Monday, November 30, 2015

Azteca - 1975 - Pyramid Of The Moon

Pyramid Of The Moon

01. Someday We'll Get By   
02. Mazatlan   
03. Find Love Today   
04. Watcha Gonna Do   
05. New Day Is On The Rise   
06. Mexicana, Mexicana   
07. Red Onions   
08. Love Is A Stranger   
09. A Night In Nazca

Errol Knowles, Wendy Haas, Rico Reyes - Vocals
Pete Escovedo - Percussion & vocals
Tom Harrell - Trumpet
Pat O'Hara - Trombone
Bob Ferreira - Tenor sax, Flute
Mel Martin - Tenor, baritone and soprano saxes, flute
Bill Courtial, Neal Schon - Guitar
George Muribus, George DiQuattro, Mike Nock - Keyboards
Flip Nunez - Organ
Paul Jackson, Tom Rutley, Tony Juncale - Bass
Lenny White, John Brinck - Drums
Coke Escovedo - Timbales
Victor Pantoja - Conga & vocals

A monstrously huge ensemble, sometimes numbering as many as 20, formed by brothers Pete and Coke Escovedo (father and nephew of Sheila E, most famous herself as an associate of Prince), Azteca put out two monster latin-jazz-rock albums on Columbia in the early 1970s: a self-titled debut, in '72, and this one, in '73. There's a link personnel wise here with my previous Courtial post, in that Coke Escovedo, Errol Knowles and Bill Courtial are on both.

Check the personnel on this album! The connections go way deep: Santana, Herbie, the west coast Latin scene. Some heavy cats, and a hip chick! What can I say but, if you're not already familiar with this excellent group, get hip! What a magical musical time this was. Azteca's debut has been reissued and can be bought new (when in stock!), albeit at a fairly steep price (it's a Jap import, put out on Sony Japan, so unless you hail from those Pacific isles you'll most likely end out paying quite a bit for carriage and excise, never mind the cost of the actual CD).

Also noteworthy is the superb artwork, by Bruce Steinberg, a real renaissance man of the funky West Coast scene (most famously associated with the mighty Tower Of Power), who sadly died fairly recently (Dec 2007). His Aztec style roundel, which the band used on both their album covers, incorporates guitars, horns and a circular keyboard motif... Moy groovy Mr Steinberg!

Azteca reformed in 2007, leading to a new album and a DVD, neither of which I've yet had the pleasure of seeing or hearing.

Azteca - 1972 - Azteca


01. La Piedra Del Sol   
02. Mamita Linda   
03. Ain't Got No Special Woman   
04. Empty Prophet   
05. Can't Take The Funk Out Of Me   
06. Peace Everybody   
07. Non Pacem   
08. Ah! Ah!   
09. Love Not Then   
10. Azteca   
11. Theme: La Piedra Del Sol   

12. Ain't Got No Special Woman (Single Version)
13. Mamita Linda (Single Version)

- Pete Escovedo: vocals
- Coke Escovedo: timbales
- Victor Pantoja: conga drums, vocals
- George Moribus: electric piano
- Flip Nunez: organ
- George De Quattro: piano, clavinet
- Paul Jackson: bass, vocals
- Lenny White: drums, vocals
- Jim Vincent: guitar
- Neal Schon: guitar (on 3, 5 6)
- Jules Rowell: valve trombone
- Tom Harrell: trumpet
- Bob Ferreira: piccolo, tenor sax
- Mel Martin: saxophones, flute, piccolo
- Errol Knowles: vocals
- Wendy Haas: vocals
- Rico Reyes: vocals

Azteca was a Latin jazz-rock-fusion group formed in 1972, started by Coke Escovedo and his brother Pete Escovedo, who had played on Santana III (1971). Azteca was the first large-scale attempt to combine multiple musical elements in the context of a Latin orchestra setting, and featured horns, woodwinds, multiple keyboards, three vocalists, guitars, drums, and multiple Latin percussionists.

Onstage, the band consisted of between 15-25 members, and toured with acts including Stevie Wonder. Other notable Azteca members included drummer Lenny White, bassist Paul Jackson, vocalist Wendy Haas, trumpeter Tom Harrell, guitarist Neal Schon, vocalist Errol Knowles and percussionist Victor Pantoja. The group was also a musical starting point for Latin percussionist Sheila E. (the daughter of Pete Escovedo), who appeared with the band as a teenager. They released only two albums between 1972-1973.

This is a great little lost gem of the early 70's, combining juicy Funk with Santana-esque Latin influenced Rock. Overall it's a solid release with no bad tracks and a good cohesion and musicianship throughout, but little stands out until near the end of side two when the amazingly catchy and feelgood Love Not Then comes on, which is one of my most favourite obscure finds ever. The whole LP is worth getting just for this track.

Archie Whitewater - 1970 - Archie Whitewater

Archie Whitewater 
Archie Whitewater

 01. Don't Be Short
02. Northstar
03. Mist Of The Early Morning
04. Life Is A River
05. Friends And Neighbors
06. Country To The City
07. Home Again
08. Cross Country
09. Lament For The Walking Dead
10. Seacoast
11. Hulk

Fred Johnson - vocals
Paul Metzke - guitar
Robert "Bob" Berkowitz - keyboards
Tony Vece - bass
Jim Abbott - drums
Travis Jenkins - tenor saxophone, flute, vocals
Sam Burtis - trombone
Lynn Sheffield - alto saxophone, vibes
Peter LaBarbera - vibes
Cale Scott - cello

The self-titled (and only) release from Archie Whitewater is something of a sought-after diggers piece. Originally released back in 1970 on the influential Cadet Concept label, the album mixed rock with jazz fusion and a bit of psychedelics for a sound that was not only eclectic, but also revolutionary. The many different styles represented gel together in an uncanny way for an ultimately relaxed listening experience from beginning to end. Lab Heads that have been down since the beginning will immediately recognize "Cross Country" from the Monk 7" on Money Studies (Monk was way ahead of the edit curve with that one), but here you get the track in its original form. It's easily the highlight of the album, a laidback jazz groover perfect for the headphones on that long drive/walk home. Remastered and pressed on high quality vinyl with top notch label and cover art reproductions from Get On Down.

Can you imagine paying $100,000 for a group and then hiding it away for over a year?" So ran the first line in an article about Archie Whitewater back in August 1970. in the Free Lance-Star newspaper out of Fredericksburg. Virginia. "Well, that's exactly what Chess Records did with the group..." Not that Chess's eventual publicity campaign made stars out of the nine musicians in the band. In fact. Archie Whitewater's lone album for Chess's cool spin-off label Cadet Concept, is a best-kept secret among collectors - and this reissue, remastered from the original tapes, marks its first-ever appearance on CD.

Copies of Archie Whitewater now sell for upwards of £100. fuelled chiefly by the plethora of funky drum breaks and beats scattered across the album. The album's most acknowledged track is probably 'Cross Country', a mellow funk track with some sublime electronic piano and serene vocals, because it was exhumed by Chicago hip-hop artist Common (or Common Sense. as he then called himself) for the track 'Chapter 13 (Rich Man Vs Poor Man)' on his second album Resurrection from 1994.

Another Archie Whitewater song. 'Hulk', was borrowed by 90s New York hip-hop act Blahzay Blahzay. Other rap artists followed suit, usually recycling some aspect of 'Cross Country' within their music. Since the 90s. the cult status of Archie Whitewater's sole album has grown steadily: a quick glance at websites like Popsike reveals just how many copies of the album have sold for silly money on eBay and the record is praised by numerous blogs which pride themselves on their crate digging credentials.

And yet despite the plethora of information now available about myriad acts via the internet, precious little has been documented about their story.  Simply put, Archie Whitewater adopted the big band 'horn rock' mould pioneered by the likes Blood Sweat  And Tears in the late sixties, fusing elements or funk soul. psychedelic rock and jazz into their songs. Also some debate dwelt on their possible association with other acts on the Cadet Concept labels  (namely Rotary Connection and the productions of Charles Stepney) or even  whether they were black or white.

Archie Whitewater captures a period in American music when musicians adopted a carefree approach to combining their influences. In so doing, they created some idyllic music which sounds unrestrained by the usual straitjacket imposed on artists on major labels. After some forty years. RPM is proud to usher this fine record into the digital age.
by John Reed. November 2011

Hammak - 1971 - LIve!


