Erik Neuteboom's DVD Special, Part 2
Last year (2021) we unveiled a major redesign and update of the DPRP website.
As you will appreciate, a lot has changed in web-design since the site was created 26 years ago. The new look has meant that some of our older articles and features, no longer fit the new format.
Whilst we shall always prioritise our coverage of modern progressive releases, we appreciate that many readers are also keen to (re)discover music from by-gone times. Thus, over the coming years we shall be (re)publishing some of these 'lost' features; those that we feel highlight albums ("hidden gems") that readers will enjoy.
This first series is taken from a major feature on progressive rock DVDs, first-published by DPRP back in 2009. Originally written by Erik Neuteboom, we have updated the information on each band and added links to videos and other DPRP album reviews that were unavailable at the time. The feature is being re-published over five editions. This is the second edition. Additional reporting and editing by Andy Read.
Click here for part 1 in this series.
Il Balletto di Bronzo — Live In Rome 2007
Bonus material, Gianni Leone solo: Anaconda, Aphorysm One, Hommage To Balletto, Aphorysm Two, Finale: Il Nuovo Mondo (re-edited)
Ask fans of the seventies Italian prog-rock about their Top 10 and I am sure that most of them will name Ys (1972) by Il Balletto Di Bronzo, among legendary albums by PFM, Banco and Le Orme. Personally I have opposite feelings about the music on that highly acclaimed record. On one hand I am delighted about the sumptuous, often compelling vintage keyboard-drenched symphonic rock moments. On the other hand I can't get into the nerve-racking, avant-garde inspired interludes. For me it remains a bit too complex and too varied. But I really appreciate Il Balletto Di Bronzo their adventurous musical ideas on Ys, in my opinion a 'classic' in progrock history that can compete with Yes, Genesis, ELP and King Crimson their best work!
In 2007, Il Balletto Di Bronzo got back together as a trio and performed old and new material during a concert in the Italian capital, Rome. First it was released as a CD (2007), then as a DVD (2008). So you can experience a bit of the magic of that legendary Ys album, 35 years after its release.
The first part of the concert contains five compositions featuring theatrical vocals, lots of sumptuous keyboard-work (often fat and spectacular synthesiser flights) and a very propulsive and 'groovy' rhythm-section with compelling and hypnotising atmospheres and obvious ELP hints. It is a bit weird and experimental but also captivating and adventurous. Perhaps you can describe it as 'an avant-garde version of ELP'.
And then we have an abridged version of the Ys album. This trio comes mighty close in capturing the unique spirit of that album. There is a choir in the intro and then breathtaking keyboard-work (from swirling Hammond organ to flashy Minimoog-like flights) in Introduzione.
We have lots of sensational, sumptuous keyboards, theatrical vocals and a wonderful final part with harpsichord in the more complex-sounding Primo Incontro; some splendid drumming, a bass solo with freaky synthesizer support and a jazzy piano with a propulsive rhythm-section in Secondo Incontro; lots of piano, theatrical vocals and a distorted bass sound in the experimental Terzo Incontro, and finally a bombastic climax with drums and organ in the final song entitled Epilogo. What an awesome and compelling sound. I was carried away during this small half an hour tribute to the album Ys.
Then we have three songs I have never heard of. The swinging L'Emofago and Il Castello sound very pleasant with spectacular keyboard-work and an adventurous rhythm-section, often reminding me of ELP. An extra on this DVD is a solo performance by singer/keyboard player Gianni Leone. I have to admit that I am a bit disappointed about his blend of electronic music and synth-pop. Only Hommage To Balleto is great with sequencers and clever play on keyboards. But in general I miss the bombastic and compelling atmosphere without the rhythm-section. And to be honest, a drum-machine sounds so poor.
My conclusion: the first part will not be everybody's cup of tea but I appreciate the adventurous mind of Gianni Leone. The Ys rendition is jaw-dropping, the final part is good but the Gianni Leone solo inclusion fails to keep my attention so I quickly go back to the Ys rendition. Breathtaking, jaw-dropping, awesome.
