Issue 2010-006

Reviews in this issue:

3rd World Electric – Kilimanjaro Secret Brew

3rd World Electric – Kilimanjaro Secret Brew
Country of Origin:USA/Sweden
Record Label:Reingold Records
Catalogue #:RRCD 001
Year of Release:2009
Info:3rd World Electric
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Waterfront Migration (7:50), Ode To Joe (4:59), Capetown Traffic (5:38), Downbeat Dakar (6:16), The Lava Juggler (5:30), Kilimanjaro Secret Brew, (7:02), Tin Can Robots (6:04), Children Of The Future (9:02)

Take 3 Flower Kings (2 current and 1 ex), add a former associate of Chick Corea, blend in a virtuoso keyboard player, top with lashings of saxophone, season with exotic percussion and simmer slowly in a heated studio and what do you get? The answer is Kilimanjaro Secret Brew, an extremely tasty offering from a brand new all instrumental ensemble 3rd World Electric. It’s the brainchild of Jonas Reingold and Roine Stolt who together with Zoltan Csörsz, Dave Weckl, Lalle Larsson, Karl Martin Almqvist and Ayi Salomon pay homage to the American jazz-fusion exponents of the 70’s. If however the mere mention of the word jazz conjures up images of self indulgent musical ramblings then fear not, this is as tuneful and uplifting as it is skilfully performed.

Take the bubbly Waterfront Migration for example. Opening with Salomon’s tasteful percussion, it’s blessed with a perky main theme driven by a funky bass riff and on route takes in a minor deviation for Lalle Larsson’s twiddly synth solo. As the sun sets, the smooth Ode To Joe creates a whole different late-night listening mood with sultry sax and mellow fretless bass underscored by Stolt’s understated keyboards. It provides a fitting lament to the late jazz craftsman Joe Zawinul who died tragically from skin cancer in 2007.

Taking a more strident turn is the punchy Capetown Traffic, introduced by tumbling bass and electric piano reminiscent of the classic Stanley Clarke and Chick Corea partnership. The Return To Forever edginess continues making this the perfect accompaniment to a fictional crime thriller set on the mean streets of a 1970’s New York. Zoltan Csörsz’s meticulously crisp drumming wouldn’t do Billy Cobham an injustice. Downbeat Dakar hits the ground running with a soulful groove featuring a magnificent central performance from Karl Martin Almqvist who combines sprightly lead saxophone with full on big band flavoured punctuations.

Like the two previous tracks The Lava Juggler is penned by Reingold providing a busy but melodic tenor sax led theme that motors along under a head of steam. Its interspersed with calmer moments that allow Larsson to strut his Rhodes piano stuff whilst it’s Dave Weckl’s turn to kick up a storm from the drum stool. The title piece Kilimanjaro Secret Brew eases the pressure with an unhurried but memorable melody that’s home to some wonderful playing not least Reingold’s moody bass lines and the cool guitar picking from an uncharacteristic sounding Mr Stolt.

The heady Tin Can Robots enters the realms of jazz funk and although it’s not quite Earth Wind & Fire it does benefit with a punchy horns sound. Stolt’s extended solo is downright funky complemented by Larsson’s fast and tricky synth break. The album ends on a high with Children Of The Future which includes a lush intro that could so easily be an extract from a future Flower Kings epic. It takes flight with a sunny and compelling African flavoured rhythm where Larsson’s exhilarating grand piano flights and striking synth solo are a sheer delight and both worthy of Herbie Hancock.

As to be expected there is some seriously talented musicianship on show here but more revealing is the intuitive grasp of the genre which captures the spirit of Weather Report, Return To Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra amongst others. Despite being responsible for most of the compositions Stolt keeps a noticeably lower profile than usual although when he does cut loose he demonstrates the necessary chops for this most demanding of music. Reingold is clearly in his element as his bass swoops and soars supported by impeccable rhythm work from Weckl, Csörsz and Salomon. Larsson is certainly a major keyboard talent but the real revelation is Almqvist who’s forced me to revaluate my appreciation of the saxophone, not normally my favourite of instruments. His playing throughout has a tuneful spring in its step that’s thankfully free of the improvised squeaks and squawks that all too often blights jazz saxophone. This comes highly recommended to both fusion and non-fusion buffs alike.

