Monday, June 8, 2015

Fusion Orchestra - 1973 - Skeleton In Armour

Fusion Orchestra 
Skeleton In Armour

01. Fanfairy Suite For 1,000 Trampits - Pt. One (0:14)
02. Sonata in Z (11:39)
03. Have I Left the Gas On? (8:35)
04. OK Boys, Now's Our Big Chance (0:45)
05. Skeleton In Armour (5:16)
06. When My Momma's Not at Home (3:33)
07. Don't Be Silly, Jimmy (0:09)
08. Talk to the Man in the Sky (11:50)
09. Fanfairy Suite For 1,000 Trampits - Pt. Two (0:13)

- Jill Saward / flute, vocals, synthesizer
- Dave Bell / drums
- Colin Dawson / guitar
- Dave Cowell / bass, harmonica
- Sten Land / guitar, synthesizer, horns, percussion

FUSION ORCHESTRA was a highly talented progressive rock ensemble from the UK that did tight but not over-worked heavy prog with an honest, classic but unique sound. Singer/flautist/synthist JILL SAWARD, apparently the axis of the group, leads with a high squall and quite good flute, and paralleled the vocal sound the Wilson sisters would cultivate. Though unlike HEART, JILL SAWARD, DAVE BELL (drums), COLIN DAWSON (guitar), DAVE COWELL (bass), and STEN LAND (synth, guitar, horns) did a very complex and multi-layered music with many roads into jazz-fusion, folk, and Celtic.

The album 'Skeleton In Armour', especially for 1973, is a model of Prog Rock successfully integrated as a viable popular medium and though not truly competitive against the likes of bigger peers, is far better than many bands that have become well known. It reflects all the breakthroughs and celebrations that were occurring in British music in the early 1970s including those of JETHRO TULL, COLOSSEUM, YES, GREENSLADE, and BABE RUTH.

One of the very best 'second tier' English prog bands, their album is a little known treasure and except for the commercial track 'When My Momma's Not at Home', is hugely recommended to anyone who loves earlier British prog with all the best aspects of symphonic, Canterbury, prog Folk and hard rock.

For me this is classic progressive music from the time when it was all new and the genre had only really been going for a few years and this album contains those neccesary elements, a real rock feel with time changes and fairly lenghty compositions and it is has quite a heavy rock vibe throughout with the occasional acoustic interlude or as with track 1(Fanfairy Suite for 1,000 Trampits part 1 ) and the last track 9 ( part 2 same title) which are short fanfares used as an introduction and a closing of the album. Track 4 Ok Boys, Nows Our Big Chance is is less than a minute in time and is a great little harmonica led song with a country vibe but moves along nicely as the drummer is right on it as he is throughout the album, (very energetic).

And now for the guts of the album my favourite track is the 2nd Sonata in Z which runs for just under 12 minutes and starts with that drummer belting that kit again with a fairly quick lead solo and then Jill Saward comes in with the vocals, who really is giving this a go and putting all into it as she does throughout the album. She also does the flute throughout the album when required and do not forget that harmonica on track 4 which she plays as well, electric piano,12 string guitar on one track. ( a real talent ). I will add as well that the band has that twin guitar attack vibe at times and throughout this track you get a flute solo, heaps of guitar solos and even harmonica towards the end. Great stuff.

Now as you all know I am a bit of a lazy bugger and I will say track 2 is just as good as is the whole album. As I keep mentioning heaps of great solos on various instruments. Skeleton in Armour, the title track gets moving along right from the start with a driving heavy rock tempo and then quitens down for 2 quick solos and then back to that driving rock that they play. Also the track , When my mommas not at home is basically a a rock number but like it I do as, yep as I said before delevered with that energetic feeling this band has.

Jill Saward released some jazz albums in the eighties and nineties. Why this band is not better known is a mystery when there are albums out there people say are rare classics and not half as good as this little job.

