Monday, November 9, 2015

Flaming Youth - 1969 - Ark 2

Flaming Youth 
Ark 2

01. Guide Me, Orion
02. Earthglow
03. Weightless (instrumental)
04. The Planets
05. Changes
06. Pulsar
07. Spacechild
08. In the Light of Love
09. From Now On (Immortal Invisible)

- (Flash) Gordon Smith / Guitar, 12 string, Bass Guitar, Vocals.
- Ronnie Caryl / Bass Guitar, 12-string Guitar, Vocals.
- Brian Chatton / Organ, Piano, Vocals.
- Phil Collins / Drums, Percussion, Organ, Vocals.

Most Prog fans listen the name Phil Collins and immediately think in the great GENESIS and BRAND X drummer or make a grimace of pain remembering the late Genesis era, but almost nobody even mention the excellent 60's Psyche/Proto Prog band in which he was a clue member.

This is something really unfair, because this guys were doing a solid act which included not only orchestral sections, but even dared to make a tribute to Holst with their very clever piece inspired in The Planets by the mentioned artist.

The band was formed by the former keybordist of THE WARRIORS (with Jon Anderson) Brian Chatton who also added vocals, Ronnie Caryl on bass and vocals, Gordon Smith guitar, bass & vocals, plus of course Phil Collins in the drums, organ and vocals. Later and for a short period, Rod Mayall joined the band to play organ, adding a touch of free Jazz.

In 1969, Fontana Records released The band's only LP called Ark 2 which blends various styles and genres, from British Invasion to Proto Prog and Acid Psychedelia, passing through Melodic Rock, in other words a gem for lovers of early predecessors of Prog.

Despite the good material and critics, the commercial success eluded the album so FLAMING YOUTH made an attempt of reviving their career with the single Man. Woman and Child, but it was too late, the band dissolved.

All the original FLAMING YOUTH members had a long career, Phil Collins and Ronnie Caryl auditioned for GENESIS, but only Collins was recruited (the rest is history), Ronnie later performed with such artists as David Hentschel, David Bishop and his old friend Phil Collins.

Brian Chatton was member of a band called Boys Don't Cry and played with musicias such as Collins or Meatloaf among others. Last but not least, Gordon Smith became a respected session musician with a long career.

Despite the pass of time, Ark 2 remains as one of the finest examples of the fusion between Psychedelia and Proto Prog.
 "Ark 2" is a conceptual album about a journey of an astronaut across the solar system and beyond, of course the lyrics has the influence of the times, with clear references to the search of peace and hope, and even when not as strong as they could be, the idea is interesting.

The album starts with the excellent vocal intro of "Guide me Orion", somehow like THE MAMAS & THE PAPAS without The Mamas, but suddenly the band bursts in fire with typical British Invasion sound, but in this case fused with Classical music and Rock, a very good start.

"Earthglow" is a radical change, starts melancholic and Baroque, with clear references of PROCOL HARUM but with better vocals, Gordon Smith does an outstanding job with an almost religious voice and Brian Chatton playing killer keyboards, incredibly beautiful song.

The beauty of Weightless is the contrast between the clearly Baroque organ intro that without advice turns into some sort of 50's Rock Boogie Boogie and Jazz instrumental with classical overtones, the guys were really versatile, but the stars of the track are Phil Collins in the drums and Ronnie Caryl who complement the outstanding rhythm section perfectly.

Now is the turn for the epic "The Planets" (In some versions each planet of the solar system is a song), there's little (if any) connection) with Gustav Holst's masterpiece but it's clearly inspired in this work, even the inner notes make clear references to each movement of the classical piece and as Holst they ignore Pluto.

Now lets talk a bit about the music, there's everything, from 12-bar Blues, to Classical - Orchestral, Jazz, Rock,Vaudeville, Acid Psychedelia, etc, and the "personality" of each planet is described by the music, we can find influences from THE NICE and almost every great musician of the 60's but with a unique touch. This 12 minutes track alone would pay the album.

Changes marks the point where the astronaut leaves the solar system and a turn for Phil Collins and Gordon Smith to take the lead vocals and both make a hell of a job, the sound is lost in the boundaries hat divides the late first British Invasion from early Psyche until Chatton starts to jam with the organ and crosses all the possible boundaries of Rock, but that's not all, the band enters into melodic (almost Symphonic) territory, one of the best songs of the album

"Pulsar" is a frantic track in the vein of THE NICE with Chatton adding an incredibly fast keyboard performance with Phil covering him all the way, another excellent track that leads to "Space Child", which after a keyboard and guitar intro allows us to listen Phil Collins singing some sort of early Symphonic with real feeling, a bit cheesy by moments but beautiful.

