Tracklist: CD 1: Dream Of Stone (17:01), Chequered Light Buildings (6:35), Upside Down (9:40), Valerie's Friend (6:31), Massive Illusion (13:37) CD 2: Dream Of Stone [Live] (17:19), Chequered Light Buildings [Live] (6:07), Upside Down [Live] (10:27)
"Mr. Corcoran, step away from the Marillion references, and keep your objectivity where we can see it. Please slowly count backwards from the number ten."
OK, fine...no. NO. I just can't help myself, because I listened to the Kscope reissue of Night by Norwegian progsters Gazpacho, originally released in 2007, and it has lots of Marillion references.
Gazpacho is made up of Jan Henrik Ohme on vocals, Thomas A. Andersen on keyboards, Jon-Arne Vilbo on guitars, Mikael Kromer on violins and accordion, Kristian Olav Torp on bass, Lars Erik Asp on drums and Kristian "The Duke" Skedsmo appearing as a guest on low whistle, tin whistle, accordion, didgeridoo, mandolin and banjo. Ohme, Andersen and Vilbo are original members. Kromer had previously been a touring and guest musician for Gazpacho. Torp joined the band during their support of Marillion during their Marbles tour. Asp came on board with the guys in 2010, and the reissue of Night features his drumming replacing that of the album's original drummer at the time it was first released. All of the tracks on Night were written by Andersen, Vilbo, Ohme and Kromer and this KScope reissue comes with a bonus CD of three of the album's songs recorded live.
The newly recorded drumming from Asp is just one of many notable elements of the sound of Night, a dense, atmospheric album with five lengthy tracks that all flow together seamlessly as a song cycle. So, as you might have guessed, Night is a concept album, and the airy flowing nature of the album's sound seems to speak on some level to how we can be taken on a nocturnal journey, if you will, through sleep and dreams.
There was certainly no dreaming going on when the lyrics were written. Just maybe a bit of a buzz on what the liner notes put as "frightening amounts of wine and beer", but this is progressive rock, so that's all good. The only thing more intoxicating, perhaps, are what I now submit to this breathalyzer:
"Chequered light buildings
fallen from the sky
sway as they
climb into your eye
They're taller now
everything has changed
from an empty frame
stares a distant face"
For me, this lyric recalls memories of myself at the age of seventeen looking out the windows at night of the ambulatory patient clinic of a hospital where I worked as a housekeeper. The night then seemed almost smooth, velour, yet still, to the point of tranquillity. This tranquil feeling of a calm, almost safe nocturne returned to me as an adult patient in another hospital thirty years later, when I would take a glance out my window before going to sleep at night. That thickness, the dense layers of atmospheric warmth fitting one on top of the other, like folded sweaters in a bureau drawer, is the palette from which Night draws its hues. Night is not quite a meditative journey, not quite a lullaby, but rather a flow of sleep with occasional ebbs of consciousness, like the Narragansett Bay's high and low tides.
As far as commonalities go, Marillion isn't the only reference coming into play here. Vilbo's guitar evokes the wail of Robert Fripp and the pastoral shimmer of Steve Howe on opening track Dream Of Stone, which introduces a loop of violin distortion evoking Bruford Levin Upper Extremities. It keeps the album in balance, and not a fraction of a bubble off plum. The warm singing voice of Ohme sounds similar to Marillion's vocalist. One can't help but wonder if a certain Steve Hogarth was playfully hiding with a ventriloquist's dummy in the basement of the cottage where Gazpacho recorded the album.
On the epic closing track and by the end of the album, Hogarth at this point has gone up to heaven, somehow sneaking the dummy in. I know this to be true, because with Massive Illusion, Ohme's vocals now reach the point where they sound angelic. Mellotron elements from Anderson go from melancholy isolation to a battalion of weariness, perhaps exhausted from the feud ushered in earlier by the familial elements of organ and harmonium. Vilbo's guitar takes another swig of that cerulean booze. B.B. King would be proud. Crashing rolls of drumming from Asp paint a stormy, ominous overcast sky, with any waking up higher and hidden.
