Friday, January 27, 2017

Toad - 1971 - Toad


01. Cotton Wood Hill 8:29
02. A Life That Ain't Worth Living 3:26
03. Tank 3:22
04. They Say I'm Mad 6:40
05. Life Goes On 11:48
06. Pig's Walk 7:19
07. The One I Mean 2:28

Bass – Werner Fröhlich
Drums – Cosimo Lampis
Guitar – Vittorio Vergeat
Vocals – Benj Jaeger

Engineer – Martin Birch

(Alberto Gioannini, 1972)

In numerous groups, components come from different nations. One of which is often England. Toad together constituted an absolute mixture of genius with one Brit, one Italian and one Swiss man and was also one of the more international groups, having worked all over Europe.

If we want to classify their country of origin as a group, this would have to be Switzerland, where the three met each other many years ago. All things considered, they all came from diverse groups: Cosimo Lampis, the drummer, had come from Brainticket (he was on the album, "Cottonwoodhill"), guitarist Vic Vergeat worked in England where he was also part of the original formation of Hawkwind, from which he separated himself due to musical differences with the band’s leader, Dave Brock, right after they recorded their first album. Added to that pair was bassist Werner Froehlich - in October 1970, during the course of a jam session, in which they had the opportunity to appreciate each other’s skill. Their first concert was in November, while their first album was recorded in December (the press spoke about them as the new Cream).

In January, Toad showcased themselves at the International Jazz Festival in Montreux and were booked for the Pop Festival in Palermo in August where they opened for Colosseum during the second evening. Then they recorded a single, "Stay" b/w "Animal's World", which went on to chart, and the three dedicated themselves to creating the new album, "Tomorrow Blue". To present it to the Italian public, Toad played, for the first time in Italy since Palermo, at the Piper in Rome between 11th and 13th February. As I witnessed those concerts, the conditions were definitely not ideal: they came back onto the scene after a recess, and the carnival-esque crowd that had filled the room was more interested in having fun and creating disorder than paying any attention; yet Toad managed to easily maintain the interest of the entire audience - for the entirety of their performance!

The group knows without a doubt that they are, in the final analysis, "old fashioned"; they have modelled themselves on various acts from years past, having found their niche in the bluesy rock popularised and revolutionised with maximum expression by Jimi Hendrix, who they consider to be the most important musician in rock. "Jimi was great as a singer and as a composer, other than being the best guitarist that ever lived. It does not make sense, after him, to define as "progressive" such groups as Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep, because, in reality, neither they nor others constitute progress when compared to Hendrix", said guitarist Vic, and it is easy to understand his position. All in all, he is not referring to the great loss of the genre overall, but rather that it is now devoid of personality, not to mention that desperate, exasperated distortion, and instead is filled to the brim with useless virtuosity. Werner, who was not always able to make a significant mark on their records, nevertheless has not been precluded from constructing the necessary background as a soloist in his own right, and has done so with a rare capacity and fantasy: it seems that doing the same thing twice for him is a matter of dishonour, as it is so rarely that he does so. Cosimo, a person who is extremely picturesque, is instead one of those drummers who seldom breaks away from the accompaniment, but his solos were probably the best I have ever heard from any Italian musician, rich in ideas, personality and humour. Toad included tracks from both their albums that were much longer, demonstrating how improvisation was for them an essential element.

"We are different from those who prepare the parts for every instrument in anticipation and don't allow any possible variation, or those groups on the German scene who trust the inspiration of the moment totally for the duration of a concert." They further explain, "We know how to improvise, but it is necessary to hold yourself within certain pre-established schemes." All of the live pieces were extremely raw and much more loaded with feeling than those on the records. Other than the obvious scenic presence, I thought that it would depend on a certain, precise availability of the trio, which they’ve confirmed to me. "We believe that the technique is fundamental to an album, so much so that we recorded in London, at the infamous studio, De Lane Lea, with the same engineer as Deep Purple and Donovan, Martin Birch. To the contrary, live, the feeling is essential; if in the studio the two elements contribute 50%, live they can contribute up to 90%."

Vic then explained to me that on the first album, they’ve also included a singer named Benj Jäger, but that the group’s tendency towards long jams while playing live left less and less space for singing. For this, they decided to return to their original trio format. "It is incredible how much a singer can characterize a formation, and this is because the voice is the first thing to hit the listener. Try to switch the singers in Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath for example. Their music would change totally, while I don't believe that if you swapped lommi for Page you would find the same effect. We don't want to imitate anyone", says Cosimo. "And, regardless, our vocal parts are pretty limited. For this, we immediately returned to a trio." Without a doubt, “Tomorrow Blue" constitutes a tangible progress: abandoned are the scholastic blues lines of "They Say I'm Mad" and the Deep Purple themes like "A Life That Ain't Worth Living", the trio having instead developed an approach more precise and valid, of which the best examples are the opening, "Thoughts", and the long "Change In Time", on which they present often truly epic moments. "No Need", which makes up the b-side of their new single, "Fly", is one of those fast and aggressive tracks with a work that is frenetic in solos, which masters like Led Zeppelin are known for in such number as "Communication Breakdown" and "Living Loving Maid". Amazing, too, is the phrasing of Vic. A lot of space is left for the acoustic guitar, often presented together with the soloist, and obviously completing the sound. Everything was penned by Vergeat and Froehlich, with the exception of the two tracks that move away from the prevalent motif, "Three O'Clock In The Morning" - a brief but conclusive piano solo by the guitarist, and "Blind Chapman's Tale", which calls for a particular note. "I Racconti Del Venditore Cieco" features a guitar-violin dialogue, but not an electric one like Gentle Giant or PFM, to name two other groups that have recently played Rome. Dreamy tones and slightly bitter vocals tint the track vaguely similarly to the sweet’n’sour flavour of Genesis. Toad opens up a prospect that will be very interesting in the future. As always, we talk about the need for the band to bring together various directions undertaken by them thus far and liberate themselves as much as possible from the influences of the more commercial aspects of rock. Contrary to the inferred feeling of the title "Tomorrow Blue", the group actually project a strong hope and trust in their musical genre's future. It seems appropriate to conclude with a quote by a noted English journalist who wrote, having listened to the album, "This music will not die, ever!"


