Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hansson & Karlsson - 1968 - Rex

Hansson & Karlsson

01. Live (1:17)
02. I Love, You Love (13:52)
03. Carlous Rex (1:46)
04. Chateau plaisance-68 (21:55)

- Bo Hansson / organ
- Janne Carlsson/ drums

Many admirers of Bo Hansson know that there are previous recordings associated with him from a time before his classic 1970 fantasy album "music inspired by Lord of the Rings". In the late sixties Bo was one half of a rock duo with fellow Swede Janne Karlsson,an innovative jazz drummer. This odd combo [just organ & drums,no other instruments] played a club scene & appeared on stage as support act for a tour of Jimi Hendrix Experience, as well as supporting a Cream concert in Stockholm. During those early years they recorded their own albums which were noticed by many in the British rock scene & elsewhere in Europe. This selection titled "Hansson & Karlsson" is a pick of tracks from three albums - "Monument" 1967, "Rex" 1968, & "Man at the Moon" 1969.

It must be said from the beginning that this entirely instrumental music will not appeal to all. It has a considerable Jazz content, & even Bo Hansson fans may need time to get their heads around it. This is something very much in a class of it's own. But it can grow on you. Where else would you find such original material revealing the full spectrum of Hammond organ without other instruments?
For me it was quite surprising to find that two Swedes played a blend of jazz & rock as far back as 1967. Some of the tracks rock a little, one or two pieces sound like jazz from an old underground bar, & occasionly the organ goes a bit "Frankenstein". And yet the catchy track "Tax Free" which was later recorded by Hendrix, always sounds to me more like some Nordic fairy dance than anything suggested by that title. This was the height of the psychadelic era & so there are some dreamy interludes, & towards the end of the album the music ventures into something of a jazzy space odessey [Man at the Moon].
The sleeve notes for the CD contain a lenghty interview with H&K which details much about where they were at in those early times,& includes mention of their friendship with Jimi.
Most of this selection was recorded live in the studios with hardly any over-dubbing &, as the sleeve notes explain, much of H&K's music was spontaneous & improvised. It is tempting to imagine Hendrix cranking up his left-handed Stratocaster on a few of these tracks, & intriguing to think that he had interests in styles other than blues-rock [Jimi had some lenghty jams with this duo].

Hansson played the Hammond organ in a very original manner creating sounds & effects previously unheard, & this music would have been considered "underground" or "experimental" in it's day. At times Bo seems to test the humble instrument to it's limits, while at others he plays cool modern jazz - [Hansson always admitted to being inspired by American jazz organist Jack McDuff].
Historically this selection represents some little known rock-jazz relics. Musically it is some of the most unique & original late sixties era material you might ever hear, as well as being a statement about how two clever artists can produce a fullness of sound equivalent to a larger band. One could also query as to what extent this album represents some of the earliest jazz-fusion. But above all I find myself wanting to hear the entire album "Man at the Moon", or better still, all three represented albums in their entirety.
"Hansson and Karlsson" is unashamedly a jazz-rock relic which, although not for everyone, may surprise some.

Hansson & Karlsson - 1968 - P som i Pop!

Hansson & Karlsson
P som i Pop!

01. P som i Pop (4:25)

- Bo Hansson / organ
- Janne Carlsson / drums

7'' flexi

Cardboard picture disc, single sided, that came along with the Swedish daily paper Dagens Nyheter. Recorded at Klubb Filips (Club Filips) in Stockholm, probably Europes first psychedelic club. Introduction by famous radio DJ Claes Dieden also a member of the Swedish beat group Science Poption.

Hansson & Karlsson - 1967 - Monument

Hansson & Karlsson 

01. Richard lionheart (4:17)
02. Triplets (4:54)
03. Tax free (7:17)
04. February (7:16)
05. Collage (8:52)
06. H.K theme (2:54)

- Bo Hansson / organ
- Janne Carlsson / drums

 This album caught my attention simply because it is listed as the very first progressive rock album on Rate Your Music. I had never heard of this duo before but I was aware of the first half namely Bo Hansson who is most famous for his symphonic prog album "Lord Of The Rings" (Sagan Om Ringen) which was released in both English and Swedish. Although it qualifies as progressive rock under RYM's multi-assigned genre system, I think the folks at ProgArchives rightfully qualify this as a Proto-Prog release since it is literally these two talented musicians and no one else performing on the entirety of this album.

What we have here is simply a very talented jazz drummer Janne Karlsson playing with the symphonic extraordinaire virtuoso keyboardist Bo Hansson who kinda reminds you of the Doors at times. This music is much better than you would think considering it is only two guys playing two instruments throughout the entirety of the album. The first three tracks are actually fairly exciting but where this album begins to wear thin is on the fourth track where it actually reminds me of soap opera music of the 40s and 50s with the tone of the organ. By the time I get to the end of this album I am well over it and end up wishing that this extraordinary duo would have formed a full band because despite it all they create an excellent atmosphere that actually works well as background music. The whole time I listen to this I imagine myself being in some 60s lounge setting sipping some cocktails and only half absorbed into the music itself.

Hansson & Karlsson - 1967 - Lidingö Airport

Hansson & Karlsson
Lidingö Airport

01. Lidingö Airport (4:37)
02. Canada Lumberyard (3:45)

- Bo Hansson / organ
- Janne Carlsson / drums

In 1966, Swedish keyboardist BO HANSSON, known especially for his album based on JRR Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings", formed a partnership with drummer JANNE KARLSSON. The latter had been introduced to HANSSON by his former Merrymen bandmate Bill Öhrström, who had become an A&R man and producer at Polydor Sweden. The two musicians immediately hit it off, and were signed by Polydor.

