REVIEWS IN THIS ISSUE:
David Bedford – Star’s End
Tracklist: Star’s End Part One (23:50), Star’s End Part Two (22:57)
Primarily a classical composer, David Bedford, who sadly died last year, also played keyboards in Kevin Ayer’s The Whole World, a band that of course also featured an extremely young Mike Oldfield on bass and guitar. Commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to be released on the then nascent Virgin Records, Star’s End, originally to be called “The Heat Death Of The Universe” (wise move, that name change) is a “proper” classical work that just happens to feature rock instruments rather than being a rock band using an orchestra to play its tunes, as in Deep Purple’s Concerto For Rock Group And Orchestra. Released originally in 1974 it was probably a wise move getting Oldfield, who of course was the star of the moment to overdub the guitar and bass parts originally laid down by the less well known Steve Hillage, thus continuing Bedford’s association with the musical polymath, an association that would go on for many more years. The result of this switch means that Star’s End is most likely the only Bedford classical work that mainstream rock fans were aware of at the time, or indeed are aware of today.
To further muddy the waters, when it came to performing the work on stage, Oldfield had to pull out due to the recent passing of his mother and was replaced by… Steve Hillage! Contributing drums in both the studio and live versions is Henry Cow’s Chris Cutler.
The music was inspired by Bedford’s love of sci-fi and depicts the notion of nothingness and eternity, to borrow another album title, as a star dies and fades into the cosmos. Already having composed a number of avant-garde classical pieces, these influences are brought to bear throughout this recording illustrating the random and chaotic nature of entropy. The cacophony that heralds part one is indicative of that avant garde style, and fans of Bartók, Stravinsky and their ilk will love this. The music is dense and layered and is mostly lacking in straightforward melody, instead using rising and falling waves of dissonance to envisage the chaotic swirling maelstrom of a dying star. Oldfield’s guitar slices through the rumblings and clangourous sonics towards the end of part one with a coruscating and soaring solo before a broiling orchestral buzzing and sawing signifies a slowing of atomic movement.
Part Two offers a bit more on the melodic front although not in a conventional sense, sounding more like a soundtrack to a minimalistic 70s space movie. Oldfield flits in and out with bites of wah-wah and sustain, keeping largely in the background. Tiny melodies burst in and out as the seething mass approaches a critical tipping point, a staccato non-rhythm underpinning a slow but inexorable build up of atmosphere. A quiet passage of call and response between Oldfield’s bass and guitar halfway in leads to more full on orchestral cacophony which ebbs and flows, at one point almost threatening to play out a tune, before slowing and quieting to Oldfield’s slowly picked and repeated two notes, fading away to a sudden but quiet end, leaving the listener hanging in the air, or more likely, space.
Mention must be made of conductor Vernon Handley who manages to hold the whole thing together when it seems to be coming apart at the seams.
Not a prog album as such, this remains a challenging and interesting work well worthy of your attention. Oldfield fans may already own his solo sections on the Boxed set, and those that don’t should get this if only to hear what is probably one of his most intense recorded solos on part one, as well as being treated to a complex modern classical tour-de-force.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Fuzzy Duck - Fuzzy Duck
Tracklist: Time Will Be Your Doctor (5:08), Mrs. Prout (6:44), Just Look Around You (4:21), Afternoon Out (4:55), More Than I Am (5:32), Country Boy (6:02), In Our Time (6:36), A Word From Big D (1:41) Bonus Tracks: Double Time Woman (2:59), Big Brass Band (2:58), One More Hour (3:58), No Name Face (3:05)
Another exceptionally fine and rare album get the Esoteric treatment with a full remastering and unsurfacing of four extra tracks that are even rarer than the album. The band honoured with this treatment is Fuzzy Duck, supposedly named after a drinking game named after a Spoonerism but I have no idea what a Duzzy may be. Drummer Paul Francis who first came to prominence as a 14-year-old when he toured with Rolf Harris but then went on to back Tony Jackson of the Searchers before establishing his rock credentials with Tucky Buzzard, most famous as protégés of Bill Wyman. Keyboard player Roy Sharland narrowly missed out on the big time when his position in late 60s band Spice was taken by Ken Hensley just as the band evolved into Uriah Heep. Grahame White was a well regarded guitarist on the sixties music scene while bassist Mick Hawksworth joined the other three members via an inevitable Melody Maker advert following stints in Andromeda and Five Day Week Straw People both of which also included future Atomic Rooster John DuCann. The group were signed to the MAM label, a vanity project set up by management svengali Gordon Mills whose clients included Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck, both sixties megastars. Mills' success was continuing in the 1970s with Gilbert O'Sullivan and it was as the rhythm section on one of O'Sullivan's singles that two members of Fuzzy Duck made their first contributions to the MAM label. Sessions for their own album were concluded in mid 1971 and were heralded by a handful of gigs. However, the album was not released until September of that year with a risible quantity of 500 copies being pressed.
