Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Fuzzy Duck - 1971 - Fuzzy Duck

Fuzzy Duck
Fuzzy Duck

01. Time wil be your doctor (5:11)
02. Mrs Prouts (6:48)
03. Just look around you (4:24)
04. Afternoon out (4:59)
05. More than I am (5:33)
06. Country boy (6:04)
07. In out time (6:41)
08. A word from bid D (1:41)

Bonus tracks on Repertoire:
09. Double time woman (3:00)
10. Big brass band (2:58)
11. One more hour (3:59)
12. No name face (3:03)

- Paul Francis / drums
- Mick Hawksworth / bass
- Roy Sharland / organ
- Graham White / lead vocals, guitar

This is one of the many harder-edged and organ dominated progressive bands that emerged in the early Seventies. Unfortunately very little is known about FUZZY DUCK's history. The musicians were Paul Francis (drums, percussion), Mick (Doc) Hawksworth (bass, vocals, acoustic 12-string, electric cello), Roy (Daze) Sharland (organ, electric piano) and Grahame White (guitar, vocals, acoustic guitar). The eponymous album from 1971 was released on CD by both the German Repertoire Records and the UK Aftermath Records. It has obvious hints from mainly ATOMIC ROOSTER but also DEEP PURPLE.

FUZZY DUCK's music is simple but it touches me very much: pleasant vocals, a tight rhythm-section, strong guitarwork and, the most delightful element, floods of Hammond organ. This reminds me of Ken Hensley from early URIAH HEEP and Manfred Wieczorke from German heavy progressive band JANE. The guitarplay is also a good point, featuring fiery solos and catchy riffs. The final song "A word from bid D" includes the so called 'ducking vocals' from keyboardplayer Roy (Daze) Sharland, very funny to hear. FUZZY DUCK's music has echoes from ATOMIC ROOSTER, SPENCER DAVIES GROUP, VANILLA FUDGE and QUATERMASS. If you like the Hammond organ, don't miss this CD! By the way, I own the Aftermath CD version, it contains 11 tracks, including the previously unreleased "No name face".

The members of Fuzzy Duck were certainly not novices by the time they banded together and released their only studio album. Bassist Mick Hawksworth had spent the latter sixties with future Atomic Rooster alumnus John Du Cann in the hard-core psych band The Five Day Week Straw People, with both of them later moving on to the semi-legendary psych band Andromeda where they were joined by Fuzzy vocalist/guitarist the late Grahame White. Drummer Paul Francis had played with both The End and Tucky Buzzard. And Roy Sharland had been a member of the pre-Uriah Heep lineup known as Spice. So from that curriculum vitae you would expect a sound that included psych and blues guitar, heavy Hammond organ riffs, and above all very well-structured rhythms. Plus this was recorded in 1970 so throw in poor production, muddy bass notes and unremarkable male vocals straining outside their natural limits.

Well I’m happy to report that the band does not disappoint, as the previous paragraph describes Fuzzy Duck to a ‘T’. Presumably named after the old drinking game of the same name, Fuzzy Duck were a brief flash in the pan that apparently served as little more than a vehicle for the various professionals in it to move on to other things. The band doesn’t seem to have stayed together for more than a year or two, but they clearly had enough in the form of individual reputation and connections to land a record deal on the fledgling but up-and-coming MAM Records label.

But keep in mind that blues-based psych rock with heavy bass, lots of Hammond and strained male vocals were standard fare in 1970, so I’m not sure this really qualifies as progressive music unless we’re assuming just about everything from Canned Heat to Blind Faith qualifies as prog rock. Probably not.

That’s not to say this is a throwaway album though, because there’s some pretty good music on it. It’s just not substantively different from early Uriah Heep, Steppenwolf, Grand Funk, Jody Grind, Wishbone Ash or any of dozens of bands like them. As long as you are okay with that, this is a pretty decent album.

The album kicks off with a heavy bass, lively Hammond rocker titled “Time Will Be Your Doctor”. This is pure hard rock but well played (“Country Boy” later on the album falls into this category as well). And while “Mrs. Prout” is quite similar there is a move toward more psych-leaning guitar and drawn-out keyboards ala Ray Manzarek. After this comes “Just Look around You”, which borders on being a heavy folk tune but is backed with the heavy organ and bass emphasis again.

But then back comes the psych, this time quite heavy and extended thanks to White’s guitar and vocals on “Afternoon Out” and “More Than I Am”. These both sound a bit improvisational and hearken back to the late sixties, showing without a doubt the recent influences of several band members.

The CD reissue (unfortunately not remastered though) includes a handful of singles recorded after White left the band and was briefly replaced by Garth Watt-Roy (Living Daylights, Greatest Show on Earth, East of Eden). The production on these is a bit better, and a couple (“Double Time Woman” and “One More Hour”) were released as singles, presumably with the other two bonus tracks occupying their backsides. These are much lighter on organ, virtually devoid of bass and include horns. The sound is decidedly more AOR than the original album, and I suppose these were only included because the CD version had a lot more whitespace than the original forty minute vinyl version had.

No matter, this is a decent album that is representative of the early seventies heavy rock sound. It’s not too deep in the prog department though, but almost qualifies as proto-prog based on the various musicians’ backgrounds and it’s timing at the very end of the late sixties blues/psych musical era. Three stars and recommended as an interesting curio and as a nostalgic piece, but not as serious prog music.

Capability Brown - 1973 - Voice

Capability Brown 

01. I Am And So Are You
02. Sad Am I
03. Midnight Cruiser
04. Keep Death Off The Road (Drive On The Pavement)
05. Circumstances: (In Love, Past, Present, Future Meet)

-Tony Ferguson / vocals, guitar, bass
-Dave Nevin / keyboards, guitar, vocals, bass
-Kenny Rowe / bass, vocals, percussion
-Grahame White / vocals, guitar, bass
-Joe Williams / vocals, percussion
-Roger Willis / vocals, drums, keyboards

Ah, the satisfaction of finding a diamond in the rough.

 This is quite an interesting album in a couple of respects. First, I’m just a tad bit surprised the cover wasn't subjected to any more scrutiny or disapproval than it was, considering the growing prudish backlash toward rock music in conservative circles during this post- Woodstock era. And second, the record is a rather rare example of what’s basically a pop rock band attempting to leverage progressive music to enhance their legitimacy and appeal. In other words – this isn’t a progressive rock band; instead they are a mostly competent group of rock musicians who emulate prog at times combined with heavy doses of cover tunes to create a brief and decent discography, but one that survives mostly because of occasional interest in the band’s cover tunes.

Guitarist Tony Ferguson and bassist Kenny Rowe hailed from the late sixties pop-psych group Harmony Grass and guitarist Grahame White had recently left Fuzzy Duck. Harmony Grass were known for their male vocal harmonies and Fuzzy Duck for driving ‘heavy prog’ and Hammond organ; traces of both groups can be found in Capability Brown’s sound. The thing that bothers me a bit about this band is that for a group of guys who were such good musicians, they certainly didn’t seem to have a knack for strong songwriting. A third of the tracks they recorded on their two studio albums were covers, and even the one song that garnered them the ‘prog’ label in some circles (“Circumstances”) is clearly very, very heavily influenced by Yes circa ‘Close to the Edge’. I seriously doubt the band would have even been able to write that song had Yes not recorded “And You and I” a year prior.

As for the covers they’re decent but not exceptional. In particular Steely Dan’s “Midnight Cruiser” does not benefit from this group’s treatment. I’ve read reviews from folks who feel Capability Brown doesn’t do justice to the song and I think that’s a bit harsh and unfair, but by the same token they also don’t bring anything new to their interpretation. The offering is pretty much what you’d expect from a decent, professional touring band, but one that you’d also generally expect to be an opening act and not the main course.

The other cover here is a bit more obscure with Affinity’s “I Am and So Are You”, another band that was known as much for their cover tunes as for their original material. That one was of course originally sung by a female (Linda Hoyle), so at least with this cover Capability offer a different perspective. Affinity were more of a jazz-influenced band as well, and this rendition is decidedly more rocking with keyboards and guitars replacing the brass sections of the original. Of the two covers on the album I prefer this one, but frankly that’s sort of like saying I prefer bologna given a choice of that or Spam. I nice filet would always be preferable.