Almost every release has a weak point and "In the Light of Love" is the one from "Ark 2", this guys have proved they could play almost everything, but an almost Latin percussion song with Motown touches is not one of them, not so bad to press the skip button, but clearly bellow the level of the album.

"From Now On (Immortal Invisible)" presents Brian Chatton as a vocalist (he can also sing) and at least in the live video Phil Collins in the organ, extremely beautiful and melodic musical piece with full orchestra and chorus, a brilliant closer for "Ark 2".

Not a perfect masterpiece, but very far from some reviews that qualify them as a disaster, in my opinion an excellent addition for any Prog collection.

Dennis the Fox - 1975 - Mother Trucker

Dennis the Fox 
Mother Trucker

01. Seven Nights on the Barbary Coast
02. Gunther Haydees
03. Nellie Was a Lady
04. Like a Stone Man
05. Whistle Stop
06. Flight of the Phoenix
07. Piledriver
08. I Want to Leave You
09. The Sun's Gonna Shine on My Back Door Someday
10. Bazooka
11. Walkin'
12. There's No Soul Sister

Privately release album by Dennis Caldirola AKA Dennis The Fox. This album has received attention in recent years for it's off-the-wall and very unique style. Impossible to pigeon-hole in terms of style or genre.

Only a handful of heads have encountered this mad beast of an LP, and it's top 40 at least of all US LP's for me: utterly dark and sleazy lowlife nirvana! Like seeing God in a burst condom stuck to the tailpipe of a rusty pimpmobile, finding out Jesus stole your mama, looking for the meaning of life in a puke pile by a truckstop motel .... kinda scary how real this dude is! The cover is awesome and the music ranges from seedy bluesy loser zones into fucker up dive bar epiphanies. I can't think of any other record more at the end of the road seeking salvation in the tawdry. Wicked sense of humor. Twilight Zone. One of those smart literate guys attracted to funky situations. Like so many obscure LP's, the names of people on it seem too weird to be real .... Alfie Van, Audie Bridges ... backup vocals by Mary Bliss & the Bixens. Blows Damon & Fraction out of the water as far as my own need for kicks goes. "

all i can say is YES and YES

David Stoughton - 1968 - Transformer

David Stoughton 

01. The Sun Comes Up Each Day
02. The Summer Had No Breeze
03. The Anecdote of Horatio & Julie
04. Saving for a Rainy Day
05. Evening Song
06. I Don't Know If It's You

David Stoughton - vocals, guitar
Devi Klate - vocals
Mal Mackenzie - bass
Peter Chapman - horns
Joe Livols - drums
John Nicholls - vocals
Steve Tanzer - flute, piccolo

A Harvard mathematician, Stoughton played the Boston folk circuit in the early 1960s before coming under the spell of John Cage’s musique concrète. While certain songs – “The Sun Comes Up Each Day”, say – are musically reminiscent of Tim Buckley at his most extreme, Transformer also contained experimental sound collages.

Probably the weirdest of all Elektra albums. The album cover says “produced and created by David Stoughton,” which explains it all, because this sounds more like performance art than music, as some off-Broadway wannabes sing bizarre lyrics over a soundtrack-type backing that includes synthesizer experimentation. This is not a rock or folk album, as most people will tell you, but an experimental music record.

This is so deliriously good I'm still giggling like a schoolboy about it even after a month or two with this lost masterpiece in my life... So I can't say anything really deep right now, just a quick WOW

Never reissued, possibly never will be (released by Elektra + weird music = no hope), probably will be just spread around on the internet and become legendary... at least if I have my way!  Fair enough, as I'm sure giving this man the credit he deserves is more important than selling a typical 1000-run reissue or whatever...  I got this on CDR from a friend's personal vinyl transfer...

Some quick hints: three singers, male and female, on different tracks, some Tim Buckley (aka God) feeling in both vocals and music... female vocalist with an early and light Curved Air (Sonja what'shername) feeling... some mind-blowing spoken word and tape experimentation (maybe the coolest stuff aside from VU's "Murder Mystery", but nothing touches that of course...)

Yes, all this on the same album!!!!

