Monday, May 4, 2015

Midnight Sun - 1974 - Midnight Dream

Midnight Sun
Midnight Dream

01. Midnight Dream.
02. Country Days
03. Me And I
04. Send Me Flowers Every Morning
05. I-II Love You, I-II Leave You
06. Batum
07. The Same Dream
08. When You Sleep Alone
09. Where Ever You Are
10. How I Lowe You

- Frank Lauridsen / vocals, harmonica
- Peer Frost / guitars
- Carsten Smedegaard / drums
- Bent Hasselmann / winds
- Bo Stief / bass
- Niels Bronstad / piano

Fourth and last album, again graced with a Roger Dean artwork, Midnight Dream only sees a change of bassist (oddly the singer and bassist will have changed three times while the rest of the group remained, thus drawing a Deep Purple comparison). But musically this will not change much to MS's AOR-style of rock: although "avant-la-lettre" and paying a bit more attention to interplay between musicians, than later n in the decade. Lauridsen's vocals are just apt, and not much more, the group's musicianship following the dame trend, but somewhat forcibly restrained by an unadventurous and very conventional songwriting. Compared to its predecessor, only one of the ten tracks is longer than 5 minutes, giving you an idea of the direction taken.

Like on the previous WC, wind-player Hesselman's contributions still sound very much brass rock (like on the opening title track and its follow-up. But just like the previous album, there is solid music direction, the songs departing in style and heading nowhere quick. They even stoop as low as to reprise some old 60's Motown track, bordering on the ridiculous.

On the more positive the instrumental trad piece Bethim is flawlessly executed and the longer Where Ever You Are, once the chorus and verses dealt with, they let a good groove ( a solid lengthy sax over an evolving bass line, then a splendid guitar over an enthralling piano) and let loose.

Midnight Sun - 1972 - Walking Circle

Midnight Sun 
Walking Circle

01. Can You Hear The Music Play?
02. Country Song
03. A La Turca
04. The Way Of Zen
05. I've Got A New Mind
06. Winds Gonna Blow
07. Walking Circles
08. I'm Living A Dream

- Frank Lauridsen / vocals, harmonica
- Peer Frost / guitars
- Carsten Smedegaard / drums
- Bent Hasselmann / winds
- Bo Stief / bass
- Niels Bronstad / piano

Third alnum for the original Rainbow Band, but only second for Midnight Sun, this album is also graced with a Roger dean artwork. This album sees yet another singer (after Bisgaard and Mortensen for the two version of their previous album), the very average Lauridsen and Believe me this will affect the group in, general

Right from the opening two tracks, one cannot help but wondering where the promises heard previously lie now, because we hear some kind of AOR avant-la-lettre, even if the opener sounds bluesy and the follower sounds countryish, we are hovering in a parody of Lynyrd Brothers Band (although nothing offensive to the proghead) instead of psychey-prog group of yesteryear. Then all a sudden, with the A La Turca (an obvious nod to Blue Rondo) we are lead into an almost brass-rock (ala early Chicago), the A-side's highlight. The next tracks are more AOR without much direction. One has to wait for the slow starting Winds Gonna Blow, a pleasant light jazz-rock track, the antepenultimate title track another very brassy affair.

Midnight Sun - 1971 - Midnight Sun

Midnight Sun 
Midnight Sun

01. Talkin'
02. King Of The Sun
03. Nobody
04. B.M
05. Sippin' Wine
06. Living On The Hill.
07. Rainbow Song.

- Peer Frost / guitars
- Carsten Smedegaard / drums
- Bent Hasselmann / winds
- Allan Mortensen / vocals
- Bo Stief / bass
- Niels Bronstad / piano

Danish 70's (1971-1974 ) progrock band, a second incarnation of Rainbow Band as it is essentially the same band that had to change their name in July 1971 as a Canadian band had already registered the name and the band was about to release ind the US and UK.
As Rainbow Band, a "Supergroup" of danish rock and jazz artists, they releases their selftitled debut album in 1970. The album was re-recorded with new vocalist Allan Mortensen in 1971 and re-released again in the second version under the new band name, Midnight Sun.
As Midnight Sun the band released two albums and two singles.
Bent Hesselmann went on as a solo artist, releasing the now rare album "Bøsse". Peer Frost left the band to join Savage Rose. Allan Mortensen also persued a solo career.