Fact-file: Il Balletto di Bronzo ("The Bronze Ballet") was initially formed in Naples as I Battitori Selvaggi. They changed their name to Il Balletto di Bronzo in 1969 and released the albums Sirio 2222 and Ys, before they disbanded in 1973. Two of the original members got back together in 2013 and released a third album (CUMA 2016 DC) in a more pop/psyche vein. An official bootleg featuring a live recording from 2018 has also emerged. From its Facebook page it appears the "band" is still active in some format.
Camel — Moondances Live 1976/1977
Camel Live in Concert at the Hippodrome, September 22, 1977: First Light, Metrognome, Unevensong, Rhayader, Rhayader Goes To Town, Skylines, Highways Of The Sun, Lunar Sea, Rain Dances, Never Let Go, One Of These Days I'll Get An Early Night
Bonus tracks: Autumn & Riverman
After the live compilation DVDs Camel Footage I and II and the live DVD Total Pressure (1984 concert), Camel Productions released this live DVD. With a running time of more than two hours it features seventies live footage from the 1976 Moonmadness tour in the London Hammersmith Odeon and the 1977 Rain Dances tour in the London Hippodrome. Although there is only one year between these two concerts, there are remarkable differences in the line-up and the sound.
The 1976 concert delivers a line-up with Andy Latimer, Peter Bardens and the rhythm-section of Andy Ward and Doug Ferguson. Most of the six compositions clock in around the 10 minute-mark and contain flowing, shifting moods, drenched in a wonderful, 24-carat symphonic prog tradition and embellished with excellent solos on keyboards and guitar.
There is a swirling Hammond organ, flashy Minimoog and exciting slide guitar (strong psychedelic undertones) in White Rider, a pitch-bend-driven Minimoog solo and an acelleration with fiery guitar runs in Lunar Sea, and strong interplay of powerful Hammond and sensitive guitar in Dunkirk and Another Night (which also includes a spectacular Hammond solo). But my absolute highlight is the classic Lady Fantasy with its swirling Hammond runs, a fluent rhythm-section, flowing changes of atmospheres, a beautiful phase with Fender Rhodes electric piano and warm guitar and in the final part that sensational eruption with a mind-blowing Hammond organ solo, creating wonderful images from the late Peter Bardens, (this looks like a perfect tribute to him).
The 1977 concert contains Richard Sinclair on vocals and bass, and the famous Mel Collins on saxophone and clarinet. He succeeds in giving an extra dimension to the Camel sound (like in Lunar Sea). Other changes are the keyboard sound of Peter Bardens (more strings-ensemble and less Hammond organ) and the more song-oriented approach of the band since the release of the album Rain Dances (the band plays 6 of the 11 songs of that album).
We can enjoy Andy Latimer with his Gibson double-neck guitar, the same as Jimmy Page uses during Stairway To Heaven and Andy also plays flute on Rhayader. I have never been a fan of Rain Dances but Camel delivers tasteful versions and lots of good solos on guitar (fiery in Never Let Go and One Of These Days), saxophone and clarinet (Unevensong and Lunar Sea), Minimoog (Highways Of The Sun and One Of These Days) and Hammond organ (Never Let Go). The bonus tracks are 'studio audio recordings' in the original line-up: Autumn (1973) and Riverman (1974). "No fillers. All killers," as Greg Walker used to say!
From all released Camel DVD's, I am mostly delighted about this one, mainly because of the 1976 concert (perhaps Camel at their artistic pinnacle) with that outstanding version of Lady Fantasy!
Fact-file: Camel were formed in Guildford, Surrey, in 1971. Led by guitarist Andrew Latimer, they released 14 studio albums and 14 singles, plus numerous live albums and DVDs. Despite not releasing any new studio albums since A Nod And A Wink in 2002, they have remained an active live band and will mark their 50th birthday (a little late) with a UK tour in 2023.