The album's lengthy and flowing tracks challenge the notion that when we fall asleep, we feel the next morning as though we have woken up instantly - from Dream of Stone to Massive Illusion and the three somewhat shorter songs, nestled snugly in all the continuity like those folded sweaters.
It's an album that's comforting for the purveyor of atmospheric epic prog, but as uncomfortable as a heavy sheet of metal for the devil horn-happy who would not lay down to sleep in such unpleasant confines.
If you check out the digibook's artwork courtesy of Antonio Seijas that vibrantly splashes like floodlights across the packaging and booklet, you will never dream in plain old black and white again. Providence, Rhode Island artist Erik Ruin is evoked through Seijas' images of eerie spirits in the skies and burning flames, with the brilliant orange and yellow hues all against a backdrop of dark, if not nocturnal, purple. Random text appears in the booklet here and there, like the falling fragments of what once was a starry haiku shooting down to Earth from above. Check Seijas out at www.antonioseijas.com. Night, again, descends - like a haiku fragment. Everything has changed.
So sit back, relax, and give Night a listen. And if this draws an unfamiliar image into your mind, remember, you are only dreaming...
Tracklist: CD 1: The Ride And The View (5:01), Out Of Our Head (4:02), Love Can Find A Way (5:15), The Welsh Connection (7:22), Something Is Happening (6:16), Car Toon (5:58), Born With A Future (7:02)
Bonus track: I'm A Love Taker (2:57). Live At The Keystone: Let The Good Times Roll (2:39), 7171 551 (5:01), Hard Way To Die (6:37), The Welsh Connection (8:01), Something Is Happening (6:58) CD 2: The Ride And The View (5:42), Out Of Our Head (5:09), Born With A Future (7:18), C'Mon (17:22), Many Are Called, But Few Get Up (11:32), Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You (5:31), A Hard Way To Live (3:17), Romain (6:02), Bananas (10:18)
In the years since the Welsh close harmony group The Bystanders discovered jamming and the spliff and changed their name to Man in 1968 right up until their first split not long after this album originally hit the streets in 1976, the line up saw many changes, the only constant being singer and guitarist Micky Jones.
Although guitarist and vocalist Deke Leonard, and to a lesser extent keyboard player Phil Ryan had both had tenures in the band, The Welsh Connection would be the first time they had been in the group at the same time. Ryan's previous stints in Man had tended to produce their more cosmically inclined work, including the Back To The Future album, whereas Leonard's contributions borrowed from his rock'n'roll heritage. Not that Deke couldn't space rock with the best of them, as the utterly glorious Ryan-less Spunk Rock from the Greasy Truckers album attests. To this day, those twenty or so minutes remain my favourite piece of live guitar jamming music by anyone, ever! It's like the Grateful Dead with a sense of direction, and you should really check it out if you've not heard it before.
On The Welsh Connection, Leonard contributes the first two songs and the bonus track I'm A Love Taker, the Out Of Your Head single b-side that was recorded by a previous Ryan-less incarnation of the band. Ryan has just the one solely written song, Something Is Happening, and a hand in three others. The volatile combination of alpha male duo Ryan and Leonard was always destined to combust, and explode it did, after the legendary piano throwing incident during sessions for the follow-up to The Welsh Connection. More can be read of this in the second volume of Deke's often hilarious autobiography Rhinos, Winos And Lunatics, that along with its predecessor, Maybe I Should've Stayed In Bed, are a must read for fans of "life in the band" books. The original Leonard-penned sleeve notes are reproduced in the tri-foldout CD cover, and give a good example of his highly entertaining style, portraying the band as The Last Gang In Town on a mission to spend all their cash on wine, women and song, and then waste the rest.