The main course here is the 20-minute “Circumstances”, a prog number that has all the requisite tempo shifts, indulgent solos and extended keyboard passages prog fans had come to demand of their music by 1973. There’s a strong sense that these guys listened to a few Yes and ELP albums and figured they’d better get some of that into their music if they wanted to sell a few records. Keeping in mind this was 1973 I suppose that was still a pretty astute strategy, although in retrospect the grandiose and overblown pomp of the style of prog those bands played was already in decline, and Capability Brown would fold just a few months after recording this themselves due to waning interest in the band, lack of promotion and a paucity of concert engagements.

Drummer Roger Willis, Ferguson and White formed Krazy Kat following Ferguson and Willis’s stint on a South American tour backing a Jeff Christie-led group that ended up including some Capability material in their repertoire. I’m not sure what happened to keyboardist Dave Nevin, percussionist Joe Williams or Rowe.

This is an okay album but not anything great or even memorable. Technically I suppose it should be considered for collectors only, but I can’t quite bring myself to go there simply because these are decent musicians and their multipart vocal harmonies are quite good on this as well as their debut album. So I’ll say this is a three star record, but will also point out you aren't going to here anything groundbreaking or awe-inspiring here; just pretty good music that well fits the time period in which it was recorded.

Capability Brown - 1972 - From Scratch

Capability Brown 
From Scratch

01. Beautiful Scarlet 04:56
02. Do You Believe 04:29
03. The Band 03:43
04. Garden 03:24
05. Liar 07:16
06. No Range 04:08
07. I Will Be There 03:22
08. Redman 03:24
09. Day In Day Out 03:49
10. Sole Survivor 09:47
  a. Escape
  b. Sole Survivor
  c. Cosmic Ride
  d. Time Machine

Tony Ferguson - vocals, guitar, bass
Dave Nevin - keyboards, guitar, vocals, bass
Kenny Rowe - bass, vocals, percussion
Grahame White - vocals, guitar, bass
Joe Williams - vocals, percussion
Roger Willis - vocals, drums, keyboards

Capability Brown had and still have a cult following in UK music history as a "progressive" band, ultimately based on an outstanding piece from their second album, Voice. But largely their range covered mainstream pop music, treated in an "arty", alternative fashion. The band was a six-piece in which everyone sang and played instruments. The line-up consisted of Tony Ferguson (guitar, bass), Dave Nevin (keyboards, guitar, bass), Kenny Rowe (bass, percussion), Grahame White (guitar, lute, balalaika, keyboards), Joe Williams (percussion) and Roger Willis (drums, keyboards).
Ferguson and Nevin wrote the majority of the band's material, and the band also excelled in covers of obscure material (Rare Bird's Beautiful Scarlet and Redman, Argent's Liar, Affinity's I Am And So Are You and Steely Dan's Midnight Cruiser).
Capability Brown's forte was vocalizing. Together they sounded not unlike The Association: a massed choir of voices, ranging from baritone to high clean falsettos. Their first album, From Scratch, which included Liar, was average and unexceptional. The second album Voice, released in 1973, was their claim to fame, incorporating an over-20-minute richly melodic piece called Circumstances (In Love, Past, Present, Future Meet) - a stunning piece of music incorporating keyboards, a cappela voices, synthesizers and mellotrons, solo vocals, delicate harpsichord-like acoustic guitar sections, powerful electric guitar chords and massed vocal choirs.
The band did not manage to record again after this, and in 1974 Tony, Roger and Graham were recruited by friend and Christie member Roger Flavell to join his group, Christie for a tour of South America. Thus Capability Brown was no more.

 This is another of the Charisma gangs. Unfortunately, they won't be as successful as a few other ones and they only produced two albums and then called it quit.

It is a bit sad since Capability Brown was definitely not a bad band and they should have deserved more recognition IMO. This album, only released on vinyl format is a fine mix of covers and own material.

Each song features subtle and very well crafted vocal arrangements, which remind Yes at times (especially during the first two songs). The opener was featured on the debut album from Rare Bird in 1969 and is represented here in a great version (but the original was also excellent). This one is more guitar-oriented while keyboards were of course the characteristics of the RB version. It is a highlight.

In terms of Yes, the second song of this album Do You Believe is probably the one which comes the closest from their sound. This is particularly true during the vocal parts, but the whole band sounds pretty good as well. It might not be an extraordinary song, but one can listen to it with a certain pleasure and nostalgia.

The Band is the first weak number. Some country feeling is not particularly welcome. The Beatles influence surrounds you while listening to Gardens. Again, the attraction are the vocals. These guys were really gifted: the six of them were participating which conveys a superb feeling.

They show again their skills in the excellent Argent cover of Liar. A wonderful re-visited version and another highlight. This album is more rock than prog, but it holds links to some great prog bands. While I listen to No Range, the flute reminds of Tull with no doubt. But the heavy Tull, not the subtle and folk one.

The closing number is the most elaborate one. Vocals are very much Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young oriented. I've added Young because it also features great electric guitar parts. It even gets heavy at times (but it is not the only number to feature a heavier sound). This almost ten minutes number is the most interesting one from this debut album. A furious rocking highlight.

Bond & Brown - 1972 - Two Heads Are Better Than One

Bond & Brown
Two Heads Are Better Than One

01. Lost Tribe
02. Ig The Pig
03. Oobatl
04. Amazing Grass
05. Scunthorpe Crabmeat Train Sideways Boogie Shuffle Stomp
06. C.F.D.T. (Colonel Frights' Dancing Terrapins)
07. Mass Debate
08. Looking For Time
09. Milk Is Turning Sour In My Shoes
10. Macumbe
11. The Beginning
12. Aeroplane Drinking Man (Gladiator Song)
13. Italian Song
14. Spend My Nights In Armour
15. Fury Of War
16. Magpie Man
17. Drum Roll
18. Swing Song
19. Sailor's Song
20. Ending

Bonus tracks 9-10 from "Lost Tribe" EP 1972
Tracks 11-20 Original sound recordings (p) 1972 licensed from Pete Brown (with thanks to Viz Productions Ltd.)

*Graham Bond - Piano, Electric Piano, Alto Saxophone, Vocals, Organ
*Pete Brown - Trumpet, Talking Drums, Vocals
*Diane Bond - Vocals, Congas, Percussion
*Ed Spevock - Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals
*Lisle Harper - Bass, Congas, Vocals
*Derek Foley - Lead Guitar
*Mick Hutchinson - Guitar On C.F.D.T.
*Mick Walker - Backing Vocals, Percussion
*Sue Woolley - Backing Vocals
*Erica Bond - Backing Vocals

 It was inevitable that one day Pete Brown and Graham Bond would work together. They had been friends going back to the early 1960s and the jazz poetry gigs where Pete, Mike Horowitz, Spike Hawkins and the other pioneers of performance poetry would vent their literary spleen backed by musicians on the lunatic fringes of the London jazz scene - including Graham, Dick Heckstall-Smith and Ginger Baker.

For Pete, the Graham Bond Organisation was the best British band and he wrote his classic song 'Theme for an Imaginary Western' with the GBO in mind as they took the blues and R&B all over the UK in vans held together with hope and string to places where the music had never been heard. Pete had been writing songs for Graham and was to play in the last incarnation of the band, but it all fell apart before Pete could join.

In 1972, Pete's band Piblokto was winding down. Meanwhile Graham was in the process of being sacked from the Jack Bruce Band. They had been on tour, promoting Jack's album Harmony Row; guitarist Chris Spedding and drummer John Marshall with saxophonist-surgeon Art Theman comprised the rest of the line-up. Graham was in modern parlance, 'high maintenance1 especially during the times when he was nursing a serious drug habit. Because of his medical duties, Art couldn't make the gig in Rome, which was unfortunate because he was the band's peace-maker between Jack and Graham. But it was there in the dressing room of the Teatro Boncaccio, that Jack got so exasperated with Graham that he ripped the sink out of the wall and threw it at him.

So Pete and Graham found themselves in limbo and decided to join forces. There were a couple of Piblokto gigs to do; one at the Seymour Hall in London and what Pete describes as a "very depressing gig in Southend, a terrible organ trio were the main event singing 'Knees Up Mother Brown' with a singer who was completely out of tune. We were in the psychedelic ghetto with about 18 people."

For the new band, Pete brought in drummer Ed Spevock from Piblokto and bassist deLisle Harper from the recently disbanded Gass formed by Bobby Tench with drummer Godfrey McLean. Graham recruited guitarist Derek Foley from prog rock band Paladin with Graham's wife Diane Stewart on vocals.