The meagre number of copies made available is rather surprising given the quality of the music. Laden with Hammond organ and original and forthright guitar breaks the songs are up there with the best of the heavy rock and nascent prog bands of the era. Opener Time Will Be Your Doctor actually first appeared on the debut eponymous album by Tucky Buzzard but the Duck take it to another level with some stellar guitar and Hammond contributions from White and Sharland, respectively. Mrs Prout a deceptively simple sounding sound with fine vocals by White and Francis spreading rolling triplet thrills throughout the number. The main composer was bassist Hawksworth who contributes three solo compositions and one co-written with White. Of these, Just Look Around You steals the show with White's doubled guitar line in the brief intro giving a nod to Wishbone Ash and the Sharland out-Hammonding even Jon Lord. More Than I Am is a more straight forward rocker that sounds a bit like the material Deep Purple would write a couple of years later with a bass line that is both solid and melodic. Last of Hawksworth's solo number, In Our Time, is a song that has great potential but is unfortunately rather confusing. Lots of variety in the piece with several different sections and a reasonable first attempt at a more complex number which doesn't quite work although it is hard to say why; perhaps the rather languid vocals are too much of a contrast to the more frantic musical accompaniment.
Afternoon Out and Country Boy, like Mrs Prout, were from the pens of Francis and Sharland with support from White in the second of these three numbers. The first of these songs has the brush of light psychedelia wiped over it, with White providing the languorous vocals and some pretty out their guitar ably supported by a frantic rhythm section that deftly drives the music along. Country Boy is far from country music having a sound similar to early Atomic Rooster. Final track on the original album was the brief, throwaway number A Word From Big D with 'D' being the Duck of the Fuzzy variety, voiced by Sharland, over an energetic jam which sounds quite interesting if it were not for the silly noises.
The bonus tracks consist of the band's first and last single as well as a previously unreleased track. All four numbers were recorded by a different version of the band, with Garth Watt-Roy having replaced guitarist and vocalist White who moved on to join Capability Brown before the Fuzzy Duck album was released. Watt-Roy had been in The Greatest Show On Earth whose two albums recorded for Harvest Records (The Going's Easy and Horizons both released in 1970) are well worth investigating. Surprisingly, the single issued in advance of the album featured an A side which was written by Watt-Roy, quickly recorded when he joined the band. Double Time Woman (which was backed by the album track Just Look Around was certainly more commercial than anything on the album but didn't really have the same feel, indeed could have been recorded by a totally different band, perhaps one of the reasons the album was pressed in such limited quantities? The group managed a final single in 1971, a cover version of Big Brass Band, which reminds me somewhat of the great Stray and is once again totally different from anything on the album with its funky horn section, which was coupled with One More Hour that is rather more along the lines of the album material and is a very strong song, although the Watt-Roy's vocals tend to be a trifle annoying when they hit the falsetto range. The musical backing is great though. Similar can be said of the previously unreleased No Name Face which like One More Hour is credited to all four members of the band. The Hammond is once again up front but the more melodic aspects and prominent chorus suggest it may have been a putative follow-up single if sales of Big Brass Band had created a bit of a stir.
As with many of the numerous early 70s bands that kick started the progressive rock era, fame and fortune did not come to Fuzzy Duck and none of the band members were lucky enough to join up with any group that did achieve more success and recognition, despite being fine musicians and decent songwriters. Suppose it just shows that the music industry has always been somewhat of a lottery and that for every group that makes it, there are piles of other bands that fall by the wayside. Fortunately, there exist labels like Esoteric to ensure these bands are not forgotten!