Anyway, I digress. The combination of Leonard's direct approach and Ryan's looser style produces an album that has what can only be described as a down-home feel, almost country rock in places. Man had also recruited ex-Global Village Trucking Company bassist John McKenzie for this album, and his funky playing added another different aspect to the band's sound. It could be said that this album sounded somewhat different to previous albums, while still being recognisably the work of "Manband".
This slightly altered approach is apparent from the off, with opener The Ride And The View conjuring images of endless semi-desert Americana vistas with its rolling bass line and languid chops from Ryan's piano. Micky Jones's upper register harmonies are much in evidence on Out Of Your Head, a slouch in snakeskin boots across the detritus strewn floor of an opium den.
Love Can Find A Way is rather interesting as it was to be the only song to be contributed to Manband by new boy John McKenzie. It fits in perfectly, the laid back groove pinned down by his flowing but funky bass lines. Gossamer-light, this gentle song floats off on the breeze and is quite charming. By now the easy groove is well established and the languid title track continues in the same vein. After the "piano throwing incident" referred to above, the band split for eight years, and another interpretation of the easy nature of this record could be that it sounds like the last sigh of a band that was running out of steam. That might sound like a bad thing, but Man were a class act, so even a "last sigh" is going to be worthy of attention. Me, I just accept this record for what is, a collection of seedy stories set to a slightly different tune than before.
Side two of the old record opened with Something Is Happening and this has always been one of my favourites on the album, along with Born With A Future, as here we see some nice guitar work as the ante is upped a tad. References made to dance floors and funky moves, this "Something" appears to be taking place in a disco, and is not a prescient reference to punk! Indeed, splitting when they did, the band probably made the right decision, now we know that what was snarling over the horizon would not have been a good thing for a collection of loveable hippies such as these.
As Deke's liner notes would have it "THE car chase to end ALL car chases" can only be Car Toon, but pleasant low-key rocker that this is, it is far too laid back and in no way fits with the description. Let's put it down to literary licence, and far too much smoke. Ending the album proper is Born With A Future, striding along in a confident fashion, Deke's plaintive lead vocals injecting some passion. Micky gives a lung-busting contribution too, especially in the live version, and the tune goes up a few gears to become more recognisably "Man". Written by Ryan, Leonard & Jones, it shows what this particular line up were capable of when they played as a team. Lyrically this song sounds like two pieces of writing welded together, the words in Micky's emotional middle section seemingly coming from a different place to the "make your mark on history" instruction of the rest of the song; a good musical excursion with which to end the record, nonetheless.
After their peerless contribution to the Greasy Truckers live compilation album, the second best live album Man ever did was their swansong for United Artists, Maximum Darkness. This album featured the talents of one John Cipollina, he of Man's original inspiration and American alter-egos Quicksilver Messenger Service. The real treat for us fans with this reissue is an entire concert from the band's American tour to promote The Welsh Connection. Recorded in August 1976, in Berkeley, California, the last four songs again feature Cipollina.
The recording starts off with a rather shambolic Let The Good Times Roll, but it doesn't take long for both the band and the sound settle into something less anarchic. Deke nails it on his 7171 551 (more on that phone number in his book, too!), and we're off on a trip featuring a rare recorded performance of this particular line up.
Man were always a better proposition live than on record, and this set does nothing but confirm that, with live versions of five tracks from The Welsh Connection all given an extra lift in the gig environment. This is in evidence with the first of these, the title track, taken at a somewhat brisker pace than the studio version. The relaxed groove is replaced by a helping of nervous energy that serves to change its atmosphere considerably. Something Is Happening becomes a neat helping of space rock, drifting through the cosmos with nary a care in the world - nice!