They got a record deal with Chapter One, a label formed by composer and conductor Les Reed who went into partnership with Wessex Studios and Donna Music Ltd. Most of the product was 'easy listening', light classical and a few comedy albums, but there was also a connection with Mecca Ballrooms who were looking to book some more progressive acts on their circuit.

The band had two managers, one was a 'silent partner'; the other a tough guy called Mick Walker. His brother is Savoy Brown's Dave Walker; back in the day, they played skiffle together in teenage bands going on to form the Red Caps who landed a record deal with Decca. Dave carried on in bands while Mick became a businessman, establishing the famous Rumrunner Night Club in Birmingham which later became the launch pad for Duran Duran. Maybe the writing was on the wall for Bond and Bond with their manager's opening remarks on meeting the band, "I've just seen Pete Brown and Graham Bond albums together in a remainder bin."

The album was recorded at Richard Branson's Manor Studios, engineered by Tom Newman who worked on Tubular Bells and at Wessex, one of Pete's favourite studios, but sadly sold to developers for housing in 2003. They began by recording an EP which featured 'Lost Tribe', 'Milk Is Turning Sour In My Shoes' and 'Macumbe' and then the tracks for the album. Unlike most British musicians of the times, Pete and Graham had a real affinity for digging into the grooves of a song and imbuing it with soul and funk feels strongly linked to Africa; Pete was a percussionist as well as a lyricist and singer - the Graham Bond Organisation had been driven by Ginger's strong African rhythms who had included Graham (and Diane) in his short-lived band Airforce. So amidst the welter of heavy rock and codclassical prog rock that dominated the British underground scene of the day, this album came from a very different musical sensibility and inspiration.

Between them Pete and Graham wrote most of the songs with contributions from deLisle Harper (nowadays an accomplished arranger) including 'Oombati'. One song, 'Colonel Fright's Dancing Terrapins' was recorded with a slightly different and earlier line-up featuring guitarist Mick Clark from the Clark Hutchinson duo. The song was inspired by some graffiti spotted scrawled on a French wall during a Piblokto tour; "Somebody asked what CFDT meant," says Pete, "it was probably some political slogan, but I just said, 'Colonel Fright's Dancing Terrapins', but we're in northern France so there is something in there about first world war tanks".

Songs like 'Lost Tribe' and 'Looking for Time' were an attempt to express the fact that musicians like Pete and Graham found themselves on the outside of the rock scene in the early seventies, just like they had done in the early sixties when they inhabited the demi-monde of be-bop and 'beat poetry' scorning and in turn being scorned by the jazz establishment. The playfulness in Pete's lyrics sometimes found its way into the music itself; '"Scunthorpe Crabmeat', has about a million time signatures - loads of stops and drop beats all over the place. Piblokto did a straight version of that, a straight shuffle. This was a bizarre, perverted version." As was 'Massed Debate' "a British pervert song" and Pete's homage to 'Arnold Layne'.

The song with the most interesting antecedence was Graham's 'Ig the Pig'. IG were the initials of the Los Angeles boss of a Mercury Records subsidiary label called Pulsar. During his time in the States in 1968, Graham found himself signed to this label along with Dr John and the Doug Sahm Band. With his reputed 'heavy' connections, IG was the guy who did his business at the point of a gun and was one day confronted by Diane (on behalf of Graham who was sick), Mac Rebennack and Wayne Talbot from the Quintet, all coming in search of promised cash. Now Graham, Mac and Johnny  Perez from the Sahm Band all had an abiding interest in the occult - and when they realised that no cash would be forthcoming, they got together to put a whammy on IG. The result? His wife caused a hit and run accident and IG himself was demoted to the ranks very shortly afterwards.

The band were a regular working outfit on the road with a small, but strong following of freaks and hairies especially at The Roundhouse and The Temple in Wardour Street, one of the last hippie outposts of the acid deranged and damaged. They were also signed to EMI in France who were very pro-active in promoting the band where Pete had always had an enthusiastic fan base - although how the band actually survived was a small miracle. Whenever Graham was driving, wheels had the habit of coming off. In fact most of the chaos of this band on the road had Graham at its core. They were in France doing 90 mph with a van full of gear and people, when a wheel rolled past them, "Oh, I think that's one of ours", said Graham. They spun off into a field and somehow Graham managed to bring the van under control before they all perished. With heroin in short supply, Graham would engage country chemists in a series of mumbles and hand signals which would produce varieties of noxious brews that only Graham could stomach. And e.erybody else's stomach turned at the sight of Graham tucking into a huge plate of bloody tripe straight out of a local meat market after an exhausting drive. Coming back through customs, Graham did his bit for Anglo-French relations with loud cries of "You won't find any drugs up my arse."

And it was drugs that finally did for the band. There was trouble anyway because Diane and the manager fell out, resulting in the singer being fired and bringing the fires of hell raining down on Graham's head. They were on tour in Leicester where Pete recalls, "this incredibly frightening woman appeared and gave Graham loads of acid and he did nothing but play feedback all night." The next night in Scarborough, Graham was hospitalised and they did this and the next gig without him and after that the whole band folded.

This was to be Graham's last recorded album. His mental health was deteriorating as his obsession with the occult grew. After a spell in a mental hospital, his life ended tragically under the wheels of a London Underground train in May

Pete went on to a renaissance career in both music and film, continuing to write with Jack Bruce, forging another productive partnership with ex-Man keyboardist Phil Ryan, recording albums on his own label, touring his band, working in the studio with an array of promising young talent and writing and producing films. He is currently working on his autobiography.
by Harry Shapiro

Azitis - 1970 - Azitis: Help

Azitis: Help

01. Creation, Lord I Saw You Cry (06:15)
02. There Is An Answer (03:48)
03. Who's To Blame (03:25)
04. The Prophet (06:11)
05. Time Has Passed (05:01)
06. From This Place (03:28)
07. Hope To Save (04:05)
08. Judgement Day (04:50)
09. Life Worth Living (bonus) (05:14)
10. Questions Why (bonus) (03:04)

Don Lower: Vocals, Bass
Steve Nelson: Vocals, Drums
Michael Welch: Guitar
Dennis Sulliven: Keyboards

It's hard to believe but there was a time when the only guitars ever heard on a gospel album were steel guitars, the organs were pipe NOT Hammond, and the lead singer had long hair because it was the pastor's daughter.

In the late 60s, that began to change as a handful of groups recorded music that was rock and roll with lyrics focused on Christian themes. Azitis (meaning let it be on Earth "as it is" in Heaven) was one of those, a California quartet featuring Don Lower on bass, Michael Welch on guitars and flute, Dennis Sulliven on organ and piano, and Steve Nelson on drums.

The album was conceived as a concept album, taking the Earth from Creation through Judgement Day. Obviously such an ambitious undertaking would be difficult to do well in a single disc, and it isn't really fully realized.

While a 1970 release, it sounds more late 60s thanks to the organ, lengthy tracks, and spiritually searching lyrics, though the guitars here are more restrained than Iron Butterfly, Cream or some of their other late 60s brethren.

Best cuts on here are the warning about phony spiritual leaders in "The Prophet" (which has the gutsiest guitar and some frenzied organ), "From this Place" which probably is the most "acid" of the bunch with plenty of swirling organ and pounding drum, and "Judgement Day" which turns into a loping bass and flute groove about halfway in.

The CD has two early singles for Capitol records (While still recording under the name "Help") as bonus tracks. Of the two, "Questions Why" is clearly superior and probably the most commercial of any of the tunes on the CD.

The big downfall for the CD is sound quality. The band's official site claims this was remastered from original master tapes but if it was the remaster was poor. Every track has what sounds like the pops and clicks you get with a vinyl LP. The sound isn't awful...but it sounds like a decent LP copy rather than a true remastered CD release.

This will be of interest primarily to those interested in the beginnings of the Christian rock scene and fans of late 60s era rock.