01 When You Dance I Can Really Love
02 Theme For An Imaginary Western
03 Don't Let It Bring You Down
04 Empty Pages
05 Fire And Rain
06 Jam (Keith Lentin/ Mike Faure/ Midge Pike/ Anton Fig)

Recorded live at the Cape Town City Hall 16th June 1970 or 1971

Henry Barenblatt: keyboards
Anton Fig: drums
Mike Faure: sax
Midge Pike: bass
André de Villiers: guitar, vocals
Keith Lentin: guitar

Mandy Cohen: vocals
(also known as Amanda Cohen and Amanda Blue Leigh)
Nicholas Pike: flute

1971, Cameo, CAM 1039 (Only 500 Copies Pressed)

This was South Africa's first 'super-group'. the original mixing wasn't great (Graham Beggs attempted to remedy some of it) but this gives one an idea of what was going down in Cape Town in '70.
One of our regulars requested it, so here it is... Anton Fig before he became drummer of the stas!

Horn - 1972 - On the People's Side

On the People's Side


01. Things in Themselves: 3:48
    a. Things in Themselves Part One
    b. Intermission
    c. Voice of the Lonely Man
    d. Things in Themselves Part Two
02. Free All My Brothers and Sisters 2:33
03. Roach: 2:25
    a. Roach
    b. A March
04.  Vibrations / Vee-bra'-syohn: 4:29
    a. Vibrations
    b. Johnny Guitar Plays Childrens Music
05. Pony Buns: 9:36
     a. a
     b. 3 Blows
     c. Je pense mieux sous le tapis
     d. Goof the Truth
     e. The Buzz
     f. Musicatto
06. Working Together: 5:52
     a. Song 
     b. Dance
07. On the Peoples Side 5:39

Bass – Alan Duffy
Drums – Bill Bryans
Graphics – Jim McConnell
Guitar – Bruce Burron, Gary Hynes
Keyboards – David deLaunay
Lead Vocals – Les Clackett
Producer – Alan Duffy, Bill Bryans, Horn
Recorded By, Mixed By – Brock Fricker
Trumpet – Wayne Jackson

I just tried to find some information on the internet about this album and found nothing more than what is written on the album.

Coming from Toronto however I was at my favourite bar, favourite at the time, and I happened to meet a real rounder, a man who'd been on the fringe of everything forever. He was a bike courier and was around during the early days of City TV and having said so I asked him if he knew anything about this album. On the back of this album the band thank Moses Znaimer, the man all Torontonians know as the president of City TV ... even though the station was the brainchild of a woman by the name of Phyllis Switzer who NEVER gets mentioned ... and I was wondering what the connection was. Moses had been a talking head on TV and had alot of charm and presence and Phyllis made him president of City TV and herself vice.

This old rounder told me a strange tail about the late sixties and radical Trotskyists who were publishing a rag just down the street from City TV's new headquarters inside the old Electric Circus nightclub at 99 Queen St. East and one of the main Trotskyists was a man who went by the name Horn. They held most of their benefit parties inside the old nightclub and my new drinkin' buddy seems to remember that they also had a band. He went on to explain the Trotskyist roots of City TV but it all gets a bit blurry in my head, that and BOY ... could this guy name drop!
(Just as a side I thought I'd mention that City TV went bankrupt in it's first three years and was bought by the richest family in Canada, the Bromfmen family, the same family British trip-hop star M.I.A. is now a part of. In 1978 City TV was then bought by CHUM and is now partially owned by CTV, the mouthpiece for the Conservative Party, and Ted Rogers Jr. whom I went to school with. CTV allowed MTV to gobble up MuchMusic ... and it now SUCKS SO BAD!)

As there is no one in the band named Horn, nor is any one by the name of Horn quoted or mentioned, Horn might have been a nickname for one of the musicians appearing here ... or not.

The album "On the People's Side" certainly has leftist roots and 1972 is the year City TV went on the air.

Musically it's a glorious wash of jazzy groves sunk in a progressive plum sauce with lyrics about the peoples movement. Wonderfully tight production with little effects. Some seem to think this sounds like The Mother's of Invention but there was so much happening in music in the early 70's that I'm sure you could say they sound like other bands as well. To me, they sound like Horn.
Bill Bryans (drums), Wayne Jackson (trumpet)

The name HORN comes from the recording studio where the album was recorded - Rochdale College's SoundHORN studio. The band was originally called Theodore's Smokeshop...and were told to find something a little more drummer Billy Bryans (yes, he of future Parachute Club fame) chose the second part of the studio's name, HORN. Moses Znaimer's connection was that he owned the label they were signed to - Special Records.

Granmax - 1978 - Kiss Heaven Goodbye

Kiss Heaven Goodbye

01. Mistress of Eternity 4:21
02. Dream Woman 2:51
03. Daughter of Hell 4:41
04. It's Worth the Wait 3:05
05. Prince of the Southern Ice 4:31
06. This Life's for Me 4:52
07. Respected Man 3:30
08. Travels of Tim 3:31

Nick Christopher (lead vocals, percussion)
Louis McCorkle (drums, percussion)
Steve Myers (guitar, vocals)
Tim McCorkle (bass, vocals)

I don’t usually write much about straight ahead hard rock albums, but this one struck me as better than most (unlike their debut “Ninth Alive”, which is far more tepid). For 1978 this rocks hard and has some riffing that you may have only found on a Judas Priest album (“Stained Class”) at this early date. Pretty much non stop heavy rock, and no pub and boogie rockers to drag it down as is typical for albums such as this.

Granmax - 1976 - A Ninth Alive

A Ninth Alive

01. Take You Away
02. U.S. Is Coming Around
03. Crumbling Towers
04. Bankers Bar
05. Find a New Day
06. Out on the Tide
07. Ceiling Wall
08. Glitter Boots Boogie
09. Let Me Know
10. Letters to Myself

Nick Christopher [Chaz Nikias] (lead vocals, percussion)
Louis McCorkle (drums, percussion)
Steve Myers (guitar, vocals)
Tim McCorkle (bass, vocals)

Omaha, Nebraska was home to 70's hard rock quartet Granmax. Formed in early 1975, the band gained quite a bit of exposure throughout the midwest which culminated in the release of "A Ninth Alive" on Pacific Records in 1976. By the end of the year, the band signed with Panama Records and their debut was reissued to reasonable success in the region. The band tirelessly gigged throughout the midwest for nearly two years, picking up slots on numerous tours before the addition of frontman, Nick Christopher.

Revived and rejuvenated, the band entered the studio in early 1978 to record their sophomore album, "Kiss Heaven Goodbye". With a clearly harder edged sound, the band once again saturated the midwest with promotional gigs and a full tour, but audiences just weren't biting. The band returned to the studio to cut a third album, but things began to unravel during the sessions and Granmax came to a screeching halt before it could be completed. The post breakup activities of the members is unknown.

One listen to this album and you'll be scratching your head wondering why there's so much fervor over Granmax. Most likely it is due to their legendary followup album from 1978, as this release is a rather pedestrian exercise in one dimensional hard rock. Sure the musicianship is tight enough and the production isn't all that horrible, but the songwriting is terribly unoriginal and plodding. The average vocals do virtually nothing to help either. To their credit, there are many ideas that begin so well, only to fall flat by their conclusion. Ranging from hard boogie to folk rock to proto metal, Granmax never quite manage to manifest their ideas into anything memorable. However, since their 2nd album seems to get all of the attention online, it's only fair to offer up this relic for your judgement.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Foot in Coldwater - 1977 - Breaking Through

A Foot in Coldwater 
Breaking Through

01 Save It All For Me   
02 The Night's Still Young   
03 Play My Guitar   
04 Goodnight My Love   
05 Why   
06 I Knew She Would   
07 Driftaway   
08 Yes I'm Smiling   
09 Breaking Through

Alex Machin - Vocals
Paul Naumann - Guitars, Vocals
Bob Horne - Keyboards
Hugh Leggat - Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Danny Taylor - Drums

An elusive rarity that seldomly surfaces, even in collector's circles. Please refer to my earlier posting regarding this band's back story. A Foot In Coldwater split in 1975, despite seeing moderate success in their native country of Canada. A few years passed before the members regrouped for "Breaking Through" in 1977. The group's new direction was notably more stylized for AOR radio, though there's no shortage of their signature punchy driving sound. Released on Attic Records, the album came and went with little fervor and soon the band were defunct for good.

This is a very well done album that is often unfairly overlooked even by fans of the band. It's a mystery why the record made little impact, though perhaps the disco craze blossoming worldwide played an integral role in its failure. Though the band only resurfaced a few brief times over the years to perform reunion shows, A Foot In Coldwater is no more. Members would later join bands such as Private Eye, Gus, Leggatt, Champion and Moxy.