Centrepiece of the set is a 17-minute version of C'Mon, a staple of their set at the time, and probably Phil Ryan's best remembered contribution to the Man songbook. The tune was co-written with drummer Terry Williams, a skin basher of rare finesse, the now departed Clive John, and Micky Jones. Micky, as a constant member of the group can be said to have been the band leader, but was always happy to let the spotlight fall on the more assertive characters in the group, whoever they happened to be at the time. Micky, sadly no longer with us, was undoubtedly the glue that held the band together.
C'Mon is a veritable monster of Man's trademark West Coast (of Wales) space rock, this time with added synthesiser wizardry, as Phil Ryan gets to show his chops and do battle with the double guitars of Jones and Leonard, something the latter no doubt relished! This live set is worth it for this song alone, as it is entirely different to earlier versions, Ryan's keyboards occasionally straying into over-the-top Keith Emerson territory. Combined with some bursts of frenetic plank spanking this tune goes to places Manband had rarely if ever ventured into previously.
We return to familiar territory with Man's ultimate hippy ode to tripped out psychosis, Many Are Called But Few Get Up, and following this are the four songs starring Mr. Cipollina. A cover of Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You is shot through with an acidic West Coast (of the USA) vibe, and the set ends with the whacky Bananas, a ditty that made its mark on my young impressionable mind back in the day for containing the immortal lines "I like to eat bananas cos they got no bones, I like marijuana cos it gets me stoned". Which sums things up pretty neatly, methinks.
"...a loving testament to the Welsh wizards...makes a great place to start a Man collection as the uninitiated will get a flavour of what the band are all about both in the studio and on stage. A fine album, a great band and a brilliant reissue."
"Although not the best Man live performance on record...the album holds a certain charm, particularly as a reminder of the comparatively free and easy musical times gone by when music was all that mattered."
"Overall, this is probably not an essential...Despite that, Man were, and still are, a formidable live act and, unlike some bands, a live album bearing the Man name is almost certainly guaranteed to be a worthwhile release."
Tracklist:What Is Love (7:39), Needles In The Brain (5:18), Liar (6:57), Pain (5:14), Seven Days (6:09), Coming Down (6:04), Don't Tell Me (5:29), Hope To See Another Day (12:11) Bonus Live Tracks:Liar (7:26), Pain (6:28)
Seven years after it first saw the light of day, the debut offering from one of Poland's most established Neo-Prog bands gets the re-mastering treatment for a timely re-issue.
Back in 2006 guitarist Mirek Gil was seeking a new challenge after the splitting of the pioneering Collage (who've incidentally recently reformed!) and having put on pause his solo project, Mr Gil (who released a new album only last year). The Warmest Sun In Winter, the fifth studio album under the Believe name, came out a few months ago.
My only previous experience of this album actually comes from the live DVD of the same name. Reviews at the time offered praise to Gil for not merely making a photomontage of Collage and his solo work.
Most of the songs do have some familiar Neo Prog stylings as well as a healthy nod to the moods of Satellite, the band of the album's bassist Przemek Zawadzki. However the arrangements and the mix places the guitar very much to the fore. Added to the modern, dare I say it American, style to the vocals of Tomek Rózycki, on the first few listens this is more of a modern rock record.
As Mirek Gil admits: "You can hear on this record an extreme hunger for playing the guitar. There is a lot of guitar, it actually dominates the music".
As with many debut albums there is a sense of a band and composer still finding their feet in a new setting. The opening and closing pairing have some memorable riffs and melodies but the middle section is rather inconsistent. The use of Santomi's violin is effective where used, but sadly it is underused, as are the keyboards. Neither do the arrangements always slip into a key and range to best suit Rózycki's vocals.
The title track stands out as the outstanding song from this album and still appears in the band's live shows. It's dynamic and heavy, but at the same time melancholy and peaceful, qualities that Believe managed to brilliantly capture on their second album, Yesterday Is A Friend, which for me stands as their best album to date.
Having not heard this album the first time around, I can offer no comparison as to how much improvement the remastering has given the sound. As a bonus, additional live versions of two songs from the album recorded at Konin in 2006 have been thrown-in for good measure. They differentiate quite a bit from the original versions, with new arrangements, guitar solos and violin parts.