This album is a rework of the Rainbow Band album with a different singer, and since they chose to change their names (also used by a Canadian Band), so they changed the artwork as well. I'm not sure the Dean-esque artwork is a wise choice for this type of prog that relies more on jazz and blues than on folk and symphonics, though; and I preferred the more unusual previous artwork. With only Bisgaard being replaced by Allan Mortensen, the group remains constant, and if you expected more maturity (not saying it isn't the case), a lost of freshness was also tobe feared. And indeed, it is the case.

As opposed to the first version of the album, King Of The Sun has lost some 40 seconds and it's just as well as it remains the least interesting track on the album, while Where Are You Going To Be is almost doubled in time, both versions having their charms. Talking is the new version of Where Do You Live and I think I prefer the older version's more immediacy and urgency. The duo track of Nobody/BM are now separated (but it was already the case before) by another track, but none of them are drastically different.

Sippin' Wine is a relatively uninteresting blues track that brings little more to the album (it was the only new track on the second version of the album aznd written by Mortensen) and Rainbow Song had too few changes that the Long Hair Label decided to leave out the second version (time restrictions too). Among the two version of the mega Living On The Hill, the later version is clearer- sounding (production-wise), seems more jazz-rock tenser and urgent. Smedegaard's drumming being for a big part of this, as he pushes Frost's guitar antics to the limit and at wind-player Hesselman's expense.

The proghead could do a good deal by choosing the Long Hair release which holds both version of the album, but gives the preference the Rainbow Band artwork rather than the Dean artwork of Midnight Sun, which is just as well as it is much more charming. Midnight Sun would then again change vocalist (but decided against re-recording this album again) and made two further albums in the progressive jazz-rock vein. In the meantime I find this album's second version less enthralling overall even if there are some brighter points as well, but since both version are on the same album, the Freudian choice is not to be.

Rainbow Band - 1970 - Rainbow Band

Rainbow Band 
Rainbow Band

01. Where Do You Live
02. King of the Sun
03. Nobody
04. B.M.
05. Where Are You Going to Be?
06. Living on the Hill
07. Rainbow Song

- Peer Frost / guitars
- Carsten Smedegaard / drums
- Bent Hasselmann / winds
- Lars Bisgaard / vocals
- Bo Stief / bass
- Niels Bronstad / piano

Released in a fold-out cover on a red/maroon Sonet label.
First variation on the label, second inside the fold-out cover.

Version 1:
(This version): Rainbow Band's debut album was first recorded July and August 1970 and released that year with vocals by Lars Bisgaard in a first version.

Version 2: After Bisgaard left the band in 1971 they re-recorded and re-released the album in this 2nd version with same band name and artwork - but with vocalist Allan Mortensen replacing Lars Bisgaard.
On this version the lyrics for "Where Do You Live" were altered and the track renamed "Talkin".
This version also has one track more, "Sippin' Wine".

Version 3:
After the band was forced to change name over legal issues the version 2 album was re-released in a 3rd version using the new band name Midnight Sun.
In that version the danish release does not have "Where You Going To Be", the US version does have "Where Are You Going To Be" plus a new track, "Nickels & Dimes".