Dig this ultra-rare effort from a band who always seemed to be on the cusp of a breakthrough, only to find apathy at the end. In retrospect, fans have not forgotten this fabulous classic Canadian act.

A Foot in Coldwater - 1974 - All Around Us

A Foot in Coldwater 
All Around Us

01. I Know What You Need   
02. All Around Us   
03. (Make Me Do) Anything You Want   
04. It's Only Love   
05. Love Is Coming   
06. How Much Can You Take   
07. He's Always There   
08. Yalla Yae   
09. (Isn't Love Unkind) In My Life   
10. Para-Dice

Alex Machin - Vocals
Paul Naumann - Guitars, Vocals
Bob Horne - Keyboards
Hugh Leggat - Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Danny Taylor - Drums

Following the record's dismal showing and dwindling concert draws, the band found themselves without a deal in '74 but continued on. In 1975 they were picked up by Anthem, label for such heavy hitters as Rush and Max Webster, which prompted the release of the single "Midnight Lady".

After their deal with Island outside of Canada, Daffodil signed the group to Jac Holzman at Elektra/Asylum in the US and this album was the result of that deal. Produced primarily by Queen's English producer John Anthony, the album included re-recorded versions of the best songs from their first two Canadian albums and added some newly written material by the group. It was a critical sussess but shortly after it's release Jac departed from Elektra, David Geffen took over and the group was let go.

A Foot in Coldwater - 1973 - The Second Foot In Coldwater

A Foot in Coldwater
The Second Foot In Coldwater

01. Coming Is Love   
02. So Long   
03. Suzy   
04. How Much Can You Take   
05. (Isn't Love Unkind) In My Life   
06. Sailing Ships   
07. Love Is Coming

Alex Machin - Vocals
Paul Naumann - Guitars, Vocals
Bob Horne - Keyboards
Hugh Leggat - Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Danny Taylor - Drums

Every review for A Foot In Coldwater's LPs/CDs I write is going to be the same. I love these guys' music. It's rock & roll straight and honest, but the main thing about Foot is that their style is 100% uniquely their own . . . just as classic rock should be. You can tell it's Foot by the first chord of just about any song. A rolling freight train of thunderous Strat (courtesy of the late Paul Naumann), roaring Hammond B3, and a diversity of inflections, solos and songs that make the music of the Toronto scene in the early 1970s so memorable. Foot is among the best by far, and their fans are loyal to the end. Every AFIC release is worth owning, for fans of Canadian music and rock fans worldwide. Their 4th album (Breaking Through) isn't available on CD, but it's worth buying in vinyl for the $10 to $15 it fetches.

The band released A Second Foot In Cold Water the next year. Two singles were released, "Love Is Coming" and "Isn't Love Unkind", their second crack in the top 25 on Billboard. All Around Us hit the shelves in '73 and contained only 5 new songs, along with new versions of 4 tracks from the previous 2 lp's. "(Make Me Do) Anything You Want" hit the airwaves again and this time cracked Billboard's Top 10, as did the second time 'round for "Isn't Love Unkind".

More of the unique stylings of this group including the hit single"(Isn't Love Unkind) In My Life" and "Love Is Coming", both hits displayed this band's unique combination of power, subtlety and taste. The bands producer was reputed to have spent as much time as most artists spend recording their entire albums, on just the mixing of the first hit (In My Life) alone, Island Records in the UK signed the group on the strength of the one track "In My Life". The classical guitar intro to one of the heaviest tracks ever recorded in this country (Coming Is Love) is worth the price of the album though the lyrics to this and other cuts on the album were criticized for being sexist and too explicit.

A Foot in Coldwater - 1972 - A Foot in Coldwater

A Foot in Coldwater
A Foot in Coldwater

01. On the Wind
02. Yalla Yae
03. Deep Freeze
04. (Make Me Do) Anything You Want
05. Who Can Stop Us Now
06. Alone Together
07. Fallen Man
08. In Heat
09. Lady True

Alex Machin - Vocals
Paul Naumann - Guitars
Bob Horne - Keyboards
Hugh Leggat - Bass
Danny Taylor - Drums

The debut album by a great Canadian band. It includes their best known and much loved classic hit "(Make Me Do) Anything You Want", will a staple of gold rotation through out the country and containing perhaps the best known guitar solo in Canadian rock music; in addition to, some of the tightest playing of any band to ever grace the Canadian rock scene. The group were a cult favorite of legions of biker gangs yet mixed with their powerful 'heavy' rock stylings reminisent of Deep Purple and Zeppelin was their unique approach to rock ballads which combined power with strings and other acoustic elements. At their peak they were among the best groups Canada has spawned.

In 1971 Paul Naumann left his band Leather and got together with fellow Torontonian Alex Machin, forming the group Island. Around the same time the remnants of another progressive rock group Lords Of London, in bassist Hughie Leggat, drummer Danny Taylor and Bob Horne on organ were looking for a change, forming Nucleus.

After one album, they hooked up with Nauman and Machin. They caught the attention of Frank Davies, who signed them to his new Daffodil Records in early '72 and A Foot In Cold Water was born. An offbeat British slang for 'a shocking experience', their debut was exactly that, striking gold the same year. Backed by the future classic "(Make Me Do) Anything You Want" which scored in Billboard's Top 25, the album gained critical reviews, despite the length of most of the tracks being too long for conventional airplay. Also on the record were the sleeper hits "On The Wind" and "Deep Freeze".
by Frank Davies and Paul Leask

Yavanna - 1984 - Bilder Aus Mittelerde

Bilder Aus Mittelerde

01. Valinor (6:54)
02. Earendils worte in Walinar (6:10)
03. Luthiens Fruhlingsgesang und tanz (6:37)
04. Atalante (6:38)
05. In den hallen von megenroth (4:07)
06. Gondolin - Turgon"s Stadt (8:07)

Sitar, Vibraphone, Synthesizer, Violin, Percussion, Engineer, Arranged By, Producer - by Dirk Schmalenbach
Bass, Horns - by Helmut Jost
Drums, Vibraphone, Percussion, Timbales, Synthesizer, Harpsichord, Grand Piano - Thomas Adam
Flute - Dieter Neuhäuser
Grand Piano - Johannes Nitsch
Grand Piano, Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] - Dieter Falk
the Guitar - Lothar Kosse, Tommy Schmieder
Vocals - Gitta Löwenstein
Vocals, Backing Vocals - Hans Stettner
Backing Vocals - by Heike Barth, by Sabine Jost, Thomas Flemming

YAVANNA was a German project instigated by Dirk Schmalenbach (violin, keyboards, vocals, sitar, percussion) of Christian progressive rock outfit Eden. He was joined by Hans Stettner (vocals), Thomas Adam (drums, vibraphone, percussion), Helmut Jost (bass) and Lothar Kosse (guitars) for the recording of the one and only album released under the Yavanna moniker: The 1984 production "Bilder Aus Mittelerde", a concept album based on J. R. R. Tolkien's books "The Lord of the Rings" and "Silmarillion".

There are several things about this album that are somewhat confounding, to say the least. First a note though – Yavanna were not really a band. The very talented and multi- instrumentalist Dirk Schmalenbach put the project together following the demise of his former gig as part of the German progressive band Eden. Anyway, on to some of the oddities of Schmalenbach’s project.
Let’s start with a mention of the artwork, a truly uninspired, plain-wrapper looking sort of thing with nothing more than a band name, album title and pencil sketch of a couple of trees that have nothing to do with the band, album, song lyrics or even music in general. This is even odder given Schmalenbach’s background with Eden, a band that prided itself on beautiful album covers layered with meaning.

Also, the songs on the album are apparently based on two of J.R.R. Tolkien’s most famous works, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Silmarillion’. This is itself isn’t all that surprising or unusual given the fact Tolkien’s work was enjoying something of a renaissance in popular culture when these songs were recorded in the early eighties. I’ll have to assume this is correct since I don’t speak German, although a few of the song titles obviously confirm the album’s general theme. That said, nearly everything I’ve ever seen (or heard) that was Tolkien-inspired, especially in the seventies and eighties, tended to be long, ostentatious, and usually overproduced. That’s pretty much where the bar is at for Tolkien fare. Not the case here. The album itself is not even forty minutes long and contains only seven songs, none of which reach even seven minutes in length. And other than the bombastic, organ- charged opening seconds of “Valinor” the music is for the most part folk-inspired and rather understated. There is a brief period in “Atalante” where guitarist Lothar Kosse launches into a mildly Glmourish solo and I’m reminded of the later Tolkien effort by Mostly Autumn, but otherwise this is fairly tame stuff.