Fusioon - 1975 - Minorisa


01 - Ebusus
02 - Minorisa
03 - Llaves del subconsciente

Manel Camp - piano, keyboards
Jordi Camp - bass
Santi Arisa - drums
Marti Brunet - guitar, synthesizers

Fusioon's final effort is their absolute masterpiece; "Minorisa" finds the band expanding their talent all the way up to their maximum intensity and to their most bizarre level of creativity. The three long tracks that fill the 37-minute time span of the album comprise some of the best prog music ever made in Spain's rock history, and generally speaking, it is a real treat for all those who enjoy good, original and exciting prog from any country in the world. The 19- minute monster suite 'Ebusus' kicks off the album with full splendour and immense extravagance: elegance and weirdness fuse into a sole sonic force during this multi-varied musical journey. The wide spectrum comprised in 'Ebusus' includes: jazz-rock, GG-influenced counterpoints and chord progressions, Zappa-esque vocal harmonies, touches of RIO-instilled moods, Arabic nuances, Catalonian folk, some Crimsonian guitar leads, Canterbury, "Mirage"-era Camel, surrealistic mellotron and synth adornments. and after all, the final result turns out to be quite unique. The guys of Fusioon actually managed to sound original beyond the myriad of influences that they evidently absorbed as writers and performers. It is also very odd that this sidelong track's structure feels so flexible and apparently chaotic, yet, if you listen from a deeper level, you will notice a distinct solidness that builds up a powerful cohesion that sustains the sequence of all successive sections and the reprises of some of them. What else can I say? 'Ebusus' is a gem in itself; this one alone makes this album worth the while of any particularly demanding prog aficionado. But let's not overlook the other two numbers, since they are great, too. The 11- minute namesake suite starts with a somber overture of Moog and bass guitar before the grand piano gets in to lay down the basic chords for the more epic "second" overture; the main motifs than come along soon after display an exquisite combination of Baroque-based symph prog and Catalonian prog in a very similar way to their fellow band Atila (and, to a lesser degree, similar to iceberg as well). The interplaying is as solid as it was for the first suite, but this time the bizarreness is a bit less intense: the band's major concern is focused on the melodic development of the main motifs for the 'Minorisa' suite. A special mention has to go to a beautiful pastoral passage that appears somewhere in the middle - a moment of captivating magic in the middle of the overall pompous frame that articulates and outlines the track's structure. The closure is a two-part Fripp & Eno-meets-Schulze electronic exploration: 'Llaves del Subconsciente' is a tour-de-force massively constructed on a foundation of synthesizer and mellotron, with additional processed sounds (guitar, piano, falsetto) soaring around in a most inscrutable manner. Even though it may sound a bit out of place to some, I personally find it very effective: something like an avant-garde manifesto, the announcement of the destruction of music as we know it (after many of its possible facets hasy  show in the previous two numbers) and a call for its most radical renewal in the present. General conclusion: a masterpiece!

Fusioon - 1974 - Fusioon 2

Fusioon 2

01. Farsa Del Buen Vivir (3:08)
02. Contraste (6:32)
03. Tritons (8:15)
04. Dialogos (6:42)
05. Concerto Grosso (9:52)

- Santi Arisa / percussion, drums
- Jordi Camp / bass
- Marti Brunet / guitar, synthesizer
- Manel Camp / piano, organ

Don't get fooled by the band's name, ironically when the vast majority of 70's catalan prog was jazz-rock/fusion, Fusioon was one of the bands with lesser of it. Well more precisely both their eponymous debut and their last album Minorisa do have some fusion, but this one Fusioon 2 (nicknamed "Crocodile" to differentiate it from the debut) has little if any, instead being a delightful combination of Eclectic, Symphonic and Canterbury.

We can find two main broad styles, the tracks with vocals (sung in spanish) Farsa Del Buen Vivir and Dialogos sound very Gentle Giant, with intriguing harmonies that achieve that delicate balance between orthodox melody-harmony and dissonance. On the other hand the instrumental tracks Contraste and Tritons retain some GG flavour but can also remind of Egg, The Nice or Soft Machine, even King Crimson sometimes.

The 10 min last track Concerto Grosso has a few vocals but is mostly instrumental and combines both broad styles, fusing all the aforementioned influences over a more symphonic, nearly classical song structure as the title suggests.