Danish progrock band formed by leading rock and jazz artists as a danish supergroup. Founded early 1970 by Bent Hesselmann and Lars Bisgaard with Peer Frost, Niels Brønsted, Bo Stief and Carsten Smedegaard. Live debut June 23rd.
Recorded debut album in July '70. In December Lars Bisgaard was replaced by Allan Mortensen, and their debut album was re-recorded with two new tracks, and re-released in February 1971.
As the album was to be released in the US and UK the band was forced to change name in july 1971 as a Canadian Band had the rights to their original name, and the bands second version of the debut-album was again re-released under the new band name, Midnight Sun

First album of the group that will change its name just as this album was released (a Canadian band was named that way too), but it came out in the UK and Scandinavia anyway. A sextet (the standard prog quartet, plus a singer and a wind-player) that developed a bluesy jazz-inflicted rock, RB was an amalgam of local Copenhagen musicians from different local groups (although I'd hesitate to call it a "supergroup", even if Burnin Red Invanhoe and later, the superb Secret Oyster would also arise that way),

The opening tracks Where Do You Live and King Of The Sun are average tracks that are rooted in blues-rock and can remind Colosseum, Savoy Brown other late-60's and Early-70's blues-rock. The double track Nobody/BM is easily the first side's highlight with an intriguing piano intro, a haunting flute and fascinating construction. Bronstead's finest hour, if you ask me, in Nobody, while BM is a bit of free space for Stief's bass to extend and ends up in a jam.

Obviously most of the attention on the flipside will be paid to the 14-min+ Living On The Hill, and it does indeed prove to be the album's apex. Built on a mid-tempo blues (this could easily be on Savoy Brown's superb raw Sienna album), the track develops into a large instrumental boulevard where plenty of interplay between Hesselman's winds, Frost's fuzzy guitar lines and Stief's bass. Bronsted is strangely absent/low-key in this track. Ending with Rainbow Song, the album is a pleaser, but by all means never approached anything even remotely groundbreaking.

The proghead could do a good deal by choosing the Long Hair release which holds both version of the album, but gives the preference the Rainbow Band artwork rather than the Dean artwork of Midnight Sun, which is just as well as it is much more charming. After having released this album, the group fired their vocalist and had to change their names, so for odd reasons, they chose to redo their debut album, which this reviewer thinks was unnecessary, as I prefer this version because of its immediacy.

Day Of Phoenix - 1972 - The Neighbour's Son

Day Of Phoenix
The Neighbour's Son

01. I'm Feeling So Lonely (2:26)
02. Magic Wind (2:40)
03. Drifting (2:18)
04. Zombie (3:38)
05. Paradox (6:37)
06. It's A Long Way (3:26)
07. Turn Me On (3:32)
08. So We Meet Again (4:39)
09. Use Your Sense (3:41)
10. Our Love Has Ended (2:52)

- Karsten Lyng / vocals, guitars, piano, organ
- Ole Prehn / vocals, bass, guitars, percussion
- Ole Fick / guitars, vocals
- Jess Stæhr / bass
- Bo Thrige Andersen / drums

"The Neighbour's Son" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Danish heavy psychadelic rock act Day of Phoenix. "The Neighbour's Son" was originally released on LP in 1972 through Sonet Records. The album was re-issued in 1979 as a double LP with the band´s first studio album "Wide Open N-Way (1970)". It´s been re-released both as a single CD and as a double CD set with "Wide Open N-Way (1970)" in recent years. After releasing "Wide Open N-Way (1970)" the band disbanded in 1971 as bassist/pianist Erik Stedt (also a member of Danish psychadelic rock act Beefeaters) sadly passed away. However the two guitarists Karsten Lyng and Ole Prehn opted to reform and reorganize the band. They recruited Ole Fick (guitars, vocals), Jess Stæhr (Bass) and Bo Thrige Andersen (Drums) to complete the lineup. All three were fresh out of work from the recently disbanded Burnin´ Red Ivanhoe. With a lineup like that expectations were naturally high to "The Neighbour's Son".