Tolkien (and Eden) music also tends to be elaborate and include stylistic references not only to folk, but usually classical and symphonic music as well, often of the Baroque period. That doesn’t happen here either. Indeed, with the possible exception of “Gondolin” and it’s mellow violin-led instrumental break there is very little in this music’s structure that predates modern rock and contemporary folk. There is also a pretty strong eighties vibe that tends to come out during the vocal passages of the record.

Finally, like I said Schmalenbach was a multi-talented musician who had mastered all the basic rock instruments (guitar, drums, bass) as well as keyboards, violin and sitar. In my opinion he is guilty of too much reliance on electronic keyboarding here, particularly in the early tracks “Earendils Worte in Valimar” and “Luthiens Frühlingsgesang Und Tanz”. True, he manages to weave in violin on both these tracks, but given the strings’ potential to dominate the emotion of a song I think Schalenbach missed a great opportunity here.

This is a decent album, but not something that will ever be considered a timeless classic. I still enjoy it a lot...

Eden - 1981 - Heimkehr


01. Intro (2:00)
02. Die Klagelieder Des Jeremia (10:00)
03. Psalm 137 (5:10)
04. Psalm 126 (5:45)
05. Heimkehr (10:11)
06. Herr Ich Bin Nicht Wurdig (5:45)
07. Neues Land Im Licht (7:00)

- Irene Heidenrich / vocals
- Annette Schmalenbach / vocals
- Anne Dierks / vocals
- Thomas Flemming / vocals
- Markus Egger / vocals
- Dirk Schmalenbach / keyboards
- Micheal Dierks / keyboards
- Hans Fritzsch / guitars
- Michael Claren / bass, vocals, guitar
- Hans Müller / drums
- Michael Wirth / percussion
- Mario Schnaub / flute

This is the third and last album by the German Christian proggers. The three albums are all very similar. The music, playing and singing, is of a consistently high quality, firmly in the Romantic school of neo- Floydian German groups, like Novalis, later Eloy and Stern Meissen Combo. This means lots of string-synths, acoustic guitars and pretty melodies. Vocals are often choral and there is a fair amount of classy electric guitar soloing of the Gilmour school. This album is pretty laid back, with very few up-tempo passages. Eden also featured a violinist, which adds a pleasantly pastoral extra dimension. It's very pleasant music, and no doubt inspiring lyrically if you are Christian (which I am not) and German (also not). However, if you are a lover of late 70s European symphonic and enjoy lots of synth, this might be worth tracking down.

Eden - 1980 - Perelandra


01. Abgesang (4:26)
02. Er Wird Sein (6:39)
03. Lichtlied (5:16)
04. Zwischenspiel (1:35)
05. Dem Verborgenen Zuwieder (4:25)
06. Perelandra (7:17)
07. Im Bragdon Wald (6:41)
08. Bilder Einer Welt (5:43)
09. Ausklang (1:53)

- Christos Charapis / bouzouki
- Kiriakos Charapis / bouzouki
- Michael Claren / bass, acoustic guitars, vocals
- Anne Dierks / vocals
- Michael Dierks / keyboards, vocals
- Hans Fritzsch / guitars
- Hans Müller / drums, percussion congas, timbales
- Dieter Neuhäuser / flute
- Annette Schmalenbach / vocals
- Dirk Schmalenbach / keyboards, sequencer, sitar, strings, percussion, vocals

In 1978/79 Eden toured around Germany to promote their debut album.They made a good deposit of money to build a small studio in Wiederhof and work on new material.Dirk Schmalenbach decided also to take the responsibilty of being the sound enginner on this effort.At one point his friend Martin Lueling visited him and proposed the reading of Irish writer's C.S. Lewis novel ''Perelandra'', a book split between religious themes and science fiction.Impressed by Lewis' writings Schmalenbach took the chance to write a concept album, which was recorded between November 79' and January 80' and released in 1980 on Lord Records.
While not surpassing the unmet inspiration of ''Erwartung'' by any means, ''Perelandra'' is another very solid album by Eden, the folky elements are rather limited in the exhibition on flutes, the sporadic acoustic lines and the discreet performances of Greek brothers Christos and Kiriakos Charapis on bouzouki with the band having taken a more clean symphonic direction with the standard Teutonic vibes in the keyboard parts and its spacious, floating themes.The music is dominated by layered synthesizers and grandiose guitars with the occasional rural injections, featuring also excellent German vocals in both male and female offerings, having a great balance between bombastic and laid-back textures and containing some beautiful keyboard-guitar interactions.The atmosphere is ethereal, pompous and dramatic with the typical sound of Symphonic Rock acts from Germany, delivering nice keyboard spaciness. storytelling moods and light Classical influences.They come even closer to ANYONE'S DAUGHTER with this work, although they sounded more personal than their heavily Genesis-influenced compatriots.It must be these Gospel-like polyphonic passages, that sets the group apart from other 80's German acts.But they can become pretty rich in sounds and sights throughout, propelled by the neurotic dual keyboard splashes, the lovely guitar moves and the popping folky colors, I can definitely hear still some of these elegant violin drives-strongly apparent on the debut- during the latter parts, but noone is credited to play these.

Among the very good albums of 80's Teutonic Prog.It doesn't sound as convincing as their flawless debut, but it sounds far better than most of the period symphonic albums of the time.Nice Symphonic Prog Rock, fairly recommended

Eden - 1978 - Erwartung



01. Spatregen (7:09)
02. Erwartung (6:41)
03. Eden Teil
    I) Eden Teil (4:35)
    II) Eden Teil II (6:08)
04. Ein Anderes Land (16:31)

- Michael Claren / bass, background vocals
- Anne Dierks / vocals
- Michael Dierks / keyboards, vocals
- Markus Egger / vocals
- Hans Fritzsch / guitars
- Hans Müller / drums, percussion
- Mario Schaub / flute, clarinet, saxophone, background vocals
- Annette Schmalenbach / vocals
- Dirk Schmalenbach / violin, acoustic guitar, sitar, keyboards percussion, vocals
- Michael Wirth / congas

German outfit EDEN was founded in 1977, when three members of the "Freie christliche Jugendgemeinschaft" decided to form a band; one of the first christian progressive rock bands in Germany.

In the 5 years the band existed they were an active recording and live unit; with a plethora of people involved in the recording of the three albums they released.

The debut album "Erwartung" was issued in 1978, and the sophomore effort "Perelandra"; based on C. S. Lewis christian science fiction novel of the same name, was issued in 1980.

The third and last creation of Eden was their 1981 production "Heimkehr"; and in December the same year the band gave it's last public appearance.

A multitude of musicians was involved in Eden prior to folding, and the core members that were involved in all their recorded material were Michael Claren (bass, vocals, guitar), Anne Dierks (vocals), Michael Dierks (keyboards, vocals), Hans Fritzsch (guitars), Hans Müller (drums, percussion), Annette Schmalenbach (vocals), Dirk Schmalenbach (violin, acoustic guitar, sitar, keyboards percussion, vocals).

Dirk Smalenbach would later reappear in the one-off project Yavanna, who released an album in 1984.

Do you like a hymn-like sound, rich symphonic textures, a folky vibe, and brilliant vocal male and female harmonies? If so, you can't do much better than to seek out this lovely 1978 effort from Germany. "Erwartung" means "Expectation", and with a group name like Eden and the devotional atmosphere, one might conclude that religious themes lurk within, but since the sleeve contains no information and the lyrics are in German, this is only speculation.
The album opens with its weakest track, "Spatregen". While it contains most of the elements interspersed throughout the disk, it sounds half baked and rudderless, almost like an early composition that should have been refined before inclusion. The rest of the songs are all great, featuring, in addition to the characteristics named above, plenty of flutes, saxes, acoustic guitars, some raucous leads, and shimmering melodies, sort of like the Moody Blues but bigger and more experimental. However, the end to "Eden Teil II" includes a few bars from "Nights in White Satin" just to drive home the reality of the influence.

The ultimate highlight is the closer, "Ein Anderes Land", which is 16+ minutes of symphonic progressive bliss, a suite of many moods and themes, centered around the most intricate and awe-inspiring harmonies, as well as the most skillful playing and arranging on the record. I think I hear Eden taking a bit of the Novalis sound and stretching way out beyond what that band seemed willing to do. While an obscure reference, Eden also reminds me of the Basque group Enbor at times, chiefly in their attention to vocal interplay and their ethereal folkiness.

Eden's debut exceeds the expectations one might have for an obscure late 70s prog album, serving up a small taste of paradise in musical form.

