Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Recreation - 1972 - Music Or Not Music

Music Or Not Music


01. Music against music (1:59)
02. Music for your dog (2:25)
03. The night was clear, the moon was yellow (0:12)
04. Where is the bar, Clay? (2:11)
05. Caligula's suite in horror minor (1:37)
06. My grandmother likes Andy Williams, too (2:20)
07. We don't like it either (0:46)
08. Last train to Rhythmania (5:06)
09. ... and the producer got mad (2:44)
10. Glove story (2:33)
11. Laughin' people - meanwhile starvin' children (1:30)
12. Nothing's holy (5:26)
13. Concerto for elevator (2:20)
14. War business is a good job (5:12)
15. To end or not to end (1:18)

- Francis Lonneux / drums
- Jean-Jacques Falaise / keyboards
- Jean-Paul VanDen Bossche / guitars, bass

Ladies and gentleman, please attach your seatbelt as we expect a storm of madness, a hurricane of notes and a typhoon of progressive rock for the duration of the flight disc. Please note that there are no parachutes aboard this plane and you can jump but at your own risk, however for those brave (or crazy enough) to hang on till the dénouement, we have a one way ticket to the Hotel Progifornia - you will never want to check-out and leave your wallet to the first bum on the street.

Right from the first track you will know that you are in a special ride with the classical being superseded by a screaming Zeppelin-esque guitar. Some 15 short tracks (only three of them above the 3 minute mark and them three just barely over 5 min), most of them linked to each other will take you in a gigantic swirl of sounds, an endless barrage of tempo changes and strange time signatures.

While not really RIO or not being jazz-rock either, the feel is somehow a bit Canterbury (the humour certainly is), but I chose to place them in Avant-prog. To actually tell you which track are the best or most representative is almost impossible as all these tracks are fairly de-structured (it is still relatively simple when you have a CD at hand, but I pity the ones having bought the vinyl, trying to find out where the hell they are on the album. Clearly the structures evolved Zappa's Mothers albums even if they do not sound the same. Only the relatively structured Last Train To Rhythmania can actually give you a hint of how the album is progressing. The aptly titled "..And The Producer Got Mad" (I think I can understand why even if I could eventually guess is the he WENT mad ;-) is simply awesome, Glove Story finding the punch, to knock you on your arse. Nothing's Holy is another aptly titled track and might just be considered as the centrepiece of the album (a bit of Strauss) and the other stand out is War Business with its deadly bass line (and good guitar improvs) and short national anthems as interludes. Remember these guys, although a KB-lead trio, sound NOTHING like ELP, but a lot more towards Egg.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for flying, know you will be back and now welcome to Insanity Beach and it is only a very short swim to the desert island, where this album will be on your top ten.

Recreation - 1971 - Recreation (Don't Open)

Recreation (Don't Open)

01. Burning Chapel
02. Running For Life
03. Sexual Lover
04. Summer In The City
05. California Dreamin'
06. Reach Out, I'll Be There

- Francis Lonneux / drums
- Jean-Jacques Falaise / keyboards
- Jean-Paul VanDen Bossche / guitars, bass

This early 70's Belgian trio is one of the best-kept secrets from Belgium, but I am determined to shed a bit more light on them. This instrumental KB-led trio is completely different from the usual ELP clichés that one might have. They took their name from the 10AM and 2PM breaks that allow kids to roam and play on the school grounds. Jean-Jacques Falaise is clearly the leader of the trio and his KB abilities shine throughout their two albums, but he also plays a competent guitar. Francis Lonneux is the drummer and Jean-Paul Vanden Bossche is the bassist and clearly these guys had decided to include humour in their music, something that is quite common among Belgian bands. As mentioned before the music is not like ELP, but instead draws heavily from Jazz, classics but also many different other sources.

Their self-titled debut (71) has a superb sleeve artwork depicting human bodies falling through giants KB scales and consist of just six tracks, while the second album Music Or Not Music (72) holds 15 of them, but both albums have a similar feel not far away from Canterbury, jazz-rock and symphonic prog.

Recreation's debut album is to say the least a timid one, but one can clearly sense that these guys have all it takes (except self-confidence maybe) to be a future great. This KB-lead trio is the antithesis of other KB trios such as ELP or Egg (well maybe a bit Egg crossed with French group Travelling) giving a rather hard to define sound between Canterbury (Soft Machine at times), jazz-rock and classical reprises and Vanilla Fudge. The nightmarish and Dali-esque artwork is great evocation of what you are about to hear in this album, but also the next one.
If the opener Burning Chapel is an underachiever (we vainly wait for the track to explode, expand and explore), Running For Life is clearly a step in the right direction, while Sexual Lover is clearly explorative even in a psychedelic musical sex orgy - a very Fudgey affair if you ask me. The second vinyl side is made of three fully rearranged covers, the first of which, you really have to pay attention to find the original slowed down (again the Fudge thing) Lovin' Spoonful classic - a masterstroke. Up next is a daring (but doomed) rendition of the hit California Dreamin - but who could have replaced those gorgeous vocal harmonies. As daring, bold audacious as it may be, this is partly successful- therefore implying also a failure - the Fudge would've not missed this one!!! Reach out is another strongly psyched and progged-out cover.

Although not perfect, this debut album holds much promise for the future and it will be bright (but short since they only made one more album),

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Lethe - 1981 - Lethe


01. Lethe [5:36]
02. Avbury circle [9:46]
03. Cold in fingers [9:49]
04. Le tombeau II [9:25]


Thuur Feyen: Organ, piano, strings
Philip de Goey: Piano, oboe, flute, cor Anglais
Hans Lambers: Drums, percussion, xylophone, vibraphone, strings
Johan Saanen: Bass guitar
Kees Walravens: Guitar, classical guitar

A couple of years after Mirror dissolved, three members of the group, Philip de Goey, Kees Walravens and Johan Saanen teamed up with keyboardist Thuur Feyen and drummer Hans Lambers to set up the short-lived Lethe combo.This Dutch band recorded only one self-titled album (1978) on the small label ran by the Waalwijk-based M.M.P. Studios.It contains four long instrumental pieces and the most surprising thing is that the first one in line and the opening theme of the second are smooth Classical-like arrangements with piano, oboe and discreet strings, recalling The Enid.So there are no obvious signs of what's coming next, which is actually a dense instrumental Prog experience, somewhere between Camel and compatriots Finch.Parts of the following pieces are pretty melodic with definite symphonic orientations and occasional jazzy vibes, featuring strong piano, organ and guitar work and some delicate flute breaks.At moments though the material holds a strong Fusion flavor with excellent guitar moves by Walravens and omnipresent organ.Not original enough, but surprisingly good for an 1981 release, considering how close to mid-70's this one actually sounds.Saanen and Walravens later joined forces with ex-Mirror bandmate Peter Fransen in the cover band Looking For Clues.

This album by Lethe can be seen as the follow up of the Daybreak album, since this band contains the core of musicians who recorded Mirror. The music of both albums is similar. This record however is completely instrumental and the production is much better. It is best compared to the music of Camel.
The album opens with birds, piano and oboe. Then a classical guitar is added. So a very quiet and relaxed opening. The second track continues where the first one left us. It is only after a few minutes when the full rock band starts to play. This part of the song contains some excellent guitar and organ playing in the vein of Camel. On the third track an important role is reserved for the flute. Again a great track. On the closer all the elements of Lethe's music come together once again. It is a melodic track, with good guitar solos, some oboe, flute. Relaxed parts and rocking parts.
This is another good album, and a little better than the Mirror album. I can recommend this anyone who likes some good instrumental progressive rock, and especially for those who like Camel.
(Agemo, Dutch Progressive Rock of the Seventies)

Lethe's album starts off rather inconspicuously with a classically oriented oboe, acoustic guitar and piano piece. But, just as Mirror before them, the band launches into a sophisticated, but highly melodic progressive rock form. And while Side 1 is good, side 2 is an absolute clinic on how to combine complexity and yet still maintain a strong melodic backbone. This is the album that Camel never made after "Moonmadness". Astounding album really.

