krzysiek Drogowski, guitarists Czarek Bregier and Wojtek Tymiński, drummer Radek Wieçowski and bassist Mariusz Ziółkowski - are the same stable unit that have appeared on each of the band's other releases.
Previous reviewers of After...'s output have highlighted similarities with the music of Porcupine Tree, although it was never that overt a comparison that sprang to my mind when thinking of this Polish group. Happily, I don't think there will be many such comparisons made with No Attachments as the groups seems to have forged their own identity. Carefully blending harder progressive rock with plenty of melodies has given the group more of a unique sound, particularly on opener All Left Behind, which has a hint of the Faith No More about it, a comparison that also comes to mind with parts of Good Things Are Worth Waiting For, although this is more to do with a musical phrase or sound rather than a direct comparison. Drogowski is a fine vocalist, as can be heard on the more restrained Enchanted and the gorgeous closing ballad Happiness, although he has the ability and range to carry off the more aggressive numbers just as well as the softer phrases. With two of the main Pineapple Thief musicians involved in the production and mixing, it should come as no surprise that there are places in the album which sonically resemble the Thief, like on Summer Fuss. Again, this is not After... attempting to be the Polish equivalent to the Pineapples, but in the style of the production and emphasis given to different parts of the sonic spectrum.
Having two guitarists can often lead to overkill but After... manage to keep things in check and utilise the two six-string instruments to provide different effects such as on the initially rather plain Carried By The Wind but is saved by the instrumental section, and The Mention in which the two guitarist parts can be clearly identified, and glorified in. The track also emphasises the sterling work of drummer Wieçowski who impresses throughout. Resurrection reminds me slightly of No Man, at least in the initial vocal line, and My Straight Path is engaging although I would have liked there to have been more of a contrast between the languid atmosphere of the verses and chorus and the instrumental sections. The remaining track, Hope's Still Alive, holds promise of a more aggressive number with a less fluid approach and somewhat harsher vocals. However, it never really lets go, seemingly restrained by a nervousness or apprehension about deviating too much from the style of the bulk of the album.
No Attachments is certainly a very strong album, I'd go so far as saying the best of the studio albums. However, I do feel that we have yet to hear the best of After..., they have the potential to raise their game and produce a great modern progressive album. Hopefully they will achieve that with the next release and be mentioned in the same breath as other Polish bands at the forefront of the genre.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Iarla Ó Lionáird - Foxlight
Tracklist: The Heart Of The World (4:48), Daybreak (5:03), Fainne Geal An Lae (4:47), Glistening Fields (4:24), Eleanor Plunkett (4:26), Foxlight (4:26), The Goat Song (3:42), For The Heavens (4:52), Hand In Hand (4:05), Imeacht (4:44), Seven Suns (6:17), Stay (4:33)
Here at the DPRP it’s occasionally necessary to stray outside the boundaries of progressive rock to acknowledge an artist who doesn’t fit conveniently into any particular genre. That’s certainly the case with singer-songwriter Iarla Ó Lionáird who, as his name might suggest is of Irish decent, usually singing in his native Gaelic tongue. A member of the hugely successful Afro Celt Sound System (who, like Ó Lionáird also appear on Peter Gabriel's Real World label) this is his fourth solo album to date.
Not familiar with Ó Lionáird’s previous work, Foxlight came as something of a surprise with an absence of stereotypical Irish music trappings like whistles, uilleann pipes or the bodhran. That said the instrumentation is mostly acoustic although with subtly integrated electronic effects and loops. The arrangements are often sparse allowing Ó Lionáird’s lilting vocal tones to carry the songs. The music is mellow and sometimes ambient with Ó Lionáird and his many collaborators never once challenging your eardrums. Chief amongst those collaborators is guitarist Leo Abrahams who is responsible for the crystal clear production and much of the basic instrumentation as well as co-writing several of the songs. Ó Lionáird also performs several traditional tunes although it’s the original compositions that prove to be the more memorable.
Despite the pacing of the songs being very much on the tranquil side, Ó Lionáird and Abrahams succeed in infusing the album with a variety of moods and textures. Daybreak for example has a warmly romantic quality with beautiful vocal support from guest Sara Marielle Gaiup whilst Fainne Geal An Lae has a traditional folk vibe with pastoral violin and acoustic guitar backing. My personal favourites however are the achingly beautiful Glistening Fields with its rippling piano and haunting string backdrop and the dreamlike Hand In Hand. During the latter an infectious violin rhythm blossoms into a broader orchestral sweep with Ó Lionáird’s high register chorus adding a melodic pop/rock sensibility.
