Album Reviews

Issue 2000-008

Reviews in this issue:

Daevid Allen - Stroking The Tail Of The Bird
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Voiceprint
Catalogue #:VP 207 CD
Year of Release:1990/1999
Tracklist: Stroking The Tail Of The Bird (Part One (10:01), Part Two (15:50)) (25:51), Moonpeople Gliss (10:25), Deep Sea (12:59), Rainbow Meditation (9:58)

Stroking the tail of a bird is a very delicate matter. You have to take your time, be very gentle, make no sudden moves or sounds, and be quiet. Now replace the tail of the bird with your ear and you know what this record is doing to it. Long-stretched soundscapes by keyboards (of course) and guitars, often slowed down to 50 or 25 percent...

On the front cover, this CD is credited to Harry Williamson, Gilli Smyth, and Daevid Allen (ex-Wilde Flowers, the band from which Soft Machine evolved). I think this is a re-issue of a previous release, but I am not sure. The title track and Moonpeople Gliss are from 1987, Deep Sea is from 1976, and Rainbow Meditation is from 1998, the latter obviously added to this release only. I can only assume Daevid Allen is present on all the tracks except the last one, which was written and recorded by Williamson, who I think is playing on all the tracks. Smyth co-wrote the title track, but I don't know if she's on the other tracks as well.
Smyth is credited with "space whisper". She is not a regular singer, but she's a vocal artist, who creates the weirdest of spacey sounds with her voice.

It's more meditation music than soundscapes, actually. You hear actual melodies. Weird melodies, but still... The compositions create, I suppose, a great surrounding to meditate. You really have to listen to this, it's not good for background music. Within the musical genre, this might be one of the better albums, but it's not something that I would listen to very often. I mean, it's not bad or something. But it's just not very exciting. Well, I understand the musicians didn't make this to create exciting music. It's hard to explain, but I think it's just beautiful sounds, and nothing more. For Allen / Williamson / Smyth / Gong collectors only, I'd say. Or you like to meditate a lot, of course.

Conclusion: 5 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten

Ritual - Suberb Birth*
Country of Origin:Sweden
Record Label:InsideOut
Catalogue #:TF VÖ 15
SPV 085-60832
Year of Release:1999/2004
Tracklist: Original Dinosaur Spaceship (6:09), Golden Angel (4:27), Coming Home (4:11), Really Something (3:51), Lobby (4:49), 6/8 (3:22), Into the Heat (4:59), Sadly Unspoken (3:53), Did I Go Wrong (5:38), Mothersong (3:53), A Voice of Divinity (3:35), Do You Want To See the Sun (4:00)

Tracklist: 2004 Re-release Do You Want To See the Sun (4:00), Lobby (4:49), Sadly Unspoken (3:53), Did I Go Wrong (5:38), 6/8 (3:22), Coming Home (4:11), Into the Heat (4:59), Really Something (3:51), Mothersong (3:53), Golden Angel (4:27), Dinosaur Spaceship (6:09), A Voice of Divinity (3:35)

The review here is of the original (1999) Superb Birth release and Remco's text remains unaltered. This update to the review marks its world-wide re-release in 2004. The album has been remastered by Hans Fredrickson in the Rommaro Studio (Sweden), and the running order for the tracks has altered (See above).

The second album of Swedish band Ritual, since their self-titled debut album in 1995 (published by Musea). I saw them live in Holland a couple of years ago, and was sold immediately. Their 1995 album is probably one of my most played albums. So when I heard that they released a new album and that DPRP got a review copy, I was very glad I had the pleasure of reviewing it.

The album is different from the first one, in the sense that the songs are somewhat sharper, less symfonic, but the quality of the first album is definitely preserved, including the soaring bass work by Fredrik Lindqvist. Immediately in the first song the new direction Ritual takes becomes apparent: powerful hammering bass and drum, dissonant guitar chords, tumbling vocals and even Steve Howe-like slide guitars. A very impressive opening piece, Dinosaur Spaceship, typical of the general direction modern prog is taking. After this exhausting piece, a semi-acoustic track follows. Again the flirtation with dissonant chords, but the clear vocals of Patrik Lundström keep the song from becoming out-of-control.