HANSSON & KARLSSON released three albums of uptempo, Hammond organ-based music between 1967 and 1969. They became immensely popular in their home country and Europe, and even reached the ear of JIMI HENDRIX, who took time out from his 1967 tour to jam with the duo at the Klub Filips in Stockholm. Hendrix went on to record the HANSSON song, "Tax Free". The end came in 1969, when KARLSSON became a successful comedian and TV host, and HANSSON decided to break up the partnership and embark on his solo career.

Omega - 1979 - Live at the Kisstadion

Live at the Kisstadion 

01. Vostok
02. Gammapolis I
03. Help to Find Me
04. Russian Winter
05. Start
06. Time Robber
07. Late Night Show
08. Silver Rain
09. High on the Starway
10. Metamorphosis II
11. Final
12. Metamorphosis I

- László Benkö / keyboards
- Ferenc Debreceni / drums
- János Kóbor / lead vocals
- Tamás Mihály / bass
- György Molnár / acoustic & electric guitars
+ Egon Póka / guitars
- János Szénich / guitars
- József Törös / guitars

This acclaimed legendary Hungarian prog rock band made some beautiful albums in the Seventies but 'live' they were at their best. This originally 2-LP from '79 (on the 1-CD release the song "Rush Hour" has been deleted) showcases an inspired and powerful performance (more than 50.000 spectators!) from OMEGA, playing most of finest material like "Gammapolis" (great howling guitar licks), "Help To Find Me" (strong Minimoog solo with sensational use of the pitch bend button), "Time Robber", "High On The Starway" (rock and roll with heavy duo guitar work) and "Metamorphosis II + II. The massive crowd reacts very enthusiastic to the warm, melodic and varied 'heavy progressive rock' featuring tasteful keyboards, fiery and sensitive electric guitar and inspired Hungarian/English vocals. I'm pleased with the typical melancholic mood from Eastern Europe in some songs (like "Russian Winter"), very original that makes OMEGA to a band worth to discover for the younger 'prog heads'.

Omega - 1979 - Gammapolis


01. Dawn in the City (7:10)
02. Lady of the Summer Night (4:32)
03. Rush Hour (4:39)
04. Return of the Outcast (4:25)
05. Start (2:25)
06. Gammapolis (4:03)
07. The Man without a Face (2:02)
08. Silver Rain (5:16)
09. Gammapolis 2 (7:21)

This is the English edition of the Hungarian album "Gammapolisz"

- László Benkö / keyboards, Mellotron, synthesizers
- Ferenc Debreceni / drums, vibraphon, percussion
- János Kóbor / lead vocals
- Tamás Mihály / bass, acoustic guitars
- György Molnár / acoustic & electric guitar, guitar synthesizer

Omega - 1978 - Skyrover


01. Overture (2:41)
02. Skyrover (3:54)
03. Russian Winter (5:05)
04. The lost prophet (5:47)
05. Metamorphosis (3:45)
06. Purple lady (4:41)
07. High on the starway (4:51)
08. The hope, the bread and the wine (2:48)
09. Final (2:45)

This is the english edition of the hungarian album "Csillagok útján".

- László Benkö / keyboards, synths, Mellotron
- Ferenc Debreceni / drums, marimba, percussion, vibraphone
- János Kóbor / lead vocals
- Tamás Mihály / bass, acoustic guitar
- György Molnár / acoustic & electric guitars, balalaika, pufaika

Omega - 1978 - Gammapolisz


01. Start-Gammapolis (6:28)
02. Nyári éjek asszonya (4:32)
03. Õrültek órája (5:09)
04. A számûzött (4:28)
05. Hajnal a város felett (7:09)
06. Arcnélkül ember (2:090
07. Ezüst esõ (5:11)
08. Gammapolis II (7:39)

This album was also published in english under the same title "Gammapolis".

- László Benkö / keyboards
- Ferenc Debreceni / drums, percussion
- János Kobor / vocals
- Tamás Mihály / bass
- György Molnár / guitar

This is like a b-side album of Csillagok útján. Same style, same principles in the build-up: framework in the beginning and in the end ('Gammapolis I-II'), both quite good. After the monumental opening comes a cut in tempo: the mellow 'Nyári éjek asszonya' (= Lady of the summer nights) - rather important romantic Omega-classic, but not a real interesting piece musically. Then comes 'Õrültek órája' (= Mad hour): an unusually wannabe hard rock and roll, it will be much better served by Omega on the next album Az arc (= The face).

After this only fillers' coming after each other: slow space rock themes, a bit pointless in places. But before the closing section here's 'Ezüst esõ' (= Silver rain), one of the most beautiful pieces of the rock history in my mind, saving this album in the end.

If you liked Csillagok útján, you may enjoy this also, but a definitely weaker effort.

Omega - 1978 - Csillagok Utjan

Csillagok Utjan

01. Nyitány (2:45)
02. Égi vándor (3:55)
03. Léna (4:59)
04. Légy erös (5:47)
05. Metamorfózis I (3:48)
06. Bibor hölgy (4:42)
07. Csillagok útján (4:51)
08. Metamorfózis II (2:51)
09. Finálé (2:43)

This album was also published in English under the title "Skyrover".

- László Benkö / keyboards, mellotron
- Ferenc Debreceni / drums, percussion, vibraphone, marimbaphone
- János Kobor / vocals
- Tamás Mihály / bass, mellotron
- György Molnár / guitars, balalaika

- Judit Szánti, Edit Szigeti, Éva Várszegi / backing vocals

Finally, with their eighth Hungarian album OMEGA reached the peak of their space/prog achievements. Forget about the cover image where the band members wear horrible glittering garment in the vein of ABBA or BEE GEES! Just listen to the music.

Production is very good and probably for the first time OMEGA knew how to make a strong album without often poor heavy rock fillers. The opening notes of Nytany with Beethoven's 5th suggests more symphonic influences than on earlier albums. Benko's keyboards are excellent and provide rich sound palette and space/psychedelic sensation, while Molnar shows that he knows how to add tasty and effective guitar solo spices.