Mirror - 1976 - Daybreak


01. Daybreak (10:03)
02. Goodbye (10:13)
03. Dear Boy (3:25)
04. Edge Of Night (13:02)

- Johan Saanen / bass, vocals
- Peter Fransen / drums
- Kees Walravens / guitar
- Philip De Goey / oboe, saxophone, flute
- Paula Mennen / piano, organ, synthesizer, vocals

Mirror is a Dutch Symphonic progressive Rock band formed in 1972. At the time of its formation, the band was a four piece consisting of high school friends Kees Walravens on guitar, Johan Saanen on bass guitar and vocals, Paula Mennen on piano, organ, synthesizer and vocals, and Peter Fransen on drums. In 1973 the band expanded its line-up with the addition of Philip de Goey on saxophone, woodwinds, and oboe. Their sole album was recorded over six days at the Stable Studio in Arnhem, The Netherlands. The album was titled Daybreak and was released in 1976, pressed in only 500 copies. The music is mainly instrumental and is influenced by Focus, Yes, and Pink Floyd. After the release of the album Mirror toured their native Holland extensively. But internal disagreements soon led to the departure of Johan Saanen and the band finally split up in late 1976.

"Daybreak" certainly isn't a flashy release, and the compositions aren't going to win any Conservatory awards. But what Mirror lack in academic pedigree, they make up for in naive sincerity. Mirror bring that intangible known as atmosphere, that certain something that special recordings possess. Make no mistake, "Daybreak" is seriously flawed, but that's part of its charm. Even in my most cynical musical moments, I find albums like this refreshing. A tier 1 album. Mirror evolved into Lethe, and even managed to improve on a similar methodology.

Plat Du Jour - 1977 - Plat Du Jour

Plat Du Jour 
Plat Du Jour

01. 5 Autoroute (6:31)
02. 11 Autoroute (6:23)
03. Zilbra (4:47)
04. Totem (8:00)
05. L'homme (4:14)
06. Rock 'n' Speed (5:47)

Vincent Denis - vocals, guitar
Rodolphe Moulin - bass
Oliver Pedron - Percussions
Francois Ovide - Percussions
Alain Potier - Saxophone
Jacques Staub - Keyboards, percussion
Francios Maze - Vocals

Very obscure and unknown, strictly short-lived and super rare to spot, but worth mentioning in the end, PLAT DU JOUR mark a dot on the French eclectic Prog map, somewhere near Rouen apparently, during the year 1977. Their self-titled LP was released under the label Speedball, five compositions (or six, depending on how the first two-part epic is regarded) lasting around 35 minutes. The music can be placed either in jazz-rock, either in avant-prog, but with those two essences clustering and a bit of extra fuzzy psychedelism, cold bass Zeuhl and straight progressive rock being heard, it's wiser to take in account all the nuances.

The details about this project, the story behind it, or the musicians' profile are scarce. The main lineup consists of Vincent Denis (guitars & vocals), Rodolphe Moulin (bass), Oliver Pedron (percussion), Alain Potier (saxophone), Jacques Staub (keyboards, percussion), Francois Ovide(percussion) and Francois Maze (vocals) - the latter two noted as guests, each on one track only. On the SP "Totem/Zil-bra", printed by Speedball around that time as well, Phillipe Doray (likely the artist from PD Asociaux Associes?) is noted as composer. PLAT DU JOUR is mentioned to be one of Ovide's early par-experimental, par-groovy projects (the radical SO & CO. and this laid-back one) - making it more surprising not only that he is a guest musician, but that he also plays drums instead of guitar -, while nothing relevant is known about the other artists. The ensemble's short session could be due to the fact that Ovide moved on to play with Albert MARCOEUR, WEIDORJE, GWENDAL and John GREAVES. There's an additional mention ballparking this band's style close to ETRON FOU LELOUBLAN.

Heavy on the mix, slightly experimental, snappy and groovy and of an uncommon prog taste, Plat Du Jour has its interesting to hear parts. Inside their consistent instrumental universe, rhythms and improvisations kick in, the guitar dominates most of the album, but the saxophone builds one great momentum as well. Tricky music at the beginning - fuzzy, windy, jazzy, mood-mixing afterwards. Vocally, there's both a hoarse, agitated, crazy and a looser taste. The back-cover of the vinyl includes the lyrics. Rare if not unique, as a progressive classic collection item, this is first of all for the "catchy/wacko/fun/funky/avant/zeuhlish/jazz-rock" music aficionados.

I have read time and again people relegating the lost and obscure records as lost causes - albums left for dead in the wake of popular hard hitting easy to grasp, and perhaps more importantly: lucky and exposed releases. Who knows what makes the world go round - except for money that is? And who knows what makes or breaks an album? The answers aren't that clear-cut as most people will have you know. There is a reason why Magma still are going strong without a trace of commercialism in their bloodline...

Plat du Jour are one of my greatest musical discoveries from the last year or so. Man oh man - I'll tell you, for even the most hard edged prog rock fans - there's bound to be something of interest in this magical release. The funky almost Stevie Wonder rolling rock of the opener 5 Autoroute - spliced up with that distinctive French Zeuhl vibe that oozes through in the rhythm section. The space fusion of the second cut Zilbra, that alternates between psychedelic sneaking - slowly developing sonic sunrise notes - to the maniacal propulsive shapeshifting jazz rock that it suddenly becomes. Or maybe the mad avant tinged Motown madness of Totem that comes next with its crazy French vocals, and an insistent groove to it that will have even the funkiest brother at the party shakin' dat ass on the coffee table. Ahhhh you want soothing beautiful high soaring intimacy with some of the most alluring vocal work known to man? Got you boy! L'Homme is your thing then. The way it breaks into those sandcastles of slow moving guitar figurines on top of the hand drums - makes me curl up my toes and shoot my load out on the rim of the planetary systems. WUUUUHHUUU!!!!! Nah you want the low down tunnelling dirty rat fusion that drills its way down in the hard brown soil with Rock n Speed! The track that takes the streets of Rouen anno 1977 directly into your living room with boisterous beats, tooting sax and the tangible swaying refinement of the ending that closes with a kiss instead of the mayhem that started it. 11 Autoroute finishes off the album with the booming stuttering bass dancing an ethereal waltz with the effervescent synths and docile yet affirmative drumming. It then breaks into the Zeuhlish fusion Motown groove, that all through the album threatens to overtake the moods and tempers of the individual tracks - but it doesn't. The balance is always kept - leaving the listener with an astonishing musical example of eclectic behaviour.

I love everything about this release - the fact that it manages to be funky, psychedelic, Zeuhlish, Motown throbbing, experimental, soothing, avant-guarde in some places - and then not really, because what this album holds in spades, is the will and dexterity to transform even the most convoluted of pieces into something lovable and beautiful. It is literally that good. So come on people - all together now: Re-issue, Re-issue, Re-issue!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Suffice to say, that Plat du Jour tops out at the mesosphere - and then sets off to the moon and beyond. Together with the earthy homage coming from the rhythm section - that deep mole foundation, the interplanetary galaxy fighters of sonic bliss ie synths, vocals, reeds and guitars are headed for the unknown fast whilst deeply anchored in the ground. This music is eclectic beyond anything, which is one of its biggest and most alluring attributes. If you want to listen to it, because lets face it, music is nothing if nobody ever sits down and has a listen to it, then by all means. It needs your ears and heart badly!

Ocarinah - 1978 - Premiere Vision De L'etrange

Premiere Vision De L'etrange

01. Première Vision De L'Etrange     11:30
02. M²C     8:30
03. Cycles Cosmiques     9:30
04. Cascades     5:15
05. La Marche Inouïe De Kasar (L'Homme-Robot)     4:40

Jean-Michel Valette (synthesizer, guitar)
Marc Perdrix (bass)
Charles Bevand (drums)

Imagine the first two Clearlight albums as strictly a keyboard trio (with occasional guitar), combined with a strong dash of metronomic rigidness similar to the Canterbury movement, in particular the early albums by Egg. Five long tracks of incredible creativity and complexity. One of my favorites for many years now. Something that Musea would've typically reissued in the 1990s, but didn't get to unfortunately. Boots exist.

Memoriance - 1979 - L'Ecume Des Jours D'Apres Boris Vian

L'Ecume Des Jours D'Apres Boris Vian

01. Préface (0:59)
02. Colin (2:14)
03. Une Fille Demain (2:25)
04. Chloé et Colin (3:36)
05. Le Nuage Rose (2:16)
06. Chloé (2:14)
07. Oui Oui Oui (1:49)
08. Le Petit Tas de Neige (4:11)
09. Une Femme Si Béte (4:26)
10. Le Nénuphar (2:32)
11. Diagnostic (0:39)
12. Renvoyé (2:46)
13. La Chambre (0:32)
14. L'Administration (1:44)
15. Vers une Ile (5:50)

- Jean-Pierre Boulais / guitar, vocals
- Michel Aze / bass, vocals
- Jean-François Périer / keyboards, vocals
- Didier Guillaumat / guitar, vocals, choir
- Pascal Libergé / keyboards
- Christophe Boulanger / drums

Their first album Et Apres from 1976 was a very fine symph prog album in the best French tradition. That album also included strong influences from Steve Hackett and Pink Floyd. That set Et Apres a bit apart from other French symph prog albums from that time.