KBB — Live 2005 Official Bootleg
After their two excellent studio-albums Lost And Found (2000) and Four Corner's Sky (2003), in 2006 this exciting Japanese prog-rock band released the CD Live 2004, followed by the DVD entitled KBB Live 2005 Official Bootleg. Recorded in Tokyo, this was a special "Nearfest 2006 Limited Edition" release in order to celebrate their performance on that famous annual USA prog-rock festival. I was already very impressed listening to Live 2004 but the experience of this DVD is great. What a stunning band!
KBB plays instrumental, very jazz-rock-inspired music. The level of the musicians is mighty close to virtuoso, and the interplay is awesome. Looking at this live DVD, you can notice that the flowing and propulsive rhythm-section is a perfect foundation for the many solo escapades by keyboard player Toshimitsu Takahashi and especially violin player Akihisa Tsuboy; he really shines.
On his own website I read that Tsuboy has played in many bands and contributed to several albums in Japan. He was even a guest musician on the Japanese prog-rock album Water Blue (1989) by Vermillion Sands.
He has incorporated elements from JL Ponty, PFM, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Eddie Jobson in his sound in a very spectacular way. We go from dreamy, to dynamic with a great build-up in Backside Edge, classically-inspired and strong interplay with electric piano in Discontinuous Spiral, and evoking Kansas in the very dynamic Shironiji. There is even a wah-wah drenched sound in the sensational final track Tono (also including an outstanding synthesizer solo).
My highlight on this DVD is the composition Inner Flames; a powerful and dynamic sound with compelling interplay between violin and Hammond organ, spectacular solos on synthesizer, and a jazz-inspired piano.
If you want to watch exciting new jazz-rock with 'multi camera shooting', then check out this live DVD by KBB. Highly recommended!
Fact-file: KBB is a progressive rock/jazz fusion quartet from Tokyo, Japan. They were formed in 1992 and have released four studio albums, the most recent of which was Proof Of Concept in 2007. According to their Facebook page, KBB still play occasional live shows in their home country.
Janos Varga Project — Live - The Wings Of Revelation
Janos Varga is the founding member and guitar player of the Hungarian prog-rock formation East that made several albums in the first part of the eighties. Their 1982 LP Hüség is considered is their best effort.
Afterwards, Janos was very active in several musical projects before he founded the Janos Varga Project in the late nineties. He released the albums The Wings Of Revalations I (2000) and II (2002), and in 2003 the Janos Vargo Project DVD entitled Live - The Wings Of Revalation (or Koncert for the Hungarian release containing the same music).
For more than 70 minutes we can enjoy a good band (including a Stick player and two keyboardists) and very varied music (from rock and blues to new age and symphonic prog) with, of course, the focus on Janos Varga and his guitar. We enjoy a tight beat with rock guitar and a spectacular guitar-synthesizer duel in Fight Of Mind, soaring keyboards and sensitive guitar with the volume pedal in Prayer, and a bit of a more sultry climate with twanging guitar in Mysterious Stars.
If that sounds like your sort of music, then did deeper and you will cherish the propulsive guitar riffs in Welcome To The Jungle, the warm classical guitar in the alternating Our Long Dance, and the howling guitar runs in Power Of Love, Our Long Dance, Islands and All I Can Give.
The two keyboard players often deliver exciting solos, especially on the synthesizer (with frequent use of the pitchbend) and the interplay with Janos is outstanding.
My highlight on this tasteful and varied DVD is the final composition Memento. It has a very good build-up: first a spacey intro, then a part with swinging Stick bass, then the music becomes more and more lush and compelling with fiery and raw guitar-play. The propulsive rhythm-section and the psychedelic undertone fits perfectly to the WWII horror images on the screen. I find it very captivating and impressive how Janos blends the music and visuals.
This is an interesting DVD. It will please the guitar-minded prog-heads with a varied taste.
Fact-file: Janos Varga's career as a musician started in the early 70s with different amateur bands. After this live DVD, the Project seemed to go on hold. A third studio album, Elixir was released in 2009, which combines different types of folk music (Hungarian, Indian, Arab, Gypsy) with the world of art-rock. A double live CD was released to mark Janos' 60th birthday. According to his website, he has also released one album under the moniker of Janos Vargas' Mediterran Combo.