Claire Hamill - 1973 - October

Claire Hamill 

01. Island
02. To the Stars
03. Stay Tonight
04. Wall to Wall Carpeting
05. Speedbreaker
06. I Don't Get Any Older
07. Warrior of the Water
08. The Artist
09. Baby What's Wrong (With You)
10. Sidney Gorgeous
11. Crying Under the Bedclothes
12. Peaceful

Gerry Conway - Drums
Claire Hamill - Arranger, Guitar, Keyboards, Piano, Vocals
Chris Laurence - Bass
Wayne Perkins - Guitar, Vocals
Jean Roussel - Keyboards, Piano
Steve Smith - Keyboards, Vocals
Tim Smith - Guitar, Vocals
Henry Spinetti - Conga, Percussion
Alan White - Drums
Paul Samwell-Smith: producer

It's not really right to describe a performer being like another performer, since of course each is unique, but sometimes one has to use a kind of shorthand to get an idea across. October was Claire's second album, in 1973. I have to admit I bought the album because I was intrigued by the pretty young woman on the cover gazing moodily out a rain-spattered window in a photo tinted a dark red; who was pictured on the back cover kicking up her heels in joy on a sunny autumn day.

I was rewarded with a really good album of many moods, with songs of a self-confessional nature about love and relationships ( that's where Joni Mitchell comes in ).Claire's moods ranged from the dissappointed, haltingly soft voice of Crying Under the Bedclothes; to the piercing soprano of the accusational Speedbreaker; to the silly playfulness of Sydney Gorgeous. The music is melodic and usually accompanied by acoustic instruments, so it has a sound closest to folk music on most but not all tracks. And there are a good number of memorable tracks.

I wish Clair had been better known over here in the U.S. I'm sure she would have found an audience if she'd gotten some radio airplay. She went on to become a member of the guitar based group Wishbone Ash, and has continued to be a well-known singer in Britain even now.

Claire Hamill - 1971 - One House Left Standing

Claire Hamill
One House Left Standing


01. Baseball Blues
02. The Man Who Cannot See Tomorrow's Sunshine
03. Consummation
04. The River Song
05. Where Are Your Smiles At
06. When I Was a Child
07. Urge for Going
08. Flowers for Grandma
09. The Phoenix
10. Smile Your Blues Away

Claire Hamill- vocals, guitar, keyboards, writer
David Lindley- guitar
John Martyn- guitar
Terry Reid- guitar, vocals
John "Rabbit" Bundrick- keyboards
John Hawken- keyboards
Jack Emblow- accordion
Phil Bates- bass
Tetsu Yamauchi- bass
Simon Kirke- drums
Ray Warleigh- flute
Aubrey Johnson- oboe
Alex Walsh- trumpet
John Pigneguey- French horn
Paul Buckmaster- cello

Chris Blackwell- producer
John McCoy- producer

With a stark black and white sleeve photo of Clare taken on the outskirts of her home town of Middlesborough,looking like a downtrodden wife  in the 30s,the deserted landscape around her with cranes and a transporter bridge,decay and industrial gloom.A photo deserving of an award surely,if Pink Floyd could get one for something as unimaginative as a cow,the theme of this album is set.And that's poverty,unemployment,childhood and eventual death.
One House Left Standing is Claire's "social comment" album

The industrial backdrop permeates this album, indeed it is infused throughout. In the first song, Baseball Shoes, Claire laments her loved one's desire for baseball shoes that she has. Today, an ordinary pair costs about five pounds but a brand like converse charges upwards of eighteen! What is clear is the image of poverty that this song represents. Wanting even a pair of baseball shoes comes higher up the priority list than love which comes free. But even so the singer would give up her shoes in return for his love.

Whilst the songs themselves carry images aplenty of a simplicity of life they also carry messages of hope and inspiration. Two of my favourites in this regard are When I was A Child, which marks the transition from an age of innocence into adult life after meeting a significant other. The other, Smile Your Blues Away, offers the benefits of a positive attitude and could almost have been written for the Dalai Lama!

What is remarkable about this album is firstly Claire's voice, clear and pur with a good range. The second thing is more of a complimentarity and that is the sheer breadth of the music contained within the album, with the exquisite orchestration, masterful guitar playing of John Martyn the maestro, a country and western style song to name just three. Guests abound including the aforesaid Martyn but also David Lindley, Terry Reid and others but they supplement Claire's vocals and playing rather than supplant them.

This is a powerful introduction to Claire Hamill and an outstanding first album. She may have disappeared off the map a little these days but she is still around and with albums like this deserves a little more acclaim.

Try it, you'll like it!

Christian Yoga Church - 1967 - Turn On !! (Music for the Hip at Heart)

Christian Yoga Church 
Turn On !! (Music for the Hip at Heart)

01. Turn On! [Part 1]
02. Turn On! [Part 2]

Virginia City, Nevada, Summer 1965. You know what's going on here. Inside the Red Dog Saloon a sharp-looking young band of acidheads from the Bay Area called the Charlatans are playing weird folkrock for an equally stoned audience. Some consider this the birth of psychedelic rock music, or whatever. You've heard the story before.