3 years later, most of the Steve Hackett and Pink Floyd influences has been put in the background and the more French theatrical symph prog tradition has come to the forefront. That means Mona Lisa and Ange.
The music is still very melodic and symphonic. Very much so. The French vocals is now more spoken and narrative than just vocals. There is plenty of clean harmonic vocals here too, but not as much as before. The Jacques Brel tradition is also more present here with a lot of folk influences too. But the music is still very symphonic and lush.

Memoriance - 1976 - Et Apres

Et Apres

01. Je Ne San Plus (8:47)
02. La Grange Memoriance (10:59)
03. Et Après (10:23)
04. Tracsir (4:48)

- Jean-Pierre Boulais / lead & rhythm guitars & vocals
- Claude Letaillenter / technics (?)
- Jean-François Périer / keyboards, vocals
- Didier Guillaumat / vocals, lead guitars
- Didier Busson / drums, percussion
- Michel Aze / bass, vocals

 Et Apres? I might ask Memoriance the very same question. And Then? Only two albums? With such talent?

While not too dissimilar from fellow French prog rock bands, Memoriance managed to create their sound niche, reminding me of Atoll and Mona Lisa mostly but also of Shylock and Arachnoid to some extent but only in a few segments. They are not as theatrical as Mona Lisa and Arachnoid, but do show this characteristic, particularly in the title track of this album. They show good musicianship, switch from what can be seen as more common rock parts to showing how intricately and elaborately their composing style can be. They have this slightly melancholic sound and at times dramatic (which coincides with the theatrical aspect) and know very well how to balance the rhythmic vs. the slow and gentle.

The starting song, Je Ne Sais Plus, is rich sounding and powerful; the music reaches out to me as I listen to this and grabs me as soon as it starts. The vocals (mostly sung but at times spoken, such as in other tracks) are soft yet powerful and effective; they fit very well with the music. There are also female backing vocals adding to the harmonies or giving a good support for the vocalist as he sings, a role also shared by the band members. The music is quite varied; from cool 70's classic rock parts (like the beginning of Je Ne Sais Plus) to more complex and elaborate parts where the band members show their talent, like in 3:33 minutes into the first song. Later on they venture to somewhat more fusion-like territories in places (though only subtly doing so). They know well how to craft interesting developments in the songs and keep the melody catchy and appealing.

With the second track, La Grange Memoriance, the dynamic start indicates a shift to a more jazz-rock style, though it then slows down all of a sudden to a slow rock pattern. This is an instrumental piece that goes on smoothly and gently until 6 minutes into it (though getting a bit upbeat as it progresses), at times reminding me of Shylock's first album as the lead guitar paints occasional solo streaks. The end of the track (from about 9 minutes in) is especially awesome as they speed up and in addition introduce a groovy rhythm in.

It is the title track, Et Apres, that shows their most theatrical aspect, their greatest diversity and progressiveness. In it they shift from slow to fast, from temperate to intricate and give a great instrumental first part of the song which visits a wide range of emotions and paces. To me this is the most exciting and interesting song on this album. In it you'll also hear the spoken part where the dramatization comes to a climax and resembles that of Mona Lisa in Avant Qu'il Ne Soit Trop Tard. Backing up the vocals are at first percussions and guitar playing oddly (by that I mean it's great) and then the backing vocals, synths and bass take over to back up the dramatis vocalization part. The guitar then takes on the leading role giving us a great solo that leads the whole affair into climatic levels, backed up by great drumming and bass playing and then the backing vocals.

The last track, Tracsir, starts with what is probably the catchiest rhythm and melody in here. The shortest track here, it also shows the band switching tempos and styles, though the rock aspect is the dominant one in here. There's great guitar playing that reminded me of early Wishbone Ash in a way. This is the most enjoyable track in here, the one that's great to shake your head to and tap your feet along.

At the time of writing this, this has yet to be reissued on cd and it's available as a cd-r through the Japanese pirate label Tachika. Hopefully it gets reissued as it is an excellent album that needs to see the light of day in a cd format and it would be great to have a booklet with some background about the musicians in the band. As with other bands from this country at this time, this is too a forgotten gem that should be listened by fans of the bands mentioned above and by any fan of prog-rock of the 70's.

Diabolus - 1972 - Diabolus


01. Lonely Days (7:10)
02. Night Clouded Moon (5:46)
03. 1002 Nights (4:48)
04. 3 Pieces Suite (7:05)
05. Lady Of The Moon (3:56)
06. Laura Sleeping (8:04)
07. Spontenuity (8:20)
08. Raven's Call (6:18)

- John Hadfield / lead guitar & vocals
- Anthony Hadfied / bass, vocals
- Philip Howard / flute, keyboards, saxophone, organ, piano
- Ellwood Von Seibold / drums

The story of Diabolus is similar to many of their peers, those unfortunate but talented outfits doomed for oblivion. Only, that is, to be rediscovered years later and thus gaining some recognition. It has to be said, however, that Diabolus is still a very unknown band which deservedly ought to be slightly more appreciated by a larger group of people.

First I'd like to give Diabolus the bad news. They are not really groundbreaking. There. With that said I would like to put forth the good news. Those are that the sole album by this band is a great mixture of all that was happening in the music scene back then, and really the british scene since they are from the UK. The music is a blend of jazz-rock, folk and progressive leanings. I can recall sounds of Jethro Tull, Gravy Train, Cressida, Julian Jay Savarin, Black Widow, Sunday and others from around 1969-1972. It is to me a very pleasant sounding mix, filling me with joy and goose bumps. Though warm it is still sort of ominous and exciting. Diabolus managed to produce an album of highly creative music and resembles the vision of a band bubbling with commitment to music.

I would say that all tracks are very good and none of the songs stick out in a bad way, which sometimes can be the case. The songs are really well matched, though they are different from each other. Ranging from gentleness to all out raucious jazz-rock, the tapestry is a highly intelligent and enjoyable one. I cannot really pick out any track as the superior one, it is really a matter of picking anyone.

The flute, keyboards and drums are all there, alongside great guitar playing and good vocals. If you are into vintage prog this could well be an album for you. Splendid, magnificent and sadly overlooked it is a great piece of history from a time when progressive music really was in it's prime and making. Top stuff!

Dakila - 1972 - Dakila



01. Akibaka / Ikalat 11:17
02. Persiguiendo 5:04
03. Make Me a Man 4:34
04. Gozala 7:02
05. El Dubi 5:48
06. Searchin' for my Soul 8:59

David Bustamante (guitar)
Bert Ancheta (guitar)
Fred Ancheta (bass)
Frank Magtota (drums)
Romeo Bustamante (organ)
Carlos Badia (congas)
Michael Gopal (timbales)

Despite looking like the bad guys from a vintage Hawaii Five-O episode, Dakila were a band from the Filipino immigrant community residing in the Mission District of San Francisco (a generation later, another Filipino group would emerge from the SF Bay Area, and that would be the excellent thrash metal band Death Angel). But this was 1972, and given the Latino influenced culture of the area, Dakila put no less a luminary than Santana on a pedestal and made a similar go for their fortune. The music contains copious amounts of passionate sustain guitar, chunky Hammond organ, fuzz bass, active Latin percussion, and soulful vocals. The latter sung in Tagalog, Spanish, and English. Dakila definitely have that Lowrider Soul culture in their veins as well, and Carlos' brother's band Malo is also very much in play here. Personally, I cannot possibly hear enough bands in this style, and many are favorites, especially Chango. Other reference points would be Macondo, Pantha, The Antiques, Naked Lunch, Azteca, and Broth. Absolutely killer stuff.