The album is rich with ideas and almost every composition is different from another one, but all together they make a fine and coherent work. If there is need to single out better moments, let's point out a beautifully performed Lena with its Russian winter themes and lovely balalaika strings. Legy eros is another fine and melodic prog ballad with wonderful guitar solo resembling David Gilmour influences. In the similar manner continues another FLOYD-esque space ballad Bibor holgy with excellent drums and weeping guitar.

Instead of bad habit of including rather poor heavy rock songs as fillers in almost all previous albums, the title song Csillagok utjan is excellent hard rocker almost close to metal, with irresistable power riff. It reminds me of the later well known hit of Yugoslav/Croatian heavy rock giants ATOMSKO SKLONISTE. Along with classic Tuzvihar from the second album, it is the best heavy rock moment of OMEGA.

Omega - 1977 - Idorablo


01. Napot hoztam, csillagot (5:24)
02. Idõrabló (2:58)
03. Ablakok (3:26)
04. A névtelen utazó (5:25)
05. A könyvelõ álma (3:36)
06. Nélküled (7:06)
07. Éjféli koncert (5:49)

This album was also published in English under the title "Time Robber".

- Lÿszló Benkö / keyboards, mellotron, vocals
- Ferenc Debreceni / drums, percussion
- János Kobor / vocals
- Tamás Mihály / bass, vocals
- György Molnár / guitar

The seventh Hungarian release marks the attempt of OMEGA to shift their sound into more space-rock defined style. However, the attempt appears to be only partially successful.

The opening tri-partite title track (Time Robber) only suggests the expansion of their sound, with repetitive guitar chords and synth background, but never really gets anywhere. Add to this Kobor's vocals spoiled with ugly echo effects and you get dissappointed right away. At best it can be described as close to better moments of JANE, URIAH HEEP or Yugoslavian contemporaries DRUGI NACIN.

The following two tracks are even worse, pretty mediocre and dull hard rock, that sound very much like fillers of album space.

What saves Idorablo and actually pushes it into the class of good, decent prog albums, are the next two tracks. They contain valuable elements of space-rock a la FLOYD or ELOY (Nelkuled) and of symphonic rock sound (Ejfeli koncert) that can justify its purchase by prog community.

Omega - 1976 - Time Robber

Time Robber

01. Time Robber (12:43)
a) House Of Cards Part I
b) Time Robber
c) House Of Cards Part II
02. Invitation (5:42)
03. Don"t Keep Me Waiting (7:20)
04. An accountant's Dream (3:40)
05. Late Night Show (6:30)

- Janos Kobor / lead vocals, percussion
- Laszlo Benko / organ, Moog synthesizer, vocals
- Tamas Mihaly / bass, vocals
- Gyorgy Molnar / guitars, 12 string guitar, acoustic guitar
- Ferenc Debreceni / drums, percussion

Hungary's gift to the world. Omega are a truly world class Progressive Rock band of the first order. These guys can be as good as anyone when they're on their game. And to me the mid to late 1970s was when Omega was at their peak as a band. And, though some may argue (Because it's pretty widely held that 10,000 Lepes is thier high water mark) I believe Time Robber to be Omega's magnum opus. Every song on Time Robber is a timeless Progressive Rock Masterpiece. House Of Cards is simply astounding. Invitation is a jaw-dropping aural waterfall that has to be heard to be believed. And Late Night Show just may be the greatest song Omega ever created. Vocalist and Frontman János Kóbor has one of the best and most unique voices in Progressive Rock history and György Molnár's Guitars and László Benko wonderful Keyboard work are both superb. Five star Prog perfection.

Omega - 1975 - The Hall Of Floaters In The Sky

The Hall Of Floaters In The Sky

01. Movin' world (6:33)
02. One man land (5:52)
03. Magician (6:03)
04. The hall of floaters in the sky (3:25)
05. Never feel shame (8:15)
06. 20th century town dweller (6:46)

- Janos Kóbor / lead vocals
- György Molnár / acoustic & electric guitars
- Lászlö Benkö / keyboards, Moog, clavinet, Fender piano, backing vocals
- Tamás Mihály / basses
- Ferenc Debreceni / drums, percussion, tubular bells, backing vocals

Omega have incredibly featured the same five-man line-up since 1971(!). They have issued both English-language and Hungarian-language albums over the years, in the process originating from humble late-sixties beat-and-psych origins to, by the mid-seventies, fully-fledged progressive rock concept album creators. The most successful of all Hungarian rock and pop groups, and even finding an audience abroad, Omega's lengthy career simply can't be summed up in a paragraph or two, their output prodigious in the extreme. Issued in 1975, 'The Hall Of Floaters In The Sky' is premium Omega circa their progressive phase, a good place to start for the curious and a wonderful example of full-steam-ahead symphonic-style prog done European-style yet obviously heavily influenced by the likes of Yes, Genesis and even Todd Rundgren's Utopia. Featuring plenty of jagged synthesizer blasts, topped-up with metallic guitars, burnished with gritty English vocals and filled with enough instrumental invention to make most mid-seventies rock groups blush with envy, this is a truly remarkable album, though don't expect any cultural Hungarian tweaks or traditional East European folk-or-zydeco influences; this is harsh, hard and energetic music filled with catchy melodies and some fiendishly inventive solo's from the groups five-man line-up. Being from 1975, it leans more towards the electronic- sounding production that would arrived with the 1980's, though a 1970's sensibility still lurks amongst the album's six entrancing tracks. Best of all are 'Magician', which powers up via some muscular guitar histrionics courtesy of axeman Gyorgy Molnar, and the eight-minute closer '20th Century Town Dweller', which balances shimmering synth lines with throbbing basses and some truly chest-thumping percussion licks. Whether this is a good example of the work of Omega in general is a good question; this critic, although a fan of 'The Hall Of Floaters In The Sky', is in no position to answer as much of the group's work is simply inaccessible to Western audiences. That said though, if their other 'key' albums of the 1960's and 1970's are anything like this impressive opus then Omega must be one hell of a group. This is tough, creative and classy progressive rock and fans of all types of the genre are urged to investigate immediately.