Instrumentally the focus is on the fantastic keyboards work by Manel Camp, combining classical influences with aggressive soloing, and the drumming of Santi Arisa being also very good, these guys were among the finest musicians of the catalan scene in the 70's. But what I really love is the compositions, they are musically challenging and competent and perfectly reflect that kind of genuine, unadulterated prog inspiration which flourished in the first half of the 70's.

Many consider their third and last album Minorisa their best but although that one is also excellent and probably more technically elaborated, personally I prefer "Crocodile", it is more eclectic and does not have excessively experimental sections as Minorisa does. The best album by one of the best spanish prog bands of the 70's,

Fusioon - 1972 - Fusioon


01. Danza Del Molinero (4:33)
02. Ya Se Van Los Pastores(5:16)
03. Ses Porqueres (3:13)
04. Pavana Espanola (3:01)
05. Negra Sombra (3:44)
06. En El Puerto De Pajares (4:13)
07. Rima Infantil (3:37)
08. El Cant Del Ocells (4:15)

- Santi Arisa / drums
- Marti Brunet / guitar, synthesizers
- Jordi Camp / bass
- Manel Camp / piano, keyboards

This is a Spanish quartet from Barcelona featuring Manuel Camp (piano and keyboards), Jordi Camp (bass), Santi Arisa (drums) and Marti Brunet (electric guitars and synthesizers). In the first half of the Seventies FUSIOON released three albums entitled "Fusioon I" (1972), "Fusioon II" (1974) and "Minorisa" (1975).

The first album FUSIOON contains arrangements from 'traditionals'. It sounds like a tasteful stew with classical, folk, jazz and symphonic elements. The songs has echoes from KING CRIMSON (Fripperian guitar), FOCUS (flute) and Le ORME/EKSEPTION/ELP (Hammond organ) but the musical ideas are great and the musicians play strong with many surprising breaks and exciting solos and interplay. The highlight is "Danza del molinero" (Manual de Falla) with sparkling piano, a tight rhythm-section, an Andalusian sounding violin, fiery electric guitar and powerful Hammond waves, culminating in a grand finale. The second LP II has a more symphonic sound, especially the Keith EMERSON-like Hammond, Moog - and pianoplay is very prominent but I can also trace GENTLE GIANT (guitar/piano interplay and some vocal harmonies). An alternating and interesting album .

Their best effort is the third record entitled "Minorisa", containing three long tracks. The first two are an amazing blend of KING CRIMSON, GENTLE GIANT, ELP and even TANGERINE DREAM (flute-Mellotron like the "Phaedra"-era) with lots of captivating musical moments, lush keyboards and strong interplay (guitar, keyboards, flute, bass). The third song is a maverick: a kind of sound collage, very electronic like TANGERINE DREAM, SYNERGY and Klaus SCHULZE with flute Mellotron, all kind of synthesizer sounds and fat Moog runs, a bit weird and not really satisfying end of this good album.

One of those artwork sleeves that symbolize the music style best, but this is doubled by the band's name - the other one that does equally good is Nucleus's Elastic Rock recorded almost three years before. The first chapter of this standard prog quartet with the Camp brothers at bass and KB is actually fairly accessible (well compared to the other two later albums) and IMHO, is maybe the one I prefer because of its naiveté.

This record is a mostly instrumental one (a few scatting one the opening track), but this does not hamper the enjoyment of the music: they have a fairly unique sound and the music has some very subtle Spanish overtones but not in the Flamenco realm. Their sound oscillates between Isotope, Wigwam (the Gustavson and Pohjola compositions), Focus or Finch, Sloche (or fellow Quebecois Maneige) and countrymen Iceberg. If the jazz colours are the main characteristics of the album, the classical influences peak here and there, most notably in Negra Sombra (Dark Black). Apparently all of the tracks are covers of traditional songs (6 of 8 tracks) all adapted/arranged by Manel Camp and the other two being penned by other writers. The odd flute, sax and clarinet (actually un-credited) but drummer Arisa is the one playing them (says D-E Asbjornsen) and bring touches of brilliance. The superb piano may even ring reminiscence of Chilean Los Jaivas in their more symphonic moments and with the organs, ELP comes to mind.