Conclusion: 8 out of 10


Jupiter Society - Terraform

Jupiter Society - Terraform
Country of Origin:Sweden
Record Label:InsideOut
ProgRock Records
Catalogue #:IOMCD 323
Year of Release:2009
Info:Jupiter Society
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: New Universe (9:01), Rescue And Resurrection (9:56), Cranial Implant (7:14), Into The Dark (4:34), Siren’s Song/Black Hole (8:19), Terraforming (7:26), Beyond These Walls You Are Not My Master (8:41)

Jupiter Society’s brand of progressive rock is quite difficult to pigeon-hole: the best I can come up with is that it’s a kind of slow to mid-tempo space-rock, not entirely dissimilar to a band like Farflung in terms of tempo and heaviness, combined with an exciting, powerful sweep of synthesizer-derived symphonic majesty, all set in a science-fiction concept world, with evocative artwork and lyrics to boot!

If you love science-fiction and you love heavy, synthesizer laden progressive-rock, then you will love Jupiter Society’s albums! Terraform is a follow-up to 2008’s First Contact/Last Warning, an album that wasn’t reviewed by DPRP. However, Jupiter Society is the name of the project run, with guest musicians, by Swedish musician Carl Westholm and two albums of one of his previous projects, Carptree, have been reviewed here, receiving recommendation-level scores. The main additional players featuring on Terraform are Mats Levén, Nils Erikson and Ölvin Tronstad (vocals); Sebastian Blyberg and Stefan Fanden (bass); Ulf Edelönn, Peter Söderström and Kulle (guitars); and Lars Sköld, Jonas Källsbäck and Christer Jansson (drums).

Terraform is a better, more-rounded album than First Contact/Last Warning; Westholm having ironed out some of the irritations that crept into that first effort.

The album gets off to a brilliant start: New Universe and Rescue And Resurrection have got to be amongst the most enjoyable progressive tracks written recently. New Universe is really catchy, it has hooks hidden lying in wait, as if anticipating the resonance with your auditory and, later, mental systems. It’s riff-laden, it’s powerful at a good tempo, the choral-effect synths are effective; the singing is good: it’s lush! Rescue And Ressurection kicks off with a glorious symphonic passage; the music becoming heavier later in the piece; the timbral synth sound is very full and meaty as the tempo builds, a real wall of sound – it’s an exceptional sonic experience with the volume turned up.

The high standard is maintained through Cranial Implant: the piano-ish intro is beautiful and the drop in tempo is compensated for by good rhythmic composition, a good vocal performance and some fine guitar work.

Up to this point the album is faultless. Then, as after First Contact/Last Warning’s beginning, the pace and intensity drop, and the momentum of the smorgasbord-opening is lost, the listener’s concentration freed from the sonic cage. However, the worst distraction of the first album is avoided – then, on the slowest tempo sections, each sung syllable seemed to be disconnected from the next, giving a disconcerting effect. This never happens on Terraform: the pace becomes slow during Into The Dark and Siren’s Song/Black Hole but the singing stays legato – just – enough to allow full enjoyment of the beautiful symphonic synth work. A bit of power allied with sweetness returns in the effective Terraforming and the symphonic power of Beyond These Walls You Are Not My Master sweeps the album off to a satisfactory finish!

Whilst close to a higher, general recommendation-level score, I don’t feel this is yet consistent enough for a cross-genre progressive fan commendation. However, for fans of symphonic-synth progressive space/science-fiction rock, Terraform will be an absolute joy!

