Saturday, December 27, 2014

Aphrodite's Child - 1972 - 666

Aphrodite's Child

101. The system (0:23)
102. Babylon (2:51)
103. Loud, loud, loud (2:37)
104. The four horsemen (5:57)
105. The lamb (4:34)
106. The seventh seal (1:30)
107. Aegian sea (5:25)
108. Seven bowls (1:25)
109. The wakening beast (1:07)
110. Lament (2:55)
111. The marching beast (2:00)
112. The battle of the locusts (0:56)
113. Do it (1:45)
114. Tribulation (0:32)
115. The beast (2:33)
116. Ofis (0:17)

201. Seven trumpets (0:30)
202. Altamont (4:45)
203. The wedding of the lamb (3:35)
204. The capture of the beast (2:15)
205. "8" (Infinity) (5:16)
206. Hic et nunc (3:00)
207. All the seats were occupied (19:27)
208. Break (2:55)

- Anargyros "Silver" Koulouris / guitars, percussion
- Evengelio Odyssey Papathanassiou (VANGELIS) / keyboards, flute, percussion, vibes, backing vocals
- Artemios Ventouris Roussos (Demis Roussos) / bass, lead & backing vocals
- Lucas Sideras / drums, lead & backing vocals

Guest musicians:
- Harris Chalkitis / bass, tenor saxophone, congas, backing vocals
- Irene Papas / vocals (2:5)
- Michel Ripoche / trombone, tenor saxophone (1:2 & 2:6)
- Yannis Tsarouchis / Greek text
- John Forst / narration

Progressive Rock fans usually are unfair with talented musicians as Demis Roussos and Evangelos Odysseus Papathanassiou (Vangelis), is true that Demis solo career is mostly based in soft pop but people forget he was a very talented bassist with a great vocal range and Vangelis is remembered for his New Age boring albums or commercial soundtracks instead of progressive masterpieces as "Heaven & Hell" or even his albums with Jon Anderson, which are not among my favorites but must recognize as quality music.

It's also a important to remember APHRODITE'S CHILD was not only formed by the mentioned musicians because Anargyros (Silver) Koulouris who had returned from his military Service to record this album is a very good guitar player and Lucas Sideras is a very capable drummer, this two members had a direct participation in the album

Because of the complexity of 666 they recruited also a good number of Greek artists to complement the band as the multi talented and brilliant actress Irene Papas, Harris Chalkitis and Michel Ripoche for the winds, a great lyricist, movie director, book author and member of the European Film Academy Costas Ferris to take care of the lyrics and even the well known artist Yannis Tsarouchis for the Greek text. In other words, the album was carefully planned.

The concept of the album is about the most complex and controversial Book of the Bible, "Saint John's Book of Revelations" also known as "The Apocalypse", a really hard task even today, but harder in 1970 when there was very little experience with conceptual albums, it's important to notice that 666 is considered the first properly concept album, because before it were only released some rock operas which are part of a different sub-genre.

When 666 was recorded the problems inside the band were leading to the inevitable split, mostly because Roussos and Sideras wanted to continue doing commercial music as in their previous albums and Vangelis was decided to take a more complex path, so 666 was really their last attempt to maintain the classic formation of the band allowing Vangelis to compose a real progressive and complex album, but it was too late for the band, and 666 was their last album, an excellent way to close the short story of APHRODITE'S CHILD.

It's hard to describe the music because there's not other band that had a similar sound or style, the Greek influence is also different than the usual, don't expect something catchy or folksy as Zorba the Greek, because the band uses darker religious music over a 100% Symphonic structure with touches of Psychedelia, it's important to remember that Greece is the country where the Orthodox Catholic Church is based, and this influence helps to create a Biblical and mysterious atmosphere.

The greatest achievement of the band is the way they blend this liturgical music with more western influences like pop and of course symphonic prog. But they do something even more adventurous, they include some tracks that sound like prayers by monks, with traces of Gregorian Chants and even complex sounds, they were ahead of their time in many aspects.

It's hard to describe the tracks searching for a favorite or high point, because the album is very faithful to "The Book of Revelations" and any attempt of separating a song takes it from it's natural context and breaks the atmosphere so carefully created by APHRODITE'S CHILD.

For example the track Infinity (sign that can't be reproduced with a PC keyboard) outside of the album means nothing except a woman having an orgasm, but in the context of the album makes sense because the Book of Revelation makes various references to the prostitute that tempted the kings. It may be a good interpretation by Irene Papas but don't place out loud in the CD player of your car unless you have the windows closed because it may be embarrassing.

Disk 1 has many important songs after the weird "The System" which sounds as a strange prayer.

"Babylon" is a rock song with an outstanding guitar work, even though is a studio track, the band created the sound of a crowd to symbolize multitudes on the biblical capital of the world, very good song even if not progressive.

"Loud, Loud, Loud" is a narration of a paragraph of the Bible surrounded by a beautiful piano, for this song the band used the voice of the son of a Greek Diplomat, very atmospheric track.

