Monday, February 16, 2015

Laser Pace - 1974 - Granfalloon

Laser Pace 
1974
Granfalloon




01. Closet Casualty - 4:03
02. Avatar - 5:31
03. (Whoever) You Are (You) - 3:58
04. Sky Fell - 4:39
05. Endless - 3:13
06. Oh Yeah? - 4:47
07. Redemption - 5:07
08. Scatter - 8:05

Maureen O'Connor: Vocals, Guitars, Synthesizer, Mellotron, Piano
Doug Decker: Bass, Buchla Synthesizer, Mellotron
John "Chris" Christensen: Vocals, Drums, Percussion
Larry Parsons: Fender Rhodes, Piano, Organ, Synthesizer
Jim Divisek: Buchla Series 100 Synthesizer with 200 Osc. and Keys
Carl Van Young: Clavinet
Larry Wolf: Soprano Sax
Weldon: Drums
George Belle: Percussion


The challenge sometimes with old music like Laser Pace's 'Granfalloon' is that it's difficult for anyone born after about 1972 or so (coincidentally around the time this album was released) to really appreciate how novel and groundbreaking this sort of stuff was back then. I say 1972 or so because anyone who grew up in the eighties or later probably takes things like synthesizers, laser sounds and auto-tuned voices pretty much for granted. But for those of us who came of age at a time when Frankie Valli, Barbra Streisand, punk, hair bands and disco were all on the charts at the same time this was a period of head- spinning change. And like so many other musical gems, Laser Pace came and went with nary a notice despite their novel and innovative approach to synthesized, soulful and funky jazz-rock. Thankfully someone managed to dredge this album up and reissue it on CD just a few years ago so we can appreciate it now.

There's not much information about this band beyond what's in the liner notes and that doesn't tell much of a story. The group wasn't around long, just three of four years, and only released this album. Most of them never did anything else to speak of in the music industry with the exception of percussionist George Belle who carved out a modest career as a session musician for various funk, disco and jazz acts. And truth be told this is a rather uneven album with tracks like "Whoever You Are You" crawling along at a snail's pace despite some pretty cool synth and piano; and the closing "Redemption" never quite getting past the pre-launch stage, particularly the rhythm which shifts around a bit but with no discernable direction.

But the extensive use of the still-novel (at the time) Buchla Music-Box synthesizers and Fender Rhodes piano by no less than four band members was pretty unique at the time, and despite the occasional slip into self-indulgent noodling the effect of mixing these (at the time) modern sounds with the soulful and ranging vocals of lead singer Maureen O'Connor made for some interesting moments. O'Conner is also credited with playing synthesizers and as the band's only guitarist, although the only picture I've ever seen of her playing shows her holding an electric bass and it's hard to imagine she cranked out all the guitar tracks on this album given the complexity of some of the riffs and her apparent lack of extensive experience or training. I also suspect some of the bits that sound like guitar may actually be a clavinet since there is one listed as being played by Carl Van Young in the album credits. Who knows though; if she actually played everything attributed to her in the credits then it truly is a shame she didn't go on to more of a substantive music career.

"Closet Casualty" pretty much sets the tone for the entire album with O'Connell belting out rich vocals amid seemingly random synth progressions and some light percussive tinkling. Things don't vary a lot after that except that the percussion becomes more pronounced as the album wears on, there are snippets of male vocals added at times ("Avatar" and as sort of choral backing on "Whoever You Are You"), and there is some attempt at working in a bit of saxophone from time to time.

The high point of the record comes midway through in the form of a heavily synthesized and percussive instrumental track titled "Sky Fell" that comes off as a muddy mix of free-form jazz, soul and some of David Bowie's backing musicians during his spikey-hair days. The dissonant piano and Rhodes parts that come in the middle are accented by synth and oscillation sounds that are rather disciplined and restrained compared to most of the rest of the album, and in the end this is a very solid track that would have also been a head-trip to any fellow travelers who may have listened to it back then. Maybe even a decent candidate for a good old-fashioned seventies 'laser light show' soundtrack.

"Endless" comes back down to Earth a bit more and reminds me just a bit of the San Francisco seventies group Lamb who also had a throaty female vocalist and a sound that blended soul and jazz with more modern rock sensibilities to yield something that was impossible to classify. "Oh Yeah" goes back the other direction with loads of wobbly oscillating synth before the album peters out on the vocal/bass-heavy "Redemption".

I kind of wish these guys had stuck around long enough to put out at least one more record as I have to wonder what direction they would have taken after this. The closest I can come to a comparison most people might know would be either the Belgian band Esperanto Rock Orchestra (though they didn't use synthesizers) or maybe the early and less- commercial work of the German group Silver Convention ("Fly, Robin Fly"). Neither comes very close, and the better reference band Lamb is pretty much just as obscure so I guess anyone who might be interested will just have to fork out a few bucks and check these guys out directly. A solid three stars and possibly four for anyone who really digs early synth music.

1 comment:


  1. http://www.filefactory.com/file/73kjezpsihf/1848.rar

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