Thursday, January 15, 2015

SBB - 2001 - Budaj Ifjusagi Park Live 1977

Budaj Ifjusagi Park Live 1977

01. Freedom with us (12:15)
02. Wolnosc z nami (12:32)
03. Z milosci Jestem (6:10)
04. Follow our music (18:56)
05. I want somebody (6:31)
06. Shake baby (6:12)
07. Born to die (7:03)

- Jozef Skrzek / bass, piano, moog, vocals
- Antymos Apostolis / guitar
- Jerzy Piotrowski / percussion

 Most SBB live performances contain similar material performed over and over again. This is however, rather a plus because of the interpretation is always different, containing much freshness due to artistic freedom rightfully demonstrated. There are instances when the original tune is barely recognizable. In other words, just about any live album is worth checking out, containing many surprises. This one is no different.

Sure, it's not an easy task of reproducing the visual aspects on a CD. The true mastery of Skrzek attending to the frets on his bass with one hand whilst playing a soaring solo on the Mini Moog with the other. Chances are, the tape may have run out as these guys are prone to playing very long sets.

Anyway, what's on offer here is still excellent

SBB - 2001 - Karlstadt Live 1975

Karlstadt Live 1975

01. Pretty Face (10:19)
02. Born To Die (11:32)
03. Clouds (2:00)
04. Stormy Bay (9:24)
05. FOG (1:17)
06. Return To The South (9:49)

Total Time: 44:21

re-release 2006 Metal Mind Records

01. Pretty Face (10:16)
02. Born To Die (9:44)
03. Clouds (4:38)
04. Stormy Bay (4:21)
05. Wonderful Sky-Ride (5:31)
06. Return To The South (9:43)
07. Na Pierwszy Ogien (Suita Pólnocy) (15:23)
08. Figo-Fago (Sztorm Majowy) (10:23)

Total Time: 70:29

- Józef Skrzek / bass guitar, piano, moog, Hammond, synthesizers, vocals
- Antymos Apostolis / guitar
- Jerzy Piotrowski / percussion

 I personally rank Karlstadt Live among the very best live albums ever made. I may even prefer it over King Crimson's The Great Deceiver, and part of the reason for this is the 'imminence' of this concert - the overpowering urge to play music you sense from the musicians involved.

Back when SBB started out as Czeslav Niemen's "backing band", and indeed all throughout their heyday, Poland was under a Communistic rule. Everything was under wraps and music should preferably consider itself with anything but the thriving reckless prog rock sneaking in from the decadent west. SBB, or Silesian Blues Band, were as a consequence basically outlaws during the first leg of their existence. In spite of this, they continued to play what they wanted - developing a distinct style of their own based around the close bond between the jazz and blues rock world. What came out at the other end though had both of these music styles completely bend out of shape, sounding like a fiery take on The Mahavishnu Orchestra teaming up with Gong, Secret Oyster and a couple of the more melodically inclined RPI acts of the day.

Coming from a country as iron-clouded as Poland, and then travelling across Europe to play gigs, must've felt like freedom. - I am talking about the very essence of the word here. The amount of artistic relief these guys suddenly felt is beyond immeasurable. The group said so themselves; they were overwhelmed with the freedom they experienced coming into Sweden in 1975. Anyway, you don't need to read any of this for you to understand - all you need to do is listen to this awe inspiring release.

There's an emotional power running through this recording equivalent to a couple of Hiroshima bombs - and then some! Main man Józef Skrzek actually instigates the gig by stating, in his slightly tainted English, that the show will be a special one "it will never repeat" as he so aptly puts it. Taking care of bass guitar, piano, moog, Hammond, synthesizers and vocals - he is a real poster child of music eclecticism. With only 3 band members, one could be lead into thinking that a live album like this could suffer from underdeveloped musical ideas and whatnot, but that is so far from being the case - it literally defies belief.

In many ways this Karlstad release features SBB in both a highly familiar dressing, and then quite the opposite. There's an exuberance here shrouding everything they do in a superman like zeitgeist. Add to that, guitarist Antymos Apostolis, who normally tends to reside in shadow, is right up front and fully in charge on this baby. It's a welcoming pleasure to hear him going all out. It really is. Whether the band is going through the more fusion based blues pieces, or they're just throwing out these incredibly fiery jams - he's always there. On SBB's studio albums you almost never get to hear that, and may I just add, what a damn shame, because this dude can cook! Boy does he ever cook on this album!