Elsewhere songs like the opening Heart Of The World and the wistful Eleanor Plunkett reveal a poetic tranquillity with Ó Lionáird’s easy on the ear delivery benefitting from the air and space surrounding his voice. Despite the electronic loops (or perhaps because of them) his songs have a very organic feel and he’s clearly a man who sings from the heart. Towards the end of the album his half spoken interpretation of traditional poems in Imeacht and the reflective Seven Suns go almost unaccompanied suggesting that out of respect for the material embellishments were necessary. The jaunty The Goat Song with its foot-tapping guitar rhythm provides a moment of respite around the halfway mark whilst the melancholic Stay concludes the album almost on a whisper.
Whether he’s singing in Gaelic or occasionally in English (as he does on Glistening Fields and the title track Foxlight) Lionáird’s warm and evocative voice is a smooth and calming experience, particularly his masterful control of the sustained note. Stylistically given the tone of the music, this album is more likely to appeal to the folk fraternity although the underlying melodic awareness can be appreciated by a wider, mainstream audience. Fans of Enya for instance may feel they’ve discovered a male equivalent although on a personal note I would have preferred a little more instrumental bite.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Firefly - Lightships
Tracklist: I Feel (4:31), O Thou (7:11), It’s Like (3:36), Lady Laurie (3:23), The Slaughter Of The Innocents (5:10), We Are Leaves (3:58), Arthur And The Great Element (5:17), Little Boat (6:43), Lightships (1:45)
An album of otherworldly minimalist music that could, if erringly, be described as "chamber-folk" is not necessarily "prog" you might say, and you'd be right, but it is certainly progressive in its own way, and it is the perfect companion to the lovely North Sea Radio Orchestra album I A Moon. Like NSRO, Firefly are London based so one assumes they are well aware of each other.
Singer Bea Hankey has a lilting voice flitting up down the register as she competes with piano and reverbed guitar on Arthur And The Great Element, one of the sea themed songs on the album, to create a joyous whole. It's Like has a Michael Nyman feel to it with its scale defying cyclical runs, and on the modern madrigal Lady Laurie, which is actually a tale of bicycle thievery, you’ll hear the Javanese gender (a form of bamboo xylophone used in gamelan orchestras) to full effect. Ethnic percussion dominates We Are Leaves, as the cello and violin enter a tussle, being blown about on the air currents. Bea's voice, fronting some quite avant music as it does will draw inevitable comparisons to Kate Bush, and there are similarities but I would say that Bea’s range is probably even greater than that of Ms Bush at her height.
Mostly originating from improv, the songs here are full of obscure harmonics and counterpoint and sundry jazz references. Sometimes using ancient song structure, the band compositions recall Gentle Giant, particularly on O Thou, in the way complicated themes reveal unexpected melodies and harmonies on repeated listens, not to say that this sounds the slightest bit like the original proggers, Gryphon probably being a closer if still wrong comparison musically. Exotic instruments such as the aforementioned Javanese gender along with ukulele, harmonica, and gongs of all sizes, cello, violin and percussion instruments (there is no drummer) back up lyrics that for some songs, and in a similar fashion to NSRO, are sourced from poems by the likes of Emily Dickenson and E E Cummings and others, while on others the lyrics are written by Bea. You should visit their MySpace site where all the lyrics are posted and you’ll find some intriguing stories.
If you dig North Sea Radio Orchestra and sparse avant-classical-jazz-folk, then this is definitely for you.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Torman Maxt – The Problem Of Pain: Part 2
Tracklist: Chapter Six: Job’s Third Response – Job’s Lament (10:05), Chapter Seven: Job’s Friends – Bildad (4:49), Zophar (2:47), Eliphaz (4:25), Chapter Eight: Job’s Fourth Response – Job’s Complaint (3:58), Job’s Plea (4:31), Chapter Nine: God Enters – God Speaks (5:51), Restoration (5:04)
Back in 2007, American Christian prog act Torman Maxt released The Problem Of Pain: Part 1, the first installment of a visionary, two-release reading of the Book of Job from the Old Testament. It came under our duo review microscope, garnering ratings of an 8 out of 10 and a more critical 6.5 out of 10.
That vision has been fulfilled with the release of The Problem Of Pain: Part 2 Book Of Job. The band’s fourth album, it actually came out in 2010 and regrettably sat as an “orphan” in our writer’s pipeline for quite some time before I ordered it for review. Better late than never, as it’s a pretty good CD.