Unfortunately the band have changed their style a lot since "Wide Open N-Way (1970)". The tracks are (safe for a few exceptions) vers/chorus structured rock songs completely lacking the dark, heavy, psychadelic and semi-progressive nature of "Wide Open N-Way (1970)". The musicianship are obviously on a very high level and compared to the debut that part is actually more professionally executed. The music is still very guitar driven and it´s obvious that it´s two guitarists that are the main men behind the project. The issue here is the songwriting. The only track on the album that´s a bit adventurous is the 6:37 minutes long "Paradox". It´s also the longest track on the album and it´s the track that reminds me the most of the material from "Wide Open N-Way (1970)". The rest is not bad but it´s pretty unremarkable.

The sound production which is courtesy of Tony Reeves (Colosseum, Greenslade) is professional and well sounding. Pleasant and organic. So in many ways "The Neighbour's Son" is a quality release by Day of Phoenix. The compositions are just generally not memorable enough or intriguing enough to leave a lasting impression.

Day Of Phoenix - 1970 - Wide Open N-Way

Day Of Phoenix
Wide Open N-Way

01. Wide Open N-Way (11:33)
02. Cellophane #1 & 2 (13:44)
03. If You Ask Me (4:49)
04. Mind Funeral (12:29)
05. Tick-Tack (1:10)

- Hans Lauridsen / vocals
- Karsten Lyng / guitar
- Erik Stedt / bass, piano
- Ole Prehn / guitar,vocals
- Henrik Friis / drums, percussion

additional musicians:
- Peter Friis / bass (4)
- Ulrik Jensen / oboe
- Kenneth Knudsen / piano

DAY OF PHOENIX hails from Denmark and was formed in 1968. The first line-up consisted of native english singer/guitarist Cy Nicklin, drummer Henrik Friis plus Ole Prehn, Karsten Lyng and Jess Stæhr - all three ex-members of a band called 'The Maniacs'. During the early days they released the single 'Tell me / I think it's gonna rain today' and wrote one soundtrack before Nicklin suddenly left to join the band 'Culpeper's Orchard'.

Tony Reeves - bassist of the early Colosseum band - was the producer of their first long player 'Wide Open N-Way'. It was recorded in Copenhagen and is pointed out as the jewel of the band's musical history. With new vocalist Hans Lauridsen and bassist Erik Stedt substituting Stæhr they worked out an ambitious psychedelic based album with references to the US West Coast style. Additionally provided with folk and jazz elements it has a reputation nowadays in the progressive rock scene and is receiving excellent reviews. 1971 the next single 'Deep Within The Storm / Chicken Skin' followed.

And then DAY OF PHOENIX fall apart because Erik Stedt died unexpectedly. The band had to be reorganized with the remaining Prehn and Lyng. After the split of Burnin' Red Ivanhoe Ole Fick, Jess Stæhr and Bo Thrige Andersen joined to record the new album 'The Neighbour's Son'. Compared to the foreunner it contains shorter and more plain rock songs and is frequently evaluated as a disappointment. Stæhr, Fick and Anderson went on to rebuild Burnin' Red Ivanhoe afterwards.

1979 the danish sublabel of swedish Sonet Grammofon reissued both DAY OF PHOENIX albums as a 2LP release followed by a Universal Music digitally remastered version in 2000.

Wide Open N-Way is the debut albm by Danish psychadelic/ progressive rock act Day of Phoenix. Day of Phoenix was formed in 1968 and initially included one of the most prolific musicians on the experimental part of the Danish music scene in the late sixties and the early seventies Cy Nicklin in the lineup. Wide Open N- Way was originally released on LP in 1970 through Sonet Records. The album was re-issued in 1979 as a double LP with the band´s second album The Neighbour's Son (1972) ( this is the copy I own). It´s been re-released both as a single CD and as a double CD set with The Neighbour's Son in recent years.

First a little related background info from the Danish scene for those who have an interest in that.