Ariel - 1975 - Rock & Roll Scars

Rock & Roll Scars

01. Keep on Dancing (With Me) (2:54)
02. I'll Be Going / I'll Be Gone (4:19)
03. Rock & Roll Scars (3:44)
04. Real Meanie (4:08)
05. Men in Grey Raincoats (3:22)
06. Launching Place Part II (2:24)
07. We are Indelible (2:42)
08. What the World Needs (is a New Pair of Socks) (3:16)
09. Red Hot Momma (2:36)
10. Some Good Advice (5:45)
11. I am the Laughing Man (2:45)
Bonus Tracks on CD
12. Yeah Tonight (3:09)
13. I am the Laughing Man (alt. version) (2:57)

- Mike Rudd / Lead Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica
- Bill Putt / Bass
- Glyn Mason / Guitars, Vocals
- Harvey James / Guitars
- John Lee / Drums

The Time: October 1974; The Place: Festival Hall, West Melbourne; The Scene: I was 15 years old and had taken my first girlfriend to see Hush, the La De Das and Stevie Wright in concert. Four guys ambled on stage unannounced and plugged in. The bass player had an enormous walrus moustache. I recognised him and lead singer Mike Rudd from Spectrum, and this was their new band Ariel. I already knew and loved their hit from 1973 'Jamaican Farewell'.

They proceeded to play a set of dynamic hard rock, all nimble riffs and adroit time shifts framed by a series of loud and biting yet fluid lead guitar solos from Harvey James, and the intensity of it all made my head spin with excitement. I can't remember the actual songs they played, but the experience was such that I became an instant convert. When the Rock & Roll Scars album appeared in April 1975 I thought the title had a decadent ring to it and I bought it immediately.

Hard edged yet melodic songs like 'Keep on Dancing (With Me)', 'We Are Indelible", 'Men in Grey Raincoats' and 'I am the Laughing Man' gave me many hours of listening pleasure. I was always intrigued by the album's sub-title, almost inconspicuously noted on the bottom of the front cover: Before the Mutant.

Many years later Mike Rudd was to explain to me the significance behind that, and thus was revealed one of the great mysteries of Australian rock'n'roll. When Harvey James and John Lee had replaced original Ariel lead guitarist Tim Gaze and original drummer Nigel Macara respectively in early 1974, Rudd had begun rehearsing the band for album number two.

The new record was to have been an ambitious science fiction concept album called The Jellabad Mutant. Ariel demoed the new material but the EMI executives rejected the concept out of hand. Abbey Road Studios in London was already booked, but here was the band left without any songs! All of which is why the new album consisted mostly of re-recorded versions of old Spectrum and Ariel material, with only three new songs thrown in for good measure.

The EMI suits should have let the visionary Mike Rudd play out his grand concept and record the album he had wanted. But then again, we would never have had the Rock & Roll Scars album, would we? I'll leave you with that little slice of irony. Now, just turn the music up real loud and enjoy!

by Ian McFarlane
(Ian McFarlane is the author of The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop)

Ariel - 1974 - A Strange Fantastic Dream

A Strange Fantastic Dream

01. Jamaican Farewell (2:50)
02. No Encores (3:47)
03. Confessions of a Psychotic Cowpoke (4:43)
04. And I'm Blue (2:52)
05. Garden of the Frenzied Cortinas (7:46)
06. Miracle Man (5:29)
07. Chicken Shit (4:23)
08. Worm Turning Blues (2:56)
09. Wheezer Grunter Module Threadaboy/Harry v. Dirchy (God the Man) (4:20)
10. Hard Way to Go (3:49)
11. And if it Wasn't for You (2:32)
12. Red Hot Momma (2:38) (Bonus Track on CD Version)

- Mike Rudd / Lead Vocals, Guitars, Backing Vocals, Harmonica
- Bill Putt / Bass
- Tim Gaze / Lead Guitar, Vocals
- John Mills / Keyboards
- Nigel Macara / drums

From the cinders of two of Australia's more important rock bands - Sydney's TAMAM SHUD and the legendary SPECTRUM from Melbourne - rose ARIEL, an eclectic art-pop group that was the child of guitarist/singer Mike RUDD [born in New Zealand] and bassist Bill PUTT. Upon the dissolution of Spectrum, songwriting partners RUDD & PUTT formed the new band consisting of Nigel MACARA(drums), John MILLS(keys), and Tim GAZE(voice, guitar) in 1973. They secured support on EMI's progressive label Harvest, producing debut 'A Strange Fantastic Dream' in November '73, probably their most consistent Prog rock album featuring complicated arrangements and spirited performances. Despite the controversial drug-tinged cover, the album reached #12 on the Aussie LP charts in 1974.

Their second, the till recently long-lost 'Jellabad Mutant', was intended to be a thoroughly ambitious prog opera with no spared expense described as "a John Whyndham-ish science fiction concept piece". But after much work and rehearsals, the final tapes were ultimately rejected by EMI with its overflowing vault of turgid and twiddly prog. Mike RUDD reflects:
"It's interesting to speculate what might have happened had we been allowed to proceed with the Mutant with an intact budget {EMI slashed the budget for Rock'n Roll Scars adding to the pressure} and with the time to to reflect and be creative with the raw material you hear in the demos. I regret not going in to bat for it at the time. We had a fabulous opportunity with the best technical assistance any band could have wanted. But I didn't sell the dream, even to myself".

In October 1974, the band recorded their follow-up 'Rock 'n Roll Scars' at Abbey Road Studios with a much-altered line up. Upon returning to Australia from England, RUDD & PUTT recruited Glyn MASON [CHAIN,COPPERWINE] on vocals&guitar, drummer John LEE and guitarist Harvey JAMES. By mid-1975 Mike RUDD had become involved with New Zealanders DRAGON and after more member changes, ARIEL switched labels to CBS and released a third effort 'Goodnight Fiona' in 1976.

By 1977, the remnants of the band had stretched ARIEL's potential as far as they felt possible and released the tongue-in-cheek 'Disco Dilemma' single just before the CBS contract expired. In August '77 a final concert was performed and later released as 'Aloha Ariel' and 'Live:More From Before'.

ARIEL was a bold, sometimes flamboyant group of guys who knew what they wanted and became one of the hardest-working institutions in the Aussie artrock scene, producing an ever-surprising collection of inventive but unpretentious heavy progressive rock music in the vein of SUPERTRAMP, BABE RUTH and Australian cousins FRATERNITY.

 A Strange Fantastic Dream provided some fun and humor alongside complex songs and soulful performances. Recalled is Supertramp, Babe Ruth, classic Split Enz, period Yes, and Aussie mates Fraternity and though the LP is more sportive party than stoic prog, the skills of the five-piece were unmistakable.

'Jamaican Farewell' starts the ball rolling in the right direction, an easy going swinger led by Mike Rudd's infectious riff continued for mid-tempo 'No Encore' with Rudd's throaty whine, the prog emerging fully here-- John Mills' synth washes, the building rhythms and altered chords of Putt&Rudd's fine compositions. Eight minute 'Garden of the Frenzied Cortinas' is even more convincing, a house of many rooms and a lost artrock treasure featuring a very gooey extended vamp between Mills' keys and Tim Gaze's bluesy lead guitar, climaxing finally with big pageantry and Rudd's plaintive wail. And 'Chicken Sh*t' belies its title and is one of the best cuts here, leaving no doubt these guys were serious if waggish about their music.

There is also material on A Strange Fantastic Dream that is more blues-rock than art, and during the band's final incarnation in 1977 they released the ridiculous single 'Disco Dilemma' as a tongue-in-cheek response to the dance phenomenon. But overall, this one is Ariel at its prime, full of great ideas and good spirits, and should be considered by anyone with a soft spot for the lighter side of the artrock movement.

Archimedes Badkar - 1977 - Tre

Archimedes Badkar 

01. Badidoom (8:36)
02. Wildlife (2:07)
03. Akombah (3:04)
04. Bhajan (3:29)
05. Slum (3:55)
06. Thumb Piano Music (4:13)
07. Suite (Pharoah - El Legend - Marrakech) (6:53)
08. Desert Band (3:13)
09. Tzivaeri (2:53)
10. Nomads (4:21)

. Tommy Adolfsson - trumpet, drums
. Jörgen Adolfsson - violin, sax, recorder, mandolin, acoustic guitar
. Christer Bjernelind - bass, percussion, mandolin, guitar, piano
. Per Tjernberg - keyboards, clarinet, percussion
. Pysen Eriksson - vibraphone, percussion
. Peter Ragnarsson - tablas
. Christer Bothén - sax

I've been on a Swedish binge lately, and much to my surprise there's almost nothing written about these albums on here. Last time I wrote a bit about organ wizard Eric Malmberg, and now I'd like to proceed this Swedish voyage with a somewhat obscure band called Archimedes Badkar (Archimedes' Bathtub). Their unique take on fusion guides the listener on some amazing carpet rides through the northern parts of Africa. Just like Kebnekaise, Archimedes Badkar incorporated African music into their sound, although I must say that these guys were far more successful.

