Saturday, February 7, 2015

Il Rovescio Della Medaglia - 1973 - Contaminazione

Il Rovescio Della Medaglia

01. Absent for this Consumed World (1:05)
02. Ora non ricordo piu (1:47)
03. Il suono del silenzio (5:16)
04. Mi sono svegliato e... ho chiuso gli occhi (4:19)
05. Lei sei tu: Lei (2:04)
06. La mia musica (4:10)
07. Johann (1:23)
08. Scotland Machine (3:06)
09. Cella 503 (3:18)
10. Contaminazione 1760 (1:04)
11. Alzo un muro elettrico (2:55)
12. Sweet Suite (2:17)
13. La grande fuga (3:42)

- Enzo Vita / guitars
- Pino Ballarini /vocals, flute
- Stefano Urso / bass
- Gino Campoli / drums
- Franco Di Sabbatino / keyboards

- Luis Enriquez Bacalov / orchersta direction

Exact title is: "CONTAMINAZIONE di alcune idee di certi preludi e fughe de 'Il Clavicembalo ben temprato' di J. S. Bach- IL ROVESCIO DELLA MEDAGLIA"

 A criticism I have of some Progressive Rock albums that include a classical orchestra is that parts of the music sound like a movie score or a pop orchestration, often due to rather saccharine swathes of strings or simply the composition itself. This is one of my criticisms of the concerti grossi by the NEW TROLLS. I'm glad to say that I have no such problem with "Contaminazione", the 1973 album from IL ROVESCIO DELLA MEDAGLIA, which is based around some of the preludes and fugues in Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier. Although it's not entirely devoid of saccharine strings, the vast majority of the strings on this album do sound like a classical orchestra rather than a studio orchestra playing Breakfast At Tiffany's, if you catch my drift.

Overall I hear a more sophisticated and adventurous fusion of classical music with rock here than on the two NEW TROLLS albums. Funny in a way, because Argentinean composer of movie scores Luis Enriquez Bacalov was involved on all three albums.

"Contaminazione" sounds more experimental and, to me, more convincing and exciting than the two NEW TROLLS albums. The keyboards occasionally remind me of Keith Emerson. Actually, the line-up of keyboards is quite impressive: Hammond, synthesizers, piano, harpsichord and pipe organ. And Franco Di Sabbatino, the new member of the group on this album, could certainly play them. Mind you, there is also plenty of pleasing guitar and bass on this album, not to mention the drums and orchestral accompaniment.

All thirteen pieces are very short but all segue together, so it is rather misleading to talk of them as tracks. There are some pure classical parts to these 'tracks', some pure Progressive Rock parts, and some experimental parts (unusual sounds, or unusual use of instruments). These are all good and work well together. There are vocals on some of these pieces, but even then not over the entire piece. The lyrics and LP cover tell the fictitious story of a Scottish musician who became obsessed with Bach and his music to the extent of believing he was Bach's son, and went mad.

I find it easy to rate this album: a very solid 4 stars (Excellent addition to any progressive music collection). Actually, if half stars were available I'd raise that to 4.5 stars. There is plenty in here to satisfy fans of symphonic Progressive Rock, fans of Italian Progressive Rock, and also fans that like something a little more unusual. It's a Progressive Rock goody bag: lots to discover and enjoy. Highly recommended.

Although the whole album is, in effect, one long piece of music, I give below a brief rundown of the tracks as they are titled. But I reiterate that they all segue together (which, in itself, results in a pleasing listen).

'Absent For This Consumed World' starts with ethereal, far-off-sounding Eminent (I think) and vocalisations sounding like the Doppler effect on a passing car, followed by a drum roll.

'Ora Non Ricordo Piu' has a calm, tinkling, echoing keyboard backing to singing and harmonies. Some very brittle-sounding synthesiser weaves itself around the track.

'Il Suono Del Silenzio' contains some experimental keyboard and guitar sounds in places. I'm almost reminded of very early PINK FLOYD. There follows some really groovy Hammond with pumping bass and drums, reminding a little of ELP, with the belting out of a repeating lyrical theme. There are all sorts of interesting interruptions: synthesizer, piano, harpsichord, violin and funky bass.

'Mi Sono Svegliato E. Ho Chiuso Gli Occhi' is a calm song over Bach strings and organ. Timpani, cymbals, choir and some serious violins and cello give it gravitas. There's a brief solo of heavy electric guitar, and slow Hammond and singing finish off the track. A melancholic, but effective number.

'Lei Sei Tu: Lei' is a song with a rapid, stabbing repetitive rock theme over harpsichord, but has a very classical-sounding interlude.

'La Mia Musica' starts with a slightly classical barroom piano. Then organ and calm, almost religious-sounding singing come in, followed by ecclesiastical-sounding Hammond and classical strings. This pleasant song is the one part of the album that does remind me slightly of the saccharine string orchestrations I mentioned earlier, and is the most mainstream-sounding track on the album to me, although it has the feel of a chorale and is relaxing.

'Johann' has some echoing and very pleasing quiet guitar accompanied only by singing.

'Scotland Machine' starts with synthesizer sounding, as the title might suggest, rather Scottish. Harpsichord, guitar and other instruments then come in to rock it up. It changes mood again and a very distorted synthesizer theme comes in that initially sounds odd but somehow fits perfectly. The music jumps all over the place and this is one of the more experimental tracks.

'Cella 503' starts with just lovely classical acoustic guitar. Then harpsichord, strings, horns, synthesizer and flute join in but still primarily in a classical style. Heavy guitar, bass and Hammond then kick in briefly, followed by some deep ecclesiastical-sounding pipe organ that is the business.