Conclusion: 7 out of 10


Maze Of Time - Lullaby For Heroes

Maze Of Time - Lullaby For Heroes
Country of Origin:Sweden
Record Label:Art Performance
Catalogue #:ArtP010
Year of Release:2008
Info:Maze Of Time
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Heroes... (2:17), Lullaby For Heroes (6:58), Station To Station (9:27), Playgrounds (4:39), Chemical Sleep Part 1 (2:15) / Part 2 (7:59), The Great Cosmic Dream (5:10), Do Androids? (8:12), Temple Of The Gods (17:15)

Apparently there lies some kind of curse upon my reviews of this Swedish group; my review of their debut album Tales From The Maze was delayed and now due to several personal matters during the past year, the review of this album is even more severely delayed! My sincere apologies to all concerned, but since I stick to my promises and also because this album does deserve a review that hopefully will boost the CD-sales I decided to go ahead with it after all. In November 2008 I was contacted by the Amsterdam-based record label owner Johnny Rosengren who invited me to a release concert of Maze Of Time in Amsterdam the 30th of November. Obviously he choose me from the DPRP team since I reviewed their previous album. Unfortunately I appeared to be the only 'music journalist' who bothered to plough through the snow in an abandoned industrial area to see this group play live and present their new album. But all other invited persons where proven wrong not to come because this very intimate concert turned out to be a real pleasant experience and the guys of the band where also very nice and interesting people to talk with. Even more reason to keep my promise and still review this album even though it's now more than one year ago since it was released.

Since their previous album one important and very obvious change has been made to the group, singer Christer Lindström who also played guitar was replaced by singer Jesper Landén. I don't know what caused this personnel change, but I must admit it was for the best as the vocals were one of the weak spots on their previous album. And now Maze Of Time have found a very impressive and vocally well-stretched singer in the person of Jesper. He directly impressed me at that gig in the pretty empty room where they played the complete new album and some tracks from the first album and also on the CD the vocals don't stand out as a disappointing factor anymore. It's not that Jesper is the ideal prog-singer, but he has much more power and emotion in his voice than his predecessor including a wide range and variation and his voice doesn't create signs of annoyance and thirdly his voice is better integrated in the music and the complete sound. So these are already some important improvements compared to the previous album.

Since I received, a long time ago, this album to review it found its way into my CD-player many times and therefore enjoyed many spins. It must say however that this hasn't left a lasting impression in my brain; neither a bad one nor a good one and that's exactly what actually sums up this album. It's good melodic, easily accessible, vintage neo-prog, but nothing really exceptional, although I must admit that this album won't really bore you easily as it offers enough variation and musical diversity. Nevertheless there are a few somewhat dull moments on the album just as some short pieces of excellent music. The rest is fine, but it never becomes truly exciting, remarkable or surprising. It's a similar conclusion as I had with their previous, debut, album and in this respect this group still has to find its own unique sound to distinguish themselves from so many other bands and also really amaze some listeners. I honestly must say that this album sounded live, much more energetic than on CD; surely the CD also has its exciting moments, but as a whole it lacks true excitement and expression.

The CD actually starts very promisingly with all kinds of sounds that make up the whole first 'song' Heroes, like a car door slamming, someone walking on the gravel, nature sounds, a clock ticking, water flowing and a car or train driving by. The music itself starts with a genuine prog intro with the title song; like most songs on this album a slow paced song, very ballad like. Near the end the pace picks up and even a short keyboard solo is given away, but during the guitar solo the songs ends abruptly in a much too quick fade-out. Station and train sounds aptly start the song Station To Station and during this song it already becomes very clear the main man of the band (Robert I Edman) is first of all a guitarist since the guitars play a major role on this album and get most cherry. But I have to admit that this isn't a bad thing, even though I personally would prefer some more keys here and there. The guitar solo's and licks truly rock which makes me wonder if Robert wouldn't be more at his place in a hard rock band. I absolutely loved the little musical joke in the song Playgrounds when the lyrics go "I can show you my collection of guitars!" and upon the word 'guitars' the voice turns up very high into a sort of falsetto that directly flows over into the guitar for a short solo (very Tenacious D like). But unfortunately these musical treats are just to scarce on this album to really lift it up, but still this song is one of the better ones. Chemical Sleep Part 1 is an instrumental, very energetic this time, almost like a jam with the various instruments battling for attention. Unfortunately Part 2 of this song doesn't maintain this atmosphere and brings this song down to a rather mediocre rock song with some faint prog elements, besides the nice but too short slow keyboard solo.