Omega - 1975 - Nem Tudom a Neved

Nem Tudom a Neved

01. Nem tudom a neved (7:38)
02. Addig élj! (3:28)
03. Egyszemélyes ország (2:32)
04. A büvész (4:49)
05. Az égben lebegök csarnoka (2:47)
06. Mozgó világ (4:51)
07. Huszadik századi városlakó (6:17)
08. Tüzvihar (3:53)*

* Tüzvihar - Revised version of the same named song from the album "10000 Lépés", only at the CD.

- László Benkö / keyboards
- Ferenc Debreceni / drums, percussion
- János Kobor / vocals
- Tamás Mihály / bass
- György Molnár / guitar

'Nem Tudom a Neved' (I Don't Know Your Name) is a wonderful album by Hungarian Hard- Rock/Proggers Omega.
The sixth Hungarian album brings the first true masterpiece of OMEGA progressive rock, a phenomenal title track Nem tudom a neved. An excellent and easily recogniseable and catchy guitar riff and plethora of Moog synths make this composition rank amongst the best in prog music, in general terms. Unfortunately, the rest of the album suffers from inconsistency while the two following songs are hardly more than obvious hard rock fillers. Still, the second side of the album regaines a momentum a bit, sticking back to a more sophisticated prog territory, while the last song Huszadik szazadi varoslako (The 20th Century City-Dwellers) is every bit as good as the opener, having very nice heavy-symphonic sound. Some CD reissues contain a bonus track, a new version of Tuzvihar, which is a spoiler if you ask me.

Omega - 1974 - Omega III

Omega III

01. Stormy Fire (Túzvihar) (3:58)
02. Spanish Guitar (Spanyol gitár legenda) (3:30)
03. Go on the Spree (Egyszemélyes ország) (2:33)
04. Remembering (Emlék) (3:25)
05. Everytime She Steps In (Régvárt kedvesem) (3:45)
06. Live as Long as (Addig élj!) (3:19)
07. Just a Bloom (Eltakart világ) (4:31)
08. I Go Away (Én elmegyek) (3:31)
09. Fancy Jeep (Omegauto) (3:49)

- János Kobor / lead vocals, percussion
- György Molnár / acoustic & electric guitars
- László Benkö / organ, Moog, vocals
- Tamás Mihály / bass, Mellotron, backing vocals
- Ferenc Debreceni / drums, percussion

3rd German album with English versions of songs

Omega started making attempts to reach a wider audience and Bacillus supported the band by releasing the ''Omega III'' album in 1974.Reputedly this album, which contains 9 tracks sung in English, included older compositions of the group, re-arranged by the band with English lyrics.

Stylistically this is rather a step back for the band, which returns to its Hard Rock roots, quite reasonable for a band, which revisits its older material.Compositionally though ''Omega III'' is a pretty strong album, even if the progressive flavors are limited.Tight, well-produced and powerful Hard Rock with occasional symphonic/proggy vibes and fantastic work on English vocals by Janos Kobor.Actually they sound extremely close to British bands, especially URIAH HEEP, dropping hard riffing next to dymanic and diverse keyboard parts full of passion and energy.As aforementioned, most of the tracks are straightforward Hard Rock with great guitar moves, edgy solos and lots of keyboard waves next to Kobor's great voice.A few of them though really stand out.''Remembering'' is a very good piece of Classic/Prog Rock in the vein of URIAH HEEP and THE MOODY BLUES with a nice organ intro, irritating Mellotron parts and melodic guitar soloing by Gyorgy Molnar.''I go away'' is quite close to Classical Rock with psychedelic beats, highlighted by a beautiful opening organ themes by Benko and another monumental guitar performance by Molnar.''Spanish guitar'' is another winner.Accesible, consistent and solid Classic Rock with background Mellotrons and a fine combination of electric and acoustic textures.

Omega - 1974 - 200 Years After The Last War

200 Years After The Last War

01. Suite (Szvit) (19:23)
02. Help to Find Me (Nem tudom a neved) (7:41)
03. 200 Years After The Last War (200 évvel az utolsó háború után) (5:11)
04. You Don't Know (A jövendômondó) (3:25)

- János Kobor / lead vocals, percussion
- György Molnár / acoustic & electric guitars
- László Benkö / organ, Moog, backing vocals
- Tamás Mihály / bass, Mellotron, backing vocals
- Ferenc Debreceni / drums, percussion

Definitely the most important Hungarian rock band with fans outside the country even in the 70's,releasing albums both in English and Hungarian.Formed in 1962 in Budapest by guitarist/singer János Kóbor and keyboardist László Benkö,they initially covered English titles before the arrival of new keyboardist Gábor Presser in 1967.Presser was a composing machine and the band started to record its first few albums.Until 1970 they released no less than four works in the Psychedelic Rock field with some Hard Rock leanings.Presser along with drummer József Laux decided to leave Omega to form Locomotiv GT and on the new line-up Kobor was the singer,Benko the main keyboardist along with Ferenc Debreceni on drums,Tamás Mihály on bass and György Molnár on guitars.The sound of the band started to become more artistic and after two albums (''Omega'' and ''Omega 5'' from 1973),the break took place in 1974 with ''200 Years After the Last War''.