I've heard many talk about this band as being the Swedish equivalent of Embryo, and this is not far off to tell you the truth. Archimedes Badkar frolic in psychedelia tinged fusion, experimental and freeflowing Krautrock with much emphasis on improvisation - and blend all of this together with a good scoop of African instrumentation.

Trumpet, sax, African drums, piano, violin, mandolin, clarinet, acoustic guitars, recorder, keyboards, tablas, bass, electric guitar and all sorts of exotic percussive features - all of this thrown into one big bowl. And while much of this album comes off as haphazard tunes from the Muppet kitchen - there's still some kind of core - a certain feel of preconception between these musicians. If I were to compare this to anything else, I'd probably say the Bitches Brew guys or the Mwandishi session men - not because they sound alike, but rather because of the total free natured atmosphere, that invites each and everyone to do whatever the hell they want to at any given moment. I realise that I'm painting a picture of crazy music with absolutely no form whatsoever, but that's hardly the fact here. Even when these guy jam, it sounds like it's orchestrated - like there's some meaning behind it all. Take the rhythm sections here for example. They stomp through the music like some harnessed stampede with all these differentiating percussive facets to it - and still there seems to be a togetherness at the front wheel. Even when these take us to the darkest parts of the jungle - and we get wild vocalizations sounding like a bunch of entranced witch doctors, you are never close to losing your mind. Not entirely that is...

One of the things that amazes me the most about this band is that they sound just as comfortable doing the kind of Scandinavian white boy fusion with big mad toots of the wind instruments, as they are making tribal bongo music taken directly from a wild towering bonfire in the midst of the African planes. Part Zulu - part mad Swedes. Then again you'll probably also pick up the Nordic folk music that once in a while pops by to say hello. The violin turns elliptic and slightly skewed - bringing the old myths of Thor and Odin to the fore - yet still backed up by tablas and Eastern sounding strings. This is Archimedes Badkar in a nutshell. They combine all these different cultures and make them sound as if they were one and the same. Like it was some old undiscovered culture with lions and tigers all living in big snowcapped fjords far above the borders of Lappland. With half naked warriors with spears and painted bodies jumping in ecstasy to the power of the music.

There are really no leaders on this album. You'll often get a piano lead groove, enhanced with the echoing wind instruments bellowing out in unison. Then the strings take over, and suddenly you're somewhere completely different, but somehow all these changes feel organic and purposeful - like they were meant to be.

If you like Embryo or any sort of experimental form of fusion, psych mixed with jazzy folk - or just need a different beat - an altogether different style of rhythmically fortified genre-less music that will take you on some wonderful journeys from the highest mountains in the north to the dirt brown and caramel coloured caravans in the winding dunes of the Sahara desert, - then start looking for Archimedes Badkar. I promise you - this bathtub is not like any you've ever stepped into.

Archimedes Badkar - 1976 - Archimedes Badkar II

Archimedes Badkar 
Archimedes Badkar II

01. Förtryckets Sista Timme (11:17)
02. Efter Regnet + Vattenfall (10:17)
03. Rebecca (1:33)
04. Jorden (6:13)
05. Charmante Yerevan, En Låt Från Armenien (3:25)
06. Afreaka II (10:40)
07. Radio Tibet (9:17)
08. Två Världar (9:26)
09. Jugoslavisk Dans (2:15)
10. Indisk Folkmelodi Och Ett Tema Av Ingemar (7:05)
11. Två Hundra Stolta År (9:46)

. Tommy Adolfsson - trumpet, drums (1-4)
. Jörgen Adolfsson - violin, sax, recorder, mandolin, acoustic guitar (1-4)
. Christer Bjernelind - bass, percussion, mandolin, guitar, piano (1-4)
. Per Tjernberg - keyboards, clarinet, percussion (1-4)
. Pysen Eriksson - vibraphone, percussion (1-3)
. Kjell Andersson - percussion, clarinet (1-2)
. Peter Rönnberg - guitar (1)
. Mats Hellqvist - guitar, bass (1)
. Bengt Berger - percussion (2-4)
. Peter Ragnarsson - tablas (2-3)
. Ingvar Karkoff - keyboards, vocals, guitar (2)
. Anita Livstrand - tambura (2)
. Kjell Westling - flute, bouzouki (2)
. Christer Bothén - sax (3-4)
. Sigge Krantz - guitar, bass (4)

 In the wonderful 70's, when a group wanted to release a double album filled to the brim with music, it didn't have to be jam-packed of tight songs, but it could have some loose jams in different moments. AB's second album is a fairly different beast than its debut, much looser, much more ethnic and much less jazzy.The group was reduced to a sextet but numerous other changes and many guests were invited. Under a gatefold artwork showing amateur but inspired pencil drawings and some more "homemade" features giving the album an unprofessional or amateur look, without this becoming a bad thing.

The first disc's opening side seems dedicated to Indian music as both track (amounting to 21 mins+) a much in the Europeans thought they could do it homage as the sitar reigns supreme over harmonium drones. On the flipside there are appears to be some slightly cosmic trends in Jorden, which is slightly odd just preceding the Kelzmer-Gypsy jazz of Charmante Yerevan. The closing lengthy Akreaka II is a slow evolving and enthralling piece, but it ends up too repetitititive.

The second disk starts on Tibetan horns (rightly so as the track is Radio Tibet), but the music evolves much and ends up improvising greatly. Finishing that side is the usual Embryo-sounding Tva Vardlar. The flipside has the gypsy-jazz Jugoslavian Dans, the Indian sitar & tabla music over a flute & piano background, but it's overstaying its welcome by a full two or three minutes. The closing Tva Hundra is a cosmic jam (possibly after an Aurora Borealis, given the electronics tweedlings)

Much less enthralling but at least as adventurous as its forerunner, AB II is not an easy piece to digest, because it tends to fuse different ethnic musical styles together, but ultimately come out only as halfway successful. So while certainly worth a listen, their second album is not really essential and therefore might be only interesting only if you thought their debut superb.

Archimedes Badkar - 1975 - Badrock För Barn I Alla Åldrar

Archimedes Badkar 
Badrock För Barn I Alla Åldrar

01. Det Stog En Kärring Uppå Torget (1:56)
02. Kaumba (2:58)
03. Sweet Love (3:04)
04. Wago Goreze (13:53)
05. Yelir (1:19)
06. Samepojkens Jaktlåt (3:06)
07. Del Tre (0:24)
08. Låt Tusen Taxar Springa (2:56)
09. Mister X (3:14)
10. Sammansmältning (4:54)
11. A Love Supreme (3:10)
12. Järnet (2:46)
13. Kjelles Låt (1:45)

.Tommy Adolfsson - trumpet, drums
.Jörgen Adolfsson - violin, sax, recorder, mandolin, acoustic guitar
.Christer Bjernelind - bass, percussion, mandolin, guitar, piano
.Per Tjernberg - keyboards, clarinet, percussion
.Pysen Eriksson - vibraphone, percussion
.Kjell Andersson - percussion, clarinet
.Peter Rönnberg - guitar
.Mats Hellqvist - guitar, bass

This large ensemble might be seen as a Swedish equivalent of the German group Embryo, as both were pioneers in the fusion of jazz-rock and ethnic music from all over the world. The music of Archimedes Badkar was lively and playful, often inspired by African music from both North and South of the Sahara desert. All four albums are in a similar vein, but most people regard their double second album as their best effort. Half of it was pre-planned, the rest based on improvisations done in the studio at night! Most tracks are very long and indicative of hippies on an Eastern trip. Bado Kidogo (1979) was a collaboration with the group Afro 70 from Tanzania. Bengt Berger and Kjell Westling had previously played with Arbete Och Fritid.

First album of a loose formation (they will never record two albums with the same line-up) that was probably closer to a hippie community that could write some tight songs, but also extended themselves in lengthy jams. Their first album is an excellent example of this as their type of jazz-rock was much laced with ethnic influences that they almost get lost in the confusion and the fusion of their main two musical preoccupations. Their first album received release in 73 with an amusing comic character, probably called Archimedes over a starlit nightsky.