"The Four Horsemen" is a terrifying song that starts with a scary narration in the form of a sung prayer, talks about the moment The Lamb (Christ) opens the seals to free the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, followed by the band leaded by Lucas Sideras and his accurate drums, really scares me very much.

"The Lamb" is an instrumental with a very Greek sound; the entire band is perfect and well supported by a chorus that adds some dramatics. Almost in the same vein but softer and darker comes "The Seventh Seal" which announces more terrible moments for humanity, the phrase "And when the Lamb opened the Seventh Seal, Silence above the Skies" resumes the terrible message.

"Aegian Seal" has an introduction that you could expect from any Vangelis later album but followed by explosions of music and narrations.

The rest of the first CD is full of laments, tribulations and Greek style music blended perfectly with progressive rock, maybe except for "The Beast" which I supposed would be the darker song but paradoxically is the only poppy track of the album with a guitar that reminds of Clapton's slow hand.

Disk 2 is even better than the first one (if this is possible) "Seven Trumpets" is a 30 seconds track that literally announces the next song "Altamont" which is very atmospheric and elaborate and shows the great skills of Vangelis as keyboardist, who without the wonderful excesses of Wakeman or Emerson does a very precise work, the background voice is very disturbing and scary, as anyone could expect from an album that describes the end of the world.

"The Wedding of the Lamb" is a strange song that mixes Gregorian Chants with Greek Liturgical music, supported by percussion, other typical Greek instruments and the whole band, confusing but very good track. The next song "The Capture of the Beast" is a track based in percussion and chain sounds with some typical Vangelis keyboard interruptions.

Talked already about "Infinity" so I won't do it again. "Hic et Nunc" (Here and Now) is a jazzy tune that works as a relief in preparation for the most important song of the album which is "All the Seats Were Occupied", a 19:19 minutes epic that mixes all the influences, sounds and songs of the album in a single track all surrounded by a mystical atmosphere, extremely beautiful and very complex represents Progressive Rock best face.

The album ends with the only ballad named Break, which sounds to me as a Roussos contribution, not a filler, but not necessary either, because IMHO 666 would have ended perfectly with the wonderful "All the Seats Were Occupied"

After 666 was recorded in 1970, the band broke and the album couldn't be released until 1972 because of many reasons that include the track "Infinity", the controversial concept and an innocent confession made by the band that they were influenced by Sahlep, most people believed it was a demon or a drug when it's only a non alcoholic beverage from Turkey. There was even a boycott by several radio stations, and when the album was finally released by Vertigo (the adventurous face of Mercury), the band was separate for two years.

There's no other possible rate for this essential masterpiece than 5 stars, not only for it's quality but also because this guys were ahead of their own time, something unusual for a band that had previously released only two poppy albums in search for a hit single.

Aphrodite's Child - 1969 - It's Five O'Clock

Aphrodite's Child
It's Five O'Clock

01. It's Five O'Clock (3:29)
02. Wake Up (4:05)
03. Take Your Time (2:40)
04. Annabella (3:55)
05. Let Me Love, Let Me Live (4:42)
06. Funky Mary (4:11)
07. Good Time So Fine (2:44)
08. Marie Jolie (4:47)
09. Such A Funny Night (4:33)

Bonus Tracks:
10. I Want To Live
11. Magic Mirror
12. Lontano Dagli Occhi
13. Quando L'Amore Diventa Poesia
14. Spring, Summer, Winter And Fall
15. Air

- Demis Roussos / Bass, Guitars, Vocals
- Vangelis / Bass, Keyboards
- Lucas Sideras / Drums, Percussion

A year after the release of their début album, Aphrodite's Child followed it up with this set. "It's five O'clock" does not represent any progression as such, the nine pop based tracks here running to around 35 minutes in total. By the time of these recordings, the band were already down to a trio with Anargyros Koulouris having been conscripted in Greece. Interestingly, it is Demous Rousos who therefore plays the guitar parts. Once again, the song-writing is almost exclusively in the hands of Vangelis, this time in partnership with Richard Francis. Demis Roussos does write one track ("Annabella") with Richard Adams.

The opening title track is one of the highlights of the album, with Rousos delivering a fine vocal performance, and Vangelis adding some excellent keyboards. The song was released as a single, backed by the second album track "Wake up". If the title track represents the band at their commercial best, "Wake up" is its antithesis, being pure euro- pop. "Take Your Time" is equally dismissal, but this time the band infuse a country barn dance element into the music.

The ballads are generally the songs which work best here, the aforementioned "Annabella" being another of the better songs. Unfortunately, there are not that many ballads, with songs such as the awful hippy chant "Let me love, let me live" being afforded far more space that they warrant.

Aphrodite's Child are highly respected in prog circles. The simple fact is though that the respect is entirely due to their third and final album "666". On their own, the two albums which precede "666", would probably not even qualify for addition to this site under the proto-prog category. While they contain well performed music with a clear level of sophistication and ambition, they are by and large collections of 60's pop. They can still make for an enjoyable listen though.