Side A is totally dedicated to the 19-min. virgin epic of the band ''Suite''.This is an eclectic mix of Hard Rock,Blues,ELOY-ish Psychedelic Rock and Classic Prog and a very good reason to purchase the album,with the classical education of Benko being a major element of the sound.The track contains plenty of shifting moods and mellow breaks between guitar- driven passages with hard-rocking and bluesy riffing and keyboard-based themes with magnificent organ and mellotron and a high level of dynamics from start to end.Vocals were never the strong point of the band,but fit well with the overall atmosphere.The result is a very strong composition with various influences and some really exciting parts.

Side B shows the band insisting on the more simplistic but certainly strong style of their previous albums.''Help to find me'' is a powerful heavy rock number with a pounding groove in the vein of DEEP PURPLE but also some great moog-synth work to be heard in the middle part and towards the end.The eponymous track starts very country-flavored,it has strong psychedelic elements,some decent jazzy guitars but it is by far the weakest track of the album and sounds rather dated for today's standards.The closing ''You Don't Know'' finds the band again in the DEEP PURPLE vein with Benko having a very JON LORD-style of organ playing and a very BEATLES-que vocal section.The track is again powerful,energetic,groovy but also too simple-structured compared to side A.

''200 Years After the Last War'' marked the end of an era and the start of a new age for Omega,with the band following the prog fashion of the period.The talent, education and skills of the members were enough to flirt with the style anf if you like your Hard Rock with plenty of progressive moves,this album is a great contender of being part of your collection.Recommended.

Omega - 1973 - Omega 5

Omega 5

01. Hazug lány (3:08)
02. A madár (3:36)
03. Én elmegyek (4:21)
04. A jövendômondó (3:27)
05. Járt itt egy bolond ember (3:40)
06. Búcsúztató (4:57)
07. Ébredés (5:39)
08. A malomban (3:48)
09. Hazafelé (5:28)
10. A hetedik napon (2:09)
11. Délutáni szerelem (1:21)
12. Van aki nyugtalan (2:18)

- János Kobor / vocals
- György Molnár / guitar
- László Benkö / keyboards
- Tamás Mihály / bass, keyboards
- Ferenc Debreceni / drums, congas

One of the best Omega Lp,original gatefold sleeve!This Lp is housed in a beautiful cover. this is a strong progressive in a Vertigo style,featuring more of the harmonic vocals and lush sinuous guitar and keyboard work of the bands slater releases. Their epic track can be found here in the form of Svit (to be found in English on the second Bellaphon release 200 Years After The Last War) It weaves it's way through a number of movements with many dynamics beginning off with a dreamy vocal/keyboard section describing an awakening from a long slumber. It proceeds, very poetically to describe a working day and develops at mid point into a blues /rock extraviganza culminating with a very soft conclusion. This is prog!

Omega - 1973 - Omega


01. Everytime She Steps In (Régvárt kedvesem) (4:23)
02. After a Hard Year (Egy nehéz év után) (5:39)
03. Delicate Sweep (Törékeny lendület) (4:05)
04. Parting Song (Búcsúztató) (5:10)
05. The Bird (A madár) (4:17)
06. The Lying Girl (Hazug lány) (2:50)
07. White Magic Stone (Varázslatos, fehér kõ) (8:05)

This LP contains English versions of songs from Hungarian albums "200 Évvel az utolsó háború után" (tracks 1 - 3, 7) and "Omega 5" (tracks 4 - 6)

- László Benkö / organ, piano, Moog, Mellotron, vocals
- Ferenc Debreceni / drums, percussion
- János Kóbor / lead vocals, percussion
- Tamás Mihály / bass, acoustic guitar, piano, backing vocals
- György Molnár / lead guitar

Seems they almost had a dual career going, between their domestic releases, and these export albums. This one was for German consumption, though it featured English lyrics. Though it must still be considered in the progressive rock genre, this one is far too commercially oriented overall for my taste, yet somehow, it is still a good record.

Omega - 1972- 200 évvel az utolsó háború után

200 évvel az utolsó háború után

01. Régvárt kedvesem (5:39)
02. 200 évvel az utolsó háború után (5:30)
03. Szex-apo (3:10)
04. Törékeny lendület (4:10)
05. Egy nehéz év után (5:39)
06. Hûtlen barátok (5:32)
07. Blues (3:34)
08. Eltakart világ (4:50)
09. Emlék (3:30)
10. Omegauto (4:18)
11. Varázslatos, fehér kõ (8:50)

- János Kobor / lead vocals
- György Molnár / guitar
- László Benkö / keyboards, backing vocals
- Tamás Mihály / bass, backing vocals
- Ferenc Debreceni / drums

Recorded (but not published) in 1972.

Omega - 1972 - Elo Omega

Elo Omega

01. Hútlen barátok (5:48)
02. Blues (3:38)
03. Egy nehéz év után (5:52)
04. Törékeny lendület (4:14)
05. Omegauto (4:32)
06. Régvárt kedvesem (5:21)
07. Emlék (3:37)
08. Eltakart világ (5:20)
09. Varázslatos, fehér kõ (9:06)

This long play record includes recordings from OMEGA concerts, which took place from 17th January till 10th March 1972. It was published as a substitute for the LP "200 évvel az utolsó háború után", which fell victim to censorship.

- János Kobor / lead vocals
- György Molnár / guitar
- László Benkö / keyboards, backing vocals
- Tamás Mihály / bass, backing vocals
- Ferenc Debreceni / drums

Given the odd origin of this live album - issued independently by the band themselves instead of the intended but allegedly censored studio album "200 évvel az utolsó háború után" - it is a very good one. In this period OMEGA lost two band members (who went to form LOKOMOTIV GT) and were struggling with the state-owned record company.