Last but not least, we find one of my drumming idols: Jerzy Piotrowski. Hell, he may just be my all- time favourite drummer. With his imaginative poly-rhythms and orgiastic tom usage, this guy is perhaps one of the rare percussionists out there who understands the subtle beauty of mixing insane complexity with improvisational power. He genuinely sounds like a mix between Billy Cobham and Area drummer extraordinaire Giulio Capiozzo - that is without ever losing his endearing melodic feel. I can listen to this man's drumming for days on end - he's got a natural understanding of the beat that you just can't learn. It feels like it emanates from the very pores of his skin. I bet his mom went to some proto-stomp classes, back when he was bobbing around inside her belly oven.

The entire Karlstad gig seems to float together as one unassuming fluid piece of music. The different tracks all weave together in a seemingly uncomplicated fashion. The opener, for instance, called Pretty Face - with all of it's speeding fusion vibes, ferocious beat and loud guitar screams, still manages to die down to a mere whisper with a soulful yearning organ, before slowly setting sails on the serene waters of Born To Die. With a frail and goosebumps inducing feel to it, the tune develops vocals - and you suddenly get to hear just how beautiful of a singer Skrzek really is. This bridging between the first two tracks makes the small hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. If I were a girl I'd probably find a comfortable place to sit down and cry happy tears for a week.

I find countless of these moments on Karlstad. Small odes to the rare glimpses in life that send shivers down your spine and makes your soul orgasm. I'd recommend this facet of sonic life to everybody with ears, yet we all seem to find these life invigorating jolts in different parts of the musical world. If you're into classic prog though, then this might just turn out to be the mistress of your life.

SBB - 2000 - Good Bye!

Good Bye!

01. Born To Die (8:43)
02. Wish (9:02)
03. Drumbottle (4:40)
04. Boogie (10:18)
05. Rainbow man (9:38)
06. Odlot (9:34)
07. Paul (3:32)

- Jozef Skrzek / keyboards, piano, bass guitar, vocals
- Paul Wertico / drums
- Antymos Apostolis / guitar, drums

This album documents the band's live show by the third lineup of the group: bassist / keyboardist Jozef Skrzek, guitarist Apostolis Anthimos and drummer Paul Wertico and adds the contents of a rare studio recorded EP as bonus tracks. Great stuff!

Side Note: Limited Edition of 1,000 copies only.

SBB - 1999 - W Filharmonii Akt 2

W Filharmonii Akt 2

01. Going away:
a) Freedom with us
b) Third reanimation
c) Going away
d) Zywiec(mountain melody)
02. Singer
03. Calkiem spokojne zmeczenie

- Antymos Apostolis / guitars
- Miroslaw Muzykant / drums
- Józef Skrzek / keyboards, vocals

SBB - 1999 - W Filharmonii Akt 1

W Filharmonii Akt 1

01. Intro / Odlot
02. Erotyk
03. Walking around the stormy bay
04. Rainbow man
05. Z których krwi krew moja

- Antymos Apostolis / guitars
- Miroslaw Muzykant / drums
- Józef Skrzek / keyboards, vocals

SBB - 1999 - Absolutely Live 1998

Absolutely Live 1998

01. Odlot
02. Erotyk
03. Walking around the stromy bay
04. Memento z banalnym tryptykiem
05. Going away:
a) Freedom with us
b) Third reanimation
c) Going away
d) (Zywiec) mountain melody
06. Singer
07. Z których krwi krew moja

- Antymos Apostolis / guitars
- Miroslaw Muzykant / drums, percussion
- Józef Skrzek / keyboards, vocals

Unique in full meaning of the word. World class musicianship. New breath in 1998/99 Absolutely Life, younger bloodstream in the the music and band. Do not miss out the concert of SBB. The best line up was: Piotrowski, Skrzek, Apostolis, Rusek. Second best line up was Skrzek, Muzykant, Apostolis.

Side Note: Limited Edition of 1,000 copies only.