The albums starts on three short songs that can have thinking Samla or Zappa, tight little tunes that are actually far away from each other as possible: the opening Det Stog is Samla-type, Kaumba starts on ethnic percussions before veering folk, while Sweet Loves is a delightful track with plenty of sax works driving you to the heart attack as it is so tense. The rest of the opening side is taken by the superb almost 14-minsWago Goreze, a repetitive but slow-evolving and spell-binding track that starts out on a bass line accompanied with diverse chimes , than entering a slow superb sax that comes from behind and gradually takes the spotlight. This track is somewhat reminiscent of Third Ear Band (first period) or Tery Riley (Rainbow in CA) in its glacial climactic best. It is minimalist and trancelike characteristic has two sax hovering in the heavens while the great ethnic percussion instruments keep flowing on the earthian grounds. Outstanding.

The flipside is made of short pieces (max 5 mins but min 0:27") that are spread ovzer a wide musical spectrum: the short Yelir is double flute thing, while Sempokjens is a delightful dual guitar piece that either Phillips or Hackett could've written. Taxar Springa is a mid-eastern sounding based mostly on the use of an oud and one can't help but refer to the European piece just before it. Most of the tracks on side 2 come linked to each other, no intervals separating them. Mister X is a return to Samla/Zappa- type of song starting full out and ending with a good piano break. The unwriteable Sammansmaltning is a return to the lengthy epic on the first side, although its not quite as repetitive, but just as spellbinding with its dual sax attack. Then comes a delightful 3+mins cover of Trane's ALS, while Jarnet is a wahwah guitar soloing away over a jazz-rock beat. Badande Gurun is a head-spinning fast tune, contrasting heavily with the following Morgonstjarnan, a slow guitar starter slowly evolving in a sax-led crescendo, while the self-explanatory Repris is reprising a previous track.

This first album opens a certain kind of Badkar musical integrity as future albums will be fairly different from each other, but remain completely uncommercial and typically in the AB spirit. But unfortunately for them, they will ever be better than in their debut album, which is the only essential one from them.

Alan White - 1976 - Ramshackled

Alan White

01. Ooooh Baby (Goin`to Pieces)
02. One Way Rag
03. Avakak
04. Spring - Song of Innocence
05. Giddy
06. Silly Woman
07. Marching into a Bottle
08. Everybody
09. Darkness (Parts I, II & III)

- Alan White / drums, percussion
- Peter Kirtley / guitars, vocals
- Colin Gibson / bass, percussion
- Kenny Craddock / keyboards, vocals
- Alan Marshall / vocals
- Bud Beadle / solo saxophone, flute
- Andy Phillips / steel drum
- Steve Gregory / tenor saxophone, flute
- Henry Lowther / trumpet
- Madeleine Bell / backing vocals
- Joanne Williams / backing vocals
- Vicky Brown / backing vocals
- David Bedford / orchestral arrangements and orchestra conductor
- Jon Anderson / vocals (4)
- Steve Howe / guitar (4)

This album is very good, IMO, it has a mixture of several styles with good Prog Rock arrangements. It was recorded by Alan White assisted by musicians who played with Alan before he joined YES. The songs of this album were not composed by Alan, but the songs were composed by Kenny Craddock, Colin Gibson and Peter Kirtley, alone or in different combinations. Alan and these musicians played together in a band called "Griffin", and also played together in several albums as session musicians. Craddock, Gibson and Kirtley also composed songs together for other projects before this album was planned and recorded. So, they had a lot of experience working together with Alan White before he joined YES, so I think that it was easier for them to record this album which was released as Alan`s solo album, but it could be also considered as a Griffin album.

The songs:

1. Oooh Baby (Going to Pieces`): it starts with Alan playing drums and percussion in a Samba- Bossa Nova musical style. Then, the other instruments appear and then the singer sings in a Soul music style.

2. One Way Rag: this song is influenced by Soul and Rhythm and Blues music, it is a simple song really, sometimes sounding like Pop music.This song was played a few times by YES on their "Solo Albums" tour in 1976. In the first gigs of that tour, the band played selected songs from their solo albums, but the idea was eliminated soon.

3. Avakak: it is an instrumental piece of music in the Jazz-Rock musical style with the addition of wind instruments and very good rhythm patterns by Alan and basist Colin Gibson.

4. Spring - Song of Innocence: with lyrics by William Blake, this is a song very influenced by New Age music ( a style not so called like that in those days) and Prog Rock, with very good atmospheres, and the guest appearances of YES members Jon Anderson and Steve Howe. I think that this song could have been included in any YES album in those years.Alan plays a slow rhythm similar to YES song`called "Wonderous Stories". There are also very good flute-guitar-keyboard arrangements.Anderson sings lead and backing vocals.This song also was played a few times by YES on their "Solo Albums" tour in 1976.

5. Giddy: is a funny song also influenced by Jazz-Rock and Soul music. The lyrics tells the story of "a night of fun in the city". It includes a very good drum part by Alan. Again, lead singer Alan Marshall sings very well. This song also has a good orchestral arrangement.

6. Silly Woman: a Reggae song with good drums by Alan and a steel drum part. Maybe the lyrics are a bit offensive, but it is a funny song anyway. In the "Yesyears" video it is included a fragment of a promotional video for this song on which Alan appears smiling, and Patrick Moraz said in one interview that he also appeared briefly in this video as guest without having played a note in the song! This could be a good danceable song. It also has wind instrument arrangements.

7. March into a Bottle: is a song with classical guitar, flutes and other wind instruments and tuned and untuned percussion, inlfuenced a bit by Classical music and Folk Rock a la Jethro Tull. It also sounds IMO in the style of Steve Hackett`s music as soloist.

8. Everybody: is an energetic song with very good drums by Alan, a bit heavy, with wind instrument arrangements and backing vocals by Madeleine Bell, Joanna Williams and Vicky Brown. It has very good bass guitar parts, and acoustic guitar and steel drum.

9. Darkness: is the most Progressive song in this album, maybe the most "serious", with three parts, also influenced by Jazz-Rock. It also has wind instrument arrangements and an orchestral arrangement by David Bedford (who previously worked with Mike Oldfield) in the third part. The arrangements are a bit inlfuenced by YES music.There are some lead guitar parts too. The final part of the song includes a trumpet solo.

I think that this album deserves to be "discovered" and listened by the Prog Rock Fans who never have listened to it. The album is very eclectic, but it shows Alan White`s versatility as a drummer. He, in the "Yesyears" video, talking about this album, said that his idea was to record an album with a mixture of several styles. It seems to me that his previous musical experience of playing with artists of different musical styles helped him a lot to record an album with a lot of variety in the musical arrangements. This album, IMO, it is also interesting for Prog Rock Fans who also play drums and percussion (which is my case). I can hear a lot of interesting things in this album, and I hope that other listeners could find something interesting on it too. It also sounds to me like it was recorded with Alan and all the musicians having a lot of fun. So, even being a collaborative effort, not only a solo album, it is very good, IMO.

Youtube review:

Acanthe - 2009 - Someone Somewhere

Someone Somewhere (1973-1977)

01. Someone Somewhere (7:54)
02. Objet De Cire (5:24)
03. Meg Merrilies (7:06)
04. Touch The Sun (6:25)
05. Suspension (5:21)
06. Unknown (4:48)
07. Oiseau De Feu (7:05)
08. The Old World Death (8:10)
09. Riding Earth (4:59)

Frédéric Leoz / guitar, keyboards, vocals
Michel Gervasoni / guitar
Pierre Choirier / drums
Christian Gendry / bass

Acanthe is one of those rare one-shot wonders we progfans always drool over, wondering what could have been had the musicians stayed together. This debut went absolutely nowhere in 1977, gathering dust in some French alpine chalet's drawer (they were from Grenoble) until Musea released it in 2009! Talk about hidden treasure, the amateurish (in a good sense) sound and the delivery are substantially stunning, though certainly not perfect. But it's precisely for these modest yearnings that this should strike a chord with fans of symphonic prog done 'a la francaise'. In fact, I will be also reviewing Skryvania (1978) and Angipatch (1981) in the next little while, two other mainly unfamiliar but intriguing French- prog discs.

From the title track opening salvo, "Someone Somewhere" the first impression is fixated on the combination of surly guitar and the sweeping mellotron strings , the sweet English vocals (though they also sing in French on later tunes) and a solid rhythmic foundation. Michel Gervasoni's blistering leads and Frédéric Leoz astute keys provide a rich tapestry of psychedelic stylings that were the hallmark of the times when rich time changes, rapid-fire contrasts and sizzling soloing ruled the roost. .