Certainly worth the investigation!

Et Cetera - 1971 - Et Cetera

Et Cetera
Et Cetera

01. Thursday Morning Sunrise (11:35)
02. Lady Blue (3:02)
03. Mellodrama Nr.2 A (5:12)
04. Raga (16:11)
05. Milkstreets (4:08)

Bonus Tracks:
06. Behind The Stage (6:35)
07. Tau Ceti (7:10)
08. Kabul (8:51)

- Wolfgang Dauner / Keyboards, percussions, flute, trumpet and electronics
- Sigi Schwab / Guitar, sitar, lute, percussions and electronics
- Roland Wittich / Percussions
- Fred Braceful / Percussions, vocals

German outfit Et Cetera was the brainchild of Wolfgang Dauner. Starting out playing piano as a child, he actually graduated from the Stuttgart conservatory with a major in trumpet.

In 1963 he founded his own jazz band, focusing on the comtemporary scene, bringing in famous German bassist Eberhard Weber and American drummer Fred Braceful. This threesom played together well into the 70s ? changing and challenging their sound to the limit.

Dauner recieved critical acclaim with his take on experimental and modern jazz, where he and his fellow band mates stretched the boundaries of the scene to such an extent, that many since have claimed that they did to jazz what Faust did to rock. Already at the end of the 60s, these musicians showed signs of what was to come in form of the Krautrock movement rolling across Germany during the frantic and wild 70s.

So as a natural continuation of what was happening in regards to experimentation between the different genres, Dauner and crew recorded the Et Cetera debut in mid December 1970 at the Orange Recording Studios in London. The band now consisted of Roland Wittich (percussion), Eberhard Weber ( different bass instruments, vc), Fred Braceful (drums, voices, bongos), Siggi Schwab (guitar, sitar, sarangi) and Wolfgang Dauner (synths, clavinet, ringmodulator, trumpet, flute, etc etc).

Combining everything from Indian raga music and psychedelics to the avant garde jazz tendencies with a modern rock template, Et Cetera managed to conjure up a rather unique take on the Krautrock sound. Freeflowing and loose with much focus on improvisations, the band was a melting pot of many different styles and approaches.

With the add on of legendary drummer Jon Hiseman and guitar chameleon Larry Coryell for the second studio album Knirsch, the band now seemed like a sonic experimentation to be reckoned with. Sadly this was to be the final studio release from this highly eclectic group, and they called it quits the year after with a double live album.

Et Cetera was a shortlived installment in the early days of Krautrock, but seen from a modern perspective and in the larger scope of what the scene was all about, it seems only proper to call this outfit one of the true pioneers of the scene.

The music can be everything from psychedelic tinged rock to freak out avant garde jazz with a healthy dose of Indian spicing, but above all and most importantly, this group was indeed a highly experimental force that influenced and pushed the dynamics of the German Krautrock scene during its infancy.

It's not clear if Et Cetera was the name of the band or the album, or both. But either way here's another stunning gem from the German counterculture, in this case buried perhaps a little too deep in the seemingly bottomless Krautrock treasure chest (mine is the only review so far). The guiding light behind the project was Wolfgang Dauner, at age 36 already a veteran Jazz pianist and trumpeter, but Krautrock was never entirely a youth movement: CAN's Irmin Schmidt turned 34 the same year this album was released; CLUSTER's Hans-Joachim Roedelius was 37.

And Dauner certainly borrowed a few cues from the local kids, stretching his musical horizons outward in every direction known to physics (plus a few yet to be discovered). Only in Germany circa 1971 could you expect to find such an unlikely amalgam of ethnic-psychedelic-jazz-funk-acid-folk-rock-trance music, all tossed into a boiling stew of beautiful noise and stirred to a uniform consistency. The closest local equivalent might have been the anarchists of FAUST, reinvented as a Fusion combo but with even less obligation toward convention than usual.