'Contaminazione 1760' is a one-minute snippet of just flute music, primarily mimicking birdsong: vibrato, trilling, cuckooing. Nice.

The Hammond and initial staccato, distorted guitar and flute on 'Alzo Un Muro Elettrico' is very good. There is a calm, odd intermission with gorgeous piano and a jazzy, Bossa Nova-like snippet with flute, then the piece reverts to the initial theme. I have to say I really like this short piece.

The title of 'Sweet Suite' already amuses me. The calm, echoing keyboards and electric guitar please me even more, and then it rocks up with some vocals.

The instrumental 'La Grande Fuga' is a rollicking, funky end to the album. It's a mix of: violins; a fast, killer synthesizer; Hammond organ; pipe organ, harpsichord; bass and drums. The track pumps along and is a real foot-tapper. Absolutely perfect classical-rock fusion.

Il Rovescio Della Medaglia - 1972 - IO Come IO

Il Rovescio Della Medaglia
IO Come IO

01. Io (6:36)
02. Fenomeno (9:04)
  a) Proiezione
  b) Rappresen tazione
03. Non Io (6:12)
04. Io come Io (7:03)
  a) Divenire
  b) Logica

- Enzo Vita / guitars
- Pino Ballarini / vocals, flute
- Stefano Urso / bass
- Gino Campoli / drums

Inspired by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel this album (eng title sound as 'I as I'... terrible in all languages) is the 2nd album by RDM. And, in my humble opinion, 'Io Come Io' is one of the first Heavy Metal album of history.

If the words are inspired by Hegel, the music is clearly a mix between Cream, Jeff Beck Group, Led Zeppelin, New Trolls (Proto Prog period) and Black sabbath. Great is the voice of Pino Ballarini, one of the more beautiful Italian vocalsts as Francesco Di Giacomo, Donella Del Monaco, Alvaro Fella or Davide 'Jimmy' Spitaleri. Another winning element is the fuzz bass. This is a winning element in consideration of the complexity of writing and execution. Fuzz bass played by Stefano Urso creates the melody and the electric guitar by Enzo Vita creates another melody that in some passages is the rhythmic part that is usually due to bass. But bass played these rhythmic parts. And the guitars have also some soli... That beautiful duels!!! It is present also the acoustic guitar but this is only an excuse to insert a few moments of melody... That is not melodic! The drums by Gino Campoli is powerful as an atomic bomb!

'Io Come Io' is an album extreme difficult be heard today. It looks like a flat album, without a logical and even boring. But if we listen to 'Io Come Io' in comparison with other RPI albums of the period we find that 'Io Come Io' is only an Heavy Metal version of Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso! Usually we underestimate an album like this, also because too immediate. But to consider 'Io Come Io' an immediate album is out of logic. The construction of the compositions ranging from jazz to blues, from Folk to Rock, via the POP and psychedelia, combining and mixing all this that the music can be truly original. Though it seems, the vocals are derived by opera.

At this moment I'm listening to 'Non Io' (eng: 'Not I'), a very complex composition that at some moments anticipates Iron Maiden! So if you have listened carefully to the first 2 albums by Judas Priest or Saxon's first album have noted (intelligently) as 'Io Come Io' is the fourth album to be included as a comparison! But certainly if you are great fans of Black Sabbath I think that 'Io Come Io' is another hot album for you!

Of course, and this is only my humble opinion, 'io Come io' is one of the more underestimated RPI albums. This thing saddens me greatly. Also because 'Io Come io' sounds in my head, as the beginning of Prog Metal. There is no logic to define what I said, many of you will not believe what I'm saying. Yet the truth is this!

Just now I elaborated as follows: you see that Bijelo Dugme (with Goran Bregovic) have used 'Io Come Io' and Rovescio Della Medaglia to forge their music? And if I had not mistaken? This is a pure mistery (and I'm not Micky Mouse!).

But beyond these considerations... I heard carefully 'Io Come Io' several times in these last weeks and I could elaborate the considerations which I wrote because the magic and power of 'Io Come Io' are too immense!

Il Rovescio Della Medaglia - 1971 - La Bibbia

Il Rovescio Della Medaglia
La Bibbia

01. Il Nulla (4:56)
02. La Creazione (5:17)
03. L'Ammonimento (5:19)
04. Sodoma E Gomorra (4:51)
05. Il Giudizio (10:15)
06. Il Diluvio (2:14)

- Enzo Vita / guitars
- Pino Ballarini / vocals, flute
- Stefano Urso / bass
- Gino Campoli / drums

Il Rovescio della Medaglia, aka RDM is obviously best known for their third album, Contaminazione. But they already released two albums prior to that, and 1971's La Bibbia is their debut. I find this quite underrated, and here's the reason why: it doesn't have that strong classical influence that Contaminazione has. In fact, it's much more in the hard rock direction, heavy on guitar with some very trippy effects from time to time caused by sound generators, feedback, and distortion. Plus the vocals here are very much in the hard rock style. In fact the band in this very early phase still didn't even have a keyboardist, so guitars obviously rule, as demonstrated with songs like "La Creazione", "L'Ammonimento", "Sodoma e Gomorra" and "Il Giudizio". Also you'll notice absolutely no Luis Enriquez Bacalov orchestra like you do Contaminazione (or it's English language counterpart Contamination). Since La Bibbia came out in 1971, it should come as no surprise as that was the year the Italian prog scene had just got started, meaning many bands at that time still hadn't abandoned their psychedelic, blues, folk, jazz, or hard rock roots, and of course, RDM being no exception. So the production is rather rough, and the sound quality isn't the best, plus you get no more than 30 minutes of music. But despite that, I think this album is still a wonderful, underrated progressive hard rock album, and if you don't compare this to Contaminazione, you probably would enjoy this album.