The Great Cosmic Dream is another example of a nice song that will just not impress you, even the guitar solo's are pretty standard; other more brilliant artists will probably put out a song as this on the B-side of some single, but not on the album. Do Androids? on the other hand is one of the highlights of this album, with an excellent prog intermission and also a powerful ending including a longer howling guitar solo; this time the use of a fade-out is acceptable. Considering its length Temple Of The Gods is probably intended to be the cream of the crop on the album. Exactly following the well-known prog-rules it starts with a lengthy instrumental segment with room for all instruments, then the vocals come in a mellow way to slowly build up to the more heavier bits further on. The serene piano intermission about half way is also played by the book just as the build up that follows, the guitar solo and not to forget the climax near the end. It's an excellent song, but somehow it comes over a bit too much planned and organized and not so much originating from the gut and maybe that's exactly the weak spot of this album.

But there's still one compliment that has to be made and that's for the artwork by Alex de Belford, Nathie Block and Alex Jonsson which really is excellent; the front cover depicts a sleeping knight in a forest with a lute laying next to him and some vague mysterious characters surrounding him (some very well hidden in the picture, search for all of them!). A classic pillared chapel and some futuristic buildings can be seen in the far distance hidden behind the misty spooky wet lands. All in all a very interesting and well-crafted painting that promises more mystery and adventure than the album itself can deliver.

I have written a lot about the aspects of this album where it comes just a bit too short to make it truly wonderful, but let me not forget to also emphasize that this is absolutely a pleasant album with lots of nice moments, good musicianship, interesting well executed ideas and a well mixed full sound, but it could have done with some more power and up-tempo energy. All taken into account I think this album lacks just that little bit extra to get a DPRP recommendation, but I do see some progress and must say that this album is absolutely worth listening to; just don't expect to be blown away or be astonished by it.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10


Behind The Sun - Behind The Sun

Behind The Sun - Behind The Sun
Country of Origin:Israël
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:N/A
Year of Release:2009
Info:Behind The Sun
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: Second December (6:21), Wishful Thinking (4:12), Nothing But A Stain (3:49), Prelude (1:10), Still (5:01), Running Water (5:23), The Professionals (5:27), Fifteenth Dawn (4:59), Sour Days (5:21), October '77 (3:21), Brother (5:18), Strong Wind (8:34)

Behind The Sun was formed near the desert in Israël. They classify their music as north desert heavy music, influenced by seventies prog, nineties grunge and modern heavy music. Amongst the influences King Crimson, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Alice In Chains and Faith No More are mentioned. I must say the latter and modern bands are more noticeable as an influence than the classic oldies. Behind The Sun is a self titled debut album which contains twelve songs dealing with their lives in this heavenly but harsh land. The album is produced and mixed by Solstice Coil keyboard player Shai Yallin, he is also mentioned as a guest musician. I must say he has done a pretty good job because the sound on this album is good.

The opening of the album has Led Zeppelin written all over it, also a combination of Black Sabbath and Alice In Chains can be heard. The vocals of Gad Erez are very pleasant to listen to, the guitars sound dirty enough to give the music a rocky feel and somewhere hidden far away are some keyboards - Behind The Sun is guitar orientated. Drummer Saar Gur can give a solid rock rhythm but can also push the melody, he listened a lot to Neil Peart. This can be heard during the song Wishful Thinking which sounds a bit like Rush on their Presto album. Behind The Sun reach out to many different styles and on the other hand created a very coherent album. Their diversity is shown on a song like Running Water that has a funky part combined with a dark Black Sabbath part.

