Reviews in this issue:
- Finch - Vita Dominica
- After Tea - Joint House Blues
- Anyone's Daughter - Anyone's Daughter
- Anyone's Daughter - In Blau
- Anyone's Daughter - Neue Sterne
- Anyone's Daughter - Live
- Jump - Home Songs
- Chicken Shack - Imagination Lady
- Chicken Shack - Unlucky Boy
- Chicken Shack - Goodbye
Finch - Vita Dominica
Chapter A: Paradoxical Moods (11:01), Pisces (10:27)
Chapter B: Register Magister (9:28), Colossus - part 1 (3:26), Colossus - part 2 (3:35), Remembering the Future (5:01)
If you were to ask someone whether they know of a band going by the name of Finch you could get a response that names the wrong band as there are at least two bands with that name; a hardcore type band from the U.S.A. and progressive rockers from Holland. It is of course the latter which is the subject of this review.
Vita Dominica comes as a vinyl release in audiophile format, completely remastered from the original tapes with four of the six tracks never previously released. Three of the tracks are live versions of songs originally released on Finch's 1975 debut album, Glory of the Inner Force, recorded at a live session in Tagrijn, Hilversum possibly just after the release of the record.
Joop van Nimwegen (guitars), Cleem Determeijer (keyboards), Ad Wammes (synths), Peter Vink (bass), Hans Bosboom (drums) and Beer Klaasse (drums) are the musicians involved in one or more of the recordings on this album and, as is always the case, there are no vocals as Finch are an instrumental band.
Musically Finch could probably best be placed among Focus, ELP and the like as the music has a classical undertone whilst not being classical. As stated, the tracks are all instrumental with a melodic concept as the basis for the songs. It was often the case in the mid '70s that songs were of considerable length with plenty of soloing, each of the musicians needing to get their own spot, a claim to fame if you will. It is no different with Finch but all of the musicians play for the common cause and the sum of the band is greater than its parts.
Progressive music from the Netherlands is, in my opinion, highly underestimated, not in the least due to the Dutch way of life. During their existence Finch made a name for themselves which continued after the band had long ceased to exist. Their career was not a long one, releasing three albums in the mid '70s and parting ways in 1978 after a mere 4 years yet the music is quite interesting with a lot of nice hooks and twists and room for each of the musicians to do what they do best. The emphasis never lies with just guitar or keyboards and there is good variety.
The release of this album is bliss for us progressive rockers as the sound is very good; the album is packed in a high class gatefold sleeve with amply suitable artwork on the front and back and a trip down memory lane on the inner sleeve. In the accompanying notes it says (with a smiley) that lyrics are included, a humorous way of saying that no lyrics are involved.
Finding the single back on an album is very nice indeed, always nice to have as an addition to ones collection. The same is, of course, true for the demo version of Remembering the Future, a track that can be found in its final form on the band's last release, 1977's Galleons of Passion.
A collection of great music by one of Holland's most influential underground prog bands. If you are not familiar with Finch it is about time you corrected this as the music absolutely stands the test of time in becoming classic music that you'll want to hear more of.
A bunch of sublime musicians and a fantastic listen indeed, this release is also available on CD as part of the Mythology 3-disc set which was reviewed on DPRP recently. Vita Dominica is a must have for all those with a liking for Dutch prog at its best.
Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10
After Tea - Joint House Blues
Chapter A: Joint House Blues (4:04), You've Got To Move (5:39), I'm Here (and Nowhere Else) (3:41), Someday (5:43), Let's Come All Together (5:58)
Chapter B: Trial/Punishment/The End (25:16)
A vinyl pressing of what is labelled by Pseudonym Records as a special edition of this album that was originally released in 1970 on the Decca label, funnily enough without the now present title track, Joint House Blues.
After Tea was formed in 1967 after the a split of another Dutch band, The Tee Set. Former members Hans van Eijk and Polle Eduard started a new band which they appropriately named After Tea.