For those who have 'Believed' from the start, then I doubt the remastering and bonus tracks will warrant splashing out on this. However for those who may have missed the start of the story, then this album has stood the test of time as a solid and in parts very impressive debut album.
Tracklist:Squire (5:08), Dan The Plan (4:20), Picture [A Little Girl] (2:43), Nuthin' Shakin' (3:45), One More Bottle Of Wine (4:14), Golden Oldies (3:57), I'm Sorry Squire (3:57), Waiting (3:43), Bad Side Of Town (3:56), Mr. Inbetween (2:37), The End (0:41) Bonus Tracks: Crazy Woman [A-side of single] (3:00), Carousel [Recorded during sessions for "Squire"] (2:59)
Those readers of a certain age will need no introduction to Alan Hull and the legacy of great songs he left through his work with Lindisfarne. Hull, the principal song-writer with Lindisfarne, recorded several fine albums with the band, kicking off with Nicely Out Of Tune (1970) which featured the wonderful Lady Eleanor and Clear White Light [Part 2]. Followed in 1972 by the band's biggest selling and chart topping release, Fog On The Tyne (1971) and once again featuring a whole host of memorable songs including the title track, January Song and Rod Clements' Meet Me On The Corner.
Alan Hull and the band were unhappy however with the mixing on their third album, Dingly Dell (1972), so along with the tiring schedule of touring and prompted by the declining commerciality and critical success of the album, the first break up of the band occurred in '73. Split into two factions the reformed Lindisfarne, (with Alan Hull and Ray Jackson), released their fourth album Roll On, Ruby in the same year that Alan's debut solo album, Pipedream, appeared.
The reformed Mk II version of Lindisfarne existed until 1975, where once again the lack of mainstream success prompted demise number two. Noted by Sid Smith, in his liner notes, Alan's follow up solo album came about around the time of another 'split' within the Lindisfarne ranks.
The album title, Squire, is taken from Tom Pickard's screenplay of the same name, which was shown on the BBC in late 1974. Alan not only played the lead role for TV show but also wrote the soundtrack.
Squire features an impressive list of musicians including appearances from guitarists Albert Lee and Micky Moody, vocalist Lesley Duncan and fellow Lindisfarne stable-mates Ray Jackson (harp, mandolin, flatulette & backing vocals) and Ray Laidlaw (drums). Musically the album takes a more psychedelic approach, more akin to Alan's Pipedream, rather than music associated with Lindisfarne. Although there are tracks that would have sat comfortably on Nicely Out Of Tune and Fog On the Tyne.
Album opener and title track has a hypnotic laid back groove, reversed guitars, Mellotron and kicks the album off well. Things heavy up a bit and Ray Jackson's 'harp' might well have brought the legendary Cream to the party in Dan The Plan. Whereas the enjoyable Picture [A Little Girl] features Alan on acoustic guitar, doubled voice and Colin Gibson on fretless bass, evoking the music from a decade earlier. Not sure if it's just me but the recorder melody had Maggie May rattling round in my head for days afterwards. Nuthin' Shakin' - skip!
One More Bottle Of Wine is Alan Hull at his very best and the track from the album for me, along with the instrumental I'm Sorry Squire. The latter being a delightful piano, Mellotron and Mini Korg arrangement, augmented by Alan Hull on recorders and finishing touches from the guitars. Worth tracking down Squire just for these two tracks alone. Other strong contenders are Golden Oldies which has the Lindisfarne stamp on it and the Jean Rousel orchestrated Bad Side Of Town, bringing fellow North East musician Allan Price to mind.
The bonus material comprises of the Crazy Woman single, a catchy track, but one which failed commercially and Carousel, which, although written at the same time, failed to feature on the original Squire album.