Eden - 1979 - Aura


01. La nuit des sorciers 8:50
02. Parures d'automne 6:16
03. Les enfants 2:55
04. Amour 76 7:48
05. Ouverture 7:59
06. Cauchemar 4:51
07. Thème O.V.N.I. 3:48
08. Arc-en-ciel 5:51

Hubert Vrayance (Hammond organ, synthesizer, vocals)
Allan Lys (congas, drums, percussion)

Eden was a French Electronic duo from late-70's, relatively known among prog fans.What most people do not know is that the leader and main composer Hubert Vrayance, born in 1958, became a leading chief officer and later police commissioner.The other member was drummer Alan Lyss and their sole release ''Aura'' came out in 1979 on Oxygene, recorded in July of the same year at the AA Music Studios.The armour of Vrayance was his bass pedals, a Hammond organ, a solina string ensemble and a couple of synthesizers.

The music of the duo was a Symphonic/Electronic affair with many Classical and symphonic elements, propelled by the solid drumming of Lyss, thus their sound often closed the more symphonic side of Progressive Rock.The main man though here is Vrayance and his dual keyboard deliveries with a varied sound and a unique atmosphere, going from Baroque period to psychedelic textures.His approach on romantic and sensitive arrangements comes close to the sound of LE ORME or 80's German oddity OCEAN, mixing the power of a Classical-influenced organ execution with the floating sound of synthesizers.They kind of remind me also of TRIUMVIRAT and SCHICKE, FUHRS & FROHLING quite often, the display of dramatic, Classical keyboard arrangements with the rhythmic drumming and the changes between melancholic orchestrations to more powerful and grandiose themes is pretty rewarding.Side A provides the more Classical side of the duo with the inventive use of organ next to the solina string and the synths, while the second is a bit more quirky and Electronic-drenched, still offering some pretty fast and accurate drumming, but the music becomes more abstract and updated with the solina string and the synths becoming the centerpieces of a more cinematic but still very dynamic sound.

In 1985 Vrayant would join the police, but he still released a solo album in 1986, ''Landscape 80'' on FLVM, dealing with a police officer, who wrote a book around the extra-terrestrials and the Bible.During the later years of his career he worked as secret agent on political investigations and this was reputedly the reason he was eventually sacked.

Classical- and symphonic-oriented Electronic Prog in the vein of SCHICKE, FUHRS & FROHLING, swirling around rich, keyboard rhythms and more romantic soundscapes with a Baroque flavor.Nice and recommended stuff.

Eden - 1978 - Eden


01. Allias 4:37
02. Pavane 7:55
03. La Ballerine Musclee 5:08
04. Transe 4:40
05. Arabesque 2:55
06. Louis le Cancre 6:07
07. Intuition 2:06
08. La Foret 1:54

Jean-Bernard Borja (bass, vocals)
Robert Boileau (keyboards)
Gilles Favreau (guitar)
Jean Remillard (drums)

Eden are a keyboard lead quartet from Quebec who play a standard symphonic progressive rock with French vocals on about half the album. While there is a guitarist, his role is primarily subordinate, and the leads are generally created via synthesizer - mostly a String Ensemble, but I hear some Moog as well. I didn't discern any organ, Mellotron or Rhodes. There's nothing extraordinary about this album, other than perhaps the early 70s styled artwork, but it's still a pleasant listen and one where most progressive rock fans will appreciate.

This sole album from Quebecois band Eden is strongly influenced by Yes, Ange and Atoll , sung in French (no special Quebec accent is noticeable) and the very naïve sleeve artwork is created by Roger Brunneau. This group is your standard prog quartet with the bassist singing but the majority of the tracks are written by the KB man, although only the drummer did not get any writing credits.
Unfortunately, the artwork is not the only naïve thing on the album as the vinyl (now very rare but counterfeited since and bootlegged on Cd since this year) containing the music is also fairly naïve, also. A slowed down Yes influence is the dominant characteristic , but the vocal delivery remind heavily of Atoll singer Andre Balzer even if the timbre is not the same. Most of the tracks are mid-tempo and rely heavily on the overly symphonic side of prog that was so common in the late 70's. I personally was never really convinced of Eden (not to be confused by the other Eden group - most notably the French group) and I had gotten rid of the album a long time ago, and had almost forgotten them until two years ago the ProgQuebec site listed them in their site. So I managed to get a hold of the old cassette (a Maxell XL II-S that was recorded in 81 - and still is quite correct some 25 years later) I had made and re-listened to it.

The first side is relatively slow going and is content of rather sub-par symphonic prog, not being overly demonstrative either. The second side has much shorter tracks and shows them in a more exploratory mood, but unfortunately, their lack of experience was clear: as soon as they started something less "basic" (as if anything in prog was basic), it turns out to have a rather show off quality that fits so well the naïve adjective I have used so far.

Had this group managed to make further albums, I am certain that they would have managed better things. Not really essential and at best a footnote in the prog history, but can be worth your while if you cherish Atoll's first two albums.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

David Sancious - 1976 - David Sancious

David Sancious 
David Sancious 

01. I Told My Heart   
02. The Man   
03. Dixie   
04. Dream 9   
05. Now I'm Waiting   
06. About You   
07. I Was Having A Dream   
08. Still Blue

David Sancious: Keyboards, Guitar, vocals
Gerald Carboy: Bass, vocals
Ernest Carter: Drums

As Sancious had already entered his most prolific period, a mysterious album appeared in 1976, printed with a nice, dreamy cover, carrying only his name, and released on the short-lived LA-based Chelsea Records.Apparently it contains early demos of Sancious and Tone, recorded sometime in 1973 or 1974 and it was published without the permission of the band.Most of the tracks would'nt appear in a later Sancious album except of ''Dixie'', which appears here in a premature version.It still contains shades of Sancious incredible talent, particularly influenced by Jazz and Classical Music, although these cuts reveal very often a stronger Soul/Pop feeling.It is performed basically on organ and piano with bass and drums support and occasional synth flashes.The music is decent, but the overall result is rather rough and unpolished.Regarding its scarcity, this album is hard to be recommended.If you ever come across a copy, the music is still rewarding with plenty of Sancious familiar colors, including Jazz, Classical and Pop sensibilities.
A big thaaaaaaaank You! (Insert Ian Gillan voice over) goes to my friend of three decades and collector supreme Guery in Miami for making this one available for the blog...

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ariel - 1985 - Perspective


01. Another Time, Another Place
02. Banana Blues
03. Moment of Weakness
04. Folk Dance
05. Ugh Huh
06. Jupiter Whale
07. The Ballad of Kid Rock

Marchrist Jansen: Guitars
Tony Kampick: Keyboards
Bob Sheldon: Drums, Percusion

This was recently reviewed on the now-defunct cdrwl in the following terms, sadly one of the concluding posts there:

I've had a few people ask me about this title in the last couple of months, and honestly I had no idea what it was. There's an aural copy on Youtube, so I finally got around to hearing it, and I was immediately intrigued. I was about to report on the album here, when I found an original going for a reasonable price. I snapped it up, and heard the LP last night for the first time. This is a great one folks - I'm very impressed by it. Definitely an album from the 80s though, so if you're a dyed-in-the-wool 70s addict (which I can sometimes be myself), then this may not be your cup of tea. All the same, the fiery psych oriented guitar alone might sell you.  While awaiting for the LP to arrive, I found someone who knew the band, and it's been confirmed they are from the Chicago area. There's no info on the LP regarding their origin...

Release details: Very obscure album that is just now being discovered. Album is housed in a typical American single sleeve thick white cover that lends itself easily to ring wear. Comes with an insert that contains no data. Interesting to note that mine is on blue paper, and the photo above is orange. Not sure how many colors were utilized. This album would benefit greatly from a CD reissue, and I just added to the CDRWL today as well. The sound is good but can be improved upon.

Notes: From the far south Chicago suburbs, comes the super obscure Ariel, an album that is just now making its sound heard worldwide. Early 80s Rush is the most obvious first influence, but there's more here than meets the ear as it were. All instrumental guitar, keys, and drums are the core components, and the compositions are complex and tight - with a strong fusion influence. No escaping the King Crimson sound from the era either, but also (surprisingly) Doldinger's Passport, minus the sax (imagine the sequencer heavy Moog lines for example). If we were to really deep dive here, I would compare Ariel to fellow Chicagoan's Proteus, mixed with the UK group Red (on Jigsaw). While Side 1 is impressive enough, the final three tracks do nothing short of wow the listener. And they close with their peak composition, always a hallmark of a great album. Ariel does not belie its mid 80s sound (despite the somewhat psych influenced guitar tone), and yet compared with the normal dreck from the era, the band proves the middle 80s were not a total wasteland (heavy metal genre exempted of course). This one deserves the buzz its currently receiving in the underground.