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Robert Wyatt – The End Of An Ear
Tracklist: Las Vegas Tango [Part 1] (8:13), To Mark Everywhere (2:26), To Saintly Bridget (2:22), To Oz Alien Daevyd And Gilly (2:09), To Nick Everyone (9:17), To Caravan And Brother Jim (5:21), To The Old World [Thank You For The Use of Your Body, Goodbye] (3:17), To Carla, Marsha And Caroline [For Making Everything Beautifuller] (2:47), Las Vegas Tango [Part 1] (11:07)
'The End Of An Ear? More like both ears, if you're listening in stereo.'
The contrived pun with which I have chosen to begin this review doesn't really do Robert Wyatt's debut solo album justice, but it is not without foundation. Recorded in 1970 after the release of Soft Machine's gargantuan Third album, and while Wyatt was still with the group, The End Of An Ear is one of those albums that polarises fans, so that you either love it or hate it. There can be no middle ground.
I myself had been quite weary about approaching this album, given the reactions I'd seen on various websites. I am, on the other hand, a huge fan of the Wyatt material that came before and after this album, the epic Moon In June and the moving Rock Bottom included. I felt I owed it to myself to give this album a try.
The first thing you must do is throw away any preconceptions you have about Robert Wyatt's work. This album is entirely different to anything he's done before or since. It seems like CBS granted Wyatt the ability to record a solo album mainly because of Moon In June, but rather than reproduce similar work, he went the other way and became resolutely experimental, with tape loops, atonal melodies and processed sounds all being featured heavily. Most of the songs on this album will put the regular listener right off, but if you can adjust to the bizarreness of it all, the unfaltering rhythm behind nearly every track will turn this into a meditative and almost relaxing experience.
It would be an exercise in futility for me to try and run through the songs in this review, especially if I didn't want to be accused of plagiarism of the wonderful Sid Smith, who does a fantastic job writing the essay for this reissue. His notes explain exactly what Wyatt was doing around this time, as well as giving an insightful synopsis of the album, making it appear far less opaque. In particular, I wouldn't have realised that To Carla, Marsha And Caroline would actually reappear as Instant Pussy on the
debut Matching Mole album two years later. More generally, Smith explains how many aspects of this album can be heard later in Wyatt's career, which I find rather clever.
The essay is interesting, and the music sounds clear, if musically unusual, but this reissue does have a couple of pitfalls. With this originally being a single sleeve album, there's not a lot of 'artwork' that Esoteric needed to restore, but a few of the fine details are missing. Fortunately, the handwritten track list still appears on the back of the album (although the words Side I and Side II are missing). On a very pedantic level, Robert Wyatt's name has increased in size on the front cover, although quite why this is necessary I am not sure. However, the most criminal detraction from the original album is the expunging of the jocose 'Out Of Work Pop Singer' subtitle that appeared as an asterisk point beside Wyatt's name.
There are also no bonus tracks to garnish this album with, making this a very bare album to listen to. However, with Sid Smith's ample notes, any listener who is fairly knowledgeable of Wyatt's material should be able to swallow this album without much trouble. Relatively speaking, it's miles away from anything Wyatt's ever done since, and lacks the instant appeal of albums like Rock Bottom, but overall it is not a fruitless endeavour. If you know that you don't like experimental music, then this is not for you. On the other hand, if you're a Wyatt fan who just wants to hear as much from this superb musician as possible, then I'd recommend bracing yourself thoroughly before you hear this. Definitely the beginning of an ear for Robert Wyatt.
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Bill Nelson – Luminous
Tracklist: A Luminous Kind Of Guy (2:14), Tiny Aeroplanes (2:57), Bright Sparks (2:43), Is This Alchemy?(2:34), Language Of The Birds (3:46), All I Am Is You (2:09), Life In Reverse (3:02), Telepathic Cats (2:59), Two Hearts Beating (3:34), Blood Off The Wall (2:38), She’s Got Me Floating (3:34), It’s OK (2:28), Burning Down (3:57), Her True And Perfect Serpent (5:28), Wait For Tomorrow (1:47)
Originally released in 1991, these charming little vignettes were originally recorded as demos in Bill’s home studio in 1990 with the intention of being re-recorded with a band, which unfortunately never happened so Bill decided to release them anyway. Bill Nelson has never been one to sit on unfinished product, suffering in a similar fashion to Prince back in the day from a combination of workaholic tendencies and little ability to self-edit. Having said that and considering that Bill plays all the instruments on these songs bar the rudimentary electronic production, and also realising that the easy option of computer editing did not exist 23 years ago, one has to admire the skill and care put into the finished (or rather unfinished) product.