Although by no stretch of the imagination a 'prog rock' album, Squire does however contain some fine material and once again confirms the depth of the late Alan Hull's song writing skills.
Tracklist: Disc 1 - Radio Da Da: IB Mouth (1:53), Forest Man (2:58), Här Kommer Bodd (8:27), Täles Logan (5:14), Another E2 (1:58), Moon Dog (2:19), Thunes and Shytts (0:55), Sigfrid (4:35), Fialka's House (8:37), Darling Darling... (3:37), Beside The Swamp (5:28), Bangladesh Shuttpza (3:01), Blobb (3:13), Svarta Kusen Solos (2:45), Ossians Hund (4:24), Kul I Parken (6:23), Djungle Man (3:27), Radio Da Da (5:17) Disc 2 - The Teenage Tapes: JP3 (0:40), Chicken Pie (2:41), Hej! (0:47), Basflärp (1:59), Wanna Dance? (0:51), Ljumviken Psykos (0:24), Bassballs (2:33), Iskastaren (1:27), Bandet Går (9:31), Träffas Erik? (1:24), Bombonk (3:01), Foxtrot (2:19), Diamandvo (3:20), Margan Träffar Cobham (0:45), Arpeggio (2:59), Hygges 1 (1:15), Svår Musik (0:31), The Battle Cry (1:48), Aulaflash (0:21), Ace Of Bajs (0:34), Avalone (2:14), Music Talking Here (3:04), Ron (1:16), Joel (1:49), Gul Bil Lås (1:45), Aura (0:51), Swingo (1:03), Sound Check (0:51), Electric Cheese (3:42), Lyle (3:36), Discotakslåten (2:39), Sjutakslåten (1:03), Tretaktslåten (3:04), Wanna Dance Now? (Remix) (0:53), Help (The Ultimate Version) (2:58), Tallingrad (4:20)
Already known as child prodigies in their Swedish homeland, Mats Öberg (keyboards) and Morgan Ågren (drums) first got together in 1981 when asked to perform together by a college promoter. At the time, the former, who incidentally has been blind from birth, was a mere 10 years old, and the latter already a comparative veteran at 14. They performed a set of Zappa, Beatles and Stevie Wonder covers, and a true musical brotherhood was born, to quote the press release.
The duo continued to sharpen their chops on the complex works of Mr. Zappa, the connection continuing in 1988 when the man himself asked them to join his touring band, a request that was sadly never fulfilled due to Frank's illness. The duo has subsequently played at many Zappa tribute gigs, not least with Mike Keneally and Steve Vai.
Forging their own unique brand of progressive rock meets jazz fusion, this double CD release sees the reissue of the duo's second and third albums, both originally released in Sweden in 1998, and here boosted by previously unissued material.
Radio Da Da melds synthetic minimalism and Zappa influence with a touch of early keyboard-led indie a la Thomas Dolby. Forest Man, during which Mats plays everything, tells the listener that the protagonist is exactly that over a rushing repetitive synth sequence, followed swiftly by the more laid back Canterbury vibe of Här Kommer Bodd. Here, Morgan's clever but never fussy drumming backs up a languid keyboard melody that meanders along nicely, slowly becoming more agitated and complex over its eight-plus minutes, some strange whooping and screaming added in for good measure, before it returns to the chilled theme for the ending.
Unlike its companion album, Radio Da Da was recorded as an album proper, although it actually comes over as the more experimental of the two discs, dissonance and atonal passages, along with strange non-melodic sequences being more to the fore.
Elsewhere, Moon Dog sounds like a Captain Beefheart tribute, and the Zappaesque humour shines through on the Thunes and Shytts, and lets you know exactly where these boys get their kicks. On Djungle Man, we return to the fusion-funk these boys are so good at, the vocal sounding not unlike Adrian Belew. Fialka's House would not sound out of place on a Rock In Opposition chamber rock album, and Blobb borders on Zeuhl with its operatic chanting and marching rhythms. All this highlights the diversity on offer.