Torman Maxt once again is made up of brothers Vincent Massaro on drums, Tony Massaro on guitar and vocals, and Dominic Massaro on bass and keyboards.
The style of music on the CD is classic arena style rock with many references pointing to Kansas, Boston, and, in a more progressive direction, Rush. Although not credited in the CD packaging, the music and lyrics are ostensibly by Torman Maxt. Concept-wise, there are four “chapters” on the CD, divided into eight tracks. The continuity between the songs helps the CDs concept glide along its nice, tight forty one and a half minutes, confidently overcoming a few abrupt starts and stops along the way. Overall the songs seem formula based, but they do not get boring. God Speaks, an instrumental and the first section of Chapter Nine: God Enters, features a haunting tubular bell element as if it were a bell rung by the ghost of a church caretaker, which gives way to a thrashy section with a galloping rollick evoking The Reverend Horton Heat. A heart beat programming style element signals the return of that forlorn bell.
Zophar, the second section of Chapter Seven: Job’s Friends, showcases some guitar from Tony that evokes Adventure-era Television and takes us briefly from a house of worship to CBGB.
Tony has an awesome singing voice, and the lyrics are good, too. One of my favourites is from Job’s Plea, the second section of Chapter Eight: Job’s Fourth Response - “if my sorrow could be weighed with all/ my misery – it would surely/ be more than the sands of all the seas”. The lyrics and well composed music are a message with, shall we say, testicular fortitude. There’s no timid church music here. Yet, there’s no pulpit or preaching; you could be an atheist and still dig this album. Particularly if you are into vintage, arena style rock and roll.
The CD’s production quality is as crystalline as the stained glass windows of a church, with Vincent’s well-executed drumming quite prominent. Dominic throws down icy ribbons of keyboard on Job’s Lament, the sole section of Chapter Six: Job’s Third Response.
Additional commonalities on the CD include Nine Inch Nails, Robert Fripp, and Adverse Camber-era The Reasoning.
The CD’s packaging is professionally done in a glossy gatefold/digipack with artwork, credits, and lyrics.
I can’t think of any room for improvement for their next release. However, if you like fusion, Kraut rock, symphonic, post-prog, RIO, Bulgarian spoken word, or anything not in the classic arena rock vein, then I can’t meet our recommended rating rubric and say this AOR stuff is “recommended to all” and thus have to take it half a point under that rating.
Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10
SimpleXity - Click To Start
|Country of Origin:||Egypt|
|Year of Release:||2011|
Tracklist: A Lone Wolf's Dying Will (5:55), Thin Air (4:46), A Complex Outcome: Diaries From Turah (4:56), A Complex Outcome: Tranquil Illusions (2:46), Luminosity (6:33)
Short EP, short review. Four young guys from Cairo. Five relatively short songs. A debut EP serves to showcase one’s potential so that’s the way I have listened to it. Closely. Although I really do not like the fuzzy description crossover prog, I do think that it is what this Egyptian band brings us. With some metal riffs and a sparse trace of local flavour to be found. Although the Click To Start EP was released in September 2011, the music and lyrics were written before the dramatic turn of events in their country.
Their talents are unzipped instantly in the first track A Lone Wolf's Dying Will. A mysterious start, guitars move in, blend into a calm melody escorted by the tender voice of Omar El-Deeb, transforming into a more raw sound alternating with the calm melody back and forth. Yes, they know how to write a good song and play it. If this basically simple structured song defines the path they are aiming at, we should stay interested in their musical future. Thin Air treats us with a gentle and somewhat jazzy instrumental start, meandering along without explicit characteristics. It’s just that that defines this track. Not strong but sympathetic. The two-part song A Complex Outcome confused me a bit at first. It is not very renewing or exciting, yet it has the power to want you to listen to it again. And again. It is the heaviest song they offer and I especially like Omar El-Deeb vocals on this one. The final track Luminosity is second best, a catchy song that comes close to the light-hearted approach and diversity of what The Pineapple Thief has to offer.
Any new material will have to wait because one of the band members unfortunately has to serve his army duties right now. The talents are there. Capable of making interesting crossover prog or neo prog with a touch of metal if you like. But with this singer and a bit more power and inventiveness they can make their way. In short I have a problem in liking this very sympathetic production against the way I somehow depict the lacking originality of the beautiful songs. The heart won.
Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10
ANDRÉ DE BOER
The Grand Astoria - Omnipresence
|Country of Origin:||Russia|
|Year of Release:||2011|
Tracklist: Doomsday Party (3:27), Hungry & Foolish (5:46), Mania Grandiosa (5:25), Omniabscence (4:03), Rat Race In Moscow (5:18), Something Wicked This Way Come (12:49), The Song Of Hope (5:40), Omnipresence (6:19), Stonewall (7:55)
Omnipresence is the third album by Russian stoner/post rock band The Grand Astoria and comes hot on the heels of their second album, II released in 2010. Unlike the band I've been a little slow off the mark and the review of this album is long overdue. So why has it taken all this time? Well quite simply there has not really been enough time to do a decent enough review because this is a pretty big album in terms of bulk. It’s nearly an hour long and the songs are decent in length. The shortest song is the the first track, Doomsday Party, which is a three minute piece, whereas the longest, Something Wicked This Way Comes, comes in at just under thirteen minutes. Doomsday Party is a rocking song, reminding me a lot of The Cult but yet different. Hungry & Foolish follows up along the same lines, maybe a little bluesier and bringing The Black Crowes in my mind, purely because of the way things seem to swing. Which in turn continues into track three Mania Grandioso.
Directly following this is the more psychedelic instrumental Omniabsence and again I am reminded of The Cult. In Rat Race In Moscow, The Grand Astoria continues their rocking ways with a bit more fuzz bringing them into the post punk area with lots of riffing and a heavy bass drum pattern to back this up. There’s some guitar soloing going on in it too.
Something Wicked This Way Comes is one long but cool song that adds a little classic rock element to their tried and true stoner riffs. The song has all the ingredients of a true epic. The setting and the playing give hints to Neil Young and his band, although this is not as raunchy as the music Young plays. It lets itself be listened to like a diesel engine or steamroller, then suddenly the song comes to a rude finish with chiming bells. Really it should have been the last song on the album but still fits in nicely where it is at.
The Song Of Hope is a funky song featuring mouth organ, giving it a twist and here I could picture Anthony Kiedes of the Chili Peppers singing and swinging it. Omnipresence as the title track is like its sister or brother the
Omniabscence - a psychedelic instrumental extravaganza. The last song on the album Stonewall gives the album the closing it needs - the steaming start blows the last bit of steam in the very last song - giving the credit to it title it hits on you like a brick wall.
With their third effort The Grand Astoria probably have made their mark. Even if this review was long overdue, I did enjoy listening to the music and writing my findings and putting them on paper. My favourite song by a mile has to be Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Uranian - La Ciudad De Los Sueños
|Country of Origin:||Argentina|
|Year of Release:||2011|
Tracklist: Amalgamas De Soledad (6:24), Alter Ego (5:51), Regreso Al Origen (5:47), Melancólico Recuerdo (6:22), Paradoja Ancestral (6:26), 0 Bytes (9:03), En Busca Del Bol (6:42), Transiciones (5:46), La Ciudad De Los Sueños (11:07), Un Tiempo Después (6:12)
Prior to hearing this album, I wouldn't have said that instrumental prog-metal is something I need in my life, and afterwards, not much has changed. However, that's not to say that La Ciudad De Los Sueños is a complete write-off; what the debut album by the Argentinian quartet lacks in excitement, it makes up for in character. To name names, Uranian are: Fabián Castilla (keyboards), Sebastian Accordino (drums), Matías Bouquez (bass), Federico Larrosa (guitars).
Argentina may not seem like a likely place for prog to be found, but in fact this country has quite a rich heritage of prog stretching right back to the seventies. The more knowledgeable readers may recognise names such as Spinetta Jade, Nexus, and my personal favourite, Bubu. Uranian's album shows influences of various prog-metal bands, including (unsurprisingly) Dream Theater. The instrumental aspect of this album is rather bizarre, as prog-metal is usually played with a singer. However, the absence of vocals here allows for a purer musical experience.
As you will notice from the tracklist, most of the songs are close to the six minute mark, with 0 Bytes and the title track lasting even longer. There are no 'breather' tracks on the record, making the album rather difficult to listen to as a whole. None of the tracks deviate too far from the band's symphonic metal format, giving the album a rather samey feel.
A handful of the tracks on this album are really quite fun to listen to. Opener Amalgamas De Soledad is one of these tracks, with an upbeat rhythm and a brilliant guitar solo. In fact, Larrosa appears to be quite the star of the album, adding melodic licks wherever he can. Paradoja Ancestral is also quite a good listen, with a fun main theme. A similar theme is repeated in En Busca Del Sol, though it took me a few listens to realise they were actually distinct themes. The title track La Ciudad De Los Sueños is epic enough to warrant its length, with a well-timed ending, but meanders a little too much in the middle to keep my interest.