Bwana - 1972 - Bwana


01. Tema De Bwana
02. La Patuda
03. La Jurumba
04. Chapumbambe
05. Motemba
06. Todo Es Real
07. Lolita

- Roman Cerpas / bass, percussion, vocals
- Salvador Fernandez / bongos, percussion, drums (tumbas)
- Ricardo Palma / guitar, organ, vocals, piano
- Roberto Martinez / guitar, vocals
- Danilo Amador / organ
- Donaldo Mantilla / timbales, percussion

You can practically count the number of great progressive / psych albums from Nicaragua on one finger. And here it is. But their sole representative isn't only good, it's nothing short of amazing. I suppose it comes as no surprise that the major influence here is Santana. In particular the first two albums. The organ tones are not as heavy (I don't think it's a Hammond either) and the guitarist doesn't have near the chops as Carlos (though he's no slouch either). And while vocals exist on Bwana, they aren't key to the sound. And when it's time to get indigenous, they naturally raise the sounds of pre-Colombian South America versus Mexico. So at this point you may be thinking we have a watered down version of "Abraxas", but that's not the case at all. Where Bwana gains ground is in their use of percussion, which is more varied and is also a feature rather than an accent. There's also a tribal voodoo element going on throughout, making me wish I knew of other groups coming out of Nicaragua during this era. Six long tracks, totalling over 45 minutes, and not a dud amongst them.

For years it was presumed Bwana were from Colombia, but some of the members of the band have resurfaced and it turns out they were from Nicaragua. Some band members still live there - while others are in the United States now.

A couple of bootlegs exist, though it appears some labels are looking to do a legit issue.

Brute Force - 1970 - Brute Force

Brute Force 
Brute Force

01. Do It Right Now
02. Some Kind of Approval
03. The Deacon
04. Right Direction
05. Monster
06. Ye-Le-Wa
07. Doubt

Stanley Strickland (tenor saxophone, flute)
Arthur Ray Brooks (trumpet)
Teddy Daniel, Jr. (trumpet)
Richard Daniel (electric piano)
Thomas Lee Williams (bass)
Russell I. Ingles (bass)
Sidney Smart (drums)
Robert A. Jones (conga drums)
Sonny Sharrock (guitar)

Say what you will about Herbie Mann's admittedly spotty discography, but the same nose for talent that served him well in selecting the accompanists for his best albums - such as Impressions of the Middle East, Memphis Underground, and Push Push - also effectively lent itself to helping him sign intriguing artists to his label and Atlantic subsidiary, Embryo Records. Although his detractors will argue that the flautist was always quick to exploit the latest musical trend for his own benefit, these same people also have to admit that his sense for what was going to be the next big thing was usually right-on. Not to mention the fact that Mann often exhibited better taste in deciding what was released on Embryo than he did in regard to choosing material for his own albums.

One of the finest titles in the imprint's catalogue, the eponymous lone LP from 1970 by Brute Force contains elements of funk, soul, avante-garde jazz, and even traces of African music and will appeal to those who enjoy early P-Funk, Sly and the Family Stone, the Ohio Players, and contemporaneous material by Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. Unfortunately, very little is known about the band members, who included electric pianist, primary composer, and probable vocalist Richard Daniel, saxophonist-flautist Stanley Strickland, trumpeters Teddy Daniel, Jr. (Richard's brother?) and Arthur Ray Brooks, bassists (two bassists?) Russel I. Ingles and Thomas Lee Williams, drummer Sidney Smart, and conga player Robert A. Jones. The liner notes reveal that the group came into existence in 1968 while its personnel were students at Central State University (formerly College), a historically black institution of higher learning close to Dayton, Ohio. According to one source, the band members had been childhood friends of free jazz guitarist Sonny Sharrock, which explains his unmistakable presence on the proceedings. Indeed, his contributions help make what would have been a very good album a great one as his trademark feedback-laden guitar eruptions often emerge when the listener least expects them. Although Sharrock is credited on only three tracks, my ears tell me that he plays on all but one of them. That misinformation on the album sleeve could have been a typo or - perhaps for contractual reasons - intentional. At any rate, most of Sharrock's other recordings are just a little too free for my tastes, so it's nice to hear him play within the confines of an instrumentally advanced funk band, a setting in which I can better appreciate his formidable talents.

All of the album's cuts display the musicians' virtuosity and reveal them to be one tight unit. Assuming that Richard Daniel is indeed the vocalist, he has a pleasant, silky-smooth voice that counterbalances Sharrock's frenetic guitar salvos. The songs "Do It Right Now," "Some Kind of Approval," and "Right Direction" all have hooks aplenty and any of them could have been hits on the R&B charts with better luck and/or promotion. The instrumentals "Monster" (appropriately named) and "The Deacon" convincingly display the band's chops as does the quasi-tribal chant piece "Ye-Le-Wa," an ambitious jazz exploration that justifies its epic length. Another instrumental closes the LP, the mellow and atmospheric "Doubt," which another reviewer describes as "the perfect come-down piece." I couldn't have said it much better myself, so I'll just add that I think it sounds like something that would have not sounded out of place on either of Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi or Crossings LPs.

Berits Halsband - 1975 - Berits Halsband

Berits Halsband 
Berits Halsband

01. Myror I Köket (11:45)
02. Elhamokk (9:45)
03. Halvvägs Hildur (19:00)
04. Flaxöras Hemliga Återkomst (8:40)

- Göran Frost / bass
- Michael Lindqvist / drums
- Jonas Lindgren / electric piano, violin
- Mats Anton Karis / flute
- Olof Söderberg / guitar
- Per Lejring / piano
- Thomas Brandt / saxophone
- Tommy Adolfsson / trumpet
- Bengt Ekevärn / trumpet

A Swedish 70's JR/F septet that produced (to my knowledge) only one sole self-titled and self-released album in 75. BH's line-up is the usual "prog quartet" with three wind players - two trumpets and a flute, none of which members I've recognised in similar Scandinavian bands of the era. The album is made from four lengthy instrumental steamy upbeat fusion pieces, sometimes reminiscent of Secret Oyster (with wind instruments) or Arbete Och Fritid project. Apparently recorded live in the studio on a two-track tape, the album is a small tour-de-force, since nothing could be modified and there are no weak moments.

The opening 11-mis+ Miror I Koket features some steamy electric fusion, with a slower flute section, some Spanish-sounding trumpet section. The calmer (at first) 18-mis+ Flaxoras track sounds more like a cross-fusion of Headhunters and Mwandishi, with some broody moods, but it never reaches the dissonant of the latter or the funkiness of the former. Lindgren's Rhodes is the sonic centre of this long soundscape, which veers slowly Bitches-like around the end. The album-closing 8-mins Halvags Hinder opens on semi-dissonant slow Rhodes and chimes and bells, but drums, bass and guitar gradually come in, before the three winds make their entrance by the 3-mis mark. It gradually picks up intensity and speeds up only to drop out slowly to its end.

I'm not aware of this album having ever seen a reissue, whether vinyl or CD, but if you do find one, or the original vinyl, don't hesitate a second forking out a few bucks, because every fusion fan will find it a worthy investment, if not a must-have. Certainly one of Sweden's best JR/F album ever?

Automatic Fine Tuning - 1976 - A.F.T.

Automatic Fine Tuning 

01. The Great Panjandrum Wheel Pt.One (14:25)
02. Gladioli (4:41)
03. The Great Panjandrum Wheel Pt.Two (15:45)
04. Queen of the Night (3:49)

- Paul A. MacDonnell / guitar
- Robert Cross / guitar
- Trevor Darks / bass
- Dave Ball / drums, vocals

Criminaly underrated band and album in my opinion, delivering some of the most stunning heavy prog albums of the decade. The album was released in summer of 1976 and was not a comercial succes, not by far, because the band tried and succeded to gather all the neo-classical and barock arrangements with heavy prog elements in one single unit - Automatic Fine Tuning - the response from the media and public was minor, so they disbanded soon after and they gone almost unnoticed by many prog conoseurs and heavy prog lovers - the mid to late '70's prog was no longer something to talk about . The album was way ahead of his time delivering some superb guitar chops made by Paul A. MacDonnell and Robert Cross very very intristing for that time, very strong harmonics and smooth arrangements on 6 and 12 strings, aswell as the guitar duel between them leaves no comments, excellent. The rytmic section was provided by Dave Ball on drums who also done the vocal parts on Queen of the night and Trevor Darks on bass. The album sounds close to what Yngwie Malmsteen or Joey Taffola done, but they've done it ten years after AFT, that means AFT influenced some musicians from later decades. Great barock hevy prog album with smooth harmonics, great musicianship. AFT has 4 pieces , one of them is divided in two - The Great Panjandrum Wheel part 1&2, more than 30minutes of real feast for all listners, the cherry on the cake here, the rest are aslo very strong. This album sounds so original that even after 30 years is still present and is a real pleasure to listen to, one of my fav albums ever. Recommended to everyone intrested in discovering heavy prog of the highest calibre with a vintage sound. This band was a big discovery for me and has a special place in my collection,

Michael Mantler - 1979 - More Movies

Michael Mantler 
More Movies


01. Movie Nine
02. The Sinking Spell
03. Movie Eleven
04. Will We Meet Tonight?
05. Movie Thirteen
06. The Doubtful Guest
07. Movie Fifteen
08. Movie Fourteen
09. Movie Ten
10. Movie Twelve

- Steve Swallow / bass
- D. Sharpe / drums
- Philip Catherine / guitar
- Carla Bley / organ, piano
- Gary Windo / sax
- Michael Mantler / trumpet

Are the 'Movies' albums inspired by the silver screen? Many of the pieces seem to  resemble soundtracks.