After Tea instantly had some success owing to the Flower Power scene that was climbing to its height at the time and their single Not Just a Flower in Your Hair. Gradually, they moved more and more in the psychedelic direction but you can still hear the massive influence of the blues and, above all, improvisation in the playing that was clearly present by the end of the '60s. At some points the music reminds me of T-Rex.
The band comprised Ulli Grün (keyboards), Ferry Lever (guitars), Polle Eduard (bass and vocals) and Ilja Gort (drums) plus we have a guest appearance from John Bakker on Joint House Blues playing mouth-harp.
As noted, Joint House Blues was previously released in 1970 and this edition has been digitally remastered from the original master tapes and the sound quality of the album is exceptional. The people at Fine-Tune Studios have done an excellent job in remastering the tracks.
The artwork for this edition is also of good quality with a gatefold album cover featuring the original artwork front and back. The inner sleeve has a couple of photographs of the band during the era in which the album was recorded and a concert pamphlet which shows the band as support for none other than Led Zeppelin plus a background story written by Mike Stax of Ugly Things Magazine.
Given the era in which this album was originally released (and even now) the B-side of the album is exceptionally long clocking in at 25+ minutes. This is a long and very psychedelic track consisting mostly of improvisations, showing the musicianship of the band in optimum form. The track is split into three different parts which flow into another in one easy going stream. I'd like to call this psychedelic blues as it contains so many elements of bluesey improvisation completely in the spirit of the time. Apart from that it's timeless bands like Murky Red who nowadays make music in a similar way, or perhaps a band such as Gov't Mule, and seem to have had influences from the era of Joint House Blues.
After Tea were not a very famous band but they sure had their influence on a number of musicians later on. Only 4 albums were ever released, this album being by far the most interesting for Progressive Rock lovers.
With more and more vinyl being released or reissued this is a great album to add to any collection of pre-prog music. A true Flower Power album.
Incidentally, a CD version has also been released with 7 bonus tracks.
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Anyone's Daughter - Anyone's Daughter
Bonus tracks: Superman [live] (4:05), Between The Rooms [live] (4:42), Sundance of the Haute Provence [live] (3:58)
Anyone's Daughter - In Blau
Tracklist: Sonnenzeichen-Feuerzeichen (5:20), Für Ein Kleines Mädchen (5:22), Nichts Für Mich (6:45), Nach Diesem Tag (4:00), La La (3:10), Sonne (4:30), Tanz und Tod (15:12)
Bonus tracks: Sonne/Adonis medley [live] (13:16), Nach Diesem Tag [live] (4:13)
Anyone's Daughter - Neue Sterne
Bonus tracks: Konsequenzen [live] (5:01), Reprise [live](4:46), Viel zuviel [live](6:33)
Anyone's Daughter - Live
CD 1 - Konsequenzen (4:02), Der Begleiter (5:22), Treance (5:20), Tanz und Tod (6:26), Viel Zuviel (6:27), Sundance of the Haute Provence (4:01), November (2:47), Sambuca (1:50), Carrara (6:00)
Bonus tracks: Konsequenzen [video] (4:13), Viel Zuviel [video](6:42)
CD 2 - Land's End (4:37), Come Away [Adonis I] (8:16), Peterchens Mondfahrt (5:39), Neue Sterne (4:11), De Plan (3:52), Moria (5:19), Anyone's Daughter (11:09)
Bonus tracks: Neue Sterne [video] (4:32), Moria stage view [video] (4:52)
Anyone's Daughter is a name in German progressive rock that counts, not because of their long list of releases but because of the quality of their music, both in their native tongue and in English.
Two years ago Tempus Fugit re-released two albums by Anyone's Daughter, their highly acclaimed debut album Adonis and Piktors Verwandlungen (Metamorphosis). Now the time has come for more with the reissue of three further studio albums and a live recording.