SBB - 1994 - Live In America 1994

Live In America 1994

01. Follow my dream
02. Hung-under
03. Wish
04. Singer
05. Basie
06. Freedom
07. Drzewko oliwne

2004 bonus tracks:
08. Oak Theatre
09. Swinging Blues SBB
10. Erotyk
11. Figo-Fagg

- Józef Skrzek / vocals, keyboards, harmonica
- Antymos Apostolis / guitar
- Jerzy Piotrowski / percussion & drums

Guest musicians:
- Janusz Hryniewicz / guitar, vocals
- Andrzej Rusek / bass
- Kim / vocals

The legendary Polish Prog / Fusion group SBB needs little introduction to the avid Prog / Fusion fans the world over. Now in its fifth decade of activity, the group already established a unique position on the music scene, which can be rivaled only but a chosen few. Their prolific studio and live recordings include dozens of albums, each and every one of which is a meaningful musical experience of unrepeated intensity and depth and a display of dazzling virtuosity. This album documents the band's US tour and offers recordings made by the original lineup of the group – bassist / keyboardist Jozef Skrzek, guitarist Apostolis Anthimos and drummer Jerzy Piotrowski – with additional musicians: bassist Andrzej Rusek and vocalist Janusz Hryniewicz. Great stuff!

Side Note: Limited Edition of 1,000 copies only.

SBB - 1994 - Live 1993

Live 1993

101. Odlot (13:49)
102. Z miłości jestem... (7:41)
103. Walk Around The Stormy Bay (6:00)
104. Freedom With Us (16:40)

201. Singer (6:09)
202. Follow My Dream (9:21)
203. Hung Under (6:52)
204. Figo-Fago (7:30)
205. Toczy się koło historii (7:54)
206. Erotyk (I tylko ciebie stworzyć nie mogę...)(5:58)

- Antymos Apostolis / guitars
- Jerzy Piotrowski / drums, percussion
- Józef Skrzek / keyboards, harmonica, vocals
+ Janusz Hryniewicz / acoustic guitar, backing vocals
- Andrzej Rusek / bass

 This album documents the band's concert in their home town made by the original lineup of the group – bassist / keyboardist Jozef Skrzek, guitarist Apostolis Anthimos and drummer Jerzy Piotrowski – with additional musicians: bassist Andrzej Rusek and vocalist Janusz Hryniewicz. Great stuff!

Side Note: Limited Edition of 1,000 copies only.

SBB - 1980 - Memento z balalnym tryptykiem

Memento z balalnym tryptykiem

01. Moja ziemio wyśniona (My Land Of Dreams) (8:39)
02. Trójkąt radości (The Triangle Of Joy) (7:48)
03. Strategia pulsu (Strategy Of Pulse) (3:29)
04. Memento z banalnym tryptykiem (Memento With A Banal Tryptych) (20:56)

Bonus track (CD):
05. Z których krwi krew moja (10:40)

- Jozef Skrzek / bass, piano, moog, vocals
- Apostolis Antymos / guitar
- Jerzy Piotrowski / percussion

- Slawomir Piwowar / guitar, bass, clavinet, Fender piano, Handclapping
- Jan Skrzek / Mouth-organ, Handclapping
- Alicja Piwowar & Renata Szybka / Handclapping

I have had something of a sheltered life regarding Jazz/Fusion, I am not an expert but know a bloody good album when I hear it - they say if you look hard enough you never know what may bite you - an obscure (to me) Polish Jazz Rock/Fusion band with an abbreviated name, an unpronounceable album title but with some very enthusiastic reviews, I had heard and been impressed by some other notable Polish bands and classical composers, so I looked for this particular album and lo and behold found a vinyl copy in Poland so duly thought despite the tacky "home made" appearance of the black and white photo on the cover and obscure record label I'd give it a whirl, and wow! what a fabulous album it has revealed itself to be - it has hardly been off my turntable since I received it, and here's why....