The best track on the album is Strong Wind. Now I hear all you people thinking of course because it is the longest song with probably the most progressive elements. Certainly not, it is a very dreamy long song which I usually do not like, but this piece just grabbed me. It is the longest song on the album but certainly not an epic and there are no more progressive elements than on the rest of this album.

During almost an hour of playing time of this album I can hear the soul from the old prog bands but the best resemblance is perhaps Alice In Chains, but please do not label this as a dead on grunge album. The music of Behind The Sun is very good and I really like this album - it is far better than a lot of material that comes from the US or UK categorized in the same corner, it surely could not hurt to check out some samples and see if it is to your liking. Behind The Sun sure is an album I like but do not expect neo-progressive rock or prog metal because it is not on this disc.

Conclusion: 6.5 out of 10


Julian Colbeck with Jonathan Cohen – Back To Bach

Julian Colbeck with Jonathan Cohen – Back To Bach
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Voiceprint
Catalogue #:VP522CD
Year of Release:1992/2009

Tracklist: Old Faces At Heaven's Gate (3:30), Pure February (2:39), Prelude 1 [Pure February] (2:38), Septembrist (1:48), Fugue 1 [Septembrist] (1:49), 4th Of July (2:38), Prelude 11 [4th Of July] (2:40), Riding The March Of Dimes (1:41), Fugue 11 [Riding The March Of Dimes] (1:40), Case Of January (1:43), Prelude III [Case Of January] (1:45), June Daze (2:29), Fugue III [June Daze] (2:27), No, No, November (2:17), Prelude IV [No, No, November] (2:18), St. Augustine (3:54), Fugue IV [St Augustine] (3:53), Faces From Old Photos Rediscovered (3:21), Prelude V [Heaven's Gate] (3:23), Maybe, Maybe Not (3:06), Fugue V [Maybe, Maybe Not] (2:30), April's Fool (2:10), Prelude VI [April's Fool] (2:10), Man Of December (2:24), Fugue VI [Man Of December] (2:25)

Keyboardist Julian Colbeck has amassed a good deal of credibility as a musician over the last thirty years, coming to prominence with British rock band Charlie and more recently playing live and recording with Steve Hackett, Bill Bruford and Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe with whom he appeared on the live album and DVD An Evening Of Yes Music Plus. Since then he has diversified into writing music guides, producing DVDs and developing MIDI systems. Back To Bach was originally released in 1992 and features re-workings of six J.S. Bach preludes and fugues by Colbeck and concert pianist Jonathan Cohen with contributions from Mary Hopkin, Steve Hackett and poet Bryan Keenan.

The project began when Colbeck instinctively started to embellish a Bach prelude with keyboards and rhythms, learning much about both his and Bach’s music in the progress. After adding Cohen’s accurate renditions of the Bach originals the project developed and Colbeck’s pieces took on a life of their own. Attempts to “modernise” Bach using electronic instrumentation have been tried before, Walter Carlos’ Switched On Bach being the most famous, but the results of this attempt result in standalone pieces that develop within themselves and into new directions separate from the originals.

With the exception of the opening piece, more of which later, the album is structured into pairs of tracks that offer the Colbeck amendments followed by the complete version including Cohen’s piano. The whole makes for a strange listen as it is really two albums in one and programming the CD is an option to hear either the complete or purely Colbeck versions. Colbeck and Cohen play most of the instruments aided by programmer Chris McLeod, the only additions being marching drum on Riding The March Of Dimes from Spandau Ballet’s John Keeble and Milton McDonald’s (also familiar to many from ABWH live) electric guitar solo in Man Of December.

Opener Old Faces At Heaven’s Gate stands apart from the structure of the rest of the album mixing both versions of Prelude V into a piece that is worth the price of the disc on its own. It features Cohen, Keenan reciting his poem Old Faces In Remembered Photographs in the first half with Hopkin’s song Heaven’s Gate in the second, the haunting words and beauty of the piece embellished by Hackett’s subtle acoustic guitar.