IL ROVESCIO DELLA MEDAGLIA's debut album...Well, the sound recorded is no problem as 1971's. The point is their heavyness. Is this really Italian rock? Many many Italian albums or songs I've heard till now, this is exactly my first the basis and core of their sound is loud guitar with rhythm section. Furthermore, the rhythm section is heavy but not rigid...I always feel it's sticky and slimy at listening to their albums.

The first track is too avantgarde...noisy metalic sound goes through and around us. Oh, what...with no time for us to be surprised, immediately heavy and noisy guitar and percussion are exploded. It's maybe rare the instrumentals expect guitar and drum are completely supplementary or backing ones. Of course, the voice is as heavy as the heavy stuffs, too. :)

The highlight of this work is, I consider, the 4th track...very jazzy, very swingin', very speedy and of course deeply heavy. We can be absorbed into it. Until the last track (noise!) finished, we should get to be restricted by the soundshower...

Apart from likes or dislikes, this is one of the most progressive products in Italy in 1971.

Baroque Jazz Trio - 1970 - Baroque Jazz Trio

Baroque Jazz Trio 
Baroque Jazz Trio

01. Delhi Daily
02. Terre Brulée
03. Chandigardh
04. Latin Baroque
05. Zoma
06. Cesar Go Back Home

Jean-Charles Capon (cello)
Georges Rabol (harpsichord)
Philippe Combelle (drums)

From all points of view, the BJT is surprising: instrumentation, philosophy, sound, music, cohesion. It is well and truly a unique phenomenon in French jazz. It wasn’t until the 90s, with its hoards of DJs, samplers, collectors and other vinyl enthusiasts that, after frantic searching for forgotten musical experiments, the Baroque Jazz Trio resurfaced. BJT is the archetypal dream-record for that type of collector. It completely fulfils the musical demands of this anachronistic tribe, guided by an obsession for the discovery of forgotten or lost sounds, vestiges of a time where music, we are told, was free from all commercial constraints.
So it is that this recording has existed for over thirty years, but it does not really have a ‘name’ in the jazz world. It is still an authentic and unique experience in the mind of its authors: Jean-Charles Capon, Georges Rabol and Philippe Combelle. It will also be one for its audience.

Christian Escoudé & Jean-Charles Capon - 1980 - Gousti

Christian Escoudé & Jean-Charles Capon

01. Gousti   
02. Cher Stéphane   
03. Affamé A Niamey   
04. Folie Douce   
05. Astarté   
06. Tout Nu A Donau   
07. Acres One   
08. Gondwana   

Cello – Jean-Charles Capon
Guitar, Electric Guitar – Christian Escoudé

This album features more of the gypsy guitarwork of Escoude and less of the avant-garde / free jazz that Capon (and his bandmates in Confluence) seemed so enamoured of.  Yet, straddling that humongous, almost Bering-straits-like 1980 divide between good music and garbage, it is so interesting to hear the changes between the two continents, never the twain shall meet.   Having said that, the Capon track "Astarte" is a dead ringer for a Confluence track,

There are quite a few others that will make you, if they did me, quite nostalgic for the seventies obsession with utter artistic beauty...

With regards to the last track, called Gondwana (really it should be Gondwanaland), I was quite amused on reading recent geology tomes that the supercontinent Pangaea (which united all continents some 250 million years ago, just before the age of the dinosaurs) will be reunited again, some 200 million years from now, when the continents now so clearly widespread on the globe return together again, and that this is a long-scale cycling activity, with a period of about half a billion years-- yet when that occurs no human being will be alive to see it... what will be the dominant lifeform then? insects? birds? some variety of rats' and pigeons' descendants, or the children of cockroaches, possibly become intelligent again?  Unfortunately they will not be able to avail themselves of precious metals, rare earths, iron, or fossil fuels, since humanity will have used those up in the process of its inevitable extinction...
It's so fun to imagine what the earth will see, so many millions of years from now...  One thing I do know: it will no longer bear witness to this music, since even today there are so few who do.

Jean-Charles Capon et Christian Escoudé - 1976 - Les 4 Elements

Jean-Charles Capon et Christian Escoudé
Les 4 Elements

01. L'Eau   
02. Le Feu
03. L'Air   
04. La Terre

Cello – Jean-Charles Capon
Guitar – Christian Escoudé
Sitar, Tabla – Benoît Charvet

Recorded in Paris, May 2 and 3, 1976 at Labsound Studio.


Charlie Haden & Christian Escoudé - 1979 - Gitane

Charlie Haden & Christian Escoudé

01. Django
02. Bolero
03. Manoir de mes reves
04. Gitane
05. Nuages
06. Dinette
07. Improvisation

Acoustic Bass – Charlie Haden (tracks: A1 to A4, B1 to B2)
Acoustic Guitar – Christian Escoude* (tracks: A1 to A3, B1 to B3)

Recorded and Mixed September 22nd, 1978 at Studio des Champs Elysées, Paris.