The first album I ever heard from Anyone's Daughter was their self-titled album, which for some strange reason stuck in my mind as their debut album but was in fact their second. The album contains 9 melodic songs all balancing on the edges of progressive rock and AOR. The long tracks of their first album have been replaced by the shorter melodic songs so pushing the album away from prog towards AOR. This remastered edition is completed with the almost inevitable bonus tracks and in this case we are presented with three live tracks all recorded in the same year that the album was released. This is a good example of what the band were doing at the time. The original atmosphere for which Anyone's Daughter were renowned is sharpened somewhat with this remastered version due to the differences in the reproduction of the material. Tracks like Moria, Superman and Between the Rooms will always be my favourites from this album and re-releasing it will allow a new generation of prog lovers to obtain older German progressive music of which this is a fine example.
Between the release of Anyone's Daughter and In Blau lies the change in language as with the release of Piktors Verwandlungen Anyone's Daughter moved from using English to German. This must have been a very hard decision to make as despite both languages belonging to the same group, German is harder, colder if you will. This does not necessarily mean that it shouldn't be done but one thing you must keep in mind as an artist is that your audience will change. The music on In Blau continues in the same vein as Anyone's Daughter - shorter songs, highly melodic with a progressive edge. There is a longer suite in Tanz und Tod where the band continue doing what they do best by making progressive symphonic music. Two bonus tracks have been added to make the package complete, again live tracks from the same year as the album's original release. In Blau shows how using your native language can make a difference but the choice of music sets it on the right path.
Progressing further with the use of their native language as a base for their lyrics meant moving more and more into a pop environment. Anyone's Daughter moved forward as a band with the change of musical direction towards a more AOR sound and Neue Sterne is a perfect example of this continuation. They never forget where they came from and there is always a progressive undertone in the highly melodic songs but as a whole this album has more standard songs in a pop-rock style. There is still room for prog in their material but it is a fact that Anyone's Daughter had now changed. The more progressive tracks lean towards an electronic sound, Illja Illia Lela being a good example. Again the bonus tracks are live tracks from the same era during which the album was recorded originally and this decision throughout these reissues certainly gives the listener a better idea of what Anyone's Daughter were all about throughout their career.
Completing this series is 1984's double disc live release, simply titled Live. These live recordings bring out the best of both worlds for Anyone's Daughter. Like the live bonus tracks on the other remastered re-releases, the mastering and production of these recordings has been so thorough that the listener almost gets the feeling that they are listening to a studio recording. In between all of the tracks are pauses instead of a sense of continuation which is the case on most live albums. The audience can also only be heard at the end of a track. I really do not know the original version in this case so cannot make a comparison but I feel that the quality of the live recordings exceeds expectations and bearing in mind that it was originally released in 1984 it is stunning. It may be that the remastered reproduction makes this possible however I entirely miss the live atmosphere during the songs and the background noises always present live. The music is great, no doubt, a slight error here and there otherwise sublime in my opinion. This release is completed with 4 videos dating, of course, from the same period. If you don't know anything about who or what Anyone's Daughter is then this is the best starting point as Live has more or less the best versions of this material recorded by Anyone's Daughter.
Anyone's Daughter - 7 out of 10
In Blau - 7 out of 10
Neue Sterne - 6.5 out of 10
Live - 7.5 out of 10
Jump - Home Songs
Tracklist: Home Song (4:14), All Hail (3:25), The Better Part of Valour (4:07), Never Too Far (4:35), My Little Eye (4:37), Spin the Silver (6:18), Let Alone My Mother Down (3:54), The Witness (6:11), Fresh Young Thing (4:53), Different Story Now (6:33)
This British band quite literally jumped into my musical life in 2001 with the release of their fantastic On Impulse album. I immediately got hold of their back catalogue and caught one of their gigs. Over a decade later they are still going strong, especially in a live setting and I still can't understand why they've remained a largely well kept secret for so long.
If you haven't come across them yet then Jump fully deserve the title of "The Band That's Impossible To Categorise". Not afraid to take on any style, their sound is a delicious pick'n'mix of blues, folk, prog and hard rock, all brought together by the unique vocal talent that is John Dexter Jones.
Home Songs continues the musical journey but is a more laid back affair than its predecessor. Where On Impulse regularly rocked to great effect, Home Songs sticks to more of an acoustic folk/rock recipe. The guitar of Pete Davies is stripped right back and there is a clear, open sound to the disc, that I guess is intended to let the songs stand on their own two feet.