Coming Home is more regular rock, with melodic lines that for the first time remind of their debut album. The type of song you want to play loud in your car on a sunny day (that is, if you have a better car than I have ;-). Really Something is really weird. Deep, headache-like pounding of all the instuments together opens this track and continues until a U2-like middle piece breaks things a bit. This modern U2 reference continues with Lobby, but mixed with the typical Ritual sauce. 6/8 opens with a melancholic cello melody and then a cool organ (mellotron?) creates the right background for a Middle Eastern-like track (as they proved they can do on their first album).

The next couple of tracks continue this line. Did I Go Wrong deserves some attention, with a tired, complaining melody, almost New Wave like, with a firm bass melody. This track is very, very Radiohead-like, a reference that they flirt with throughout the album. Actually, this song is released on single, and with the right promotion I think it could even become a minor hit.

Mothersong somehow lacks the production of the other tracks, somehow it sounds pale. What went wrong here? This song contains some sound effects, mixed into the song as in the Cure's Like Cacatoos (for those who know this track). A Voice of Divinity is a piano-vocal ballad, with a Focus-like melody.

And then for the finale: Do You Want To See The Sun. Somehow, sometimes, you have these tracks that do something to you. I immediately felt connected to this one, like I knew it for years. It made me really happy, like sunshine in your stomach. I bet most of you won't have this when listening to this song, since it's not particulary happy or anything, but it's the typical track that is associated with summer, beer, friends and sunshine for me. This is definitely going to be an all time favourite.

OK, concluding: a worthy second album of a very talented band. Less symphonic, more Radiohead than their debut. Great songwriting, great instrumentals and it contains a song that can really uplift me. Their final rating can come as no surpise.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10.

Remco Schoenmakers

Stramonio - Seasons of Imagination
Country of Origin:Italy
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:NW 003
Year of Release:2000

Tracklist: Awake The Jester (8.46), Ashes In The Wind (7.01), I Swim In The Air (7.06), Get Lost In Time (5.17), Without You (5.46), The Song Of The Harvest Fly (8.29), Vital Elation (8.29)

All you Dream Theater fans out there, your attention, please! The new millenium sees the release of the first album from Italian prog metal band Stramonio, and it is a beauty. With the highest recommendations to the following of DT.

Stramonio was formed in 1992, playing at first mostly classic metal and melodic hard rock. They recorded several demos, including When Body Dies Soul Lives and Awake the Jester, experimenting with progressive rock and metal as the line up went through the usual changes. April 1999 saw the completion of the first full length studio album Seasons of Imaginations, which contains two new tracks.

Stramonio are Frederico De Vescovi (lead and background vocals), Nicola Balliana (acoustic and electiric guitarss), Luca Arrighini (electric guitar), Luca De Lazzaro (keyboards), Cristiano Zanvettor (bass), and Roberto De Cesoro (drums). Guest performances on violin and flute complete the instrumental section.

Stramonio's style of music is melodic/progressive rock and metal, owing a lot to Dream Theater and also to Rush. On this album one recognises the typical Dream Theater shifts from up tempo rock to darker and deeper rhythm lines, with familiar solos. De Vescovi's vocal lines also owe a lot to James LaBrie of Dream Theater.

Compositions are original, though I must again mention DT's influence. The players get to show their quality in a diverse collection of songs. More typical prog metal is alternated with complexely arranged tracks and the album includes a very good power ballad Without You, somewhat remeniscent of Yes. I've been enjoying a lot of prog albums where strings are added lately, and the addition of violin to some songs here again brings added attraction. Same goes for the flute. Sound quality has come off well in production.

Some remarks must be made concerning De Vescovi's vocals. I know some people are hesistant or even against vocalists with non-English accents, especially Italian or German accents. This has never been a problem for me personally. I even think an accent can add something to the charm of a vocal perfomance, for example in the case of Italian band Marathon's singer Glauco Giacchello and, especially, with German band Eloy's vocalist Frank Bornemann. But if you disagree, at least be forwarned.

Seasons of Imaginations comes in a beautiful digi pack with artwork by the well known painter Luis Royo. Quite impressive packaging for a first studio album, which I feel earns them half a point extra in my evaluation.

A great album, highly recommended. Of course there are a lot of Dream Theater clones out there at present, but I can't think of any that are as good as this. I'd like to see Stramonio develop a more personal style, but if they choose to keep following the tracks laid out by their fenomenal predecessor, this still surely remains a band to keep a close eye on.