Some of the Colbeck additions border on muzac and feature easy rhythms that sound dated and a little cheesy, but elsewhere they offer a relaxing listen. Sometimes the synths support the piano, complementing the original, whilst at other times they are at odds contrasting sharply with the Bach. Occasionally, as on Septembrist, the piano is diminished into a supporting role and St. Augustine is particularly effective with sampled choir. The Eastern flavoured Maybe, Maybe Not is the only pair where the two versions vary in length, the Colbeck piece possessing a longer introduction. April’s Fool suffers from over the top drum machine and synthesised church organ and personally I prefer the versions that include Cohen. As a side note the non-piano versions are accurate to the originals so can be used by talented listeners to play along to.

Much as I appreciate the work and thought that Colbeck has put into this project it just makes me want to return to the purity of Bach’s un-amended originals and many are sure to view it as heretical to mess with Bach in this way. Colbeck’s work succeeds on many levels but there is so much more pleasure to be had from listening to the marvels of Johann Sebastian’s originals.

Conclusion: 6 out of 10


Darryl Way – Concerto For Electric Violin

Darryl Way – Concerto For Electric Violin
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #:ECLEC2167
Year of Release:1978/2009
Info:Darryl Way
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: First Movement: Allegro Moderato (9:29), Second Movement: Slow (10:46), Third Movement: Scherzo (3:50), Fourth Movement: Finale (Gigue) (11:33)

During his tenure with prog rockers Curved Air, Darryl Way clearly harboured a passion for classical music as revealed on their 1975 concert recording Live. A regular feature (and highlight) of the bands set was a 10 minute piece entitled Vivaldi which was Darryl’s interpretation of The Four Seasons concertos. A two year stint with Darryl Way's Wolf in the early 70’s focused on his jazz-rock leanings and it wasn’t until a debut solo album released in October 1978 that his classical ambitions were fully realised. Following the reissue of the three Wolf albums in 2008, Esoteric Recordings turn their attention once again to Way’s back catalogue with this re-mastered version of Concerto For Electric Violin.

Having studied at the Royal College of Music in the 60’s, Way obviously had the necessary grounding for a violin concerto and was joined for the recording by fellow RCM graduate and Curved Air colleague Francis Monkman. Keyboardist Monkman had his own classical aspirations having formed Sky with guitarist John Williams that very same year. Allowing Way to concentrate on solo violin, Monkman provides all the orchestral backing himself using the (then) latest technology which includes three ARP synthesisers, the odyssey, pro-soloist and string ensemble. The only other musicians present are cellist Bruno Schrecker and drummer Ian Mosley, a former colleague of Way’s from the Wolf days who would go on to join Marillion some 6 years later.

The First Movement is probably the most groundbreaking of the entire concerto, combining the stately grandeur of Brahms and Bach with the rhythmic intensity of contemporary artists like Philip Glass and even the occasional dissonance of Schoenberg. Way gives a stunning central performance with soaring violin flights underpinned by Monkman’s sometimes moody keyboard textures. In contrast the Second Movement paints a pastoral scene with a romantic theme that becomes increasingly lusher as the piece progresses. Surprisingly given its lyricism Way’s opening solo is fully improvised and is based on the tune McDonald's Lament from Wolf’s debut Canis Lupus album. Around the halfway mark the violin becomes more forceful before quickly returning to a more graceful tone with suitably rhapsodic synth embellishments.

Whilst classical concertos are usually in three movements, here Way takes a relatively short but lively diversion with his Scherzo. The tone is very light hearted incorporating plucked strings and Way’s energetic playing bringing to mind the great Joshua Bell. The Fourth Movement is the closest to rock in the traditional sense thanks to the strident arrangement and a driving rhythm courtesy of Mosley. Here Way’s aggressive technique is reminiscent of Kansas’ David Ragsdale although he finds time for a bittersweet interlude that benefits from some very sensitive bowing. Following Way’s improvised cadenza, Moseley returns to propel the piece to the finish line ending with a suitably dramatic flourish.