The blustery "Objet de Cire"(Wax Object) just keeps the rudder ahead, plowing through waxen poetic scenes of intensity and brooding instrumentation. Nostalgia, melancholia and reminiscence combine to create a specific mood that keeps the listener on edge, speeding up, slowing down at will. The axe solo is stellar stuff! This talent becomes quite apparent on "Meg Merrilies" (whatever that means) with its spectacular symphonics of the very highest order, complex weaving of various moods and tones, fueled by a superb e- piano and an accented English vocal (cute though) that inspires charm and admiration. When the organ swerves forward, the chunky guitar follows obediently suit, intent on the wildest adventure.

A high water mark, "Towards the Sun" incorporates slithering sitar swaths and a slippery lead guitar that hinges on Hillage-like tones, recalling the madhouse Gong who at the time lived in exile in France. The lead guitar solo is absurdly forceful, a fiery foray of blinding beauty that makes you look up in amazement. Pierre Choirier's drums combine nicely with Christian Gendry's voluble bass to provide a concrete foundation. A truly tremendous track.

"Suspension" is more straight ahead rock, a simple melody with jangling chords, hushed anglo vocals and bombastic explosions. The lead guitar repeats the theme explicitly, psychedelia in the air, soloing fruitfully with complete passion and determination. "Unknown" sort of follows behind, an English title with French lyrics, pretty cool mindset, completed with some zoning guitar leads (darn' it, the man is good!) that aspire and inspire. "Oiseau de Feu" (Firebird) is another symphonic apex, featuring some energetic rhythms, surly leads and intoxicating keys (synths and such?) and an extended vocal that wanders gently amid the churning chords and the serene beat. Gervasoni again unleashes a slick solo, diminutive, thunderous and to the point. The epic 8 minute + oddly titled "The Old World Death" (whatever that means!) further delivers on their unique concept, a mid tempo bluesy affair with bristling fret and key board interventions, deep contrasts and dreamy atmospherics that remain subtle and effective. "Riding Earth" (whatever that means!) spirals convincingly towards the finale of this interesting recording, twirling synths galore, booming bass intrusion and evocative e-piano with a strong early Genesis vibe that is plum exhilarating. A knee-shaking culmination to this marvel that is hard to describe. The joyful synthesizer solos say it all, especially when the intermittent axe drips like a fountain of exuberance, thus providing a duel of ecstatic proportions. . . The issue comes with a lovely artwork but very basic info, keeping the focus on the music within. It has that "je ne sais quoi" attraction that is so appealing which appears on such French momentary wonders such as Arachnoid, Pentacle, Shylock etc? Undoubtedly original and evocative of a special time (70s) and place (France) that embraced prog full heartedly. A huge discovery that means so much more to me as its totally ignored by even the prog public. Retribution and justice for this lovely find.

11.59 - 1974 - This Our Sacrifice Of Praise

This Our Sacrifice Of Praise

01. The Earth Is The Lord's
02. To Thy Holy Name
03. The Lord Has Done Great Things For Us
04. Hallelujah Jesus!
05. Let Us Thank The Lord
06. Praise The Lord
07. By The Waters Of Babylon
08. The Musical Box Song
09. Trust In The Lord
10. The Shepherd

11.59 was a British Christian group that released one exceptionally rare album way back then. Most tracks have been inspired by Psalms and other passages from the Bible, which speaks clearly from the lyrics that do carry a Message, but with the exception of “Hallelujah Jesus!” that shouldn’t bother anyone. That particular song, however, may be a bit too much of a “hallelujah-gospel-song” (pun intended) for most - even I tend to skip it. The other material brings beautiful progressive folk with quite a bit of Mellotron playing and good (male and female) vocals.

9.30 Fly - 1972 - 9.30 Fly

9.30 Fly
9.30 Fly

01. Lifeand times
02. Summerdays
03. September
04. Unhinged
05. Mr. 509
06. Brooklyn Thoughts
07. Time of war

*Michael Wainwright – Lead Vocals
*Barbara Wainwright – Vocals, Electric Piano
*Lyn Oakey - Guitar
*Gary Charman - Bass
*Mike Clark - Drums

Early 70's UK progressive folk album that is OK as background music, but it doesn't really make you listen to it. The female vocals are pleasant and the male vocals are barely adequate. There is nice mellotron on one track only: "Brooklyn Thoughts". Probably not enough here to make me want to move this album into the rotation. It really isn't bad, but there are only so many listening hours in a lifetime...

Sometimes the soul of the collector is against the ability to judge properly the quality of the music. Is the case of this only release of 9.30 Fly. In this gentle attempt of progressive-folk, it can be found a mix of amateur and professional musicians. For one side, Wainwright couple was simply amateurs, Michael Wainwright fails as lead vocalist, but as a composer has some moments, except for the bad “September” and horrible “Time of War” that sports a long la la la la la la la, all the time out of tone. Barbara Wainwright not having a bad voice, needs some knowledge and training doing harmonies, all over the album sound basic and boring, and her electric piano playing is really poor. The rest of the group have more knowledge, so all the music in this album is sustained by the guitar of the most experienced of all, Lyn Oakey, who played for John Cooper Clarke, and in a band named The Invisible Girls. The rhythm section, do a decent job. Gary Charman, on bass, was the singer and plays in “My Generation” a tribute band for The Who, where he meet a drummer Gary Harper, who claims to have been playing in 9.30 Fly. Mike Clark (Mickey Clarke), the drummer was with a band named “The Outboys”.

Satya Sai Maitreya Kali - 1972 - Inca

Satya Sai Maitreya Kali 

01. Lights of Dawn
02. Thesis
03. Knot the Freize
04. Jesus Owns
05. Sam Pan Boat
06. Fearless Men
07. Cheryl
08. Country Girl
09. Old Man
10. King

I do prefer this album to Apache--it's a bit heavier on the rock songs than the first album, and "Knot the Freize" is a pretty progressive 12-minute extended composition (not jam!) in the style of Buffalo Springfield that actually goes a number of places.  Even the solo acoustic numbers are a bit better--the fingerstyle guitar playing is much improved, and there are a couple decent songs.  "Sam Pan Boat" sums up my main complaints with the albums--"it is so clear when your karma loses fear"--couldn't get much more generically hippie than that.  If you're interested, Allmusic has a pretty extensive article detailing the history of the band, but I fear the music doesn't really merit the research.

Satya Sai Maitreya Kali - 1972 - Apache

Satya Sai Maitreya Kali

01. Ice and Snow
02. Black Swan
03. Color Fantasy
04. Voodoo Spell
05. Salesman
06. Music Box
07. Love Is Our Existence
08. One Last Farewell
09. I'm Walkin' Solo
10. Silk and Ivory
11. Swim
12. Revelation

The mystery surrounding the two albums released in the early '70s by Maitreya Kali -- also known, confusingly, as Satya Sai Maitreya Kali -- has taken some time to be unraveled. Before getting into the details, the important thing to acknowledge is that they are among the more interesting rare late-'60s folk-rock psychedelic relics, alternating between full electric band arrangements and solo acoustic guitar ones. The electric numbers are rather like a cross between Buffalo Springfield and the most assertive cuts by the Monkees (a band that at moments could sound a lot more like Buffalo Springfield than many admit), though closer to Buffalo Springfield than to the Monkees. The mixture of folk-rock with harmonies, a slight country influence, and sunny Californian pop is also reminiscent of Merrell Fankhauser, a cult icon who is much better known than Maitreya Kali (though much lesser known than Buffalo Springfield and the Monkees). There are occasional spaced-out psychedelic effects, particularly in the vocals run through a Leslie effect on a couple of songs; the 12-minute suite "Knot the Freize" (sic) is a very ambitious string of discrete song sections, although otherwise the artist stuck to a pretty concise two-to-four-minute compositional structure.

The acoustic cuts, while still pretty, are a bit creepy and odd in the manner of a somewhat less cutting-edge Dino Valente or Skip Spence. "Love and pain are one and the same," sings the vocalist on "Ole Man," a sentiment that, like some others heard in other songs on the two LPs, gets a little too close to Charles Manson territory for comfort. There are also some pretty ambitious meditations upon religion, loneliness, and mysticism, although in general the tone is upbeat, the melodies accessible, and the singing pleasantly normal. But why, you may be wondering, all this ambiguity? Why not name the personnel of anyone in this act, and why refer to these early-'70s albums as late-'60s rock?