As usual there's a good mix of social comment, coupled with dry humour in the lyrics and some great hooks in songs like Never Too Far, Fresh Young Thing and Spin The Silver. I can't however help thinking that a heavier use of the guitar and a less laid back vocal on a few songs would have worked better and added a bit more variety to the overall package. The catchy Different Story Now for example, is potentially a belting rock song just crying out to be let off the leash.
For those of you who haven't yet come across their path, then 22 years into their career I'd still recommend On Impulse as the best starting point. However if you're happy to take things in a little more laid back direction, then with an abundance of catchy songs this is still value for money.
Conclusion: 7 out of 10
Chicken Shack - Imagination Lady
Tracklist: Crying Won't Help You Now (5:08), Daughter Of The Hillside (3:53), If I Were A Carpenter (6:33), Going Down (3:31), Poor Boy (5:09), Telling Your Fortune (11:10), The Loser (2:37)Bonus Tracks Poor Boy (single version) (5:10), Telling Your Fortune (single version) (3:58)
Chicken Shack - Unlucky Boy
Chicken Shack - Goodbye
Tracklist: Everyday I Have The Blues (5:41), Thrill Is Gone (5:42). Going Down (5:56), You Take Me Down (5:17), Webb's Boogie (6:13), You're Mean (6:23), Poor Boy (7:55), Webb's Guitar Shuffle (3:13), Tutti Frutti (2:28)
Stan Webb's Chicken Shack, like John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, are one of those institutions that seem to have been around forever, have a revolving-door policy as far as band members go and to have featured the cream of British musicians. Amongst the Shack's most notable alumni are Christine McVie (nee Perfect) (Fleetwood Mac), John Glascock (Jethro Tull), Pip Pyle (Hatfield And The North), Bob Daisley (Rainbow), Robbie Blunt (Robert Plant band), Miller Anderson (Keef Hartley, Dog Soldier) and Tony Ashton (Remy Four, Ashton, Gardner and Dyke). Originally formed in 1965, these trio of albums were from the group's second era and their first for Deram after leaving the Blue Horizon label.
Imagination Lady, the fifth Chicken Shack album, was released in 1972 after a two-year recording hiatus. To the surprise of many fans of the purer blues of earlier albums, Webb (guitar/vocals) took the music in a heavier power-rock direction and was accompanied on the journey by new recruits John Glascock (bass) and Paul Hancox (drums). Of course, the blues were not abandoned entirely, just the presentation, as emphasised by the first track, a heavy rendition of B.B. King's Crying Won't Help You. Glascock's furious bass playing really drives the number along with Webb adding plenty of wah-wah infused guitar over the top with the end result being quite breathtaking. Daughter Of The Hillside, a Webb original, has a touch of Cream's Strange Brew about it and is of a similar musical intensity to that of the more famous trio. Tim Hardin's If I Were A Carpenter is drawn out from the more common folky arrangements with Hancox's powerful drumming pushing through some fine group playing. The classic Don Nix song I'm Going Down will be familiar to most having been covered by numerous artists, but again the approach of the trio generates a powerful and succinct version with a dual layered guitar providing both lead and a background growl that compliments Glascock's bass perfectly.
The final three songs on the original album were all Webb originals with Poor Boy being the most enduring of the three, still performed as an encore number to this day. At over 11 minutes the running time of Telling Your Fortune may seem enticing although it is essentially little more than a pretty standard short 12-bar blues ditty which includes a five and a half minute drum solo and a two-minute guitar solo! In complete contrast The Loser has an upbeat, sing-along chorus and it is a shame that it has such an abrupt fade out as it is an enjoyable slice of '70s pop music! Strange that it was not considered as a single, although that probably would have really confused their fan base. Instead the more traditional Poor Boy and Telling Your Fortune were released in the 45rpm format with both single edits included as bonus cuts, the latter having the solos excised to (unsuccessfully) improve commercial viability.