Conclusion: 9 out of 10.

Mark Sander

Delivery - Fools Meeting
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label: Cuneiform
Catalogue #:Rune 115
Year of Release:1970/1999
Tracklist original album (45:54): Blind To Your Light (5:05), Miserable Man (8:28), Home Made Ruin (3:23), Is It Really The Same (5:44), We Were Satisfied (4:02), The Wrong Time (7:50), Fighting It Out (5:48), Fools Meeting (5:27)
Bonus tracks (25:16): Harry Lucky (3:41), Home Made Ruin (alternate take) (2:56), Is It Really The Same (live) (5:19), Blind To Your Light (live) (5:29), One For You (7:43)

I think there are a lot of you that have never heard of Delivery. I had never heard of them before when I got this CD. It is the re-issue of the one and only album by a band whose name is stated in the family trees of some well-known other bands, like Caravan, Hatfield And The North, National Health, Gong, and Soft Machine.
The core of Delivery is formed by guitarist Philip Miller, drummer Philip "Pip" Pyle, and pianist and Phil's brother Stephen Miller. On this CD, which contains the complete studio recording history of the band, the line-up includes Roy Babbington on bass, Carol Grimes on vocals, and Lol Coxhill on saxophone.

The music can be filed under progressive blues. It's all based on the blues, but there's a lot more than just that. It's got elements you can hear on Deep Purple's first three records, but without organ, Cream without the emphasis on the guitar solos and more on the songs instead. And there is a lot more jazz in the music of Delivery.
Another distinctive element in their music is Carol Grimes's voice. The record company saw in her a British Grace Slick or Janis Joplin, and here voice is somewhere between those, although she also reminded me of Stone The Crows and Julian's Treatment's first album (singer Cathy Pruden).
Phil Miller is quoted saying "Delivery was a learning band". This is where it all started for most of the musicians. Steve Miller had been playing with Alexis Korner, but the others, who were a few years younger, were less experienced. Blues was the music that inspired most of the successful bands, but Steve was also very interested in jazz and rhythm & blues. The joining of Lol Coxhill introduced more jazz, more freedom of playing to their music, making it more jazzy and more progressive.

I am not a great fan of saxophones, and a solo like the one in Is It Really The Same is too freaky for me (Coxhill had left the band to join Kevin Ayers, but was invited as a guest player on the recording). In other, less jazzy pieces, where the sax is less prominently present, it offers a strange but nice ingredient to the whole of the sound, sometimes reminding me of Soft Machine and Robert Wyatt.
I prefer drummers and bass players like this, who have that blues feeling in their play. They know when to play loud, and when to play gently, unlike too many rock musicians. The Wrong Time is a great example with its heavier and softer pieces alternating. It has a soft jazzy opening, and a quiet bluesy part (after a long sax solo, I should add...). This song shows both Steve's great piano playing and the band's blend of blues and jazz.

In 1971, Pip Pyle joins Gong, to be replaced by Laurie Allen. The music progressed more and more towards jazz improvisations, which led Carol Grimes to leave. When Roy Babbington also left, the band quit. The story of Delivery continues however, since later, Coxhill formed a band with Steve Miller, Phil Miller, Laurie Allen, and Judy Dyble, formerly singing with Fairport Convention: DC & The MB's (Dyble, Coxhill, And The Miller Brothers). Also here, a lot of improvisations. This band fell apart when Steve was asked to replace David Sinclair in Caravan, and Robert Wyatt formed Matching Mole with David Sinclair and Phil Miller. When playing in Caravan, Steve Miller brought in much of the music he had written for Delivery earlier that year. Songs on Caravan's Waterloo Lily album, quoting the CD booklet, can be heard as late / lost period Delivery songs with the framework of a great Caravan album.
One day, Phil Miller, Pip Pyle, and David Sinclair dropped by when Steve Miller was recording some piano tracks, and they were invited to perform one of Steve's song, One For You. This song is included on this CD. It has Steve's distinctive blues / jazz piano, with great contributions by the others. A diverse track, alternating between blues and jazz, and I think largely improvised. You might conclude that this band didn't know to make a choice between blues or jazz, but to me that's simply the strongest point in their music.