Unless you are more demanding for a higher quality of sound and production, these drawbacks are not so evident on "Elo". OMEGA sounds very powerful and strong on stage. It's still mainly a trendy hard rock sound with several nice ballads, and again one redundant blues improvisation... But, just listen to "Egy nehéz év után","Hútlen barátok" or "Varázslatos, fehér kõ" and you'll experience excellent performing with fiery prog rock energy! Several guitar solos are developing the themes that would be perfectuated on their smash hit "Nem tudom a neved" on "Omega 6" album. For fans of early 70s heavy rock with prog leanings and beautiful psychedelic ballads (such as URIAH HEEP), this is a fine and enjoyable addition.

Omega - 1970 - Ejszakai Orszagut

Ejszakai Orszagut

01. Oh Jöjj!
02. A hol, boldogságot osztották!
03. Maradj velem
04. Oh, Barbarella
05. H, az elektromos furész
06. Az éjszakai országúton
07. Utcán, a térem
08. Van egy szõ
09. Utazas a szürke folyón
10. Olyan szépen mosolygott
11. Egy kis pihenõ
12. Vészkijárat

- János Kobor / lead vocals
- László Benkö / flute, trumpet
- György Molnár / guitar, harmonica
- Gábor Presser / keyboards, vocals
- Tamás Mihály / bass, cello
- József Laux / drums, conga

The third Hungarian album is more developed than its predecessor and it is in my opinion the best one featuring this line-up with Gabor Presser (soon to leave and form Lokomotiv GT). Particularly the first half of the record is full of energetic heavy prog rock with acid spices - guitar riffs, stomping rhythm section and nice Hammond organ backing. It is enough to hear first three perfectly played heavy songs so to check what year was this? 1970? OMEGA was actually quite contemporary with this sound! BLACK SABBATH just started while DEEP PURPLE just now turned heavy! Occassionally one can hear flute, piano and harmonica, but the overall sound is extremely heavy, in the best tradition of early British hard rock in the vein of URIAH HEEP.

"Az éjszakai országúton" and "Az Utcán, a térem" are the peak of the album, containing some healthy dose of symphonic arrangements and keyboards. These two tracks would usually be present in later compilations. By the end of the album, musical structure disintegrates a bit, having last 2-3 tracks with unnecessary psychedelic experiments, which together with decent but totally out of place blues number "Oh, Barbarella" prevents this album from being perfectly produced LP.

Still, "Éjszakai Országút" is highly recommended early heavy prog album from the turn of the decade, and surely one of the best non-English East-European albums of this era, pre-dating famous first Yugoslav prog rock albums of Drago Mlinarec, TIME or KORNI GRUPA.

Omega - 1969 - 10000 Lepes

10000 Lepes

01. Petróleum lámpa (3:14)
02. Gyöngyhajú lány (5:49)
03. Túzvihar (3:09)
04. Udvari bolond kenyere (3:32)
05. Kérgeskezú favágök (8:15)
06. Tékozló fiúk (4:34)
07. Tizezer lépés (6:13)
08. Az 1958-as boogie-woogie klubban (2:14)
09. Spanyolgitár legenda (3:24)
10. Félbeszakadt koncert (4:00)

- Laszlo Benkö / trumpet, backing vocals
- Jánós Kobor / lead vocals
- Jószef Laux / drums
- Tamas Mihály / bass
- György Molnár / guitar
- Gábor Presser / keyboards, backing vocals

The second Hungarian album is much better than the amateurish debut, but the sound and style of the band is still not fully developed. Traces of psychedelic pop beat in "Petróleum lámpa" are being ever more informed by the burgeoning heavy rock guitar and organ riffs in "Túzvihar". The best compositions, the all-time favourite love ballad "Györgyhajú lány" (shamelessly copied and plagiarised by many, including the German metal legends SCORPIONS) and the powerfull, with excellent solo guitar, heavy stomping title track ("Ten Thousand Steps" in English), are at the same time the most progressive ones.

Omega - 1968 - Trombitas Fredi es a Rettenetes Emberek

Trombitas Fredi es a Rettenetes Emberek

01. Trombitás Frédi (2:32)
02. A napba néztem (3:36)
03. Egy lány nem ment haza (3:19)
04. Kállai kettõs (1:46)
05. Holnap (5:23)
06. Rettenetes emberek (5:09)
07. Ha én szél lehetnék (2:59)
08. Vasárnap (2:07)
09. Szeretnék visszamenni hozzád (1:53)
10. Halott virágok (2:23)
11. Kiskarácsony - Nagykarácsony (3:54)

- László Benkö / keyboards, trumpet
- János Kobor / vocals, guitar
- József Laux / drums
- Tamás Mihály / bass, cello
- György Molnár / guitar
- Gábor Presser / keyboards, vocals

 Happy go lucky Beatles-y pop from Hungary with a few tangents dedicated to Buttons-era Stones. Interesting arrangements with cello & tympani (for the Sgt. Pepperisms), kazoo (who knows why that's there) & piano (for the music hall parts). Vocals are not overly, shall we say, Borscht-isch. Later records get proggier though.

Omega - 1968 - Red Star From Hungary

Red Star From Hungary

01. Wake Up (3:23)
02. Mamma Said (2:52)
03. If I Were The Wind (2:47)
04. Rose Trees (2:37)
05. Tomorrow (5:01)
06. There Is Nothing I Can Do (5:28)
07. Once I Knew A Girl (2:51)
08. Clown (4:10)
09. Hungarian Folk Song (2:07)
10. Trumpeter Charlie (2:22)
11. Dead Are The Flowers (3:06)

- Gábor Presser - composer, organ, flute, vocals
- József Laux - drums
- Tamás Mihály - bass, vocals
- György Molnár - lead guitar
- László Benko - piano, trumpet, flute, citero
- János Kóbor - rhytm guitar, vocals