The recently released CD version of the album includes 6 further tracks, all of which were non-album singles and their B sides.

Aphrodite's Child - 1968 - End Of The World

Aphrodite's Child
End Of The World

01. End of the World
02. Don't Try to Catch a River
03. Mister Thomas
04. Rain and Tears
05. The Grass is No Green
06. Valley of Sadness
07. You always Stand in My Way
08. The Shepherd and the Moon
09. Day of the Fool

Bonus Tracks:
10. Plastic Nevermore
11. Other People

- Vangelis Papathanasiou / bass, keyboards
- Demis Roussos / vocals, bass, guitar
- Lucas Sideras / drums, vocals

The short story of APHRODITE'S CHILD starts in 1968, when the Greek/Egyptian bassist and vocalist named Artemios Ventouris Roussos (Demis Roussos) and the powerful drummer Lucas Sideras were supposed to meet the multi instrumentalist Evengelio Odyssey Papathanassiou (VANGELIS) who had left his first group FORMINXS, but the first two were not admitted to the United Kingdom because they had no working permits but custom officers discovered photos and tapes in their luggage so they assumed the musicians intended to stay.

A few months later the three musicians join in Paris with Anargyros Koulouris (Silver Koulouris) a very competent guitar player and they decide to form a new band which was supposed to mix traditional Greek music with Western Pop and Psychedelia, but they ended doing much more than was expected.

Due to their financial situation they had to sign a terrible contract with a record company. Soon after the birth of the band, Silver Kouloris has to leave the group because he was called for his Military Service and only joins again for the recording of their last album 666, during these years Demis Roussos has to play guitar and bass.

Their first two releases "End of the World" (which includes two hit singles, "Rain and Tears" and "I Want To Live", the last one reached N° 1 in most Europe) and "It's Five O'Clock" showed a commercial oriented band with a very peculiar sound, but it's not until 1970, when they start to record the brilliant and adventurous "666" that they get a place in progressive Rock history even when the relation inside the band was at the lowest point, mostly because VANGELIS wanted to do more serious music than Lucas Sideras and Roussos.

The paradox is that this masterpiece which combines 100% Symphonic structure, British Psychedelia, Greek Orthodox Religious music with a touch of pop was only released in 1972 (after the band had already split) due to several reasons like the controversial concept ("The Book of Revelations"), the confession made by the band that "666" was conceived under the influence of Sahlep (some people believed this word was referred to some kind of pagan divinity when in fact it's a common non alcoholic beverage from Turkey) and the track "Infinity" sung by the great actress Irene Papas which is really a five minutes orgasm.

After APHRODITE'S CHILD disbanded, the members took different paths, like Roussos who became a well known pop singer and VANGELIS who is still a respected Progressive/New Age artist, but none of their later works will have the importance of "666", an Icon of Progressive Rock and one of the first conceptual albums in history.

Let me mention one thing with these Aphrodite's Child reviews : I tend to like their melodic and pop songs quite a lot. They have filled my ears when I was not even a teenager.

The title track sets the pace for this style. A great pop ballad tinted with some sweet psychedelai. But this album shows many facets of this band. Their fully psychedelic sound (but who didn't release psyche songs in 68?) with "Don't Try to Catch the River". Their folk orientation with The Shepherd and the Moon and "Mister Thomas" (which sounds pretty childish and not very interesting).

But even while they play their pop influenced songs like "Rain & Tears", they inject such a great melody and nice keys that I just can't help : I like it very much.

A song as "The Grass Is No Green" is more elaborate and combines psyche and folk influences. Not a fave of mine because it sounds a bit hectic to my ears but some might like it for these reasons.

The Shepherd and the Moon and Day of the Fool have some similarities with Floyd which might surprise more than one proghead.

This album is not a brilliant one but still it is original. Just remember that it was released some forty years ago and that rock music in Greece was not a usual concept in those days (and still isn't). For these reasons, I will rate this work with three stars; but it holds average music like "You Always Stand In My Way" (even if it is one of the very songs that rocks)

Stories - 1974 - About Us

About Us

01. Darling
02. Don't Ever Let Me Down
03. Love Is in Motion
04. Hey France
05. Please, Please
06. Changes Have Begun
07. Circles
08. Believe Me
09. Words
10. Top of the City
11. Down Time Blooze
12. What Comes After
13. Brother Louie

This the second album from this Big Apple quartet, and isn't short of stunning! Mike Brown (who quit the band before this album was done) and Ian Lloyd write some great material, and Steve Love really shines on guitar. The LP has more of a hard-rock feel, and the best cuts on here are "Darling", "Hey France", "Please Please", "Believe Me", and "Top Of The City". Their hit "Brother Louie" is also on here, but that was cut after Mike quit, and it has nothing to do with the band's style or sound. Brian Madey does good drumming on here too.