A reformed Delivery, with Richard Sinclair on bass, played a few gigs, but Steve Miller didn't feel comfortable with his brother's musical direction. He left and was replaced with David Sinclair. The band then changed their name to Hatfield And The North.
It's strange to see that a great album like this, which is still part of the history of a number of well-known groups who all have their own part in musical history, could have been forgotten. Fans of all bands linked to Delivery should get this CD, but also if you're interested in a great combination of blues and jazz, it's a great choice. More jazz than most progressive blues bands from the late Sixties, and bluesier, rawer, and rocking more than jazz.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten

Quantum Jump - Quantum Jump
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Voiceprint
Catalogue #:MPVP 012 CD
Year of Release:1976/1999
Info:Rupert Hine

Tracklist original album (36:53): Captain Boogaloo (4:19), Over Rio (4:22), The Lone Ranger (2:55), No American Starship (4:55), Alto Loma Road (4:46), Cocobana Havana (5:10), Constant Forest (2:17), Something At The Bottom Of The Sea [Stepping Stones (1:11), The Roving Finger (2:01), Stepping Rocks (1:16), --- (3:41)] (8:09)
Bonus tracks (20:24): Captain Boogaloo (Mixing version) (4:40), The Lone Ranger (Mixing and hit single version) (3:20), No American Starship (Mixing version) (4:52), Over Rio (Mixing version) (4:22), Drift (The Lone Ranger single B-side) (3:10)

Quantum Jump - Barracuda

Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Voiceprint
Catalogue #:MPVP 013 CD
Year of Release:1977/1999
Info:Rupert Hine
Tracklist original album (40:24): Don't Look Now (4:12), The Seance (3:45), Barracuda (6:06), Starbright Park (5:46), Love Crossed (Like Vines In Our Eyes) (6:26), Blue Mountain (3:46), Europe On A Dollar A Day (3:44), Neighbours (6:39)
Bonus tracks (20:49): Don't Look Now (Mixing version) (3:30), Blue Mountain (Mixing version) (5:57), Barracuda (Mixing version) (3:38), Take Me To The Void Again (incomplete work-in-progress mix) (3:41), Summer In The City (abandoned Lovin' Spoonful cover) (4:03)

Two strange CDs... Quantum Jump's music is very hard to label, but it's definitely somewhere in the outskirts of progressive rock, where muscial genres blend together. And Quantum Jump is on the crossroads of several styles.
The best-known name within the unit that was called Quantum Jump is Rupert Hine, a man who needs no introduction. These two CDs contain all that Hine has recorded with this band: two original albums, a single B-side, two unreleased songs, plus the re-mixes and overdubbed versions from a compilation album called Mixing. Now that's what I call re-releasing! Great job by Voiceprint.

The music is, like I said, hard to describe. There's a lot of jazzy guitar picking, and the musical structures and time signatures are not the most common ones. Guitarist Mark Warner plays a number of solos, soulful at times, but also fierce, sharp, and long. Bass player John G. Perry and drummer Trevor Morais add so much funk to the songs, that the only reference to other existing music that remains must be Frank Zappa. And this is further enhanced by Hine's vocals. He sounds not unlike Zappa, and he sometimes uses vocal melodies that remind me of Zappa very much. A song like Alto Loma Road even has some Yes influences. Very soft verses building towards a franticly played middle section, full of... well, everything! And in Something At The Bottom Of The Sea, the rather complex structure and playing predominates over the funky rhythms, making a King Crimson feeling come up. But overall, it's just a lot of Zappa.

The second album is less extreme. The music is more jazzy, with the melodies becoming more important than the funky bass. No sudden outbursts of musical power, which was one of the interesting parts of the first album. Songs like Starbright Park and Love Crossed are more poppy than on the debut LP, and have something of a "happy Hawaiian" touch... More Zappa, and therefore it seems less serious. I can appreciate Zappa at times, but it can be too casual, too easy. The compositions are very good, but they don't do anything for me.

The music of Quantum Jump is, you will understand by now, not very typical prog rock. Fortunately, we write about related styles too, and we have more and more visitors that are interested in these as well. These discs are documents in musical history. Like Hine says, "our humble but not insignificant contribution to English bands in the Seventies". Thanks to Voiceprint, they are now, at last, available on CD. If you know the original albums, you know whether to buy these CDs. To the others I'd say that if you're interested in Zappa, then definitely listen to these CDs. I recommend the first one, since it's a more diverse album, a bit weirder than the second.