Various artists — Krautrock Meeting
In the late seventies my favourite record shop, Moonlight Records in The Hague (the owner was drummer Bob De Jong from Dutch prog band Pythagoras) started to sell Krautrock/German progrock. I was mesmerised by line-ups that featured lots of Hammond organ work and often a wide range of keyboards alongside some varied instrumentation (flute, acoustic guitar, violin).
After a first listening session I bought albums from Jane, Grobschnitt, Eloy and Novalis. I was so delighted about this music that within a few weeks I had almost bought the entire Krautrock/German progrock section, including bands such as Ramses, Triumvirat, Birth Control and Hoelderlin. Aaround 25 years later I had my first DVD featuring Krautrock/German prog bands and I was very pleased with it.
The 2-DVD Krautrock Meeting contains a concert recorded late 2004 in Bonn, Germany. So don't expect footage from the seventies or eighties nor the bands in the original line-ups. On this 2-DVD you will witness Krautrock veterans with often-rugged faces and grey or thin hair. But how inspired and professional they played that evening!
DVD-1 starts with Epitaph. They play blues-rock with echoes of Cream, Eric Clapton and Wishbone Ash (duo guitar work). Guitar player Heinz Glass does a good job on his silver-plated Fender Telecaster.
Then legends Guru Guru offer varied songs; They are bluesy in Living In The Woods, swinging in Izmiz (with strange small blow instruments, sounds funny), sultry in Kleines Pyama (powerful saxophone play), heavy and bombastic in Moshi Moshi (heavy guitar riffs and fiery saxophone with hints from King Crimson) and hypnotising in the final song Der Elektrolurch. The singer wears an exotic, coloured mask and climbs on the back of the guitar player while he plays a solo. These guys had fun!
Next is Karthago, they play blues-rock that is loaded with the powerful sound of the Hammond organ. The band plays pleasant and dynamic, nothing special but very entertaining.
Finally Jane, my favourite band on this 2-DVD. The line-up features drummer/singer Peter Panka (he looks like Jack Bruce from Cream) and the early keyboard player Werner Nadolny (later replaced by Manfred Wieczorcke who came from Eloy). Jane turned out to be the absolute highlight. What a wonderful and compelling sound, based upon great interplay by the keyboards (strings, organ, synthesizers and Mellotron samples) and guitar (powerful and sensitive). To me it sounds like 'symphonic bluesrock'. For me this gig from Jane is almost worth buying this 2-DVD, especially the final track Out In The Rain, delivering beautiful, sampled choir-Mellotron, very moving guitar-work and great vocals.
DVD-2 opens with another legend, Amon Duul II. I know this band from their 'free-form' psychedelic albums but during this gig the music is mainly rock-based (alongside the reggae song Speed Inside My Shoes) with good duo-guitar work. The female singer Renate Knaup-Krötenschwanz has lost power and often sounded unbalanced/out of tune although her presentation is very warm and enthusiastic.
Finally another personal highlight with the band Birth Control. They played three songs: Just Before The Sun Will Rise (dynamic progressive blues-rock featuring good solos and interplay by swirling organ and fiery electric guitar), Back From Hell (floods of organ, wah-wah-drenched guitar and duo vocals, including special guest Peter Föller) and the epic 'crowd pleaser' Gamma Ray (a propulsive rhythm delivering a percussive break, a bass solo accompanied by distorted clarinet, a splendid build-up guitar solo and a duel between the singer and the guitar, evoking the days of Gilland/Blackmore and Page/Plant).
To me Birth Control were a great end to an impressive Krautrock Meeting. Not really progressive in the vein of ELP, Yes or Genesis but as Krautrock sounds, unique!
Fact-file: As far as we can see, this festival appears to have been a one-off. We couldn't find any footage from this DVD, but as a taster, the video is of Birth Control in their first incarnation from 1977.