The Teenage Tapes CD is augmented from the original release from 29 to 36 tracks, the extras including further recorded experiments right up to 2008. Being a collection rather than a composed album it can be a bit disparate, but serves as a good introduction to the duo's particular corner of fusion.
Confusingly the press release considers that Chicken Pie is in "tribute to the flamboyant proto-prog Yes and Genesis", but with its vocoder vocal sequences and treated rhythm track, it sounds more like Herbie Hancock to these ears. It's certainly nothing like anything recorded by the two bands mentioned. Basflärp on the other hand perfectly fits its description as "a stirring slice of Scandinavian prog, Billy Cobham and Stanley Clarke carving a niche in the Arctic Circle", and I wish it did not fade out after a paltry two minutes. The bass-funk continues with the more than appropriately named Bassballs.
Although entirely different from a musical perspective, the snippets of avant-pop electronica and found sound interludes put me in mind of a Bill Nelson album. Ågren's Cobham-like drumming is well to the fore on the longest piece here, Bandet Går, over which Öberg larks about in consummate full-on Zappa mode, before becoming more contemplative and expansive.
Morgan Ågren does not just play the drums, occasionally he tinkles some keyboards too, to no little effect on the live Bombonk for instance.
These two are at their best when they git down on the one with the Scandi-jazz funk, the fast and furious Diamandvo being a perfect example, recalling Return to Forever at their most upfront.
Going right back to their initial meeting in 1981 is track 35 of 36, a cheesy version of the Fab Four's Help. Entirely forgivable given their young age, it includes the only drum solo of the collection from the then 14 year-old Ågren. A curio, if nothing else!
In conclusion this double CD is a neat introduction to the complex and beguiling world of Mats/Morgan, and should appeal to fans of Zappa, jazz-fusion, and the more difficult end of the Canterbury spectrum.
Finally, remind me never to type out a 54-song tracklist ever again, I mean, it's not like any of you actually read it, did you?
Tracklist: CD 1 - Ivanhoe I Brondbyerne (3:55), Saxophone Piece I (2:16), Antique Peppermint (4:08), Kaj (2:43), Tingle Tangelmanden (5:28), Purple Hearts (5:46), Ivanhoe In The Woods (5:15), Ida Verlaine (4:18), Inside (2:47), Ksilioy (10:35), Across The Windowsill (7:40), Canal Trip (5:21), Gong Gong The Elephant Song (5:41), Secret Oyster Service (9:47) CD 2 - WWW (6:13), Avez Vous Kaskelainen? (4:36), All About All (4:06), Kaske-Vous Karsemose (3:47), I Want The Rest Of My Life Surrounded With Money (5:33), Indre Landskab (5:45), Bareback Rider (8:50), Rotating Irons (6:15), Goodbye (3:26), August Suicidal (4:34), When I Look Into Your Eyes (3:46), La Bearte Du Buste (4:58), Rockin' Rambler (11:50), After The Car Crash (3:07)
There is a long history of music emanating from the Scandinavian countries and one of the leading proponents in the late 1960s was Denmark's Burnin' Red Ivanhoe. The band, beloved by English DJ John Peel, released a trio of albums between 1969 and 1971, split up in early 1972 due to lack of funds, but found that breaking up was no reason why they shouldn't continue to tour and release albums, one in 1972 and another in 1974, before finally realising this was not the done thing for disbanded bands and called a halt to proceedings. A version of the group did resurface in 1991, releasing two more albums and apparently are still in existence although their last release was back in 1998. This compilation focuses on the core years of 1969 to 1974 and the albums M 144 (1969), Burning Red Ivanhoe (1970), WWW (1971), Miley Smile / Stage Recall (1972) and Right On (1974). During this period the band also recorded an album with Danish folk singer Povl Dissing (6 Elefanstskovcikadeviser) which, due to the more disparate nature of the material compared with their other albums, has not been included in this compilation. The consistent performers across the own name releases were Karten Vogel (saxophone, organ, vibraphone, piano), Ole Fick (guitars, vocals) and Bo Thrige Andersen (drums). In addition Jess Staehr (bass) featured on all but the first album, the bass role being shared by Arne Wurgler, Mads Vinding and Steffen Andersen; Kim Menzer (harmonica, flute, saxophone, bassoon, trombone, percussion, violin, piano, vocals) appeared on all but the last album; Steen Glaesson (guitar, vocals, violin, bass) was part of the original line-up and stuck it out for two albums; and Kenneth Knudsen (keyboards) joined the ranks to appear on the final album in 1974.