Stories - 1972 - Stories


01. Hello People
02. I'm Coming Home
03. Winter Scenes
04. Step Back
05. You Told Me
06. Saint James
07. Kathleen
08. Take Cover
09. Nice to Have You Here
10. High and Low

So this is Michael Brown's band after The Left Banke dissolved, and it's pretty good. Brown gets in a few of his trademark baroque touches (check out "Winter Scenes"), but this band has a more of a normal pop-rock early 70's feel which is fine. I like some of these more regular tunes just as well - "Take Cover" is nice, simple, gets the job done and all that. Definitely worth a listen.

Brilliant album! There is the feeling of winter all over this music, the classical bent Michael Brown is in full blossom on these tracks. The piano & harpsichord, along with the soft rasp of Ian Lloyd is the perfect blend. "Kathleen" & "Winter Scenes" still stagger me.

Michael Lookofsky (later to adopt the ridiculously unpronouncable "Brown") was born in New-York. His father Harry, owned a recording studio and encouraged his son to play and compose on the piano.

You may remember him as the keyboardist and mastermind behind the legendary Left Banke, whose stunning successes with "Walk Away Renee" and "Pretty Ballerina" made Michael, at age 15, something of a classical rock genius.

Some years later, after the brief Montage episode, came Michael's real second group:  Stories, who spent a few months charming audiences before releasing their first single "I'm Coming Home" for their first national hit.

Stories was formed with vocalist Ian Lloyd, guitarist Steve Love, and drummer Bryan Madey. Following the group's self-titled 1972 Kama Sutra label debut, the mercurial Brown abruptly resigned, at which point the remaining Stories recruited bassist Kenny Aaronson and pianist Ken Bichel to record 1973's About Us. "Brother Louie," a tale of interracial romance penned by Hot Chocolate's Errol Brown, hit number one that summer, but Stories never again returned to the Top 40. Brown, meanwhile, resurfaced in 1976, leading the short-lived Beckies before spending the following decades out of the limelight.

Pavlov's Dog - 1976 - At The Sound Of The Bell

Pavlov's Dog
At The Sound Of The Bell

01. She Came Shining (4:24)
02. Standing Here With You (Megan's Song) (3:47)
03. Mersey (3:03)
04. Valkerie (5:22)
05. Try to Hang On (2:08)
06. Gold Nuggets (3:25)
07. She Breaks Like a Morning Sky (2:22)
08. Early Morning On (3:21)
09. Did You See Him Cry (5:36)

- David Surkamp / lead vocals, acoustic and veleno guitars
- David Hamilton / keyboards
- Doug Rayburn / mellotron, bass, percussion
- Mike Safron / percussion
- Rick Stockton / bass guitar
- Thomas Nickeson / acoustic guitar, harmonies
- Steve Scorfina / lead guitar

 The second album of Pavlov's Dog is considered their finest masterpiece by many, but in my opinion that is not as clear as water. In fact, comparatively to their first release "Pampered Menial", there is some evolution in their progressive playing showed by longer instrumental passages, particularly in the beginning of the album. It was added also some chorus passages. But, in my view, it has not so many memorable songs like the debut album, not saying however that they are bad songs. No, they are good songs, but in general not at same level as those from the previous work.

The structure is different from the previous album. This is less dependent in Hard Rock's guitar riffs (the guitar here is mainly solo work and some acoustic like in the melancholic Standing Here With You or in Valkerie) and much more sustained in piano background. In fact, good piano arrangements are constant on the album. There is also much more blues and jazz inspiration.

The first track, Did You See Him Cry, undoubtedly the highest highlight, shows a very progressive introduction with several instrumental arrangements and transitions leading to a memorable melody with a great instrumental bridge. The sad Standing Here With You and specially Valkerie are also good tracks, with ELTON JOHN's inspired piano. From these two, the last has strange epic organ riff with speedy acoustic guitars and good melody with chorus in the refrain, upgrading the emotional tension. Try To Hang On is a funny song with blues bass as well as the track She Breaks Like a Morning Sky, with its jazzy saxes. Gold Nuggets, explores very well the emotional side of the unique voice of David Surkamp's (which you can hate or adore) and the last song, Early Morning One gives a decent ending to the record!

Pavlov's Dog - 1974 - Pampered Menial

Pavlov's Dog
Pampered Menial

01. Julia (3:10)
02. Late november (3:12)
03. Song dance (4:59)
04. Fast gun (3:04)
05. Natchez trace (3:42)
06. Theme from subway Sue (4:25)
07. Episode (4:04)
08. Preludin (1:39)
09. Of once and future kings (5:27)

- David Surkamp / lead vocals, guitar
- David Hamilton / keyboards
- Doug Rayburn / mellotron, flute
- Mike Safron / percussion
- Rick Stockton / bass guitar
- Siegfried Carver / violin, vitar, viola
- Steve Scorfina / lead guitar

PAVLOV'S DOG is the kind of band you love or you hate, everything is black or white, there are no tones of gray, especially because of the peculiar voice of their lead singer David Surkamp, who sounds almost like Geddy Lee with extra helium singing in the style of Edith Piaff (he has the typical trembling voice of French singers). It took me a couple of months to get used to their vocals, but once I did, became a fan.