So why not just once skip past the Red Dog, and continue down the main street, and up above a hill into a secluded area? There you'll find an odd-looking monastery inhabited by the Christian Yoga Church, adherents of Kriya Yoga, one of many Eastern disciplines crouched away in the valleys and glens of Western America long before the rise of hippie-dom and New Age. Kriya Yoga was an old-school, non-cheesy way of life for honest, hard-working sadhaks looking for something else. Contemplating their teachings I find little out of the ordinary for the Himalayan headtrip scene, and they were apparently serious enough to survive into the 2000s.

In other words, I was unable to come up with anything that could explain the extraordinary LP that was released in the Christian Yoga Church's name in 1967. In fact, I long doubted its origins, because each piece in the puzzle is so unusual that it seemed impossible to connect into something that made sense. But enough clues survive to tell you that this is all for real, although I'm still not able to present a coherent image of its meaning.

Looking at the album title and front cover artwork, you might mistake this for some flower power exploitation album released by Crown, Mark, or other fine repackagers of studio hack music to fit whatever trend was going on that week. "Christian" AND "Yoga" in the same sentence? Whew, that's pretty shrewd. Except that this Church does exist, as evident from our trek into the Nevada hills. Over on the back cover one "Father Christos" tells us that this is music for "going within", while a John Doe explains in detail how the recording session was set up, after which "Father Hilarion" sums it up by pointing out that this is not an amalgamation of the East and West, but a rediscovery that East and West speak the same truth in different ways. This appears to be the core development of their Kriya Yoga studies, and is certainly a notion that has fuelled many an acid trip project -- remember "Easter Everywhere"?

Then there is a reference to that same Himalayan Academy up in Nevada, side by side to a street address in San Francisco, both of which are apparently able to provide instructions on how to listen to the LP if you write them. Geographical and synchretistic confusion expands with a reference to a PO Box at the L.A airport (!) and a thank-you to the engineer, for whom "Allah be praised". A convoluted production credit is given to Bob Keene, who may or may not be the Del-Fi label honcho that watched Richie Valens and Bobby Fuller become stars & subsequently croak.

You have to respect an album where the cover alone provides enough oddball visions and ideas to carry you through a full work-week, but the Christian Yoga Church trip doesn't reveal its full glory until you drop the needle on the lead-in deadwax and enjoy the cosy, familiar ambience of a cheap pressing. And then the music begins. Now, as pointed out by Will Louviere in his excellent presentation of this album, there are literally hundreds of religious commune albums from the good old daze, although few of them are as early as 1967, and NONE of them hits this particular spot. Think Velvet Underground rehearsing on cough syrup in mid-1966. Think Alan Watts rounding up his pals from "This Is IT" for a late-night session full of weirdness and introspection. Think Beat Of The Earth, unplugged.

"Turn On" consists of one continous 50-minute track, recorded live as it happened and without edits. You can hear players coughing and occasionally making mistakes. It goes through many changes as various church members -- credited as "classical yoga students" on the label -- enter to do their musical thing for a few minutes. A spooky reed organ is present throughout, droning through a sequence of modal chords that perfectly carries the East/West theme. On top of this all sorts of instruments enter and leave, mainly percussion -- tablas and gongs, bells, chimes, castanets, kazoos, a tuba and a french horn, high-pitched flutes -- and things that don't sound like instruments at all but people spinning coins on a wooden floor, clinking glasses or banging on tables. Inside this droning maelstrom sanskrit mantras come and go, done with American accents in a fairly mundane manner and occasionally interspersed with meditative "ommmm" chants.

It could have been a mess, but is instead an intense tranced out organic exploration into the Absolute Now, with a human-spiritual atmosphere as thick as anything I've ever heard. In line with its background one might be inclined to take "Turn On!" as one of those "trip music by accident" artefacts we sometimes stumble across, but as the liner notes show, the lysergic nature of the beast was deliberate:

"... that Memorare recordings is releasing a most decidedly Psychedelic Music album on an Ecumenical series might be a surprise to some, but not to those who firmly believe that we 'go through all things to God'..."