People have said that about my work in general, although I think that's really rather simple-minded. I do like movies though, I see a lot of films and I am interested in them (even in writing for one , if the right one came along...). Yet for those records, it was only a way of titling something. I've never wanted to give music titles, so I started using numbers and all that. In a way a piece of music can be a short movie, since it is abstract and ambiguous enough for you to have your own scenario. That's why I thought the title 'Movies' would be appropriate.

How have they fared over the years?

The first 'Movies' album was really popular. But  the second one, 'More Movies', was a complete bust. It turned out to be the least popular album in the WATT catalog for some strange reason. I actually like it better in some ways than the first one!

This follow-on to the first "Movies" album continues the trend towards music with a strong rhythmic emphasis and a well-integrated ensemble. It's an example of rock-based back-beats being used to good effect with Catherine and Windo rising above the rhythm in their solo work, yet still sounding a part of the whole. Indeed these two dominate, with Windo's singular tone reflecting the synthesis of Coltrane, Shepp, Ayler, King Curtis and even Junior Walker ... In all a very effective record which shows that there can be life after fusion.


Philip Catherine, whom Mingus once dubbed "Little Django", goes primitive and plays piercing rock-blues-jazz guitar on an album that truly seems to know what jazzmen can get out of melting jazz and rock together - stark blues power, and brute impact for nightmare tunes written in black light. It's the most exciting more-or-less fusion record I've heard in years, haunting urban scenarios for the ear starring Catherine and raw tenor saxophonist Gary Windo. "More Movies" is a great record.


This is the companion album to the previous one called "Movies" released 2 years earlier in 1978. In fact I have them both on 1 cd re-issued by ECM Records. Also "Movies" ended with the song "Movie Eight" and this one starts with "Movie Nine". On paper it would seem that "Movies" would be the better album with Tony Williams on drums and Larry Coryell on guitar, but man I think I like this one a little more. Both are great ! Gary Windo is here playing sax so Carla Bley puts here focus on the keyboards and leaves her sax in it's case. She also plays organ which she didn't on "Movies" which certainly gives this a different feel. Mantler continues on trumpet while Philip Catherine is on guitar and D. Sharpe on drums.
"Movie Nine" sounds really good when the sound gets fuller. Some passion here folks. The organ floats in too. It settles back 2 1/2 minutes in then it ends with guitar and organ. "The Sinking Spell" sounds amazing with horns, guitar, drums and piano standing out. "Movie Eleven" is relaxed with horns and piano then the guitar and organ become prominant and the drums kick in. Contrasts continue. Love the heavier guitar led sections. He sounds like Rypdal after 3 minutes. "Will We Meet Tonight ?" is a catchy horn / guitar led piece as the drums pound and the organ floats. "Movie Thirteen" opens with piano only then it builds before 2 minutes. This is great !

"The Doubtful Guest" opens with guitar, drums and a full sound. Horns join in. Some nice bass before a minute as it settles back but not for long. "Movie Fifteen" opens with piano only followed by organ and a full sound before a minute. Nice guitar after 1 1/2 minutes and we get a catchy rhythm as well. Piano only ends it. "Movie Fourteen" opens with piano and drums as the guitar plays over top. Horns before 1 1/2 minutes and they will start to dominate until after 4 1/2 minutes then the guitar returns. Organ ends it. "Movie Ten" is a short piece that's bright and horn led. "Movie Twelve" is horn and drum led early then the trumpet ends up playing over top and the sax helps out. Excellent closer.

Michael Mantler - 1978 - Movies

Michael Mantler 

01. Movie One
02. Movie Two
03. Movie Three
04. Movie Four
05. Movie Five
06. Movie Six
07. Movie Seven
08. Movie Eight

- Steve Swallow / bass
- Tony Williams / drums
- Larry Coryell / guitar
- Carla Bley / piano, synthesizer, tenor saxophone
- Michael Mantler / trumpet

Mantler's 'Movies' is probably the most intelligently done fusion, if we must call it that, since 'Mysterious Traveller' .... 'Movies' presents eight thematically linked pieces, each of which has a distinct mood, a particular emotional focus (hence the title?). While Bley plays with sentiment, some times burlesquing it and sometimes expressing it directly, Mantler's music breathes a different and cooler air. The eight compositions are consistently interesting and personal - Mantler's harmonies are his own - and the ensemble plays beautifully. Of the instrumentalists, Mantler himself is perhaps the least widely known, but it is his steely trumpet playing that dominates the ensemble sound and establishes the emotional climate of the music. To my knowledge he has never before put his own playing so far forward. I hope he does it again. Williams is typically excellent - it's a pleasure to hear him recording regularly again - and Coryell and Swallow could not be better. Carla Bley plays some unison lines on tenor, but her most significant contribution is her wise and subtle use of synthesizer to enlarge the music's space and give it greater dimension and reach. This is intense, stellar music. Miss it at your own risk, particularly if you're into fusion: this is some of the most interesting work being done in the idiom. Certainly it is superior to the more commercial releases around.


If the eight segments which make up "Movies" are intended to paint pictures in the mind's eye, they succeed admirably ... Mantler performs with a bright, hard tone, like a more careful Freddie Hubbard, while the focus of the themes restrains Coryell from across-the-fretboard calisthenics ... The whole group comes on like a more mature and musicianly Mahavishnu Orchestra: in place of speed for speed's sake antics is a sense that Mantler has distilled his thoughts down to their finest essence. The result is an album of shining freshness.


 I first became aware of Michael Mantler's music through a friend who told me about this album he had called "The Hapless Child And Other Inscrutible Stories". He went on to tell me that Wyatt, Rypdal and DeJohnette were on that record. Well I just about fell over myself trying to find a copy. Unfortunately it is out of print. Well "Movies" might be the best next thing. Tony Williams on drums, Larry Coryell on guitar and Carla Bley on keyboards and sax is nothing to sneeze at. Then add Steve Swallow on bass and Michael Mantler on trumpet and we have a great band.
"Movie One" has such an enjoyable horn / guitar soundscape with light drums. Coryell does start to come to the fore after 1 1/2 minutes. Nice. "Movie Two" has keyboards and cymbals leading the way to start then it kicks in before a minute. Check out the guitar ! Trumpet leads 2 minutes in then the guitar is back as they trade off. "Movie Three" has this relaxed trumpet and sound then the keys and drums come in at 1 1/2 minutes as it gets fuller. It's still relaxed though. The trumpet blasts after 2 1/2 minutes then it settles back again. "Movie Four" is led by drums early then the horns come and go. This is intricate and complex. Guitar 2 minutes in then experimental sounds arrive 3 1/2 minutes in. Great track.

"Movie Five" is led by horns early with some nice prominant bass too. Guitar after 1 1/2 minutes starts to lead then the horns are back out front a minute later to the end. "Movie Six" has the horns blasting with background synths and odd metered drumming. Piano too. Great sound ! "Movie Seven" sees the guitar and drums kicking some ass ! Horns before a minute. Amazing stuff. Intense and intricate guitar lines late. "Movie Eight" has melancholic horns with piano. Drums then guitar after 2 minutes join in. Piano and bass only 3 1/2 minutes in. Horns and piano then lead as the guitar comes in late.

An excellent album from this Austrian and his next record "More Movies" might even be better.