There are two versions about the birth of the band, according to Mike Safron, he and Siegfried Carver decided to create PAVLOV'S DOG, but the best known version is that they started from the ashes of a small band named "HIGH ON A SMALL HILL" where David Surkamp and Rick Stockton played. But the important thing is that the original lineup was formed in St. Louis Missouri by David Surkamp (vocals and guitar), David Hamilton (keyboards), Doug Rayburn (mellotron and flute), Mike Safron (drums and percussion), Rick Stockton (bass guitar), Siegfried Carver (violin) and Steve Scorfina (lead guitar) between 1972 and 1973.

Before they released their first album, the band recorded some tracks at a studio in Pekin Illinois which in opinion of the members of the band were really good, only a few tracks from the Pekin Tapes reached their first album but caught the attention of the executives of ABC Dunhill Records who gave them an incredible advance of US$ 650,000.00 in 1974. "Pampered Menial" saw the light in 1975 and the first thing that gained attention was the incredible art cover that featured engravings by Sir Edwin Landseer who had died almost 100 years before the band was formed. The music is simply amazing, as most USA bands they mixed Symphonic Progressive with Hard Rock, with excellent tracks as the instrumental Preludin, Julia and Late November. In some moment after the recording of the album, PAVLOV'S DOG signed with Columbia Records (there are many versions to choose), so Pampered Menial was released twice, almost simultaneously. The reaction of the people was diverse, hey loved or hated the band, specially David Surkamp's voice but the album reached a moderate success.

Almost immediately they went back to the studio (this time in New York and England) and recorded their second album "At the Sound of the Bell" in clear reference to PAVLOV's experiments with dogs, this time with Tom Nickeson playing acoustic guitar. Siegfried Carver left shortly after the release of this album. According to most fans "At the Sound of the Bell" is PAVLOV'S DOG magnum opus, but I stay with "Pampered Menial", which is less progressive than the second release but much more innovative and original.

How to describe David Surkamp's voice? I can only attempt to compare him with Geddy Lee's using extra helium and singing in the trembling style of the magnificent Edith Piaff. Of course his voice is not naturally gifted but the guy transmits different feelings and moods, something very important for a good vocalist. You may love or hate David, but once you heard him singing you'll never forget the experience.

David Hamilton and Doug Rayburn do an almost perfect work with keyboards and mellotron respectively but if you add Sigfried Carver's talent with violin and viola, you've got a special band. The drums and Guitar by Mick Safron and Steve Scorfina are not spectacular but very much over the average.

The album starts with "Julia" a simple ballad that the band manages to make complex and beautiful, with a great piano opening followed by David's unique vocals surrounded by acoustic guitar. Through all the song each member adds something extra including flute and correct drumming, an excellent way to start a very good album.

"Late November" is a faster track with a simple melody ideal for vocals and well complemented by the drums and guitar, also good song but not in the level of "Julia".

"Song Dance" is much more classic rock oriented, percussion and bass are used to start the song but suddenly a strong guitar completes the atmosphere, reminds me of some REM tracks specially from "Out of Time" but David's particular voice and carver's violin break the effect leading the tune towards a harder edge.

"Fast Gun" always confuses me, it's a strange song that pretends to have a Far West atmosphere but they never fully develop the concept, getting lost in the middle because of Surkamp's specially fast vocals and the violin plus a really weird instrumentation, never knew where they tried to take us but I like this chaos. Not a masterpiece but can be listened.

"Natchez Trance" can be described as another hard rock oriented song, which IMO is the weakest of the album, the vocals are totally out of place with the early Rock & Roll piano and drums. They missed the shot.

The next track is "Theme for Subway Sue", an interesting song with full instrumentation and very good piano, the backing vocals create a special effect very pleasant that collisions with the hard guitar, another high point.

Episode starts with heart breaking violin and vocals that match perfectly, anybody will describe it as a simple ballad, which would be accurate, but there's something special, a sad melancholic atmosphere of sad beauty, the piano reminds me a little of Jim Steinman (Meat Loaf composer) but much more elaborated.

"Preludin", for some people the best track of the album, an instrumental that starts with a violin semi solo similar to early Kansas, with some druggy mood (remember Preludin is a derivate of amphetamine), this short tracks works as an intro for the closer "Of Once and Future Kings" which begins with a beautiful guitar and vocal section that suddenly changes with an ultra fast piano and unusual low vocals that are cut by another sad violin section, at the end David Surkamp reaches very high ranges almost not audible for any two legged being, all with the company of an almost psychedelic guitar.

Pavlov's Dog is not for everybody, but neither is progressive rock. I encourage people to try this album, because it's one of the most powerful American bands that I ever listened, if you like it will be for ever.

The Viola Crayola - 1974 - Music: Breathing of Statues

The Viola Crayola
Music: Breathing of Statues

01. Mr Leroy, Pepe Is Lost
02. The Bus To New York
03. I Know You Don’t Have A Car, But What Color Is It?
04. 2+1
05. The Nurds At My School
06. You’re Drivin’ Me Crazy With Relief
07. The Last One On Earth
08. What Is The Meaning Of Love?