Confluence - 1978 - Chroniques Terrestres

Chroniques Terrestres

01. Chroniques Terrestres
02. Bolero Loco
03. Dans Mon Grenier
04. Rumeurs

Bass Clarinet – André Jaume (tracks: A, B2)
Bugle – Jean Guérin (tracks: A)
Cello [Violoncello] – Denis Van Hecke
Contrabass – Didier Levallet
Drums – Christian Lete*
Flute, Oboe [Hautbois], Cor Anglais, Alto Saxophone – Jean Querlier
Guitar [Guitars] – Philippe Petit
Percussion – Yves Herwan-Chotard

Here's another round of sumptuously spacious French jazz rock from this outfit featuring Jean-Francois Capon of Baroque jazz Trio, this one the last of their three releases. Chroniques Terrestres does hew rather closer to the jazz end of the jazz rock spectrum than Arkham, the vibe here having a certain akin with both NWW-listers Cohelmec Ensemble and Nucleus circa their debut, "Elastic Rock". Dreamy, reflective and languorously lovely stuff.

Confluence - 1977 - Arkham


01. Apres Le Desert
02. A Propos De La Sortie
03. Les Quais En Automne
04. Ete 'D'Sver
05. Takssim
06. Arkham

Jean-Charles Capon: Cello
Didier Levallet: Bass
Jean Querlier: Woodwinds
Christian Escoude: Guitar
Armand Lemal: Percussions
Christian Lete: Drums

Quietly gorgeous French jazzy prog of a very airy, languid and spacious sort, often focused around the wistful cello work of Jean-Francois Capon, whose devastating outfit Baroque Jazz Trio recently had their one eponymous album reissued. One of France's great undiscovered treasures.

Confluence - 1976 - 4 Voyages

4 Voyages

01. Dakka 5:25
02. Convergences 11:50
03. 4 Voyages 19:00

Cello [Violoncello] – Jean-Charles Capon
Contrabass – Didier Levallet
Drums, Percussion – Merzak Mouthana
Guitar – Christian Escoudé
Oboe [Hautbois], Cor Anglais, Flute, Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Jean Querlier
Percussion – Armand Lemal

Quietly gorgeous French jazzy prog of a very airy, languid and spacious sort, often focused around the wistful cello work of Jean-Francois Capon, whose devastating outfit Baroque Jazz Trio recently had their one eponymous album reissued. One of France's great undiscovered treasures" is the surprisingly subdued description from mutant sounds of Arkham. I would say that it is actually chamber jazz, with a very well worked melding of chamber orchestra (a lot of violin, flute, cello, double bass) and jazz. Less rock is in this recipe. Unfortunately one of the jazz elements employed is the long tedious and boring jazz solo. I defy anyone to listen thru the last track without fastforward. This long "4 voyages" (through the sahara desert no doubt?) drags on quite too long before finishing in a gorgeous flute and violin passage using second notes on top of minor chords for that oh so plaintive effect. It is debatable whether the trip to that last 2 minutes was worth the wait.
I'll never understand why jazz musicians felt it was ok to throw in ten minutes of pointless, aimless soloing instead of taking the time to compose some actual music with structure and purpose. I mean live, it's OK since you're sitting there essentially with no choice to leave, but on an album it's unforgivably boring.

Anyways, having said that, it seems to be a live album on the basis of applause at the end of tracks. I think the composer is a genius, and obviously studied composition somewhere because his ideas are so interesting, the standout in 'songwriting' being the third track "convergences". So he could have, as in the chronique terrestres album, written more actual music versus improv.

These progressive musicians wrote a kind of music that has no rules, they use rock, jazz, and european classical in equal measure to create a whole that is perfectly harmonious and has no borders or styles. In my life I listened to modern classical, even Berg and Schoenberg, to jazz, to rock, and I feel like with this music I have come home, it has everything I have looked for in a lifetime of listening to music, all in one package. I hope you who enjoy this agree.
But when I come to work and on the radio I hear for the ten thousandth time "Signs signs everywhere there's signs" playing it fills me with despair at the human condition.
To return to Confluence, I think the next two albums are better than this one, esp. the final album appears to be the most accessible. A lot of the music in this one even I find a little hard going (almost atonal). At least it's not weirdly strange like the unobstructed universe I posted earlier.

On a personal note, I wish I could post more albums but time constraints are again a problem with wife returning to work as a spaceperson (astronaut) and two small children which I have a lot of trouble to get rid of. Surely when they finally go to school (1-2 years from now) I will devote more time to this "weird, weird strange hobby" (my wife's words) of sharing progressive albums from the seventies ("Long before I was born???" as my receptionist always says). A lot of people suggest to get a nanny but I wouldn't inflict these terrible, abnormal children, on any human being no matter how patient.

Combination - 1977 - Relax By Combination

Relax By Combination

01. Grey Turns Green   
02. Meeting My Love
03. Eagle   
04. The Ring Of Days   
05. See The Little Girl   
06. You Don't Know   
07. Gorgeous Grace   
08. King Song   
09. Last Viking Man   
10. Laid Out, Carried Away & Brought Back

Johnny Gustafson: Vocals, Drums
Masi Mattson: Vocals
Hasse Ahlstrand: Vocals
Jukka Tolonen: Guitar
Ipe Murtijarvi: Guitar
Bert Karlsson: Guitar
Heikki Virtanen: Bass
Jakke Leivo: Bass
Eero Munter: Bass
Bill Carsons: Drums
Hessu Hietanen: Keyboards
Esa Nieminen: Keyboards
Kyosti Laihi: Keyboards

So I was wrong about the best Finnish album of 1977. Deeds and Talks by Kaamos is good, but another album by some of the same musicians, Relax by Combination, is even better. Especially the side A is amazing: how could something like this be as unknown as it remains? "Grey Turns Green" is a beautiful, well made opening track, "Meeting My Love" contains a reggae style accompaniment, though the song itself is anything but an authentic reggae song; but it sounds nice anyway. "Eagle" is slightly less exciting, while "The Ring of Days" goes more country rock in the style of America. At this point it is clear that the album is good but a really excellent track is still missing. It appears in the shape of "See the Little Girl." The five-minute epic shows that Combination could be a progressive pop/rock band as well. The style is close to Procol Harum, or not very far away from Barclay James Harvest.