Michael Mantler - 1977 - Silence

Michael Mantler 

01. I Walk With My Girl (9:41)
02. I Watch The Clouds (9:23)
03. It Is Curiously Hot (4:42)
04. When I Run (2:04)
05. Sometimes I See People (4:10)
06. Around Me Sits The Night (4:15)
07. She Was Looking Down (3:24)
08. For Instance (2:55)
09. A Long Way (1:51)
10. After My Work Each Day (2:44)
11. On Good Evenings (7:10)

- Carla Bley / voice, piano, organ
- Robert Wyatt / voice, percussion
- Kevin Coyne / voice
- Chris Spedding / guitar
- Ron McClure / bass guitar, acoustic bass
- Clare Maher / cello

...ideas once amusing (Gorey's 'Hapless Child') or emotionally absorbing ('No Answer', from Beckett's 'How It Is') are now thoroughly played out. With due respect to Messrs. Coyne and Wyatt, who attempt to salvage this very lame duck, 'Silence' is possibly the least listenable record I have ever heard.

Indeed several members of the MM editorial staff have already volunteered to   splinter the disc against the filing cabinets here, and I can only sympathize with their reaction.

... imbecilic sing-song treatment ... the musicianship here is uniformly dull ... noodling electric piano rhythms of very little consequence ... every rock guitar cliché in the book ... uninteresting ... inferior ...


Well... who cares what the Melody Maker has to say... I have always liked this album.

Michael Mantler - 1976 - The Hapless Child

Michael Mantler 
The Hapless Child

01. The Sinking Spell 4.40
02. The Object Lesson 5.00
03. The Insect God 5.00
04. The Doubful Guest 4.45
05. The Remembered Visit 6.25
06. The Hapless Child 7.00

Carla Bley : Vocal Keyboards
Robert Wyatt : Vocal
Terje Rypdal : Guitars
Steve Swallow : Bass
Jack Dejohnette : Drums
Alfreda Benge : Speaker
Nick Mason : Speaker
Albert Caulder : Speaker

Releases information
recorded July 1975 through January 1976
at Willow, NY, and England
Produced by Carla Bley
Music By Michael Mantler

GOREY STORIES   by Alan Goodman (with apologies)

One dies of consumption, a fit or spell.
Another's bummed by an imp from hell.
They're wretched beings who please the fan
Of Edward Gorey's etchéd clan.
    (Lots of guitar here, gives you time
    to look at the queer pictures.)

The guitar player's the conscience and soul.
The organ and bass heavily roll.
The drummer hardly worries his head.
With Gorey's existential dread.
    (That voice! Weird he get that voice?)

Now look, here comes a mysterious composer
With quiet eyes and a mild composure.
He selects six stories, and musicians to fit
To help him make good work of it.
    (A loud part here
    And you can tap your foot.)

Gorey's monsters seem quite small,
They hardly fit the frame at all.
But they're all that's needed
to make one gaze
As musicians race thru Mantler's maze.
    (People talk quietly in the garden
    just below the loudspeakers.)

Some will say the illustrations
Require no further ministrations,
But Goreyites are likely to find
These music mites can swell the mind.
    (Servants are carrying off
    broken instruments.)

The books are popular without any song
But that doesn't make the music wrong!
Just think of it as something extra,
A hitherto unnoticed, additional texcha.
    (That brute of a drummer
    eats guitar straps for lunch.)

Is there, besides Wyatt, a more perfect choice
To sing in Millicent Frastley's nurse's voice?
He's not your common philomel
And Miss Skrim-Pshaw never rocked so well.
    (Skrim-Pshaw? Philomel? This can't be jazz!)

Trekking steadily through, Mantler's been able
To transform these horrors for the coffee table.
They're resonant and strangely inertial,
Here's an album that's potentially commercial!
    (They should sell it in bookstores
    And when you get home, surprise!)

Oh no, not what one quite expects
It's best to follow along with the texts.
Amphigorey it's called, and I must confess
In paperback it costs much less.
    (G.P.Putnam's Sons. Fun-loving fellows.)

 I still remember the first time I heard about this album, and just the thought of Terje Rypdal and Robert Wyatt playing on the same record almost caused me to go into cardiac arrest. After getting my bearings I immediately went to every music vendor I had ever dealt with only to discover that this recording was long out of print. Some time later I was fortunate enough to find another album that these two played on from this "Violin Summit" in Germany, and they were part of the same band that performed with Sugar Cane Harris and others. Terje and Robert were both playing instruments on that one while here on Mantler's work Robert sings on every track while Terje offers up one of his best performances on guitar.
Michael Mantler wrote the music while American author Edward Gorey wrote the lyrics, or I should say his lyrics from his book "Amphigorey" were used for this recording. Gorey's writings are interesting as he writes chilling and dark novels(accompanied with his own drawings) which are about the bizarre experiences of children, like something out of The Twilight Zone. So yes the mood of this album is dark and eerie and I have to say I have never heard Wyatt sing like this. He really hits the high notes at times but even overall it seems like he is singing out of his comfort zone much of the time, but he sounds great. Terje sounds like he usually does as his guitar cries out of the night throughout this album. What a combination though with Wyatt's voice and Rypdal's guitar playing. Carla Bley produced this and plays string synths, keyboards, clavinet and more while Nick Mason mixed it and added spoken words. The great Jack DeJohnette is on drums while Steve Swallow is on bass.

"The Sinking Spell" opens with people talking as piano and vocals come in. Guitar and synths arrive quickly and there's no mistaking Terje's playing here and throughout. Rypdal and Wyatt trade off throughout. This is where Wyatt sings in a high pitched manner. Vocal melodies from Robert late as Terje rips it up. "The Object Lesson" opens with piano and drums as almost mono-toned vocals help out. Guitar joins in on the melancholy. Some cool sounding keyboards when Wyatt stops singing briefly. When the vocals return the music becomes more avant sounding. Man Terje can play. "The Insect God" is urgent sounding where Robert almost speaks the vocal parts in a fast paced manner. Rypdal sets the soundscape on fire each time the vocals stop. The guitar is crying out of the darkness.

"The Doubtful Guest" surprisingly reminds me of PRESENT or UNIVERS ZERO the way the piano led soundscape sounds as the vocals join in. So much going on as the vocals continue. What an impressive display. "The Remembered Visit" puts the focus on the vocals as powerful orchestral sounding keys come and go with piano. It sounds like clarinet later. "The Hapless Child" is dark and melancholic as Wyatt sings in an eerie manner. Piano helps out then the guitar cries out along with trumpet. Things pickup around 3 minutes, then it picks up even more as Wyatt sings quickly with the guitar soloing over top. It then settles back with piano only before that full sound returns.

This really comes across as an Avant styled album with two very unique talents in Wyatt and Rypdal possibly giving the best performances of their lives. Still it's not exactly an easy listen, but without question this is one of the most interesting releases i've ever heard.

Michael Mantler - 1975 - 13 & 3/4

Michael Mantler 
13 & 3/4

01. 13
02. 3/4

Orchestra 1
      (3 flutes / 12 saxophones / 9 brass)
     Orchestra 2
      (4 flutes / 10 woodwinds / 14 brass / 42 strings)

     Carla Bley  (piano)

Conducted by Michael Mantler

   Recorded August 1975,      Willow, NY

"... the finest examples of progressive large ensemble work written and recorded in America in 1975"

"Performance: Excellent ... Recording: Excellent ... probably the most ambitious compositions ever undertaken by anyone from the jazz field and a great deal more satisfying than the hybrid we have heard from 'third-stream' jazz composers"

"... (13) leaves one winded and convinced that something has taken place, even if the critical faculties fail to grasp exactly what. Not for the fainthearted."

Michael Mantler - 1973 - No Answer

Michael Mantler 
No Answer

01. Number Six
02. Number Twelve

- Carla Bley / Piano, Organ, Clavinet
- Don Cherry / Trumpet
- Jack Bruce / Vocals, Bass

     February, July, November 1973
     New York, London

hard to believe too yes that I have a voice
yes in me yes when the panting stops yes
not at other times no and that I murmur yes
I yes in the dark yes in the mud yes for
nothing yes I yes but it must be believed yes

and the mud yes the dark yes the mud and
the dark are true yes nothing to regret there no   

so things may change no answer end
no answer I may choke no answer sink
no answer sully the mud no more no answer
the dark no answer trouble the peace no
more no answer the silence no answer die
no answer DIE screams I MAY DIE screams
I SHALL DIE screams good

 (from How It Is by Samuel Beckett, translated from the French by the author,

Jack Bruce at his most, Don Cherry undiluted, Carla Bley in many layers, WATT's second record is the darker side of the deepest end. Mantler's first association with Samuel Beckett's words.