The album opens not too far from a Canterbury-like sound, but in classic Krautrock fashion the music loses its grip on reality very quickly, cued by Dauner's increasingly distorted electric piano (sounding not unlike a broken Toys R Us saxophone), and by two percussionists competing to see who could bash a cymbal harder. "Lady Blue" then adds some groovy beatnik poetry to the mix ("I have seen everything / I have found everything to be everything / and everything came out very together..."), the voice heard through a maelstrom of classical guitar, choirs, echo effects, and whatever else Dauner could pack into the song's three minutes.

The tell-tale misspelling of "Mellodrama Nr.2A" hints at the pastoral beauty of the next title, adrift on an unruffled sea of mellotrons and 12-string guitars. But the rest of the album (Side Two of the original LP) is more abstract, starting with the bluntly-titled "Raga", in which the expected sitars drive an epic Oriental Kraut-Funk groove, with Dauner's warped trumpet accents recalling the comic relief French horn of kindred spirit HOLGER CZUKAY.

The epilog of "Milkstreets" is another CAN-like slice of free-form 'instant composition', but the album isn't over yet: a trio of CD bonus tracks from the original recording session adds enough quality music to fill another full side of vinyl.

Maybe Dauner should have chosen a more unique moniker for his outfit: currently three separate bands with similar names are featured on this site alone. A sophomore Et Cetera album appeared the following year, but the crazy Krautrock experimentation was (somewhat) compromised by a guest appearance by American jazz guitarist LARRY CORYELL. The debut should be the first choice for anyone on the lookout for something more bizarre and eclectic. On a personal level, it knocked my socks off with my feet still in them.

Et Cetera - 1976 - Et Cetera

Et Cetera 
Et Cetera

01. La Musique Tourne (4:04)
02. Éclaircie (5:14)
03. Entre Chien Et Loup (7:02)
04. Apostrophe (4:49)
05. Newton Avait Raison (4:11)
06. L'Age Dort (4:34)
07. Tandem (6:08)

- Marie Bernard Pagé / keyboards, ondes Martenot, vocals
- Denis Chartrand / keyboards, flute, saxophone, vibraphone, vocals
- Pierre Dragon / drums, percussion
- Robert Marchand / guitars, vocals
- Alain Yves Pigeon / bass, cello, vocals

 Mostly known as the Quebecois Gentle Giant, Et Cetera certainly manages to make out the best of their major influences and come up with something refreshing and creative that they can properly call their own. Sure these guys were totally interested in delicate dissonances and intricate polyphony, and their compositions contain lots of classical and jazzy elements in a prog rock context, but all in all there is a certain cadence in their music, built on an eerie delicateness, that stands as an original EC factor: I don't know quite how to explain it intelligently, but I feel it that way. The male- female vocal dialogues and counterpoints are simply delicious, and so are the interplays built by the lead guitarist and the two keyboardists. Dragon handles craftily the complex rhythm patterns with his solid, precise drumming, while bassist Pigeon combine his partnership with Dragon and his inputs for the melodic stuff contributed by his other fellow members. The first two tracks overtly show the listener what the band's artistic ideology is all about, and so do 'Newton Avait Raison' and the exquisite closure 'Tandem'. The usual progressive pretentiousness is there, but it is not taken to an excessively pompous level: delicateness seems to be the main rule of Et Cetera's game. 'Entre Chien et Loup' has a beautiful pastoral intro that soon gives way to one of the jazziest motifs in the albums; things go on softly and fluidly until the intro is reprised for the conclusion part. 'L'Age Dort' is the most bizarre piece in the album: synth layers and guitar arpeggios spread under the ticking of a vibraphone and a piano, with a floating cello providing touches of solemnity, and some soft percussives cutting the air of mystic stillness in order to introduce a Renaissance-inspired motif somewhere in the middle. The catchiest stuff is contained in the energetic instrumental 'Apostrophe', which also comprises some of Marchand's best soloing. What a great album! - so weird, so inscrutable, and so fabulous, that it can only be rated as any other prog excellent work