Contact - 1971 - Utmarker


01. Fyrvaktarns dotter
02. Utmarker
03. Det är natt
04. Rockkungen
05. Baka, baka kaka
06. Västerns son
07. Ode till en fjord
08. Margareta Rosén
09. Guldkalven

Acoustic Guitar – Lorne deWolfe (tracks: A1, B1, B2), Ted Steerling (tracks: A3)
Backing Vocals – Lorne deWolfe (tracks: B5), Ted Steerling (tracks: B5)
Bass – Lorne deWolfe (tracks: A1 to A3, A5 to B5)
Clarinet – Björn Holmsten (tracks: A4)
Contrabass – Bo Linné (tracks: A4)
Drums – Ali Lundbohm (tracks: A1 to A3, A5 to B5)
Electric Guitar – Ted Steerling (tracks: B4)
Flute – Björn Holmsten (tracks: B3)
Organ – Lorne deWolfe (tracks: B3), Ted Ström (tracks: A3, A4, B1)
Piano – Lorne deWolfe (tracks: A4, B3, B5), Ted Ström (tracks: A1, A2, B2, B4)
Saxophone – Björn Holmsten (tracks: A2, B1 to B3, B5)
Temple Block – Ali Lundbohm (tracks: A4)
Trumpet – Claes Palmqvist (tracks: A4, B2, B5)
Violin – Bo Linné (tracks: A1, A3, B1 to B3, B5), Claes Palmqvist (tracks: B3)
Vocals – Lorn (tracks: A1, A4, B1, B3), Ted Steerling (tracks: A3, B2), Ted Ström (tracks: A2, A4 to B5)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Contact - 1971 - Hon kom över mon

Hon kom över mon

01. Grannlåten
02. Fisken
03. Nattens drottning
04. Ogräset sprider sig på vallarna
05. Smultes vals
06. Vägen gick vindlande grå
07. Minnen
08. Hon kom över mon
09. Vargarnas natt
10. Samma vindar, samma dofter
11. Jass
12. Jag är lite ledsen ikväl

Alto Saxophone, Accordion – Björn Holmsten
Drums, Backing Vocals – Leif Reinholds
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Ted Steerling
Violin – Bosse Linné, Claes Palmquist
Vocals, Organ, Bass – Lorne DeWolfe
Vocals, Organ, Piano, Guitar – Ted Ström

Contact achieved surprisingly little recognition for their innovative albums. Their first and rarest album Nobody Wants To Be 16 (1970) was produced by Kim Fowley, who also co-wrote a couple of the songs. This was an unique, cool and relaxed mixture of Anglo-American hippie-rock and Nordic folklore with frequent use of congas, flute and acoustic/electric guitars. Try to imagine a mixture of The Beatles, Tim Buckley, Pearls Before Swine and Tyrannosaurus Rex and it sounded similar.

Hon Kom Över Mon (1971) marked a transition of style, introducing Swedish lyrics and the extensive use of fiddles.

Although Contact wrote their own songs, they also incorporated fragments of folk songs into their lyrics. Those who understand Swedish will find them highly entertaining (one track even has a reference to Frank Zappa). Their mood varied from sing-a-long jolliness t melancholic and sombre. This is a highly imaginative album and sometimes reminds me of another great Swedish group - Vildkaktus.

Contact - 1970 - Nobody Wants To Be Sixteen

1970 - 
Nobody Wants To Be Sixteen

01. What's That 3:33
02. Wounds 3:30
03. Visions of Apple 4:19
04. Sounds of the Wind 4:25
05. Velvet Blue Saloon 3:17
06. How Was Your Summer 1:49
07. One of Those 3:00
08. Conquest of a Red Rose 2:33
09. Nobody Wants to be Sixteen 1:19
10. Misjudgement 3:28
11. She Is Impossible To See 3:47

Alto Saxophone, Accordion – Björn Holmsten
Drums, Backing Vocals – Leif Reinholds
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Ted Steerling
Violin – Bosse Linné, Claes Palmquist
Vocals, Organ, Bass – Lorne DeWolfe
Vocals, Organ, Piano, Guitar – Ted Ström

The group had existed under different names and settings in Stockholm since 1963. Later in the seventies they got a breakthrough in Scandinavia using a mix of left-wing prog and folk music, all sung in Swedish. This debute is surprisingly different - mild garage prog/psych with a cozy feeling and English vocals. I was amazed by the total lack of conformity with their later work till I saw who produced - Kim Fowley. Apparently the US producer spent time in Sweden and took part in a few early productions for the independent MNW label. In this case he engaged them into using English lyrics to enable an international carreer for the group. However after recording the big plans were dropped and the LP released in Sweden only - where it didn't sell at all. Apart from studio work Fowley contributed one track, co-wrote two and helped translating lyrics into English. So here's a bunch of Swedes making their first album in a primitive studio, led and handeled by one of the most eclectic US producers. A strange alloy and it doesn't sound like anything else. Maybe not all beauty, but attractive in its own way.

Black Nasty - 1973 - Talking To The People

Black Nasty
Talking To The People

01. Talking To The People   
02. I Must Be In Love   
03. Nasty Soul   
04. Getting Funky Round Here   
05. Black Nasty Boogie   
06. Where Doin' Our Thing   
07. I Have No Choice   
08. It's Not The World   
09. Rushin' Sea   
10. Booger The Hooker   

Johnnie Mae Matthews (vocals, producer)
Artwell Matthews (drums)
Audrey Matthews (vocals)
Mark Patterson (bass)
James Blood Ulmer (guitar)

While released on Stax Records, Black Nasty were Detroit all the way. Combining hard, unpolished funk with brutal guitar noise, the band obviously was deemed way too 'radical' for early '70s black radio standards. Their sole release, this gem right here, didn't create any waves at the time of its release. It's been treasured by Raw Funkers ever since its resurrection in the '90s, tho'.

"Talking to the People" encapsulates everything great about this band. Artwell Matthews' crashing, thundering drums and Mark Patterson's bass create a sizzling, loping, menacing funk groove for James 'Blood' Ulmer to blaze his electrified gee-tar madness over. A powerful message tune, riding it firmly on the one, it starts the whole band on vocals, giving it that multi-layered, tribal vibe.

That ballads weren't Black Nasty's strongpoint is soon made clear with "I Must Be In Love". There's still a mildly funky rhythm underneath it all, but the vocals are pretty sugary and the overall atmos is a bit too preconceived and stale for my taste.

Gettin' back to the real deal, Black Nasty then pumps out the monster jam "Nasty Soul". A ferocious Funkadelic-styled anthem, with that droning, heavy beat and Ulmer's spastic guitar noise on top of it. The self-explanatory "Getting Funky 'Round Here" is the undisputed party joint, drenched in a nasty clavinet-driven stew of rock solid all-out jammin'.

Up next is the group paying hommage to John Lee Hooker and their hometown... "Black Nasty Boogie" ain't lyin'. A filthy, irreverent, boisterous boogie romp that could give Canned Heat a run for its money. Preposterous...

Ulmer's chankin' guitar goodness sets the mood for the funkathon "We're Doing Our Thing", a lowdown piece of groove meat, awash with purring Hammonds and Patterson's walking basslines. Deep in the pocket, this instrumental also features a clever, counter-melodical snazzy bridge.  

"I Have No Choice" is the second mellow track here, but it's a good one, with lead singer Johnnie Mae Matthews wailing like a bona fide Southern Soul man. Sounds a bit like some of Bobby Womack's great early '70s mid-tempo ballads. The softest spot, however, is reserved for the breezy "Rushin' Sea". Nice ballad, but pales in comparison to the funk laid down here...

"It's Not the World" gets thangs back in the pocket; a loping message-driven jam with more of that typical LOUD guitar danglin' on in the back. Ulmer's solo here references to Chuck Berry.

Finally, "Booger the Hooker" is a well-chosen Last Stand of Stank: tongue-in-cheek lyrics deal with the clean boy gone wrong dope-wise and is another super hard slab of gritty funk rock.

James Blood Ulmer - 1983 - Odyssey

James Blood Ulmer  

01. Church 4:54
02. Little Red House 4:45
03. Love Dance 5:05
04. Are You Glad To Be In America? 3:40
05. Election 3:26
06. Odyssey 5:01
07. Please Tell Her 4:10
08. Swing & Things 4:32

Drums - Warren Benbow
Guitar, Vocals - James Blood Ulmer
Violin - Charles Burnham

This record moves towards and has all the best elements of Jazz that are so close to Prog, as to become invisible borders. For newcomers JBU sounds like JBU. No latin or world jazz fusions, closer to old traditional blues standards, his language in composition makes no compromises to this school not another.
His approach is completely free of cliches, in fact it is quiet wild, BUT, not funky at all. Intelligent songs performed tightlly by an interesting bass-less trio. Violin, drums and the virtuous JBU's electric guitars and mysticaly subversive vocals.