Cy Nicklin who was British had started his music career in the Danish based folk duo Cy & Maia with Danish singer Maia Aarskov whom he had met at a dinner party in 1965. The duo later became a trio and was renamed Cy, Maia & Robert, when Danish based French musician Robert Jean Francis Lelièvre who had deserted the French army in 1962 and lived in political exile in Denmark, joined the two. Cy & Maia recorded the single Portland Town/ Chickens Are Coming in 1966 and it was the only recording they made as a duo before Robert Lelièvre joined them. Cy, Maia & Robert recorded their debut album On the Scene in 1966 and their second album Out of Our Times was released in 1967. They also released three singles in that period Green Rocky Road/ Harvest of Hate (1966), A Church Is Burning/ Take a Look Inside (1967) and Cheers Dears/ Natural Man (1967). The latter was recorded using the name Maia & Full Limit. Cy Nicklin and Robert Lelièvre also played guitar on Scottish folk singer Alex Campbell's 1967 album Alex Campbell At the Tivoli Gardens (1967). Cy, Maia & Robert split up in November of 1967.

Robert Lelièvre then went on and recorded an album called Alliance (1968) with Scottish folk singer Iain Campbell and then went to England where he recorded a solo album The Hare (1968 or 1969) and was signed by Polydor as a songwriter and studio musician. Robert Lelièvre came back to Denmark in June of 1969 where he teamed up with Cy Nicklin again ( who had just left Day of Phoenix with whom he had recorded the single Tell Me / I Think It's Gonna Rain Today (1969)) and formed the folk/ rock band High Crossfield. That band later evolved into the progressive rock act Pan whose sole self-titled album Pan (1970) is widely considered as one of the most important progressive rock ( proto-prog) albums in Denmark. Robert Lelièvre sadly suffered from depressions and took his own life in August of 1973 ( Pan disbanded in 1972). Cy Nicklin had left the band before the recording of Pan and formed Culpeper's Orchard who is also considered one of the most important bands on the Danish progressive rock scene.

Day of Phoenix initially started out as a blues rock band but after Cy Nicklin left their style took a more experimental and psychadelic turn. The music on Wide Open N-Way is a mix of west coast psychadelic rock and semi-progressive rock with a touch of jazz/ rock. The music is guitar driven and the two guitarists Karsten Lyng and Ole Prehn compliment each other brilliantly throughout the album. Hans Lauridsen´s vocals are pretty strong and as a plus the Danish accent is actually not that obvious ( which is something that can´t be said about many Danish bands singing English language lyrics in the sixties and seventies). The rythm section with drummer Henrik Friis and bassist/ pianist Erik Stedt ( also a member of Danish psychadelic rock act Beefeaters). Erik Stedt sadly died in 1971 and Day of Phoenix disbanded for a while) are also very capable musicians. The music is generally pretty dark and with three out of five songs on the album that has a playing time over 10 minutes each there´s lots of room for long jamming guitar solos. The music is well composed but sometimes suffer a bit because of the experiments. Sometimes those experiments are succeful but sometimes they just don´t work that well. My favorite song is Mind Funeral but the other two lengthy tracks Wide Open N-Way and Cellophane #1 & 2 also stand out as something special IMO.

The album is produced by Tony Reeves ( Colosseum, Greenslade) and got lots of attention because of that. This is not to say that the music isn´t of high quality because it certainly is but the choice of producer was wise. The production is very good but I hear more than one technical error in the playing which under normal circumstances would have been corrected but isn´t here. Maybe it was a money issue or limited studio time but it gives the album an unpolished quality that you don´t hear in music today. Quite charming really.

I´ve enjoyed Wide Open N-Way since the first time I was introduced to it by a friend in secondary school. Let´s just say we were influenced by some of the same things in those days that the hippies consumated in their heyday and this was one of the albums that we listened to in my friend´s room a lot along side albums by other Danish psychadelic/ progressive rock artists like The Young Flowers, The Savage Rose, Beefeaters, Alrune Rod, Burnin´ Red Ivanhoe and Steppeulvene. I return to those days every time I listen to the album but somehow the feeling of freedom and youth just don´t feel as strong anymore. I used to love the album but now I only hear a very good and interesting album.