In fact, I'd go as far as to say that each track meanders a little too much to keep my interest. Six minutes is really quite a long time for an instrumental, so it's natural that sometimes it will work, and sometimes it won't. Unfortunately, the band never keep it simple or try a simple improvisation; instead all the song structures are tight and the solos pre-meditated. Perhaps even worse for a prog-metal album, there's very few technical flourishes from the band members, and it sounds like they are all very 'comfortable' with what they are playing, rather than pushing their skills to their limits. The music is never too fast either. If the band pushed just a little harder, they could certainly create something formidable. As it is, they just sound like they are going through the motions.
With this album, it's a classic case of 'more is less'. It seems as if Uranian have tried to cram their entire setlist onto one disc, and at 70 minutes, it's quite a test of the listener's patience. Also, the band have generally made their songs so complex that they have become hard to follow, with the mindset that 'complex is good'. The next step for the band should be to try harder at both composing and playing, and create something that's truly impressive and memorable. Shorter songs and album lengths would be useful also (cf. YYZ on Moving Pictures). Nevertheless, there's something wholesome about this band, and I believe they show great potential.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
Tu (Trey Gunn & Pat Mastelotto) - Tu
Tracklist: Untamed Chicken (5:15), Absinthe & a Cracker (5:41), The Noose (7:22), XTCU2 (2:17), Make My Grave In The Shape Of A Heart (4:15), Terry’s Breath (6:04), Snap, Crackle, Moo (3:03), Hotel Fandango (6:15), Misery Die...Die...Die (4:59), Orlando In Bloom (2:26), Pony (1:46), Jamoohra (2:54), Dakota (3:12), Coda To Dakota (2:08) Plus: Terry Breath Video Montage, Pat's Studio Footage 1, Pat's Studio Footage 2, Pat's Studio Footage 3, Pat's Studio Footage 4
King Crimson aficionados will immediately recognise the two names as being the band’s rhythm section that played on the band’s more contemporary releases such as Thrak. They were also involved in many of the band’s other offshoot projects. Prior to that, Mastelotto was with US rockers Mr Mister and Gunn put his stamp on many of Robert Fripp’s numerous projects.
Following on from there, the duo formed Tu and this is a reissue of the debut album which originally came out in 2003 and that has been unavailable for some time. It is still the only body of work made by them although they have been busy playing with other musicians under the working title KTU.
With Gunn on guitars and stick, and Mastelotto on drums and percussion, the album kicks off with a synth chord sequence to herald in Untamed Chicken. Two minutes, forty seconds later, it all kicks off with the heady pounding and fuzzy guitars which will dominate this album, but for this particular opener, you get some chicken sounds added to the mix for good measure plus a sax sample from Brad Housefather.
Some deranged vocalisation from the offset gives Absinthe & a Cracker a slightly edgy feel on top of the drums and guitars after which they are joined by Herotaka Sunplaza Nakano on the frankly disturbing The Noose on which it sounds as though he is either having a bad drug trip or is being slowly strangled. It is difficult to tell.
XTCU2 has some cowbell effects intermingling with scuzzy guitar and that deep penetrating beat Mastelotto coaxes from his kit. Make my grave in the shape of a heart is another full-on head shredder with the characteristic drums and raking guitar interspersed with quick bursts of lyrics.
Coming closest to the soundscape for which KC was so renowned, Terry’s Breath builds and evolves into some recognisable, less uncomfortable sonic patterns, I even found myself tapping my toe along to this one! But again, it lurches off into some curious sound effects which might have seemed an excellent idea at the time, but this just sounds like art for art’s sake and morphs straight into Snap, Crackle, Moo in which there seems to be a pair of shears or scissors snipping away in the mix.
Hotel Fandango just carries on the weirdness with a series of offbeat, off kilter clangs and bangs leading into a heady trip of more of the same guitars and drums. A slight diversion on Misery Die...Die...Die - on which Branden Harper and Sherman Oaks are credited with drunken hand percussion but again it is another miasma of more of the same.
Orlando In Bloom is Mastelotto doing a lot of percussive noodling using a few special effects along the way while Pony, is just a percussive beat and guitar doing the same thing over and over again, mercifully for less than two minutes.