This effort is completely prog do not mistake its intentions. In fact, if the" Post/Jazz-Rock" tagging was available, ODYSSEY will fit in perfectly.

So as mentioned do not expect, Mahavishnu, Chick Corea, O. Coleman or even Miles kind of prog/jazz . Odyssey stands alone, closer if need to compare to, with Hendrix personal song writing, without the funk (and bass player), but with all the prog-fury and gentleness required. The comparisson comes in quiet handy considering JBU's guitar playing skills.

Highly recommendable for any prog audiophile, it trascends its own roots to become a any prog follower great aquisition.

James Blood Ulmer - 1982 - Black Rock

James Blood Ulmer  
Black Rock

01. Open House
02. Black Rock
03. Moon Beam
04. Family Affair
05. More Blood
06. Love Have Two Faces
07. Overnight
08. Fun House
09. We Bop

Bass - Amin Ali
Drums - Calvin Weston , Cornell Rochester
Guitar - Ronald Drayton
Vocals, Guitar, Producer - James Blood Ulmer
Saxophone - Sam Sanders (A3,B3)
Vocals - Irene Datcher (A4,B4)

Every now and then, Columbia decides to back an avant-garde musician of some note. Their association usually lasts two albums and then the label parts ways with the artist. It's happened with Ornette, Arthur Blythe, David Murray, Henry Threadgill (later), and many others. This time around, Blood got the nod, and true to Columbia's form he got this album and Odyssey out before being unceremoniously dropped (I'm blanking on whether or not Free Lancing is also on Columbia, but it doesn't change my story significantly even if so). Luckily, Blood made the most of his short major label life, turning in what for me ranks as his finest avant-jazz/funk record (this one) and then what still holds for me as simply his best album (Odyssey). It feels like after refining the  jazz/funk for three records, he finally hit his stride, with what stands as the wildest and weirdest of the bunch, and what is no doubt aided immeasurably by the presence of a second guitar. Like most of his stuff, I like it when the band just goes for broke, but here even when he decides to step up to the mike it's as weird, wild and woolly as the music itself can get without vocals. I still think Odyssey is his finest hour, but this runs a close second, and when I want something a little edgier, this is what I go for.

James Blood Ulmer - 1981 - Free Lancing

James Blood Ulmer 
Free Lancing

01. Timeless   
02. Pleasure Control   
03. Night Lover   
04. Where Did All The Girls Come From?   
05. High Time   
06. Hijack   
07. Free Lancing   
08. Stand Up To Yourself   
09. Rush Hour   
10. Happy Time   

Backing Vocals - Diane Wilson (tracks: A2, A4, B3) , Irene Datcher (tracks: A2, A4, B3) , Zenobia Konkerite (tracks: A2, A4, B3)
Drums - G. Calvin Weston
Electric Bass - Amin Ali
Guitar - James Blood Ulmer , Ronnie Drayton (tracks: A2, A4, B3)
Saxophone [Alto] - Oliver Lake (tracks: A5, B1, B4)
Saxophone [Tenor] - David Murray (tracks: A5, B1, B4)
Trumpet - Olu Dara (tracks: A5, B1, B4)
Vocals - James Blood Ulmer (tracks: A2, A4, B3)

It's inexplicable to me, not to mention utterly scandalous, that James Blood Ulmer's Columbia recordings are out of print. As far as I know, only Odyssey has ever had a CD release (and now that I look, I see that it's currently available to buy for download from the usual places), relegating this album and the equally good Black Rock to the obscurity of the cut-out bins.

In the late 70s and early 80s the jazz rock scene in New York City stood far apart from the rest of the states, and much of the rest of the world as well. While most of the big fusion stars of the mid-70s were content to let their music slide into the somewhat profitable but forever dull world of fuzak, the NYC scene took a totally different path; gritty, tough, noisy, streetwise music that was the opposite of sophisto-lite dinner jazz for the nuevo yuppie crowd. In the late 70s Ornette Coleman's groundbreaking avant funk band Prime Time paved the way, while countless post-punkers with jazz chops and avant-jazzers saw a chance to get their unique take on jazz rock off the street corner and up on a real stage or club. By 1981 James Blood Ulmer was practically a poster child for this new genre that the press often called punk-jazz or punk-funk, his raw mix of be-bop, funk, avant-rock and Ornette styled freedom was the perfect mix for the NYC pallet.
This album is a tour de force representative of the so called punk jazz sound of the early 80s. Ulmer's ensemble on here includes some of the finest jazz musicians of this style and era, and their playing is inspired and on fire. All is not just pure energy either, the fast unison lines from the horn players display a finely honed technique that hadn't been heard in jazz since the classic days of high speed be-bop. In between the intense jazz numbers we are treated to a couple very earthy funk numbers, backed by female vocalists, that were a harsh wake up call against the slick disco-funk of the early 80s. These 'punk-funk' numbers help break up the constant searing attack of the jazzier numbers.

A lot of the drum rhythms on here are bizarre and are the complete opposite of the sort of abstract intellectualized dinner-funk that was prevalent in the world of fusion at this time. Drummer Calvin Weston pulls a lot of influence from Ronald Shannon Jackson with his constant 'drum line' attack on the toms and the almost country-punk feel of the charging 4 on the floor hi-energy assault on the verge of chaos feel of many numbers.

This is a great album and these musicians are in top form as they play with a rare and classic virtuosity. Free Lancing is highly recommended for fans of avant-garde jazz as well as other punky jazz groups such as Prime Time, Vernon Reid or Material.

James Blood Ulmer - 1980 - Are You Glad To Be In America

James Blood Ulmer  
Are You Glad To Be In America

01. Layout   
02. Pressure   
03. Interview   
04. Jazz Is The Teacher (Funk Is The Preacher)   
05. See-Through   
06. Time Out   
07. T.V. Blues   
08. Light Eyed   
09. Revelation March   
10. Are You Glad To Be In America?

James Blood Ulmer: guitar, arranger, composer, producer
Olu Dara: trumpet
Oliver Lake: alto saxophone
David Murray: tenor saxophone
Amin Ali: electric bass
G. Calvin Weston: drums
Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums
William Patterson: rhythm guitar

There seems to be a peak moment in most artists' recordings where it all comes together: where the artist still has yet to fall into a formula, where the power of youth meets maturity of expression, where the speakers ooze the excitement of original creation. The Stones' "Exile on Main Street", the Duke Ellington orchestra during the Blanton/Webster era, the Miles Davis & John Coltrane alliance come to mind.

This 1978 recording was made a couple of years after the classic "Tales of Captain Black" with Ornette Coleman. By '78, JBU had absorbed and applied the Harmolodic Principle laid down by his mentor, and was beginning to incorporate his roadhouse rock, church, and blues influences from his early career. All of these elements come together in a perfectly balanced and blended fashion. He would go on to emphasize each of these elements in his later projects, Third Rail for funk, Blues Experience for R&B, Music Revelation Ensemble for free jazz, and some strictly blues releases. For this amalgam, he gathered an awesome all-star cast, many of whom would work with his smaller ensembles, into his biggest band: Amin Ali on bass, Ronald Shannon Jackson & Grant Calvin Weston (either of whom can kick up a percussive storm by themselves) on drums, Olu Dara on cornet, Oliver Lake on alto, and David Murray on tenor. Wow!

Hard to describe this music to the uninitiated; its truly unique. If you have a few of Blood offerings already, your going to feel quite at home with the sound, and might be encouraged to seek some Blood of a different type from the category your familiar with.

James Blood Ulmer - 1978 - Tales Of Captain Black

James Blood Ulmer
Tales Of Captain Black

01. Theme From Captain Black   
02. Moons Shines   
03. Morning Bride   
04. Revelation March   
05. Woman Coming   
06. Nothing To Say   
07. Arena   
08. Revealing   

James Blood: electric guitar, mixing
Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone, engineer, producer
Denardo Coleman: drums
Jamaaladeen Tacuma: electric bass

For whatever reason, Avant Jazz hasn’t produced a whole shitload of great guitarists (Sonny Sharrock, of course, picks up a lotta the slack). Sure, there’s plenty of wankers that do that beyond boring fretboard-tapping swill, or serve up some half-baked hyperspeed Wes Montgomery-isms, but there’s very little of it that sounds like more than ME-VERY-TECHNICALLY-PROFICIENT dexterity exercises. Yes, that’s very impressive that you can scratch yer asshole with yer pinky whilst tearing off sweep arpeggios, but… ya got any MUSIC? James Blood Ulmer does.