Unlucky Boy, released in 1973, saw the replacement of Glascock with Australian Bob Daisley and the addition of Chris Mercer on saxophones and the brilliant Tony Ashton on piano. The incorporation of the sax and piano actually cleaned up the sound leaving the songs more space without any extended soloing. Saying that, the group could still lay down a heavy riff as shown on the excellent opener You Know Could Be Right which is more in the style of the material on the previous album with a degree of added subtlety. Revelation is a slow blues where Mercer's sax is first heard, double-tracked throughout to give the impression of a complete horn section. Webb's restrained guitar playing has more feeling and, in this case, less is definitely more. The honky tonk rolling piano work of Tony Ashton, which blends superbly with Webb's guitar, is showcased on the excellent instrumental Prudence's Party and the studio jam Stan The Man with requisite blues guitar licks infused throughout. The first of three covers on the album is Louie Johnson's Too Late To Cry which is handled very delicately, the emphasis placed on the vocal with just guitar and bass backing, although it should be noted that there are a couple of tasteful and controlled guitar solos to spice things up. The two other covers were both by American pianists, Champion Jack Dupree's Unlucky Boy and Jimmy McCracklin's He Knows The Rules. Ironically, neither feature any piano, or at least if Ashton does contribute his efforts are inaudible. Both are reasonable interpretations, with the latter track having the edge mainly due to the impressive ensemble playing, particularly on the instrumental close of the song.
Two further Webb originals really make the album for me. As Time Goes Passing By, the single version of which is also included as a bonus track, is a lovely and simple blues number with added strings to round out the sound. Hancock's drumming comes to the fore but doesn't dominate and Webb's playing is tight and emotional. Another impressive studio jam, appropriately titled Jammin' With The Ash rounds things off and sees Ashton and Webb trading ideas and licks and generally having a fun time. Unfortunately, this line up of Chicken Shack never got to perform live as even though a tour was arranged following the release of the album the touring band members were completely different.
Goodbye is a record of the 1973 tour with Webb accompanied by Dave Wilkinson on electric piano, Rob Hull on bass and future Hawkwind member Alan Powell on drums. Recorded at Brunel University in October 1973, just a couple of months after the release of Unlucky Boy, the group had no prior knowledge that the recording was to take place. Webb believes it was a decision by the label made to give them extra product to release under the Chicken Shack name as by this time it was widely known that Webb was going to disband his group and join up with members of Savoy Brown. Webb himself is not a fan of the album as he freely admits that "The trouble was we were in no fit condition to be recorded that night...this is obvious in the way we played...I just wished there had been a chance for us to go into the studio and fix the mistakes that you can hear all over the record". In defence, at least the recordings are genuinely live and there is an almost superior bootleg quality to the album, although the vocals do seem rather subdued and pushed back in the mix. The chosen track listing for the album completely ignores Unlucky Boy with three tracks from Imagination Lady making the cut: Poor Boy, Going Down and Crying Won't Help You Now, renamed as You're Mean for the live recording. The opening trio of covers are a mixed bag, Everyday I Have The Blues features band intros and audience participation, Going Down is rather messy but does feature some powerful guitar, while Thrill Is Gone is the best of the lot. Two jams emphasise the live prowess of the band with Webb's Boogie, largely focusing on Wilkinson's electric piano playing, and Webb's Guitar Shuffle essentially a version of the Bert Weedon guitar classic. The guitar work is rather loose and the vocals on the Boogie are, shall we say, lubricated, but both contain a certain amount of charm. You're Mean lacks the original bite and excitement of the studio Crying Won't Help You Now version although Poor Boy does come over better in its extended form displaying the band, and particularly Webb, at their best. The album ends with a version of Little Richard's Tutti Frutti which is quite shambolic. Never a favourite song of mine, this version does nothing to improve its standings.
So a rather mixed bag, Imagination Lady would suit fans of power trios such as Cream, Unlucky Boy for those more into traditional rhythm and blues, and Goodbye probably limited to Chicken Shack completists only.
Imagination Lady* - 6 out of 10
Unlucky Boy - 5 out of 10
Goodbye - 4 out of 10