Ah, this is as true psychedelia as you ever can find -- about halfway through side 1 the music subsides and we are treated to the sound of running water, not from some lame sound effects library but there and as it happened, although I have no idea how it was achieved -- because you can tell that it is a LOT of water running. The intensity builds and dissolves, builds and dissolves, a gigantic gong chimes when you least expect it, and the spooky Twilight Zone Search Party reed organ is always sneaking around in the background. It's impossible to review this music in a structured way -- like "the plastic flute player is good, but the guy knocking on a table sounds unrehearsed" -- but trying to gauge the acid flow of the 50 minutes, I would say that some of the most impressive vibes of all can be found at the beginning of side 1, opening an easy-access door into "Turn On!" for anyone looking for esoteric kicks on a world-class level.

Carl Oglesby - 1971 - Going To Damascus

Carl Oglesby 
Going To Damascus

01. Last Night I Saw The Sailor - 3:00
02. Till The Dance Is Mine - 4:28
03. Going To Damascus - 3:44
04. Play Volleyball Like A Man - 3:18
05. The Working Class Stranger - 4:29
06. The Lowly Beggar Girl - 3:02
07. Boarder Ballad - 3:59
08. The Lady With The Red Glass Eye - 3:28
09. The Wild E. G. And C. - 3:04
10. Light The Pipe - 4:49

*Carl Oglesby - Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*John Frangipane - Organ, Piano
*Bill La Vorgna  - Drums
*Joe Mack - Bass
*David Spinozza - Electric Guitar

At the time, Carl's follow up to his splendid debut was a major disappointment for me. Although it was not true, it almost seemed like these songs were all the leftovers from the same set. In actuality an occasional riff or melody from the first album seems to have been transferred.  

The playing of the backup band is exceptional with generous portions of guitar leads and quality keyboard work.  The best songs are on side one with "Till the Dance Is Mine" and "Play Volleyball like a Man" being the best.

Carl Oglesby - 1969 - Carl Oglesby

Carl Oglesby 
Carl Oglesby

01. Suburbs Of Eden - 2:56
02. Le Chinois - 4:04
03. Staring At The Sunshine - 4:18
04. The Prophet - 5:19
05. Black Panther - 4:45
06. Portait Of A Lady - 5:50
07. Dragon Song - 3:03
08. Cherokee Queen - 3:28
09. Lemon Light - 6:42

Bass – Joe Mack, Richard Davis
Cello – Seymour Barab
Drums – Bill LaVorgna
Electric Guitar – Vinnie Bell
Guitar – George Edwards, Peter Psarianos, Tim Hauser
Jew's Harp [Mouth Harp] – Mark Puleo
Keyboards – Elmer Jared Gordon
Percussion – Norman Grossman
Woodwinds – Bob Fritz
Vocals, Guitar, Written-By – Carl Oglesby

Carl Oglesby was born in Ohio. After graduating from Kent State University, he worked in Michigan as a technical editor for a defense contractor.

Oglesby was radicalized by the Vietnam War. In 1965 he was elected president of the Students for a Democratic Society, a group that organized opposition to the war. Oglesby went on to teach politics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Dartmouth College.

He may be the ultimate politically hyphenated American: He's an anti-interventionist-New Left-humanist-libertarian. He's also a folk singer with two albums to his credit, an author, and one of the nation's leading experts on the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Oglesby's background didn't hint that he would end up, as Murray Rothbard called him in 1992, a "longtime libertarian." Born in Ohio, Oglesby attended Kent State University and then worked in Michigan as a technical editor for a defense contractor.

His world turned upside down in 1965 when he became radicalized about the United States' growing military involvement in Vietnam. Later that year, he was elected president of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a "New Left" group that organized student opposition to the Vietnam War.

As he traveled around the country, Oglesby came to realize that the United States' foreign policy wasn't just a matter of left (good) versus right (bad). In 1967, he wrote Containment and Change (with Richard Shaull), which argued that the libertarian, non-interventionist "Old Right" should be the New Left's best ally in opposing an imperialistic American foreign policy.

In 1971, Oglesby was a speaker at a "Left-Right Festival of Mind Liberation." The event, sponsored by the California Libertarian Alliance, was designed to lay the groundwork for a libertarian/New Left anti-war coalition. Oglesby made the case that "the Old Right and the New Left" were "morally and politically" united in their opposition to war, and should work together.

Oglesby also began speaking out against the alliance of big business and government -- what he called the "corporate state" -- and in favor of "radically humanist politics" that embraced decentralization and free association.

After the Vietnam War ended, Oglesby's innate suspicion of government led him down another career path -- investigating the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He wrote three books: On the Trail of the Assassins (with Jim Garrison, 1988); Who Killed JFK? (1991); and The JFK Assassination: The Facts and the Theories (1992). All three voiced skepticism about the government's "lone-gunman" theory.