 Now, here's the first Hungarian beat LP what released in 1968, but not in Hungary, but in the UK. It was the funny story: when the Spencer Davis Group played in Hungary, the band manager discovered the Omega , and invited the band to the UK. The band went to London in 1968, and played lot of beat clubs, like in Marquee, Speakeasy, and the band performed in BBC Late night show. In the UK, the Omega (later about the band history) recorded some songs in english in DECCA studio, these songs were the Omega Red Star From Hungary LP.
After the recordings, the band had to go back to Hungary, so they couldn't became the "Red Stars" on the another side of the Iron Curtain, but.... At that time, the State Record Company (MHV) didn't want to released real Hungarian beat LP with Hungarian lyrics and songs, because they thought: the beat just the idiotic western fashion, which have no future in Hungary... Therefore the MHV allowed just EPs and 7"s with english cover songs. So when the Decca released the english Omega LP, MHV bureaucracy was frightened! The imperialists release one of hungarian beat LP faster than us? So when the band came back to Budapest, they got a straight way to the MHV studo, that they recording their english LP with Hungarian lyrics.

The New Hope - 1969 - To Understand Is To Love

The New Hope 
To Understand Is To Love

01. Won't Find Better Than Me (3:47)   
02. Won't Find Metter Than Me - Medley (2:17)   
03. You're So Good To Me* (2:41)
04. Distance (2:58)   
05. Let's Get Lost On A Country Road (2:41)   
06. Breezy (2:47)   
07. You've Got To Know (2:49)   
08. Look Away (6:59)   
09. Find Someone (2:53)   
10. They Call It Love (2:36)   
11. The Money Game (3:59)   
12. Rain (2:24)   
13. Gregorian (0:20)