Whilst budgetary constraints dictated the albums reliance on synthesised orchestrations, when the concerto premiered on the prestigious UK arts programme The South Bank Show in 1978, Way was joined by the equally prestigious Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He also performed the work live on German television with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and during the 80’s in Leeds with the Northern Sinfonia which was broadcast live on BBC radio.

There’s no doubt that the integration of the electric violin intro a classical work was very original in 1978 and even now when entering the title into a search engine the only match to be found is Way’s album. Although a number of renowned prog artists including Jon Lord, Keith Emerson, Tony Banks and Steve Hackett have produced their own concertos or suites, tonally there are few similarities so comparisons here would be superficial. It’s certainly a unique concept with a virtuoso performance from Way supported by authentic orchestrations from Monkman replicating strings, brass, woodwind and percussion with convincing results. My final rating could have been much higher but ultimately it’s tempered by the attraction I feel this album will hold for the average prog listener.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10


'Igginbottom's Wrench - 'Igginbottom's Wrench

'Igginbottom's Wrench - Igginbottom's Wrench
Country of Origin:UK
Record Label:Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue #:ECLEC 2164
Year of Release:1969/2009
Info:Esoteric Info
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: The Castle (2:56), Out Of Confusion (2:08), The Witch (3:04), Sweet Dry Biscuits (2:54), California Dreamin' (4:01), Golden Lakes (5:13), Not So Sweet Dreams (5:00), Is She Just A Dream? (4:34), Blind Girl (3:48), The Donkey (10:44)

Allan Holdsworth is undeniably one of the guitar greats and, over the years, has flitted on the edge of progressive rock, from his early days in the marvellous Tempest (whose anthology album Under The Blossom should be heard if only for the excellent BBC recording featuring the only recordings of Holdsworth and Ollie Halsall playing together) to stints with Gong, Soft Machine and the original UK. However, his recording career started back in 1969 where along with Dave Freeman (drums), Steven Robinson (rhythm guitar) and Mick Skelly (bass), he was part of the marvellously named Igginbottom's Wrench. The band only survived for one album, released on Decca's Deram imprint, possibly because, as producer Morgan Fisher once commented: "These musicians were light years ahead of the rest of us."

The album is quite a strange beast. It draws a lot from jazz structures and improvisational interplay although is not a jazz album per se. Very laid back, particularly in the vocal department, which are shared by Holdsworth and Robinson, much of the original first side of the LP (up to Golden Lakes) has a very similar feel to that on The Cheerful Insanity Of Giles, Giles And Fripp. Indeed, in several places Holdsworth and Fripp could almost be interchangeable. There is even a spoken word track (Out Of Confusion) which although not as whimsical as The Saga Of Rodney Toady on the GG&F album still grants it a semblance of similarity. Considering the innovations in recording that were taking place at the end of the 1960s, the sound of the album is pretty uniform; there are no effects used with any of the instruments and hence there is not a great deal of variety from start to finish. There is plenty of guitar noodling though and although Holdsworth was yet to develop the technique that has made him a master, there are plenty of indications that the man was brimming with innate talent. The two guitarists blend well together providing a primitive prog/fusion sound with some nice bass playing by Skelly who is reminiscent of Jack Bruce throughout. Final track The Donkey gives everyone a chance to solo and could have been constructed from some of the more mellow moments left off the first King Crimson album. Aside from that, Golden Lakes, may be familiar as it has been 'recycled' by Holdsworth several times over the years.

Probably of most interest to completists or Holdsworth fans plotting his musical development, the album is fine for what it is but is not something I would want to sit and listen to frequently. That is possibly because I don't have a lot of interest in the musical area this album occupies as technically it can't really be faulted (unless of course you expect the 21-year old Holdsworth to be as compositionally and technically proficient as he is now!). Still, it was a pleasant surprise to hear how sweetly the guitar maestro can sing!

Conclusion: 5 out of 10