Monday, May 4, 2015

Day Of Phoenix - 1970 - Wide Open N-Way

Day Of Phoenix
Wide Open N-Way

01. Wide Open N-Way (11:33)
02. Cellophane #1 & 2 (13:44)
03. If You Ask Me (4:49)
04. Mind Funeral (12:29)
05. Tick-Tack (1:10)

- Hans Lauridsen / vocals
- Karsten Lyng / guitar
- Erik Stedt / bass, piano
- Ole Prehn / guitar,vocals
- Henrik Friis / drums, percussion

additional musicians:
- Peter Friis / bass (4)
- Ulrik Jensen / oboe
- Kenneth Knudsen / piano

DAY OF PHOENIX hails from Denmark and was formed in 1968. The first line-up consisted of native english singer/guitarist Cy Nicklin, drummer Henrik Friis plus Ole Prehn, Karsten Lyng and Jess Stæhr - all three ex-members of a band called 'The Maniacs'. During the early days they released the single 'Tell me / I think it's gonna rain today' and wrote one soundtrack before Nicklin suddenly left to join the band 'Culpeper's Orchard'.

Tony Reeves - bassist of the early Colosseum band - was the producer of their first long player 'Wide Open N-Way'. It was recorded in Copenhagen and is pointed out as the jewel of the band's musical history. With new vocalist Hans Lauridsen and bassist Erik Stedt substituting Stæhr they worked out an ambitious psychedelic based album with references to the US West Coast style. Additionally provided with folk and jazz elements it has a reputation nowadays in the progressive rock scene and is receiving excellent reviews. 1971 the next single 'Deep Within The Storm / Chicken Skin' followed.

And then DAY OF PHOENIX fall apart because Erik Stedt died unexpectedly. The band had to be reorganized with the remaining Prehn and Lyng. After the split of Burnin' Red Ivanhoe Ole Fick, Jess Stæhr and Bo Thrige Andersen joined to record the new album 'The Neighbour's Son'. Compared to the foreunner it contains shorter and more plain rock songs and is frequently evaluated as a disappointment. Stæhr, Fick and Anderson went on to rebuild Burnin' Red Ivanhoe afterwards.

1979 the danish sublabel of swedish Sonet Grammofon reissued both DAY OF PHOENIX albums as a 2LP release followed by a Universal Music digitally remastered version in 2000.

Wide Open N-Way is the debut albm by Danish psychadelic/ progressive rock act Day of Phoenix. Day of Phoenix was formed in 1968 and initially included one of the most prolific musicians on the experimental part of the Danish music scene in the late sixties and the early seventies Cy Nicklin in the lineup. Wide Open N- Way was originally released on LP in 1970 through Sonet Records. The album was re-issued in 1979 as a double LP with the band´s second album The Neighbour's Son (1972) ( this is the copy I own). It´s been re-released both as a single CD and as a double CD set with The Neighbour's Son in recent years.

First a little related background info from the Danish scene for those who have an interest in that.

Cy Nicklin who was British had started his music career in the Danish based folk duo Cy & Maia with Danish singer Maia Aarskov whom he had met at a dinner party in 1965. The duo later became a trio and was renamed Cy, Maia & Robert, when Danish based French musician Robert Jean Francis Lelièvre who had deserted the French army in 1962 and lived in political exile in Denmark, joined the two. Cy & Maia recorded the single Portland Town/ Chickens Are Coming in 1966 and it was the only recording they made as a duo before Robert Lelièvre joined them. Cy, Maia & Robert recorded their debut album On the Scene in 1966 and their second album Out of Our Times was released in 1967. They also released three singles in that period Green Rocky Road/ Harvest of Hate (1966), A Church Is Burning/ Take a Look Inside (1967) and Cheers Dears/ Natural Man (1967). The latter was recorded using the name Maia & Full Limit. Cy Nicklin and Robert Lelièvre also played guitar on Scottish folk singer Alex Campbell's 1967 album Alex Campbell At the Tivoli Gardens (1967). Cy, Maia & Robert split up in November of 1967.

Robert Lelièvre then went on and recorded an album called Alliance (1968) with Scottish folk singer Iain Campbell and then went to England where he recorded a solo album The Hare (1968 or 1969) and was signed by Polydor as a songwriter and studio musician. Robert Lelièvre came back to Denmark in June of 1969 where he teamed up with Cy Nicklin again ( who had just left Day of Phoenix with whom he had recorded the single Tell Me / I Think It's Gonna Rain Today (1969)) and formed the folk/ rock band High Crossfield. That band later evolved into the progressive rock act Pan whose sole self-titled album Pan (1970) is widely considered as one of the most important progressive rock ( proto-prog) albums in Denmark. Robert Lelièvre sadly suffered from depressions and took his own life in August of 1973 ( Pan disbanded in 1972). Cy Nicklin had left the band before the recording of Pan and formed Culpeper's Orchard who is also considered one of the most important bands on the Danish progressive rock scene.

Day of Phoenix initially started out as a blues rock band but after Cy Nicklin left their style took a more experimental and psychadelic turn. The music on Wide Open N-Way is a mix of west coast psychadelic rock and semi-progressive rock with a touch of jazz/ rock. The music is guitar driven and the two guitarists Karsten Lyng and Ole Prehn compliment each other brilliantly throughout the album. Hans Lauridsen´s vocals are pretty strong and as a plus the Danish accent is actually not that obvious ( which is something that can´t be said about many Danish bands singing English language lyrics in the sixties and seventies). The rythm section with drummer Henrik Friis and bassist/ pianist Erik Stedt ( also a member of Danish psychadelic rock act Beefeaters). Erik Stedt sadly died in 1971 and Day of Phoenix disbanded for a while) are also very capable musicians. The music is generally pretty dark and with three out of five songs on the album that has a playing time over 10 minutes each there´s lots of room for long jamming guitar solos. The music is well composed but sometimes suffer a bit because of the experiments. Sometimes those experiments are succeful but sometimes they just don´t work that well. My favorite song is Mind Funeral but the other two lengthy tracks Wide Open N-Way and Cellophane #1 & 2 also stand out as something special IMO.

The album is produced by Tony Reeves ( Colosseum, Greenslade) and got lots of attention because of that. This is not to say that the music isn´t of high quality because it certainly is but the choice of producer was wise. The production is very good but I hear more than one technical error in the playing which under normal circumstances would have been corrected but isn´t here. Maybe it was a money issue or limited studio time but it gives the album an unpolished quality that you don´t hear in music today. Quite charming really.

I´ve enjoyed Wide Open N-Way since the first time I was introduced to it by a friend in secondary school. Let´s just say we were influenced by some of the same things in those days that the hippies consumated in their heyday and this was one of the albums that we listened to in my friend´s room a lot along side albums by other Danish psychadelic/ progressive rock artists like The Young Flowers, The Savage Rose, Beefeaters, Alrune Rod, Burnin´ Red Ivanhoe and Steppeulvene. I return to those days every time I listen to the album but somehow the feeling of freedom and youth just don´t feel as strong anymore. I used to love the album but now I only hear a very good and interesting album.

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