The side B is not that brilliant, but still, it contains two more fine songs: "Gorgeous Grace" and the closing track "Laid Out, Carried Away & Brought Back." "Last Viking Man" has good sides to it but doesn't work like it possibly could. "You Don't Know" is the only track that sounds a little invalid. But with or without it, in my opinion Relax belongs to Top 10 of the 1970s in Finland. That says more than it might seem to someone who doesn't know the Finnish '70s scene.

Bella Band - 1978 - Bella Band

Bella Band
Bella Band

01. Fairadiesis (6:45)
02. Promenade (10:45)
03. Porotopostrippa Sul Pero (8:50)
04. Cipresso Violento (5:20)

- Riccardo Cioni / clavinet, Fender piano, Omni Arp, Arp 2600
- Roberto Buoni / flute, saxophone, electric clarinet
- Luigi Fiorentino / guitar
- Mauro Sarti / drums
- Tonino Camiscioni / bass

While the Italian symphonic scene of the '70s gets most of the attention it is becoming clearer to me how fertile the fusion/jazz-rock was as well. I'm beginning to discover the likes of Bella Band, Esagono, Etna, Kaleidon, Duello Madre, Rocky's Filj, etc, in addition to the obvious bands like Arti Mestieri. The short-lived Bella Band were from Florence and released but one album on the Cramps label in 1978 before they disappeared. Their drummer Mauro Sarti used to be in the popular RPI gem Campo di Marte and most of the members would continue on with music after the break-up of Bella Band. It's a shame they split so quickly because this album is very good and it is reported that they had plenty of live activity as well.

Musically, Bella Band really snuck up on me in a hurry. Generally speaking I'm not the biggest fan of dryer fusion-I like a bit of colorful influx from other genres to spice it up a bit. Bella Band at first seemed pretty dry and doesn't deviate all that much from the task at hand (no big operatic vocals or backwards cello loops busting through the door) but within short order the pure joy of the obvious musical mastery was grabbing me. Bella Band features only 4 extended pieces over this short album but they cover a wide range of colors, with monster musicianship all around. With my thus-far fairly limited jazz knowledge I might say they are close to Duello Madre in pacing and energy, but with a bit of the added color of Esagono in the flute and clarinet, and occasionally some of the funkiness of Nucleus in the sax and bass playing. The use of horns is excellent and well integrated, alternatively classy or funky depending on the section. Guitarist Luigi Fiorentini is a jaw-dropping player and deserves to be on the list of great fusion guitarists. Yes he possesses the ability for rapid-fire notes but also there is a wonderful sense of control and melody that is never lost in a speed-fest. "Promenade" has sections that slow and blend a bit of a Carpe Diem style "refined spaciness" into the jazz, never getting too weird but allowing the listener to breath a bit from the constant intensity that can make some fusion albums a blur. It is almost a place for reflection that reloads the listener for the next frenzy. Very nice touch. Other than that excursion they remain mostly in the realm of clear jazz-rock, their badge being simply how beautifully they execute. It's just such an enjoyable listen from start to finish and that is not something to take lightly.

Bella Band is the definition of "lost, underappreciated gem" of the 1970s. How this band has not received more love by prog-fusion fans is beyond my comprehension. It is imaginative, musical as the day is long, and beautifully paced and constructed. While perhaps not groundbreaking the Bella Band will be worth the time of any jazz-rock fan-a sure thing if there ever was.

Jack Lancaster - 1981 - Skinningrove Bay

Jack Lancaster
Skinningrove Bay

01. Save a Place for Me 5:05
02. Deep Green 4:18
03. Carlin How 6:29
04. Old Man of the Ocean 5:27
05. Skinningrove Bay Part 1 3:00
06. Skinningrove Bay Part 2 3:00
07. North Country Girl 3:14
08. Kilten Castel 5:23
09. The Abbess St. Hilda 5:13
10. Deep green [Remix] 3:24

Jack Lancaster (sax, lyricon, flute, keyboards, vocals)
Phil Collins (vocals)
Bernie Frost (vocals)
Gary Moore (guitar)
Hughie Burns (guitar)
Mick Rogers (guitar)
John G. Perry (bass, vocals)
Robin Lumley (keyboards)
Rick Van Der Linden (keyboards)
Rod Argent (keyboards)
Clive Bunker (drums)

NOTE: Jack Lancaster - The Skinningrove Bay (Original Issue 1981) this album has been reissued in several shapes (my guess, without any kind of permission or legal rights) under different names (Deep Green)