Instrumentation is sparse and somber, occasionally heavy on Bley's organ drone. Cherry's presence is comparatively brief, but he's his usual compelling, challenging self, the most distinctive trumpet voice around. Bley and Bruce carry the weight with virtuoso performances. ... This is music of great strength, created by a master composer who needs to be heard. Mantler's music demands the support of open, intelligent ears everywhere.

A Beckett-like "Endgame" atmosphere, a feeling of hopelessness, pervades the work ... a very demanding, exceptionally intelligent production

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Major Surgery - 1977 - The First Cut

Major Surgery 
The First Cut


01. Dog And Bull Fight     8:13
02. Foul Group Practices     7:07
03. Jubileevit     5:36
04. Hoe Down Up     7:55
05. Shrimp Boats     8:35

Bass Guitar – Bruce Collcutt
Drums – Tony Marsh
Guitar – Jimmy Roche
Saxophone – Don Weller

Recorded: Virtual Earth, Swiss Cottage, London 1976.
Originally released in 1977.
Track 5 is credited on the rear cover with * as: Don't Wait For The Shrimpboat Mother - Father's Come Home With The Crabs (Full title)

From my point of view, there is a big difference between fusion and jazz rock. Fusion, as typified by bands like Return to Forever or Weather Report, is instrumental rock music played by jazz guys. It would almost seem the perfect marriage of the two genres: Virtuoso players tackling the meatier rock angst and sounds. But like any genre, there are some albums with depth and others that are pretty transparent. Jazz rock, on the other hand, is usually a jazz album with rock instrumentation sprinkled throughout. Fusion was more of a mid to late 1970s thing. Jazz rock was more typical at the turn of the 1970 decade, when the creativity of rock was capturing the imagination of jazzers tiring of the same ole, same ole. Major Surgery is a great example of jazz rock, and very much a sound out of vogue for 1977.

The AC sums up: "Jazz-rock rarity from this largely unknown unit, led by saxophonist Don Weller. He and drummer Tony Marsh would go on to become fairly well-known figures in the UK jazz scene, but of perhaps greater interest to prog fans is that the guitar here is handled by Jimmy Roche, who once played with the great East of Eden. His playing here is in a sort of jumpy, Larry Coryell-esque style that I find highly appealing. This stuff is definitely coming from the jazzier end of the jazz-rock spectrum, and being sax-fronted and lacking any sort of keyboard presence..."

Thee Image - 1975 - Inside The Triangle

Thee Image 
Inside The Triangle

01. Fly Away     6:36
02. Far Away Places     2:55
03. High Time Feeling     3:34
04. I.O.U.'S     2:32
05. All Night Long     4:15
06. Good To You     6:02
07. Alone With You     5:05
08. Rapture Of The Deep     1:45
09. Nobody Wins Till The Game Is Over     4:15

Drums, Backing Vocals – Donny Vosburgh
Guitar, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Mike Pinera
Keyboards, Backing Vocals – Duane Hitchings

If you’re like me Thee Image are one of those bands that you may vaguely recall the name of in a “Pete Frame Family Tree” fashion, but nothing else, let alone what they sounded like. Information on the band must be hard to come by, for a goodly proportion of the liner notes are devoted to a potted history of Thee Image’s label, ELP’s Manticore Records with scant details pertaining to the band and their brief history. What we can glean is that they were formed in Miami in 1973 by former Blues Image, Iron Butterfly and Cactus guitarist Mike Pinera – ah, a name I’ve heard of! The band play a loose stew of blues, funk, soul, pop and rock, and produce a hybrid sound somewhere between late period Traffic, Little Feat and Dr John.

The first self-titled album, released in 1974, is a collection of tightly composed good-time songs, and the band has that American sunshine vibe you would expect given their location. For Another Day is a typical upbeat rocker with a nice barrelhouse piano break at the end. This is followed by a soulful piano-led ballad, and after that a white-boy funk workout including a wonderfully sinuous guitar break from Pinera. Those three songs sum up the band, and it’s all enjoyable stuff.

The funk continues into Love Is Here, where Duane Hitchings dominates with keyboard bass and a great synth break. The final track on the debut, Show Your Love, is an atypically sprawling synth dominated rocker which closes proceedings for the first half with the most dated-sounding outing on the record. Apart from that this is an album full of old-fashioned 12-bar ballads, Stax/Motown-influenced southern R&B, all steeped in unforced Americana and is certainly a fun time.

Although the debut failed to chart, sales were encouraging enough for Manticore to fund a follow up. And so a year later the band release their second album Inside The Triangle, a looser affair, more groovy and dance orientated, with longer instrumental sections wiggling their collective ass all over the shop. The funk tends to edge out the other styles, although they’re all still there. On opener Fly Away, drummer Donny Vosburgh gets the bongos and percussion out, Rebop Kwaku Baah style. The Traffic influence is all over this second album, not that this is necessarily a bad thing, as the two groups were contemporaries and at least Thee Image are not trying to recreate a sound form 40 years before their existence…heheh…I’ll put those acid drops down now.

With less focus on the song and more on the riff, Inside The Triangle would have been more of a party record than its predecessor, but has less hooks and so is less memorable. I.O.U.’s is a belter of a funk-boogie workout that should have been longer and probably was live. Pinera’s guitar break is scorching, and it has to be said all three of the band are great players.

Jamming on into the night, Good To You recalls Man from their funky Welsh Connection period, from the very same point in time – there must have been something in the air. The band take a well deserved breather on Alone With You, a tune with a very Winwood-like vibe that might sound cheesy in these modern “seen it all” times, but I actually quite like it in a nostalgic fashion.

Inside The Triangle suffered from a lack of promotion due to ELP’s waning interest in Manticore Records, and by 1976 Thee Image were no more. Pinera moved on to become an in demand session man and producer, as well as forging a decent solo career.

This gathering together of this short-lived band’s recorded output is a nice loose thread or two from rock’s rich tapestry, and a decent addition to the collections of those of us who because of our advancing years have become rock historians by default. “Nurse, where’s me slippers?…”

Thee Image - 1975 - Thee Image

Thee Image
Thee Image

01. Good Things     2:53
02. For Another Day     4:06
03. Drift Off Endlessly     4:21
04. Love Is Here     4:04
05. So Hard To Say     3:44
06. It Happens All The Time     3:05
07. Come To You     3:01
08. Temptation     5:11
09. Show Your Love     6:39

Drums, Backing Vocals – Donny Vosburgh
Guitar, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals – Mike Pinera
Keyboards, Backing Vocals – Duane Hitchings

Thee Image were formed in 1973 by former Blues Image, Iron Butterfly and Cactus guitarist Mike Pinera and keyboard player Duane Hitchings, formerly with Buddy Miles. Pinera’s first band, Blues Image scored a US hit with the single "Ride Captain Ride” and had begun life as the house band of a Miami rock club called Thee Image. Pinera’s skill as a guitarist meant he was a much in demand musician. After a spell in a reformed line-up of the hard rock group Cactus in 1973, Pinera formed Thee Image with Duane Hitchings on keyboards and talented drummer Donny Vosburgh (who had also played with Blues Image). The band was signed to Manticore in 1974 by Mario Medius who had known Mike Pinera from his time at Atlantic Records in New York whilst he was a member of Iron Butterfly.

Thee Image recorded their self-titled debut album at Criteria studios in Miami, producing a work of polished and sophisticated rock. Although "Thee Image” failed to chart, sales were encouraging enough for Manticore to continue to support the band with the recording of their next album, "Inside the Triangle” in 1975, albeit with a release in the USA only.

Hanson - 1974 - Magic Dragon

Magic Dragon

01. Rocking Horseman     3:32
02. Modern Day Religion     3:10
03. Down Into The Magic     5:26
04. Rock Me Baby     3:55
05. Love Yer, Need You     4:59
06. Boy Meets Girl     3:05
07. American Beauty Rose     3:05
08. Looking At Tin Soldiers     3:44
09. Magic Dragon     2:58

Guitars, Vocals: Junior Hanson
Backing Vocals – Cassandra
Bass – Neil Murray
Clavinet – Andre Lewis
Congas – Brother James
Drums – Glen LeFleur
Guitar – Marlo Henderson
Organ – Andre Lewis
Vocals [Company Sergeant] – The Big "M"

For an album released on the Manticore label (home to the always over-bearing Emerson, Lake and Palmer), this 1974 release came as a pleasant surprise.  The fact that it features one of rock's true chameleons in the form of Donald Hanson Marvin Kerr Richards, Jr.(aka Junior Hanson, aka Junior Kerr, aka Junior Marvin) was simply an added bonus.