Conclusion: 6.5 (Quantum Jump) and 6 (Barracuda) out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten

Chinawhite - A Dragon's Birth
Country of Origin:Netherlands
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:1997

Tracklist: Rock and Water (5.07), The Revolution by Night (4.15), A Dragon's Birth (0.27), Big Money (5.03), The Lurker (4.59).

In 1989 Chinawhite evolved from two other bands (Jester's Tear & Trouwens). In 1990 they recorded their first demo tape A Thousand Thoughts. In 1991 they contributed two songs to the Sampler CD Southern Comfort. Another demo tape followed a year later: When Dreams Unite (1992). The popularity of the band grew and several (acoustic) performances on radio stations followed. The band also played regular live sets with cover versions of work by bands like Rush, Saga, Camel, Marillion, Toto, Van Halen, Whitesnake and Queen. Their 1994 demo Sign of the Time also featured cover versions of tracks by Whitesnake, Steppenwolf, McCartney & Ozzy Osbourne.
In May 1995 the band recorded 5 tracks in 3 days, which were mixed in one additional day. The band was not 100% satisfied with the result and the project was put on ice for a while. In 1997, after about 100 gigs since they were founded, the band remixed the 5 songs and finally released them on a mini CD called A Dragon's Birth.
In 1999 DPRP started hosting their Homepage and now, one year later, we (finally) present a review of their 1997 album.

The band consists of Peter Cox (guitars & vocals), Don Feltges (lead vocals & cover artwork), Paul Roefs (bass), Rolf ' Fuchs' Vossen (keys) and Hans in 't Zandt (drums).
Chinawhite plays melodic heavy rock with progressive influences. Sometimes it leans more towards AOR, but there's more than enough subtle bits and pieces in the tracks to keep the open-minded prog fan happy. At the same time the compositions are quite accessible. At times it reminds me of Asia, while Peter Cox's howling guitar often reminds me of Frank Usher's work for Fish. Saga and Rush influences seem to be present as well.

The song Rock and Water first appeared on the Southern Comfort compilation. It is a very catchy track, accessible and perhaps the best one on the album. It's got a great drive and must be wonderful when played live.

The Revolution by Night, originally from the A Thousand Thoughts tape. The starts reminds me a bit of the Goede Doel classic Nooduitgang (sorry for all the non-Dutch). The track evolves in a nice rocker with interesting rhythm and mood changes and fine multi-vocals.

A Dragon's Birth is basically just a half minute instrumental with some keyboard chords (hardly a real song) that leads into Big Money, which was also first released on the Southern Comfort compilation. A nice rocking track with some fine multi-vocals.

Lurker is the last track on the album, and probably the one that is the least accessible. I find it a bit harder to get into this one, compared to the more energetic other tracks on the album. The bass and guitar solos are great though !
The ballad section in the middle of the song sounds a bit forced into the track. A bit too many ideas in 5 minutes perhaps ?

The guitar solo's are very good. Bass and drums lay a solid rhythm, although some of the songs contain some weird ticking percussion that gets on my nerves a bit. Keyboards play an important supporting rather than a soloing role. Finally the vocals are okay, although Don has the tendency to overdo it at times with some needles cries and occassional grunts. The nice CD cover was done by Don as well.

All in all, Dragon's Birth is a fine debut CD with lots of great melodies by a band full of energy and drive. Not the most original thing I've heard but certainly highly enjoyable. Check it out. The bands sells copies for 20 Guilders (10 US Dollars). For order details, check out their Homepage.

Since 1998 Chinawhite has been working on their new album Breathe Fire, which should be available later this year. I'm looking forward to hear it.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10.