Fifteen strange left-field alt-pop songs complete with quirky effects such as backward taping, flanging, and all manner of sonic distortions mark these works out as being instantly recognisable as Bill Nelson from his “experimental dream pop” phase. The fact that he saw these songs as accessible and mainstream does indeed “illustrate how uniform and conservative pop has become” as he puts it in the liner notes. A highlight for me is the gorgeous love ballad She’s Got Me Floating which is crying out to be covered by Robbie Williams so that Bill can get the pension funds his undoubted talent deserves. I can also imagine Tom Jones covering the funk workout Burning Down. Get touting those two Bill, you never know!
By the way Bill, is it merely coincidence that this song and the final track are only slightly altered song titles from Axis:Bold As Love, not to mention Burning Down, or is there a subliminal Hendrix thing going on?
Quaint and charming though this album is I cannot see where the market for this CD lays, other than Bill Nelson fans replacing old and worn vinyl.
Conclusion: 5.5 out of 10
Bill Nelson – Practically Wired
Tracklist: Roses And Rocketships (2:58), Spinning Planet (4:31), Thousand Fountain Island (2:08), Piano 45 (1:21), Pink Buddha Blues (4:06), Kid With Cowboy Tie (2:38), Royal Ghosts (5:11), Her Presence In Flowers (4:08), Big Noise In Twangtown (2:20), Tiny Little Thing (1:06), Wild Blue Sky Cycle (3:29), Every Moment Infinite (4:09), Friends From Heaven (4:55), Eternal For Emiko (2:23)
Subtitled “Or How I Became…Guitar Boy” and described by Bill as being “…dedicated to my love affair with the electric guitar”, this Esoteric remaster originally saw light of day back in 1995 after being created on the hoof and without prior preparation in the studio the previous year in a mere fourteen days, which I, and judging by his 2012 sleeve notes, Bill too finds extraordinary. Bill credits engineer John Spence with invaluable help in compiling what we have here, and a more than creditable job he did too judging by the sonically wonderful end product.
Entirely instrumental, bar spoken word samples on a few tracks, this is an extremely complex work full of all kinds of electronica and effects as well as Bill’s numerous guitars and keyboards. The album title is a pun on Practical Wireless, a magazine his dad subscribed to when Bill was growing up, and the album is dedicated to his mother and father, who “led my dreams and bought me guitars”, for which we should all be grateful.
Showing he is no slouch on keyboards, Pink Buddha Blues has a nice piano intro, a well funky bass line smothered in a molasses-thick Jeff Beck styled funky lead guitar, all played by Bill, and a well-righteous thang it is too. Bill is taking us on a trip through the guitar sounds that have shaped his own highly recognisable style, and the influences veer from ultra-modernistic fast electro beats meets jazz-fusion on opener Roses And Rocketships to the more conventionally styled Pink Buddha Blues and Kid With Cowboy Tie. A weird electronica cut up intersperses with the obvious Hendrixisms of Royal Ghosts. Bill’s trademark ambience makes an appearance, seemingly channelling Terje Rypdal, as does Zappa groove, Eastern mystical airs and even country stylings on other tracks as the album veers from the thoughtful to the downright raucous to joyous celebration in the space of ten minutes. Great life affirming stuff indeedy!