*Written-By – Brian Wilson

It's amazing how there still are some things out there that have a low level rep, but are actually miles better than a lot of hugely hyped and very expensive records. I find that with most American records the best ones are just really hard to locate and some of the most highly thought of ones not only does every nefarious or not-so-nefarious as the case may be record dealer have, but they just aren't any good. I was to find this out in a very revelatory way in 1994 when I grabbed for $5 a beat up copy of New Hope's only record TO UNDERSTAND IS TO LOVE
       -The New Hope Of New Hope's TO UNDERSTAND IS TO LOVE A Real Masterpiece-
      Go back in time to 1994. I was 26 years old and had been collecting psych and pop psych and other stuff from the 60s/early 70s era for a bit and I all too occasionally took the chance on something I knew nothing about for cheap and bought it. $5 wasn't the usual cheapest I'd go, but something about that bare and mysterious looking black and white cover roped me in. I'm glad I bought it. If you move ahead several months to the end of that year a friend was so knocked out by New Hope that he not only borrowed it from me- he stole it the little bastard! At the time there was no grudge and there isn't one now. I've had this album a few times over the years and funnily enough the best vinyl copy I've had and have hung onto only cost me 50 cents. So who were the New Hope your probably wondering? They were a band who had a minor hit when they were The Kit Kats with a brilliant song they wrote called "Won't Find Better Than Me" and were led by virtuoso vocalist Kit Stewart. Kit Stewart and Carl Von Hausman (keyboard virtuoso) reworked their hit into even more of a Left Banke/Four Seasons cross to make it a really stunning work on their next album TO UNDERSTAND IS TO LOVE by their next band New Hope. New Hope came from Eastern Pennsylvania and comprised Kit Stewart, Carl Von Hausman, "Big" John Bradley, and Ron Shane. They had some fairly wide success in the NJ/PA area, but for no reason never broke out nationally. Their album is among the best records ever recorded by an American band and as far as pop with power pop, baroque, and progressive inclinations goes you can't find better than their record TO UNDERSTAND IS TO LOVE. Recorded in Philadelphia and released by the small Jamie label they aren't hugely expensive yet, but they certainly are no longer around now. Maybe word has gotten out, but I kinda doubt it. This should be one of the most famous American albums and I was of that opinion when I first discovered it in 1994. If I've loved something that long and it hasn't worn off a bit on me then it really must be good although I must point out that I had really good taste even back then.
     TO UNDERSTAND IS TO LOVE begins with "Won't Find Better Than Me" which can rank up there with the most genius moments of Brian Wilson and Michael Brown with great vocal harmonies and a great lead voice from Kit Stewart who isn't far off from The Left Banke's Steve Martin. There is also an obvious Four Seasons influence and since they are a great band too for what they did there is nothing wrong with that. The Four Seasons, however, belonged to a different time and different kind of world. The influence of their harmonies is a prominent one in many vocal oriented groups, but unlike the bands that adapted their influence to Baroque or power pop something had happened after the early shock of The Four Seasons and that was The British Invasion. New Hope adapted to the changing times, but they also here dabble in 50s rock and roll and early 60s mainstream pop in a very energetic experimental medley of "Won't Find Better Than Me" which comes right after their headlong leap into brilliant Baroque pop on their first new take on their classic. They must have known they'd really hit the right spot with "Won't Find Better Than me" and I like the medley a lot. "You're So Good To Me" is a Brian Wilson song and sounds very much like The Beach Boys with an added bonus- there is kind of a freaky big echo effect on this album like they recorded it inside an old church or something and the huge amount of sound that comes out really is stunning. "Distance" is one of the real high points of New Hope's album. It blows the lid of The Grass Roots and some of the early Turtles hits with soaring harmonies, strong piercing lead vocals and a clever juxtaposition between minor key verses and major key choruses. It could be an American Zombies at work- well in fact it is! There are no weak links on here, but definitely "Distance" is one of the best songs on the whole record. I think that New Hope really had a lot of credibility and certainly their talent as musicians can't be questioned so the small label and mysteriousness of the whole project is fun for collectors, but must have been anything but fun for them.
  The problem is addressed in the last 3 tracks on Side One all of which are really great. I am guessing this album is from 1970 rather than 1968 going by the out and out progressiveness of Side Two's stunning first track "Look Away" (no, not an early version of the Chicago catastrophe which is anything but progressive) and the last 3 tracks on Side One sound not even 1968 or 1969. "Let's Get Lost On A Country Road" goes through a lot of changes, but the summery happiness just sounds way more earlier than with the current program. "Breezy" and "You've Got To Know" also have so much joy and optimism that despite an attempt to move the harmony pop forward they sound even less forward than Vanity Fare or White Plains- two bands who owe much of their brilliance to overt American influences. I keep using the word "American" here, but New Hope are a lot more Anglo than The Frederic!
     I have sometimes heard so many bad records from America that I really scratch my head about our country, but damn it the 1960s hit in a big way here and that is very much stated not just in heavy or even just out and out psychedelic rock, but also in pop psych and straightforward pop records. A great case would be New Hope. While they definitely were never hippies that isn't a prerequisite. What New Hope are they are. They don't try to fake you into thinking they aren't just some really talented guys who love the more pop side of the British tuppence and American coins having a great time, but they really pull off something remarkable here. Side One is the side where the flowers are blooming and summer time can be yours even on the most depressing of winter evenings. It's the side where 1967 meets before that and it all sounds brilliant. However, on Side Two there is a real move towards a more progressive direction and no track is more a perfect hybrid of progressive arranging and pop hooks than the epic "Look Away." The lyrics are actually very meaningful here all about how you can't just hide from it when things in the world and your life are not right. Kit Stewart is really passionate and the combination of soaring piano and bagpipes takes this one up to the stars. Yes, there is a long bagpipe/Scottish section and a lot of Michael Brown like piano gone to where I would think Brown would have taken The Left Banke had the huge split between him and the rest of the group not happened. Michael Brown was too moody and too cantankerous maybe. He blew a great thing and went off into oblivion before reappearing in Stories who are awesome and "Look Away" isn't far from Stories when Mike was in the band. Unfortunately, like Stories a huge amount of ongoing success just didn't come for New Hope. Unlike Stories there wasn't a number one hit. I'm glad for that actually as I can not only live without "Brother Louie" I'd make a bet with Mike Brown that we both hate it equally! Brown was definitely hipper, more of an artiste than New Hope, but that isn't necessarily something that is a brilliant attribute. When you alienate everyone you work with you must be not playing all your cards right or living in the way you should.
   That someone as talented as Mike Brown and New Hope can both just vanish is really sad. It tells you a lot about the music business. For 5 minutes and 37 seconds New Hope tell you a whole lot and they make something that lasts longer than anything else- a perfect song. "Look Away" has not one note I would change. The whole song is just so brilliant that it makes a whole lot of what else was out there sound really sterile and uninteresting. Side Two moves into two very mature melodic pop tracks with "Find Someone" and "They Call It Love" which both combine East Coast techniques with a California 1965-1967 kind of Beach Boys alike hopefulness. There aren't any angry riot scenes and bomb blasts on this record. It isn't a reflection of the despair that had set in which makes it very different from something like Liverpool England's The Koobas who sang of riots and used bomb blasts in their brilliant epic "Barricades" in 1969. Again, I'm not sure of the year of New Hope, but I would guess they came out later than most other more fresh faced and love fueled melodic pop rock bands and albums. "The Money Game" however shows that these guys could get to a sort of Elvis meets Koobas masterpiece if you can even imagine something that bizarre and it comes complete with screaming fuzz guitar! The heavy fuzz tone on "The Money Game" is another clever little trick and the words are again progressive and true. They say they've had it with wealth and greed running everything. Well I have too. More tricks come on the last real track here "Rain" which is then followed by a Gregorian Chant called (of course) "Gregorian" of "Won't Find Better Than Me" as a rather dark end to the album. "Rain" combines progressive inclinations with perfect melodic pop only here the sound is a bit more leaning to some British influences which do come up on some tracks. New Hope go where The Beach Boys couldn't. You have to remember that as strong a presence as he is to the Beach Boys Brian Wilson always had Mike Love to knock him down. The reason why The Beach Boys couldn't move further is simple. They couldn't move to consistency because of square Bruce Johnston and asshole Mike Love. There are probably around 4 or 5 Beach Boys albums that are masterful all the way through, but there also are the albums like SURF'S UP that I'd rather just forget where Brian is off his rocker and Mike Love gets his evil way with "Student Demonstration Time."
     Now The Beach Boys are reinventing themselves and making great music again thanks in no small part to Brian Wilson and his now it would seem to be permanent writing partner the unlikely Jim Peterik who masterminded one of the best AOR bands ever to exist Survivor. Survivor always cut way deeper than most. Now that Jim is working with Brian Wilson you can believe the guy really has something if you were stupid enough not to when he and Frankie Sullivan were writing all those great songs in Survivor. Yes, I'm getting to the fact that New Hope DIDN'T survive. That may be because you can tell they weren't exactly as young as most of the competition out there, but it may also be just as much because they were an East Coast band at a time when very heavy vibes were coming in everywhere and 60s melodic groups had an alarming fall out rate. Come mid to late 1970 things were changing in a big way. The progressive and hard rock influences from the West Coast, England, and Europe were coming in with sometimes brilliant sometimes painful results and the charts began filling up with schlock when it came to American bands/artists. The most easy to point out problem however must have been the small label. With a label that went under pretty much as soon as TO UNDERSTAND IS TO LOVE came out and not enough promotion there is probably the reason for New Hope packing it in. I've heard a few things over the years to the effect that New Hope also never left Pennsylvania or New Jersey. That, true or not, also would hurt. Not getting national exposure and not getting a major label deal aren't always a recipe for a masterpiece, but with New Hope that's what you have- a perfect masterpiece and one of the best records ever made. Your collection isn't complete without New Hope. I said that when I was a lot younger than today and I'll be saying it when I'm older than today. And I know.