- Anthony Viola / guitar
- Ron Viola / drums
- Bill Jolly / bass

The Viola Crayola  was a Texan band fronted by the VIOLA brothers, Anthony on the guitar and Ron on drums, joined by the bassist Bill JOLLY. The bright future of the band was unfortunately sealed by the death of very talented Anthony VIOLA in a car accident in San Antonio in late 1974. Before his tragedy, the band recorded their only LP in first three days of October in 1974, a short (29 minutes) album and besides a Frank ZAPPA influenced number, completely instrumental jazz fusion record which shows off all the talents of this trio, especially creativity and technical playing by the late Anthony VIOLA. Even though the album sometimes gives the impression of a jam feel, the back cover illustrates with note sheets on how the music is actually carefully structured and composed. Dedicated to Mama Viola, the LP was originally released in 1974 on a obscure label Fautna and waited for more than 30 years to be found as a lost gem and then released on an audio CD on Radioactive label in 2005. The record itself was titled after the poem Music Breathing Of Statues by Rainer Maria RILKE.

Burning hot fusion disc with wild wah-wah action and some heavy riffing.  Much like The Electromagnets, another mind-blowing fusion group from Texas in the mid 70s, the Mahavishnu Orchestra influence is obvious, but this is not as not as monumental as that somewhat less obscure group and the stripped-down power trio sound is quite different than their orchestral guitar and keyboard sound. Highly recommended to anyone into early Larry Coryell, Kazumi Watanabe, and early 70s fusion in general.

There's one short track at the end with goofy Zappaesque lyrics and processed vocals and it's not cheesy; it's brilliant. It's heads-down, no-nonsense instrumental immersion bliss otherwise.

Not a lot of info on this one, but here's the Forced Exposure blurb for the reissue: "A real stunner of an album from Texan band Viola Crayola. Fronted by the Viola brothers, Tony and Ron, the group, whose music is often described as hard guitar prog-psych, looked destined for success until the untimely death of Tony in a auto-train crash in San Antonio, Texas in 1974. Music: Breathing Of Statues is the brother's only known recording, and what a record it is, with its wild prog instrumental power-trio vibe and a strong jazzy fusion sound running throughout. The album, which was recorded in New York in 1974 and released the same year, appeared on the Fautna label, a label so obscure that it doesn't seem to have existed at all.

Titus and Ross - 1970 - Titus and Ross

Titus and Ross
Titus and Ross

01. Story Street
02. Me Love
03. Jean-Claude What’s-His Name
04. To Sylvia
05. Summer Clouds
06. My Song
07. Thing I Wrote #1
08. For Beauty
09. Cycle Song
10. Marjane
11. What’s On Your Mind?
12. Find An Answer

Produced by Art Titus, Jack Ross and Bubba Fowler

Track 3 written and performed for ABC Wide World Of Sports coverage of the slalom competitions, December 13th 1969, Val D’Isere, France (aired December 20th 1969).

Track 5 written and performed for an industrial film for Eastern Airlines.

Track 8 adapted from the poem by Emily Dickinson.

Track 9 written and performed for ABC Wide World Of Sports coverage of the Motocross motorcycle competitions, October 26th 1969, from Pepperell, Mass., aired December 13th 1969 (first time original music ever used for an ABC sports presentation).

“Melodic folk duo, with acoustic/electric guitar, bass, recorder and percussion, and some fuzz guitar on Cycle Thing” – The Acid Archives

“This folk-rock album includes a killer track called Cycle Thing” – Fuzz, Acid & Flowers

This enigmatic duo from Marion, Indiana only made one album, which appeared in 1970 and stands as one of the most appealing underground folk-rock recordings of its time. Certain songs were used in contemporary TV and film productions, but their origins and subsequent history remains unknown. Full of beautiful melodies and hazy harmonies, as well as poetic lyrics and psychedelic flourishes such as recorder and fuzz guitar, the LP bears more than a passing resemblance to the work of Simon & Garfunkel, and is sure to appeal to fans of fellow hippie folk heroes such as Fresh Maggots, Linda Perhacs and Lambert & Nuttycombe.

The Legend - 1969 - The Legend

The Legend
The Legend

01. With A Girl Like You
02. The Sky That Is Blue
03. Zeppelin's Good Friday
04. Where On Where Is Mother
05. Yesterdays Child
06. Eyes Of The World
07. The Kids Are Alright
08. Cold Wind In August
09. Sunny Day
10. You'll Be Sorry Someday
11. Gigi
12. Baby Blue

Bonus tracks
13. Portrait Of Youth
14. Enjoy Yourself
15. I Love The Little Girls
16. I Know

Jack Duncan (bass), Barry Davis (drums, backing vocals), Gerry Jimerfield (guitar, lead vocals), Randy Russ (guitar, backing vocals), Ernie McElwaine (keyboards, 1967-68)

This excellent blend of psych-pop originals and snappy cover versions was first released in the US in 1969, and makes its long-awaited CD reappearance here. Recorded by the musicians who later morphed into legendary psychedelic rockers Dragonfly, it’s a hard-edged collection that’s fleshed out here by the inclusion of four rare non-album bonus tracks, making it a must for all connoisseurs of garage rock.