Of the two albums reviewed here this one is by far the more interesting, and even devout fans of Yorkshire’s one-man recording industry are unlikely to have bought everything released by this uber-prolific guitar maverick, which as far as I can tell numbers some 60 albums to date, and that excludes box sets, compilations, and Be Bop Deluxe! If you missed this one first time round, go treat yourself to the many-splendoured musical journey that is Practically Wired.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Jim Capaldi - Oh How We Danced
Tracklist: Eve (3:41), Big Thirst (5:32), Love Is All You Can Try (3:31), Last Day Of Dawn (4:39), Don't Be A Hero (5:57), Open Your Heart (4:08), How Much Can A Man Really Take? (5:26), Oh How We Danced (4:39) Bonus Track Going Down Slow All The Way (3:21)
Jim Capaldi is most well known for his tenure of the drum stool and lyricist in Traffic although his musical career started in the Midlands of the UK with bands such The Sapphires, The Hellions and Deep Feeling for whom he was both the drummer and singer. However, when he teamed up with the musical prodigy that was Steve Winwood, he was happy to take a more back seat role leaving Winwood to shoulder the burden of the singing in his somewhat smoother and more soulful voice. Despite leaving writing of the majority of the music in Traffic to Winwood, Capaldi was himself a fine composer having taken piano lessons from an early age and being more than competent to knock out the odd tune - indeed, by the time of his untimely death in 2005 Capaldi had released a total of 14 solo album which puts the rather meagre output of his more famous bandmate in the shade somewhat. The first of these solo albums, Oh How We Danced, was recorded in 1972 during a brief break in Traffic's rise to prominence caused by Winwood being struck down with peritonitis. Venturing out to Alabama, USA, Capaldi recruited the stellar musicians linked to the Muscle Shoals recording studios - David Hood (bass), Roger Hawkins (drums), Jimmy Johnson (guitar) and Barry Beckett (keyboards) as well as the horn section that were also resident at the studio. Of course, it would be impolite to not invite his Traffic band mates to join in the fun and so Winwood, Chris Wood and even Dave Mason feature on the recordings in addition to a whole array of other guests.
The album opens with the ballad Eve, a somewhat lightweight song that nevertheless was a hit in the US. Winwood lays down some organ lines over which Johnson plays a simple and rather dated sounding solo. It is only with the introduction of the horn section that a bit more life is kicked into the number. Another ballad, Big Thirst, follows and is a somewhat more soulful affair largely due to the lovely backing vocals of Sue and Sunny and the lush string arrangement of Harry Robinson. Paul Kossof offers up some sublime guitar lines that complement the song perfectly and even Dave Mason shines during his, of all things, harmonica solo. The tempo is raised with Love Is All You Can Try a rockier number with Winwood playing some bluesy guitar, the Muscle Shoal Horns injecting bite and Beckett contributing some furious piano. The upbeat tempo is maintained with Last Day Of Dawn with future Traffic percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah laying down a rhythmic groove and Capaldi himself playing the acoustic guitar. Even though Kossof does play the electric guitar on this track, his contribution is barely heard being subsumed under the orchestral score that overwhelms the second half of the song. More Koss can be heard on Don't Be A Hero where his bluesy licks enhance the rather more sympathetic string arrangement, although Dave Mason is fearless of the reputation of the arguably more well-known guitarist by stealing the show with a fine solo. Beckett's organ work holds everything together in an outstanding song.
Sounds of what was to come are featured on Open Your Heart, a template for the Traffic sound, and band, of Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys. Essentially the first recording of Traffic mainstays Capaldi, Winwood, and Chris Wood (electric sax) with future bandmates Jim Gordon (drums), Rick Grech (bass) and Rebop, the songs starts slowly as a pleasant but rather undistinguished number. Things do start to get interesting as a groove breaks out but unfortunately the song is then faded out. Another guest bassist (Trevor Burton), drummer (Mike Kellie) and pianist (Bob Griffin) feature on How Much Can A Man Really Take which, musically, is somewhat more shambolic and freeform and akin to the early days of Traffic, particularly the flowing flute of Wood. The music doesn't really suit the lyric or vocal delivery as is made evident in the much more interesting end instrumental section were Kossof gets the chance to solo over a delightfully energetic backing. The title track closes the original album and it is a wonderful version of the Al Jolson number. Kossof again takes the guitar solos with Johnson providing admirable support. This rocking number, with the Muscle Shoal Horns shining brightly, is a great closing number, full of verve and energy, with the bass guitar echoing the bass piano line and providing a rolling rhythm that is positively funky! As expected from Esoteric re-releases, the album is enhanced with the non-album track Going Down Slow All The Way. A simple vocal and piano song with minimal drumming to keep the beat in place, the minimalist approach focuses the attention on the lyrics. As ever, the inclusion of this otherwise 'lost' song enhances a fine reissue.