Jamoohra again only perpetuates the overall cacophonous effect so it is left to Dakota and Coda To Dakota to redeem it but at last, there is a diversion into less discordant territory with a spacy synth replacing all those jarring guitars and an almost eastern rhythm appearing.
This is probably one of the most unpleasant musical experiences this reviewer has ever had to endure and this is someone for whom KC’s Discipline is one the greatest progressive rock albums ever made. But whereas Discipline challenges and inspires, Tu simply irritates and annoys. Only the most devoted KC fans should think about adding this to the collection if they have not already got it.
Conclusion: 3 out of 10
Abandoned Stars - Opening Act [EP]
|Country of Origin:||UK|
|Year of Release:||2011|
Tracklist: Beyond Reason (5:52), Follow Your Heart (6:34), Sealing My Fate (5:48), Against The Tide (11:38)
Describing themselves as ‘a four-piece progressive rock band with hints of metal’ Abandoned Stars have been developing a bit of a profile with some heavy gigging around their home city of Edinburgh in Scotland. Opening Act is the band’s opening statement and is certainly a creative and diverse compositional quartet.
Formed by Edinburgh locals Tony Hodge (drums) and bassist Leen, there is a truly international flavour to The Stars with French singer Olivier Hadder and Italian guitarist Giuseppe Schiavone completing the line-up.
The band has already produced a video to support the opening track, Beyond Reason. A short, direct and catchy song, it mixes a Muse verse, a Karnivool bridge, a chorus from Tyketto and a guitar riff from Motley Crue. Very effective.
Follow Your Heart starts off in an 80s melodic hard rock territory (Strangeways, House Of Lords) before it veers in a heavier (metal) direction (Freedom Call). A technical, extended mid-section (mid-period Rush) is very effective with some more good guitar riffage from Schiavone. Sealing My Fate attempts a more intricate, progressive arrangement based around yet another effective guitar groove. Inspired by Oscar Wilde’s character Dorian Grey, the closing song is the most progressive offering and brings the album to a close with a dark, epic feel.
Claiming influences from the old school (Rush and Yes) to more modern, crossovers bands (Muse and Karnivool), I do like the band’s very modern take on the genre. There is far more of am 80s melodic hard rock influence here than I’d have ever guessed from the band’s own descriptions.
The instrumental arrangements have an edge of complexity, yet remain easily accessible. The guitar work is very impressive throughout, although some interplay with keyboards would add an extra element to the band's sound.
I don’t think the music on show here is complex or proggy enough to have a wide appeal to the average prog fan (rock or metal). However an adventurous mainstream rock audience could be a better hunting ground. I’m not sure the wide variation of musical styles best suits Hadder’s voice. He is fine on the softer and more modern and melodic sections. He suits the opening song very well. However his voice really struggles with the heavy metal stylings needed in Follow Your Heart. The vocal gymnastics needed to bring-off parts of the final two songs are just not there. The digitally altered vocal parts, especially on the opening and closing songs just make him sound like a high-on-drugs ghoul.
Overall I think the band needs to play to its strengths a little more - of which there are many - and not veer off into territories its crew is not suited for.
You can grab yourself a copy of the album (and a free badge) for little more than the cost of a pint and a packet of crisps from the band’s website and of course from their forthcoming gigs. I shall hold back on giving a formal rating until the band releases its planned full album later this year. One to watch though.
Atomic Rooster – The Lost Broadcasts
Tracklist: Save Me (4:29), Sleeping For Years (4:45), Vug (4:58), Tomorrow Night (5:17), I Can’t Take Any More (12:55), Black Snake 1 (7:13), Breakthrough 1 (6:48), Black Snake 2 (7:00), Breakthrough 2 (6:49), Breakthrough 3 (6:53)
Atomic Rooster as you all know was the band that Vincent Crane (and briefly Carl Palmer) formed after Vincent recovered from the mental breakdown that had led to the disintegration of The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown on a US tour, and their testosterone fuelled R&B-meets-prog was a staple of the early to mid 70s live circuit.
Everything here is culled from that great German underground rock TV show Beat Club, the first three songs on this DVD coming from sessions recorded in August 1970, and after much YouTubing I’ve confirmed that the drummer on these sessions is Ric Parnell, who was briefly in the band between about June 1970 (when Carl Palmer left) and August 1970 when Paul Hammond joined, presumably not long after this session. Ric Parnell himself confirms as much (see Samples link above) in the comments section to this video on YouTube. At least I hope it’s him and not some troll – oh the joys of the interweb! Whatever, the Du Cann version of the band with either Parnell (very briefly) or Hammond (mainly) on drums is what many regard as the classic line up. Vincent Crane punishing his Hammond as if his life depended on it, John Du Cann’s psychedelic guitar wigouts and strained vocals on top of Paul Hammond’s muscular skin bashing all coming together to create a very macho and beefy sound.