The first side is like a mini symphony, awash with synthesised orchestra, Dave Gilmour style guitar solos and electrifying keyboard passages, every second is a joy to listen to packed with so many ideas, hooks, twists and flourishes, the musicianship is excellent, the sound quality is rich and clear. The first sound before "My Land of Dreams" tricks you into thinking you may have bought a classical music LP by mistake - indeed a trick! The song kicks into a fast Jazz/Rock instrumental as sophisticated as any top class Jazz Rock you are ever likely to hear - it has a gloriously catchy theme, the song slows into the vocal section sung in Polish with another catchy hook line in the backing, then leads into a Genesis style build up, then another twist - a Funk style groove leading into another devilishly catchy hook line arrangement using lead guitar and piano, rousing to and a very fast guitar solo with orchestrated backing. The next song is the haunting "The Triangle of Joy", a slow magical instrumental which begins with a watery sounding effect on polymoog I would guess, backing a beautiful acoustic Spanish - style solo, then continues with a wash of synthesised keyboard overlaid with a complicated slightly distorted electric guitar solo, leading to the bluesy ending to the track. The third track "The Strategy of Pulse", is another tricky, catchy slab of Jazz/Funk overlaid with heavy distorted lead guitar - this style of this track is very reminiscent of early seventies Rock/Fusion bands such as Herbie Hancock and would stand up in comparison of quality very well indeed, it is that good!

Side 2 is taken up with the sprawling "Memento with a banal tryptych" - which is how it comes out in translation, but there is nothing banal about this music at all. This amazing piece begins with a grand introduction to a catchy melody, some very memorable hook lines. It includes some Polish language vocals which many may not understand but the language of this beautiful music will be understood by all. The music follows many interesting twists, moods and changes but follows through very smoothly to my ears - some American style folk and Slavonic influences here mixed in with some great Art rock themes, grand Floydian crescendos and melodies makes for a very engaging listen indeed....ooops....another trick ending...naughty boys!

I would recommend this brilliant album to all fans of Jazz/Rock as an excellent addition, which draws from some big name influences but the quality of the music stands up well alongside them.

SBB - 1979 - Welcome


01. Walkin' Around The Stormy Bay (6:30)
02. Loneliness (5:25)
03. Why No Peace (6:04)
04. Welcome Warm Nights And Days (3:02)
05. Rainbow Man (3:38)
06. How I Can Begin (7:00)
07. Last Man At The Station (9'29)

Bonus tracks (CD):
08. Rainbow Man (long version) (5:05)
09. Last Man At The Station (short version) (6:26)
10. Deszcz kroplisty, deszcz ulewny (4:02)
11. Tuż nad kanałem Ulgi (4:41)
12. 30 stopni w cieniu (5:26)
13. Przy okazji (6:39)
14. Mechaniczna skakanka (5:04)

- Jozef Skrzek / bass, piano, Moog, vocals
- Antymos Apostolis / guitar
- Jerzy Piotrowski / percussion

Poland's biggest prog band SBB had released few albums in Polish, and which mostly include long compositions, when around 1978 they took advantage of some contacts in Germany. Welcome is perhaps their best produced and most accessible album at least up to that point. As I hardly know a word in Polish, I warmly welcome the English language. Also, this album was my first introduction to SBB (or to prog from Eastern Europe in general, if I remember correctly) in 1991 or so. It was interesting to revisit it now that I have heard their other albums too.

For all those reasons mentioned, it's quite natural that I enjoy this more than the other ones. However, a quick look at the SBB ratings revealed that this is not among the best rated ones. I can understand that for a connoisseur some more epic albums give bigger kicks (and maybe I too should listen to them more often...), while this one may have some weaknesses in songwriting, depending on one's taste. For me there's only one song I don't like ('Rainbow Man'). Some songs are quite introspective and sort of wandering, but not in a bad way, I think. Some others may find them boring, going-nowhere -type of thing. Here and there this album gest quite poppish and a bit sentimental, such as in 'Loneliness' and 'Welcome Warm Days And Nights', but still a certain distinctive Eastern-European flavour remains. As always, Jozef Skrzek's keyboards - Moog especially - take the leading role.

Perhaps for a proghead this album is at its strongest in the instrumental opener, 'Walking Around The Stormy Bay' which includes some excellent drumming by all three members. This is definitely not their most progressive work, but as an English language album this serves as a nice starting point from where one can continue to their more demanding works.

CD comes with plenty of bonus material (nearly doubling the running time), two of them being album tracks with differing length, and the rest are mostly instrumentals and jazzier than SBB in general (recorded in sessions preceeding the album-making). They are not any valid reason to get the CD if you otherwise have Welcome in some form.