Jack Lancaster - 1976 - Marscape

Jack Lancaster

01. Take Off (Into Earth Orbit) (3:08)
02. Sail on Solar Winds (The Journey) (2:48)
03. Arrival (Into Martian Orbit) (1:53)
04. Phobos and Deimos (The Twin Moons of Mars) (4:49)
05. With A Great Feeling of Love: Inner Warmth and Feelings of Affinity (2:46)
06. With a Great Feeling of Love: Marscape: Outer Cold and Icy Silence (2:14)
07. Olympus Mons (5:22)
08. Homelight (Reflecting on Distant Earth) (3:26)
09. Hopper (Machine for Negotiating the Rough Martian Terrian) (4:21)
10. Dust Storm (3:28)
11. Blowholes (The Pipes OF Mars) (3:06)
12. Realization (6:13)
13. Release (2:17)

- Jack Lancaster / Lyricon, saxophone, flutes, watergong
- Robin Lumley / piano, harmonium, synthesizers, autoharp, Hammond organ
- John Goodsall / guitars
- Percy Jones / bass, electronic percussion, watergong
- Phil Collins / drums, percussion
- Bernie Frost / voices
- Simon Jeffes / koto
- The Simon Jeffes Sring Quartet

Recorded, mixed and mastered at Trident Studios, London, Summer 1976

This album was recorded in between Brand X albums, Unorthodox Behaviour and Moroccan Roll, and essentially, Marscape is another Brand X album, as the album featured Lancaster on wind instruments, Lumley on keyboards, with Phil Collins, John Goodsall, Percy Jones, and Morris Pert. But since this album was recorded on RSO Records (and not Charisma in the UK and Passport in the US), they couldn't use the Brand X name. Marscape seems to be the only title on the RSO label of interest to prog rock fans (after all, this was the label best known for Clapton and the Bee Gees, not to mention the soundtrack to the 1978 dud movie adaptation of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band). Musically, this is a more progressive and impressionistic version of the Brand X sound, giving the atmosphere of a desolate landscape of Mars. This album should not be overlooked, especially if you're a Genesis/Phil Collins/Brand X fan, as this is a pretty good album.

Marscape is a soundtrack performed by some of the finest British jazz-rock musicians, mostly schooled within Brand X and under the leadership of keyboardist Robin Lumley and lyricon (an electronic wind instrument) player Jack Lancaster , both having glorified previous careers with the Brit prog universe. Brand X back up is provided by guitarist extraordinaire John Goodsall, the slippery fretless master Percy Jones and the ridiculously talent drummer turned future torch singer Phil Collins. Finally, Simon Jeffes (Penguin Café Orchestra) arranges the necessary orchestrations where needed. I had this LP since its release and only recently found a CD version, so I was thrilled to add this puppy into my collection.

The material is mostly instrumental, but sort of strange and ethereal, purposefully so in order to really expand on its uniqueness. The sound is obviously closely associated with Brand X, as well as cousin projects Wilding-Bonus, Quantum Jump, Isotope and John G.Perry solo. Percy Jones needs no introduction, for my money among the top bassists ever (Perry not far behind), his fretless technique way more complex and technical than say the master of wobble Mick Karn of Japan legend. His playing is simply remarkable throughout, in perfect alignment with Collins' terrific rifling style. But this is really Robin Lumley's pet project, fully developing his piano artistry, adding harmonium, synths, organ and autoharp to his ivory arsenal, as well as being helped by Lancaster's saxes, flutes and the much- maligned lyricon.

The material for the most part is relatively mid-tempo, at times out right spacy like on the opener and on the unreservedly thrilling two-part "With a Great Feeling of Love" (an album highlight) and gets all stitched up on "Olympus Mons". This killer track really is typical of the British jazz rock scene, starting out with brooding sax, a driving rhythm and sudden plunges into oddball weirdness, such as the echoing gongs swimming in aquatic samples and traversed by blitzing piano rivulets, to then explode into a manic excursion into neo- Mahavishnu Orchestra land, everyone soloing like madmen but in controlled harmony with each other (Jones, Goodsall and Collins just cook and broil). Lumley really develops incredible mastery on his piano in particular, displaying a lavish style that is unafraid of jumping to intense zones of expression, whist doing the traditional jazz thing too.

Then when you least expect it, a synth-bass introduces "Hopper", an homage to the Soft Machine bassist I presume but cleverly camouflaged as the nickname for a Martian land rover, a rollicking excursion over sand, rocks, valleys and peaks, the lads having a ball bouncing all over their instruments with a little tchaka-tchaka guitar and calypso drum outro. At times, the mood becomes experimental and outer-worldly. This is no pop record as "Dust Storm" is just like its title would claim, an opaque and cross winded blizzard of microscopic molecules that rustle and inflict odd sensorial reactions (hey, 1976, okay!). After the koto infused "Blowholes" adding even more oddness to the proceedings, things revert to more rational behavior with the choir-led "Desolation", a 6 minute magnificent hymn to the galactic entities, a track that has all the traits that thrill the prog fan to no end. Sublime mood, incredible confidence, scintillating bass and drums, all built as a platform to dish out some sizzling soloing, as both Lancaster and Lumley let it rip, but in this cool jazz way. Jeffes' orchestrations are spot on, too. This track alone is worth pursuing the album, finally available nicely re-mastered and at a reasonable price (for a very long time only available as a Japanese import for mucho dinero).

'Domo arigato', Jeffes plays the koto again, in accordance with Lancaster's delicate flute, "Release" is the final cut of a true prog collector's addition. A classic.