There is one quite simple reason for the wide disparity between the more straightforward full-band electric rock cuts and the lower, more minimally arranged acoustic ones. The electric material -- about half of the Maitreya Kali records -- was not recorded by Maitreya Kali, but by a Southern Californian 1967 pop-folk-rock-psychedelic band, the Penny Arkade. And the rest of the songs were recorded a few years later by one of the two singer/songwriters in the Penny Arkade, Craig Smith, aka Maitreya Kali.

Even after these rare albums were issued on CD, the history of Maitreya Kali was so murky and the details on the albums themselves so muddled that it was impossible to pin down when the records were recorded and who played on them. The clues that could be assembled were drawn largely from the record covers, which are crudely patched together from photos of the apparent perpetuator, taken on his travels around the world; hand-drawn inscrutable symbols for religious deities and planetary bodies; and rambling written dedications and musician credits. But in the early 2000s, a few of the musicians were tracked down, putting some logical rationale behind the apparent madness.

Maitreya Kali was a pseudonym for Craig Smith, a guitarist and songwriter who actually had some quite mainstream artists cover several of his compositions. Smith/Maitreya Kali inaccurately wrote in the liner notes to the first of those records, Apache (1971), that he did all instruments and vocals. Various famous people are mentioned as friends and cohorts in the liner notes, including Mike Nesmith, session musician Steve Douglas, producer Nick Venet, and Frank Zappa (a handwritten comment by Zappa about one Maitreya Kali song is reproduced on the cover of Apache). There are prominent dedications to Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, "Lord and Lady Lennon," and Paul Butterfield without any certain evidence that he knew any of those musicians. (The Neil Young reference makes sense given that a few of the songs mildly recall Young's work in his Buffalo Springfield days.) There are quotes, some (whether they were real or not) about Maitreya Kali from Batman star Adam West, Jerry Garcia, Charles Manson, Andy Williams, and Bobby Troup. The liner notes are in a scrambled syntax that only renders them inscrutable, but is of a style that one associates with the mentally ill.

For all that, however, the music is often fairly well-produced, well-played, and likable, not at all the kind of acid-damaged mush you'd suspect from the packaging. This is for the prosaic reason that these songs, comprising about half of the LPs, were unreleased recordings done by the Penny Arkade in 1967, before Smith traveled around the world and got much weirder. There are more specific details in the Penny Arkade entry, but basically, that group recorded quite a bit of material that never came out, produced by Mike Nesmith of the Monkees. Smith was not the sole singer/songwriter of that band; he shared equal time with Chris Ducey, with whom he'd done an obscure single for Capitol in 1966 as half of the duo Chris and Craig.

When the Penny Arkade broke up without having released anything, Smith took off on travels around the world, funded by his songwriting royalties from covers of his songs by the Monkees ("Salesman"), Andy Williams ("Holly"), and Glen Campbell ("Country Girl"). (The Penny Arkade versions of both "Salesman" and "Country Girl" can be heard on the Inca and Apache albums, respectively.) When he returned to the States, he combined a bunch of unreleased Penny Arkade tracks with more recent, sparer, and spookier recordings he'd done on his own, most likely in the early '70s. The results were the Apache and Inca LPs, pressed in extremely small quantities, essentially as vanity pressings credited to Satya Sai Maitreya Kali. An even rarer release put both LPs together onto a double album.

Those who knew Smith felt he'd become much more eccentric and psychologically unstable, a supposition borne out by the eerie nature of the solo recordings on those LPs. To make matters more confusing, the liner notes of Inca claim that the material was recorded over a period of ten years, although it seems unlikely that any of it was done before the mid-'60s. Finally, the albums have also been credited to Satya Sai Maitreya Kali, although they are usually classified in the few discographies that list them as albums by Maitreya Kali, alphabetized under "M."

These extremely rare records developed a reputation among very, very hardcore psychedelic collectors, the kind that have records very few people have ever physically seen, let alone heard. Now the interesting, though not genius, work of Maitreya Kali can be heard on a double-CD reissue on Normal/Shadoks that pairs Apache with Inca.

Penny Arkade - 2004 - Not The Freeze

Penny Arkade 
Not The Freeze

01.  Lights of Dawn
02.  Country Girl
03.  Thesis
04.  Swim
05.  Color Fantasy
06.  Voodoo Spell
07.  Not the Freeze
08.  Love Rain [#]
09.  Century of Distance
10.  Sparkle & Shine
11.  Face in the Crowd
12.  Woodstock Fireplace
13.  Year of the Monkey
14.  Give Our Love (To All the People)
15.  Split Decision
16.  Sick and Tired
17.  No Rhyme or Reason
18.  You Couldn't Conquer Me
19.  Swim
20.  Lights of Dawn
21.  The Freeze
22.  Century of Distance
23.  Voodoo Spell

Chris Ducey (vocals, guitar)
Craig Smith [aka Satya Sai Maitreya Kali] (vocals, guitar)
Donald F. "Marvel" Glut (bass)
Bobby "Dunny" Donaho (drums)
Dave Turner (guitar)

With a throb of excitement matched only by finding King Tut’s OTHER tomb, Sundazed has recently unearthed a long-forgotten treasure from the seminal mid-’60s Los Angeles rock scene: the previously unreleased album by the Penny Arkade!
Spotlighting singer/songwriters Chris Ducey and Craig Smith along with bassist Don Glut and drummer Bobby Donaho, the Penny Arkade--with its jangley melange of the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and Moby Grape—was apotential pop-rock goldmine in the making. But its only album was inexplicably shelved... Produced by Michael Nesmith, the original, unreleased Penny Arkade album is now expanded to contain extra material from the sessions, revealing demo recordings, and much more. With the addition of long-buriedphotos and a detailed band history penned by Ugly Things-editor Mike Stax, this is an astounding tape-vault discovery of the first rank!

The Penny Arkade never released any records during their brief existence, and their history has been muddied by the release of much of their material on rare albums credited to one of the band's singer/songwriters (using a pseudonym, no less).The obscurity and confusion is unfortunate, as they were actually quite a good Southern Californian folk-rock-psychedelic band, much like Buffalo Springfield at times, and at others like a tougher Monkees. The Monkees connection is explained,
in part, by the production of their studio sides by Mike Nesmith, who was in the Monkees at the time.

The nucleus of the Penny Arkade was comprised of singer/songwriters Craig Smith and Chris Ducey. The pair of them recorded as the duo Chris & Craig, who put out a rare single on Capitol in 1966. They had met Nesmith earlier in New York and when Nesmith was becoming successful with the Monkees, he produced Smith and Ducey's new band, the Penny Arkade, which also included Don Glut on bass and Bobby Donaho on drums. Nesmith recorded quite a bit of material with the band around 1967, with an eye to using the recordings to get them a contract. They couldn't get a deal, however, and broke up without releasing anything.

Craig Smith had experienced some success as a songwriter covered by other artists, with the Monkees recording "Salesman," Andy Williams "Holly," and Glen Campbell "Country Girl." With those royalties, he embarked on travels around the globe and when he returned to the States, those who'd known him thought he'd gotten way weirder. That's supported by the spooky tone of the solo recordings he did in the early '70s, which are somewhat reminiscent of the acid folk of artists like
Skip Spence. In the early '70s, he combined some early-'70s solo recordings with about an album's worth of old unreleased Penny Arkade tracks for two LPs, Apache and Inca. Both were credited to Maitreya Kali, the name Smith was now using for himself, and released in such small quantities that they were essentially vanity pressings.

The Penny Arkade material on the Maitreya Kali albums is actually pretty good and worthy of more attention than many would think given their total obscurity. While not as good as Buffalo Springfield (and pretty derivative of Buffalo Springfield), songs like "Color Fantasy," "Swim," "Lights of Dawn," and "Knot the Freize" (sic) evoke some of the Springfield's better aspects. Particularly ambitious was the 12-minute "Knot the Freize" (sic), the Penny Arkade's own "Broken Arrow" perhaps, as it's a suite of several different songs. There was also their version of "Country Girl," which was pretty and tuneful countrified folk-rock.

The Maitreya Kali albums, and hence the Penny Arkade (who are not credited in any way on the Maitreya Kali LPs), were unknown even to many fanatical 1960s rock collectors. However, those albums, and hence a good amount of Penny Arkade material, were restored to easy availability when they were reissued as a two-CD set on the Normal/Shadoks label. While Smith's post-'70s activities remain mysterious, bassist Don Glut became an independent horror/science fiction filmmaker and Chris Ducey did a mid-'70s solo album for Warner Bros.