Terence - 1969 - An Eye For An Ear

An Eye For An Ear

01. An Eye for An Ear
02. Rap
03. Second City Song
04. Power
05. Exiles
06. Fool Amid the Traffic
07. Priscilla
08. Lighting Frederick's Fire
09. The Emperor
10. Does It Feel Better Now?

A mindblowing mixture of pop, psych and electronica, this mysterious 1969 studio project was recorded in Toronto and New York by youthful vocalist Terry Black, who’d had six top 40 hits in Canada as a teenager, as well as recording the cult Black Plague LP in 1966. Veering from the catchy pop of Priscilla and soul-inflected Second City Blues to the experimental The Emperor and freaky Lighting Frederick’s Fire, the album features one of the greatest psychedelic tracks of all time in the fuzz blow-out Fool Amid The Traffic, and makes its long-overdue CD debut here.

Alright so this is a lost gem from 1969 by vocalist Terry Black, at least that is what they tell me. Who you ask? The pigeons that live in my brain… no just kidding I read it on the album notes. It’s a pretty odd mixture of psych-rock-soul-and some early electronics. Apparently Terry Black was some of hit maker as a teenager. And then released this oddity later on. So I had to go and listen to these hits and they are pretty good in that teen idol Paul Anka kind of way. This is really nothing like them.

It is pretty strange. I think he was trying to shake off his teen idol days or something, or maybe just smoking a whole lot of reefer. It’s really all over the place, not really sitting comfortably in any one genre. “Second City Song” is like totally Stax records, and it actually sounds good. Though An Eye For an Ear sounds very much like a product of it’s times. As odd as it is, it really doesn’t sound out of place being from the late 1960s. Like even though it absolutely reflects the values musical styles, and forms of that era, it sounds very odd and progressive. Like at the same time very much a music of it’s time, but also wholly looking towards the future.

And of course the lyrics are very hippie dippy, like what if soldiers carried flowers.. etc. I wonder if it has something to do with Terrence being unable to make it as a teen idol in the United States, so there is this bitterness with the industry, but also that maybe he couldn’t quite get what people wanted. And perhaps this being recorded in Toronto sort of segregated it from the what was happening, I mean there was a big psychedelic/hippie thing going on in Toronto at the time, but maybe being removed from everything he was just trying to create some sort of giant fuck you to the industry in all it’s forms.

Or maybe this was just an attempted cash grab that didn’t quite work, which would also explain the strangeness inherent on it. Maybe the weirdness is jus at disassociation from the music, like maybe this Terrence never really got the style, and didn’t care to. Who knows. Could be any number of reasons, but really I’m just wondering here. Because I find it actually very good. So much bluesy soul stuff on here, just really intriguing. Then “Fool Amid the Traffic” is also a great just totally a psychedelic masterpiece, totally warped and echoy and so stoned out. With some of that great wah wah guitar on it. Oh yeah

String Cheese - 1971 - String Cheese

String Cheese
String Cheese

01. For Now (Wendelken)
02. Crystal (Wendelken)
03. We Share (Wendelken / Scott)
04. Here Am I (Wendelken / Scott)
05. Empty Streets (Wendelken)
06. Forage (Wendelken)
07. Soul Of Man (Wendelken)
08. Certain Kind Of Day (Wendelken / Scott)
09. Woke Up This Morning (Wendelken)
10. Coming (Dalton)

Lawrence W. Wendelken – 12-string guitar, vocals
Sally Smaller – vocals
Gregory Bloch – electric violin
William Dalton – electric guitar, classical guitar, electric sitar, celeste, piano, organ, harpsichord
Louis Constantino – bass
John Maggi – drums

Produced by James Lee Golden and Barry Alan Fasman

Orchestra arranged and conducted by Barry Alan Fasman

I must admit having never heard of these guys until recently. I came across them in a roundabout fashion after picking up an original vinyl copy of the ‘It’s A Beautiful Day…Today’ album at a small used record shop while visiting upstate New York. Turns out that album isn’t very good since it is the only IABD album that does not include founder/violinist David LaFlamme, who was briefly out of the lineup due to a dispute over royalty payments. Instead, the group added Greg Bloch to play electric violin, although for some reason despite being listed in the album credits, he is the only band member whose picture is not included on either the cover nor the inside liner. Bloch would become more well-known after appearing on PFM’s ‘Jet Lag’ disc later in the decade, but at the time he was pretty much unknown.

Turns out he had done a bit of recording before his stint with IABD though; in fact, his band String Cheese was the first marquee act for the Chicago-based label Wooden Nickel, which would become more well-known as the label that signed (and then lost) another Chicago-based band – Styx. String Cheese also featured drummer John Maggi, who a year earlier had recorded an album with the band Iowa By The Sea, a group that also featured a young Michael Wood enroute to his commercially successful career as a replacement guitarist for the soft rock band America.