In 1970, European psychedelic band Brainticket, out of Basel, Switzerland, was about to release their first album, featuring Werner Frohlich on bass and Cosimo Lampis on drums. They departed the group and formed Toad, with Vittorio 'Vic' Vergeat who was briefly in the space rock band Hawkwind, on guitar. They began writing and recording material for their first album in 1970, and in 1971, Toad released their self titled album and the single "Stay" which did fairly well and made some headway on the Swiss charts, a feat no other hard rock band had ever accomplished in that country.
The album was mixed by legendary British producer Martin Birch (who also produced for Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, and Black Sabbath). The album also features Benjamin 'Beni" Jaeger on vocals, who would leave once the album was recorded.
As their first album was being released in 1971, Toad preformed at the Montreux Jazz Festival that was recorded live by Swiss television, but the footage was lost and to date no other copy has been found.

Toad's self-titled debut album may have, single-handedly, kicked off the entire Swiss hard rock movement in the '70s. Their first single, "Stay." made a great deal of headway on the Swiss charts -- a feat that no other hard rock band had ever accomplished in that country. Essentially a power trio consisting of Vittorio "Vic" Vergeat (guitar/vocals), Werner Frohlich (bass) and Cosimo Lampis (drums), Toad enlisted the help of vocalist Bens Jaeger for this (and only this) album. Heavily blues-based rock (à la Cream/Black Sabbath) was the major force behind Toad's hard driving sound, with bassist Frohlich providing a mean (and meanderingly gutsy) counterpoint to Vergeat's loose and greasy guitar licks. The record also has moments of Deep Purple-like propulsion, no doubt thanks to that band's engineer Martin Birch, who manned the controls on this one as well. Like most of the B-list (sometimes C-list) rock groups that Italian imprint Akarma has reissued throughout the early 2000s, Toad's debut was mainly a collector's object in its LP form. There were better bands out there, doing the same sort of thing, but, chances are, those records were already on the shelves of most die-hard collectors. Albums like Toad may have enjoyed regional success in their time, but were largely forgotten or relegated to "closet classic" status (if they were remembered at all). These types of records have been fetching higher and higher prices over the years and it's darn good to see a reissue label dipping into this pool of underappreciated groups. In fact, if you have an appetite for this sort of thing, Akarma's reissue lineup really can't be beat -- plus, they'll save you from getting all that funky record-sleeve-mold on your fingers while you spend months searching for the (rare, rare, rare) original vinyl editions.

First Toad album, originally issued by Swiss label Halleluja in the 1971. Ex-members of Brainticket investigating the realms of skull crushing heavy rock! Certified savage guitar from Vic Vergeat! Swiss hard rock band formed by members of the original Brainticket, Toad's history is obscure and largely undocumented. Their debut is said to be in the realms of Dies Irae, being heavy, bluesy and experimental. However, despite getting a British release, we've never managed to locate a copy. Their second album, "Tomorrow Blue" was surprisingly straight hard-rock, akin to Sperrmüll, with Hendrix, Status Quo and R&B influences. Their original lead singer Benjamin Jäger went on to Island.

Why does anyone bother with the current crop of "stoner rock" when there's so much better stuff made back in the original stoner age (the '70s) now being reissued?? If you're into the Man's Ruin roster, and prone to buying albums by the latest Swedish Kyuss clone, yet don't have, say, Lucifer's Friend, Flower Travellin' Band, Leafhound, Captain Beyond, or Buffalo reissues in your collection, it's time to get with the program! Not that that's easy, since much of the good old shit is definitely obscure and unheralded. For instance, we hadn't ever heard of this Swiss band Toad until a kindly customer sold back a bootleg cd with an intriguing cover a couple years ago. Now, here's a legit reissue of the same album thanks to the freaks at Second Battle.

This self-titled disc is the first and best of Toad's three LPs, serving up hard-rockin' stoner psych in the best blues-based tradition of early Blue Cheer and Led Zep. The first track "Cotton Wood Hill" will offer a clue about the lineage of this band, as Toad's rhythm section played on the classic LP of that same title by acid-fried Krautrockers Brainticket! Toad boasts an excellent vocalist put to good use on the more melodic parts of their sometimes quite long songs, but a large part of the LP is occupied by heavy (HEAVY) jamming instrumental excursions featuring the killer guitar of one Vic Vergeat. This is genuine heaviness, circa 1971. (Aquarius Records)

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