An accomplished and versatile musician, Capaldi's solo career is worthy of investigation and not just for Traffic completists. Although his vocals are not as soulful as Winwood, Capaldi did possess a fine voice and maintains a place amongst the best lyric writers of his generation. As would be expected on a album written and recorded during a break from his 'day job', the music is varied and shows a different side to the musician. Perhaps a bit too light for the hard core progressive fan, nevertheless, for fans of the era then Oh How We Danced is a fine investment. Finally, a nice touch is that Esoteric have used a slightly different photo for the outer cardboard sleeve than the actual album sleeve, possibly even the frame before. It is these small things that make Esoteric stand out from other reissue labels, so kudos a plenty for that!
Conclusion: 6 out of 10
Jim Capaldi - Whale Meat Again
Tracklist: It's Alright (4:20), Whale Meat Again (4:34), Yellow Sun (7:19), I've Got So Much Lovin' (4:40), Low Rider (5:41), My Brother (5:02), Summer Is Fading (8:32), We'll Meet Again (1:25) Bonus Track Tricky Dicky Rides Again (5:36)
Jim Capaldi's second solo album was recorded virtually simultaneously with Traffic's final album of the 1970s, Where The Eagle Flies. Indeed, it may have even arisen as a result of the long genesis of that album which took over a year to record, saw percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah being fired midway through the sessions and the band seeming to lose a sense of direction and even purpose. The awfully punned Whale Meat Again was prefaced by a non album single, Tricky Dicky Rides Again released in 1973 as a reaction to the political mess of the Richard Nixon Watergate scandal. More of a 'leftover' from the first solo album - indeed the title track of that album was the b-side of the single - the song features Paul Kossof on guitar (nice solo!) with prominent presence of the Muscle Shoals Horns and some strange sounding Mellotron. A wry satirical comment that would have been lost to obscurity (even though Capaldi later revisited the song writing new lyrics and renaming it Risky Business for inclusion on 1978's The Contender album) if Esoteric hadn't resurrected it for inclusion as a bonus track to this release. For the new album Capaldi largely eschewed inviting contributions from guest musicians being content to rely on the core unit of Muscle Shoals session musicians David Hood (bass), Roger Hawkins (drums), Barry Beckett (piano and organ), Jimmy Johnson and Pete Carr (guitars) with the inevitable Muscle Shoals Horns.
Opening number It's Alright is rather a misleading song as to the style of the album being a sedate, easy going number with a light reggae feel, including a steel drum, no doubt influenced by Capaldi's friendship with Bob Marley to whom he was introduced by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. I suppose it is an okay song, rather inoffensive but neither one thing or another and something that I would have thought would have been better placed as a single b-side than an album opener. The title track is a totally different kettle of fish, or given the subject, should that be 'breed of mammal'? An anti-whaling song with a hard edged bitterness, superlative playing from Pete Carr and The Horns producing some of their most definitive and characteristic contributions. However, it is on the lyrics where Capaldi excels: Whale meat again, under the sun, every twelve minutes and another one’s gone. His meat is in your make up, his flesh is on your lips, as a nuclear warhead explodes in his hips. Harry Robinson is drafted in once again to provide the string arrangement on the soulful ballad Yellow Sun. Carr's dobro slide guitar provides an Americana feel with a fine lead vocal by Capaldi and backing vocals from the pseudonymous Potato Smith and Laurence Peabody - speculated as being Capaldi and Winwood, although I have my doubts. The song is typical of the era but with a graceful melody it passes muster. I've Got So Much Lovin' features some marvellous female backing vocals, which sadly go uncredited in the booklet, but sounds very like it may be the prolific backing singers Irene and Doreen Chanter who, along with Liza Strike, enhanced so many records from the 1970s. The expansive sax gives the number a sleazier feel but overall the energy and enthusiasm of the performance is a delight.