Debut album M 144 was unusual on two counts in that it was one of the first double rock albums to be released (Dylan's Blonde On Blonde and the Zappa/Mothers Freak Out, released within a week of each other lay claim to be the first) and, unusual for the time, featured songs sung in Danish as well as English. From the 10, of the original 20, tracks included it is evident that the album was an eclectic mix of light psychedelia and proto prog intermeshed with jazzy horns, somewhat typical of the 'anything goes' musical attitudes of the period. And all the more interesting for it. In particular, Tingle Tangelmanden stands out with its fuzz guitar and trippy flute, also dominant on Purple Hearts, and the lengthy Ksilioy whose very repetitiveness lends it a certain cache, although tracks like Antique Peppercorn and Saxophone Piece I veer too close to the jazz fusion area for my own particular taste. The second eponymously titled album, represented by four of the original six titles, takes a sharp turn towards the jazz influences it is not a move that I can particularly appreciate - Canal Trip sounds more like a saxophone jam and I found Secret Oyster Service to be a mixture of uninspiring and irritating. The saving grace is the excellent Across The Windowsill a jolly number with Fick shinning on guitar.
The four tracks from WWW show a return to the more psychedelic aspects of the debut album, with that album's title track drawing heavily from Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd and Avez Vous Kaskelainen? reminding me of a trippy instrumental version of The Doors. The only vocal track of the four, All About All is a rather whimsical and more acoustic number that doesn't really convince. Miley Smile / Stage Recall, the album recorded immediately after the tour the band undertook following the decision to split up, reportedly only took six hours to record and was essentially the band running through elements of their live set (hence the 'Stage Recall' part of the title). The two-week Norwegian tour and the removal of pressures resulting from their 'split' had obviously done marvels for the group as not only is the band really tight but there is more of a relaxed atmosphere heard in the performances. Rotating Irons, first released on the eponymous second album, is a delight tempered by the jazzy horns that dominate Bareback Rider and are a cue for application of the skip button. The final five tracks are from the last album to be represented on this compilation, Right On. Mainman Vogel was in the process of recording a pure jazz album when an invitation to perform a Burnin' Red Ivanhoe gig saw the band resume activities. Based on the likes of La Bearte Du Buste and Rockin' Rambler it is possible that some of the jazz material that Vogel had been working on may have been revamped for Right On, but this is not the whole story as August Suicidal is one of the hardest and heaviest songs laid down by the band. When I Look Into Your Eyes emphasises the increased sonic possibilities afforded by the inclusion of a dedicated keyboard player in the line up while After The Car Crash, the sole writing contribution from guitarist Fick is rather a strange guitar and sax piece that ends the album with an air of mystery.
This compilation has a lot to offer for those curious as to the music of Burnin' Red Ivanhoe. Although I agree with presenting the material in chronological order, I am tempted to resequence to keep all of the jazzier and less favoured (by me at least!) material separate from the more interesting (again, to me) material. On the basis of what is offered here I would be interested to hear the rest of the debut album but would probably give full versions of the remaining albums a miss. But on the whole this is a decent enough summary of a band that remains important in the history of Danish, and Scandinavian, prog.