Jack Lancaster - 1975 - Peter and The Wolf

Jack Lancaster 
Peter and The Wolf

01. Introduction
02. Peter's Theme
03. Bird and Peter
04. Duck Theme
05. Pond
06. Duck and Bird
07. Cat Dance
08. Cat and Duck
09. Grandfather
10. Cat
11. Wolf
12. Wolf and Duck
13. Threnody for a Duck
14. Wolf Stalks
15. Cat in Tree
16. Peter's Chase
17. Capture of Wolf
18. Hunters
19. Rock and Roll Celebration
20. Duck Escape
21. Final Theme

The Cast:
- Narrator / Vivian Stnshall
- Peter / Manfred Mann
- Bird / Gary Brooker
- Duck / Chris Spedding
- Duck / Gary Moore
- Cat / Stephane Grappelli
- Wolf / Brian Eno
- Pond / Keith Tippett
- Grandfather / Jack Lancaster
- Hunters / Jon Hiseman, Bill Bruford, Cozy Powell, Phil Collins

Additional Musicians:
- John Goodsall, Pete Haywood, Alvin Lee / guitars
- Percy Jones, Andy Pyle, Dave Marquee / bass
- Robin Lumley / keyboards
- Cozy Powell & Phil Collins / drums
- Bernie Frost, Julie Tippetts, The English Chorale / vocals

I saw this album a couple decades ago resting on the jazz shelf of a commercial record store, section I don't usually look at, but something I still don't know made me take a look, so I stopped to read the credits, I couldn't believe my eyes, Bill Bruford, Phil Collins, Cozy Powell, Brian Eno, Chris Spedding, Manfred Mann and even the crazy Viv Stanshal in the narrations, without haven't heard a single note I bought it (This was usual when there was no Internet or MP3), even when it was classified as Jazz, genre that's not my cup of tea, mostly because it was very cheap being that the only copy had several months in the store.

I was not disappointed despite the fact that I was familiar to Prokofiev's version and expected something much more closer to the original, what is not exactly the case because even when the structure is very similar to the original being that each musician takes the role of a character, the instruments used are completely different, don't expect to find oboes as in the original work, but be sure that the instrumentation and even the vocals are perfect for the new version.

What I can't assure is if it's closer to Rock, Prog or Jazz, because all the genres and styles gently blend one with the other as if they were created to be listened together in one work, and everybody will agree that the balance is perfect and the music is outstanding, so it's worth the price paid for it despite the genre.

I simply love Manfred Mann's keyboard interpretation of Peter, absolutely jazzy but with a perfect touch of his classic style, Peter's Theme is one of the strongest tracks of the album, but it's also important to notice the excellent work done by Gary Moore and Chris Spedding as The Duck plus the excellent track The Hunters with the impeccable drums work

Of course nothing would be the same without the perfect narration by the amazing Viv Stanshal from The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, who gives the credibility required for the role with his perfect accent as if he would left behind his days of craziness and adventures with Keith Moon, but without loosing his sense of humor including burps and satiric phrases.

It's not easy to write much more about this album, because there are hundreds of small details that must be appreciated by the individual listener and many more that surely I can't describe with my modest English, but part of the fun is to discover new things each and every time you play the album instead of reading about them.

If you got it, take good care because it's hard to find, but if you don't, use any available contact and buy it, it's a must have.

Aviator - 1980 - Turbulence


01. Way Of The World (4:53)
02. The American (4:40)
03. Turbulence (6:44)
04. Ovation (4:54)
05. Fallen Star (7:22)
06. Track Eleven (1:33)
07. Get You Rocks Off (5:01)
08. Strange Worlds (7:01)

- Clive Bunker / drums
- Mick Rogers / guitars, vocals
- John G. Perry / bass

Definitely a much harder to find album than its predecessor, but it proves worth the search. Lancaster had left prior to the recording of this album, leaving Aviator a guitar/bass/drums trio. Musically, it's anything but your typical power-trio album. In fact, it's in the same basic jazz-tinged prog-rock style as the first Aviator album. Only minus the sax. There's even some synth here and there, some of it patently Perry's pedals, but the spacey effects at the beginning of "Strange Worlds" suggest something more. Perhaps a guitar synth? It's possible, what with all that woodwind synth all over their previous album.
The short songs aren't as strong this time round (I admit I balked a bit when I first heard "Way Of The World"), but the album improves quickly, with some excellent exploratory tracks taking you to bold new places that most guitar/based/drums configurations never dared to go. "Fallen Star" and "Strange Worlds" are both superb, but it's the title song, with it's dynamite 7/4 rhythm, that most appeals to me from this one. A worthy follow-up on their great debut disc.

Aviator - 1979 - Aviator


01. Your Loving Is My Home (3:30)
02. Keep Your Heart Right (6:21)
03. Evil Eye (3:20)
04. Time Traveller (2:59)
05. Silver Needles (6:07)
06. Cleveland Ohio (5:01)
07. Country Morning (6:14)
08. Greed (3:02)
09. Morning Journey (6:58)

- Clive Bunker / drums
- Jack Lancaster / winds
- Mick Rogers / guitars, vocals
- John G. Perry / bass

AVIATOR was founded in 1978 by Jack Lancaster (saxophone, flute, lyricon, synthesizer) and Mick Rogers (guitar & lead vocals) with the copilotes Clive Bunker (drums) and John G. Perry (bass & vocals). All four musicians already had an impressive background in different bands. Jack Lancaster had played with: BLODWYN PIG, the MICK ABRAHAMS BAND and the SOUL SEARCHERS, Mick Rogers with: MANFRED MANN'S EARTHBAND, Clive Bunker with: JETHRO TULL, BLODWYN PIG and STEVE HILLAGE, John G. Perry with: CARAVAN and QUANTUM JUMP. They played a mixture of straightforward Rock songs alternating with instrumental Jazz-Rock passages reminiscing COLOSSEUM and BLODWYN PIG, Jack Lancaster gave the band a typical sound with the lyricon and soprano saxophone. The weak point was Mick Rogers's vocals.