The guy's discography is a hornet's nest and I'm not going to try to untangle it here, but Hanson was apparently a post Keef Hartley band project, as well as serving as the debut of his new stage name - Junior Hanson.  The group's original line up consisted of Hanson, bassist Clive Chapman, drummer Conrad Isadore and keyboard player Jean Roussel.  The quartet survived long enough to release one LP 1973's 'Now Hear This' (which I've never heard).

Prior to recording a sophomore album, the band underwent a wholesale personnel shake up that saw namesake Hanson the only carryover.  The revised line up featured percussionist Brother James, drummer Glen LeFleur and bassist Neil Murray.

Overlooking the butt ugly cover art (nice job there Bob Defrin), "Magic Dragon" is surprisingly good Hendrix inspired guitar rock with enough psych touches to make it interesting to folks collecting that genre.  Hendrix wannabes are usually about as interesting as toenail clippings, but co-produced be namesake Junior Hanson and Mario Medious, the album gets off to a kick-ass start with the blazing 'Rocking Horseman' and seldom lets up. Virtually the entire album's worth hearing, but stand out tracks include 'Love Yer, Need You', 'Looking At Tin Soldiers' and the awesome title track. Okay, I'll add the funky 'Boy Meets Girl' to my list of favorites.  While this one's a little more pop oriented than the rest of the album, it'll appeal to all you substance abusers in the crowd.  You simply have to wonder how this one got lost.  Hanson had everything needed to be a major star - great vocals, first rate chops and you have to wonder why he was criminally overlooked.  I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact he was a black Jamaican living in the UK.  

The band apparently undertook a short US club tour in support of the album, but by the middle of 1974 were history.  Hanson subsequently metamorphosed into Junior Marvin and ended up a member of Bob Marley and the Wailers.  When Marley died in 1981, Marvin ended up fronting The Wailers for a couple of albums.

Hanson - 1973 - Now Hear This

Now Hear This

01. Traveling Like A Gypsy     6:15
02. Love Knows Everything     3:08
03. Mister Music Maker     4:27
04. Catch That Beat     3:48
05. Take You Into My Home     3:11
06. Gospel Truth     5:03
07. Rain     5:10
08. Smokin' To The Big "M"     9:53

Junior Hanson - guitar and vocals
Conrad Isidore - drums
Clive Chaman - bass
Jean Roussel - keyboards
Bobby Tench - guitar and back vocals
Godfrey McLean - drums
Jimmy Thomas - superstring and back vocals
Delisle Harper - bass
Chris Wood - flute
Rebop Kwaku Baah - percussion
Ken Cumberbatch - piano

 The band HANSON was formed in 1973 by Donald Hanson Marvin Kerr (Junior Kerr, Junior Hanson, Junior Marvin), best known as the enigmatic and dynamic lead guitarist of Bob Marley And The Wailers.

Born in Jamaica, Junior moved to London as a child, where his love of both acting and music was nurtured. He appeared in the Beatles film Help (1965), which was followed by a number of other television appearances. Meanwhile, Junior served his musical apprenticeship in America, playing with the likes of blues legend T-Bone Walker and Ike & Tina Turner. He quickly earned a reputation as an innovative and expressive blues/rock guitarist. Back in England, he played with bands such as Herbie Goins & The Nighttimers, Blue Ace Unit and White Rabbit.

In 1970 Junior landed a role in the critically acclaimed cult stage musical Hair at the Shaftsbury Theatre in London's West End - he can be heard on the Original London Cast recording, released in 1972. After contributing to albums by Gerry Lockran and Rebop Kwaku Baah, Junior was invited to join the Keef Hartley Band, who were pioneers of the burgeoning British blues/rock scene. Junior made a significant contribution as a writer, singer and lead guitarist to their acclaimed Seventy Second Brave album, and also appeared on the follow-up release, Lancashire Hustler.
In early 1973 Junior assembled the band HANSON, and they were swiftly signed to Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Manticore label by Mario "The Big M" Medious. Their debut album, Now Hear This, featured a veritable who's who of musicians from the genre, and they served up a potent fusion of funky psych-tinged blues-rock. The rich blend of talents and influences was expertly engineered by the legendary John Burns, whose previous clientele had included Jethro Tull, Genesis, Humble Pie, Spooky Tooth, King Crimson, Traffic, Mott The Hoople, Fairport Convention, Deep Purple and Marc Bolan. At the beginning of 1974 Junior disbanded the existing line-up of Hanson and assembled an entirely different group of top musicians. The result was the album Magic Dragon, an uncompromising slice of kick-ass funk-rock, which was again released on Manticore and engineered by Burns. After a short American club tour the band split up, and Junior undertook session work for the likes of Island artists Stomu Yamashta, Sandy Denny and Steve Winwood, and reggae stars Bob Marley & The Wailers, Delroy Washington, Toots & The Maytals and Rico Rodriguez. On Valentine’s Day 1977, Junior was invited to join Bob Marley & The Wailers as a full-time member, becoming an integral part of the band's international success, and thus their unparalleled, unique socio-musical legacy. His rich guitar licks, borne of so many influences and such a diverse career experience, adorn the albums Exodus, which was selected by Time magazine as their ‘Best Album Of The 20th Century, Kaya, Babylon By Bus, Survival, Uprising, Confrontation and numerous compilations. For many years after Bob's passing in 1981, Junior continued at the helm of The Wailers, writing new material and contributing lead vocals and lead guitar. During this period the band embarked upon numerous world tours and released a quartet of highly acclaimed albums; ID, Majestic Warriors, Jah Message and My Friends (Live). Junior has also remained a much-in-demand session player, working with the likes of Burning Spear, Alpha Blondy, Bunny Wailer, Israel Vibration, Culture, The Meditations, Beres Hammond, The Congos and O.A.R. Junior is currently putting the finishing touches to his long-awaited solo album Wailin' For Love, which will be released shortly.
The Hanson albums Now Hear This and Magic Dragon were criminally overlooked at the time of their release, and neither has ever appeared on CD. Junior is very keen to rectify this situation, and is currently looking to secure a deal to enable them to be heard again by the music buying public...

Jackson Heights - 1973 - Bump 'n' Grind

Jackson Heights
Bump 'n' Grind


01. I Could Be Your Orchestra
02. Spaghetti Sunshine
03. Long Necked Lady
04. Public Romance
05. Bump And Grind
06. Cumberland County
07. It's A Shame
08. Ladies In The Chorus
09. Whatever Happened To The Conversation

Brian Chatton / keyboards, vocals
Michael Giles / drums
John McBurnie / guitar, keyboards, vocals
Lee Jackson / bass, guitar, vocals


Johnny VanDerrick / violin
Ian Paice / drums
Ian Wallace / drums
Chris Laurence / bass
Bill Bell / banjo

Compact at 33 minutes, this is the most pop orientated of the three albums with lavish production values, and colourful, `baroque-pop' arrangements, and although quite what they were aiming for is hard to tell, it is fine music by anyone's standards. This really shines on a god hi-fi !

The title track is anything but the dirty pub rock that the name seems to suggest, instead being a sweeping majestic widescreen tune, with McBurnie's vocals easily recognisable as the voice of (Patrick Moraz')`Story Of I' at the fore against full string arrangements. `It's A Shame' is a beautiful divorce ballad (if there is such a thing) with a really memorable tune and perhaps Lee Jackson's best vocal, ably served by a lush arrangement once again. `Public Romance' is especially remarkable for featuring a cornucopia of keyboards including a stunning solo played on Keith Emerson's loaned Moog by Brian Chatton, and more `Melletron' (which is mis- spelt on every album as per the original sleeve notes !).

This album closed out their career and Jackson subsequently attempted to resurrect The Nice formula with Patrick Moraz in the keyboard hot seat with Refugee, only to have his hopes dashed again as Moraz did a runner for a short lived stint with Yes. The three albums on display here demonstrate that while Jackson Heights were eminently listenable, they were always going to fall between several stools. This is not to say however that with a retrospective glance and an appreciation of that melting pot that was the early seventies London music scene, there is much to appreciate here. Even albums like this which totally failed commercially offer up standards in writing, performance and production which are seldom matched today.