The first song, listed as Save Me is actually Friday The 13th from the self-titled first album, released some six months prior to this TV session, which a bit of basic research would have unearthed, but sadly this lack of attention to detail is often a feature of these budget releases. Du Cann’s guitar is much to the fore, especially on Sleeping For Years where he strangles some manic acid drenched caterwauls out of his trusty Telecaster (I think!) that has the most elaborately decorated scratch plate I’ve ever seen, featuring a scene from a Renaissance painting – I should know what it is, but I’m a bit of a dunce where painting is concerned. Following instrumental song Vug might have been what ELP would have sounded like if Keith Emerson had played in 60s R&B bands instead of studying classical music.
Next up are two songs from February 1971, including the hit single Tomorrow Night, a slow paced sludgy R&B number where Du Cann’s underrated individualistic vocal style takes centre stage. In this section Hammond is playing an enormous double bass drum kit as if they needed to fill the space where a fourth member might have been. I Can’t Take No More, another song from the fine Death Walks Behind You album, incorrectly listed on the cover as I Can’t Take Any More, suffers from some sound drop out, and it seems as if no effort has been made to restore any of the footage to a better quality, but then again this is a budget series, so it’s maybe understandable.
I Can’t Take No More at nigh on 13 minutes long best replicates the Rooster live sound, Du Cann extemporising with gusto, this time on a Stratocaster. Crane gets to trade licks with his oppo, showing his keyboard chops to good effect. They were more than a decent live act in their time, and this song gives you a good idea of what you would have witnessed. It is a shame the sound is a bit poor though.
Finally we get a session from February 1972, now with the much-travelled R&B belter Chris Farlowe on vocals, Steve Bolton on guitar (not mentioned in the liner notes) and a returning Ric Parnell (or “Rick” as the liner notes have it) on drums. This section features Black Snake twice (from In Hearing Of…) and Breakthrough three times, (from Made In England). The insert claims the multiple versions “featuring different camera angles and back projections” are included to “give the viewer a candid insight...” into the band. Methinks it smacks of barrel-scraping.
With Farlowe on board and without Du Cann’s psych influences the songs naturally take on more of a bluesy R&B stance than the earlier numbers, Black Snake being the kind of slow bluesy lament you could imagine David Coverdale belting out with Whitesnake, and Farlowe must surely have been an influence on the young proto-Percy.
Breakthrough 1 focuses almost entirely on Vincent’s very long spidery hands, a keyboard playing equivalent of Hendrix’s unfeasibly long talons. If you’re a keyboard player this version is probably a real treat, but the rest of us will hit the skip button. Version two is far better from a visual point of view, and version three is probably the broadcast version, with typical 70s backdrop visuals of close-ups of Vincent’s playing, basically combining the versions 1 and 2.
A must for fans of Atomic Rooster I’ve no doubt, but the rest of us could probably find all the best bits of this on YouTube. It’s a useful document if only to show the energy the band had when Du Cann was on board.
I seem to have spent far longer trawling the internet for correct information, either entered wrongly in the liner notes or omitted entirely, so marking this out of ten includes a point deducted for shoddy (read “no”) research.
Conclusion: 5 out of 10
Incredible String Band – The Lost Broadcasts
Tracklist: Irish Jigs (3:17), Empty Pocket Blues (4:15), Everything Is Fine Right Now (3:56), Interview (5:30)
Mmmmmmmm not entirely sure what to make of this release from from Gonzo Multimedia. So I'll let them do the introduction to The Lost Broadcasts series...
"The Lost Broadcasts are a series of DVD sets featuring performances that have rarely been seen since the original transmission on German television, in some cases more than forty years ago. Some of the artists featured within the series are legendary and these “Lost” performances will be a fine addition to any music fans collection. The series covers a number of styles and genres however all of the performances are of a high calibre."
The filmed footage here was recorded in 1970 and was in fact destined for broadcast on Germany's Beat Club television show, although as the liner notes tell us, only Everything Is Fine Right Now was actually transmitted.