A native of St. Matthews, South Carolina, Ulmer began his journey in various funk bands before hooking up with Art Blakey for a brief stint in his Jazz Messengers. In 1973, he recorded an album with legendary Coltrane drummer Rashied Ali; shortly thereafter he would meet Ornette Coleman, adopting his new guru’s ambiguous harmolodic approach in the process. “Tales of Capt. Black” was his second release as band leader, recorded in 1978 with Ornette (who also serves as co-producer), Jamaaladeen Tacuma (bass) and Coleman’s son Denardo manning the drum stool.

Beginning with a funk riff reminiscent of “Voodoo Chile,” opening cut “Theme From Capt. Black” is a reminder of what could have been had more rock players been exposed to this subversive music– imagine the boundaries destroyed! Alas, most were far too content to wallow in that annoying set of triplets that take up the last 15 minutes of “Freebird.” Regardless, this album is fulla free playing at its zenith– “Woman Coming” in particular, is magnificent– with Blood and Ornette playing quixotic themes in unison before engaging in an embroiled instrumental “conversation” that, despite each player inhabiting a separate universe, overlaps brilliantly. “Revelation March” brings to mind Miles Davis’ much-denigrated (of course, everybody loves it now) early 70’s work in the sense that it features simple (but not simplistic) James Brown-derived funk vamping for Ulmer to shred over top of. His attack, at once shrieking and sighing, encapsulates a century of black music– as atavistic as it is futuristic, containing the plight of the early Delta Bluesman every bit as much as the revolutionary concepts of his mentor.

James Blood Ulmer - 1977 - Revealing

James Blood Ulmer 

01. Revealing    8:15
02. Raw Groove    8:49
03. Overtime    9:01
04. Love Nest    10:05

James Blood Ulmer: guitar
George Adams: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
Cecil McBee: bass
Doug Hammond: drums

In 1949, at the age of seven, James Blood Ulmer was playing guitar for the Southern Sons, a gospel group which his father lead. By the 1960s he was performing around the country, working as a guitarist with bands such as The Del-Vikings and The Savoys as well as forming his own band Blood Brothers. In the early 1970s he settled in New York where he studied Ornette Coleman's Harmolodic music theory with whom he lived and played with for a few years. This incidentally had a huge influence on Blood's playing.

Ulmer began releasing albums under his own name in the late 70s, ranging from a free jazz style to a loosely funk-based style without ever settling into one particular defining approach. In the early 80s he founded Music Revelation Ensemble with David Murray and a revolving cast of supporters and in 1985 he formed Phalanx with George Adams, Sirone, and Rashied Ali. With those two groups giving him a steady outlet for his free jazz leanings, Ulmer began to explore the blues in earnest in his solo career. While dipping back occasionally into his bag of other styles, straighter blues marked by his unique guitar stylings and gravelly vocals has dominated his solo album output of the 90s and 2000s.

Recently Ulmer has been working with Vernon Reid of Living Colour fame, who has produced three of his albums. In April 2001, Reid convinced Ulmer to record at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis. There they recorded the album Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions, in just three days with Reid producing the album and playing on several tracks. It was Ulmer's first release featuring completely of non-original material which were covers of classic blues songs. In 2005 he released Birthrite, his most personal album to date, composed primarily of original material about his life and background.

After his time playing and touring with Ornette in the early 70's and before his 1979 U.S. debut which featured Ornette and his cronies, Blood snuck this German release out without Ornette involved in any way (except perhaps as a spirit guiding both Blood's playing and George Adams's crabbily detailed blowing). It's way less frantic than some of his later stuff though, even though straight jazz disciples will still get their hackles raised by the distortion, the density, the strange and relentless attacks (and not just from Blood). Ornette or no Ornette, Adams is a worthy partner and in some ways this is the prototype for Phalanx, which I enjoy mightily, even if this one feels a little more in touch with traditional guitar jazz albums than the harmolodic free-for-alls or amped up funk-fests that are more readily associated with Ulmer. First three tracks (I've only ever known this as a CD, never as LP) move at pretty similar tempos while the longest ("Love Nest") closes things out on a slower motion (I hesitate to call it a "groove") that's more contemplative, gives you some room to breathe, and at that is still jarring and jagged when it chooses to be. I like this one a lot, it's very listenable, but tunes don't stand out quite as readily as they do on the best Blood albums. On the other hand, I can play it in mixed company without feeling like my friends are only humoring me by listening politely. A good debut, but he gets better.

Mtume - 1977 - Rebirth Cycle

Rebirth Cycle

01. Sais (intro) - 02:22
02. Sais - 23:39
03. Yebo - 06:07
04. Cabral - 04:29
05. Body Sounds - 03:42
06. Umoja - 06:41

All songs written and arranged by Mtume, recorded at Minot Sound 1974.

Personnel: Sais, Cabral and Umoja
Vocals:- Tawatha, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Carol Robinson, Shirley Jenkins, Onika, Jean Carn
Reeds: Jimmy Heath, Azar Lawrence, John Stubblefield
Piano: Stanley Cowell
Guitar: Reggie Lucas
Bass: Buster Williams, Cecil McBee
Violin: Leroy Jenkins
Cello: Diedre Johnson
Drums: Billy Hart, Andrei Strobert
Poet: Muktar Mustapha

Personnel: Yebo
Vocal: Tawatha
Piano (acoustic): Mtume
Piano (Electric): Bayete
Guitar: Pete Cosey
Bass: Michael Henderson
Drums: Al Foster

Most people will know Mtume as the high gloss soul man from the early '80s, responsible for the excellent Juicy Fruit album. Before this though he was a jazz session percussionist, and worked with artists such as Miles Davis, and featured on albums by Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Harry Whittaker and Freddie Hubbard. Before turning to his more noted soul style, Mtume wrote, or co wrote, three deep afro-centric jazz albums; one as a band leader of the Mtume Umoja Ensemble for the 1971 Strata East album Alkebu-Lan: Land of the Blacks - Live at the East, another was Kuumba-Toudie Heath’s 1969 Kawaida album, and the first one to be listed as a Mtume album was 1977’s Rebirth Cycle which was released on 3rd Street Records.

Rebirth Cycle, though released in 1977, was actually made in 1974, and the album’s personnel list reads like a veritable who’s-who of the musicians who where working in the more independent jazz scene of the early seventies.  Working on this album, you had Dee Dee Bridgewater and Jean Carne on vocals.  Strata East players like Cecil McBee and Buster Williams on bass, Stanley Cowell on piano and Jimmy Heath on reeds. This album is also the first introduction to the mighty voice of Tawatha Agee (Tawatha) who would remain the co vocalist with the Mtume band right through to the mid eighties.

Musically, Rebirth Cycle is a fusion of afro-centric deep jazz and psychedelic spacey funk.
The main piece on here, and the album’s high point, is the side long “Sais” (sigh-us). This 20 plus minute tune starts with the spoken introduction by Senegalese poet Mustapha, explaining the story of “Mystery System of Sais, the Egyptian school of higher learning from which Greek and Western philosophy was developed”. Once the introduction is over one of the most magical and hypnotic musical 20 minutes you could sit through begins.  From the slow and haunting bass clarinet solo through crashing waves of vocal chaos plus one almighty guitar solo by Reggie Lucas, all backed by a solid groove that is cut so deep it would be impossible to climb out of, even if you wanted to.  There are moments in this piece where the cacophony is such that it feels like you’re consumed in a hypnotic aural cloud, and you find yourself not wanting to come out of it, or at least for the tune not to come to an end. Then the chaos ebbs away, the bass clarinet solo slowly unearths itself from the onslaught of the other instruments and the poetry returns.  You then find yourself coming to from this 20 minute musical roller coaster ride, and you cannot help but feel total exhilaration. On Side two of this album the tracks are shorter in length and are much more afro-centric funk in style. The vocal work on this side of the album is truly sublime, whether it is “Yebo” the Oneness Of Juju style groover with magical vocals by Tawatha Agee, the haunting beauty of Jean Carn’s performance on Cabral, or the traditional African nasal style on the closing track “Umoja”. Rebirth Cycle does not contain a weak moment anywhere on the entire recording, and is really worth seeking out a copy. It's incredible to think that albums like this remain so impossibly lost for so long without being reissued, particularly in this current jazz revival climate. Criminal!!!