First of the two standout tracks on the album is Low Rider. A looser, more relaxed feel prevails giving extra space for Carr's guitar work to shine through and a more biting string arrangement to take a more upfront role. The closing jam would have been great live and worthy of inclusion on Traffic's On The Road live album. Unfortunately My Brother is marred by a terrible sounding synth which dates an otherwise decent song, suppose it was cutting edge at the time but, unlike for example the Mellotron, some of the early synthesisers just sound cheesy and pathetic to modern ears. Never fear, all is redeemed with Summer Is Fading which is the most like Traffic that Capaldi ever sounded in his solo guise. Largely due to the presence of Winwood on organ and bass, plus Rebop on conga (which would suggest the track was recorded before his firing from Traffic) and the absence of any of the Muscle Shoals Musicians - guitars are played by Bubs White and drums by Gaspar Lawal - the song is an extended jam that is a delight from beginning to end. There are places where it is obvious that the vocals influenced the early solo career of Paul Weller as it could almost be him singing. (Weller is obviously a fan as shown by his contributions to the Capaldi tribute concert back in 2007). Interestingly the original lyrical idea is credited to Vivian Stanshall who co-wrote Dream Gerrard on the final Traffic album, which might suggest that an earlier version of the song was perhaps slated for that album - could explain the musical similarities. The album winds up with a brief take of We'll Meet Again from which the album title was punningly derived.
A more cohesive effort than the debut release and, for Traffic fans at least, probably the most essential of the Capaldi albums.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Tangerine Dream – Le Parc
Tracklist: Bois De Bolougne [Paris] (5:28), Central Park [New York] (3:43), Gaudi Park [Guell Garden Barcelona] (5:14), Tiergarten [Berlin] (3:10), Zen Garden [Ryōan-Ji Temple Kyoto] (4:49), Le Parc [L.A. – Streethawk] (3:22), Hyde Park [London] (4:00), The Cliffs Of Sydney [Sydney] (5:45), Yellowstone Park [Rocky Mountains] (6:17), Streethawk [Radio Edit] (3:03)
It is hard to believe that Le Parc is by the same band, albeit with only one remaining original member, that gave us one of the albums that helped establish Deutschrock as a novel and innovative force in progressive music. 1969’s
Electronic Meditation, an underrated and often misunderstood album may not have ranked in the jaw-dropping stakes with Can’s Monster Movie and Amon Düül II’s Phallus Dei from the same year, but it certainly was important, launching as it did the careers of Klaus Schulze, Edgar Froese and Conrad Schnitzler, three of the most important names in electronic music. The Tangs then followed it with six ground-breaking and otherworldly albums, peaking with Atem and thereafter reaching a creative plateau, culminating in Stratosfear from 1976.
Sadly from then on I’m afraid that creatively it is very definitely a downward spiral, and we slide down the helix to this bland offering from 1985, their 21st album! They were nothing if not prolific, and I’ll try not mention Germanic ruthless efficiency… damn.
According to the usual high quality liner notes from Esoteric, the band were barely speaking to each other during the making of this album, Johannes Schmoelling leaving soon after. Such were the clashes of egos that Schmoelling, Chris Franke and Edgar Froese recorded their parts completely independently of one another, not that you’d necessarily notice. The tunes on this record never get above the pleasant and the addition of wordless vocals by Katja Bruneis on Zen Garden and Clare Torry of Great Gig In The Sky fame on Yellowstone Park at least add a bit of interest to those two tracks.
The theme of the album is a trip through some famous parks of the world, although titles apart you’d be hard pushed to have guessed it. About all I can say positively is that it works fine as background music as to pay it any attention at all reveals how gossamer-thin and insubstantial it actually is.
The title track became the signature tune for a short-lived American TV series called Street Hawk, a risible piece of schlock about a cop chosen to test an “all-terrain attack motorcycle capable of speeds up to 300mph”. The show lasted all of 13 episodes before being pulled but gave The Tangs invaluable exposure in the States where they even had a hit with the sub-Jean-Michel Jarre inconsequential noodlings of the radio edit of the title track, now re-named Streethawk and included here for your delectation.
Marking this should be easy as it is completely unessential except for anyone but the Tangerine Dream completist. I would have given it a 3 but for a recent review of the aforementioned groundbreaking Electronic Meditation on these very pages that inexplicably also scored that figure. There is no way on Earth that this is even half as good or as important as a landmark in German music, so it has to be...
Conclusion: 1 out of 10