In early 1979 AVIATOR released their first record named "Aviator" on Harvest/Electrola, coproduced by the band and Robin Lumley from BRAND-X. All tracks were cosigned by the band. The tracks are all different ranging from straightforward Rock to Jazz-Rock and Pop. They went then on a European Tour as a support act for Steve HILLAGE and in the summer of 1979 they did some festivals and venues in Germany, where they did also a public broadcast for the famous WDR radio in Cologne. The tape of the show proves what an excellent live band they had been. On stage they showed their talent, especially in the longer instrumental passages. After the tour Jack Lancaster left the band. The remaining trio recorded their second and last record "Turbulence", released in 1980, with the help of Vivienne McAuliffe, Carol Stocker and Betsy Cook on background vocals. Again all tracks but one, a Dylan cover "get your rocks off", were cosigned by the band. It is still a good record, more straightforward Rock, but less interesting without the sound of Lancaster's sax-playing. All four musicians played together again on Lancaster's 1981 Solo Record "Skinningrove Bay". The first record "Aviator" is highly recommended.

Goodness me, I have been trying to get a CD copy of this lost piece of prog glory for such a while now (30 years by last account), my vinyl becoming a sandbox of gritty snap, crackle and pop pebbles. The story of Aviator is a classic scenario of a hugely talented band that wilted under the anti-prog stance of the late 70s, pounded mercilessly into oblivion by a media frenzy dominated by punk and new wave bands. Mick Rogers is , in my humble opinion, the most underrated guitarist in Progland, his contributions to Manfred Mann's Erath Band are stuff of legends (check out his sulfurous axe solos on "Visionary Mountain", "Martha's Madman", "Solar Fire", "Father of Night/Father of Day" and many more) , former Jethro Tull drummer Clive Bunker is outright legendary , while John G. Perry is , perhaps the most underrated bass player ever, a fretless stylist of great repute (Gordon Giltrap, Anthony Phillips, Caravan and Quantum Jump , plus two magical solo albums). Throw in Jack Lancaster of Blodwyn Pig and Colosseum on sax and lyricon and you have the makings of a prog super group. The artwork on this debut 1979 album (ooh, bad year for prog!) is still among my all-time faves, being an SR-71 Blackbird aficionado. All great ingredients except for the poor timing, this album basically went nowhere, as the demands of the market were clearly anti-prog, which meant more commercial constraints that artists had to follow (ELP, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Gentle Giant and many more were guilty of such outside pressures) and ultimately wound up being counterproductive in every single way.
The set list is comprised of 3 distinct attitudes, the dashingly progressive jewels such as the magnificent "Keep Your Heart Right", the brooding "Country Morning" (sounding a lot like Italian prog/fusion band Nova) and its companion "Morning Journey". These are absolute prog classics that still stand the test of time and are entirely worthy of attention.

Then there are the outright rockers like the exuberant "Silver Needles" and its extended instrumental platform, "Greed" and the brash "Cleveland Ohio" (great loopy synthesizer riff) which veer near Spooky Tooth/Foreigner- like territory, but graced by some monstrous guitar playing.

And finally the poppy in-betweens such as the rambling and jagged opener "Your Loving Is My Home", "Evil Eye" , "Time Traveller" , all positive ear-candy but far from progressive , outside of a few twists and turns that keep things interesting.

Consortium - 1975 - Rebirth


01. Rebirth
02. It Was You
03. Hold on Tightly
04. It's Up to You
05. It's Not Easy
06. For Me to Forgive
07. Stop (Look at Me)
08. She Gave Life
09. I Want You
10. Time Waits for No Man
11. I'm Dying

*Ken Brown - Bass
*Robbert Leggat - Vocals
*Brian Parker - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*John Parker - Drums
*Mick Ware - Lead Guitar, Vocals

After some long years of singles and live performances, the UK band Consortium finally sees the light of day for the first time ever of its sole album, Rebirth, recorded around 1975...

Like many albums of its time, Rebirth stands at the crossroads of psychedelic rock, hard rock and progressive rock. The music can be described as a hybrid between Grand Funk Railroad and Uriah Heep: its dirty, train-like rumble and down-to-earth lyrics (sometimes to the point of banality as in the case of "I Want You") resembling the earlier, while its operatic harmonies and grandiose dimensions reminding of the latter.

The band’s labor pains, which went on for some long years of failing to produce an album (some of their earlier recordings, however, surfaced on the Castle release Looking Back credited to "West Coast Consortium"), add an interesting dimension to the material. The band refuses to let go of its yet-to-be disburdened original ‘60s orientation, and blends it with influences that the band caught during early to mid ‘70s. "Stop (Look at Me)" has an R&B feel in the vein of early The Who (think "I Can’t Explain") and "I’m Dying" has a suspicious resemblance to Led Zeppelin’s "Thank You," while "It’s up to You" takes the timeline further on to early Rush, especially due to its falsetto vocals.

On the heavier side, "She Gave Life" has sparks of Black Sabbath’s doom interlaced with contradicting pastoral harmonies; and the dual lead guitars that run wild throughout some of the songs often make them sound like a prototype of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.

And so Rebirth is about the decades that shaped rock music being reflected through a certain point in time. It is therefore a shame it was not released close to its recording, as it could have established its reputation as a pivotal album. Still, it holds most of its vitality to this day.
by Avi Shaked