An album I have owned for nearly 30 years and listened to over a 100 times.  Even though it received some radio play hardly a soul acknowledged its existence.  If you Google Carl Oglesby, 95% of your queries would be about his days as a radical author from the S.D.S.  Somehow he managed to get in the studio with a cast of wayward musicians and record this most obscure gem.
Filled with melodies that weave delicately between instruments each song given time has an enticing hook that can captivate the listener.  Essentially it is a good folk album with sweet dressing and only exposure can bring out the accolades I bestow upon it.

Bob Bell - 1978 - Necropolis

Bob Bell 

01. Necropolis 1
02. Necropolis 2
03. Necropolis 3
04. Necropolis 4
05. Necropolis 5
All music composed and improvised by the musicians.
Recorded live on August 2 and 10, 1978 at Pinewood Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia.
released October 1, 1978

Produced by Bob Bell and Brian Lord

Bob Bell-guitar, alto sax
Paul Plimley-piano
Lyle Ellis-double bass

A rare private pressing, usually described as acid-jazz/psych, by a musician from British Columbia. From what I have read he still regularly gigs in B.C. and has recorded further material.
From British Columbia... Bob Well, obscure album from 1978, This Canadian private press (a mint copy will set you back around 200 usd) mega-rarity/obscurity from the artistically schizophrenic Bell splits the difference between his love of basement psych splatter/pummel and squalling free jazz ramble, the former occupying side A with a stunning four part suite of wasted guitar scuzz and churning Krautrock-like drama with an akin to both German Oak and Spacebox, the latter covering side B with some rather middling squeak/bonk... luv it!

You can buy a digital losless copy from Bob Well for 5 CAD at Bandcamp site... for that little bit of money.... you can not pass it!

Blonde On Blonde - 1971 - Reflections On A Life

Blonde On Blonde 
Reflections On A Life

01. Gene Machine
02. I Don't Care
03. Love Song
04. Bar Room
05. Sad Song For An Easy Lady
06. Ain't It Sad Too
07. The Bargain
08. The Rut
09. Happy Families
10.No. 2 Psychological Decontamination Unit
11.Chorale (Forever)

Graham Davies -  Acoustic Guitar, Guitar, Bass Guitar, Banjo, Vocals
Gareth Johnson - Lead Guitar
Les Hicks - Percussion
Dave Thomas - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar, Harmonica

There was something very special about being able to live a life split between two worlds, one quiet and countrified, and the other - on the road or in the heart of London's nightlife!

I think you can hear that contrast in the music itself: a mixture of focused energy and laid-back calm. It was a reflection of the way we lived and worked. We all came from a heavily industrialised Welsh seaport that was closely surrounded by mountains and wild romantic countryside; it was the contrast that inspired us.

And it still inspires me. I am about to release a new Blonde On Blonde album. The music's already 'in the can' and includes songs from Blonde On Blonde's live performances that were not previously released. It also includes some very recent material. The new album is called "Coldharbour" (another name for my hometown Newport). It was hearing "Rebirth" again that brought me determination to complete the project.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the sounds of 1970 so faithfully captured here on this reissued CD. When I listened to it again, it was like taking a ride in a time capsule in my own head. The sound and the memories are crystal clear.
by David Thomas

Blonde On Blonde - 1970 - Rebirth

Blonde On Blonde

01. Castles In The Sky
02. Broken Hours
03. Heart Without A Home
04. Time Is Passing
05. Circles
06. November
07. Colour Questions
08. You'll Never Know Me
09. Release

Gareth Johnson - Lead Guitar, Sitar, Lute, Electronic Effects
David Thomas - Vocals, Guitar, Bass
Richard Hopkins (Aka Richard John) - Bass, Keyboards
Les Hicks - Drums, Percussion

Blonde on Blonde's second album, Rebirth, was a more focused body of music than their debut; it also constituted the recording debut of the group's second lineup: David Thomas (vocals, guitar, bass), Gareth Johnson (sitar, lead guitar, lute, electronic effects), Richard Hopkins (bass, keyboards), and Les Hicks (drums, percussion).

Whether they're doing the spacy, airy, psychedelic pop of "Castles in the Sky" or the folky "Time Is Passing," the group attack their instruments as though they're performing live, and the effect is riveting throughout, even when the melodic content flags slightly. Thomas' voice is powerful if a little over-dramatic at times, but when the band keeps things moving, there's enough richness of content to carry the album and then some; the band was probably really interesting in concert, too, based on the evidence here. And for once with a band like this, trying to encompass psychedelia, folk-rock, hard rock, and progressive rock between two covers, they don't over-reach on their magnum opus "Colour Questions," the record's 12-minute centerpiece.