I vaguely remember seeing The Incredible String Band in the early 70s at Middlesbrough Town Hall (UK). My recollections are somewhat dimmed with the passing of time but what I do remember was being thoroughly entertained by the band. I also vaguely recollect a larger ensemble than the quartet that appears here on this DVD and there was no female stage presence on stage. So I am assuming I caught the band circa 1972/73. So this particular The Lost Broadcasts DVD pre-dates my first encounter with the band and features founding members Robin Williamson and Clive Palmer along with Christina "Licorice" McKechnie and Rose Simpson.
Before moving on to the DVD perhaps a brief synopsis. Originating from the Edinburgh region of Scotland the band formed in 1966 and incorporated their folk roots with pop, the in fashion psychedelic vibe of the late sixties and healthy dose of Eastern influences. Much touring would eventually see ISB play at Woodstock in 1969. The band would go through several line-up changes until its first demise in 1974. During that period the band released twelve studio albums. Robin Williamson and Mike Heron would get back together in 1997, later joined by Clive Palmer and performed together until 2003. The band continued for another three years albeit without Williamson. If you are curious about the band then a comprehensive history can be found
Returning to my opening "not entirely sure what to make of this release" remark. With just over twelve minutes running time it could be classed as wee bit short for a DVD. Granted it encompasses all of the footage shot for the programme, but I really do feel that with such a wealth of material available from the band that this release could certainly have been beefed up more. Of the tracks featured Irish Jigs speaks for itself as in many ways does Empty Pocket Blues. Both appeared on the band's 1966 debut. Everything Is Fine Right Now is ramped up version with McKechnie on organ... Then there is the interview. Indicative of the era, it could have been interesting, but as it was recorded for German TV, the interview (in English) is overdubbed. Finally and as seems to be the way these days - all the material from this DVD can be found on YouTube...
It would be misleading of me to class The Incredible String Band as a progressive band however in many ways they have earned an affiliation with our genre. One for those with an inkling for the early Sixties eclectic folk psychedelia...
Conclusion: 4 out of 10
The Byrds – The Lost Broadcasts
Tracklist: Chestnut Mare 1, Chestnut Mare 2, Eight Miles High, Mr Tambourine Man, Black Mountain Rag 1, Black Mountain Rag 2, Black Mountain Rag 3, So You Want to Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star 1, So You Want to Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star 2
Having taken on the brief Incredible String Band DVD, I decided to move on to another in The Lost Broadcasts series and notably The Byrds. Again all the material here is taken from footage recorded for the German TV series The Beat Club.
Now I doubt there are many readers who have not heard of The Byrds in some shape or form and if for no other reason than their hit single Mr Tambourine Man released back in 1965. But just in case. The Byrds formed in early 1964
with Roger (Jim) McGuinn, Gene Clark and David Crosby. Later joined by Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke. The aforementioned Bob Dylan tune, Mr Tambourine Man, being their first hit single followed by All I Want To Do and a version of Pete Seeger's Turn! Turn! Turn!
- all released in the same year. Coupled with this the band released two albums in 1965, Mr Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn!. However by the time of the release of their third album, Fifth Dimension (1966), the original line-up had fractured. Again I will refer you to Wikipedia for a fuller and more accurate history and for the purposes of this review move swiftly on to 1971 and the two recording sessions that make up this DVD.
The line-up at this time was Roger McGuinn (guitar & vocals), Clarence White (guitar & vocals), Gene Parsons (drums, banjo & vocals) , Skip Battin (bass & vocals) and guest appearance by, the then tour manager, Jimmi Seiter (percussion).
Two versions of Chestnut Mare open the DVD, or should I say one version of Chestnut Mare but with slightly differing camera angles and psychedelic backdrops. Eight Miles High is a lengthy instrumental workout dominated, in the main, by the rhythm section and notably a lengthy bass solo from the late Skip Battin. Tempo shifts and improvisation are the key here. Mr Tambourine Man appears only once and is pretty much nailed in this acoustic version, with slight variations to the melody line. Three versions of Black Mountain Rag? Well not really. Taking into consideration that these sessions were fairly relaxed and recorded as they happened there is a slight amount of tongue in cheek tomfoolery going on. Gene Parsons steps from behind the kit to play banjo -
but once they get going it is as it says on the label... Last are the two variations on a theme that are So You Want to Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star.
There is certainly no doubting the influence The Byrds have had on popular music. And over the years I've noted many a reference to the band within the the DPRP reviews. Again I would not go as to suggest that The Byrds ever fell into the progressive
cauldron, but their influence can be heard time and time again.
As alluded to in the previous review, I'm not entirely sure as to the target audience for these DVDs. The Byrds completists?
Entertaining if not essential...
Conclusion: 4 out of 10