Ed Sander

Vermilion Sands - Water Blue
Country of Origin:Japan
Record Label:Musea
Catalogue #:FGBG 4293.AR
Year of Release:1999
Info:Vermillion Sands
Tracklist original album (46:33): My Lagan Love (3:10), Ashes Of The Time (12:12), In Your Mind (7:36), Coral D - The Cloud Sculptors (5:51), Kitamoto (4:41), Living In The Shiny Days (4:16), The Poet (7:43)
Bonus tracks (27:00): The Love In The Cage (7:03), In The Night Of Ancient Tombs (6:15), The Love In The Cage (live) (6:20), In Your Mind (live) (7:17)

Although I had never heard of Vermilion Sands before, they have been around since 1986. On the other hand, besides two tracks on compilation albums, they have only recorded this album, in 1987. This Musea release is a re-issue of the original 1989 issue on Made In Japan Records. And I am glad they did this!
It's a bit disturbing, or at least surprising, to hear a Japanese band play music in the vein of a blend of British progressive rock that you don't hear a lot, namely Renaissance and, even more than that, Solstice. Female singer Yoko Royama even sounds a lot like Solstice's first female singer.
The band take their time to play a song. No keyboard powerplay or a pile of technical show-offs, but quiet and acoustic parts with delicate vocals, alternated with longer instrumental passages and very melodic solos. If you would not listen to the lyrics, you'd swear you were listening to a British band! I didn't understand the lyrics right away, so, although the titles are in English, I incorrectly assumed the lyrics were in Japanese. But it doesn't bother me at all. The voice is very sweet, high and melodic, and does not lack any power. It suits this kind of music perfectly. It adds to the fairytale atmosphere that the music creates. The warm and moving guitar solos make me dream away.

Although Coral D has a slight Marillion-like intro and a middle section that sounds like IQ, it's again Solstice that comes to mind because of the vocals and the whistling melodies. It's like this song is a tribute to those British bands from the Eighties! The verses of Living In The Shiny Days have a sweet Yes feel to them, with vocals sounding like Anderson, and vocal melodies that Anderson could and maybe would do, as well. I have never heard a Japanese band before who were influenced by British Seventies' and Eighties' bands this way. I just love the warm, gentle and sweet atmosphere.
Although not a very original album, they don't play prog in a common way. Like I said, there are not a lot of bands playing music like this. I hope that although the band's activities are put on hold because of the birth of the singer's baby, they will release another album soon!

Conclusion: 7 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten

Christian Boulé - Photo Musik
Country of Origin:France
Record Label:Musea
Catalogue #:FGBG 4296.AR
Year of Release:1978/1999
Tracklist: Elastic Minute (4:08), Photo Musik (2:44), Cristal Palace (7:27), 22 Broad Street (4:25), Radio-Arc-En-Ciel (2:32), 5ème Océn (2:37), Aqua Deva (2:57), Inter Galactic Cosmic Triolet (4:03), Orange Climax (7:38)
Bonus tracks: Comet Hotel (3:07), Estella Futur (3:56)

The name of Christian Boulé did ring a bell, but I could not remember where I had read his name before. But when I heard this CD for the first time, it didn't take very long for me to know where to look for his name: in the booklet of a Steve Hillage Band CD... Boulé was part of the Steve Hillage Band in 1976 and 1977. It would be too easy to say that because Boulé recorded this album early 1978, so right after his Hillage experience, that Hillage was his biggest influence. Boulé had been an active guitarist in several bands for five years, before he joined Hillage. So he had had a lot of other influences as well. He must have been thinking (I mean playing...) along the same lines already, or Hillage would probably not have asked Boulé to join his band in the first place.

Photo Musik is, however, an album that sounds very much like Hillage in his early (solo) years (who recorded his Live Herald around this time, on which Boulé is playing): spacey, lightly psychedelic guitar rock.
There are, of course, differences. The first and most obvious is that Boulé has a female singer, Andy Slaten. She is American, so don't be afraid of a heavy French accent. She has a high, almost child-like voice, and with her musical melodies she adds a rather mysterious layer to the music, which is not too common anyway.
Overall, Boulé is not as heavy as Hillage. Boulé has an eye for detail, and adds more acoustic guitar and piano into his songs, making them more delicate and even sweet at times. This does not mean that Boulé does not know how to make his music fly on those glissando guitar solos! But to my taste, he might have done that more often.
Boulé's songs are also shorter that Hillage's early work, making them more like real "songs"; melodic tunes, but without the adventurous soloing. The emphasis is more on the song that on the aural space trips. In the first and the last song of the original album, he shows he actually is capable of doing so.
The two bonus tracks, recorded in 1998, are rather short, but show that Boulé is still using that beautiful glissando guitar, making even a shorter song sound spacey. Modern electronics have, however, found their way into Boulé's music as well.