The group's prog rock impulses are also expressed on the album's original closer, "You'll Never Know Me/Release," which is a tour de force for Richard Hopkins' keyboard playing; unlike most of the competition, Blonde on Blonde seems not to have gravitated to the Moog synthesizer or the Mellotron, and the difference is refreshing, Hopkins' grand piano and organ speaking volumes in their own resonant language.
by Bruce Eder

Blonde On Blonde - 1969 - Contrasts

Blonde On Blonde 

01. Ride With Captain Max
02. Spinning
03. No Sleep Blues
04. Goodbye
05. I Need My Friend
06. Mother Earth
07. Eleanor Rigby
08. Conversationally Making the Grade
09. Regency
10.Island On an Island
11.Don't Be Too Long
12.Jeanette Isabella
13.All Day, All Night
14.Country Life

Gareth Johnson - Lead Guitar, Sitar, Lute, Electronic Effects
Ralph Denyer - Vocals, Guitar
Richard Hopkins  - Bass, Keyboards
Les Hicks - Drums, Percussion

A popular support act for some of the biggest names in the underground music scene of the late 1960s, Blonde on Blonde were no shrinking violets when it came to holding their own beneath the staccato glare of the polychromatic liquid lights.

Signed to Pye Records, they released their debut Contrasts in 1969 – a collection of psychedelic proto-prog songs, with a couple of souped up cover versions thrown in for good measure.In doing so, they perfected a blend of guitars, sitars, abstract percussion, flute and the ever-faithful keyboard contingent.

‘Ride with Captain Max’ is a powerful start to Contrasts with breakneck guitars and a rhythm section playing as though the devil’s at its heels; giving way to mellow lyrical passages of acid-infused ponderings on “flying high”. This is quickly followed by the flute and sitar-charged, kaleidoscopic playground that is ‘Spinning Wheel’, a lysergic single malt distilled into a bottle of less than three minutes. And that’s just for starters.

Want more? Then the third track is a bracing version of the Incredible String Band’s ‘No Sleep Blues’. Yes, you read that right, the dreaded ISB. It seems that if you remove their tuneless whine and slapdash playing from the equation, there’s a half-decent song just screaming to be set free. But this is neither the time nor place for Incredible String Band bashing, there’s plenty of that elsewhere on HFoS. Blonde on Blonde’s rendering is hearty stuff and one of the highlights of Contrasts.

There’s also a cover version of The Beatles’ hymn of loneliness, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, on hand, substituting the orchestral accompaniment of the original for a stirring horn section. The Elizabethan-style olde-worlde psych of ‘Island on an Island’ is another notable example of the many pleasures that Contrasts has to offer.

Blonde on Blonde would jump ship to the Ember label and released two more albums of a more progressive nature, but it’s their debut that offers the most memorable moments and as such is a fine addition to the psych/proto-prog stylings that were doing the rounds as the 60s conceded defeat to the 70s.

Oh, and did I mention that the band took their name from the 1966 album of the same name by Bob Dylan? No? Ah well.
by Nick James, Head Full Of Snow

Alan Sondheim - 1968 - T'Other Little Tune

Alan Sondheim
T'Other Little Tune

01. Beautiful    
02. Varje    
03. Messier    
04. Rock    
05. Day's Eye    
06. Bludgeon    
07. Think Synk    
08. For Planck    
09. Breath    
10. Slang    
11. Steven Crain    
12. T'Other Little Tune    

Synthesizer [Moog], Piano [Prepared], Trombone, Idiophone [Jaltarang], Guitar [Hawaiian], Strings [Dilruba], Guitar [Classical], Soprano Saxophone, Recorder [Bass], Marimba, Melodeon, Composed By – Alan Sondheim
Drums, Tabla, Synthesizer [Moog] – Joel Zabor
Flute, Piccolo Flute, Synthesizer [Moog] – Gregert Johnson
Piano, Voice – June Sondheim
Tenor Saxophone – John Emigh (tracks: 2, 4)
Trumpet – Paul Phillips (2)

Recorded in May 1968.

Alan Sondheim - 1967 - Ritual-All-7-70

Alan Sondheim


01. 770
02. 771
03. 772
04. June
05. 774
06. 775
07. 776
08. 777
09. 778
10. 779
11. 780
12. 781
13. 782

Ruth Ann Hutchinson: vocals
Chris Mattheson: bass
Barry Sugarman: bongo, tabla
J.P.: drums
Robert Poholek: cornet, trumpet
Alan Sondheim: xylophone, alto saxophone, sona, classical, electric and hawaiian guitars, English horn, bansari koto, clarinet, suling

Recorded in Providence, RI in January 1967.