So that’s the historical background for the band. I learned this while seeking the album out of curiosity after the ‘It’s A Beautiful Day…Today’ disc failed to capture my interest. I have to say that his record is quite a bit more progressive and interesting than that one as well. The music is very period-appropriate, meaning the songs are full of somewhat naïvely earnest vocals, extended keyboard forays of all sorts, and faux spiritual psychedelic leanings. Then again I like all of those things, so for me this is a pretty easy album to get into.

The strongest assets of the band are easily Bloch’s electric violin paying and Sally Smaller’s vocals. Bloch isn’t quite a virtuoso (there are the occasional slightly off-notes and a few awkward interactions with the guitarist, mostly toward the end of the record), but he’s pretty darn close for the most part. Smaller has one of those early seventies gorgeous contemporary folk voices with just enough bite to it that the listener is left with a distinct impression she spun a few Big Brother, Jefferson Airplane, Babe Ruth and Mama Lion albums for inspiration back in the day. And speaking of Babe Ruth, the brief hard rock number “We Share” sounds a bit like that band, while the rest of the songs are much more folk-oriented. Guitarist Larry Wendelken harmonizes on vocals quite a bit as well, so there is some depth and range to the singing that sets them somewhat apart from bands like most of those mentioned above.

I lived in Chicago for several years back in the eighties, and I have to say there is a distinct, easy sound in this band that seems to be present in an awful lot of bands from that city. I’m not sure why – perhaps the influence of urban blues that permeates the music scene in the city and lower south side. Or maybe it’s just that Midwest mood that seem much more grounded than the heavier psych and drug-addled sounds that emanated from the heart of San Francisco around the same time.

Most of the tunes here are rather short, with only the jam-session “Empty Streets” exceeding six minutes. “Soul of Man” runs a little over five minutes, but this one is quite tepid, laconic and steeped in folk meandering. Bloch’s violin is particularly dark and poignant on this song. I’m a Kansas fanboy as well, and his playing here and on “Woke up this Morning” remind me an awful lot of the more mature and measured playing Robbie Steinhardt did on that band’s twilight release “Somewhere to Elsewhere”. That’s a strong compliment, by the way.

The closing instrumental “Coming” shows what the band was capable of in terms of complex arrangements and solid interplay between their keyboards, 12-string guitar, violin and even a little sitar. Given good promotion and a little luck I can easily see how they could have had an extended run with perhaps two or three more albums. But alas, despite releases of this album in North America and Europe in 1971-1972 the record and the band failed to launch, and they would disband before 1972 ran out. Bloch went on to It’s a Beautiful Day and later did some studio work in addition to recording and touring with PFM. Wendelken ended up doing engineering and production work in the film industry. I’ve no idea what happened to the rest of the group.

Not a lost masterpiece, String Cheese’s sole release is a very decent period work from the early seventies that gives fans of this type of music a little variation from the Haight-Ashbury sound while still managing to remain just inside the lines of late psych folk. A high three stars and recommended to prog folk and mellow psych fans with a few dollars to spare.

Le Stelle Di Mario Schifano - 1966 - Dedicato

Le Stelle Di Mario Schifano

01. Le Ultime Parole Di Brandimante, Dall' Orlando Furioso, Ospite Peter Ha
02. Molto Alto
03. Susan Song
04. E Dopo
05. Intervallo
06. Molto Lontano (A Colori)

- Nello Marini / keyboards, vocals
- Urbano Orlandi / guitar, vocals
- Giandomenico Crescentini / bass, vocals
- Sergio Cerra / drums

Mario Schifano was a leading Italian pop artist, and a friend of The Rolling Stones and other prominent '60s counter-cultural figues. Inspired by Andy Warhol's association with The Velvet Underground, in 1967 he decided to sponsor a band. The album that resulted combines a lenghy improvisation with five shorter, psychedelic influenced tracks, and is a landmark in the development of Italian rock. Pressed in tony quantities, it was released in November 1967 and original copies have sold for 1000's of Euros, making this long-awaited CD reissue especially welcome.

Mario Schifano ( 20 September 1934, Khoms, Libya - 26 January 1998, Rome, Italy ) was an Italian painter and collagist of the Postmodern tradition. He also achieved some renown as a film-maker and rock musician.

He is considered to be one of most significant and pre-eminent artists of Italian postmodernism, alongside contemporaries such as Francesco Clemente, Sandro Chia and Giulio Paolini. His work was exhibited in the famous 1962 "New Realists" show at the Sidney Janis Gallery with all the young Pop art and Nouveau réalisme luminaries, including Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. He became part of the core group of artists comprising the "Scuola romana" alongside Franco Angeli and Tano Festa . Reputed as a prolific and exuberant artist, he nonetheless struggled with a lifelong drug habit that earned him the label maledetto, or "cursed".