If you like the early Hillage albums, this CD is a must. But also if you're into Hawkwind you should hear it. Bear in mind that Boulé's music is more song-based and not as heavy as those British godfathers of space rockers, but fortunately not as electronic as contemporary Hawkwind either!

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10.

Jerry van Kooten

Runaway Totem - Andromeda
Country of Origin:Italy
Record Label:Musea
Catalogue #:FGBG 4299.AR
Year of Release:1999
Info:Runaway Totem's Eyes
Tracklist:Kontakt (13.03), Tempus Fungiens ? (8.44), OD OB (8.47), Kadman Neso (10.39), Andros Medomai (8.07)

Last year Italian band Runaway Totem released the concept album Andromeda, a complex progressive rock piece. Formed in 1988, the band has released two prior albums, Trimegisto in 1993 and Zed in 1996. Andromeda was released by french music label Musea last July. At the time of Andromeda's recording, Runaway Totem was a five man band, consisting of Roberto Gottardi (guitars, vocals), Rene Modena (guitars), Germano Morghen (drums) and Dario Gelmetti (bass), and Roberto Veronese on piano, keyboards and synths. Modena left the band in March 1999.

On their previous albums Runaway Totem showed an interest in Greek and Egyptian mythology and ancient history. Andromeda is again a concept album. It tells the story of an ordinary man, Kadman Neso, and his identity in the harmonious coexistence of his micro-cosmos and the macro-cosmos around him. In Runaway Totem's own words: "Andromeda wants to be the musical representation of the cosmo-genesis. We can rediscover our true identity through what we consider the ars regia: music." No catchy pop tunes or lyrics here.

This is not your typical prog music. Runaway Totem shows an original style, musically, but especially vocally. Instrumentally it appealed most to my fondness for the early seventies style of Pink Floyd. Roberto Gottardi's vocals shift from lyrical singing to outright story telling and at times he brings his lines as emotional outcries. As all lyrics are either in Italian or Latin (to tell you the truth, I'm not quite sure), this may prove something of a threshold to be taken by intrested prog fans. Actually, this album is good enough not to be passed over by such considerations.

The first track, Kontakt, opens with mysterious synthesizer music, reminiscent of some of movie score writer Jerry Goldsmith's work, symbolising the vastness of space, the macrocosm. Piano, bass and drums are added, and guitar joins in as the keys shift to a Atom Heart Mother like rhythm. This eases up before the band picks up the pace and Gottardi's deep voice is added. Further on the beat of Diamond Head's Am I Evil is set in, overlaid with guitar and the booming of Gottardi's voice.

In Tempus Fugiens ? piano and drums and the mesmerizing voice of Gottardi build as a trio to a climax. Again the pace is picked up and a strong metal rhythm is taken up by the band. Between vocal parts this is complemented by violin. Some very dark instrumental parts are added, and as Gottardi joins in, Roberto Veronese plays heavy organs. Guitars toward the end are again very reminiscent of Pink Floyd in their late sixties/ early seventies period.

Od. Ob. starts as a more standard prog rock track, but it has a very nice vocal rhythm. It includes very good keyboards and echoing guitars. Gottardi shifts to story telling mode in the middle of the track, then changes to a hypnotic chanting as the bass dominates the instrumental section.

Kadman Neso is a slow metal track with overlying keyboard rhythms. As the keys set a more quite rhythm half way through the track Gottardi sings of Kadman Neso, as this track alternates between quite verses and a powerful chorus. The last track, Andros Medomai, sounds like a dark, but catchy carnaval tune. This instrumental track alternates between rhythms.

The band's website, Runaway Totem's Eyes, includes soundclips from all three albums they've released, including from this latest album parts of Kontakt, Tempus Fugiens ? and Kadman Neso.

This self produced album catches the mysterious atmosphere of endless space with great perfomances, especially by Gelmetti on bass and Veronese on keys. It is sure to be of interest to those IQ fans, who don't mind a darker and heavier sound and don't mind crossing the barrier of lyrical confusion, as it brings the same comfortable symbioses instrumentally that is one of IQ's strong points in my view. It's not quite retro Pink Floyd, but original and complex symphonic music, definitely worth a try.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10.

Mark Sander

Album Reviews