Alan Sondheim was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; he lives with his partner, Azure Carter, in Providence, RI. He holds a B.A. and M.A. from Brown University. A new-media artist, writer, and theorist, he has exhibited, performed and lectured widely. His band Ritual All 770, whose debut The Songs (Riverboat, 1967) was reissued by the Fire Museum label, was included on the notorious Nurse With Wound list of outsider/avant-garde influences. Sondheim is the first artist from ESP-Disk's 1964-75 heyday to return after its revival in 2005 with an album of new material. Sondheim joined the roster with a 1967 session, Ritual-All-7-70, then followed up with 1968's T'Other Little Tune. (Drumming on the latter was Joel Zabor; now known as Rafi Zabor, he reunited with Sondheim at ESP's 50th anniversary concert in November 2013.) Sondheim got his musical start as a guitarist, but soon moved into a much more original sound utilizing a vast array of instruments from around the world.

Alan Sondheim was the young, exuberant leader of a pack of improvisers living in a communal loft in Providence, Rhode Island. Undaunted by attempts to categorize electronic music as the province of academic tinkerers -- a cold, unfriendly realm, with its own authorities, audiences and mystique -- they plunged fearlessly, joyously and unselfconsciously into the medium, discovering new way to express their ideas.

Press Quotes

"But if there is a concept here, it’s extremely simple: you never heard such sounds in your life." - Clifford Allen, Bagatellen

"sort of like Ornette Coleman for the handicapped, with a somewhat Cagean sense of non-interaction." - Weirdo Records

Phase - 1978 - Midnight Madness

Midnight Madness


01. Möbius 4:13
02. Ostination 6:22
03. Vibes 6:39
04. Seven Eleven 4:07
05. Irrational Funk 3:46
06. Quiescent Gale 6:11
07. Midnight Madness 6:22

Drums, Timpani – John Hvasta
Electric Bass – Carl Scariati
Electric Guitar, Guitar – Dave Anderson
Piano, Synthesizer, Celesta – Regan Ryzuk

So let's get Ken's quick summary of the background first: "Phase was keyboardist's Regan Ryzuk's band and they were based out of Montville, NJ. Two years later Regan released it under the Fusion Quartet "Comprovisations" title. It's a very good album that I think will floor a lot of people and it deserves to be more widely known."

Now let's get some impressions of the music. MM says: "Instrumental progressive jazz rock of the highest caliber. From the very start this album explodes out and doesn't leave you with much room to catch your breath! Top notch musicianship with fiery solos of bass, piano, Moog and electric guitar. Odd and complicated time meters with killer trade-offs as well as incredible unison sections. This sometimes reminds me of Iceberg, a bit of Return to Forever and the Italian band Nova (at their peak). As mesmerizing at it is amazing! I believe once this gets known it will become a future rarity. Highly recommended to jazz rock, fusion and progressive rock fans."

The AC was brought into the action as well. He picked one up immediately and had this response: "Killer album! Really complex and edgy for a private fusion LP of this sort, almost getting avant-progish at times. I think the fact that the keys player uses a regular piano rather than a Rhodes also lends to this impression. Guitar gets quite ferocious at times, too. Love the ultra-technical music geek notes on the back of the sleeve! Wonder whatever happened to these guys? They really were top-notch players."

So I think those comments sum it up well. It's smoking fusion first, instrumental progressive rock second. A great mix of instrumental dexterity, with complex compositions and ferocious playing. RTF meets Kenso; or Iceberg meets Transit Express for a more obscure reference.

An amazing find.

AR and Clones - 1978 - Back and in Again

AR and Clones 
Back and in Again

01. H.H. Cooky and Me
02. Atlantic Link
03. Atlantic Link to Back and In
04. Back and in Again
05. Opening Opus 69
06. Slowly Sliding Up
07. French Funk
08. Yes I Did Try

Guy Delacroix : basse (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
Joe Hammer : batterie (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
Patrick Gauthier : piano (1, 5, 8)
Benoit Widemann : mini moog (2, 5, 8)
Doudou Weiss : cymbal (2)
Richard Pinhas : moog loop programming (4, 6)
Alain Bellaïche : harmonies vocales (8)
Alain Renaud : guitares, voix (2, 8), piano (4), poly-moog (4, 6)